Friday, January 18, 2019

Cowboys, Rebels and Rogues

Hi, all!

I’m thrilled to be part of the Cowboy Kisses Blog! 

Since this is my first post, I thought I’d introduce myself. I'm Mina Beckett and I write kissing books about cowboys, rebels and rogues that range in heat levels from sweet to spicy hot. 

My husband and I live on a small farm in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains along with our two sons and three grandchildren. Fun facts about me: I’m a Capricorn.  I like getting my hands dirty. I traded my high-heels for work boots three years ago when I left my day job to work on the farm and pursue my writing. My dogs have nicknames. I can operate a skid steer and my number one rule about rescuing animals is if I name them, they stay on the farm. 

I’m always writing, if not on a computer, then on my iPhone. But I’m not an author who can sit down and write three-thousand words without leaving my desk. I have a short attention span and I get bored easily. I'm more productive when I weave other activities into my word count. I usually write a page or two and then sketch, paint or sculpt. Sometimes I cook in between chapters, especially in the summer when there are veggies to preserve. 

When I'm not working on a book, I'm out and about taking pictures and posting them on Instagram. I have three miniature horses and six dogs that also keep me busy. I enjoy sewing, baking (maybe a little too much) and working in my tea and vegetable gardens.

I started my writing career in 2012 when I submitted to a small press publisher because my husband convinced me I could write. I cried when I received an email from the acquiring editor saying they wanted to publish my story. I released my first historical romance that year while working full-time and completing my master’s degree. In 2013 I released my second book and walked across the platform to claim my diploma. I was all set to enroll in a doctorate program the following year but chose to turn my attention towards writing. I spent the next three years writing, submitting to contests and learning the craft. 

While at the 2016 RWA conference, I attended a workshop with Liz Maverick on creating a series proposal.  I wrote one for my Coldiron Cowboys series and began submitting it to agents.  2017 was one of the most stressful and exciting times in my writing career. I signed with a literary agency in September and we started pitching The Heartbreak Cowboy a month later. The book and proposal went through numerous edits and rewrites. One editor suggested I rewrite my cowboys as werewolves. I still chuckle about that. One by one, the rejections came in and my agent wanted me to submit to a smaller publisher. I refused.  By September of 2018, I had parted ways with my agent and was on my own.

My announcement to go indie was made on my Facebook page: "After receiving yet another rejection email from my agent this morning, I called an emergency meeting with my characters to inform them that drinking, smoking, and swearing would no longer be allowed. One-night stands, secret babies and ex-wives would also be eliminated, and that we would be following one troupe per story. As you can imagine, they weren’t pleased. But after they settled down, I explained that if we wanted to be on a bestseller list, we had to conform. Two of them flipped me the bird. One bearded fellow with a very flat Kentucky accent gave me crude directions as to where I could shove my stories. Three cowboys walked out and two of my leading ladies swore they were never speaking to me again. The rest are at the bar. I don’t think traditional publishing is for us. But hopefully, someone out there will want to read about this rebellious crew. Now, I’m off to write my indie book goals."

It was my humorous way of dealing with all those rejections and feedback. I don't regret anything about the experience. I had a great agent, made wonderful friends and learned a lot about writing and the industry.  And I have never regretted my decision to go indie. I love the freedom of writing what I want when I want to. I love having control over my blurbs, covers, content, and marketing. 

The Heartbreak Cowboy is the first full-length book in my Coldiron Cowboys series. McCrea and Eleanor fell in love years ago, but because of fear and circumstances chose to walk away after one night together. The story introduces McCrea to a daughter he never knew existed. It forces him and Eleanor to overcome the mistakes of their past and mend fences for the sake of their daughter. 

First loves can be so influential in our lives. They hold a special place in our heart that is always reserved for that person, that time, that place...When hurt is tied to it, moving on can be hard so I knew writing a second chance romance was going to be challenging. There needed to be a special ingredient added to the story and Sophie (their four-year-old daughter) was it. Children have a way of bringing out the best and worst in us. Their honesty, sincerity and innocent view of the world can help us find clarity in the muddiest situations. Sophie did that for McCrea and Eleanor. She let them see their love for each other in its truest form ─ her. There was also a fun side to writing Sophie because when children are involved, the conversations are always fun and surprising. The pancake scene is one of my favorites. 

The Cowboy’s Goodnight Kiss is a prequel to this book and was written so readers could experience the backstory of what happened between McCrea and Eleanor four years earlier.  It’s a free download on my website but doesn’t have to be read before The Heartbreak Cowboy. It’s my gift to readers. The books have received great reviews and I’m looking forward to releasing the second book, The Fallen Cowboy in March.

I’ll be blogging again on February 15th about my impressionable teenage years spent in West Texas, the sons of roughnecks and the history of oil boomtowns. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Excerpt Sunday on Facebook

The Cowboy Kisses authors invite you to hop on over to Facebook for Excerpt Sunday. What is excerpt Sunday? Each Sunday 2 Cowboy Kisses authors will post a short excerpt from one of their books to the Cowboy Kisses Facebook page. Look for either of these banners and enjoy.  Julie   

Here is the link to our group page: 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Art of Native America at The Met

I recently had the pleasure of visiting The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to see their exhibition, The Art of Native America. These pieces came from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection, believed to be the largest collection of native art in private hands. On exhibit (through Oct. 6, 2019, if you get to NYC) were 113 items ranging from the second to the early twentieth century, and covering some fifty cultures from North America—from basically what is now the USA and Canada. For the purposes of the exhibition, the works were divided into seven areas of these countries, not states.  As much as I would have liked to, I obviously could not photograph the entire exhibition so have made what I felt were representative selections of each of the areas, plus a couple extra. Photographing exhibits is rather difficult due to the presence of other visitors, light, and showcasing, so I hope you’ll forgive the poor quality here.
The exhibition began with a series of quotes from prominent Native Americans working in museums, universities, and other art institutions. I’ll share two quotes here:  “Native history and American history are inseparable.  It is a rich history, as inspiring as it is terrible, and it belongs to all of us.” (Kevin Gover—Pawnee, Director, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.); “To engage Native art is to reconsider the meanings of America” (Ned Blackhawk—Western Shoshone, Professor of History and American Studies, Yale)
1. The Woodlands area covered most of the east coast of the USA and Canada. As with all native cultures, their religious beliefs were intrinsic to their art.  By the sixteenth century, trade with Euro-Americans expanded their works to include items such as glass beads and wool. Eventually forced by the US government to remove to other locales, they maintained their identity and culture.
Shoulder bag and moccasins--Muscogee (Creek)--ca.1830--SE, poss. GA or AL, wool, silk,  glass beads

2. The Plateau seemed to be a catch-all area meeting the plains and southwest, but also inclusive of part of the northwest.  Their art was expressed in useful items such as bowls and tools, and despite their interaction with Plains Indians they maintained a distinct style.  As European migration increased after the 1830s, nations such as the Nez Perce were squeezed into smaller areas.
Blanket strip--Nation or tribe unknown--ca. 1850--ID, OR or WA--bison, glass beads, horsehair, porcupine quills, dyed wool, brass bells

3. Southwest includes several cultural groups with distinct styles. Spanish colonization in the sixteenth century incited wars, and the arrival of Euro- Americans forced these peoples onto reservations in the late 1800s. Disease also took its toll. However, their inherent respect for the land, animals, and each other helped them adapt to the new American culture.
Quiver and arrows--Apache--ca.1875--AZ or NM--quiver:  leather, glass beads, and pigment; arrows:  cane, wood, pitch, stone, sinew, feathers

4. Plains Indians led a nomadic life in pursuit of the buffalo, prompting the decoration of their transportable belongings.  The loss of the buffalo in the late 1870s destroyed their lifestyle, and the ensuing domination by the US attempted to eliminate their culture, but reservation life brought new arts such as ledger art, as well as intertribal celebrations.
Boy's jacket--Crow--ca.1880--MT--native-tanned leather, glass beads, cotton cloth, commercial buttons

Cradleboards--(1) Ute (2)Kiowa--(1)1890 (2)1875--(1)CO (2)OK--wood, leather, pigment, glass beads, wool, metal cones, feathers, bone, rawhide, cotton cloth, brass tacks and link chain 

5. California and Great Basin have one of the greatest basketry traditions, which met with the interest of collectors and ethnologists. Prior to that, however, from around 1769, these Native Americans faced waves of Euro-Americans who subjected them to forced labor and violence, and whose livestock decimated their materials for basket weaving. Today their work has a new aesthetic and refinement.
Gift baskets--(1 & 3) Pomo, (2) Wappo or Coast Miwok--ca. (1)1910,(2)1890, (3)1880--CA--willow shoots, sedge root, bulrush roots, glass beads, clamshell beads, glass beads, quail feathers, abalone shells (1) is attributed to Belle Hildreth Variel (1881-1952); (2) att. Mary Mono

6. Northwest Coast artwork is marked by abstract pictorial images and curvilinear lines.  Interaction with non-native peoples in the late seventeenth century brought both benefits from trade and challenges such as disease and violence. From the mid- to late-eighteenth century, pressures from Euro-American settlements increased.
Women's ceremonial combs--Tlingit--ca.1840-1880--AK--wood

High-ranking man's ceremonial tunic & leggings--Chilkat/Tlingit--ca.1890--AK--cedar bark, mountain sheep, dye

7. Arctic peoples faced a Russian invasion in 1741, followed by French, Spanish and British.  These colonists brought disease and alterations to the life of the Native Americans, but despite this, their arts have survived. They express a cultural view that spiritual and human worlds are connected and interact, and this is evident in the sculptures and imagery of these peoples.
Mask--Yup'ik--ca.1900--AK--wood, pigment, vegetal fiber, iron nails, feathers

One can see that later works include more trade items, such as with the boy’s jacket’s buttons.  However, to me, the most moving piece in the exhibition was this tipi bag, made during the early reservation period. The US government had outlawed the Lakota’s annual Sundance and replaced it with July Fourth celebrations. Earlier artworks of the same nature had their traditional motifs replaced with both the flag and the Great Seal of the United States.
Tipi Bag--Lakota/Teton Sioux--ca. 1890--ND or SD--native-tanned leather, glass beads, metal cones, horsehair, dye

For more information on this exhibition, go to  If you hit ‘Exhibition Objects’ there are more photos of the items displayed as well.
And while in NYC—or anyplace else for that matter—why not make your reading Dances of the Heart, which will give you a small taste of life in the Big Apple. Available at  and other fine booksellers.

Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancé.
Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name.
On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Teacher's Task


I have been an English teacher for more than fifteen years and when I was asked to write about a teacher going west to become a mail-order bride, I jumped at the chance. Teaching has changed significantly over the years, but one component stays the same: a truly dedicated teacher has an impact on their students.

In preparation for writing the twenty-third book in the Alphabet Mail-Order Brides, I took a look back at what teaching might have looked like in the wild west. Did teachers face the same discipline problems they do today? Was it harder keeping students on task or making sure they finished homework?

Early American schools were not schools as we think of them today, but primarily religious or specialize schools provided by churches to teach children and others to read the Bible and understand the rules for living. Few students had a higher education unless home taught.

In the 1830s, education fundamentally shifted when Common Schools, or schools provided in each community to all children regardless of religion, were founded. "In the late 1830s, the reformer Horace Mann of Massachusetts proposed a system of free, universal and non-sectarian schooling. Each district would provide a school for all children, regardless of religion or social class (hence the term Common School)." (Only a Teacher PBS)

With the inception of Common Schools, a need for more and better teachers became evident and as men continued to choose better-paying professions, it became apparent that women would be well-suited to fit the bill. In the 1840s the "feminization of education" began. As one town leader put it, "God seems to have made woman peculiarly suited to guide and develop the infant mind, and it seems...very poor policy to pay a man 20 or 22 dollars a month, for teaching children the ABCs, when a female could do the work more successfully at one third of the price." -- Littleton School Committee, Littleton, Massachusetts, 1849. (Only a Teacher PBS)

Despite the disparity in wages, women did indeed take to the teaching profession. Not only was it a way for single women to make a meager living of their own, but it was also a profession of the highest repute, something that was often difficult for a single woman to find.  Before the onset of Common schools, Dame Schools or home schools, similar to modern Day Care, were available. The history of these schools helped to promote the acceptance of women as teachers. However, the issue of the teachers themselves being educated had to be addressed.

In 1839 the first "Normal School" was established in Massachusets. Normal Schools were schools that were designed to give a standard or normal level of education to all educators, ensuring that they would be able to then provide a more complete education beyond the basic grammar school teaching that was most common at the time. Recognizing the need to have better-qualified teachers, states began implementing educational studies in colleges and universities, making the Normal School obsolete. Soon trained and qualified teachers were taking up their roles in school across the United States.

Fruitia Utah 1896
Throughout the mid to late 1800s, women continued to flock to the field of education. Many welcomed the independence even the meager wage allowed, while others believed that they would teach for a short time until starting their own families.

For much of our country's history, school was attended in a one-room schoolhouse throughout rural America. Teachers had to be 'with it' at all times and be willing to show older students how to help younger ones. Differentiation wasn't a word or catchphrase. It was a daily system of getting everything done. Students would often leave school early in the year or arrive late because they were needed to work in the fields with their family at harvest or planting time. Needs were myriad, but through dedication and discipline students were able to learn and prosper. Perhaps early schools didn't have all of the modern bells and whistles that we depend on so much today, but they had a sense of community and respect that is often forgotten in our fast-paced world which leaves so many children behind.

Education has changed over the years as science and technology has added to the needs of learners, but the basic concept is the same. A highly trained, highly effective teacher will reach not only the minds of their students but the hearts. In our modern world, we need to find more faith in our teachers, more trust in the ability to for all to learn.

In Wendi's Wish, available for pre-order now, a young woman must accept an offer of marriage from a stranger to continue the work she loves. Wendi's story is book number twenty-three in the Alphabet Mail-Order Brides series and gave a voice to much of what was in my heart as a teacher and educator. Teaching is one of the hardest professions on this earth. It is rewarding, trying, and often heart-wrenching. Although I have stepped away from teaching to pursue my love of writing, my heart will forever be with "My Kids," those students I invested my very soul into.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Wild Women Novelists who Achieved Historic Firsts

Historic Firsts for Wild Women Novelists

Life is an adventure to write about. Here are three Wild Women Writers who wrote about their lives (and the world that challenged them) and created a first novel that was historic...

Margaret Jewett Smith Bailey 

( born around 1812 in Saugus, Massachusetts ) 

In 1854 (writing as Ruth Rover), Margaret published The Grains, or, Passages in the Life of Ruth Rover, with Occasional Pictures of Oregon, Natural and Moral. Part autobiography, religious testimonial, and history and travelogue—The Grains is also considered a novel and thought to be the first published in Oregon

Margaret wrote The Grains as a social protest criticizing her husband (who she divorced due to his drinking and abuse) and Oregon’s Methodist Mission (for its failures including discriminating against women and pressuring her to marry).

In 1846, she became the first local poet to be published west of the Rocky Mountains when her poem Love appeared in the first issue of the Oregon Spectator newspaper.

In addition to being a novelist, Margaret was a teacher, a missionary (traveling to Oregon to join its Methodist Mission in 1837) and a regular contributor of prose and poetry to the Oregon Spectator.

Sophia Alice Callahan

( born 1868 in Sulphur Springs, Texas )

In 1891 (at the age of 23) Sophia published Wynema, A Child of the Forest which is thought to be the first novel written by a Native American woman and the first novel written in Oklahoma (then Indian Territory).

After being shocked by the Massacre at Wounded Knee (which took place six months before she published her book), she added an account of that event and the 1890 Ghost Dance of the Lakota to her novel.

In addition to being a novelist, Sophia was a teacher. Her father (a one-eighth Muscogee-Creek) was also a teacher. Three years after publishing her first novel, she died of pleurisy at the age of 26.

Lydia Maria Francis Child

( born 1802 in Medford, Massachusetts )

In 1824 (at the age of 22) Lydia wrote (in six weeks) her first novel Hobomok, A Tale of Early Times and became an overnight celebrity. Hobomok is thought to be the first New England historical novel.

Although she wrote continually (fiction and nonfiction in poems, journals, periodicals, essays and pamphlets) she had a period where she didn’t publish a novel for ten years.

She wrote one of the earliest American historical novels, the first comprehensive history of American slavery, and the first comparative history of women. She shocked her audience by including the issues of male dominance and white supremacy.

In addition to being a novelist, Lydia was an abolitionist, women and Native American rights activist, and a journalist.

~ * ~

I haven't written a story about a Wild Woman novelist but...after reading about these ladies I feel inspired to. So many stories, and not enough time to write them all! 

Do you have a favorite story about a 19th-century novelist? 

~ * ~

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Is Western History affected by the Telephone Game?

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I truly hated doing research in college. Hours in a dusty library (remember those), looking for answers to someone else's boring questions. Very rarely did I happen on to anything that awakened my imagination. Yet I fumbled forward through bone dry historical texts, praying something poignant would pop out of a book so I could finally finish my report and join my friends at the university pub.
     It wasn't until I became a writer, much later in life, that I learned how interesting research could be. History is amazing. Every event that occurred before set in motion the cause and effect for our modern world. Everything we know, do, have, want, need, and hear has a history to tell. But here's where it gets a little curious. If we take the willy-nilly subjectivity of human nature and mix it with a little innocent exaggeration, how can we be so sure those recollections are the absolute truth?
     How could those well-intentioned historians remain unaffected by time and circumstance and possibly even social pressures the same as you and me? Even an innocent sugar-coating could skew the facts exponentially. What if we've not been given the actual truth but rather the 'opinion' of the author instead?
     One small example, the fairly well-known idiom, Circle the Wagons. My family used it often when I was a child and sometimes even now. If a loved one needed support or protection, we'd come together to help however we could. We'd Circle the Wagons. But several meanings have evolved since it was first coined in the 1800s.
     I always thought it referred to settlers on an old west wagon train who created a circle of protection from raiding marauders. But further research revealed another meaning. Circle the Wagons was the practice of settlers using a circle of wagons to corral their very expensive cattle. Hah? No way. How did that get so mixed up?
     So, I wondered, how do we know what is fact and what is fudged in all things historical? Does it matter if we've learned the complete truth? Or is it better to carry on the slightly watered-down or worse yet, overly dramatized, version for those who follow in our footsteps? Has the recollection of events evolved into something far from the truth as in the fun, yet revealing Telephone Game suggests?
     This is just me going off on a philosophical journey. It makes me thankful I write fiction, so if I miss a fact or two, I'll be okay. What are your thoughts?

Thanks for listening.
Rhonda Frankhouser
Award-Winning Contemporary and Western Romance Author


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

ARCHETYPES, MYTHS AND THE STORY OF THE WEST: part two -writers and screenwriters

Photo (c) by Doris McCraw
Part two of the discussion of writing stories/novels and screen writing. This section deals with some of the similarities between the two and the underlying importance of engaging your reader/watcher.

For those who would like to review the first part, you can access it here: writers and screenwriters

So here we go.
  • Psychological effect
    • It’s important for writers to understand the human psyche. By doing so the writer can effectively communicate their message to their audience.
      • The best stories include both sides of conflict equally, thus allowing the audience to form their own opinions.
When we start a story, we usually have an idea of where we’d like the story to go. As noted above, some of the best stories have multiple views of what is happening. I’ve heard it said a story is only as good as it’s villain. I don’t know how others feel, but in my first published novella, “Home for His Heart”, I felt I needed a villain who was strong enough to force the hero and heroine out of their respective fears. That the villain felt justified in his actions made him even scarier than just a bad person.

    • Symbolic Linkage – Symbolic links are a handy tool for any writer. Most audiences are smart and are have a common culture; therefore writers can effectively use what some audiences might already have been subjected to.
The story of the West has been told by many authors in many different forms. This is also true of the film industry. As we look back to the early western writers and film makers we see a cleaner delineation of good and bad. We can reference events and most will understand the connection. As time has passed, the stories have become more complex, the line between hero and villain have sometimes been blurred. One of my favorite films is the original ‘3:10 to Yuma’ with Van Johnson and Glen Ford. Although you know who the hero and who the villain are, the story adds the element of good in the bad. The remake with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe added more on screen violence and more of the pieces of good and bad for both the hero and the villain. However, if you really want to see how one story can be told is a myriad of ways, read the original short story by Elmore Leonard. It is a great, yet short read.

photo (c) by Doris McCraw
    • Archetypes – Another way to engage your audience is the use of archetypes. In particular the concept of an archetype reveals recurring mental images and/or themes that encompass many different cultures and societies throughout time. One could say that we as humans innately understand archetypes from birth. Character examples might include: The Hero, The Caregiver, or The Wizard. Story specific examples might include: The Hero or The Rebirth.
If there is a more perfect description of the Cowboy as hero, I don’t know what is might be. We have the archetype right there. The Cowboy is the hero, the caregiver and for some a wizard who is there to save the day. When I was writing “Chasing a Chance” my hero was just a man who wanted to find and help the woman he’d always loved. Through the story he learns just how much he was capable of. In some ways, his journey is one of rebirth into who he always was.

    • Myths – With archetypes also comes the use of Myths. Constructing your own myths, legends and saga can also have a big impact on an audience. Myths help make a connection in the same way that both symbolic links and archetypes do. As a myth story unfolds the audience instinctively understands what’s at stake and instantly realizes this is an epic larger then life adventure ahead.

We as Western and Western Romance writers make use of the myths of the West in our storytelling. It is what has drawn us to the genre and keeps us telling its story.

So as storytellers, what part of myth, archetype and symbolic links do you use? I realize I love telling stories of people who come to understand what they are capable of and of making peace with their past. The stories of the West, the journeys and new starts fit so well with the men and women I come to love as I strive to tell their stories.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
writing fiction as
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
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