Category: Research

Research Road Trip

As an author of historical novels, I love it when I get a chance to walk over the same ground as my characters. Most of my research is done online, but every once in a while, I get the chance to get my boots walking in the actual setting of a book I’m writing. This past January was just such an occasion.

During the last weekend of January, I took a research trip to explore the setting of my current work in progress. Not only did I get to dig into the local history of Kingsland, TX, but three writing friends met up with there and turned the weekend into a writing retreat. So wonderful to be blessed by the fellowship of fellow writers and friends.

Anne Mateer and I are in the ticket window with Nancy Kimball (left) and Crystal Barnes (right) in the main living area.

I love staying in historic places whenever possible, and especially when I’m trying to immerse myself in an historic setting. We pulled that off in Kingsland with The Antlers Hotel. The hotel was built by the railroad in 1901 a few years after the rail line came through town in 1892. Unfortunately, it’s about 6 years too modern to include in my story, but it offered fabulous accommodations. I took some photos inside the lobby as well as the exterior.

Since there were four of us, and retreats are much more fun when we can all stay together, we rented a separate building on the property. The Depot cabin we rented had been an actual railroad depot in Muldoon, TX in the 1890’s. I loved opening the door to discover two ticket windows still in place. So fun! Creaky wooden floorboards added to the historical ambiance.

After spending a couple hours on Friday afternoon in the local library’s genealogical section reading up on local families, I drove down to the railroad bridge that is still standing from 1892. I found a really cool tidbit about how folks from the Burnet side of the Colorado River could only get into Kingsland by rails – either on the train or by walking across the railroad bridge. I took a photo from the Burnet side showing the top of the track. I also took a picture from the Kingsland side to show the underside and the pillars. The 4 stone ones are original. The concrete supports were added later.At some point, one or more of my characters is going to be in peril on this bridge. I just need to figure out who and why.

Saturday morning, I took a drive down a country road (and I mean country – dirt, cattle guards, livestock free and ranging) to get some photos of Packsaddle Mountain. It was named for the dip in the middle that makes it resemble a packsaddle on a horse. A major plot point in my novel revolves around this mountain, so being able to see it in person will help me get the details right. A couple decades before my novel’s timeline, this was also the site of the last Indian battle in the region. The settlers, while greatly outnumbered, routed the raiding Apaches and ushered in a time of peace.

On my drive, I also ran into this fellow. Probably not historically accurate, but fun nonetheless.

We finished off the weekend by having brunch on Sunday at the Grand Central Cafe located on the same property where we were staying. It is a grand Victorian home built around the turn of the century and serves wonderful food.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. So much history, so many great conversations, and great food for the imagination and the taste buds . (Crystal Barnes made us her famous farm fresh breakfast with ingredients straight from her very own cow and chickens Saturday morning and fried us up some fresh-off-the-hoof hamburgers for dinner. Yum!)

What are some of your favorite historical locations to visit?

Kingsland was only about a 3-hour drive from my home. Do you have places close to you that are rich in history?

 

Welcome Guest Jodie Wolfe!

Traveling to Texas and Learning How to Shoot

A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Texas and see the area that I featured in my new release, Taming Julia. I actually wrote the story back in 2012, but at the time I visited my husband’s aunt and uncle in 2017, my book had not found a publishing home yet. When I arrived, they asked what I’d like to do while I was in Texas. I wanted to see an area called the Narrows as well as learn how to shoot a derringer, pistol, and rifle.

First order of business was learning how to shoot. My uncle was happy to give me lessons and provided different weapons for me to try. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated by it, but I wanted to see firsthand what my heroine, Jules Montgomery, experienced. Jules is way handier with a gun than I am, but I was able to see and feel what the kick-back after you fire is like. The deafening sound, etc.

One of my husband’s other uncles brought out the big gun for me to shoot. I forget now what it was called. They filled a pumpkin with explosives and instructed me on how to fire the weapon. While you can’t see the pumpkin blowing up on the video, it was a glorious sight of orange falling to the ground after it exploded. I have to admit, shooting was way more fun than I thought it would be. Click here for a chance to see my target practice in Texas.

Next on my list was a visit to the Narrows.

This one took a little more doing since it’s on private property in Texas hill country. My uncle arranged it, and we were given a person tour of the rough terrain. It’s a rocky area that all of a sudden drops off into a wide crevice that’s been carved by the Blanco River during flood stage.

While the scene only takes place in a small portion of my novel, I was able to describe it much better having seen it myself. There also is a small cave in the area. It’s harder to get inside than it was years ago (according to my uncle), but I was still able to envision my heroine and the scene.

While some of my settings in the novels I created are made up, I love being able to travel to the areas where some of them take place so I can see it, and also learn some of the history too. It’s always fun to learn new things too, like how to shoot.

Jules has many new things to learn in Taming Julia. After years on the trail, she’s not exactly wife material, but she longs for home and family, and will do anything to ensure her husband never discovers what she really is.

I’m giving away an e-copy of Taming Julia to one person who leaves a comment.
Share something new that you’ve learned recently.

Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and COMPEL Training. She’s a contributor and co-founder of Stitches Thru Time blog. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at http://www.jodiewolfe.com.

 

Follow Jodie on:

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Matrimony Vine

I was flipping through an old book about the Oregon desert the other day when a photo caught my eye of a vine climbing up the side of an old cabin.

The caption beneath the photo said, “Homesteaders’ wives needed something green in the middle of the gray desert.” 

Of course the photo was black and white, but the description went on to state that most women planted a matrimony vine. 

Matrimony vine? 

Although I loved the name, I’d never heard of it. 

A quick search revealed matrimony vine is also known as Chinese Wolfberry, Chinese Boxthorn, Himalayan Goji, Tibetan Goji. The deciduous shrub has roots that go back to Japan, Korea, and China. 

As the book I was reading stated, homesteaders who were trying to make a living in the sagebrush-dotted desert lands longed for a spot of color, something that would grow with minimal attention and water.  Many of them found what they were searching for with the matrimony vine. 

I could so easily picture a hardworking farm wife dumping her dishwater on the plant, eager to keep it green and growing in the sometimes harsh desert climate, especially those found in the dry interior of California, eastern Washington and eastern Oregon. 

Legends state a newlywed couple would plant the vine at their homestead to bless their marriage.

Matrimony vine was also a “pass along” plant that could be easily dug up and shared with others. Can’t you just see a mother digging up a bit of her beloved plant to share with her daughter when she wed?  The “lifted and gifted” plants seemed to thrive amid the desert climate.

Another way the plants came to America where with Chinese workers. The berries, popularly known as Goji, have been used for centuries by the Chinese in teas, as dried condiments, additions to stews and soups, as well as for medicinal purposes.

Waves of Chinese immigrants began arriving in San Francisco in the 1850s, and with these immigrants came components of their native culture, including the Goji berry. Tens of thousands of immigrants arrived, escaping poverty and civil war in China, initially bound for the gold fields of California. As they journeyed throughout the west for work, the Goji berry traveled along with them.

Today, stands of matrimony vine mark where homesteads long ago lost to time, fire, or other causes, once stood. The shrubs can also be found growing near old Chinese cemeteries.

Sadly, the plants have become host to the potato psyllid which is related to aphids and secretes a toxic saliva during feeding that causes great harm to potato plants. 

During my growing up years on our farm, we had one of these plants growing out behind our milk barn near the shed where we bottle fed calves. I had no idea what it was, but each spring, it burst forth with beautiful purple blossoms and each autumn, bright red berries begged to be picked. My mother told me it was poisonous and to leave it alone. Now I’m kind of wishing I’d plucked a few of those berries anyway. 

And there you have it, how matrimony vine came to be an invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest!

If you close your eyes and envision a homesteader dutifully keeping alive a plant in the midst of dirt and sagebrush, what do you picture?  

Behind the Book ~ The Oak Grove Series

With the release of Christmas with the Outlaw over the holidays, the Oak Grove Series 
that I wrote with Lauri Robinson came to its conclusion. I loved writing this sweet series set in Kansas,
diving into the history of the land and  the people there so that the stories would come alive with authenticity.
I thought I’d share some of the behind the scenes facts that helped drive and layer the plots of each book.

For example ~

 

BOOK #1

FACT:  

A year after the 1878 setting of the first book in the series, I learned that a prominent issue in the state legislature was prohibition. Carrie A. Nation, was living at Medicine Lodge, KS at this time before she began her famous crusade against alcohol. By 1880, an amendment to the state constitution was in place that prohibited the manufacture, sale, or gift of liquor. And by 1881, Kansas had become the first state to prohibit all alcoholic beverages.

FICTION:

So, in Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove (set in 1878) when twin sisters, Mary and Maggie, were “railroaded” into the fledgling town as obstinate mail-order brides-to-be, it was only natural for them to try to escape their predicament. As daughters of a snake-oil salesman, and in the midst of the brewing controversy (pun intended,) they resurrected their past livelihoods and began making their meade-based family health elixir.

 

BOOK #2

FACT:  

Flooding of the Smoky Hill River often occurred in the spring and eventually dams were built along the river to try to control the worst of it. While bridges were slowly being built along the more populated areas of the river (Salina), Oak Grove still had a ferry crossing. In the spring of 1879, the heavy rains brought intense flooding that destroyed the crops and land to the south of the river. In soddies, it wasn’t unusual for the roof to cave in. (For more on this, see Homesteading on the Prairie, a previous post of mine.)

FICTION:

In The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, it was this torrential rain and flooding that necessitated that independent, isolationist Sylvia Marks leave her soggy soddie and brave the river so that she and her son could survive. It also forced her to leave her comfort zone and look to others for help. Eastern-educated Doctor Nelson had a lot to learn about women and life on the prairie, and Sylvia was just the one to teach him, if he’d only put aside his prejudices.

 

BOOK #3

FACT: 

In 1873, George Grant transported four Angus bulls from Scotland to Kansas and showed them at the Kansas City Livestock Exposition. Breeding these bulls with Texas longhorns produced a much heartier breed. (For more see my post From Longhorns to No-Horns.)  In 1874 four Kansas Railroads shipped 122,914 head of Texas cattle to the east. Mennonites from Russia introduced Turkey Red wheat to the state. And the Native Americans were forced to move to the reservation in Oklahoma Territory. In 1878, the last Native American uprising in Kansas occurred in Decatur County.

FICTION:

In Wedding at Rocking S Ranch, Raymond Wolf is looking out for the ranch of his best friend. The ranch had once been an encampment of his mother’s people – the Wichita. He is studying the breeding of the Texas longhorns with Angus cattle. When his best friend’s widow arrives in the autumn with news that she intends to sell the ranch, Wolf’s life is suddenly upended. Amid the arduous work of branding and driving the cattle to market, they discover that the truths they have believed were an illusion, and that what matters most is far more important.

 

BOOK #4

FACT:

Newspaper work is dangerous! Missing fingers and long hours. (See The 19th Century Newspaper Office)  It was fun gathering facts about small-town newspaper offices and touring Midway Village ~ a nearby living history museum. I was able to speak with the docent there who just happened to be a small-town newspaper man!

FICTION:  

In Christmas With the Outlaw, my novella in A Western Christmas Homecoming, Abigail White is a straight-laced, just-the-facts, unemotional journalist. It’s safer for her heart that way. When a man from her past stumbles into her newspaper office to hide from the law, suddenly she is confronted with an emotional crisis. Should she be true to her journalistic sensibilities and report him to the sheriff? Or will her heart win out? She must learn that not all is what it appears on the surface of a person’s life.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Researching my stories always gives my plots more layers ~ even though often I disappear for hours down the “research rabbit hole” chasing trails that are down right fun, but don’t lead anywhere productive. But then…sometimes they do!

 

 

I have been a filly in P&P’s corral for the past four years and the time has come to say an affectionate goodbye. It has been a delight to get to know each of the “fillies” and also the many women who have commented frequently on my posts. Thank you for joining in the fun here! Thank you for the camaraderie and the friendship. Saying goodbye is bittersweet and I will miss being a part of this group.

I wish you all the best!

                                                                                                                                        

HAPPY 2019!

 

Please visit me!

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  GOODREADS

And find my books at

AMAZON  |  BARNES & NOBLE 

 

A Luxury Resort–Was it Really a Ghost Town?

 

My first contemporary western romance, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, will be released on January 24th by Tule Publishing.  Yee-Haw!

I just loved writing this book!  From the moment I envisioned Beau Paxton and Ava Howell in my mind, I fell in love with them.  I used the classic ‘fish out of water’ storyline, and the words just flowed.

Ava has a degree in construction management and drives all the way from New York City to take on a ghost town renovation project to honor a promise she made to her friend, who had made a promise to Beau’s mother. 

And of course, Beau doesn’t WANT his beloved ghost town renovated.  He doesn’t want strangers on his family’s land, he doesn’t want to spend the money, he doesn’t want his grandfather’s legacy (the ghost town) touched or changed from the way he’s always known it, and how it’s been for decades.

Sparks fly, for sure. 

I enjoyed the research, too.  But even before I dug in with Google, I wasn’t sure there was such a thing as renovating a ghost town into a guest resort.

Indeed, there was.

Dunton Hot Springs is located near Telluride, Colorado.  Dunton was first established in 1895 as a mining camp, and as was normal for mining communities springing up in less-than-ideal locations, once the mining peaked, the town died a slow death, eventually becoming deserted in 1918. 

A pair of long-time residents bought the entire town and a few mining claims, operating the land as a cattle ranch, then a dude ranch for a number of years.  Finally, in 1994, the current owners purchased the entire town and devoted seven years to renovating it into the luxury resort it is today.

Visitors can enjoy winter sport activities or bask in the captivating summer landscapes.  They can go glamping in a camp of eight luxury tents, enjoy hot springs that steam in the winter and entice in the summer, or head to Telluride for a stay in the historic Dunton Town House.  For the adventurous, or for those who just want to put their cell phones away and relax in the wilderness, Dunton promises a get-away not to be forgotten.

Rooms at the Town House rent from $350 – $500 per night. Cabin rates range from $1,200 to $2,020 per night. 

Um, yeah.

From its website:

“Apart from the beautiful landscape, Dunton Hot Springs is also the number one all inclusive resort in the US according to TripAdvisor, and number 8 in the entire world. Each cabin is different, but shares some things in common. They are all immaculately decorated with elements that find that spectacular combination of rustic and luxury. Oh, and did we mention one cabin has a private hot spring all to itself?”

Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?  Of course, luxury comes with a cost, and this resort taps into a clientele that is willing to pay the price.

What about you?  Have you ever stayed at a luxury resort or hotel?  Are you willing to splurge on lavish accommodations as part of your vacation?  Can you justify the cost of an expensive room?  Do you love a spa treatment?  Massage?  Is atmosphere an important part of your get-away?  Do you prefer an outdoors vacation?  Or an urban one with all the comforts of home?

Let’s chat!

 

 

Join in, and you might win a $5 Amazon Gift Card!

 

                                                 

                     Available on Amazon                                                                Preorder on Amazon

                Amazon #1 New Release!

Send in the Cavalry! by Regina Jennings

Regina Jennings

 

Please welcome Regina Jennings

who starts off our Friday Guest Posts for the New Year!

 

Regina is a wife, a homeschooling mother of four,
a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, and a voracious reader.
She is also the author of award-winning humorous,
inspirational, historical romantic fiction.

Miss Regina is giving away a print copy of her newest release ~
The Lieutenant’s Bargain
to one lucky person who comments!

 

By Regina Jennings

When I first heard about the competition, I couldn’t believe my luck. You mean there will be cavalry re-enactors showing off their cavalry skills at Fort Reno, the setting of my current series? Yeah, sign me up!

In late September, the U.S. Cavalry Association held their Bivouac and National Cavalry Competition at Fort Reno, Oklahoma—the setting of my current series. Once again, the fort sounded with pounding hooves, stirring bugles and that bluster and swagger that occurs before any contest. Now, I’m always supportive of events that honor our past, but this was at the fort…my fort! It was like I was standing beside Louisa and Major Adams watching the goings-on at the parade grounds.

In the first book of the series, Holding the Fort, most of the story takes place in the General’s House, which was the residence of the highest-ranking officer on the post. The General’s House had a central view of the parade grounds where the men drilled.

Jennings Reno

 

Here, in front of the General’s House, a participant competes in the Mounted Saber competition. The obstacle course includes spearing rings on the blade, slicing through apples, popping balloons and stabbing targets on the ground.

Another competition was Military Field Jumping. Behind this soldier you can see the long barracks that the troopers like Bradley Willis stayed in.

Jennings horse jumping

 

Besides combat horsemanship, mounted sabers, and military field jumping, they were also judged on the authenticity of the era they were portraying. Participants had several different categories that they could choose from. Naturally, I was drawn to those portraying soldiers from the Plains Indian Campaigns, since that’s the time I’m writing about.

These two soldiers are currently stationed at Fort Carson, but they were representing troopers from Fort Concho, Texas, during the Plains Indian Conflicts.

 

They are judged on the historical detail of their uniforms, weapons, gear and tack. Finding these guys is a researcher’s dream! I learned that they would’ve carried more ammo than food, because if you have ammo, usually you can get food. There’s not much room in those bags for fluff, but they liked having both a canteen and a tin cup.

And even though it was a toasty day, they favor the caped overcoat when they want to make an impression. I have to agree with them.

See the heart on the breast collar of the horse –

 

According to these presenters, the heart meant that the horse had already seen combat. Is that true? I haven’t found that referenced anywhere else, but I’m open to the possibility.

One of the funniest moments of the competition was when this guy was doing his historical authenticity interview. He rode up to the judges in a full Lawrence of Arabia get-up. He did his presentation to the cavalry judges, explaining that he’d been stationed in the Middle East and had put together his gear and clothing while there.

 

The two judges just listened in wonderment. Finally one of them said, “You’re giving me a lot of information, but I don’t have the foggiest idea of how to judge an Arab outfit. All I know is that horse is not an Arabian.”

Being at the Cavalry Competition set up the moment that will always be one of my favorite writer memories– the time my book cover came to life. One of the contestants was competing in the Mounted Saber course, when I realized that it was a scene straight out of The Lieutenant’s Bargain.

See that house behind him?

 

See the house on my book cover?

It’s the same! And while Lieutenant Jack isn’t wearing his caped coat on the cover, you’d better believe it’s a big part of the story!

I’m so grateful that our military encourages their young members to keep the legacy of their units alive through events like this, and I’m doubly grateful that they choose to hold the contests at historical sites. I’d imagine if walls could talk, the buildings at Fort Reno would say that they miss the rowdy cavalrymen and the spirited horses that used to populate their grounds.

If you’re free next September, get yourself to Oklahoma to support these brave men as they honor the heroes that came before them. And not to be pushy, but you might enjoy your visit even more if you’ve read a few fun books set there. Then you too can feel like you’re walking into history.

There’s just something right about bringing the cavalry back to Fort Reno.

Remember to comment to have your name entered
into a drawing for a copy of The Lieutenant’s Bargain!

 ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Find out more about Miss Regina Jennings and her books at ~ 

 http://www.reginajennings.com

 

To purchase a copy of The Lieutenant’s Bargain ~ 

AMAZON  |  BARNES AND NOBLE  |  IBOOKS

Welcome Guest Author ~ Tina Dee!


Heritage and Legacy – Lessons from Rankin Ranch to an Author

Tina Dee author photo

Tina Dee with Molly

 

My name is Tina Dee and I write Christian romantic-comedy, both contemporary and historical.
My stories feature heroines with grit, gumption, and grace—and the heroes who fall in love with them. My characters are flawed but loveable.

I love the old west. But what I really love is bits of the old west’s grit, gumption, and grace preserved in today’s world. Dude or guest ranches fascinate me, especially ones that had their beginnings, of some sort, over a hundred years ago.

 

~ Researching Rankin Ranch ~

I found one such place while researching ranches for my Wildflower Ranch series—a fascinating 31,000-acre place called Rankin Ranch, located in what they describe as a ‘mountain valley deep in the heart of California’s Tehachapi mountains, and at the southern end of the Sequoia National forest.’

Rankin Ranch has all the makings of a great western story—it is a great western story, but I’m not going to retell it, since the Quarter Circle U Rankin Ranch has its own incredible story already shared on their website. I’ll just highlight a few things and invite you over via their link later in this post.

For now, I wanted to share what really pulled me into their story and why their place—their story—is an inspiration for a story I’m writing now (which will be out at the end of the month, called The Bonnets of Rescue Ranch, book 15 in the Whispers in Wyoming series), and why it’s my continued inspiration for my own series called, Short Stories from Wildflower Ranch (Wildflower Ranch, book 1 and Wrangled Into Love, book 2—with more stories to come this year and next).

Overland Team at Rankin Ranch barn

-The Quarter Circle U Rankin Ranch once served as a stage stop for the Overland mail route. The old barn where the teamsters’ horses were tended to is still used today for hay storage.

-The ranch is still run by 4th, 5th, and 6th generation Rankins.

The Rankin Family

For me, the most incredible part of the story comes during the 1950s when the matriarch of the family, Helen—who was newly widowed—had to make a decision about the ranch—to sell it, or to keep it. I invite you to read about the cattle ranch’s rich history here, and then read about its guest ranch history here. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Helen Rankin

In my stories, I always try to write about women with grit, gumption, and grace who are facing challenges that they feel are beyond them but they find their way to their future and their everyday-romantic-hero by those same virtues. Helen Rankin was an archetype of those very qualities; she was faced with overwhelming challenges that she met head-on, and generations later, the family and the ranch are still thriving.

Here’s a little blurb from my book …

 

Sometimes love blooms in the places you least expect…

Charlene “Charlie” Evans is ready for a new beginning after a terrible riding accident leaves her unable to compete in the Rodeo World Championship. When she receives a job offer, as foreman for a ranch, she gladly accepts. So what if she sort of passed herself off as a man in order to get the job?

Dan Richards is offered the ranch of his dreams from his terminally ill uncle for a price he can’t refuse. He jumps at the chance to own a ranch he has loved since childhood. However, when he arrives at the place it’s not what he had hoped for, or as he remembered. The ranch is in shambles. With no experience, where does he go from here?

Will Dan and Charlie let God help them find new dreams on Wildflower Ranch?

A Christian romantic-comedy novella.

Thank you for letting me share a bit about my Wildflower Ranch series and where the real-life inspiration for the ranch came from. 

For updates about my stories, I send out a newsletter twice a month with giveaways and other fun stuff. Please feel invited to sign up for my newsletter at Tina Dee Books Newsletter. You can also follow me on Amazon here.

I will be giving away a copy of Wildflower Ranch to three commenters. If you’re not chosen, you can still get the book on Amazon here.

Gifts Out of the Blue

People often ask where I get my story ideas. Once I’ve conceived the series concept, individual stories come from the characters, a lot of brainstorming, and research. My series ideas, however, often come out of the blue like my Wishing, Texas Series.

I was driving home and wondered if my oldest son was on his way to Athens, Texas, to meet his friends from the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. I thought about how close he and his squadron buddies were, and I predicted they’d still be friends in ten years.

My Spidey sense tingled, telling me I had something special. What if I showed A&M squadron friends ten years after graduation? What if they still met at one friend’s east Texas ranch at least once every year? What if they were there for each other through life’s ups and downs?

When I got home, I jotted down notes. One would run the family ranch. Another would be in law enforcement. Because of A&M’s phenomenal vet med program, one would be a veterinarian. For some reason, I settled on a computer related field for my last hero.

The relationships between these men would provide the series backbone—the heart. Even now working on book three, my favorite scenes to write are when the heroes are together.

 

Here’s an excerpt from To Love A Texas Cowboy.

“Is there anything else you need, Ty?” The Horseshoe Grill’s waitress Tiffani, a woman he’d known since middle school, asked as she leaned forward showing off her recently enhanced cleavage.

“We’re good,” he said, staring at the pool table as he sorted out his shot.

“Let me know if you change your mind about anything,” Tiffani said before she sashayed away.

Cooper, Ty’s eight ball partner, elbowed him in the ribs and nodded toward

the departing waitress. “Are you going to take her up on the invitation?”

While easy on the eyes, with long, blonde hair a man would love to run his hands through, tall, curvy in all the right places, and good-natured enough, with her marital track record—oh for three—Ty doubted the good sense of any man who took Tiffani up on her offer.

“Anyone else notice she didn’t care if the rest of us needed anything?” AJ asked.

“Mind if I throw my hook into the water?” Zane asked his gaze locked on the waitress as she flitted around the restaurant. “She looks like she knows how to have a good time.”

“Come on. Give someone else a chance. Like maybe me.” Of all of them, AJ craved the connection and belonging that came with a serious relationship. After a six-year stint in the military and traveling around the world, he was more than ready to put down roots, but most of the women he met were leery of getting involved with an FBI agent. Poor schmuck.

“You’ve got more women on the line that you know what to do with.”

After sending the three ball into the side pocket, Zane turned to AJ. “Weren’t you thinking about going exclusive with Megan? Though why any sane man would do that is beyond me.”

Ty shook his head and smiled, feeling like the ring master of a three-ring circus. Despite that, he wouldn’t trade one of his friends for fifty-yard line tickets to an A&M /Alabama game in Kyle Field. Good friends like these could get a man through just about any rough patch.

“We broke up,” AJ said referring to Megan.

Before anyone could comment, “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown band rang out.

“Next round’s on you, Zane,” Ty said even before his cousin reached for his phone.

They’d instituted the cell phones on vibrate rule and the violations penalty two years ago when Zane’s girlfriend of the month drove them nuts with constant calls and texts. The man always had a woman desperate to claim, keep, or regain his attention. Hell, usually more than one. Zane was a master juggler, but that didn’t mean the rest of them wanted to be part of the act.

To read the first chapter of To Love A Texas Cowboy which includes the excerpt above, click here.

To be entered to win the horseshoe pictured, leave a comment on which hero– Ty, AJ, Cooper or Zane–you like best and why based on the short scene above. BTW, the excerpt occurred in Wishing’s favorite hot spot, The Horseshoe Grill. 🙂

 

 

Updated: August 28, 2018 — 7:18 pm

Turn of the Century Texas Homes

I’m down to the last week before my deadline and things are crazy! However, as any professional writer will tell you, we’re never just thinking about one project. We are writing one while marketing another. We are working on edits for a third a researching plot ideas for a fourth. Thankfully, I’m only juggling three of those balls instead of all four this week, but it still requires a mental dexterity that can be as taxing as it is exciting.

Next week I will turn in my current manuscript and start work on the next project – one that took me to Gainesville, TX last week to research their wonderful history in person. My story will feature a Harvey Girl heroine working at the newly opened Harvey Lunch Counter in 1902 Gainesville, TX. The people of Gainesville have done a fabulous job of preserving their history, and last week I blogged about walking the very halls of the Santa Fe Depot that my character will. You can find that blog here.

Today, I thought I’d share some of the other wonderful finds I discovered in Gainesville. Not only did I need to know what the lunch counter and depot were like, but I needed to learn about the city itself, and I found a treasure trove. Gainesville has numerous preserved homes from the late 1890s and early turn of the century, the era that I will be writing about.

We took a driving tour of the town, and I took lots of pictures. These are my top 8 houses. The hero in my story is going to have a slightly snobbish mother who looks down on the heroine, viewing a waitress as not only being beneath her son’s station as a lawyer and wealthy rancher’s heir, but as a morally loose woman as well. Which of these houses do you think such a woman would live in?

If YOU were going to live in one of these houses, which would you choose?

Sometimes We Eat Giant Pickles at the Movies

When I talked to a dear friend, Jennifer Jacobson, about writing a blog on misconceptions Easterners hold about Westerners, she recommended the children’s book Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Byron Barton. The book’s young hero laments about what he’ll find when he moves out West. Not only did I get a good laugh, but the book fit perfectly with many stories friends shared on the subject. As Sharmat and Barton’s hero says at the end, “Back East they don’t know much about us Westerners.” Because of this fact, getting regional dialect/phrases, career details and settings that add richness to a story can be harder than readers realize because many industry professional are Easterners.

 One thing the hero in Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport claims at the beginning is, “…there’s cactus everywhere you look.” I chuckled because apparently, we have a cacti cover problem on Texas romance novels. When I asked author friends and readers on Facebook what Eastern folks get wrong about the west, I received a few cactus stories. Fact is, we don’t see many cacti in east or central Texas, but often there they’re on covers of novels set there. Other authors found saguaros on covers for west Texas novels though they don’t grow in Texas.

Often authors must explain regional phrases or words to editors. For example, what some call a dish towel, others call a cup towel. A pumpjack or nodding donkey is part of an oil well. It was suggested she say pumping jack. Ah, not only no, but hell no. As the author who shared the story said, she’d be “laughed out of west Texas if she’d used that term.” Another thing people don’t understand is y’all isn’t singular. A live oak is a specific type of tree, not a tree that’s actually alive. Texas barns are most likely weathered and red, not the giant red barns seen in the East and Midwest.

Another big issue was horses. One friend’s pet peeve was when authors put a hero on a “well-behaved” stallion. First, stallions are rarely “well-behaved,” and second, stallions often can’t be near other horses. Another author friend said she spotted a cover where the male model had a bridle thrown over his shoulder… upside down! According to her, “No one who has been within 20 feet of a horse would carry a bridle that way.” 

A friend and amazing artist, Jane Monsson also said her pet peeve is when authors get horse details wrong. From her art, it’s apparent she loves horses and knows a lot about them. I admit, I’ve worried about messing up with horse anatomy or gear. After all, I write western romance. There’s going to be horses in my stories and I need to get it right. While I know which end of a horse is which, I’ve never owned one and am nowhere near an expert.

How do I get details right enough so as not to offend experts like Jane? Edgar R. “Frosty” Potter’s cool book Cowboy Slang. The book contains an illustration “Parts of a Horse” and “Parts of a Horse Skeleton.” (I haven’t needed the later, but one never knows!However, I’ve frequently referred to the section “Colors of Horses.” This book of one hundred twenty-three pages is a treasure, containing great western sayings, info on cattle brands, barbed wire, cattle ear crop types, and how cowboys use a bandana! For horse gear, I refer to the illustrated horse gear section of a volunteer booklet from Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship Program. 

The other way I check facts or do research for my stories is by finding an expert. But that’s a blog for another day.

Now it’s your turn. Share with me what your pet peeve that people get wrong about the west or us Westerners and be entered to win a copy of To Catch a Texas Cowboy and the Book Club wine glass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updated: July 31, 2018 — 8:18 pm