I’m so excited that my next book will be out on February 1st, three short days from now!
Montana Dad is the second of my Sweet Home Montana series about the Callahan family, which is part of the wholesome Harlequin Heartwarming line.
Before I tell you about the story, I want to mention that Harlequin has updated their covers starting this month, and Montana Dad is among the first in the re-brand. I’m thrilled with this cover, which really speaks to the special relationship Nick Callahan has with his two little girls.
Nick Callahan is a widowed dad who recently moved back home to the Callahan ranch so that his daughters will be closer to his mom and sister. Alexandra Ryan has moved across the country to live in her aunt’s isolated house next to the Callahan ranch because she believes she’s being stalked by associates of her former boss, who absconded with a great deal of money. Things come to head when Nick asks for access across her land while his bridge is being repaired. Alex says no, then discovers that the locals don’t take it well when someone messes with their neighbors.
Here is an excerpt:
Alex Ryan climbed out of her car and stalked toward Nick with murder in her eyes. Apparently he had something to answer for, which was odd, because wasn’t he the one getting screwed over in this deal? Wasn’t he the one who quite literally had to traverse ten miles of bad road to get home?
She came to a stop a few feet away and pointed a finger at him. “You had me blackballed at the lumber store.”
“Cooper’s Building Supply?”
She gave him a puh-leeze look as her green gaze burned into him. “I’ll drive to Missoula to get what I need. And you can enjoy the fact that you’re putting me out, but remember this—petty revenge is bad for the soul.”
“I’ll remember that when I take the ten-mile detour to my ranch.” He folded his arms over his chest and looked down at her. Steam was practically coming out of her ears. “And if I engaged in vengeful behavior, it’d be a lot more creative than having someone blackballed at Cooper’s.” His voice was little more than a growl, but it must have carried, because he heard the wheels of a grocery cart come to an abrupt halt behind him, then start moving again.
“People are looking,” Alex said in a hissing whisper.
“Of course they’re looking. Wouldn’t you?” He glanced over to see Mary Watkins and her three kids staring at them as they loaded their SUV with groceries. And the cart that had stopped so abruptly behind him was being pushed by Lester Granger, who would totally enjoy spreading this tale at the co-op coffee klatch. Nick smiled tightly and raised a hand at his neighbors.
Nothing to see here, folks.
Mary waved back.
When Nick shifted his attention back to Alex, she let out a breath that seemed to come from her toes. “I need to go.”
The expression she’d worn when he’d come to her ranch that first day was back. Half cautious, half defiant. Fully self-protective. What was this woman running from? Was she a criminal? An abused wife on the run? His gaze strayed to her ring finger, which was bare and showed no signs of a ring having been recently removed. Okay, probably not married, but one didn’t need to be married to be abused, and she was as jumpy as he would expect an abuse victim to be. She’d asked him not to judge until he knew her circumstances. Fair enough. Of course, it’d be nice if she explained her circumstances, but he didn’t see that happening anytime soon.
“I’ll talk to Emmie at the building-supply store.”
“I…” She swallowed, obviously not expecting the gesture. “Thank you.” It was as if politeness was so deeply engrained in her that now that her anger had faded, she couldn’t simply get in the car and slam the door like she so obviously wanted to.
“You’re welcome,” he replied. She was there, living on the property he’d wanted, and avoiding her wasn’t going to change the situation. “What did you need at the building supply?”
“A hinge. I’m fostering a dog. I have to have a secure enclosure.”
If you would like to win a copy–print or digital–of the first book in the series A RANCH BETWEEN THEM, just let me know in the comments. I’ll announce a winner on Friday.
Today we’re playing for a $10 Amazon gift certificate. I love trivia, so my game is a 1950/1960’s western television game.
I have five sets of clues. At the end of the clues I ask you to name an actor or a character and perhaps one more bit of information. To play, number your responses from 1 to 5 in your comment and give the answers only.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so stay turned!
And here we go:
1) I played a character named Rowdy Yates, who was a ramrod on a cattle drive. Who am I and what it the name of the show?
2) I hosted a year of the popular TV series Death Valley Days in the 1960s, then went on to be elected president of the United States. Who am I?
3) I played the Marshall of Dodge City for 20 year on the longest running TV western. What is my character’s name and what is the show?
4) I rode a pinto horse name Cochise and lived with my father and brothers on a ranch named after a type of pine tree. Who am I and what it the name of our ranch?
5) I’m an actual historic figure and in my TV show I “wore a cane and derby hat”. What is my name?
Feel free to look things up if necessary. I’m looking forward to your answers!
The holidays are fast approaching and, as usual, I’m wondering where the time went between harvesting tomatoes and calculating how long it takes to thaw a turkey in the fridge.
This is my favorite time on the ranch. The cows are on winter pasture, so we don’t have to feed them everyday. Likewise with the horses. If the weather cooperates, the horses and cows might be on pasture until spring. We get a lot of wind where we live, so the snow blows into drifts, scrubbing the pastures and allowing the cows, horses, deer and antelope to continue to graze. We have a herd of close to 30 antelope that winter with the cows.
The only guy we have to feed is the bull, and he’s on a diet. His bedding is edible, and his weight kind of got out of control, so now we have him on rations.
That said we did have a bit of early snow. This is my sweetie and I feeding in September!
And here are the cows waiting to be fed…in September.
Thankfully the weather has calmed down, the snow melted and we were able to do some last minute fence fixing. Fencing-fixing is like laundry–it never ends.
And a young moose came to visit. He’s actually larger than he looks in the picture. He’s about as big as a horse–and totally fearless. Thankfully, he took exception to the riding lawnmower and decided to settle in a place with a little less noise.
Now that winter is almost here, I’m looking forward to spending my free time writing (so many ideas!), sewing and reading. I have some history books I want to read and a lot of western romances to catch up on.
How do you plan to spend your time as the holidays approach?
I am so pleased to announce the release of the first book of my Sweet Home, Montana series, A Ranch Between Them.
This is the story of Katie Callahan and Brady O’Neil. Brady and Katie’s brother were best friends in high school and Katie had a mad crush on Brady. Brady’s home life wasn’t the best and he didn’t feel like he was worthy of Katie, so he kept his distance. Time passed, as it does, and they went their separate ways–Katie to a corporate career in the city, and Brady to the rodeo circuit.
When the story opens, Brady’s suffered a career-ending injury and and has signed on to manage the Callahan Ranch while he heals, unaware that Katie, tired of city life, is coming home to stay. (I just love doing things like this to my characters.)
This scene is from the first chapter of the book, after Katie has rescued Brady from an ATV accident–something he would have been able to do himself had he not been inured.
After parking the truck next to the main house, Katie half expected Brady to bolt—or to come as close to bolting as he could with his injuries, both old and new—but instead he turned toward her and regarded her for a long moment from under the brim of his ball cap, giving her a moment to study him back.
He’d been good-looking in high school, but now he bordered on spectacular with his dark hair and green eyes. The planes of his face had become more pronounced with age, as had the laugh lines around his eyes. She doubted that Brady had laughed a lot lately, but the lines made her realize how much time had passed since they’d seen one another. They’d both aged, changed. They weren’t the people they’d once been.
“I’m hurting, Katie.”
The candid admission startled her. Brady O’Neil admitting weakness. Brady, who’d refused to go to the clinic. Brady, who’d never let on that his parents were not the loving parents they appeared to be. Nick had clued her in on that small fact.
“Hurting inside or out?” She half expected him to pull into himself after she asked the question, refuse to answer or deflect the question. He didn’t.
“Out.” His jaw shifted sideways, and he sucked in a breath before saying, “Both. Which is why I need my space. Maybe, before I go, I can explain everything. But for now…” He made a frustrated gesture. “Like I said, I need my space.”
“Do you think I’m going to try to mother you, or smother you or something to that effect? Because that isn’t the case. I’m here to sort my life out, too.”
There was color in his cheeks. This wasn’t easy for him, but now that he knew she was going to be sharing his domain, he was establishing boundaries. Like she would encroach where she wasn’t wanted. Although perhaps he had cause to think that. She hadn’t exactly taken the hint when he’d tried to shut her out when they were teens.
“What makes you think I’m going to insinuate myself into your life?” she added.
“You’re a helper, Katie, and I don’t want help. I want to find out what I’m capable of alone.”
“Well, we now know your capabilities in the wrecked four-wheeler department.” Katie instantly held up her hand. “Low blow. Sorry. But what makes you think I’m going to pay any attention to you at all?”
“Katie,” he said softly, “you rescue things. Puppies, kittens, leppie calves.”
Okay. So, she’d rescued a few orphan calves. Some abandoned puppies. A few kittens. Big deal. She propped a hand on her hip. “And that’s your big fear? That I’m going to try to rescue you?” She lifted her eyebrows in a speaking expression. “Like I did today?”
Brady didn’t bite.
Katie let out a frustrated huff of breath. “Fine. We’ll make a no-rescue pact. I won’t rescue you, again, and you won’t rescue me.” She lifted her chin. “Not that I would need rescued.”
He cocked an eyebrow and the color rose in her cheeks as she got his point. “I can now change a tire by myself, and if I get stranded after midnight, I have a cell phone.” And a lot more street smarts than she’d had back in the day.
“How about instead of a pact, you treat me like Ed Cordell? An employee of the ranch.”
Ed, the former ranch manager, had kept to himself, did his job and did it well. He’d been all business, and Katie had never been able to warm up to the man. But he’d kept the ranch running smoothly, she’d give him that.
“If you’re asking me to treat you like Ed, you’re serious about this leave-you-alone thing.”
“It’s not personal, Katie,” he repeated. “It’s what I need right now.”
Katie lifted her chin. “If you need to be left alone, I’ll respect your wishes. Believe it or not, I no longer need to tag along where I’m not wanted. I’ve changed over the past decade.”
She frowned at the unexpected remark, but before she could come up with a comeback or a question, Brady held out a hand. Katie stared at it for a second, feeling as if she was teetering on the brink of something dangerous, which was crazy because how dangerous could it be shaking hands with a guy who didn’t want her—or anyone for that matter—around? She resolutely put her hand in his, her nerves jumping as his warm, work-roughened palm made contact with hers and his fingers closed.
Katie nodded briskly before pulling her fingers free. “Deal.” She felt as if she’d just gotten a slow-motion electrical shock. That was the only way she could describe the tingle that gripped her body when they made contact, ultimately making her stomach tumble.
The vestiges of a crush from the distant past. That was all it was.
She reached for her door handle, her heart beating harder than before, and still feeling the warmth of his fingers on hers. She pushed her hands into her back pockets and met Brady’s gaze. “This is where we go our separate ways, living our parallel lives on the Callahan Ranch?”
He gave his head a slow shake, those mossy green eyes full of an emotion she couldn’t quite read as he said, “I doubt we’ll be able to do that, but when we do meet—”
“You’re Ed to me.”
THE GIVE AWAY! If you’d like to win a copy of A Ranch Between Them, all you have to do is to tell me in the comments if you had a mad crush in high school. 🙂
The winner will be announced on Thursday afternoon, so stay tuned!
Welcome to our special Spuds and Spurs week! Spuds, you say? Yes, indeed. Potatoes were a staple on the westward trails. They were nutritious and stored well, so pioneers depended on them, and as such they should be celebrated. They are also one of my favorite foods.
I’m from Idaho originally and the license plate of my first car proudly read “Famous Potatoes”. As a teen that was a mortifying thing to have on one’s car. I survived, but I thought it was kind of embarrassing to be from a potato state when other kids got to be from states famous for wild horses or aliens. When I traveled out of state and let it be known that I was from Idaho, people invariably said, “Potatoes, right?”
Right–except that I never ate an Idaho potato until I moved to Colorado in 1982, where there were special bins marked “Idaho Potatoes”. At the time they didn’t sell Idaho spuds in the northern part of Idaho–they sold potatoes from Washington, Oregon, California and North Dakota. I love all potatoes, so I didn’t care.
And now to Mr. Potato Head…
Shortly after I married, my husband and I moved to northern Nevada, where we lived near the largest spud farm in the nation. (Yes, Nevada, not Idaho.) I took a job teaching junior high school, and since I’m a big fan of whimsy, I used my kids’ Mr. Potato Heads as room decorations. The students, would ask why I had so many Mr. Potato Heads, and I would explain that I was from Idaho and Mr. Potato Head was my favorite animal.
That stopped them in their tracks. “But…he’s a potato, not an animal.”
“Does he have legs and eyes and a nose and a mouth?”
“Then he’s my favorite animal.”
Soon the kids were bringing me their old Potato Heads, and I started getting new ones as gifts. One student negotiated a trade–he’d give me his prince and princess Potato Heads in exchange for my Darth Tater. I liked the kid, so I agreed. I kind of miss Darth, though.
The original Mr. Potato Head was invented in 1949 and made with actual potatoes. The Mr. Potato Head kit supplied the face and body components, which were on nails, and the child had to come up with his own potato to put them on. Toys were slightly more deadly back then. You don’t find points sharp enough to skewer a potato on kids’s toys nowadays. The plastic potato body was included in the kit in 1964 and in 1975, the spud body became much larger.
Some fun Mr. Potato Head facts–he received four votes to be mayor of Boise, Idaho in 1985. He was the official Spokes Spud for the Great American Smoke Out in 197 and surrendered his pipe. He was the first toy ever advertised on television in 1952.
Mr, Potato Head has starred in films, been featured in McDonald Happy Meals, floated high as a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and even dresses up as a cowboy. In fact…Cowboy Mr. Potato Head will be one of the prizes given away in our special event. So exciting!
And Now…The Spurs and Spuds Contest
Here’s how the contest works–it’s simple, but a little different from our past contests. Every day two blog commentors will be chosen as semi-finalists. On Sunday, September 29, two winners will be chosen from the semi-finalists. The grand prizes are a great big Lays Potato Variety Pack, and Mr. And Mrs. Potato Head!
To enter to be one of my semi-finalists, please tell me if you had a Mr. Potato Head. If you are lucky enough to be randomly chosen as my semi-finalists, you will also receive an autographed copy of my soon-to-be-released book, A Ranch Between Them.
Two semi-finalists chosen each day.
Two grand prize winners chosen from all semi-finalists and announced on Sunday.
To enter my contest, tell me if you had a Mr. Potato Head.
My semi-finalists will receive autographed copies of my latest book.
Hey everyone! Today I’m talking about beaverslides, which are not fun devices located on playgrounds for flat-tailed furry mammals, I’m sorry to say. A beaverslide is a way to stack loose hay.
In the eastern part of the United States, it wasn’t necessary to store as much winter forage/hay as it was in the west. Due to the long, harsh winters, western ranchers often needed to store more hay than the average hayloft could hold. Thankfully, due to the low humidity, hay could be stacked outside, rather than under a barn roof, without rotting as it would do in the east.
When my mom was a kid, the field hands pitched loose hay from the fields into wagons, where people (kids) would stamp down the hay to make room for more. The trick, she said, was to not get a pitchfork in the leg. Having once had a pitchfork in my leg, I think about that often. The wagon of loose hay was then pitched into haylofts where it was protected from the weather, or it was stored in stacks. In the early 1900s, however, two ranchers in the Big Hole country of Montana, very close to where I now live, invented the Beaverhead County Slide Stacker, soon to be known simply as a beaverslide, which provided a quicker and more efficient way to stack loose hay.
Now I saw these contraptions in hay fields as a kid, most of them falling apart from lack of use, and while I knew they had something to do with haying, I didn’t know how they worked. Here’s how:
I’m happy to say that while most farmers and ranchers bale hay, the beaverslide is still being used today. Here’ a beaverslide in use close to where I live:
How cool is that? Using a beaverslide today might be more labor intensive than using a baler, requiring a crew of 6 to 8 people, but it saves on fuel, which is huge. A beaverslide can stack hay up to 30 feet high. They are usually made of lodge pole pine and wooden boards, but some have metal components.
About 24 tons of hay can be stacked before the beaverslide is moved to make a new stack in a new area. An average size cow consumes 24 pounds of hay a day, so one stack will feed 2000 cows for one day, or 500 cows for 4 days. We have 50 cows on our place, so a 24 ton stack would last us for about 5 weeks.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our adventure in loose hay today!
One of my favorite rodeos is not a PCRA (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) sanctioned rodeo, but rather our local rodeo, where we get riders from southwest Montana.
As we headed out to the rodeo, my husband had reservations… What is that, you ask? The view from inside the truck as we drove to town.
I assured him the skies would clear and sure enough they did, but not before making a nice amount of muck.
The arena hadn’t gotten sloppy, however, so it wasn’t too slick to ride in. This is the mounted drill team my mother coaches. She rode with them for over a decade, then retired from performing at the age of 76 and took over coaching.
What follows are views from behind the chutes where the competitors saddle their broncs. I do love me a yellow slicker, thus the photo of yellow slicker guy.
Each cowboy puts his own gear on the horse he’s going to ride. In general there are fewer bareback bronc riders than saddle bronc riders because it’s so hard on the body. They were vests with special neck rolls to cushion their head as it snaps back. The cowboy in the pink chaps is wearing his vest and you can see the roll on it. By the by, cowboys are not afraid of pink. Something to do with being comfortable in their masculinity, I think.
These are the saddle bronc riders getting ready to go.
The rodeo is a real family affair. If you look closely you’ll see a cowboy holding a baby, another holding his toddler and, of course, a dog. This photo was taken behind the chutes as they were prepping the bulls for the bull riding. The guy in the chaps is a bull riding contestant, who is thankfully wearing a helmet. I’m a proponent of helmets in rodeo events.
It rained during the bull riding and got my boots wet, but they didn’t soak through. I could have sat under the cover of the grandstand, but I like to sit on the open bleachers next to the chutes. You can see why…it’s worth getting wet.