Jodi Thomas has graciously agreed to fill in for Phyliss Miranda today. Let’s make her welcome!
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Thank you for having me. I’m happy to be back with everyone and talking about one of my loves. Writers often ask me why I write short stories. And, I have to say simply, “For the love of writing.”
But in truth, the benefits are far more than that.
It all started one week before Christmas in ‘93. I’d just finished a novel and mailed it in. I was free and had a list. Shopping, making cookies, decorating, and cleaning house. I put in my first batch of cookies when the phone rang. It was my agent, who rarely called. “Jodi, I want you to write a short story. Think it over, come up with a few ideas and we’ll talk in January.” We talked about a big publishing house that was offering me the bottom slot in an anthology. She hung up. The cookies were burned.
I scraped the cookie sheet and started again. As I put the next batch in, the phone rang again. “Hello, Jodi,” an editor at the big publishing house said. “What is your idea?”
Now, I’d had about ten minutes to think and so I said, “Two old men go to a train station in Texas the Christmas after the Civil War. They’ve ordered their boss, Holly, a mail-order husband for Christmas. One man steps off the train. He’s tall, dark, and handsome and he’s wearing a Union uniform. Before they can get to him, the man passes out drunk. Sam looks at Ben and says, “Great, we not only got her a Yankee, we got her a dead drunk Yankee.”
“Sold,” the editor said, “Can you get it to us by January?”
I hung up, took out the second batch of burned cookies and danced around the kitchen. I bought gift cards, let my two boys decorate, picked up Christmas cookies from the bakery and went back to my tiny study to work.
A year later A HUSBAND FOR HOLLY hit the NYTimes thanks to Pat Potter the lead writer.
And, I fell in love with writing short stories.
Here are three of my favorite short stories. I’m proud as can be of each one.
Today is going to be a very busy day for me. I’m going to West Texas A&M University to film a segment for PBS. It’s for a show called 24 Frames. It’s exciting but very scary. I hope I don’t mess up too bad. The segment will air in September. I’ll have more on that later. I may not get to all the comments right away.
But today I want to tell you about my short story collection that I’ve self-published. Gunsmoke and Lace is my first attempt to put something out myself and I found nothing about the process easy. I was supposed to have the ebook and print releasing simultaneously but it didn’t work that way. After two weeks, only the ebook is up. The print should be along soon I’m told.
I have four stories in this collection: The Telegraph Tree, Moon Dog Night, The Gunslinger, and Hard Luck.
The inspiration for The Telegraph Tree came after I attended a lecture about women who came West and the challenges at West Texas A&M University. The speaker quoted statistics about the number of women who committed suicide, unable to handle the constant hardships and loneliness. The women spent most of their time alone in the empty, vast space with their children (if they had any) and not having anyone to talk to broke their spirits until there was nothing left.
Listening to that reminded me of a Sam Elliott movie called Conagher that he made with his wife Katherine Ross. To combat her loneliness, she wrote poems and tied them to tumbleweeds. Maybe you remember it.
That’s where The Telegraph Tree was born and when I finished, I entered it in several writing contests. It placed 3rd in Women Writing the West and also in Wyoming Writers, Inc.
I wrote The Gunslinger (formerly The Widow’s Heart) for an anthology for Cheryl Pierson at Prairie Rose and was real proud how it turned out. I made a few changes to it though.
Moon Dog Night is about two children who ride into a bounty hunter’s camp on a cold winter night. They’re trailing the man who took their mama and they’re determined to get her back. Of course, Bonner Raine can’t let them go alone. But will they arrive in time to save her?
Hard Luck has a lot of humor as two cowboys try to rob a bank. Absolutely nothing goes right and I’ve saved a surprise at the last.
All these stories sprang from a deep well inside me and I think it’s time to share them.
The fabulous Charlene Raddon designed this gorgeous cover and I love everything about it. She’s so creative. The fantastic Jerri Lynn Hill did the editing and she’s an amazing woman. Jeri Walker formatted it. I couldn’t have succeeded without these ladies.
Gunsmoke and Lace is available everywhere online. But here are a few links:
Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I hope all of you had a nice Thanksgiving. Mine was lovely – I feel truly blessed.
As for today’s post, I’m going to break from my usual western-themed subject matter to tell you about another project I’m part of.
Shreveport, Louisiana is home to the national headquarters of the American Rose Society. The Gardens of the American Rose Center are located on a 118-acre tract of wooded land and is the nation’s largest park dedicated to roses. The park features in excess of 65 individual rose gardens and somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 rosebushes. In addition the park is also filled with other plants, fountains and sculptures. And every year during the month of December, they transform the place into a winter wonderland known as Christmas in Roseland. It’s a magical place filled with lights, festive displays, entertainment, photos with Santa Claus and lots more.
One of the neat things about this collection is that all of the authors have donated their stories – none will be collecting royalties. Instead, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the American Rose Society and the remainder will go back to our chapter.
And now, as a reward to you for reading through all of this, I’m going to give away a copy of the collection to one of the visitors who leaves a comment on this post between now and Tuesday afternoon. Just tell me your favorite rose-related memory or what variety/color of rose is your favorite and why.
Come visit a place where love blooms and holiday magic fills the air…
Set against the background of the Gardens of the American Rose Center, these stories of hope and holiday cheer are sure to warm your heart and put you in a festive mood.
There’s no better gift than finding love among the roses. In this collection, you’ll find second chances at love, couples who find more than friendship under the mistletoe, and holiday reunions that bring the joy of the season. So grab a cup of hot cocoa and curl up with Christmas Roses.
Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arm will be released on October 3rd. Don’t you just love that title? I’m so excited to be part of the collection, which also includes stories by Leigh Greenwood and our very own Linda Broday!
My story is titled A Texas Ranger for Christmas and I’m giving away a copy (giveaway guidelines apply). So be sure to leave a comment.Here’s a sneak peek:
Sadie had just put Adam down for his afternoon nap that second week in December when a hammering sound drew her to the kitchen window.
“Dang that man!” Now the ranger was on the barn roof hammering down shingles. Last week, after he’d spent the day repairing the fence, he’d run a fever and had to spend two days in bed.
Now here he was at it again, overdoing it.
She pulled a woolen shawl from a peg by the back door and stepped outside. The wind was cold and angry clouds crowded in from the north like a bunch of wooly sheep.
Upon reaching the barn, she yelled up to him. “If you fall and break your neck, don’t come runnin’ to me!”
He peered over the edge of the roof. His nose was red from the cold and his hair tossed about like sails in the wind, but he sure was a sight for sore eyes. “I guess I’d just have to wait ‘till your friend Scooter comes.”
She balled her hands at her side. “I’d think you’d have a little consideration for my reputation.”
His eyebrows quirked upward. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”
“How do you think it looks for a woman to entertain a man that’s not her husband?”
She’d not yet told anyone of Richard’s death. She didn’t want friends and neighbors coming to her door to express condolences until after the ranger was long gone.
He shrugged. “Isn’t it a little late to worry about that? Some of your neighbors already know I’m here.”
“I told them my husband sent you here to recover from your bullet wound.”
“Your husband sent me? That might be hard to explain when the truth comes out that he’s dead.”
“That’s my problem.” She tossed her head. “I mean, it Captain.” She grabbed hold of the ladder and gave it a good shaking. “If you don’t come down, I’ll see that you’re stuck up there for good!”
“Why, Mrs. Carnes, is that a threat?”
She glared up at him. “You’ve already had one relapse and I’m not about to take care of you for another. So what’s it gonna be?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll come down, but only on one condition.”
She straightened, hands at her waist. “What?” “You stop calling me captain. My name is Cole.”
“Not gonna happen,” she said. Calling him by his given name would only strengthen the bond between them, and she couldn’t let that happen. It was hard enough trying not to like the man more than was absolutely necessary.
“Why not?” he asked.
“I never name an animal I plan on eating, and I sure don’t aim on naming a man who’ll soon be gone.”
“All right, Mrs. Carnes. Have it your way. But could you at least tell me what your Christian name is? I promise not to use it unless you say it’s okay.”
She chewed on a bottom lip. “Sadie,” she said. “And I don’t want you calling me that, you hear?”
“Nice name,” he said. “It suits you.”
She didn’t know what he meant by that and she wasn’t about to ask. “So what’s it gonna be, Captain?” She grabbed hold of the ladder and rattled it. “You coming down or ain’t you?”
“Oh, I’ll come down, Mrs. Carnes. But only because I don’t want you complaining about me to your dead husband.”
Short stories and novellas are popular around the holidays. I don’t mind writing short, but I prefer reading full-length novels. Which do you prefer? Also, has a short story ever inspired you to check out the author’s novels?
What do you call Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms?
Do you like short stories? I love them, both as a writer and as a reader. I’m so thrilled that they’re making a comeback in today’s world! I remember as a teenager in high school English class, some of the short stories that were taught at the time. You can probably recall these classes, too—we read many short stories and novels that couldn’t reach into our world and touch us, not at that age.
It’s odd to me that had some of the selections been different, or more age-appropriate, this might have fostered a love of reading the short story rather than dread for so many. The essay questions at the end of the story seemed hard for many of the students to understand, much less formulate answers to in order to show what they learned from the story. As high school freshmen in the 14-15 year-old age range, and with our limited knowledge of the world, it was difficult for some to be able to grasp symbolism or foreshadowing among other story elements. I realized later on that some people never grasp it, no matter how old they are. Reading with that kind of intuitive understanding is not something everyone is able to do.
Being forced to read something for a grade rather than enjoyment was something I didn’t understand. For one thing, I enjoyed reading. As with any kid, some things held my interest more than others. But I never could fathom some of my classmates who actually said, “I hate to read.”
I had some favorite short stories, even out of the ones we were forced to read. Who could forget Whitney and Rainsford in Richard Connell’s THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME? Frank Stockton’s THE LADY OR THE TIGER? Or, TO BUILD A FIRE, by Jack London?
Those stories were what inspired me to want to write “like that” and I often wondered in later years, seeing my kids’ English books and the stories they contained, where our next generation of writers would come from? There was certainly nothing “inspiring” in those stories. I was wishing there were some of the stories from “the good ol’ days” in their books, even though at the time I had been their age, many of my classmates had detested those same stories that I loved so much.
But one day, my daughter came home from school and said, “Mom, we read a story today that was so good! It’s about a guy who is trying to survive in the cold and he tries to build a fire…” And a few years later, my son couldn’t wait to tell me about a story they’d read about an island, where men were hunted…
Not everyone who loves to read wants to become a writer. So I’m wondering…was there a particular short story that you read when you were younger that made you want to write? Or one that made you become an avid reader? Since so many of us write westerns, was there a western short story that influenced you when you were younger? The one that I loved was not really a short story, but a short novel, Fred Gipson’s OLD YELLER.
In later years, another one that stood out was Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY.
I’d have to say one of my all-time favorite short stories is Dorothy M. Johnson’s LOST SISTER–this is a fictional story based on Cynthia Ann Parker’s real life story of being kidnapped by the Comanche, and marrying a Comanche chief. She later became the mother of another prominent chief, Quanah Parker. LOST SISTER is a story that you will remember long after you finish reading it!
What’s your favorite short story? It doesn’t have to be a western. I’d love to hear what your favorite(s) are. My TBR list is bursting at the seams anyhow, but I can’t stop myself from adding to it when I hear about MORE great reads!
I’m giving away a free print copy of one of my short story collections today, DARK TRAIL RISING. All you have to do is comment, and check back later this evening to see if you won!