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.
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.
When I look back on my books, I can often tell something about what was going on with me. When I wrote To Tame a Texas Cowboy, transporting a lot of dogs from Corsicana, Texas. (For those who don’t know, my family fosters and transports dogs for Cody’s Friends Rescue.) I say that because of my heroine, Cheyenne’s comment describing her overprotective Mom. Despite the serious nature that brought about the scene (the mother reports her missing), I had a blast writing it. Here’s an excerpt.
“I’ve got to do something about Mom. I don’t care how worried she is, when she hurts other people she’s gone too far.” Cheyenne collapsed on the couch beside Aubrey.
If this was a sample of what Cheyenne was dealing with, no wonder she was desperate to move out. If a service dog could help her with that goal, how could he refuse to help? Wasn’t easing burdens like Cheyenne’s why he’d taken up Olivia’s cause with the SeizureReader?
Dog nails scraping against the glass patio door drew Cooper’s attention. After he let the dogs in, Penny trotted over to Cheyenne and curled up by her feet.
The wild idea that sprouted last night when he saw Penny with Cheyenne expanded. The idea could work.
“We should leave. I’ve caused Cooper enough trouble, and who knows what else will happen if I stay longer,” Cheyenne said to Aubrey.
Her friend shook her head. “Girl, I slept in my clothes and the officer showing up scared me so much I’m as sweaty as a teenager sneaking into the house after curfew. No way am I crawling in the car without a shower. Cooper, mind if I use yours?”
“Go ahead. That’ll give me time to talk to Cheyenne.”
After Aubrey left, Cheyenne stared at him wide-eyed. “Why would you want to talk to me? If I were you, I’d figure out how to get a restraining order.”
He smiled at her attempt at humor as he sank into his recliner. The woman had grit. Despite everything, she hadn’t buckled. “On your mom maybe, but this wasn’t your fault.”
Fatigue and vulnerability flashed in her green eyes, overwhelming the courage and toughness he admired a minute ago. “You’re wrong. This is my fault. I didn’t rein Mom in before this happened.”
“Has your mom always been so,” he paused. Would it be completely out of line to call her mom a nut case?
“Go ahead and say it. Crazy, wacko. Nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake. Take your pick.”
He chuckled at her plain speaking. “I was trying to find a better way to phrase it.”
“That’s sweet, but unnecessary.” Cheyenne sighed. “She wasn’t as bad when my dad was alive.”
“You don’t have to talk about this.”
She shrugged. “You’ve seen my dirtiest laundry. Might as well know how it got so bad. My dad died in a freak rodeo accident when I was fifteen. A bull threw him and before the rodeo clowns got there, the bull stepped on his—” She shuddered, and horror flashed across her face. “There was nothing anyone could do. He was gone.”
“Saying I’m sorry is inadequate, but I am sorry.”
Cheyenne picked at the couch cushion. “That’s what started Mom’s overprotectiveness. Most people think things like that won’t happen to them or someone they love, but she knows they do. My diagnosis has dredged up that pain, along with her fear, and helplessness. She’s doing the only thing she can think of, trying to control everything, but she can’t fix this for me.”
I know a lot of folks outside of Texas won’t get Cheyenne’s comment “nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake” but I had a good laugh writing with it. Her comment refers to the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, famous for the fruitcake it’s made for over 125 years. I can see the looks of disbelief on your faces now. Hey, I’ve heard all the fruitcake jokes that abound this time of year, but the Collin Street Bakery’s been featured on a popular shows like Good Morning America.
I thought the same thing the first time I went to Corsicana to transport a dog. But when I saw the Collin Street Bakery on my way to the city shelter, I had to stop. After that, every time I drove to Corsicana, I stopped at the bakery first. I would get a cherry turnover to devour on the way home, peanut brittle for my hubby, cupcakes, and a sample of their fruitcake, which is by the way, pretty good.
While we don’t buy fruitcakes, every year at the holidays, my husband craves our family’s version which is more like a pound cake. It’s so good that if I don’t have time to bake it, he does! Today I’m sharing that recipe with you.
Philly Christmas Cake
1 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 C each of candied red, green cherries, and pineapple
1 C chopped walnuts or pecans
Place 1/4 C chopped walnuts in each of two loaf pans. Place 1/4 C of the flour in a small bowl. Add cut candied fruit and remaining nuts. Mix and set aside.
Cream softened cream cheese, sugar, butter and vanilla until combined well. Add eggs one a time. Mix until incorporated. Add remaining flour (2C) and baking powder. Combine. Add remaining walnuts (1/2) and candied (now floured) fruit. Mix. Pour into loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 20 min.
Giveaway–Today I have two holiday T-shirts to give away. Each one comes with a signed copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. To be entered in the giveaways, leave me a comment on your thoughts regarding fruitcake.
You know the scene. He’s been around before and everyone wonders where he’s been. He’s a little shady, wears his hat low. He’s covered in trail dust. Even his horse has a swagger.
He’s the kind of hero who says things like, “Come here, darlin’,” and women swoon.
We all know that hero
That’s what writing a good hero is all about, right?
We want the guy who says just enough to seem like a man and those few words make our hearts melt or race.
He must be an upright man, or at least want to be.
He must possess some level of confidence. Confidence is attractive.
He must be skilled. Never will you see a hero who does nothing with the skills and talents God has given him. Even a man down on his luck will work in some way to prove his worth.
This is the gold standard for a hero.
So what is a ‘new’ old hero?
When you flip the script and an old hero returns changed.
I’m currently writing the final book in the Belle Fourche Chronicles. It’s set to release in about a month. In it, I’m tackling this sort of hero. He’s a man who once had swagger and zest. He was physical and brash. He would’ve made women swoon.
But after a serious injury to the side of his face, he fears the only swooning going on, will be in fear. He certainly doesn’t want to force the woman he loves to look at his face every day. He doesn’t even want to.
Unfortunately, he already promised her he’d marry her and now he’s broken that promise.
So, does he fit the criteria? Let’s see.
Does he talk little, but what he says is good? Check, he’s very much a grump and doesn’t talk but he has some sweet words for Alice.
Must be an upright man? He will do whatever it takes to save an animal or to rescue Alice. So, check!
He must possess some level of confidence. While he has lost confidence in his ability to be a good husband, he has an abundance of confidence in his ability to be an animal doctor. Check!
He must be skilled. Kent is both skilled at ranching and veterinary medicine. So, despite the reaction of the general female population towards him, he is most certainly a hero and–I think–he’ll end up being one of my readers’ favorites.
Well, I just got back really late Saturday from a whirlwind 10-day vacation and still haven’t finished unpacking yet. Let’s not talk about laundry, okay? There’s a lot of it. Like, a lot 🙂 I didn’t have time before I left to put together my game day post (book was due literally the day before I left), so I just sort of threw something together yesterday in between going through the suitcases, picking up the dog from my son’s, settling back in, sorting through a mountain of mail and just trying to generally decompress.
So, here’s my little game. Having turned in my last book, it’s time to get started on the next one. I’m a visual person and like to have an idea of what my characters look like as I start work on the story. Especially my hero and heroine. Of course, he’s a cowboy and has to look the part. Here are a few fellows I found that fit what I have in mind. Scott Eastwood is the son of Clint Eastwood and starred in the movie, The Longest Ride, so he’s a good choice. Brett Young is a country singer, which makes him another good choice. Liam Hemsworth hasn’t played a cowboy that I know of, but he could, for sure. And Austin Butler is my wild card.
Here’s a super short little blurb of what the book will be about: Reluctant partners Joe Hero and Sally Heroine are forced to work together to keep Joe’s beloved grandfather from losing his horse ranch. Problems arise when their separate agendas and troubled history combine with a growing attraction neither one wants.
So, which of these four handsome guys do you think will make for a good character inspiration? There’s no right or wrong answer. I’ll randomly pick a name from everyone who posts a comment and mail the winner (U.S. only – sorry) a copy of my June release, Wildfire Threat. I’m hoping your answers will inspire me!
Soon after having my first son (I now have three), I realized how males and females possess dissimilar views the world. We also speak and communicate differently. This realization and my sons have helped me be a better writer and create more realistic heroes. At least, I hope so!
When my heroes talk, I keep in mind there are phrases that guys just don’t say. Here’s the ever-growing list I search for to eliminate on my final edit.
I don’t think…
What if we…
How about if…
You may have to…
You might want to…
Think about… (or as I say qualifying it further, “Think about maybe…”)
I thought we might…
Men don’t qualify what they say or soften the blow. They tell others what needs to be done. Period. In clear, concise terms. What if someone doesn’t like it? Tough. We women worry about hurting someone’s feeling. Goodness, we don’t want anyone getting mad over what we say. And where does that come from? Anyone else raised as I was to avoid conflict at any cost? I see all the raised hands from here in Texas.
For example, here’s setting up a lunch date between two female friends and two male ones.
“Where would you like to go to lunch?”
“I don’t know. What sounds good to you?”
“Anything. You choose. Wherever you want to go is fine with me.”
“I was thinking Italian.”
“Actually, I had that last night.”
“That’s alright. We can have something else. What do you suggest?”
“Anything but Italian is great, and if you’re really in the mood for that, I don’t mind having it again.”
Five minutes later, the women will hopefully have decided on a time and place.
“Sounds good. Make mine pepperoni and green peppers.”
This leads into my next point. Women use around 20,000 words as day versus the paltry 7,000 men use. Guys are like Sergeant Joe Friday in Dragnet. They keep it to just the facts. They don’t embellish or add emotion to the story. (When I taught fourth grade writing, that was the hardest thing for boys to learn—to add their feelings to their writing.) Nor do men notice the same details women do. Women notice what people wear, jewelry, outfits, shoes, and hair. My heroine might think a friend’s dress is aqua, but then qualify if as turquoise, but not the blue kind, the type that has a green hue. Guys? They’ll say it’s blue if they notice the color. But a car? Men will often know the make, model, color, how much horsepower it has, and Lord only knows what else. Me? I’m lucky if I know how many doors the car had. This can be fun, though, giving a character an unusual trait such as the heroine being a car expert or a sharpshooter as in The Andy Griffith Show when his date, Karen beats him in shooting competition. Or I might have a hero who has two or more sisters notice details other heroes won’t.
Men are also fixers. That’s why when women talk, they often jump in with solutions. They don’t realize we merely want to vent and need another human being to listen. This makes for great conflict, especially if the heroine assumes the reason the hero’s offering solutions is because he thinks she can’t solve the problem or needs his help.
For me to write strong characters I had to understand how people are different and how those distinctions create conflict. It’s not that these traits are right or wrong. They’re simply facts. I find if I don’t remember them when I’m writing, especially from my hero’s point of view, my hero doesn’t come off as real to me, and if I don’t fall in love with him, I know none of you will.
GIVEAWAY: To be entered in today’s random giveaway for the credit card holder, coaster, and signed copy of To Tame a Texas Cowboy, leave a comment on what you think is the biggest difference between men and women–other than the obvious Y chromosome, that is. Lol!
My husband and I recently visited Kiepersol Winery and Bed and Breakfast in Tyler. Our room at the Bed and Breakfast was in the building with the restaurant. Not only were the surroundings quiet, calm, and serene, the wine was wonderful, our room beautiful, and the restaurant defied description. They feature great steaks and seafood, with incredible sides. My favorites were the sauteed mushrooms and garlic potatoes. And the desserts…I had cherries jubilee, and I swear I gain a pound thinking about it, but it was worth every calorie.
But the stories of the winery’s history our wine tour guide, Ron shared captured my writer’s sentimental heart. Founder Pierre de Wet’s story would do any hero proud. Born in South Africa, in 1984 after the death of his wife from skin cancer, he and his young daughters, age two and four, moved to America. Pierre worked as a farm laborer until he could buy acres in Tyler, Texas. Though in 1996 there were no wineries from Austin to Florida, Pierre was sure he could make a winery work.
The winery’s name comes from the Kiepersol farm where Pierre grew up. Legend has it soldiers running from a lion toward a lone tree, shouted, “Kiepersol! Kiepersol” as they sought safety in the tree. (Later it was learned the soldiers yelled, “We hope this tree will keep us all!” Pierre named his winery after that Kiepersol tree, hoping everyone who visited the winery would find that same comfort.
Pierre’s determination and frugality when he started his winery served him well. To lower startup costs, he purchased used equipment. In tough times he sold residential lots, eventually creating one of two wine estates in the U.S. In 2000, he harvested his first grapes. To sell his wine, he hired teenagers with signs and obtained retired Clydesdales for carriages rides that ended at the winery.
I can’t share all the winery’s stories today, but I want to share one behind Flight sparkling wine. Guinea fowl have roamed the area for over 20 years as vineyard stewards. Their chatter safekeeps the grapes from deer and birds. They eat bugs serving as nature’s pesticide. Guinea fowl spotted feathers are believed to be good luck charms. Now to the name. The winery says, “We believe each spotted feather found represents a releasing of the past. Flight is grown in a place where one can feel soulfully grounded while also letting dreams soar. So. Take Flight my friends.” That sentiment makes me shiver.
I love visiting Texas wineries and hearing their stories. The minute I heard Pierre de Wet’s, I thought how I would’ve loved to create such a hero. The courage, strength, and determination he possessed to come to America with two young daughters when the only person he knew was a Texas A&M professor, astounds me. He created a winery, a bed and breakfast with fifteen rooms, an incredible restaurant, a distillery, and an RV park! But most importantly, he raised two strong women who carry on his legacy.
I may have found a retirement-keep-busy-and-involved career. What could be better than telling a winery’s stories, meeting fabulous people, especially if I could be paid with an occasional bottle of wine and dinner?
Today I’m giving away this horseshoe decoration and a signed copy of To Tame a Texas Cowboy. To be entered in my random drawing, leave a comment to this question. What is the best story you’ve heard or best/most interesting fact you’ve learned on a trip? Or, if you don’t have a story to share, just stop by to say hello or tell me about a real life hero in your life.
Many of my books deal with the theme of family of choice. There are a couple reasons why. I’ve always been geographically separated from family and then later, I became estranged from my parents. This changed my writing and my definition of family.
Another reason I turned to this theme is because having parents–ones who have a solid relationship with their children, offer advice when asked without dictating, forgive their children, are mentally healthy, and set good examples–is tough. At least for me, they muck up a story. They often keep their children from making bonehead mistakes that drive a story and create conflict. Why? Partly because they’ve raised children to consider options before acting, gave them a solid moral base, and are present during rough times.
That’s why either my hero or heroine often have past issues from with one or both parents. Let’s face it. Anyone who’s a parent has worried about screwing up their kid. I often joked I hoped I wouldn’t botch parenting so bad my kids spent spent in a therapist’s office. But in romance novels, emotionally damaged characters make for create conflict and character growth. How we’re raised, our emotional baggage and wounds, taint how we see the world and influence our every relationship. For example, Zane in To Marry a Texas Cowboy has major family baggage. Like two large suitcases and a trunk’s worth.
Here’s an excerpt that shows how two relationships shaped Zane’s life.
“Why isn’t your old man helping out?”
“He’s in Europe trying to patch up marriage number three. Good thing, too, because he’d be a worse choice than her assistant.” How could folks as wonderful as his grandparents have raised such a shit for a son? Someone who would lead two completely separate lives with two families?
“I’m thinking a man who breaks out in hives when he hears the word wedding has no business managing a wedding planning company,” Cooper said. “If you ask me, that’s looking for trouble.”
Zane wouldn’t let Grandma Ginny, the one person who’d been there for him his entire life, loving him unconditionally and acting as a guiding force, put her future at risk. He’d do anything this side of legal for her.
Even run Lucky Stars Weddings.
Another thing I like about parental absence in my stories is it allows friends to occupy a prominent role. I love creating banter between good friends, who as Elbert Hubbard says, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” That kind of friend will also tell you when you’re being an ass, and often do in my books.
Here’s an example of the heroes in To Tame a Texas Cowboy, who view themselves as family.
“What did this one do? Is she another one with a hyena in heat laugh?” Ty asked, pulling Cooper back to the conversation.
AJ dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “Nah, can’t be that. Not even Coop could find two of those. Ten bucks says this one talked too much.”
“I’m still here, guys, and I’d rather skip the psychoanalyzing session. If you’re interested, I think I can scrounge tickets to the Alabama game. If we can beat them, we’ve got a real shot at the national title,” Cooper said, hoping to channel the conversation onto football and off his love life, or lack thereof.
“I say Coop connected with this one on Facebook, and she posts pictures of her food all the time.” Ty tossed a ten on top of AJ’s, completely ignoring Cooper’s change of subject.
Damn. He was in trouble if tickets to the A&M Alabama game failed to divert his buddies.
Zane tossed a bill on the stack and rubbed his chin while he flashed a perfect white smile at the women two tables over who’d been giving him the eye.
When he glanced back at his friends, he said, “I peg her as the strong, assertive type who’s recently divorced and is still in her angry phase. I say she complained about her ex.”
His friends stared, waiting for him to declare the winner. Betting wasn’t much fun when he was the topic. While AJ and Ty weren’t correct now, in the past, he’d lost interest in women for both the reasons they predicted. Tonight, Zane came damn close. Too close.
“Zane, sometimes you’re damn scary when it comes to women. How do you do it?”
“Years of extensive research.” Zane grinned as he scooped up the cash.
So, that’s why I often don’t include a parent or parents in my stories. Another time I’ll chat about the couple times I have had a parent be a prominent character.
To be entered in my random giveaway for the cactus T-shirt, coozie, and a signed copy of FamilyTies, leave a comment telling me what you think about having the hero or heroine’s parent(s) as main characters in a story.
It’s funny how one thing leads to another and the next thing you know, you’re writing a book you hadn’t planned on writing.
My dad’s cousin, JJ, often sends him funny quotes or memes, or things to make him smile. He also shares interesting tidbits of information. Dad chooses the things he likes best and sends them on to me.
One of his “chosen favorites” from JJ was a lovely post written about the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. I’d heard of the cemetery, had never visited it, and knew there were guards, but that was about the extent of my knowledge when I opened that email from dad.
After reading what was shared, I had to know more. I needed to know more about the soldiers who guard the Tomb and the cemetery. And that knowledge led to me writing a sweet contemporary romance about a Tomb Guard, a nurse, and an array of wacky wildlife.
In 1857, George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington, willed an 1,100 acre property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who was married to Robert E. Lee. The Lee family vacated the estate in 1861 at the onset of the Civil War, and federal troops soon occupied the property as a camp and headquarters.
In 1863, the government established Freedman’s Village, on the estate as a way to assist slaves transitioning to freedom. The village provided housing, education, training, and medical care. As the number of Civil War casualties grew faster than other local cemeteries could handle them, the property became a burial location. The first military burial took place on May 13, 1864, when Private William Christman was laid to rest there.
That June, the War Department officially set aside 200 acres of the property to use as a cemetery. By the end of the war, thousands of service members and former slaves were buried there. Eventually, the Lee family received compensation for the property although the land remained with the War Department. Today, the cemetery has since grown to exceed 600 acres and is one of the oldest national cemeteries in America.
Evolving from a place of necessity to a national shrine to those who have served honorably in our Nation, the rolling hills have become the final resting place to more than 400,00 active duty service members, veterans, and their families. An average of 27-30 services are held each week day and more than 3,000 ceremonies and memorial services take place each year. Among the notable graves include presidents (President Kennedy and President Taft), astronauts (including John Glenn and Christa McAuliffe), and celebrities (such as Maureen O’Hara, Lee Marvin, and Audie Murphy).
At first, being buried at Arlington was not considered an honor, but it did ensure service members whose families couldn’t afford to bring them home for a funeral were given a proper burial. The first official Decoration Day (later renamed Memorial Day) was held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. The event was so popular, an amphitheater was constructed in 1873 to hold the official ceremonies. By the late 1870s, high-ranking veterans began requesting burial in the Officers’ Sections.
In 1899, the U.S. Government began, at its own expense, repatriating service members who died overseas during the Spanish-American War. The cemetery expanded to include Sections 21, 22, and 24. Congress authorized, in 1900, a designated section for Confederate soldiers. After World War I, more than 2,000 service members were repatriated and interred in Sections 18 and 19.
In October 1921, four bodies of unidentified U.S. military personnel were exhumed from various American military cemeteries in France. The four caskets were taken to the city hall of Châlons-sur-Marne (now called Châlons-en-Champagne), France. Town officials and members of the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps had prepared the city hall for the selection ceremony. Early on the morning of October 24, 1921, Maj. Robert P. Harbold of the Quartermaster Corps oversaw the arrangement of the caskets so that each rested on a shipping case other than the one in which it had arrived. Major Harbold then chose Sgt. Edward F. Younger of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 50th Infantry, American Forces in Germany, to select the Unknown Soldier. Sgt. Younger selected the Unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. From Châlons-sur-Marne, the Unknown journeyed by caisson and rail to the port town of Le Havre, France. From Le Havre, the Unknown Soldier’s casket was transported to Washington, D.C. on the USS Olympia. The Unknown Soldier arrived at the Washington Navy Yard on November 9, 1921, and was taken to the Capitol Rotund. The Unknown lay in state in there on November 10 with around 90,000 visitors paying their respects that day.
On November 11, 1921, the Unknown was placed on a horse-drawn caisson and carried in a procession through Washington, D.C. and across the Potomac River. A state funeral ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery’s amphitheater, and the Unknown was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nationwide, Americans observed two minutes of silence at the beginning of the ceremony. President Warren G. Harding officiated the ceremony and placed the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, on the casket. Additionally, numerous foreign dignitaries presented their nations’ highest awards.
Originally, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier consisted of a simple marble slab. Thousands of visitors came to Arlington National Cemetery to mourn at the Tomb and to pay their respects to the Unknown Soldier and the military personnel he represented. The tomb was unguarded, since most people were respectfully. But it became more popular with people to treat the tomb as a tourist attraction. It’s said some even picnicked on the tomb because of the grand view it provided.
In 1926, the Army assigned soldiers as guards. A sarcophagus was installed in 1932. The Tomb sarcophagus is decorated with three wreaths on each side panel (north and south). On the front (east), three figures represent Peace, Victory and Valor. The back (west) features the inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” (This inscription gets to me every time I read it.)
President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to select and pay tribute to the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War in 1956. The selection ceremonies and the interment of these Unknowns took place in 1958. The caskets of the World War II and Korean Unknowns arrived in Washington on May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until the morning of May 30. They were then carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade. A Vietnam Unknown was added in 1984. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown, and also acted as next of kin by accepting the interment flag at the end of the ceremony. With modern technology, the Vietnam Unknown was exhumed in 1998 and identified. His remains were transported to his family in St. Louis, where he was reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The slab over the empty crypt was since been replaced. The inscription of “Vietnam” has been changed to “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen 1958 – 1975” as a reminder of the commitment of the Armed Forces to the fullest possible accounting of missing service members.
Beginning in 1937, guards were stationed 24-hours a day to keep watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In 1948, the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), took over the prestigious duty and continue to guard the Tomb today. Known as sentinels, the soldiers provide security for the Tomb, lead ceremonies, and maintain the sanctity of the space. To them, they honor the Unknowns through the precision of their rituals.
The sentinels are amazing.
After digging into the research of this unique soldier, they have my highest respect and admiration for their service and dedication.
Soldiers who volunteer to become Tomb guards must go through a strict selection process and intensive training. Each element of their routine has meaning. The guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns and faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, and then takes 21 steps down the mat. Next, the Guard executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place his/her weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. The number 21 symbolizes the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed: the 21-gun salute.
Now imagine doing that in searing summer heat (in a wool uniform), in pouring rain, or freezing snow. It’s what they do. Every single day.
The Sentinels have a creed they live by. One of my favorite lines is this one: And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection.
In my sweet romance Lake Bride (releasing June 23), the hero has spent the past two years of his life as a Sentinel. He’s at a crossroads in his life, trying to find himself and direction for his future. When his favorite relative, Uncle Wally, passes away and leaves him a cabin on a lake in Eastern Oregon, Bridger sees the perfect opportunity to get away and figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
If you read my book Henley that was part of the Love Train series, Bridger is a great-great-great-grandson to Evan and Henley Holt!
A solemn soldier.
A woman full of sunshine.
And the lake where they fall in love.
Twenty-one steps. The past two years of Bridger Holt’s life have centered on the twenty-one steps he repeatedly walks back and forth as one of the sentinels guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Now that his duty is coming to an end, Bridger has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. Guilt from his past and trepidation about his unknown future drive him to the mountain cabin he inherited from his beloved uncle to gain clarity and direction. The quirky residents in the nearby town of Holiday, the assortment of wildlife that adopts him, and the woman who shines a light into his tattered soul might be what Bridger needs to find the redemption he seeks.
Outgoing, upbeat Shayla Reeves spreads sunshine wherever she goes. Holiday has become her home, and she enjoys spending time in the mountains around town. She adores the patients in the dementia facility where she works as a nurse. But something is missing from her mostly joyful world. When she mistakenly camps on private land owned by the mysterious and brooding Bridger Holt, she realizes what her life is lacking isn’t adventure but love.
Will two opposite personalities overcome their challenges and figure out a way to build a future together?
Find out in this sweet love story full of hope, small-town humor, and the wonder of falling in love.
As I write this, I’m in Panama City Beach visiting a friend and am sitting on the beach. My mind is inspired by the beauty and serenity around me and turning to writing and cowboys. If you know me or read my books, you won’t be too surprised my mind has taken this peculiar turn. First, my wanders and takes unusual side trips all the time. Sometimes it’s like herding cats. Secondly, I love writing fish out of water stories.
The first story I sold, Big City Cowboy, was one. For those of you who don’t know, on a Colorado vacation I met a cowboy bit city slickers kept asking to model. Big City Cowboy sent a born and bred Colorado cowboy to New York City to model to earn the money for his mother’s experimental cancer treatment. That fish out of water concept hooked my editor. She bought that story and Bet On a Cowboy about the first hero’s brother.
Sitting here watching waves crash against the shore and rush out taking part of the beach with it, my mind’s spinning. What would send a Texas cowboy to a Florida beach town? What would he be running from—lost love, trouble with the law, money issues? Or would he be running to something or someone he sees as a solution or his salvation? Whatever the answer, he’d have to be at rock bottom, desperate and tortured. What does he want, but more importantly, what does he really need?
Maybe it’s because I’m the mom of three boys, but I always start with the hero. Once I clearly see him and the conflict tormenting him, once I know he’s someone I could fall for, I turn to my heroine. She will push his buttons at every turn simply being who she is. She will make him think about who he is, everything he thought he knew, who he wants to be, and who he could be. And he will do the same for her. They will be the last person the other would pick, but something draws or forces them together, and in the end, they are exactly who they need.
With my cowboy, I see him as someone who needs order, predictability and to be in control. However, something or someone has destroyed that for him. Because of this trait, my heroine will be the opposite. She’ll be a laid-back, go with the flow, loves unpredictability, and lives on beach time gal.
That’s how a story starts for me, with a tiny kernel. In Big City Cowboy, it was a hunky cowboy who wanted nothing to do with the city and modeling and my warped need to force him to do the last thing her wanted to. Today the beach’s laidback lifestyle and calming presence have me wondering how I could torture a good old Texas cowboy to lead him to his true love.
Only time will time will tell whether I can answer these questions to get this little seed to grow.
To be entered in today’s random drawing for a signed copy of Home on the Ranch: Colorado and the books and birds tea towel leave a comment on what you think should be the reason my hero goes to Florida.
I hate to admit this, but as a child, I wasn’t a fan of the country music my mother played music. But since I sold my first contemporary western romance in 2011, I’ve come to love it. The other day I thought about how many great songs have cowboy in the title. The first one that popped into my mind was “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” by Willie Nelson. For fun, I ran a searched to find others.
The first site on my search was http://www.myweddingsongs.com. The irony is the day before I wrote this post, I turned in revisions on To Marry A Texas Cowboy which comes out in September. In that book, my hero temporarily manages his grandmother’s wedding planning business! When I went to the website, I discovered the fourth Saturday in July is the Day of the Cowboy. If I’d known, July 25th would’ve found me in my recliner watching cowboy movies. Then I would’ve sat on the patio with a cool drink and listened to cowboy songs.
Since I missed this year’s day, I’m compiling my Day of the Cowboy playlist for Saturday July 24, 2021. Here’s my list so far.
Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell
Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys by Waylon and Willie
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? by Paula Cole
Should’ve Been a Cowboy by Toby Keith
Cowboys and Angels by Garth Brooks
Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) by Big and Rich
Cowboy Casanova by Carried Underwood
Cowboy Take Me Away by The Chicks
The Cowboy Rides Away by George Strait
Don’t Call Him Cowboy by Conway Twitty
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys by Willie Nelson
The Cowboy in Me by Tim McGraw
Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy by Chris LeDoux
Cowboy Love by John Michael Montgomery
Asphalt Cowboy by Jason Aldean
The Cowboy’s Hat by Chris LeDoux
Cowboy’s Back in Town by Trace Adkins
100% Cowboy by Jason Meadows
Cowboys and Angels by Garth Brooks
My Cowboy by Jessie James
Cowboys Like Us by George Strait
All Around Cowboy by Waylon Jennings
Cowboy Logic by The Charlie Daniels Band
Cowboys Are My Weakness by Trisha Yearwood (Oh, yes! Mine too!)
I Want a Cowboy by Reba McEntire
I Ain’t Her Cowboy Anymore by George Strait
Broken Down Cowboy
And two non-country music entries…
Put the Boy Back in Cowboy by Bon Jovi
I Wannt Be a Cowboy by Boys Don’t Cry
(This has a great video if you love watching Jon Bon Jovi!)
Since I was having a great time and in a wonderful mood after listening to many of the above, I searched for best songs about cowboys, and I had to include these.
Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi
Desperado by The Eagles
The songs that spoke to me as I compiled my list were “Cowboy Logic” by The Charlie Daniels Band, “I Want a Cowboy” by Reba McEntire, and “100% Cowboy” by Jason Meadows. To listen to those, click on the song title. Now I have another way to brighten the day when I’m feeling blue–listen to songs with cowboy in the title!
To be entered in the random drawing for the brand wine glass, the wine cover and a copy of Home on the Range: Colorado Rescue, leave a comment stating your favorite song with cowboy in the title and why you like it.