A Cowboy Surprise

It’s always a special treat when my birthday falls on Memorial Day as it did this year. Not only do I get a day off of work (the day job, anyway) but I also get to spend extra time with my family. But my husband surprised me a couple days early with a romantic cowboy gesture on the Friday night before.

First, he showed up at my office unannounced and kidnapped me from work an hour early. He brought me a change of clothes, including my cowgirl boots, then showed me his own footwear. He’d bought HIMSELF a pair of cowboy boots that afternoon just for the occasion. He hasn’t worn boots ince high school, so this was a big deal. He wore Wrangler jeans, boots, a button-down shirt, eveything but the hat. It was as if he’d walked out of the pages of one of my books!

Then he took me on a 90+ minute drive through the country (we saw wildflowers, longhorn cattle, herefords, deer, and sheep) to a ranch outside of Graham, TX called Wildcatter Ranch. They have a steakhouse there with beautiful hilltop views.

We had a scrumptious dinner next to a large set of windows looking out over this porch and the wooded hills below. So lovely! They served cheesy southern biscuits with a honey glaze for an appetizer, which were scrumptious! I had trout with glazed carrots and salad and Wes had a half-rack of ribs with a baked potato and salad. My fish was good, but when he let me sample the ribs, I regretted not getting some for myself. They were literaly melt-in-your-mouth tender and delicious.

After dinner, we walked around the grounds, and took lots of pictures.

One of my favorites was when we sat in a pair of rockers on the back porch of the Wildcatter Hotel and snapped a photo of our boots.

Then in true Texas style, we stopped at a Dairy Queen in Breckenridge,TX on the way home for a Blizzard. Ha!

It was a wonderful western evening with my personal cowboy hero!

When was a time you received a fun surprise?

Fan Fiction Contest

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One of the characters in my latest book – If the Boot Fits – is a young boy with a vivid imagination. Fergus Ellis is the hero’s youngest brother, and he never goes anywhere without his pencil and tablet. He names the animals around the house and dreams up adventures for them that he jots down in his tablet. He has dubbed the family milk cow Mrs. Merriweather and has set her up as banyard maven. Throughout the novel different people (especially ther hero and heroine) introduce new animal characters into his story world and help him come up with adventures for them to experience.

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I had so much fun with Fergus in this story, and readers have clamored for a bonus story about Mrs. Merriweather and her barnyard friends as written by Fergus. I love the idea, but I just don’t have the time to write one myself. So why not turn it into a contest?

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Several years ago, I ran a fan fiction contest asking readers to write a romantic epilogue pairing Chloe and Duncan from To Win Her Heart. I received some fabulous entries, and the winning epilogue has been posted on my website as bonus material for the last twelve years. You can read it here: http://karenwitemeyer.com/epilogue-twhh.html

I decided to try that again with a Fergus story. If you have read If the Boot Fits and if you enjoy writing, I’d love to invite you to submit an entry. Fergus is a bright ten-year-old boy, so we will be looking for a children’s story. Here are the official details:

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RULES

  1. Write a children’s story about Mrs. Merriweather as if you were Fergus Ellis. (Bonus if you incorporate details Fergus was already considering in If the Boot Fits.)
  2. There are no word count parameters, but children’s stories are typically short, so I’d expect something between 1,000 – 2,000 words. If you go a little shorter or longer, that’s fine.
  3. DEADLINE: May 18, 2024
  4. Send your story to me as a Word doc attachment to this email address – karen@karenwitemeyer.com

PRIZES

  1. The winner’s story will be published on my website.
  2. The winner will receive two autographed books of their choice from titles I have in stock. (If the winner is international, we will come up with an alternative prize.)

 

I can’t wait to read these stories!

Once I have chosen the winning story, I will run an illustration contest as well so that we can add 2-3 images to the text. The illustrator who wins will receive the same prizes. This is going to be so fun!

Have you ever written a fan fiction story?

 

Karen’s Favorite Things – Bookish Socks!

Writers are a quirky bunch. We talk to imaginary people, dream up ways to torture characters we claim to love, and have been known on occasion to show up to work in our pajamas. We all have different ways of getting into the writing zone, too. Some create playlists for each book they write to set the mood. Others load up on coffee and dark chocolate. Me? I put on bookish socks.

Fun socks make me happy and put me in a positive frame of mind as I sit down to write, and over the years I’ve amassed a pretty good collection of book-themed footwear.

Books and tea are always a favorite of mine. And I adore the cute little bookworms!

Jane Austen even makes an occasional appearance.

I thought I would personally foot-model my cowboy socks for you. (You’re welcome for not blinding you with the white legs above the sock line. Thank goodness for crop capability!)

I even have a pair of knee-highs, but I don’t wear these very often for writing sessions. Unless it’s really cold in my office.

Do you have any favorite “fun” socks you like to wear?

April in Texas = Bluebonnets

When late March arrives, I start looking for bluebonnets. Where I live in Abilene, we don’t get the dramatic fields of flowers that you see in the Hill Country. Our bluebonnets come later in the spring and are harder to find, but you’ll hear me cry, “Bluebonnets!” and point out the car window whenever I happen to drive past a patch. In fact, just a few days ago, I saw a family pulled off the side of the road to take pictures of their toddler daughter in a thick patch downhill from the highway. Made me smile since I did the same when my kids were small.

As the state flower of Texas, bluebonnets are as iconic as longhorns and the lone star flag. I thought you might enjoy some quick facts about these beautiful wildflowers.

  1. The bluebonnet was named the Texas state flower in 1901, but it was a contested race. The cotton boll and prickly pear cactus bloom were also in the running. In the end, however,  the bluebonnet prevailed, and I’m so glad it did!
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  2. The bluebonnet is a variety of lupine that grows only in Texas.
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  3. Some believe it got its name because the individual buds resemble a lady’s sunbonnet.
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  4. It is also been known by the names Buffalo Clover and Wolf Flower.
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  5. Blue is the most prevalent color, but on rare occasions this flower can also be seen in white and pink.
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  6. Legend has it that you will only find pink bluebonnets near San Antonio. The story goes that the flowers were originally white, but changed to pink when the river ran red with the blood spilled at the Alamo.
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  7. Texas was the first state to plant flowers along state highways. The Texas Highway Department was organized in 1917, and officials quickly noted the abundance of wildflowers along the roadsides. In 1932, they hired a landscape architect to maintain, preserve, and nurture these wildflowers. In 1934, the department outlawed all mowing during spring and summer wildflower season unless required for safety purposes. In addition, the Texas Highway Department purchases and sows about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seeds each year!
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  8. Ennis is known as the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas. Up to 100,000 people visit the small town each year to travel the scenic 40 miles of the Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail. The trail changes each year depending on where the best growth is found.
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  9. Bluebonnets are toxic. Don’t eat them!
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  10. Historian Jack Maguire once said that the bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland.

 

What wildflowers grow in your area?

If the Boot Fits

It’s official! If the Boot Fits has released. YeeHaw! I’m so excited to share book two in my Texas Ever After series with you. I thought you might enjoy a sneak peek into the story itself, so without further ado, may I present Asher and Samantha . . .

I’m sorry, Pop. I’ve tried everything I can think of to fix this, even a few things I’m ashamed of, but there’s no putting it right. The house is gone.

Nothing to do now but make the new place as habitable as possible before he left. Which was why he reined Bruno to a halt in front of Patterson’s Hardware. If he was going to weatherproof Mama Bess’s roof, he was going to need some supplies.

A bell rang as he entered the shop. The clerk behind the counter glanced up from the customer he was assisting and smiled.

“Afternoon, sir.”

Asher fingered the recently reshaped brim of his hat. “Afternoon.”

“Farm implements are along the back wall. Ironware to your right. Carpentry tools in the center.  Cutlery and kitchenware to the left.”

“Much obliged.” Asher strode toward the center aisle in search of nails. He’d probably have to special order the shingles he’d need, but—

A pile of wiggling pink froth stole every thought from his head as he rounded the corner and stepped into the aisle.

It was a woman—obviously—but what she was doing, he had no earthly idea. Hunkered down in front of a display of chisels, she seemed to be trying to peer beneath the shelving to view something in the adjacent aisle. Asher eased backward, took a couple steps to his left, and peered down the next walkway. A pair of men stood about even with her position, discussing the merits of whitewash versus paint.

Not exactly the type of conversation to entice an eavesdropper.

Inching back to his right, he found the female where he’d left her, only this time she held two gloved hands along the bottom of the shelf, as if measuring the length of something, though the spread of her hands failed to match any of the items housed on the nearby shelf.

Deciding it might be best simply to pretend he didn’t see her, Asher turned his gaze away and stepped into the aisle. Unfortunately, his elbow clipped a dangling hand saw and sent it flying off its nail and onto the floor. The woman gasped and lurched to her feet, spinning toward Asher as he gave chase to the runaway saw.

Her cheeks flushed pinker than her dress and her eyes darted to him then past him as if checking to see if anyone else had witnessed her odd behavior.

Instinct prompted Asher to look over his shoulder. See if anyone was there. But he didn’t. He couldn’t seem to look away from her.

Blue. Her eyes. Summer sky blue. Rimmed with thick lashes. And returning their attention to him.

Feeling his own cheeks heat, Asher held up his hands in apology. “Sorry to startle you. I . . . ah . . . accidentally knocked it with my arm.” He took a few steps forward and bent to retrieve the errant saw.

“That’s all right.” She offered a shaky smile and ran a hand down the front of her dress.

Asher straightened, the saw clutched awkwardly in front of him. Say something, you dolt!

“I’ll just . . . ah . . . put this back.”

Ugh. Something intelligent, Ash.

He sidled down to the front of the aisle where the other saws hung, keeping her in his peripheral vision. His mind spun but failed to grip anything worth saying out loud.

“Are you . . . interested in carpentry?”

Her downturned gaze jerked up to meet his, a hint of guilt playing about her face. Had she been staring at his feet? Why would a woman wearing a dress that probably cost more than his saddle be interested in a worn-out pair of boots? Wait . . . had that been what she was looking at while she’d been hunched over? The boots worn by the men on the next aisle over?

“Carpentry?” Tiny lines etched her forehead. “Not particularly. Why?”

He grinned, feeling more himself now that he had the upper hand in the conversation. He tipped his head toward the shelf beside her. “You seemed quite enthralled by those chisels. I thought you might be a hobbyist.”

“Ah, yes. Well. My father has a birthday coming up.” She fiddled with a bit of lace at her cuff.

“And he’s a carpenter?” He really shouldn’t derive so much pleasure from teasing her, but it felt good to let go of his worries for a few minutes and flirt with a pretty girl.

“A rancher, actually, but tools are always handy to have around, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I would.” He grinned. “A ranch can never have too many chisels.”

Her lips twitched and amusement gleamed in her vibrant eyes, but she managed to keep it contained. Unfortunate, since he found himself intensely curious about what her laugh would sound like once unleashed.

“Everything all right back here?” The clerk who had greeted Asher from behind the front counter hurried into the aisle, his smile strained. “I heard a crash.” He scanned the shelves, no doubt looking for evidence of an avalanche.

“Sorry,” Asher said. “That was my fault. I clipped a saw with my elbow. The stray’s been wrangled and is back with the herd now, though, so no harm done.” He nodded to where the saw hung, nice and tidy.

The clerk, however, didn’t bother looking at the cutting-edge display. His attention remained riveted elsewhere. Not that Asher blamed him. What fella wanted to look at saws when there was a blonde beauty a few feet away?

“Miss Dearing? Are you sure there’s nothing I can assist you with? I’d be happy to lend you my expertise.”

Asher’s ears rang. Miss Dearing? As in Samantha Dearing? The pampered princess he’d flattened when jumping out of her daddy’s study window? The one whose little brother nearly drowned trying to chase him down?

Had she recognized him? Slowly, he turned his face away, thankful for the distraction of the overzealous clerk. He hadn’t recognized her, but then he’d not seen her up close that night. But what if she had seen him? In the study, or after he’d leapt from the window.

Breathe, Ash. It had been dark. A boy had been drowning. She’d had other concerns on her mind. Plus, no recognition had registered in her eyes while they’d been talking. He would’ve seen it with as hard as he’d been staring at those blue beauties.

But what if it wasn’t his face that gave him away. His gut tightened as her interest in men’s boots suddenly made a dreadful sort of sense. If she’d found the boot he’d dropped . . .

Asher yanked his fingers away from the hand saw he’d been pretending to inspect. He needed to get out of here. Now.

Lengthening his stride, he left the carpentry aisle behind and made a beeline for the door. Shingles and nails would have to wait. He couldn’t chance being recognized by the one woman in town who could send him to prison.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt.

You can grab a copy of If the Boot Fits from your favorite retailer.

Amazon | Baker Book House | Christianbook

Western Cinderella

Happy Valentine’s Day!

On a day built for romance, I thought we could celebrate one of the most classic romance stories ever told – Cinderella.

Next month, my western Cinder-fella story will release, and I can’t wait to introduce you to Asher Ellis (ashes instead of cinders) and Samantha Dearing (endearing instead of charming) to you. Can you tell I love playing with character names? Reimagining this fairy tale in an 1800’s Texas setting has been so much fun.

What’s a girl to do when the most interesting man at her matrimonial ball isn’t one of the bachelors on her father’s guest list? Hunt him down, of course, using the only clue at her disposal—the boot he left behind.

As any self-respecting rancher will tell you, boots don’t just fall off like ladies slippers do, so coming up with a reason for my hero to take his boots off at a ball he wasn’t invited to, created a tricky plot point. But once we got that figured out, the rest fell into place with adventure, danger, romance . . . and a pair of imaginary sewing mice.

Did I mention I love playing with names? I worked hard to create names that would harken back to the original Disney tale while still carrying meaning of their own. Instead of Cinderella, we have Asher Ellis – Ash being a synonym of Cinder, and Ellis playing off of Ella. The three key older ladies of the story all have names inspired by royalty as befits a fairy tale – Regina, Elizabeth, and Victoria. Asher’s step brothers are named Jonathan and Fergus. However, Jonathan goes by Jack, giving a nod to the mice from Disney’s Cinderella, Jaq and Gus. Asher’s horse is named Bruno in honor of the dog who saved Cinderella from the tower room. And don’t forget the cattle king with a foreman named Duke. 

Bruno

While I used the classic Disney version of Cinderella that I grew up on as my main inspiration, there are other versions that I have fond memories of as well.

I adore musicals, and as a child of the 80’s, I adored seeing Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother in the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s version with Brandy and Broadway superstar Bernadette Peters.

And what romance lover doesn’t adore Ever After with Drew Barrymore? One of the best Cinderella movies ever!

As an extra bonus, I wanted to mention that there is a Goodreads Giveaway going on now for If the Boot Fits. You can enter here.

What is your favorite Cinderella adaptation?
Do you have any romantic plans for Valentine’s Day?

Starting a New Project

There is something exciting and a bit daunting about starting a new writing project. There are new characters to shape and flesh out, a setting to be explored, and a pile of historical research to dig into to help inspire the plot and breathe authenticity into the story.

On New Year’s Day, I turned in the completed manuscript for Book 3 in my Texas Ever After series. It felt so good to finish that one up over the holidays and get it sent to my publisher. But there was no time to rest. I have a contracted novella that I need to start on. One that is bringing out my nerdy side.

This story is to be a fun, quirky holiday read that will be part of a Christmas novella collection. Since Christmas is fresh on my mind, and a bit of holiday spirit still lingers in the air (since I haven’t gotten around to putting up my Christmas decorations yet), it seemed like the right time to start developing this story.

The first sentence of the story is a newspaper headline:

THREE WISE MEN FROM THE EAST TO ARRIVE TOMORROW

No, this isn’t a Bethleham tale. Our three wise men are mathematics professors from Harvard who are coming to Waco, Texas for an academic symposium sponsored by Baylor University. And one of those “wise men” just happens to be our Christmas hero.

Meet Frank Stentz (middle initial N, if you were wondering 😉 ). Age thirty and one of the most promising young mathematicians Harvard has ever produced. Over the Christmas break, I happened to watch bits and pieces of the Fantastic Beasts series, so Frank bears a striking ressemblance to Newt Scamander.

Our heroine is Stella Barrington, named for the Sirius B star that was discovered in the year of her birth 1862. Her father is a professor of mathematics and astronomy at Baylor. I’d already planned to name her after a star since that fit well with my three wise men, but when I learned about the discovery that just happened to have taken place in the same year she would have been born–well, it was just too good not to use. Research rabbit trails can turn up some great ideas!

Stella is a plain woman with a large nose and oversized feet and has never turned the head of any marriagable mister. She’s content to tend house for her widowed father until a certain scientific gentleman shows up in town.

During my research, I uncovered some fascinating history about Baylor as well. Baylor University is the oldest institution of higher learning in Texas, chartered by the Texas Baptist Education Society in 1844 while Texas was still a Republic. Baylor was also a strong proponent of educating women and boasted the highest female graduation rates west of the Mississippi. They offered literary societies, and my heroine serves as a volunteer sponsor for one of them.

I look forward to weaving the lives of these two intellectual characters together beneath a Texas sky. And who knows? Maybe I’ll run down another research rabbit trail that will inspire more plot ideas.

Frank is a math expert. Stella prefers literature. What was your favorite subject in school?

Christmas Decor Crawl ~ Karen Witemeyer

I love to decorate for Christmas. Almost all of the items that I have collected over the years carry sentimental value. Some I can remember picking out with my husband 30 years ago. Others I remember crafting with love as a new mom. Some were gifts from friends and family. Others were made by the kids when they were in school. Some were crafted by my daughter as she fell in love with hand-making Christmas items. Our decor wouldn’t be found in the pages of a magazine, but it warms my heart every year.

The item I chose to share for our Filly Christmas Decor Crawl is my fireplace mantle. This section is dear to my heart for many reasons.

  1. Sentiment. I cross-stitched each of the stockings. Opening stockings on Christmas morning is a tradition I grew up with and one I intended to keep after I married. When my daughter was born, it was important for me to have personalized stockings for each family member. So, for the first year, I stitched stockings for my husband, myself, and my little girl. Two years later, I added my first son. Then after another two years, I added number three. Each of these stocking took months to stitch, but every thread carried love and joy.
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  2. Festivity. I love Christmas garlands, and while this one is simple, the classic green and red shout Christmas and bring a smile to my face.
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  3. Faith. It’s always been important to me to remember that Christmas is all about the birth of our Savior. Since the fireplace is the focal point of our room, I wanted there to be a prominent display of the nativity there. I have collected Willow Tree figurines for years, and when I discovered they had a nativity set, I began asking for the pieces for Christmas. Then last year, I found the “O Come All Ye Faithful” sign at Hobby Lobby and it added the perfect finishing touch. Some of the nativity animals are hard to see behind the garland, but I love the reminder of the reason for the season.

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and that you are enjoying time with family and friends. May 2024 be a year of abundant blessings and good books.

The Oldest Continuously Run Library in Texas

Last weekend, my family and I traveled to Lockhart, Texas for my niece’s wedding. My sister-in-law, who knows what a book nerd I am, encouraged me to visit the library downtown, giving me a hint at the historical significance of the building. I couldn’t resist!

The library in Lockhart, named in honor of Dr. Eugene Clark, is the oldest, continuously run library in the state of Texas. It was designed and built by T.S. Hodges in 1899 in a French Renaissance style. When erected, it stood near the opera house, in the cultural center of Lockhart.

Here is what it looks like today.

Since we visited in December, it was decorated for Christmas, and was absolutely beautiful on the inside. There was an entry area with an old rolltop desk and shelves. Then inside you can see the dark wood shelves, stage, and a beautiful stained glass window that features a book at it’s center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a lovely view from the stage.

I so wanted to climb the spiral staircase to the upper floor, but I wasn’t s ure if it was allowed, so I forced my son to pose by it instead.

They had a more modern wing as well. This was where most of the books were stored. The children’s area was so fun, I twisted Peter’s arm again to jump into the photo.

Of course, I had to get a photo singing with the carolers outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we were in the beautiful downtown area, I couldn’t leave without getting a few photos of the gorgeous courthouse at the center of the town square.

The cornerstone was laid on August 15, 1893 and completed on March 19, 1894. The 3-story structure is built of sandstone with red sandstone trim. The courthouse is topped by a central clock tower, with additional towers at each corner and flanking the north and south entrances. When it was built, the structure was equipped with the latest conveniences of the day, including electricity.

What is something you love about your local library?

Cowboys & Mistletoe – Karen Witemeyer

(POST  2 of 3  for Tuesday)

I adore Christmas. It is by far my favorite holiday of the year. Time off from work, family reunited, giving and receiving gifts (I love both!), singing carols, eating goodies, and celebrating the gift of our Savior come to earth. I do my best to stretch the festivities into a full month.

This year, I’ve combined several of those passions into a Christmas short story. This one is filled with joy, romance, and plenty of Christmas spirit.

My True Love Gave to Me

The Twelve Days of Christmas get a romantic Texas twist!

Anna King has pledged her heart to Simeon Shepherd, but her father refuses to grant her hand to the young farmer. Simeon determines to be patient and earn David King’s respect over time with hard work and evidence of his ability to provide. However, when a wealthy new suitor arrives in Bethlehem, Texas to woo Anna with her father’s support, patience is no longer an option. Simeon has twelve days before Christmas to best his rival and prove once and for all that he is Anna’s true love.

A fun, quirky read that is short enough to squeeze into even the busiest holiday schedule.

Grab a copy here or buy one for a friend as a digital stocking stuffer.

Giveaway

Today, I’m happy to give away this adorable bookish ornament along with an e-book copy of My True Love Gave to Me. Just play the game below to enter.

Below you will find three statements, two are true, one is not. 

Guess which is the lie in the comments to be entered in the drawings.

Winners and answers will be announced on Sunday 12/03.

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  1. I once unwrapped a toilet seat as a Christmas gift.
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  2. My husband has bought me something cowboy-related every year for Christmas since I published my first western romance in 2010.
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  3. The Christmas gift that made the biggest Witemeyer family splash was when I gave my high school daughter a copy of the MLA Handbook.