Names, Names, Too Many Things to Name

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

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

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

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

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



If Not Now, Then When?

The if not now, then when question has been on my mind as I grow older and played into why I’m writing this while waiting for the remaining passengers to load on my flight to Los Angeles. More about how this unexpected trip came about later. Great teaser, huh? ?

I think I’ve mentioned I’m not big on change. I’m a routine gal. It’s called a comfort zone for a reason, after all. When plans get thrown off, I get stressed. I’m not the most spontaneous person either. As Alison in one of my favorite movies, The Sure Thing says, “Spontaneity has its time and place.” Yup, that’s me.

When I travel, I start thinking about what to take weeks in advance. I consult the weather repeatedly, pull outfits with coordinated jewelry, and plan for contingencies. Because I hate waking up and having to wear something, I take more clothes than necessary. I worry I’ll forget something or have the wrong clothes. I love traveling once I get on the plane, but everything before stresses me out.

For 2023, I’m working on these issues. I want to be more spontaneous and live without regrets. I refuse to let fear or stress hold me back. I’m also tired of putting things off, of saying someday I’ll do _____. Fill in the blank. Visit dear friends who’ve moved away. Travel to Hawaii. Whatever. I’m saying no to things I don’t want to do. That gives me more time for what I love and what brings me joy. Too often we forget how limited and precious time is. We say if only the timing were better. If only I had the money. If only ___. Again, fill in the blank.

Which brings me back to flying to LA. My youngest received a week’s notice he’d been selected as a contestant for a game show taping in LA. Even before we learned neither his boyfriend or best friend could attend, my hubby and I wanted to go. But it wasn’t a good time. Flights would be expensive. My bff, Lori, was to arrive two days before we’d leave for LA. After a long phone conversation, she decided not to go with us to LA, but insisted I go. Her exact words were, “This is a once in a lifetime thing. You are going.” (Thankfully, Southwest would issue a voucher to reschedule if she cancelled her flight.)

So here I am, flying to LA. This trip helped me work on the issues I mentioned earlier. I had to pack with little notice. (I’m impressed how efficiently I did considering if Nathan gets to the final round we will be seen on TV.) Leaving Tuesday and returning Friday threw my work and life routines out the window. The cost was more than we should’ve spent, but hubby and I don’t care. We would have no regrets the way we did when we missed Nathan’s first once in a lifetime experience. Yup, that’s right. Nathan, at 25, has had two once in a lifetime experiences.

While Nathan was in college, Tony award winning actress Kristin Chenoweth sang at Rowan University and needed backup singers. When no baritone students auditioned, the professor charged of selecting the singers contacted Nathan . Between the super short notice—maybe two days—and it being December, tickets prices were insane. (More than double the LA tickets.) We didn’t go, and I’ve always regretted not being there.

I’m trying to ask myself “If not now, then when,” when I have decisions to make. If I may never get this opportunity again or I’ll have regrets, I’m saying yes.

I’m writing this last bit on the plane home. While I can’t share how the game went for Nathan until after his episode airs, I can say hubby and I were incredibly blessed to have shared this experience with him because if not now, then when would we ever have a chance like this again?

Giveaway: To be entered in my giveaway for the Valentine’s Day heart shirt and a signed copy of Family Ties, tell me what’s one spur of the moment decision you’re glad you made. 

Keeping the Lights On


I love decorating for the holidays both outside and inside. Pulling out the decorations every year always fills me with joy. Every item has a story attached to it. My music box snowman reminds me of my boys. I still remember finding it at a small local shop right after Christmas. The three little snowmen immediately reminded me of building a snowman (the few times there was enough snow in Dallas) with my three boys and my hubby. I don’t recall the price, but I remember the piece was expensive enough on sale I thought long and hard before buying it. I wandered around the shop and kept circling around to look at the music box before I finally picked it up.

Other pieces remind me of the person who gave me the item. The snowman and penguin spelling snow was a gift from my Aunt Wanda and Uncle Erlin. The geese came from my Aunt Mugs and Uncle Wayne. The crystal angel, the large size not the small, came from my BFF Lori. (She pointed out I got the larger one as did her mother and sister, while other friends got the smaller angel. ?) When I put out these gifts, I smile, think of these incredible people, and say a prayer of thanks for the difference they’ve made in my life.

Snow blocks



I put lights everywhere starting with my mantle and the behind the sofa table. The Christmas tree in the entry way adds a sparkle there. In the family room, I have candles, the penguin (that I bought because my youngest loves penguins), and another snowman with lights. My favorite thing to do during the holiday season is light the candles, turn on the other lights, turn off the overhead ones, and watch a Christmas movie.

The downside of having all the decorations and the lights is taking them down. Not that I don’t like and have connections to the items I have out the rest of the year, I do, but somehow removing the holiday décor makes me a little sad to return to the everyday. I guess that’s it. Taking down those decorations mean we go back to our everyday lives filled with work, responsibilities, and day-to-day activities. Too often it feels like the joy and wonder of the season gets packed up in the boxes along with the decorations and we go through the  post-holiday blues. Add winter to that with its shorter, colder days (however as I’m writing this it’s 68 degrees here in Dallas) and it’s a double whammy. But this year, I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be that way, and I’ve decided to make a change.

I’ll take down the Christmas trees and some of the decorations. But this year, I’m leaving up the lights/garland on my mantle and sofa table. I don’t know yet if whether I’ll replace the holiday with my non-holiday items or leave the snowmen out, but put away Santa and the stockings. I’ll see what speaks to me when I get started. The snowman and penguin lights could stay for a while since they’re wintery too. Hmmm, maybe I’ll switch from Christmas decorations to a winter theme at least until the end of February. I kind of like that idea. Hopefully it will help me hold onto the joy and light of the holidays longer. I want to embrace the hope that Jesus’s birth gives us, how His light that can shine through us, and can cut through any darkness.

Happy New Year and may your 2023 be blessed and full of memory making moments!

Giveaway:  To be entered in today’s random giveaway for wrist wallet and a signed copy of A Cure for the Vet, leave a comment on how you fight the post holiday blues.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer


I loved the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a kid (who didn’t?) and I loved watching the Rankin/Bass TV special. In fact, it’s still a Christmas tradition for me. I know all the lyrics and sing along. When they were young it drove my kids crazy, hey half of the fun, but now if I’m not singing they ask if I’m okay. ? Rudolph’s message of belonging, compassion, understanding, and everyone having something to contribute always hit home with me. I was a smart, liberal, knew-my-mind girl growing up in Dubuque, Iowa. I didn’t always fit in. I never went to homecoming or prom. In fact, I wasn’t even asked on a date in high school. I look back now and think I intimidated guys. Anyway, guess you can see why I identified with our little red nosed guy.

I was stunned to discover this classic Christmas tale that led to the Gene Autry song, was written by a Jewish man, Robert L. May. As a child, May skipped a couple grades in school, making him smaller and younger than his classmates. As a teacher, I can’t imagine how rough that was for him. Being physically smaller is difficult enough but add in developmental differences with his classmates, and  no wonder he didn’t fit in and viewed himself as a “nerdy loser.” Anyone else see foreshadowing here and a writer who would write what he knew? (Being an outsider and insecure?) Yup, me too.

Names considered other than Rudolph.

As an adult May dreamed of writing the great American novel but worked as a catalog copywriter in the advertising department for Montgomery Ward. (As an author, that sure hits home as I dreamed of writing novels while working countless other jobs to pay the bills.) In 1939, Montgomery Ward wanted to create a children’s book for its annual holiday promotion rather than give away purchased coloring book. May was given the job because of his talent for limericks and parodies. The only direction his boss gave him was to have an animal in it.

original cover of Robert L. May’s manuscript

May chose a reindeer for his main character because his daughter, Barbara loved the ones at Lincoln Park Zoo. When turned in the story of a red-nosed reindeer teased by his peers, who had exactly what Santa needed one foggy Christmas Eve, May’s boss asked him to come up with “something better.” (Okay, let’s admit May’s boss couldn’t tell an incredible children’s story from a hole in the ground.) May didn’t give up, and with the help someone in the art department and his sketches, they changed the boss’s mind. Click here to read May’s original manuscript. (It’s definitely worth checking out. 🙂 )

On its release in 1939, Montgomery Ward gave away 2.4 million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Yup, million. In 1939. Think about that. Despite the book’s success, May who was heavily in debt because of his wife’s medical bills, received no additional compensation. However, that changed in 1947, when the head of Montgomery Ward returned the rights to May. Another event that year that changed May’s life and impacted the classic Christmas song coming to life was May’s sister married Johnny Marks, a songwriter. Long before Marks married May’s sister he’d read Rudolph’s story, and jotted down notes in his song ideas notebook.

Robert May autographs copies of his bestseller, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and a sequel, “Rudolph Shines Again,” on Dec. 11, 1969.

Marks added music to the story, and knew he had something special. However, Gene Autry apparently channeling May’s boss who “wanted something better” than Rudolph’s story, wasn’t keen on the song. Thankfully, his wife persuaded him to record the second biggest selling Christmas song of all time (White Christmas is number one) for the “B” side. (From my research, it appears If It Doesn’t Snow on Christmas was the “A” side and who’s even heard of that Christmas song? I hope he thanked his wife for her foresight.) Click here to listen to the Gene Autry song


Some articles I read claimed May and the Rudolph story is sad. I disagree. Yes, May had a difficult life, but he channeled that into something truly special. No, he never wrote the great American novel, but he wrote a great American Christmas carol that still inspires children and adults today. A pretty great legacy, I’d say. Plus, as an added bonus, Rudolph took care of May and his family for his life and beyond.


Now that I’ve learned the history behind the song, I love Rudolph’s story even more and it’s message seems even brighter.



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



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


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 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 Journey and Lessons Learned

Yesterday, I returned from a journey to Iowa. I didn’t visit where I grew up, but rather the northeastern Iowa farm where my mom was born and the small northeastern town nearby. I spent a large part of my childhood there and created so many memories. It’s also where my remaining family lives. I was there to bury my parents’ ashes in the cemetery with six generations of my mother’s family resides.

My grandparents’ farm in Decorah, Iowa

The journey wasn’t easy, and thank you to fellow filly Cathy McDavid, who said traveling the end of life journey with our parents could either be a blessing or a difficulty. She helped me realize I controlled which of these this trip would be. I left Texas for Iowa determined that my trip would be a blessing. And it was. In more ways than I could’ve imagined.



Decorah farm


My dear Uncle Wayne, the youngest of my mother’s siblings, who sat me on a neighbor’s horse and walked me around the pasture, said something profound that has also changed my life’s perspective. He told me he’d heard a quote about how we put a person’s birth and death date on their tombstone separated with a dash. The quote talked about that the dash mattered most because it represented what came between our birth and death. He then said we need to make the most of the dash in our lives.

After a quick search, I discovered came from a poem by Linda Ellis.

?I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone.
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.”
Linda Ellis, Live Your Dash: Make Every Moment Matter

“Your life is made of two dates and a dash. Make the most of the dash.”
Linda Ellis

We all need to make the most of the dash in our life.

Dash buttonTo me that says, be kind where I can, even if it’s something simple like holding the door for someone, flashing a smile, or saying hello. Even in places where they don’t do that like my Aunt Margaret, Wayne’s wife, did. (She told me a story about doing so in a not so great NYC neighborhood.) I hope I can have her courage in those moments.

I want to make the most of the dash by standing up for those who need another voice to argue against injustice and bullying. I hope to be honest, but not brutal or cruel. I want to forgive because as my Uncle Wayne said with his take on the Nelson Mandela quote, “Not forgiving is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die.” Yup. Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive hurts the one carrying the anger.

Be kind

I want to make the most of the dash, by being there for my children when they need me or me to do something fun. It doesn’t matter that they’re grown. I also need to maintain the connection with my remaining family in Iowa. They will help me make the most of the dash because they fill a hole in my heart and soul I didn’t know I had in my heart. Those aunts, one uncle, and cousins along with my relatives buried in that small Burr Oak, Iowa cemetery, played a huge role in who I am today, and I am incredibly grateful.

I hope my tombstone says that I made the most of the dash or at least she tried to.


Giveaway:  To be entered in today’s random giveaway for the Spooky Season T-shirt and signed copy of Family Ties, leave a comment on what you think people can do to make the most of the “dash” in their lives.


Are We Speaking the Same Language?


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.


I’m not sure this illustrates my point, but then who cares?


For example, here’s setting up a lunch date between two female friends and two male ones.

Women’s Conversation:

“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.


Men’s Conversation:

“You hungry?”



“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!

Julie Benson’s Winner!

Thank you to everyone who spend part of your day with me yesterday.

The winner of my giveaway is:


Congratulations! Look for an email from me on how to claim your giveaway. Take care everyone with the wicked heat we’re having this summer.


Stories from My Winery Visit

Photo: Kiepersol

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.

Photo: Kiepersol

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.

Pierre de Wet and his daughters
Photo: Kiepersol

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.