Me and Buffalo Bill

Ever since researching Annie Oakley for my Pink Pistol story, I’ve developed a serious fascination not only with Annie herself, but with the charismatic man who made her famous – Buffalo Bill Cody. In fact, In Her Sights opens in 1893 Chicago, the day after the closing of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. This is where the creator of the pink pistol sought out Annie Oakley and set the entire plot in motion for the Pink Pistol Sisterhood Series.

So when several of the fillies decided to meet in Deadwood this summer for Wild Deadwood Reads, I started plotting a route that would take me and my husband on a slight detour to Cody, Wyoming. Buffalo Bill made so much money in Chicago, taking advantage of the draw of the World’s Fair, that he used his profits to help found a town on the east side of Yellowstone, a town named in his honor. Cody was established in 1895.

In 1902, Cody built a hotel downtown – the Irma. It was named after his youngest daughter. He maintained two suites and an office for his personal use at the hotel. When Wes and I arrived in Cody after a long drive from Colorado Springs, the first thing we did after checking into our AirBnB was to walk the few blocks downtown and have dinner at the Irma.

The place was packed! More than a century later, this is still the place to be in Cody. Especially for their prime rib buffet. If you like meat, this is the place to go. I’ve never eaten so much meat in my life! In addition to the prime rib, there was ham, chicken, and crab. People don’t go there for the vegetables.

As you would expect in cowboy country, there were antlers used in all of the decorating. Gaston from Beauty and the Beast would feel right at home. 🙂 Lots of dark wood, too, authentic to the time period in which it was built.

My favorite part of the place, however, was the gorgeous cherry wood bar. This was a gift from Queen Victoria after Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West Show to London! They still use it today, though it doubles as a gun case.

After our meal, we waddled out of the restaurant and found Buffalo Bill himself on a bench outside. He was kind enough to let me grab a photo with him.

The next day, we spent all morning touring the large museum in town. Even the outside was amazing, with all kinds of larger-than-life statues paying tribute to the west Buffalo Bill knew and loved. I almost got run over by a pony express rider, but my heroic husband whisked me out of the way just in time.

We ran into Buffalo Bill again at the entrance to his museum, and the legendary fella was kind enough to allow us to take another photo.

At the Center of the West museum, they had an entire museum dedicated to the history of firearms. I didn’t care for much after about 1900, but my research brain was soaking in as many details as possible on the countless displays of earlier weapons. On the way in, I got to snap a quick photo with Annie Oakley. I knew all of our Pink Pistol readers would enjoy that. 🙂 The museum had one of Annie’s rifles on display next to one of Buffalo Bill’s. I got a little shiver when I saw them.

We spent the majority of our time in the museum dedicated to Buffalo Bill’s life and accomplishments. He really was a remarkable man and passionate about preserving the west. I nearly squealed with delight when I saw a diorama of the city-like area they set up for the Wild West show whenever they stayed somewhere for a significant amount of time. I saw where Annie Oakley’s tent would be and imagined my gunmaker finding here there.

Then I found her myself. Or some of her belongings, anyway. The museum boasted a display cased filled with one of Annie’s trunks, travel dresses, pair of gloves, rifle, and pistol. I felt such a kinship with her as I studied her belongings. What a wonderful treasure!

If the pearl handle on that revolver were just a little pinker, it could’ve been our courtship pistol!

My husband eventually gave up on me and went to visit another of the five museums while I took my time and savored every exhibit in the Buffalo Bill wing. So much to see and read and learn! Needless to say, I enjoyed every minute.

What was the last museum you visited?

 

Bringing Annie Oakley to Texas

When we were first brainstorming ideas for what would become the Pink Pistol Sisterhood series, it seemed only natural to look to a 19th century woman famous for both her marksmanship and her femininity as inspiration. When we learned of Annie Oakley’s passion for teaching other ladies how to defend themselves, we knew we had a foundation upon which to build.

It is estimated that Annie Oakley taught more that 15,000 women how to shoot over the course of her lifetime!

My heroine, Tessa James, seeks lessons from the great Annie Oakley, and I have to tell you that writing such a legend into my story was both daunting and incredibly fun.
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Since my heroine lives in Caldwell, Texas, I needed to find a way to bring Annie to the Lone Star State. The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago had just concluded. Annie had performed alongside the World’s Fair with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. This had been a long engagement, so I thought it possible that Annie and her husband Frank Butler might be in the mood for a change of scenery. Why not bring them to the south, and to Texas in particular? I found documentation that Buffalo Bill brought his western extravaganza to Texas in 1900, so perhaps this could have been an early scouting trip by one of his headliners.
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Annie and Frank made their living through their own shooting exhibitions when they weren’t traveling with Buffalo Bill. So as all fiction authors do, I began asking What if? What if Annie and Frank decided to visit the Texas state capital and put on an exhibition while there? What if Annie agreed to give shooting lessons to any females who stayed after the performance?
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Now that I had Annie coming to Texas, I needed to find a place for her to perform. My research led me to the perfect place–Hyde Park Pavilion.
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Hyde Park was the first suburban development in Austin. Streetcar service made it possible for people to settle in this quiet, rural area. Before the area was developed with Craftsman houses and shady lanes, though, it was an area famous for recreation. The Texas State Fair used the area as its fairgrounds from 1875-1884. The flat terrain made it ideal for racing, so the Capital Jockey Association set up a racecourse there that became known as “the finest in the South.” The state militia used the area for training and drills during its summer encampments and drew crowds numbering in the thousands.
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The State Lunatic Asylum had been built on these grounds in 1861, and during the 1870’s, they embarked on a beautification project that created 600 yards of scenic drives and a chain of lakes and lily ponds. Following this beautification, the asylum grounds became a favorite place for courting couples. Buggy drives and picturesque strolls became the norm. And when a large pavilion was constructed by Gem Lake in 1892, this became one of the most popular resorts in Austin.
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The pavilion played host to concerts, plays, dances, and hosts of other entertainment. It seemed the perfect location for Annie Oakley to perform. I found a great photograph to help me picture what a turn-of-the-century crowd might have looked like at the Hyde Park Pavilion.
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I had Annie perform inside the pavilion, where a crowd could watch in comfort, but the lessons she gave to Tessa and the other ladies happened on the lawn area that stretched wide on the side opposite the lake.
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Who knew that the grounds of a lunatic asylum would provide the perfect setting for Annie Oakley to meet my heroine?
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Click on cover to preorder.

In Her Sights is now available for preorder and early reviews are coming in. Here is what some readers are saying on Goodreads:

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This book hits all of the right notes. It was sweet, it was funny, it had likeable characters who were easy to root for, and I was grinning like an idiot almost the whole time I was reading it.
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Tessa and Jackson are delightfully perfect for one another . . . Tessa’s plan to catch Jackson’s attention is priceless and I laughed at the whole scene behind the old school.
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I loved Every. Single. Thing. about this novella! As usual, Karen Witemeyer hooks you from the beginning with memorable characters and a enduring storyline.
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Hilarious! What a delightful, comic, and inspirational love story! Ms. Witemeyer has delivered a great story with characters I would like to know. . . Can’t wait for the next book!
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If you lived in Austin, Texas at the turn-of-the-century,
would you have wanted to go courting on the grounds of a lunatic asylum?

Sneak Peek

Starting a new project is always fun. Yet, there is something special about honoring characters from the past and evolving them into something new that excites me even more than starting completely from scratch. My next project has that exact element of excitement, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

When an opportunity arose for me to participate in a “secret” project with a group of western romance writers I’ve long counted as friends, I was eager to join in the fun. I can’t give away too many details yet because the project is still in the preliminary stages, but I can reveal, that I will be writing a novella to kick off this new series.

At first, all I really knew about my story was that it would take place in 1893 and that my heroine would have an encounter with the amazing Annie Oakley following her run with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show that took place in conjunction with the World’s Fair in Chicago. Annie Oakley had a passion for teaching women how to defend themselves, so I knew my heroine would seek out a lesson from the legendary markswoman, but I didn’t yet know who my heroine would be.

Then one of the authors in our group mentioned how much reader’s love reading stories about secondary characters, and she got my mind swirling with possibilities. Most of my adult secondary characters had already had their own stories written, but what if I went back and pulled out children from my previous stories?

I started calculating dates to see which, if any, of my juvenile secondary characters might work for a romance taking place in 1893. I came up with two likely candidates:

  • Tessa James – She was the young girl of a widowed mother who became a dressmaking assistant to Hannah Richards in my debut novel, A Tailor-Made Bride. Tessa was 8 years old in that book (set in 1881), so she would be 20 in 1893.
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  • Jackson Spivey – He was 12 years old and the son of a negligent father in Stealing the Preacher (1885). Joanna Robbins took him under her wing despite the fact that Jackson had a massive crush on her. When Crockett Archer came into the picture, he won Jackson over with respect, straight talk, and his skill with a rifle. Jackson would also be 20 in 1893.

So which one should I use? Both have potential. Both are interesting characters in their own right. And both provide a level of emotional attachment to me and to readers.

Then it hit me. Why not use both Tessa and Jackson? So that’s what I did!

This will be my first time featuring such a young hero at only 20 years of age, but Jackson’s rough upbringing forced him to grow up fast, so I think it will work. My son and his new wife were both the same age when they married at 22, so the more I thought about pairing Tessa and Jackson, the more the idea grew on me.
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I decided not set the story in either Coventry (A Tailor-Made Bride) or Deanville (Stealing the Preacher) but chose to give both characters a fresh start in a different location. They are both starting out as young professionals, struggling to find where they fit in a world wider than their hometowns. Tessa is working as a seamstress in a new shop in Caldwell, Texas, and Jackson works in a gun shop off the courthouse square. Not only did I want to move these characters out from under the shadows of the heroes and heroines who preceded them, but I wanted to make sure new readers could follow the story without being familiar with my previous books.
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I’m about 2/3 of the way done writing Tessa and Jackson’s story, and I’m really enjoying the pairing. After Jackson lost his first love (Joanna) to the man who become his mentor and best friend (Crockett), I’m excited to bring him his own special woman to love. Even if she has to chase him down to convince him he’s worth loving.
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Do you enjoy reading stories about characters who were children in previous books?

Welcome Guest – Jacqui Nelson

J Nelson 10_139-Crop-FlipLOUD & QUIET PERSONALITIES – BRINGING LIFE TO THE WILD WEST

While doing research for my upcoming late-August release BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK (book 2 in my Gambling Hearts series) about a Texas horseman and a Wild West trick-riding superstar, I was eager to delve into everything about 1800s show people including Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley who were the first American entertainers to gain superstardom.

BUFFALO BILL’S WILD WEST: the Greatest Show on Earth

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West ran from 1883 to 1913 and toured all across America including summer seasons on Stanton Island and winter ones at Madison Square Garden. The show also spent four years touring Europe and gave a command performance at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 at Windsor Castle.

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THE PERSONALITIES/PERFORMERS: the Colonel and Little Missie

Colonel was an honorary title given to Cody by his many admirers including the top military men of his time. Little Missie was Cody’s name for Annie.

I struck research gold when I read a fantastic non-fiction book by Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry called The Colonel and Little Missie and found the following descriptions…

1. HOW THEY DIFFER: the Loud and the Quiet

Cody: “generous, gushing, in a hurry, incautious, often drunk, and almost always optimistic.”

Annie: “in manner Cody’s polar opposite…reserved, modest to the point of requiring a female embalmer (that she organized in advance of her death), so frugal that many of the troupers believed she lived off the lemonade that Cody and [show manager] Salsbury served free to all workers.”

2. HOW THEY’RE SIMILAR: for the Love of the Show

Cody and Annie were show people “through and through. Even after a bad car wreck, rather late in life, Annie once got onstage and danced a jig in her leg brace.”

ON WITH THE SHOW: History + Personality = Wild West Life

For book 2, BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK, I wanted to write about a character from book 1 in my series. In BETWEEN LOVE & LIES, my hero Noah Ballantyne is a Texas drover who arrives in Dodge City after completing a cattle drive with his friend and neighbor Lewis Adams.

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THE QUIET (OR EASY-GOING) PERSONALITY: Lewis Adams – an honest Texas horseman

Buried deep beneath Lewis happy-go-lucky temperament was a territorial streak as wide as it was long. The only time Noah had witnessed Lewis’ anger was when someone threatened to take what belonged to him or those he cared about. (Noah describing Lewis in Book 1)

Who would be the most challenging woman for Lewis?

  • A woman who’s come to steal his land and add a lot of excitement to his easy-going life.

How could this woman steal his land?

  • She has a claim to it. She says she’s the previous owners’ long-lost daughter, Jane Dority, who vanished eighteen years ago while riding in a storm with her childhood best friend Lewis – who’s always felt responsible for Jane’s disappearance.

Why were they riding in a storm?

  • A medicine show with elixirs and acrobatic riders had entertained their community. Jane wanted to replicate one of their acts. Lewis wanted to learn to ride as well as Jane and impress his father so he’d let him join the ranch roundup.

THE LOUD (OR DAREDEVIL) PERSONALITY: Eldora Calhoun – a famous trick-riding superstar

So who is this woman who’s come to claim or steal (depending on your perspective) Lewis’ land?

  • A confident, well-travel, talented trick-riding superstar in the nation’s most popular Wild West show. She calls herself Eldorado Jane. Is she the long-lost Jane Dority? She might be something even better.

BETWEEN LOVE & LIES (Gambling Hearts Series, Book 1)

In a town ruled by sin, will he earn her love or her lies?

JacquiNelson_BetweenLoveandLies_800pxDodge City, Kansas – 1877

Sadie Sullivan lost everything when a herd of longhorn cattle bound for Dodge City trampled and destroyed her farm. Now she works in Dodge—one of the most wicked and lawless towns in the West—at the Northern Star saloon. But her survival in this new world of sin and violence depends on maintaining a lie so deadly it could end her life before the town of Dodge can.

The one man capable of unraveling all of Sadie’s secrets is Noah Ballantyne, the Texan rancher whose herd destroyed her home. Back in town and taking up the role of deputy alongside legendary lawman Bat Masterson, Noah vows he won’t leave until he’s made things right. But with the saloon’s madam unwilling to release Sadie and a rich cattle baron wanting her as well, the odds aren’t in favor of finding love…or leaving town alive.

BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK (Gambling Hearts Series, Book 2)

Who is Eldorado Jane? Long-lost friend or scheming superstar?

JacquiNelson_BetweenHomeAndHeartbreak_eCover_800Texas Hill Country — 1879

Plain Jane Dority vanished while riding in a storm beside her childhood best friend. Eighteen years later, Wild West trick-riding superstar Eldorado Jane returns to claim her birthright: the Dority homestead now owned by the steadfast Texan who never forgot Jane or forgave himself for her disappearance.

Lewis Adams would give anything to see his friend come home, but he’s certain Eldorado Jane isn’t his Jane. So why does this mesmerizing woman—with the talent and fame to have anything she desires—want the small patch of land that he loves? There’s only one way to find out: accept a wager with a deceiver who holds the power to bring back his friend or break his heart. The outcome rests in her hands. Or does it?

Friendship. Betrayal. Blackmail. Eldorado Jane holds every card…except the one that matters most.

Giveaway! – Jacqui has three digital prizes lined up for our readers!  Leave a comment for Jacqui and you’ll be entered to win. One winner will receive an e-copy of BETWEEN LOVE & LIES (Gambling Hearts series, book 1) and when it releases, two winners will each get an e-copy of BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK (Gambling Hearts series, book 2).

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Look for Jacqui online at:
Website: http://www.JacquiNelson.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/JacquiNelson
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/JacquiNelsonBooks
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Jacqui_Nelson