Welcome Our Guest, Valerie Hansen: Mostly Pistols and a Few Smart Mules…

val11.JPGHowdy, or as they say here in the Ozarks, “I’m so proud to be here!”

I’ve been writing for Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired series since 1999, but FRONTIER COURTSHIP, March 2008, is my first historical novel. It was a labor of love, done just because I love the American west, and has proved itself by being included in the first four published by that line, thank the Lord – and my editor.

p7100004.JPGLike many of you, I’ve always been fascinated with the characters and trials of the old west. Often, it seemed to me that I had been born into the wrong century. If you’ll notice, the picture of my house, with me and my dog sitting in the porch swing, fits right into the late 1800s. There’s a reason. That’s when it was built! And the other house picture, with nothing on the porch and daffodils bordering the walkway, is even older. Under the clapboard siding, the outer walls of that place are made of oak logs, hand-hewn and cut right here on the farm. That wood is so hard you can’t drive a nail into it unless you drill a hole, first. We know. We tried. When we moved here and decided to make some improvements to the “new” old house, we found it almost impossible to cut through the original walls because they were made of thick, hand-sawn oak planks that were just as hard as the wood in the log cabin! That got me to thinking of the original woodcutters and carpenters and admiring them even more. 

oldesthouse.JPGI haven’t had a lot of recent experience on horseback but I have ridden when I was younger and was a bit more resilient. A cantering quarter horse fell with me on her back once and we hit so hard the cantle of the saddle cracked. If I’d been a better rider I’d probably have broken some bones but I fell off. When I hit the ground and opened my eyes, there was my friend’s horse’s hooves just missing my head. Whew!

Naturally, I doctored the horse first, then looked at my own hip and promptly cried. It still bothers me in damp weather but the experience was worth it. Besides, it’ll make good fodder for my stories.

Then there’s shooting; pistols, rifles and shotgun, all of which I handle pretty expertly, if I do say so myself. We used to shoot a lot of trap at ranges before we moved out to the country. When our Ozark neighbors invited my husband to shoot with them, he took me along. I was having a very good day and shot a box of 25 shells without a miss – a personal best. Those men were so awe-struck that I quit and went home while my luck was still holding. After I left, my husband tells me one of them said, “She shoots perty good fer a girl.” Darned tootin’ I do.

valshouse.JPGWhen I hike in the woods behind our house I always go armed. I carry a .22 with birdshot for snakes and a .357 for bears or mountain lions, both of which are seen around here occasionally. Neighbors about a mile away have video taped them so it’s not their imagination.  I take my dog with me and the only reason I’d shoot is to protect him – or me. My days of shinnying up a tree in a hurry are probably past, too, even if I am in great shape for the shape I’m in, so it’s a good thing I’m a good shot with a pistol, too. No, it’s not bragging if it’s true.

I do have one confession to make, though. About a year and a half ago, I dropped the .22 on its hammer and it went off. Yup. Hit me in the shin with all those tiny pellets in the birdshot. I was so startled I didn’t even yell, which scared my poor husband something awful when he heard the shot. He insisted we go to the hospital and have it looked at, even though it was a long way from my heart. Once I decided I wasn’t going to die, we all got a good laugh out of it, including the doctor on duty, who happened to also be a friend. And, yes, I have used the incident in a book, WILDERNESS COURTSHIP, that will be out in August of 2008. I didn’t shoot my heroine in the leg but I definitely do know how a grazing bullet wound feels. Hey, might as well get some good out of it, right? No experience is wasted on a writer. Not even the bad ones – or maybe I should say, especially not the bad ones.

mule.jpgWhich brings me to mules. I was acquainted with mules long ago, as both my neighbor out west and a good friend rode them in preference to horses. Of course, the neighbor did it because he drank so much beer he needed a mount that would think for him and the mule was a perfect choice. It was from the family friend that I learned about the special bond a rider can have with a mule and how long they remember being abused. It was that premise that led me to develop FRONTIER COURTSHIP the way I did and I know all you horse and mule lovers will agree with me once you’ve seen it.

9780373827848_smp.jpgThere is an excerpt on my website, www.ValerieHansen.com and as soon as it’s feasible I’ll also be posting the excerpt from WILDERNESS COURTSHIP.

Thanks to the petticoats and pistols ladies for inviting me to post and remember, always keep an empty cartridge under the hammer if you think you might accidentally drop your revolver. That’s what I do — now.

I’ll draw three names from those who post comments this weekend, and I’ll send each reader an autographed copy of FRONTIER COURTSHIP!


Valerie Hansen

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33 thoughts on “Welcome Our Guest, Valerie Hansen: Mostly Pistols and a Few Smart Mules…”

  1. Good Morning,

    What an interesting life you have. I know little about mules even though I live in the “Mule Capitol of the World”. Columbia, Tennesse and there Mule Day. If you haven’t heard of it you should check it out. It is a huge drawn and people come from far away to see the parade and other events. This year they have a stage coach in the parade that should be great to see. http://www.muleday.com

    Your new book sounds really great!

  2. Good Morning Valerie!

    I know nothing about guns, but do know a bit about mules. When I was in my teens, my grandpa had about 30 or so mules, burros, ponies and a horse, in the lot beside the house. My grandpa saved most of them from abuse or death.

    I spent a lot of time down there riding them, talking to them and feeding them. Not only did I feel the bond with the animals, but it gave me a connection to my grandpa that allowed me to spend a lot of time with him. The mules were sold off after my grandfather passed away, so both connections were broken at that point. That’s probably one of the parts of my youth I miss the most, because those are moments I can never get back, even though I have wonderful memories and photos from that time.

    Our house wasn’t built in the 1800’s but it does have some oak beams and studs and nailing anything into the wall is darn-near impossible! LOL

  3. Glad to see you here today, your post reminded me of when I used to go hunting with my dad. He loved to hunt and taught me how to shoot. He’s been gone for many years now but thanks for bringing back some good memories for me.

  4. Hi, Valerie, Hey, you might be the very first person on Petticoats and Pistols whose been shot. If there are others, please feel free to jump in and tell your story. YIKES!
    This is just plain fascinating. You go walking with a gun to kill predators. You’ve been shot. I’m not sure why but I just love it.
    Someone saw a mountain lion way to near our home, no confimration of course, but it was 8 a.m. she was sober as a judge and she swears she saw it plain as day.
    After that (this was when Katy, my youngest daughter was about 16) Katy would drive home from a night activity at school and we have a garage about…oh 100 feet from our house. I’d be sitting up watching TV and wondering if she was going to make curfew and I’d see her step out of the garage and SPRINT to the house.
    She said she knew it was silly but she could FEEL the mountain lion closing in on her.
    They have found them to the north and south of us so it’s absolutely possible — probably really — that there are some out there.
    Great post.
    I’ve got a mule story, too. But maybe later. LOL

  5. I’m with your daughter, Mary. They just took a picture of a mountian lion that had been hit by a car near here. Big! Really big. I sent its picture to friends who always chide me about being armed when I hike in the woods. Proof that I’m not crazy is always helpful. And the gunshot would was a true accident so I didn’t really shoot myself, even if my son is fond of calling me, “Quick Draw.” Heck, I didn’t even take it out of the holster.

    And more about mules. I have always had a special affinity for animals, including mules, although my kids did once have a donkey that hated me. But that’s another story.

    Right now I’m headed into town to shop at the merchantile and to see if I can catch the packet boat to Little Rock so I can send a few letters today. (Well, maybe Walmart and the P.O. but it sounds so much more interesting the other way.)

    More later!

  6. I really like the Steeple Hill imprint… but have not tried yet the Historicals… I think I will now 🙂

    Thanks for blogging!

  7. Hi Valerie!
    Sounds like there’s never a dull moment in your life. I loved your stories and am going to check out your website.

  8. Valerie, welcome to Petticoats & Pistols! What a delightful blog you gave us this morning–I really enjoyed getting to know you better.

    And I love, love, LOVE that gorgeous porch of yours. That sprawling green lawn and wide open space. . . I’m so-o jealous!

  9. Ah, but beyond the green lawn lurk the dumbest cows in the world, according to my husband. They’ve even eaten the wiring off his tractor so now they’re fenced well away from any machinery. They’re not ours, except to occasionally munch on, so we don’t have to look after them. If they ever break through the fence and do bad things to my flowers, however, we’ll probably be eating even more of them! I enjoy being at the top of the food chain.

    I made it to the merchantile but missed the packet boat, so I’ll have to mail my letters on Monday. 🙂

    More later,

  10. I’m so glad it wasn’t the .357 magnum that you shot yourself with!!! I love hearing about all these real life stories that eventually get into books! We actually had a sighting of a mountain lion in our suburbs – I live outside of Pittsburgh. Not your norm. No one knows if it came down from the hills or someone had “owned” it as a pet.

  11. Great post, Valerie! Thanks for stopping by Petticoats today. It was fun hearing about your life. You sure are “living” the western life, more than some of us city gals!! I’d have been scared out of my wits when that gun went off! What a story !
    You are a brave woman going out in the woods ready to shoot a bear or snake!! The closest I’ve come is shooing away pesky coyotes who come down from our suburban hills when they get hungry!

  12. Jeanne,
    Don’t worry about the .357. It’s a newer revolver so it has built-in safety features. The old .22 that went off has been mine for many years and is actually almost an antique. When the police investigator came to the ER (yes, he had to, by law) he first laughed at my telling of the tale, then tried to buy the gun. What he said was, “If you’re through with it, would you like to sell it? It’s a collector’s item.” I assured him I was keeping it and no longer leaving a live round under the hammer. I should have known better in the first place.

    I did ask him if older women like me often shot themselves. He said, “Only the senile ones.” At that point, he’s luck I wasn’t armed.


  13. Welcome and thanks for the interesting post! Glad you were not seriously hurt!

    I was thrilled to learn that Love Inspired was coming out with a historical line. As a fan of both the LI books and Harlequin Historicals it was very exciting for me. I picked up one yesterday by Jillian Hart and look forward to reading yours, Valerie! I love your other books and have quite a few of them!

  14. Val, somehow I never get tire of reading your stories, in books or in your research. It’s that reality that makes your stories come alive, and it’s even more fun to know that you’ve lived much of what your stories are about!

    Keep up the great work!

  15. Hey! This is a geat website. Although I’ve
    known you for several years, Val, I learned more about you today than I’ve known! This website interests me. I started reading westerns when I was just a child. I have quite a collection of Zane Grey’s books on my shelves, and I still get them out and read them occasionally.

    I actually like the books of Charles A. Seltzer, William MacLoed Raine and E. B. Mann better than I do Zane Grey’s.

    I’ve had a few books published with western themes, but they’re OP now.

    I’m looking forward to reading this series, Val.


  16. Sounds as if you have taken more than a couple of
    steps into the past! Great stories, will be looking for your books ASAP! Thanks for stopping by!!

    Pat Cochran

  17. It probably doesn’t hurt that I married a rifle safety instructor, either. My mom was terrified of guns but as long as you’re more careful than I was that one time, you do fine. I told my husband that I wanted him to build in a firing port on the screened porch so I could pick off crows stealing eggs out of the chicken house but he was not enthused. Probably afraid I’d accidentally shoot a chicken! I wouldn’t, you know. I can tell the difference. The chickens are the stupid ones.

    You’d never know that I was born in a city, would you? I hardly believe it but Cleveland, Ohio was home till I was 12. Yes, y’all, I was born a Yankee. It’s not my fault. And I got to the South just as fast as I could, by way of So. CA. In my heart, I was always a southern, country girl.

  18. Hi Valerie, nice to see you here. I grew up in the country on a very small farm. We never did have horses though. We had a few pigs, and a couple of cows, that we never could keep in the pens. I really enjoyed your post. I just wanted to let you know that I love historicals and am looking forward to finding your book. It looks like my kind of reading.

  19. Hi, Valerie! Thanks for sharing today! I’ve enjoyed reading your Love Inspireds, and am looking forward to your first historical! I’m definitely a city girl but love reading about the country 🙂 And I don’t know much about mules–guess I’ll be learning more about them in your newest 😉

  20. We raised a few pigs, too, when the kids were little. Now that it’s just my husband and me, we’ve tried to simplify our farm life. As I said in the dedication of FRONTIER COURTSHIP, I have him to thank for gently talking me out of getting a mule and thereby breaking my neck. I’m not a total klutz but I love animals so much I tend to make pets of them and it’s not always wise to trust one that’s big enough to squash me. I used to raise rabbits, too, but got too attached to them. I won’t even go into some of the crazy, interesting jobs I’ve held this time. Maybe, if I’m invited to visit again, I’ll tell y’all more. My life has NOT been dull!

    Good night and thanks for visiting with me. 🙂

  21. Valerie, City born or not. If you realize how stupid chickens are, then you are a true country girl now.

    Jeanne, I’d think your comment about ‘was it wild or an escaped pet’ for a mountain lion was silly except I just read a story about some guy who owned like…oh it was an awful number…fifty or a hundred different venomous snakes. Kept them in his house. His neighbors were trying to get rid of them and the city was fighting over whether he was breaking any laws. Very weird.
    So someone really MIGHT have a mountain lion as a pet these days. 🙂

    And Irene! Hi! Thanks for visiting Petticoats and Pistols.

  22. Valerie, you sound like a real misplaced 1800’s girl – maybe not so misplaced though, from the sounds of your life. I’m looking forward to reading your new historical.

  23. Val, an author friend’s stock answer to people who ask where she gets her ideas is, “I write ’em like I live ’em.” After reading your blog, I wonder if she got that from you! Who would dream that inside that sweet old-fashioned Arkansas home of yours lives a pistol-packin’ romance-writin’ momma?

    Your LI romances are such good reads that I can’t wait to read the new historicals–which I will even if my name isn’t drawn for a free book. 🙂

  24. Valerie sound like an interesting time at your place.
    I feel for you coming off the horse then shooting your shin.
    the mule seens interseting also.

    Mary I have only seen mountain lions or cougers in a zoo but i love the animals. although i prefer admiring from my side of the fence as i was told they are the only cat that will hunt humans. Others will attack if you get to close but mountain lions will remember human behavour like if they walk at the same time each day and if they need food will hunt a human.

  25. Hi Valerie,

    I’m a big fan of the American West, too, and am so delighted LI has branched out into the historical market. Congrats on being one of the debut books. Can’t wait to read it and also to see what else this great new line will have in store for us!

    Oh, I love your house. It reminds me of….mine! LOL

    Linda Goodnight
    award winning author

    A TIME TO HEAL Sept. 08

  26. I enjoyed reading this post since it is fascinating. Where I live we can spot bobcats, coyotes and bears. Love this area and I will be reading your wonderful historicals.

  27. Reading your blog today has been wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about your background and writing. I immerse myself in Westerns and think that they are intriguing and fabuous reading. I have read Lamour, Zane Grey, and many others whose books I cherish.

  28. Valerie,
    I have never been on a mule but I’ve ridden many horses. I have won money in team penning, cattle sorting, reining, cutting and working cow horse competitions but have rarely ever had real-life experiences with cattle on horseback.

    My husband and I bought a ranch in Smithville, Texas about ten years ago. We live in the city, but I had a hankerin’ to experience the country life. We have an arena, cattle working pens, hay fields and cattle; the whole nine yards so to speak. Out of respect for my husband, who wants to have nothing to do with horses, we also got a John Deer Gator so we could deal with the cattle in a more contemporary and convenient way.

    My girlfriend and I were set on using our cattle working skills on horseback and couldn’t wait for the first sick cow. And if you have cattle you know we didn’t have to wait long before we were saddling up to go cut it out of the herd and bring it to the barn the old-fashioned way. Sure enough all of those skills we had learned in the cutting pen and the arena were the real thing. We cut the cow out, doctored her up and sent her back to the herd. On our way back the two of us were loping in-sync and suddenly broke out in a couple of rounds of the Bonanza theme song.

    I envy your ability to live out in the country. I have a busy medical practice and am not quite ready to give it up for full time country living. Have fun. One of these days I’m going to try a mule.

    Barbara Bergin
    Author of “Endings”

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