The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was one I looked forward to with great anticipation each year during my childhood.
It wasn’t just the break from school that made the week fun (although I so enjoyed the freedom of not being at school or being plagued with mountains of homework).
If there was more than an inch of snow on the ground (which was typically the case on our Eastern Oregon farm), it meant unlimited outdoor entertainment. We went sledding off the hill right outside our back door, skating on the pond, snowmobiling across the sagebrush on the other side of the canal, and we even built snow forts a time or two.
Because my parents had a big house with ample room for parking, we almost always hosted Christmas for our extended family. My mom’s family and dad’s family took turns coming.
One year in particular I remember well because Mom’s family had all come for Christmas. We barely had a dusting of snow on the ground, so we spent most of the day inside with nothing to do but play with new toys, eat yummy food, and wish it would snow.
But then, in that magical week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it snowed, and snowed. And then snowed some more. In an impromptu effort to wring every bit of fun we could from the holiday season, Daddy invited his family to come over for New Year’s Day.
Mom made a huge pot of chili and enough cinnamon rolls to feed a small army. My aunts provided salads and sides along with oodles of desserts. Family began arriving late morning and we spent the rest of the day sledding, skating, and having a wonderful time. The cold and darkness didn’t even put an end to our fun. After warming up with chili and hot chocolate, some of my hardier cousins trouped back outside to sled in the dark.
I’ll never forget that special New Year’s Day or how much fun we had.
Do you have any special New Year’s Day memories from your childhood
(or maybe from a holiday with your children?)
One lucky commenter will receive their choice of a digital copy of any one of my books.
Wishing you all a safe, peaceful, joyous New Year’s Day and a fabulous 2018!
Christmas has always been such a beautiful, blessed, wonderful season to me.
A tradition that my mom taught me, one I still carry on, is to bake goodies, infused with love, and share with family and friends.
One year, I spent hours and hours making elaborately frosted sugar cookies. In particular, I recall a little rocking horse that I’d painstakingly decorated with tiny little reins and a saddle accented with mini holly and berries made of icing.
Then my dad and brothers came in for supper and made short work of my creations!
I still make sugar cookies (a recipe I spent years experimenting with until I got it just right), although I don’t spend hours decorating them like I used to.
I also love to make cinnamon rolls and share them with our neighbors when the rolls are warm from the oven and icing is melting into sweet pools all around them.
I have an overflowing recipe box with all the traditional sweets I typically make during the holidays.
But while I was researching details for my latest release, I found so many more recipes I’d love to try.
The heroine in the story is a Swedish baker. My goodness! I think I gained five pounds (or ten) just writing about all the delightful pastries and goodies she created in her bakery.
Born to an outlaw father and a shrewish mother, Fred Decker feels obligated to atone for the past without much hope for his future. If he possessed a lick of sense, he’d pack up and leave the town where he was born and raised, but something… someone… unknowingly holds him there. Captivated by Hardman’s beautiful baker, Fred fights the undeniable attraction. He buries himself in his work, refusing to let his heart dream.
Elsa Lindstrom adores the life she’s carved out for herself in a small Eastern Oregon town. She and her twin brother, Ethan, run their own bakery where she delights in creating delicious treats. Then Ethan comes home unexpectedly married, the drunks in town mistakenly identify her as a missing harlot, and a mishap in the bakery leaves her at the mercy of the most gossiped-about man in Hardman.
Mix in the arrival of three fairy-like aunts, blend with a criminal bent on dastardly schemes, and sprinkle in a hidden cache of gold for a sweet Victorian romance brimming with laughter and heartwarming holiday cheer.
“Well…” Fred gave her an odd look as he stood in the doorway with autumn sunshine spilling all around him. “There are two other things I’d like.”
“Two?” Elsa asked, wiping her hands on her apron and facing him. “What might those two things be?” She anticipated him asking for a batch of rolls or perhaps a chocolate cake.
“My first request is simple. Please call me Fred. I’d like to think, after all this, we’re friends and all my friends call me Fred.”
Elsa nodded in agreement. “We are friends, Mr. Deck… er, I mean Fred. If you want me to call you Fred then you best refer to me as Elsa.”
The pleased grin on his face broadened. “Very well, Elsa.”
Her knees wobbled at the sound of his deep voice saying her name, but she resisted the urge to grip the counter for support. “You said there were two things you wanted, in addition to cookies. What is the second?”
“It’s a tiny little thing really,” Fred said, tightly gripping his hat in both hands.
“A tiny little thing? Then I shall take great honor in bestowing whatever it is.” Her gaze roved over the kitchen, trying to imagine what in the world Fred could want. She kept a jar full of assorted candy. Sometimes, she used the sweets to decorate cakes and cookies. Perhaps he wanted one. “A piece of candy?” she asked.
Fred shook his head. “No, Elsa. It’s sweeter than candy and far, far better.”
Intrigued, she took a step closer to him. “What is it?”
He waggled his index finger back and forth, indicating she should step closer. When she stood so her skirts brushed against the toes of his boots, he tapped his cheek with the same finger. “A little sugar right here would be even better than ten batches of cookies.”
~ Giveaway ~
Make sure you enter this drawing for a chance to win a mystery box of Christmas goodies!
Wishing you all a bright, beautiful, holiday season!
What’s one thing do you always look forward to baking or eating each Christmas?
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:
Like many of you, I love the autumn season. In our little corner of the world, we have four very distinct seasons and in the last few weeks it has definitely transitioned into fall.
The leaves have set aside their verdant shades of green and seemingly overnight slipped on the jeweled hues of crimson, gold, amber, and tangerine.
The air smells spicy and rich, laced with a hint of wood smoke from the neighbor’s fireplace. It’s cool enough to dig out my sweaters and scarves, to unearth my warm lap blanket I like to curl up under in the evenings when the early dusk brings nose-nipping temperatures.
Then there are the glorious, wondrous flavors of fall… pumpkin and caramel and apple. Yum. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
In an effort to capture some of the sweetest, most wonderful aspects of fall, a group of sweet romance authors got together and wrote ten brand-new novellas all centered around a Fall Festival that raises funds for an animal shelter while finding homes for pets. The stories are bundled together in a boxed set.
The stories all take place in the fictional town of Romance, Oregon. If it really existed, visitors would find it about an hour south of Portland, where autumn is particularly beautiful and the sights, sounds, and scents of fall weave around the romance lingering in the air.
My contribution to the boxed set is Blown Into Romance, the story of a free-spirited artist and a feet-firmly-on-the-ground rancher. And piglets! Five of them, to be exact, all named after characters from a favorite children’s book. Winnie, the mama pig, and her four babies (Roo, Tigger, Eeyore, and Robin) need a home and Brooke needs a little company in her newly-opened blown glass shop.
(See the disaster coming… five pigs in a blown glass shop?)
I wanted Brooke to adopt something other than a dog or a cat. How much crazier could she get than five pigs?
Luckily for her, Blayne Grundy knows about pigs as well as cattle and horses. He offers her a hand when she needs it most and soon realizes she’s stolen his heart.
Artist Brooke Roberts spent her life without roots, wandering from town to town. When she seeks refuge from a freak storm in the town of Romance, she decides to stay and open a blown glass studio. Determined to immerse herself in the community, she adopts a family of pigs. Brooke is unprepared for the chaos and comfort they bring to her world, or the dashing cowboy who rescues her heart.
Solid, dependable Blayne Grundy runs a busy ranch, volunteers on various committees, and takes in stray animals too large to stay at the local animal rescue. Then a chance encounter with a beautiful, beguiling woman leaves him so befuddled, he can barely remember his own name. His predictable organized life is about to be blown away by free-spirited Brooke.
A sweet, lighthearted novella, Blown Into Romance highlights the mighty power of love and letting go.
She arched an eyebrow. “Did you adopt a new pet, too?”
“I’m actually more of a temporary home before a permanent place can be found. Brent had a donkey and a bunch of chickens that needed a place to go. Grams handled the chickens, but I’m in charge of the donkey.”
“A donkey, huh?” Brooke grinned again. “That might be incentive to visit your ranch.”
“Kong would like to think it is.”
A laugh spilled out of her. “You named the donkey Kong? Are you kidding me?”
“Nope. That was his name before Brent took him in. I’m not sure if Donkey Kong or King Kong would have been worse.”
“Okay, you win. I have to meet this donkey. I have a project I need to finish and it has to be shipped Thursday morning. If it works with your schedule, I could come out that evening.” Brooke walked Blayne over to his pickup.
“That will work great. In case you think about changing your mind, I could probably come up with a more compelling reason for you to come.” He looked at her with an intense light glowing in his eyes.
Rather than back away from him, as he feared, she stood her ground. “What reason might that be cowboy?”
“Just this one.” Blayne stepped close to her, holding her gaze. He wrapped one hand around her waist and slid the other into her messy hair. Before she could protest or pull away, his lips skimmed across hers in a light, tentative kiss. When she moved closer to him, he kissed her again. The long, lingering kiss erupted an explosion of fireworks behind his eyes while her body turned limp in his arms.
When he lifted his head, he kissed her cheek and slowly released his hold on her, making sure she was steady on her feet before backing away. “I’ll let you consider if that’s a compelling reason. If not, let me know. I can come back later and do a better job.”
If you could adopt ANY pet, what would it be? Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Fall Into Romance. Three lucky winners will be chosen!
Fall Into Romance is available for a limited time for just 99 cents at these online retailers:
Today kicks off a 107-year-old tradition — the Pendleton Round-Up.
This rodeo, held in the western town of Pendleton, Oregon, began when a group of community and area leaders developed the idea of an annual event. It all started, really, with a successful 4th of July celebration in 1909 that included bronc riding, horse races, Indian dances, foot races and fireworks.
The Pendleton Round-Up was incorporated as a non-profit organization at the end of July in 1910. The legal name was the “Northwestern Frontier Exhibition Association.” The group decided to stage the event in September to allow the grain farmers time to complete their harvest and the ranchers time to make a late summer check-up on their grazing cattle.
The first Pendleton Round-Up was to be a frontier exhibition that brought the old west back to life and offered the crowd entertaining Indian, cowboy, and military spectacles, held in conjunction with the Eastern Oregon District Fair.
People responded so enthusiastically to the idea, special trains ran from Portland to Pendleton to make sure the “city crowd” could witness the event.
The stores in town closed for the first performance. In fact, so many people showed up at that first performance, workers jumped in after the rodeo and added an additional 3,000 seats to accommodate the crowds the next day. More than 7,000 people attended the first event (which far exceeded the number of people living in town at the time).
In just a few short years, the wooden grandstand and surrounding bleachers were completed, offering seating to more than 20,000 spectators.
Before women received the right to vote in Oregon, the Pendleton Round-Up gave them a chance to compete in a variety of events. In 1914, Bertha Blanchett came within a dozen points of winning the all-around title, right alongside the men.
Many famous names competed in the Round-Up arena including people like Slim Pickens, Hoot Gibson, Jackson Sundown, and Yakima Canutt (a stuntman who doubled for Clark Gable and John Wayne, to name a few).
Pendleton is home to the Umatilla Reservation and from that very first show in 1910, many Indians have participated in the event. There are Indian races at the rodeo, the special Happy Canyon pageant, and the Indian Village that is one of the largest in North America with more than 300 teepees set up annually.
Tribal members also ride into the arena before the Indian dancing at the rodeo (right before the bull riding) and wow spectators with their beautiful regalia, some that dates back more than a century.
There are unique facets to the Pendleton Round-Up that make it different from many rodeos. For one thing, the rodeo arena’s grass floor is one-of-a-kind in the world of rodeo, adding a unique challenge for competitors. It provides the largest barrel racing pattern on the professional rodeo circuit, too.
Also, the Pendleton Round-Up was the first rodeo to have rodeo royalty, beginning in 1910. Today, the queen and her court race into the arena, jumping over the fence surrounding the grassy expanse not once, but twice.
The first year of the rodeo also saw the introduction of the Westward Ho Parade, one of the longest non-motorized parades in the country. The parade tradition carries on today with entries from all around the region.
Since 1910, the Pendleton Round-Up has been a popular event. Other than two years it was not held during World War II, it has run continuously each September. Today, more than 50,000 attendees fill the bleachers to watch the four-day long event.
And on their lips, you’ll hear them shout the slogan that was first used in 1910…
Let’ Er Buck!
Dally (Pendleton Petticoats, Book 8) is a sweet romance that encompasses the first year of the Pendleton Round-Up. In fact, the girl on the cover is one of the 2017 rodeo court.
I’m going to give three lucky winners a digital copy of Dally .
To enter for a chance to win, all you have to do is answer this question:
What’s your favorite rodeo event or thing to see in a parade?
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…