A New Book, A New Lesson

 

I’m excited for Aiming for His Heart to be released on June 30th. Writing this book, the tenth story in our Pink Pistol Sisterhood series, challenged me in many ways. First, at 40,000 words, it’s the shortest story I’ve written. I hear those who know me well laughing because you know I can’t say hello in less than fifty words. 🙂  In my first writing classes, the instructor asked if I was taking her class on writing tighter. To my I hadn’t decided answer, she responded that I needed to. Despite hard work on that, I struggled 60,000 word Harlequin novels within the overage allowance.

I also had less time to write this story. When I start a book, I count on two things happening. I’ll start in the wrong place, either too far into the story or too far . I’ll take wrong turns. Sure enough. Both happened with Aiming for His Heart. In fact, the wrong turns were so disastrous I pretty much started over once. Maybe twice. While I was proud of writing in the shorter time frame, as a tortoise writing (unlike many of my amazing rabbit speed writing filly sisters), doing so took its toll.

However, the main challenge came from my heroine, Jade. Boy did she and I get into a battle of wills. Okay. I hear you laughing again. Yes, I know I can be stubborn, too. ? Our trouble started during brainstorming. My story ideas almost always start with the hero. In fact, only one hasn’t. But in the Pink Pistol Sisterhood series the heroine receives the pink-handled pistol which plays a key part in the story. This meant the story needed to begin with Jade. Until I learned her backstory, her personality, and what she wanted, I couldn’t move forward. And blast the woman, she wouldn’t let me into her head.

I knew Jade’s mother died when Jade was ten. From then until she went attended college, Jade spent summers and school vacations with her maternal aunt in Oklahoma. There Jade found the love and acceptance she often didn’t receive from her workaholic, distant father and his new family. Jade revealed her past to me, but after that, she shut down. All she revealed was she was returning to Oklahoma to settle her aunt’s estate.

Anyone who’s taken on that task knows how emotionally and physically exhausting it is. Despite putting Jade in stressful situations, she remained distant, almost emotionless. Thankfully, while talking to my dear friend and critique partner, Nancy Haddock, I realized Jade acted that way because she didn’t want to feel anything. She didn’t want to let anyone in. I finally had my key to her character. Jade feared if she felt anything, especially grief, she’d fall apart and never recover. She viewed her emotions as the enemy because when she lost control of them, chaos and disaster followed.

Being a sinister author, I had to break her. But as often happens in my stories, in busting through my character’s defenses and forcing them to face their issues, I make a discovery of my own. I learned I had been at war with my emotions lately. Because I had been feeling too much for lack of better words, I didn’t want to feel anything and had shut down in some ways, too. Forcing Jade to deal with her emotions forced me to grow and deal with mine, too. I guess, not only do I write what I know, sometimes I write about what I need to learn.

GIVEAWAY:  To be entered in my random drawing for cactus tote leave a comment about a challenge that made you grow and what you learned or what new skill you acquired.

 

Character Names

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. As I write this blog I’m getting ready to start work on a new book. I’ve done some pre-writing – thinking about my characters backstory, what’s hurt them in their pasts and what motivates them in the present and touched on what their goals are, but now I’m ready to put pen to paper, start the story, and really figure out who they are.

That is both a very exciting thing and a scary thing for me. Exciting because at this point there are so many fun and adventurous new possibilities stretching out in front of me. Scary because there is always that little niggling worry that I won’t be able to do justice to the story as I try to translate what’s in my head to the actual manuscript.

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. This book will feature twin sisters – one will be the heroine of this book and one will be the heroine of a future book. I’ve been trying to name these two ladies and I’m finding it a bit more difficult than usual.

Do I give them similar sounding names like Amanda and Miranda, Hilda and Wilda, Annabel and Isabel, Connie and Bonnie.  Or maybe I should go with themed names like Ruby and Opal, Summer and Autumn, Daisy and Lily, Iris and Rose, Fern and Ivy, Flora and Fauna, Scarlet and Violet? Or just name them like I would any other siblings? After all I have twin daughters of my own and deliberately didn’t chose matchy-matchy names – they are Lydia and Melissa.

There are other people as well as places and things I’ll need to name in these books of course.

There are the heroes naturally. Right now I am thinking I’ll name them Wyatt Hayes (a ranch hand) and Gavin Burns (a small town lawyer) but that may change as I figure out who they really are.  For the town name, I’m waffling between Larkin and Crossvine.  And one of them owns a dress shop – should I name it after her (Miss such-and-such’s Dress Shop) or after the town (Crossvine’s Fashion Emporium) or something altogether original (Purple Plume Fashions)?

But back to my dilemma over naming my twin heroines – what do you think, which approach should I take? And based on your answer, do you have any suggestions for actual names?

Give me your thoughts in the comments below and you’ll get your name in the hat to win a copy of one of my backlist books AND a fun Christmas ornament.

A Sneak Peek!

 

My current project is a fish-out-water story, my favorite type to write. I do so love putting my characters in uncomfortable situations. I realized this with my first book Big City Cowboy when I forced my hero Rory to model in NYC. In the book I’m currently writing, my heroine, Jade works as a Senior Account Manager for a NYC designer. When her aunt leaves her a house in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, she travels there to supervising renovations for its sale. Of course, my hero is a cowboy. Dalton’s forced to take contractor jobs to earn money to keep his ranch afloat.

Another reason I’m enjoying this project is get to show off my DIY/renovation skills. (Yup, I love power tools and own tile, miter, and table saws, a cool nail gun, and various sanders.) I’ve retiled floors, removed wallpaper and popcorn ceilings, then retextured them, and retiled a shower. (FYI, renovating your house is a better workout than you get at any gym!)

After I hammered 🙂 out my characters and their backstory, I thought about the house’s floor plan to determine what renovations Jade would do. Despite knowing all we can discover on the internet, silly me, I tried to sketch a floor plan of my grandparents’ farmhouse. I almost drove myself crazy before turning to the internet where I discovered floor plans from houses built in the early 1900s from Sears and Roebuck.

 

New farmhouse my aunt built when my grandparents’ house had to be torn down.

Starting in 1910 homes were built wired for electricity, except for ones in poor rural areas. They didn’t get electricity until the 1920s. They also had indoor plumbing. This meant houses had one bathroom with a toilet, sink, bathtub (or shower), and a kitchen sink. Because of the growing popularity of automobiles, home also started having a detached garage built. The last new feature of the era were built-in closets to replace wardrobes.

I choose this floor plan.

 

I’ve selected option #2 or Jade’s house. It’s still hard to believe this house could be built for less than $3,000. I chose it for a couple reasons. One, the square style reminded me of my grandparents’ house and the happy times I spent there. Secondly, this design had a bathroom upstairs. Because this novel is shorter than ones I’ve written recently, I wanted to keep the renovations simple and didn’t want to add a plumber character. Because of this, I’m also saying the aunt already added a downstairs half-bath.

I needed another photo and thought we could use a picture of a good looking cowboy.

Before you think I’m writing a DIY renovation book and calling it a novel, my plan is to use the renovation to create trouble for Jade and Dalton. As anyone who’s renovated a house knows, it’s stressful and messy. Ordering supplies online, supply chain issues, and weather problems can create havoc with a timeline. And with Jade wanting to get in, get the job done, and get out of Oklahoma ASAP, this will drive her crazy. Further, there’s opportunities for Dalton to tell Jade about the perils of ordering online and the value of using local suppliers, only to be told Jade’s the boss and she’s made her decision. But of course, he’ll show this city girl a thing or two and she’ll give him a run or his money. Oh, how I love putting two strong-willed, intelligent, stubborn characters together!

So, now you’ve got the inside scoop on my latest project. More to come later on Jade and Dalton…

Giveaway—To be entered in today’s giveaway for the Thanksgiving dish towel and signed copy of Colorado Rescue, leave a comment on what renovations you would do to the house in my story if you wanted to sell it.

Are We Speaking the Same Language?

 

Soon after having my first son (I now have three), I realized how males and females possess dissimilar views the world. We also speak and communicate differently. This realization and my sons have helped me be a better writer and create more realistic heroes. At least, I hope so!

 

When my heroes talk, I keep in mind there are phrases that guys just don’t say. Here’s the ever-growing list I search for to eliminate on my final edit.

I don’t think…

What if we…

How about if…

You may have to…

You might want to…

Think about… (or as I say qualifying it further, “Think about maybe…”)

I thought we might…

 

 

Men don’t qualify what they say or soften the blow. They tell others what needs to be done. Period. In clear, concise terms. What if someone doesn’t like it? Tough. We women worry about hurting someone’s feeling. Goodness, we don’t want anyone getting mad over what we say. And where does that come from? Anyone else raised as I was to avoid conflict at any cost? I see all the raised hands from here in Texas.

 

I’m not sure this illustrates my point, but then who cares?

 

For example, here’s setting up a lunch date between two female friends and two male ones.

Women’s Conversation:

“Where would you like to go to lunch?”

“I don’t know. What sounds good to you?”

“Anything. You choose. Wherever you want to go is fine with me.”

“I was thinking Italian.”

“Actually, I had that last night.”

“That’s alright. We can have something else. What do you suggest?”

“Anything but Italian is great, and if you’re really in the mood for that, I don’t mind having it again.”

Five minutes later, the women will hopefully have decided on a time and place.

 

Men’s Conversation:

“You hungry?”

“Yup.”

“Pizza?”

“Sounds good. Make mine pepperoni and green peppers.”

 

This leads into my next point. Women use around 20,000 words as day versus the paltry 7,000 men use. Guys are like Sergeant Joe Friday in Dragnet. They keep it to just the facts. They don’t embellish or add emotion to the story. (When I taught fourth grade writing, that was the hardest thing for boys to learn—to add their feelings to their writing.) Nor do men notice the same details women do. Women notice what people wear, jewelry, outfits, shoes, and hair. My heroine might think a friend’s dress is aqua, but then qualify if as turquoise, but not the blue kind, the type that has a green hue. Guys? They’ll say it’s blue if they notice the color. But a car? Men will often know the make, model, color, how much horsepower it has, and Lord only knows what else. Me? I’m lucky if I know how many doors the car had. This can be fun, though, giving a character an unusual trait such as the heroine being a car expert or a sharpshooter as in The Andy Griffith Show when his date, Karen beats him in shooting competition. Or I might have a hero who has two or more sisters notice details other heroes won’t.

 

Men are also fixers. That’s why when women talk, they often jump in with solutions. They don’t realize we merely want to vent and need another human being to listen. This makes for great conflict, especially if the heroine assumes the reason the hero’s offering solutions is because he thinks she can’t solve the problem or needs his help.

 

For me to write strong characters I had to understand how people are different and how those distinctions create conflict. It’s not that these traits are right or wrong. They’re simply facts. I find if I don’t remember them when I’m writing, especially from my hero’s point of view, my hero doesn’t come off as real to me, and if I don’t fall in love with him, I know none of you will.

 

GIVEAWAY:  To be entered in today’s random giveaway for the credit card holder, coaster, and signed copy of To Tame a Texas Cowboy, leave a comment on what you think is the biggest difference between men and women–other than the obvious Y chromosome, that is. Lol!

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.

What Should I Tackle Next?

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today’s post is a bit different than my usual post. Instead of sharing information I came across in my research I’m going to ask you to help me with a bit of research of the reader variety.

I have three older releases that I’ve received the rights back for and I’d like to reissue them as self-published editions. However, they all need to be gone through and updated and right now I’m working on a contracted book that has a firm deadline. That means I have limited time to focus on them and will need to do them as low-priority side projects. So I’d be interested in learning which of the books intrigues you the most. So please rank the following in the order in which they interest you – and there are no wrong answers.  I’ll select at least one person to receive their choice of any book from my backlist (and I still have several copies of the below out of print books I’ll throw in the mix as well)

Book 1 – this was first published in 2002 under the title Whatever It Takes. Here’s the original blurb:

Flirting With Perfection…

To adopt the little girl she’s come to love, widow Maddy Potter needs a fiancé, not another husband. Luckily, she’s found the ideal beau for her purpose:

Clayton Kinkaid agrees to court her, propose marriage, and then leave her at the altar as she requested. But when he arrives on her doorstep she knows their charade will never work. Clay is too handsome, too smooth… too potent. Who would believe such a charming, good-looking man wants to woo her?

Clay accepted Maddy’s proposal in order to repay a family debt of honor. He traveled to Missouri expecting to find a reserved widow, not a beautiful young woman—a woman who has the temerity to suggest he comb his hair differently, mess up his clothes a little, maybe even walk with a limp. She even has the audacity to instruct him on how to court her!  Clay knows he could be the perfect suitor. What he didn’t realize was that he’d soon long to be the perfect husband.

Book 2 – this was originally published in 2004 under the title A Will of Her Own. Here’s the 2004 blurb:

Will Trevaron’s grandfather demands that he leave America and return home to England to claim his title of Marquess. Will is expected to put himself on the marriage market but balks at the idea. He hits on the perfect solution: a marriage of convenience to Maggie Carter. A union with a “nobody from the colonies” would shock and horrify his stuffy family and rescue from poverty the woman who had once saved his life. Will didn’t count on getting three spirited children in the bargain though. And he didn’t expect to fall for his wife.

But as Maggie sets his household straight about what an independent lady from an ‘unsophisticated country’ would and would not accept, the new marquess begins to discover that his marchioness has a will of her own.

Book 3 – this one was originally published in 2010 under the title The Heart’s Song. The 2010 blurb reads:

Widower Graham Lockwood hasn’t stepped foot in church since he lost his family. So he can’t possibly say yes to his new neighbor’s request that he lead the hand bell choir. But widowed mother Reeny Landry is so hopeful—and her fatherless children so in need—that Graham agrees to help.

Suddenly, the man who closed himself off is coming out of his shell. And he finds himself acting the father figure to Reeny’s sweet, mute daughter and her loner son. But going from neighbor to husband is another matter altogether. Until a loving family teaches Graham to hear the heart’s song.

 

So there you have it, the three projects I’m itching to get to work on. Let me know which order you think I should tackle them in and why, and I’ll throw your name in the hat for the drawing!

 

It’s In the DNA

I don’t know if this happens to other writers, but I’ve had some strange things happen during the writing of a book.  I once turned a manuscript into my editor at the same time another writer turned in hers.  Oddly, enough, our protagonists shared the same first names and professions.  There were also many other similarities throughout our manuscripts, and all had to be changed.

Another time I was hiking a trail in Mammoth when I met a geologist who was the spitting image of the geologist hero in the book I was working on.  Even weirder, his first name was Damian and I’d named my hero Damon. Close enough, right?

But the strangest thing that happened occurred recently. I’d been toying with the idea of taking a DNA Ancestry test for quite some time, so my daughter decided to gift me with one for Christmas.  The results were pretty much what I expected, with one surprise.   It turns out that the outlaw Jesse James and I share a common ancestor.  

The timing was especially weird since Jesse James plays a part in the book I’m currently working on. Come to think of it, it’s not the first time Jesse James has popped up in one of my books, and I can’t count how many blogs I’ve written about the outlaw.

That’s because Jesse is a fun person to write about.  Not only was he controversial, he had both a light and dark side. The son of a Baptist minister, he was known to pass out press releases to witnesses at his holdups and had no qualms about exaggerating his height.  He might also be the only person on record who took a gang on his honeymoon. I don’t know what his bride did while he and his gang robbed a stage.  Maybe she went shopping.

Jesse James lived for only thirty-four years, but there was never a dull moment.  He was a Confederate guerrilla, was shot in the chest on two separate occasions and once overdosed on morphine. He also claimed to have murdered seventeen people.

Jesse went by many aliases, but his nickname was Dingus because he shot off the tip of his finger while cleaning his pistol.  He wrote glowing articles about his gang, saying that they robbed the rich and gave to the poor, though all indications are that they kept the spoils to themselves.

Far as I know, he was also the first person to prove that housework can kill.  While tidying up his house, he was fatally shot by his new hire Bob Ford in the back of the head. 

I can’t tell you what it was about Jesse James that first caught my interest.  I can’t even tell you why this writer, who’s allergic to horses, writes Westerns.  All I can say, is that it must be in my DNA.

Have any of you had your DNA tested?  If so, were there any surprises that you’re willing to share

 

“This book charms.”  Publishers Weekly

Amazon

B & N

iTunes

Gifts Out of the Blue

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sometimes We Eat Giant Pickles at the Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Next Writing Adventure

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

After I turned in my last book, Once Upon A Texas Christmas (just a little over a year ago), I took a bit of a sabbatical from writing. The line I wrote seventeen books  for was closing and  I was also a bit burned out from writing 2 books a year for the previous four years (I’m not a fast writer so this was a ‘stretch’ pace for me).

So I was at a crossroads of sorts. I took some time thinking about where I wanted to go next, free from the constraints of any specific publisher guidelines. I eventually came up with ideas for several multi-book series I could get excited about and worked up some details to hand over to my agent so she could begin shopping them around to publishers.

That done, I figured while I waited I now had time to explore another path that had captured my interest, that of indie-publishing.  I had several books from my days with Dorchester’s Leisure Books line that were published in the 2001-2005 time frame, long before the eBook revolution and that had gone out of print more than a dozen years ago and I figured reworking one of those and indie-publishing it would be a good way to ease myself into that scary-to-me world. So I went to work, getting ready to do just that.

And boy has it been a learning experience. Revising the book was the fun part. I’d forgotten just how much I loved those early books. Revisiting the characters and worlds from my early writing days has been an absolute joy.  But now I’ deep into the business side of the process – hiring a good editor, figuring out cover design options, creating a back cover blurb, forming an LLC, obtaining ISBNs, etc., etc.  It’s been a steep learning curve (and I’m not through it yet!) but hopefully next time will be a little easier.

Anyway, if things go as planned, this first book, which I’m titling The Unexpected Bride, will release in late fall.  And today I thought I’d whet your appetite with an excerpt.

The set up for this story – Elthia Sinclare has travelled from Massachusetts to Texas in answer to an ad for a temporary job as governess. Caleb Tanner placed an ad for a mail-order bride.  This is the scene where our heroine realizes there has been a terrible mistake:

“Mr. Tanner, we need to talk.”

The lying, scheming blackguard glanced back from his position at the stove, a scowl of irritation on his face. Then his expression changed as something in her demeanor caught his attention.

“What’s happened?” he asked, handing a plate to one of the children.

Zoe slipped into the room behind her, but Elthia kept her gaze focused on Mr. Tanner. She stood stiffly, fighting the urge to back away as he approached. “Exactly why did you bring me here?”

His scowl returned as he rubbed the back of his neck. “What do you mean? This is my home. Where else would I take you?”

“I’m talking about what role it is you expect me to fulfill?” She watched him closely, looking for some sign of guilt or duplicity. “Mrs. Johnston called me your helpmeet and referred to you Tanners as my ‘new family’. Just now, Dr. Adams did the same.”

Elthia clasped her hands to prevent their trembling. Had this man lured her to his home under false pretenses? She was completely at his mercy here. The isolated location and the shadowy approach of dusk suddenly took on a sinister feel. Sometimes having a vivid imagination was more of a curse than a blessing.

She had to remain calm, to think, to keep him from seeing her fear.

Mr. Tanner, however, looked more harried than threatening. Maybe Zoe had misread the situation. Dear God please–-

“I’m sorry that your role as a mail-order bride is public knowledge, if that’s what this is all about. It’s hard to keep secrets in a community like Foxberry.”

“Mail-order bride!” Elthia almost choked on the words. Heaven help her, this nightmare kept getting more unbelievable.

His scowl returned. “Miss Sinclare, stop the hysterics, please. I know the kids’ illness was unexpected, but surely—”

“There’s been a mistake, a dreadful, terrible mistake.”

His eyes narrowed. Then he looked at the children who watched the grown-ups with wide-eyed interest. “Let’s move this discussion to the parlor, shall we?”

He nodded to the two older children. “Zoe and Peter, you help the others with their supper please.” Then he took Elthia’s arm and all but pulled her out of the room.

As soon as they reached the parlor, he released her, as if touching her were distasteful. His next words were all the more intimidating for their softness. “Backing out already? So much for all that talk about honoring commitments.” His expression branded her as beneath contempt. “I should have known a pampered bit of high-class fluff wouldn’t have a notion about honor or responsibility.”

Elthia shook her head, confused and defensive. “No, no, you don’t understand. I came here to fill the post of governess, not to be someone’s mail-order bride.”

The sound he made was suspiciously like a snort. “Foxberry has a great school. Why would I waste money on a governess?”

“But that’s what you advertised for. I read the file myself.” A spurt of anger momentarily replaced her fear. “How dare you misrepresent yourself in such a way! You took advantage of Mrs. Pembroke and of me. It’s vile and probably illegal. I have half a mind to find the local sheriff and have you arrested.”

Mr. Tanner wasn’t intimidated. “I did not misrepresent anything. I made it very clear to the agency exactly what I was looking for. If you paid any attention at all to my post there’s no way you could be confused about any of this.”

She drew in a breath as he pointed a finger, stopping just short of poking her chest.

His frown turned contemptuous. “If this is some ploy to get out of the contract and still be able to hold your head up, don’t bother. A weak, spoiled, lady with a tendency to run away from her troubles might be the last thing I want for the kids or myself, but I warned you earlier, no backing out once the kids met you.”

“How dare you! Why I—”

“I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your voice down,” he interrupted. “There’s no point in upsetting the kids.”

He straightened. “I don’t have time for this posturing. If you’re not going to help, at least stay out of the way. In the meantime, before you try that ‘I didn’t know what I was getting into’ story again, you should reread that contract you signed.”

Elthia watched him stalk out of the room. Slumping, she steadied herself with a hand to a chair. The long day and its emotional ups and downs had taken its toll. She suddenly felt too exhausted to think straight. Maybe her father was right. Maybe she was too helpless, too naïve, to make her own decisions.

How had this happened? Was Mr. Tanner a villain or had there been a terrible mix-up with the paperwork at the agency?

Paperwork!

Of course. He’d told her to reread the contract and that’s just what she’d do, and then force him to do the same. She wasn’t her father’s daughter for nothing. She’d read that sheet of paper very carefully before signing it. It was an employment contract for a temporary teaching assignment, nothing more.

Feeling her energy rebound, she hurried into the hall. Her copy lay somewhere in her luggage, but he still had the one she’d given him. “Mr. Tanner, just a minute please.” Stepping into the kitchen, she ran smack into his rock-solid chest.

He placed a hand on both of her arms, steadying her before stepping back a pace. “Well, Miss Sinclare, what is it now?”

Elthia’s cheeks heated but she held onto what dignity she could. Pushing her glasses up on her nose, she managed to keep her gaze locked to his as she held out a hand. “The contract, sir. I’d like to see your copy of it if I may.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And just what do you expect that to prove?” Then he scowled. “I warn you, don’t try to tear it up.”

She raised her chin. “Why would I want to tear it up? It’s the proof I need to support my story. It states quite clearly that the position I accepted was that of governess.”

“Does it now?”

Elthia frowned impatiently. “Yes, of course it does. You read it there at Whistling Oak. Surely you remember what it said. There was nothing at all vague about the terms.”

“I agree, it spells things out in very plain language.” He strode out of the room and she followed him as far as the foot of the stairs. It only took seconds for him to return and hand her the document.

Elthia, itching to rub the I’m-only-doing-this-to-humor-you expression from his face, unfolded it and skimmed it.

Then she blinked.

She read it twice. Where had this contract come from? It most definitely was not the document she’d read so carefully before signing. Someone had switched papers, but when and how? They’d hardly been out of her sight since she’d signed them.

It must have been Mr. Tanner. He’d somehow substituted the document she’d handed him for this one. Her gaze frantically turned to the bottom of the contract and she got another shock.

It couldn’t be!

There was her name, penned in her own handwriting. Alongside it was the signature of Louella Pembroke. It must be a forgery, but it was such a good one even she couldn’t tell the difference.

How dare he try to coerce her this way. She shook the document under his nose. “How did you do this?”

“Do what?” He looked more puzzled than guilty.

“Forge my signature so perfectly. Did you trace it? And where’s the real contract?”

His jaw tightened and his eyes narrowed at her accusation. “Don’t you think you’re carrying this charade a bit far?”

“Don’t think you can intimidate me with that oh so superior tone. I have my own copy of the contract.”

She turned and all but fled upstairs. If he thought he could bully her with this elaborate act he was very much mistaken. It took her a several minutes, but she finally located her copy in the larger of her trunks.

Marching back down the stairs, she found Mr. Tanner still standing where she’d left him, though now the lamps in the hall were lit against the encroaching darkness.

She waved the paper triumphantly. “This is the document I signed, not that substitute you’re trying to fob off on me.”

With the air of an adult humoring a child, the infuriating Mr. Tanner plucked it from her fingers, pulled the contract out of the sealed envelope and looked it over quickly.

After reading it, he shrugged and handed it back to her. “I won’t argue with you on that score. But I don’t rightly see how it differs from the one I looked at earlier.”

Her hands starting to tremble, Elthia took the contract and forced her eyes to focus on the print. He was right, it was identical to the one he’d handed her a few minutes earlier.

A very simple, very binding, marriage contract.

There you have it. I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek. And stay tuned – I’ll keep you posted on my progress 🙂