Hi everyone!  I’m Cheryl Pierson (Cheryl #2 here at P&P)!  This is my first “official” post as a new filly, and I’m very excited to be here at Petticoats & Pistols in such great company!  I’ve done a couple of guest posts in the past, and from the moment I began to get to know my “fellow fillies,” I knew I wanted to be here amongst ya!

I won’t bore you with too many details–just want to tell you a little about me and I’d love to hear about you all, too.  I was born in Duncan, Oklahoma, in 1957.  I had two “way older” sisters (10 and 12 when I came along) and I was a Tomboy–with a capital “T” for sure!  Although I loved Barbie, I’d much rather have been playing cowboys and Indians–probably why I chose to write western historicals.

I finally got to go to a rodeo when I was about 9 with my cousin, and Larry Mahan was there!  I was in love.  After that, I wanted to be a barrel racer, thinking that would be a great way to get those handsome cowboys to notice me when I was older…of course, that was a huge pipe dream since my family was NOT into rodeoing at all.  But my first “serious” little story I wrote in elementary school had a guy in it named “Larry” and girl named “Cherry” (original, huh?)

My dad was an oilfield hand–a chemical engineer, on call 24/7 for as long as I can remember.  Mom was the “June Cleaver” type, and both of them were appalled when I told them I wanted to write books for a living.  As they predicted, that dream had to be placed on hold for many years–enough time for me to marry and raise my two kids–with a myriad of “real jobs” (as others called them) in between.

But I was writing all the time, every spare minute I got.  I started out with an idea for a western romance, and the more I wrote, the bigger the story became, until I had a 1000 page manuscript!  Of course, it’s still unsold (go figure!) but it’s the book of my heart–and I know each of you has written a book that holds that special place in your heart, as well.  That was what I needed to “get me going.”  Ideas flowed, and so did the words.

Although that first “tome” is still as yet unpublished, the third book I wrote, FIRE EYES, was published in May 2009, and went on to become an EPIC Award finalist.  The Wild Rose Press also published two of my western short stories, and my first contemporary romantic suspense, SWEET DANGER, will be released on October 1.

The fourth book I wrote, TIME PLAINS DRIFTER, was published through another smaller press.  After a few short months, we parted ways, and TIME PLAINS DRIFTER is homeless again. My daughter designed my cover for this book so it’s very special to me.  It also garnered me the award of Honorable Mention for Best New Paranormal Author in PNR’s PEARL Awards this year.

Right now, I am waiting (on pins and needles) to hear back from Berkley about one of my manuscripts that’s under consideration with them.  GABRIEL’S LAW was the third place recipient in this year’s historical category in the San Antonio Romance Authors’ Merritt Contest.  The judge for that final round asked for the full manuscript. It’s been thirty-five days, six hours and fourteen minutes…but who’s counting?

I live in Oklahoma City with my “transplanted” (from West Virginia) husband, Gary, who plans to make good on his threat to retire this fall.  My daughter, Jessica, is 23 and works at an actors’ casting agency here.  My son, Casey, is 20 and a physics major in college (and believe me, those math and science genes did not come from me!)  Along with my business partner, I teach writing classes for all ages, and have done lots of work with the Indian Education Program for one of the major school systems here in OK City.  And I’m FINALLY getting to actually write! 

Thank you all so much for your warm welcome and your generous friendships.  I am thrilled to be here–a “regular filly!”

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from one of my short stories,  A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES. 

When a wounded drifter and three children appear at her doorstep, widow Angela Bentley can’t turn them away.  Nick Dalton has a dangerous reputation, but is it truly deserved, or is it just talk?  Will love find two lonely people on this, A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES?


Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.

He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.

“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”

He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”

She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”

“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”

A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.

She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”

He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”

She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”

He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, she found herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”

He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”

Hunting for A Hero in Wyoming . . . I Found Him And He Has A British Accent

victoria_bylin_bannerI’m still in the thick of revisions for The Outlaw’s Return (LIH, February 2011),  but the end is in sight. That means I’m thinking about the characters for my next book.  The heroine’s easy.  This is Book #4 in a four-book series, so Caroline already has a personality and a problem. She was widowed shortly after the War between the States, and she’s wanted a family of her own for years.

So who do I set her up with? Right off the bat, I’m ruling out a preacher, a lawman or an outlaw.  Those are the heroes in the first three “Swan’s Nest” books.  So what’s left?Cowboy painint
A doctor?   I did a lady doctor in Kansas Courtship, plus I want to get Caroline off to an isolated ranch. A newspaperman or a lawyer? Same problem as the doctor. A rancher is an obvious choice, but he has  to be unique in some way.  

 I went through all sorts of possibilities before I settled on a character I’ve never once considered. Dear sweet Caroline is about to meet a retired British officer.  It just so happens he’s settled in Wyoming with this two children and he needs a nanny for them.  He also needs a nurse because he’s ill. And he’s not easy to get along with. The man is bossy. Wyoming Cowboy silhouetteHe’s exasperating. He’s accustomed to being obeyed, and he’s terrified he’ll leave this earth without providing a mother for his two not-so-adorable children.  (Change that: the kids will be a little adorable…maybe “a lot” adorable by the time I’m done.)

So how does my British Army officer end up on a ranch in Wyoming in 1876?   History led me right into the perfect set-up for this story.  The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed settlers to claim 160 acres as their own.  The Powder River basin was rich with grass, largely untouched and just waiting for vast herds of cattle. Word traveled to the eastern United States and then across the Atlantic to Great Britain. Wealthy Englishmen began arriving with big ideas. TheWyoming Heroy invested in large herds that grazed freely on the open tracts of government land.

The first Englishman to run a big herd of cattle was Moreton Frewan in 1879. My book is set in 1876, but the conditions are workable for fiction.  I’m going to be doing a lot of research on Moreton Frewan. He came to Wyoming at the age of 25 and immediately made himself known. He built a two-story house near Kaycee that cowboys called Frewan’s Castle, and he had a knack for convincing his wealthy friends to invest in his cattle business.

Here’s a fun bit of trivia.  Frewan married a New York socialite named Clara Jerome. One of Clara’s sisters,  Jennie Jerome, became the mother of Winston Churchill.

This was quite a time in Wyoming. During the 1870s and into the 1880s, this rough-and-tumble landscape was a playground for visiting Englishmen and their families.  Big game hunts, fancy balls and lively parties were common.

As with all periods of history, events conspired to bring about change. More homesteaders arrived, claiming land and fencing it, so that the vast acreage was parceled out. With such laWyoming landscaperge herds, the pasturage was overgrazed. Investors wanted a better return, and the beef prices didn’t cooperate.  The biggest blow came with the winter of 1886-87.  It was disastrous. Ranchers lost up to 80% of their stock in the worst winter Wyoming had ever experienced.  By the 1890s, the British were pretty much gone from Wyoming.

I can hardly wait to get started on this book. My mind’s spinning ideas for scenes–a ball where my heroine feels insecure, a hunting trip gone awry–but first I’ve got to finish those pesky revisions. It’s frustrating, but I don’t really mind . . . Sometimes ideas are like spaghetti sauce. The longer they cook, they better they are.

Phyliss Miranda. . .Mother City of the Texas Panhandle

phyliss_miranda.jpgThe first piece of sage advice my mentor gave me when I took my first writing class … write what you know. That has proven to be so true; however, you don’t have to be a down and out, dirty gunslinger or cussed outlaw to write a scene about robbing a bank and high-tailing it off to parts unknown with your gang.

I’m not a horseman to say the least. As a matter of fact, I’ve ridden exactly twice. The first, a nag in Palo Duro Canyon who undoubtedly was celebrating his one millionth trip into the bowels of the canyon. He didn’t seem to mind that I was a novice because he had his own agenda. Apparently it made him no never mind whether we moseyed down the side of a rock wall or a trail. He had his principles. I think he only wanted to get back to the stables and get fed.  Not a good experience, but now that I look back, it gave me an idea for my Texas Ranger’s gelding, Stewball, in our July anthology GIVE ME A TEXAS RANGER. . . . “Stewball, about the ugliest horse in the world, but his name fit. Patches of white over red, reminding Hayden of a bowl of chili topped with cornbread. He hoped the sorry lookin’ critter was still tied up outside the saloon. The sucker had a tendency to become impatient, work his reins loose, and make a beeline for the first place he found food.”

GIVEMEATEXASRANGERlittleMy second riding experience was on an ol’ work pony named “Blackie.” I have no idea how wide he was, but I had to stand on the tail of a pickup to get on him and my feet never touched either stirrup. I looked like a cheerleader doing the splits on the back of a horse. I slipped right off, more like a boulder crashing down a gully, and never tried riding again. Of course, everything I write has to have horses. Duh, how could those good looking hunks of horseflesh, excuse the pun, get around? But, I had to research and talk to experts, in order to make my readers believe that I really can recognize the south end of a north bound gelding.

Long way of saying, if a writer doesn’t know how things work, we research and learn enough, so the reader doesn’t realize how little some of us actually know. I want my readers to believe that I was roped, hog-tied and thrown in the nearest hoosegow and write western romances for entertainment.

I love to walk-the-walk when it comes to settings, in particular. Oh, you can certainly read a lot about a town and do a fantastic job on showing it to the reader, but experiencing, feeling, hearing and smelling of the actual setting gives you insight that can really make a difference between writing a wonderful scene and an “Aha” moment.  I truly want every reader to love the settings that I’ve selected for my stories, enjoy its beauty and want to come back for a visit.

The Texas Panhandle is my love, as is Texas in general, so naturally, that is where my writing migrated… to the wide open, wild and forbidding country where buffalo roamed freely and the Kiowa and Comanche lived and hunted. To the naked eye the Llano Estacado (Staked Plains) where the Panhandle is situated appears to be level, but in reality its western edge is almost 2,000 feet higher than its eastern edge. Unlike other parts of Texas, we are still in our infancy. The Panhandle is so small that you only have to look down the street to see what’s going on, but big enough that you have to read the newspaper to learn the facts.

western shootoutMy story in the new anthology is called “One Woman, One Ranger” and is set in Old Tascosa, the second town settled in the Panhandle, although I had to change the name somewhat to fit my story. Several kernels of history from actual accounts of Old Tascosa, germinated into a story about how the highfalutin’ folks of Upper Tascosa wanted to make sure the rowdy, detestable citizens kept their distance in Hogtown, or Lower Tascosa. They would have never associated with people named Rockin’ Chair Emma, Boxcar Jane, Slippery Sue, and Gizzard Lips. Thus, for my story, Old Tascosa became Buffalo Springs along with its seedy residents restricted to a part of the town across the creek known as Buffalo Wallow.

But, I could have never told my story without forcing my characters to relocate from the oldest town settled in the Panhandle, Mobeetie, in order to stay one step ahead of the law. Both towns were founded only a year apart, some one hundred and thirty-five years ago. If it hadn’t been for Mobeetie, and one determined Texas Ranger Captain hell bent for leather on cleaning up the town, Tascosa would not have existed. Separated by only 135 miles, they soon became mirror images of one another.

buffaloMobeetie, originally named Hidetown and still referred to today as “Mother City of the Panhandle”, evolved from buffalo hunters’ camps and from the nearby Army post, Fort Elliott.    In the beginning (1875), it was the legal, business, and social center for this part of Texas. The town faded when the railroad bypassed it two years later; and in 1890 when the Army abandoned nearby Fort Elliott (the only military post ever established in the Panhandle), the town withered further.  What remained was totally destroyed by a cyclone…today I think it’d just be called a regular ol’ tornado.

Bat MastersonBut before its demise, Old Mobeetie was a favorite “recreational town” for itinerant adventurers, cowboys, buffalo hunters, and freight haulers. There were gambling houses and dance halls, each with lots of female employees who arrived by freight wagons from Dodge City, Kansas City, and St. Louis. At one time, the tiny town sported over a dozen saloons. One old-timer said that some of the inhabitants “thought about seeing how tough a place could be and still be called a town.” Soldiers from Fort Elliott lookin’ for a good time contributed to its rowdiness, as did hundreds of cowboys hitting town on payday.

The legendary lawman, buffalo hunter, and a survivor of the Battle of Adobe Walls, Bat Masterson, surveyed the town of Mobeetie, but spent much of his time in the gambling halls. In a well-known fight over a poker game in Henry Fleming’s saloon, Masterson killed a soldier. Masterson shot him in self-defense, but not before taking a bullet to his stomach (which led to him having to use his famous cane.) A hail of shots followed, and a dance hall girl Masterson was living with at the time, Molly Brennen, was killed.  She is buried in the cemetery at Mobeetie not far from Louise Houston, the granddaughter of General Sam Houston. Of interest, more than two-thirds of the cases docketed in the first year of Wheeler County where the lawless town was situated involved fighting or some form of revelry, many connected with dance hall girls.


By 1882, the second town in this area, Tascosa, was founded when Texas Ranger Captain G. W. Arrington conducted a general clean up of Mobeetie, sending large numbers of fancy women, gamblers, con artists, and outlaws, as well as cattle and horse thieves westward towards the toughest and most lawless town of all the wild frontier … a shoot-’em up western booze town … Old Tascosa.  And, Lower Tascosa or Hogtown didn’t get its name because they raised hogs, but because the inhabitants acted like swine and visitors always came away hog-drunk. Below is a picture of the old Mobeetie jail.


Growing up, I visited Old Tascosa many times and spent hours walking-the-walk, particularly enjoying the serenity of Boot Hill where renegades and law-abiding, God fearing men and women are buried, many without the benefit of clergy. The cemetery borrowed its name from the Dodge City, Kansas, cemetery … a place for men who died with their boots on.

I only became passionate about Mobeetie when I was researching the rodeo for my story for our second anthology called Give Me a Cowboy.  A special writer friend arranged an interview with a man she grew up with … a real-life ol’ time rodeo star who lives in the area. That began my love affair with the Mother City of the Texas Panhandle’s historic cemetery and stone jail which still stands today.

Have you visited a place that totally took you back into time?

Grand Canyon-The Hard Way-The Hance Trail 1884

hance“Captain” John Hance was reputedly the Canyon’s first non-Native American resident.  He built a cabin east of Grandview Point at the trailhead of an ancient Native American trail he improved to allow access to his asbestos mining claim in the Canyon. He started giving tours of the canyon after his attempts at mining asbestos failed, largely due to the expense of removing the asbestos from the canyon. 

The trail, completed in 1884 and commonly called the Old Hance Trail by historians, was to become Grand Canyon’s first tourist trail, as Hance quickly realized there was money to be made guiding wide-eyed tourists into the depths of the Canyon.

 I love this. This is what makes America great. Hance abandoned mining for tourism in the mid-1880s. To me that’s just a man seeing a way to make money, supplying a product others want, a product that is born out of his life and his skill and his hard work.

 Hance delighted in telling canyon stories to visitors, favoring the whopper of a tale over mere facts. With a straight face, Hance told travelers how he had dug the canyon himself, piling the excavated earth down near Flagstaff (a dirt pile now known as the San Francisco Peaks). 

I exchanged emails with a man who works at Grand Canyon National Park and does re-enactments of John Hance’s tall tales. I asked him if any of those tales were written down and he directed me to one recording of a tale similar to one John Hance told. But Hance never told the same story, the same way, twice and he never wrote any of them down, so only oral history survives. Despite his many outrageous claims, Hance left a lasting legacy at the Grand Canyon,  passing away in 1919, the year the Grand Canyon became a National Park.  Hance was the first person buried in what would become the Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery.

The trail John Hance found still exists. It’s listed as unmaintained and in poor condition. A Falcon Guidebook, Hiking Grand Canyon National Park, calls it a vigorous rim-to-rim backpack of three or more days—the South Rim’s most difficult trail. One man, an Hance Rooseveltexperience back country hiker said that even having been over the trail before, the time he took the trail with it in mind to report on it, he got lost five different times-by lost I mean he realized he’d gotten off the trail and had to backtrack to find it. There are miles with no discernable trail. I also, just because research is maddening, found this account of the Hance Trail.

The New Hance descends into Red Canyon (a side canyon of the Grand) and arrives at Hance Rapids on the Colorado River. Although the New Hance is a secondary trail, it is well marked and easy to follow. Note that this is really HusbandTree smdifferent than the other report. So what is the truth? Ah, research! Such fun.

One picture I found showed people rock climbing down a stretch of rock face, so that seems pretty challenging to me but when you think back to those days, it was probably a wonder to even find a way down. No state roads department was in there clearing it and paving it.

So, has anyone been there? Have any of you gone down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon? Anyone spent the night at Phantom Ranch or taken the burro ride? If so, you have my deepest respect because this is a truly rugged place.

Tell me about it if you were down there.

 Mary Connealy

Cheryl St.John: Cover Love

9780373295715Some of us probably got bookstore or amazon gift certificates for Christmas, didn’t we? How many new books have you purchased so far this year? I’m guessing you already had books on your wish list and that you were waiting for them to be released. But sometimes those books just leap off the shelf at us. When I saw the cover for Her Montana Man for the first time, I was ecstatic. I didn’t think my good cover fortune could get any better. And then I saw the cover for Her Colorado Man. I experienced a moment of pure cover elation. Cover love. Cover adoration. I love that cover.

getting_luckyWhen I fill out my cover suggestions for the art department and marketing team, I select two or three key scenes from the book and describe the characters’ clothing and the weather and the time of day. And then I hold my breath. Sometimes the resulting image is nothing like I imagined, and other times it’s even better. This romantic depiction is from a scene during the Denver exhibition when Wes and Mariah dance under the stars, away from public view. You can even see the decorative lanterns in the background.

So imagine this: You’re standing in the checkout line, and the books catch your eye. One book in particular holds your interest. You pick it up, turn it over, and open to the first page. You must have this book. Into your cart it goes.

the jewel of his heartWhat was it that caught your eye? Something about that cover made you reach for the book. Maybe something about the back cover lured you in. Maybe you didn’t even look at the price

I’ll bet you can remember more than one time that you’ve picked up a book for the cover alone. I know I have. On the other hand, I’ve passed by some terrific stories because the covers turned me off. I can think of one in particular. I got the book in my stack of entries to judge for the RITA awards. I even put it off until the last, only to discover it was an incredible story that hooked me from the get go and never let up. I liked the author’s voice and style so much that I hunted her backlist and read as many as I could get my hands on. So what was it I didn’t like about that cover, you ask? It was a cartoon cover. I have never purchased a book with a cartoon cover—well except the others by that same author.

a matter of classI think most of us have auto-buy authors – an author you buy simply because you know they’re going to deliver a story you will enjoy, no matter the subject or the cover. For me there are several of those: Sharon Sala, Anne Frasier, Janet Evanovich, Robyn Carr just to name a few.

I’ve purchased books based on reviews – sort of like movie reviews that tempt me. Not because the review was glowing, but because the synopsis told me the book was about a subject or character I knew I would like. I’ve bought books because someone recommended them to me. I have purchased a book because of an ad. That could have been because of the cover or the blurb. I’ve never bought one because of a quote on the front or because I saw the book trailer.

pieces of skyIf I had to say where most of my book buying was done over the past couple of years, I’d confess it wasn’t done in stores, but online. Convenience is the reason – and because –sadly — the chain stores carry less and less of the mid-list books. At least one huge chain store near me (Target) no longer carries Harlequin or Silhouette lines!

Online book shopping is a whole different beast. You pretty much need to know what you’re looking for, or at least I do. amazon has that clever suggestion feature that shows what they think you’d like based on your previous purchases. And you can subscribe to any number of newsletters by your favorite authors to be prepared for their new releases.

earlydawn_withstepbackBut there’s something about looking at those covers…something about picking up that book, seeing it in person…up close and personal, covers are enticing. For me — If it has a western or an Americana look, I’m a sucker. There was a day when many readers would buy any book with Fabio or John DeSalvo on the cover. I’m probably in the minority of romance readers who aren’t impressed by cover models. In fact, if I recognize the guy on the front, it’s a complete turnoff for me. He has become a model in my eyes, not the fantasy hero I want to meet for the first time and fall in love with.  I guess that’s it–a recognizable face spoils the fantasy.

I also prefer cover people with heads, thank you very much. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like to stare and stare, trying to figure out where the story peoples’ faces are. I’m a bigger fan of bare backs with laces falling away than of legs and high heels, but that’s probably my historical preferences coming out. I will always buy a cowboy or a cowboy hat. And I don’t mind flowers.

stjohn.jpgAnd FYI: Desceptive cover, Catherine Anderson’s newest book Early Dawn is a western!

So what type of cover attracts you?

Have you ever bought a book just for the cover?

Do you buy books for the author’s name, no matter what the cover looks like?

What are your criteria for spending your cash on a new author’s book?

Have you ever bought a book because you’d met the author and liked him or her?

Picked up any beautiful books lately?

Sharon Gillenwater: Excuse Me, May I Borrow Part of Your Ranch?

Gillenwater-02I grew up in West Texas, in Mitchell County.  So far, I’ve used my hometown of Colorado City as the actual setting for only one of my books.  But all of my westerns, whether historical or contemporary, are set in fictional towns in that part of the country.  Its wonderful history fuels this writer’s heart and imagination.


The first ranch was established in the county in 1875.  Only a handful of ranchers followed until the building of the Texas and Pacific Railroad spurred settlement of the area.


Mitchell County and Colorado City, known then simply as Colorado, were organized in 1881.  (For clarity, I’m going to add City.)  Ranchers moved thousands of Texas Longhorns into the vast open range of West Texas.  Colorado City sprang to life with stores, saloons, boarding houses, hotels, churches and a school.


When it came time to sell some cattle, those same ranchers—from all across West Texas and southeast New Mexico—herded them to Colorado City for shipment to Kansas City and Chicago.  They also hauled in wagonloads of buffalo bones, gathered from the prairie, and sent them to factories back east to make fertilizer and buttons. 


Supplies for the town and ranches came into Colorado City by rail and were hauled by wagon all across West Texas and the Panhandle.  The area needed people, and they came, full of dreams and the determination to make them happen.  The descendants of many of those families are still there.


Bob and Betty Gary arrived in Mitchell County in 1881.  Mr. Gary was employed at a grocery in Colorado City until he and Betty bought a ranch south of town in 1898.  Several years later, their daughter, Ewell, married Charles Thompson.  When they inherited the land, they changed the name to Thompson Ranch—which is where I grew up. 


Picture#1forPetticoatsandPistolsMy parents moved to the ranch in 1945, a year after they were married.  Soon Daddy became the ranch foreman, a position he held until his death over fifty years later.  The ranch had six thousand acres which my dad, my brother, and one or two hired hands worked—raising around three hundred head of Hereford cattle and farming cotton.


But when I needed a fictional ranch for the powerful, wealthy family in my new series from Revell, The Callahans of Texas, I wanted something bigger.  So I moseyed down the highway and borrowed sixty thousand acres from the Spade Ranch.  It runs over a hundred thousand acres, so I figured they wouldn’t mind letting me use some of their range.  Imaginary cattle don’t eat much. 


And it has an illustrious history.  Technically, it is the Renderbrook Spade.  Renderbrook comes from a large spring on the ranch, named for Captain Joseph Rendlebrock who led Company G, Fourth Cavalry through the area in 1872.  They were scouting for Indians or Indian signs as well as exploring and mapping the little known country west and north of Fort Concho, which is near San Angelo.


They had a brief skirmish with some Indians, which lasted “less than no time.”  The little battle helped attach the Captain’s name to the spring, although someone botched the spelling, and called it Renderbrook.


By 1882, brothers J.W. and Dudley Snyder bought the land around Renderbrook Springs.  They’d been ranching for several years and knew that the free range wouldn’t last.  They built a substantial headquarters, known as the “White House.”  It is still there today.


They did well until the financial panic in 1885 was followed by a severe drought in 1886-1888.  Ranching had changed since the early days, and capital requirements for land, livestock and improvements such as wells, windmills, tanks and fencing were beyond the reach of most who had built the beef cattle industry. 


The Snyders needed a buyer for their ranch when Isaac Ellwood and his son, William L., arrived in Colorado City in 1889. 


Originally from New York, Isaac had had a few adventures—working as a teamster on the Erie Canal and later spending time in the California goldfields.  But he had settled in DeKalb, Illinois and established a prosperous hardware business.  Adequate fencing was a common problem, and Isaac worked on a design for barbed wire.  In 1874, when he saw that Joseph Glidden’s design was better than his, Isaac formed a partnership with the older man.  Two years later, Glidden wanted to retire and sold his interest in the company to Washburn & Moen, a wire manufacturing company from Massachusetts.  Isaac now had a powerful partner that changed a little cottage industry into big business.  He made millions.


When Isaac and his son came to West Texas to promote their barbed wire, he was already a respected horse breeder and owned a progressive farm complex outside of DeKalb.   But he wanted land in Texas.  They stayed at the St. James Hotel, the ritziest one in Colorado City.  It was favored by cattlemen, particularly the big operators.


When the Ellwoods toured Renderbrook, they liked what they saw, especially its potential.  They bought the ranch, but the Snyders kept their cattle and their brand. 


PetticoatsandPistolspicture2Isaac turned over the running of the ranch to William L. and went back to Illinois to tend to the wire business and harvest at his farm.  William L. began searching for a herd.  He found it two hundred miles away in the Texas Panhandle.  He purchased 800 head of cattle from J. F. “Spade” Evans and acquired the brand which is shaped like a short-handled spade.  Thus the ranch became Renderbrook Spade, generally known as Spade Ranch.


I not only borrowed some land for the Callahans, I appropriated the spring, too, renaming it Aidan’s Spring in honor of Aidan Callahan.  He brought the first herd into my fictionalized version of the area and established the ranch and the little town of Callahan Crossing. 


The modern day Callahans—Dub and Sue and their children Will, Chance and Jenna—are as loyal to the ranch and the town as Aidan was.  Each of the three books has a stand alone romance, but their love of God, family and West Texas runs strongly through the series.


And the siblings need that support.  In Jenna’s Cowboy, which hits the stores in January, Jenna and her family help their friend and her hero, Nate Langley, deal with post traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In Emily’s Chance, which comes out next September, Chance recruits their help to try to win the heart of a big-city career woman who has her five-year plan all laid out—and it doesn’t include him.


And in the last, yet unnamed book, Will falls for a courageous young woman who is pregnant, unmarried and homeless.  The family pitches in to show Savannah that wealth or poverty doesn’t matter when it comes to love.


JENNA'SCOWBOYCOVERMy thanks to Cheryl St.John and the ladies of Petticoats and Pistols for asking me to be a guest blogger.


Leave a comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Jenna’s Cowboy.


Jenna’s Cowboy is Sharon Gillenwater’s nineteenth published novel.  She’s written for both the ABA and CBA, with settings ranging from Regency England and Scotland to Texas in the 1880’s and modern day Texas.  Five of her books were published under the penname Sharon Harlow.  Visit her website at   She is also on Facebook.

Sharon will send an autographed copy of Jenna’s Cowboy to one person who comments this weekend!

Download an excerpt from Jenna’s Cowboy, go Revell’s website.