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.
Thank you, all, for the great comments on my post about Creating the Fictional Western Town. I’m very pleased to announce the winner of the print copy of our four rodeo stories that created Montana Born, Love Me, Cowboy plus fun Montana Born reader swag is Eileen Aberman-Wells!
Eileen, please email me jane (at) janeporter (dot) com with your mailing details! 🙂
See you all with more Fictional Town fun in April! xoxo
After living for almost 17 years in Greater Seattle, during the summer of 2012 I moved with my crew down to Southern California to the most charming of laid-back little beach towns. I absolutely adore being in San Clemente (it still has its original main street–called Del Mar–with angled parking) but the move was hard on my kids who were true Seattlites and I missed all my friends. By February, I really wanted to do a fun project with some of my close author friends and I made some calls and sent off some emails, asking if three of them would like to create a series together, something set in Montana, something with cowboys and featuring the beautiful rugged Montana landscape.
My three author friends–Lilian Darcy from Australia, CJ Carmichael from Canada, Megan Crane from California–agreed and we decided to make a girls roadtrip to Montana to brainstorm our books and series. I thought it’d be fun to share how Montana Born from Tule Publishing came about, using the words of Lilian Darcy, one of the founding authors.
This is how Marietta, Montana, our beloved fictional Western town, came to be!
In Lilian Darcy’s words:
It began in February…
Milestone #1—The phone call
Jane Porter calls me from California. Jane is a good friend, so I’m smiling when I hear her voice. ‘I want to have a writers retreat to plot a joint series’, she says. ‘Are you in?’
I think I’m in before she even gets to the word. We talk on the phone until my ear turns blue and I have to seek medical attention.
The plan is ambitious. This will be a real publishing company, not simply a group of like-minded authors publishing independently with some linked stories and branding (although, hey, that would be great, too). We will bring in experienced professionals in publishing, editing and marketing, as well as authors whose attitude and quality of work we can count on.
Honestly, I think my whole world feels different after this one phone call.
Milestone #2—The preparation
‘I want you to come over here’, Jane says in a follow-up email. ‘I have Megan Crane and CJ Carmichael on board, and we all need to get together to talk about our story ideas, and about how this is going to work.’
Did I mention that Jane is a good friend? She has frequent flyer miles that she actually gives me to cover the airline ticket. We decide May will be the best time, so I naturally go straight to the most vital pieces of preparation—crossing the days off a calendar and shopping for clothes.
We do also brainstorm a lot via email about stories during these two months. We decide to create the Montana Born Books imprint, and to set our first few series of books in our fictional town of Marietta, Montana.
(Because Montana is cool. I’ve been there now, and I know.)
We each throw in a bunch of ideas.
Megan comes up with a big, single title mini-series about three sisters who’ve grown up with the difficult parenting of their saloon-owner and Vietnam vet father, Jason Grey, after their mother left town.
CJ creates a traditional ranching family, the Carrigans, while Jane also creates a ranching family, the Sheenans, on the adjacent property.
I have a major women’s fiction trilogy in mind, following the lives of characters who’ve all been changed by what happened at the Marietta High School Prom in 1996.
Milestone #3—The brainstorming
May 1st arrives, and I fly across the Pacific to California. Jane meets me at LAX and nearly drives off the road about nine times on the way down to her house in San Clemente because we’re so busy talking.
Three days later, we fly to Kalispell, Montana, where CJ picks us up, after collecting Megan earlier in the day, and we drive to her cottage on Flathead Lake.
Now, some of you may have seen the pictures on Facebook, but I want to stress that we actually do work quite hard, despite appearances to the contrary.
First, we talk for a whole day, building our fictional universe. Where exactly is our town located? What’s the population? What’s its history? What stores and other buildings are there in Main Street? Who owns them? (Hint: When you read the books, watch out for mentions of a Jane Austen–inspired character, who’s a bit of a gossip-monger.)
We go to bed very satisfied with our first day’s work, and then the next morning when we get up CJ says, ‘You know what? I don’t think our planned stories are closely enough linked.’
She’s right, we realize at once. We’ve each gone off on our own tangent, with the Carrigans, the Greys, the Sheenans and my tragic 1996 prom night. For our launch, we need something that knits our characters more closely together and celebrates our fictional town in a more vibrant way.
Milestone #4—The stories
‘How about a rodeo?’ I think this is CJ, too. She is so great at cutting to the heart of the problem and coming up with the right idea.
‘No, how about a novella each?’
As writers, you tend to know something is right when the sparks immediately catch fire. Within an hour, this morning, we’ve each come up with the basic bones for a story.
The Title Fairy pays us a visit, which is close to being a Montana Miracle. She is a pretty temperamental creature, that one, and can withhold her creativity for months, sometimes.
Armed with titles, story ideas, linking threads and a whole lot of detail on our fictional world, we begin writing that very day…
Look for more about the making of Marietta, Montana and the results of our efforts with the release of our Montana Born stories in April!
If you’ve enjoyed this inside look, do leave a comment for a chance to win a print copy of our four rodeo stories that created Montana Born, Love Me, Cowboy plus fun Montana Born reader swag!
(Portions of Lilian Darcy’s story first appeared in the September 2013 issue of the Australian Romance Readers Association newsletter.)
We’re heading towards Valentine’s Day and I’m in the thick of writing my next, and final, Taming of the Sheenans story, set in Marietta, Montana and I love this series because it celebrates tough rugged men and equally strong women.
The series started with five brothers that grew up together on the Sheenan ranch in Paradise Valley and each of the brothers (including the lost brother, Shane, that shows up this April) is a true alpha hero.
An alpha hero is my favorite hero to write, and read. He isn’t defined by money or success. He might be powerful and successful, but that’s not what sets him apart.
What makes him riveting reading is that he is almost always a masculine, primal male. He doesn’t need to be rich, but he must have the means to provide for his woman. And he can and will, because he is strong, mentally and physically.
But alpha males are not perfect. They make mistakes…maybe even more than other men…and that’s because they take risks and they aren’t quitters and they refuse to walk away from a fight where something important is at stake.
These heroes may have painful pasts, too, and because they’ve had to overcome challenges and tragedies, they can be overly confident. Possibly arrogant.
But when they love, oh how they love. Once an alpha hero finds his match…his mate…he will never be content with another woman.
I adore reading and writing alpha heroes because they sizzle and are sensual in bed (whether they seduce the heroine before marriage or wait til after), but he’s complex, and he demands more from his woman. He doesn’t want a doormat. He wants an equal, and he’s going to demand a lot from his woman. Maybe even in bed.
A great alpha hero must know how to satisfy a woman. He must focus on her, and focus on her pleasure, ensuring she is going to have the most sensual, satisfying experience of her life. He’s a man that’s gifted in foreplay, and can, and will, put her needs before his.
Readers that enjoy love scenes, want to read love scenes where the hero does satisfy the heroine…but not just sexually, emotionally, too. A great love scene requires connection and time. In real life people are rushed and tired and there might just not be enough foreplay, but in a romance novel, the hero better make sure he has endless time and energy to please his woman.
And thank goodness this same hero doesn’t ignore his ranch responsibilities. We don’t read about him leaving his socks or boots all over the bedroom. His dirty Wranglers aren’t crumpled on the bathroom floor. His truck isn’t filled with junkfood wrappers. Even better, he always takes care of the livestock and the chores so that she doesn’t have to pick up his slack. No, the great alpha hero in our western romances is concerned about making life better for her. He isn’t there to make life harder, but easier.
I love that.
I love that in a romance, we get a man who wants and needs his woman, but doesn’t want her trapped in the laundry room, or the kitchen.
Do you have a favorite type of hero? What makes him special? I’d love to hear what kind of man makes you swoon! (He can be real or fictional!) Leave a comment for a chance to win a $15 gift card from Amazon!
Winner announced on the 10th!
PS: In case you’re interested in catching up with my Sheenan Brothers, Book 2, The Tycoon’s Kiss is on sale for .99 until Feb 8th so be sure to get your download soon!
When I first submitted my cowboy romances to Harlequin—back in the early 1990’s—I was told that my setting of a California ranch wouldn’t work, that California was not known for its cowboys and ranchers.
This was news to me. I’d grown up in Central California and my high school was a school with a strong Ag program. One of my best friends lived on her family’s ranch twenty minutes outside town. Everyone I knew drove a truck of some sort and half the football team had little cans of SKOAL in the back pocket of their Wranglers.
And then there was the family ranch. My grandfather’s ranch.
This last Fall I shared that my Texas grandfather, William M Lyles, once had three cattle ranches in California, his favorite being the Lazy L Ranch in Parkfield, California.
Just where is Parkfield?
It’s in the middle of the Central California, 40 miles east of Paso Robles. The land is beautiful—rolling hills, gold fields and green pastures, ancient oak trees, cattle, wildlife.
My grandfather died in 1965 in a ranching accident on the Parkfield property when I was just a year old.
In fact, the picture of me in a red romper as an 11 month old with my brother Thom on Dixie, was one of the last times I was with him. We were all at the ranch and Grandpa had put his four grandkids on Dixie for the picture, but the saddle slipped and we all went down. There was much crying following the fall, but Grandpa wouldn’t have any of it. He told my mom to put us back on the horse and that’s what she did (to be fair, she doesn’t look very happy in the pic, either) but Grandpa was tough, and we were raised to be tough, too.
After he died, my grandmother sold the other two ranches but kept the Lazy L and continued to run grandpa’s Black Angus cattle until later she leased the grazing rights to a neighbor. We always spent a lot of time on the ranch. Some families would visit Pismo Beach or even exotic Hawaii, but we went to the ranch, visiting every year for the entire Easter week.
Growing up the population of Parkfield was small. Really small. 21 People. Imagine my shock when as an adult I discovered it had shrunk to 18. Not a bustling place, unless you happen to be in Parkfield for its annual Bluegrass Festival or the Memorial Day weekend rodeo.
Today Parkfield’s population might be smaller than when I was growing up in the 70’s, but our neighbors in Cholame Valley, the owners of the big V-6 ranch, have turned Parkfield into a very appealing western destination with activities for the whole family year round. Interested in a stay on a dude ranch? Feel like participating in a cattle drive or attending a rodeo? Check out some of the activites in charming little Parkfield http://www.parkfield.com.
I only knew a couple things about our ranch when I was growing up. The turnoff for our ranch is where James Dean crashed his car and died. At twilight you’d go driving and see deer everywhere. And then there was the little fact that Parkfield is the self-proclaimed “earthquake capital of the world.”
It wasn’t until I read WHERE THE OLD WEST STILL HANGS AROUND last year that I discovered there is a lot more to Parkfield’s history than earthquakes and cattle. Robert Flood grew up in Parkfield and writes of a California few people know. My favorite stories were those set in and around Parkfield, including the influence of the Jack Ranch and the William Hearst families, as well as the outlaws who spent time in Cholame Valley: Jesse James and the Dalton gang.
The only outlaws causing trouble in the rolling hills around Parkfield now are probably my boys when I take them for a long weekend to spend time in our little ranch house. There isn’t a lot to do at the Lazy L but relax, build puzzles, ride horses, go out looking for deer at dusk, and then drive another ten miles to the Parkfield Café for some great beef brisket and BBQ.
Have you spent time on a ranch? Leave a comment for a chance to win a $15 giftcard from Amazon! Contest ends Friday with winner announced on Saturday!
PS There is a funny story about one of the pictures above. Did you see the picture of me sitting on a dark brown horse with my little brother Rob? In the photo, my mom is holding the lead. You see, my mom is a very determined woman. There is nothing she can’t do once she puts her mind to it, and whenever we visited the ranch, she’d chase down the horses, saddle them, help us ride…in general, she was pretty confident that she could handle her kids, and the horses. My mom had so much confidence that one Easter when we reached the ranch, the horses weren’t in the corral by the ranch house, but below the cattle crossing guard in a lower pasture. Mom marched down to the lower pasture and spent considerable time cornering a most unwilling dark brown horse, but she did it. She got a lead on him, then bridled him, and saddled him, too. And then finally, she put my toddler brother and me on “Sunny’s” back. The horse was not happy. He was really unhappy. But my mom wasn’t having it, determined to show us kids how it was done. We had just finished taking the picture you see above when the neighbor came careening up the road in his truck, all upset because that wasn’t Sunny. That wasn’t our horse at all, but a wild horse that wasn’t yet broken. He couldn’t believe Mom had got a bridle and saddle on him. Personally, I wasn’t that surprised. My mom is a woman who knows how to get things done. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me that anything is possible!
Hi all, I’m stopping by to announce my winner for this month’s post on Historic Hotels of the West! I loved getting all the great suggestions and am looking forward to doing some more exploring soon. Thanks for sharing and keeping me company this month!
The winner for my fun prize pack is Judy Engleka! Judy, shoot me an email at jane(at)janeporter(dot)com with your mailing info so I can get these goodies to you soon.
Wishing you all a beautiful and cozy Holiday Season! xoxo
I am a history buff with a weakness for historic buildings, and in particular, historic hotels.
My dad, a history and political science professor, passed his love of history to his kids and years after studying American Lit & History at UCLA, I went back and got a teaching credential so I could teach English and Social Studies to junior high and high school students.
Whenever I travel, I try to stay in one of the oldest hotels in a town, or one of those fascinating historic buildings that have been turned into a hotel today, preserving a bit of the past while making the building relevant for today’s generation.
In my Taming of the Sheenan series, my hero and heroine in The Tycoon’s Kiss, are both preservationists. Troy Sheenan, a hi-tech tycoon in the Silicon Valley, never forgot his roots in Marietta, Montana and has bought the turn of the century Graff Hotel and restored it to its former glory after the hotel had been abandoned for twenty plus years. Renovating the Graff has nearly bankrupt him, but he had to do it because the hotel was too big a part of Montana history to let it be demolished. Fortunately, he meets the new Marietta librarian, Taylor, who is equally passionate about Montana history, including the town’s 19th century library and my tycoon and book girl fall in love with each other in part because they both love Montana’s rugged history.
Thinking back, I could have happily written an entire story just about American Frontier buildings, except I don’t think my romance readers would have been happy with me f I’d left out people and romance completely.
I’ve used Marietta’s Graff Hotel as a setting many of my Sheenan Brothers stories, but it plays a central role in my brand new release, A Christmas Miracle for Daisy.
In A Christmas Miracle for Daisy, single dad, Cormac Sheenan, and his four-year-old daughter Daisy are living at the Graff during the holidays while their Paradise Valley log cabin style home is being remodeled to make it ‘child-safe’. Cormac isn’t big on Christmas and festivities and Marietta has become Christmas town, with the handsome old Graff featuring daily visits with Santa Claus.
My new Christmas story is a riff on Miracle on 34th Street, and so I don’t need to tell you the challenges everyone faces. Cormac is a non-Kris “Krinkles” believer, while Daisy knows without a doubt that Kris is the real thing. Santa needs to pull off a miracle but its not easy without magic and faith.
I loved using the Graff for a Christmas setting because I could fill the dark paneled lobby with a soaring fir tree, and put garland and red ribbons above doorways and add weekend holiday teas to the hotel’s restaurant menu. I also added another historic building to my Marietta, Montana collection with the addition of the turn of the century “Crookshank Department Store”, a big brick building on Marietta’s Main Street. I’m also sharing a couple Pinterest links to boards featuring Marietta decked out for Christmas, along with the great turn of the century buildings I love so much:
As you can tell, when researching, I spend considerable hours pouring over histories and pictures of my favorite old hotels of the West so I thought I’d share some of my favorite recommendations with you. I’ve been able to stay at each of these places, too, and am including a link so you can visit, either in person or as an armchair traveler…which sometimes can be the best way to travel!
Five of Jane’s Favorite Historic Hotels of the West
The historic Grand Union Hotel was opened in 1882, seven years before Montana became a state. However, within a year two new railroads opened—the Northern Pacific and the Canadian Pacific Railroad to Calgary—and overnight the hotel and town declined. Just two years after it was opened, the bankrupt hotel sold at a “sheriff’s auction” for $10,000. The hotel struggled on through the 20th Century, before closing in the 1980’s and then undergoing a multi-million remodel over a period of years before reopening in 1999, making the Grand Union Montana’s oldest operating hotel.
Spokane’s 1914 Davenport Hotel is one of my favorite hotels in the West. It was built to be a destination spot where guests could escape from the noise and chaos of the outside world for the Davenport’s elegance and refinement. The hotel was nearly demolished in 2002 but saved at the last minute for an extensive renovation that has once again made the Davenport the place to go west of the Cascades.
The Oxford Hotel – Denver, CO
Opened to the public in 1891, the Oxford Hotel was built by Colorado brewer
Adolph Zang with the newest technology, and stunning grandeur with oak furnishings, silver chandeliers and frescoed walls. The newest technology meant that all guest rooms had rare creature comforts: steam heating, electric and gas lighting and bathrooms with separate water closets. The hotel was updated a number of times over the next seventy-five years, but restored to its former glory in the 1980’s to the tune of $12 million.
Browns Palace Hotel is the second oldest hotel in Denver, opened just one year after the Oxford Hotel and name for its owner, Henry Brown. The hotel was designed around an atrium—one of the features I love best about this hotel—and features a gorgeous afternoon tea (my favorite thing to do when traveling…).
The historic Sacajawea dates back to 1910 and was renovated one hundred years later, after spending almost a decade boarded up. Unlike the big city sandstone and red brick hotels, this is a white painted beauty in a small, rural community thirty miles outside Bozeman. I’ve been here several times, if not to overnight, then for a fantastic steak dinner in the hotel’s handsome dining room. I could write an entire blog about Three Forks, MT as it factors hugely in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as well as being a key stop on the Milwaukee Railroad.
(Plus one extra favorite from my childhood, The Wawona Hotel outside Yosemite, near the Mariposa Grove, a station stop in 1856 with rustic accomodations that were replaced in 1879 with the 25 room hotel. Just 90 minutes from my home in Visalia, the Wawona was a magical Victorian period two-story hotel with lots of crisp white paint and picturesque verandas overlooking the lawn. I could picture the horse drawn carriages at the turn of the century arriving with guests from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The hotel today has 104 guest rooms and has been operated by the Park Service since the 1930’s, and remains my first hotel love….with the Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite valley as a very close second! http://www.yosemitepark.com/wawona-hotel.aspx )
Do you enjoy staying in old hotels or visiting historic buildings? Leave a comment for a chance to win this fun prize and I’ll be back to pick a winner on Sunday, the 6th of December!
Hi all, I’m just popping in to announce my winner for this month’s post about Chasing the Rodeo! I’ve so enjoyed hearing your thoughts and learning about your experiences. Thanks for sharing and keeping me company this month.
My winner for a signed copy of She’s Gone Country and some fun Jane Porter reader swag is Laurie G! Laurie, shoot me an email at jane(at)janeporter(dot)com with your mailing info so I can get these goodies to you soon.
Professional and amateur cowboys intrigue me, as do the equally tough professional bullriders.
Every year I attend 2-3 rodeos, from small regional amateur rodeos in Montana and Arizona, to the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas, and that doesn’t include the PBR (Professional Bull Rider) events I try to attend each spring.
Fortunately, I never lack for company when I’m heading to the rodeo or PBR. My husband and I have a standing date for the NFR in Last Vegas each December and have tickets for the last three nights of competition, and my writer friends Megan Crane and CJ Carmichael are also always up for a rodeo weekend.
I’ve written a variety of rugged heroes, including cowboys and bullriders, and three of my reader favorites were all professional bullriders: Dane Shelly (She’s Gone Country), Cade King (Be Mine, Cowboy), and Colton Thorpe (Take Me, Cowboy).
These three heroes were tough, hardcore alphas. Dane Shelly walked with a permanent limp, Cade King once dealt with his pain by drinking hard, hitting the bottle to numb his exhaustion and pain, while Colton Thorpe has no desire to ever settle down and be a buckle bunny’s sugar daddy.
I may have inherited my love of cowboys and western stories from my grandfather, an engineer and rancher from El Paso, Texas that loved the land so much he owned three cattle ranches in California and would fly his private plane in and out of the different ranches to help with routine chores and round ups. I spent school holidays on his favorite ranch in the Cholame Valley (forty-five miles east of Paso Robles) where the miles and miles of rolling hills and open land made me think anything was possible.
At UCLA I switched from being a Creative Writing major to American Studies where I could combine my love of American literature with American history, culture and art. My senior thesis was on Mark Twain, and it’s impossible to study American culture without being reminded at every turn that the American West, and our Frontier has shaped our national consciousness. Americans are explorers and adventurers and yes, risk takers. We’re fiercely independent and determined to succeed.
I was lucky to study in depth the literature of our West, reading both the classics from James Fenimore Cooper to Willa Cather, as well as getting an introduction to the greats in our popular culture, like Bret Harte, Jack Schaefer, and of course, the one and only Louis L’Amour.
Through reading I discovered one of the defining characteristics of the classic Western hero (or heroine) is strength, particularly inner strength, and this strength, and rugged individualism, resonated deeply with me. It’s not enough to say the right thing, but one must do the right thing. Integrity is also essential, as well as having a clear moral compass.
I’m grateful for my academic immersion in the West. It’s definitely been useful for my career, but as I write a contemporary western hero, not a historical one, I’m always trying to broaden my knowledge and deepen my perspective to better ground my character, making him or her as intriguing and relevant as possible for my readers.
To get my characters right, I do a lot of research. In fact, at the very beginning of a new story I do far more research and studying then actual writing.
My research can be broken into one of three categories:
1) Reading: I read every reference book, memoir, and bio I can get my hands on!
2) Interviews: I talk to industry experts (in this case, cowboys, bullriders and family and friends)
3) Observation: I attend live events, soaking it all in and noting every detail possible.
Over the years I’ve collected quite a few books that have become essentials in my Western library. I’ve pulled out a few to share with you here, and have listed four favorites by title and author below.
Favorite Reference Books
King of the Cowboys by Ty Murray and Steve Eubanks
Chasing the Rodeo: On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man’s Search for the West by W.K. Stratton
Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour by Josh Peter
Rodeo in America: Wranglers, Roughstock, and Paydirt by Wayne S Wooden
Not every lover of westerns needs to be a rodeo fan, but if you enjoy a great rodeo hero or setting, check out one of the titles I’ve shared above (the top three are my personal top three favorites). You can also learn more about the PRCA and PBR, including rankings, schedules and ticket info at http://www.prorodeo.com and http://www.pbr.com.
My next rodeo event? Why, it’s the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in just two months time. And I’ll be attending with my favorite ‘cowboy’, my husband Ty. And okay, he’s not a real cowboy, he’s a professional surfer, but with his Texas roots, he loves the rodeo as much as I do!
Giveaway: Are you a rodeo fan? Have you ever been to a rodeo? I’d love to hear about your favorite event or experience and one of you will win a signed copy of She’s Gone Country and some fun Jane Porter reader swag. Winner will be announced here, in the comments, on Saturday, October 10th so please check back to see if that winner might be you!