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?

Protecting the Princess

Despite my tomboy tendencies as a child, I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. Always. It’s true!

I loved fairy tale stories with happily ever afters. And like most little girls, I dreamed of being a princess. 

Not much has changed. I still adore fairy tales and happily ever afters. And once in a while, I might even dream about an elaborate ball gown. 

That’s what made it so, so wonderful to write Protecting the Princess, my latest sweet small-town romance that releases next week. 

The story is about an outdoorsy guy who finds an injured woman alone in the mountains. He rescues her, falls in love, then finds out she’s a princess. 

Part of the story takes place at the castle where the princess grew up. I had to create a fake country, then envision what it would look like. What type of industry it might have. Did it have four seasons? What was the population? 

Honestly, I had a blast making up the country of Briden, a tiny European country that exports salt in a variety of forms. The capital city is Zaldovia. The population of the entire country is around 80,000. 

I spent hours drooling over photographs of castles, taking virtual tours and adding several to my bucket list. I narrowed it down to three castles I liked best, all located in France, to use as the inspiration for castle in the story.

 

The one I ended up choosing was Chateau Chamborigaud.  Located in the south of France, this graceful, fairy tale chateau that would look great in a Disney movie has three gorgeous towers with turrets. Chateau Chamborigaud is in the midst of a five-acre park in the Cevennes mountains and a river flows along its boundaries. Built in 1575, it is now open as a “castle for rent” with ten bedrooms and seven bathrooms. 

As I envisioned the castle where Poppy (the princess) grew up, I drew a lot of inspiration from this outstanding French castle.  In my mind’s eye, it was so easy to picture her there – then to picture her there with Parker (our hero). 

Did I mention there’s a ball in the story? There is! So I got to look at dozens of ball gowns to choose just the one for Poppy. And I may have studied some handsome tuxedo images (or maybe it was the men wearing the tux’s), too. 

At any rate, this book was such a joy to write. I hope it will be pure pleasure for readers to enjoy!

He wants to protect her.

   She needs him to love her . . .

 Parker Princeton is a man’s man. The kind who leads expeditions into the wilderness, can start a campfire with nothing but determination, and has survived on a steady diet of beef jerky and Dr Pepper. When he discovers a female in the woods, alone and injured, his first instinct is to protect her, the second to claim her as his own.  Although she can barely remember her name, he’s falling head over heels in love with the beautiful, mysterious woman.

Growing up as a pampered princess from a small European kingdom, all Poppy Granville wants is to experience a normal life. After finishing a year of studies in New York, Poppy decides to explore America before she returns home to face the responsibilities of her title. She ditches her cell phone, buys an old rust bucket car, and sets out on an adventure. After an injury leaves her stranded in the middle of nowhere, a rugged outdoorsman seems to be her only hope of surviving, even if she has to pretend to have amnesia to keep her identity a secret.

Will telling him the truth set her free, or lose him forever?

Laughter, love, and a fairy tale ending await in this funny, sweet romance packed with small-town charm.

Pre-order now at the special price of $2.99. Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  AppleKobo

You can see more of what inspired me as I wrote the story on my Pinterest board.

If you could be a princess,
where would you live, and what would your castle look like? What would you wear to a ball?
Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Protecting the Princess!

The Legend of … TORTELLINI! by Pam Crooks

It’s National Tortellini Day!

There’s a “National Day” for everything, it seems, right? But this one caught my eye because, well, who doesn’t love tortellini?

I don’t recall my mother ever making it. Being Italian, my family had plenty of pasta in our lives, but we were pretty much restricted to spaghetti, mostaccioli, macaroni, bow ties, and occasionally orzo.  (Although, in fairness, grocery stores in my day were decidedly limited compared to the super-stores we shop at today,)

So I began wondering just how long has tortellini been around?  Macaroni has been available in mercantiles throughout the west, and the noodles filled many a cowboy’s stomach, but something as fancy as tortellini?

Well, lo and behold, tortellini has been around a lo-ong time.

Legend claims that Tortellini was inspired by the goddess Venus’ navel. An Italian medieval legend tells how Venus and Zeus, weary one night after their involvement in a battle between Bologna and Modena, arrive at a tavern in a small town on the outskirts of Bologna. After eating a hearty dinner and becoming slightly drunk, they decide to share a bedroom. The innkeeper, captivated after watching them, creeps to their room and peeks through the keyhole of the bedroom door. However, all he can see through the keyhole is the navel of Venus. This vision leaves him spellbound – so much so that he immediately rushes to the kitchen and creates a pasta inspired by Venus’ navel…and so was born the Tortellini.

—www.barilla.com

Cool, eh?  Fun, fascinating, and true?  Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s a legend, right? But I’ll bet you’ll always remember that tortellini was inspired by a famous goddess’ belly button!  I know I will.

How about I share a super-simple and refreshing salad recipe?

Tortellini Caesar Salad

Dressing:

3 Tb lemon juice

2 Tb water

1 1/2 Tb vegetable oil

1 tsp anchovy paste

1/8 tsp ground pepper

1 close garlic, crushed

Salad:

9 oz cheese tortellini, cooked, drained, and cooled

1 head lettuce, cut up

Plenty of FRESH grated parmesan cheese

Combine dressing ingredients and whisk well.

Place lettuce and tortellini in a large bowl. Toss in dressing and top with parmesan cheese.

Serve cold.

**Note: I never make the dressing included in the recipe but use a good bottle of Caesar salad dressing. The above recipe is low in calories, but the dressing is what a salad is all about, right? 

Happy National Tortellini Day!

How about you? Do you love legends?  What’s your favorite? Robin Hood? Lady Godiva?

Do you love pasta? How do you prepare your tortellini?

Please share, and since Valentine’s Day is TOMORROW, I’ll send one of you who comments this gold, sparkly, heart-shaped bottle opener!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

                                                         

              AMAZON                                                                                                  AMAZON

Celebrating 68 Years of Marriage

Last week, my parents celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. 

Sixty-eight years.

My mind struggles to wrap around that many years of wedding bliss.

My dad, always something of a character, informed me the day before their anniversary he’d been married to Mom for 24,820 days and counting. 

I laughed, but the enormity of spending nearly 25,000 days married to your high school sweetheart still boggles my mind.

Russ GraduationMy parents met their senior year of high school. 

Dad’s family had just moved to the area and he only knew the closest neighbor’s kids when school started that fall. He’s always been friendly and outgoing, never had any trouble making friends and fitting in. In no time at all, he was involved in sports, playing in the band, participating in Future Farmer of America activities, and watching a certain dark-haired girl who’d caught his eye.

Dollie GraduationMom was shy and quiet, had a few good friends, and didn’t participate in many extra-curricular activities, mostly because my grandparents’ farm was quite a distance from town and she had no way to get home if she stayed late after school. 

Right away, she noticed the new, cute boy at school, the one many of the other girls were buzzing about. However, they ran in different social circles and it wasn’t until spring when Dad finally asked her out on a date to the movies. 

By the time they graduated, they were an “item.” Dad was gone for a while, serving in the Naval Reserves, but the following summer, they made plans to wed in early August. 

The dimple-cheeked girl with stars in her eyes rushed through her swing shift at the telephone office then raced out to the farm where a handsome boy who had captured her heart waited to make her his bride.

 

She didn’t have a fancy, elaborate gown. They both wore gray suits.

Their flowers were gladiolas, pink and white.

And they said “I do” in the minutes before the clock struck midnight due to her working late.

Not the stuff of fairy tales, right?

But the lasting power of their love — 68 years — includes a little fairy tale, happily-ever-after sprinkled in the mix. 

Growing up, I watched some of my classmates go through the trials and tribulations of having their parents divorce. By then, my folks were middle-aged and settled into life and into each other. I never once worried about them separating. They were then and still remain a united front.

I don’t think either of them ever once considered leaving each other as an option. They were just eighteen and nineteen when they wed, but they made a commitment for a lifetime.

And I’m so glad they did.

If you want to know about true love and real romance, ask a couple who’s been married for more than six decades. I bet they’ll give you some good tips and probably a generous helping of humor.

M & D at park young

Life wasn’t always easy for them. Far from it.

They had plenty of rough patches to work through, but they remained committed to each other and the vows they made.

Their little family grew from the two of them to three with the arrival of a bouncing baby boy.

It expanded to four with the birth of another boy.

And then my sister came along making them a happy group of five.

I’ve heard stories of the adventures they all had, the many, many times they moved before my parents bought a farm in Eastern Oregon and set down roots that kept them there for more than fifty years.

four kids

Evidently, after twenty years of marriage, they still liked each other, because they had me. (Both of my brothers look like they’re waiting for me to do something awful.)

And the family continued to grow with the arrival of grandbabies… then great-grandbabies. 

For  68 years, Mom and Dad have been there for each other — through fights and fears, laughter and tears, celebrations and sorrows. 

If you ask them individually, they’ll both tell you the secret to a happy marriage is listening to your partner and not always trying to be right, even when you know you are.

If you ask me, though, I’d say a big part of their longevity and happiness comes from these things:

russ with dog and heart watch

*My dad’s great sense of humor and the fact that he absolutely adores my mom. He always has and, after 68 years of marriage, I think it’s safe to say he always will.

Dollie attitude

*My mom’s loyalty and devotion to my dad and her ability to be a perfect balance to him.

mom and dad

I, for one, am so glad they  fell in love and have remained in love all these many years. 

If you could give a newly-married couple a tidbit of advice, what would you share?

WAR CLOUD’S PASSION/Goldie Locks & the Three Bears

Howdy!

And welcome to another beautiful Tuesday.  I say beautiful because where I am, we have  powder blue sky and some fluffy clouds — a gorgeous day.  Oh, by the way, the give-away book today is the mass market version (print copy) of WAR CLOUD’S PASSION.

Okay, okay.  You might be wondering what a serious book (and this book encompasses a rather serious topic) — and Goldie Locks & the Three Bears might have in common?  Well, I’ll attempt to answer that in this blog.

Don’t know if I’ve ever told this story in detail — it’s kinda the “story behind the story,” but…only kinda.  Off to the right here is the Kindle version of War Cloud’s Passion.  It is the newest book up on KindleUnlimited if you are a member of KU.

It’s not often that I read my own books.  I don’t like to, mostly because I’m so critical of my own work.  But because my husband and I had just uploaded this book to KindleUnlimited, I read a page or two and found…a typo.  Probably it was a typo from the conversion of the mass market version of the book to Kindle.  But because of that typo, I decided to read the book through again — just in case.

War Cloud’s Passion is a story about War Cloud, an “outlaw” Cheyenne War Chief, who after attacking a train in order to free his younger brother, finds himself saddled with several orphans and Anna, the heroine of the story.

In writing this book, my brother-in-law had an idea.  Now, my brother-in-law, Bob, was quite a character, and he loved to laugh.  So one night as I sat around the living room talking about the story line of the newest book I was writing, he had a suggestion:  Why not insert a line or two about Goldie Locks and the Three Bears?  He thought the idea would be hilarious — given the more serious topic of the book.  I mean after all, the heroine’s hair color was a kind of golden blond.

Well, I thought about it and thought about it, and because he’d made me laugh and see the humor in it, I found a place in the book where I could make mention of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears.

My editor didn’t quite like the mention of three bears, but I convinced her to keep the line in, anyway (not telling her why).  For a while I ran contests to see if anyone could find the reference, and a few people did.  But then, life went on and I sort of forgot about it.

But as I was reading this book the other night, there it was — subtle, but there it was.

It made my husband and I smile, because Bob was a very dear part of our family.  It was an uplifting moment.  Here’s a link to some pictures of Bob and my husband, Paul and me.  http://novels-by-karenkay.com/toursphotos/2008-tour-pictures-dedicated-to-robert-bailey/2008-tour-pictures-dedicated-to-robert-bailey-part-iii/

And so I’m giving away a free copy of the mass market edition of WAR CLOUD’S PASSION.  A word to the winner:  the sentence (and it’s only one sentence, I believe) is toward the end of the book — not the very end, but about 3/4’s-7/8’s of the way through.  Look for it there.  I’ll leave you with some more pictures of Bob, my mother-in-law, Paul and me.

Snow White and A Kiss To Remember ~Tanya Hanson

marryingminda-crop-to-use2 

(Please leave a comment today for a chance to win our boxed set A Kiss To Remember.)

Today or tomorrow, or some day really, really soon, will be a magical day for Hubs and me. Our first granddaughter and already spoiled princess is due to be born any second.  

So what does Snow White have to do with anything? Well, this is the picture that started it all.

IMG_6410

Our daughter has been a Snow White freak since she was little. This Disneyland poster hung in her childhood room and went to college with her, and now has the place of honor in Her Royal Highness’s nursery. Honestly, that rearview looks exactly like our daughter did way back when.

Enter the heirloom mirror inherited from HRH’s great-grandma. And a nursery theme was born.

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Sleep tight, sweet princess!
Sleep tight, sweet princess!
The red Ikea chair is from the other great-gramma..the yellow toy chest from Gramma and Grampa..apple footstool...
The red Ikea chair is from the other great-gramma..the yellow toy chest from Gramma and Grampa..apple footstool…

 And also the coolest theme baby shower ever, thanks to our daughter’s beloved sorority sister Danielle!)

Shower invitation!
Shower invitation!
Wishing Well water...(there was also a blueberry one)
Wishing Well water…(there was also a blueberry one)
Danielle's beautiful wedding china (she got married last Christmas) with teensie Magic Mirror napking rings and medieval-themed charters...absolute perfection!)
Danielle’s beautiful wedding china (she got married last Christmas) with teensie Magic Mirror napkin rings and medieval-themed chargers…absolute perfection!)
Her Royal Highness's cake.
Her Royal Highness’s cake.
Poison apple favors (although they were actually harmless cinnamon)
Poison apple favors (although they were actually harmless cinnamon)
Wall decor!
Wall decor!
Centerpieces.
Centerpieces.
You-Know-Who
You-Know-Who
My daughter opening the gift from Charlene...several adorable outfits. (Charlene has four princesses of her own, so I'm taking notes.)
My daughter opening the gift from Charlene…several adorable outfits. (Charlene has four princesses of her own, so I’m taking notes.)

So…former schoolteacher that I am, I need to share with you now, some:  

Cliff Notes on the “real” Snow White

The Germany fairy tale was published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm, original title Sneewittchen.

The fairy tale features the now-classic Magic Mirror, poisoned apple, glass coffin, Evil Queen-Evil Stepmother, a sleeping enchantment, and of course, dwarfs. Oh the best part: glass coffin and a delicious prince.

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Basically, a widowed king marries a second wife who is pathologically jealous of his beautiful daughter. Mostly because her Magic Mirror revealing the fairest of them all one day reveals– The Princess. Evil Queen orders hunter to kill our beautiful princess. Gasp. Of course Snow White’s so lovely, he just can’t. Instead, she finds refuge in a tiny cottage of little men. Queen finds her, disguised as a peddler with delicious apples. Only…they are poisoned! Snow White falls to the floor, is believed dead and laid to rest in a glass coffin. Whereupon our hero Prince finds her .

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Well, research by a German historian 20 years ago claims Snow White is inspired by the life of Margaretha von Waldeck, a countess who fell in love with a prince, the future Philip II of Spain. Sweet Margaretha died at age 21, and it is believed Spanish agents of her lover’s father poisoned her.

Or not. Another scholar thinks Snow White is based on Maria Sophia von Erthal. (The ancestral castle is now a museum in Bavaria). Its “talking mirror” , actually an acoustical toy made in 1720, was part of the household when Maria’s nasty stepmother Claudia Elisabeth Maria von Venningen moved in. The mirror itself is on display in the Spessart Museum!

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The creepiest thing is…one legend has the Evil Queen attending the royal prince’s wedding … See picture above. So far…she has No Idea the bride is Snow White. Upon discovery of her presence, a pair of red-hot iron shoes are brought in to Punish Her…she is forced to step into the horrific footwear and dance until, sob, she dies!

All I know is, our little princess is the Fairest of All. I know for sure, because I’ve seen the ultra sound. Talk about magic!

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Okay…so what’s your favorite fairy tale? Did you read fairy tales as a child? Did you ever want to be a princess? Have you ever visited a castle?

And for something else exciting: Our boxed set…the best dollar you’ll ever spend! Leave a comment today for a chance to win, and check back tomorrow!

Tracy Garrett: HER SANCTUARY. Through loss, betrayal, and loneliness, love offers sanctuary for the heart.

Kathleen Rice Adams: THE DUMONT WAY. The Civil War burned Texas…and fanned the flames of love.

Cheryl Pierson: GABRIEL’S LAW. Nobody expects to hear the click of a gun in the hands of an angel.

Livia Washburn: YESTERDAY’s FLAME. Amid the ashes of San Francisco, they find the passion of a lifetime.

Tanya Hanson: OUTLAW HEART. A beautiful woman, a Pinkerton, and Doc Holliday…Respectability will be harder than the outlaw thought.

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http://tinyurl.com/jbca82l

The Land of Fairy Tales

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A month ago I had the wonderful honor of traveling to Germany. My German publisher invited me and two other authors for a book tour in their wonderful country. It was a whirlwind week, with two speaking engagements each day with lots of driving, but what an opportunity! The country was beautiful and green and there were castles!

View from my window in Marburg. If I leaned out the 3rd story window, I could see the castle on the hill overlooking the city.
View from my window in Marburg. If I leaned out the 3rd story window, I could see the castle on the hill overlooking the city.

Now, I have to admit that ever since my Disney childhood days, I’ve been a sucker for a good fairy tale. Shocking that I grew up to be a romance author, huh? Well, not only is Germany the land of castles, but it’s also the home of fairy tales, thanks to the Brothers Grimm.

Well, the town where my German publisher is situated, and the place that served as our home base is a lovely town called Marburg. After flying all night, we arrived on Sunday morning, and since we were all travel weary, we grabbed a nap then met up with one our interpreters who gave us a tour of the city. Little did I know that I was staying in the heart of fairy tale land.

As it turns out, the man who illustrated most of the Grimm Fairy Tales was from Marburg, and he used the castle and surrounding village as inspiration for his artwork. In honor of that distinction, all around the old town of Marburg, you will find tributes to the stories he illustrated. As we walked around the old town, here are some of the fairy tale allusions we spotted:

Cinderella's Shoe. We passed this as we walked down the hill from the castle. You can see part of the castle in the background.
Cinderella’s Shoe. We passed this as we walked down the hill from the castle. You can see part of the castle in the background.
Mirror Mirror on the wall.
Mirror Mirror on the wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Riding Hood's Basket
Red Riding Hood’s Basket
The Brave Little Tailor who killed 7 with one blow (no one realized the 7 were flies he swatted). He later had to use hit wits to defeat giants. The flies are on the wall of the building.
The Brave Little Tailor who killed 7 with one blow (no one realized the 7 were flies he swatted). He later had to use his wits to defeat giants. See the flies on the wall of the building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is part of the old town square in Marburg. Don't you love the architecture? We had dinner next to the clock tower and got to watch it come alive when we were finishing our meal. So perfect!
This is part of the old town square in Marburg. Don’t you love the architecture? We had dinner next to the clock tower and got to watch it come alive when we were finishing our meal. So perfect!
A close up view of the castle in Marburg.
A close up view of the castle in Marburg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So if you had to pick a favorite fairy tale, which would you pick?