And With the Bang of the Gavel…

Judges today have a lot of control and clout, but nothing like in the 1800s. And except for federal judges, they have to answer to the people who elect them. In the past, state judges were appointed by the governor and wielded a lot more of power. In addition to hearing cases, they could:

  1. Appoint Deputy U.S. Marshals (the president appointed U.S. Marshals)
  2. Form a posse
  3. Notify a traveling hangman that he was needed following a verdict
  4. Oversee hangings if a sheriff either refused or couldn’t
  5. Step in and take over for a crooked sheriff and/or appoint a new one until election time
  6. In some cases, he could form a sort of task force (or single person) to handle a particular problem
  7. Choose jurors
  8. Oversee census taking and other duties of a lawman if there was none

So you see, they were pretty powerful and answered to no one. As a result, there were a lot of corrupt judges. But the majority were dedicated, followed the law, and did their jobs well.

I’ve never written a judge hero…until now.

In my March book, Crockett Legend is a judge working out of Quanah, Texas. Quanah is only forty miles from the Lone Star Ranch so he spends a lot of time on the ranch, traveling back and forth by train.

However, the Legends’ neighbor the Mahones have started a feud with them, killing their cattle and shooting at range riders. The feud ramps up when Joe Mahone dies under mysterious circumstances and Joe’s only son, Farrel, accuses them of murder.

Crockett has always loved Paisley Mahone only now she’s taken a stand with her brother in the feud and she refuses to talk to him. Crockett doesn’t give up and hopes she’ll soon see reason. It takes a hilarious matchmaking talking parrot to bring them back together.

The theme of this story is things aren’t always as they seem, and perseverance is crucial when it involves softening a woman’s heart. This concludes the Lone Star Legends series but never fear. I’ve started a brand new series that I think you’ll love.

I’m a little sad that I’m leaving the Legend Family behind. I’ve done three series using them in various degrees. That’s ten books.

Question for you: How do you feel about the length of a series? Do some get too long? At some point, do you ever feel they’ve run their course? I sometimes do.

A Man of Legend comes out on March 29th. It’s available for preorder now HERE. Please don’t confuse this with the first book of the series – A Cowboy of Legend. The two are completely different.

I’ll have more next month about A Man of Legend and some giveaways so watch for that.

Right now I have a sale to announce. The Mail Order Bride’s Secret is at $1.99 and will be the rest of the month. If you missed it, you can get it cheap. Click HERE. This is Book #3 of Outlaw Mail Order Brides. She came with a secret that would destroy the man she’d come to love.

Traveling, Christmas, and a Give Away!

Hello, P&P readers. Lacy Williams with you today asking a couple of questions: How far would you travel to be with your loved ones at Christmas? What are you willing to go through to get there?

During my freshman year of college, we had a massive, unusual-for-us snowstorm here in Oklahoma. It delivered a massive twelve inches of snow and the (few) snowplows couldn’t keep up. I was living on campus, and even though I was only ten miles away from home, I can still remember the adrenaline rush and my white knuckles as I drove home for Christmas break with my laundry basket of belongings in the back of my small car.

Probably the worst experience I’ve had traveling home at Christmas was flying cross-country to visit my in-laws for the holiday. This was before we had kids, and between my husband and I one of us is the kind of person who likes to have a list and be packed and double-check the night before. The other one likes to throw things in a bag just before we walk out the door. I will let you try to figure out which is which.

Hubby and I arrived at the airport with what we thought was enough time to check our bags and get through security, but it turned out we were wrong. The airline wouldn’t let us check our bags because it was too close to the flight time and it was possible they might not get on board the plane. We had gifts for his family packed in our luggage and we couldn’t leave them behind or combine them into our carry-on luggage, so basically we missed our flight because of our luggage.

It was devastating for two broke college kids (we were paying our way through night school at the time) to think we had missed our chance to be with our family. Luckily, we were able to get on another flight a few hours later. It could’ve turned out much worse than the couple hundred dollars it cost us.

(Am I wrong or does Hallmark have a sub-genre of their Christmas movies like this? Films about travel gone awry where either the hero or heroine gets stranded in a small town and falls in love while they are trying to get through all the obstacles it takes to get home.)

Fighting to get home for Christmas is the premise of my new release, Christmas Homecoming. Set in 1914, my hero Walt is on a train ready to take the wanted criminal in his custody to a judge where he will face justice. Surprise! His younger sister and her beautiful friend hop on the train mid-journey and suddenly Walt is getting lectures about why he should come home for Christmas when he hasn’t been home in years due to a broken relationship with his father and brother. Before he can blink, the train is part of a hold-up and Walt finds himself in a heap of trouble. It’s gonna take a lot more than he thought to get home for Christmas and to rescue the woman he’s falling for from the bad guys.

This new book is an adventurous romance. Tell me about your most disastrous trip home for the holidays. If you don’t have a story like that, tell me your favorite holiday food.

I would love to give away a paperback copy plus a $10 gift card to one of the readers who makes a comment today.

Thanks for chatting with me today!


About the book:
All traveling nurse Libby wanted was a quiet Christmas to grieve losing her younger brother. She’s on a westbound train heading home when she and a friend find themselves in the middle of a hijacking and then taken hostage by a gang of outlaws.

Walt White is a U.S. Marshal who has been chasing down the Seymour gang for years. But he’s kidnapped along with two innocent women, he must figure out how to keep them alive—and it doesn’t help that he’s completely distracted by the beautiful Libby. He’ll need his wits about him if he hopes to save them.

As they work to engineer an escape, Walt realizes that Libby is resilient and cunning—and vulnerable, though she hides it well. He must give his all to protect her heart and bring her home in time for Christmas.


Find it on Amazon    
Available soon on OverDrive!


Author bio:
Lacy Williams wishes her writing career was more like what you see on Hallmark movies: dreamy brainstorming from a French chateau or a few minutes at the computer in a million-dollar New York City penthouse. In reality, she’s up before the sun, putting words on the page before her kids wake up for the day. Those early-morning and late-night writing sessions add up, and Lacy has published fifty books in almost a decade, first with a big five publisher and then as an indie author. When she needs to refill the well, you can find Lacy birdwatching, gardening, biking with the kiddos, or walking the dog. Find tons of bonus scenes and reader extras by becoming a VIP reader at http://www.lacywilliams.net/vip .

Various Valentine’s Day Ramblings

For this month’s post I started researching the history of Valentine’s Day, but ended up traveling down various rabbit holes. Today I’m sharing that journey and my musings with you. First, I discovered there’s confusion as to which St. Valentine the day honors. Apparently, there were two men named Valentine that are possibilities. The day has roots in a Pagan festival and became an official holiday in the 1300s. Valentines weren’t sent until the 15th century and mass-produced ones came to be in the 1840s. The tradition of giving flowers started in the 17th century, with the heart-shaped chocolate boxes we see everywhere arriving in 1861. Oh, and the discovery that surprised me was those hearts with the sayings were originally lozenges! (The messages were added in 1866.)

As I scrolled down under related content I found “7 Momentous Kisses in History.” They listed the first “post-married” kisses of Kate and William, Harry and Meghan, Ross and Rachel’s kiss on Friends, and others. Most—other than the on V-J Day 1945 and the interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura, didn’t seem that iconic to me. But those kisses started me thinking about about epic movie kisses. Again, I found myself disagreeing with what I found. The kiss in Gone With the Wind after Rhett Butler tells Scarlett O’Hara in she needs kissing badly was there. So was the potter’s wheel kiss in Ghost. But the other kisses didn’t seem that memorable or epic in my opinion. So I began wondering about great Western movie kisses. When I Googled that I pretty much came up with nothin’ other than The Longest Ride—a great movie by-the-way and Brokeback Mountain. With all the great Western romances written, how come there weren’t more Western romance movies? Or at least romantic movies or romantic comedies with cowboys? Boy is Hollywood missing out on a great market there.

Lastly, my thoughts wandered to asking why this day has such a focus on romantic love. Why do we do that people when it makes people who aren’t in a relationship feel as if they’re not complete or less than they should be? And why is it such a big deal to get engaged on Valentine’s Day? Instead, we should simply celebrate love in general. Love between friends, parent and child, grandparents and grandchildren, and the list is endless. Love and kindness should be showered everywhere like confetti. That’s where we should place the emphasis—on sharing love and kindness to those who most need it and to those who are central to our lives. If we did that rather than focus so much on romantic love Valentine’s Day would be more inclusive and not as painful for some. Also, can you imagine the ripple effect and the changes that could result from seeing Valentine’s Day this way.

To be entered in today’s giveaway for the Valentine’s Day t-shirt and A Cure for the Vet tell me what’s your favorite romantic movie and why it’s so wonderful. Some of my favs are The Sure ThingAn American PresidentOperation Petticoat, and Father Goose. I can’t wait to hear yours. I need some new movies to watch!

I may have outsmarted myself

I’m just now finished with a fun but kinda strange writing experience.

I wrote three geniuses. Brilliant sisters. They’re not only naturally intelligence but they are highly educated by a mother and father who know these girls are all the

The Element of Love –-Buy on Amazon –Buy on Baker Book House

children they’ll ever have. And the father has a lumber dynasty. He owns a mountain, but he is also invested in a whole lot of fast-growing companies in boom-town San Francisco in 1870.

 

Women could go to college then, but it wasn’t common and it wasn’t easy. And beside these parents want more for their daughters then a genteel lady’s education. They want to raise up women to lead, to manage men, to hold their own in a hard world that can be cut-throat on occasion.

 

So they’ve hired vacationing college professors, paid for the best tutors, and their father has taken them along with him to spend time with his lumberjacks and truly learn the business.

This was all, as I said, a lot of fun. Here’s the strange part.

I realized very early on, these women were all a whole lot smarter than I am.

So how to you write geniuses? I think I’m pretty book smart. But these women know math, science, surveying, chemicals, engines, force. They’ve learned to build, they understand the strength of steel and the strength needed to brake a train car, loaded with logs, hurling down a steep mountain train track. And also the power needed by the engine to pull that train back up loaded with passengers and supplies.

Inventions of the Heart–Buy on Amazon, 

Me? I got a C in Algebra 1, and like a freakin’ coward, never took a math class again.

But I got great grades in English, especially the semester we did literature.

So I had to write really smart women. Heaven knows if I succeeded but I had fun making my characters just a little out of step with the rest of the world. I had them know how to blow up a mountain—and I mean make the calculations so the mountain ends up with a tunnel through it going just the right direction, not just blasting rocks to bits. But the women don’t know how to wash clothes or turn a haunch of venison into a meal for ten people.

And they need to do it because I start the book with them running for their lives. And then they have to hide from their cruel stepfather. They disguise themselves as servants. And realize they might not be as smart as they thought they were because they don’t know how to be servants and pretty soon no one is buying their act.

The series starts with a bang as they make their escape. Book #1 is The Element of Love, coming March 2022. Soon!

We’ll see if I outsmarted myself.

Books #1 and #2 are available to pre-order now.

Book #3 A Model of Devotion should be up soon.

The Element of Love

After learning their stepfather plans to marry them off, Laura Stiles and her sisters escape to find better matches and claim their father’s lumber dynasty.

Laura sees potential in the local minister of the poor town they settle in, but when secrets buried in his past surface, it will take all they have to keep trouble at bay.

 

The Snowman’s Sweetheart

 

I can’t speak for other authors, but one of my favorite things about starting a new book series is developing the setting, especially if it involves a quirky small town.

When I began working on ideas for my new Winter Wishes series, I used inspiration from two very different towns, and combined them into one fictional place called Pinehill, Oregon. If Pinehill did exist, it would be high up in the mountains, just a few miles from Mount Hood and a winter playground of skiing, sledding, and the like.

 

Way back, when Captain Cavedweller and I were in the first weeks of dating, he asked me if I’d like to go to the Winter Carnival in McCall, Idaho. I’d never attended the event, and it sounded like fun. Even if it hadn’t, I would have gladly gone because it meant I got to spend the day with the very cute boy who had already captured my interest.

The event features, among many things, incredible carvings created from snow. We made the hours-long drive and arrived in McCall mid-morning to discover the temperatures hovering just above the zero mark. Not only that, but we couldn’t find anywhere to park. We drove around for almost an hour trying to find anywhere to park. Finally giving up, CC drove back out of town, and we parked on the side of the road (like hundreds of other crazy people), then had to hike back into town.  It seemed like we’d parked ten miles away, although it was probably closer to a half-mile, as we trudged through the frigid temps. We finally got back into town and had such a great time looking at the snow carvings. If you’ve never seen a snow carving, Google it. They are incredible works of art!

I can’t image the talent and patience it would take to create something like this.

Or this!

The detail just boggles my mind! The use blocks of compressed snow to make the carvings and the tools are as varied as the artists.

Anyway, that freezing, fun day with CC has stayed with me all these years.

A few years ago, he came up with the idea to attend another winter festival in a town about six hours away where they would have ice carvings, sleigh rides, and a variety of winter festivities.

In theory, it sounded like a fabulous weekend getaway. In reality… boy did it get off to a rough start!

The roads were horrible getting there, the hotels were packed, and the one where we’d made a reservation somehow overbooked and didn’t have a room for us. We thought about going elsewhere, but there wasn’t a room to be had anywhere in town. The hotel finally found a room for us, next to the noisiest elevator in the northern hemisphere. From the window, we watched an inexperienced driver almost take out our pickup in the slick parking lot, and the craziness escalated from there.

That morning, it had warmed up enough to rain (pouring buckets it seemed) on top of inches of snow, creating an ankle deep mess that was akin to walking through a lake of slushies. It was impossible to take more than a few steps and not have your pants soaked, even if you had arrived with adequate boots. Every step anyone else took splattered the frigid goop everywhere. After sloshing through the slush (and watching crazy people in shorts and flip-flops make their way through the mess) for a mediocre yet overpriced dinner where we sat a rickety table by the drafty door, near enough to the restroom that it made me lose my appetite, and an accordion playing octogenarian made conversation impossible.

Once we made it back to our room where I sat shivering with my feet propped on top of the wall heater, wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into, we decided we had to figure out a way to salvage the weekend or go home.

Thankfully, that night, it froze and then snowed, creating a beautiful world of white the next morning. It made it much easier to get around, and we ended up having a lot of fun, even if the town was packed to the gills.

So that experience gave me even more inspiration for Pinehill, as well as the heroine in the first book in the series, The Snowman’s Sweetheart. It releases January 27!

Due to a bad breakup right before Christmas, Sierra Goodwin detests everything to do with the holidays and winter. Then her best friend talks her into coming to Pinehill for a girls’ weekend getaway. They have reservations at a luxury hotel, and spa appointments. Sierra intends to stay inside where it’s cozy and do nothing but relax.

What could go wrong?

Among the many things that make her wonder if she’s lost her mind agreeing to come on the trip, she runs into Kylan Snow, better known around the community of Pinehill as Mr. Snowman. He owns the local Christmas tree farm, has been in charge of the community snowman building contest for years, and is the chair of the Winter Fest.

Talk about opposites attract!

Just for fun, here’s a little excerpt from the story:

As they reached the parking garage, Sierra followed Jenn over to her parking space, only to find Rob Kohl, Jenn’s boyfriend, waiting for them in his SUV.

“Hey, Sierra!” he said, hopping out and opening the back of the vehicle. “Isn’t this great?”

Sierra scowled at Jenn, furious she’d invited her boyfriend to join them for a weekend they’d been planning for months. “What, exactly, is going on?”

“Rob got time off from work, too, and is joining us,” Jenn said, practically squealing with joy.

Sierra had visions of spending the entire trip watching Jenn and Rob making lovey-dovey eyes and kissy-faces to each other. Although they were always good to include her in activities, she often felt like an unwanted third wheel when she was around them. She certainly didn’t need to feel that way on a vacation that was supposed to be a time for her and Jenn to relax and have fun.

She tossed the interloper a blistering scowl. “I’ll stay home. You two go.” She started backing away from the vehicle.

“No! You’re going!”

 

Will a whirlwind winter romance result in a forever love?

After a Christmas Eve catastrophe that left her heart encased in ice, Sierra Goodwin detests anything to do with winter and the holiday season. To take her mind off her troubles, her best friend talks her into a weekend spa getaway to a town she’s never heard of. Her bestie’s boyfriend tags along like a bumpy third wheel, and things go from bad to worse when they arrive in town to find a winter fest in full swing. Then Sierra runs into a handsome stranger, a man everyone calls Mr. Snowman, and discovers her heart might not be a frozen fortress after all.

Kylan Snow loves his life, his Christmas tree farm, and the town of Pinehill where he was raised. There’s nothing he enjoys more than a beautiful winter afternoon spent outside in the crisp, fresh air, or time spent with friends and family. When he unexpectedly encounters a dimple-cheeked woman in need of a little hope, he has no idea one weekend with her with completely alter his world.

Will their winter wishes for a forever sweetheart come true? Find out in this sweet romance brimming with laughter, snowmen, small-town charm, and love.

Don’t miss out on this sweet winter romance full of wintery fun! Pre-order your copy today!

Amazon |  Apple |  Barnes & NobleKobo

What about you?

Have you ever attended a winter festival?

Are you a fan of winter and cold weather? Or do you prefer sunshine and warmer temperatures? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a mystery prize!

Giveaway open until 5 p.m. Pacific Time January 19, 2022

 

 

 

Fortune Hunting in the Old West

By Linda Shenton Matchett

Thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862, the West was populated by farmers and ranchers who took their chances with 160 acres and a dream. But from 1828 in Georgia through the early 1900s in Alaska, thousands more flocked across the U.S. and its territories seeking their fortune.

Have you seen photographs of those intrepid miners: scruffy-looking, bearded men in dirt-encrusted garments, a man wearing a broad smile and holding a lump of ore, and men on mules or standing in a river gripping what looks like an oversized dinner plate? If you look further, you might stumble on pictures of women in these same poses.

You didn’t misread that last sentence. A small percentage of women worked alongside the men who converged on the the gold, silver, and copper fields. The reasons for the women’s presence are as varied as the women themselves. Some came with husbands, fathers, or brothers, then stayed after said male relative died. Other ladies were already in the area and decided to give mining a go. Still others heard about the possibilities for riches and were adventuresome enough to try mining on their own. A few came out of desperation.

 

However, men were not happy to have the women “horn in” on their domain, so many of the ladies dressed as men to blend in or fool their competitors. Apparently, the practice was so common during the California gold rush that when a newspaper photographer advertised for a “lad” to help him, he specified that “no women in disguise need apply.”

Widespread prejudice from the men made life as a female prospector difficult. Claim jumping and stealing by the men were common practices among themselves, but some reports indicate it may have been worse for the ladies. The women also had a tough time selling the claims they did keep. Then it became official when the United States National Bureau of Mines banned the women from mining in 1915. But still they persevered.

                           Fanny Quigley Home

Because of the lack of sources, it is unknown how many women prospectors were successful, but there are articles and books about some of the more “colorful” characters such as Fannie Quigley who started her career as a dance hall girl, then headed to the Alaskan gold fields to cook for the miners.

She eventually staked her first claim in 1907, going on to own twenty-five more. Her personal life was less successful-she left two husbands during her search for gold. Then there’s Lillian Malcom (also part of the Klondike rush) who was a Broadway actress. Several of her claims were stolen by men, so she moved to Nevada, acting out her Alaskan adventures along the way to fund her journey. The picture below is of a gold nugget in 1920.

Panning for gold the old-fashioned way is a simple, yet backbreaking process of scooping gravel from a river into a pan, swirling and dipping the pan to let the current carry most of the silt away, then repeating the action until there are about three tablespoons of sand from which to pick out the eyelash-sized flakes. And just in case you’re wondering, prospectors typically worked from sunup to sundown.

Would you have taken your chances as a prospector in the Old West?

I WILL GIVE AWAY AN EBOOK EDITION OF GOLD RUSH BRIDE HANNAH TO ONE RANDOMLY SELECTED COMMENTER.

About

Gold Rush Bride Hannah

(Book 1, Gold Rush Brides):

A brand-new widow, she doesn’t need another man in her life. He’s not looking for a wife. But when danger thrusts them together, will they change their minds…and hearts?

Hannah Lauman’s husband has been murdered, but rather than grief, she feels…relief. She decides to remain in Georgia to work their gold claim, but a series of incidents makes it clear someone wants her gone…dead or alive. Is a chance at being a woman of means and independence worth risking her life?

Jess Vogel never breaks a promise, so when he receives a letter from a former platoon mate about being in danger, he drops everything to help his old friend. Unfortunately, he arrives just in time for the funeral. Can he convince the man’s widow he’s there for her protection not for her money?

Purchase Link:  Linda Shenton Matchett, author of

History, Hope and Happily Ever After

Linda Shenton Matchett Website

Remembering Christmas

In my soon to release sweet holiday romance Remembering Christmas, part of the Rodeo Romance series, I had such a grand time digging through images of vintage and retro western fashions.

The stories include a company that has their own western clothing line. Two books ago, the company added a line of apparel for curvy girls.

And in Remembering Christmas, the company was decided to add a line based on vintage attire.

The hero in this story, Trevor, has a kooky, eccentric aunt (Aunt Marv) who has never gotten rid of a piece of clothing in her adult life. And she often wears the clothes that were stylish decades ago.

But because she is such a clothes hoarder, the company used some of the original western fashions she still had in her closet from the 1940s-1960s.

I truly had a marvelous time browsing through images as I imagined the new styles Aunt Marv’s retro collection might inspire.

Some of my favorite photos are old Levi’s advertisements.

Like this one.

Check out these duds! I actually love the jeans with the buttons and high waist on the right hand side.

 

This outfit is exactly something Marv would wear.

And this one!

I’m kind of glad these outfits are no longer in style. LOL!

At any rate, Lasso Eight, the clothing company in the story, finds plenty to inspire their new line from Marv. In fact, there’s even a scene where Mykah, the heroine, gets talked into modeling at a photoshoot at the hero’s ranch.

 

 

When Mykah finally walked out with Brylee and Kenzie Morgan, Trevor gulped so hard he swallowed the piece of gum he’d just set in his mouth.

Paige and Ashley had mentioned vintage fashions, but he certainly hadn’t expected Mykah to stroll out of the house looking like a cowgirl from the 1940s. She wore a burgundy and blue plaid shirt tucked into a pair of high-waisted jeans with two rows of buttons down the front like the shorts she’d worn the day at the boat show. Wide cuffs at the bottom of the jeans drew his attention to a pair of dark burgundy boots before his gaze traveled back up to her face. Her hair was loosely pulled away from her face and fell in thick curls to her shoulders in a style reminiscent of the past. The deep red lipstick she wore made his mouth water for want of her kiss.

He had no idea when Tally had moved beside him, but when she bumped him with her elbow and held out Carter’s burp rag, Trevor almost took it to mop his feverish brow.

“Thought you might need the rag to wipe away the drool, Trev,” Tally whispered as she held Carter, rocking the baby back and forth in her arms.

He watched as Paige, Ashley, and Celia worked to pose Mykah, Brylee, and Kenzie on the corral fence, using the barn as a backdrop. “How’d they talk Mykah into modeling?”

Tally shrugged. “You know how persuasive Paige and Ashley can be. One minute, Mykah was listing all the reasons she’d make a terrible model, and the next, she was choosing an outfit and getting her hair done.”

 

 

Romance swirls like December snowflakes in this sweet holiday romance.

Trevor King runs King Penny Ranch like a well-oiled machine while attempting to keep his spritely octogenarian aunt out of trouble. His personal life is filled with evasive tactics worthy of a military mission in order to avoid the matchmaking efforts of meddling friends. Until Trevor experiences a chance encounter with a beautiful stranger that leaves him reeling. Almost two years pass before they unexpectedly meet again. He feels blindsided by an emotional avalanche . . . and her name is Mykah.

Mykah Wagner has spent years building her career with Creekdale Enterprises while burying memories better forgotten. When the company’s owner sends her to oversee an expansion project at a retirement home in Eastern Washington, Mykah envisions a charming urban location. Instead, she discovers an area teeming with farms, ranches, vineyards, and sagebrush. Desperate to return to her idea of civilization as quickly as possible, Mykah soon finds herself falling in love with the residents, the region, and a rancher who helps her remember all the best things from her past.

Brimming with hope, laughter, and second chances, Remembering Christmas is a captivating and wholesome romance celebrating the joy of falling in love and the wonder of the season.

You can also see more of the visuals that inspired scenes in the story on Pinterest.

 

If you could create your own clothing line, what fashions would inspire you?

Post your answer for a chance to win an autographed copy of Roping Christmas (last year’s Rodeo Romance release) and some swag!

 

Jodi Thomas Returns!

Ancient Chinese Curse: “May you live in a time of change.”

I’m hopeful change will come. Soon. But for now, welcome to the past year. I’ve been waking up lately thinking I must be stuck in Groundhog Day. Just when I thought we were beginning to win the fight against Covid, everything is right back where we started. Again. We’re all adjusting to a new not-so-normal. Still not much shopping. The shelves are pretty bare anyway. Not much eating out with friends. No arguments over politics. (I’m being delusional.) No traveling to exotic places to have wild affairs. (Sorry, that one was my imagination talking.)

I’ve been hibernating. Again:

  • Waking up and putting yesterday’s clothes back on.
  • Having to ask my phone what day it is.
  • Talking to myself and sometimes getting in an argument.
  • Watching movies that don’t have plots.
  • Waiting for the mailman then reading the junk mail
  • Driving around for no reason at all.

Same as the first time around, for a few months I did nothing productive. I binged series on Netflix and cooked. My favorite saying, if I’d had anyone to say it to, was:

“I don’t suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.”

Yep, I’m living the crazy loop of Groundhog Day! Then, one day it occurred to me that I had imaginary friends to play with. I spent a week reading a book a day. Then, characters started lining up in my mind. They all wanted to me to write their story. Fiction was suddenly my place to go.

Last month I visited a quilter’s meeting as a guest. I gave my little talk about writing about quilting, then they all gave me a dear gift. Each one had brought a quilt passed down in the family, and each quilt had a story. We might have been 10 feet apart, but we were sharing.

One lady ended her talk by looking straight at me and said, “I’ve got to tell you that your books were my joy this year. When I got down, I could step into a Jodi Thomas book.”

Writing is a lonely career sometimes, just as Covid is a very lonely time, but I realized I can help in a small way. This crazy imagination I’ve been blessed with, and sometimes haunted by, can take readers on a journey.

So, I’d better get to work creating a world anyone reading can step into. A place for a time, you can relax, sit among friends, and talk about living.

And always remember, you are the main character of your life, and your story isn’t finished.

Three lucky winners will win one of my new releases. To enter, leave a comment about something that brings you joy during the hard seasons of life.

As an added bonus…your name will be entered twice if you can tell me where I got the title of my story “Father Goose” in The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas!

Enjoy some time to read,

Jodi

BUY The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas

PREORDER Dinner on Primrose Hill

PREORDER One Night at the St. Nicholas

Writing a Home Town Romance

My childhood years were spent on a farm 12 miles from the nearest town (population 1,000) that sat on the banks of the Malheur River in Eastern Oregon.

We usually ventured into town twice a week – once for my piano lessons, and on Sunday for church. Mom usually did her grocery shopping while I pounded the ivories. If my lesson wrapped up early and the weather was nice, I sometimes waited for Mom outside, studying the old buildings, imagining what the town might have been like when they were constructed.

One building, in particular, always fascinated me. It was made of stone and the oldest building in town.

Through the years, I learned more about the Stone House, as it’s called.

 

 

Built in 1872, this sandstone structure was the first permanent building in Malheur County, Oregon.

Jonathan Keeney had previously settled there, near the banks of the Malheur River where pioneers on the Oregon Trail crossed it, and enjoyed the hot springs bubbling nearby. He sold his property to Lewis and Amanda Rinehart, who replaced the log house Keeney had built with the sandstone house. The house opened to all on New Year’s Day 1873 with a grand ball upstairs.

Just picture how welcoming that lone two-story house would have looked to weary travelers. After crossing the Snake River, it was about twenty miles across sagebrush-covered hills to reach the Malheur River. In the summer, it would have been miserable. Hot. Dry. Dusty. With mile after mile of sagebrush, rocks, hills, and not much else.

In fact, one weary traveler is said to have perished (supposedly from thirst) not far from the river, given up his battle to survive just a few yards too soon.

But on the other side of the Malheur River stood the Stone House. In fact, many referred to the community as Stone House for years, until the town was incorporated as Vale.

The house became a wayside stop for travelers until the early 1900s. It was a stage stop where travelers could wait to board. And during the Bannock Paiute uprising of 1878, it served as Field Headquarters to General O.O. Howard as well as a refuge for settlers on outlying ranches and farms.

Amanda Rinehart was known as a gracious hostess, welcoming visitors to her home.

The Stone House original floor plan

 

 

Originally, the house had six “rooms” downstairs: a main lobby area for passengers waiting for the stage with a curtain separating it to create a space for women and children. The dining room took up most of the first-floor space, with a sizeable kitchen, a pantry, and the Rinehart’s bedroom. Upstairs was originally a ballroom which was then converted to rooms for guests. And the stairs to reach the second story were located outside.

Today, the Stone House is a museum that reminds of us the past. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

When I was invited to participate in the Regional Romance Series again this year, I thought about how fun it would be to write a romance set in the community of Stone House before it became the town of Vale. A few old records refer to the town as Rinehart’s Crossing, and I loved the way Romance at Rinehart’s Crossing sounded. All those times I sat and imagined the stories of the buildings in town were finally going to be put to use as I envisioned the Rinehart’s Crossing of my story.

Before I started writing, I made a trip to visit the Stone House and took my dad along. He had a grand time because he knew the volunteer working there that day and they farmed at least two acres while I wandered through the rooms, snapping photos of the things on display.

Like this horse hair coat (which I mention in the story!).

And just look at all the neat antiques in the kitchen.

I will proudly note the stove was donated by my dad to the museum. When I was very young and we lived in what we called the “old house” it had a place of honor in our dining room. The stove originally belonged to my sister-in-law’s grandmother. It was sitting out in a shed and she asked Dad if he wanted to buy it, so he did. I love to think of all the meals it cooked and all the memories it holds.

This enormous hook was used with the ferry at the Snake River Crossing. The volunteer (thanks, Gary!) gave a detailed description of how the hook worked, and how the ferry could be adjusted to flow with or against the current.

When we finished up at the museum, we drove a few miles out of town to Keeney Pass, named for Jonathan Keeney, were you can actually stand right on the Oregon Trail. With the dried weeds and grass, it’s a little hard to see, but where the dip is on the right and left are the actually ruts made by the wagons that rolled through the area. I get goose bumps every time I go out there, picturing the hot, tired, weary travelers as they head up another hill to see the river and a little town in the distance.

It was fun for me to write about an Oregon Trail town, especially one where I grew up!

 

 

Tenner King is determined to make his own way in the world far from the overbearing presence of his father and the ranch where he was raised in Rinehart’s Crossing, Oregon. Reluctantly, he returns home after his father’s death to find the ranch on its way to ruin and his siblings antsy to leave. Prepared to do whatever is necessary to save the ranch, Tenner isn’t about to let a little thing like love get in his way.

Austen – After spending her entire life ruled by her father, Austen Rose King certainly isn’t going to allow her bossy older brother to take on the job. Desperate to leave the hard work and solitude of the Diamond K Ranch, she decides a husband would be the fastest means of escape. If only she could find a man she could tolerate for more than five minutes.

Claire – Two thousand miles of travel. Two thousand miles of listening to her parents bicker about the best place in Oregon to settle. Two thousand miles of dusty trails, bumpy wagons, and things that slither and creep into her bedding at night. Claire Clemons would happily set down roots that very minute if someone would let her. What she needs is her own Prince Charming to give her a place to call home. When a broken wagon wheel strands her family miles from civilization, she wonders if handsome Worth King, the freighter who rescues them, might just be the answer to her prayers.

Kendall – Anxious to escape her mother’s meddling interference, Kendall Arrington leaves her society life behind, intent on experiencing a Wild West adventure. Hired as the school teacher in a growing town on the Oregon Trail, Kendall hopes to bring a degree of civility and a joy of learning to the children of Rinehart’s Crossing. However, the last thing she expects to find is a cowboy with shaggy hair, dusty boots, and incredible green eyes among her eager students.

Will love find the three King siblings as Romance arrives in Rinehart’s Crossing?

Read all the books in the Regional Romance Series featuring historic locations, exciting drama, and sweet (yet swoony) romance!

If you could write a story about your hometown, what would it be about?

Any key buildings or characters you would include? 

Post your answer for a chance to win an autographed copy of Romance at Rinehart’s Crossing! 

 

BLUE THUNDER AND THE FLOWER — Another Excerpt and Give-Away

Howdy!

Welcome to another terrific Tuesday!  Hope y’all are doing well today.

I’ll be giving away a free e-book of BLUE THUNDER AND THE FLOWER today.  You only have to leave a thought on the post in order to enter into the drawing.

And I thought I’d leave you with another excerpt from the book.  Hope you’ll enjoy it!

BLUE THUNDER AND THE FLOWER Excerpt

by

Karen Kay

PROLOGUE

Summer, 1879

The Season of Festivals

The Forks of the Big and Little Piney Creeks

Wyoming

 

As he stood within the great circle of the many camps, the boy, Maká Cí?ala, Little Skunk, squared his shoulders and raised his head, ready to receive the honors that were due him.  As was tradition, all the tribes of the Lakota people were gathered together for the summer races, games and festivals.  Although it was only midday, all of his family surrounded him in the center of the circle, and, as was also tradition, his band’s highest chief, Kicízapi Wa?té, Good Fight, held the two eagle feathers that Little Skunk was to receive.

Little Skunk was proud both of himself and his nation, the ?kpap?a, which he represented.  Although he was only twelve winters old, he was already acting as a man—he’d been a scout for several of the war parties this summer and had brought many honors to his family.  But this…  This was an accomplishment a boy of his age had never before won: for the past two days, he had competed with adults in his tribe’s foot races, and he’d won every event.

It was a bright day, and a warm one, with the afternoon sun shining upon him as though to touch him with the care and respect of a father.  He felt the tender sunlight on the top of his head and shoulders, and he held his head high.  Then, the drums began to beat, and the singers commenced to chant the honoring song.

Holding up the two feathers to the wind, the chief, Kicízapi Wa?té, said, “Today, Maká Cí?ala becomes a man.  He has gained the highest achievement in our foot races, and, because he has bested even the greatest men amongst us, he has won the right to earn himself a new name.  In honor of this great occasion, Maká Cí?ala’s grandfather, Waki?ya? Paza Tosa?, Blue Thunder Striking, has given his name to his grandson, who shall bear his name with great honor.”

The old chief paused as Little Skunk’s mother stepped forward to offer the chief a newly-made blanket, which the chief accepted.  He nodded and, opening the blanket, threw it around Little Skunk’s shoulders before offering the two eagle feathers to him.  “Blue Thunder Striking,” the chief said, “we of the ?kpap?a know that, from this day forward, we will look to you for many good deeds.  I give you these feathers to forever tell of your accomplishments.”  The old chief smiled at Little Skunk, then said in closing, “The honoring ceremony is now done.”

Blue Thunder’s mother and aunties stepped forward to give him the hand-stitched quilts that had been several months in the making.  Blue Thunder smiled and accepted the many gifts from them.  Traditionally, these blankets were not his to keep; rather, he was to give them to the people to honor his deeds this summer.  Stepping lively toward the side of the circle where people were sitting, he paced around it, offering the gifts to as many people as he could reach until all but one of the gifts was left.  This present was special, for he had made it himself.  This gift was for her.

Ci?cá Wací, Dancing Child, was about two winters younger than he.  But, though the distance between their ages might have been great for their young hearts, Blue Thunder couldn’t recall a time when he hadn’t loved her.

Her mother came from the Brulé band of the Lakota.  However, because her mother didn’t live with the Brulé, he saw Ci?cá Wací only during the summer when she was visiting her grandmother.

He still remembered the first time he had seen her.  He had been seven winters that summer and she, five, and he remembered it as a great occasion, for her grandmother had made a miniature lodge and given it to Ci?cá Wací:

 

She had invited him to play with her in the miniature tepee, and he’d accepted his role in her game as being her pretend husband.  That day, as soon as he’d ducked down to enter the lodge, he had seen that she had placed two different dolls upon small, buckskin blankets within the little tepee.

She had cautioned him to remain silent, since the dolls were “sleeping.”  Then, she’d gone to the women’s side of the tepee and had made a “soup” consisting of water and berries which she had served him in a large turtle shell.  From her tanned skin to her nearly-black eyes and the two dark-haired braids which fell down her back, she had captivated him, and his young heart had rejoiced.

They had played then, pretending to be married, and had continued their game into the coming days of summer.  Indeed, at summer’s close, he had begun to think of her as his wife in reality.  And, on that late summer day when she had told him she was to leave the next day, he had been so distressed, he’d said to her, “Since you are my wife, I would like to give you a gift before you go.”

She giggled and looked away.

“Well, what do you say?”

She stared up at him, her black eyes round and big, and smiled at him.  “I would like that.”

He didn’t know what to give her and, in the end, handed her the only possession that was truly his—a single strand of white deerskin with an image of a lone, blue prairie flower upon it.  He had, himself, painted the picture of the flower on the slender string.

Taking hold of the deerskin from her, he tied it as a necklace at the back of her neck, then said, “It is yours now.  I will never ask for it back.”

As she smoothed her hand over the necklace, she said, “I will love this and treasure it all my life.”

“Wa?cá Skúya, Sweet Flower; it is your new name in honor of this gift.  I give it to you.  It is a good name and is a better name than Dancing Child.  Tell your people.  It is your new name.”

“You give me great honor, and I will tell my people.”

From that day forward he had addressed her as Sweet Flower.  That her own people had still called her Dancing Child hadn’t caused him any worry, for he’d always known someday he would make her his wife, and, when that day came, she would become known as Sweet Flower.

 

At last, he found her in the crowd of people and, stepping near her, grinned at her.

She smiled while looking down, then said, “I am very proud of you.”

He laughed.  “As well you should be.”

Once again, she smiled.

Taking her hand in his, he led her toward the side of the crowd, out of view from most of the people.  As soon as they reached a private spot, he turned to her and said, “I have a special gift for you.”

Her smile widened, and she looked down as a proper, young Lakota maiden was expected to do, her demeanor shy.

“Hold out your hand,” he said, reaching into a bag and extracting something from it.

She did so, and he placed two strings of blue, white and pink-beaded earrings in her hand.

“For me?”

Hau, hau.  There is a woman from the Oglala tribe who makes the owi?la like these.  When I saw the earrings she was creating, I knew I had to make a pair for you.  She taught me how to do it.”

“They are very beautiful, and I love them,” she said. “I will always love them because they are so pretty and because you made them for me.  But, since I thought you might win today, I made something special for you, too.  If we go to my lodge, I will show you what I crafted for you this day.”

Hau, hau,” he said.  Then, because a man must always lead a girl and never walk behind her, he added, “Follow me.”

She did as he instructed.  As soon as they entered her little tepee, she stepped to the back of the lodge, and, turning so she faced him, she presented him with a recently-picked bouquet of flowers.  They were prairie violets and were very pretty.

As was the Indian way, she stared down at the floor of the tepee, which was little more than grass and dirt.  When he took the flowers from her and their hands touched, he felt so good inside, he knew he would love Sweet Flower always.

He said, “Have you any water, for I would keep them alive so they will always remind me of you.”

She laughed, then said, “I do have water, and it is in a pouch.  It will be perfect for them.  I give you not only the flowers, but my own parfleche bag.”  She giggled a little and looked away from him.

Carefully, he placed a finger under her chin and turned her face toward his own.  “Tell me, when we get older, will you marry me?”

Still not looking up at him, she said, “I will, if you would still want me to.”

He brought her chin up so she was forced to look into his eyes and said, “I will always want you to be my wife, for I would spend my life with you.  You are first in my heart, and I swear it will always be so.”

Ha?, ha?. I feel the same as you.”

He grinned at her. “Then let us commit ourselves to one another.  I wish we could marry now, but we are still too young.  Our parents would never allow it.”

“I know what we might do.”

“Hmm…”  He frowned.

“Let us tattoo one another with our own design,” she suggested.  “In this way we will always know we belong together.”

“This is a fine idea.”  He smiled.

She grinned back at him, then said, “I have a sharp bone that I use for sewing.  My grandmother gave it to me.  We might use it to prick our skin.”

“This is good,” he replied.  “And the violets you have given me will make a blue color for the tattoo.  But what design should we make?”

She shook her head.

“It should be simple, perhaps four small dots,” he said.  “One dot would show that we are of one mind; another could say we are of one heart.  The third dot might be one to indicate we will be of one body when we are older, and the fourth dot should be to signify that we have met soul to soul.”

She laughed and said, “What you say is pleasing to me.”

“Do you agree?”

“Oh yes,” she laughed.  “Always I will love you.”

“And I, you.”

“Stay here,” she said, “while I go to my grandmother and ask her to give me the sharp bone I use to sew.”

“I will.  But where should we put the tattoo?”

“Perhaps on the neck?”

“Maybe.  But, wherever we decide it should be, it must be in a place on our bodies that will be hard for others to see, for it is to be our secret…at least until we marry.”

Ha?.”

“I know where we could put it: we will place this tattoo on the upper back, close to and within the hairline, so it will not be seen by others.  Yours will be on the right side, and mine will be on the left.”

She smiled up at him shyly.  “I will go at once to my grandmother and ask for my sharpened bone.  Will you wait here for me?”

Hau, I will.”  He looked at her longingly.  “I would wait a lifetime for you.”

She giggled and bent to leave the little lodge to run to her grandmother’s tepee.  Soon, she returned with the prized bone she used for sewing.

As the afternoon turned to evening, they etched their tattoos onto each other, the small dots hidden by their hairlines.  When, at last, it was done, he reached out to take her hand in his own.

“It is done,” he said.  “We are married now, and someday soon we will be old enough to live together so others will know we two are of one heart.”

Shyly, she smiled at him and said, “Ha?, it is done, and I am glad of it.  With all my heart, I will always love you.”

 

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