Cobalt Skies by Guest Author Pegg Thomas

I’ve very happy to be here on Petticoats & Pistols talking about my new release, Cobalt Skies, the second book in my post-Civil War series, A More Perfect Union.

This series began with the question of what happened to the Civil War soldiers, especially those who were devastatingly impacted by the war. The books are not sequential and can be read in any order. The heroes are ex-cavalrymen meeting heroines who have been changed by the war as well. All must find new paths for their lives, new careers, but also new hope for a future.

All three books deal with different aspects of the fallout from the war. In Emerald Fields, Russ is physically changed by the war. In Cobalt Skies, Hick is left emotionally damaged. In Silver Prairies, Ben is financially devasted. These types of traumatic changes make for some wonderful story conflict and drama. Of course, pairing each hero with a heroine he may or may not wish to be paired with just doubles the fun! Here’s a snippet from Cobalt Skies:

 

“I believe I am fit to ride this morning. I feel remarkably better than yesterday.”

Hick rose and grabbed another stick to feed the fire. “I’m not, ma’am. Another day will do me good.”

“It is imperative that I make it to St. Joseph. The wagon trains leave in the spring to make it through the mountains before the heavy snows.” There was a tinge of desperation in her voice. “Asel and I arrived too late last year. I can’t miss them again.”

“One more day won’t stop you from getting on a wagon train.” If a wagon master would sign her on, which he doubted, but it was no concern of his. “Me and Trooper are going to rest here one more day. What you and your mule do, that’s up to you.”

She shifted without rising, but he could almost feel her annoyance from across the open space between them. Funny how women could do that. Ma had always been able to—

“Then I suppose Peaches and I will stay one more day.” She rose and folded her blankets. “Do you have more bacon? I could cook that with biscuits.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Hick pulled the small slab of bacon from his saddlebag and handed it to her. “I’ll see to your mule.”

“Her name is Peaches.”

“So you said.” But he wasn’t going to call the animal by that fool name. What if someone heard him? Then he snorted to himself. Who’d hear out here? But Peaches? They’d been good on the pancakes, but it was no fitting name for a mule. A mule that took a snap at him as he untied her tether.

After breakfast, the bacon having been cooked to perfection instead of scorched and the biscuits as tender as any he’d ever bitten into, Hick shouldered his saddle.

“I’ll take Trooper out and see if I can’t hunt something up for supper.”

Mrs. Piper’s hands landed on her hips. That was never a good sign on any woman.

“If we are here to rest for another day”—she fairly glared at him—“why would you ride off to hunt?”

“Because, ma’am, you would do well with some broth to build your blood back up.” He turned his back on her and strode to Trooper. The old bay lifted his muzzle, spring grass dangling from his lips as if to say he hadn’t finished his breakfast yet. “Don’t you start.” Hick slung the blanket and saddle onto Trooper’s back, then reached under and drew up the girth. “Bad enough the lady is complaining about my actions.”

He mounted and rode away without looking back. Maybe he should have grabbed his saddlebag and bedroll and just kept going. He didn’t need anyone telling him what to do and when to do it.

He’d had his fill of that during the war.

***

Here’s a bit of fun-for-me trivia: the horse on the cover is my old horse, Trooper, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 25. I still miss that ol’ boy. He was my buddy.

I’d love to do a giveaway of Cobalt Skies to one person who answers this question on this blog:

Have you ever owned/ridden/known a favorite horse, and if so, what was its name?

In the contiguous 48 states, the winner has their choice of ebook or paperback. All others, ebook only (and as long as your country allows me to send an ebook).

To follow me and learn more about my books and spinning wheels, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter. (I promise never to sell/trade/or otherwise disperse your contact information.)

Pegg Thomas – Spinner of Yarns

 

Sneak Peek

Starting a new project is always fun. Yet, there is something special about honoring characters from the past and evolving them into something new that excites me even more than starting completely from scratch. My next project has that exact element of excitement, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

When an opportunity arose for me to participate in a “secret” project with a group of western romance writers I’ve long counted as friends, I was eager to join in the fun. I can’t give away too many details yet because the project is still in the preliminary stages, but I can reveal, that I will be writing a novella to kick off this new series.

At first, all I really knew about my story was that it would take place in 1893 and that my heroine would have an encounter with the amazing Annie Oakley following her run with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show that took place in conjunction with the World’s Fair in Chicago. Annie Oakley had a passion for teaching women how to defend themselves, so I knew my heroine would seek out a lesson from the legendary markswoman, but I didn’t yet know who my heroine would be.

Then one of the authors in our group mentioned how much reader’s love reading stories about secondary characters, and she got my mind swirling with possibilities. Most of my adult secondary characters had already had their own stories written, but what if I went back and pulled out children from my previous stories?

I started calculating dates to see which, if any, of my juvenile secondary characters might work for a romance taking place in 1893. I came up with two likely candidates:

  • Tessa James – She was the young girl of a widowed mother who became a dressmaking assistant to Hannah Richards in my debut novel, A Tailor-Made Bride. Tessa was 8 years old in that book (set in 1881), so she would be 20 in 1893.
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  • Jackson Spivey – He was 12 years old and the son of a negligent father in Stealing the Preacher (1885). Joanna Robbins took him under her wing despite the fact that Jackson had a massive crush on her. When Crockett Archer came into the picture, he won Jackson over with respect, straight talk, and his skill with a rifle. Jackson would also be 20 in 1893.

So which one should I use? Both have potential. Both are interesting characters in their own right. And both provide a level of emotional attachment to me and to readers.

Then it hit me. Why not use both Tessa and Jackson? So that’s what I did!

This will be my first time featuring such a young hero at only 20 years of age, but Jackson’s rough upbringing forced him to grow up fast, so I think it will work. My son and his new wife were both the same age when they married at 22, so the more I thought about pairing Tessa and Jackson, the more the idea grew on me.
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I decided not set the story in either Coventry (A Tailor-Made Bride) or Deanville (Stealing the Preacher) but chose to give both characters a fresh start in a different location. They are both starting out as young professionals, struggling to find where they fit in a world wider than their hometowns. Tessa is working as a seamstress in a new shop in Caldwell, Texas, and Jackson works in a gun shop off the courthouse square. Not only did I want to move these characters out from under the shadows of the heroes and heroines who preceded them, but I wanted to make sure new readers could follow the story without being familiar with my previous books.
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I’m about 2/3 of the way done writing Tessa and Jackson’s story, and I’m really enjoying the pairing. After Jackson lost his first love (Joanna) to the man who become his mentor and best friend (Crockett), I’m excited to bring him his own special woman to love. Even if she has to chase him down to convince him he’s worth loving.
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Do you enjoy reading stories about characters who were children in previous books?

Do You Want to be a Cowgirl? by Guest Author Macie St. James

Starting and running a ranch is a lot of work. First, you’ll need the money to buy the land, equipment, and livestock necessary to turn a piece of property into a business. But you’ll also need to find at least 100 acres located in an ideal setting for raising cattle. Then comes the know-how necessary to start and run a successful ranch.

Still want to be a cowboy? You don’t even have to do all that. There are ranches across the U.S. that welcome visitors. Most offer a glimpse of the true ranching experience, and some even provide spa services and yoga sessions. Known as dude ranches, these properties have found a way to make money without relying solely on cattle sales.

The first dude ranch is thought to date all the way back to the 1880s. At the time, the word “dude” referred to the city types who were the target market for these vacation destinations. The first dude ranch was the Custer Trail Ranch, located in the Dakota Badlands.

It was the Custer Trail Ranch that later served as the inspiration for ranches across the country. As harsh winters hit ranches hard in the late 1880s, some cowboys chose to invest in what was then called “guest business.” Teddy Roosevelt has been credited with spreading the word about dude ranches, since he visited Custer Trail Ranch and enjoyed hunting and fishing there so much, he purchased a ranch nearby.

Throughout the decades to follow, ranchers would begin welcoming guests in response to cattle industry challenges. Railroad expansion further paved the way for ranches to host guests on their property. Passengers could travel across the country to stay at dude ranches across the west. By then, the first guest ranch, Custer Trail Ranch, had grown to become the largest dude ranch in the country, with room to accommodate 125 guests at one time. At first, dude ranches didn’t even charge to stay on their property, but that gradually changed.

Dude ranches became somewhat official in 1926, when a group of ranch owners partnered with the Northern Pacific Railway to form the Dude Ranchers’ Association. The goal of the DRA was to find new ways to market and improve the experience for guests. The DRA is still in existence today, with a membership of more than 90 dude ranches located across the U.S. and Canada.

Although dude ranches no longer appeal solely to city dwellers, the goal remains the same. Owners strive to give guests time outdoors, enjoying nature. Activities can include horseback riding, roping lessons, cattle drives, swimming, hunting, and campouts. To keep guests entertained in the winter months, ranches may also include some indoor activities like crafts and cooking classes.

If you’re thinking about enjoying the ranching experience yourself, start with a search of DRA member organizations. Some are only open seasonally, and some are large enough to handle large groups. It could make a great place for a family reunion or business retreat. Just be sure to pack your comfortable shoes and play clothes because, chances are, you’re going to get a little dirty.

Have you ever been to a dude ranch?

What’s your favorite kind of vacation?

Go behind the scenes at a dude ranch in The Maverick Cowboy, the first book in my all-new Cupid Ridge Dude Ranch series. I’m giving away one free copy to three lucky commenters today!

USA Today Bestselling author Macie St. James has written most of her life. After earning a degree in mass communications, she worked in public relations and technology for the government. She spent a full decade as a content writer before realizing her dream of being a full-time novelist. She lives in Nashville with her husband and dog, a spaniel mix.

Visit Macie’s webpage at MacieStJames.com. Sign up for her newsletter and receive a free e-book of The Coolheaded Cowboy, the prequel to the Cupid Ridge Dude Ranch series.

Additional Links:

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Photos from Pexels:DudeRanch1  (Photo by Mathias Reding)
DudeRanch2 (Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez)
DudeRanch3 (Photo by Mathias Reding)

The Age Old Holiday Question–Fruitcake Treat or Door Stop?

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

 

Ingredients:

1 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 1/2 C sugar

1 C butter

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

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

Directions:

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.

 

A Western Holiday Feast and a Bit of Friendly Competition ~ by Nancy Fraser

Any western historical romance storyteller worth her salt (pun intended) knows that a wholesome and entertaining story will contain a number of things to which their reader can relate. Most often in my own books, it’s food. I grew up in a family where holidays and other celebrations, e.g., birthdays, all revolved around togetherness, and togetherness meant food.

I can recite verbatim what filled my Tennessee-born mother’s dinner table on Christmas, from my childhood years back in the stone age, up until my two sons’ last holiday with their grandmother. I’m thankful every day for the time they had with her, and for the fact that they’ve both developed her cooking talents and, in some cases, tastes.

Given mine (and my family’s) love of food, I knew I wanted to write about researching food in the time period and western location of my upcoming holiday book. The story takes place in 1895, in what was then the real town of Castlerock, Oregon. So, being a stickler for research I went looking for what might have been included on the average family’s holiday table. Lo and behold, my search took me back to the book archives at my own alma mater, Michigan State University, and to the Boston Cooking School Cook Book, written by none other than Fannie Farmer. Even though the book wasn’t published until 1896, it covered recipes from pre-Civil War through that year. I imagine all the foods listed in their holiday meal would have been readily available in a western town for the time period.

The recommended menu for an 1895 Christmas Dinner includes: Consommé, bread sticks, celery, olives, and salted pecans for starters. Followed by roast goose, potato stuffing, applesauce, Duchess potatoes, cream of lima beans, chicken croquettes with green peas, and dressed lettuce with cheese straws. Desserts included plum pudding with brandy sauce, frozen pudding, assorted cakes, bonbons, crackers, cheese and Café Noir.

Satisfied with my chosen Christmas meal, I moved on to the next phase of my research. An integral part of this upcoming book is quilting. Just so you know, my sewing talent lends more to button replacement and very limited hemming. Thankfully, I have friends who quilt.

Kindle Unlimited

In Audrey (Christmas Quilt Brides) my hero, who also happens to be the new doctor in town, is asked to judge the holiday quilt competition. One of my first questions was:  What should he be looking in an award-winning quilt? Most of what I could find related to modern day machine quilting, rather than the hand quilting that would have taken place in the 1890s. Time to ‘phone a friend,’ a lady of a certain age who began quilting before the fancy machines took over. I believe we settled on a fair judge’s sheet for my heroine’s first attempt at joining the quilting circle.A Christmas Baby for Beatrice: Mail-Order Brides' First Christmas - Book 17

I’ll give away an autographed copy of my previous year’s western holiday romance, “A Christmas Baby for Beatrice” along with some swag to winners in the U.S. or Canada. International winners will get an ebook copy.

In line with my research, I thought I’d put two questions to your readers. They’re welcome to answer one, or both, or neither as it suits them.

Question #1 pertains to food: What’s the most sought-after staple on your holiday table? For my family, it’s Heart Attack Potatoes for the adults and Banana Pudding for the grandchildren.

Question #2 pertains to quilting: Have you ever made a quilt by hand? And, if so, what did you find to be the most challenging part?

Thank you so much for hosting my visit today. I look forward to returning throughout the day to interact with readers. And, hopefully, visiting again sometime in the future. May you all have a blessed and joyous holiday, no matter which you celebrate!

Nancy

NANCY FRASER is a bestselling and award-winning author who can’t seem to decide which romance genre suits her best. So, she writes them all.

Nancy was named Canadian writer of the year for 2021 by N.N. Lights’ Book Heaven, and her western historical romance, An Honorable Man for Katarina, won the National Excellent in Story Telling (NEST) award for sweet romance. She was also named a “bright new voice in sweet/inspirational romance” by Independently Reviewed.

When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five wonderful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.

Website: https://tinyurl.com/3acnynze

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B09FTH655Z?tag=pettpist-20

Bookbub: http://bookbub.com/profile/nancy-fraser

 

Christmas with the Cowboy and a Give Away

I’m excited to have a new release this month. Christmas with the Cowboy is the first book of the Return to the Keller Ranch series. It’s a story of family bonds.

The patriarch of the Keller family, Daniel, was a wild cowboy before settling into family life after marrying his soul mate, Audrey. Their oldest son, Reed inherited the wild gene, and Daniel was very afraid that his son would make the same mistakes he did growing up, which led to a lot of headbutting between the two.

Trenna Hunt is daughter of the wealthy success-driven rancher next door. She and Reed fell in love during high school, but she allowed her image-conscious father to convince her that she and wild child Reed were traveling different life paths. She followed his advice and broke up Reed, believing it was best for both of them. Reed did not agree, but he did his best to move on, leaving the Keller Ranch to make a life of his own.

Fast forward to the present and Reed is back on the family ranch with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Lex; working shoulder to shoulder with his father and doing his best to create a stable life for his daughter, who is the center of his world. But Trenna is also back home and Reed finds himself dealing with the challenges of fatherhood along with the knowledge that he has never stopped loving her. He’s dead set against rekindling a relationship, but his daughter, who quickly gets the read on the situation, has other ideas.

Here’s an excerpt which takes place in the kitchen of the Keller Family Ranch house:

Audrey was about to reply when her attention jerked to the large window over the kitchen table. Her mouth opened, then closed again, and she shifted her attention back to her son.

“We need to talk.”

“What?” Reed caught sight of dust rising in the air at the far end of the driveway.

“Now.”

Lex was watching her grandmother with a look of open curiosity, the tea towel in one hand. Audrey gave her a quick smile, then took Reed by the elbow and steered him into the living room. He glanced back at the rooster tail, figuring it was still a mile away.

“What?” he asked as soon as Audrey had him at the far side of the living room, noting that she’d hauled him far enough from the kitchen to keep Lex from “accidentally” hearing what she had to say.

“This may be a false alarm, but…you know how I’ve always talked about arranging all the ranch records and photos and…general history…into some kind of order?”

“Yes…?”

“I started. And I hired help.” Her mouth flattened and she met his gaze. “I thought I’d have time to tell you. I mean, it shouldn’t matter, but it might and—”

His mom was never like this. Ever.

“What the—?”

“Trenna. I hired Trenna Hunt. She’s going to teach history at the community college starting in January, and I asked if she’d help me. She said, yes, then you told me you were coming home a few weeks early, and she’s not supposed to start until next week, and there was still time to tell her I didn’t need her if that turned out to be the case—”

“Mom. Chill. I’m good.” Stunned but good. “It’s been more than fifteen years.”

Audrey let out a breath. “Yes. But it seemed only fair to warn you ahead of time.”

“Fifteen years, Mom.”

“Right.” She gave him a cautious look, which clearly said that she didn’t know if fifteen years was enough time. It was. He’d built a new life and so had she.

“I’ll just head out and meet her then,” Audrey said, smoothing her hands down the sides of her jeans.

“Does she know about me and Lex being here?”

Audrey shook her head. “Not that you’re already here. You both moved up your timetables.”

“Go meet her, Mom. I’ll be right out.” Trenna Hunt. Fifteen years. As he’d said, a long time.

Why the hell was his stomach knotting?

“So,” Lex said lightly, staring into the bowl as she scooped out dollops of dough. “What’s up?”

“Old girlfriend.” Reed knew that unless it was absolutely necessary, it was best not to hide things from an inquisitive teen.

“One that required a red alert?”

“Bad breakup,” Reed said shortly.

Lex put a hand on her hip. “When did this happen?”

“Before you were born.” He’d done his share of dating after the sting of his failed marriage had worn off, but had yet to bring a woman home to meet the family so to speak, Lex being that family.

“Must have been some breakup.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Care to share?”

He shook his head. He’d told her enough, and although she pushed her tongue against the inside of her cheek in a thoughtful way, she accepted his decision.

“Suit yourself.” She turned back to the cookie dough. “But I want an introduction.” She met Reed’s gaze again. He frowned, and she said, “Sue me. I’m curious.”

“I’ll sue you, all right.” He gave her nose a tap, and she batted his hand away. But as he headed for the door, he caught her curious sidelong glance, which made him hope that she didn’t launch an investigation.

**

I’m giving away a digital copy of Christmas with the Cowboy. All you need to do to qualify is to tell me in the comments your favorite tv show, movie or book that features strong family bonds. Winner will be announced on Saturday.

Character Names

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. As I write this blog I’m getting ready to start work on a new book. I’ve done some pre-writing – thinking about my characters backstory, what’s hurt them in their pasts and what motivates them in the present and touched on what their goals are, but now I’m ready to put pen to paper, start the story, and really figure out who they are.

That is both a very exciting thing and a scary thing for me. Exciting because at this point there are so many fun and adventurous new possibilities stretching out in front of me. Scary because there is always that little niggling worry that I won’t be able to do justice to the story as I try to translate what’s in my head to the actual manuscript.

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. This book will feature twin sisters – one will be the heroine of this book and one will be the heroine of a future book. I’ve been trying to name these two ladies and I’m finding it a bit more difficult than usual.

Do I give them similar sounding names like Amanda and Miranda, Hilda and Wilda, Annabel and Isabel, Connie and Bonnie.  Or maybe I should go with themed names like Ruby and Opal, Summer and Autumn, Daisy and Lily, Iris and Rose, Fern and Ivy, Flora and Fauna, Scarlet and Violet? Or just name them like I would any other siblings? After all I have twin daughters of my own and deliberately didn’t chose matchy-matchy names – they are Lydia and Melissa.

There are other people as well as places and things I’ll need to name in these books of course.

There are the heroes naturally. Right now I am thinking I’ll name them Wyatt Hayes (a ranch hand) and Gavin Burns (a small town lawyer) but that may change as I figure out who they really are.  For the town name, I’m waffling between Larkin and Crossvine.  And one of them owns a dress shop – should I name it after her (Miss such-and-such’s Dress Shop) or after the town (Crossvine’s Fashion Emporium) or something altogether original (Purple Plume Fashions)?

But back to my dilemma over naming my twin heroines – what do you think, which approach should I take? And based on your answer, do you have any suggestions for actual names?

Give me your thoughts in the comments below and you’ll get your name in the hat to win a copy of one of my backlist books AND a fun Christmas ornament.

A Sneak Peek!

 

My current project is a fish-out-water story, my favorite type to write. I do so love putting my characters in uncomfortable situations. I realized this with my first book Big City Cowboy when I forced my hero Rory to model in NYC. In the book I’m currently writing, my heroine, Jade works as a Senior Account Manager for a NYC designer. When her aunt leaves her a house in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, she travels there to supervising renovations for its sale. Of course, my hero is a cowboy. Dalton’s forced to take contractor jobs to earn money to keep his ranch afloat.

Another reason I’m enjoying this project is get to show off my DIY/renovation skills. (Yup, I love power tools and own tile, miter, and table saws, a cool nail gun, and various sanders.) I’ve retiled floors, removed wallpaper and popcorn ceilings, then retextured them, and retiled a shower. (FYI, renovating your house is a better workout than you get at any gym!)

After I hammered 🙂 out my characters and their backstory, I thought about the house’s floor plan to determine what renovations Jade would do. Despite knowing all we can discover on the internet, silly me, I tried to sketch a floor plan of my grandparents’ farmhouse. I almost drove myself crazy before turning to the internet where I discovered floor plans from houses built in the early 1900s from Sears and Roebuck.

 

New farmhouse my aunt built when my grandparents’ house had to be torn down.

Starting in 1910 homes were built wired for electricity, except for ones in poor rural areas. They didn’t get electricity until the 1920s. They also had indoor plumbing. This meant houses had one bathroom with a toilet, sink, bathtub (or shower), and a kitchen sink. Because of the growing popularity of automobiles, home also started having a detached garage built. The last new feature of the era were built-in closets to replace wardrobes.

I choose this floor plan.

 

I’ve selected option #2 or Jade’s house. It’s still hard to believe this house could be built for less than $3,000. I chose it for a couple reasons. One, the square style reminded me of my grandparents’ house and the happy times I spent there. Secondly, this design had a bathroom upstairs. Because this novel is shorter than ones I’ve written recently, I wanted to keep the renovations simple and didn’t want to add a plumber character. Because of this, I’m also saying the aunt already added a downstairs half-bath.

I needed another photo and thought we could use a picture of a good looking cowboy.

Before you think I’m writing a DIY renovation book and calling it a novel, my plan is to use the renovation to create trouble for Jade and Dalton. As anyone who’s renovated a house knows, it’s stressful and messy. Ordering supplies online, supply chain issues, and weather problems can create havoc with a timeline. And with Jade wanting to get in, get the job done, and get out of Oklahoma ASAP, this will drive her crazy. Further, there’s opportunities for Dalton to tell Jade about the perils of ordering online and the value of using local suppliers, only to be told Jade’s the boss and she’s made her decision. But of course, he’ll show this city girl a thing or two and she’ll give him a run or his money. Oh, how I love putting two strong-willed, intelligent, stubborn characters together!

So, now you’ve got the inside scoop on my latest project. More to come later on Jade and Dalton…

Giveaway—To be entered in today’s giveaway for the Thanksgiving dish towel and signed copy of Colorado Rescue, leave a comment on what renovations you would do to the house in my story if you wanted to sell it.

A Well Traveled Pooch and a Give Away!

So you all know how I stumble upon things while I’m researching for a book. Well, my current book is no exception. In Dear Miss LeBlanc, one family in my fictitious town of Clear Creek has a car. Now it’s 1903 so they are the only car owners.  Cattle Ranchers, they quickly learn that you can’t use a car to check on the herds. It can cause the cattle to stampede. But it was fine to take to town or to go visiting. What kind of car is it? A 1903 Winton. My characters call it JW for Jefferson, (their step-father) and Winton.


While researching cars of 1903, I discovered an interesting road trip involving a Winton and a dog. His name was Bud, and he was a pitbull purchased by Horatio Nelson Jackson, a doctor from Vermont who bet a guy fifty bucks he could drive a car across America. No mean feat back in 1903. Cars back then weren’t exactly built for off roading. Horatio and a man named Sewell Crocker (a bicyclist and machinist) outfitted a Winton for the trip and left San Fransisco on May 23, 1903. They had 90 days to get to New York and win the bet.

Horatio went north then cut across Oregon to Idaho where he purchased Bud. He even outfitted him with a pair of goggles to keep the dust from his eyes!

Bud became a well traveled pooch and got to see his new owner ask locals for directions (a lot) and sometimes get wrong ones. They traveled across open prairie, over rocky trails where they had to get out and remove  more than a few rocks on occasion, and followed trails that ran alongside train tracks. The going was slow, and some of the wrong directions they were given led to the culprit’s relatives so they could see the car and of course, Bud. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a dog wearing a pair of goggles?

The Winton averaged 71 miles a day, so when they got bad directions, it could waste a lot of time, even whole days. And things didn’t alway go right and parts had to be replaced. When that happened they had to ask the Winton Motor Company for parts they needed then wait for them to arrive by train. On July 12th they reached Nebraska which had more paved roads and voila! They were doing 250 miles a day! The three made it to New York in 63 days, didn’t collect their fifty dollars, and frankly, didn’t care. They were the first to drive across the country in a car and let’s face it. That fifty bucks wouldn’t have put a dent in the eight thousand dollars Horatio forked out for the trip. The first three thousand went to purchasing and outfitting the car alone.

Personally, I love road trips and have done a few. The last one was from Oregon to Deadwood South Dakota with my daughter over a year ago for a book event. It was great fun! And I got inspiration for an entire series along the way! When was the last time you took a road trip? Where did you go? I’m giving away a free e-copy of Dear Miss LeBlanc to one lucky commenter! Here’s a little more about the book:


Fantine LeBlanc is the assistant to the famous matchmaker, Mrs. Pettigrew. The job came with a lot of perks, one of which was getting to travel with Madame Pettigrew to the famous little town of Clear Creek. And they weren’t going alone. Madame was bringing Gibbs the butler and Mr. Tugs, her ancient gardener along. Toss in members of the Colorado Adventure Club, a few extra guests, and the trip was going to be an adventure indeed. Clear Creek may never survive it. Or, was it going to be the other way around? Clear Creek was full of more than a few oddities. When the residents fancy themselves better matchmakers than Mrs. Pettigrew, they set out to prove it and with hilarious results. Enjoy this sweet, clean romance as only Kit Morgan can deliver!

 

1955 Was a Very Good Year ~ by Pam Crooks

Remember the popular song by Frank Sinatra from the 60s, “It Was a Very Good Year”?

When I was seventeen

It was a very good year

It was a very good year for small town girls

And soft summer nights

Well, that song has been going through my mind a lot lately.  In fact, the very good year that I’ve been thinking about is 1955 for 2 reasons.

  1. It was the year I was born.  (Maybe I shouldn’t say that too loudly.)
  2. It’s the year that my newest book will be set.

You see, I’m part of a new series that’s coming up (big announcement later), and the books will be set over a span of more than a century.  I’m looking forward to writing in the 1950s, but it’s not anything I’ve ever done before.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never even read a romance set in the 1950s.

But I’m looking forward to it. A lot.  And the research has been so fun!  Some things I remember, and others I don’t. (I was very young, you know.)  Since I suspect many of you reading this blog are around my age, I thought it’d be a big trip down memory lane to share some of the uniqueness of the 1950s.

World War II had ended a decade earlier, and the country was flourishing.  Women who had entered the work force during the war remained there, and disposable income was high.  Busy suburban lives required families obtain a second automobile, virtually unheard of at the time.  Convenience items for the home like frozen foods and kitchen appliances were soaring, television was hugely popular, and entertainment was in high demand.

Here’s a little trivia:

The 1955 Studebaker was touted as having America’s newest and smartest two-toning, geared toward a wife’s (or any woman’s) tastes.

Pillsbury Quick Cinnamon Rolls were introduced.

This I do NOT remember.  I guess it’d be handy to know what produce you had on hand, right?

Green Bean casserole was created by the Campbell Soup Company.

The Mickey Mouse Club debuts on ABC.  (My favorite show EVER when I was a kid!)

As you can see, 1955 was a fun year.  Lots happening.  And it makes me even more excited to start my new book.

One more thing I’d like to share with you – an original 1955 Recipe!  It really brought me back when I read that you make this dessert in a ‘refrigerator tray.’  I’m thinking it could be an ice cube tray, too.  My mother used to make a frozen dessert in an ice cube tray – remember when you had to pull up a lever and break the ice, and that you could lift the little ice cube compartment thing right out?

Four-Flavor Freeze

  • 1 1/4 cup finely crushed chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 2 Tb. sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup mashed, ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup chopped black walnuts
  • 1 Tb. sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 2 – 3 Tb. shaved semisweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)

Combine cookie crumbs, 2 Tb. sugar, and melted butter.  Press into refrigerator tray and chill.

Break ice cream into chunks: beat till smooth (with electric beater, spoon, or rotary beater).

Quickly fold in bananas and nuts.  Pour into crumb crust and freeze till firm.

Fold 1 Tb. sugar into whipped cream.  Spread on ice cream.

Sprinkle chocolate over whipped cream.  Freeze.

When ready to serve, place tray on warm, damp cloth for a few minutes to loosen crust.

Serves 6.

 

         

As you can see, this is a nice-sized recipe for small families or empty nesters.  The dessert was delicious!  Refreshing with a subtle banana taste.  I highly recommend it!

Be sure to join me on October 24th!  I have a fun 1955 trivia game planned for you.

Until then, I’d love to know if you have read a romance set in the 1950s before?

What is your favorite 1950s memory?