Happy Halloween!

 

Today is one of the happiest days for children and adults, outside of Christmas and birthdays. Or at least that’s my opinion.  I’m fortunate to share my blog with Fellow Filly Shanna Hatfield.  I’m going to blog about some history and fun facts; before turning it over to Shanna to tell you a little about her special Pumpkins Cookies, yummy!

To my surprise, Halloween has roots in age-old European traditions. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.  In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns. Around the world, as days grow shorter and nights get colder, people continue to usher in the season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.

In the late 1800’s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the featured entertainment. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration.  In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion, yes with a “B”, annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you all about how Halloween traditions fit in with young women identifying their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday…with luck by next Halloween…be married. In the 18th century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.

Another fascinating tradition was when young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; and, some also tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water.

One of the beloved events is our church’s Trunk or Treat which is a safe and fun environment for kids to go trick or treating out of the trunk of member’s cars in the parking lot. It’s open to the public, not just the youth of our home church.

I’m happy to have Shanna Hatfield chiming in with one of her favorite Halloween treats.

“I’m a pumpkin fanatic! The fascination with pumpkin treats started with my aunt’s decadent pumpkin roll and ends with pumpkin pie (which I would eat any time of year). This recipe for pumpkin cookies is a fast, easy way to satisfy a pumpkin craving… and a sweet tooth! Happy Haunting!”

From Shanna Hatfield, USA Today Bestselling Author

Pumpkin Cookies

1 box of spice cake mix

1 small can of pumpkin pie filling

1 cup cream cheese frosting

toppings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake mix and pumpkin until thoroughly blended.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment and drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the cookie sheet.

Bake about ten minutes, until the cookies are just set, but not yet starting to brown.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Warm cream cheese frosting in the microwave for about 12 seconds, or until thin enough to pour. Drizzle over cookies. Top with toffee bits, cinnamon, sprinkles or candied nuts if you want to get all fancy-pants (which I generally do).

Enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will give away a copy

of any of my eBooks from Amazon!  Happy Holiday, Phyliss

 

And, thank you, Shanna, for sharing your recipe with us. 

 

 

 

 

 

Past, Present and Future

They say time flies when you’re having fun. That must be why it seemed unbelievable that last Thursday I celebrated the 10th anniversary of when I got the call from Harlequin that I’d sold my first books to them. While the first couple of books that published with Harlequin American Romance weren’t westerns, the third, Elly: Cowgirl Bride, was as part of the six-book, six-author continuity series called The Codys: The First Family of Rodeo. This series was set in northern Wyoming, a beautiful area east of Yellowstone National Park that I visited a number of years ago while on a trip out West to visit my sister.

Soon thereafter I wrote the first book set in my fictional Hill Country town of Blue Falls, Texas. At the time, I thought The Cowboy’s Secret Son was just the first of a planned trilogy about three ranching brothers that was tagged with the name The Teagues of Texas. I had no idea that I would continue to write Blue Falls stories for years and that the series would, after that initial trilogy, have a its own series name named after the town. Thus far, there have been 15 full-length novels, one e-novella and one Harlequin online read set in Blue Falls, Texas. Two more are in the pipeline. In fact, I just finished writing the first draft of the last contracted book last night (Sunday).

Yellowstone River flowing through the Paradise Valley.

As you might have heard, Harlequin is closing the Western line next June. That put me and a number of other authors at a crossroads, trying to decide what step was next in our careers. I’m happy to report that I recently signed a contract for three western romances with Tule Publishing. I’ll be able to return to the Yellowstone area again, this time to the beautiful Paradise Valley north of the park in Montana. This area sits between the Gallatin and Absaroka Mountains, and the Yellowstone River runs through the middle of the valley. This stretch of Big Sky Country is home to ranches, fly-fishing outfitters, hot springs resorts and trophy homes. Such visually stunning films as A River Runs Through It and The Horse Whisperer had scenes filmed here. I’m going to be writing about three brothers once again. This time their family not only has a large ranch but also a hot springs resort. I’m excited to dive into writing the first story soon, creating a new cast of characters and a new small town for readers to love.

Welcome Guest – Faith Blum!!!

 

Of Weddings and Changed Plans

Way back when I set up the date to be a guest here on Petticoats and Pistols, I thought I would be sharing about the third book in my Orphans of the West series. But then this happened:

And two and a half months later this came about:

So yeah, my legal name is no longer Faith Blum, however, I am keeping it as my pen name. Since I can’t talk about my new book, I thought I would talk about my wedding instead. After all, everyone here likes a good romance, right? So why not a real life romance?

Our story actually reminds me a little bit of a modern-day mail order bride story. We met on ChristianMingle in August 2016 and emailed back and forth for a few months before meeting in person. As I mentioned earlier, we started courting in late January.

June 19th is a day I will probably always remember. Bill came over and we took a walk with our trusty chaperone, Shasta my family’s dog. Bill and I had taken a few walks when he was at our house. There are three ways you can go. To the left and straight it’s fairly flat. To the right, it starts out flat and then gets rather steep and keeps going—and getting steeper—the further you go.

When Bill heard that there was a top to the hill, he wanted to make it all the way up there. I balked at that. The top is about 2 miles from our home, about half of which is steeply uphill.

The day was cool and slightly cloudy. So when we got to the end of the driveway where we needed to make a decision on which way to go. I said we could try to get to the top of the hill. He was surprised, but we went.

Halfway up the hill, Bill asked, “Why did you want to go to the top?” I think he was mostly joking. At least that’s what he claims…

When we got to the top, we stopped for a breather. After a short stop, he got down on one knee, opened the ring box, and asked, “Will you marry me?” I said, “Yes!”

We choose to get married Labor Day weekend because many of Bill’s siblings either work in schools or go to college. We also didn’t want a long engagement. The wedding preparations went well and we had a lot of fun with them.

I think my favorite—and the hardest part—preparation was making all the flowers. I found an idea on Pinterest for making roses out of book pages, so I took a couple of my extra proof copies and used them. We had two craft days with a few of my friends coming over to help make them. I think they turned out great!

The colored roses were painted with watered down acrylic paint.

Between everyone, we had the wedding ready with a couple days to spare. I am very blessed to have great family and friends who helped with so many aspects of the wedding.

The wedding was beautiful and so meaningful to Bill and I as well as everyone who attended. We had a small ice cream sundae reception and then it was time to leave. Since I am allergic to corn, we didn’t want to use birdseed to throw, so my sisters and mom gathered leaves and flowers to dry and they threw those at us instead.

I don’t have room to tell you about the honeymoon, but we did have a good time exploring a few places out West, avoiding wildfires, and visiting the ghost town I set some of my stories in. If you’d like to read more about it, you can see my blog post here.

While I’m here, I’d also like to do a little bit of a giveaway. To enter, tell me what your favorite wedding story is. One lucky winner will receive an eBook copy of the book I dedicated to my then suitor, Savior, Like a Shepherd.

Thank you for having me today!

Those Gutsy Women of the Old West

Never underestimate a woman doing a man’s job!

My passion is writing about the old west and the fabulous women who helped settle it.  Western movies helped establish the male hero, but depicting women mainly as bonnet saints, soiled doves and schoolmarms did them a terrible disservice.

The westward migration freed women in ways never before imagined. Women abandoned Victorian traditions, rigid manners and confining clothes and that’s not all; they brought churches, schools and newspapers to frontier towns and helped build communities.

Female barber wielding “man’s most sacred implement.”

Women today may still be banging against glass ceilings, but those brave souls of yesteryear had to break down doors. One newspaper reporter complained that “Women dared to lay hands on man’s most sacred implements—the razor and strop—and shave him to the very face.”

Ah, yes, women were barbers, doctors, firefighters and saloon keepers. Women even disguised themselves as men to fight in the Civil War. With little more than their faith to guide them, they owned cattle ranches and gold mines and fought for women’s rights.

In 1860 Julia Shannon of San Francisco took the family portrait to new heights when she shockingly advertised herself as a daguerreotypist and midwife.  Cameras were bulky, chemicals dangerous and photo labs blew up with alarming regularity. It was a hard profession for a man let alone a woman.

Forty years before women were allowed to join a police department, Kate Warne worked for the Pinkerton National Detective agency as an undercover agent from 1856 to her death in 1868. Not only did she run the female detective division, she saved president-elect Abraham Lincoln from a planned assassination by wrapping him in a blanket and pretending he was her invalid brother.    Her story is the inspiration behind my Undercover Ladies series in which the heroines were—you guessed it—Pinkerton detectives working undercover.

It took strong and courageous women to bury children along the trail; barter with Indians and make homes out of sticks and mud. It’s estimated that about twelve percent of homesteaders in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas and Utah were single women.  And yep, women even took part in the Oklahoma land runs.

An article in the San Francisco Examiner published in 1896 says it all: “People have stopped wondering what women will do next, for keeping up with what she is doing now takes all the public energies.”

These are the heroines for whom we like to cheer.  It must have been a shock to the male ego to have to deal with such strong and unconventional women—and that’s at the very heart of my stories. The gun may have won the west, but praise the Lord for the gusty and courageous women who tamed it.

Can you name a gutsy woman–either past or present?

 

Speaking of heroines of the Old West,

let’s not forget gusty Sheriff Amanda Lockwood,

who almost always gets  her man.

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Getting Ready for Winter + Free Book!

Hi everyone. I hope you’re having a great Wednesday! We’re having a beautiful fall here in Montana. Fall is my favorite season, and in northern Nevada, where I used to live, we didn’t get super long falls. It seemed to be hot, and then it was cold. Now there’s snow in the mountains and it looks like we’re getting closer to real winter.

Lots of Sand Hill Cranes.

The grain field next to my house has been cut and because of that, the Sand Hill Cranes, which come here to nest, are gathering in the stubble and feasting on grain and probably mice.

If you’ve never seen a Sand Hill Crane, they are fairly large birds, and they gather in this field by the thousands before their fall migration. I love watching them from my window.

We put the cattle on the winter pasture, along with my two old horses–brothers who are 23 and 24 years old. The pasture is connect to the “crane field” and the cattle come in everyday to drink and soak up the sun before heading back out to the pasture to graze. 

Note all the cranes in the background. 🙂

The winter wood came today before daybreak. Essentially its a load of logs. The guy unloads them and them my husband and stepdad will “buzz” them or cut them into rounds. We hope this stack will last at least two winters. The cats love, love, love the logs because they have lots of little places to hide and to hunt.

And lastly, as the holidays approach, I’m pleased to announce that my book The Christmas Secret is free for a limited amount of time. I hope you’ll check it out!

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WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE — Excerpt #2 — Free Give-Away

Howdy!  And good day!

Here we are on another wonderful Tuesday and today I thought I’d post another excerpt from my latest release, WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE — (I posted one release a few weeks ago).

The book, set in Montana, is about a man determined to save his people from the whiskey trade, which is killing his people (and the truth is, that the whiskey trade was doing just that at this time period in history).  So come on in, scroll on down and I hope you will enjoy the excerpt.  Oh, and before I forget, I will be giving away a free e-book of WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, so please do leave a comment.  Over to the right here are our Giveaway Guidelines — these govern (so to speak) our give-aways.  And don’t forget to check back Wednesday or Thursday night to see if you are a winner.  I really do count on you to do so.

WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE

by

Karen Kay

An Excerpt

 

“Come in, Little Brave Woman. The water is good, very, very good.”

Alys turned her head away from the man, her air dismissive. She heard his laugh and wondered what it might feel like to dunk him under that falling water. She felt certain it would bring her great relief.

She drew in a deep breath. She’d had no choice in accompanying him, of course.

She had watched him struggle toward the falls, had tried looking away, knowing he had exaggerated each and every falter in his step. Yet in the end, she had not been able to remain a simple observer.

She had come to his aid, had helped him through the tunnels and outside into the falls. She had even spied on him as he had undressed, much to her chagrin.

The flirt. He knew the effect he was having on her, seemed to relish in it.

“Hmmm. Feels good, this water,” he called to her again. “Are you certain you will not join me?”

“I am going to the house. I will come back here later and check on you.”

“What? And leave me here by myself?”

“Yes, and leave you here by yourself.”

“But what will you do if I fall? What if I need you to help me return to the cave?”

“You should have thought of that before you came here.”

“But I am thinking of it now. Can you really consider leaving me?”

“Very easily.”

A long silence befell them, and suddenly he was in front of her, dripping water all over her, with no more than a cloth covering his unmentionable parts. She stared up at him, shivers running up and down her spine. And it wasn’t from the cold: she didn’t need to be told twice how this man would look without that tiny bit of cloth covering him.

He said, “If you are not going to take advantage of the water, then I will dress and follow you back through the caves. But I think you are unwise to leave the bath, and me ready to attend your every—”

“Enough. Do you hear me? You have done nothing these past few days but bait me. And what do you mean, parading here in front of me with so little clothing on?”

“I am properly clothed.”

“I beg to differ. Do you think I don’t know what you look like without that…?” She felt a deep flush creeping up to her cheeks, saw a grin on his face. “How much of this do you think I can stand?”

“I do not know. A little too much in my opinion.”

“I am a friend. I am trying to help you recover from a gunshot wound. There is nothing more to it than that. This constant flirting with me must stop. Do you understand?”

“Me?” His look was comically innocent. “Flirting? What does this word mean?”

She frowned at him. He knew exactly what it meant. “You are impossible.”

“And yet I have only your good at heart.”

“Humph. I’m not so certain of that either.”

He smiled at her before, looking away, he suddenly frowned. “I think I am well enough to use some of my day in exercise.” He stole a glimpse toward the falls. “Have you heard any gossip about the whiskey schooners going north?”

“I…I haven’t asked.”

He sent her a hard look. “Would you…ask? I would know what is planned.”

“Why? You are not well enough to do anything about it. Not a thing.”

“I do not agree. Look you here to me. I am practically recovered.”

“So much so that you have needed my assistance to help you to your bath?”

He smirked. “That is different.”

“I hardly think so.”

He came down onto his knees before her, his dark eyes staring into hers, his look completely serious. “Would you please find out what you can? I cannot discover this on my own, for I cannot yet move about the fort with ease.”

“And you are in no shape to stage an attack on a whiskey schooner, even if there were any going north.”

“Still,” he persisted, “I must know.”

She hesitated, even while his dark eyes pleaded with her. She sighed, feeling as though she were putty in this man’s hands.  Though she knew she might come to regret it, she found herself saying, “Very well, I will do it, this once, but only after you are fully recovered. Do you understand?  Only then…”

He grinned. “And will you help me to recover?”

“Yes, I will try.”

“Aa, it is good.” He lifted one eyebrow. “And how will you help me, do you think? I have many ideas…”

She rolled her eyes heavenward.

 

WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE — on sale now at:

http://www.amazon.com/WOLF-SHADOWS-PROMISE-Legendary-Warriors-ebook/dp/B075YC2T3X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508813554&sr=8-1&keywords=wolf+shadow%27s+promise+by+karen+kay&tag=pettpist-20