Through the Eyes of the Beholder

PioneersOh my gosh, I have to quote Mary Connealy’s post: “I realized that if I’d been a pioneer and someone said, ‘Turn at the highest mountain peak, Pike’s Peak, and go west, there’s a pass that’ll get your through the Rockies to California’ …I’d have died. I wouldn’t have made a good pioneer. Those mountains all looked about the same height to me. Of course I’d have probably fallen off the covered wagon and drown the first time we forded a creek so….I was born in the right century.”

Too funny (had to mop tea off my computer screen!) and raises a great point.  There’s a world Desertof difference between appreciating the beauty of the rugged and wild west and truly experiencing that feral wilderness. Brings to mind one of my Coyotefavorite books, THE TORTILLA CURTAIN, by TC Boyle.  Though it was required college reading and centers on immigration in California, I became a fan of Boyle’s vivid writing style. The book offers a parallel and honest view of life on Rattlerboth sides of the curtain; on one side is a nature-loving suburbanite who writes a nature column and enjoys his peaceful jaunts through the desert just beyond his back fence—on the other side of the fence is the immigrant who’s living in that desert by means of sheer surival. Desert1The two points of view shown in the same timeframe are startlingly poingnant–how they view the desert, a coyote’s call, changes in the weather.  And how these views change when both worlds ultimately collide. 

 I also like to search the web and libraries for journals of pioneers.  One thing that has always struck me about many of the entries is their ability to still see the beauty in the land surrounding them amid tragedy and hardship.  And then you had pioneers like the woman who made that long, perilous trek eleven times, helping others who weren’t quite so exhuberant about the trek *g*, because she simply loved theWestern_Woman adventure of never knowing what awaited them beyond the next bend. Wish I could remember her name….

Like Minna, I’d have an easier time naming places I wouldn’t want to visit 🙂   As Allison said, there’s something Maverickvery spirtual about walking on the homeland of the Hualapai people, where they’ve lived for over 400 years–and to feel their love for the land. Terri gave me chills with her comment about hearing Irish brogue all her life through her dreams.  Thanks so much to everyone who’s shared their thoughts and experiences 🙂

 I’ll be back to chat more in a bit, and pull some posts from a hat and announce our book winners  🙂

Call of The West…

RedwoodsGrowing up, I always imagined myself becoming a geologist or a forest ranger. We camped a lot in the Sierra Mountains and I loved to go exploring through the woods, rivers and meadows, imagining I was on a treacherous journey through theCanyons wilderness–a pastime I never quite outgrew. I was certain no other place on earth could match the beauty of the Sierras–and then I took my first trip to Bryce and Zion Canyons—a forest of Ponderosa pines giving way to an ocean of stone in a seemingly impossible array of colors. Monoliths, hoodoos and shadowy mazes. So much beauty, I wanted to absorb it. I was sure Utah and Arizona was where I belonged–yet once I GrandTetonsstepped onto a boardwalk in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I felt as though I’d come home. Hugged by lush mountains and tangible history, I was hit by a very odd sense of nostalgia. My mind began recreating events that ‘could Crossinghave happened’. Daydreamer that I am, I’m at home most anywhere, but nothing fuels my imagination like these rugged backdrops. It was these stirrings and images which spawned my first historical westerns.

Seven years ago I began plotting my first western romance novel much like I’d plan a road trip—I sat down with my atlas, historical maps and Bride Coverjournals and began charting a course, and creating circumstances that would drive my characters through this wild and rugged land. A physical journey to parallel the emotional journey, and taking readers to some of my favorite places along the way. The result was BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON. When my editor informed me that the cover would be created from one of my favorite scenes in the book—Jed and Rachell watching the sun set over a maze of red rock canyons—I was thrilled. They did a wonderful job—Jed and Rachell do look rather daring, standing so close to that Mustang_Wildedge. The start of my Wild series began in much the same way—I pulled out my historical maps and plotted a journey in a new direction, new territory with new dangers-at times the land becoming as much of an antagonist as my villain. Writing the sequel for MUSTANG WILD, where my characters stay within the boarders of one state was actually a bit of a challenge. Like the characters of my books, my mind tends to develop a case of yondering fever. Now that the Morgans are settled in Wyoming, I’m ready to pull out some maps and kick up new dust .

This summer I took my family to the Grand Canyon for a tour of the West rim and to check out the new Skywalk, a glass bridge built by the Hualapia Nation at Eagle Point. Wow! Stepping out over the canyon, 4,000 feet above the Colorado River…talk about amazing sights. I look forward to sharing some highlights and photos on my next Friday (gotta find that durn USB cord for my camera).

Which wonders of our globe call the loudest to you?



Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Blue_YonderHowdy, all! Stacey Kayne here, your Friday Filly 🙂

I’m thrilled to be a part of Petticoats & Pistols. Tomorrow I’ll be bringing up the tail-end of our first two weeks on the web, and will share some insights on my fascination with the wild and rugged terrain of the American West. New to the publishing world, my first two western historicals hit bookshelves this past March and April. Tomorrow two random posters will win a copy of my debut novels, MUSTANG WILD and BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON.

Behind the Books: My First Sales


I had been writing and submitting for several years before I joined an RWA chapter and a local writers group. With the help of other more experienced writers, workshops and conferences, I learned and grew. Those first early projects are still in boxes in a storeroom. I truly didn’t know what I was doing. After studying Dwight Swain and garnering the advice of great ladies like Diane Wicker Davis (Avon) and Barbara Andrews (Ecstasy – and Silhouette as Jennifer Drew with her daughter Pam Hanson) and also being with a critique group, the first book I wrote start to finish was Rain Shadow.

At a Minneapolis conference, after spending the entire morning in the bathroom doing self-talk, I pitched the book at my first editor appointment. The editor asked to see it and later rejected it saying my hero was too unsympathetic.

I had submitted to agents about that same time, and one called me, saying with certainty, “I can sell this book for you.” I was thrilled, of course, and she did indeed sell it to Harlequin Historical. Thirty-some books later she is still my agent. After some initial quibbling over my title, it stuck and RAIN SHADOW was released in 1993. Back then HH did what they called March Madness and introduced two new authors each March. I loved the cover, loved it loved it. Loved the Wild West Show on the front. Adored her fringe jacket. Blew up the image and admired it. The art department used the pictures I’d sent them, and even her gun is in perfect detail.

Question from shopper at one of my very first book signings: “Is this you on the cover?”

Note to self: At all times be prepared to answer very odd questions graciously.

My second sale followed right on the heels of the first because it was a book I’d written previously. It had been shopped around other publishers without success. My new editor, who continued to be my editor for the next ten years, agreed to look at HEAVEN CAN WAIT, then asked me to cut a hundred pages and take out a subplot. Which I did with a lot of help from my critique group. It’s difficult to be that brutal to your own work. The story was indeed better for that revision. So the books came out one after the other, but not in the correct chronological order, story-wise. The villainess in Heaven Can Wait is the dead wife of the hero in Rain Shadow. So whenever I talk to people who will be reading them for the first time, I suggest they read them in the correct order.

And here’s something I’ve never mentioned before. The subplot I cut from Heaven Can Wait was the thread of Franz and Annette trying to have a baby. Over the years I’ve thought a few times about giving them their own story thus completing tales of the three brothers, but I’d have to go out of chronological order again, and for some reason that bugs me. Besides they were too happy together and supportive of each other…what would be the conflict? Wait, the story could be chronologically correct if it happened years after the last and their marriage had fallen apart because of their inability to conceive. Hmm, sounds like a lot of angst — wonder if I could handle that. <g> (I thrive on writing angst! Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em FEEL is my goal!)

So there you have the inside scoop on my first two sales and how they came about. It’s still exciting to see a new cover for each current release. It’s always a thrill to know that the stories I’ve worked so hard on are bringing pleasure to readers. As readers ourselves, writers know the delight of finding a new author, of becoming lost in a story, of falling in love with appealing characters. Being able to write those stories for others is a joy and a satisfaction beyond measure.

What we remember when we think back on a story isn’t always the specific details of the plot or even the character names. What we remember is how the book made us feel. If we were swept away, excited, intrigued, riveted, saddened, we recall those feelings. In an earlier blog, when I asked about the first romances you read and loved and you listed so many great ones, I’ll bet you remembered the way those stories affected you on an emotional level.

Which stories won places on your keeper shelf by involving your emotions?

The Last Little Chicky

chickies.jpgI was a child bride.  At least by today’s standards, I was, but back in my younger days, living in a small town in western Nebraska, it was common practice to marry soon, very soon, out of high school.   

And that’s what we did–when I was 19 and Doug was 20.  Fifteen months later, our first daughter was born.  Three more followed.  With our youngest, Amy, coming seven years after the sister before her, Doug and I have had a child in the house for a very lo-ong time. 

 In two days, we won’t. 

Why does that scare me? 

Amy goes off to college on Friday and ends 31 years of curfews, chores and school activities.  No more uniforms to wash on weekends.  No more work schedules posted on the ‘fridge.  No more ‘What’s for supper, Mom?’ 


It scares me, all right. What will Doug and I talk about?   What will we do when we only have each other?  What will it be like to have the house empty of little chicks? 

Ironically enough, the Today Show (my favorite–you’ll hear me quote from them often in the coming months) recently aired a segment on becoming empty-nesters.  They tell me I’m entering the second half of motherhood and that I’ll have the time of my life.  They claim my marriage will likely enter into a new honeymoon stage.  We’ll rediscover each other.  Grow closer.  Have fun. 


I’ll also be entering a phase that will be just for me.  More time to write.  Or take spontaneous research trips.  I can pick up and go to writers conferences, have lunch with girlfriends . . .. 

Sure.  Okay.  But the fact remains I’ve lived more of my life with children than without them, and now my littlest chicky doesn’t need me anymore.  She’s sprouted her own wings and is flying away to a new life of herchickies.jpg own.  I’ll lay awake at night knowing her bedroom is empty and her car isn’t sitting in the driveway.  I won’t know where she is at any given moment.   

I’ll get over it, I suppose.  Most likely, I’ll even learn to like it.   Until then, I take comfort in the Today Show telling me there’s a million of us on the brink of post-mommyhood as the new school year begins, and I’m not alone as I enter my new world. 

What about you?  Are you there yet?  Was it hard having your little chick leave the nest–or are you counting down the days?   

Sagebrush, Songbirds, and Socializin’

What could be better than a June night with a group of friends under the Texas stars, laughing more than the law allows, and eating until we couldn’t hold another bite? linda-hilary-jodi.JPG Not much any better than that. I don’t get to do near enough laughing so when Phyliss Miranda and Jodi Thomas twisted my arm and made me sign my name in blood, I knew I’d fill the empty well with so much laughter it’d spill out and soak into the rocky ground. Sharing the experience with such wonderful friends made it even more special when Phyliss, Jodi, Molly McKnight, Ginger Porter and I gave Hilary Sares of Kensington Publishing a taste of real pioneering life. I hope she won’t hold it against us! 

Big thanks go to Hilary for toting a neat surprise—the title of our second anthology, Give Me A Cowboy—all the way from New York. She’s the best. You wouldn’t take her for a New Yorker in the ten gallon hat Jodi brought for her to wear. She looked more like a Texan than we did. A regular cowgirl. linda-hilary.JPG

But, back to my story.  In Palo Duro Canyon just south of Amarillo, Texas there’s a certain sound of happiness in the music of the wind, the twill of the songbirds as they flitter among the branches of the mesquite and cottonwood, and the rustle of the sage as the evening draws to a close. We perched on some rocks like a gaggle of satisfied fat geese and watched a magnificent sunset. You had to be there. The fading light bounced off the walls of the canyon, giving us a show I won’t soon forget. Don’t know about the rest, but I felt as if I’d died and gone to paradise. It reminded me of the song that asks to go to Texas when you die. I hate to brag, but our corner of the universe is something. I never tire of looking at the wide expanse of sky and the land that goes on forever. sunset.JPG

Looking at all that beauty, it never even dawned on me that I had quite an experience in store. Ha, I’m a little slow sometimes, but let’s not go there. 

That night I learned the meaning of three words that I’d casually slung around like ground corn to a flock of chickens. I’d always thought of rustic as something that’s kinda modern except with an old appearance. And a bathroom as a piece of smooth porcelain—or shoot, even a wooden outhouse with a round hole. But spending the night at Cow Camp educated me in “roughing it.” I found out quick why Jodi went back to her soft bed and shiny white porcelain. Yep, I certainly did. She’s a pretty smart cookie.  😉

cow-camp-cabin.JPGNow, the word Cow Camp should’ve given me a clue as to what I’d signed up for. But, like I said I’m a little slow. They promised me that the bathroom was just across the road. No problem. The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built these cabins during the Great Depression in the 1930’s. They constructed them from natural rock from the area with no frills. And, other than limited electricity, they’re exactly as they were when they finished constructing them. These rock shelters had no bathroom, no sink, and no running water. Thank the good Lord we had electricity at least and a bed of sorts that used rope for the springs. That was my saving grace. 

It was after I discovered that we had to walk quite a distance to the “road” that led to the bathroom that panic set in. In daylight it wasn’t so bad, but in the dead of night by flashlight it was another story altogether. Rather than risk an encounter with rattlesnakes, wild critters, and god-knows-what else, we each chose a bush and put our name on it. No wonder they told me to bring bedding, water, and toilet paper. That should’ve been a clue as well. I’m gonna have to smarten up a bit. 

Later we sipped on cold drinks, told ghost stories, and laughed our silly heads off and I knew that having fun came in lots of shapes and sizes and wasn’t measured by what accommodations I had or didn’t have. Friends can renew the strength of someone who’s had too much heartbreak. They can remind you that life stinks but it’s full of amazing joy too. And friends can polish your soul until it shines like a brand new penny. Some things you can’t put a price on. 

wild-turkey.JPGThe next morning over breakfast, we fed a flock of wild turkeys some sausage balls and peach cobbler. They didn’t complain. I swear, I thought they were going to climb in the car and go home with us. The crazy turkeys! They probably would’ve if we hadn’t slammed the door fast enough. 

Our fun did extend with a raid on the gift shops and meeting Gerald Cathern, an author who knows just about everything there is to know about Palo Duro Canyon. Gerald was doing a booksigning in the gift shop. He’s so full of fascinating stories. He writes a lot about Charles Goodnight, the famous cowboy who with Oliver Loving established the Goodnight-Loving Trail. (If you recall, Robert Duvall played Oliver Loving in the movie, Lonesome Dove.) In 1876 Charles Goodnight began ranching in Palo Duro and at one time was sole owner of the canyon that only had one way in and one way out. The rugged trail was a steep incline and I can only imagine how he managed to get his cattle down it.  Probably took a whole lot of cussing and quite a bit of expert roping ability.

 Goodnight was an interesting and very enterprising man. He was reportedly the first rancher in the Panhandle to use barbed wire, he invented the chuckwagon that came to be used by every outfit driving cattle to market, and helped organize and serve as the first president of the Panhandle Stock Association. Plus, he made his famous treaty with the great Comanche, Quanah Parker. He promised goodnights-dugout.JPGQuanah two beeves every other day in exchange for leaving his herds alone. One of the highlights for me on this trip was seeing Goodnight’s old dugout in the canyon that’s still in excellent condition today. It was dug into the side of a hill with cottonwood and cedar logs enclosing the front. With a man and his horse inside on a rainy night, it would’ve certainly brought new meaning to the word cozy. 

History of both the American Indian and the cowboy pressed around me so close at times that I felt I could reach out and touch it. A really neat feeling. And I came away with new appreciation for friendships old and new, regardless of the lack of white porcelain. I just wish we’d have gotten to see the musical, Texas, in the outdoor amphitheater but we didn’t have time. Shoot! Guess we’ll save that for another day. 

Have you visited a place that gave you the sense that you’d stepped back in time?

Or maybe that you might’ve lived there?

Out With The Books!

I’m delighted to join the Petticoats and Pistols team and have the opportunity to say howdy to fellow western lovers.   I started writing westerns at the beginning of my career and plan to return there. They’ve always been the love of my writing life, but I kinda got sidetracked with Scotland, early America and suspense.

Now it’s time to return to my roots.  A proposal for a five-book series is in the works, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I’ve just finished a suspense novel, which means it’s time for a bit of housecleaning. Conveniently, it’s also time for my neighborhood’s giant garage sale which draws thousands of bargain hunters.  Since it usually occurs during deadline time, I’ve only participated three times during the twelve years I’ve lived in Memphis. But lately I’ve been receiving hints from my extended family. “If you ever move,” they claim, “your house will rise four feet.”   Comments are getting downright rude.This is in reference to the more than 4,000 books in my house. I have a lifetime of books. I do not believe in getting rid of a book. Any kind of book. But predictions that my house might collapse under their weight indicate a mild withdrawal might be in order. 

Too many books.  A notice of the giant garage sale. A sign?

I found a cardboard box and started the search for possible rejects in my office. I have eight floor-to- ceiling bookcases in my office alone. Those are my, ahem, research books. There’s one wall devoted to American western history; one to Scottish history and English history; one to murder, general mayhem, and various ways of tormenting people (for my suspense novels). The last area includes the general resource materials: costumes through the ages, guns through the ages, underclothes through the ages, ships through the ages, etc. Then there’s the one essential book for all writers: Baby Names. I have four of those, each one absolutely essential.

Okay, Pat, you can do this. You really can. After all, most of these books are no longer necessary because of the internet. Instead of using all that space, you need only a computer and mouse these days.

Yeah, and the heart isn’t essential for life.

Still, I start with the books under my desk. Surely I don’t need four Thesauruses. And four dictionaries.

I’ll start with the Dictionaries.   Dictionaries do well in garage sales.  (Well, since I never sold one, I don’t really know, but I suspect this is true).  Now this one has the dates of when each word came into common use. Can’t dump that. The second one has nice large print.  Invaluable for midnight hours. The third, well it’s a paperback and light. Easy to hold. The last, well . . . I never know when I’ll lose the other three under piles of books.

Maybe I’ll have better luck with the Thesauruses. No one needs four. Or maybe they do. This one is big. Lots of words. But the second is better organized. And then the third is the Synonym Finder. Paperback again. Bright red cover. Easier to find when reams of paper cover my desk as I finish my final draft. Can’t give up that one. The fourth? Well, I can’t find it right now. But I know it’s there. Somewhere.

On to the western shelves.

Do I really need “Diary of a Cattle Drive Cook.” Yep, absolutely necessary to my well-being.   Just listen to the call for breakfast:

“Wake up Jacob!

Day’s a-breaking

Beans in the pot,

An’ sourdoughs a’breakin’!”

Now where can you find that on the internet?

Then there’s “Apache Days and Tombstone Nights,” the autobiography of John Clum who was mayor of Tombstone during the Earp-Clanton battle at the OK Corral and founder of the “Tombstone Epitaph.” He was also an Indian fighter who took Geronimo prisoner. This is the real deal. Great stuff, especially since my dad grew up in the area and had met him (please don’t add up those years).

What about “Soiled Doves, Prostitution in the Early West,” and “Mollie,” the journal of a city woman who homesteads with her husband in the Nebraska Territory? Or the multitude of other diaries of participants in the building of the west? Miners, army wives, cowboys, gamblers, boatmen, and one of my very favorites: the journey by an English woman across the Rockies on horseback. Alone (“A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.”)

Ah,  here’s “The Prairie Traveler,” the 1859  best selling handbook for American Pioneers.   A must for any wagon train tale.

Can’t give up any of the above. Each was carefully collected on trips west, usually at state and national historical sites, and my proposed western series would include all the characters above.

Oops. Don’t remember that one about the Apaches. I’ll just read a page or two . . .

How late is it? Can barely see. Where did the daylight go?

On to the Scottish shelves. Maybe I’ll have better luck there.

“The Laird’s Table?” Now how easy is it to find meals from the 15th Century in Scotland on the internet? Better keep that one. “The Steel Bonnets?” Nope, love that book. Fascinating history of the English/Scottish border in the 1500’s. Okay, do I really need twenty books on clan names and castles and Scottish ghosts?

Aye, I do. Never know when I’ll return to Scottish historicals, just as I now intend to turn back to my original love, westerns. There’s a lot in common between the two, particularly rugged individualism and strong women. I indulged my love for both when writing, “The Marshal and the Heiress,” when a western marshal goes to Scotland, and its successor, “The Scotsman Wore Spurs,” when a Scot goes west. 

But I digress.  I take my empty box downstairs. Lots of books there. Twelve more bookcases. And piles. Piles everywhere. Fiction and non-fiction of all kinds. Surely I can find a reject here and there.

Ahhhh, there’s my Elswyth Thane Williamsburg series. You would have to pry those from my cold dead hands. Along with Celeste De Blasis’s “The Proud Breed, ” my all-time favorite western. If you haven’t read it, find it. It’s long, very long, but every page is a treasure. “Lonesome Dove” rests next to it as my second favorite.

That box is kinda light. I look inside. An “AAA Tour Book” about Texas. Well, I have an updated one. But I smile. Progress.

Enough for now. It’s two in the morning.

As for my getting-rid-of -books project, well, tomorrow is another day.

In the meantime, I would appreciate any suggestions on how to tear away a few of the volumes clutched tightly against my heart.

What d’ya think?

It’s been our first week here on Petticoats & Pistols, and we’re pleased as punch you love our site as much as we do.

Now, let us know what you think of our blogs!  Are you enjoying their western flavor?  Or are you looking for something different from us?

Something about our books?  Our personal lives?  Our writing and all about how we do it? 

Let us know!  

We’re working on rounding up some danged special guest bloggers, too, so check back often.  We’ll let you know the days they’re coming.

But most of all, keep sending us your comments–we read each and every one!

Comment Drawing for Friday/ Pat Potter on Monday

Hi all,

Thanks so much to everyone who posted and stopped by Petticoats and Pistols  today.

I’ve entered you all in a drawing and the winner will receive an autographed book from my available titles and  5 Harlequin Coupons! 

Congratulations to: Kathleen

 I’ll be contacting you via email soon!




3:10 to Yuma

3 10 to Yuma original cover

 3 10 to Yuma new cover

The 1957 tagline: The Lonesome Whistle of a Train… bringing the gallows closer to a desperado–the showdown nearer to his captor!

Russel CroweOn September 7th, a remake of the classic western by Elmore Leonard will hit theaters.  I hope I’m not disappointed because the orginal with Glen Ford and Van Heflin will be difficult to top.   In Arizona in the late 1800’s, infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad.  When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale), struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver Wade alive to the “3:10 to Yuma”, a train that will take the killer to trial.  In the original, Evans does so in order to pay for a well.  On the trail, Evans and Wade–each from very different worlds–begin to earn each other’s respect.  But with Wade’s outfit of bad guys on their trail – and dangers at every turn – the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man’s destiny.

We should have a Premier Blog Party!  Can’t you see the Fillies on the red carpet?