Thursday, November 21, 2019

Cowboy Kisses Annual Round-Up

Join the Cowboy Kisses authors Friday, December 6th for their annual Round-Up party. Chat with your favorite author(s), meet new friends, and enter the giveaways. The party is on Facebook and runs from 9 a.m. thru 4:0 p.m. Mountain Time. We hope to see many of you there.

9 am Kristy McCaffrey
9:30 Andrea Downing
10 am Stephanie Berget
10:30 Danni Roan
11 am Jacqui nelson
11:30 Doris McCraw (a.k.a. Angela Raines)
12 pm Kristine Raymond
12:30 Patti Sherry-Crews
1 pm Paty Jager
1:30 Robyn Echols (a.k.a. Zina Abbott)
2 pm Maggie Carpenter
2:30 Rhonda Frankhouser
3 pm Nan O’Berry
3:30 Shanna Hatfield
4 pm Julie Lence
4:30 Close 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


Publication date has not been set, but here is a little taste of my latest, which takes place in Wyoming 1972, from The Wild Rose Press.  Most likely it will be released early 2020!

Vietnam, the pill, upheaval, hippies. Wyoming rancher Cooper Byrnes, deeply attached to the land and his way of life, surprises everyone when he falls for vagabond hippie Cassie Halliday. Fascinated and baffled, he cannot comprehend his attraction—or say the words she wants to hear.

Cassie finds Coop intriguingly different. As she keeps house for him and warms his bed at night, she admits to herself she loves him but she misinterprets Coop's inability to express his feelings.

Parted, each continues to think of the other, but how can either of them reach out to say, "You were 'always on my mind'?" 


He met her sorry stare across the dinette, eggs congealing in the kitchen warmth. Outside was the screech of tires as a car pulled up, followed by the laughter and clatter of a group of people, sliding doors hitting the metal of the cab, shouts of “Cassie, Cassie, where are youuuuuuuu?”
He pushed back from the table at the same time as she and went to the window to look out. He swiveled to look at her, see her reaction. Then, with a gentle hand, he pushed her toward the back door.
“There you are!” Dave’s voice had a note of happy surprise, which faded as he noticed Coop standing nearby. The boy stumbled as he went to her. “We had to ask that shit Ty where this guy lived and got directions here. Are you okay?”
Cassie faced Coop, her bare feet curling in the dirt in front of the ranch house as he stood on the steps and watched, arm up against a pillar, his own socked feet crossed. Part of him wanted his peace and quiet, his solitude back, but he already knew he would miss her, be sorry to see her go.
She turned back to Dave. “Of course I’m okay. I’m just—”
“Well, get your shoes or whatever and we’ll go off. We should get to Salt Lake City this afternoon and stop there before heading west again.”
“She doesn’t want to go with you.” He heard the reluctance in her voice, came down the steps, and stood in front of Dave, challenging. “She’s changed her mind.”
Cassie pivoted to glance at Coop. Surprise mixed with uncertainty faded as a small smile turned up her lips. For a moment, the others were silent, standing there, stupefied. “I…” she began again. “I’m staying here.” She felt bolder, more self-assured.
“You must be joking.” Dave’s shifty glance skimmed from one to the other. “Cassie?”
Needing reassurance, she turned to look at Coop, then turned back to Dave. “I’m fed up with traveling in that bus and I like it here. In Jackson.”
“She’s staying here,” Coop said. “At least for now.”
Perturbed at this news, the other two friends started to turn back toward the bus. Steve drew out a satchel, then scribbled something on a piece of paper before handing both to her. He nodded before he disappeared into the confines of the van.
Dave stood there gawping. “You’re gonna stay here? With this guy? On a ranch? You’re not coming to Frisco?”
She glanced back at Coop for confirmation.
He stayed stock still.
She turned again to Dave. “Yes, that’s right. I’m staying here with Coop on his ranch. I’ll follow along when I’m ready.”
“How you gonna do that? You haven’t any money.”
“I have money. At least some left. When I’m ready I’ll come. It’ll be fine. Honest, Dave. I’ll be along shortly. I’ll hitch.”
Dave’s face folded into a picture of doubtfulness. “I guess it’s your choice, Cassie.” He eyed Coop, then turned back to her. “Just be careful, Cass. Don’t fall for this jerk. He has no real interest in you.”
She stood next to Coop, doubt and insecurity filling her like water flowing into a jug. The VW bus pulled out, friends waving, and she knew she was on her own.
“Now what?” Her voice was just a whisper. “Now what?”

© 2019 by Andrea Downing
Cover Art by Kim Mendoza

Friday, November 15, 2019

There's gold in them thar hills ~ by Kristine Raymond

I think the reason I fell in love with aspens is because I've always adored birch trees.  Now, to be clear, they are two different species.  Birch belongs to the genus Betula whereas the numerous varieties of aspen fall into the genus Populus.  Sounds like a spell taught at Hogwarts, doesn't it?  But their similarities, rather than their differences, are what captivated me when I moved from the New England, where birch trees are plentiful, to the mountains of Arizona, where stands of aspens dot the landscape.

Copyright©Depositphotos  Aspen trees
Copyright©Depositphotos  Birch trees

As a kid, my family vacationed in New Hampshire, on eight acres up in the mountains.  Aside from a well-hidden path just wide enough for our station wagon to travel and a small clearing on which to pitch our tents, the rest of the property was covered in trees.  Pines, oaks, maples, and...yes, birch.  I loved peeling the bark from the trunk and rubbing my fingers across the velvety texture on the underside.  And, lest you think I ran around harming innocent trees, one of the characteristics of paper birch - the variety that grew on our land - is bark that peels off in sheets. 
Copyright©Depositphotos  Paper birch bark
In autumn, the leaves turn golden yellow and flutter in the wind, an enchanting sight to a kid with a huge imagination.

When I decided to make my move out west, it was a photo in Country magazine that clinched my choice of destination.  An aspen grove on Mt. Elden; thousands of golden leaves rippling in the afternoon sunlight.  I may have been leaving everything I knew behind, but those gorgeous trees, in their resemblance to birch, helped ease the transition.

Did you know that aspens grow in clonal colonies, spreading by means of root suckers born of a single seedling?  Each individual tree can live upwards of 150 years but the root system underground is thousands of years old.  One such colony in Utah, given the nickname of "Pando", is estimated to be 80,000 years old (from Wikipedia.)  Did you know that forest fires, as devastating as they are, encourage the growth of new aspen trees?  Nature is remarkable in her ways of healing herself.

On an unseasonably cold day in June of 1993, my husband and I stood amidst a grove of aspens and exchanged our wedding vows, their verdant leaves fluttering non-stop in the blustery breeze; the sound akin to thousands of tiny hands applauding our commitment to one another.  It was the same grove where my beloved brought me on our second date two years earlier, introducing me to the beauty of aspens up close as, until that day, I'd only viewed them from a distance.  Imagine my delight at discovering trunks as snowy-white as the trees from my youth and pendulous flowering catkins like those of the birches back home.  They were different, yet so similar; closing my eyes I was transported back to New Hampshire, camping in the woods with my family.

I'd be hard-pressed to choose a favorite between the two - the sturdy birch, its paper-like bark sparking hours of imaginative play in a young child (that'd be me), or the resplendent aspen, setting the mountains aglow each autumn in shimmering gold. 

Copyright©Depositphotos  Aspens in autumn

Come to think of it, aspens did provide quite a picturesque backdrop for a newly-married couple (also me.)  Sorry, birch; as much as I love you, aspen trees will forever have my heart!


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Helpful Spirits by Rhonda Frankhouser

When I was, maybe five or six years old, I often awoke to an ethereal image of a Shaman wavering at the foot of my bed. Oddly, I found his presence quite soothing, even though he was a stranger to me. His expression was neither threatening nor friendly, but I knew he meant me no harm. He was older and slightly slumped over, with light brown skin marked with white stripes and wise, piercing eyes that could almost speak. His cloth-wrapped braids laid in front of his shoulders and a hollowed out deer's skull, with pelt intact, perched atop of his head. The deerskin smock he wore was fringed down the sleeves and covered in bright azure and orange beads. With a satchel slung on one hip, and a sheathed hunting knife on the other, his gnarled hand clutched a walking stick carved into the shape of a snake.
Image Copyright - Yokut Shaman
Most of the time he just shimmered in place, but now and again, he would glide slowly toward the head of the bed so close I could almost touch him. He acted like he wanted to say something, but his lips never moved. I was entranced, nervous, not understanding what purpose he may have in visiting me, but I wasn't afraid. There was an enticing energy around him, a feeling of security that I couldn't comprehend at the time. As I grew older, the image of this majestic figure became my symbol of a higher power. My version of spirituality, if you will.

When I told my family members about the Shaman visiting me in the night, they shrugged it off as a child's imagination. So, after a time, when I couldn't make logical sense of these visions, the door to that alternate reality shut forever. Once tainted by skepticism, I was never again visited by the Shaman.

It wasn't until I mentioned the visitations to a professor some fifteen years later, did I discover that I'd been one of the blessed ones. He reassured me I was most likely being visited by my 'Spirit Helper' and quite possibly, he was there to guide me through some sort of spiritual awakening. If only my family had encouraged me rather than denounce the possibilities, I might have learned more.

This sparked a decade long personal research project into the indigenous tribes in the Kern County area. I was ravenous for more information. Maybe my house really was built over an Indian burial ground? Maybe there had been some sort of uprising in the days the Tulamni Yokuts inhabited the land where our home was built? Maybe this Shaman was trying to tell me something important and I blew it?

Yokut Woman Basket Weaving
Thousands of years ago, the Tulamni Yokuts inhabited the land where my hometown now sits. Back then the area was more marsh than desert, so it was able to sustain a thriving society of nearly 50,000. These original inhabitants were the first to capitalize on the underground store of thick petroleum found all throughout the San Joaquin Valley. By heating the glue-like substance, they were able to secure arrows and shafts together, as well as bind soap root fibers with acorn meal brushes. They hunted, fished and gathered everything they needed in baskets made from the abundant Tule reeds, waterproofed with the asphaltum created by the very same petroleum substance. 

As fascinating as the history was, I only found one small, but significant link between the Yokuts and the Shaman in my dreams. The snake carving on the walking stick. The rattlesnake was revered and often used in ceremonies by the Tulamni shamans to ward off evil spirits. I realize it's a reach to believe my vision was the spirit of an actual shaman, but that's how I'll always choose to remember it. The impression left on my soul is so embedded, I often include the rich, haunting history of Native American tradition in my novels.
Image Copyright - Basket with Snake Depiction
Thanks for letting me tell my story. I'd love to hear if you've had a similar experience. 

About the Author:
After fourteen years in hospice care management in central California, Rhonda Frankhouser now writes full time from her lovely Atlanta, Georgia home. Rhonda's award-winning Ruby's Ranch Series, earned a finalist honor in the Uncaged Review Raven Awards; a second runner up in the prestigious InD'Tale Magazine RONE awards and a Book and Benches, Reviewers Top Pic ~ Books of Distinction award. Her follow up Shadowing Souls Series and Let Yourself Believe Series, have captured the attention of both romance and mainstream readers alike. Rhonda is a happily married stepmom to three beautiful daughters; two adorable pugs and a lazy Labrador named Dutch.
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Why talk about names you may ask? I confess I've always been fascinated by names, there meaning and how they may be perceived. It was brought home to me again after a conversation with a friend. She indicated she loved stories where the names fit the character. That started me thinking. Did I consciously or unconsciously choose my character names?

First a bit of background. My own choice of the pen name, Angela Raines. Angela comes from the Greek word Angelos meaning messenger of God. Now, I am not a messenger of the deity, but the idea of being a messenger fits into that of a writer. The surname Raines is easier to explain.

From the Doomsday Book, the name Raines, from old English, meant shelter among others. However, the name is also that of a Western Author who lived in Colorado Springs by the name of William MacLeod Raine. I could have chosen one of many authors who at one time or another made this town their home. Helen (Hunt) Jackson, Robert E. Heinlein, Frank Maynard among the options, but Raine seemed the most appropriate. (Although I do write the occasional Medieval story for a change of pace.)

So where do I get the names for my characters? First, I try to find historic names that fit the time I'm writing about. In the latest novel, "The Outlaw's Letter" my heroine is Harriett 'Hetty' Osgood and my hero Grant Davis.

I came up with Harriett from research on Joe Ward, an outlaw here in Colorado. Harriett was his wife. While she did not fare well in the papers, she was thought to be a rough woman, I wanted to give her a better story. (And I believe she might have had some redeeming qualities.) The name itself comes from the French and means rules her household. Now Hetty is a name that seemed to fit my character. It is also one of the nicknames for Harriett. Harriett's surname Osgood comes from Norse, Danish and Swedish with Os meaning God and Good meaning good. Since Hetty is basically a fiercely independent woman who loves the classics the name just seemed to fit.

Bouvier - Jefferson Davis home
Grant Davis came from U.S. Grant and Jefferson Davis.  The name Grant itself means great/tall. Appropriate for my hero. The name Davis means beloved. Grant is both those and also part of his namesakes. Ulysses S. Grant was an amazing general/hero who had his ups and downs in life. Jefferson Davis was a man who before the war had a great career, who hit is height as the president of the Confederacy and then became a wanted man. My hero embodied both men. He could deal with challenges like Grant but was also a lover of history like Davis, who had been on the board for the creation of the Smithsonian.

So there you have it. It is a bit long, but a lot of thought goes into finding the right name for the right character.

Below is a short excerpt of the Grant and Hetty in action:

     One moment Grant was standing over a prone body, the next found him clawing at his eyes trying to get the dirt out of them.
    "What the…?" he growled, shaking his head as he heard footsteps rushing toward him. Through blurry eyes, he saw someone with a raised hand rushing toward him. He barely had time to duck as a hand holding a rock rushed by his head. As the assailant ran past, Grant put out an arm, grabbing the person around the waist. He felt, rather than saw, an arm swing back. He barely avoided being hit again. Instead, the blow landed on his left shoulder. With an effort, Grant maintained his hold, but just barely.
    "Stop fighting and behave," Grant told his assailant, "I'm trying to help you."
     "By turning me over to Conover Boggs?" Hetty spat out, forgetting to lower her voice in her agitation.
     "Not if I can help it," Grant replied. He strengthened his grip as he heard the sound of horses coming their way.
     "Then," Hetty began, only to have a hand cover her mouth before she could say any more.
     Out of the darkness, the approaching horses halted close by. One moved closer just as the moon decided to make an appearance.
     "Well, Grant, see you caught the boy. Nice work," Con said, grinning as he stepped off his horse.  "Now young man," Con continued, moving toward the two.

     Grant felt Hetty tense. Hoping his instincts were correct, he stopped Boggs with his next words. With his hand still over Hetty's mouth, he interrupted, "Slight mistake there, Con, this is my wife."

Amazon ebook
Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Wild Woman Opera Composer and Alaskan Prospector

By Jacqui Nelson

Last month my Wild Women of the West blog post was about opera singer Dame Emma Albani. This month my ongoing research into 19th-century musicians for my Songbird Junction Series led me to an opera composer and conductor whose name was also Emma.

Meet Emma Roberto Steiner who, despite many hardships, earned a living from composing and conducting but also took a decade-long break from her New York career to become an Alaskan prospector.

Emma Roberto Steiner  

born 1856 in Baltimore, Maryland ) 

Emma's father, Colonel Frederick Steiner, was a Mexican-War hero and her mother was an accomplished pianist. Emma composed her first songs at age 7, a piano duet at age 9, and an opera at age 11.

In the 1870s, she struck out on her own, moving to Chicago to become the assistant music director at a small opera company and then a conductor for several touring "light opera" companies that performed Gilbert and Sullivan and other comic operas.

In 1889 and 1891, her opera Fleurette was performed and received good reviews. In 1893, another of her compositions was performed at the Chicago World's Columbian Exhibition. The following year, she conducted a performance of her own works with the esteemed Anton Seidl Orchestra in New York City. Despite having pneumonia in 1896, she continued to conduct, compose, and perform.

However, at the turn of the century, Emma was challenged by a series of setbacks that changed the direction of her life.

In 1902, a New York warehouse fire destroyed many of her works, including the only remaining copy of her first opera. Then she suffered a severe illness that affected her eyesight. In 1909, she had to file a lawsuit after the death of her father who had remarried after her mother's death and written Emma out of his will in preference to his stepdaughter.

Emma decided to leave her music career and move to Nome, Alaska to become a prospector in the tin mining fields. She was one of the first white women to arrive and spent a decade in Alaska prospecting, traveling, and becoming an advocate for the state.

Nome, Alaska - 1900

When she finally left, it was to go back to music. She composed and performed throughout the 1920s. In 1925, the Metropolitan Opera held a special performance of her works. This was the last time a woman would conduct there until 1976.

She helped found a home for elderly and infirm musicians and dedicated the proceeds of some of her later concerts to the charity. When she died in 1929, the New York Times wrote in her obituary that the stress of running the home brought on the collapse that ended her life.

Emma was one of the first women in the United States to earn a living from conducting. She conducted more than 6,000 performances of operas, operettas, and other works including many of her own. She wrote seven operas and hundreds of musical pieces.

~ * ~

Want to read about another 19th-century Wild Women singer/musician – a fictional one inspired and shaped by the real-life Emma Roberto Steiner and Emma Albani? 

Click here to meet Lark, my singer/musician heroine in A Bride for Brynmor, book 1 in my Songbird Junction Series.

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Don't forget to download my FREE story Rescuing Raven (Raven & Charlie's story in Deadwood 1876) 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Interview with Rachael Weston from Bring Me Luck By: Julie Lence

Hello Cowboy Kisses and thank you for having me as your guest. For those who don’t know me, I’m Rachael Weston from Bring Me Luck. The photo to the left is a good likeness of me (or rather, how Julie sees me.) By no means am I a beauty. Even in my younger days, men didn’t crowd around me vying for my attention. Now that I think about that, my father and brothers may have had something to do with that. Being the only girl, they were overly protective and didn’t cotton to anyone paying me more than an ounce of interest. There was one man, though, who didn’t concern himself with my family.  To this day, more than twenty years later, he still sets my heart aflutter. But enough about him. I told Julie I’d answer her questions about me. Jess will have to wait his turn.      

Where are you from? Coyote, Colorado

How old are you? 40ish

How do you dress? Not in anything fancy. I wear simple, yet comfortable, dresses, skirts and shirts. And sturdy boots. I live on a ranch and cooking and cleaning is best done while wearing gingham or cotton in the summer and wool in the winter. I fashion my hair in a bun or a braid and usually have an apron tied around my waist.

What is your family like? My birth family consists of Ma and Pa, my older brother Lucas, my younger brother Creel, and my twin brother Royce. Lucas, Royce, and Creel could each be married with families of their own, and Ma and Pa could be enjoying their final years; I don’t know for sure. I haven’t seen them in 2 decades.
   My adoptive family consists of my stepson Stephen and ranch hands Blue and Vincent-Bodean. Stephen’s pa took me in when I desperately needed help. Stephen was just a tyke then and motherless, and Blue was already a staple at the ranch. Shortly after I recovered, Stephen’s pa died. Stephen and I formed a mother-son bond, and along with Blue and Vincent-Bodean, we’re family.  

Can you keep a secret? Yes. I’ve kept one for twenty years.

If you could make any 1 thing happen, what would it be? I would go back in time 20 years and face the consequences of my actions rather than run away. I wasn’t raised to be a coward… to disrespect my parents… to shun my responsibilities. But Ma was more than difficult back then. And Pa was too distracted by her antics to confide my troubles. Jess was nowhere to be found and my brothers… they hated Jess and his family. Probably still do. But then, if I had stayed in Coyote, what would’ve become of Stephen after his pa passed? Blue couldn’t have raised him. He knew next to nothing about caring for a toddler. He still doesn’t. But he would’ve protected Stephen with his life.

If someone from your past showed up, who would you most want it to be, and why?  Pa. He’s the wisest man I know. I’m almost certain were I to confide my past to him, he would take away my heartache and replace it with something good, with something warm and worth cherishing. And with little more effort than a father’s hug.   
If someone from your past showed up, who would you most NOT want it to be, and why? That would be a toss up between Ma and Jess. Born and raised in Boston, Ma hailed from a wealthy, prominent family. She had certain rules and conduct she expected my brothers and me to follow and was quick to chastise and point out our faults when we didn’t. Twenty years ago, she never would’ve forgiven my indiscretions or the gossip that was sure to follow had I stayed in Coyote. Today wouldn’t be any different.
   My indiscretions have to do with Jess. So does my running away. If he were to learn what my fleeing cost him, he would hate me more than I already hate myself, and that is something I cannot endure.
Speaking of Jess, what did you think of him the first time you met him? I can’t really say for sure. His family’s ranch and my family’s ranch border each other. We grew up together, attended school together, but rarely spoke to each other. He was more interested in fighting with my brothers and I was more interested in helping ma or visiting my friends. It wasn’t until we were older that we took an interest in each other, and snuck off to his pa’s lineshack almost daily. I fell in love with him, believed he loved me, too, and cried endlessly when I discovered he didn’t. The only thing Jess loved was a Jansen triumphing over a Weston. To this day, I ache with that truth, and from the loss of something that should’ve been.   
What is the best advice someone gave you? Trust in the Lord. When one door closes, he’ll open another. I believe he did just that when he gave me Stephen.
Thank you for joining me today. I leave you with an excerpt from Bring Me Luck, which can be purchased here:     

I severed our relationship!” Jess kicked aside the quilts and lunged to his feet. “You ran out on me.
Anger sprang into her eyes. “I did not. You shunned me on the boardwalk and then you ceased all contact with me.”
“The hell I did.”
“Oh?” She fisted her hands on her hips. “You didn’t shun me?”
Heat crept up his neck, spread to his cheeks. “That I did do, because I didn’t have a choice. Carl was with me. You and I had agreed to not give our families reason to suspect we favored each other until we were ready to tell them.”
“I would’ve accepted your explanation, except…” Her brow furrowed. “What are you doing on your feet? Lie back down before you do more damage to your back.”
“My back’s fine.”
Her gaze rapidly filled with damnation. “You lied about your health?”
“How the hell else was I going to convince you to let me stay?” he groused. “And don’t change the subject. Finish what you were going to say.”
“You know the rest.” She pivoted on her heel and strode toward the kitchen.
“You’re not getting away this time.” He went after her, gently grasped her arm and turned her to face him. “I’ve waited twenty-two years to hear your side of the matter. I’m not waiting any longer. Spill it.”
“My, my, what a tyrant you’ve become.”
Jess rolled his eyes. “I’ve been called worse. Now talk.”
“I’m sure you have.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste before pulling free from his grasp. “I saw Alexandra and Cynthia at the dress shop before I saw you and Carl. Alexandra told Cynthia you didn’t favor relations of any kind. I didn’t believe her, but then, you shunned me and stopped meeting me.” She squared her shoulders. “I waited for you, but you never came.”
I came,” he spat. “You were nowhere to be found.”
“You’re a liar! I was at your pa’s lineshack every day for a week.” Her gaze narrowed. “Where were you?”
For a week? What the hell for? Everyone knew Carl and I were in the calaboose.”
“You were not. I would’ve known if Sheriff Crumb had locked you in his jail cell. The gossips would’ve talked about nothing else the whole time you were there.”
“I wasn’t in the Coyote jail. I was in the Pueblo jail.”
At the stunned expression on her face, his blood turned cold. Brawling with his brother. Shattered glass. Ten days of miserable hell. He’d always assumed she’d known. Pa had said everyone knew. But she hadn’t, and he swallowed hard, felt the regret for what should have been burn his gut. “I didn’t abandon you,” he said quietly before taking her hand and leading her to the table. “Sit. Let me explain.”