There Really IS A Ballad…

Emma frontIf you’ve read my new historical, THE BALLAD OF EMMA O’TOOLE, you already know about that obnoxious ballad.  It was penned by news reporter Hector Armitage, a conniving little weasel of a man who just may be my all-time favorite villain.  Written as part of a scheme to promote Hector’s journalistic career, it does the 1880’s version of going viral and makes poor Emma, who only wanted to marry her sweetheart, a national celebrity.

Hector wasn’t much of a poet.  Neither am I.  But that’s all right because the ballad is pure doggerel—cheesy, sentimental and annoying.  I had SO much fun with it.  Here’s a sample.




On an April night when the stars were out.   And the moon shone like a jewel,

Billy John Carter spilled his red, young blood   For love of Emma O’Toole, oh yes,

For Love of Emma O’Toole.


The gambler’s gun was cold, hard steel.   The gambler’s heart was cruel,

A bullet blazed, a young man fell,  The lover of Emma O’Toole, yes…

The lover of Emma O’Toole.


The jury read the verdict out.  The judge he made his rule.

The gambler would to prison go   Or marry Emma O’Toole, oh yes,

Or marry Emma O’Toole.


“And will you wed this man?” he asked.   She answered calm and cool.

“My lover’s lying in his grave,   So I must,” said Emma O’Toole, oh, yes,

“I must,” said Emma O’Toole.

There are more verses throughout the story—some written by Hector, others that appeared after the ballad took on a life of its own.  When I turned the book in I was half-expecting my editors to take it out.  But they loved it and left it in.

As for Hector, by the time the book was finished I’d grown so fond of him that I couldn’t kill him off at the end.  But never fear, he does get his just desserts.  Well-deserved punishment for crimes that should include writing bad poetry.

Do you have a favorite villain, either in one of your own books or in someone else’s?

Here’s a purchase link to the book.

And now, dear friends, I bid you a brief farewell as I ride into the sunset.  Changes in my writing career are taking me away from Wildflower Junction and this wonderful group of women and readers.  But I promise to drop by, and I’ll be here as a guest in January.  Happy Trails.

Elizabeth’s Second Chance winners

Congratulations to  EMMA and to MELODY DURANT for winning my second chance copies of THE BALLAD OF EMMA O’TOOLE.

Ladies, if you’ll send me your snail mail, I’ll get those books right out to you

To the rest of you, thanks so much for your comments.  To me, you’re all winners.


One more chance in Elizabeth’s contest

Because I’ve had several great posts that came in after I closed my contest for a copy of THE BALLAD OF EMMA O’TOOLE, I’ve decided to give away one more book to be drawn among the latecomers.  I will wait till 10:00 pm MST (that’s midnight on the East Coast) on Wednesday August 14 to do the drawing.  So if you’re just coming on board to post, you still have one last chance.
Or if you posted for the earlier drawing and didn’t win, feel free to comment again for another chance.  Hey I just want people to read my book!

Elizabeth Lane’s Winners

Since there were more than 20 reader posts, I round up and awarded 3 books.  Wish I had enough for all you wonderful ladies!  The winners of THE BALLAD OF EMMA O’TOOLE are:


Cate S


If you’ll email me with your snail mail, I’ll get the books right out to you.  You can contact me at

Thanks to all of you who commented.


A Book of my Heart–and a giveaway!

THE BALLAD OF EMMA O’TOOLE  (EMMA for short)  is a Book of My Heart.  In the 17 years that passed between its beginning and its publication, the story never left me, and I never gave up on it.  Seeing it in print at last, and being able to share it with you, is a very personal pleasure.  It will be available for purchase September 1, but since I have my author copies, you’ll have a chance to win one today.

Park_City,_Utah_(2)Even the setting of this book is personal.  Park City, Utah, is an hour’s drive from where I live.  Cradled by the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, its history is as spectacular as its setting.  My own pioneer great-great grandfather directed the first settlement of the high valley—then known as Parley’s Park.  Its progression from farming community to silver mining boom town, to crumbling backwater, to world-class ski resort and home of the Sundance Film Festival, is a true American saga.


EMMA  is set amid the silver boom of the 1880’s that brought wealth-seekers from all over the world.  Young Emma O’Toole is determined to make a better life for herself.  But her beauty is offset by every possible strike against her.  She’s orphaned, impoverished, and pregnant by a nineteen-year-old boy as poor as she is.  Fate and tragedy intervene to thrust her into the reluctant arms of gambler Logan Devereaux, a cynical man with a dangerous past.  Can such an unlikely pair find happiness together?  I hope you’ll be cheering them on, as I was, all the way to the end of their story.

Emma frontHere’s a blog and a link to the Amazon site, where you can read an excerpt and pre-order a copy if you like.  There’s a different excerpt on my web site, which you can get to by clicking on my photo (yes?).

High Stakes Marriage

After shooting a man, the stakes for gambler Logan Devereaux have never been higher.  On trial for his life, he’s offered a shocking alternative form of restitution…marriage to his victim’s pregnant sweetheart. 

Beautiful Emma O’Toole has sworn vengeance against him and when a newspaperman puts her tragic story to song, the whole nation waits to see what she will do.  Their marriage is the riskiest gamble Logan’s ever taken.  But he’ll put all he’s got on the line for a chance at winning Emma’s Heart.

Because this is a celebration of a book I love, I’ll be giving one copy away for every ten readers who comment.  International winners will receive a PDF file.  So you have a one in ten chance of winning today!  Good luck and happy reading!

Park city photo by Bobak Ha’eri, 2004


New Critter on the Range

What do you think of when you picture range animals in a Western setting?  Buffalo?  Deer and antelope?  Horses, sheep and cattle?  Probably all of these.  But llamas??  They probably didn’t come to mind.  But if you take a drive through Western ranch and farm country, you’ll can’t help but notice these strangely elegant creatures in the fields.

Llamas (not to be confused with lamas, a name for Buddhist priests) are a recent import from South America—specifically mountainous countries like Chile, Peru and Bolivia.  Their name can be pronounced “lama” or the Spanish way, which sounds like “yama”.   New World relatives of the camel, they come in two domestic varieties.  Both stand between five and six feet tall, have long, straight necks, thick wool, and snooty expressions.  Llamas, sturdy and strong with coarser wool are raised as pack and guard animals as well as for their wool and hides and sometimes their meat.

Their close cousins, the alpacas, are raised for their luxurious wool (if you’ve ever shopped for an alpaca sweater or coat, you know just how luxurious it is).   The animals are shorn every two years.  Alpaca wool is superior to llama wool, but llamas are more useful in other ways.

Here in the United States and in Canada, llamas have enjoyed a surge in popularity for several reasons.   Llamas are adaptable, intelligent and easily trained.  For outdoor hikers and trekkers, they make good pack animals.  They can’t be ridden, but they can carry 25 to 30 percent of their weight for 5 to 8 miles.  Overload them or push them too far, however, and they can become temperamental, refusing to move and spitting to show their displeasure.

Llamas kept with sheep and other livestock become very protective of their charges.  Most predators, like coyotes, are no match for a full-grown llama, which can weigh up to 450 pounds.

Some people keep llamas just because they make delightful pets.

Llamas can live 20-30 years with good care.  They are social animals, happiest in herds.  Their young, called crias, weigh between 20 and 30 pounds at birth.

Fossil records indicate that llamas originated on the plains of North America about 40 million years ago.  By the end of the last ice age they were found only in South America.  But now they’re back, big time and here to stay.  These days the population of llamas and alpacas in the U.S. and Canada is somewhere close to 300,000.

My July Desire, THE SANTANA HEIR is set in Peru, where lots of llamas live.   You can read an excerpt and find a purchase link on my web site:

Do you know anyone who raises these animals?  Have you had any experience with them?  Would you like to have one for a pet?

(Pack llama photo by Richard Masoner)


My July book is a story about the ties that bind people together—ties of blood, ties of family, and ties of love.  At the center is adorable, eleven-month-old Zac, whose dying mother sacrificed all to bring him into the world and give her barren stepsister, Grace, one chance to raise a child.

Peruvian billionaire playboy, Emilio Santana, sees his own chance in little Zac—the chance to continue his late brother’s bloodline and relieve himself of the responsibility to marry and provide a family heir.  The battle over Zac brings Grace to Peru, and a new love in an exotic setting.  But things are not always what they seem—and if you think you’ve read this story before, prepare yourself for some surprises.

A few years ago I spent some time in Peru, right where this story takes place.  The setting is rich in beauty, history and culture—perfect for a heartfelt love story.  I hope you’ll enjoy this one.  Here’s an excerpt for you.

Emilio ended the kiss, savoring the way their moist lips clung as they parted.  He hadn’t planned to kiss her.  But it had happened and, for the moment at least, he wasn’t sorry.  Grace Chandler’s luscious curves fit his body as if they’d been molded for that very purpose.  Her sweetness flowed through him like hot caramel syrup through ice cream.

            So much for his resolve to treat her like a sister.  That wasn’t going to happen.  He knew himself too well to question his instincts.  But right now he needed to get her back to the house.  She was badly scared, maybe even injured.  Seduction would have to wait.

            With a twinge of regret, he eased her to arms’ length.  Her cheeks were flushed, her mouth damp and a little swollen.  It was all he could do to keep from snatching her close once more and taking up where they’d left off.

            “Are you all right, Grace?”  Given the way she looked, it was a needless question.

            For a moment she regarded him with lust-glazed eyes.  Then a transformation came over her.  Straightening her spine and squaring her shoulders she impaled him with a glare that would have done justice to Sister Benedicta, who’d whacked his knuckles in her arithmetic class. 

            “I’ll be fine,” she said.  “But what just happened was a mistake, Emilio.”

            He quirked an eyebrow.  “I had the impression you enjoyed it as much as I did.”

            Her look darkened.  “I came here to decide what was best for Zac and for me.  The last thing I need is having my judgment clouded by a Latin Romeo who’d hit on any female old enough to drive.  As far as you and I are concerned, nothing happened here.  Understood?”

            “Understood.”  The barb had stung more than he cared to admit.  But long experience had taught Emilio when to advance and when to retreat.  This was retreat time.  But the conquest was far from over.

            Grace Chandler was going to eat her words.

THE SANTANA HEIR is available for pre-order on Amazon.  But one reader who posts today will get an advance copy to read.  If you’re an international winner, you’ll receive a PDF file.  Good luck and thanks in advance for your comments

The Peruvian Paso

I love horses for their beauty and power.  But the few hours I’ve spent riding left me so sore from bouncing up and down that I could barely get out of bed the next day.  At my age, I’ll probably never be much of a rider.  But just once, I would like to ride a Peruvian Paso.

The Peruvian Paso is a light saddle horse known for its gentle disposition and smooth ride.  The breed is distinguished by a unique four-beat gait called the paso llano, in which the front and back legs on the same side move forward together (most horses move the legs on opposite sides together).  The result is a ride as comfortable as a rocking chair.

This gait isn’t taught, it’s natural to the breed.  Foals move this way as soon as they’re able to run.  So how and why does this happen?

Smooth-gaited horses, known as Palfreys, existed in the Middle Ages, as well as the Jennet, noted for its ambling gaits.  Peruvian Pasos trace their ancestry back to these horses, as well as to the Barb, which contributed strength and stamina, and to the Andalusian, which added style, conformation and action.

The first horses arrived in Peru during the Spanish Conquest in the 1500’s.  More bloodstock came from Spain, Jamaica, Panama and other areas of Central America.  As the big haciendas and plantations developed, the owners and overseers needed a horse they could ride long hours and distances.  Over time, Peruvian breeders kept the bloodlines clean and selectively bred for gait, conformation and temperament. They wanted strong, hardy animals that were comfortable to ride and easy to control. Over four centuries, their dedication to breeding only the best gaited bloodstock resulted in the modern Peruvian Paso.

To appreciate this amazing gait, you’ll want to see it in motion.  This video shows a group of Peruvian Pasos performing in a show.  Notice the part where the riders gallop around the ring holding filled wine glasses.

Have you ever seen a Peruvian Paso?  Do you have a horse, or have you ever wanted one?

My July Harlequin Desire book, THE SANTANA HEIR is set in Peru.  My hero, a Peruvian millionaire playboy who suddenly finds himself in charge of the family empire, raises Peruvian Pasos on his estate.  My heroine, who was tragically injured by a horse in her teens, regains her love of riding by working with these beautiful animals.

Next month, after my author copies arrive, I’ll give you an excerpt and a giveaway.  Meanwhile, you can learn more about the story on my website, or on, where the book is available now for pre-order.









Here’s a link.

For the Birds

It’s spring, and love is busting out all over in my backyard.  Not for me.  For the birds.

My backyard was made for bird courtship.  It’s small but  closed in by big trees.  The splash of a waterfall (which came with the property and convinced me to buy the place) draws birds from all over the neighborhood.  So does the birdbath, and  the feeders, which I hang out and fill with seed.  My two cats are indoor pets, so except for the occasional neighbor kitty or hawk, it’s a pretty safe place to hang out.

Mourning doves are the most romantic.  Sweet, graceful and quiet, they do these little courtly dances, turning and bowing as if they were hearing a minuet.  Even their mating is discretely elegant, like part of the dance.



Quail, on the other hand, are like people in a rowdy singles bar.  They show up in gangs, the beautiful males prancing, parading and fighting; the females taking their sweet time to choose their partners.  Often as not, there’s a rowdy scramble and then the whole show begins again.  Somehow they manage to pair off and make babies, which show up a few weeks later—tiny fluff balls trailing after their parents.  Sadly, with so many dangers, no more than a few of them survive to grow up.

Chickadees nest in a birdhouse with a hole so small that bigger birds can’t get in.  I love it when the tiny, spunky babies finally pop out.

But not all

my birds come for romance.  Some just show up for a handout.  The scrub jays, smart and cocky, sit on a tree limb outside my patio door and call until I toss them a handful of peanuts, which they hide all over the yard.  Magpies have picked up the same trick—but their beaks are big enough to pick up two or three peanuts at a time.

Now and then I’ll get a woodpecker, and warmer weather brings hummingbirds.  But my least welcome yard guests are the starlings.  Pretty birds, but noisy, and they poop on everything.  When I get a growing family, the half-grown babies will follow the mother around the yard, squawking constantly to be fed.  It’s comical to watch, but not to hear.

I like to use birds in my books, partly because of what they symbolize—beauty, freedom and also danger and death.  I have a soft spot for vultures—great for foreshadowing.  They’re also beautiful flyers, as well as being nature’s clean-up crew.

How about you?  Do you enjoy birds?  Do you feed them?  Do you have a favorite?

This has nothing to do with birds, but I wanted to give you the first peek at my July Harlequin Desire book.  You”ll hear more about it as the release date draws closer.

What do you suppose that little boy is thinking?