He may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter…
I’m happy to announce that my new book has just been released! This is book three in my Haywire Brides series, but each book stands alone.
I’m giving away a book today to one of you. So be sure to leave a comment!
Texas Ranger Matt Taggert is on the trail of a wanted man. He has good reason to believe that Ellie-May’s late husband was involved in a stagecoach robbery, and he’s here to see justice done. But when he arrives in town, he discovers the thief has become a local hero…and his beautiful young widow isn’t too happy to see some lawman out to tarnish her family’s newly spotless reputation.
Ellie-May’s shaken by her encounter with the Ranger. Having grown up an outlaw’s daughter, she’ll do anything to keep her children safe—and if that means hardening her heart against the handsome lawman’s smiles, then so be it. Because she knows Matt isn’t about to give up his search. He’s out to redeem himself and find proof that Ellie-May’s husband wasn’t the saint everyone claims…even if it means losing the love neither expected to discover along the way.
Ellie-May has lived all her life in the shadow of her outlaw father. Do you think a parent’s reputation has the same impact today as it did in the 1800s?
Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger, Out where the smile dwells a little longer, That’s where the West begins…
Arthur Chapman 1912
Last week was National Cowboy Poetry week and I usually spend it at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival signing books. The festival, was canceled this year, along with everything else. But I sure did miss it.
I especially missed rubbing shoulders with people like Cheryl Rogers Barnet (daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans), Jon Chandler (chosen Best Living Western Musician by True West Magazine) and cowboy poet, Waddie Mitchell.
It was at this festival that I first learned to appreciate cowboy poetry. I was never particularly fond of poetry, but this was different. This was storytelling like I’d never heard, and it really brought the west alive for me.
Cowboy poetry flourished after the Civil War. War songs were mixed with traditional ballads to create a unique style that painted vivid pictures of loneliness, loss of a horse, camaraderie and annoying coyotes.
Cowboys recited these poems for each other around the campfire. No free form verse for these hard-driven men. Old time cowboy poetry always rhymed and was often put to song.
Much of it was done orally, which helped with memorization. Because the poetry was not written down, much was lost but not all. Fortunately, some of these gems were printed in newspapers and have since been published in books.
Legend has it that the reason poems were recited from memory was because cowboys were illiterate.
Not true, says writer David Stanley. In his book Cowboy Poetry Then and Now,” he argues that cowboys were anything but illiterate. “Many cowboys of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been well read, sometimes astonishingly so.” He goes on to say that “Cowboy poetry has been primarily the province of literate people since the first publication of poems in western newspapers in the 1870s.”
To prove his point, Stanley tells us that “It wasn’t just original poetry that was enjoyed around the campfires. Cowboys also enjoyed “a mass of popular poetry from Shakespeare to Rudyard Kipling.”
There’s a famous saying that any poem a cowboy likes is a cowboy poem. That may be true of Shakespeare, but for me, personally, nothing beats a poet in a cowboy hat.
What’s your favorite western storytelling medium: movie, TV, books, music or poetry?
Cowboy boots are fun to wear, but I recently discovered I’ve been wearing them wrong—all wrong. Fortunately, help is on the way. Some of the top designers including Calvin Klein and Fendi are about to send cowboy boots down the runway this spring and you know what that means; our sacred footwear is about to get a makeover.
To keep you from being out-of-step, here are some tips from fashion experts:
Don’t go for the costume-y look. If you’re wearing boots, avoid cowboy hats, ponchos, spurs, prairie dresses and overalls or you’ll end up looking ready for Halloween.
Leave the accessories at home. (I think this means don’t wear your diamonds.)
Avoid fringes and sequins (ruffled skirts, okay)
You can’t go wrong with jeans (not the faded ones) and turtlenecks. If you’re brave or immune to stares, you can even wear boots with shorts.
Pair cowboy boots with animal prints.
If you’ve been wearing your boots all wrong, chances are the same can be said for the guys in your life. According to fashion pundits, men should adhere to the following guidelines unless working on the range:
Avoid dressing like Woody in Toy Story. Ditch the bolo tie and chaps.
Forget the spurs (unless you’re playing a bad guy in a movie).
Hats are okay if you going to a rodeo or rounding up cattle. Otherwise, leave at home.
Avoid light colored jeans. Dark fitted jeans are best paired with cowboy boots.
If you’re wearing a tux, only black cowboy boots will do (polished to a shine).
Men, if this is too much for you, don’t despair. Everyone loves Woody. As for the rest of us, Happy Halloween.
What is the best or worst fashion advice you ever got?
What happens when four mail-order brides get cold feet?
My favorite time period to write about is between 1880 and 1890. In many ways, the cowboys of yesteryear struggled with some of the same issues we currently face and that’s what makes the time period so fascinating to me.
For example, technology in the way of telephones and electricity changed the way people lived in the 19th century, just as new technology does today. The Victorians even had their own Internet. It was called the telegraph, and this opened-up a whole new world to them.
What, for that matter, is a text message but a telegram, the high cost of which forced people in the past to be brief and to the point?
In the past, our ancestors worried about losing their jobs to machinery. Today, there’s a real possibility that robots will make us obsolete.
Sears and Roebuck was the Amazon of the Gilded Age. The catalogue featured a wide selection of products at clearly marked prices. No more haggling. Customers were drawn to the easy-to-read, warm, friendly language used to describe goods, and the catalogue proved an instant success. Our ancestors could even order a house through the catalog and that’s something we can’t do on Amazon.
The Victorians worried about books like we worry about iPhones. We worry about screen time damaging the eyes. Victorians were certain that the mass rise of books due to printing presses would make everyone blind.
Then as now, women fought for equal rights. Our early sisters fought for property ownership, employment opportunities and the right to vote. Women have come a long way since those early days, but challenges still exist, especially in matters of economics and power.
Nothing has changed much in the area of courting
Almost every single I know subscribes to at least one dating site. These are very similar to the Mail-Order Bride catalogs of yesteryear.
Did our Victorian ancestors worry about climate change? You bet they did! The Florida Agriculturist published an article addressing the problem in 1890. The article stated: “Most all the states of the union in succession of their settlement have experienced a falling off in their average temperatures of several degrees. A change from an evenly tempered climate has resulted in long droughts, sudden floods, heavy frost and suffocating heat.”
Nothing much has changed in the world of politics. Today, the Republicans and Democrats are still battling it out, just as they did in the nineteenth century. We still haven’t elected a female president, though Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood tried to change that when she ran in 1884 and again, in 1888.
What about environmental concerns?Today we’re concerned that plastic bags and straws are harming our oceans. Our Victorian ancestors worried about tomato cans. That’s because a German scientist told the New York Times in 1881 that the careless deposit of tin cans was “bringing the earth closer to the sun and hastening the day of the final and fatal collision.”
During the 1800s, horses were taken to task for messing up the streets. (Oddly, enough, it was once thought that automobiles were good for the environment.) Today, cattle are under fire for the methane in their you-know-whats. Oh, boy, I can only imagine how that would have gone over with those old-time ranch owners.
We have Coronavirus, but that’s nothing compared to what our ancestors battled. The 1894 Hong Kong plague was a major outbreak and became the third pandemic in the world. The rapid outbreak and spread of the plague was caused by infected fleas. Repressive government actions to control the plague led the Pune nationalists to criticize the Chinese publicly. Sound familiar? The plague killed more than 10 million people in India, alone.
As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Reading how people in the past survived and, yes, even prospered during tough times inspires me and gives me hope for the future. I hope it does the same to my readers.
This list is nowhere near complete, but what did you find the most surprising?
Attorney Ben Heywood didn’t expect to get shot on his wedding day–and certainly not by his mail order bride.—Pistol-Packin’ Bride/Mail Order Standoff collection.
I have a new book out, just in time for Valentine’s. The anthology is titled Mail Order Standoff. If you like mail-order bride stories, then this one is for you. The stories all have a fun twist when the brides get cold feet. Here’s a short preview of my story:
Attorney Wade Bronson didn’t expect to get shot on his wedding day–
and certainly not by his mail order bride…
Elizabeth Colton stares anxiously out the window of the stagecoach. Fresh from Boston, never could she imagine a more desolate place. Every scary story ever heard about attacking Indians and highwaymen comes back to haunt her.
Before they reach town, her worst fear is realized. A horseman flags them down and yanks open the door to the coach. Certain he is about to rob her—or worse—she pulls out her derringer. Much to her shock, the gun goes off and the man falls to the ground.
Attorney Wade Bronson is lucky to be alive. Fortunately, the bullet missed his heart—barely. All he did was stop the stage to tell his mail-order bride he’d been called out of town on urgent business and had to postpone their wedding. God forgive him for not feeling especially charitable toward the blue-eyed beauty who shot him, but now he’s bed-ridden with a shoulder-wound and his gun-toting bride-to-be is in jail.
It seems everyone in the small town has an opinion on the brash young woman who traveled west to become his wife—and none of it good. Orphaned at a young age, Wade was raised by the town and is Prickly Pine’s favorite son—literally—and the local girls know better than to get involved with him. Things looked bad until his three worried “mothers” took it upon themselves to place an ad in Matrimonial News for a “nice Christian girl from the east.” Now they refuse to believe the pistol packin’ bride is the right woman for him. At first, even Wade has trouble visualizing the two of them wed.
But in matters of the heart sometimes a wrong really does make a right. Now he doesn’t know which task will be hardest; convincing his reluctant fiancée that marriage to a man with three sets of well-meaning “parents” won’t be so bad (maybe). Or proving to the town that Elizabeth really is the girl of his dreams.
In a moment of madness, I decided to join a square-dancing class. I figured it would be good exercise and wouldn’t be that hard to learn. I mean how hard could it be to do-si-do?
Well, I got the first part right. It is good exercise. I clock more than ten thousand steps during class. Dancing is also good for the brain. According to Psychology Today,research shows that dancing reduces incidences of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
As for the easy part: forget that. Square-dancing requires memorizing hundreds of steps and learning a new language. The director told us that if we got lost, to just stand still and look confused. Now That I can do.
In spite of the challenges, the one thing I really enjoy is the courtesy. Call me old-fashioned, but I love the way partners bow and honor each other. Though dress is informal, almost everyone dresses up a bit, which adds to the fun. The best part? There’s no shortage of cowboys. Yee-haw!
The various square dance movements are based on the steps and figures that were used in traditional folk dances from different countries. Folk dances were originally gala occasions where news would be swapped, and courtships formed.
The early colonists brought popular folk dances from France, Italy and Britain with them. However, following the American Revolution, the British dances fell out of favor and the French dancing styles took over. Many French terms like “do-si-do,” “allemande” and “promenade” are still used in square dancing today.
The French were not satisfied with the long double line of an indefinite number of couples, so they concentrated on the square limited to four couples. These squares were known at first as “French contra-dances,” or more simply as “French dances.”
The dances done in early America didn’t have a “caller,” or someone who yells out the moves to dancers. Rather, the expectation, Jamison says, was that dancers went to school, memorized the moves, then went to the ball.
“Square dancing in those early days was done to live music that was almost always played by African-American musicians. It’s believed that many of these musicians became callers due to the gap in literacy and formal training among slaves of the time.”
Jamison says he found evidence of an African American caller dating back as early as 1819 in New Orleans. Other African American dance moves, instruments like the banjo and fiddle, and call and response traditions were also incorporated.
There have been several attempts to have square dancing designated the national dance but, so far, the efforts have been defeated. However, according to The Smithsonian, thirty-one states now claim square dancing as the official state dance.
Square Dancing has changed through the years to fit the needs of the people doing it. All ages can join in the fun and there are many LGBT clubs. There are also groups for the handicapped.
Though square dancing, as we know it today, is now an American dance, it’s popular the world over. S.Foster Damon wrote in his book, The History of Square Dance, “Square-dancing is greater than any one nation: it is democracy itself, in dance form. Can anybody think of a better way to spread the spirit of democracy?”
What new and exciting things do you have planned
for the New Year?
Meet the Haywire Brides
The Outlaw’s Daughter is available for preorder Amazon
As a child, Saturdays were my favorite day of the week. I remember getting up early and rushing through chores just so I could spend the afternoons watching Westerns. I had an unstable childhood, so I found comfort in the predictability of those old shoot em ups. When a cowboy rode into town, you just knew he would set things straight before riding into the sunset.
I also knew that when the camera zoomed onto the hero’s spurs as he walked into a saloon, he was sending a clear message; No one had better mess with him.
I became fixated on spurs and for good reason. As a foster child, I was constantly being bounced from family to family. This meant I was forever having to change locations. But the hardest part for me was having to walk into a new school, which I did more times than I can remember. This never failed to make me feel like an outsider. Because I was shy, thin as a rail, wore glasses and had red hair, I endured much teasing. No one called it bullying back then, but in modern terms that’s what it was.
After going through an especially hard first day at a new school, I remember thinking enough was enough. Would Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard or Bob Steele stand around while the town picked on them? They would not! Only ten at the time, I decided what I needed was spurs, just like my favorite western heroes wore. The next time I walked into a new school, my spurs would send a clear message that no one better mess with me.
Convinced I had an answer to my problem, I asked for spurs the following Christmas, but never got them. It didn’t matter. The next time I walked into a new school, I pretended I was wearing spurs just like I’d seen one of my cowboy heroes do the previous Saturday. They only jingled in my head but, you know what? It worked. Somehow the jingle-jangle sound that only I could hear helped drown out the teasing and that made me smile. And that smile helped me do something I’d not been able to do at other schools: make new friends. It was a lesson I never forgot.
In that spirit, I wish you all a jingle-jangle holiday season filled with lots of smiles, good friends and loving families. May all your spurs, imagined or real, be shiny ones and bring good things your way.
For a chance to win this “don’t mess with this house” doormat, tell us what movie or TV show made an impression on you as a child?
Linda Broday and I are celebrating the publication of our new book Longing for a Cowboy Christmas.
This is the second book we’ve done together. Last year, our stories appeared in Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms.
That’s the exciting part. The fun part is this: We are each giving away something special to one lucky reader. We can’t wait to see who you are.
“Brimming with holiday magic, this feel-good anthology of historical romance novellas, all centered on the cowboy mystique and second chances, will delight and charm.” Publisher’s Weekly
Margaret’s Story:A Love Letter to Santa
She turned his life upside-down. Could she really be the right woman for him?
Holly Sanders plans to make this the best Christmas for a town hard hit by the drought. Okay, maybe she’s overdone the bows, baubles and garlands. But is that a reason for the new blacksmith Tom Chandler to declare war on tinsel?
Tom doesn’t mean to play scrooge. But when his dog’s objections to the endless caroling gets them tossed out of his boarding house, he decides enough is enough.
The escalating battle takes an unexpected turn when he spots Holly struggling against the wind with an armload of presents and rushes to help her. Before he knows what happened, the green-eyed beauty recruits him to play Santa’s helper. After helping make one small boy’s Christmas wish come true, he’s utterly hooked, and suddenly has a wish of his own! But convincing Holly he’s the right man for her would require a miracle—and maybe even a little help from Santa.
Linda’s Story:The Christmas Wedding
As a late November storm batters her sod house, Rebel Avery’s thoughts are on the man she loves and plans to marry. Eight months ago, Outlaw Travis Lassiter had been captured and she fears he’s dead. To occupy her worried mind, she tells two small orphans she’s taken in how she used to celebrate the Advent and gets an idea.
The fledgling town of Hope’s Crossing has never had a Christmas celebration, so Rebel and the other women decide to make the entire town the Advent calendar. On their designated day, each home gives the children a treat. Day after day passes and it becomes increasingly apparent that Travis will not return. Rebel befriends a lonely recluse and gives her the only thing of value that she possesses—swaths of red satin fabric she’d saved for a wedding dress.
As they move toward the holiday, sagging spirits are renewed, a makeshift family is formed, and Rebel finds that through troubled times, love endures and conquers all.
Now tell us, are you an early Christmas shopper or do you wait till the last minute?
Linda’s prize Margaret’s prize Collections make great hostess and teacher gifts (hint, hint).
Those particular words didn’t come into play until the radio, but advertising has been around since the beginning of mankind. Cavemen painted billboards on rock walls. Ancient Romans printed advertisements for gladiatorial games on papyrus.
After the invention of the printing press, advertisements began appearing in newspapers and periodicals. Circulars were posted on chimneys, lamp posts, walls, wagons, fences—you name it. Since painting the town with ads was considered a public spectacle, men with buckets of paste worked mostly at night.
Ads were designed not only to sell products, but also to solve personal and social problems. In many cases, people were oblivious to such personal shame as body odor or halitosis until some thoughtful marketer pointed it out.
Sense and Sensibilities
Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at some of the strange wording used to avoid offending customers. During the 1800s the word limb was used for leg and white meat for chicken breast. No one dare mention pants or trousers in polite company. This posed a challenge for marketers.
The Scott Company was so embarrassed at having to advertise toilet paper during the 1880s they customized the paper for their clients. The Waldorf Hotel became a big name in toilet paper. When a customer walked into a general store and requested a roll of Waldorf, no questions were asked.
Speaking of toilet paper, Northern Tissue advertised “splinter-free” toilet paper in 1935. If that doesn’t want to make you go “ouch” consider this: the “cure” for a certain male condition currently blasted nightly from the TV was, in the early 1900s, thought to be electric belts.
The westward migration spurred advertisements for real estate, investments and tourism.
In 1860 the Pony Express advertisement in California read:
“Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”
The Civil War created a great need for clothes, shoes and ready made food and advertisements during the era reflected the new consumerism.
Writers hear a lot about “branding” today, and we can thank the patent medicine companies of yesteryear for that. By touting exotic ingredients, producers could distinguish themselves from competitors. Other companies followed suit and slogans like the “soap that floats” became increasingly popular.
It’s Wonderful, Amazing, Spectacular!
Exaggeration was the order of the day and no one was better at reeling off adjectives than Richard Sears. Eventually, Sears toned down the ads and was said to have concluded: “Honesty is the best policy. I know because I’ve tried it both ways.”
Honesty didn’t come easy for some advertisers and reform was needed. 1892, the Ladies’ Home Journal announced it would no longer accept patent medicine ads. The bogus potions were costing Americans millions of dollars per year and were coming under heavy attack by commentators and consumers.
In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.”-Peter Nivio Zarlenga
Women purchased most of the household goods and so it made sense to have women create the ads. As early as the 1900s, advertisers welcomed female employees. The first advertisement to use sex was for Woodbury soap and was created by a woman. Tame by today’s standards, the advertisement featured a couple with the message “The skin you love to touch.” Not only did this raise eyebrows, but it promised sex, romance and love to anyone savvy enough to buy the product. It worked: Sales skyrocketed.
Studying advertisements is a great way to learn the customs, concerns, prejudices and history of earlier times. I shudder to think what future generations will learn from ours.
What are your favorite or least favorite ads?
Read Margaret’s books and they will make you younger, wiser, thinner and rich!
(Sorry, after reading all those old-time ads, I couldn’t resist!)