Hey, it’s Ruthy here, and I love being part of Stars & Spurs week here at the hoppin-est Western group of cowboy-lovin’ gals there is…
What is it about Western images and culture and determination that makes us think of flag and country?
Well, it could be that flag flyin’ high at ranches all across the West/Midwest.
Or those small town celebrations that make us remove our hats, put a hand over our hearts and feel a prayer even if not one cotton-pickin’ word comes out of our mouths.
Or it could be at the graveside of a young man, the sharp knife of a short life, gone too soon in defense of his country. According to Wikipedia, over 80,000 soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen/women never plowed another field or husked another ear of corn following World War II, the Korean conflict and the Viet Nam War…
From some of the least-populated states came tens of thousands of Homeland Heroes.
From the “fly-over” states came the sound– and the cost– of freedom.
The sound of “Taps” being played on that single horn.
Bagpipes toning the tear-jerking chords of “Amazing Grace”
And the sight of a cowboy, on horseback, hunting that last calf as the sun dips down behind him.
The reminder of Christ and that shepherd we all love so much, leaving the 99 safe and sound to go after the one lost sheep.
When I think of Stars and Stripes and Spurs, that’s what comes to mind.
That in an amazing country that had been so divided 85 years before, shedding the blood of so many in a Civil War that tore us apart and bound us together, so many stood strong in the face of international terror when faced with the scourge of Hilter and Mussolini and Stalin, heartless men whose selfishness and greed dictated the loss of millions…
The image of a cowboy, standing guard at the gate or delivering a calf or a lamb or rocking his own baby floods our hearts with the goodness of the American West. This thought-provoking photo comes from Priscilla Du Preez over at Unsplash.
Because in the West it doesn’t matter how tall you are…
But how tall you stand.
And may God bless America….
Ruthy is giving away two copies of her newest Love Inspired Western “Healing the Cowboy’s Heart” to a couple of lucky cowgirls or boys but you’ve got to carry on the conversation below because when it comes to faith, hope and love, the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom stands strong, doesn’t it? And don’t get your knickers in a twist if you haven’t gotten your books from last month… you know our Ruthy lives on a farm and the grumpy farmer has been fighting rain, rain, and more rain so every little job doesn’t get done once… or twice… but three, four or five times. But they know they’re blessed to have jobs and lives beyond the farm, so there’s no lamentation… just a time-drain, folks. And one of these days our Ruthy will get to the Post Office and send out the last few weeks of books…. Sure as shootin’!
Feel free to shout out the folks you know who have served… they have blessed every one of us by that sacrifice of time and safety!
Last year, I joined with a group of authors to create a series of fall-themed romances. The books were all set in the fictional town of Romance, Oregon.
We had a great time writing the sweet contemporary novellas that involved a common theme of not only autumn, but also pet adoption.
This year, six authors from the Welcome to Romance series joined together to bring readers a new collection of sweet Christmas novellas!
The stories begin releasing November 1.
Between odd animals, lost loves, second chances, hidden identities, a secret Santa, and bickering senior citizens, it might just take a miracle to bring everyone a happily-ever-after for the holidays.
Sleigh Bells Ring in Romance is my contribution to Christmas in Romance. It releases Nov. 1.
You’re never too old to fall in love . . .
Will two over-the-hill neighbors embrace a holiday romance?
Rancher Jess Milne lost his wife years ago, but he’s finally ready to give love a second chance. It’s a shame the one woman in Romance who captures his interest is a prickly, wasp-tongued she-devil. She used to be one of his closest friends until he asked her out. Her vocal, vehement refusal made her thoughts on dating him crystal clear. Despite her animosity, Jess can’t help but be attracted to her fire and spirit.
Widowed more than ten years, Doris Grundy tries to convince herself she’s content with her life. Her recently married grandson and his wife bring her joy. The ranch she’s lived on since she was a young bride gives her purpose. She’s an active member of their close-knit community. But the old coot who lives down the road continually invades her thoughts, keeping her from having any peace. Doris will be the last to admit she longs for the love and affection of her handsome neighbor.
When the two of them are unexpectedly thrown together, will they find a little holiday spirit and allow the love of the season to ring in their hearts?
As the story begins, Jess and Doris can hardly stand to be in the same room with one another. Then Doris’s grandson volunteers her to take care of Jess while he recuperates from knee surgery.
She can’t believe Blayne would do that to her, but he and Jess’s daughter have made devious plans…
“Did he see you sneak out here?” Blayne Grundy asked, peering around the edge of the barn door as he lingered in the shadows.
Janet Moore shook her head and tugged her sweater more closely around her in the nippy November air. “No. Dad is zonked out taking a nap. He’s been exhausted since he came home from the hospital. Who would have thought the mighty Jess Milne would sleep more than a toddler after having knee replacement surgery? At least the doctor said he’s doing well and should have a normal recovery.” She stepped out of view of anyone passing by, moving closer to Blayne. “I never thought we’d resort to holding a clandestine meeting in the barn to discuss the love life, or lack thereof, of my dad and your grandmother.”
Blayne chuckled and leaned against the wall behind him, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “Honestly, it’s never something I envisioned, either. It’s nice of you to use your vacation time to come take care of your dad while he heals. How long are you planning to stay before you fly back to Salt Lake City?”
“Until the first of December, but then I have to get back home. By that time, Steve and the kids will either have learned how to take care of themselves or be living off pizza and take-out food while dressed in filthy clothes. I’m not convinced any of them know how to turn on the washing machine.”
He smirked then tossed her a cocky smile. “You know I had a huge crush on you when you used to babysit me.”
Janet nodded. “Since you followed me around like a besotted puppy, I was aware of that fact.”
“I did no such thing,” Blayne said, scowling at the woman who had been his neighbor, babysitter, and was now a good friend.
“You did and you know it,” Janet pinned him with a perceptive glare. “But let’s figure out what to do about Dad and your grandmother. Do you have any idea why Doris refuses to speak to him?”
“Not a clue. She isn’t the least bit helpful when I’ve asked her why she turns all lemon-faced at the very mention of Jess.” Blayne sighed, removed his dusty cowboy hat, and forked a hand through his hair. “I’ve done everything I can think of to get those two together. It’s obvious to everyone but Jess and Grams that they should fall in love.”
“The problem is that they are both too stubborn and opinionated to admit they like each other. We’ll just have to get creative.” Janet plopped down on a bale of straw. When one of the ranch dogs wandered inside, she absently reached down and rubbed behind his ears. She glanced up at Blayne. “What does your wife think about all this?”
“Brooke is all for whatever makes Grams happy, and Jess, too. She and your dad get along like old friends.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Brooke is fantastic, Blayne. You couldn’t have found a better girl to marry.”
Blayne’s face softened at the mention of his wife. “She is pretty special.”
Janet remained silent for several moments, lost in thought, before she looked up at Blayne with a confident smile. “What if I suddenly had to return home and no one else could stay with Dad? Could you persuade Doris to take care of him until he’s back on his feet? If they had to see each other every day for two or three weeks, maybe they’d get past whatever it is that’s keeping them apart.”
A slow, pleased grin spread across Blayne’s face. “I think, with enough guilt, it might work. I can remind Grams of the number of times she’d lectured me about it being not just a duty, but an honor and privilege to help take care of our friends and neighbors in times of need.”
“Perfect! I’ll see if I can get on a flight tomorrow. If not, the next day at the latest. Steve is going to be thrilled at this bit of news.” Janet hopped up and tugged her cell phone from her pocket. “I just hope our plan works. Doris and Dad have too many good years left for them to spend them alone.”
“Especially when they clearly would like to be together.” Blayne pushed away from the wall. “With a little holiday magic, anything is possible.”
Janet nodded in agreement. “It certainly is…”
Find out what happens in Sleigh Bells Ring in Romance, part of the Christmas in Romance series. And don’t miss the other books in the series!
A Merry Miracle in Romance by Melanie D. Snitker – It’ll take a Christmas miracle to turn a grudging friendship into true love.
Holding Onto Love in Romance by Liwen Y. Ho – A small town inn owner and a big time pop star need a reason to keep holding onto love.
A Reel Christmas in Romance by J. J. DiBenedetto – Unwittingly engaged in the plot of a classic Hollywood romance, can two email pen-pals find their way to a happy ending?
A Christmas Carol in Romance by Franky A. Brown – A bitter-on-love radio DJ and his girlfriend of romance past need a second chance.
Santa’s Visit in Romance by Jessica L. Elliott – Santa’s got his work cut out for him to help a reluctant couple find love during the holidays.
If you were going to create a fictional town, what would you name it and why?
In a lot of modern homes, Christmas is anything but simple. It’s costly and complex, like a Rubik’s Cube puzzle with angles and facets and faces… And no matter how much you turn and twist, someone is not going to be happy.
Well dagnabbit, that’s a confounding situation since Christmas isn’t supposed to be about us.
It’s about them… a family, pushed to travel with a baby due and no choice. A family put upon by governmental regulations, taxes and expectations… and a secret baby.
Anyone who writes romance understands the lure of a secret baby. We have Mary, pregnant by unexplained means. We have Joseph who stays by her side because an angel came to him in a dream…. and told him to stand by Mary, to welcome the coming child as his own…
And then he did, so Joseph is one of my favorite saints. He not only stood by her, he cared for his wife and little son and when it was time to escape a tyrannical killer in the form of King Herod, Joseph fled with his wife and child to a foreign land…. and didn’t bring them back until Herod’s reign was over.
Now that’s a true cowboy.
He put them first.
He cared for them. He probably wasn’t exactly comfortable with all of this… a wife, pregnant by unexpected and unexplained means…. a child not his own…. and to leave what he knew first to protect them.
He may have been a carpenter, a man who worked with his hands to shape wood, but in my heart, he was a true cowboy. He put others first…. he was patient as needed…. strong enough to take the lead… and loving enough to accept a child not his own. That wasn’t exactly the norm back then.
This link to Michael Card singing “Joseph’s Song” is such a perfect image of Joseph… the cowboy. The sacrificial father…
Simple Christmas…. Remember Laura Ingalls’ description of her prairie Christmas in “Little House on the Prairie”? A tin cup… a candy stick… and a shiny penny!
And Ma made sugar cakes and they roasted venison or rabbit or fish caught in Plum Creek…
Simple isn’t bad. Simple is good. Simple can be fulfilling. Like when you stay up all night with an ailing cow and she takes a turn for the better come morning…. Like when your taxes shoot up and you’re not sure where the money will come from and all of a sudden you have the best maple syrup season you’ve had in a dozen years… Or how about when someone puts a bug in your ear about fancy pumpkins and you like the idea and grow them and sell 17,000 pumpkins because you thought fancy stacking pumpkins would sell… and then they did! 🙂
In this beautiful season of giving, I have a brand new book release that centers on second chances… new beginnings… and God’s perfect timing in a little town where wishes and prayers and hopes and dreams mingle freely…
I want you to read this story. It’s not a Western, but it’s a great book with a heart for the downtrodden and hope for the future… It’s a story that grips your heart and soothes your soul… it’s a story of small town loving and small town fears… and about three women who make a pledge to help each other as needed, and now– twelve years later– it’s needed.
I’ve got a Kindle copy to give away today so let me know if you’ve got a Kindle or the Kindle app for your computer or tablet…. and I’ll tuck your name into the wishing well! So what do you do to keep the spirit of Christmas as your focal point so you don’t get lost in the hustle and bustle? I’d love to have you share your points right here today!
What do a cowboy, a snowstorm, and a delayed flight have in common?
Pour yourself a cup of tea, take a moment to relax, and I’ll share a little story with you…
Picture a bitterly cold December wind blowing snow so hard you can barely see your hand in front of your face let alone far enough to get in a vehicle and drive somewhere.
This was the scene my husband (better known as Captain Cavedweller) and I encountered one December day as we prepared to leave on a much-needed vacation. We’d been planning to drive across the state to our destination, but with the blizzard-like conditions, we couldn’t see any wisdom in traveling in the horrible weather.
Rather than stay home, though, I convinced CC to go to Las Vegas to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. We’d always wanted to go and had just never got around to it. Since flying somewhere was the only way we were leaving town, it made perfect sense to switch our plans and take the impromptu trip.
As we arrived at the airport the next day, we noticed more cowboy hats in the crowd than just CC’s. And when we landed in Las Vegas, there were cowboy hats (and cowboys) everywhere! Each December, the city of Las Vegas takes on a country vibe as the rodeo comes to town, bringing with it hundreds of vendors, thousands of spectators, and a whole lot of fun.
On the return trip home, we arrived at the airport and discovered our flight was delayed. Gradually, we made our way through a sea of cowboy hats to our gate. While CC read the newspaper and impatiently jiggled his boot-covered foot , I observed those milling around. As I watched cowboys pass by, some in a rush, others walking with a distinctive swagger, my ever-active imagination began to take over.
Since so many of the cowboys who compete professionally spend a good deal of time traveling, I began to wonder how many of them flew from one rodeo to the next. If they were flying, it seemed like a strong possibility that they might meet a girl at an airport who turned their head.
I began jotting down notes for a story idea and by the time we reached home, The Christmas Cowboy (Rodeo Romance, Book 1) was born.
The fifth book in the Rodeo Romance series, Chasing Christmas, released last week. Each book in this series features characters tied to the rodeo (a saddle bronc rider, a steer wrestler, a rodeo photographer, a stock contractor, a barrelman, and now a bullrider). All of them are sweet romances full of laughter and heartwarming holiday cheer (and cowboys, did I mention cowboys?).
But more than the fun stories and hunky cowboys, this series set me down the path of helping the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
While I was writing , I included a scene where the hero is hurt at a rodeo. I began to wonder exactly how much medical attention a cowboy could receive at a rodeo and how bad injuries would have to be before he was taken to the hospital.
I reached out to an amazing organization — the Justin Sportsmedicine Team. In 1980, two gentlemen developed the concept of a mobile sports medicine system that would provide medical support services to professional rodeo athletes. Today, the Justin Mobile Sportsmedicine Centers can be seen at arenas across the country. Rodeo athletes who are injured while competing are assured of receiving immediate and expert care through these centers.
The program director kindly (and patiently, so patiently) answered my many questions. Through him, I learned about a program called the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
Rodeo athletes say it isn’t a matter of if they get hurt, but when. So when the inevitable happens and they sustain catastrophic injuries that prevent them from competing for an extended time (leaving them without a paycheck), the JCCF steps in and provides much-needed assistance.
After learning about the organization and impressed by how helpful and kind those I’d spoke with had been, I decided to donate to the cause.
This is the fourth year for my Read a Book, Help a Cowboy campaign. Now through December 24, I donate ten percent of my book sale proceeds to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
So if you’re thinking about holiday gifts, I hope you’ll think about giving a book! You can find my releases in digital, paperback, and audio formats, including .
~ GIVEAWAY! ~
For a chance to win a digital copy of The Christmas Cowboy and Chasing Christmas, answer this question:
Anyone who comes to visit us in Arizona gets to see Tortilla Flat–it’s one of our favorite places to see!
This past spring my daughter and her boyfriend flew to Phoenix for a short visit. The boyfriend grew up in a small town in Illinois (3,000 residents) and had never been to Arizona. We took the kids on a drive through the Tonto National Forest in the Superstition Mountain Range along the historic Apache Trail to a town called Tortilla Flat.
Tortilla Flat got its start as a stagecoach stop in 1904 and is the last surviving stop along the Apache Trail. Past fires and floods destroyed the buildings but residents have rebuilt each time. Tortilla Flat is thought to be Arizona’s smallest official “community” having a U.S. Post Office and voter’s precinct. The town has a population of 6.
There was no road to Tortilla Flat before 1904. The town became a freight camp during the construction of the Roosevelt Dam. Tortilla Flat, as well as the other camps along the road to the dam, sat on U.S. Forest Service land. After construction of the dam, the people who decided to make Tortilla Flat their permanent home had to lease the land from the U.S. government and continue to do so today. Roosevelt Dam has turned Tortilla Flat into a tourist attraction.
The drive to Tortilla Flat is a winding two-lane road of breathtaking scenic views of Canyon Lake and one-car bridges. You probably don’t want to be on this road at night.
When you reach Tortilla Flat you’ll be hungry, so stop in at the Superstition Saloon for good eats and their signature House Beers: Superstition Mule Oil and Snake Venom.
The saloon’s claim-to-fame, besides good food, are the dollars bills tourists stick to walls and the fun cowboy saddle stools at the bar.
While you’re in town you can watch a gunfight or listen to a live band outside on the quaint patio with the backdrop of the mountains. And before you leave be sure to get your picture taken in a toilet seat.
If you’re ever in the Phoenix area I highly recommend taking this day trip!
I’m offering a digital copy of a reader favorite that led to one of my best-selling series, Cowboys of the Rio Grande. The three delinquent teenagers in A Rodeo Man’s Promise eventually got their own books. (A Cowboy’s Redemption, The Surgeon’s Christmas Baby and A Cowboy’s Claim)
For a chance to win tell me where you take friends or family when they come to visit you.
I will announce the winner of this drawing on Sunday November 12th in the comment section of this post!
A few weeks ago when I received an invitation to join the fabulous Fillies here at Petticoats & Pistols, I had to read it three times before I could fully latch onto the fact that I was going to be a Filly!
From the first time these wonderful ladies asked me to be a guest on the blog, I’ve been so impressed with them and the great community they’ve built here. And now I get to be part of it! It’s hard to picture this lil’ ol’ farm girl getting to hang out here, but I’m sure excited to be counted among the Fillies.
I’ve possessed a love of books, reading, and creating stories for as long as I can remember. I also loved growing up on a farm where my dad let me tag after him all the time. (You can find a few of our adventures together in Farm Girl– humorous takes on true things that happened during my childhood.)
In fact, he kept a blanket, one of my baby dolls, storybooks, and a supply of candy in the swather so I could ride with him whenever it was hay-cutting time.
While I trailed Dad like a shadow, I learned about rural life, country living, cowboys, and heroes.
Much of what I saw, experienced, and lived during my formative years is woven into the threads of the sweet contemporary and historical stories I write. My 50th book just released last week, so I’ve had many opportunities to incorporate a variety of details from my background, but there’s one thing I keep circling my wagon around.
The heroes in my books are often rugged guys who can be a little rough around the edges, but they generally hold a healthy respect toward women and stick to an unspoken code of chivalry we may never know or decipher.
While some may think these types of men exist only in my fertile imagination, I know they are real. Honestly, they continually inspire me.
My own beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller, is a great source of gallant deeds. Although he isn’t much of a talker, if I can get him to be serious for five minutes, he typically manages to say something that melts my heart. (But don’t tell him I shared that with you. I think that breaks rule #63 in the code.)
When I look for validation that the code is alive and well in others of the male species beyond Captain Cavedweller, I find it.
For example, I recently met a PRCA bull rider. He’d never seen me before. Didn’t know me from Adam’s off ox. In fact, he couldn’t be blamed if he was full of himself since he’s quite successful in his line of work. The opposite seemed true, though. When we were introduced, he quickly snatched off his hat, politely tipped his head, and called me “ma’am.” Respectful, kind, and genuine are words I could easily use to describe him. He couldn’t have been more mannerly if Miss Etiquette had been whispering in his ear.
In one of my contemporary romances, Learnin’ The Ropes, the bossy, crusty ranch foreman outlines what he believes to be the code all men should live by to the new greenhorn his boss hired.
The rules are as follows:
Once you give your word and a handshake, it’s as binding as signing a contract.
Never betray a trust.
Never lie, cheat or steal.
Treat all children, animals, and old folks like you want to be treated.
Call your elders sir and ma’am.
Treat women with respect and care.
Always tip your hat to a lady and take it off at the dinner table and in church.
Work hard and give your boss an honest day for your pay.
If someone needs a hand, lend yours to the task.
Respect the flag and our nation.
Be clean – both on the outside and inside of your person.
Never stop learning.
Never make fun of someone who gave it their best.
Never wear your spurs or dirty boots in the house.
Fight fair, be brave, and stand up for what’s right.
Despite what others might say, the Cowboy Code rides on. I’m so, so glad it does. I need those amazing heroes to counter the strong, independent, sassy women in the stories I write. A milksop hero just won’t do for them. Nope, not at all.
I think one of the reasons we love to read western romances is because the stories and characters are full of strength, hope, and love. My new release, set in the Wild West town of Pendleton, Oregon, during WWII, centers on the theme of hope.
In the story, (based on the famous Doolittle Raid… did you know 79 of the 80 men on the mission were based at Pendleton? I should probably provide ample warning that I love researching historical details for my stories!) our hero, Klayne, is convinced he’s going to die on a secret mission. Desperate to leave something, someone, behind, he talks a rancher’s daughter into marrying him, in name only, of course. Too bad Delaney has far different plans…
As a thank you for joining us today, I hope you’ll download a free copy of Heart of Clay, the very first romance I wrote.
Easy-going cowboy Clay Matthews is a respected college professor. He’s the man family and friends turn to for help, or when they need a good laugh. Life would be almost perfect if he could figure out the mysterious, mind-boggling woman who was his wife…