Traveling Then and Now . . .

Confession time: I am the probably among the world’s worse travelers when it comes to packing.

When I go on a trip, even a weekend trip, I have a tendency to over pack. This is particularly true when I’m driving. I will take at least two suitcases, an ice chest, a minimum of five books and quite possibly the kitchen sink.

I think it goes back to my childhood. I was a Campfire Girl. Like Girl Scouts, we were taught to always be prepared. You never know, for instance, whether there will be a freak ice storm in August, or a heat wave in January. You never know whether you’ll be tempted to go to a formal restaurant or a Kentucky Fried Chicken window. And I must have at least two bathing suits and at least one coverup for frequent trips to a pool.

I know. Excuses. Excuses. But I can’t help myself. I’m a packaholic.

Everyone has their most admired person. My most admired person is Libby Hall, president of RWA when I first went on the board. We had ten day meetings in July – three to four days of board meetings and six days of conference. Most of us dragged huge oversized suitcases, book bags, carry-ons and purses large enough for a Great Dane. Libby carried one carry-on for all ten days. Ten days! Ten days of parties and formal events and presiding over luncheons and dinners, etc. Wonder of all wonders.

I was shamed but, unfortunately, not shamed enough to change my profligate packing.

So I was bemused — while researching a new western series – to find a recommended wardrobe for one man embarking on a three-month journey across the western plains. It comes from “The Prairie Traveler,” the Best-Selling Handbook for American Pioneers (published 1859).

Here it is:

2 blue or red flannel overshirts, open in front, with buttons.
2 woolen undershirts.
2 pairs thick cotton drawers.
4 pairs woollen socks
2 pairs cotton socks.
4 colored silk handkerchiefs.
2 pair stout shoes, for footmen.
1 pair boots, for horsemen.
1 pair shoes, for horsemen.
3 towels.
1 gutta percha poncho.
1 broad-brimmed hat of soft felt.
1 comb and brush.
2 tooth-brushes.
1 pound Castile soap.
3 pounds bar soap for washing clothes (for three months?)
1 belt-knife and small whet-stone.
Stout linen thread, large needles, a bit of beeswax, a few buttons, paper of pins and a thimble, all contained in a small buckskin or stout cloth bag.

Being written by a man, it doesn’t deign to offer advice on women’s wear, but I would guess it would be two dresses, two pair of cotton drawers, etc.

I fear I would make a terrible pioneer, but the above information provides some inspiration. Perhaps on the next weekend trip, I can leave the kitchen sink at home.

Guest: Jenna Kernan

9780373294671.jpgRecipe for Disaster

Some of you have been asking me about my first Christmas Anthology, A Western Winter Wonderland, that appears on shelves October 1st. The tag on the book cover is ‘Love and family—the recipe for a perfect Christmas. This is a nice tie-in because each of the contributing authors (Cheryl St. John, Jenna Kernan and Pam Crooks) have included a favorite family recipe along with a fabulous tale.

I read from Pam’s ‘Dear Reader’ letter that she was asked to write a story based on a favorite family recipe. I’m sure I probably was as well, though I have no memory of that communication. So imagine my surprise when I had finished my story, completed the copy edits and line edits and handed in my dedication, only to receive a last minute email from the editorial assistant saying something to the effect of…”Oh, by the way I need your recipe by tomorrow.”

This was in an email, so he didn’t get to see the look of utter confusion on my face or hear me utter the words, “What recipe?”

I was hoping this was a joke, because I am not known for my prowess in the kitchen. In other words, I am not the ‘go-to’ person when the PTA has a bake sale. Case in point—I handed in my recipe for Christmas Scones with my list of ingredients including, among other things, Citrine. Now many of you know I am a rockhound who spends much of my leisure time digging in the earth for gems, minerals and gold deposits. So you might say this was a typo or a Freudian slip. Anyway, I couldn’t write “those strange green, red and yellow cubes that look like a portion of a gummy bear but might actually have once have been some form of citrus.” You know, those little clear plastic tubs that appear near the mixed nuts in the grocery store near Christmas time? My mom makes fruitcakes out of them, and, although my scone recipe calls for currants, I decided to change one teeny-tiny little ingredient to make it more festive.

Big mistake.

“Citrine,” wrote the United Kingdom editor assigned to be sure that none of the authors killed anyone with their recipe, “is a hard yellow stone of the quartz family and I’m certain you did not mean to include those in your scones.” She was only certain because she has never met me or eaten anything I have cooked.

I meant, of course, CITRON, not citrine. Close, but not close enough.citrine-citron.JPG

Needless to say this recipe is not featured strongly (or at all) in the story because not only did I fail to understand the entire premise on which the anthology was based, my heroine is in bed recovering from a gunshot wound for most of the story.

I suppose you are lucky I didn’t include a precious family recipe, for I surely would have given you my mother’s formula for white fruitcake that takes days to make and requires the upper body strength of a professional arm wrestler just to stir the batter, and which, by the way, is full of citron.

Are you HAPPY GIRLS?

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The Elvis movie I designed my story Bodine’s Bounty after:

 It’s Girl Happy with Shelley  Fabares. Remember, her mobster father, Big Frank was worried sending her to Ft. Lauderdale for Spring Break and hires Elvis to secretly watch over her? I loved that concept. Elvis was involved with another woman, but had to drop everything when the “easy job”  he’d taken had been anything but. The girl kept getting into trouble and had to be “rescued” by Elvis. Until he fell for her?

That’s it.  That’s Bodine’s Bounty in a nutshell. He’s hired on by someone he owes a favor, to watch Emma, a slip of a woman and finds the challenge daunting, keeping her Unharmed and Untouched.  They have quite a romantic journey together.  🙂

If you haven’t already be sure to enter our Big Fall Bonanza Contest at the Primrose News Office.  Lots of great prizes!

Karyna DaRosa is our Guest Blogger tomorrow!  Be sure to stop by! And on Sunday our Guest Blogger is Jenna Kernan.

Those Saturday Matinees

eliz-child-frm2.jpgJust in case you haven’t figured it out, I’m older than dirt.  I’m so old that I grew up without television.  Not that it hadn’t been invented—the problem was, we lived in a small town surrounded by mountains that cut off the signal.  By the time somebody put a relay tower on a nearby peak, I was a senior in high school.

What was it like growing up without TV?  In a word, it was wonderful.  And one of the best things about being a kid was the Saturday matinees.Every Saturday afternoon at 2:00 we’d congregate at the local cinema.  I usually went with my cousin Millie, who was a year older and looked out for me. Those of us who were under twelve could get in for 14 cents.  That meant we could show up with a quarter, buy a ticket, a 10 cent bag of popcorn and a piece of penny candy and be set for the afternoon.

The show always started with a cartoon—Bugs Bunny was our favorite, along with Donald Duck and maybe Tom & Jerry.Next to come on the screen was the newsreel.  Mostly we thought it was boring, but it was the only time we got to see footage of important events that were happening in the world.  Looking back, we saw some amazing things and people—Churchill, Gandhi, Eisenhower, Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, the young Princess Elizabeth, and so many others of that era.

Then came the 30 minute serial—most of these were westerns, with stars like Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy.  There were also a few superheroes thrown in, as well as Tarzan and a character named Jungle Jim. 

hrides.jpgThese episodes all had one thing in common—the cliffhanger endings that kept us coming back week after week to see if the hero—or the girl—really survived.  Watching them, I now realize, I was already picking up some of the skills that would make me an author.It was at those Saturday matinees, basking in those wonderful, corny old movies, that my love of romance and adventure was born.  That I’m able to share that love in the stories I create today is one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me.

Do you have a favorite old movie or childhood experience to share with us?  Why are you a romance reader, or writer, today?  Please feel free to let us know.

And don’t forget to enter our big contest.  We have some great prizes to give away!

Good Evening!

horseheader1.jpeGood Evening bloggers!

Thank you all for visiting our site today and for joining in the discussion.  I want to especially thank Taryn Raye, AndreaW, Mary Connealy, Paty, Tanya Hanson, Joanna Sheats, Cherie J., Connie Lorenz, Crystal Adkins, and my fellow Western Authors, Charlene Sands, Pam Crooks, Elizabeth Lane and Linda Broaday.

Thank you all for your delightful posts and insightful comments.

And now one more thing before I sign off for the day — I thought I’d share some photos with you from the weekend.  The first photo is a picture of the very first shot that I fired, along with the so very understanding and patient instructor — who was left holding the gun as I backed up crying.  The second photo was taken the next day, with me recovered from my original shock and shooting on my own.

Have a super day tomorrow and please remember that if you haven’t already done so, please be sure to enter into our contest.  There are some wonderful prizes.

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A man, a woman and his gun

horseheader1.jpeHowdy!

Having  just returned from a four day weekend at a very unusual place, I thought I’d tell you a bit about it.  Since the name of our blog is Petticoats & Pistols, I thought it might be pertinent to talk a little about pistols…guns.

Now this is a subject that I know next to nothing about and anything I’ve ever written about guns has been research…in fact, outside of holding a gun in my hand maybe twice this lifetime, I’ve had nothing to do with pistols and in truth, up until recently, little interest in them.

However, since I often write about men at a time in history when a man was known by the kind of weapons he used and how well he kept them — not to mention how well he could shoot — it occurred to me that perhaps my hero should be carrying a weapon every now and again — particularly since he needs to protect the heroine against the bad guys.  So this weekend my husband and I attended a four day class on shooting.  The place was the hot desert area of Las Vegas area and the place was Front Sight.

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Although I’ve always been a pro-second Amendment person, the one thing I learned is how much I really don’t know.  So please come with me for a moment and share a little of this unusual weekend with me.

Imagine this:  I thought it would be an easy weekend with me and my husband together, doing a little shooting and a little learning and a lot of one on one with my hubby.

Wrong…except for spending a good deal of time with my hubby — but time spent on a shooting range…

Little did I know the weekend would be spent much like a bootcamp.  Our hours were from 8AM to 7PM each and every day(sometimes later — on Saturday we had a night shoot), and we were constantly shooting or learning.  Now, since I exercise daily and since we had to be up long before the sun came up in order to make it to the complex on time, it soon became apparent to me that this was anything but a casual weekend.

One thing I thought was spectacular about this course (which was taught by former police officers or military personnel)was a required seminar on the ethics of owning a weapon and the moral choices one has to make if ever one is in a life and death situation.  In other words when to shoot and when not to shoot.

Okay with that said, now we get to the first time I have ever shot a gun.  At Front Sight, things are taken step by step.  First you practice with your gun without ammunition — we rented our guns, by the way.  Then you load up the gun with ammunition and you are ready to walk out onto the range to shoot.  Luckly, an instructor is nearby to ease you through your first shoot.

Never in my life would I have thought I would have reacted as I did to the first shot I’ve ever taken with a gun.  Never.  Not ever.  What was that reaction?

I cried.

Yep, I cried.  Luckily the instructor was there to hold the weapon for me as I literally left the weapon hanging in the air, put my head in my hands and cried.   And cried.  But knowing I was there to learn, and really wanting to learn how to defend myself if ever needed, I continued on — after some heady discussion with my hubby.  Subsequently, however, I cried again on the second and third shot, as well.  It got better, though, and after that initial response, the first day passed quickly into a gorgeous sunset.  I even started making some good shots.

However, it was back to the beginning for me on the second day with my first shot of that day.  Again, I cried.  I can’t explain it, nor did I want to try to figure out why.  Perhaps it was the extreme use of force or maybe it was something else.  I don’t know.  The only thing I knew for sure was that the only thing I could do was to bust through it.

And I did.  It was better on the second day, though — and with lots of instructor help, I came to eventually enjoy myself.  It was a rather large class there at Front Sight with the guys out numbering the gals by about 6 to 1.  However, I soon met someone who was a little like me and hadn’t shot before and we soon became friends.

On the third day, we were all put through simulator drills — where we went into a “house” that had cardboard figures in it of men with guns.  We students had to decide when to shoot and when not to shoot.  It was the first time I ran across the cardboard picture of a man holding a woman hostage with a gun to her head.  And I was supposed to shoot at the image of the criminal.

I put my gun down and said, no way.  I was afraid I’d shoot the woman hostage instead of the bad guy.  But the instructor was kind, understanding, and walked me through it — and I eventually took a shot at the cardboard figure of the bad guy, and I gotta tell you, I manged to lay a shot to the bad guy’s head in one shot alone.  However, as soon as I’d done it, I again cried.  Thank goodness the instructor was there to coach me through that, as well.

Looking back on it now, I must admit now that the entire experience was fun and exciting, though at the time I thought it was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done.  One thing did happen, though, and that is that I came away with the feeling that if ever I were caught in a life or death situation, I would not only know what to do, I would have the skills to do it.

Will I ever go back to Front Sight to improve my skills?  You bet.  

Hopefully, later today I will be able to get up some pictures of the weekend end (I have to wait for my hubby to download them first).  But for now let me share with you the cover art for THE LAST WARRIOR, my next book which is due to be released in March of next year. 

indian_11.JPGI would love to hear from you about your reactions to shooting, if you’ve ever done it — or your opinions about shooting, as well.  So come and let’s have a talk.

Where Eagles Fly

SkyWalk

“This was a dream

Just like an eagle can fly into the Grand Canyon, my vision was to enable visitors to walk the path of the eagle, and become surrounded by the Grand Canyon while standing at the edge of the Glass Bridge. The bridge gives us a chance to share the wonder of the canyon that the Hualapia Tribe has graciously offered.

My dream was to find a balance between form, function and nature. Once a dream…now a reality.”

David Jin, Founder, Grand Canyon Skywalk

Stepping out across the Skywalk at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon definitely provides an eagle’s view of the canyon.  Standing 4,000 above the canyon floor is a fascinating experience.  The distance below is truly incompressible to the mind and eye.  SkyWalkThe hawks soaring below looked like graceful black specks against amber stone. Standing on the glass walk, you truly feel as though you are walking through the clouds, and when the sky’s reflection hits just right, you ARE walking on clouds.  Check out the cool yellow booties provided for viewers to protect the glass.

Even my teenage boys thought the Skywalk to be more thrilling than any roller coaster we’ve been on.  Visiting the Hualapia Reservation was, by far, my best visit to the Grand Canyon. It is a looong drive to the west rim, which takes you through Joshua Forest (dense population of Joshua trees), before turning onto a 15 mile dirt road widning through the private land of the Hualapia Tribe. From there the elevation climbs, leaving behind the Joshua trees (which only grow at an elevation of about 3000 ft) and takes grandc_villiage.jpgyou through the more common desert scrub of sage and cacti, and up to Eagle Point.  Aside from the Skywalk, they also have authentic Indian GrandCanyon1dwellings visitors can walk through. The clay structure with the hole in the roof is a sweat lodge. Below is a sage wickiup used during the squelching hot summer months. There was also an amphitheatre with scheduled Native American culturalGrand Canyon performances where we sat and watched dancers from various tribes across the states perform dances, sing songs and play a variety of drums.

Leaving the village, a short bus ride took us up to my absolute favorite part of our three-stage tour–Guano Point, where you can take in a view of the canyon and Colorado River WITHOUT BARRIERSThe only thing keeping you from plummeting to the rocks 4000 feet below is your own common sense.  HandyCamPicFor me, this was better than even the Skywalk. This was the place I felt detached from all the other distractions and could really get lost in the land, my thoughts, and daydreams.

 GC

See that dark shadow against the cliffs…directly over our heads were big black and gray clouds. We happened to be there at the onset of a thunder storm, the electricity in the clouds actually had our hair standing on end! Talk about luck–spectacular views, pleasant temperatures in July and storm clouds booming overhead like tribal drums….*sigh*  The day could not have been moreFamily perfect.  Inspiring, thrilling, educational, serene…and more natural beauty than you can shake a stick at  😉

Drawing for an Autographed Book!

fishbowl9780373294671.jpgI put all the names of those who commented today in my fishbowl (Goldie was not happy, I tell you) and drew a name for an autographed book.

 I drew Karen H in NC!  Congrats, Karen.  Please send your address to me at SaintJohn@aol.com, and I’ll be sending you a copy of A Western Winter Wonderland signed by both Pam Crooks and myself.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by today and those who joined the conversation about one of my favorite western movies!

Lonesome Dove – a western classic

call and mcraeLonesone Dove DVDLonesome Dove, written by Larry McMurtry, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning western novel and the first published book of the Lonesome Dove series. Can you imagine the daunting task that native Texan and screenwriter Bill Wit  tliff took on when he adapted Larry McMurtry’s novel to film? First, he needed to rein in the sprawling 843 page story while still retaining its majestic essence. Wittliff’s work was also made more difficult because, in the novel, McMurtry uses the narrator’s voice to reveal information about characters and to describe events. To provide the same information in the film, Wittliff needed to create dialogue and provide visual cues that did not exist in the novel.

costume sketch

A Southwestern Writers Collection is housed at Texas State and many of the original documents he used while creating this western classic can be viewed online at:

http://www.library.txstate.edu/swwc/ld/ldexhibit.html

The web exhibit features storyboards, costumes, including Gus’s boots, and even Gus’s dead wrapped body.

 

 

The epic four-part six-hour mini-series focuses on the relationship of retired Texas Rangers and their adventures driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana.   McMurtry originally developed the tale in 1972 for a feature film entitled The Streets of Laredo (a title later used for the sequel), which was to have starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and James Stewart.  That didn’t happen, but thank goodness, McMurtry later resurrected the screenplay as a full-length novel.  It deservingly became a bestseller and won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The mini-series won six Emmy Awards and was nominated for 13 others. 

Casting for this epic was pure genius.  Who better to portray these multi-faceted aging Texas Rangers who to this day represent the epitome of courage, loyalty and everything we think of when we think “American West?”

 

Robert Duvall is Captain Augustus McCrae, co-owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, and considers himself the brains of the outfit. Generous, humorous, and lazy to the point of eccentricity, he serves as a foil to the more serious, practical Call. When not working, which he does as little as possible, Gus pursues his three chief interests in life: women, alcohol and cards. He is well known in the territory for his loud voice, superior eyesight and accuracy with a revolver.

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Tommy Lee Jones is Captain Woodrow F. Call, Gus’s partner in the company. Less verbose and chatty than McCrae, Call works long and hard and sees no reason why others should not do the same. A former Texas Ranger, he served with Gus when both were young men. Though Call has utter disdain for lazy men who drink, gamble and whore their lives away, he has his own secret shame, which he hides carefully from his comrade. Call’s ability to manage unmanageable horses is also well known.

 

Danny Glover plays a magnificent role as Joshua Deets, an ex-slave and former Ranger.  When the story starts he’s a ranch hand at the company. On the drive, he serves as scout. A remarkable tracker and morally upright man, he is one of the few men whom Call respects and trusts.

 

Before he hit the NY streets as a cop, Rick Shroder played Newt Dobbs, young orphan raised by Gus and Call. His mother was a prostitute named Maggie Tilton, who died when he was a child. He knows his mother was a prostitute, and has no idea who his father might be. Most other observers, notably Gus and Clara Allen, are quite certain that Call is his father. Call eventually comes to this realization privately, but is never able to admit it explicitly.

gus and clara

Anjelica Houston is Clara Allen, a former love of Gus’s  She declined his marriage proposals years ago, and now lives in Nebraska, married to a horse trader who is comatose, having been kicked in the head by a horse. They have two girls, though she is afflicted deeply by the death of her sons. Though separated from Gus by many miles and years, she still holds him fondly in her heart. In contrast, she has utter contempt for Call.

lorena

Diane Lane is the lovely young Lorena Wood, a kind-hearted young woman who was forced into prostitution by her lover, then abandoned in Lonesome Dove. Lorena is silent, strong willed, and intimidating, refusing to submit meekly to her various admirers. Discontent with her line of work, “Lorie” hopes to leave the dead town and find her way to San Francisco.  Gus is her champion, and who could ask for a better one?

 

Secondary threads with characters of July and Almira Johnson and Blue Duck are intricately woven into the plot and throughout the journey of the cattle drive.  You can’t help but be enamored by the characters and caught up in their adventures.  Watching the story unfold brings laughter and tears every time.  The music that accompanies the panoramic scenes does a beautiful job of enhancing the grandeur of the vast landscape and feel of the untamed west.  I often listen to the original soundtrack, composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris. Lonesome Dove spawned the follow-up miniseries, Return to Lonesome Dove.

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Trivia facts about Lonesome Dove:

* Robert Duvall, who has appeared in over 80 movies, told CBS that Augustus McCrae, the character he played in Lonesome Dove, was his all time favorite role.  We can see why.

* The characters of July Johnson and Roscoe bear the same names as the sheriff and his sidekick who track James Stewart and Dean Martin in the movie Bandolero! (1968). Also, the sequence where Stewart and Martin discuss Montana resembles a similar scene in Lonesome Dove.

* The book, and the character Gus, is mentioned in country singer George Strait’s song “That’s My Kind Of Woman.”

 

So, fess up.  How many times have you watched Lonesome Dove?  Did you think return to Lonesome Dove lived up to the first?  Have you watched Streets of Laredo or Deadman’s Walk which precede the story?

If you’re a western lover and you’ve never seen this movie, well, I’m just sad for you.  But your situation is subject to change.  Head for Blockbuster!

Tomorrow: A Western Epic

Buckhorn SaloonGetting the clothes right in a book is as important as in a movie and writers and costume designers go to a lot of work to make sure they have it right.

Costume designer Van Broughton Ramsey won an Emmy Award for his work on Lonesome Dove. Ramsey did extensive research into the clothing of the period, and he made sure that the characters’ wardrobe matched their occupations and social standing. Ramsey collected cloth swatches and photocopies of period photos from books and articles. He even commissioned specially silkscreened bandanas for Gus and Call. Ramsey also compiled a notebook containing the shooting schedule, filming locations, and sizes of the principal cast members and extras. By using this information in conjunction with his research, Ramsey created these initial drawings which were used to produce the actual costumes.

Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about Lonesome Dove, the epic mini-series loved by western fans everywhere.  Don’t miss it!