Jim Bowie & the Most Famous Blade in Texas

Jim Bowie–a name synonymous with Texas. Most of us know he died defending the Alamo, and that he wielded a big knife that now carries his name. But Jim Bowie was quite an interesting character.

Born in Kentucky in the spring of 1796, he moved with his parents and nine siblings west to the Red River, then Missouri and finally to Spanish Louisiana and Opelousas in 1812. Fluent in Spanish and French, Bowie was also proficient with pistol, rifle and knife. Bowie and his elder brother, Rezin, enlisted for the War of 1812, though they arrived too late for the fighting.

Now that they were out in the world, the Bowie brothers tried many things to make a living. In order to raise the money needed to take advantage of the rising land prices in Louisiana, they smuggled in slaves, making three trips to buy slaves from the pirate Jean LaFitte and selling them in Louisiana. Of course, they’d worked a deal where they bought the very slaves they’d smuggled in and got back half the price he paid.

In 1825, three of the Bowie boys bought a plantation and established the first steam mill used to grind sugar cane in Louisiana. When they sold out, they used their profits to move on to another plantation in Arkansas.

“The adult Bowie was described by his brother John as “a stout, rather raw-boned man, of six feet height, weighed 180 pounds.” He had light-colored hair, keen grey eyes “rather deep set in his head,” a fair complexion, and high cheek-bones. Bowie had an “open, frank disposition,” but when aroused by an insult, his anger was terrible.”

Always rather fearless, Bowie cut a path for himself all the way to Mexico. As early as 1819, he was working to liberate Texas from Spanish rule. In 1830, he moved to Texas, took the oath of allegiance to Mexico and settled in Saltillo, where he learned of an old law that allowed a Mexican citizen could purchase eleven-league grants in Texas for $100 to $250 each. Bowie urged Mexicans to apply for the eleven-league grants, which he purchased from them. When Jim Bowie left Saltillo a few months later, he owned fifteen or sixteen of these grants. At 4,428.4 acres per grant, Bowie was becoming a rather wealthy man.

Bowie, now age thirty-four, was at his prime. He was well traveled, convivial, loved music, and was generous. He also was ambitious and scheming, played cards for money, and lived in constant state of debt.

When he arrived in San Antonio, he posed as a man of wealth and attached himself to the wealthy Veramendi family. In the autumn of 1830, he accompanied the family back to Saltillo, and on October 5 officially became a Mexican citizen. The citizenship, however, was contingent on his establishing wool and cotton mills in Coahuila, so, through a friend back in Natchez, Bowie purchased a textile mill for $20,000.

On April 25, 1831, Bowie married Ursula de Veramendi, the daughter of a Mexican Governor. But marriage didn’t settle his lust for adventure. He led a fruitless search for the “lost” Los Almagres Mine, somewhere west of San Antonio, and was given the title of “Colonel” when he led twenty-six citizen “rangers” to scout the head of the Colorado River for hostile Indians. He came back empty-handed that time, too.

After the death of his wife and two young children of cholera in 1833, Bowie became a land commissioner for the Texas-Coahuila government, promoting land settlement in Texas. In May of 1835, Mexican President and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna abolished that government and ordered the arrest of all Texans doing business in the new capital. In response, Bowie led a small group of Texas “militia” to San Antonio in July and seized a stack of muskets in the Mexican armory there.

On October 3, 1835, Santa Anna abolished all state legislatures in Mexico. Former Empresario to Mexico Stephen F. Austin, newly elected to command the volunteer army of Texas, issued a call to arms and placed Jim Bowie on his staff as a colonel. William B. Travis also joined the new army. Bowie led forays south of Bexar and successfully commanded his troops at the battle of Concepción, but he had little interest in formal command, and tried repeatedly to resign from his position.

Sounds to me like General Sam Houston foundthe best way to use Bowie when he asked himto organize a guerilla force to harass the Mexican army in December of 1835.

From here, Bowie’s fate is set in motion. In January, 1836, Bowie returned to Bexar with an order from Houston to demolish the fortifications. After seeing the situation, he recommended that they hold Bexar instead, because of its strategic position. William Travis, now a lieutenant colonel, arrived with thirty men on February 3; David Crockett rode in with twelve men on the eighth. The garrison at the Alamo now had nearly 190 men.

On February 11, Lt. Colonel Travis took command of the garrison. On the 12th, the volunteers elected Bowie to command. On February 13, Bowie and Travis worked out a compromise giving Travis command of the regulars, Bowie command of the volunteers, and both men joint authority over garrison orders and correspondence.

Before dawn on March 6, 1836, while Bowie was confined to a cot with what is believed to be advanced tuberculosis, the Mexican Army under Santa Anna attacked and killed all 188 defenders of the Alamo.

“During Bowie’s lifetime, he had been described as ” a clever, polite gentleman…attentive to the ladies on all occasions…a true, constant, and generous friend…a foe no one dared to undervalue and many feared.” Slave trader, gambler, land speculator, dreamer, and hero, James Bowie in death became immortal in the annals of Texas history.” http://www.forttumbleweed.net/jimbowie.html

—I’m saving the part about the knife for next time.

PLOTTING WITH WOUNDED HEROES

My heroes are all wounded.  Not just emotionally, but physically, as well.  Being a hero in a Cheryl Pierson story is like being an expendable member of the landing party on Star Trek.  If you had on a red shirt when you beamed down to the planet’s surface, you could pretty well figure you weren’t going to be returning to the Enterprise in one piece, or alive.

In my debut TWRP historical western release, Fire Eyes, U.S. Marshal Kaed Turner is tortured and shot at the hands of the villain, Andrew Fallon, and his gang of cutthroats.  A band of Choctaw Indians deposit Kaed on Jessica Monroe’s doorstep with instructions to take care of him.  “Do not allow him to die,” the chief tells her.

Can she save him? Or will he meet the same fate that befell her husband, Billy?  Although Kaed’s injuries are severe, he recovers under a combination of Jessica’s expert care and his own resolve and inner strength.

The injuries he sustained give him the time he needs to get to know Jessica quickly.  Their relationship becomes more intimate in a shorter time span due to the circumstances.  Under normal conditions of courtship, the level their relationship skyrockets to in just a few days would take weeks, or months.

Wounding the hero is a way to also show the evil deeds of the villain.  We can develop a kinship with the hero as he faces what seem to be insurmountable odds against the villain.  How will he overcome those odds?  Even if he weren’t injured, it would be hard enough—but now, we feel each setback more keenly than ever.  He’s vulnerable in a way he has no control over.  How will he deal with it, in the face of this imminent danger?

Enter the heroine.  She’ll do what she can to help, but will it be enough to make a difference?  This is her chance to show what she’s made of, and further the relationship between them.  (If he dies, of course, that can’t happen.)

From this point on, as the hero begins to recover, he also regains his confidence as well as his strength.

It’s almost like “The Six Million Dollar Man”: We can build him stronger…faster…better…

 

He will recover, but now he has something to lose—the newfound love between him and the heroine.  Now, he’s deadlier than ever, and it’s all about protecting the woman he loves.

Or, his injuries may give him a view of life that he hadn’t hoped for before.  Maybe the heroine’s care and the ensuing love between them make the hero realize qualities in himself he hadn’t known were there. 

In my holiday short story, A Night For Miracles, wounded gunman Nick Dalton arrives on widow Angela Bentley’s doorstep in a snowstorm.  Angela is tempted at first to turn him away, until she realizes he’s traveling with three half-frozen youngsters, and he’s bleeding.

As she settles the children into the warmth of her home and begins to treat Nick’s injury, she realizes it’s Christmas Eve—“A Night For Miracles,” Nick says wryly.  “I’m ready for mine.”

In this excerpt, the undercurrents between them are strong, but Nick realizes Angela’s fears.  She’s almost as afraid of taking in a gunman with a reputation as she is of being alone again.

FROM “A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES”

Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.

He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.

“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”

He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”

She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”

“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”

A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.

She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”

He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”

She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”

He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, she found herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”

He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”

To order A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES, FIRE EYES, or SWEET DANGER go here:

 

http://thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=534

Brenda Minton Makes a Hero

The Making of a Hero

What makes a hero? For me, I think Willie Nelson said it all when he sang these words: My heroes have always been cowboys, and they still are it seems.

I’ve always loved cowboys.  As a little girl, I wanted to marry Michael Landon’s character from Bonanza; Little Joe. I would have settled for Adam. Even Hoss. I loved John Wayne, Sam Elliot and Robert Redford in a cowboy hat.

What makes a cowboy a hero? On the outside, it starts with a swagger, the tilt of a hat, a grin that melts our hearts. But it is more about who they are. It’s Little Joe, smiling and cute, always trying to save the damsel. It’s Hoss, with his good character and strong convictions. It’s Adam, a little more suave, knowing what to say and sometimes getting taken by surprise.

John Wayne, sometimes a reluctant hero, but always a hero. Sam Elliot, well, I just always thought he was cute with that smile of his. Robert Redford.  Need I say more?

Today’s cowboys are just as cute, although the movie world is sadly in need of a John Wayne, a Robert Redford or a Sam Elliot. The music world has Tim McGraw, and who doesn’t think it’s just the cowboy in him? And of course there is George Strait, with his smile and those famous Wrangler jeans. Amazing Race has our favorite McCoy brothers. They’re the real deal.

Before Amazing Race, after Amazing Race and during Amazing Race, Jet and Cord McCoy are cowboys. They’re country and proud of it. Cord is a bull rider who is known for always smiling.

I do love bull riders. They are the embodiment of the old west. They put their hand on their heart and pledge allegiance to the flag. They’ll bow their heads and pray for a friend. They get bucked off, kicked, stepped on and yet, they keep getting on the bull. With broken bones, dislocated shoulders, concussions and broken ribs, they ride bulls. They put a whole new spin on the term, ‘walk it off.’

Wyatt Johnson, the hero from my January Love Inspired, THE COWBOY’S FAMILY, showed up in my August 2010 release, The Cowboy’s Sweetheart. He was a secondary character but as soon as he showed up with his two little girls, I loved him. He was broken, hurting, and in need of a good woman to heal his heart. I knew from the moment he pulled up in his moving van that his story would be next. Sometimes a hero shows up, begging for a story.

That’s the easy part, when the character shows up and you realize they need a story. And then comes creating the story. Who is the character? What does he need? Who does he need?

Of course Wyatt Johnson had to be a cowboy. But he also needed those cowboy hero qualities. Like John Wayne, he would be reluctant. Like Hoss, he would want to do the right thing. Like Robert Redford, he just looks good in a cowboy hat and jeans.

A good hero puts self aside and rescues the heroine, even when she doesn’t realize she needs rescuing. And the heroine, in the words of Julie Roberts’ PRETTY WOMAN character, “she rescues him right back.”

Rachel Waters is just such a heroine for Wyatt Johnson. She’s a pastor’s daughter, loyal almost to a fault, and willing to put her own heart on the line for Wyatt and his two little girls.

So, all of you cowboy fans, tell me what it is you love about cowboys and who are some of the cowboys you think of when you think ‘hero’? Two lucky commenters will win an autographed copy of THE COWBOY’S FAMILY.

DREAMS FOR SALE–THE MILLER BROTHERS 101 RANCH

On a vast open plain a few miles south of Ponca City, Oklahoma, lies the burial ground of one of the greatest ranching empires of the West—the Miller brothers’ 101 Ranch.

None of the former 101 Ranch estate remains today. All of the buildings were destroyed and the land subdivided and sold after the Miller Brothers’ final bankruptcy. This photo shows the 101 Ranch as it existed with ranchhouse, corrals, and out-buildings.

Established in 1893 by Colonel George Washington Miller, a former Confederate soldier, and his wife Molly, the 101 became known as the “Largest Diversified Farm and Ranch in America.”  It was nicknamed the “White House.”

 Not only was the 101 one of the largest working ranches west of the Mississippi, it was even more famous for its Wild West shows.  These displays of horsemanship, roping, and daring “rescues” transitioned from local shows to the national level in 1907 when the 101 Wild West Show performed at the Jamestown Exposition in Virginia.  In 1908, the tour circuit began in earnest.

Mural Honoring the Miller Brothers and the 101 Ranch & Wild West Show. Located at 207 W. Grand in Ponca City, OK

The Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show wagons.

Pawnee Bill and Zack Miller on horseback in Oklahoma.

The Miller brothers, Joseph, George Jr., and Zack, had permitted some of their cowboys to perform at a local fair, and from this, their own Wild West show grew to become known worldwide.

It was essentially a Wild West show, complete with cattle, buffaloes, cowboys and Indians.  It included an all-around crowd pleaser—the attack on the stagecoach.  But it also contained elements of the circus with sideshows, and “freaks” such as the Bearded Lady.  In the heyday of its popularity, the Millers’ 101 Wild West Show netted them over one million dollars per year!

The idea of formalizing the performing cowboys into a Wild West show came from the Millers’ longtime friend and neighbor, Major Gordon W. Lillie—also known as Pawnee Bill.  Pawnee Bill eventually combined his own Wild West show with Buffalo Bill Cody’s.  The 101 Wild West Show, however, remained solitary, boasting stars such as black bulldogger Bill Pickett, Bee Ho Gray, early movie star Tom Mix, Mexican Joe, and eventually, Buffalo Bill Cody as well.

The Miller brothers were latecomers to the Wild West show circuit, causing them to suffer financially with the advent of movies.  Even so, their show became the largest in the nation by the 1920’s, requiring more than 100 train cars to travel from town to town.

By 1916, the two younger Miller brothers, George Jr. and Zack, gave up trying to work with their temperamental oldest brother, Joe.  It was during this time period that Joe hired an aging Buffalo Bill Cody to star in a WWI recruitment show:  The Pageant of Preparedness.  Cody quit the show due to illness, and died within a year.  Still, Joe tried to keep the show going, but was unsuccessful.  He offered it for sale to the American Circus Corporation in 1927.  They were uninterested, suffering from financial distress as well.  On October 21, 1927, a neighbor found Joe Miller dead in the ranch garage of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Several months later, his brother, George Jr., was killed in a car accident.  In 1932, Zack Miller was forced to file for bankruptcy.  The U.S. Government seized what remained of the show’s assets and bought 8,000 acres of the 101 Ranch.  Zack Miller died in 1952 of cancer.

Today, what remains of the once-glorious three-story stucco 101 Ranch headquarters is rubble.  Over ten years ago, efforts began to turn the site into a roadside park. 

Bill Pickett, the inventor of bulldogging, or steer wrestling, is buried there.  On the same mound where Bill Pickett lies is a memorial to the Ponca chief, White Eagle, who led his people to a nearby reservation during the 1870’s from their holdings along the Nebraska-Dakota border.

 The stone monument was built as an Indian trail marker where signals and messages could be left by different friendly tribes who passed by.  These tribes generally understood the signals, and could tell which way the other travelers were going.  Gradually, settlers took away the stones for building purposes.  Because Colonel George Miller and White Eagle were lifetime friends, and Joe Miller was adopted into the tribe, the renovation of the trail marker had significance to the 101 Ranch for many reasons.

 The 101 Ranch was a bridge between these old, lost days of the early West, when Colonel George Miller started the venture as a settler after the States’ War, and the modern times of change.  The 101 Ranch was the headquarters for the show business contingent of cowboys and other western performers of the early 1900’s.  Will Rogers was a frequent visitor, as well as presidents and celebrities from around the world.  Some of the first western movies were filmed on the 101 Ranch. 

Though there isn’t much left of the actual building, the 101 Ranch exceeded the expectations for a “cattle ranch.”  Indeed, it was a virtual palace on the Oklahoma plains; a place where dreams were lived.

 In my historical western novel, Fire Eyes, Kaed Turner talks with his friend and mentor, Tom Sellers, about giving up law enforcement and settling down to ranching.  At first, Tom sees it as an unattainable dream; but as the conversation progresses, the possibilities look better.  Here’s what happens!

 FIRE EYES:

Tom smiled. “Glad you’ve got somebody good—deep down—like you are, Kaed. Ain’t too many men who’d take on another man’s child, love her like you do your Lexi.”

Kaed put his hand against the rough wood of the tree and straightened out his arm, stretching his muscles.

Tom drew deeply on his pipe, and Kaed waited. He’d known Tom so long that he recognized the older man was going to broach a subject with him that he normally would have avoided. Finally, Tom said, “I told Harv he needed to find someone. Settle down again. Grow corn and make babies. Think I might’ve offended him. But after seein’ him with little Lexi, it hit me that he seemed content. For the first time in a long while.”

It had struck Kaed, as well. Harv rarely smiled. But when he’d played with Lexi, it seemed that grin of his was permanently fixed on his face.

“Seems that way for you, too, boy.” Tom wouldn’t look at him. “Seems like you found what you’ve been looking for. Don’t let marshalin’ ruin it for you, Kaed. I’ve stayed with it too long. Me and Harv and Jack, we’ve been damn lucky to get this old without gettin’ killed either in the War, or doin’ this job.”

“Tom? Sounds like you’ve got some regrets.”

Tom nodded. “You made me realize somethin’, Marshal Turner, and now I don’t know whether to thank you or cuss you. When I saw the way that woman looked at you, the way that baby’s eyes lit up, it made me know I shoulda give this all up years ago and found myself somebody. Taken the advice I gave Harv. Planted my seed in the cornfield and in my woman’s belly, and maybe I’d’a been happier, too.”

“It’s not too late.” Kaed’s voice was low and rough. The doubt he’d had at starting his own family again was suddenly erased by the older man’s words. Nothing would bring his first family back. But he had a second chance now, and he was a helluva lot younger than Tom Sellers. He’d had it twice, and Tom had never had it at all. Never felt the love flow through a woman, through her touch, her look, and into his own body, completing him. Never looked into the eyes of a child who worshipped him. He wouldn’t have missed that for anything the first time. Or the second. Tom turned slowly to look at Kaed, the leaves of the elm tree patterning the filtering moonlight across his face. “You think that cause you’re young, Kaed. Twenty-nine ain’t forty-three.”

“Forty-three ain’t dead, Tom. There’s plenty of women out there. Plenty of land. Room to spread out. What’re you grinnin’ at?”

Tom laughed aloud. “Got any particular woman in mind?” Quickly, he added, “Now, remember, Kaed. She’s gotta be young enough to give me a baby, but not so young she’s a baby herself. Gotta be easy on the eye, and I want her to look at me like your Jessica looks at you. And by the way, have you got any idea where a fella could get a piece of good land for raisin’ cattle, with a little patch for farmin’?”

Kaed’s lips twitched. Tom was dreaming, but only half dreaming. The serious half had taken root in his heart and mind. Kaed knew before too much longer, that part would eat away at the lightheartedness until it took over completely, becoming a bold, unshakeable dream that he would do his utmost to accomplish. Now that Tom had envisioned what his life could be, Kaed knew it would fall to him to help make it a reality.

“Let’s end this business with Fallon. After that, we’ll find the land and the cattle.”

“Don’t mean nothin’ without the woman, Kaed. You oughtta know that.”

“I do.” Kaed smiled, his thoughts straying to Miss Amelia Bailey, the not-so-young-but-young-enough school teacher in Fort Smith, who always seemed to trip over her words when Tom Sellers came around. Just the right age. And very easy on the eye. “Stick with me, old man. I may even help you find a decent woman to settle down with.”

To order FIRE EYES:

http://thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=534&zenid=559cec992e1a9f21828c206cc4d35d47

CHRISTMAS–A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES

 

Christmas has always been a miraculous time for me. It still is. When I was younger, it was because of the presents, and the anticipation that came with the season. My parents were not wealthy, but we had the necessities and a few of the luxuries. My mom was a great manager. She could make the smallest thing seem of the greatest value. She could transform our house into a marvelous Christmas haven with her decorations, wonderful cooking and a few well-wrapped packages. When I became an adult, the torch was passed, but the anticipation merely shifted. The excitement I felt was not for myself, but for my children–the joy I could bring to them.

Once I had written A Night for Miracles, I began to think about my heroine, Angela Bentley, and how I might have reacted had I been in her place. I would like to think that I would have done what she did–transformed her small cabin into a memorable Christmas castle that none of the children would ever forget, simply through a good meal, a warm fire, and a gift. But it was all of these things that made Angela’s “gift” — the gift of her heart — special. She put herself out on a limb, having been emotionally wounded before.

I thought about the old legend–that Christmas Eve is a “night for miracles” to happen. Angela was not a rich person by any means, but she gave what she had, freely. She took in the stranger and the three children from the cold, gave them warm beds and fed them. But then she went even further. She gave her heart to them, although it was a huge risk. She comes through with physical gifts, but the true giving was in her spirit. And that leads to a miracle.

A Night For Miracles is one of those short stories that I didn’t want to end. I love a happy ending, and this is one of the happiest of all, for everyone in the story.

Blurb for A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES by CHERYL PIERSON

Legend says that miracles happen on Christmas Eve. Can a chance encounter between a gunfighter and a lonely widow herald a new beginning for them both? On this special night, they take a gamble that anything is possible–if they only believe! Available now with THE WILD ROSE PRESS!

EXCERPT FROM A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES:

Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.

He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.

“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”

He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”

She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”

“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”

A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.

She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”

He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”

She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”

He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, shefound herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”

He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and that it is a time for miracles for each and every one. 

A Night For Miracles is available here:

http://www.thewildrosepress.com/sweet-danger-paperback-p-4267.html

The Making of a Hero

 Legendary Wyoming lawman J.D. McNulty, the hero of my time travel book, CHRISTMAS MOON, is unlike any hero I’ve ever created.  To start with, he’s older – forty-four when the story takes place.  He’s also grumpy, bitter, salty-mouthed, smokes smelly cheroots and tends to drink too much.  Plagued by a violent past, all he wants to do is forget.

 Emma Carlyle, my 21st Century heroine, is pregnant, unmarried, and researching J.D.’s life for her master’s thesis.  Despite the fact that J.D. died more than a hundred years before her time, when the story begins she’s already fallen in love with the man.

 By the time I’d written the first couple of chapters, I was in love with him, too.  I would’ve traded places with the time-traveling Emma in a heartbeat.  But all I could do was finish the book. 

So here I am, with CHRISTMAS MOON in print, still trying to figure out where this man came from and how he got into my head.  What did I see when I pictured him?  A younger version of Tom Selleck’s Jesse Stone character comes to mind – tall, rangy, broodingly handsome in a battered way.  I even gave him Tom’s moustache.  As for the red long johns he wears (with nothing but boots) in his opening scene – yes, I know one-piece men’s underwear wasn’t worn in the 1870’s.  But this was my fantasy, and the image of J.D. in that getup was too delicious to resist.

J.D.’s voice…now that’s a story in itself.  I’d never given much though to a character’s voice before.  But I was driving when I heard a radio interview with an author who was coming to a local bookstore.  Charles Bowden, who writes documentary fiction about the Mexican border and the drug wars, has this gravelly voice several steps below basso profundo (he also writes like he’d made a deal with the devil).  Hearing him was like hearing J.D.  That voice stayed with me through the entire book.  I went to the signing of course, along with a mob of other middle-aged women who’d heard the same interview.  He looked like his voice, and if he’d crooked his finger, he could’ve led us out the door like the Pied Piper.

But a hero is more than rugged good looks and a riveting voice.  Hidden beneath J.D.’s rough exterior is a loving, decent man.  A man who’d take in a homeless, one-eyed cat for winter company.  A man who’d lend a friend enough money to buy a saloon and not hold it against her when she didn’t pay him back.  A man who’d give his only bed to a chilled, pregnant woman.  A man who could change a diaper, make a cradle from an ammo box, shovel a path to the privy and come home with a fresh pine tree because a tiny girl’s first Christmas was something to celebrate.

For this side of  J.D. I drew from the men I’ve loved in my life – my father, my grandfathers and uncles, and the generous, compassionate man I’m lucky enough to call my own hero.  Maybe that’s why I really fell in love with J.D.  And I hope you will, too.

As a writer or reader, who’s your favorite romance hero, either your own or someone else’s creation?

You can read more about CHRISTMAS MOON and find a purchase link on my web site, www.elizabethlaneauthor.com.

EVERYDAY HEROES

Have you ever made candy cane reindeer?  The first time I ever got to do this fun project was when my daughter, Jessica, was young.

Having her Girl Scout troop dumped in my lap the night before our first meeting was an experience in itself.  I’d volunteered to be a co-leader.  The lady who was the leader suddenly decided she couldn’t commit, so it fell to me.  I knew nothing about Girl Scouts.  Thankfully, another very “Girl Scout savvy” mom stepped into help.

Scrambling for Christmas projects for the girls, this was one of the first ones we came up with.  Back “in the day,” we had to purchase all the needed items separately.  Now, they come in a kit—candy canes, red “Rudolph” puff-ball noses, google eyes, and green pipe cleaners.

Although this is a simple project, it is tons of fun, and the finished reindeer can be hung over the tree branches for decoration, given as party favors, or distributed as “tray favors” at local nursing homes.

Many years have passed since I put together my first candy cane reindeer.  Many changes have taken place in my life over the last fifteen years.

Last December, I found myself once again scrambling for an idea—this time for low-budget presents for my sister’s aides and nurses at the nursing home where she had been since October.  Annette is my “way older” sister—twelve years older than I.  She suffered a major stroke—her third—in January 2009 while she was in New York visiting her younger daughter for Christmas.  The very next month, in February, her older daughter died of breast cancer at age 39.  Annette was not able to see her or say good-bye as she would have liked to, since the stroke drastically affected her speech.

Those first months after her stroke were a series of ups and downs, the worst thing being that she was in New York with no way to get back to Oklahoma.  Flying was impossible with her medical conditions, so we raised money to bring her home via non-emergency medical transport.  Now with Christmas coming, we needed gifts—cheap gifts!

Oddly enough, those candy cane reindeer flew into my brain and wouldn’t leave me alone.  Annette only has the use of one hand, but she remains fiercely independent, as much as possible.  I remembered those Girl Scout days, and how the younger siblings of some of the girls wanted to “help” make the reindeer; the patience of the older girls as they guided little hands in gluing on the eyes and noses, twisting the pipe cleaner around the curved part of the candy cane to form the antlers. 

But that was truly no “gift”—better than nothing, but not quite the ticket.  Still, I bought one of the kits, and some “curly ribbon” and tiny ornaments to tie under the reindeers’ neck to embellish them a bit.  Then, I saw the answer to my dilemma in the Bath and Body Works ad!  Small, purse-size hand sanitizers in the most wonderful scents imaginable for $1 each!  I ordered 20 of them in a variety of scents.  Taping the candy cane reindeer to the small bottle of hand sanitizer would allow the reindeer to “stand.”  The tape could be easily removed, and the reindeer could serve as a tree ornament once it got to its new  “gift home.”

Annette was thrilled!  We spent two hours one Sunday making the reindeer together.  Once again, I found myself dabbing on the glue, holding the reindeer for other hands to put on the nose.  Then she held it while I put on the eyes, as they were hard for her to manage.  I tied the ornament and bow under the “neck” and twisted the pipe cleaner antlers on top.  We bent the antlers into all kinds of crazy shapes and laughed like we were kids.  Then I taped on the “legs”—the hand sanitizer—and the reindeer went to their “stall” to await being given away.

I couldn’t help but remember when I was little, how Annette was the one who had helped me do those kinds of crafts.  Now, everything is turned around, and I can enjoy this time together in a way that is far different than when I was a child.  I find myself in service to her, in a kind of odd role reversal. 

You wouldn’t think that candy cane reindeer could look much different from one another, but somehow, they do.  When I looked at them all lined up in their cardboard box stable, I thought of the fun we had making them, and the laughter we shared over simple things—a nose that wouldn’t stay on, crooked eyes, bent antlers.  I knew she had enjoyed it as much or more than I had by the look on her face, the way she kept straightening them up, re-bending the antlers on this one or that.  I watched her for a few seconds, and she turned to me with a smile—one of true happiness.  I hadn’t seen that for a long time. 

“I love you.”  She took my hand and held it for a moment.  “I love you,” she repeated; which means what she is saying, but was also her way of saying “thank you.” 

“I love you, too.”  Silently, I thanked her in my heart for still fighting, for still trying. For being my hero.

During this holiday time, I would love to hear about everyday heroes in your lives—people who wouldn’t think of themselves as anything special.  Maybe there’s someone you know who has given you a very precious gift that they don’t even realize or think of? Tell us about it! Everyday heroes are the very best!

VETERANS’ DAY REMEMBRANCE

This is a blog I wrote last year for the December 7 anniversary of World War II.  With Veterans’ Day coming up tomorrow tomorrow, I wanted to post it here in honor of veterans of all the wars in the past and present.  This is for all the men, women, and families who have given so much for all of us.  A big hug and THANK YOU to everyone who has ever served, and to the wives and families of those veterans.

Driving down one of the busiest streets of Oklahoma City today, I noticed a flag at a local business flying at half-staff.  It was the only one on that block.  I’m sure many people wondered about it.  

But I remembered

December 7, 1941…the day the U.S. was brought into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. 

Through the years, my mother recounted tales brought home from “over there” by her relatives who enlisted.  She talked also about the rationing here at home—how difficult it was to get needed items, and how impossible it was to get luxuries.  She was 19 when the U.S. entered the war—just the very age of so many of the young men who were killed in the surprise attack on December 7, 1941.  Was there a man of that age who didn’t rush down to sign up for duty after that fateful day?  Many of her fellow students and co-workers did just that, and during the course of the next four years of war, many of them were lost. 

My father tried to sign up, but his lungs were bad.  He was turned away.  I think he was always ashamed of that, because until the day he died, he had one of the most patriotic hearts I’ve ever known.  Secretly, when I was old enough to realize what that might have meant, I was glad that he had not had to go to war.  I knew that would have changed everything in my world. 

Being as close as it was to Christmas made the deaths of the men at Pearl Harbor even more poignant.  Just done with Thanksgiving, looking forward to the Christmas holidays to come, so many young lives snuffed out in the space of minutes. Watching the documentaries, hearing the old soldiers that are left from that time talk about the horror of that day, and of war in general, brings tears to my eyes. 

I’m always amazed by the generations that have gone before us, and how they stood up to face adversity when it was required of them.  Being human,  the unknown was just as frightening to them as it is to us.  We tend to forget it, somehow, because of the luxury and comforts of our modern lives that we have become used to.  We have let ourselves become numb, in a way, and what’s worse—we have forgotten

We have forgotten what the generations before us sacrificed for us, their future.  We have forgotten how to honor the memory of those men and women, and what they did, individually and collectively. 

I counted flagpoles the rest of the way home from that one, lonely half-staff flag—about a mile and a half to my house.  There was only one other pole along that route that flew the flag half-staff in memory of that day sixty-eight years ago.  A day that ended in smoke, and fire, drowning and death…and war. 

Something peculiar occurred to me.  I have been alive during the time when the last surviving widow of a veteran of The War Between The States died.  I have been alive during the time that the last survivor of World War I died.  There are not that many survivors left of World War II, or the Korean Conflict.  Yet, our schools pass over these huge, world-altering events as if they are nothing, devoting a page or less to them in the history texts.  Think of it.  A page or less, to tell of the suffering, the economic impact, the technological discoveries, and the loss of humanity of each of these wars.

No wonder our society has forgotten the price paid by those who laid down their lives!  When we don’t teach our children, and learn from the past, history is bound to repeat itself. 

As a writer, it’s hard for me to write about some conflicts–The War Between the States, especially.  I think it’s because, to me, that was the most tragic of any war we fought–the pitting of brother against brother, father against son.  To think how close we came to being forever divided here in America is frightening.  It seems every line of every battle was etched on President Lincoln’s face during his time as president. 

My husband was a SEAL in the Viet Nam War, and although I have a ready-made reference for all things during that time in him, I’m reluctant to write about it.

What do you all think about writing about soldiers, sailors, any and all veterans of war?  I think that it’s a wonderful way to honor those who fought.  I have some ideas I’d like to get out there, but am still letting them simmer for the time being.

President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 as “a day that will live in infamy.”  That statement, spoken so boldly, believed so strongly, held so close to the hearts of that generation, is only true as long as the next generation, and the one beyond that, remembers.

Well, many years have passed since those brave men are gone

And those cold ocean waters now are still and they’re calm.

Well, many years have passed, but still I wonder why,

The worst of men must fight and the best of men must die.

FROM “REUBEN JAMES,” by WOODY GUTHRIE 

Brenda Minton ~ True Cowboys

Wow, I’m guest blogging at Petticoats and Pistols! When Tracy first mentioned it I actually had to ask her what to talk about! I’ve never guest blogged before. My own blog has been neglected this summer, but previous posts were about exciting things like noises in the night and runaway mules. If I’m going to guest blog, I’m sure I need something a little better than that, something a little more exciting.

Ummm, yeah, I got nothing. My life is about runaway mules, crazy kids, and chasing the Chihuahua down the road. In my spare time, I write for Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Most importantly, I write about cowboys. When I was searching for my niche, cowboys just made sense to me. It wasn’t about what was hot (not that cowboys aren’t) or what the publisher was looking for (although it’s always good to know). No, I picked cowboys because to me, they define HERO.

As an avid fan of the PBR (pro bull riding, for those who might be thinking Pabst Blue Ribbon) I love the sport because it is exciting, dramatic, and dangerous. But I also love it because cowboys are heroes. These men are competing against one another, and yet they are always there to help each other. They cheer for each other. They defend one another. They’re willing to jump into the arena with an angry, one ton bull if it means saving a friend’s life. And they pray for each other..

When I think of cowboys, I think of Cord McCoy, the professional bull rider who also competed on Amazing Race. Cord is a true cowboy. He’s a man of faith who smiles, even when the bulls are against him. Even when he’s losing, he’s smiling. He’s cheering for the guy who is beating him. He’s praying for them to do a great job and stay safe.

But these cowboys are also tough as nails. They can get stomped on by a two thousand pound bull, get back up and say ‘yes’ to a reride. They’ll ride with broken ribs, punctured lungs and torn ACLs.

Tough is the bull rider who jumps in the arena with bull fighters to grab hold of the rope that his unconscious buddy is tangled up in.

When we think of cowboys we think tough, gentle, heroic and chivalrous. A cowboy hero is the whole package–a man sent to rescue his woman. A man in faded jeans, five o’clock shadow and rip hard muscles sent to rescue his woman, and get rescued by her in the process.

John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, George Strait. What could be better than a hero in the mold of one of those men?

So, you ask, why do I write cowboy stories? Well, it should be obvious—the research is a wonderful way to pass a weekend. What better job than a job that takes a girl to the rodeo to watch men in wranglers!

In my August release, THE COWBOY’S SWEETHEART, the reader gets the combination of a tough-as-nails cowboy and the cowgirl who is having his baby. I’m so excited about this book that I’m giving away a copy to one of you who leaves a comment today. I hope you enjoy the story.

WHAT MAKES A HERO? by Renee Ryan

It’s always a joy whenever I’m asked to guest blog here at Petticoats and Pistols. It’s always an honor to hang-out with the fillies.  After all, I love Western Romances.  I especially love Historical Western Romances, hence the reason I write them. 

So, um, if I love westerns so much why is my September release, DANGEROUS ALLIES, set in 1939 Nazi Germany?  Let’s face it.  There weren’t a lot of cowboys roaming the German landscape in 1939.  I’d venture to say there weren’t any cowboys roaming around over there at that time.

It’s a long story of how I ended up setting my novel in WWII, one I’ll leave for another day.  Suffice it say, DANGEROUS ALLIES is a romantic spy thriller.  The hero is an American naval officer on loan to the British government.  MI6 (the British equivalent of today’s CIA) sends him into Germany to photograph the blueprints of a Nazi secret weapon.  The heroine is an exiled Russian princess and also the hero’s contact inside Germany.  As you can see, not a cowboy in sight.

But that doesn’t mean my hero, Jack, isn’t as sexy as any cowboy.  In fact, I think Jack has a lot in common with my other heroes.  Primarily because he’s an alpha hero. 

So what makes a hero an alpha?  More specifically, what makes an alpha hero appealing, whether he’s riding across the American west on a horse or doing his part to defeat the Nazis?

Here’s my very unscientific list of character traits that make an alpha hero. 

  1. He has integrity.  Seems straightforward, right?  Not so much.  Male integrity requires a strong sense of right and wrong deep within a man.  He has to know who he is at the core.  His yes should always mean yes, and his no should always mean no.  An alpha male will always do the right thing, even if that means losing something valuable to him.  He commits without compromising.  Most important of all, he doesn’t intentionally hurt people to get what he wants.  Rather, he refuses to make decisions that will have long-reaching, negative consequences to others.
  2. He respects others people’s boundaries.  Piggy-backing on my definition of integrity, a true alpha male respects others’ boundaries.  He doesn’t force himself on others, especially not on women.  He doesn’t insist people bend to his will just because it’s “his way or the highway.”  He takes people’s word at face value.  It’s not his place to read minds.  This doesn’t mean there aren’t times when he knows best.  But only in extreme moments of danger will he go against another’s wishes, which brings me to number three.
  3.  He protects those weaker than himself.  In the case of protecting his loved ones and those weaker than himself, an alpha does what needs to be done.  Immediately.  No hesitation, no discussion.  In times of danger, all bets are off.  When another’s safety is the only factor at play he steps up.  In other words, an alpha male protects his own, to the death if necessary.  No one is getting past him.  Not even the person he is protecting.    
  4. He likes women.  Again, this is another area that seems straightforward but isn’t.  An alpha male doesn’t just lust after women.  He truly likes them.  He enjoys their company.  He revels in their differences from himself, the sort of things that make females essentially female.  He finds a woman’s femininity fascinating and alluring.  He is charmed by her lilting voice and soft skin.  He even gets a kick out of her shifting moods (most of the time).  He recognizes that a successful man has a good woman walking beside him.  And once he commits to that woman he stays committed.    

 

So, there you have it, my list of alpha male characteristics.  Thoughts?  Additions?  Come on, fillies and guests, let’s talk men.  🙂

           

Oh, and I’d like to give away a copy of DANGEROUS ALLIES, my next release, to three of today’s commenters.  As a bonus, I’ll toss in my Love Inspired contemporary, HOMECOMING HERO, to each winner.  Both releases feature alpha males (unusual for Inspirationals).

 

Renee Ryan writes for Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Historical and Love Inspired line.  Her fabulous editor is Melissa Endlich.  For more information, visit Renee at renee@reneeryan.com