My Western Bucket List

I love seeing new places. It doesn’t matter if it’s a famous as Yellowstone National Park or a little, out-of-the-way museum hardly anyone has ever heard of. There are so many places I’ve yet to visit that I would love to experience firsthand, but today I’m narrowing my list down to Western locations on my bucket list.

Yosemite National Park — Covering nearly 750,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada of California, this park is known for its granite cliffs and gorgeous waterfalls. About 95 percent of the park is designated wilderness.

U-shape valley, Yosemite National Park. Photo by Guy Francis, used under Wikipedia Creative Commons license.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Canyon National Park  — One of the most impressive natural features on the planet, the canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. It has more than earned its name.

Grand Canyon from Pima Point. Photo by Chensiyuan, used under Wikipedia Creative Commons license.

Cheyenne Frontier Days — An outdoor rodeo and western celebration in Cheyenne, Wyoming that has been around more than a century.

Mesa Verde National Park — Home to some of the the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan architectural sites in the country. Can you imagine walking in the footsteps of those who lived there more than nine millennia ago?

Square Tower House at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Photo by Rationalobserver, used under Wikipedia Creative Commons license.

Roswell, New Mexico — It might be kooky and touristy, but I’d love to visit the site of a supposed UFO crash. Plus, I’ll admit I loved the show Roswell, too. It’s also home to interesting history other than the famous UFO incident, including the fact that cattle baron John Chisum’s famous Jingle Bob Ranch, once the largest ranch in the country, was nearby.

Arches National Park — This park near Moab, Utah is home to more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches. I’ve seen the edge of this park in the distance while traveling through Utah on Amtrak, but I’d love to explore the park’s starkly beautiful high desert landscape.

Trish’s Winners

Congratulations to Connie Saunders and Carol Luciano. You’ve both won a signed copy of Twins for the Rancher. Please contact me with your mailing address via the Contact page on my site here.

Back to Blue Falls, Texas

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you’re all set up to have a fabulous week ahead. I’m looking forward to the release of the latest in my Blue Falls, Texas series from Harlequin Western Romance this Thursday. Well, Thursday marks the release of the ebook version; the paperback follows the next Tuesday, March 6. Here’s the blurb for Twins for the Rancher, which I have to say has the most adorable cover.

MIXING BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE

Rancher Adam Hartley knows that big rewards mean big risks. His plan to expand the family business in Blue Falls, Texas, is a good one. Unfortunately, someone else beat him to it—and bought the old abandoned restaurant he’d been eyeing. Yep, a beautiful newcomer just stole his dream…and his heart, too.

Except single mom Lauren Shayne knows that love is dangerous. Love almost destroyed her business and her reputation, and she won’t ever make that mistake again. So why is she so attracted to Adam? The drop-dead-sexy cowboy seems determined to win over Lauren and her adorable twin babies…but how can she be with him if she’s not sure she can trust him?

This is the fourth book within the series that features one of the five adopted Hartley siblings. I’ve loved really exploring this unique family made up of three brothers and two sisters, none of whom are blood related. But that doesn’t make them any less family. They tease each other like any brothers and sisters. And they have each other’s backs like no one else. And despite all the teasing, nobody is happier when one of them finds true love. I was called to write this because I’m always so interested in the concept of family being something you create instead of something you’re born to.

Oh, and if you happen to be a fan of the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond was the inspiration for my heroine, Lauren, who is known as the Brazos Baker.

I had a cool experience when the cover of this book was revealed. The mother of the little girl in the blue dress contacted me to say that was her happy baby on the cover. She’s just as cute as a button, isn’t she?

As some of you may know, Harlequin is ceasing publication of the Western Romance line in June. Since the last of the Hartley siblings’ books was due to come out in August, for a while that book’s fate was up in the air. I found out last week that Harlequin will be launching a new program in 2019 to publish these orphaned books. My book, tentatively titled Texas Cowboy, Be Mine, will be out in January 2019. It’s my last contracted book for Harlequin, but I’ll be continuing to write western romance stories with Tule Publishing. I recently turned in my first book to them and have been working with them on cover images. The book is with the editor now, but as soon as I know when it’s set to debut, I’ll no doubt be yelling it from the rooftops (aka social media, this blog, my newsletter, etc.). Speaking of my newsletter, if you’d like to sign up for periodic updates from yours truly, it’s a simple sign-up here.

Want to Win?

To celebrate this week’s release of Twins for the Rancher, I’ll be giving away two signed paperback copies of the book to two commenters today. Since both of my main characters are the entrepreneurial business types, let me know if you’ve either started a business or, if not, what type of business you would love to start if you could.

 

They Should Be Cowboys

Ask any of my friends who really know me and they’ll tell you I like to watch TV. I find a lot of inspiration in good storytelling and, let’s be honest, physical inspiration for heroes. And though a lot of the actors aren’t cast in cowboy roles, I could easily see them with a cowboy hat and boots, a nicely worn set of Wranglers and sitting astride a horse as he rides the range. So I thought it would fun to share some actors I think would be good as cowboy heroes.

Because of photographers’ copyrights, I won’t be putting the pictures of the actors on here. But I’ll link their names to a picture so you can check them out and see if you agree. I’d also love to hear who you think would make a great casting for a cowboy hero. I’m always looking for inspiration to drive my creation of those sexy cowboy heroes in my books, and I’m sure our blog readers wouldn’t mind the visual treats as well. 🙂

My picks:

Matt Barr from Valor and Sleepy Hollow

Sam Heughan from Outlander

Matt Lanter from Timeless

Noah Mills from The Brave (He’s actually the inspiration for the hero in the book I’m currently working on for Tule.)

Idris Elba from the Thor movies

Oscar Issac from the new Star Wars movies

Jensen Ackles from Supernatural

Juan Diego Botto from Good Behavior

Eric Dane from The Last Ship

Now it’s your turn. Tell us who you’d like to see play a hunky cowboy hero. Let’s see how many awesome choices we can come up with today.

 

 

 

Santa’s On His Way

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! It’s that day of the year when kids can hardly contain their excitement, knowing that it’s only mere hours before Santa will make his way to their house (if they’ve been good) to eat cookies, drink milk and leave toys beneath the tree. I can remember my parents ushering my sister and me off to bed as soon as we saw Santa on the radar during the weather report on the 10 p.m. news. The Santa tale includes him making his way down the fireplace chimney, which brings me to how I began to question this whole Santa thing when I was a kid.

One, how could Santa come down a chimney in the middle of winter without burning himself? And what if you didn’t have a chimney that would accommodate a man of that size? This last question came up because we had a wood-burning stove when I was a kid. There was no way that Santa was fitting down a stove pipe, escaping the fire in the stove and magically squeezing himself out the stove’s door along with his unburned bag of toys. When challenged by my questions, my mom said he came in through the back door. Again, I wasn’t buying it. I knew for a fact that Mom locked that door and checked it multiple times in classic OCD fashion before she went to bed. There was no way she was leaving it unlocked.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that kids figure out the Santa fib even earlier these days. Between their friends and the Internet, it’d be hard to not figure out. But even when we’re older and no longer believe in the existence of an actual Santa Claus, we still love the story and what it symbolizes — the magic of the season as seen through the eyes of a child on Christmas morning.

When and how did you figure out that Santa wasn’t real? Were you disappointed?

From the Milburn family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. I hope your 2018 is happy, healthy, fun and prosperous.

Our Oldest National Park

Since the last time I blogged here, I’ve started writing the first book I’m doing for Tule Publishing. Not only is this book set in one of the most beautiful areas of the United States — the Paradise Valley of Montana — it’s also adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, which is our nation’s oldest national park. The park was established by Congress, and President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law March 1, 1872. That was more than a decade before any of the three states in which the park currently sits — Montana, Wyoming and Idaho — even became states.

By Henry Wellge (1850-1917) (David Rumsey Map Collection) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Yellowstone is not only very ecologically diverse, including being home to half of the world’s geothermal features, it also has a rich history. The area the park covers, more than 3,400 square miles, has been home to Native Americans for around 11,000 years. We know this because an obsidian projectile point was found during the 1950s excavation for the building of the post office in Gardiner, Montana, which is the gateway community where the northern entrance to the park is located. Arrowheads made from the same type of Yellowstone obsidian have been found as far east as the Mississippi Valley.

Though mountain men occasionally visited the area as far back as the late 1700s, it wasn’t until the late 1860s that organized exploration made it to this rugged and remote area. Prior to that, occasional tales from the area, such as those told by John Colter of a place made of “fire and brimstone,” were dismissed as a product of delirium or as pure myth. In fact, it became known as an imaginary place called “Colter’s Hell.” Though famous mountain man Jim Bridger also spoke of the area, he was also not believed because he was known to be a great teller of tall tales. It wasn’t until two different expeditions in 1869 and 1870 that the world began to believe that Yellowstone was real. Shortly thereafter, several voices spoke up for the protection of the area as a national park.

Photo taken by Daniel Mayer and released under terms of the GNU FDL.

Initially under the purview of the Secretary of the Interior, the park subsequently was overseen by the U.S. Army for a period of 30 years from 1886 to 1916. You can still see the Army’s Fort Yellowstone structures, which serve as the park’s headquarters in Mammoth Hot Springs in the northwestern corner of the park. Throughout the park, you’ll find museums and roadside exhibits that detail various aspects of the park’s history, wildlife, geothermal features and ecology. The wildlife is interesting in that the herds of bison and elk and the free-roaming bears and wolves give modern-day visitors a small glimpse of what the great landscapes of the West were once like.

By Jim Peaco, National Park Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Since 1916, Yellowstone has been a part of the National Park Service. Its creation has led to the protection of more than 400 units of the NPS covering more than 84 million acres in every state as well as the territories of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These park units collectively had more than 330 million visitors last year. Fifty-nine of the units are designated national parks, many of which are also World Heritage sites. Thirty-five of those 59 parks are located in the West and protect a variety of landscapes and history that embody the American West. That’s not counting a huge number of other NPS units that are designated as national monuments, battlefields, seashores, historic sites, national historic parks, preserves, lakeshores, wild and scenic rivers, recreation areas, military parks, parkways, cemeteries, historic and scenic trails, and heritage areas.

Have you ever visited Yellowstone? Other National Park Service units? What is your favorite?

To find out more about Yellowstone National Park and the rest of the units of the National Park Service, go to http://www.nps.gov.

Past, Present and Future

They say time flies when you’re having fun. That must be why it seemed unbelievable that last Thursday I celebrated the 10th anniversary of when I got the call from Harlequin that I’d sold my first books to them. While the first couple of books that published with Harlequin American Romance weren’t westerns, the third, Elly: Cowgirl Bride, was as part of the six-book, six-author continuity series called The Codys: The First Family of Rodeo. This series was set in northern Wyoming, a beautiful area east of Yellowstone National Park that I visited a number of years ago while on a trip out West to visit my sister.

Soon thereafter I wrote the first book set in my fictional Hill Country town of Blue Falls, Texas. At the time, I thought The Cowboy’s Secret Son was just the first of a planned trilogy about three ranching brothers that was tagged with the name The Teagues of Texas. I had no idea that I would continue to write Blue Falls stories for years and that the series would, after that initial trilogy, have a its own series name named after the town. Thus far, there have been 15 full-length novels, one e-novella and one Harlequin online read set in Blue Falls, Texas. Two more are in the pipeline. In fact, I just finished writing the first draft of the last contracted book last night (Sunday).

Yellowstone River flowing through the Paradise Valley.

As you might have heard, Harlequin is closing the Western line next June. That put me and a number of other authors at a crossroads, trying to decide what step was next in our careers. I’m happy to report that I recently signed a contract for three western romances with Tule Publishing. I’ll be able to return to the Yellowstone area again, this time to the beautiful Paradise Valley north of the park in Montana. This area sits between the Gallatin and Absaroka Mountains, and the Yellowstone River runs through the middle of the valley. This stretch of Big Sky Country is home to ranches, fly-fishing outfitters, hot springs resorts and trophy homes. Such visually stunning films as A River Runs Through It and The Horse Whisperer had scenes filmed here. I’m going to be writing about three brothers once again. This time their family not only has a large ranch but also a hot springs resort. I’m excited to dive into writing the first story soon, creating a new cast of characters and a new small town for readers to love.

A New Book and Inspiration

It’s hard to believe that my book that is out this month, Her Texas Rodeo Cowboy, is the 16th story I’ve set in my fictional town of Blue Falls, Texas. It’s the 12th full-length book with that series name attached to it, but there were also a Christmas e-novella (A Cowboy in Her Stocking) and a previous trilogy, The Teagues of Texas, that introduced the Hill Country tourist destination.

Her Texas Rodeo Cowboy examines that age-old conflict that occurs when someone with deep roots on the land where they grew up falls for someone who lives the life of a tumbleweed. However will they solve the conflict to find their happily ever after?

With actress Rachel Skarsten, the inspiration for my character Sloane Hartley.

Sloane Hartley is deeply rooted to her family’s ranch in Blue Falls, Texas. So she isn’t about to risk falling for a tempting tumbleweed like Jason Till. To Sloane, Jason is a handsome heartbreak waiting to happen. Like all rodeo cowboys. If she ever let herself love again, she certainly wouldn’t pick someone like him!

Jason only has eyes for one prize—the steer-wrestling championship. And he can’t afford any distractions. Certainly not a blonde beauty with trust issues like Sloane. She represents everything a cowboy on the circuit can’t have anyway—home, family, a real relationship. Everything he thought he didn’t need. But when he’s with Sloane, Jason can’t remember why winning at the rodeo seemed so important.

With actress Adelaide Kane, the inspiration for my character Arden Wilkes.

When I begin plotting a book, I tend to base the characters’ physical descriptions on an actor or actress. So it was really cool when I went to DragonCon over the Labor Day weekend and got to give signed books to two actresses who inspired recent heroines in my Blue Falls, Texas series. They were both from the show Reign, loosely based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. Rachel Skarsten, who played Queen Elizabeth I, was the model for Sloane in this month’s release. Adelaide Kane, who played Mary, was the inspiration for Arden, the heroine from In the Rancher’s Arms, which was out in April. Both seemed to think it was pretty cool to have had a book heroine based on them.

My question to you: What actors do you think would be good models for my future cowboy heroes?

The Horse Podiatrist

No, that post title isn’t also the title of an upcoming book. After all, I’m not sure it’d be flying off the shelves if it were. Instead, it’s a clue to today’s topic, that of farriers.

As you might expect from a long-running western series, many of my heroes in my Blue Falls, Texas series are ranchers and/or rodeo cowboys. Every now and then, I throw in a little something extra, too. That was the case for A Rancher to Love, which was book eight in the series. Tyler Lowe not only has a ranch, but he’s the local farrier — or the man you call when your horse needs a hoof trim or new shoes. When you think about it, farrier seems an odd word for such a profession. But not surprisingly, it’s because the term has its roots in other languages — this time French and Latin. It’s comes from the Middle French word ferrier,

meaning blacksmith, and the Latin word for iron, ferrum.

Although in the past, farriers did blacksmithing work as well, today the two professions are more distinct. Unlike podiatrists, farriers in the United States don’t have to have any formal education or certification. In fact, scary as it might seem, farriery is not regulated at all in the U.S. There are voluntary certification programs through three organizations — the American Farrier’s Association, the Guild of Professional Farriers, and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers.

By contrast, in the UK it is illegal for anyone to call themselves a farrier or to carry out any farriery work. This is so that no harm or suffering are endured by horses through the unskilled efforts of someone who isn’t qualified. They are organized as the Worshipful Company of Farriers and have been around since 1356!

While trimming hooves and shoeing (including for such special purposes such as racing) are the farrier’s main duties, they also take care of damaged or diseased hooves.

It was fun to write a different aspect of life surrounding ranching and the cowboy life, but next month I’m back to rodeo cowboys with the release of book number 12 in the Blue Falls, Texas series — Her Texas Rodeo Cowboy. Hero Jason Till is in hot pursuit of a national championship in steer wrestling.

Welcome to Our 10th Anniversary Celebration!

Howdy, Pardners! We here at Petticoats & Pistols are super excited about the upcoming week because we’re going to be in full-on party mode! That’s because we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the blog. That’s right, 10 years of posts about our love of all things western. A full decade. In honor of that milestone, we’re going to be having daily “10-themed” posts from lots of the Fillies. You won’t want to miss these posts for the sheer fun, for one, but also because commenting will earn you chances to win daily prizes as well as one of three awesome grand prizes we’ll be giving away at the end of the week of partying until we drop. And the more you participate, the more chances you get to win those grand prizes. So comment often and be sure to take part in our fun scavenger hunt that will take you on a journey for answers through our individual author websites. You’ll find the contest entry form at the bottom of this post. Please read all the rules before you begin. Following the listing of the prizes below, you’ll find all the clues for the scavenger hunt so you can get started.

Just check out all that’s part of the grand prizes. Honestly, I kind of want to win them!

Grand Prizes

First Grand Prize

From Kathryn Albright – a western adult coloring book and set of pencils, a print copy of her new release and one from her backlist

From Karen Witemeyer – Her Ladies of Harper’s Stations series, including two signed print books (No Other Will Do and Heart on the Line), one e-novella (Worth the Wait), and the movie that inspired Harper’s Station (Westward the Women DVD)

From Mary Connealy – A $10 Bath &  Body Works gift card and two books from her Cimarron Legacy series, No Way Up and Long Time Gone

From Cheryl Pierson – Silver bookmark, two of her signed books, and one mail-order bride anthology

From Pam Crooks — Autographed set of her Wells Cattle Company trilogy (Harlequin Historicals) and a $10 Bath and Body Works gift card

From Trish Milburn – four signed books from her Blue Falls, Texas series and a set of earrings

Second Grand Prize

From Winnie Griggs – A signed copy of her Knotty Pine series – 3 novels (The Christmas Journey, Second Chance Family, The Proper Wife) and a novella (Home For Thanksgiving), and a mish-mash of other items: a coffee mug with spoon, a “Ring for a Kiss” bell, Bookaholic necklace, burlap mini-tote, magnetic cowboy poet kit and a cowboy Christmas ornament

From Karen Kay – two signed books

From Phyliss Miranda – A $10 Bath and Body Works gift certificate, a set of six mass market historical western anthologies by Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace and Phyliss (autographed), and a copy of her Kasota Springs contemporary romance

From Jeannie Watt – Montana coffee mug, cowgirl flour sack towels, four signed books

Third Grand Prize

From Marin Thomas – All three signed books in her Cowboys of the Rio Grande series, A Cowboy’s Redemption, The Surgeon’s Christmas Baby and A Cowboy’s Claim), a giant Texas cookie cutter, a cowboy Christmas ornament and the picture book Pixar Guide to Life featuring Woody the cowboy from Toy Story)

From Tanya Hanson – a horse-patterned scarf, horseshoe bracelet and three signed books

From Linda Broday – Autographed copy of her new August release Knight on the Texas Plains and a decorative western bowl

From Margaret Brownley – Autographed copy of her latest release and $15 Amazon gift card

Wow!

Scavenger Hunt Clues

Kathryn Albright — In Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove, what is the name of the cowboy that first lays claim to Maggie McCary?

Linda Broday — In which book did the cowboy win a baby in a poker game?

Margaret Brownley — Margaret’s A Match Made in Texas series was inspired by what favorite childhood book?

Mary Connealy— What three awards are mentioned on Mary’s website?

Pam Crooks — What was the evil warden doing that forces Hannah, the heroine in Hannah’s Vow, to go to the penitentiary to help investigate?

Winnie Griggs —  Which of Winnie’s books feature a schoolteacher who tries to play matchmaker for a sawmill owner?

Tanya Hanson — What is Tanya very afraid of?

Karen Kay —  In which book is the heroine escorting several orphans out West when the hero, a Cheyenne Warrior, raids a train in search of his brother, who has been taken captive?

Trish Milburn — Which book has a heroine who has recently been rescued from human traffickers?

Phyliss Miranda — What is the name of my assistant and what is unusual about her talents?

Jeannie Watt — Which two of Jeannie’s books deal with bull riders and adorable twin girls?

Karen Witemeyer — What 19th century book inspired Karen’s telegraph romance, Heart on the Line (Ladies of Harper’s Station series)?

Marin Thomas — How many books does the moving banner display on the Home page of Marin Thomas’s website?

Schedule

And so you know what you have to look forward to reading and commenting on this week, here’s our schedule:

Monday – Winnie Griggs and Linda Broday will share their views on the 10 Best Western Songs/Ballads.

Tuesday – Karen Kay and Phyliss Miranda will be discussing 10 Western Heroes and Heroines.

Wednesday – Karen Witemeyer and Jeannie Watt will keep the conversation likely with their list of Top 10 Favorite TV Westerns.

Thursday – We welcome our newest Filly Marin Thomas, who will kick off her new Filly-dom by telling us a bit about herself and her recent trip to Globe, Arizona.

Friday – Guest blogger Pam Hillman will share the 10 Snags of Writing Colonials vs. Westerns.

Saturday – Kathryn Albright & Margaret Brownley will talk about their Top 10 Favorite Western Sayings.

Sunday – Pam Crooks, who has been here since the beginning of Petticoats & Pistols, will post about The 10 Fillies Who Started it All.

We sure hope you’ll join us throughout the week as we celebrate! And good luck in the giveaways!

Contest Entry Form

NOTE: If you want to enter the giant giveaway, you must use this form. Leaving a comment (which highly encouraged–this is a party, after all) will not enter you in the big giveaway.

Click here to view this promotion.