We have guest author Susan Payne with us this week and we hope you show her a warm welcome. She has a giveaway so don’t overlook that.
Sitting down to write this post, I thought I would discuss a unique project I’ve been thinking about for a few months now. I usually sit down in front of my computer and the words flow. After a week or two I have a novel ready for others to read. I pride myself on my continuity, well rounded characters and happy-ever-afters. This next novel, or rather sequels, concerns a train in 1872 that gets trapped inside a tunnel collapse. Of course, the train is full of people and they find themselves captive for well over a year. I don’t want to give out any secrets, but to say they feel as if they live a lifetime underground would not be untrue.
Now my readers may ask ‘how is that possible’? Well, I think I have that part covered with a few well-chosen passengers and a train full of products being carried to the capital. Food and fresh water are covered for the most part and the main burden is on the people involved and how they relate to one another. How they adapt to life underground in a world made-up of just themselves. How they keep morale up and arguments down. How they communicate and make decisions although many do not speak English and come from different backgrounds.
I know expectations are high as we meet the passengers. A group of high-school graduates heading to the capital to take their final exams led by their young female teacher and a couple of the students’ mothers. Their city mayor and his family travelling with them mostly for the free trip. A man running from his criminal past and a Pinkerton Agent chasing him. An engineer afraid to admit his part in building the tunnel in the first place and a myriad of others all having cameo appearances in their story as they come up. Some are so real to me it is as if I read their diaries while others remain shadowy figures in the darkness of the rocks surrounding them. I hope to get to know them more later. That they tell me their own personal hopes and dreams. The obstacles placed in their pathway by the entrapment.
I know I haven’t met them all and I want each to be a person my readers can relate to. Hopefully, readers can see as they read the story and know how it could have been for all the characters. How each of them could contribute, lose heart, and carry through what might appear to be the rest of their lives. I mean, after months, I’m not sure I’d be able to keep trying to find a way out, try to keep optimism up or try to keep working toward the common good.
I want to show the desperation they felt yet the strength of the American spirit of those who chose America to be their home. How the tenacity needed to keep a homestead going was put to use to keep the people of Traintown going. Never giving up, or at least fighting to the bitter end, was something ingrained in these early settlers. It’s what made America the country other nations tried to immolate. Where those with little chose to settle in for the opportunity to be more than they had ever dreamed.
What do you think the hardest thing would be having to live underground for so long?
I’m giving away a copy of REPEATING THE PAST to one commenter.
I hope I can come up to my own expectations. I like to pull from my knowledge and add new along with it. It will be tricky to give each novel enough background information without being redundant. I’m looking forward to several novels flowing from one to another while remaining a story onto itself. Mayor of Traintown should have its first novel out in late 2022. As always, I hope you enjoy.
But now, I want to tell you about the second book of my Second Chance Romance series – REPEATING THE PAST. Can two brothers be more alike and yet so different? Could their separation at 3 years old mean they can never forge the bond they should have? And now, 20 years later, can they agree that love is the strongest bond in anyone’s life? Cain and Abel find their own way to forgive those who should have cared for them the best and failed them the most.
Susan began writing when she was still a young mother, trying to find time to type on the old Smith-Corona from hand written notes that she was able to scribble off between children’s naps and cleaning. Cleaning always came first, before any amusements; but she has decided that dust can be interesting and shirts don’t need to be ironed to be wearable. She now spends her time writing stories as dictated by her new friends so others can enjoy them as much as she does. Since my first published work in December 2019, I have completed the Sweetwater Series and gone on to several novels both in historical western romance and Regency romance.
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.
As I wrote in my blog last month, the heroine in my newest release, CHRISTIANA, is a pastry chef, a skill she learned in France, which compelled my visit to a French patisserie. For research, you know. Ha! Inside, the chef (named Ed) offered amazing pastries that you would not find in a fried donut shop, let me tell you.
I promised a few more pictures:
A fruit tart – oh, my goodness. The crust was made from vanilla wafers ground so perfectly fine, they were almost like a powder. On Ed’s only day off, he goes to select food markets to buy his fruits, taking the time to smell each one before buying. This tart was filled with a vanilla and orange zest custard.
Mille feuille- means “thousand sheets” in French and is composed of three layers of puff pastry filled with creamy vanilla cream and topped with chocolate and vanilla icing. The high-quality dark chocolate is hand-swirled with a toothpick. This pastry is comparable to a “Napolean.”
Macarons (not to be confused with macaroons which are made of coconut). They were so beautiful in color, I had to buy one of each! The first thing I noticed (and didn’t expect) was that there was no crunch of the lemon macaron I chose. That’s because of the absence of sugar. What I got was a soft, chewy cookie that burst with the flavor of the lemon. Fantastic!
The perfection and skill required to make these French pastries not only made me suspect that some things never change (as in how they were made in the 19th century when CHRISTIANA was set) but also made me curious what other kind of utensils cooks and bakers used in the past.
I found some unusual ones. Try to guess what they are used for!
Guess all seven correctly, and I’ll give away an ebook copy of CHRISTIANA. If there are multiple winners, I’ll draw one winner from the pool of those who guessed them all correctly.
Watch for my post tonight!
Sweet Historical Western Romance (Love Train Series Book 1)
When her mother is taken to jail, Christiana Turcotte loses the happiness of her childhood. By the time she’s a grown woman, she’s determined to escape the scandals in her past and live a respectable life. First, though, she must return for the diamond ring she’d hidden that terrible day.
As a rifleman for Union Pacific, Holt Maddock’s job is to protect the train from outlaws. But he’s been riding the rails too long, and it’s time to settle down. Only one thing stands in his way. The elusive beauty traveling on his train and the diamond ring she’s determined to keep.
Holt’s plans for the reward money threatens to destroy her dreams. Will stolen diamonds destroy their love, too?
So, I’ve been mulling over this new story idea (I’m always thinking of the next book while I’m writing the current one). It takes place on a fictional small hobby ranch converted into a retirement home. I’ve decided to call the retirement home Rocking Chair Ranch. Cute, right? My first step was to come up with a logo for the retirement home that resembles a brand. This is solely to cement the place in my head and give it the kind of personality I want. I played around and this is what I came up with. I like it.
Then, I did a Google search to see if there are any real retirement homes called Rocking Chair Ranch. No, but there are two large cattle ranches. There’s also a peach farm with the same name. I don’t think this is going to be problem, so I’m keeping my little fictional brand.
Well, if you’ve been reading my blogs here for any length of time, you know already that this took me down a strange rabbit hole. Out of curiosity, and because I’m a romance writer, I decided to see if there were any brands with hearts. I mean, if I had a ranch, I’d want a heart in my name. I found a couple cute ones and some okay ones and one I…ew. You’ll have to form your own opinion.
The upside down Js make me think of cane, not Js. The flying heart is okay. Don’t really like the hanging heart.
I’d say the double heart is my favorite. The broken heart looks like it’s medical for some reason. I think they could have done better.
Okay. This one. Yes, it is what you think it is. I suppose they were trying to be funny. For me, the joke didn’t land. Maybe others will find it hysterical.
Truthfully, I could have spent an entire day looking at brands. There are websites where you can design your own brand which you can then take to your state’s appropriate agency and register. Did I visit that website? Um, maybe. What do you think of this one? What would your brand look like?
Hi, I’m Laura Ashwood and I’m honored to be guest blogging here today. I write sweet historical western romance, contemporary small town romance and women’s fiction. Something for everyone, LOL. Today though, I’d like to talk about one of my historical western romances.
One of my favorite things about being an author is having a reason to research and a place to use that information. But that doesn’t come without its own challenges either. Too little research will upset readers familiar with a time period, and too much research can take readers out of your story. It’s a delicate balance.
So, where does one start? When I write a story, I generally have a location in mind. It might be a specific location or it might be as general as simply knowing what state I want it to be set in. Once I know that, I’ll spend some time looking at the location. The topography, the average weather – if it’s a historical book, I’ll look at the averages and topography from the year I am setting the story.
Courting Dangeris a historical western suspense that starts in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1873. I knew my character, Clarissa, came from a wealthy family, that she was an only child, and that her parents (her mother in particular) wanted her to marry “up” to help further cement their place in society. Very common practices during that time period. Clarissa didn’t want to have anything to do with it though. My research told me that the suffragette movement was strong at that time and she was a well-read young lady. She wanted to make her own way.
During that time frame, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was in its prime – solving crimes across the nation and had even started taking on female agents. The first official female Pinkerton agent was Kate Warne. So I did come research about Kate and some of the cases she worked on. So, I had Clarissa find an advertisement from the Pinkerton Agency in the newspaper – looking for female agents. She immediately replied and was chosen to work a case in St. Louis, Missouri. This case was modeled after one of Kate Warne’s cases. I used several of the details of the actual case, but added my own twists to make it original.
So because a great deal of the story was set in St. Louis, I wanted to incorporate as much “fact” into it as I could. The first thing I looked for was a City Directory. Think of it as a phone book before there were phones. The City Directory gave me names of stores, hotels, even characters. The names of the nurse, the undertaker, and the Chief of Police in my story were taken from this directory as the actual undertaker, nurse and Chief of Police in St. Louis in 1873.
The hotel Clarissa stays in while she’s in St. Louis, The Planter’s House Hotel, was an actual hotel in 1873. Because it actually existed in 1873, I was able to find photographs of it and that helped me describe it as though I was actually there, including the famed Turkish Lounge.
St. Louis is famous for its Eads Bridge and Gateway Arch, but through my research, I discovered that the construction on the Eads Bridge wasn’t completed until 1874 and the Arch wasn’t constructed until the 1960s. So, when Clarissa saw the bridge at one point in her adventure, I made sure to mention it was under construction. I also consulted a city map of St. Louis when determining what to name my streets and neighborhoods my characters visited. They were all authentic to that time.
How important is all of this? Will my readers know this? The answer to both of those questions is probably no. Those details will not make or break my story. But they’re Easter Eggs I’ve sprinkled throughout and they make the story come alive for me because I know Clarissa is seeing the actual things she’d see if she were alive and in St. Louis in 1873. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.
I’d also love to give away three copies (ebook only) of Courting Danger – Just answer the question “how much does historical accuracy and detail mean to you when reading a book?” in the comments below. Three random winners will be announced on Sunday.
Laura is giving away 3 e-book copies of Courting Danger
She thought the biggest danger would be to her reputation. She didn’t realize it would be to her life and her heart.
Clarissa Ferguson craves a life of adventure. The last thing she wants is to become a socialite and marry a curmudgeon to appease her mother. When she sees an advertisement for female Pinkerton Agents, she leaves on the next available train to Denver Colorado. What she doesn’t expect is the handsome man she meets on the train to be her new trainer.
Noah Harding, recovering from the loss of his wife and family, vows never to marry again. Throwing himself into his work as a Pinkerton agent, he has finally found a sense of purpose. He prides himself on being able to read people, until he observes a peculiar woman on a train headed west. He soon discovers she’s his new trainee, and he must temporarily wed her while they solve a murder, or he’ll jeopardize his career.
Will Noah be able to stay focused on the case with Clarissa distracting him? When the case forces them to pretend to be something they aren’t, what happens when their feelings become real?
* * * *
Laura and her husband live in northeast Minnesota. She works a full time day job, and in her spare time, she likes to read, cook and spend time with her husband. She is a devoted grandmother and chihuahua lover.
In her novels, Laura brings to life characters and relationships that will warm your heart and fill you with hope. Her stories often have themes involving redemption, forgiveness, and family.
The book I’ve spent most of the summer working on takes place during World War I. Before I decided to write this story, what I knew about “the Great War” could have fit in one short sentence.
I spent three weeks immersed in research and, as tends to happen when I’m writing something historical, I fell down the research rabbit hole and Captain Cavedweller wasn’t sure I’d ever resurface.
Reading about the people who sacrificed so much (soldiers, those who served in any capacity, and those at home), just leaves me heartsore, yet so incredibly grateful they were willing to do what they did. Not only were these people in the midst of a world war, but also a worldwide pandemic with the Spanish flu.
As I waded through the research, I discovered something interesting about the doctors from America who served in World War I overseas. Eleven of them were women.
During World War I, the U.S. military would not accept women physicians into the Army Medical Corps, but they would allow them to serve as contracted personnel. This meant they were considered civilians who worked for the Army medical department and were paid a lower salary without military rank or benefits. In total, 56 women physicians became contract surgeons during the war, but only 11 went overseas where they mostly worked as anesthetists.
One of those women was Dr. Anne Tjomsland, who inspired much of the medical part of my story. Born in Norway in 1880, Dr. Tjomsland earned her bachelor’s and medical degrees from Cornell. She became an American citizen in 1917. She interned, and then worked at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Hospitals around America began forming base hospitals and training prior to the United States officially entering the war in the spring of 1917. The first fifty base hospitals were organized by civilian institutions (medical schools, hospitals) and funded significantly by donations.
The very first base hospital was founded at Bellevue in 1916 and became known as Base Unit #1. They began training that year, anticipating the United States entering the war. When the unit was mobilized in November 1917, Dr. Tjomsland was initially barred from joining as a physician because she was a woman. Since the base commander considered her essential, he fought for her to be appointed as a contract surgeon and won.
Dr. Tjomsland wrote a book in 1941, Bellevue in France, of her experiences that provided so much rich detail, I could easily picture her journey from American doctor to wartime physician.
The ship she traveled on to cross the Atlantic was the RMS Olympic, a White Star luxury ship and sister ship to the RMS Titanic. The ship that had once been known for such luxury was converted to a transport ship during the war. The grand old dame was given a dazzle, or razzle dazzle, paint job that supposedly made it harder for German submarines to lock in on a target. The paint design consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes using contrasting colors, interrupting and intersecting each other. If nothing else, some of the patterns painted on ships looked as though they may have made the enemy dizzy.
Base Unit #1 traveled to Liverpool, England, then traveled by train to Southampton, where they boarded another boat to cross the English Channel, landing at Le Havre, France. From there, they rode a train to Paris, but found the tracks had been bombed, so they had to backtrack and found an alternate route to their destination of Vichy, a spa town known for its healing waters as far back as the time of Roman emperors. A railroad ran through Vichy, making it easy to get to, and it was far enough away from the front to make it relatively safe.
Once in Vichy, Base Unit #1 took over several hotels. Their first patients were recovering French soldiers who were quickly moved elsewhere to make room for wounded American soldiers. The hospital would treat anyone, civilians included, who needed assistance.
By reading Dr. Tjomsland’s book, and the stories of women who served as doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, and other positions in war-torn France, I did my best to convey not only the historical details but also the heart-wrenching emotions they experienced in my story.
I often get requests from readers to tell the story of a secondary character. One that has received requests too many to count has been Sadie from my Pendleton Petticoats series. She first makes an appearance as a tough eight-year-old in the book Marnie. Readers get to watch her grow and mature (and torment a boy named Harley John) throughout the rest of the series.
Now it’s time for Sadie and Harley John to get their own story. Sadie releases August 26, but you can pre-order your copy now for just $2.99!
She yearns for far-flung adventures. He longs for the home he’s found in her heart. Will a world at war tear them apart, or draw them closer together?
For most of her life, Doctor Sadie Thorsen has imagined seeing the world on grand adventures. When America joins the war raging across the world in 1917, it seems her dreams are about to come true. She travels overseas as a contracted physician, eager to do her part to help the war effort. Endless streams of wounded push her to the limits of endurance, then she receives word Harley John Hobbs, the man she’s loved for years, is missing in action. Unable to bear the thought of life without him in it, she refuses to let go of her hope that he’s alive.
The day Sadie Thorsen shoved Harley John Hobbs down on the playground was the day she marched off with his heart. He spent years doing everything in his power to become successful, determined to have more than himself to offer Sadie if she ever returns to their eastern Oregon town. Conscripted to join the American Expeditionary Forces, Harley John answers the call and heads to France. Wounded and alone, he clings to the promise of seeing Sadie one last time.
Can deep, abiding love withstand the tragedies and trials of a world at war?
I thought you might enjoy a little excerpt from Sadie today. In this scene, she’s infuriated with the men who refuse to let her go to France.
The temper Sadie had, to this point, kept in check reached full boiling force. She knew she should leave before it erupted, but instead, walked over to the table and slapped both hands on the surface, causing all four of the men to jump.
“Lieutenant Colonel Grimes, if you could please, for a moment, come down off that high horse you’re riding and forget the fact I’m a woman, you will see I have been working alongside doctors since I was thirteen. I’ve patched up men who’ve been in knife fights, gun fights, dog fights, fist fights, and even a few who were impaled with arrows. I’ve worked on every kind of wound you could imagine, treated burn victims, even assisted with amputations. Because of my varied and vast experience, and the fact I am willing to stubbornly forge onward when others surrender is exactly the reason I should be among those who are with this base hospital in France. I can and will help the soldiers there. If you won’t accept my skill and talents, I’ll find someone who will. I don’t care if I have to row my own boat across the Atlantic, I will get there!”
“Doctor Thorsen, you’re temper fit is exactly the reason why women are not fit to serve in military conditions and times of war.”
“Not fit to serve? Not fit to serve!” Her raised voice bounced off the walls. “Sir, you have enlisted any number of nurses for this venture. Won’t they work alongside the doctors to do whatever they can to help the wounded? Are they not females being thrust into the midst of military conditions in a time of war? Are they not fit to serve? Of course, they are! They are fit to serve, and so am I.” She wanted to reach across the table and shake some sense into the man staring down his long, thin nose at her.
As she did when she was truly angry, she lost the cultured speech she’d worked so hard to acquire and resorted to the language she’d used when Marnie and Lars had first adopted her. “If you’re just too dad-blamed bullheaded and addlepated to see it, then I’m questioning why the Army has declared you fit to serve. I’ve encountered more mulish, malefic, muddleheaded men in the past four years than any woman would ever want to think about meeting, but I do believe, sir, you ought to be crowned King Uppity over them all.”
If you were in Sadie’s shoes, what would you do?
Also, if you haven’t read any of my Pendleton Petticoats books yet, get this boxed set with the first three stories while it’s on sale for 99 cents!
Every so often Mother Nature has to throw a fit. That’s just the way it is and the havoc can come in the form of floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados and many other disasters. Sometimes these weather occurrences make their way into our stories.
Living in Tornado Alley, I’m most familiar with tornados. I survived an enormous North Texas twister on April 10, 1979 that took 52 lives when three vortexes merged into one. Meteorologists still refer to that day as Terrible Tuesday because of the immense devastation and the sheer numbers. There were 59 reported tornados on the ground in the area on that Tuesday. The F-5 monster that hit Wichita Falls left a path of destruction 8 miles wide and 47 miles long.
Pretty unbelievable and so frightening.
The impact it made on my life remains 42 years later and to this day get very emotional when I talk about it. The sirens had been going off all day so I didn’t pay any mind to the last one that went off a little before 6:00 pm. I was cooking supper and the kids were playing as normal. It was my first husband and my wedding anniversary and we’d planned to go out to celebrate.
Our kids were 7, 5, and 8 months old—much too young to learn about life and death and the kind of terror that freezes the screams in a person’s throat.
My husband went out to look at the sky and saw the massive thing coming. It resembled a hungry beast gobbling up everything in its path. The rumble was one of the most terrifying sounds I’d ever heard before or since. We had no time to pull mattresses off the beds or blankets over us. We rushed the kids to a narrow hallway that ran the length of the three bedrooms and laid down on top of them. My baby daughter laid under me so very still. I had my eyes clenched shut, praying. I didn’t know of anyone who’d lived through something like that with minimal protection. Here are some pictures. The camera wasn’t very good.
It tore right through our house, our neighborhood where we’d felt so safe. I heard when the roof went and boards and debris reined down on top of us. I never felt anything though and thought that was odd. I was just too terrified and in shock. I’m sure that’s probably the way soldiers are in war. You just never think anything like that will happen to you.
Time moved in slow motion and seemed to take hours for the tornado to pass on when in reality it only lasted a few minutes. Then hail the size of golf balls pounded us as we climbed out from under the pile of debris on top of us. We checked the kids and the only injury was a minor cut on top of the baby’s head. So miraculous, especially when we got the first look at our flattened neighborhood. In each direction we stared, it looked like a bomb had gone off and a pungent, sickening smell hung in the air. The smell lasted for months afterward. So did the roofing tar embedded in our scalps. This picture is of me in bell bottom pants with Baby Girl.
But then, we didn’t know what to do next. Did we hang around and wait for someone to come tell us something? But if we left, where did we go? Our car was sitting on top of a tree, besides we had no close relatives. It was getting dark and the baby was hungry.
We started to set off walking, then realized the older children were barefoot. The tornado had sucked the shoes off their feet. My husband carried our 5-year-old and our son had to pick his way very carefully. Trees and power lines were down everywhere. Thankfully, a man with a carload of others like us stopped and picked us up. We went to a woman I worked with and spent the night with her.
People have asked over the years why I’ve never written my account, but the truth is I couldn’t relive that horror. Or the year of homelessness after that. It had stolen far too much of me. It took everything we owned.
However, I did insert a tornado scene in Once Upon a Mail Order Bride. But, the only way I was able to do it was by putting Ridge and Addie in open country, somewhere totally different from my experience. They had to run for their lives and leap into a ravine to beat death. But the horrendous sounds, smells, heart pounding fear that rose in their throats, strangling them came from what I remembered and felt.
Have you ever had something happen so powerful that it left a lasting effect on you and maybe altered the course of your life? Or have you read about a big weather event in a book? I know Sharon Sala has written about Hurricane Katrina. I’m giving away a copy of Once Upon a Mail Order Bride to someone who comments. I wish I had room for the excerpt of that scene but this post is getting really long.
One reason I enjoy writing stories set in small western towns is the sense of community. In one book I joked if someone sneezed, half the town would be at the door with chicken soup before day’s end. From the small towns I’ve known, this isn’t too far from the truth.
Life is hard. In the city I’ve become so accustomed to the polite and well-meaning “hello, how are you today” greetings everywhere, I can respond on auto-pilot. No matter how hard life is knocking me around, I can plaster a smile on my face and reply I’m fine. But in small towns, that’s harder to pull off because people know each other. They’re more likely to see past an overly bright smile and notice something is off. More importantly, they’re likely to ask and care about the answer. Not that this doesn’t happen in the city. It does. I just find it harder to create those mini-communities of support in the city.
Another difference I’ve discovered, is to receive help in the city, I am more likely to have to ask for it friends in my mini-community. My grandparents lived on a farm outside Decorah, Iowa, a town of eight thousand. If someone was struggling financially, if a death occurred in the family, or someone was sick, most of the town knew. For example, my dear friend Lori Turner Halligan shared a story about her father’s death during prime planting time in Iowa twenty-three years ago on April 28. Farmers arrived with equipment and planted her family’s fields before planting their own. Other families brought food to feed those working the fields. Her mother didn’t have to ask. The Turners needed help, and the community turned out. This is the sense of community I tried to create in both my Estes Park Series and my Wishing Texas Series.
Western women are known for their strength. In the old west, they helped carve a life out of the wilderness. While many of my heroines start out as “Eastern city women,” they possess a western soul. One that refuses to let them give up or give in. When fate lobs lemons at my heroines like hand grenades, they put on a hard hat and make lemonade,but sometimes even the strongest of women get weary.
Take Cassie in To Love A Texas Cowboy. When her niece is orphaned, Cassie moves from New York to Texas because that’s what’s best for Ella. Without family to count on, she’s learned to rely on herself, but keeping her art career going, raising a child and keeping a roof over their heads would shake Wonder Woman’s confidence. Like so many of us, Cassie realizes she can’t do it all alone. For her, help comes from the most unexpected place–Ty, a cowboy who at first glance appears to be on the opposite side of every issue and a small Texas town.
Whether we live in the city, small town or a ranch, whether our support comes from those related to us by blood, or a family we create in less traditional ways, we need people we can count on when life gets rough.
And a special thank you to my BFF Lori for help with this blog and life in general. Everyone should be blessed with a friend like you.
Take a moment to leave a comment and be entered to win the dish towel, wine glass and a copy of Colorado Rescue.
To read an excerpt of To Love A Texas Cowboy, click here.
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. 🙂
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.