Jane Porter, the NYT and USA Today bestselling author of 50 romances and fiction novels, holds an MA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and has been a finalist for the prestigious RITA award in the US five times, with her novella, Take Me, Cowboy, winning the Novella Category July 2014. In 2008 Jane's wildly popular novel, Flirting with Forty, was made into a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear, and just recently Jane has had two more stories optioned for cable movies. For more info, visit www.janeporter.com.
I have so enjoyed the year I’ve spent here with all the Petticoats & Pistols fillies and readers. This is such an amazing community of book girls, all with such love for the western romance genre.
I’ve made great friends and have learned so much, too, and am constantly being inspired by the women in this community, their stories and posts.
Unfortunately I need to peel away for the coming year as I juggle personal and professional commitments, and doctors orders to do less and get more rest. “Doing less” does not come easily for me but in this case I must listen and try to slow down a bit, which means deferring some writing opportunities and shifting professional resonsibilities so my family can still have a functioning wife and mom.
I will miss you all, and hope I can return now and again so say hello and share more adventures with you!
Just a week after the big RWA conf in San Diego, I flew with my two older sons to Denver while my husband flew in from Hawaii with our little guy to meet up for a huge family reunion at a dude ranch near Grant, Colorado. Grant—originally called Grantville after President Ulysses S. Grant—was founded in 1870 and within twenty years had a population of 200. It’s a lot smaller than that today.
I write ranch stories.
I love cowboys.
But I confess: I got on that plane nervous about playing cowgirl for a week…especially with four different generations, and not because I don’t love everyone, but I’m a hard core introvert and the very idea of scheduled activities, much less 8 hours of scheduled activities for seven days filled me with a fair amount of trepidation.
Happily, reaching the ranch, I breathe in the clear clean mountain air and began to relax. Tumbling River is located at a 9,000 foot elevation so the scenery is spectacular, and the ranch itself has a fascinating history. Our hosts shared that some of the buildings date back a hundred plus years, and is always favorite with ranch guests. We didn’t have one of the old cabins, or the original homestead cabin, which had been built in the late 1800s, but our cabin was very comfortable and pretty and perfect.
My boys had as many activities as I did…and each of the boys had activities for his ‘age group’. Mac was thrilled with all of his, especially because he could be with Luke, his cousin who is just 20 days older and full of fun. Mac and Luke’s mornings started with a horse back ride and then either a hike or fun games, followed by lunch with everyone and then family fun that we could all do together: fishing, swimming, rodeo practice, hay rides.
While Mac did ‘kid stuff’, my two older boys were able to go rock climbing, fly-fishing, white-water rafting, and do longer trail rides, including a visit to a ghost town in the mountains.
Midweek when I was craving some alone time with my guy, Ty and I packed up Mac and headed to Georgetown, forty-five minutes away. Georgetown is a historic mining town, and today a historic landmark, preserving the town’s past when its silver boom turned it into the third largest city in Colorado. Only a thousand people live in Georgetown today but it has lots of interesting buildings and fun places to shop, eat, and explore.
But the dude ranch wasn’t just blue skies and fresh air, sparkling rivers and massive mountains, it was really good food. The kind of food you’d want on a dude ranch after a long trail ride: ribs and chicken, tri-tip and smoked pork tenderloin. And for those who went on the overnight ride and visited the ghost town, they had coffee and flapjacks and bacon in the morning, eating outside next to the campfire. I didn’t do the overnight as I stayed at the ranch with Mac, and I was envious of those who had their overnight adventure but I do think I slept better in the big luxurious bed!
Back home, I’m still doing laundry and now trying to get my middle son ready for his senior year of high school (which starts Monday!!) but I’ve a lot of new ideas for future western stories so I owe my family a huge thanks for dragging me out of my comfort zone and into a dude ranch vacation!
Have you ever or would you one day like to visit a dude ranch? If you’ve already been, what did you love most about your experience? And if you haven’t, what’s the one thing you’d really want to do there? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a fun prize! Contest ends August 10th. 🙂
Huge thanks to everyone who left a comment on my post on One Room School Houses. I loved reading each one! I’m really sorry for being late with announcing the winner this month but without further ado, I’m very pleased to share that the winner of a signed print copy of The Lost Sheenan’s Bride, plus lots of fun reader swag, is Melanie Backus!
Melanie, drop me an email at jane (at) janeporter (dot) com with your mailing details and I’ll get this in the mail to you! 🙂
A former teacher, I come from a long line of passionate educators. My father was a history and political science professor. My brother Thom is a business professor at UNC Wilmington, and my great grandfather was a professor of refrigeration engineering at Purdue University.
With teaching in my blood, it’s a given that I’ll write a story or two about teachers (Kit Brennan in The Good Daughter teaches English at a Catholic High School in Oakland, California and Jesslyn from The Sheikh’s Chosen Queen teaches at an international school in the UAE), I’ve never written about a teacher in a one room school house…until now.
My new story, The Lost Sheenan’s Bride, which releases on Friday, July 8th, is about a young teacher taking a long-term substitute job at one-room schoolhouse in Montana. The story wasn’t about the one-room school, but you wouldn’t know it from my research. I’m fascinated by Montana history, and in particular the intrepid women who first settled there.
It’s estimated that up to 18 percent of homesteaders in Montana were unmarried women.
Passage of the Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any twenty-one-year-old head of household the right to homestead federal land. Single, widowed, and divorced women fit this description, and they crossed the country to file homestead claims of 160 acres.
Many of the homesteading women in Montana also became the state’s first teachers. Because of the Homestead Act of 1862, one-room schoolhouses were built all over the state. Historians estimate that there were once 2,600 rural schools in Montana, and those rural schools served a multitude of purposes for each community, from education to social gatherings. In America today, there are still 200 operational one-room schoolhouses, with 62 of them located in Montana.
Last month in early June I returned to Montana for eight days, and on my flight from Seattle to Kalispell I sat next to a woman who worked for the Swan Valley school district which still has an operational one-room school in the town of Salmon Prairie. The woman, a school clerk, loves the one-room school in Salmon Prairie and told me about the exceptional quality of education the children receive, the time teacher is able to devote with his students, the ability to individualize lessons and even better, the opportunity for a teacher to truly teach Montana—morning nature walks, visits to local parks (Glacier National Forest, Yellowstone, etc). The teacher doesn’t just teach math and reading, but hunts and fishes with his students and embraces what it means to be a Montanan. (Here is a story on the school in Salmon Prairie! Photographers document Montana’s disappearing one-room schools)
I was able to work a little of that fascinating conversation into my story, but its impossible to convey the history for Montana’s one-room schools in a 50,000 word contemporary romance, but I’ll try to share a bit more here with you since I know you’re all history and western buffs, too.
In 2013, The National Trust for Historic Preservation added Montana’s one-room schoolhouses to their list of the Nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historical Places.
Today at Montana’s Divide School, built in 1870, teacher Judy Boyle functions as teacher, principal, and guidance counselor. Grades K-8 are taught in the same room to as many as eight students. This year she had 3 students, and as there are no janitors, it is part of the kids’ responsibility to help clean the school daily.
As an American Studies major at UCLA, I focused on Frontier literature with my senior thesis on Mark Twain, and you can’t immerse yourself in Frontier lit without understanding the significance of the one-room schoolhouse scattered across vast prairies and in the snug valleys nestled between the Rockies. The schools represented hope and opportunity, and education was a big part of that opportunity. Homesteaders and miners, ranchers and railroad workers wanted their children to succeed, and the best way to succeed was by getting an education, and the sheer number of the schools still standing today are a reminder of the commitment Montanans made to their children.
Many of us grew up with Little House on the Prairie, or are fans of Hallmark’s popular series, When Calls the Heart, so we can picture the one room school. There was very little variation from one school to another:
Teachers were typically male. If the teacher was a woman, she had to be single. Married teachers were not allowed.
Frequently, families in the rural towns would take turns boarding the teacher, with every family contributing towards the teacher’s salary.
Schoolhouses had only a few windows and one door. Bigger schools might have two doors for separate entrances for the boys and girls.
The teacher’s desk was located at the front of the room and the teacher wrote the lessons on a large slate board, much like chalkboards or white boards in classrooms today.
There was no bathroom or running water. Students used an outhouse.
The children sat at narrow wooden desks and/or on long wooden benches, with boys sat on one side and the girls on the other.
Schoolhouses were heated by one stove with the older students responsible for keeping the fire going.
One of my favorite books I bought in Montana several years ago, that probably also helped inspire my new story was Visions and Voices: Montana’s One-Room Schoolhouses. The pictures are worth the price of the book alone, but there are also wonderful quotes and stories from former students who were educated in these schools.
To celebrate the release of my new book, The Lost Sheenan’s Bride, featuring Jet Diekerhof, the teacher of a one-room schoolhouse in Paradise Valley, Montana, I’m giving away a signed print copy of the book, plus lots of fun reader swag. Interested? Tell me if you think you would have enjoyed attending school at a one-room school. One comment will be drawn and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 13th so do check back and see if that was you!
Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my Q&A post with style icon Carol Koch! I’m very pleased to announce the winner of a signed print copy of She’s Gone Country, set in Mineral Wells, TX, OR an ebook version of the book, plus reader swag isJanelle Wolf!
Janelle, please email me jane (at) janeporter (dot) com with your mailing details and let me know if you’d like to have a print copy or the ebook version of the book! 🙂
I met Carol Jansen Koch in 2005 when I was on my Frog Prince book tour and hosted a tea in Plano, TX for Pi Phi Alums. We didn’t really get to know each other until I was back 2006 on my Flirting with Forty book tour. After that event we spent a couple of hours talking and by the end of the evening Carol was a true blue friend.
On every visit to Texas, I try to see Carol, and when I returned in 2010 for my She’s Gone Country book tour, a 10 day trip that would take me across Texas, I had Ty and 18 month old Mac along. We kicked off our trip in Dallas/Ft Worth and who better to launch us on our Texas adventure than Carol and her new husband, Garner Koch, a true Texas cowboy.
Ft. Worth is Garner’s old stomping grounds so he took us to get real boots–at Leddy’s–and then showed us the Texas he knows and loves.
Garner and Carol are the friends we meet every year in Las Vegas for the NFR. While the guys go off and do guy stuff, Carol and I and her cool Texas crew go shopping at Cowboy Christmas. This last year Carol made a list as one of the most fashionable people at the 2015 NFR and so I thought it would be fun to share a little bit of Carol’s western fashion sense with you, as well as some great places to pick up your western fashion wear.
1) Carol, I met you in Texas at a Pi Beta Phi alum event. So have you always been a cowgirl?
I’m a Midwest farmer’s daughter. Born and raised in Iowa. Self proclaimed big boned Iowa girl. Got to Texas as soon as I could. Texas completes me.
2) When we first met you were single. How did you meet Garner? Tell me about your first date.
I cannot tell a lie. We met at a Honky Tonk. (I hope my Mother isn’t reading this… she thinks we met at church) It was the day after Christmas and I was very germy and so didn’t want to go out. Garner was the tallest most handsome cowboy in the place and he came up to the table where I was sitting with my 5 girlfriends and asked ME to dance. I so thought he was coming to ask one of my other of my pals. Ha! We danced the night away. We exchanged numbers and I so thought I’d never hear from this cowboy again….to my surprise, he called me while my friends and I were driving home! Yes. my friends were very impressed!
3) How did you develop your western style?
My style is forever evolving. I love to invest in some fabulous pieces and then throw in a few inexpensive pieces to make the look my own.
4) Where do you shop?
Orisons in McKinney, Texas and also Ya Ya Gurlz in Abilene, Texas are both my favorites and thankfully not next door to me – otherwise I might get into lots of trouble….it’s a treat and ordeal when I go to shop. I go with my list of parties/events and they help dress me. It’s like stepping into your best friend’s closet.
5) What is the one thing you MUST wear when going out with Garner?
Boot and turquoise.
6) How much did Garner influence your fashion sense?
Garner is very traditional. He has great shirts from 10+ years ago in his closet that with “extra heavy starch” – wears today and looks timeless. Our dry cleaners know us well. Unless Garner’s britches (jeans…) can stand up in the corner by themselves, we take them back to the cleaners….
My favorite line early on was oh I need something new to wear to our next party/function as….”it’s hard being Mrs. Garner Koch…” this only worked a few years. He’s onto me now. I can admit I’m addicted to the entire perfect “costume” hunt and presentation. It’s my obsession. 🙂
Plus a few more fun stores if you’re in Texas or enjoy shopping online: Pinto Ranch – You can shop online or visit their locations in Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas http://www.pintoranch.com Gypsy Wagon – Fun mix of western and boho fashion–plus jewelry & more. Online or locations in Dallas, Austin, and Crested Butte, CO http://www.the-gypsy-wagon.com Wild Bill’s Western Store – Hats, boots galore & lots more http://wildbillswestern.com
A big thank you to Carol for letting me poke around her closet and talk fashion. Carol, you inspire me to take fun risks and make fashion fun!
Do you enjoy western wear? Where do you shop? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered for a giveaway! The prize is the winner’s choice of a signed print copy of She’s Gone Country, set in Mineral Wells, TX, or an ebook version of the book, plus reader swag!
Long before I wrote my first Harlequin Presents, my true love was the cowboy hero and this love was inspired and nurtured by wonderful books written by one of my all-time favorite authors, Anne McAllister. I loved her main characters, the plot lines, the descriptions—everything! Anne made it so easy to fall in love with the cowboy alpha hero and all my early cowboys were inspired to a large extent by Anne’s cowboy romances.
I thought it would be fun to interview Anne McAllister on the P&P blog today so please join me in giving her a big welcome! 🙂
Best-selling author Anne McAllister has written nearly 70 romance novels — long and short, contemporary, time travel, and single title. She has won two RITA awards from the Romance Writers of America and has had nine other books which were RITA finalists. Anne grew up on the beaches of southern California, and spent summers in Montana and on her grandparents’ small ranch in Colorado. They were formative experiences — not only in providing her settings, but in giving her heroes. She finds herself attracted to lean, dark, honorable men – often lone wolf types – who always get the job done, whatever it might be. Anne and her husband, The Prof, spend the school year in the Midwest now, but are looking forward to more time in Montana when he retires. But wherever they are, Anne will always be writing. There are too many ideas not to!
Jane: You have made a career writing alphas…which came first, your cowboys for Silhouette Desire or your tycoons for Harlequin Presents?
Anne: Neither! My first dozen or so heroes were an archaeologist, an actor, a book illustrator who moonlighted as a beach lifeguard, a baseball player, a Major League umpire, a wildlife biologist/ photographer, a rock star turned grad student, a bartender, an architect, a jungle guide, and a journalist.
I probably write more “lone wolf” heroes than alphas. But what the cowboys, the tycoons (there were probably only two!) and all the rest of my motley crew of heroes have in common is they are strong, capable men who know what they want and how to get it done. My earlier heroes just had a greater variety of venues in which to do it.
But all of them are, in a word, competent. I love competence. I think competence is sexy. And when a competent guy falls for the heroine, I can pretty well be assured that he’s going to figure out how to get her, which makes my job easier.
And, of course it doesn’t hurt if he looks like the guy on the cover of Cowboys Don’t Cry!
Jane: I have been a long time fan of your writing, Anne, but it was your cowboys that swept me away and made me want to write a great cowboy hero. What draws you to the cowboy hero? Why do you like to write his story?
Anne: Well, he’s competent (see above)! You can count on him to get the job done no matter what it is or what the cost. There is a saying among cowboys: “He’s a good man to ride the river with.” That applies to every cowboy I’ve ever written about. They aren’t necessarily easy to deal with. They can be hard-headed, single-minded and they don’t suffer fools gladly. But when the chips are down — when you need them — they’re there.
Also, my own experience when I was young was that cowboys were pretty much uniformly kind to kids and animals, and they were respectful of women. As a kid, I responded to that. As an adult — and a writer — I still do.
I also like that they are live-and-let-live men. The west is a great place for second chances, for starting over, making new beginnings. My cowboys — and most people — haven’t always got things right the first time around, so I like that they have lived to fight another day, that there is room for hope.
Power is often a word that comes with the alpha hero. It is not a word that springs to the lips when you talk about cowboys. They are not powerful in the traditional sense of the word. And that appeals to me, too, because “power” always seems to evoke its opposite: powerlessness. And that’s not a dynamic that interests me. It’s not a relationship the interests me. On the contrary, I want to explore and to celebrate relationships where both people bring different strengths together, where they complement each other, fulfill each other, and bring out the best in each other. I can do that with a cowboy hero.
Wealth is not a word commonly associated with cowboys, either. I understand the ‘alpha fantasy’ that comes with the billionaire hero. It’s another way of saying he’s successful, that he can get the job done. It’s another version of competence. But wealth per se does not equate with success in the cowboy world. Of course money is nice, but beyond the basics, it’s not what you need in the West to succeed. It is, if anything, a false god. I’m writing about it now in the book I’m working on. It tempted my hero’s father and ultimately destroyed their family. It isn’t always a good thing. So I do not need, as one of my editors once said, “cowboys who own multi-national corporations on the side.” It’s the other measures of the man that interest me.
The women who survive and thrive in a cowboy’s world bring their own competence. By virtue of coping in a demanding and often harsh environment, they bring an equality to their relationship with a cowboy hero. Cowboy heroes simply demand strong independent women. Because I like working with strong characters, I like writing their stories.
Jane: You write the rugged West so well. Are you from a small Western town?
Anne: I grew up in southern California — land of sun, sand, surfers and beach volleyball players (even wrote a hero who was one)! But my roots are in the West — in Montana and Iowa on my mother’s side and in Oklahoma and Texas on my dad’s, so I think perhaps it’s bred in the bone.
We did spend some summers with family on my grandparents’ small ranch in southwestern Colorado when I was growing up. I loved every minute of it. My adult life has been spent primarily in Iowa where those same values are rock solid. Now we are in Montana (there’s a circular migration pattern in my family apparently) where I’m happy to see my grandkids’ parents instilling in them the same independent, hard-working, yet compassionate values that seem to go with the territory.
Jane: Do you have a favorite type of heroine you like to write?
Anne: I like strong, independent-minded heroines who can — and have — relied on themselves. One of my favorites was actually not a heroine at all (in a book at least), but the hero’s grandmother in Last Year’s Bride. Em McCullough had raised her kids and three of her grandkids, and had taken in a cousin’s boy for part of his teenage years. She had been in charge of the Marietta Christmas program for 50 years. She had everyone’s back. She was a fixture. And her grandkids would have said they knew exactly who she was. But there was more to Em than she’d ever really bandied about. And it’s that little bit inside her that her grandkids discovered toward the end of the book that opened their eyes — and made them look at her in a new light, and themselves as well.
I love Em. She’s in my upcoming book, McCullough’s Pride. She had a part in Rachael John’s Marietta rodeo book and is about to show up in one of Deb Salonen’s Marietta books as well. Em gets around! She embodies all the stuff I like to write about most in my heroines — their strength, their compassion, their connection to the community, and the little bits of themselves that they don’t always share, but which give them surprising depth and make them who they are.
Thank you, Anne for your time! Readers, I hope you’ll try Anne’s books if you aren’t already a fan of hers and to add to the fun, I’m giving away a fun Jane Porter & Anne McAllister giveaway just for you! For a chance to win, leave a comment for Anne!
I hated school. Hated, hated, hated it. Spent as many days home sick as possible, so I could hide in my bedroom and read, and dance, and day dream–away from annoying teachers, kids, and rules. Ironically, I grew up and became a teacher just to see if I could make school any better for students.
I have lived in Germany and South Africa, and studied in Ireland and Japan, too.
My favorite treat is a box of Peeps…or anything with marshmallow.
My 2006 novel, Flirting With Forty, was made into a Lifetime TV movie starring Heather Locklear and Robert Buckley. I have another story in pre-production now for a Hallmark movie.
My instrument in 6th grade was the drums. I loved playing drums. (Well, okay, mostly my drum pad, but still….). When I hear great music, I get my imaginary sticks going and bang the heck out of the air. I’m impressive, but my kids think I’m having a seizure. (Side note, my mom played the drums as well and now my 17 year old son started playing the drums a year ago and is in a band is actually really good. I think percussion runs in our DNA!)
My dad was mayor of my small Central California hometown when I was growing up and my bus driver, a woman named Mary, used to give me a hard time every day when I got on the bus, calling me the Mayor’s kid and asking me why I didn’t have a chauffeur. (I don’t think she understood that city government jobs like city council and the mayor are volunteer jobs…)
I studied Zulu and Afrikaans during the year I lived in South Africa. I don’t remember most of the Zulu I learned except for basic phrases like Sawubona! (Good Morning!) or Ngiyabonga (Thank you). Not surprised, though, as I studied German for 7 years, including three at UCLA and all I really remember is Who is die Toilette? (where’s the bathroom?) Sad.
I was a ballet dancer. From the time I was three until I was 16, I danced almost every day, and performed with a regional company. Ballet was one of my real loves, but it was unrequited. Ballet did not love me. With my big hips and very broad shoulders I was firmly in the back row of the corps and never once got a solo…
Today I live in one of San Clemente’s oldest homes as listed in the Historic Registry and it was built in 1926 for poet Marjorie Seiffert.
I love to collect rocks of all shapes and sizes. Whenever I travel, I bring home a rock or two. I can’t go on a hike without returning with a pocketful of rocks and pebbles.
Now that I’ve shared 10 little known facts about myself, do share a few about yourself so I can get to know you better too. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a copy of A Christmas Miracle for Daisy!