Each year in December, our fellow western romance site, Love Western Romances, sets up voting for the Best Western Romance book of 2008. Any book that earns a “five spur” review rating is automatically entered.
This year we have a whole slew of Fillies up for the honor:
The Borrowed Bride – Elizabeth Lane
Calico Canyon – Mary Connealy
Kidnapped by the Cowboy – Pam Crooks
Maverick Wild – Stacey Kayne
The Gunslinger’s Untamed Bride – Stacey Kayne
Western Weddings – Charlene Sands, Jillian Hart, Kate Bridges
Give Me a Texan – Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda, DeWanna Pace
The west calls to me and always has, even before I became a writer. (Probably my Native American blood.) My career was born standing on the parade ground at Ft. Laramie, Wyoming. I’d gone there as part of the grieving process when my brother Randy was killed in a freak lightning accident. He adored Wyoming and I wanted to catch a glimpse of him through the land he loved. The idea for Where Leads the Heart, dropped into my head and became my first book, published in 1998.
I like to visit a setting before I write about it, so when I settled on the Big Bend area of Texas for the first book in the Lonestar series, Lonestar Sanctuary, I scheduled a trip there. Dave and I flew into El Paso, rented a car, then drove for what seemed like forever.
I expected the cactus, the sand, the blue mountains in the distance, the sage, the Rio Grande, the heat, and the Big Sky Country. What I didn’t expect nearly made me turn tail and run.
I hate spiders. The first black thing crawling across the road didn’t get my attention. If I noticed at all, I thought it was a black rock. Then my husband said, “I think that’s a tarantula.” He got out of the car to look while I was screaming at him to get back inside in case the thing jumped on his leg. Or what if it managed to get inside the car somehow? He took a picture that I couldn’t bear to see, got back inside, then continued to drive. We saw at least a dozen more before we reached Big Bend National Park.
If it weren’t for the fact that the place was so doggone beautiful, I would have changed the setting. Did you know it’s one of the least visited national parks? That’s because it takes several hours to drive there from an airport, but it is gorgeous! It calls to something in my soul-in spite of the tarantulas. And no, you don’t have to worry about a tarantula chase in Lonestar Sanctuary. I wouldn’t survive the experience of writing it!
The Big Bend area is sometimes called the devil’s playground. The devil is supposed to be sealed up in a cave on the south bank of the Río Bravo del Norte (known on the U.S. side as the Rio Grande), except when he escapes on a swing hung between nearby mountains. Its stark beauty can be dangerous. There is no room for mistakes out there.
We all have reasons we love stories about the West. Here are mine below.
Men and women both are more independent and strong-and yet they know they need one another. The people know about resiliency and survival.
The West calls out the best in people. You HAVE to be on your toes because the land can kill you. When I read western fiction, it makes me believe I AM that strong and capable. 🙂
I see God in the beautiful landscape and it speaks to my soul.
Why do you love western stories? I’m going to give away two copies of Lonestar Sanctuary so make sure you comment!
We love traditions in our family.So much so, that if I ever attempt something new on Thanksgiving, I hear about it in a big way.Case in point, I’ve been doing Thanksgiving for the past oh, probably fifteen years – it’s MY holiday and I love having it. My sister takes Christmas Eve, but one year we (she and I) decided to change things up a little.I switched my Thanksgiving with her. She did Thanksgiving and I did Christmas.Well, you’d have thought I’d betrayed my country or something.My kids, who are well past their teens, had a “fit”.“Mom, promise us you’ll never switch holidays again. You have to do Thanksgiving – it’s not the same!”
Yes, that was the point!Well, I haven’t been able to switch ANYTHING since.Not even a recipe.The entire family expects, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, copper carrots, two turkeys so there’s enough white meat to go around and a table full of desserts.One year, I dared to try a new cranberry recipe AND didn’t make the green bean casserole. Oh, my goodness – the roof almost caved in on my head.Not gonna do that again.
Here’s a picture of our newest tradition – the carved turkey pumpkin that my hubby likes to do as a centerpiece. It’s a great attention getter!
Though, we’ve lost dear ones over the years, our family continues to grow with extended family members.The younger ones, bring boyfriends, girlfriends and now I have a new son-in-law.It seems the Kid’s Table is now bigger than the Adult’s Table, so last year, I thought it’d be nice to offer them our formal dining table to have their meal.I was hit with a resounding “NO!” from every one of them.All in unison.Okay, I get it.Nothing changes.Ever.
That’s what traditions are all about, isn’t it?
Another family tradition is to play outdoor games. As you can see in the photo, we almost always have nice warm weather on Thanksgiving. No burning fireplaces for us in California.We go outside after dinner and play bocce ball, or Blongo ( which I don’t have a picture of).Here, the backyard is set for ping- pong and badminton.My husband is great about designing contests and he usually gives out prizes.
And of course, being Italian, we always have Too Much Food as displayed here on our dessert table.I’m always making a few things, to be sure, and then our guests usually bring their own specialty.The result – more dessert than an Army unit could devour.
I love the Thanksgiving holiday spirit that brings family and friends together. By now, we’ve all had our fill of turkey and are vowing to diet and exercise the rest of the weekend. Count me among you!
Here’s a bit of trivia about my favorite holiday.
The first Thanksgiving celebration was in 1621.
The turkey was first domesticated in Mexico and Central America. ‘
A female turkey is called a hen.
A male turkey is call a tom.
The great statesman Benjamin Franklin lobbied to make the turkey our national symbol.
The female turkey makes a clucking sound.
The male turkey makes a gobble sound.
A mature turkey has 3,500 feathers!
Minnesota produces the most turkeys annually.
Wild turkeys can run 25 mph!
Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 mph!
The Wampanoag tribe first celebrated Thanksgiving with the colonists.
90% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day and 50% of Americans eat turkey on Christmas.
The skin that hangs on the turkey’s neck is called the wattle.
Abraham Lincoln specified that Thanksgiving would fall on the last Thursday of November.
Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to move Thanksgiving Day to the fourth Thursday in November to create a longer Christmas shopping season.
Do you have any “must do” traditions for the holidays?
From our home to yours, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend with love from Charlene!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.Here’s hoping all of you will be celebrating in your own way.For today I decided to write a simple list of things I’m thankful for and ask you add your own.But with each item I wrote, I couldn’t help thinking about the people in the world—even in this country—who don’t enjoy the basic blessings that most of us take for granted.It’s my wish that as you read my list, and maybe lengthen it, you’ll remember these people with compassion and that you’ll share my hopes for peace on earth and the betterment of all lives.Here’s my list.
1. I’m thankful for the people who risk their lives every day to keep me and my loved ones safe.
2. I’m thankful for my family and for the loving memories of those who are no longer with me.
3. I’m thankful for books and for the people who wrote them.
4. I’m thankful for friends who share their lives with me.
5.I’m thankful for all the modern conveniences that make my life pleasant—the computer, the appliances, the lights and water, the TV and stereo.I’m grateful that with the flick of a switch I can hear beautiful music.
6. I’m thankful for two silly cats who wake me up laughing every morning.
7. I’m thankful to live in a time when women can wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
8. I’m thankful for parents who gave me the education that’s made all the difference.
9. I’m grateful for work—and for the gift of being able to do work I love.
How about you?Are you counting your blessings today?What are you thankful for?
Click on the small book below to order from Amazon.com.
We have a special guest lined up for Saturday: Miss Colleen Coble.
Miss Colleen took a gander down to the Big Bend country of South Texas and visited the devil’s playground of all places. Lord have mercy! She’s a brave one. But, she was looking for a setting for her Lonestar Series and found the perfect place. She’ll tell us about that come Saturday.
She’ll also be promoting the first book of the series called Lonestar Sanctuary and will be giving away two autographed copies to two lucky people. Get your name in the hat and you might be a winner. Lord knows if you don’t come and comment, you don’t stand a chance.
I spent a recent afternoon at the Monona County Historical Society Museum. It was their Christmas Open House, in Onawa, Iowa, and they’re open tomorrow and next weekend, too. Otherwise they’re mainly closed in the winter.
Click on any of these pictures and they get larger. I didn’t do that because I’m a computer genius. It does it on its own. I have no idea why, but I’m glad.
Possibly the most interesting thing in the Monona County Museum, to me, was a Hair Wreath . I’d never seen anything like this before.
I got this info about Hair Wreaths from HERE. I just couldn’t hardly stare at it long enough. It’s amazing, intricate, true artwork, done with human hair.
From 1850 to 1875, one of the most popular forms of fancywork was the hair wreath.
Appealing to the tendency among Victorian women to incorporate the importance of friends and family into their work, hair served as a tangible remembrance of someone. Often, close companions exchanged hair as tokens of friendship. Hair was also sometimes taken after a person’s death as a means of honor and remembrance. For a woman whose local supply fell short, hair swatches could even be purchased from catalogs and stores. Hair wreaths were constructed almost entirely of human hair, which was manipulated to resemble a variety of flowers, floral sprigs, and leaves. The flowers placed together in a horseshoe-shaped wreath represent a common Victorian symbol for good luck displayed with the open ends up so as to “hold the luck inside.”
Here’s what I went in to look at—a doctor’s bag. A doctor’s bag figures prominently in my work in progress, which won’t be out for a while so I won’t bother to talk about it, except to say, I need to know exactly what a 1880 doctor bag looked like and what would be in it.
I loved this. I think you can tell I’m a writer because I found the stuff WRITTEN DOWN almost more interesting than the STUFF. I just love words. 🙂 This is a recipe for soap.
And this??? A list of rules for the behavior and duties of teachers. Yikes. Definitely click on the Rules for Teachers and read them. Pretty strict. Where was the UNION??? Starting at rule #4 they get very personal. I especially love the one that says if a woman teacher gets married or engages in unseemly conduct, she’ll be dismissed. Like Marriage is on a par with unseemly conduct. My mother-in-law says this is absolutely true. NO MARRIED WOMEN WORKED. It wasn’t punitive, it was just the way things were. Getting married was the same as resigning. My mil says it’s because once you were married, you had a man to support you and keeping your job kept it away from someone who needed it. It was simple good manners. A woman could sell eggs and butter though. So there were ways to make money.
Onawa, Iowa is the home of the Eskimo Pie…and you thought it was Nome, didn’t you?
It’s a really interesting exhibit and lots to read so I’m happy.
Did you know Russell Stover got involved in the creation of Eskimo Pies?
He made the chocolate coating work.
The day I was there, it was the annual Christmas open house
and they had hot cider and cookies and music. A nice day.
A saddle dated 1880 so my hero would have one JUST LIKE IT.
Except without the decorated tree beside it, probably…unless he’s a wussy cowboy. Or wait, maybe I should say…extremely sentimental. And what cowboys are like that, huh?
And here is a replica of the keelboat Lewis and Clark pulled up the Missouri River.
For some reason this doesn’t get bigger when I click on it. I have no idea why. But look close. Those toy men standing on the front…they help you to realize how SMALL the keel boat was.
And they dragged that thing against the current from St. Louis??
Of course the Missouri wasn’t so deep and fast moving as it is now so maybe it was easy, huh?
I’m haunting museums these days, searching for a doctor’s bag. So who knows what else I’ll come up with to blog about?
Tell me about the seasonal fun in your area. Is any of it for Thanksgiving or have we totally by-passed that to start Christmas right after Halloween?
I live in a small town and we have a community Thanksgiving Dinner, put on by the ministerial association, five churches in our small town. Then the library has a festival of trees. There is a Christmas Cantata with choirs from all five churches.
Every organization in town has a chili feed or bake sale, or both. Christmas programs at all the churches. The school will have a music concert. There is a tour of homes, to allow us to snoop in the most beautifully decorated houses in town. But of course, this is all Christmas isn’t it? Oops. I skipped over Thanksgiving, too.
News flash…I don’t let them come to my place.
Tell me about your thanksgiving traditions.
And, in honor of my niece, who is currently on active duty in Iraq, and all the brave men and women who sacrifice to keep us free, click HERE to see a tribute to our service men and women at Thanksgiving.
It’s November, a time when we tend to cuddle up and look ahead to the holidays. It’s a time of Thanksgiving.
I’m sure all of you know that our Thanksgiving comes from the Eastern Indians, and in particular Squanto — and if you didn’t know about Squanto, I would highly recommend the movie, Squanto, starring a young and dreamy Adam Beach. Sigh…
But what was this festival called Thanksgiving? Did it happen just this one time? Was it due to the Indians’ wishing to acknowledge the newcomers, as I was often taught in school? Was there more to it? Well, do read on.
Thanksgiving was one of several festivals amongst the Eastern Indians — in particular I’m talking about the Iroquois because this is a tribe that I have recently studied and so can write somewhat scholarly about it. But these ceremonies were common to all the Eastern tribes. There were many festivals throughout the year, and they tended to follow the seasons.
The Iroquois celebrated six festivals, wherein they gave thanks to the Creator for all they had. These festivals would open with speeches by leaders, teacher, etc. And of course there was much dancing, which was done not only for the fun of simply dancing, but it was also a sense of worship. It was thought that the Creator needed some sort of amusement, thus He gave the people dancing.
In spring — early March — it was time to collect together tree bark and sap — this was needed to repair houses and other things, such as canoes, bowls, etc. Spring was also the time for planting. This was the maple festival. Next was the Planting festival. Here prayers were sent to the Creator to bless their seed.
The Iroquois’ main food source was corn, beans and squash (the three sisters). Family gardens were separated by borders that were broad and grassy — they would even camp on these borders and sometimes they were raise watch towers.
The next festival of the Iroquois was the Strawberry Festival. This is where the people gave thanks to the Creator for their many fruits (like strawberries). It was summertime. The women gathered wild nuts and other foods, while the men hunted, fished and provided various meats for cooking. Again, each festival was greeted with much dancing and merriment. Did you know that the some Iroquois believed the way to the Creator was paved with strawberries?
The next fesitval was the Green Corn Fesitval. Again, the Creator was thanked for the bounty of food that had been raised all through the summer. Dancers danced to please the Creator and musicians sang and beat the drum. Again there were many speeches to honor the people and the Creator. There were team sports. Lacrosse was the game that was most admired and it was played with great abandon by the men. Women played games, too and often their games were as competitive as the men’s.
The next season festival was…are you ready? Thanksgiving — or the Harvest Thanksgiving. By this time the women had harvested the corn, beans and squash. Much of it would be dried. Much went to feed families. Husks were made into many different items. Dolls, rugs, mats. Did you know that the dolls didn’t have faces? Now was the time to gather more nuts and berries. Men were busy, too, hunting far away. Bear, moose, beaver were all sought after and hunted. Again, there was much celebration. Dancing, speeches, prayer. And of course — food. It was this particular festival that was shared with the newcomers to this continent.
Can you guess what the next festival was? Although this is a Christmas tree, it was not a celebration of Christmas — but if you guessed this, you were very close. The next and last festival of the year was New Year’s. At this time, a white dog was sacrificed as a gift to the Creator. This was also a time for renewing the mind and body. (Does that not remind you of our New Year’s resolutions?) At this time, the False Face Society members would wear masks to help others to cleanse themselves of their bad minds and restore only their good minds. There was again much celebration, much dancing, much merriment and enjoyment as each person would settle in for the long winter ahead of them.
The First Americans indeed did give this country very much, not only its festivals which we still remember to this day, but also it gave to this nation a fighting spirit for freedom. In these times when there seems to be uncertainty ahead of us, there is still much for us to be thankful for. I know I am thankful for my family and my husband and daughters. I’m thankful to be able to travel this beautiful country. I’m thankful to be able to voice my opinions and for living in a country where I am still able to be who I am.
How about you? What are you thankful for? What has influenced your life for the better? And what will you be doing for Thanksgiving this year?
I am away from home and so will be away from family and loved ones at this time of year. I’ll be celebrating with friends this year. How about you?
And don’t forget, if you haven’t already done so, to pick up your copy of THE LAST WARRIOR or RED HAWK’S WOMAN today.
I’m talking about your pet! And veterinary medicine.
Two years ago we got a cute new puppy and instantly fell in love. She’s a Bichon Friseand has the sweetest personality. Her name is Amy.
At the time, I was writing the novel, KLONDIKE WEDDING. (Published in 2007.) I wanted to give my heroine a puppy and started looking into Amy’s history to see if her breed was around then. Lo and behold, yes! Because it was a gold rush story, I named her Nugget in the book.
They weren’t known as Bichon Frises back then, simply bichons. (Double-check the breed names if you’re including them in your novels. The dog may have existed, but the name may have been slightly different. Many official names and standards of a particular breed were formalized later, in the 1900s, for American kennel clubs.)
One thing often overlooked in Klondike history is the huge influx of stampeders’ dogs. People from around the world heard of the gold strike and raced to get there. They brought their faithful companions not only as a remedy for cabin fever, but as work dogs. They pulled sleds, hauled supplies and people, carried mail and acted as security guards. Often times, they were the only friend a gold miner could trust. And extremely valuable. A dog that sold for $15 in the lower states could sell for ten times that amount or more in the Yukon.
When I was in the Yukon, I picked up this great book. GOLD RUSH DOGS by Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jane G. Haigh. It offers such an interesting point of view of the gold rush. For centuries prior to this, Indians and Eskimos in Alaska relied on their huskies and malamutes for transportation (dog sleds) and carrying household goods as they moved seasonally for hunting, fishing and trapping.
Stampeders brought different breeds. Saint Bernards, English mastiffs, water spaniels, Lapphunds (a Norwegian or Lapp dog that was a reindeer herder) and countless other mixed breeds. Many became legendary in the north for their hard work, incredible strength and duration. They bred with the huskies and forever changed the bloodline of northern dogs.
DOGS. Some dog breeds from around the world and their history:
Bichon – French, Belgian and Mediterranean ancestry dating back to the 1300s. Related to poodles, Maltese breeds, and water spaniels. During the 1500s, the breed became popular as pampered lap dogs for French, English and Spanish royalty.
Golden Retriever – Developed sometime around 1865 by Lord Tweedmouth of Scotland. For hunting purposes to retrieve game birds such as grouse, pheasant and quail. The dog is able to swim in cold water, push through vegetation and retrieve gently.
Saint Bernard – Very old breed. Some say they date back to the 1st century A.D. Its ancestors are herding dogs of Swiss and Italian farmers, and watchdogs. Famous for being used by Swiss monks as rescue dogs for travelers crossing the treacherous Swiss Alps. These dogs have a highly developed sense of smell to find people trapped in snowstorms and are excellent pathfinders. In widespread use until the middle of the 19th century.
CATS. Around 4,000 years ago, cats were fully domesticated by the Egyptians as household pets, and used to guard stored grain from rodents. Cats don’t have as many diverse breeds as dogs. Although some breeds are 500 years old, most are roughly 100 years old and new breeds are continually being developed.
Some cat breeds:
Persian – Originated in Persia (Iran). Believed to have been brought to Europe during the Crusades in the 1300s, though first documented in Italy during the 1600s. Introduced to North America in the late 1800s.
American Shorthair – A breed with ancestry related to English cats, which were brought on ships by early explorers (the Mayflower) to guard valuable cargo from mice and rats. Known for longevity, robust health and amiability.
Siamese – Exported from Thailand (known as Siam then) in the late 1800s, to England and America. Known for distinct beauty, intelligence and inquisitive nature.
In KLONDIKE WEDDING, I took the story one step further and made the hero a Veterinary Surgeon who worked for the Mounties. He had a lot on his plate—dealing with a measles quarantine, trapped with the heroine and several other people, while suspecting someone was using his vet supplies for poison.
You can imagine how valuable veterinarians were during those times, especially in caring for horses. Horses were desperately needed for transport, battle, hunting, and basic survival. Veterinary Surgeons became very important during the American Civil War.
Although the Royal Veterinary College was founded in England in 1791, the first college in the U.S. started in 1857—the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons. Up until then, American men became veterinarians by apprenticing with someone who was trained in England, or by practice and hearsay. Unfortunately, in some pockets of the U.S. it took several decades for good education to filter through.
In 1863, the United States Veterinary Medical Association was founded. It went through several name changes, and published the journal, American Veterinary Review, for their members.