Miss Prinsella Primm, of Culdesac Corners, California, and Lifestyle Editor of the Courant, is visiting Wildflower
Junction today to present her interview with outlaw Jack Ransom, hero of Tanya Hanson’s latest release, Christmas for Ransom. One commenter today will receive a copy of the novella either PDF or Kindle version, so y’all, don’t be strangers.
November 30, 1880
MISS PRIMM, primly: Mr. Ransom, although I do detect a glint of naughtiness in your eyes, I also sense a good heart beneath the bulging muscles of your chest. So how is it you sank so low as to become a notorious outlaw?
JACK, fingering his pocket for his flask: How is it, Miss Primm, you rose up to become a newspaperwoman?
MISS PRIMM, more primly: My dear Mr. Ransom, journalism is a most honorable profession. Unlike yours. And this interview is about you, not me. So for our readers’ sake, how did your career path as an outlaw come about?
JACK, eyes downcast: When my gram-maw died, I lost my direction. She raised me up, and with her gone, I discovered I was good at something bad: stealing horses.
MISS PRIMM, shuddering: Goodness gracious, I believe your grandmother must be looking down in horror at your disgrace.
JACK, cheeks that bear three days-stubble turning red: I reckon you’re correct, ma’am. I loved her so. That’s why I decided to mend my evil ways and honor one of her deathbed requests. Jacky, learn to read.
MISS PRIMM, holding up two fingers: Would you mind sharing the other?
JACK, forehead wrinkling like a piece of paper: Share what, ma’am? A book.
MISS PRIMM, lips pursed: No. The other request.
JACK, redder yet: Oh, that. To live a righteous life. As you see, that trail never got blazed. But I’m gonna start now.
MISS PRIMM Primm, glaring with genteel disapproval: Who coached you in this dreadful life-altering decision?
JACK, with a wicked yet disarming grin: That would be Ahab Perkins, leader of the pack. We met up at approximately age thirteen. No folks, no home. No nothing. So we picked up a few more hooligans along the way. Truth is, our gang got along so good for a time we might have been a Boy Scout troop.
MISS PRIMM, peering over her spectacles: Try again, Mr. Ransom. Boy Scouting won’t originate for twenty years. Besides, horse stealing would be anathema to the Scout slogan Do a Good Turn Daily.
JACK RANSOM’s whiskey-colored eyes widen: Mighty big word there, ma’am.
MISS PRIMM, wearing a schoolmarm frown: Why, I thought you had honored that deathbed vow and learned to read.
JACK, eyelids lowering like they might do when he slept: Did so. Hiring a tutor is how I met my Eliza. She’s the schoolteacher in Pleasure Stakes, Texas.
MISS PRIMM, somewhat jealous: Eliza?
JACK, proud: Yep. My lady love. Me and she managed to get snowbound down in Backbone Hollow. She’s quite a gal, my Eliza. You see, while she tutored me, she had no notion whatsoever it was me who thieved her granny’s horses. For that matter, neither did I.
MISS PRIMM, profoundly jealous, disheartened and ready to close out the interview: Well, I hope you did all your homework.
JACK, triumphant: That I did, ma’am. Eliza and me, we’ll have a good life with me gone all reformed. Miss Primm, I surely do thank you for your time today. And dear lady, a most merry Christmas to you and yourn.
He leans across her battered desk and kisses her soft spinster cheek. Her face flames in pure delight as he heads out of the Courant office, his backside swaying over his boot heels in just the right way.
Miss Primm dearly wishes she’d been the one to get snowbound with the handsome, reformed rascal.
Blurb: Rebellious and independent, schoolmarm Eliza Willows wants to find the crook who thieved her rich granny’s horses and knocked Eliza out cold. When outlaw “Canyon” Jack Ransom hires the beautiful ‘marm to teach him to read, sparks fly and worlds collide…until she finds out just who her lover is.
Pinching herself, she 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,” Ben said helpfully.
As he moved closer, the stranger 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, simmering at her breasts and pounding with fire at her womanly notch. Her nipples ached for his firm lips, 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.
Woo-Hoo! Miss Lacy Williams is galloping toward us and will arrive on Saturday, December 1.
The Fillies hope Miss Lacy keeps a sharp eye out for outlaws and rattlesnakes. You never know what you’ll run across out on the trail.
The dear lady has a new book out called COUNTERFEIT COWBOY. Just take a look at that handsome devil on the cover and you’ll know exactly why she took a liking for western romance some years ago. I’d sure like to rope me one of those. Hunky men, not books. I do declare! He sure would help fill the lonely nights.
Anyway, get up on Saturday morning and drink you some coffee. Then saddle up and ride the trail over to Wildflower Junction to keep Miss Lacy company.
The story I’m working on right now has a thirteen year old girl named Jane, who grew up in a foundling home and foster homes. In one scene, my main character, Ruby is reading Jane Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. She explains about how she’d read that the author had never been to the Netherlands, but had learned all about customs and traditions of the country from a neighbor.
Jane has no concept of cultural or family traditions, which got me to thinking how many things we take for granted. Families are one thing we accept as part of our everyday normal lives, until we see someone without one–or someone living far from their family. We have a friend who is in America to go to school and work and his entire family is in Africa. Because he’s working toward a better future, he hasn’t seen his children or is wife for a long time.
Most of us have traditions, like decorating the Christmas tree together, movie and pizza on Friday night, a specific birthday cake, fishing on the Fourth of July. Families who have rituals have the strongest ties, because of the sense of continuity and memory building.
In 2000 the University of Wyoming shared 5 reasons to celebrate family life. By understanding these reasons, we can increase our efforts and realize the importance of daily life within our family.
1) Time to relate or communicate with one another. Caring, problem solving, balancing individual and together time are also part of this time to understand one another’s needs, goals and challenges in life. Help in adapting to new stages of development, crisis or the flow of events.
2) Things like learning a new hobby, caring for a family member, planning a weekly schedule together, learning a new skill like meal preparation or grocery shopping, or establishing a signal to ease transitions like a hand sign to say, “You have 5 more minutes.”
3) A time to heal and forgive from a loss or disappointment in life. Using this time to talk about the good times and tell stories. Time to spend together as a sign of cooperation and reconciliation.
4) Time to affirm family values, faith and life experiences. The materials we read to reinforce our faith. The crafts, decorations or special things we do related to holidays or special family events. The time we spend sharing with others outside our family for those in need.
5) A time to celebrate together. The special events in our lives including holidays and special accomplishments by family members.
One tradition that has developed over the past several years is our Thanksgiving photo of the females. Sometimes one or two aren’t there; sometimes it’s the whole gang together, but we always do our group photo. The outtakes can often be more fun than the actual finished portrait. This year was so cold and windy we couldn’t go outside and the indoor lighting was poor, so we traveled all over my daughter’s house looking for a good spot. We never found one, but we laughed a lot.
How have your family traditions evolved over the years?
Charlie McGraw never should have bought the angel book for his precocious daughter. Because then Meredith wouldn’t be convinced that getting a new mommy was as simple as having an “angel” sprinkle him with her “miracle dust.” And she never would have believed the beautiful blond-haired woman who drove a truck called the “Silver Angel” was some treetop angel come to life.
Starla Richards was no angel. But try telling that to a five-year-old who was so starved for a mother’s love that she’d stowed away on Starla’s rig. Or convincing herself that miracles just didn’t happen to ordinary people when Starla found herself snowbound with a handsome, caring widower and his adorable daughter….
Revised for the Heartwarming line from a previous SIM edition, Charlie’s Angels
Thanks for all the fabulous title ideas. What a fun day. I’ve put all the names in a hat and have pulled out…drumroll, please…LAURIE G. Laurie, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work out what book you want. Congratulations!
Titles are the hardest part of writing a book for me, and yet one of the most important tools for letting the reader know just what she’s getting when she decides to pick up a Renee Ryan release. I’ve published eleven books so far, and I’ve been able to keep one of my original titles. That’s right, one. One! Just so you can see how bad I am at this, here are my original titles, with the final titles beside them.
UNSHAKABLE LOVE became THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE (the hero is a U.S. Marshal)
A LOVE THAT LASTS became HANNAH’S BEAU (the hero’s name is Beau, heroine is Hannah)
A MOST UNSUITABLE LOVE became LOVING BELLA (the heroine’s name is Bella)
DAWN OF DARKNESS became DANGEROUS ALLIES (hero and heroine are both spies in 1939 Germany)
UNDER THE HIS PROTECTION became THE LAWMAN CLAIMS HIS BRIDE (hero is a U.S. Marshal)
INTIMATE ENEMIES became COURTING THE ENEMY (hero is a WWII spy, heroine’s father a Nazi sympathizer)
HAILEY’S HERO became HOMECOMING HERO (contemporary book with a returning Iraq War veteran)
CHARITY HOUSE REDEPMTION became THE OUTLAW’S REDEMPTION (former gunslinger hero released from prison)
Apparently, I have a long way to go when it comes to titling my work. So, what makes a good title? Here are a few of this week’s popular country song titles to give us a clue. Hope on the Rocks, Stay With Me Tonight, Only God Could Love You More, Sure Felt Like Goodbye, and Maybe You Remember Me Now. I don’t know about you, but I get a good idea what these songs are about without having to hear the lyrics.
And isn’t that what makes a good title, just a few words that encompass the entire story?
For fun, I want you to help me title my current work-in-progress, a historical western set in 1880s Denver, Colorado. For now, I’ve titled the book WINNING MOLLY’S HEART. Here’s the blurb for you to get an idea what the story is about…
She was the original runaway bride
Molly Taylor Scott loved being engaged almost as much as she loved the Lord. Brought up to believe in the sanctity of marriage, thankfully, the impressionable miss always realized the error of her ways before walking down the aisle. Her family hopes that Molly’s new position as a personal secretary to a wealthy widow will be a stabilizing force in her life.
Garrett Mitchell fell for Molly’s charms once. But that was long ago, when he was a boy of seventeen. He’s a prominent attorney now and a whole lot wiser. His focus is on a big land merger he’s orchestrated for his firm, not on a certain raven-haired, blue-eyed imp whose saucy smile haunted his dreams for too many years. Besides, after encouraging Garrett’s sister to break her own engagement—to Garrett’s boss—Molly is on his black list…again.
Garrett’s vow to keep his distance from the troublesome Molly becomes increasingly difficult when his firm’s most important client, the wealthy widow decides Garrett and her personal secretary would be a perfect match.
Will the third time be the charm for Molly? Will Garrett be the man who finally wins Molly’s heart?
Okay, you’re turn. What title would you give this book? If you leave a comment you’ll be put in a drawing for one of my past releases (your choice).
Saloons and beer are synonymous with Texas… but add a black bear and you got troubles that not even an old west sheriff could handle.
The much chronicled story begins in the 1890’s and takes place in Claude, Texas, a newly established small town along the Forth Worth and Denver Railroad about thirty miles east of Amarillo in the panhandle.
One of the saloon owners, Jim Scarborough, had an unusual pet and sometimes customer … a black bear rightfully name Blackie. A bear in itself would today be an oddity here, but a century ago there were many down in the Palo Duro Canyon.
According to the ol’ timers, Blackie was captured as a cub during a round-up in Ceta Canyon and taken to the Rush Creek Camp. Later he was adopted by Scarborough. The saloon keeper kept the animal on a long chain just outside the saloon door. Perfectly tame, Blackie furnished considerable entertainment for cowboys who stopped by for a slug. Frequently the bear would wander inside and beg for beer. A customer would usually buy him a little nip. Satisfied, Blackie would give the donor a grateful nudge before lumbering outside the saloon and resume his sentry duties.
Blackie sometimes caused a bit of commotion with dogs that ran loose through the dirt streets. They’d yap and snap at him when they passed the saloon. Needless to say, they annoyed the heck out of Blackie. It didn’t take long before the unusual saloon icon figured out a way to handle the suckers.
Knowing the length of his chain, he would allow the mutts to back him in a corner knowing full well the radius of a circle his chain allowed. Having plenty of chain length, he would then pounce, give the dogs a good whoopin’ and send them howling back home with their tails between their legs.
Every now and again, Blackie would manage to slip his chain and take a stroll through town. Although nobody was scared of him, he generally got into some kind of mischief when he went on the lamb.
Before he was fully grown, when roaming the streets, his favorite trick was to head for the hotel managed by a Mrs. Weaver. As was the custom in the day, she kept a rain barrel but hers was just outside the dining room window of the hotel.
One hot summer day while Mrs. Weaver was fixin’ the noonday meal she heard water splashing. Fairly certain it was Blackie, she grabbed up a broom and headed for the front porch. She clobbered the bear every time he raised his head above the rim of the rain barrel. Blackie finally managed to escape the barrel, the broom, and woman who was mad enough to peel the skin off a rattler with her bare hands.
But ol’ Blackie wasn’t about to let a woman get the better of him.
Seeing the front door open, he ran inside, down the hall, through the hotel’s dining room, leaving a dripping trail all the way. It didn’t say this in the account I read, but I’d imagine, like most furry animals, he shook and let water fly all over the place.
Blackie finally escaped — the hard way by jumping right through the dining room window … right into the rain barrel all over again!
Ol’ Blackie was a favorite of the whole town despite his many forays in Mrs. Weaver’s rain barrel; and I’m sure he was responsible for other mischief in the small Texas town.
I sometimes wonder if ol’ Blackie had something to do with the fact that for many years to come Armstrong County was dry … no liquor served or sold in the county, even today. What do you think?
To kick off the holiday season with Bloggin’ Tuesday, for one lucky person who leaves a comment, I’ll send them a signed copy of our anthology, A Texas Christmas.
I’m pleased to say that A Texas Christmas is a Rhapsody Book Club selection in their 2012 holiday catalogue in hardback, but it, along with our other five anthologies, are still available at BN.com and Amazon.com in both mass market and ebook formats.
A big Wildflower Welcome to Miz Chelley and her pals. Don”t forget to comment…one of y”all will be winning a copy of Heartbreak Ranch!
Readers are always asking, “How do you come up with your ideas?” Truthfully, ideas are everywhere; all you have to do is have an open mind and a story will emerge from the most trivial information.
But Heartbreak Ranch has a unique beginning and that’s the story I’m sharing with you today.
I wanted to go on a writing retreat with my friends: Jill Landis, Dorsey Adams aka Dorsey Kelly and Suzanne Forster. Since we all liked writing about cowboys and the old West, it seem fitting that we make the hour and a half trek from my house to Rankin Ranch. And since we were all going together, I thought it might be newsworthy. So I called a reporter, Lisa Kimble Edmonston, from our local news station. She liked the idea of interviewing us at a place she wanted to cover anyway.
JUST ANOTHER ASSIGNMENT
~Lisa Kimble Edmonston
The year was 1993 – Bill Clinton was President, $1.16 would buy you a tank of gas (imagine), and for a few dollars more you could go see Jurassic Park at the movie theater.
It was also still part of what is now a by-gone era in television news, when even smaller market television stations like Bakersfield (size 147 at the time) sent a two-person crew beyond the city limits in search of good stories.
By then, it had been my good fortune to have been assigned many such stories – a Papal visit, the Academy Awards, and the San Francisco earthquake among them. But it would be what at first seemed like ‘just another assignment’, a feature on one of California’s last and oldest working ranches, in the foothills above Bakersfield, that would become the hallmark of my broadcasting career and spawn the idea for a best-selling book in the process.
My photographer and I snaked up the Lion’s Trail road to Caliente – a trip that even by car would make a mule sick. Our destination was the rustic Rankin Ranch, a working dude ranch, one of the few remaining in the West, where dudes are gentlemen cowboys and the pastoral land is rich in history.
Time stands still at this piece of heaven in the Tehachapi Mountains. It is exactly that same peaceful feeling of tranquility and deep history that a group of four romance writers sought out each year at the Rankin. Their annual sojourn was a sort of soulful reunion in which these four women, all acclaimed in their own right, also immersed themselves in all things rustic and rugged which would eventually weave its way through their future manuscripts.
Lucky for us, my visit to the Rankin and their retreat overlapped on one beautiful day. Within a matter of hours (a luxurious amount of time by today’s broadcasting assignment standards), Chelley Kitzmiller, Dorsey Kelley, Jill Marie Landis and Suzanne Forster were interwoven with my story on such a beloved place hidden in the hills, a new friendship with Chelley began, and by the end of our time together, ‘just one more question’ sparked what would become Heartbreak Ranch.
“Why haven’t you collaborated on something, given all your trips up here?” I inquired. The four women looked at each other in wonderment. “What a great idea!” they chimed back.
And the rest, as they say, is romance novel history. I went on to win an Emmy Award for that story, certainly a highlight of my broadcasting news career. But it would be the publication of Heartbreak Ranch, a quartet of original stories by the four women a few years later, including a dedication to me for my encouragement, that I will treasure forever!
Lisa spent a lot of time with us and so did her camera man. She seemed genuinely interested, which I later learned was not always the case with media people. Because of her interest in people in general, Lisa and I have since become friends and even though we don’t see each other often, we keep in touch via Facebook.
Indeed, it was Lisa who was the instigator for Heartbreak Ranch. Her question sparked an idea in me and I will forever be in her debt.
For those old enough to remember the movie “If A Man Answers” with Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, Dee was a new bride who envied her parent’s perfect marriage. When things start to go bad in Dee’s marriage, she asks her mother, a savvy French woman, her secret for wedded bliss and mom gives her a book from her bookshelf titled “How To Train Your Puppy.” Dee is outraged but her mother assures her that the training techniques really do work and that she should try them. I had just watched the movie on the classics movie channel and the concept was stuck in my mind, so I went with it thinking it would be fun. As you probably know I’m a huge fan of dogs. I have 11 of my own and currently 5 fosters and I run a pet rescue—www.HaveAHeartHumaneSociety.org
Just like the movie, Heartbreak Ranch is fiction. We were not saying that men should be treated like dogs; we were saying that men and women should be praised when they do good and corrected when they do wrong, which is what dog training is all about. I know this now more than ever because I’m currently in training classes with one of my rescue dogs.
Just about the time that Heartbreak Ranch was about to hit the stands, a story about 60 starving Arabian horses came over our local news. The horses were found near Rankin Ranch, which was also our basic setting for the book. The horrifying pictures of these skeletal creatures made me call Jill, Dorsey and Fern and ask if they would join me in donating money to help. Together, we raised several thousand dollars, which was used to buy portable horse corrals. The horses were being transported to the Lerdo Correctional Institution and the prisoners would be taking care of them. The corrals were for the mares, most of whom were pregnant. Once they gave birth, they needed to be separated from the other mares and geldings. The media covered over efforts and helped inspire others to donate as well.
Working with Jill, Dorsey and Fern was a real thrill for me—a dream come true. A few years later I had another opportunity to work with Fern Michaels, this time as her writing assistant. In fact, I worked with her on nine of her books: Guest List, Picture Perfect, Split Second, Late Bloomer, Kentucky Rich, Kentucky Heat, Kentucky Sunrise, Plain Jane and the infamous Weekend Warrior. She sent me one or two chapters at a time, which were mostly dialogue and I added descriptions, emotions and all the research information…basically fleshed out each chapter and did all the research and revisions. She was a good teacher and I learned a lot from her.
Heartbreak Ranch was an experience I will never forget and a memory I will forever cherish.
Back view of rec room and patio
It was right there, outside the recreational room, where Elaine Palance (wife of late actor Jack Palance) is sitting that Heartbreak Ranch was born. Yes, that’s Margaret Brownley on the left. This picture was taken on a later visit to Rankin Ranch. I wasn’t think back then that a photo of all of us might be helpful.
This is where we retreated to every night during our stay. Twin beds, a cot, a couple of chairs to each room, very comfy except for the cot, which will put a big hitch in your get-along.
The dining room is the heart of Rankin Ranch. It’s attached to the main house, which was built in the 1800’s. The food that came out of the kitchen had more starch in it than your grandma’s apron. It didn’ t just stick to my ribs; it stuck to my hips, thighs and waist! Special guests had the honor of setting at the same table with the late Helen Rankin, whose story of being widowed at a very young age and taking over the cattle ranch is the stuff that movies are made of—or books! Uhh, we never got to sit at her table but we had a good time anyway.