Anne McAllister Loves Cowboys–especially Jess Harper from Laramie

Barbara S pic
Anne McAllister

First I want to say thank you to all the members of the Pistols & Petticoats blog for inviting me to visit with you all today. Cowboys have been near and dear to my heart since I was five and fell in love for the first time.

The object of my affection was, of course, a cowboy. He was tall, dark and handsome (5’9″ is tall to a five-year old!).   I followed him everywhere, imprinting on him like a duck.

When he went away again, I was bereft. Fortunately for me, I grew up in a time when every other show on television was a western. I was enthralled.

I was also selective. One cowboy above all set my heart to beating faster — Jess Harper, the second in command at the stage stop on Laramie. (photo attribution to ABC Television) Jess was played by Robert Fuller who understood the finer points of playing a cowboy hero. He had the tall (well, taller than me), dark and handsome bits down pat. He had a gravelly baritone voice that still makes my ears tingle just to think about. Mostly, though, he understood that Jess had to live by his own moral code. The writers of Laramie seemed to understand this, too. It was a western ahead of its time in that respect.

I loved Jess not just because he was gorgeous in a rugged, rough-hewn way. I loved him for the choices he made. What Jess chose to do in any given situation was not always what the law decreed was proper. It was what deep down in his gut, he believed was right. And he arrived at that conclusion after a lot of soul searching. He anguished over the decisions he made.

Even as a child, I loved an anguished hero.

Anne McAllister cowoboy
Jess Harper from Laramie played by Robert Fuller Attribution to ABC Television

I wasn’t the only one. At a writers’ conference a number of years ago, I was tipping back in my chair, dozing a bit and contemplating lunch, when western historical author Jessica Douglass talked about cowboy — particularly Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza who she always fantasized was “her brother” with whom she had great adventures. But the real hero of her fantasies, she went on, was Jess Harper who was “definitely NOT her brother.”

All four legs of my chair hit the ground with the thump. Jess was two-timing me with her! I was appalled. So was she. But eventually we agreed that we both had excellent taste in men — and cowboy heroes — and that Jess was the quintessential cowboy hero.

We even spoke at the RWA National Conference on the topic of My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, because of Jess Harper whom Robert Fuller had made so real.

Preparing the talk we decided to send Robert Fuller a letter asking if he would like to comment on the character he’d played so well. Clearly a fan girl heart beats in most of us long after the cowboy has ridden off into the sunset.

One December afternoon, a month or so later the phone rang right when all the telemarketers and political pollsters in Iowa regularly ring. I was not enthused. Imagine my surprised when, instead of a pollster, a remarkably recognizable baritone said, “This is Robert Fuller.”

Believe me, inside this grown-up otherwise responsible adult mother of four, a 13 year old fan girl was hyper-ventilating.

Anne McAllister cover
Click to Buy ‘Last Year’s Bride’

But I managed to marshal my wits and most of my brain cells and we chatted about Jess. I was gratified to learn that he shared our view about Jess’s need to create and adhere to his own moral code. He thought it was the best role he’d ever had. He recognized and articulated his feeling about Jess’s code of honor needing to be personally arrived at. He was as passionate about it as Jess was.

Talking to him then, I realized that a Jess Harper sort of cowboy embodies what I value in all my heroes. Whether they are bull riders or CEOs, architects or archaeologists, opal miners-turned-entrepreneurs or ranchers struggling to make a living on the land they love — all McAllister heroes are at heart ‘cowboy heroes.’ They all have a personal code of honor they are trying to live up to. It isn’t always easy — in fact sometimes it causes more anguish than joy — but it’s not just a part of who they are, it’s the essence of who they are. That’s why I love them.

And I’m happy to report that I had pretty good taste when I was 13 years old!

Anne McAllister

Anne McAllister has written nearly 70 books for Harlequin, Silhouette and Tule Publishing, many of them cowboys — and all of them, at heart, no matter how they earn their living, are cowboy heroes.  
 
Presently she is hard at work on a four book series for Tule Publishing’s Montana Born imprint called Men of Hard Broke Creek due to come out in 2016.  One of them is the brother of her most recent cowboy hero, Cole McCullough, of Last Year’s Bride.
 
She has an electronic copy of Last Year’s Bride, to send to the winner chosen from among the commenters.  All you have to do to enter is tell her what appeals to you about the cowboy hero.  
 
She’d love to chat with you so stop by and visit!

What’s in a Name?

MargaretBrownley-header

             Most Popular names of the 1880s                                       Most Popular names of 2015

(According to Social Security Records)

Boy                 Girl                                                                            Boy                        Girl
John                Mary                                                                          Noah                    Emma
William            Anna                                                                          Liam                     Olivia
James              Emma                                                                        Mason                  Sophia
George            Elizabeth                                                                    Jacob                    Isabella
Charles            Margaret                                                                    William                  Ava

Twice this week I was asked how I came up with character names for my books. My answer was very carefully. To me, the name is everything. If I get the name right, the character comes alive. If the name is wrong the writing won’t flow.  Sometimes the vision I have for a character changes in the writing of a book, and I’ve had to change the name.

nameSince I write books set in the Old West it’s important that names reflect the times. A name also has to say something about the character and carry the tone of the book. After picking a name I check the census for the year my character was born to see if the name existed back then.  (I’ve also been known to yell the name out the door like I did when naming my children, just to see how it sounded).

Recently I read an article cautioning writers not to name a historical female character contemporary names like Madison. Had the writer checked he would have discovered that name was not as modern as he thought. Thousands of females with a first name of Madison showed up on the 1860 census. I know because I named a heroine Maddie, short for Madison (Did she madden the hero with her bold antics? You bet she did!)

For my heroes, I look for strong masculine names. This means choosing names with hard consonant sounds like Garrett, Rhett or Hunter.

I’ll also work in a soft consonant sound, usually in his last name. That tells the reader that no matter how arrogant or difficult the hero is, he has a vulnerable spot that the heroine will eventually uncover. The sheriff and hero in my next book Calico Spy is named Grant Garrison (January 2016). The s sound indicates there’s more to him than meets the eye.

As for the heroine: It depends what her role is. If she has a humorous bent I’ll name her accordingly. In Undercover Bride, the heroine’s name is Maggie Cartwright. The name Maggie reminds me of the word giggle so we know she’s got a light side. Her last name makes me think of cartwheels. That’s an appropriate vision as she turns the life of the hero upside down.

The letter K makes me smile so I tend to favor names with that letter. You just know that Kate Whittaker will be a fun character.

The current series I’m working on takes place in Two-Time, Texas (ah, the joy of naming towns). I worried that readers might have trouble keeping track of the town’s many residents over the course of three books. I solved the problem by giving minor characters nicknames. The butcher is known as T-Bone and the barber called Ben the BaBa.

I’m constantly on the lookout for character names and keep a notebook handy to jot down names that catch my eye. I study movie credits and concert programs. I even came up with a name for my spindle-shaped mayor at a traffic light when I stopped behind a Troutman Plumbing truck.

What are your favorite character names? Have you ever come across a character who shared your name? Do you ever wonder why a writer chose a certain name?

 

 Oh, no!  She shot the Texas Ranger.  Now what?

Margaret’s story: The Nutcracker Bride

12brides of ChristmasAmazon

We Have Two Winners for Karen Kay’s Free Tradepaper Book Give-Away

bannerHowdy!

We have two winners for the free Tradepaper copy of THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF.  And the winners are…Jackie Drake and DebraG.

Congratulations to the winners, and a hardy thank you to all who came to the blog yesterday and today and left a message.  I enjoyed each and every one.

Jackie and Debra, please contact me personally at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net.  Insert (.) for (dot) and @ for (at).  I will need a physical address to send the books to.

Again, thank you all for coming to the blog and chatting with me.

Costumes – Not Just for Halloween

Photo Credit: Michal Jeska via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Michal Jeska via Compfight cc

Did you ever place dress-up as a kid? I remember trying on my mother’s shoes and throwing her purse over my arm and pretending to be a grown up. There is something powerful in the act of putting on a costume and pretending to be someone else. Perhaps someone you wish you could be for just a short time.

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc

I think that is one of the reasons readers (and authors) love historical novels. We get to step into the shoes of someone who lived in a different era and imagine what it would be like if we had lived then. And it’s not just novelists and readers. Think of all the living history museums there are around the country. How many reenactors dedicate months of their time and significant dollars from their bank accounts to recreating battle scenes from the civil war. How many historians make presentations in costume to help bring their topics alive to their audiences.

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: FreeVerse Photography via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: FreeVerse Photography via Compfight cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one of the writing conferences I go to every year, there is a genre dinner on the first night where authors have the chance to dress up like one of their characters or in a way that represents their genre. I typically wear a denim skirt, boots, and cowboy hat, but I secretly long to become more authentic in my dress-up.

BHP Spotlight

I recently found a website that offers professionally made historical costumes, and I felt like a kid in a candy store. A rather expensive candy store . . . but there were so many delights, I stopped caring about the price tags.

I’ve decided to start saving my pennies. Maybe by next year, I’ll be decked out in the outfit below.

Dream OutfitShoes – $50

Cameo Brooch – $20

Crinoline for underneath – $50

Professionally made Polonaise set – $275

Getting to step back in time and live for a few hours as one of my characters – Priceless

I think I’ll have to watch for a sale. If you like to geek out on historical clothing, the site where I found all this great stuff is Recollections: Historic Clothing Reminiscent of Centuries Past.

  • If you could dress up this Halloween as a character from your favorite novel or time period, what would you choose?
  • Have you ever been to a living history museum? Did the costumes add to the atmosphere? Did you wish they handed them out at the entrance so you could truly immerse yourself in the experience?

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO LUKI & Free Give-away

bannerHowdy!

Well, today is the celebration of my grandson’s birthday.  He is 2 today.  So I thought I’d take a break from my regular blogs to talk about Luki.  His name is really Lucas, but my granddaughter immediately called him Luki and the name has stuck.  I’m sure when he gets older, it will change, but for now, we all call him Luki.

Luki is 2 going on 30, as my daughter says.  He loves coffee in the morning — not that we give him any — but I think if he could have a cup of morning coffee, he would savor every moment.  Whenever I’m drinking my coffee, he always wants some — and I do let him smell it — although what he gets instead of coffee, is usually milk.  Below are picture of both my granddaughter and Luki last year at Halloween — he was one year old then.

Halloween2014Luki already has an eye for the girls.  Once in a bookstore, there was a pretty little girl whom he couldn’t stop looking at, yet he was walking forward still and he almost ran into a table.  Another time, there was a pretty little girl in a museum, and he was so entranced with her, and couldn’t take his eyes off her, and he actually ran into a post.

At a playground, there was another pretty little girl — older than he was — who he got to hold his hand for a moment.  He spent the next few minutes rushing around the playground singing about holding her hand.

Then there was the time in a restaurant when some people from my daughter’s work came to the table to talk.  The fellow who works with my daughter was with his wife, who was extremely pretty.  Luki could not look away from her, and when the couple walked away, Luki watched the girl the entire distance.

Luki, as you can see, is quite cute himself.Halloween2014-2  He’s also a gentleman.  The other day I was bringing some things upstairs and he was upset with himself that he couldn’t help me carry more.  Ah, the little boy has my heart, I’m afraid.

Then, sigh, about two weeks ago, we were in the car, driving to pick up his sister from school.  Luki said to his Aunt, “Aunt Alyssa pretty.”  A few minutes went by and he said, “Grandma pretty.”  Then “Mommy pretty.”  Oh, my gosh.  My heart melted.

Then as my granddaughter got in the car, Luki looked at her and said, “Lila pretty.”  He was on a roll that day, I think.lila riding

Here he is with Mommy on her birthday.  At present Luki has an Elvis thing going with his hair, with a little curl in front that keeps getting in his face.painting part 1

When Luki was little more than a year old, I was explaining to his sister one day (within his hearing) why we couldn’t leave little tiny things on the floor that Luki could get into and possibly put in his mouth.  Now, the interesting thing about this is that Luki, having heard this, began to bring me every little thing that he found (or to this day finds) and gives them to me for save keeping.

Sometimes I wonder who’s taking care of who.  Sometimes I think he’s watching out for me as much as I am with him.

This little boy has my heart and today he is two.  So Happy, Happy Birthday, Luki!

I will be giving away a free copy of the book, THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF, in Tradepaper.  So come on in and leave a comment.  As always, all rules of Petticoats and Pistols apply to this give-away.  Please see here for the rules:  https://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules — link is also listed in my bio below.

 

BlackEagle72lgSoon, BLACK EAGLE, will be being released in book e-book and Tradepaper copy.  I believe the release date is November 24th, 2015.  This is the first book in the Warriors of the Iroquois Series.

You can pre-order a copy of the book here:  http://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5640/black-eagle

The book is on sale at present (pre-sales).  Oh, I almost forgot — the entire Samhain (my publisher) store is going to be on sale for 20% off, November 1-15th.  And with Black Eagle currently on sale for only $3.85 — it really would be on sale for practically a song.  So get your copy soon.

Excerpt & A Giveaway!

AutumnCooler weather, changing leaves, hot chocolate…welcome Autumn!

I grew up in southern California right along the coast where the weather varied minimally from a calm 72 degrees. I think that is why I appreciate having the four seasons in my life now that I live in the Midwest. As a child, my family would take day-trips to the back country of San Diego to hike and picnic among the falling leaves and snow. It was always fun.

My Christmas story, Dance With A Cowboy in the Wild West Christmas Anthology takes place there in the fictional town of Clear Springs in the Cuyamaca mountains. This story won the 2015 Holt Medallion Award of Merit. (And if I do say so myself–has a very sigh-worthy hero!) At the end of the excerpt you’ll find how to enter the giveaway!

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Excerpt ~ Dance With A Cowboy

Garrett held the door open and followed her out into the late afternoon light that filtered through the pines. They stood for a moment, staring at each other. He was taller than she remembered…taller than Josh. And where Josh’s nose had tilted up in a friendly fashion, Garrett’s was straight as a knife’s blade. He didn’t say a word, just turned and started down the boardwalk.

She supposed walking—and talking—would be easier than standing still and looking at each other in an awkward attempt at normality. Although her legs ached from standing all day, she fell into step. They headed away from the mill. The sound of the saw’s constant whirring lessened even as the buzz of nervous energy inside her began to build. Their footsteps grew louder on the boards, emphasizing their lack of conversation.

At the corner he stopped.

“We could sit.” He tilted his chin toward the bench in front of the hotel.

“I’d like that.” Stilted. Proper.

They crossed the street and he waited while she settled herself. He didn’t sit, but leaned against the post that supported the small overhang to the hotel’s front entrance. To anyone passing by it looked like a casual meeting, but the sharpness of his gaze belied that. She drew in a deep breath, filling her lungs with the scent of the crisp mountain air. “I’ve missed the smell of the pines. Dance With a CowboyIt’s different on the coast. Salt in the air. Brine.”

He raised his chin slightly in acknowledgement. Small lines fanned out at the corners of his eyes, yet she doubted with Garrett that the lines were from laughing.

“So you’re back.”

She nodded, pasted on a bright smile.

“Alone?”

“With my daughter.”

“Josh’s daughter,” he murmured. The lines deepened between his dark brows. “You named her Lily?”

“After my grandmother.” He should know this, she’d sent a note after the birth. “She is five now.”

“Why did you come back?”

It was more a challenge than a question. She’d been asked the same thing half a dozen times since her return, but now the answer sounded too simple, even to her own ears. “I wanted Lily to grow up here.”

He seemed to turn her words over in his mind.

She stiffened her spine. She wasn’t about to blurt out all that had really gone on—the snide comments questioning Lily’s parentage. The suggestive glances and remarks from men who thought she was lonely. Her parents’ constant disappointment in her, in Lily.

“The memories are still here,” he said.

Meaning Josh. Those memories. She relaxed slightly. “I have good memories from growing up here—the schoolhouse, swimming in the lake. It’s a good place to raise a child.”

Again, he seemed to consider her answer, looking past the surface of her words. He’d always done that, even when they’d been younger. Her gaze drifted to his lips, remembering her very first kiss and how sweet and gentle it had been. So different from his brother. She frowned, upset at the comparison. She’d come here to move on with her life, not to dwell in the past.

She stood, gathered her shawl closer around her and moved to the edge of the porch. “I’d better go. Sue is in a tizzy getting ready for the season.”

He straightened and moved away from the post. “I’ll walk you back.”

Always the gentleman. He hadn’t changed in that regard.

“It’s not necessary. I’ll see myself back to the bakery.” She started down the steps to the street.

“When can I see Lily?”

She stopped. She’d been expecting the request, but she wasn’t ready to share her daughter. “Another time.”

“I don’t get into town very often. I can wait until you’re done working.”

“No!” It came out fast—unthinkingly—without tact.

His eyes narrowed. “Do you want to explain why not?”

“I need to prepare her first.”

“Prepare her! What the heck for?”

She raised her chin. “Other than my great-aunt Molly, Lily has no idea she has relatives here.” Before he could say another word, she turned and hurried away.

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Wild West Christmas ~ Dance with a Cowboy by Kathryn Albright

Since the heroine (her name is Kathleen) has just moved back to town and has found work in the bakery I thought I’d ask the question…

What is your favorite Autumn dish or dessert?

Comment for a chance to win a free copy of Wild West Christmas today!

Please refer here for all contest rules.

WE HAVE WINNERS!

12brides of Christmas

The winner of a 12 signature copy of 12 Brides of Christmas is

Tina Rice

 

 

 

 

 

The winner of a signed copy of

Fire and Ice is

Click to Buy on Amazon
Click to Buy on Amazon

The winner of a signed copy of

Fire and Ice is

Faith Blum

The winner of a

$25 Amazon Gift Card is

Kim H in GA

I will write to you and get your mailing address…

IF YOU DO NOT HEAR FROM ME,

EMAIL ME AND DEMAND YOUR PRIZE.

MY EMAIL–MARY@MARYCONNEALY.COM
And thank you all for the wonderful Christmas memories. It was a fun day.