What is it about very good girls falling for very bad men? Does the man have some redeeming quality she can see right off?
In my “Lawmen and Outlaws” Christmas Anthology novella, Christmas for Ransom, available both in print and e-book, schoolmarm Eliza Willows falls in love with an outlaw when the handsome stranger hires her to teach him to read. Of course she’s unaware he’s the bad guy who thieved her granny’s prized Morgan horses smack dab during Thanksgiving dinner. Even when Eliza finds out his true identity, her heart has already been stolen…and Canyon Jack Ransom’s grown a conscience. He vows to become respectable and does all the right things to stay in her heart.
Today I’ll be giving away a signed copy (U.S.A.) or an e-copy (international) after drawing a name from today’s commenters.
Well, today let’s look at a real life good girl who fell for a bad guy. Schoolteacher Anna Ralston, daughter of a wealthy Independence MO businessman, held a Bachelor of Arts degree in Science and Literature from Missouri State College. Truth is, she was one of its first female graduates.
“Annie” is the woman who snared Alexander Franklin James, aka Frank James, and eloped with him in July 1875. When she pretended to visit her brother-in-law in Kansas City, Frank waited for her on the train, the elopement already arranged.
No one ever knew how or when the couple met. But it is known Frank wasn’t only a rough and tumble baddie. As a youth, he’d devoured the books in his father’s library and even as an outlaw, quoted Shakespeare at will. His father, a farmer and Baptist minister, co-founded the William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. So maybe it’s not all that surprising that Frank chose an educator who loved literature. And with him described by the Kansas City Times as a “notable knight of the road” and “dashing and daring,” perhaps it’s not surprising Annie fell for him.
Two days after her departure for Kansas City, her parents received a brief note from her that said, “Dear Mother: I am married and going West. Annie Reynolds”
Not recognizing the name Reynolds, they figured she’d run off with a gambler they’d heard about. Putting their sons on her trail, her parents eventually learned of Annie’s marriage to the outlaw. Her father advised the family to treat the matter philosophically. Nothing could be done now, he said, and the less said about it the better.
Annie and Frank had one son, Robert Franklin James, born February 6, 1878. Four years later, after brother Jesse’s murder, Frank gave himself up, wanting peace after being hunted for twenty-one years.
Found not guilty for two robberies/murders (the juries cited lack of evidence), Frank became respectable for the last thirty years of his life. He gave lecture tours with his old crony Cole Younger and worked for the telegraph before returning to the James Farm in Kearney, Missouri to give tours. He died an honorable man on February 18, 1915. Fearing his grave would be desecrated for souvenirs, he decreed his ashes would be kept hidden until he and Annie could be buried together.
Annie remained with her mother in law at the James farm for many years, After her death at age 91, she and Frank were buried next to each other at Hill Park Cemetery in Independence.
(Excerpt from Chapter Two, Christmas for Ransom:
Pinching herself, Eliza lost interest in everything except seeing what the stranger looked like in the lantern light. Brawny stalwart men were nothing new in a railroad town or on the ranch, but she never minded a good view.
Her breath caught so hard her sore rib tweaked. He was magnificent. The big-brimmed hat and flowing duster reckoned him a wrangler of some sort coming in from the range. Although he needed a bath and truly looked the worse for wear, she didn’t mind one single bit. The scruffy cheeks, the long rag-taggle coat, even the scent of masculine sweat were far more her style than the slick-haired dandies and overdressed fops she’d met at Boston cotillions.
“This here’s Ransom,” the blacksmith said helpfully.
As the stranger moved closer, he removed his hat and tucked it under his arm with a polite half-nod. For a long luscious moment, eyes the color of manly liquor covered her with a mouth-watering gaze. Golden-brown hair touched the mountains of his shoulders like sunlight at dawn across the Guadalupe Mountains.
Air left her lungs. A slow burn started at the top of her spine, her flesh desperate for the days’ worth of roughness adorning cheekbones carved like crags and valleys. She had to hold her hand still to keep her fingers from caressing the deep etches of his face.
Eliza couldn’t move as she stared up at him, aching and eager.
Now, for a Christmas story about a real GOOD man, my latest release, Right to Bragg, is a short, sweet holiday read.
In “Away in the Manager” for our anthology “A Texas Christmas”, my grumpy, blacksmith hero Randall Humphrey who wants to be left alone and celebrate Christmas in the only way he knows how – in solitude, is faced being snowed in with a beautiful woman and two little tykes. And, Christmas is only a couple of days away.
But, how could they have Christmas without a tree? Caught in a raging blizzard a real tree was out of the question; but it didn’t take long for the little twins, Damon and Addie Claire, patterned after my own granddaughter, Addison Claire, to remind him that he’d said, as a blacksmith, he could make anything. So, Rand was pressed into action to create something to please the children.
With the twins, and of course the feisty, mother hen Sarah melting his heart, Rand set about crafting a tree. That became a challenge for me as a writer, but I knew if he could make nails, hinges, cooking utensils, and pot hooks, surely he’d be ingenious enough to create a Christmas tree.
I did some research and low-and-behold I figured out how he could make one in a cone shape. Crude, but he thought it’d make the children happy. He was so wrong. While they liked it, there was no way to add the ornaments which consisted of round cookies tied with red ribbon fixed up by Sarah. The little darlings wanted more … gingerbread men, angels, and bears, because they thought that was what the gruffly clad blacksmith looked like to them. Rand could manage the star, but he had no idea how to make the other ornaments they requested. It didn’t take him long to decide if he fashioned some cookie cutters then Sarah could design the rest of the ornaments out of cookie dough. That worked, but he still hadn’t figured out how to attach them to the tree he had designed.
While playing in the hayloft with a homeless kitten who had taken up residence at the blacksmith’s shop, the twins come down with some barbed wire that had been stored there. That gave me … I mean Rand… an idea. Why not fashion a tree out of the cone shape he’d already done and add barbed wire? But would it work?
That’s when real life came into the picture. Fellow Filly, Linda Broday, also one of my co-authors, found a story in her local newspaper about a Christmas tree constructed from barbed wire taken from the famous XIT Ranch here in the Panhandle. There was my answer, oops, I meant Rand’s answer!
Sallie Sinclair of Shallowater, Texas, had fashioned a Western Christmas Tree out of Brinkerhoff barbed wire from the 1800’s and decorated it with miniature boots and saddle bags, along with regulation-size sheriffs’ badges made from five-peso coins, she’d worked on over a period of time. Because the Brinkerhoff wire could not be cut from the post, a single strand was removed from one post, rolled loosely, and unfastened from the next post down the fence line. It was some of the original wire that the XIT had used in fencing the gigantic ranch property that had been granted to its owners when they offered to build Texas’ Capitol building in Austin as a trade for land.
Of interest, as Ms. Sinclair and her friends built the tree, the wire could only be cut to length by scoring the metal, then flexing it until it broke. I’m sure there was plenty of pricked fingers and blood, during the process.
In my story, Rand would have likely used the King of Barbed Wire, Joseph Glidden’s simple wire locked into place by twisted barbs onto a double-strand wire. His invention made the fencing more effective not only because he perfected a method for locking the barbs in place, but also because he developed the machinery to mass-produce the wire.
Back to my story, while the twins where thrilled with the tree, there was still one thing missing … a star! That ended up being one of the easier challenges for the blacksmith, as he used his failed attempts at making cookie cutters to sculpt a cone shape where he added wings; thus, providing an angel.
At last the tree was perfect, and they shared a very Merry Christmas … and something else special. But, you’ll have to read the book to see what else happened around the best Christmas tree in the world.
After forty-three years of Christmases with my husband, we’ve had our share of absolutely beautifully, perfect trees and some not so perfect. One I particularly remember was special but about as ugly as they come.
We have friends who have a ranch that extends down into the bowels of the Palo Duro Canyon, so years ago we decided to cut our own tree. It was fun, but trust me a tree from the Palo Duro compared to those grown and cut specifically for tree lots are very different. I laugh when I think back to the pictures, and wish I could find one to add to this post, because we actually had to use duck tape to hold on some of the branches. But, you know, kinda like Rand, Sarah, and the children, it didn’t matter because it was the most perfect tree in the world because we shared it as a family.
I’d love to hear your favorite Christmas tree story. So, come on and share.
To one commenter, I am giving away your choice of either an autographed softback or hardback copy of
While on vacation recently, my husband and I spent a morning visiting the Arizona Cowboy Shooters Association in action. Every second Saturday, enthusiasts of period weapons, dedicated to preserving and promoting the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting gather together to talk history, weapons and shooting.
The Single Action Shooting Society–SASS–is for folks who “…share a common interest in preserving the history of the Old West and competitive shooting.” [SASS website, www.sassnet.com.] There are clubs all in all fifty states, andCanada,New Zealand, Europe,Australia andSouth Africa, too.
Personally, spending a Saturday or two a month enjoying the sport of shooting sounds like a lot of fun. And every club member we met agreed. The day consists of target shooting with revolvers, a shotgun, and a lever-action rifle.
“Cowboy Action Shooting is a multi-faceted shooting sport in which contestants compete with firearms typical of those used in the taming of the Old West: single action revolvers, pistol caliber lever action rifles, and old time shotguns.” [www.sassnet.com]
Every member of the ACSA carried reproduction or original period firearms. There were Colt Peacemakers,Winchester1873s, Model No. 3 “Russians” (pictured to the left), Model 1873 repeating rifles, 1866 “Yellow Boys”… You name it, someone was probably carrying it.
We saw 1897 pump-action and 1887 lever-action shotguns–that one “Terminator” fans would recognize–and lots of double-barreled or side-by-side Coach guns.
There were stations set up on the range, with different targets, arrangements and distances. At one station, participants emptied both revolvers at steel gunslinger- shaped targets, or “steels,” then switched to their rifles and pinged off nine shots at five dinner-plate sized targets from 10 yards away. At the next station, the targets were 25 yards away. And at another, knocking down one “steel” tossed a clay target into the air. Bonus points were awarded for shattering it. There’s also a long-range rifle competition, but we didn’t get up early enough to observe that.
Another fun aspect of the sport is that every participant got to be someone else for a day. “One of the unique aspects of SASS approved Cowboy Action Shooting™ is the requirement placed on costuming. Each participant is required to adopt a shooting alias appropriate to a character or profession of the late 19th century, a Hollywoodwestern star, or an appropriate character from fiction. Their costume is then developed accordingly. Many event participants gain more enjoyment from the costuming aspect of our sport than from the shooting competition, itself. Regardless of a SASS member’s individual area of interest, SASS events provide regular opportunities for fellowship and fun with like-minded folks and families.” [www.sassnet.com]
For sheer fun while shooting, you’d be hard pressed to beat Cowboy Action Shooting. Unless it was mounted cowboy action shooting–but that’s for another post.
Listed below are the upcoming releases from our talented writers here at Wildflower Junction. To purchase any of these fine books, just click on the book covers. And to learn more about the authors, click on thier names.
He’d been ready to move on, to marry a woman who’d provide him with heirs. But a year of separation hasn’t slaked rancher Clayton Worth’s raging desire for his soon-to-be-ex-wife. And Trish is as unpredictable as ever. Her mysterious reluctance to have kids was what drove them apart. Now Trish is back in Red Ridge, mother to a baby girl. The irony is maddening.
Trish urgently needs to finalize their divorce before Clayton’s irresistible charm can melt her resolve. Because his touch awakens a consuming hunger than hasn’t died. They’d thought it was all over between them…but their hearts have other ideas.
BREATHE By Donna Alward
The first time they broke each other’s hearts. Now they have a second chance…
Doing what was expected didn’t get Anna Morelli anything but a bad marriage. Now that her life has fallen apart there’s only one place she can think of to regroup and figure out what comes next. Two Willows, the winery owned by the only man she could ever rely on. Her oldest friend. And her worst mistake.
Growing up as the poor boy didn’t stop Jace Willow from falling for Anna one hot, sultry summer. Back then, his best efforts to prove himself worthy of the Morelli standard fell just short. While it killed him to see her marry someone else, he made beating the Morellis at their own game his life’s work. And he’s excelled at it.
When Anna shows up on his doorstep, their painful history pales in the face of her need for a roof over her children’s heads—and some peace. The heat of their renewed passion is healing, but it burns away layers of hard-won emotional distance, reopening old wounds. Threatening their one last chance to rebuild their love on the shattered pieces of their broken hearts…
Warning: Full-bodied, rich bouquet with sexy overtones. Decant, breathe, and enjoy.
A HOME FOR CHRISTMAS Multi-author Anthology –available as an ebook ONLY
A spinster with a master’s degree who is a world traveler, librarian by day and concert pianist by night, marries aNebraskarancher with an eighth grade education. Their worlds are so far apart that each is afraid to admit their marriage of convenience is turning into a love match.
When Christmas draws nearAdelaidemust decide if she can give up her hopes of owning a beautiful piano so her husband can have the stallion he needs for his ranch. And Graham may need to sell his perfect brood mare, the ideal mate to his stallion, to fully express his love for his wife by buying her the Christmas gift of her dreams.
Thanksgiving is always the time we think of home. Last week a man in his 70’s said to me, “I remember the house I grew up in, every room, every drawer, every smell. In my mind I can still go there even though the house was torn down over 50 years ago.”
I thought about what he said and I realized I can remember my childhood home the same way. Once, years ago I was walking through a second hand store and I saw a chair just like my grandmother had. When I sat down I ran my fingers over the grooves in the handle and remembered when my fingers fit down in the carved wood. From there I remembered my grandmother and what her life must have been like when she homesteaded and lived in a dugout.
I like to think that kind of memory isn’t just regular memory, but a kind of loving memory. Sometimes it isn’t just the things we remember, but the way we felt. Maybe it’s just a smell or home cooking or a feeling you always get when you hug that certain someone, but the memory is imprinted on your heart, not your mind.
When I began the Harmony Series I wanted to write about people who would settle into the reader’s heart like old friends. I wanted to create a town, not that I’ve ever been to, but a place that’s always been in my mind. A place where people care about one another. I think I took pieces of my world and pieces of my dreams. A writer’s mind is a patchwork quilt held together of what life is and what they dream life to be.
So this holiday season take the time to look at all the blessings you have, not just today but through the years. Walk through your childhood home. Have a seat in grandma’s chair. Open a few drawers of memories.
Always remember: Thanksgiving is an active verb, not a noun.
I would love to hear your early memory blessings.
The winner of the drawing will receive a copy of my first national bestseller THE TENDER TEXAN, always a favorite book of mine.
Poor Thanksgiving Turkey doesn’t stand a chance. I have this vision of Santa bringing up the end of the Thanksgiving Day Parade with spurs sparkling and guns blazing! A signal, for “Let the holiday madness begin!” There’s hardly time to put away the turkey leftovers with Black-Friday sales starting at 10pm Thanksgiving night…sheer madness. I’ll admit, even as I write this post, I’m waiting to check out some Black-Friday on-line deals. I’m all for nabbing those sales…without the crowds 😉 How bout the rest of y’all–anyone braving the crowds today?
I’m having my own Black-Friday giveaway today! One comment shooter will win a western holiday tin star and a yet-to-be-released LARGE PRINT copy of my first book, MUSTANG WILD. I received a box of these new large-print books last week, along with the news that my first two books will finally be available in e-book format on December 15th. I’ll be giving away e-books next month on my Facebook Fan Page, so sign on to my FB Fan Page if you’re interested!
I’d love to hear some Black-Friday survivor stories 😀
Any mall-mishaps or Tickle-Me-Elmo tug-a-wars in your past? Come away with any amazing deals? What’s the earliest you’ve hit the stores? I did the whole 4 a.m. thing ONE time, and my cell phone beeped around 8 am–it was my niece letting me know my 5 & 6 year-old boys had just seen me on the morning news with my arms full of Hot-wheels and Pokemon. Another reason Black-Friday can be dangerous, those sneaky news crews 😉
Hoping everyone had a fun Thanksgiving and wishing y’all a smooth ride into the winter holiday season!
Miss Jodi Thomas is coming to ride the trail with us again on Saturday, November 26th.
She’s always a delight. And she’s been here so often of late that she’s becoming like family. In fact, the Fillies have taken quite a shine to her and there’s talk of an adoption. Hee-hee!
Miss Jodi has long been known as the Queen of Texas Romance and for good reason. She knows the ins and outs of Texas and, of course, how to write romance. I don’t rightly known what fascinating subject she’s taken a notion to blog about but it’ll be interesting.
So, dear friends, rise when the rooster crows and hitch up the wagon.