Before I was a romance writer, I was a voracious romance reader. My reading of choice in those early days was historical romance, particularly American-set historicals. There were two facets of American history that drew me more than any others — Colonial/Revolution and Westerns. So it wasn’t a stretch that the first manuscript I ever wrote was set along the Oregon Trail. And since my sister moved to the Northwest, I’ve taken opportunities over the years to go on road trips to see her instead of flying (which I don’t like anyway).
During one of these trips, I got to see with my own eyes several of the Oregon Trail sites that I’d researched and written about in that first manuscript. I was fascinated to travel in the steps of those brave men and women who headed out for a new life, who traveled into the largely unknown landscape that was filled with danger on a daily basis.
Nebraska and Wyoming are often considered flyover states, but there’s so much to see, so much history to be absorbed if you take to the roads instead. One of the famous landmarks Oregon Trail travelers looked for on their journey was Chimney Rock in present Morrill County, Nebraska. This geological feature made of a combination of clay, volcanic ash and sandstone has a peak nearly 300 feet above the surrounding North Platte River valley. Travelers along the California and Mormon trails also used it as a landmark. You can see it today from US Route 26 and Nebraska Highway 92. Learn more at the Chimney Rock National Historic Site website.
About 20 miles to the northwest of Chimney Rock, also along Nebraska Highway 92, is Scotts Bluff National Monument near the town of Gering. This collection of bluffs on the south side of the North Platte River was first documented by non-native people when fur traders began traveling through the area in the early 1800s. It was noted to be among the first indications that the flatness of the Great Plains was beginning to give way to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s named after Hiram Scott, a fur trader who died near the bluff in 1828, though the Native peoples of the area called it “Me-a-pa-te” or “the hill that is hard to go around.”
After crossing into Wyoming, another National Park Service site preserving trail history is Fort Laramie National Historic Site, which sits at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers. It has a rich history as a frontier trading post and then an Army post up until its decommission and transfer out of the final troops in 1890. The fort also has appeared in pop culture, including in the Oregon Trail and Age of Empires video games, the 1955 movie White Feather, and a 1950s CBS radio drama called, appropriately, Fort Laramie. You can learn more at the Fort Laramie NHS website.
Perhaps one of the most amazing things you can still see today along the Oregon Trail are actual ruts made by the thousands of heavily loaded wagons heading west. This physical evidence made me feel closer to those long-ago travelers than anything else. One of the places you can see these ruts is Oregon Trail Ruts, a National Historic Landmark near Guernsey, Wyoming.
To learn more about the Oregon National Historic Trail overseen by the National Park Service throughout seven states, visit their site. I hope to be able to visit even more trail sites in the future. I’d especially like to see Independence Rock in Wyoming and more end-of-the-trail sites in Oregon.
Have you ever traveled to historic sites you’ve either written or read about? What were your favorites? I’ll give away a signed copy of A Rancher to Love, part of my Blue Falls, Texas series from Harlequin Western Romance to one commenter.
Listen, my children, and you shall hear How Texans pronounce place names ’round here.
In case y’all haven’t noticed, Texans do things our own way. Pronunciation, for example, is always a crapshoot when you’re from out of state. If you ever get lost in Texas, place names are good to know. Depending upon where you are in the state when you ask for directions using a mispronounced name, at best you’ll get a blank look. At worst, you’ll be laughed out of town.
First, a few universal basics:
Any name ending in “-boro” is pronounced “[name]buh-ruh”
Any name ending in “-shire” is pronounced “[name]shur.”
Most names ending in “-ville” are pronounced “[name]vuhl.”
Most names ending “-land” are pronounced “[name]lund.”
In Texas, “bayou” most often is pronounced “BI-oh,” not “BI-yoo.”
Mispronouncing any of the following is a dead giveaway you ain’t from around here:
Bowie: BOO-ee (C’mon, folks. Jim Bowie was one of the heroes of the Alamo. The least we can do is say his name right.)
Brazos: BRA-zuhs (short A, as in “gas”)
Humble: UHM-buhl (Leave out the H, people!)
Luckenbach: LEW-ken-bahk (There is absolutely no excuse for getting this one wrong. Merle Haggard sang a number-one country hit about the town, for heaven’s sake.)
San Marcos: San MAR-cuss
The following are more obscure.
We’ll forgive you for mispronouncing these. Many are spoken nothing like they’re spelled. Some are Texan-ized Spanish, German, or American Indian. Some are settlers’ surnames. The rest came from Lord only knows where.
Agua Dulce: Ah-wah DULE-sih
Del Valle: Del VA-lee (like valley)
Grand Saline: Gran Suh-LEEN
Jermyn: JER-muhn (like German)
Lake Buchanan: Lake Buh-CAN-uhn
Miami: My-AM-uh (Texas ain’t Florida, after all.)
New Berlin: Noo BUR-lin
New Braunfels: New BRAWN-fuls
Palestine: PAL-uh-steen (Nobody gets that one right unless they’re from Texas.)
Pedernales: Purr-den-AL-ess (Yes, the letters and sounds are all scrambled up. Just go with it.)
Pflugerville: FLOO-ger-ville (One exception to the “-vuhl” rule.)
Santa Elena: San-tuh LEE-na
Study Butte: STEW-dee BYOOT
Texans, what names aren’t on this list? The rest of y’all: What odd place names occur in your state? Leave a comment and let us know! I’ll give two commenters their choice of the Christmas ebooks Peaches or The Last Three Miles.
Running a ranch and fending off three meddlesome aunts leaves Whit McCandless no time, and even less patience, for the prickly new schoolmarm’s greenhorn carelessness. The teacher needs educating before somebody gets hurt.
Ruth Avery can manage her children and her school just fine without interference from some philistine of a rancher. If he’d pay more attention to his cattle and less to her affairs, they’d both prosper.
He didn’t expect to need rescuing. She never intended to fall in love.
When an accident leaves Hamilton Hollister convinced he’ll never be more than half a man, he abandons construction of a railway spur his lumber mill needs to survive.
Believing no woman shackled by social convention can be complete, railroad heiress Katherine Brashear refuses to let the nearly finished track die.
The magic of Christmas in a small Texas town may help them bridge the distance…if they follow their hearts down The Last Three Miles. (spicy)
Hi! Winnie Griggs here, and I’m just back from the Fabulous RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference in San Diego. It was my first time there and I took advantage of the event to go in a few days early and play tourist. My son came with me which made it doubly fun. So I thought I’d share a little of what my week was like with you.
Sunday afternoon and evening we explored downtown, checking out both the Gaslamp District and Seaport Village. Bot were teeming with baseball fans as the All Star game was scheduled to be played there on Tuesday.
On Monday we headed out to the Zoo, taking advantage of the efficient and low-cost public transportation to get there. And what a fabulous zoo it was! We spent most of the day there, walking the grounds and I’m still not certain we saw it all. My favorite exhibits – Pandas, Polar Bears and giraffes.
On Tuesday we headed out to LaJolla. We had the driver let us off at the beach near the Scripps Research Institute, and after spending time there we walked a little over a mile to a spot where we could see the seals and sea lions that come right up on the beach. We were able to get quite close to them, though we were careful to respect their space.
On Wednesday we took the ferry over to Coronado. Another day with lots of walking (My fitbit recorded numbers last week it had never reached before 🙂 ) The beaches were lovely, the historic hotel was fabulous, there were lots of fun little shops to check out and the seafood we had for lunch was some of the best I’ve had in quite a while. On the return trip we took the ferry that drops off near the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier that was decommissioned in 1992 and is now a museum.
On Thursday it was time for me to turn to conference business – me and three author friends presented a workshop. Son went out on his own exploring the city and we met back up for supper together and a walk through Seaharbor Village.
The next morning my son headed for the airport and I turned my full attention to the conference.
And for those of you who have stayed with me his far, if you’ll leave a comment telling me about your favorite place to visit, I’ll put your name in the hat for a drawing to select any one book from my backlist you’d like to have.
A month ago I had the wonderful honor of traveling to Germany. My German publisher invited me and two other authors for a book tour in their wonderful country. It was a whirlwind week, with two speaking engagements each day with lots of driving, but what an opportunity! The country was beautiful and green and there were castles!
Now, I have to admit that ever since my Disney childhood days, I’ve been a sucker for a good fairy tale. Shocking that I grew up to be a romance author, huh? Well, not only is Germany the land of castles, but it’s also the home of fairy tales, thanks to the Brothers Grimm.
Well, the town where my German publisher is situated, and the place that served as our home base is a lovely town called Marburg. After flying all night, we arrived on Sunday morning, and since we were all travel weary, we grabbed a nap then met up with one our interpreters who gave us a tour of the city. Little did I know that I was staying in the heart of fairy tale land.
As it turns out, the man who illustrated most of the Grimm Fairy Tales was from Marburg, and he used the castle and surrounding village as inspiration for his artwork. In honor of that distinction, all around the old town of Marburg, you will find tributes to the stories he illustrated. As we walked around the old town, here are some of the fairy tale allusions we spotted:
So if you had to pick a favorite fairy tale, which would you pick?
Horses are a staple of western fiction. When writing or reading about them, it’s helpful to understand what they look like in motion and how each gait sounds. Whether or not an experienced horseman can see the animal, he or she can determine how fast a horse is moving by the distinctive rhythm of hooves striking the earth..
A walk is a four-beat gait, meaning each hoof moves independently. The walk is a very comfortable gait for riders because it’s smooth, producing only a slight swaying motion. At a walk, even inexperienced riders have no trouble keeping their butts in the saddle.
Horses can walk all day, even carrying a load, but they don’t move very far very fast. The average horse will cover three to four miles an hour at a walk; some move as slowly as two miles per hour.
Trot and jog
Technically, a jog is slower than a trot, but in the Old West the terms were used interchangeably. Nowadays, at least among the general public, it’s more common to hear both referred to as trotting. Jogging and trotting are two-beat gaits in which diagonal pairs of legs move together: left rear with right front; right rear with left front.
The technical difference between “trot” and “jog” may be observed as equestrians put their mounts through a variety of competitive maneuvers at horse shows. Probably more familiar is the trotting seen in harness racing. Racing trotters often cover as much ground as quickly as other horses do at a gallop. Some harness races require horses to pace, a two-beat gait in which the legs on one side move forward together. Faster than a trot, pacing is not a particularly comfortable gait for riders. In fact, some report “seasickness” as a result of the horse’s pronounced swaying motion.
Jogging and trotting are a horse’s natural working gaits. If left to his own devices (and not escaping a threat), a horse will jog or trot when he wants to cover distance quickly. At a trot, horses cover an average of about eight miles in an hour.
Even under saddle, horses can jog or trot for a long time without tiring, but many riders can’t take the pace. Jogging and trotting can be extremely jarring and put enormous strain on the muscles in a rider’s legs, back, and abdomen. Working cowboys who spend a good deal of time in the saddle may move their horses at a jog or trot, but pleasure riders generally try to avoid the gaits if they value their backsides, which slap the saddle with each step until the rider learns to “move with the horse.”
So-called “gaited horses” like the Tennessee Walking Horse and the American Saddlebred don’t jog or trot. Instead, they “amble” in a natural four-beat middle gait called a “running walk” (Tennessee Walker) or “rack” (American Saddlebred). A horse moving at either gait can cover as many as fifteen miles in an hour. Because all four hooves move independently, the “ambling gaits” are comfortable for riders. Though both Tennessee Walkers and American Saddlebreds were known in the Old West, most were pleasure horses for the gentry.
Lope or canter
Lope and canter are essentially the same gait, a three-beat movement in which three hooves are off the ground while one rear hoof supports the horse’s weight. Here’s the difference between the two terms: Horses under western (or “stock”) saddles lope; horses under English saddles (or “pancakes”) canter. No self-respecting cowboy would sit a horse that insisted on cantering.
At a lope, horses can cover about ten to fifteen miles in an hour; some can reach speeds of up to twenty-seven miles per hour.
The gallop, a four-beat gait, is the horsey equivalent of run and averages about thirty miles per hour. Horses bred for speed, like Thoroughbreds and racing Quarter Horses, can gallop as fast as fifty miles per hour.
In the wild, horses gallop in order to escape a threat. Most horses can gallop for only a mile or two without risking serious injury or death. (Yes, some horses will run themselves to death at the urging of a rider, but the phenomenon is extremely rare.)
As an aside, Eadweard Muybridge created Sallie Gardner at a Gallop (right) in June 1878 by stringing together images captured in sequence by a line of twelve automatically triggered cameras placed beside a racetrack. The moving image and the zoopraxiscope Muybridge invented to play it are considered the “bridge” between still photography and cinematography. The experiment was designed to settle an ages-old debate about whether all four of a galloping horse’s hooves are off the ground simultaneously at any point. The moving image confirmed they are, at the moment the horse collects its legs under its belly.
How far can a horse travel?
How far a horse can travel in a day depends on the horse’s condition, the availability of food and water, and the terrain the animal is asked to cover. At a combination of lope and walk, a young horse in optimal condition can travel fifty to sixty miles a day in good weather over level terrain, as long as he is allowed to drink and graze every couple of hours. The faster a horse moves, the more often he will need to rest, eat, and drink.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the longer a horse moves fast, the shorter the distance it can cover in a day. Pony Express riders galloped about 10 miles (or about half an hour) before changing horses and usually covered 60-70 miles a day, but that was an exceptionally grueling pace for the rider. An average mounted pace is about 40 miles per day, which is the progress the U.S. Cavalry aimed for during the nineteenth century. Over uneven terrain or in bad weather, a horse and rider would do well to cover twenty miles per day. In the mountains, ten miles per day would be a good pace.
Many cowboys carried grain—usually corn or oats—in order to get more out of their horses. Grain provides increased carbohydrate-based energy. Sweet feed, which contains molasses, was not common unless a horse was stabled. Horses love sweet feed, but it’s not good for them except as a treat.
Remember, too, that most working cowboys preferred—and still prefer—to ride geldings over mares or stallions. Although there are exceptions to every rule, geldings usually are much more tractable than intact horses. Stallions can be a handful at best and a nightmare if a mare anywhere in the vicinity is in season. Mares establish a pecking order within a herd and can be cranky. In the wild, a mare runs the herd; stallions are tolerated only for breeding and protection.
What do you find most fascinating about horses? Tell us in the comments, and you could win a KINDLE copy of the four-novel boxed setA Cowboy’s Touch, which includesThe Half-Breed’s Woman by Cheryl Pierson, Spirit Catcher by Livia J. Washburn, Wild Texas Winds by Kit Prate, and Prodigal Gun by Kathleen Rice Adams.(All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)
I just returned home to the Midwest from my folks place in San Diego.
When my boys were young we would enjoy road trip s, picking out different routes so that we could see the country. We had some amazing trips but we always ended up in San Diego so that they could visit with my side of the family. On these drives, my mind would always wander and I would try to envision what it must have been like for the early pioneers, settlers and Native Americans. All of it became inspiration for the stories that I write.
For many years now I’ve flown. It is just not the same as driving. There is something lost in not being able to roll down my window and smell the sage, or pines, or ocean and feel the wind on my face. When my husband agreed to make the drive this year I was thrilled. I flew out to have a long visit and then he drove out later to spend Christmas with me. My sons also came for a shorter visit. Then together we drove back to the Midwest. It took some planning. We had to dodge El Nino effects and so we stayed SOUTH! Oklahoma roads were completely shut down with ice, Denver was a blizzard, a tornado tore through Texas. and the Mississippi River was flooding all over the place at the time we planned to cross. Never a dull moment. I was glad to get home safely.
How did the pioneers handle this!
I cannot imagine what it must have been like for women in the 1800s. Mail-order brides and those who traveled to a new destination looking for free land to farm or ranch often would never see their loved ones again. They must have experienced terrible bouts of homesickness. It’s no wonder that church and social gatherings played such an important place in their lives. And traveling, they couldn’t check for bad weather on their phone and adjust their route to avoid it the way I could on this trip. I’m so glad I live today and not in the 1800s!
How do you like to travel and where would you choose to go in the
continental United States given the opportunity?
I am a history buff with a weakness for historic buildings, and in particular, historic hotels.
My dad, a history and political science professor, passed his love of history to his kids and years after studying American Lit & History at UCLA, I went back and got a teaching credential so I could teach English and Social Studies to junior high and high school students.
Whenever I travel, I try to stay in one of the oldest hotels in a town, or one of those fascinating historic buildings that have been turned into a hotel today, preserving a bit of the past while making the building relevant for today’s generation.
In my Taming of the Sheenan series, my hero and heroine in The Tycoon’s Kiss, are both preservationists. Troy Sheenan, a hi-tech tycoon in the Silicon Valley, never forgot his roots in Marietta, Montana and has bought the turn of the century Graff Hotel and restored it to its former glory after the hotel had been abandoned for twenty plus years. Renovating the Graff has nearly bankrupt him, but he had to do it because the hotel was too big a part of Montana history to let it be demolished. Fortunately, he meets the new Marietta librarian, Taylor, who is equally passionate about Montana history, including the town’s 19th century library and my tycoon and book girl fall in love with each other in part because they both love Montana’s rugged history.
Thinking back, I could have happily written an entire story just about American Frontier buildings, except I don’t think my romance readers would have been happy with me f I’d left out people and romance completely.
I’ve used Marietta’s Graff Hotel as a setting many of my Sheenan Brothers stories, but it plays a central role in my brand new release, A Christmas Miracle for Daisy.
In A Christmas Miracle for Daisy, single dad, Cormac Sheenan, and his four-year-old daughter Daisy are living at the Graff during the holidays while their Paradise Valley log cabin style home is being remodeled to make it ‘child-safe’. Cormac isn’t big on Christmas and festivities and Marietta has become Christmas town, with the handsome old Graff featuring daily visits with Santa Claus.
My new Christmas story is a riff on Miracle on 34th Street, and so I don’t need to tell you the challenges everyone faces. Cormac is a non-Kris “Krinkles” believer, while Daisy knows without a doubt that Kris is the real thing. Santa needs to pull off a miracle but its not easy without magic and faith.
I loved using the Graff for a Christmas setting because I could fill the dark paneled lobby with a soaring fir tree, and put garland and red ribbons above doorways and add weekend holiday teas to the hotel’s restaurant menu. I also added another historic building to my Marietta, Montana collection with the addition of the turn of the century “Crookshank Department Store”, a big brick building on Marietta’s Main Street. I’m also sharing a couple Pinterest links to boards featuring Marietta decked out for Christmas, along with the great turn of the century buildings I love so much:
As you can tell, when researching, I spend considerable hours pouring over histories and pictures of my favorite old hotels of the West so I thought I’d share some of my favorite recommendations with you. I’ve been able to stay at each of these places, too, and am including a link so you can visit, either in person or as an armchair traveler…which sometimes can be the best way to travel!
Five of Jane’s Favorite Historic Hotels of the West
The historic Grand Union Hotel was opened in 1882, seven years before Montana became a state. However, within a year two new railroads opened—the Northern Pacific and the Canadian Pacific Railroad to Calgary—and overnight the hotel and town declined. Just two years after it was opened, the bankrupt hotel sold at a “sheriff’s auction” for $10,000. The hotel struggled on through the 20th Century, before closing in the 1980’s and then undergoing a multi-million remodel over a period of years before reopening in 1999, making the Grand Union Montana’s oldest operating hotel.
Spokane’s 1914 Davenport Hotel is one of my favorite hotels in the West. It was built to be a destination spot where guests could escape from the noise and chaos of the outside world for the Davenport’s elegance and refinement. The hotel was nearly demolished in 2002 but saved at the last minute for an extensive renovation that has once again made the Davenport the place to go west of the Cascades.
The Oxford Hotel – Denver, CO
Opened to the public in 1891, the Oxford Hotel was built by Colorado brewer
Adolph Zang with the newest technology, and stunning grandeur with oak furnishings, silver chandeliers and frescoed walls. The newest technology meant that all guest rooms had rare creature comforts: steam heating, electric and gas lighting and bathrooms with separate water closets. The hotel was updated a number of times over the next seventy-five years, but restored to its former glory in the 1980’s to the tune of $12 million.
Browns Palace Hotel is the second oldest hotel in Denver, opened just one year after the Oxford Hotel and name for its owner, Henry Brown. The hotel was designed around an atrium—one of the features I love best about this hotel—and features a gorgeous afternoon tea (my favorite thing to do when traveling…).
The historic Sacajawea dates back to 1910 and was renovated one hundred years later, after spending almost a decade boarded up. Unlike the big city sandstone and red brick hotels, this is a white painted beauty in a small, rural community thirty miles outside Bozeman. I’ve been here several times, if not to overnight, then for a fantastic steak dinner in the hotel’s handsome dining room. I could write an entire blog about Three Forks, MT as it factors hugely in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as well as being a key stop on the Milwaukee Railroad.
(Plus one extra favorite from my childhood, The Wawona Hotel outside Yosemite, near the Mariposa Grove, a station stop in 1856 with rustic accomodations that were replaced in 1879 with the 25 room hotel. Just 90 minutes from my home in Visalia, the Wawona was a magical Victorian period two-story hotel with lots of crisp white paint and picturesque verandas overlooking the lawn. I could picture the horse drawn carriages at the turn of the century arriving with guests from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The hotel today has 104 guest rooms and has been operated by the Park Service since the 1930’s, and remains my first hotel love….with the Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite valley as a very close second! http://www.yosemitepark.com/wawona-hotel.aspx )
Do you enjoy staying in old hotels or visiting historic buildings? Leave a comment for a chance to win this fun prize and I’ll be back to pick a winner on Sunday, the 6th of December!
Fellow filly Cheryl Pierson and I spent last weekend at the inaugural Western Fictioneers convention (also known as #WFcon15) in St. Louis. What a great time we had! We met some of the iconic authors in the western genre, learned more than my head can hold during seminars and panel discussions, got to sit around and gab with people we’d only spoken with online previously…and, of course, ate lots of good food. I may never eat again.
You can discover more about Western Fictioneers — a professional organization for authors of western fiction — and the convention here. If we can find Micki Milom, the superwoman who put the whole thing together single-handedly this year, we’re hoping to host another shindig next year, possibly in Fort Worth. Micki appears to have disappeared into the Convention Organizer Protection Program — a wise move on her part.
Instead of the usual post, this week I thought I’d share photos from the convention. Yes, I realize this is a bit like showing home movies to captive relatives, but I can be cruel that way.
Without further ado…
Take a good look at the woman on the left. You may never see her again after this convention. She’s Micki Milom, Nashville singer and songwriter, author of traditional westerns, and ramrod of the convention. Evidently, that smug expression on her face is meant to camouflage her nefarious attempt to strangle western historical romance author and all-around nuisance Jacquie Rogers.
The Living Legends panel discussion featured, from left, Robert J. Randisi, Robert (Dick) Vaughn, Dusty Richards, and Frank Roderus. Between them, the gentlemen have published thousands of stories. For such prolific, popular authors of traditional western fiction, all four men are down-to-earth, funny, charming characters (emphasis on “characters”).
During the Romancing the West panel, authors (from left) Jacquie Rogers, Kathleen Rice Adams, Meg Mims, Kat Martin, and Cheryl Pierson astounded attendees with their… Well, I’m sure we astounded the audience with something, but the “something” probably was our ability to be extraordinarily silly. Couldn’t Micki have found western historical romance authors who possess at least a modicum of decorum?
The most evil thing about the Taming Social Media and Other Necessary Evils panel was the panelists: traditional western authors (from left) JES Hayes, that Kathleen Rice Adams person again, Jacquie Rogers (again), and Tom Rizzo.
Publishers who specialize in western fiction also addressed the madding crowd. From left, Prairie Rose Publications editor-in-chief and co-founder Cheryl Pierson, Pen-L Publishing‘s Kimberly and Duke Pennell, High Hill Press‘s Louella Turner, Mike Bray of Wolfpack Publishing, and Golway Publishing’s Dusty Richards provided insight into what publishers look for when considering authors and their work.
Keith Souter, a medical doctor and popular traditional western author from the U.K., traveled all the way across the pond to present one of the most fascinating seminars during the convention — The Doctor’s Bag: Medicine and Surgery of Yesteryear. The presentation provided a hint of the enormous amount of material Keith covers in his newly released reference book of the same name. He was much too gentlemanly to refuse when I threatened him with a necktie party unless he autographed a copy for me. The book is a fabulous resource for anyone who writes historical fiction. I highly recommend it.
Intellectual property attorney Michael Milom presented one of the most popular sessions during the convention — The “Rights” Side of the Law: Legal Labyrinths. Despite his prowess as a high-powered entertainment lawyer, he quickly lost control of the rowdy herd and abandoned his planned talk in favor of answering a slew of questions from the audience. Michael, who is married to Micki, was gracious about our rude behavior, but as you can see by the metamorphosis in his expression, the lot of us probably should stay out of Nashville for a while.
There was plenty of time for fun, as well.
The Prairie Rose Publications gang whooped it up. (From left, Kathleen Rice Adams and Jacquie Rogers [Who are those women, and why did they keep butting in everywhere?], Keith Souter [who makes a wonderful bank robber, for a Scot], Cheryl Pierson [another outlaw who repeatedly butted in], Micki Milom, and Meg Mims.)
Some of us, like Cheryl Pierson, autographed books. Did I autograph any books? Of course not. My ego may not survive.
The entertainment was entertaining, especially when Micki Milom and Robert Randisi sang a couple of duets. We didn’t have to cover our ears or nothin’! (Micki’s a professional, but Bob was a surprise. He’s actually quite good.)
And there you have it — #WFcon2015 in a nutshell! (Most photos are mine, but thanks to JES Hayes for the image of the PRP outlaws and to Diane Rodes Garland for the image of Cheryl autographing a book.)
UPDATE: I’ve just received word that we kidnapped about a box-full of Dr. Keith’s The Doctor’s Bag — autographed! They’re available for $15 (including postage), which is a great deal considering the paperback version sells for $18.99 on Amazon. Cheryl Pierson has details.
To thank everyone for schlepping through all this rambling, I’ll give two commenters a KINDLE COPY of a very special Prairie Rose release: A Cowboy’s Touch. The boxed set of four full-length western romance novels by Cheryl Pierson, Livia J. Washburn, Kit Prate, and me contains nearly 1,000 pages of spicy love in the Old West, and it’s a steal at 99 cents. To be eligible for the drawing, tell me which of the seminars you would have liked to attend. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)
Professional and amateur cowboys intrigue me, as do the equally tough professional bullriders.
Every year I attend 2-3 rodeos, from small regional amateur rodeos in Montana and Arizona, to the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas, and that doesn’t include the PBR (Professional Bull Rider) events I try to attend each spring.
Fortunately, I never lack for company when I’m heading to the rodeo or PBR. My husband and I have a standing date for the NFR in Last Vegas each December and have tickets for the last three nights of competition, and my writer friends Megan Crane and CJ Carmichael are also always up for a rodeo weekend.
I’ve written a variety of rugged heroes, including cowboys and bullriders, and three of my reader favorites were all professional bullriders: Dane Shelly (She’s Gone Country), Cade King (Be Mine, Cowboy), and Colton Thorpe (Take Me, Cowboy).
These three heroes were tough, hardcore alphas. Dane Shelly walked with a permanent limp, Cade King once dealt with his pain by drinking hard, hitting the bottle to numb his exhaustion and pain, while Colton Thorpe has no desire to ever settle down and be a buckle bunny’s sugar daddy.
I may have inherited my love of cowboys and western stories from my grandfather, an engineer and rancher from El Paso, Texas that loved the land so much he owned three cattle ranches in California and would fly his private plane in and out of the different ranches to help with routine chores and round ups. I spent school holidays on his favorite ranch in the Cholame Valley (forty-five miles east of Paso Robles) where the miles and miles of rolling hills and open land made me think anything was possible.
At UCLA I switched from being a Creative Writing major to American Studies where I could combine my love of American literature with American history, culture and art. My senior thesis was on Mark Twain, and it’s impossible to study American culture without being reminded at every turn that the American West, and our Frontier has shaped our national consciousness. Americans are explorers and adventurers and yes, risk takers. We’re fiercely independent and determined to succeed.
I was lucky to study in depth the literature of our West, reading both the classics from James Fenimore Cooper to Willa Cather, as well as getting an introduction to the greats in our popular culture, like Bret Harte, Jack Schaefer, and of course, the one and only Louis L’Amour.
Through reading I discovered one of the defining characteristics of the classic Western hero (or heroine) is strength, particularly inner strength, and this strength, and rugged individualism, resonated deeply with me. It’s not enough to say the right thing, but one must do the right thing. Integrity is also essential, as well as having a clear moral compass.
I’m grateful for my academic immersion in the West. It’s definitely been useful for my career, but as I write a contemporary western hero, not a historical one, I’m always trying to broaden my knowledge and deepen my perspective to better ground my character, making him or her as intriguing and relevant as possible for my readers.
To get my characters right, I do a lot of research. In fact, at the very beginning of a new story I do far more research and studying then actual writing.
My research can be broken into one of three categories:
1) Reading: I read every reference book, memoir, and bio I can get my hands on!
2) Interviews: I talk to industry experts (in this case, cowboys, bullriders and family and friends)
3) Observation: I attend live events, soaking it all in and noting every detail possible.
Over the years I’ve collected quite a few books that have become essentials in my Western library. I’ve pulled out a few to share with you here, and have listed four favorites by title and author below.
Favorite Reference Books
King of the Cowboys by Ty Murray and Steve Eubanks
Chasing the Rodeo: On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man’s Search for the West by W.K. Stratton
Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour by Josh Peter
Rodeo in America: Wranglers, Roughstock, and Paydirt by Wayne S Wooden
Not every lover of westerns needs to be a rodeo fan, but if you enjoy a great rodeo hero or setting, check out one of the titles I’ve shared above (the top three are my personal top three favorites). You can also learn more about the PRCA and PBR, including rankings, schedules and ticket info at http://www.prorodeo.com and http://www.pbr.com.
My next rodeo event? Why, it’s the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in just two months time. And I’ll be attending with my favorite ‘cowboy’, my husband Ty. And okay, he’s not a real cowboy, he’s a professional surfer, but with his Texas roots, he loves the rodeo as much as I do!
Giveaway: Are you a rodeo fan? Have you ever been to a rodeo? I’d love to hear about your favorite event or experience and one of you will win a signed copy of She’s Gone Country and some fun Jane Porter reader swag. Winner will be announced here, in the comments, on Saturday, October 10th so please check back to see if that winner might be you!
Today, we can get around the world in hours. We take for granted that if we want to visit our friends or family anywhere in our country or around the world, we just have to hop in our car and drive a few hours to get to them. Or we can get on a plane and fly there in an even shorter amount of time. But what was it like in 1880 before cars had been invented and the first working plane was another 13 years in the coming?
I found out while doing some research for my fifth novel, The Solid Rock (due out Spring 2016). I’ll share a few of them with you.
By horse, the most you could go without killing the animal is 50 miles, and that’s only on flat ground with a really good horse. In normal conditions, 20-40 miles per day was the limit. A wagon would be even less since the oxen would be pulling all your belongings and most, if not all, of your family. By train you could go up to 50 miles per hour!
In The Solid Rock, my main character, Joshua, travels from Chicago, Illinois to Cheyenne, Wyoming. At first, I was going to have him ride his horse the whole way there. Then I found out how many miles there were between the two cities and how many miles a horse can go. If I had him ride his horse, the man he went to rescue would probably be dead before he got there.
Later in the book, he pushes his horses hard and goes from Castle City, Montana (a ghost town about 60 miles east and a little south of Helena or about fifteen miles north of Ringling) to Cheyenne. He brought more than one horse so he could keep riding even when one of the horses started to get tired. I also found a great map of railroads online and used that to get him from Castle City to Caspar, Wyoming where they could hop on a train directly to Cheyenne. The map is a little confusing, especially since it doesn’t have a lot of the city names on it, but I figured some of them out. Enough to make it workable.
Research can sometimes be tedious, but you can also find out some fun things that are only relevant in your books, but can sometimes be fun to tell others as trivia items. Here are some fun facts I learned while researching The Solid Rock (they may or may not have to do with transportation).
Kate Warne was the first female Pinkerton Detective.
Trains didn’t always go through what are now considered big towns.
Horses can’t run fast for long periods of time like you see in the movies. (Wow! Movies are unrealistic? Who would’ve guessed that? [/end of sarcasm])
Allen Pinkerton (the man who started the Pinkerton detectives) ran away from Ireland because he was a wanted man.
Allen Pinkerton also married a young lady who was probably only about fourteen or fifteen, though she claimed to be seventeen.
Thanks for hosting me today. I really appreciate being able to be a guest blogger on the Petticoats and Pistols blog. I’m looking forward to the conversations we can have in the comments. I won’t bore you with a summary of each of my books. You can find out all the details about my three novels and three novellas on my website: http://www.faithblum.com. If you are interested in learning about my new releases, I have a newsletter signup form which you can find here: http://www.faithblum.com/new-releases.html.
Timothy is at his wit’s end. His twelve year old half-sister has run off five housekeepers in almost a year. Since their parents died, she has grown wilder than ever. What can he do? As he looks for a new housekeeper, his eye catches sight of a mail order bride advertisement. One young lady has a younger sister and sounds like a God-fearing woman. Could this be the answer to his dilemma or will Louise run her off, too?
I am also giving away an ebook of any of my novels or novellas currently available to two people who comment below. What is your favorite mode of transportation? Did it surprise you how long it took to get places in the 1880s? Do you have any questions about my books?
Faith Blum is a 24 year old home school graduate who enjoys doing many right-brained activities such as reading, crafting, writing, and playing piano. Her favorite genre to read and write is Historical Fiction, more specifically, Westerns. In the Hymns of the West series, she has endeavored to create clean, fun, and challenging Western stories for the whole family. She currently has three novels and three novellas published. You can find her in various places online: Website | Blog | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | Amazon