My Branson Vacation

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. A few weeks ago we took a family vacation to Branson, Mo.

Some of my kids had been there before but I hadn’t so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it turned out, we had a fabulous time!  Nine of us took the trip and seven of us stayed in one condo while two stayed at another which helped extend the time together.

We tried to cram as many of the attractions as we could into the three days we were there. Here’s a list of how we spent our time.

We spent a day at Silver Dollar City (Unfortunately no one took pictures). Several members of the group took advantage of the rides – I didn’t. But there were lots of craft demonstrations ( glass blowers, wood working, pottery, etc.) and fun shops to keep me happily entertained.  One of the things I found that I just couldn’t pass up was this dragonfly puzzle box. I love dragonflies and collect trinket boxes so it seemed custom made just for me 🙂

 

We caught the Sight & Sound Theater’s production of Jesus. The production value was absolutely AMAZING! I had an aisle seat and there were live animals – sheep, pigs, horses, camels, birds – some of which ran up and down the aisles close enough to touch. And the sets themselves were active, realistic and altogether fabulous.

 

We toured Wild World where there were many more animals than I expected – sharks, reptiles, birds, creepy crawlers and lots of furry critters. The highlight of this particular outing was when three members of our group were able to get up close and personal with some lemurs.

 

We also stopped in at the Titanic Museum. The tour started with the staff handing everyone a bording ticket complete with the name of an actual passenger who sailed aboard the Titanic. The ticket contained personal info on that passenger including name, position, ticket class and some other notes. At the end of the tour you found out if ‘you’ survived or not. I was the ladies maid for a dowager and assigned to second class.
I learned so much during the tour. At one point we were able to stick our hands in a vat of liquid that duplicated the temperature and density of the water surrounding the wreck – Brrrrr!

Here I am standing in front of a reproduction of the grand staircase. (By the way, my character was among the survivors. 🙂 )

 

Another place we visited was the Butterfly Palace. It was so fun to go inside the plant conservatory and let the butterflies approach and feed on the blossoms the staff provided.
There was also a great little mirror maze tucked inside the same building. I would probably still be wandering around looking for a way out if I hadn’t had my daughter and grandson there to help me find my way 🙂

 

But my favorite part of the whole trip was our visit to Top of the Rock. There is a two and a half mile nature trail that you can navigate on your own via a golf cart. The scenery was fabulous – rock formations, a cave, waterfalls, wildlife, streams, covered bridges.

There were also these wonderful wildlife medallions embedded in the metal fencing and bridge headers along the trail that I found were so intriguing. I’ve been trying to do a little research into them but so far haven’t had much luck.

 

We capped off the vacation by having a game night our last evening there. We ordered pizzas and played a rousing game of Mexican Train dominoes. Since we are a highly competitive bunch it was loud and energetic and fabulously fun!

 

So there you have it, our first family vacation since before the pandemic.

What was your own favorite vacation? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your choice of any book from my backlist.

 

And don’t forget to come by on Thursday to help us celebrate our 15th birthday!!

 

Spread  the word – there are going to be BIG prizes and BIG fun!

Play Fifteen Filly Fact or Fib? and you could win!

Happy Birthday to us!

Black Eagle. My Freedom Book.

Howdy!

Well it’s another terrifically splendid Tuesday!

One of my books, BLACK EAGLE, is on sale for $.99.  But, it will be returning to its original price of $4.99 soon — perhaps tomorrow.

Since this blog is mighty close to July 4th, I thought I’d talk a little about it.  The book was written as I was getting to know Michael Badnarik, the Presidential Candidate 2004 on the Libertarian Party.  He had a “radio” show on the internet and I used to listen to it everyday and I — who thought I knew a lot about our Founding Fathers and the history of the American Revolution — came to find out I actually knew very little.  We became friends because I used to call in to the show.

The picture to the left was taken in Los Angeles, when Michael had come to the area to give his Constitution lectures.

Anyway, as I began to study more and more of this particular time period, I came across the Iroquois Indians and their form of government.  Benjamin Franklin used their form of gov’t as a model for what our Constitution could become.  It was rumored that Thomas Paine spent a year living with the Iroquois.

And so I thought I’d write about the Iroquois and what I had learned from my delving into the American Revolution time period.  Now, in fact, the book is set during the French and Indian War because this war was a civil war between the Mohawk Indians who had been separated by a Jesuit priest.  Half of the tribe went into Canada and sided with the French during the war and half of the tribe stayed in upper state New York and sided with the Colonists.  When their form of government was established by the Peacemaker, he cautioned them to never fight each other.  And so, when they did go to war — brother against brother — they lost most of their land and many of them were scattered or left to go west.

The Iroquois Nation was originally composed of 5 tribes and eventually 6.  And, it was founded not upon war and not for the gain of some few nor for any other reason except to establish Freedom and Peace.  And for roughly 500 years, they established both Freedom and Peace.  (Historians usually get the founding of their gov’t in the 1400’s instead of the 1100’s.  But the Iroquois scholars know that the event that established the Iroquois Confederation occurred in the 1100’s.  A similar one occurred in 1400, but the Iroquois Confederation was already alive and well in the 1400’s.)

 

Benjamin Franklin had this to say about the Iroquois:

Remarks from Benjamin Franklin Regarding the American Indian

 

“Savages we call them, because their Manners differ from ours, which we think the Perfection of Civility. They think the same of theirs.”

“The Indian Men when young are Hunters and Warriors; when old, Counsellors; for all their Government is by Counsel of the Sages; there is no Force, there are no Prisons, no Officers to compel Obedience, or inflict Punishment. Hence they generally study Oratory; the best Speaker having the most Influence. The Indian Women till the Ground, dress the Food, nurse and bring up the Children, & preserve & hand down to Posterity the Memory of public Transactions. These Employments of Men and Women are accounted natural & honorable. Having few artificial Wants, they have abundance of Leisure for Improvement by Conversation. Our laborious Manner of Life compar’d with theirs, they esteem slavish & base; and the Learning on which we value ourselves, they regard as frivolous & useless…”

“Having frequent Occasions to hold public Councils, they have acquired great Order and Decency in conducting them. The old Men sit in the foremost Ranks, the Warriors in the next, and the Women & Children in the hindmost. The Business of the Women is to take exact Notice of what passes, imprint it in their Memories, for they have no Writing, and communicate it to their Children. They are the Records of the Councils, and they preserve Traditions of the Stipulations in Treaties 100 Years back, which when we compare with our Writings we always find exact. He that would speak rises. The rest observe a profound Silence. When he has finish’d and sits down; they leave him 5 or 6 Minutes to recollect, that if he has omitted any thing he intended to say, or has any thing to add, he may rise again and deliver it. To interrupt another, even in common Conversation, is reckon’d highly indecent. How different this is, from the Conduct of a polite British House of Commons where scarce every person without some confusion, that makes the Speaker hoarse in calling to Order and how different from the Mode of Conversation in many polite Companies of Europe, where if you do not deliver your Sentence with great Rapidity, you are cut off in the middle of it by the Impatients Loquacity of those you converse with, and never suffer’d to finish it—”

“When any of them come into our Towns, our People are apt to crowd round them, gaze upon them, & incommode them where they desire to be private; this they esteem great Rudeness, the Effect of & Want of Instruction in the Rules of Civility & good Manners. We have, say they, as much Curiosity as you, and when you come into our Towns, we wish for Opportunities of looking at you; but for this purpose we hide our Selves behind Bushes where you are to pass, and never intrude ourselves into your Company—”

“Their Manner of entering one another’s villages has likewise its Rules. It is reckon’d uncivil in travelling Strangers to enter a Village abruptly, without giving Notice of their Approach. Therefore as soon as they arrive within Hearing, they stop & hollow, remaining there till invited to enter. Two old Men usually come out to them, and lead them in. There is in every Village a vacant Dwelling called the Strangers House. Here they are plac’d, while the old Men go round from Hut to Hut, acquainting the Inhabitants that Strangers are arriv’d who are probably hungry & weary; and every one sends them what he can spare of Victuals & Skins to repose on. When the Strangers are refresh’d, Pipes & Tobacco are brought, and then, but not before, Conversation begins with Enquiries who they are, whither bound, what News, &c, and it usually ends with Offers of Service if the Strangers have occasions of Guides or any Necessaries for continuing their Journey and nothing is exacted for the Entertainment.”

Benjamin Franklin, 1782—1783

Source: http://www.wampumchronicles.com/benfranklin.html

Anyway, I will leave you with the above, which I found fascinating.  Also, I’ll be giving away an e-book of BLACK EAGLE and also one of SENECA SURRENDER, so please do leave a comment.

 

To Invite Parents Into A Story or Not

Many of my books deal with the theme of family of choice. There are a couple reasons why. I’ve always been geographically separated from family and then later, I became estranged from my parents. This changed my writing and my definition of family.

Another reason I turned to this theme is because having parents–ones who have a solid relationship with their children, offer advice when asked without dictating, forgive their children, are mentally healthy, and set good examples–is tough. At least for me, they muck up a story. They often keep their children from making bonehead mistakes that drive a story and create conflict. Why? Partly because they’ve raised children to consider options before acting, gave them a solid moral base, and are present during rough times.

That’s why either my hero or heroine often have past issues from with one or both parents. Let’s face it. Anyone who’s a parent has worried about screwing up their kid. I often joked I hoped I wouldn’t botch parenting so bad my kids spent spent in a therapist’s office. But in romance novels, emotionally damaged characters make for create conflict and character growth. How we’re raised, our emotional baggage and wounds, taint how we see the world and influence our every relationship. For example, Zane in To Marry a Texas Cowboy has major family baggage. Like two  large suitcases and a trunk’s worth.

 

Here’s an excerpt that shows how two relationships shaped Zane’s life.

“Why isn’t your old man helping out?”

“He’s in Europe trying to patch up marriage number three. Good thing, too, because he’d be a worse choice than her assistant.” How could folks as wonderful as his grandparents have raised such a shit for a son? Someone who would lead two completely separate lives with two families?

“I’m thinking a man who breaks out in hives when he hears the word wedding has no business managing a wedding planning company,” Cooper said. “If you ask me, that’s looking for trouble.”

Zane wouldn’t let  Grandma Ginny, the one person who’d been there for him his entire life, loving him unconditionally and acting as a guiding force, put her future at risk. He’d do anything this side of legal for her.

Even run Lucky Stars Weddings.

 

Another thing I like about parental absence in my stories is it allows friends to occupy a prominent role. I love creating banter between good friends, who as Elbert Hubbard says, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” That kind of friend will also tell you when you’re being an ass, and often do in my books.

 

Here’s an example of the heroes in To Tame a Texas Cowboy, who view themselves as family.

“What did this one do? Is she another one with a hyena in heat laugh?” Ty asked, pulling Cooper back to the conversation.

AJ dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “Nah, can’t be that. Not even Coop could find two of those. Ten bucks says this one talked too much.”

“I’m still here, guys, and I’d rather skip the psychoanalyzing session. If you’re interested, I think I can scrounge tickets to the Alabama game. If we can beat them, we’ve got a real shot at the national title,” Cooper said, hoping to channel the conversation onto football and off his love life, or lack thereof.

“I say Coop connected with this one on Facebook, and she posts pictures of her food all the time.” Ty tossed a ten on top of AJ’s, completely ignoring Cooper’s change of subject.

Damn. He was in trouble if tickets to the A&M Alabama game failed to divert his buddies.

Zane tossed a bill on the stack and rubbed his chin while he flashed a perfect white smile at the women two tables over who’d been giving him the eye.

When he glanced back at his friends, he said, “I peg her as the strong, assertive type who’s recently divorced and is still in her angry phase. I say she complained about her ex.”

His friends stared, waiting for him to declare the winner. Betting wasn’t much fun when he was the topic. While AJ and Ty weren’t correct now, in the past, he’d lost interest in women for both the reasons they predicted. Tonight, Zane came damn close. Too close.

“Zane, sometimes you’re damn scary when it comes to women. How do you do it?”

“Years of extensive research.” Zane grinned as he scooped up the cash.

 

So, that’s why I often don’t include a parent or parents in my stories. Another time I’ll chat about the couple times I have had a parent be a prominent character.

 

To be entered in my random giveaway for the cactus T-shirt, coozie, and a signed copy of Family Ties, leave a comment telling me what you think about having the hero or heroine’s parent(s) as main characters in a story.

Heather Blanton Finds An Angel on the Loose

In my new book releasing today, Penelope, Book 6 in the Love Train series, my heroine has to pretend to be a nun. This is, of course, a substantial obstacle to the hero who fights falling in love with her. He has to wonder, though, what kind of a nun can’t keep her veil on and doesn’t know her Bible? But when called upon to help an abused Indian girl, Penelope rises to the task with plenty of heart.

The way this story went put me in mind of a young Catholic girl who, while she didn’t don a habit, impacted the West forever with her faith.

In 1850, at about the age of five, Nellie Cashman immigrated to Boston from Ireland with her sister and widowed mother. The three spent almost fifteen years together there, but then relocated west to San Francisco around 1872. Nellie and her mother, both of whom apparently had an adventurous streak, decided to move on to the bustling, untamed mining town of Pioche, NV. They only stayed a few years, but Nellie was deeply involved with

the Catholic church there, helping with fundraisers and bazaars.

When her aging mother decided Pioche was a little too wild for a senior citizen, she and Nellie returned to San Francisco. Nellie, however, didn’t stay. She left her mother with her married sister and headed north alone to British Columbia to another rough-and-rowdy mining town. She opened a boarding house in the Cassiar District and tried her hand at mining.Now, most girls in this situation, hanging around with such an unsavory crowd, might get into mischief, forget their morals. Herein lies the quirky thing about Nellie: she loved to help people, sometimes through hell and high water…and avalanches.

In the winter of 1874-75, Nellie took a trip to Victoria where she helped establish the Sisters of St. Ann Hospital. Over the coming decades, she would continue to be a stalwart supporter of this hospital and several others. She is most famous, though, for what she did upon leaving Victoria.

Traveling back to Cassiar, she heard a blizzard had stranded dozens of the folks from the district. They were trapped, hungry, and experiencing a scurvy epidemic, to boot. Nellie immediately hired men and sleds, acquired medicine and supplies and started out for Cassiar. It took the group 77 days in unimaginable conditions to reach the miners. Nellie then worked tirelessly to nurse the folks back to health.

Her feat was so astounding, so fearless, the story was picked up by the newspapers. With good cause, she came to be known to the miners as their “Angel of the Cassiar.”

Nellie was a legitimate legend.

She was also a restless girl, constantly on the move from one raunchy mining town to the next. After the death of her sister, she continued to feed her wanderlust, but with five nephews and nieces in tow. To keep food on the table, she bought and sold restaurants, and even owned and worked her own claims.

She spent several years in Tombstone, AZ where she rubbed shoulders with larger-than-life figures like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Nellie’s faith, however, was as ingrained on her heart as cactus on the dessert. Even in wild-and-wooly Tombstone, she worked to build the city’s first hospital and Roman Catholic church.

Nellie worked tirelessly to make the world a better place and still managed to raise five upstanding citizens while keep her mines working. When she passed away in 1925, she did so in the Sisters of St. Anne hospital that she had funded for nearly fifty years.

Today Heather is giving away 5 copies of Penelope! For a chance to win one, tell Heather what ways you think we can make an impact in our local communities or neighborhoods.

Buy PENELOPE on Amazon!

Lake Bride

It’s funny how one thing leads to another and the next thing you know, you’re writing a book you hadn’t planned on writing.

My dad’s cousin, JJ, often sends him funny quotes or memes, or things to make him smile. He also shares interesting tidbits of information. Dad chooses the things he likes best and sends them on to me.

One of his “chosen favorites” from JJ was a lovely post written about the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at  Arlington National Cemetery.  I’d heard of the cemetery, had never visited it, and knew there were guards, but that was about the extent of my knowledge when I opened that email from dad.

After reading what was shared, I had to know more. I needed to know more about the soldiers who guard the Tomb and the cemetery. And that knowledge led to me writing a sweet contemporary romance about a Tomb Guard, a nurse, and an array of wacky wildlife.

 

In 1857, George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington, willed an 1,100 acre property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who was married to Robert E. Lee. The Lee family vacated the estate in 1861 at the onset of the Civil War, and federal troops soon occupied the property as a camp and headquarters.

In 1863, the government established Freedman’s Village, on the estate as a way to assist slaves transitioning to freedom. The village provided housing, education, training, and medical care. As the number of Civil War casualties grew faster than other local cemeteries could handle them, the property became a burial location. The first military burial took place on May 13, 1864, when Private William Christman was laid to rest there.

That June, the War Department officially set aside 200 acres of the property to use as a cemetery. By the end of the war, thousands of service members and former slaves were buried there.  Eventually, the Lee family received compensation for the property although the land remained with the War Department. Today, the cemetery has since grown to exceed 600 acres and is one of the oldest national cemeteries in America.

Evolving from a place of necessity to a national shrine to those who have served honorably in our Nation, the rolling hills have become the final resting place to more than 400,00 active duty service members, veterans, and their families. An average of 27-30 services are held each week day and more than 3,000 ceremonies and memorial services take place each year. Among the notable graves include presidents (President Kennedy and President Taft), astronauts (including John Glenn and Christa McAuliffe), and celebrities (such as Maureen O’Hara, Lee Marvin, and Audie Murphy).

At first, being buried at Arlington was not considered an honor, but it did ensure service members whose families couldn’t afford to bring them home for a funeral were given a proper burial. The first official Decoration Day (later renamed Memorial Day) was held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. The event was so popular, an amphitheater was constructed in 1873 to hold the official ceremonies. By the late 1870s, high-ranking veterans began requesting burial in the Officers’ Sections.

In 1899, the U.S. Government began, at its own expense, repatriating service members who died overseas during the Spanish-American War. The cemetery expanded to include Sections 21, 22, and 24. Congress authorized, in 1900, a designated section for Confederate soldiers. After World War I, more than 2,000 service members were repatriated and interred in Sections 18 and 19.

 

In October 1921, four bodies of unidentified U.S. military personnel were exhumed from various American military cemeteries in France. The four caskets were taken to the city hall of Châlons-sur-Marne (now called Châlons-en-Champagne), France. Town officials and members of the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps had prepared the city hall for the selection ceremony. Early on the morning of October 24, 1921, Maj. Robert P. Harbold of the  Quartermaster Corps oversaw the arrangement of the caskets so that each rested on a shipping case other than the one in which it had arrived. Major Harbold then chose Sgt. Edward F. Younger of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 50th Infantry, American Forces in Germany, to select the Unknown Soldier. Sgt. Younger selected the Unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets.  From Châlons-sur-Marne, the Unknown journeyed by caisson and rail to the port town of Le Havre, France. From Le Havre, the Unknown Soldier’s casket was transported to Washington, D.C.  on the USS Olympia. The Unknown Soldier arrived at the Washington Navy Yard on November 9, 1921, and was taken to the Capitol Rotund. The Unknown lay in state in there on November 10 with around 90,000 visitors paying their respects that day.

On November 11, 1921, the Unknown was placed on a horse-drawn caisson and carried in a procession through Washington, D.C. and across the Potomac River. A state funeral ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery’s amphitheater, and the Unknown was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nationwide, Americans observed two minutes of silence at the beginning of the ceremony. President Warren G. Harding officiated the ceremony and placed the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, on the casket. Additionally, numerous foreign dignitaries presented their nations’ highest awards.

Originally, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier consisted of a simple marble slab. Thousands of visitors came to Arlington National Cemetery to mourn at the Tomb and to pay their respects to the Unknown Soldier and the military personnel he represented. The tomb was unguarded, since most people were respectfully. But it became more popular with people to treat the tomb as a tourist attraction. It’s said some even picnicked on the tomb because of the grand view it provided.

In 1926, the Army assigned soldiers as guards. A sarcophagus was installed in 1932.  The Tomb sarcophagus is decorated with three wreaths on each side panel (north and south). On the front (east), three figures represent Peace, Victory and Valor. The back (west) features the inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” (This inscription gets to me every time I read it.)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to select and pay tribute to the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War in 1956. The selection ceremonies and the interment of these Unknowns took place in 1958. The caskets of the World War II and Korean Unknowns arrived in Washington on May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until the morning of May 30. They were then carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns of World War II and the Korean War were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade. A Vietnam Unknown was added in 1984. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown, and also acted as next of kin by accepting the interment flag at the end of the ceremony. With modern technology, the Vietnam Unknown was exhumed in 1998 and identified. His remains were transported to his family in St. Louis, where he was reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The slab over the empty crypt was since been replaced. The inscription of “Vietnam” has been changed to “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen 1958 – 1975” as a reminder of the commitment of the Armed Forces to the fullest possible accounting of missing service members.

Beginning in 1937, guards were stationed 24-hours a day to keep watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In 1948, the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), took over the prestigious duty and continue to guard the Tomb today. Known as sentinels, the soldiers provide security for the Tomb, lead ceremonies, and maintain the sanctity of the space. To them, they honor the Unknowns through the precision of their rituals.

The sentinels are amazing.

After digging into the research of this unique soldier, they have my highest respect and admiration for their service and dedication.

Soldiers who volunteer to become Tomb guards must go through a strict selection process and intensive training. Each element of their routine has meaning. The guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns and faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, and then takes 21 steps down the mat. Next, the Guard executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place his/her weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. The number 21 symbolizes the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed: the 21-gun salute.

Now imagine doing that in searing summer heat (in a wool uniform), in pouring rain, or freezing snow. It’s what they do. Every single day.

The Sentinels have a creed they live by. One of my favorite lines is this one: And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection.

In my sweet romance Lake Bride (releasing June 23), the hero has spent the past two years of his life as a Sentinel. He’s at a crossroads in his life, trying to find himself and direction for his future. When his favorite relative, Uncle Wally, passes away and leaves him a cabin on a lake in Eastern Oregon, Bridger sees the perfect opportunity to get away and figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

If you read my book Henley that was part of the Love Train series, Bridger is a great-great-great-grandson to Evan and Henley Holt!

A solemn soldier.

A woman full of sunshine.

And the lake where they fall in love.

Twenty-one steps. The past two years of Bridger Holt’s life have centered on the twenty-one steps he repeatedly walks back and forth as one of the sentinels guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Now that his duty is coming to an end, Bridger has no idea what to do with the rest of his life. Guilt from his past and trepidation about his unknown future drive him to the mountain cabin he inherited from his beloved uncle to gain clarity and direction. The quirky residents in the nearby town of Holiday, the assortment of wildlife that adopts him, and the woman who shines a light into his tattered soul might be what Bridger needs to find the redemption he seeks.

Outgoing, upbeat Shayla Reeves spreads sunshine wherever she goes. Holiday has become her home, and she enjoys spending time in the mountains around town. She adores the patients in the dementia facility where she works as a nurse. But something is missing from her mostly joyful world. When she mistakenly camps on private land owned by the mysterious and brooding Bridger Holt, she realizes what her life is lacking isn’t adventure but love.

Will two opposite personalities overcome their challenges and figure out a way to build a future together?

Find out in this sweet love story full of hope, small-town humor, and the wonder of falling in love.

Pre-order your copy of Lake Bride today!

 

You can get a free Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Commemorative Guide to download at this link: https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Interactive/2021/10-tomb-of-the-unkown-soldier/TUS-Commemorative-Guide.pdf

To enter for a chance to win a Lake Bride postcard, bookmark, and some other fun goodies,

just share if you’ve ever been to Arlington National Cemetery.

If yes, what did you most enjoy there?

If no, share about a place you’ve visited that was special to you. 

Janice Cole Hopkins: A Few Bumps in the Road

The Fillies give a big welcome to Janice Cole Hopkins. She’s a long-time P&P follower and a lover of history as well as historical western romance. Janice writes her own books many of which are series! Now that’s a big Yee-Haw!

As wagon trains began making the trek west, more of the West opened to settlers. The midwestern states were once the frontier to be settled. However, the discovery of gold in California and the rich, fertile land in Oregon brought larger numbers.

To help protect the pioneers against hostile Indians and to give them a trading post along the way, forts were built. Forts Laramie, Bridger, and Hall in what is now Wyoming were constructed of logs, mostly cottonwood. Fort Kearney in Nebraska was built using adobe, sod, logs, and boards. Fort Boise in Idaho first used adobe. Travelers were excited to visit a fort and break the austere, often monotonous life on the trail. Yet, they found the prices outrageous because it cost to transport the goods there.

In my new release, A Few Bumps in the Road, Judith Johnson takes her younger brother and travels along a portion of the Oregon Trail to Kansas as a mail-order bride after their parents die. She meets her intended and his brother at Fort Ferguson, a fictitious fort based on most of the others I researched. Her husband, although handsome and charming, turns out to be a womanizer and has a drinking problem.  Judith is determined to make her marriage work, however, and she keeps telling herself her situation could be worse. At least Calvin’s older brother is stable and responsible, providing a home for all of them on the farm. But farm life on the prairie can be hard in 1850, and Calvin’s attitude makes the struggles even worse. But she knew one thing. After the harsh conditions on the Oregon Trail, she never planned to go back, and she hadn’t even gone all the way to Oregon like most of the others were doing.

Although A Few Bumps in the Road is part of the Idioms & Clichés series, like all my books, it can also be read as a standalone. These books are loosely connected by one family’s generations. It is available in print, Audible, and Kindle.

Here’s an excerpt:

Judith’s eyes began to sweep around the fort when she saw a tall man striding their way. Despite his long steps he didn’t appear to be in any hurry to get there.

Mr. Davis took a few steps forward to meet him and extended his hand. Robbie followed Mr. Davis, so Judith did too.

“Good to see you again,” Mr. Davis said. “Allow me to present to you Miss Judith Johnson and her brother Robert, better known as Robbie. Miss Johnson, this is Matthew Miller.”

A momentary flash of surprise flickered over Matthew’s face, but he tipped his hat and nodded. “A pleasure, Miss. Welcome, Robbie. I hope you both will be very happy here.”

She looked around wondering where Calvin could be. She didn’t see another man who fit what she knew of her fiancé.

“Cal woke up not feeling well and needed some extra time. He sent me on out to meet you, but he should be coming along soon.” Matthew must have seen her search.

“I hope nothing’s wrong.”

“No, we came into the fort yesterday evening. Cal woke up with a headache and queasy stomach this morning.”

Judith’s worry deepened, but she didn’t say anything.

“Come and we’ll go over to the building they use for a church. Cal will meet us there.”

You can read more of A Few Bumps in the Road in the Amazon sample and get more information by clicking here.

If anyone would like a free code for an Audible copy for A Few Bumps in the Road, message me on Facebook or email me at janicecolehopkins@gmail.com. (You must have the free Audible account activated to redeem the code.)

For a chance to win a Kindle copy of A Few Bumps in the Road, what do you think would be ONE of the biggest hazards to living on the Kansas frontier in 1850?

Musical Inspiration

Today I’m giving you an insight on how music occasionally influences my writing. But it’s not how you might expect. I don’t write with music on because if I like a song, then I start singing along. Then my train of thought is shattered. Like now. I’m sitting in Starbucks writing and “Defy Gravity” from the musical Wicked has come on. Excuse me while I sing under my breath…

Okay, I’m back. However, occasionally songs play a big part in my stories. In To Marry A Texas Cowboy, George Strait’s “Here For A Good Time” became my hero’s theme song. Despite knowing Zane’s backstory and him almost taking over a couple books in the series, when I started his story, I couldn’t grasp him. He put up a good front, even from me. But when I heard “Here For A Good Time” Zane’s personality and fears fell into place.

Zane had a rough past. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read To Marry A Texas Cowboy, but Zane’s dad was a piece of work and his mom wasn’t a winner either. To cope or survive really, he lived in the moment. Everything was about having a good time. That drove his actions and his life.

Here For A Good Time

Source: Musixmatch  Songwriters: Bubba Straight / Dillon Dean / George H Strait

I’m not gonna lay around
And whine and moan for somebody that done me wrong
Don’t think for a minute
That I’m gonna sit around and sing some old sad song
I believe it’s half-full not a half-empty glass
Every day I wake up knowing it could be my last

I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
So bring on the sunshine, to hell with the red wine
Pour me some moonshine
When I’m gone, put it in stone “He left nothing behind”
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time

Folks are always dreaming about what they like to do
But I like to do just what I like
I’ll take the chance, dance the dance
It might be wrong but then again it might be right
There’s no way of knowing what tomorrow brings
Life’s too short to waste it, I say bring on anything

I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
So bring on the sunshine, to hell with the red wine
Pour me some moonshine
When I’m gone, put it in stone “He left nothing behind”
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time
I ain’t here for a long time
I’m here for a good time

 

And speaking of Wicked, when attending that musical, the solution to the same problem with my heroine, Maggie in Bet On A Cowboy hit me. When Elphaba sang “I’m Not That Girl” I instantly knew everything about Maggie. I even whispered, “she’s Elphaba” right there in my Broadway seat.

Maggie believed love wasn’t in her future. She was just too plain, too average in every way to attract a man’s notice. As the director of a Bachelor type reality show, she’s surrounded by beautiful, outgoing, extraordinary women and is constantly reminded she doesn’t measure up. The mindset Elphaba shows in “I’m Not That Girl” guided Maggie’s actions and interactions in life.

 

I’m Not That Girl

Source: Musixmatch  Songwriters: Schwartz Stephen Laurence / Sandford Steve

Hands touch, eyes meet
Sudden silence, sudden heat
Hearts leap in a giddy whirl
He could be that boy
But I’m not that girl

Don’t dream too far
Don’t lose sight of who you are
Don’t remember that rush of joy
He could be that boy
I’m not that girl

Every so often we long to steal
To the land of what-might-have-been
But that doesn’t soften the ache we feel
When reality sets back in

Blithe smile, lithe limb
She who’s winsome, she wins him
Gold hair with a gentle curl
That’s the girl he chose
And Heaven knows
I’m not that girl

Don’t wish, don’t start
Wishing only wounds the heart
I wasn’t born for the rose and the pearl
There’s a girl I know
He loves her so
I’m not that girl

I shouldn’t be surprised songs have helped me grasp my characters and their relationships. Songs have always spoken to me and helped me make sense out of life. Why shouldn’t they do the same with my writing?

To be entered in today’s random giveaway for the car coasters, air freshener, and signed copy of Family Ties leave a comment on what song has or could serve as a theme for you?

My Latest Release is Out!

It’s an exciting week for me – the release of my first Love Inspired Suspense – WILDFIRE THREAT was the 24th. Whoo, hoo! I loved every moment of writing this book, and I realized why when I recently gave an interview. So many things about Wildfire Threat are very personal and special for me, and not just because it’s my first Love Inspired Suspense.

I’ve been writing for Harlequin a long time. I admit it, I sometimes don’t have to work as hard as other authors to land a new contract. My editor knows me and can depend on me to deliver a book in good shape and on time. But when this opportunity came around, I had to work hard for it and go up against a lot of other authors. There was no golden ticket or cutting to the head of the line. When I got the call, I felt really good. My hard work paid off.

Purchase Wildfire Threat

As you can guess from the title, the story is about a wildfire. In this case, it’s headed straight for the fictional Arizona small town of Happenstance. For many, many years, we owned a small vacation home in Young, Arizona, a place that’s considered the most remote town in the state. One year, a wildfire came close enough we could watch it from our front porch. That inspired the book that became my first Harlequin sale about a Hotshot. About ten years ago, the Young fire came “this” close to destroying the town. Yes, it was the inspiration for Wildfire Threat.

My son, an avid outdoor enthusiast, helped me brainstorm the book. We had several long sessions where we tossed ideas back and forth. Okay, I tossed ideas out there, and he told me why they wouldn’t work. He is the source for much of my information about herding cattle and driving trucks and ATV through the burning wilderness.

Lastly, the heroine’s grandfather suffers from dementia. My own sweet mother, who I lost last year, suffered greatly from this terrible disease. It did my heart good to write about the love and devotion my heroine has for her grandfather, the tender, kind and respectful way my hero treats the older man, and how the family copes — which isn’t always easily. Writing the grandfather allowed me to honor my mother in a small but meaningful way.

To celebrate the release, I’m having a giveaway — one of my coffee mugs, a Starbucks gift card, some author bling and couple of previous books. To enter, you just have to make a comment. That’s all.

For anyone interested joining my newsletter, you can email me at: cathymcdavid@yahoo.com It’s not necessary for entering this giveaway. Just if you’d like to keep up on the latest news about me.

Thank you for letting me share my good news with you and tell you about my newest book.

Hugs,

Cathy McDavid

Pendleton Petticoats Get a Makeover

The past six weeks or so I’ve been working on a big project.

Oddly enough, it doesn’t involve writing, at least not directly.

Like clothes that get worn out or a house that needs painted, sometimes book covers need a makeover.

Then multiply that times ten because instead of giving one book a makeover, I gave a whole 10-book series a brand new look.

I’m excited to share these new Pendleton Petticoats covers with you today. In fact, you are the first to get to see them!

Before I share them though, I thought I’d walk you through some of the changes one or two of the covers have gone through since I first published the books.

When I originally released  Aundy, the first book in the series, I had zero budget for hiring someone to design covers or buying high quality images.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? This desperate measure was for me to pull on a blue calico wrapper my mom had made eons ago, pin eyelet lace inside it so it looked like a petticoat hanging out, and lace up a pair of reproduction Edwardian era boots (talk about pinched toes!) I’d had since high school days. I enlisted Captain Cavedweller to take the photo, then I added in the sheep and the wheat field in the background. I try not to cringe when I see it now. At the time, it filled a need!

Fast forward to 2017 when I had a subscription to a stock image website. By then, I’d picked up a few design skills (not nearly enough, but a few!).

This was the original graphic I used for the new Aundy cover. It had some great elements.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of “dressing” models in photos. It’s a lot harder than it might seem when the model is in a reclined position like this. Again, it filled a need when I wanted an upgrade.

 

What do you think of the new and improved Aundy?

I love this so much, mostly because this is exactly how I picture Aundy, from the braided hair to the peach-hued gown, to her sheep grazing in the distance. I really did have a lot of fun designing this cover.

Here’s another makeover example.

 

 

It was impossible when I was working on Millie’s story to find any appropriate artwork for the cover. You see, Millie is strongly against alcohol being sold in town and becomes one of the leaders of the local temperance union. How to convey that in a cover shot?

Well, yours truly may or may not have ordered a corset, cinched it so tight I could barely breathe, and assembled a costume from things I had buried in the back of the closet (minus the axe, that was CC’s contribution to the photo). I photoshopped in the house in the background and the whiskey barrel.

When I changed the cover in 2017, I decided to ditch the whole temperance idea for the cover and focus on Millie’s job as a telephone operator.

This cover was better, but still not quite right.

 

The new and improved Millie makes my heart so happy. I adore the colors and the fact she’s sitting on a bench reading. It makes me want to sit with her and peek over her shoulder to see what story has her so enthralled.

 

Here they are! All 10 books with shiny new covers!

Set in the western town of Pendleton, Oregon, at the turn of the 20th century, each book in this series bears the name of the heroine, all brave yet very different.

Aundy (Book 1) — Aundy Thorsen, a stubborn mail-order bride, finds the courage to carry on when she’s widowed before ever truly becoming a wife, but opening her heart to love again may be more than she can bear.

Caterina (Book 2) — Running from a man intent on marrying her, Caterina Campanelli starts a new life in Pendleton, completely unprepared for the passionate feelings stirred in her by the town’s incredibly handsome deputy sheriff.

Ilsa (Book 3) — Desperate to escape her wicked aunt and an unthinkable future, Ilsa Thorsen finds herself on her sister’s ranch in Pendleton. Not only are the dust and smells more than she can bear, but Tony Campanelli seems bent on making her his special project.

Marnie (Book 4) — Beyond all hope for a happy future, Marnie Jones struggles to deal with her roiling emotions when U.S. Marshal Lars Thorsen rides into town, tearing down the walls she’s erected around her heart.

Lacy (Book 5) —  Bound by tradition and responsibilities, Lacy has to choose between the ties that bind her to the past and the unexpected love that will carry her into the future.

Bertie (Book 6) — Haunted by the trauma of her past, Bertie Hawkins must open her heart to love if she has any hope for the future.

Millie (Book 7) — Determined to bring prohibition to town, the last thing Millie Matlock expects is to fall for the charming owner of the Second Chance Saloon.

Dally (Book 8) — Eager to return home and begin his career, Doctor Nik Nash is caught by surprise when the spirited Dally Douglas captures his heart.

Quinn (Book 9) — Full of opinions and plans to help women, Quinn Fairfield has no time for such nonsense as falling in love.

Evie (Book 10) — Will a man focused on his work notice the love of a lifetime in his client’s effervescent nanny?

 

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but I think it might just be Aundy. Or maybe Evie. Or Quinn. Or…

Which one is your favorite? 

Post your answer for a chance to win the Pendleton Petticoats boxed set which includes three Pendleton stories!

 

Misty M. Beller On Unusual Settings (and she has a giveaway!)

Hey, y’all!

It’s always such an honor to spend the day with you! The Petticoats and Pistols reader family is one of my favorite places to visit.

Are you a fan of unusual settings in books? I’ve always loved western settings, especially in the mountains. (especially the Rocky Mountains!) My latest release, A Healer’s Promise, has an especially unusual setting—a secret village hidden in caves in the Canadian Rockies. They’ve been completely cut off from the outside world for a hundred years!

This series has been so much fun to write, and I’m often asked if the hidden village of Laurent was a real place. My answer is…it’s possible! J

I was listening to a historical podcast a few years ago that talked about the Vikings and the female warriors who would sometimes gain fame among them. As the hosts talked about the first Viking raids to North America, I started thinking… “What if one of those groups went farther west than any of us thought? What if they found the Canadian Rockies and lived there in a hidden community for centuries?” The thought took hold, and little by little, the idea for the Brides of Laurent series came to life. I eventually changed the village to be a French settlement named Laurent.

Much of the book takes places in the mountains just outside of the village of Laurent, and some of my favorite parts are the snowy winter weather, hiding in a cave, a horse named Chaucer who saves the day…

And of course, our hero and heroine!

From my mind’s first glimpse of Levi and Audrey, I fell in love with them both. Levi is a British spy, and he’s one of those really good guys. He’s strong and capable. A gentleman, who struggles to protect Audrey, especially when his very presence is part of what puts her in danger. And add in the British accent… (happy sigh)

Audrey is one of those caring people who give freely of themselves to help others—and she really loves doing it! She’s a born nurturer, which is one of the reasons she helps Levi escape instead of letting him face unjust punishment because of his background.

Of course, no one is perfect and these two have their share of personal struggles. But I love their hearts throughout the story. And of course, the way things develop to a sizzle between them! I think you’ll love being part of their story as it unfolds. And I hope you love the wild majesty of the Canadian Rockies as much as I do. J

Today, I’m excited to give away a copy of book one in the series, A Warrior’s Heart.
I’d love to hear from you, what are some of your favorite book settings?

Misty M. Beller

Available for preorder! A Healer’s Promise
USA Today bestselling author of romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love.