Many readers inhale series romance for the obvious reasons. Done well, characters that have endeared the reader in one book live on in subsequent books. We get to see their lives, their happiness, the town or ranch where they live, sometimes even the villain or his gang that continue to be a thorn in the characters’ sides.
I’ve done numerous series over the years, and I love writing them as much as the reader loves reading them. I’m excited that the release of Book #2 and #3 of my first contemporary western romance series with Tule Publishing is drawing closer and closer.
To write a series, an author must keep track of the details. This is crucial and shows professionalism. To make mistakes in one’s own books is sloppy, and you can bet the readers will pick up on carelessness.
For me, my saving grace is Microsoft’s One Note. Oh my goodness, I can’t survive without these ‘notebooks’ that keep the gazillion notes, research, images, and yep, details right at my fingertips.
A COWBOY AND A PROMISE is available now. As Book #1, I had to set up the three ex-military brothers who live on Blackstone Ranch. I also had to set up the town named after their great-grandfather. And of course, there are businesses in that town, and people to run them, and the list goes on and on.
I was very careful to weave many details throughout all three books to keep them connected and real, and I’m happy to share a few now:
In Book #1, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, Beau Paxton is a twin who has served in Afghanistan with his two brothers. All three come back to heal, run the ranch, and help their mother care for their crippled father.
All are respected and well-liked in Paxton Springs and enjoy fond memories growing up, like fresh popcorn in Mary’s Mercantile. That same popcorn comes back in Book #3 and the mercantile’s owners play a nice part for Shandi, the heroine.
In Book #2, HER TEXAS COWBOY, Brock Paxton is scruffy-cheeked and suffers from being excluded by his twin once Beau finds Ava, his true love. It’s that loneliness that sets him up for Lucienne in his book.
Jace Paxton is the oldest, also womanless, but always searching and having fun along the way. His skill is working cattle, which plays a huge part in his Book #3, MY KIND OF COWBOY.
You can bet they drive the same color of Ford F-150 pickups, wear the same color Stetsons, and ride the same breed of horses throughout the series that I set-up in Book #1.
Their favorite watering hole in town is the Greasy Bull, which plays a huge part of Book #3. Their friend, Nash, is the local deputy and a former classmate whom the Paxton brothers depend on to help solve the troubles they encounter in their own books.
In Book #1, Ava arrives from New York. Her favorite color is pink, which I show numerous times and then remind the reader in a nightgown she lends to Shandi in Book #3. Her skill is in construction, and she’s crucial in building the vacation resort which is a basis for the entire series.
In Book #2, Lucienne is rich and hugely into fashion, much to Ava’s frugalness and chagrin. I intro her in stilettos, skinny jeans, and a leopard-print blouse. She’s also a nurse practitioner who is never without her medical kit which she keeps in her expensive suede bag, and yep, that medical kit comes in handy in Book #3 when Shandi needs some tending.
In Book #3, Shandi has her own book, but she’s introduced in Book #1 as one of the first people Ava meets when she arrives in town. She’s popular, sweet as pie, and always wears jeans, tank top, and a ponytail. Thanks to Tule’s awesome cover artist, my female cover model has a pony tail, and she’s a perfect fit for my Shandi!
There are many more details, of course, that you’ll learn if you read the series. I don’t want to give everything away, do I?
To buy or Preorder on Amazon, just click the cover image!
If you read my blogs the past two months, you’ll notice a definite theme.
My little series began in October with “Satisfying that Old-Time Craving for Sweeties” – you can read it here – and focused on candy from the 1800s.
The sweeties moved on to mid-20th century and featured treats we remembered from our youth, and it was great to reminisce with you! You can read that blog here.
This month, we’re movin’ on up to modern day treats, and what better time of year to talk about candy than at Christmas?
The classic treats, of course, are candy canes, fudge of all varieties, chocolate-wrapped candy, and sugar cookies frosted and decorated. We could mention divinity, peanut brittle, ribbon candy, or peppermint nougats, too.
The list is infinite. But one thing I can say for certain is that no Christmas is complete without ALMOND BARK!
Yep. The basis for so many treats today is incredibly easy to work with. It’s a magical treat that the hard-working housewives of the 1800s had never heard of. Likely not the ones from the mid-century, either.
Though I have scoured the Internet, I could not find the origin of almond bark anywhere. But I know it’s been around for decades. The first time I’d ever heard of it was the seventies, I believe. I remember being at a grocery store and finding almond bark for the first time. I intended to make some amazing peanut clusters that I’d heard about, and one of my classmate’s mother noticed me studying the package for directions and asked me how to use it. We stood in the aisle discussing the marvels of almond bark, and it’s been a staple in my house ever since!
The name almond bark is a bit of an anomaly. It does not contain any nuts, though it is very often used to coat them. It’s more of a confectionary coating rather than real chocolate since it does not contain cocoa butter. Instead, it contains other fats like cottonseed or palm oil. Almond bark usually is sold in one pound slabs, supposedly to resemble bark. I don’t really get that part, but whatever, right? It could also be called candy melts, candy wafers, candy coating, or summer coating.
The best news about almond bark? Your microwave does all the work! No double-boilers or extra ingredients. It’s so incredibly versatile, I couldn’t possibly tell you all the ways you can use it.
But here are a few ideas:
I can’t resist adding this one! Elf Snack Mix from Shanna Hatfield’s COWBOY CHRISTMAS. So good!
If you read my post last month, “Satisfying that Old-Time Craving for Sweeties” (you can read it here), you’ll know that I wrote about the different candies that housewives made based on an old cookbook from the 1888. It was fascinating to learn what satisfied their sweet tooth, the popular flavors at the time, and how they even made their own chewing gum!
This month, we’ll move up into the 20th century, and I suspect many of you will come walking down memory lane with me. After our country emerged from the Depression and the Second World War, America prospered. Industrialization flourished. With more women working outside the home, families had more expendable income. And treats like the following fast became favorites.
Mid-century, the big super stores hadn’t arrived yet. I’ll bet you had a little mom-and-pop market in your neighborhood. I sure did, and it’s one of my fondest memories.
Only three blocks away from where we lived, a group of us kids would walk down to the “Little Store” with our pennies in hand. The store owner, Mr. Mueller, had the patience of a saint. He’d stand quietly by while we poured over all the different candies he offered, and oh, the choices were such sweet torture! Red licorice was a favorite of mine – one penny each – and no, they weren’t wrapped individually then like they are now.
Are you ready to stroll with me?
BB Bats taffy originated in 1924. Eventually the suckers evolved into Kits. Banana was always my favorite. What was yours?
This was my favorite gum ever! To this day, black licorice any way I can get it is my salvation.
Another favorite from the 1950s. Very similar to a Butterfinger candy bar and coated in coconut. At one time, a chicken was part of the label, but customers thought it was a chicken-flavored cracker (of all things) so the chicken was removed.
Root Beer will always be a favorite for me! My dad would carry a couple of these in his pocket. What a treat when he surprised me with one!
Of all of these candies, this one was probably my least favorite. I’m not sure why – it was good, but I guess there was something about that raspberry liquid oozing out that steered me away. But definitely a classic!
These were so fun! Ice cream cones with marshmallow dusted with sugar crystals.
A roll of candy with this many pieces always seemed like a bargain to me. I still see them now and again in specialty stores.
Oh, butterscotch. Be still my heart!! Root beer was a close second for me. Cinnamon, not so much.
It’s a wonder I didn’t pull out a filling with these suckers! But licking this caramel-flavored candy until it was gone could take hours! Yet another classic.
Do these “sweeties” bring back memories for you? Even my husband had fun reminiscing with me!
What was your favorite candy that you spent your pennies on while growing up?
Let’s reminiscence, and I’ll send one of you this four pack of Regal Crown candy from 1953! (Now THIS is what sour cherry candy was meant to be!!)
Comin’ up next month – Classic Christmas Candy in 2020!
Years ago, my mother gave me a cookbook reprinted from 1888 that offered all kinds of advice and recipes for the homemaker. One section was devoted to Confectionaries, and I found their selection of candies, sodas, and ice cream fascinating. Who knew they had so many? And yep, they called them “sweeties.”
Given that I have had a sweet tooth since the time I was old enough to hold a lollipop, I’d love to share with you my trip through history in both the 19th and 20th centuries in the next few blogs.
The author of my cookbook mentions the fortune made by a Mr. Pease in New York with his horehound candy. Ditto with a Mr. H. N. Wild’s candy store on Broadway which must have been a super store at the time, given the description of great numbers of customers (mainly ladies and children) who shopped there at all hours.
But my focus is for the common housewife who made “sweeties” for her family. She was encouraged to use the best refined sugars that left behind no sediment and that had a bright color, such as sugar from the West Indies or Louisiana. She was also encouraged to buy coloring materials and flavoring extracts rather than try to make them herself since educated chemists at the time had perfected them for consistency as well as reasonable price.
After a listing of tools needed, the recipes followed for Butterscotch and Everton taffy. Peanut and black walnut candy were different than what I imagined – no chocolate but covered with a sugar syrup then cut into strips. The Cocoanut and Chocolate Cream candies sounded pretty good, as did the Fig and Raisin Candy, where figs and raisins were laid out in a pan and covered with sugar syrup, cooked slowly over a fire.
Rock candy in various flavors and Ginger candy was pretty self-explanatory. I must admit to being confused on what “paste drops” were. Made with currants, raspberries, pears, apples, and pineapple, I can only imagine them being similar to our Fruit Roll-Ups.
Candy “Tablets” followed. Again, it took some imagining, but since the sugar was boiled, flavored, and poured into molds, I’m thinking the tablets were like our hard candies. Flavors were ginger, orange, vanilla, clove, rose, and fruits like currants, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries, cooked and pressed through a sieve for their juice.
Housewives made their own chewing gum with balsam of tulu, sugar and oatmeal, soaked, mixed, and rolled in powdered sugar, then shaped into sticks.
Caramels were a favorite and poured into 1 inch molds. Caramels came in intriguing flavors like lemon, orange and lime, coffee, chocolate, and orange cream and vanilla. Yum!
Popcorn balls were made with molasses. I bet they were pretty good, too!
Soda Water and Soda ‘Sirups’ were popular, and while it wasn’t impossible to make one’s own for their families, the process was much easier while living near a big city for obvious reasons. Flavors, however, were quite numerous and ranged from Nectar, Sarsaparilla, Walnut, Wild Cherry, Crabapple, and Lemon, to name a few.
Confectioners in the city generally offered “Ice Cream Saloons” to their stores. Adding a saloon was inexpensive and very profitable. The cookbook provided a recipe that made a large quantity. However, other than the traditional flavor of vanilla, only Coffee or Chocolate flavor appeared to be available.
Well, there you have it. A glimpse into an 1800’s homemaker’s candy kitchen!
That’s what the heroine in my brand new release must decide. It proves to be quite a dilemma!
For those of you who have read TRACE, Book #1 in the Bachelors and Babies sweet western romance series, you’ll know he finds a baby on his doorstep and is faced with quite a dilemma then, too.
Now his baby is all grown up and has her own book! HARRIETT is Book #1 in the Cupids and Cowboys sweet western romance series, and readers are loving the connection in both books.
HARRIETT is set at the turn of the century, a time when great medical advances were being made but still had a long way to go in patient comfort and doctoral knowledge. While she was growing up, Harriett’s parents kept a scandalous secret from her, and she finds out quite unexpectedly what that secret is when a U.S. Marshal and a prestigious doctor all the way from New York show up on her family’s ranch.
As I explain in my note to readers, we writers may have to tweak history a bit to fit our stories now and again. In HARRIETT, the New York physician, Dr. Simon Flexner, is a true historical figure who dedicated his life’s work to pathology. The blood groups were well understood by the turn of the century, and the concept of blood transfusions was not new, either. However, the process of injecting blood from one human to another was lengthy, complicated, and completely dependent on the skill of an entire team of surgeons.
By fast forwarding fifteen years to right before the First World War and the medical knowledge gleaned, I could plunk Dr. Flexner into Harriett’s story and give him the skills he needed to transfuse her blood in a fashion my readers could relate to. By then, Dr. Flexner knew about sterilization and anti-coagulants, as well as how to use needles and blood bottles. Instead of a procedure that normally took two to three hours, Dr. Flexner was able to perform it in a matter of minutes.
Much to Harriett’s relief, of course. During her procedure, the reader learns of Dr. Flexner’s skill and Harriett’s courage. Blood transfusions were quite foreign and mostly unheard of. Of course, her family and friends were appalled at what was being asked of her, and well, you’ll have to read the book to see how it all happens!
Are you willing to participate in test trials, like the Covid vaccine? Have you participated in medical research? Have you donated blood or an organ to someone who needed it desperately? Do you trust doctors and their knowledge?
Let’s chat, and I’ll give away TWO ebook copies of HARRIETT!
I tell you what. The news these days is a real downer. Between Covid, violent protests, riots, political bickering…it all makes me want to throw the television across the room and hide my electronic devices under the couch cushions.
Sure makes me wish for simpler times when we didn’t have such easy access to social media, endless replays, and too much journalism that is more about the ratings than it is the truth.
We all need to laugh more. Science says it’s good for our mental health. We all know it’s good for the soul, too.
Here are some cowboy funnies that will brighten your day. At least, they did mine!
The cowboy lay sprawled across three entire seats in the posh Amarillo theatre. When the usher came by and noticed this, he whispered to the cowboy, “Sorry, sir, but you’re only allowed one seat.”
The cowboy groaned but didn’t budge.
The usher became more impatient. “Sir, if you don’t get up from there, I’m going to have to call the manager.”
The cowboy just groaned.
The usher marched briskly back up the aisle. In a moment, he returned with the manager. Together, the two of them tried repeatedly to move the cowboy, but with no success. Finally, they summoned the police.
The cop surveyed the situation briefly then asked, “All right buddy, What’s your name?”
“Sam,” the cowboy moaned.
“Where ya from, Sam?”
With pain in his voice Sam replied…. “The balcony.”
Cowboy Joe was telling his fellow cowboys back on the ranch about his first visit to a big-city church.
“When I got there, they had me park my old truck in the corral,” Joe began.
“You mean the parking lot,” interrupted Charlie, a more worldly fellow.
“I walked up the trail to the door,” Joe continued.
“The sidewalk to the door,” Charlie corrected him.
“Inside the door, I was met by this dude,” Joe went on.
“That would be the usher,” Charlie explained.
“Well, the usher led me down the chute,” Joe said.
“You mean the aisle,” Charlie said.
“Then, he led me to a stall and told me to sit there,” Joe continued.
“Pew,” Charlie retorted.
“Yeah,” recalled Joe. “That’s what that pretty lady said when I sat down beside her.”
A cowboy appeared before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.
“Have you ever done anything of particular merit?” St. Peter asked.
“Well, I can think of one thing,” the cowboy offered. “On a trip to the Big Horn Mountains out in Wyoming, I came upon a gang of bikers who were threatening a young woman. I told them to leave her alone, but they wouldn’t listen. So, I approached the largest and most tattooed biker and smacked him in the face, kicked his bike over, ripped out his nose ring, and threw it on the ground. Then I yelled, ‘Now, back off or I’ll beat you all unconscious.”
Saint Peter was impressed. “When did this happen?”
“Couple of minutes ago.”
The only good reason to ride a bull is to meet a nurse.
Nature gave us all something to fall back on, and sooner or later we all land flat on it.
Don’t squat with your spurs on.
Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.
I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed finding them!
Even more, I hope I’ve uplifted your day. There’s nothing like a cowboy and his humor, that’s for sure!
Does all the bad news drag you down, too?
Do you have a favorite joke or funny story to share?
If not, that’s okay. Just let me know that you’re smiling, and your day is now brighter, and my day will be brighter, too!
So if you missed one or all of the series now is your chance.
At Love’s Commandreleases tomorrow.
This is the first book in my new
Hanger’s Horsemen series.
Haunted by the horrors of war, ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries known as Hanger’s Horsemen who have become legends in 1890s Texas. They defend the innocent and obtain justice for the oppressed. But when a rustler’s bullet leaves one of them at death’s door, they’re the ones in need of saving.
I’m thrilled to share that I was named one of the top 25 most essential Christian novelists of 2020! This list of authors was nominated by fans across all genres. Such an honor to make the list! You can see the entire group here.
Look at what they’re saying about The Outlaw’s Daughter
“This is how historical romance should be written”- Amazon reader
“This is exactly what I’ve been looking for in a good historical romance novel. -Amazon reader
“Wow! This was an absolutely fantastic introduction to the author’s long list of previous works that I can’t wait to pick up!”-It’s What She’s Reading
Puppies have been coming and going so quickly here, finding great new homes! Our newest two are Bella and Mia.
Here’s Bella, before she got in the pool and decided to play in the yard.
Before you panic, the green chair she’s in is the dog chair! Lol!
We love both these sweet girls!
Cover reveal time! Looky, Looky! I know it’s early to be talking about a December release, but I just couldn’t resist showing this off 🙂
To learn more about Her Amish Wedding Quilt, click HERE.
In some fun, non-writing related news, my daughter is expecting (my first grandbaby!!) and things opened up around here enough for us to give her a small, family-only baby shower. I haven’t been able to be as involved with her as much as I would have liked to during her pregnancy because of the quarantine so it was doubly fun for me to be able to celebrate with her this way. Below is picture of me and the mother-to-be!
It’s a new release! Dear Mr. Tindle has arrived!
A shy young woman,
An industrious young man,
And neither knew the other existed. What’s a matchmaker to do?
Mrs. Mahulda Brock had been tasked with a very important mission. Matchmaking! Not that she hadn’t done a little before… But this was different. For one, she had to find ways to bring two young people in her home town of Independence together. Finding things to make that happen wasn’t easy. But with the help of her long time friends, Mercy, Martha, and Maude, she’d manage, wouldn’t she? After some trial and error, she wasn’t so sure. Worse, she noticed the young couple in her charge weren’t the only ones bereft of love. There were others. How was she going to manage to bring together so many lonely hearts? Find out in this sweet, clean romantic romp that only Kit Morgan can deliver!
While reading my sister filly, Phyliss Miranda’s, blog last week on being a frugal housewife, I couldn’t help being thrown back into my childhood and remembering all the countless times my own mother had to be frugal while raising babies that kept coming almost every year. (To read Phyliss’ blog, click “1800’s Frugal Frontier Housewife”.)
Of course, it’s common knowledge most women settling in the west in the 1800’s had a tough life providing meals and clothing for their families, especially if they were homesteaders living remotely. If they couldn’t sew, knit, cook, bake, butcher stock, tend gardens, and so on, their families suffered. Lazy wasn’t an option! Ditto for women living in barely-settled towns, often with only a single mercantile or two to buy groceries and meat, provided they had working husbands or weren’t widows living on meager savings.
And granted, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, most women lived an easier life while they stayed home with the children and their husbands worked. Many women didn’t drive yet, and even if they did, most likely did not have a second car in the household. Families were larger than they are today. Mothers didn’t have the privilege of running to the grocery store every time an ingredient was missing from her pantry. Grocery stores were small, simply stocked, probably located in the neighborhood and vastly different than the super-markets we have today.
My mother was the iconic mother of the time, just as I described above. Fortunately for us kids, she grew up on her family’s farm and was a great cook, seamstress, and a dynamo when it came to having a clean house.
We lived simply, just like the other families on our street. We didn’t know any better, but we always had three square meals a day.
Here are some of the things she cooked for us:
Bologna, often sliced and fried. Bought in big chubs wrapped in red paper, bologna filled our bellies for years. Sometimes, mom would grate the bologna, add a few ingredients, and call it ham salad.
Sliced hot dogs. She’d split them in half and fry. Probably a substitute for bologna. If she kept the hot dog whole, I don’t recall her using a hot dog bun until years later. We’d use a slice of bread instead. Hot dog buns were available since the early part of the century, but no doubt she considered the bun an extravagance.
Jonathan apples. I barely remember any other fruit in the house but them, bought by the bagful. It was her go-to-snack for us kids. I remember the Jonathans as mushy (and yes, I know they make wonderful pies and crisp!) but to this day, I won’t eat one. Red Delicious was expensive and purchased only for special occasions, and there weren’t the varieties we have today.
Cream of Wheat. I never liked the grainy texture of Cream of Wheat or Coco Wheats, but it sure stuck to our ribs and made for a cheap breakfast. Growing up, I put oatmeal in the same category, but I do like oatmeal now, as long as it’s loaded with nuts, raisins, cinnamon, and milk, none of which, of course, WE had back then!
Mayonnaise sandwiches. Except she never bought mayo, but Miracle Whip. Occasionally, we’d have lunch meat (see bologna above), but I loved mayonnaise sandwiches, always on Wonder Bread. At school, we didn’t have cafeterias, chairs or tables to eat lunch. We sat on the church parking lot, on hard concrete, and never thought twice about it.
Powdered milk. Oh, we hated that! She’d try to sneak it on us kids, but we always knew. She’d stretch the powder by using less, which resulted in watery looking milk. Occasionally, she’d mix real milk in, which I suppose helped, but us kids always knew.
Chicken fryers. She never bought chicken pieces, which were more expensive, so farm girl that she was, she’d cut up whole chickens herself. I can’t even count the number of Sundays we had fried chicken for dinner.
Jell-O. Who among you didn’t have Jell-O made as salads with shredded carrots and chopped celery, fruit cocktail, or canned pears?
“Eat bread with it.” One of her favorite strategies to stretch the main course.
Spaghetti sauce. She never used canned or fresh tomatoes, but used tomato paste and water with the perfect amount of Italian seasonings. My mother’s spaghetti and meatballs (or featherbones) were family favorites, and even my Italian grandmother would have to agree my mother’s sauce was delicious!
Velveeta cheese. We never had cheddar, colby, Provolone, or anything like that. Always Velveeta, which we loved. Very versatile and back then, much cheaper than it is today.
Graham crackers and leftover frosting. If she made a cake and there was extra frosting, into graham crackers it would go, and it was a favorite cookie of ours. I made these many times myself, and now my daughters do, too.
Kool-Aid. I think sugar must’ve been fairly cheap back then, because we had a lot of Kool-Aid, the powder in a package kind. Never soda pop or even lemonade.
Wax paper. She would wrap our sandwiches for school lunches in a sheet of wax paper like a present. Later, wax paper came in sandwich sized sacks that you had to fold at the top. Plastic baggies didn’t come for years later, but even if they were available, she would’ve considered them extravagant.
Oh, I could go on and on. I’m sure you have memories of how you or your mom was frugal decades ago, or even now. How did she save pennies? What was your favorite frugal food?