Waltzing Adds Zest to Life

Spring is here and my heart is dancing along with my feet!

One of the things that always seems to wind up in my stories is dancing. My characters apparently love to dance. Everyone had to work so hard to carve out a life in the 1800s they had little free time. But on occasion, they had dances.

Up until 1814, dancing was confined to the quadrille, cotilion, baroque, and a few others. There was the barest of touching allowed. The fingertips and hand, but only brief touches at that. How in the world they managed to have children was a miracle. But I’m sure when they got in their carriages out of sight things were different. Oh yes, very different.

This was a time when the slightest glimpse of a lady’s ankle was titillating. Yet it’s strange to me that in a lot of pictures of the 1800s, women showed a lot of bosom. Far too much in fact. Kinda weird.

When the waltz came along in 1814, young people were more than ready for it. To dance so close in an “almost” embrace was quite scandalous! My, oh my. The waltz changed the landscape. At last couples could touch more than their hands and it really took off.

It’s a proven fact that I like to two-step and waltz. Sometimes I dance around my apartment just because it makes me feel good.

But back to the subject. In my recent release, Winning Maura’s Heart, I wrote a scene where Calhoun coaxes Maura into his arms. They have no music, only Calhoun humming. But Maura is swept away. Because she is the hangman’s daughter, she’s never been asked to a dance or courted, or even kissed. No man wanted the hangman to look his way.

Calhoun had no such reservations. He didn’t care who her father was. He liked Maura and nothing was going to make him stop. I loved that about him. He found a way to get what he wanted and wouldn’t let anything stop him.

I loved writing their short private dance. Here’s a little excerpt:

Holding her gaze, his dark eyes softening in the dim light, he silently took the pins from her hair. The mass of long tresses cascaded down her back, spilling over his hands like the whisper of a hope. She closed her eyes for a moment, as some strange desire surged through her veins, knocking her off kilter. Before she had time to adjust, he ran his hands through the long strands, murmuring low.

She raised her eyes and stared into his dark orbs that held so much emotion. “Calhoun.”

“Nothing can compare to your loveliness. I mean that. Nothing. You truly take my breath.” He bowed at the waist and extended his hand. “May I have this dance, Miss Maura?”

With his manners and handsome features, he could easily be a charming prince.

Maura’s heart fluttered. “Here? I’ve never danced in my life. Besides, we don’t have any music.”

“I’ll hum a song I know. The dance is simple. Just stand in one spot and sway.”

“Then I have to try.” She fitted her hand in his and placed the other on his shoulder. He didn’t know this fulfilled one of her secret fantasies.

Here with no one to see her make a fool of herself, she took a deep breath and relaxed. He hummed a song with a nice melody and the sound transported her to a ballroom in some castle. She was dancing with one of the most desirable men she’d ever seen.

In his arms, she felt safe and protected. A languid warmth spread through her and she leaned into the cocoon he’d created, resting her head on his shoulder. She swayed back and forth against him, imagining they were in some fancy place.

“See? I knew you could do it,” Calhoun murmured against her temple. “You’re doing fine.”


Do you like to dance? Or maybe you once did. Can you remember how it made you feel? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for two e-book copies of Winning Maura’s Heart.

How One Movie Scene Created a Fictional Family

Please welcome Tina Wheeler to the Petticoats and Pistols Corral today.

I watched way too much television growing up. Okay, I still watch more than I should, but in my defense, I’m a visual learner and seeing characters in settings helps me build my fictional world.

I come from a military/law enforcement family, so I already had a solid grasp of alpha males who own guns. Watching mysteries with my mother influenced my desire to include a puzzle in my novels. But why cowboys?

When writing my debut, Love Inspired Suspense, I created the Walker family and their ranch outside Sedona. Jackson, Cole and Zach are brothers who are the fictional embodiment of all the heart-stopping cowboys I’ve seen on television and their finer qualities. I’m an Arizona girl, born and raised. Every time we hosted out-of-state visitors, we headed to Old Tucson Studios to watch cowboy gunfights with stuntmen falling off buildings. Five hundred movies had scenes filmed there, including four John Wayne Westerns. Feeding my love for cowboys were TV shows like Bonanza, The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, The Virginian, The Wild Wild West, The Rifleman, and The High Chaparral which was filmed at Old Tucson.

Man in coat on the wind

My absolute favorite movie scene of all time is in Tombstone. Kurt Russell, Bill Paxton, Sam Elliott, and Val Kilmer (playing the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday) are walking down the dusty town road toward the O.K. Corral to reenact the famous thirty-second shootout. They’re wearing mostly black with their cowboy hats and boots, but it’s the black duster coats that complete the image. My heart skips a beat every time I watch that scene. I could replay it a hundred times. The Earps were close brothers, cowboys, and lawmen. Together, they bravely protected the town. Yes, they had their flaws, but in that moment, they were four strong, good-hearted men about to prove that good conquers evil. Yesterday, we had the Earps. Today, we have the Walker brothers.


Ranch Under Fire, a Publishers Weekly Bestseller

A witness on the run.

A mission to survive.

Fleeing after witnessing a shooting in her office, Bailey Scott must rely on cowboy Jackson Walker for protection when the gunman turns his sights on her. With a drug ring determined to silence her, Jackson promises to protect her at his ranch. But he’s an undercover DEA agent with secrets he can’t reveal. Can he take down the criminals before their pursuers lead them straight into an inescapable trap?

More About Tina:

Tina Wheeler is an inspirational romantic suspense author and retired teacher. Although she grew up near a desert in Arizona, her favorite place to plot a new story is on a balcony overlooking the ocean. She enjoys spending time with her large extended family, brainstorming with writing friends, discovering new restaurants, and traveling with her husband. Visit authortinawheeler.com to read more.

To buy a copy of Ranch Under Fire click here.


Tina is giving away a copy of Ranch Under Fire. To enter the random drawing, leave a comment about your favorite cowboy, real or fictional.


Love on Target – Pink Pistol Sisterhood Book 2

Years ago, when I first inquired about being a guest author on the Petticoats & Pistols blog, I had a fan-girl moment when Karen Witemeyer replied to me. I’ve been a fan of her books since I first discovered them!

She was so gracious and welcomed me with kindness. I admired the women who were part of this group and wished I could be one of their “Fillies” too.

Sometimes wishes do come true! In 2017, I was invited to join them as a regular author, and I’ve loved being one of the Fillies in their corral of western authors. So, when Pam and Karen started kicking around the idea of a legacy project for Petticoats & Pistols, something we could all participate in, I was excited at the prospect. Then the decision was made to tie the stories in our series to Annie Oakley, which made it even better.

In case you’ve missed all the announcements, our joint endeavor is called the Pink Pistol Sisterhood. Eleven of us have written sweet western romances, all tied to the journey of a pink-handled pistol that Annie passes on to the heroine in the first book, which just happens to be written by Karen. Make sure you read In Her Sights! It releases March 30!

Captain Cavedweller happened to be in an antique shop last fall and found a book about Annie Oakley that he knew I needed to have. Written in 1981 by Isabelle S. Sayers, Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West from Dover Publications features more than a hundred photos, illustrations, posters and advertisements. Being able to see so many visuals of Annie really helped not only clarify in my mind the hero she would be to Rena (my heroine), but also how her influence would help shape Rena’s character in my book (#2 in the series), Love on Target.

When I was thinking about my story and the characters, I knew I wanted it to be set in the town of Holiday, a place that exists only in my imagination, but it’s at the heart of several of my books, both historical and contemporary. (You can read the beginning of the town in Holiday Hope. )

My hero in Love on Target, Josh Gatlin, was a character who had a brief mention in my book Henley. I thought he’d be wonderful for the hero in this story. Since nine years had passed from then, though, I wanted him to have experienced love and loss, and it provided a perfect way to include the character of his five-year-old daughter, Gabi.

Rena is strong and courageous, but she’s also soft-hearted, and whether she admitted it or not, she really, really just wanted someone to accept her for who she was, scars and all, and love her.

Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the book!


“Laura has lost her mind if she believes all this romantic nonsense,” Rena groused as she returned the letter to the pocket in the case and set Laura’s letter aside to tuck into the packet of letters she’d kept from both of her cousins over the years.

“Of all the silly, pretentious …” A snort rolled out of her. “True love my foot. I’m more likely to lasso the moon than I am to fall in love because I held this gun. Although, it is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.”

She started to close the case, but changed her mind and lifted out the pistol. The thought that the gun had been in the possession of her hero, Annie Oakley, made her long to shoot it. Just once.

With a plan in mind, Rena set aside the case, tugged on her boots, and rushed down the ladder. She gathered a pocket full of cartridges and her pistol in the gun belt, which was the same caliber as the pink-handled weapon, and headed outside. She stopped by the woodpile and selected a large slab of bark that had fallen off a chunk of wood, then went to the barn where she painted a red heart on the bark, then added a white circle in the center of it.

She experienced an almost giddy sensation as she carried the bark and the pistols to what had once served as a corral. The whole thing needed to be rebuilt, which was on Theo’s long list of tasks he wanted to finish before summer arrived.

Rena knew he wouldn’t care if she practiced her shooting there since there was nothing behind the fence she could damage.

She used a nail to hang the bark on the fence, then retreated to the burn pile by the outhouse where she retrieved half a dozen tin cans that had once held peaches. It had been a while since she’d practiced shooting targets.

To make sure she hadn’t lost the skill, she lined up the cans on fence posts on either side of the heart she’d painted on the bark, took out her pistol, moved back several yards, and loaded rounds into the cylinder.

After widening her stance, she lined up her first shot, released a breath, and pulled the trigger.

The sound of the bullet pinging the target rang out as the can flew backward off the post. Rena shot the remaining cans, then smiled with satisfaction as she climbed over the fence to retrieve them. She set them back up on the posts, rested for a minute on the top pole of the fence, face turned to the sunshine as she soaked up the warmth. Then she hopped down and riddled the cans full of more holes before she stowed her gun in the gun belt and draped it over a fence post, then took the pistol with the delicate pink handle from where she’d set it on a stump.

“Promise of true love,” she whispered, rubbing her thumb over the handle before she loaded five shots in the revolver and took aim at the target she’d painted. “True love. What an absurd notion. Laura really should mind her own business and cease meddling in mine. If she thinks this gun will lead me to romance, she needs to have her thinker checked for defects. Instead of dreaming of true love, setting love on target seems like a much better idea.”

She blasted five holes in the middle of the white circle she’d painted inside the heart on the slab of bark, taking a great deal of satisfaction in blasting holes into something that represented romance and love, at least in her mind.

“Now that’s some fine shooting, Miss Burke.”

Rena yelped in surprise and spun around, pistol still in her hand as she pointed it at the intruder who dared to interrupt her target practice.



Will romance hit its mark when true love is the target?

Desperate for a fresh start, Rena Burke journeys from Texas to Oregon with only her father’s pistol and a plodding old mule for company. She takes a job working with explosives at a mine, spends her free time emulating her hero Annie Oakley, and secretly longs to be loved.

Saddle maker Josh Gatlin has one purpose in life and that is his daughter. Gabi is his joy and the sunshine in his days. Then he meets a trouser-wearing woman living life on her own terms. Rena is nothing like his perception of what he wants in a wife and mother for his child, but she might just prove to be everything he needs.

When tragedy strikes, will the two of them be able to release past wounds and embrace the possibilities tomorrow may bring? Find out in this sweet historical romance full of hope, humor, and love.

If you were in Rena’s shoes (or boots), what would you do? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Holiday Hope and Henley –

to get you ready to read Love on Target when it releases April 10!

Winnie’s Winners


Thanks to eveeryone who stopped by on Monday to discuss their love and hate for daylight saving time.  It was fun reading through all of your responses.  I threw all of your names in a cyber hat and randomly selected the following names:

Ami Jacobs

Dana Carrier

Sharon Jennings

Congratulations to each of you. Pleaase select any book from my backlist (you can find a list HERE) and send the title along with your mailing info to me via my website and I’ll get the book on out to you.

Women and the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition

Today we welcome Linda Shenton Matchett to the Petticoats and Pistols Corral.

In December 1866, the American Civil War had been only been over for a little more than eighteen months. Tensions still ran high in many areas of the country. But one man was already looking toward the future. In ten years, the country would celebrate its centennial, and he had visions of a grand event, one that included nations from around the globe.

John L. Campbell, a professor at Wabash College in Indiana contacted Philadelphia Mayor Morton McMichael and suggested that his town would be the perfect place to hold the centennial. It would take four years of discussions, studies, and committee meetings, but the Philadelphia City Council finally agreed in January 1870. Another year was needed for the federal government to pass a bill to create a Centennial Commission. Oh, and by the way, the US government would not be liable for any expenses.

Douglas Shenton

A force to be reckoned with Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, great-great-granddaughter of founding father Benjamin Franklin, chaired the Women’s Centennial Exposition Committee. Tasked with selling subscriptions to raise $1 million, she “led an army of women through the neighborhoods.” They secured the pledges in a mere two days. In addition, she collected 82,000 signatures and obtained letters from all over the country that convinced Congress to lend $1.5 million to the exposition.

Building commenced, and eventually there would be 200 hundred buildings spread over the 450 acres of Fairmont Park. However, eleven months prior to the exhibition, Elizabeth was informed that the Main Hall no longer had room for women. Incensed, she once again turned to her committee who raised more $31,000 in four months to build a one-acre women’s pavilion that would eventually house seventy-four inventions patented by women, including a steam engine.

Douglas Shenton

Another woman saw the country’s one-hundred anniversary as the perfect place to present her “Declaration of the Rights of Women.” Wyoming had granted women the right to vote and hold office in 1869, followed by many other states and territories, but those rights did not carry to the federal level, and Susan B. Anthony had been criss-crossing the country for more than twenty-five years campaigning for a constitutional amendment.

Pixabay/David Mark

Prohibited from speaking at the July 4th celebration, she simply walked down the aisle of Independence Hall in the middle of Richard Henry Lee’s speech. Grandson and namesake of one of the Declaration of Independence signers, he watched as she handed the scroll tied in a navy-blue ribbon to the host, then turned and made her way out of the building, distributing copies to the clamoring crowd as she went. Outside in front of hundreds of people, she read the document in its entirety as the remaining copies were handed out. Newspapers covered the event and printed portions of the document. Word spread, and newspapers outside of Philadelphia picked up the story. Miss Anthony’s plan worked. She’d escalated visibility to the cause.

Unfortunately, she would not live to see the ratification of the 19th amendment forty-four years later.

Maeve’s Pledge

Pledges can’t be broken, can they?

Finally out from under her father’s tyrannical thumb, Maeve Wycliffe can live life on her terms. So what if everyone sees her as a spinster to be pitied. She’ll funnel her energies into what matters most: helping the less fortunate and getting women the right to vote. When she’s forced to team up with the local newspaper editor to further the cause, will her pledge to remain single get cropped?

Widower Gus Deighton sees no reason to tempt fate that he can find happiness a second time around. Well past his prime, who would want him anyway? He’ll continue to run his newspaper and cover Philadelphia’s upcoming centennial celebration. But when the local women’s suffrage group agrees that the wealthy, attractive, and very single Maeve Wycliffe act as their liaison, he finds it difficult to remain objective.

Maeve’s Pledge is part of the multi-author series Suffrage Spinsters but can be read as a standalone story. Grab your copy today and curl up with some history, hope, and happily ever after.

GIVEAWAY:  Linda attended the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee and was astonished at the displays, including technology that at the time seemed only possible in science fiction, but is now part of our everyday lives. To be entered in the random drawing fore-book copy of Maeve’s Pledge, leave a comment about a time when you attended an event (large or small) that impacted you in some way.

Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry (of Star-Spangled Banner fame) and has lived in historical places all her life. She is a volunteer docent and archivist at the Wright Museum of WWII and a former trustee for her local public library. She now lives in central New Hampshire where she explores the history of this great state and immerses herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors.

To sign up for Linda’s Website/Blog/Newsletter  click here

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Rodeo Cowboys–Competitors, Friends, and Even Family

Today we welcome Danica Favorite to the Petticoats and Pistols corral.

One of my favorite parts of the rodeo is the bronc riding. It’s such a great combo of talent, skill and a little bit of luck. The announcer at a rodeo series I often watch has always been good about sharing some of the inside stories of the cowboys, and one of the things I fell in love with was how many times he’d talk about how cowboys competing against each other were often close friends and traveling buddies. You think about rodeos as competitions, but it reminded me of my life growing up in the rodeo scene. The people do become like family, even if you spend all season vying for the top spots.

So when I came up with this series, I thought a lot about that sense of family, not just in my Shepherd’s Creek community, but also among these rodeo cowboys. That became the heart of The Bronc Rider’s Twins. What do you do when someone in that found family dies, leaving behind a mess? For Wyatt Nelson, that meant stepping up and being the husband and father his best friend couldn’t be.

Family is equally important to Laura Fisher. For those who read the first book in the series, Journey to Forgiveness, you know that the Shepherd’s Creek family is working through a very painful past. You don’t have to have read it to read The Bronc Rider’s Twins, but for me, this series isn’t just about each of the family members, but about the way they’ve found their way back to each other after being estranged for so long.

Though there is, of course, a happy ending, what I love about this book, and this series, is that we see how messy families can be, and how sometimes working through these issues can take a lot of time, patience, and love. And, even though we have a picture in our heads of what a family is supposed to look like, the family in this series isn’t your traditional family. But together, they find healing and hope.

About The Bronc Rider’s Twins:
A family he doesn’t expect…

But will protect at all costs.

Convinced he caused his best friend’s death, rodeo cowboy Wyatt Nelson will do whatever it takes to look after widow Laura Fisher and her infant twins—even propose to her. A marriage of convenience is the perfect solution to keep custody from Laura’s overbearing in-laws. But as Wyatt begins to fall for the little family, will he let guilt get in the way of his heart?

About Danica Favorite:
Danica Favorite has spent her life in love with good books.  Never did she imagine that the people who took her to far away places would someday be the same folks she now calls friends.

A mountain girl at heart, she lives in the Denver area with her family and ever-changing menagerie of animals.

Put it all together, and you find an adventurous writer who likes to explore what it means to be human and follow people on the journey to happily ever after.

Danica will be giving away a copy of The Bronc Rider’s Twins. To be entered in the random drawing, leave a comment about someone you’re not technically related to, but you consider family, and how has that person helped you in your life?


Julie Benson’s Winner!

I had so much fun chatting with everyone about town, business, and restaurant names. Who knew there were so many uniquely named towns out there? I really loved the two businesses, the Cat’s Meow, an antique shop, and Janine’s Cat House, a gift shop, that had cats roaming around. The Cat’s Meow actually found homes for cats in need! I’m still laughing over Harold’s Place Hot Beer and Poor Service, Duck In & Waddle Out, and Bob’s Eat and Get the H*ll Out!. All real names of restaurants or bars. Tracy Delegal’s husband has the T-shirt to prove the last one! And I don’t even know what to say of the towns about the towns named Climax and Intercourse…

As always y’all have my mind racing with great ideas. But let me get to what you really want to know. The winners of my giveaways are:




Congratulations you two. Look for an email from me regarding how you can claim your giveaway.

Thank you again to everyone who stopped by the corral to chat. Thanks for all the laughs.


Names, Names, Too Many Things to Name

Naming characters, fictionalized towns, ranches, and businesses is a daunting task for me with every story I write. In my current project, Aiming for His Heart, Book 10 in the Pink Pistol Sisterhood Series, (I’m so excited to finally be able to say that!!!) my hero Dalton walks into the town’s main restaurant after an incident makes him become the town’s latest gossip victim. Frustrated, he calls for everyone’s attention to set the record straight. Goodness, I’m still working on naming all the folks in that scene! (Because of course, even the cooks come out to hear this juicy news!) Since he’s grown up in the town, when he enters the restaurant, I can’t refer to someone as the waitress or the bartender because he knows everyone from the owner to the cooks and thinks of them by name. (How on earth do authors of 50 plus books name new characters after creating thousands of characters?!)

Often, I asked for help. Once when my youngest son, Nathan and I were driving from Dallas to Clovis, New Mexico, to visit my oldest son, to stay sane and awake on the long stretch of nothingness road through west Texas, we brainstormed names for businesses for my Wishing Texas Series. That task proved extra daunting because Wishing was known for its wishing well, and all the business chose names that had dreams, wishing, or fit in with that theme.

Because of this and that I write at a certain well known chain coffee shop, Nathan sent me a post he’d seen. It’s from @byalexcrespo and reads, “writing at coffee shops is great bc every time I need to add in a minor side character I just steal the name and essence of whoever is picking up their order from the barista in that moment. Enjoy your cappuccino Isaac you are about to die to advance the plot.” My son then asked if I did that. While I have killed off people before the story opens, like Cassie’s sister and brother-in-law in To Love a Texas Cowboy, I don’t do that in the stories. However, I told my son I would definitely use that technique to name characters from now on.

I’ve also discovered another strategy. Yesterday when I needed a last name for my hero’s best friend’s first love, I scrolled through my contacts on my phone for one. Oooh, my FB friends could also be a good source. Yippee, another strategy! And then I realized yet another one. You wonderful readers! But don’t panic. Since you’re all so sweet and wonderful, I’d never give a grumpy character part of your name. ? But you’re warned. Don’t be surprised if your first or last name shows up in one of my books.

Giveaway:  To be entered in my two random giveaways this month, tell me what’s the craziest, funniest, or most confusing business or town name you’ve heard of.  If you haven’t heard of anything with a crazy name, what’s the wildest one you can think of for a town or business? And don’t forget to tell me what the business is or does. 



Needing a Little Help Today Contest

Argh! I’m in a major deadline for the next couple of weeks and surfaced long enough today to realize — oops, I have a blog to write for Petticoats & Pistols. Well, needless to say, my mind is in a major fog. My current book is giving me the fits. I like the story, I do, but I’m having to plow through the pages. My best friend tells me this will probably turn out to be my favorite book. Hmm. What does she know?

So, back to my blog. I figured I might have some fun with it and, hopefully, fun for all of us. Why not a contest related to my current fit-giving book? Yeah, great idea, right?

I have a miniature donkey in the story that my hero Ridge has agreed to temporarily foster and will likely wind up keeping. He’s that way. Tough on the outside and a marshmallow on the inside. I imagine the donkey to look something like this sweet girl:

She has a particular trait – a really loud and distinctive bray, one that sounds much too big for her small size. Her bray also echoes and reverberates off the barn walls like a tornado siren. It’s rather comical, when Ridge and my heroine Elena aren’t covering their poor ears.

Here’s my problem. I need a cute name for the donkey. One that reflects her particular vocal abilities and, perhaps, her small size. To figure out a name, I thought I might have a little contest here at P&P. Submit your ideas in the comments – as many as you want, no limit – and I’ll choose a winner at the end of the day. The name will then go into my book, and the winner will get a prize package that includes one of my cowboy coffee mugs, Starbucks gift card, a book or two, and some author swag (I need to add, U.S. shipping only – sorry). The package will be similar to the picture below but not exactly the same. Fun, huh? And, really, you’d be doing me a big favor. I can use all the help I can get with this book ?