AUTUMN MEMORIES, FRIENDSHIP TEA, AND A GIVEAWAY by Cheryl Pierson

 

When I was growing up, I remember looking forward to the first day of school each year. “Back then” we didn’t start back to school in the fall until after Labor Day. In Oklahoma, it was still hot as blue blazes in September, but at least, the evenings and nights were cooling off. I dreaded seeing summer end, but by September, I was feeling the pull to go back to school, see my friends—and I’d never admit it—start learning again!

 

By the time October rolled around, things had definitely become more “fall-like” and the sun had taken on the “autumn slant” as the days grew shorter, as well. My mom used to take note of the seasonal changes very keenly, and I remember her saying, “Well, fall is here.” There was no need to explain—it was in the coolness of the air, the more orange tint of the sun, the shorter days.

Of course, to a child, “fall” meant that Halloween was coming! Back in those days, it was still safe to go door-to-door with friends, all of us together in the crisp night air, a giggling mass of energy all dressed in our finery (most of us with homemade costumes, not store-bought) and those little plastic pumpkins with the handles to carry our “loot” home in. “TRICK OR TREAT!” we’d call out at each door, and our neighbors would always pretend they thought they were giving candy to princesses and pirates, superheroes and witches.

November brought Thanksgiving—a time when we’d usually go to my grandparents’ houses. I was the “lucky” one of all my cousins (and I had 40+ cousins!) because in the small town of Calera, Oklahoma, I had my dad’s parents who lived at one end of town, and my mom’s parents who lived at the other end. Cousins, aunts, and uncles from both sides also lived there, so many of my cousins from both sides of the family went to school with each other and knew one another as friends and fellow sports teammates. Those were simpler times—we could walk all over town without fear of any foul play, and I had grandparents at each end of town, so no matter which cousins I was with, we had somewhere to walk to.

 

 

The town of Calera, Oklahoma, year unknown. It was a water stop for trains and was called Cale Switch or Cale Station, but when the railroad wanted to rename it Sterrett, the people insisted on a compromise–and Calera was born. This is the main street of the town–much more lively than it was when we kids were walking it back in the mid-late 60’s and early 70’s.

 

The big treat was stopping in at the one and only “grocery store”—more like an Old West mercantile store—that was about at the halfway mark through town. It had a glass case with bologna and ham inside and a big slicer that the store owner, Petey, would use to cut your lunchmeat. Then, he’d wrap it in freezer paper and tie it up with twine. Petey’s store also had one of those big chest-type coolers with a sliding top, filled with ice and bottled pop. That was back when a bottle of pop was ten cents or so—and a candy bar could be had for a few pennies more.

 

There’s nothing like family and Thanksgiving dinner all together to bring “Autumn Fever” to the highest level. Doesn’t Thanksgiving just speak to us of autumn? By that time of the year, even in Oklahoma, the leaves have turned some beautiful rich colors of gold, red, orange, and brown and drifted from the trees. The winds have become colder and more cutting (and that’s saying something here in Oklahoma!) and of course there’s that “fall smell” in the air. And probably that’s one of the things I love most about autumn—the smell. There is nothing like the feeling of being tucked up inside four strong walls with food to eat, a fire going in the fireplace, and a good book to read. And did I mention a dog’s head on my lap? But celebrating fall took on a whole new meaning when we moved to West Virginia. I had never seen colors on the trees like what we saw there–such a wonderful display of nature–and it happens every year!

Rick Burgess is an excellent professional photographer who is a good friend–he specializes in pictures of the natural beauty of “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia” and this is one that was taken at Plum Orchard Lake in the fall. Isn’t it gorgeous? See the link below if you would like to see more of Rick’s wonderful art!

I know a lot of people will think this is strange, but I’ve never been a coffee or hot tea drinker. Yet, in the fall, I DO want something warm to drink—and this is it. This drink is very easy to make and keep on hand—and I haven’t tried making it with any artificial sweetener yet, but this year I’m going to do just that instead of using sugar and see how it turns out. This “friendship tea” is also good to make and give as a gift in a pretty container (that’s how I got it in the very beginning, and I have been so glad someone did that for me so many years ago!)

 

 

                                                                                 FRIENDSHIP TEA

This wonderful drink is ready in 5 minutes, and makes 4 cups of the instant mix.

 

Ingredients:

1 -1 1/2 cup sugar (or less, to taste)

2 cups instant Tang orange drink

1/2 cup sweetened iced tea mix powder

1 (1/4 ounce) envelope unsweetened lemonade mix

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (or you can also put in whole cloves if you like)

 

Directions:

Combine all ingredients well and store in an airtight container.

To use, fill a mug with boiling water and stir in 2-3

This recipe has been around for many years, but this teaspoons of mix, to taste.

If all you can find is pre-sweetened lemonade, then use the amount of dry mix needed for a 2 -quart pitcher according to the package instructions and leave out the sugar.

 iteration of it came from GENIUS KITCHEN and is close to the one I’ve had in my recipe box for all this time.

 

I have to admit, by Christmas I’m certainly missing fall, and “Autumn Fever” takes on a new meaning—I want it BACK! As sad as I was to see summer end, that’s how I feel when the winter ice and snow comes—I’m immediately nostalgic for fall!

BRRR!!!

What do you do in the autumn months? Are you glad to see them come and herald summer’s end? I do read a lot, as I’m sure many of us do here at P&P. Please share any good books you’ve read so we can all build our reading list!

Right now, I’m re-reading one of Rosemary Rogers’s classic stories, SWEET SAVAGE LOVE--the book that got me reading romances all those years ago–all her stories are sooo darn good you can’t go wrong. Next on my list is another wonderful re-read– NOBODY’S DARLING by Teresa Medeiros. Here’s the blurb–I know it’s wonderful because I read it a good while back, but want to enjoy it again!

He always gets his lady…
Billy Darling doesn’t enjoy being a wanted man until the day a duke’s prim and proper granddaughter comes marching into the Tumbleweed Saloon and points her derringer at his heart. Lucky for him, she’s a mighty poor shot.

She always gets her man…
Instead of killing him, Esmerelda Fine hires him to find her runaway brother. Billy knows he should turn down her offer. He should resist her charms. But he doesn’t. Because there comes a time in every man’s life when he’s got nothing left to lose…but his heart.

I’d also love to hear your childhood memories of fall–and I do hope you’ll try this wonderful “friendship tea” recipe when those autumn winds begin to blow—it’s a sure cure for AUTUMN FEVER!

Be sure to leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for the wonderful PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS boxed set MAIL ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS! This is a complete boxed set of four full length novels by Livia J. Washburn, Cheryl Pierson, Jacquie Rogers and Celia Yeary!

Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite:

Brought up in the wealth and comfort of Eastern “old money” in staid and proper Philadelphia, the Remington sisters are forced to scatter to the four winds and become mail-order brides. In order to gain a fortune, their sinister step-father, Josiah Bloodworth, has made plans to marry them off in loveless marriages. Time is running out, and no matter what lies ahead in their uncertain futures, it has to be better than the evil they’re running from…

LIZZY: Livia J. Washburn
Elizabeth Remington’s world is turned upside down when she is forced to become a mail-order bride. With her cat, Fulton, Lizzy flees to Alaska—only to discover the man she’s to marry is not who she thought he was! Now, she must protect herself from the biggest danger of all—her own heart. Handsome Flint McKinnon has signed his soul away to her step-father, hasn’t he? He’s chased Lizzy across the continent, but can she believe him when he says he loves her?

BELLE: Jacquie Rogers
Belle Remington must marry someone before the dangerous Neville Fenster catches up with her. She hightails it out of Philadelphia to the wilds of Idaho Territory to become a bootmaker’s bride, but when she arrives in Oreana, she discovers her groom has been murdered! Now, handsome, inebriated rancher Cord Callahan insists on fulfilling the marriage contract himself. Belle is beautiful and smart as a whip. But she has a secret. When Fenster shows up, can Cord protect the woman he wants to love forever?

SABRINA: Cheryl Pierson
Impulsive Sabrina Remington, the youngest, weds a man she knows her family would disapprove of. Though Cameron Fraser’s family owns a ranch in lawless Indian Territory, he’s made his way in the world with a gun, living barely on the right side of the law. With everything on the line as Bloodworth and his henchmen close in, will Cam be able to protect Sabrina from the desperate man who means to kidnap her for his own wicked purposes?

LOLA: Celia Yeary
Sensible Lola Remington, the eldest of the four sisters, must be certain the others are on their way to safety before she can think of fleeing Philadelphia herself. With the help of a local bridal agency, Lola finds the perfect husband for herself—in the wild countryside of Texas. Jack Rains owns a ranch and he’s in need of a bride—and children, of course! But just when Lola starts to believe there might be a future for them, she discovers a hidden letter from another woman…Jack’s first wife.

HERE’S THE AMAZON LINK: http://a.co/d/5XSkiX7

 

Grass Valley Brides

Years ago, a dear friend invited me to spend the weekend with her at her parents’ home in Sherman County, Oregon. I’d never been in that part of the state, but quickly fell in “awe” with the rolling hills of wheat and sky that stretched forever. A few years after that, I found myself driving through the area and when I entered the tiny town of Grass Valley, the idea for a book began hopping around in my head. By the time I got home, I could hardly wait to get started writing it.

 

And one book led to another, until there were six in the sweet, contemporary Grass Valley Cowboys series. The stories are all set in and around Grass Valley, focusing on the Thompson and Morgan families.

The cowboys in the stories are the kind of heroes that give you happy daydreams (and may even make you swoon). They can be tender, teasing, flirty, furious, mischievous, rascally, protective, and proud, and that’s all before breakfast!

I’ve often thought about how fun it would be to write about the first families who came to Grass Valley, at least the families connected to those in my stories. 

 

The settlement of Grass Valley began with the establishment of a few stock ranches. Settlers began to arrive in the area and were soon plowing the cattle-sustaining grass to plant wheat fields.  Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire, is credited with establishing Grass Valley when he arrived in the area with a small party of pioneers.  Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for the location since the rye grass grew thick and tall in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine.  The town of Grass Valley was officially established in 1878.

I knew train service didn’t arrive in the area until around 1900, so I started digging into more history.

If you look at the map above, you see the John Day River, the Columbia River, and the Deschutes River make up the boundaries of quite a large area. Reportedly, Dr. Rollins was the only physician “between the rivers” for a while as communities popped up around the county. 

Originally, I’d wanted to set the story in 1878, when Grass Valley was established, but getting my characters there was proving to be a challenge. So, I kicked the timeline up to 1884 when train service ran all the way across the country and made a stop in The Dalles. From there, it was simple enough to board the stagecoach that ran daily from The Dalles to Canyon City to the southeast. Just to reach Grass Valley took most of the day with stops at stations to switch out the teams for fresh horses. I could just picture a cast of characters bouncing along on that long ride, eager to reach Grass Valley.

When I was asked to participate in a new project with three other authors, I knew it was time to write the story of the first Thompson to arrive in Grass Valley. 

I’m so pleased and happy to be part of the Regional Romance Series with our own Kit Morgan, as well as Kari Trumbo and Peggy L. Henderson. What makes this series so fun and unique is that each of us is writing three connected stories that are bundled into one book. If you purchase all four books in the series, you actually get twelve (12!) brand new romances! 

My contribution to the series is Grass Valley Brides.

I can hardly wait for you to read these stories, because they were ridiculously delightful to write! Oh, boy, did I have a good time! Mostly because of Taggart Thompson.

He is a rascally, good-looking rancher who fancies himself to be quite the matchmaker. And the real matchmaker is ready to throttle him! 

What’s a matchmaker to do when the husband-to-be rejects the bride?

     Again . . .

Widowed as a young wife, Cara Cargill turned her head for business and love of romance into a successful mail-order bride enterprise. She’s never had a problem matching couples until one mule-headed man continues to refuse to wed the women she sends to meet him in Grass Valley, Oregon. In an effort to make a match he’ll keep and uphold her sterling reputation, Cara is desperate to find the perfect bride.

Daisy – When her fiancé leaves her at the altar, Daisy Bancroft knows it is far past time for a change. Her dearest friend, Cara, offers to send her to a newly established town in Oregon, where possibilities abound and the grass is rumored to be as tall as a man’s head. Daisy arrives with plans to wed Tagg Thompson, only to find the obstinate rancher has foisted her off on his best friend.

Birdie – Tired of waiting for her Mister Right to magically appear and whisk her away to a happily-ever-after, Bridget “Birdie” Byrne convinces her sister, a renowned matchmaker, to send her as the bride to Tagg Thompson. The man who greets her upon her arrival isn’t Tagg, but Birdie is certain she’s finally discovered the man she is meant to marry.  

Cara – Fed up with Tagg Thompson and his refusals of every bride she’s sent to Grass Valley for him to wed, Cara decides to meet the exasperating man in person. Her feet are barely on the ground in the rustic town before she’s nearly bowled over by a herd of stampeding cattle and swept into the brawny arms of a cowboy with the bluest eyes she’s ever seen.

Will true love find its home in the hearts of these Grass Valley Brides.

 

Dear Mrs. Cargill,

At the rate you’re finding me a wife, I may be too old to have any kids by the time I get married. Speaking of children, Sally Oliver, she was the first bride you sent, wanted me to pass on the news to you that she and her husband, Mr. Buster Martin, will be parents in March. Good thing you’ve got me to help find these women a happy home.

Are you sure you know what you’re doing? You came highly recommended as one of the top matchmakers in the country, but if you have this much trouble with everyone who engages your services, I don’t see how you stay in business.

Please let me know when you have another bride ready to send my way. I look forward to making her acquaintance, and can only pray she’ll be better suited as a ranch wife than the last four you sent.

Respectfully,

Mr. T. Thompson

Grass Valley, Oregon

 

What do you think? Will Cara find a bride to please Tagg?

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween from The Pumpkin Farm!

It’s rare that I’m publishing anything on a blog right on Halloween, but this year I am!

How fun is that?

And just so you know, I’m not a big Halloween fan although I love kids going trick-or-treating. It’s just crazy fun and my kids loved it. I loved it as a kid, too! Free candy! #BONUS!!!!

But here on the farm Halloween marks the end of the pumpkin sale season.

This farm wagon was a find two years ago and we love it. It’s the perfect focal point for our displays and it “morphs’ as the season matures. It starts out with lots of big stacks of pumpkins, like you see here, but as those sell out, we replace them with smaller stacks… and more big orange or big green or white pumpkins. Like any season, it’s ever-changing and we truly celebrate the season of color that’s so famous here in the Northeast Woodlands. Being so close to Lake Ontario, our leaves stay green longer, giving the feel of a longer and nicer fall season!

Closing the farm stand is always a mixed blessing. We love wrapping things up… Having time for other things for six months, until it’s time to plant, till, plant, spray, water, plant, repeat!

Our theory is this: Sell every pumpkin and squash you can at great prices and people will be happy, they will love you and they’ll come again and again and they will bring friends.

This concept, a wholly different marketing ploy than the USDA recommends, is building us a solid business that benefits the community, our little farm, people outside our community and our family because it is truly a family project. And that family includes friends, too… friends who volunteer their time on weekends to help customers so we can keep prices down.

This Mandy and Lisa and Lisa’s daughter McKenna, all set up for business on an early September day…

It means insight, too… annual growth within a budget because trying to build on credit and interest is a rookie mistake. Few of us are going to turn into Chip and Joanna (Loved their Magnolia Story) and end up with an HGTV contract that goes viral, so trying to invest while living within the budget is the trick. Stuff costs money. And expansion isn’t cheap, but when we’re talking small business, building a base is the beginning, just like building a Lego house. Without a strong platform/base, the blocks will topple in the wind.

I’ve shown you pics of the “results”… the gorgeous pumpkins and displays and so many happy customers. What a treat!

So for a business like this there are both tricks… and treats. And Farmer Dave and I aren’t exactly young. (Well, I feel young, so does that count????) But we’re living a dream that we’ve always wanted to do…

And who knows how much time the Good Lord will give us? Not us, certainly, but there’s an Erma Bombeck quote that I hold close to my heart in family, in writing, in business, in pumpkins:

“I want to stand before God at the end of my days and be able to say I used everything you gave me.”

That’s me.

Talent is given to so many, but taking that talent and mixing it with a strong work ethic is a wonderful thing. And the fact that it’s not a universal trait is what gives some a leg up.

Our beautiful nation was built on hard work. On sacrifice. On sacrificial love. Those elements are part of our platform and our heritage. I want to see them help shape our future.

Tonight I’ll go trick-or-treating with a few cute grandkids… We live on a country road, so generally there are no trick-or-treaters at our house, but the joy in knowing that lots of those pumpkins and displays were part of Blodgett Family Farm and our goal to bring affordable family fun back to the farm is like being part of new family traditions.

And that makes us happy!

AND to add to today’s fun, I collaborated with the amazing Margaret Brownley and Mary Connealy for this beautiful collection releasing in SIX DAYS!!!! “Christmas at Star Inn” is a wonderful anthology of weary travelers who lodge at the iconic “Star Inn” in Heywood, Oregon at the base of Mt. Hood… It’s time to get in the season of faith, hope and love… and the greatest of these is love! I’m giving away an e-copy of this to one happy reader, but let me know you’d like it… when you tell me about your upcoming holidays. Love ’em? Or kind of dread ’em? Or somewhere in the middle??? Let’s talk it out right here. Right now!

 

Our new release!

 

OH! AND WINNER FROM LAST MONTH!!! Do you see where my brain is? It is mush in September and October, and for good reason. Joy Ellis, you are the winner of “The Sewing Sisters Society” novella collection! Let me know if you would like a print or an e-copy and I’ll have my friends at Amazon send that right out to you! Congratulations!

Where Has All the History Gone?

“Where has all the history gone? Long time passing…

Where has all the history gone? Long time ago….”  (parody, Peter, Paul and Mary “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”)

I’m wearing a mix of hats today! My history-loving bonnet AND a modern day cowboy hat because this upcoming Love Inspired book is a contemporary Western romance with a great, tough heroine and a SWOON-WORTHY hero… that I hope you love!!!!

We live in different times.

When I look at middle grade and junior high history lessons now, they are very different from what I was taught… what my kids were taught… and what my grandchildren and friends’ children now see.

History is history. But it can be viewed through varied perspectives.

It is rife with mistakes, horror, trials and triumph. It is never one-sided. From the earliest written times and the earliest Biblical references, man has been as inclined to sin as the sparks to fly upward.

People lust for power. For sex. For money. And for some it is never enough, the head rush of being powerful, sexual and rich only adds oxygen to an already fuel-rich fire… and they want more.

That said, there are other sides to history as well. 

My Celtic heritage on the Logan side faced rough odds. For nearly nine centuries the Vikings ruled Ireland after defeating the Celts in the first century A.D. 900 years + or -…. When the Irish king Brian Boru waged a successful battle against them, the Viking power over Ireland was razed, but then came the Normans…. and centuries of English domination and rule when Irish land was taken from the Irish and doled out to English landowners… and the Irish pushed to less fertile lands or turned into share-holders. From Cromwell’s reign of terror from 1649 on, Irish Catholics were slaughtered, tortured and jailed and/or excised from their lands. A few generations later came the potato famine, a scourge that starved a nation but pushed many to a new opportunity, here in America or Australia.

Ireland wasn’t the only country that England claimed and re-distributed, of course. Our own America was formed in some large part by land grants given to English aristocrats. There was no or little thought given to the American Indians/Native Americans because the idea of “owning” land and distributing it through a legal process wasn’t part of their culture.

 

An ocean apart, and huge differences in formation of culture, science, language, mathematics… So when America “bought” the west in the Louisiana purchase, it seemed normal to the government. This had been the European model for hundreds and hundreds of years. 

Of course it didn’t seem one bit normal to the Natives occupying American prairies or mountains or woodlands, did it? 

It was an abomination. A threat.  Much like Ireland and other countries that were invaded and taken over by expansionist nations, their claims fell on the deaf ears of the more powerful.

Studying history, we can see the both sides…. Downton Abbey, one of the most watched and loved shows on modern TV showed the ups and downs of a prestigious English family as their days waned in light of a rising middle class. But those same rich people, hundreds of years before, helped fund expeditions to new lands and opened travel and opportunity, the very beginning that forged our land. America. The United States… and then we fought for that freedom and did the unthinkable…

WE WON.

And began our western expansion a few dozen years later.

Writing a modern-day Western with Native American characters isn’t easy. I tackled this in “Healing the Cowboy’s Heart”, my upcoming release from Love Inspired books…. how a Nez Perce family that chose land instead of the reservation (an option offered and chosen by some) can feel out of step with the past, and at odds with the present when the land they owned and sold is now worth millions…

And did you know that the Nez Perce tribe (a total misnomer because they never had pierced noses…) embraced the Christian faith quickly because they believed in one God, the Father Almighty already… So immersing themselves into the Christian faith didn’t require a leap… but giving up their land, their autonomy was a really hard thing to do. And like Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” where young girls drive a dynamic that kills innocent people, young warriors launched an attack that resulted in a tragic war between the American army and the Nez Perce… A tragic story spawned by foolhardy, angry teens.

The American West is an ever-changing dynamic, but even so, romance and families and faith and cowboys make up a lot of that dynamic. There is something downright good about working the land and forging a life from it… and yes, there are winners and losers in war. There are things that happen that should never have happened. There is a cruelty in some men that can sicken the normal loving, caring person. But when we look and see that is the exception– not the rule– that’s when we realize we can learn from history. We should study history. And we should take and open view…

But we shouldn’t change history to fit our current narrative.

For every teacher that decries the explorers that first crossed the ocean, there’s a home they go to. An address they claim. A house or an apartment and a car or a subway or something linking them to the USA.

Without that history, those explorers, those navigators and those aristocratic land grants and land purchases, we wouldn’t exist here today.

Someone would.

Once discovered, it was clear that powerful countries would have their day and their say in this new land. History does that… it repeats itself quite often, so telling this story of a Nez Perce hero, a man whose work and passion is to re-develop the beloved and esteemed Appaloosa the Nez Perce made famous… and the horse doctor whose family bought up land… land that is now worth millions… and the anger that simmers over old wrongs and tragic mistakes.

This is what I hope when readers enjoy this story… that they’ll see a beautiful romance! A great love story. A story that makes them sigh, smile, and sigh some more. Here’s a link to this upcoming book on Amazon:  HEALING THE COWBOY’S HEART BY RUTH LOGAN HERNE

I’m giving away two copies today (when they arrive on my doorstep) so that you can read the book and offer your opinion, dear readers… I hope what you see is a well-told modern story where the past can trip the heels of the present, but where faith, hope and love stand strong.

What’s your take on history, friends? I’m on the road today, traveling to Baltimore for the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat, so I might not get on until later… But everyone who comments will be in the drawing for these two “Win ’em before you can buy ’em” books!

 

Guest Author Carolyn Brown!

Today, the Fillies are proud to host none other than author Carolyn Brown!
She’s here to talk about her newest book and also to give one as a gift for one lucky commenter.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Carolyn or her books, here’s a short introduction…

Carolyn Brown Headshot
Author Carolyn Brown
  • * * * * * * * * * * 
  • New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Carolyn Brown was born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma. These days she and her husband make their home in Davis, Oklahoma, a small town of less than three thousand people where everyone knows everyone, knows what they are doing and with whom, and read the weekly newspaper to see who got caught.

A plaque hangs on her office wall that says “I know the voices are not real but they have such great ideas.” That is her motto and muse as she goes through the days with quirky characters in her head, telling their stories, one by one, and loving her job.

  • * * * * * * * * * *

Hello to all y’all!

Have you ever looked at a cowboy on the cover of a book and wondered what it would be like to ask him questions, and maybe even ask his opinion on things—maybe even before you open the book to read about him? Well, today that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Take a look at Levi Jackson on the cover of Cowboy Honor and let’s talk to him in person.

Carolyn: Levi, would you tell his a little about yourself?

Levi: Well, ma’am, I’m the foreman of a huge ranch down around Sunset, Texas. The two brothers who own the place, Cade and Justin Maguire, and I grew up together right here on the Longhorn Canyon Ranch. We’re more like kin folks than ranch owner and hired hand. We’ve all three run around together since we were in elementary school. When Justin and I graduated high school, we went on the full time payroll, but from the time we were little guys, we worked and got a paycheck.

Carolyn: What was your first opinion of Claire?

Levi: (Removes his cowboy hat and wipes his brow). My first thought was I hope she don’t pull the trigger on that pistol. But I’ll have to explain that a little. It might not have been considered a blizzard in some parts of the country but for north central Texas, it sure seemed like one. I’d been out making sure the cattle were brought in from the far corners of the ranch, when it became evident I didn’t have enough gas in the four-wheeler to get me back to the ranch house. That wasn’t a big problem because we have this old cabin at the back of the place, and I could hole up there until the snowstorm passed. Claire and her little niece, Zaylie, had slid off the road and taken refuge in the cabin earlier that day. So there we were—me, just wanting a warm place to wait out the storm, and her thinking I was there to do her harm so she had a pistol pointed right at my chest.

Carolyn: Oh, my goodness! I’m tempted to ask you what happened next, but I’m sure that’s covered in the story. I’m told that you have a way with animals and have rescued several that still live on the ranch. Tell us about them.

Levi: (with a big smile on his face) There’s Beau, the dog that I rescued. He’s named after a famous football player for the Longhorns. Then Gussie, the cat, who’s named after an old girlfriend. And Hard Times the turtle: Hopalong, the cotton tail bunny rabbit; and Little Bit, the crippled donkey. They’ve all become part of the ranch, and the inner city, underprivileged kids who come ever summer love them.

Carolyn: Although the kids aren’t there in this book, since it happens in the winter months, tell us about those kids.

Levi: They arrive in June and stay until after July 4th. Everyone on the ranch looks forward to having them around. Sometimes they come to us broken and untrusting, but by the time they leave, they’re sad to go—and we’re lonely without them.

Carolyn: If you could have any other job in the world, what would you be?

Levi: I’ve got my dream job right here on Longhorn Ranch. There’s no other place I’d rather be, or job that I’d rather be doing.

Carolyn: Thank you, Levi, for visiting with us today. And we both thank Petticoats and Pistols for letting us stop by today. I’m going to let Levi come up with a question to ask y’all for the drawing. We’ll be giving away a signed copy of Cowboy Honor and the winner will be chosen from the comments.

Levi: Let’s ask something about the heroine—

What kind of lady do you like to read about? Independent? Quiet? Or maybe a sassy one like my Claire?

 * * * * * * * * * *

From the New York Times bestselling cowboy queen comes “a story that is sure to please fans” about a “slow-simmering romance” and the “simple pleasures of ranch life” (Publishers Weekly). Includes a bonus novella by Katie Lane!

Patience was never one of her virtues. After her SUV runs off the road in the middle of a Texas blizzard and her cell stops working, Claire Mason is about to snap. Getting back home to Oklahoma with her four-year-old niece is top priority. And lucky for her, help comes in the form of a true Texas cowboy…

Levi Jackson has always been a sucker for strays. So he can’t help getting involved when he comes across Claire and her little niece shivering in the cold. By offering them a place to stay until her car is fixed, he can make sure the two are taken care of – and get to know the sassy Claire better.

What starts as something awkward and temporary starts feeling cozier by the minute. And soon Levi is hoping he can convince Claire she has a permanent place in his heart.

Plus, bonus story “O Little Town of Bramble” by Katie Lane!
All Ethan Miller wants for Christmas is to celebrate in Bramble, Texas, with family and friends. But when his childhood neighbor comes home for the holiday, Ethan realizes that the girl-next-door could be the girl of his dreams.

                                                

Buy Links:

Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Apple Books  |  IndieBound  |  Amazon

Connect with Carolyn!

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Allison B. Collins Dreams Up Her Stories

I’m so excited to be here on Petticoats & Pistols today! What a wonderful group of women who all love cowboys as much as I do.  Thank you for having me here, ladies!

A couple of years ago I had a dream about five brothers who ran a ranch with their dad. In this dream I saw the oldest brother was a wounded Army veteran returning home, there was a veterinarian, a charmer, a very cynical man burned by love, and a rebel cowboy.  I even saw their assorted girlfriends or wives.  The only anomaly was that the dream ended with a fashion show in which they all participated. (That was my day job insinuating itself into my cowboy dream!)

When I woke up from the dream, it was still so vivid in my mind I had to write it all down. And it stuck with me so much I knew I had to turn it into a book. Or rather, five books.

The first book in the series about a wounded rancher debuts this month, published by Harlequin. I’m so very excited that “A Family for the Rancher” is finally here.  This quote from Pinnochio has been running through my mind all week: “I’m a real boy!”  Well, for me now “It’s a real book!”

I’m a fifth generation Texan, so I’ve got the Old West running deep in my veins. I was born and raised in El Paso, which is THE farthest west you can go in Texas.  Among my ancestors are a Texas Ranger and a spy for Robert E. Lee. Future stories? You better believe it.

I live in Dallas now, practically at the base of Southfork Ranch. Remember J.R., Bobby, Sue Ellen, and Pam? It’s still a thrill every time I drive by that house, and the theme song runs on continuous loop in my head.

I guess my love of cowboys has been with me all my life.  I love sweet tea, bluebonnets, cowboy boots, and western hats.  Heck, the Resistol Hat factory is practically around the corner from my house!  Cowboys have a code of honor bone deep, one they live their entire lives by. They’re good to their mommas, their sweethearts, and their animals.

Perhaps John Wayne said it best: “A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job.”  My Sullivan brothers follow that creed.

For the Cowboys to Grooms series I took the story to Montana. Where else could I write about vast open lands, soaring mountains, sunny summer days, and cold winter days where the hero and heroine are snowbound in a log cabin for days on end?

My husband and I spent some time in Montana a few years ago, and I just fell in love with the whole state. Crystal clear water, abundant wildlife, and cowboys!  In fact, the scene in which Kelsey sees a bear while kissing Nash was inspired by my first bear sighting on that trip.

As I write, I have to visualize the characters, so Pinterest is my best friend.  If you’d like to see who my inspiration is for each of the five Sullivan brothers, here’s a link to my board:  http://tinyurl.com/ycrflp2

Oh, and since I also love weddings, I couldn’t resist writing a little twist into the last scene of each book—it’s what determines which brother’s book comes next in the Cowboys to Grooms series!

* * * *

Nash Sullivan doesn’t need help from anyone. Not his father, not his brothers and sure as heck not from a physical therapist—even a darn feisty one like Kelsey Summers. He lost his leg during his overseas deployment and he just wants to be left alone. Besides, the last thing a woman like Kelsey needs is half a man.

Single mom Kelsey knows all too well that the scars on the inside run the deepest. She needs to move on from her own tragic past, but the Sullivan ranch is starting to feel a little too much like home. And she can’t stop thinking about her wounded—and gorgeous—patient. Could Nash be the cure for her own broken heart?

* * * *

If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of “A Family for the Rancher” (Kindle ebook or autographed print book – winner’s choice), let me know who your favorite cowboys are (old or new), and why.  I’d love to chat with you here on Petticoats & Pistols!

Author Evelyn M. Hill…His Forgotten Fiancée 

 

 Welcome Evelyn M. Hill, author of His Forgotten Fiancée!  

 

 

                                    Book Description

                                                   BUY

Liza Fitzpatrick is stunned when her fiancé finally arrives in Oregon City — with amnesia. Matthew Dean refuses to honor a marriage proposal he doesn’t recall making, but Liza needs his help now to bring in the harvest, and maybe she can help him remember…

Matthew is attracted to the spirited Liza, and as she tries to help him regain his old memories, the new ones they’re creating together start to make him feel whole. Even as he falls for her again, though, someone’s determined to keep them apart. Will his memory return in time to save their future?

 

I will never write about a character who goes bungee jumping.

When possible, I try out the tasks my characters have to do. I want to know what it is like to cook biscuits on a cast iron griddle, how heavy a rifle is when I hold it, how wearing a prairie bonnet limits my peripheral vision like a horse with blinders and what it’s like to use a scythe.

When I wrote His Forgotten Fiancée, I had to write about Matthew using a scythe to harvest crops. He was a lawyer by profession; he knew as much as I do on the subject. I read about people scything, but that’s not nearly as effective as hands-on research.

Googling lead me to Scythe Supply. They sell scythes that are customized to your height, so you can use them comfortably.

                                                               Winslow Homer, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

They made it sound so easy to use one. And I did want to know what it felt like to scythe. Besides, my lawn was looking something like this:

                                                          Jim Clark, USFWS, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

All right, I have to confess. It wasn’t only for research. There were other reasons to try using a scythe. While my lawn is really too small to hire someone to come take care of it, I can’t cut the grass with a gas-powered lawnmower. Something about these lawnmowers triggers an allergic reaction. I don’t have problems with a push-reel mower, but those don’t do as good a job when the grass is wet. And in the Pacific Northwest, in spring and fall, the grass is pretty much always wet. Using a scythe appealed on more than one level.

So I got one and tried it out. I have to say that I loved, loved, loved how quiet the experience was. I hate the sound of my neighbors’ gas-powered motors. When I scythed, I could hear the birds singing over the swish of the scythe through the grass, and I had no problems breathing. Bonus, my arms got a workout. They felt a little sore when I was done, but not horribly so. And my lawn ended up looking like this:

This is what I wrote for Matthew’s experience of scything for the first time:

Matthew discovered he liked using the scythe. Gripping the snath, he swept the blade in an arc, keeping it low to the ground. The cradle attached to one side of the scythe scooped up the wheat stalks and laid them out on the ground to his left. Then he stepped forward and swept the scythe again. Another step, another sweep of the blade. He could mark his passage through the field by the ever-lengthening row of stalks lying on the ground on his left. The kitten watched for a little while before going off to explore the bushes along the stream.

Liza followed behind him. She gathered up the stalks, winding another stalk of wheat around the bundle and tying it into a knot. He stole a glance at her. Her fair face was flushed, and sweat trickled down and she wiped her brow, but she did not stop bending over and gather up the stalks.

It was laborious work at first, but soon he developed a rhythm. The heat of the sun beat through the thin cotton of his shirt, and sweat trickled between his shoulder blades. But soon, he lost awareness of everything but the swish of the scythe, the sound of bird song, and the sense that he was participating in life, becoming part of something greater than himself. There was a definite feeling of satisfaction when he reached the end of the row and looked back and see what he had accomplished. Here, the results of his efforts were tangible and immediately rewarding, not just moving paper from the In tray to the Out tray.  —

GIVEAWAY!

For a chance to win a signed copy of His Forgotten Fiancée answer Evelyn’s question and  leave a comment on this blog post.  

QUESTION: Have you tried using a scythe? I admit, I’m not sure I’d like to have to use one to harvest the south 40, but for a tiny, rain-soaked lawn? It’s got a lot to recommend it.

 

 

Evelyn M. Hill 

According to family tradition, Evelyn M. Hill is descended from a long line of Texas horse thieves. (But when your family is not only Texan, but Irish, tall tales come with the territory.) This might explain why she devoted much of her childhood to writing stories about horses. Once she grew up, the stories naturally featured a tall, handsome cowboy as well. She lives at the end of the Oregon Trail, where she gets to do all her historical research in person, and she loves to hear from readers!

His Forgotten Fiancée released January 1, 2018  

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Tombstone: The Town Too Tough To Die

Tombstone is a step back in time!

Two years ago my husband and I traveled to Tombstone, Arizona. I’d been to the town once before but for some reason we never walked through the Bird Cage Saloon. Visiting the infamous building was on the top of my list this last time. I hope you enjoy my photos from this trip!

 Tombstone is located in southeastern Arizona and was the site of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Boothill Graveyard.

   

The town suffered two devastating fires: one in 1881 and again in 1882, but the Bird Cage Saloon survived both.The saloon was located in the heart of the red-light district on the corner of Allen Street and 6th Street. The photo below shows what the Bird Cage looked like before the outside was renovated. 

The building remained boarded up for the next fifty years before it reopened as a tourist attraction. The outside of the structure was remodeled to protect it from the elements. Inside the Bird Cage you will find the original wood floors that Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Luke Short and the Clanton family all walked across. Even the mirrors behind the bar are original. The only part of the inside that has been renovated is the staircase leading to the basement.

 

  The Bird Cage served many purposes as listed on this sign.

The saloon was considered a “house of negotiable affection” and for $25 a gentleman could buy a bottle of whiskey and time with a lady in one of the 13 “cages” or cribs suspended above the gambling parlor. 

Twenty-fours hours a day the vaudeville circuit played on the stage.

 

 

 

The piano in the picture has sat in that same spot since 1881. The piano was the first to arrive in Tombstone and was part of a five-piece band that played in the saloon from 1881-1889.

The saloon also had a barber if any cowboy wanted to “spiff up” before visiting the ladies in the upstairs cribs. 

 

Curly Bill

Outlaw Curly Bill was recognized getting a haircut in this chair and was later tracked down and killed by Wyatt Earp. The table is the original table in the gaming parlor where Doc Holliday was often seen playing and dealing Fargo.

       

 

The Longest Poker Game Ever Played

The basement of the saloon is where the serious gambling took place and was the location of the longest poker game ever played in history. The game lasted eight years, five months and three days. Twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. There was a $1,000 buy-in and a continuous list of gamblers waiting to get into the game. The saloon employed runners to go out on the street and find the next player on the list when someone folded or left the game which averaged every 3 to 4 days. 

Below are pictures of the basement gaming area. I was surprised at how small it was. In the photos you’ll see the original service bar that served drinks to the gamblers as well as the men visiting the two bordello rooms in the basement. The mirrors behind the bar have hung in the same place since 1881. The whiskey keg and heating stove are originals and have been in the same place since the Birdcage closed its doors. The gaming tables, chairs, dealers box and money boxes all sit where they were during the “longest game.”

  

 

The Infamous Sadie Jo

One of Tombstones most famous soiled doves, Sarah Josephine Marcus, who went by the name of Sadie Jo & Shady Sadie worked at the Bird Cage in the basement. Below is the room where she and Wyatt Earp had their romantic liaisons while she was engaged to the then sheriff of Tombstone, John Harris Behan. At the time Wyatt lived in a covered wagon fifty feet away from the Bird Cage with his common law wife Mattie. Wyatt left Mattie for Josephine and Mattie was forced into prostitution in Prescott, AZ. and later committed suicide by overdosing on laudanum.

Haunted Bird Cage 

You know me and my fascination with ghosts…well, it is said that 27 ghosts inhabit the Bird Cage Saloon—the same number of people believed to have been killed in the building.

Employees say they often smell perfume and cigar smoke when working as well as seeing apparitions. Ghost tours are given at night, and one day I’d love to return to Tombstone and take the tour.

Before I sign off, I have to share one more photo of this little cowboy I came across on my trip to Tombstone.

Giveaway

To be entered into a giveaway for a Kindle copy of all three books in my series share this blog post and put the link where you shared it in the comment section! I’ll post the winner’s name on Saturday Oct 14th in the comment section of this blog post.

Until Next Time….Happy Trails!

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Jeannie Watt – Catch Me, Cowboy Excerpt and Give Away

Jeannie Watt 2Hello and Happy Wednesday! Today I’m in Florida, attending a writing conference and hanging out with my fellow authors. My husband is home packing the house for our move to Montana, which earns him a Great Guy Award.

Today I’m posting an excerpt from Catch Me Cowboy — Book 1 of Tule Publishing’s 78th Copper Mountain Rodeo series. For a chance to win a digital copy, leave a comment telling me your favorite thing about western romances. My favorite thing is the challenges rural people face in the course of their everyday lives and how they overcome.

CATCH ME, COWBOY

watt-2016rodeo-300dpi

Shelby O’Connor heard gravel crunch under tires on the opposite side of the barn, but didn’t take her eyes off the horse circling her in the round pen. If she broke focus, so would the young gelding, and now that she’d made a small amount of headway in the respect department, she wasn’t stopping. She gently slapped the coils of rope she held against her thigh and waved a hand to urge the horse to trot faster. A truck door slammed and boots hit the ground.

Please be UPS.

If it wasn’t, she could handle it.

The round pen was set up behind the barn, to keep the horses from being distracted while Shelby worked them, but unfortunately that also kept her from seeing who’d just driven in to the Forty-Six Ranch. Just because she’d gotten a couple of heads up texts early that morning informing her Ty Harding was back in town, it didn’t mean he’d come to see her. Why would he? She’d made her feelings clear as glass when he’d left four years ago. Shelby raised her hand and the gelding flicked an ear and shot a look at her out of one eye as he trotted around the perimeter of the pen, a sign he was starting to focus on her instead of escape. Finally.

She slowly walked up to the horse, extending a hand and waiting until the horse bumped it with his nose. “You did good.”

She rubbed the gelding’s forehead before snapping the lead rope onto the halter and starting toward the gate, her heart thumping just a little harder as she crossed the sandy pen. Moment of reckoning. Who is our mystery guest today? Package delivery guy? Some lost soul looking for the nearly invisible turn-off to the River Road?

Or… Ty.

Her heart slammed against her ribs at the sight of the man who’d once been her whole world, leaning against his truck, the late morning sun behind him, looking every inch the cowboy he was. Dark hair escaped from beneath his Resistol and, even though the brim shaded his face, she could see his features were harder, more sculpted than before. Four years had changed him, but it had not dulled her reaction to him. Part of her wanted to rush into his arms, as she would have done before he’d so easily abandoned her, and another part wanted to smack him. Hard. Fortunately for both of them, the sane part of her prevailed, although it was a battle, and she kept her expression carefully distant as she crossed the drive.

“Shelby.”

“You’re back.”

She spoke on a flat note, as if her heart wasn’t beating a mile a minute— which it shouldn’t be. They’d tried to make a go of it once. Failed. If he was back to make nice so they could live together in the same community…fine. She wasn’t looking forward to it, but, hey…free country and all that.

“I am.” He shifted his weight, hooking a thumb in his belt, a sure sign he wasn’t as certain of himself as he appeared. But even when Ty wasn’t sure of himself, he was a formidable opponent. She knew from the confrontations they’d had when he’d asked her to come with him on the road. As if she could just leave grad school, her grandfather, and go. Right. It would have been easier for him to give up saddle bronc, or to ride only in the Montana Circuit instead of chasing the big titles. But no.

“And…?” Again she tried to sound polite, yet distant, as if he were an acquaintance who’d stopped by for an unknown reason. As if he hadn’t knocked her heart around, but good. He shrugged, those gray-blue eyes of his holding her, causing her to lift her chin as she came closer. Ty was tall for a bronc rider. Long and lean. Cowboy tough. And that had been the problem. He was cowboy tough and cowboy stubborn.

The gelding took a couple sideways steps when she came to a stop and Shelby automatically adjusted the lead, bringing the horse back to where he was supposed to be, standing with his head at her shoulder. She brought her attention back to the man in front of her… the man who wasn’t exactly bursting with explanations.

“Why are you here, Ty?”

“I’m back in Marietta for a while. I wanted to see you.” Direct. To the point. As Ty always was—when he talked about stuff. Good, because she was in no mood for polite games. She wanted him gone before her grandfather realized he was there.

“I see.”

“We have unfinished business, Shelby.”

The laugh burst out of her lips before she could stop it, startling the horse, who danced a few steps before stilling. “The business between us is long finished.”

Good luck! I’ll post the winner on Saturday, September 24th. Stay tuned.

Good To Be Home, Even If I Can’t Charge My Phone

Our houseHey everyone and happy Wednesday! When I got back from the Romance Writers of America National conference one week ago today, I was greeted by a house with no electricity or water, and a slightly stressed out husband. He also had to replace the refrigerator while I was gone. I was kind of getting afraid to answer the phone while I was in San Diego.

I had a book due shortly after returning home, but with no electricity, finishing it proved to be a problem. Fortunately, I had a neighbor whose power sources were still running, so I’d meet him at the end of my driveway on his way home from work, hand off my laptop, he would take it home and charge it and then we’d meet at the end of the driveway when he headed back to work the next morning. I was so glad to have a fifteen hour battery.

Life off the grid can be a challenge, but my power source is up and running again, and I’m writing away. To celebrate, I’m posting an excerpt from my September Harlequin Western Romance (formerly Harlequin American Romance), The Bull Rider’s Homecoming.

My bull rider hero is babysitting the heroine’s twin daughters during an emergency. He’s never been around kids and is learning the ropes as he goes. I hope you enjoy.

“Now what?”

Well, he certainly couldn’t leave the macaroni cooking and go home. “What do you guys…girls…usually do while waiting for supper to cook?”

“We do our schoolwork.”

“Or watch TV.”

“Or play on the computer.”

Or play dolls.”

Katie’s face brightened. “Yeah. You can be the boy dolls!”

“I…”

But Kristen was already on her way out of the room, Katie close behind her. A moment later they came back carrying a box of dolls and small clothing.

Trace pushed the hair back from his forehead. This was foreign territory.

Katie set three fashion dolls in various states of dress on the table then looked up at Trace. “Who do you want to be?”

“Uh…where’s that guy doll you were talking about?”

Kristen dug into the bin and pulled out two identical boy dolls—one wearing striped pajamas and the other wearing jeans and a white shirt with an aluminum foil buckle on his small belt. “This is Tyler and this is Jess. They’re twins. Like us.”

Trace knew Tyler and Jess Hayward, the bull-riding twins. He wondered if they knew they had tiny doppelgangers.

“We don’t have many boy clothes,” Katie said.

“And they don’t fit in the girl jeans, so Tyler has to wear his pajamas.”

“Or his beach shorts.” Katie pulled out a pair of flowered swim trunks.

Trace picked up Tyler. “So, what’s my job?”

“We have to get the horses and then we play rodeo.”

Not what he’d been expecting.

“Uncle Grady got us a bull, too, so Tyler and Jess can ride the bull.”

“In his pajamas?” Trace asked.

“Well, he has to wear something,” Katie remarked in a grown-up tone as she headed out of the room. She reappeared a few minutes later with a crate of horses and sure enough, there was a Brahma bull in with the plastic model horses.

“I’ll get the cans,” Kristen said.

“Cans?”

“For barrel racing,” Katie said as if he was slow on the uptake.

And so Trace got down on the floor and played rodeo with the girls. Tyler did very well riding the bull, but Jess got tossed off and landed in the sink of soapy water with a big splash, much to the girls’ delight.

“Mom never lets us do that.”

“Mom…” He almost said “doesn’t need to know” before he realized that was not a very wise thing to say to two impressionable seven-year-olds. “Mom knows best,” he amended.

He got to his feet and fished Jess out of the sink and left him to dry on the drain rack before sitting back down again. Out of curiosity, he asked, “Do you guys ever play anything but rodeo?”

“Sometimes we play school and sometimes we play going-on-a-date, but mostly we play rodeo.”

“You can go on a date to a rodeo,” Kristen announced. “That’s where Uncle Grady and Lex went on their first date.”

“We went, too!” Katie added.

“That must have been some first date.”

“It was,” Kristen said, suddenly solemn. “Lex got scared and sad because her dad died at a rodeo, but Uncle Grady helped her get not afraid.”

“And now they’re getting married,” Katie interjected.

“We’re flower girls!”

The Bull Rider’s Homecoming is available for pre-order from Amazon. Thanks for stopping by!