Thanks to everyone who stopped by this week to discuss favorite vacation memories with me – it was fun to read all your responses. I tossed all the names in a hat and pulled out these three:
Congratulations to each of you – you’ve won your choice of any book from my backlist. Once you’ve decided which one you’d like to have, send the title along with your mailing info to me via the contact page on my website – http://www.winniegriggs.com
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. A few weeks ago we took a family vacation to Branson, Mo.
Some of my kids had been there before but I hadn’t so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it turned out, we had a fabulous time! Nine of us took the trip and seven of us stayed in one condo while two stayed at another which helped extend the time together.
We tried to cram as many of the attractions as we could into the three days we were there. Here’s a list of how we spent our time.
We spent a day at Silver Dollar City (Unfortunately no one took pictures). Several members of the group took advantage of the rides – I didn’t. But there were lots of craft demonstrations ( glass blowers, wood working, pottery, etc.) and fun shops to keep me happily entertained. One of the things I found that I just couldn’t pass up was this dragonfly puzzle box. I love dragonflies and collect trinket boxes so it seemed custom made just for me 🙂
We caught the Sight & Sound Theater’s production of Jesus. The production value was absolutely AMAZING! I had an aisle seat and there were live animals – sheep, pigs, horses, camels, birds – some of which ran up and down the aisles close enough to touch. And the sets themselves were active, realistic and altogether fabulous.
We toured Wild World where there were many more animals than I expected – sharks, reptiles, birds, creepy crawlers and lots of furry critters. The highlight of this particular outing was when three members of our group were able to get up close and personal with some lemurs.
We also stopped in at the Titanic Museum. The tour started with the staff handing everyone a bording ticket complete with the name of an actual passenger who sailed aboard the Titanic. The ticket contained personal info on that passenger including name, position, ticket class and some other notes. At the end of the tour you found out if ‘you’ survived or not. I was the ladies maid for a dowager and assigned to second class.
I learned so much during the tour. At one point we were able to stick our hands in a vat of liquid that duplicated the temperature and density of the water surrounding the wreck – Brrrrr!
Here I am standing in front of a reproduction of the grand staircase. (By the way, my character was among the survivors. 🙂 )
Another place we visited was the Butterfly Palace. It was so fun to go inside the plant conservatory and let the butterflies approach and feed on the blossoms the staff provided.
There was also a great little mirror maze tucked inside the same building. I would probably still be wandering around looking for a way out if I hadn’t had my daughter and grandson there to help me find my way 🙂
But my favorite part of the whole trip was our visit to Top of the Rock. There is a two and a half mile nature trail that you can navigate on your own via a golf cart. The scenery was fabulous – rock formations, a cave, waterfalls, wildlife, streams, covered bridges.
There were also these wonderful wildlife medallions embedded in the metal fencing and bridge headers along the trail that I found were so intriguing. I’ve been trying to do a little research into them but so far haven’t had much luck.
We capped off the vacation by having a game night our last evening there. We ordered pizzas and played a rousing game of Mexican Train dominoes. Since we are a highly competitive bunch it was loud and energetic and fabulously fun!
So there you have it, our first family vacation since before the pandemic.
What was your own favorite vacation? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your choice of any book from my backlist.
And don’t forget to come by on Thursday to help us celebrate our 15th birthday!!
Spread the word – there are going to be BIG prizes and BIG fun!
Play Fifteen Filly Fact or Fib? and you could win!
Counterfeiting was a serious issue at the end of the Civil War. Nearly one-third of all currency in circulation was fake. In 1865 the Secret Service was established to deal with this issue, acting as a bureau in the Treasury Department to stabilize America’s financial system. They were the first domestic intelligence and counterintelligence agency in the United States.
During this time, America’s monetary system was very disorganized. Individual banks could legally generate their own currency, but with so much variation in circulation it was easy to counterfeit money.
The first agency chief was William Wood, who was widely known for his heroism in the Civil War. During his first year in charge, he was successful in closing more than 200 counterfeiting plants.
In addition to investigating paper money forgeries, the agency also monitored groups committing fraud, which included the Ku Klux Klan, mail robbers, smugglers, and bootleggers. The United States Marshals Service didn’t have the manpower to investigate all crimes under federal jurisdiction, so the Secret Service also handled bank robberies, illegal gambling, and murders.
President Abraham Lincoln established the Secret Service on April 14, 1865, the same day he was assassinated, after which Congress considered adding presidential protection to the duties of the Secret Service. But it would be another 36 years before the Secret Service was officially put in charge of protecting the president. In 1894, they began informally protecting President Grover Cleveland. In 1901, the agency took over full-time protection of the president after the assassination of President William McKinley. In 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was created and took over intelligence responsibilities from the Secret Service.
In my new release, THE STARLING, Pinkerton Detective Henry Maguire is investigating a possible counterfeiting scheme in the household of wealthy entrepreneur Arthur Wingate. Partnering with new agent Kate Ryan and posing as a married couple, they uncover more than Henry planned when information regarding his deceased father, Hugh Maguire, a Secret Service agent, comes to light.
Kate Ryan has always had a streak of justice in her. When she decides to apply to the Pinkerton Detective Agency, nothing will stand in her way. Initially hired in a clerical position, she quickly works her way up to field agent with the help of her mentor, Louise Foster. When Louise is injured, Kate gets her first assignment and the opportunity of a lifetime.
Henry Maguire has been undercover in the household of wealthy entrepreneur Arthur Wingate. Employed as a ghostwriter to pen the man’s memoir, Henry is also searching for clues to a lucrative counterfeiting scheme. When Henry’s “wife” shows up, he’s taken aback by the attractive woman who isn’t Louise. Now he must work with a female agent he doesn’t know and doesn’t necessarily trust. And because he has another reason for coming into Wingate’s world, Kate Ryan is unavoidably in his way.
Kate Ryan is the daughter of Matt and Molly from THE WREN, and THE STARLING is the first of five novels featuring the second generation of Ryans in the Wings of the West series.
I’m giving away an eBook from my backlist—winner’s choice. To be entered, leave a comment and let me know what great show(s) you’ve been watching lately (any good western series?). I’m always looking for new stuff to view.
Kristy McCaffrey writes contemporary adventure stories packed with smoldering romance and spine-tingling suspense, as well as award-winning historical western romances brimming with grit and emotion. Her work is filled with compelling heroes, determined heroines, and her trademark mysticism. She likes sleeping-in, eating Mexican food, and doing yoga at home in her pajamas. An Arizona native, she resides in the desert north of Phoenix with her husband and their rescue Bulldog, Jeb. Sign up for Kristy’s newsletter athttp://kmccaffrey.com/subscribe/
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We had a goat in the house this spring. A kid, actually. (Kid being a baby goat.)
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned here that whenever we eat, everyone who’s on the property at lunch time gets dragged to the table to eat with us. We’ve always done that since there are often parts people, repairmen, drivers, farm workers, neighbors and anyone else who might visit a farm or trucking company during the day. When we lived in Pennsylvania, it wasn’t uncommon for us to have ten or twelve people for lunch every day.
The goat being in the house prompted us to ask each other if we remembered about Jason’s chicken. We sure did.
Before we had 40,000 chickens we had a bunch of hens who were not fenced at all and the coop was beside the garage where the trucks were parked over the weekend.
Jason’s an old farm boy who drove for us, still does, actually, and parked his truck here like everyone else. One day a truck passed him and the guy came on the radio and said, “You know you have a chicken on your truck?”
Here is where I have to admit that this wasn’t too unusual. Sometimes the chickens roosted on the trucks, and if the guys left before dawn, they might have a passenger. Since we hauled to feed mills, we kind of chuckled about this, because if the chickens hop off at the feed mill, they’re not going to starve, right?
Anyway, Jason thanked the dude and kept going. When he got to his destination, he did his thing and didn’t think too much about it until he was ready to go and remembered about the chicken.
He didn’t see it running around, so he got to poking around on the truck. He found it where the trailer hitches to the truck. There’s some cross beams that come up and made a nice little box-like area for it, just big enough for it to set.
I think I mentioned Jason’s a farm boy, so he did a little more poking, and sure enough, she was setting on seven eggs.
I’ve often wondered what in the world made that chicken look at that truck and think, boy that looks like a great place to lay my eggs and hatch a family.
To finish the story, Jason drove the rest of the week and the next with that chicken on his truck. He said she’d jump down when he stopped and maybe grab a bite to eat and a drink, but she was always back up on her eggs before he left.
No one washed the truck (which drove my husband crazy), and finally, Jason took the truck home and tried to move the nest to a spot in his barn. That never works, and it didn’t in this case either – the hen wouldn’t set on the eggs once they were moved. But, Jason kept her, because I guess sharing an experience like that bonds you or something.
I’ve always wanted to put that in a book, but I never have.
My husband and I recently visited Kiepersol Winery and Bed and Breakfast in Tyler. Our room at the Bed and Breakfast was in the building with the restaurant. Not only were the surroundings quiet, calm, and serene, the wine was wonderful, our room beautiful, and the restaurant defied description. They feature great steaks and seafood, with incredible sides. My favorites were the sauteed mushrooms and garlic potatoes. And the desserts…I had cherries jubilee, and I swear I gain a pound thinking about it, but it was worth every calorie.
But the stories of the winery’s history our wine tour guide, Ron shared captured my writer’s sentimental heart. Founder Pierre de Wet’s story would do any hero proud. Born in South Africa, in 1984 after the death of his wife from skin cancer, he and his young daughters, age two and four, moved to America. Pierre worked as a farm laborer until he could buy acres in Tyler, Texas. Though in 1996 there were no wineries from Austin to Florida, Pierre was sure he could make a winery work.
The winery’s name comes from the Kiepersol farm where Pierre grew up. Legend has it soldiers running from a lion toward a lone tree, shouted, “Kiepersol! Kiepersol” as they sought safety in the tree. (Later it was learned the soldiers yelled, “We hope this tree will keep us all!” Pierre named his winery after that Kiepersol tree, hoping everyone who visited the winery would find that same comfort.
Pierre’s determination and frugality when he started his winery served him well. To lower startup costs, he purchased used equipment. In tough times he sold residential lots, eventually creating one of two wine estates in the U.S. In 2000, he harvested his first grapes. To sell his wine, he hired teenagers with signs and obtained retired Clydesdales for carriages rides that ended at the winery.
I can’t share all the winery’s stories today, but I want to share one behind Flight sparkling wine. Guinea fowl have roamed the area for over 20 years as vineyard stewards. Their chatter safekeeps the grapes from deer and birds. They eat bugs serving as nature’s pesticide. Guinea fowl spotted feathers are believed to be good luck charms. Now to the name. The winery says, “We believe each spotted feather found represents a releasing of the past. Flight is grown in a place where one can feel soulfully grounded while also letting dreams soar. So. Take Flight my friends.” That sentiment makes me shiver.
I love visiting Texas wineries and hearing their stories. The minute I heard Pierre de Wet’s, I thought how I would’ve loved to create such a hero. The courage, strength, and determination he possessed to come to America with two young daughters when the only person he knew was a Texas A&M professor, astounds me. He created a winery, a bed and breakfast with fifteen rooms, an incredible restaurant, a distillery, and an RV park! But most importantly, he raised two strong women who carry on his legacy.
I may have found a retirement-keep-busy-and-involved career. What could be better than telling a winery’s stories, meeting fabulous people, especially if I could be paid with an occasional bottle of wine and dinner?
Today I’m giving away this horseshoe decoration and a signed copy of To Tame a Texas Cowboy. To be entered in my random drawing, leave a comment to this question. What is the best story you’ve heard or best/most interesting fact you’ve learned on a trip? Or, if you don’t have a story to share, just stop by to say hello or tell me about a real life hero in your life.
Have you ever run yourself so ragged that you just couldn’t even put two and two together?
That’s where I was about a week ago. This season of my life has been challenging. My oldest daughter graduated from high school in May and I’ve been doing ALL THE THINGS, like shopping trips for college, helping her apply for student aid, gearing her up to pack, scheduling last visits (like doctor and dentist). And…trying to keep my author business going.
It’s been a lot.
I’m about to break the fourth wall here, but we are in a “pivot” season as far as being an author goes. Marketing books is vastly different from what it was pre-covid and even during covid. While I know there are still cases, the world’s way of thinking is different and authors are having to adjust to the way people are now consuming entertainment. Figuring out what works now, is challenging.
So, all that to say, I needed a reset!
I met with 5 other authors over the last few days in northern Minnesota. We talked, we had devotions. We worked through stuck plot points. We fellowshipped… It was fantastic.
AND, it was exactly what I needed to keep going. You see, even professionals get tired. We need someone to refill our cup too. I didn’t know who to ask, I wasn’t even sure exactly what I needed, but God knew.
The only thing I’m bummed about? Jessie Gussman was supposed to be able to come but had to cancel. Having her there would’ve been fantastic. I will meet her in person some day.
Other than myself, at least two of these authors have been on the blog before and all of them are fabulous.
The setting for the retreat was a very rural, rustic cabin out in the woods. We saw deer and one of the authors even had close encounter with a coyote. Luckily, they are afraid of people it turned tail and ran the moment it saw her.
Beyond the refreshment I got (and hopefully gave) to these great women, was the scenery. We took a day trip to Lake Superior, and everyone loved experiencing the ‘big water’, some for the first time. There is something incredibly relaxing about huge bodies of water. The waves, the sound, the scent, and the blue of the water
meeting the sky just creates this amazing internal worship. I can’t explain it any other way.
What do you do when you need a refresh?
In the past, I’ve been able to grab a good book or talk to friends and recharge my batteries, but I think I let myself get too low. I needed to get away from the ordinary for a short time (Thurs.-Sun. morning). While I can’t do a retreat every time I get in this situation, I now know that I can look forward to this every year and I’m excited for 2023.