The Age Old Holiday Question–Fruitcake Treat or Door Stop?

When I look back on my books, I can often tell something about what was going on with me. When I wrote To Tame a Texas Cowboy, transporting a lot of dogs from Corsicana, Texas. (For those who don’t know, my family fosters and transports dogs for Cody’s Friends Rescue.) I say that because of my heroine, Cheyenne’s comment describing her overprotective Mom. Despite the serious nature that brought about the scene (the mother reports her missing), I had a blast writing it. Here’s an excerpt.

“I’ve got to do something about Mom. I don’t care how worried she is, when she hurts other people she’s gone too far.” Cheyenne collapsed on the couch beside Aubrey.

If this was a sample of what Cheyenne was dealing with, no wonder she was desperate to move out. If a service dog could help her with that goal, how could he refuse to help? Wasn’t easing burdens like Cheyenne’s why he’d taken up Olivia’s cause with the SeizureReader?

Dog nails scraping against the glass patio door drew Cooper’s attention. After he let the dogs in, Penny trotted over to Cheyenne and curled up by her feet.

The wild idea that sprouted last night when he saw Penny with Cheyenne expanded. The idea could work.

“We should leave. I’ve caused Cooper enough trouble, and who knows what else will happen if I stay longer,” Cheyenne said to Aubrey.

Her friend shook her head. “Girl, I slept in my clothes and the officer showing up scared me so much I’m as sweaty as a teenager sneaking into the house after curfew. No way am I crawling in the car without a shower. Cooper, mind if I use yours?”

“Go ahead. That’ll give me time to talk to Cheyenne.”

After Aubrey left, Cheyenne stared at him wide-eyed. “Why would you want to talk to me? If I were you, I’d figure out how to get a restraining order.”

He smiled at her attempt at humor as he sank into his recliner. The woman had grit. Despite everything, she hadn’t buckled. “On your mom maybe, but this wasn’t your fault.”

Fatigue and vulnerability flashed in her green eyes, overwhelming the courage and toughness he admired a minute ago. “You’re wrong. This is my fault. I didn’t rein Mom in before this happened.”

“Has your mom always been so,” he paused. Would it be completely out of line to call her mom a nut case?

“Go ahead and say it. Crazy, wacko. Nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake. Take your pick.”

He chuckled at her plain speaking. “I was trying to find a better way to phrase it.”

“That’s sweet, but unnecessary.” Cheyenne sighed. “She wasn’t as bad when my dad was alive.”

“You don’t have to talk about this.”

She shrugged. “You’ve seen my dirtiest laundry. Might as well know how it got so bad. My dad died in a freak rodeo accident when I was fifteen. A bull threw him and before the rodeo clowns got there, the bull stepped on his—” She shuddered, and horror flashed across her face. “There was nothing anyone could do. He was gone.”

“Saying I’m sorry is inadequate, but I am sorry.”

Cheyenne picked at the couch cushion. “That’s what started Mom’s overprotectiveness. Most people think things like that won’t happen to them or someone they love, but she knows they do. My diagnosis has dredged up that pain, along with her fear, and helplessness. She’s doing the only thing she can think of, trying to control everything, but she can’t fix this for me.”

 

I know a lot of folks outside of Texas won’t get Cheyenne’s comment “nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake” but I had a good laugh writing with it. Her comment refers to the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, famous for the fruitcake it’s made for over 125 years. I can see the looks of disbelief on your faces now. Hey, I’ve heard all the fruitcake jokes that abound this time of year, but the Collin Street Bakery’s been featured on a popular shows like Good Morning America.

I thought the same thing the first time I went to Corsicana to transport a dog. But when I saw the Collin Street Bakery on my way to the city shelter, I had to stop. After that, every time I drove to Corsicana, I stopped at the bakery first. I would get a cherry turnover to devour on the way home, peanut brittle for my hubby, cupcakes, and a sample of their fruitcake, which is by the way, pretty good.

While we don’t buy fruitcakes, every year at the holidays, my husband craves our family’s version which is more like a pound cake. It’s so good that if I don’t have time to bake it, he does! Today I’m sharing that recipe with you.

 

Philly Christmas Cake

 

Ingredients:

1 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 1/2 C sugar

1 C butter

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

2 1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 C each of candied red, green cherries, and pineapple

1 C chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:

Place 1/4 C chopped walnuts in each of two loaf pans. Place 1/4 C of the flour in a small bowl. Add cut candied fruit and remaining nuts. Mix and set aside.

Cream softened cream cheese, sugar, butter and vanilla until combined well. Add eggs one a time. Mix until incorporated. Add remaining flour (2C) and baking powder. Combine. Add remaining walnuts (1/2) and candied (now floured) fruit. Mix. Pour into loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 20 min.

Giveaway–Today I have two holiday T-shirts to give away. Each one comes with a signed copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. To be entered in the giveaways, leave me a comment on your thoughts regarding fruitcake.

 

Texas Ranching History – by Debra Holt

“Other states are carved or born;

Texas grew from hide and horn.”

                                            — Bertha Hart Nance, 1932

 

Texas ranching has a long and storied history. Its roots go back to 1493 when Christopher Columbus made his second visit to Hispaniola. He brought with him several head of cattle, who were the ancestors of the Texas Longhorns bred throughout the state today.

The 16th and 17th centuries saw cattle ranching advance through Mexico and into modern-day Texas. The first cattle ranch was found in the El Paso region, where several thousand cattle were raised. These early ranches were formed by Spanish missionaries; private ranches would arise in the mid-18th century.

The Mexican War of Independence destroyed the Spanish missionary ranches. The Austin colony was formed at the end of the war, attracting Anglos to come stake a claim on the land and the cattle on it. They brought their eastern cattle to breed with the Spanish cattle, and the result was the Texas Longhorn.

The U.S. annexed Texas in 1845, and it spread out land for railways and new settlements. There was plenty of land to go around, and the demand grew high for beef. The cowboy system we’ve come to hold so dear began around this time.

It wasn’t just men who worked on the ranches; women were important to ranch operations, too. One woman, a former slave named Julia Blanks, helped with roundups, planted crops, raised up animals, and helped with the cooking during roundups on the Adams Ranch.

Her daughters followed in her footsteps — “My oldest girl used to take the place of a cowboy, and put her hair up in her hat. And ride! My goodness, she loved to ride.”

The first woman who led a cattle drive was Margaret Borland. After her husband passed, she became the sole owner of the Victoria ranch and 8,000 longhorns. Six years later, she had 10,000 cattle in her care. In 1873, she became the first female trail boss, leading 2,500 longhorns, her three children, and several cowboys up the Chisholm Trail into Kansas.

In recent years, ranches have had to adopt newer ways of bringing income, as the cost of cattle and maintaining the land has risen. The historic YO Ranch let its land for hunting and outdoor recreation. The Matador Ranch soon followed suit.

This past spring, the last ‘grande dame’ of the Texas ranching world was laid to rest. And last month, one of the few remaining ranching ‘empires’ went on the chopping block.

I call it a chopping block because here in Texas, far too many of our great and historic ranches have been sold to the highest bidder (usually someone residing outside the country, let alone the state) and chopped up into smaller pieces, the land and its resources plumbed until nothing worth anything remains, and a vital chapter of our Texas heritage and history has been wiped clean.

This sad fate of a place I consider to be a bit of Texas heaven inspired this story and this series — the Texas Heritage series.

In the first book, The Texas Cowboy’s Proposal, we meet the two granddaughters of Sarah McNamara Burkitt…Laurel Annabella and Samantha Josefina. The heroine of this first book will be Samantha, aka Sammi Jo. She has just been handed a hard blow when her older sister shares the finer points of their grandmother’s will.

GIVEAWAY

Stop a minute and comment about a piece of your heritage that still impacts your life today.

One lucky commenter will receive a free copy of The Texas Cowboy’s Proposal!

Purchase The Texas Cowboy’s Proposal here

Find Debra online at her website here

Stories from My Winery Visit

Photo: Kiepersol

My husband and I recently visited Kiepersol Winery and Bed and Breakfast in Tyler. Our room at the Bed and Breakfast was in the building with the restaurant. Not only were the surroundings quiet, calm, and serene, the wine was wonderful, our room beautiful, and the restaurant defied description. They feature great steaks and seafood, with incredible sides. My favorites were the sauteed mushrooms and garlic potatoes. And the desserts…I had cherries jubilee, and I swear I gain a pound thinking about it, but it was worth every calorie.

But the stories of the winery’s history our wine tour guide, Ron shared captured my writer’s sentimental heart. Founder Pierre de Wet’s story would do any hero proud. Born in South Africa, in 1984 after the death of his wife from skin cancer, he and his young daughters, age two and four, moved to America. Pierre worked as a farm laborer until he could buy acres in Tyler, Texas. Though in 1996 there were no wineries from Austin to Florida, Pierre was sure he could make a winery work.

The winery’s name comes from the Kiepersol farm where Pierre grew up. Legend has it soldiers running from a lion toward a lone tree, shouted, “Kiepersol! Kiepersol” as they sought safety in the tree. (Later it was learned the soldiers yelled, “We hope this tree will keep us all!” Pierre named his winery after that Kiepersol tree, hoping everyone who visited the winery would find that same comfort.

Pierre’s determination and frugality when he started his winery served him well. To lower startup costs, he purchased used equipment. In tough times he sold residential lots, eventually creating one of two wine estates in the U.S. In 2000, he harvested his first grapes. To sell his wine, he hired teenagers with signs and obtained retired Clydesdales for carriages rides that ended at the winery.

Photo: Kiepersol

I can’t share all the winery’s stories today, but I want to share one behind Flight sparkling wine. Guinea fowl have roamed the area for over 20 years as vineyard stewards. Their chatter safekeeps the grapes from deer and birds. They eat bugs serving as nature’s pesticide. Guinea fowl spotted feathers are believed to be good luck charms. Now to the name. The winery says, “We believe each spotted feather found represents a releasing of the past. Flight is grown in a place where one can feel soulfully grounded while also letting dreams soar. So. Take Flight my friends.” That sentiment makes me shiver.

I love visiting Texas wineries and hearing their stories. The minute I heard Pierre de Wet’s, I thought how I would’ve loved to create such a hero. The courage, strength, and determination he possessed to come to America with two young daughters when the only person he knew was a Texas A&M professor, astounds me. He created a winery, a bed and breakfast with fifteen rooms, an incredible restaurant, a distillery, and an RV park! But most importantly, he raised two strong women who carry on his legacy.

Pierre de Wet and his daughters
Photo: Kiepersol

I may have found a retirement-keep-busy-and-involved career. What could be better than telling a winery’s stories, meeting fabulous people, especially if I could be paid with an occasional bottle of wine and dinner?

Today I’m giving away this horseshoe decoration and a signed copy of To Tame a Texas Cowboy. To be entered in my random drawing, leave a comment to this question. What is the best story you’ve heard or best/most interesting fact you’ve learned on a trip? Or, if you don’t have a story to share, just stop by to say hello or tell me about a real life hero in your life.

 

To Invite Parents Into A Story or Not

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

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

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

 

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

“Why isn’t your old man helping out?”

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

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

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

Even run Lucky Stars Weddings.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Musical Inspiration

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

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

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

Here For A Good Time

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

I’m Not That Girl

Source: Musixmatch  Songwriters: Schwartz Stephen Laurence / Sandford Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Outdated, Strange, or Downright Dumb Texas Laws

A while back I had so much fun discussing odd/weird/crazy Texas laws still on the books, and while I’ve tried to find the reasons behind these laws, so far I haven’t had much luck. However, I have come across more unusual laws still on the Texas books. Unable to resist a good laugh, (I mean can’t we all use one?) I’m sharing these new oddities with you.

  • It’s illegal to own a set of Encyclopedia Britannica in Texas. Apparently, lawmakers were upset it contained a recipe for beer and didn’t want to deal with home breweries. If you have an old set around somewhere better hide it now!
  • In LeFors, Texas, taking more than three drinks, sips, or swallows of beer while standing is illegal. But that makes me ask what about wine or mixed drinks? Is it okay to drink more of those standing?
  • In Houston it’s illegal to sell Limburger cheese on Sunday. Apparently, other cheeses are okay because they’re not specified. This begs the question what do lawmakers have against Limburger cheese and why is it illegal only on Sundays?
  • If you’re planning on committing a crime in Texas, you’re required by law to give your victim 24 hour written or verbal notice. It’s hard to believe someone possessed the nerve to stand in the state legislature and propose this law. Not only that, but the person suggested the law in hopes of reducing crime! (Because people wanting to commit a crime wouldn’t dream of breaking this law!) I’m laughing thinking of a burglar slipping a note in my mailbox. Planning on robbing you Tuesday night. Is that good for you or do I need to reschedule?
  • Don’t eat your neighbor’s garbage…without permission. Major yuck factor with this one because well, garbage. If caught, this law will get you in trouble for trespassing and property theft. Who knew garbage was property? I thought it was fair game once it was put out, but I guess not.

  • Flirting with the “eyes or hands” is illegal in San Antonio, for both men and women. Seriously. If police enforced this one, they could almost empty the Riverwalk daily. Now that would clog up the court system.
  • In Texas your vehicle doesn’t need to have a windshield to be driven on the road. However, it does need to possess windshield wipers! I’m trying to imagine where those wipers could be affixed if there isn’t a windshield. Or maybe they don’t need to be attached but could be tossed in the back seat or in the glove box? Boggles the mind to think the person writing this one and the lawmakers who passed it didn’t see the irony.
  • Another ironic one that lawmakers didn’t think through is when two trains meet at a crossing, both must fully stop, and neither can move until the other has left the crossing. How could this miss this problem and realize it would make for looooong waits at train crossings?
  • In Dennison and Bristol you can land in jail for up to a year for showing your stockings. I’m laughing thinking of some poor old man being tossed in jail for wearing socks with his sandals. Or are socks considered in stockings? Good thing most of us women have given up wearing hose and stockings.
  • Since Texas is a common state, if two willing, single, over 18 parties announce three times they’re married, bam, they are legally married. Wow, talk about lying having major and lasting consequences.
  • In a holdover from the old west, when one rancher would cut another’s fence, it is illegal to carry wire cutters in your pocket.

I hope these laws gave you a chuckle. To be entered in my random drawing for the Cowboy Take Me Away T-shirt and signed copy of Cowboy in the Making leave a comment about what the craziest or silliest law you’ve heard about that is still on the books.

 

Guest Author Amanda Cabot – Did You Know?

Research. Authors tend to be in two camps where it’s concerned: those who love it and those who hate it. I’m firmly in the first category. I love learning new things about the time period and location I’ve chosen for my books, but – and this is a big but – there’s a problem. All too often I uncover tidbits that I find fascinating but that won’t fit into my stories. Since I hate to have them languish in my research folder, I thought I’d share ten of them with you today.

The first five come from The Texans, part of Time-Life’s The Old West series. 

  1. Although there’s no denying Stephen Austin’s importance in Texas history, colonizing the area wasn’t his dream. It was his father, Moses’s. In fact, Stephen was less than enthusiastic about the idea. But when Stephen learned that his father’s dying wish was that he ensure that Moses’s plans for Texas were realized, the dutiful son agreed. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

 

  1. One of the terms of the land grant Austin (Stephen, that is) received was that he’d bring 300 families to settle on that land. Though he’d expected that to be relatively easy to accomplish, he was only able to recruit 297. No one seemed too distressed by that breach of contract, and those families were soon referred to as the Old Three Hundred.

 

  1. The Mexican government had two stipulations for land ownership: settlers must become both Mexican citizens and Roman Catholics. Since most of the immigrants were Protestants, it was generally understood that Catholic rites would not be strictly enforced.

 

  1. Because not all communities had priests, couples who wanted to marry but didn’t want to wait for the priest to reach their town would often have a civil ceremony. That ceremony included signing a bond that they’d have their marriage confirmed by a priest as soon as possible. In theory, the bond was legally enforceable, but unhappy couples who wanted to dissolve their marriage simply destroyed the bond and declared themselves once more single.

 

  1. Speaking of marriage, Sam Houston, another legendary figure in early Texas history, had a disastrous one. Within three months of marrying the much younger Eliza Allen in 1829, they were separated, perhaps because of his drunkenness. Fortunately for him, when he married again in 1840, also to a considerably younger woman, the marriage was a longer and presumably happier one that resulted in eight children.

 

My second source of tidbits is T.R. Fehrenbach’s Lone Star.

  1. You’re undoubtedly familiar with the term hidalgo, but did you know that it’s derived from the old Spanish term Fijo d’Algo, meaning “son of someone important”?

 

  1. When Texas became a state, its constitution included some unusual (at least for the time) provisions. (1) No minister could serve in the legislature. (2) Married women were guaranteed property rights. (3) Private households were exempt from foreclosure. (4) Banks could not incorporate.

 

  1. In 1838 Texas became the first part of America to enact homestead legislation.

 

  1. Immigrants, particularly from Europe, formed a large part of the population. In fact, by 1850 European – mostly German – immigrants outnumbered Mexicans and Anglos in San Antonio.

 

  1. Among the immigrants who settled in the Hill Country were a number of intellectuals who formed utopian colonies referred to as “Latin Colonies” because they conducted weekly meetings where they discussed topics ranging from politics to literature to music in Latin. While there was no doubting the founders’ education, their lack of farming experience led to a predictable decline in the towns’ fortunes.

 

And there you have it: ten tidbits that intrigued me. Were you surprised by any of them? Which did you find the most interesting? Can you envision a story with one of these as its basis? If so, which?

Amanda is graciously giving away a print copy of The Spark of love to one lucky commenter.

 

The Spark of Love

 

 

Buying Links

Amazon

BakerBookHouse

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book Distributors

 

She’s determined to start a new life in the West . . . if only the old one will leave her alone

 

When a spurned suitor threatens her, heiress Alexandra Tarkington flees New York for Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country, where her father is building a hotel. But the happy reunion she envisions is not to be as her father insists she return to New York. Instead, Alexandra carves out a niche for herself in town, teaching schoolchildren to paint and enjoying the company of Gabe Seymour, a delightful man she met on the stagecoach.

 

But all is not as it seems. Two men, each with his own agenda, have followed her to Mesquite Springs. And Gabe is an investigator, searching for proof that her father is a swindler.

 

With so much to lose—and hide from one another—Alexandra and Gabe will have to come together if they are ever to discover whether  the sparks they’ve felt from the beginning can kindle the fire of true love.

 

 

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of more than forty books and a variety of novellas. Her books have been honored with a starred review from Publishers Weekly and have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best.

 

 

Social Media Links

http://www.amandacabot.com

https://www.facebook.com/amanda.j.cabot

https://twitter.com/AmandaJoyCabot/

http://amandajoycabot.blogspot.com/

 

 

I Wasn’t Born In Texas, But I Got Here As Soon As I Could!

 

When my cousin Jacque moved to San Antonio when I was in middle school, I became fascinated with the state. After I graduated from high school, my Aunt Verna, Jacque’s mom and I drove to visit my cousin. That was when I knew I wanted to live in Texas, and sure enough, my husband and I moved to the Dallas area after he graduated from college. Today I’m sharing a few interesting facts about my adopted home state.

 

Examples of how things are bigger in Texas:

  • One Texas ranch, the King Ranch, is bigger than the state of Rhode Island.
  • The Texas State Fair is the largest, longest running US state fair and boasts North America’s largest Ferris wheel.
  • Austin is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony.
  • The Texas State Capital is fifteen feet taller than the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.
  • When you are in Newton County in southeast Texas, you’re closer to the Atlantic Ocean than to El Paso. When you’re in El Paso, you’re closer to the Pacific Ocean than Newton County.
  • If you’re in Brownsville, Texas, you’re closer to Guatemala than you are to Dalhart, Texas.

 

Tidbits on some Texas towns:

  • A town formerly known as Clark, Texas, changed its name to Dish so its 201 residents would get free TV service for ten years.
  • Decatur voted to reschedule Halloween in 2014 because the holiday conflicted with high school football. Yup, that’s how important high school football is in Texas!
  • Austin has more live music venues per capita than anywhere in the United States.

 

On Texas highways:

  • The Texas Department of Transportation employs a group of gardeners to spread more than 30,000 pounds of wildflower seeds annually to beautify the state’s highways. For generations when the state flower is in bloom, families flock to fields of the flowers to snap photos.
  • County road Highway 130 between Austin and San Antonio is the fastest road in the US with a speed limit of 85 mph.
  • The Katy Freeway at Beltway 8 with 26 lanes across is the world’s widest freeway. (I won’t be driving on that road any time soon!)

 

Katy Highway at Beltway 8 in Texas.

 

Texas inventions:

  • Pepper was invented in 1885 by Charles Alderton, a pharmacist in Waco.
  • The frozen margarita machine was invented in Texas. (That’s definitely something to celebrate!) The original machine is on display at The Smithsonian.

 

A few miscellaneous facts:

Texas Ranchers Museum in Waco
  • The Texas Ranchers founded in 1823 by Stephen F. Austin are the oldest state-wide law enforcement agency.
  • True Texas Chili is made without beans.
  • Y’all is singular, while all y’all is plural.

 

If you visit Texas, be aware it’s illegal to do these things:

  • Milk someone else’s cow
  • Sell your eye
  • Dust a public building with a feather duster (I wonder if it’s okay to do so with a cloth.)
  • Shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel (But I guess the first story is okay.),
  • To let a camel run loose on a Galveston beach.
  • However, you can kill Bigfoot if you find him!

Since everything in Texas is bigger I’m having two giveaways today. One is for a coozie, to-go coasters with one of my favorite Texas sayings, and a cactus coaster. The other is for the Blessed and Lucky T-shirt in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. To be entered, tell me which of the facts I listed you found the most interesting and why.

Now I’m off to figure out how to use one of those odd laws to get a hero or heroine into trouble…

There’s a New Cowboy in Texas!

 

  • cowboy learning how to start over
  • fiery young woman with the heart to save him
  • A past neither can escape, and
  • A future worthy of any Christmas miracle.

There’s a new cowboy in the Texas Panhandle and he’s definitely NOT looking for love in A COWBOY CHRISTMAS LEGEND. Nope. That’s the furthest thing from Sam II’s mind. He’s happy being alone where he doesn’t have to face the ghosts of the past and indulging a new passion of forging knives. Working with hot steel and making something beautiful from it is a lot better than having to deal with nosey people and all their questions.

But his neighbor’s daughter Cheyenne Ronan is having none of that. Especially with Christmas approaching. No one should be alone.

Having returned from a year away, she’s curious about Sam and wonders what he’d look like beneath all that hair and long beard. Why is he so different from his famous ranching family? Why did he cut himself off from everyone and choose to live in isolation?

When he discovers a sick woman and her children stranded in the snow, he’s forced to ask for Cheyenne’s help. Together they’re determined to bring cheer to the little family. And as they work toward that goal, they discover their own Christmas miracle.

Forging knives is an ancient skill learned from as far back as cave man days. Knives are the third oldest weapon behind rocks and clubs and there’s a lot that goes into the process. I love watching Forged in Fire on the History Channel and seeing the intricacies of the profession.

The steel has to be at the right temperature. Too hot and it turns to liquid. Too cold and it splits as the layers of steel separate. It’s like making love to a woman in a lot of ways. She has to be just the right temperature.

And then after getting the steel in the shape you want, there’s the tempering or hardening process and honing the blade to a razor sharp edge. With no modern tools, it takes Sam about a week to make a knife and that’s if everything goes well. Sometimes they’re ornate and unusual along with the functional ones.

His knives are much sought after and his reputation is growing, much to his dismay, because it means he has to talk to people when they come calling.

A COWBOY CHRISTMAS LEGEND releases September 28th and it’s the second of my Lone Star Legends series. For an excerpt click HERE.

Sometimes I look at my hectic life and wish I lived in some remote place far from everyone. No cell phone. No outside contact. But after the covid isolation of last year and spending much of it in isolation, I know I couldn’t be a recluse for any length of time.

How about you? Could you be a hermit and never see family and friends? Or have a grocery store or doctor nearby? I don’t have any copies of this book yet so I’m giving away a $15 Amazon Gift Card to someone who comments.

It’s available for Pre-Order!  AMAZON | APPLE | B&N | GOOGLE Play | KOBO |

Welcome to the Wild Cow Ranch!

Denise
Natalie

Georgia author Denise F. McAllister and Texas author Natalie Bright have teamed up to bring you a new western series. Book #1 MAVERICK HEART, Book #2 A WILD COW WINTER, and Book #3 FOLLOW A WILD HEART. All three books in the new series hit the top 20 hot new releases on Amazon on the same day! The books are available on Amazon in print or eBook formats. Denise and Natalie have just contracted with CKN (Wolfpack Publishing) for three more books in the series to be released this coming fall.

 

The story follows a Georgia girl, Carli Jameson, who inherits a Texas ranch from grandparents she never knew. She makes the courageous decision to pack up her life and move to Texas to run the ranch. She forges ahead into a new life filled with uncertainty and along the way discovers a ranching community that becomes the family she never had. Independent, ambitious and smart, Carli has always been careful with her heart, except for the one time she thought she had found her soul mate and true love. He proved her wrong, and she vowed never to jump into a romantic relationship that easily again. When Carli drives away from her life in Georgia, no looking back, she intends to stick with her vow and not fall into any romances, especially with a Texas cowboy. She doesn’t have time for love. She has a ranch to run.

Can a fresh start erase the troubles of her past?

Author Q&A

Q: What inspired the new Wild Cow Ranch series and what is it about?

 

Natalie: I enjoy stories about quirky, complex characters who leave their old life behind and start anew, and I’ve always wanted to write a story set in the Texas Panhandle. The Wild Cow Ranch series centers around our main character, Carli Jameson, who inherits a cattle ranch from a grandfather she never knew. Her journey is the main focus, which makes it women’s fiction, but included is the small-town vibe and a bit of cowboy romance. We’ve also added a faith element to these books, as Carli tries to discover who she is and what her purpose should be. Most of the characters hold with Christian values, but some do not. The stories are clean and sweet, the types of books you can pass along to a daughter or your mother.

 

Denise: Inspiration for this series was Natalie. She told me her idea, and we decided to write it together. Coincidentally, I had a similar story in my head before we even met so I guess it was meant to be. I love how we were able to bring experiences from my life in Georgia and Natalie’s in Texas together to create some of Carli’s adventures.

 

Q: What are some comparison titles of books or movies similar to this book?

 

Denise: I think of Hallmark stories but also anything with a strong female lead. This is about a woman who has had to learn how to make it on her own, a woman who has been forced, for whatever reason, to be independent. Sometimes that independence makes her a little distant from the very people who are trying to help her. In Book One, MAVERICK HEART, that person might be a potential love interest.

 

Natalie: One of my all-time favorite movies is THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER, in which the setting is as much of a character as the people. The Texas Panhandle plays a big part in our stories. I love westerns that include the connections with the land and livestock. Denise brings the knowledge of horses as horse shows were a big part of her youth, and as a cattle ranch owner, I’m including that element. If you like feel-good, hopeful stories with happy endings, you might give our new series a try.

 

Q: Which scene or chapter in any of the books is your favorite? Why?

 

Natalie: My favorite scene is the snowstorm in Book #2, A WILD COW WINTER. Even though it releases on February 10, the story is centered around Christmas—a holiday that our main character, Carli Jameson, really dreads. The norther that blows in is typical of Texas Panhandle weather, which can be unpredictable. She and her horse Beau are trapped in a barn as temperatures drop, and she finds herself in a life or death situation.

 

Denise: I love it when Carli relaxes some and has peace, when she opens her heart to a love interest, and especially when she opens her heart to God. It’s a hard thing sometimes to give up control. But it can be such a better life to not have to carry life’s burdens all on your own. I also love in Book #3 FOLLOW A WILD HEART how we introduced art and museums to the story. Not many westerns have that element.

 

Q: Was it easy to co-author these books?

 

Natalie: It has definitely been a challenge but has been very fulfilling creatively. The best part is having someone to bounce ideas off of, and to have brainstorming sessions about the characters and plot lines. Our process improves with every book that we write together.

 

Denise: It was a learning process. We had to be willing to compromise, listen to the other person’s ideas, and accept that our co-author might have a better way for the good of the story. Sometimes we hit a little bump in the road, but I think mostly that has to do with our schedules. We might write on different days or weeks. Then we come together and dissect everything, review, edit, revise. But at the core, we both have the same story in our heads.

 

We’re giving away a paperback copy of MAVERICK HEART.  Just tell us why you like reading Western romance novels!!

For buy links and more about the authors and their inspiration, read an interview on the publishers website  https://christiankindlenews.com/get-know-wild-cow-ranch-co-authors/

Find the authors online at  http://www.nataliebright.com or  http://www.mcallisterediting.com

For more about the Wild Cow Ranch Series, check out the inspirational boards on Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/natbright/maverick-heart/