Monday, April 30, 2012

A Horse of a Different Color

“We stood in silence, watching horses go by. All my life I’d stood and watched horses go by. There were a lot worse ways of living.”
The above quote is from the Dick Francis book Knockdown and is one of the many reasons Francis will always be one of my favorite (non-romance) authors. I mourn the fact that he’s gone and there will never be more of his stoic, horse-centered heroes. He’s speaking about my life in that paragraph, as well as his own and that of the character in the book.

For better or worse, a life lived that way has given me the ability to spot equine errors in my favorite westerns and western romances as if the ink turns neon in those spots. And the most common equine errors are simple ones as to color. For example, last week I read a description of a horse in a western historical romance by a popular author: “chestnut brown with black mane and tail and legs.” No, there’s not a problem with that—there are two problems with it.

Oddly enough, those problems are the most frequent ones I see in romances that mention horses, and they highlight a confusion about the two most common horse colors, chestnut and bay.

Chestnuts are a uniform reddish brown from head to tail. Shades range from as light as toast to as dark as darkest chocolate. If the mane and tail are a different color from the body, they are lighter. The color isn't darker on the legs; it fades a little close to the hoof. A chestnut can have a blond mane and tail, called flaxen, but if he has a black mane and tail he isn’t a chestnut. In addition to the standard “light” and “dark” descriptors of chestnut, common terms would be washy, bright, copper, nondescript, and muddy. Liver is often used to describe very dark chestnuts these days, but I never heard it as a girl and have trouble imagining coming out of the mouth of someone in the Nineteenth Century. Sorrel is another word for chestnut. Among the horsemen I’ve known, sorrel is considered more a western term and reserved for the reddest of chestnuts.

Bays have that black mane, tail, and legs. Take the same brown body the chestnut has and put on the black points, and you have a bay. That’s what makes him bay. Even if high white stockings cover the black on the legs, the bay’s black mane and tail will give him away. He can be light bay, dark bay, bright bay, blood bay, or mahogany bay, but his black points distinguish him.

So the two problems in that original color description: “chestnut brown with black mane and tail and legs” are: (1) A chestnut horse is by definition some shade of brown. No one who has been around horses would ever call a horse chestnut brown. (2) If the horse has black legs, mane, and tail, he's a bay. No chestnut about it.

Brown is actually a particular color in horses. Think of the brown horse as a black wannabe. At first glance you often take him for a black, but lighter, obviously brown hair around the eyes, on the muzzle or the flanks gives him away. The adjective that comes to me when I think of brown is “plain.” A plain brown horse.

True black horses are, if not rare, a lot less common than the other colors. The true black horse is solid, coal black from nose to tail end except for any white markings. Summer sun may bleach his color out a bit, but his winter coat will come in pure black again, and he will shed out that way in the spring.

Like brown, white is a tricky color (or sometimes, non-color). True white horses are born that way and don’t change throughout their lives. They have pink skin and sometimes have blue eyes or one blue and one brown. However, gray horses start out one of the solid colors, and the graying effect has them losing more pigment in the hair every year until they are pure white. The starting color of the gray horse affects how he is described on his way to white. Rose grays started as chestnuts; steel grays as blacks. Dapple grays result when the graying occurs in patterns that leave dark circles in the coat for a while. Fleabitten grays have specks of the original color left in the coat as it turns white.

For some reason the fancier coat colors such as pintos and paints, roans, duns and buckskins don't seem to cause as much trouble as the plain colors.Are we less inclined to add a bit of contradictory description to a blue roan than one of those plain old brown horses? What pops up at me with the less usual colors are more historical and breed specific errors. For instance, a heroine riding on her lovely palomino Arabian is worthy of an eye roll because Arabians don't come in palomino. If the story is historical, well, there were a few Arabians in the U.S. back in the good old days, but the odds of one showing up in the Old West owned by anyone except a wealthy, self-indulgent fancier were about the same as someone trapping a jackalope.

Ah, then there are the problems with big heroes and little horses and with sidesaddles and all those independent heroines tearing around the countryside in the 1800's riding astride in their split skirts. Another time.

Ellen O'Connell

Friday, April 27, 2012

North vs South - Texas Rangers and the NWMP

I’ve often been asked why I, a Canadian, have written a western romance set in Texas?

Blame it on Bordertown (1989-1991), a Canada/US/France Alliance production. The show was set in the 1870's, in a town sitting on the 49th Parallel. A spiritual forerunner of the movie Gunless (2010), it highlighted the difference between the Canadian and American west - often with comic results.

Dramatic license aside, Bordertown was reasonably accurate historically and convinced me, more successfully than any teacher had, that Canadian history was interesting. Since the Deputy Marshall was a former Texas Ranger, the show also sparked my interest in Texan history. Once I started looking, one thing led to another and Under A Texas Star was born.

There are big differences between the American and Canadian western experiences, but there are also significant similarities, especially when comparing my two favourite law enforcement icons.

When Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821, it wasn’t in the position to protect all its frontiers. Their solution was to encourage the immigration of US settlers into the lands that would become Texas in hope they would hold the north. Since its “discovery” by European explorers in 1519 (the Native American residents already knew where everything was) the area had been claimed by Spain and France.

Two years after American colonization began, Stephen F. Austen called to arms 10 rangers to go after cattle rustlers. In 1835, the Texas legislature recognized the force and the Texas Rangers were officially born.
Organized into companies that were given the task of protecting and keeping the peace in their bailiwick. They were a paramilitary, but ununiformed. A motley bunch, their pay didn’t run to fancy clothes and was most likely spent on good horses and reliable arms. Many didn’t have badges. There was no uniform badge until 1936 - a hundred years after the official formation of the Rangers.

With the Treaty of 1846, the 49th Parallel was established as the border between the United States and British-Canadian territories in the west. For almost three decades, this meant very little outside Oregon. The border wasn’t recognized by trappers, traders or natives. Though Hudson’s Bay Company protected their interests - often ruthlessly - Britain didn’t have the interest and Canada, not yet a sovereign country, didn’t have the means to do much about it.

With Confederation, the situation changed. In 1873, John A. MacDonald established a paramilitary force to police the Northwest Territories. In 1874, under the command of Commissioner George Arthur French, 275 officers and men, 142 draught oxen, 93 head of cattle, 310 horses, 114 Red River carts, 73 wagons, two 9-pounder field guns, two mortars, mowing machines, portable forges and field kitchens headed west.
Unlike the Texas Rangers, who were recruited from settlers already in country, the Mounties migrated west ahead of the European and eastern Canadian pioneers that would follow. Commissioner French’s journal of the trip west, though short on personal details, has much in common with the diaries of pioneers. However, their purpose was the same, to keep law and order and to maintain the sovereignty of the land.

The Mounties were a uniformed force. Many were former British Regular or Colonial Militia soldiers. The officers included other professionals. The enlisted included farmers, tradesmen, clerks, two policemen and a bartender. Over a third of the original force came from Ontario. Others came from Quebec and eastern Canada, Britain, Ireland, Europe and even the United States. Regardless of where they came from, they all swore allegiance to Queen Victoria and to "well and truly obey and perform all lawful orders and instructions which I shall receive as such without fear, favour or affection of or towards any person or party whosoever." (Collections Canada)

Both organizations were tasked with keeping the peace with small forces in impractically large territories. Both were divided into battalions or troops that served their areas from a local base of operations. Both were more than police forces. They also served military and judiciary roles. Both share the legend of the lone lawman.

The legend of “One riot. One ranger.” started in Dallas, 1896. Sent to stop an illegal boxing match, Ranger Captain William McDonald was met at the train station by the Mayor. Asked if he was alone, McDonald replied “Hell! Ain’t I enough? There’s only one prize-fight!”

Ironically, just about every Ranger who could make it turned up for the fight - possibly to watch it. There was no riot but that didn’t halt the birth of a legend.

On the Canadian side, we have Sam Steele. One of the original force, Steele went west to what would become Calgary, then returned to Fort Garry (now Winnipeg) to train new recruits. He negotiated with Sitting Bull and fought Louis Riel, but is most famous for bringing law and order to the Klondike - making it the most orderly gold rush in history.

In popular culture - helped by the fiction of Sam Steele’s son - one Mountie was all it took to disarm rowdy prospectors, rebelling natives or gun-toting Americans. In fact, even when only one Mountie was employed, it was the knowledge that there were plenty more ready to take his place that kept the peace.

Whatever the reality, the Canadian Mountie and the Texas Ranger have legendary status. Both are the stuff of romantic heroes of the old and new west.

Alison Bruce is the author of Under A Texas Star (western romance) and Deadly Legacy (mystery). Find her at:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cowboy Speak: Slang and Jargon

I’m a huge collector of all types of slang and jargon but as a historical writer I’m partial to cowboy slang and jargon. There’s a difference between the two. And since the list at the end of this blog is mainly slang, I’d like to explain that difference.

Slang is an informal term not found in an ordinary dictionary, coinages and words changed often times for factious figures of speech.

Jargon is a group of terms exclusive to certain kind of technical terminology. An example might be the technical terms that computer geeks use. Those terms may not be in an ordinary dictionary but every computer geek knows what they mean. Jargon might also be terms or the names that are applied to equipment used in a particular profession.  

It is not always wrong to use slang and jargon interchangeably. Sometimes slang is used so much that it earns a definition/place within a set of technical terminology.   

When writing about the Old West, cowboy speak adds atmosphere and realism to the story.  

As writers we use descriptions to set a scene and build an atmosphere that will pull the reader into our characters’ reality. Dialogue or the way our characters speak serves as another form of description. The way someone talks says a lot about where he’s from, his profession, his education and social hierarchy.  

So it’s important to incorporate appropriate dialogue in our Old West stories. The hero’s twang, his slang and jargon should shout, COWBOY!

One note of caution here: Never overdue dialect and slang or your characters come off too slapstick matinee.  Also be careful dialects; too much is distracting. Use just enough to flavor the story. Also, never trust old west movies as a reference for slang and jargon of the 1800s. Sometimes movies use phrases and terms that either didn’t exist at the time or were not yet in common usage. Generally speaking, once a word came into use, it took ten years before it was accepted as “common” usage.

Cowboy Curses: Yes, cowboys did use the F word but in my research I’ve learned that most of their curses took the form of religious blasphemy (hell, dam etc) rather than that of a sexual nature like the F word. Cowboys often competed in cursing contests around campfires but their curses were more outrageous and funny than they were dirty.
Examples: My own Aunt Mary! My dead Sister’s doll! Little Willy’s goat! Well, I’ll be a . . . (something funny)

I’ve compiled a long slang/jargon list with terms from many sources who borrowed from many other sources so there’s no real way for me to give credit where it’s due. However, I have listed some reference links below and I’m certain most of the phrases and terms can be found in them.  

To save my sanity and yours, I’ve corralled mostly slang terms for this list. A (J) after the word means it crosses over into jargon. Most terms and phrases are defined; the rest are obvious. Forgive the curse words, I’m just relating the info.

A hog-killin’ time – a real good time
Ace-high – first class, respected
An invite to a dance – could mean shooting at a man’s feet to make him dance
As different as whiskey and tea
Bad plum – bullet
Bellerin’ like a . . . – yelling, howling, complain loudly
Bellyaching- complaining (still used today)
Belly-up – dead, died; also belly up to the bar (stand up at the bar and drink)
Biddy – hen but often used to refer to a nagging or irritating female
Big bug – the boss, an important person
Blue whistler – a bullet
Bobtail her and fill her with meat – Cut the small talk and get to the point
Bold face – whiskey or alcohol
Book learnin’
Boot-licker- brown noser
By jingo, you’re right
Cached up – hiding
Cain’t shoot center – can’t shoot straight
Calico – a female, a type of print material used in the west for women’s everyday dresses
Caterwauling – usually terrible singing, or complaining
Chawed – chewed
Clean his/your plow – to get or give a thorough wippin’
Clipped his horns – took him down a notch or two; referring to a fight or a braggert
Con sarn it – soft replacement for g ** damn it, might be considered dialect
Cookie – camp cook (J)
Coons age – long time
Corncracker – derogatory for farmer
Cotton to- take a liking to
Crowbait –derogatory term for a poor-quality horse
Cultus – despicable, worthless, stupid
Dad-blame it – G** damn it
Dang! – Damn
Dicker – barter, trade
Dipping – chewing snuff
Dug for his cannon – reached for his gun
Fandango – from Spanish, used for a big party with lots of dancing
Fit to be tied – angry
Fixen – intending
Fly at it – cook says this when his food is ready (have seen it used to mean fight!)
Full as a tick – drunk or over eating
Get a wiggle on – hurry
Go to blazes – go to hell
Gol-Darn – softer version of obvious blasphemy
Goner – lost, dead
Gray backs – lice (J)
Hang fire – delay, lets hang fire before we make up our minds
Hang it all – who cares
Hanker or hankering – strong wish or want
Haulloa stranger – yelled when approaching a strange camp to avoid getting shot
Hazing a tenderfoot – giving a city man a hard time
Heeled – armed with a gun (used more by city slickers)
Hellbenders – drunken sprees
Hell fire – exclamation of irritation, a curse
Hesh up – hush up
Highflautin’ – fancy, stuck up, snooty
Hill of beans – of trifling value, ain’t worth a hill of beans
His look would pucker  a hog’s butt
Hoppin’ mad
Horse feathers – exclamation meaning ridiculous or lack of belief
Howdy pard!
I can set with that – I can agree with that, I can handle that
I reckon – I suppose, I believe
Ifin’ – if
Infernal – awful (meaning from hell) Infernal weather, infernal man
Jamboree – any kind of party or celebration
Jawin’ me ta death – talking too much
Lambasted – to hit or slug
Lead plum – bullet
Leaky mouths – talks too much, gossip
Lickspittle – insult, a very low person, dishonest, no good
Light a shuck – to get the heck out of here, lets light a shuck
Light and set a while – climb off horse and stay a while
Loco son-of-a-bitch - crazy
Lowdown, dirty sneaking polecats
Mean as catmeat
Meat and tata
Montana feathers – hay used to stuff mattresses on early ranches
Montgomery Ward Woman – a very ugly woman
Moppin’ his plate – licking it clean, eating everything
Nary – never
One horse town
Ornery as a mama bear with a sore teat
Packing – armed
Planted him ‘neath the daisies
Plumb – meaning completely or totally. ( plumb tuckered out, plumb loco)
Prairie coal – dried cow manure, used to build fires (J)
Pretty as a little red heifer
Pshaw, ‘taint no trouble ‘tall – heck it wasn’t any trouble
Purely purdy – purely pretty
Raise hob – raise hell as in going to town to raise hell
Randy - wanton
Red skins got his har – Indians scalped him; dialect
Rode slick – said of a top rider who eschews all devices to help keep him in saddle
Sad as a tick-fevered pup
Sam hill – what the Sam hill? or what the devil?
Scalawags – thieves, con men, bad men
She stock – generic for female cattle regardless of age (J)
She’s aimin’ to hogtie and brand him – she aims to marry him
Shooting iron, six shooter – gun, pistol
Shuck – remove guns but could mean to remove clothes
Skeerd – scared; dilect
Skin yourselves – remove your guns
Slick heels – without spurs (J)
Sorta nice, ain’t it?
Soured my milk – made me irritated
Sowbelly – bacon (J)
Stretched hemp – someone who has been hung with a rope
That don’t/won’t wash – sounds wrong, makes no sense
That shines! – swell, really great
Thunderation – non-profane curse
Time to cut and run – cut your losses and get the hell out
Tromp his britches – beat him up
Unreliable as woman’s watch – because women are always late
Useless as a bull with tits
Vamose or Vamoose – go, leave, disappear
Varmint or Varment – wild animal or a bad man
Viands – food, meals
Vittles – food
Wanna snort? – What a drink
Whoo-up whoo-up – same as Haulloa stranger but from a greater distance
Whup – whip
Will die standin’ up – brave
Wobblin’ jaw – talks to much
Yaller – yellow, coward; dialect
Yarn the hours away – tell stories
Yellow belly – coward
Yonder – over there
Younder, a piece
You can slide, mister – you can go to hell
Yourn – yours
Yup – yes

Cowboy Slang and Jargon Books

Cowboy Slang by Edgar R. “Frosty” Potter: Potter’s books also have info on horses, brands, cattle etc. [one of my all time favorites]
Cowboys Talk Right Purty by Edgar “Frosty” Potter: Similar to Cowboy Slang, it has less slang but lots of invaluable info on rustling, horses, cattle, equipment
A Dictionary of The Old West by Peter Watts: You name it, this books defines it. Contains lots of terms/jargon and definitions of equipment etc.
Dictionary of the American West by Winfred Blevins: Similar to A Dictionary of The Old West yet different and valuable on it’s own.
Wonderous Times On The Frontier by Dee Brown: If you write Old West, this book is a must. This is more of a history of adventures of real people but Brown uses the language of the times. He demonstrates just how much the cowboy loved a good joke but also tells the serious stuff. Mine is highlighted all over the place! Worth every penny.

Cowboy Slang and Jargon On Line

Western Slang and Phrases – You’ll see a few of these on my list. Be careful to check the origin date of some of the terms. Some look like they originated at the turn of the century rather than the 1800s and some are general slang terms used by everyone, not just men of the west. Still, this a good resource.
Cool Western Slang : Some of these sights borrowed from each other but I noticed each has a few of their own too.   

As Roy Rodgers always said -- Happy Trails.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Honky Tonk Hearts

The Wild Rose Press has recently released the first book in their Honky Tonk Hearts Series. I’m excited my story in this series, Sing to Me Cowboy, will be released in May, and today I’m sharing information from special guests Senior Editor Stacy Holmes and two authors, Jannine Gallant and Sylvie Kaye. There’s prizes, too, so, without further ado, let’s get started.

Lauri: Thank you ladies, for visiting Cowboy Kisses today! Stacy, let’s start with you. Can you tell us how this series came to be?

Stacy: The Wild Rose Press is a blooming publisher of fine romance in both electronic and print format  in many different genres.  I’m the Senior Editor on the Yellow Rose line—yes, I get to work with those hunky contemporary cowboys.

In wanting to create a new series for my line, and wanting it to be different from the well received Wayback series, I came up with the idea of a honky tonk and having all the stories at some point, cross the threshold of the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk.

Lauri: Working with so many hunky cowboys has to be fun, and thanks for your creative mind in coming up with this series! Now, let’s hear from Jannine and Sylvie. Tell us a bit about yourselves, Ladies. 

Jannine: First, I’d like to thank Lauri for inviting us to Cowboy Kisses today. What a great name for a blog! And now for a little about me.

Write about what you know. I’ve taken this advice to heart, creating characters from small towns and plots that unfold in the great outdoors. I grew up in a tiny Northern California town and currently live in beautiful Lake Tahoe with my husband and two daughters. When I’m not busy writing or being a full time mom, I hike or snowshoe in the woods around our home with my dog, Ginger.

Whether I’m writing contemporary, historical, or romantic suspense, I try to bring the beauty of nature to my stories. To find out more about me and my books, visit my website at Like me on Facebook: Or follow me on twitter:
Sylvie: My bio is: Born and raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the shadows of the Pocono Mountains and its honeymoon havens, Sylvie Kaye breathes the air of romance daily. After getting one short story published in 1994, she went from hooked on reading romances to hooked on writing them.

I write contemporary romances set in the places I’ve visited. A list of the books I’ve written, and the covers, blurb, and buy links are on my website at   

Lauri: Thanks, Ladies, and welcome! Stacy, can you give us a bit more background on the series?

Stacy: Sure! Ultimately, each story has one pivotal point that takes place at the Lonesome Steer, a Honky Tonk located a few miles outside Amarillo off historical Route 66. The large wood-paneled structure boasts a large neon star with a single flashing steer riding away from it.  Owner and bartender, Gus Rankin, has seen his share of the wandering souls cross his bar and dance floor over the years—lonely hearts seem to gravitate to his establishment—and he likes to think he’s helped a few find true love along the way.

Lauri: Sound like fun times in Texas! Let’s get to the stories. Jannine and Sylvie, what are the titles of your stories? And tell us a bit about the books and your characters.

Jannine: Nothing But Trouble releases tomorrow, April 25th!
Can a wary southern beauty find love with a commitment shy cowboy before trouble finds her?
Chase Paladin is an easy-going Texas charmer. He’s dated most of the women in Redemption and has no intention of settling down anytime soon. With broad shoulders, green eyes, and a killer smile, he’s a walking temptation. Picture Josh Holloway, Sawyer from Lost, and you can understand why Honey has trouble resisting him.

Honor (Honey to her friends) Jackson is broke, homeless, and looking to get back on her feet. Burned by her ex-fiancé, she knows better than to trust a smooth talking cowboy. Honey is just plain skittish when it comes to charming men, but Chase tests all her convictions.

Sylvie: Honky Tonk Man is Available Now at: The Wild Rose Press

He has rules for a reason.
Pool shooting, guitar playing, honky tonk singer, Jace Monroe, has a knack for hooking up with the wrong kind of women, rich ones who don't take him or his music seriously. So when he meets a down-to-earth, honey-haired waitress at the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk, he thinks his luck has finally changed.

Rules have never been her strong suit.
The last place Sunny Brooks wants to be is on her daddy's thriving ranch, but her mother needs her. To escape the constant concern for her mother's health and stay out of her father's overbearing presence, she spends most nights out at the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk and eventually in the arms of Jace.

But when misconceptions come to light, the sweet music they make together might be silenced forever unless she can show her honky tonk man that some rules are meant to be broken.

Lauri: Awesome sounding stories! I can’t wait to read them. Stacy, are these stories, spicy or sweet, or something in between?

Stacy: Yes, to all of the above! I love this series because there is something for everyone.  There are sweet romances and others with spicy love scenes.  There are funny stories about Muffin named bulls and waking up beside a stranger to deep, heartfelt stories of the pain of war and finding strength in themselves to change their lives.  Each one is unique and endearing in their own unique way.

Lauri: Something for everyone sounds like the perfect series! Jannine and Sylvie, can you tell us what you like best about your stories? 

Jannine: What I like best, that’s a tough one. I’d have to say I like Honor’s vulnerability, but she also has an inner strength that comes to the fore. She’s faced adversity and survived, battered but not beaten. Chase respects her and doesn’t want to hurt her, but he’s torn by his belief that relationships don’t last. I also like the humor in this book. There’s a bull named Stud Muffin – enough said. LOL

Sylvie: Aside from the romance, the music, and the setting, I like the characters who are brought together through the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk.  Jace is not just a sexy, down on his luck musician, he has a code of ethics he tries to live by and has a strong sense of family.  Sunny tries to do the best she can to help her family, friends, and the man she desires under conditions less than desirable.

I admire both characters’ loyalty.

Lauri: A bull named Stud Muffin! That does sound wonderful! And a sexy musician….Be still my heart. Stacy, there’s a lot of promo going on with this series, fill us in on it, please!

Stacy: Yes, there is, and I am so excited!  We are having the official series launch party coming up on May 9th on the main Wild Rose Press loop. Over the course of the night all the authors will be there and we have a great Honky Tonk Hearts prize package to give away plus other random draws throughout the night. Should be lots of fun!  Before and after, all the authors are hitting the blog circuit to talk about the series and the wonderful characters they have created.  You can find all the details here:   We would love for you all to join us!  
Lauri: Yee Haw! Sounds like a party for sure! Well, Jannine and Sylvie, since this is the Cowboy Kisses blog, can you give us a short excerpt or tell us about a ‘cowboy kiss’?

Jannine: Got to love those cowboy kisses! This excerpt is Chase and Honey’s first kiss –
Moths fluttered around the bulb shining over their heads. As the silence lengthened, his green eyes darkened and took on a sensual glint. Her breath caught when he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. The safety of her apartment lay steps away, but her feet remained rooted to the doorstep.
His face lowered slowly, so slowly she could see the individual whiskers in the stubble along his hard jaw, the tiny lines radiating from the corners of his eyes, the shades of gold in the hair brushing his collar. His lips touched hers, gentle at first, then with intention. Cupping her face in his hands, he teased her mouth open and lay claim. Her head spun as she gripped his wrists and kissed him back, nearly melting at the utter eroticism of his thrusting tongue. When he released her, she staggered against the door and raised her hand to her lips.
He let out a shuddering breath. “Go to bed, Honey. We’ll finish this sometime when you’re not so vulnerable.”
The clattering of his boots down the stairs echoed the pounding of her heart.

Sylvie: Here’s Jace and Sunny:

Her mouth opened with laughter, lush and pink and seducing, until he couldn’t think of anything else. Backing her up against the porch railing, he trapped her with his hands on either side.

He leaned into her so close the curves of her body hugged him. “You have a beautiful mouth.”

From the heat of her stare, she wanted what he wanted. His groin tightened.

Lowering his head, he touched his lips to hers. When she didn’t pull away, he deepened the kiss. Her mouth was moist and willing, and she kissed him back with a hunger that matched his own.

Her arms circled his waist and pulled him even closer. Instinctively, he ground his hips into hers. It had been months since he’d been this way with a woman, and he got hard, fast.

Delicate fingers crept beneath his shirt and gripped him tight at the waist, nails dug into his
naked flesh. It felt good, real good, to finally have her hands on his body.

They devoured each other. Their mouths nipping and sucking, their tongues probing until
their breathing came in uneven pants.

Jace teased her bottom lip with his tongue. Her tremble and sigh rocked him.

“I might not be able to stop myself if we don’t quit now.” He gave her fair warning.

Lauri: Oooh, la, la! Great excerpts! Stacy, what stories are up next in this series?

Stacy: Next up in the series will be a great story about a country music star in Sing to Me, Cowboy and another heartfelt story about the strength of a wounded marine coming back home in Those Violet Eyes.

Thank you so much Lauri and Cowboy Kisses for hosting us today and more of our authors soon.  And to thank you and your readers, I will be randomly drawing a name from all the commenters today to win a special Honky Tonk Hearts envelope filled with a special coupon, bookmarks, magnets and other fun stuff from the authors of the series. 

Lauri: Fun stuff for sure! Thank you, Stacy, for visiting and hosting a drawing today! Jannine and Sylvie, tell us where you’re promoting next.

Jannine: Since Nothing But Trouble releases tomorrow, I’m promoting all over the place! I’m also over at Sharon Buchbinder’s blog today talking about opening scenes and first lines. I’ll be at Clair Ashgrove’s blog on April 26th and at Sherry Gloag’s blog on the 30th. And that’s just April. I have 8 blog appearances scheduled in May, as well. For a full list with links included, please stop by my blog at

Sylvie: I have an interview with Rachel Brimble posted at    

I’ll be at the Launch Party Wednesday May 9th between 6 and 10pm EST!!!!  

I’ll be part of the Blog Tour at the following blogs and dates:

At host Kat Henry Doran on April 29

At host Karen Katchur on April 30

At with Jannine Gallant on May 2

At  host Randi Alexander May 14

At with Brenda Whiteside June 6

At host Celia Yeary on August 10

Lauri: Amazing promo, Ladies! Congrats and best wishes with this series. I’ll be hosting more Honky Tonk Hearts authors here at Cowboy Kisses the next few months. Be sure to stop by on July 10th to visit with Brenda Whiteside and Stacy Dawn. August 7th to hear from Vonnie Davis and Sherri Thomas, and August 28th to meet Donna Michaels. 

Don’t forget to leave a comment!

Monday, April 23, 2012


You have been so kind to buy my books, that now I have a surprise for you. Announcing,,,drum roll, western historical romance-mystery BRAZOS BRIDE is FREE today at Amazon Kindle! Yes, that’s right. Zero. Zip. Nada. Gratis. Just for you because you guys are special. Very special. Where would writers be without readers to pour over their words? Banging their  heads against our keyboards, that’s where. Confidentially, we sometimes do that anyway.

The FREE link for BRAZOS BRIDE at Amazon Kindle is:

While I’m pounding away on the keyboard, working on the second book in the trilogy, you can be reading BRAZOS BRIDE: Men of Stone Mountain, Book One.

The trilogy is about the three Stone brothers: Micah in BRAZOS BRIDE, book one; Zach in HIGH STAKES BRIDE, book two; Joel in BLUEBONNET BRIDE, book three. There is another link, as I’ve mentioned previously - poison is used in each book. Book one and book two each deal with a different natural poison found in native a Texas plant. The third poison is one that was common in home and garden use in the nineteenth century.  I’ve chosen perfect matches for the Stone brothers. At least, I believe they are perfect. Book one’s heroine is Hope Montoya, a regal Hispanic heiress.  Book two features Mary Alice Price, a kultzy, adorable blonde. (Why, yes, she is my favorite.) Book three’s heroine is another regal woman, a redhead named Verity Dumas. I almost named her Verity Robichaux, but Dumas will be so much faster to type.

If you enjoy BRAZOS BRIDE, please leave a favorable review on Amazon to let others know. If you don’t enjoy the book, let me know your reasons at While it’s not possible to please all readers, I do try to write credibly about the Old West and whatever subject I’ve chosen. I spend hours and hours on research, on listening to my critique partners, and on revising and editing. Here’s another favor: please click on LIKE and then scroll down and click on the tags. This sounds silly, but it makes a difference in sales.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spurring Me On ... To Keep Writing

I learned over a month ago that my “blended genre” novel, a historical western suspense published in August of 2011, Double Crossing, *WON* the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from the Western Writers of America.  SAY WHAT?

Once I verified it wasn’t a joke, I felt very honored and blessed. Like someone said, “You’ll always have the Spur.” Thanks to Jacquie Rogers, I know more about real spurs and how they were used in the Old West. Back when I started promoting my book, I posted this quote on my website from Louis L’Amour. It seemed appropriate in my case. 

“If you write a book about a bygone period that lies east of the Mississippi River, then it’s a historical novel. If it’s west of the Mississippi, it’s a western, a different category. There’s no sense to it.”

Did I set out to write a “western” in the typical sense? No. In fact, I didn’t even think about it being a western. Historical, yes. Suspense, yes. Even a hint of romance and inspirational, yes. Oh, and since the “setting” moves across America via the transcontinental railroad from Evanston (north of Chicago) to Sacramento, California, I still didn’t consider it “western” except in the setting and details.

Sure I entered the Spur contest, but I figured my chances equaled a snowball’s chance in H-E-double hockey sticks. Life is full of surprises! Not only has the award fired me up for the sequel, Double or Nothing, I'm thinking I need to write a few more western-style yarns. But I have plenty on my tin plate right now. So in Albuquerque, I’ll mingle and “jingle” Spurs with other finalists and winners at the WWA Convention. And lo and behold, this year Loren Estleman is being honored with the Owen Wister Award for “lifelong contributions to the history and legends of the American West.” Say what?? Another Michigander?

My first thought was, “He wrote westerns?” (Please forgive my being a total igno-ra-moose.) Long ago I read his novel, Billy Gashade, set in Detroit – fabulous in its historical detail. Estleman is prolific in writing about Detroit, with his Amos Walker detective mystery series (among other books.)

But westerns?

You learn something every day. And you bet I've trawled his whole back list. I bought several to get his autograph, too, for myself, family and friends. I also found out one of the “bennies” of winning a Spur was automatically jumping to active status in the Western Writers of America – after joining, of course, which I did. Once I got the “booklet” they sent, I looked through it (being a total greenhorn) and realized as a Spur winner, I’m joining esteemed company. Me?

First, a bit of history. WWA came about in 1953. They started handing out awards right away. The first woman to win the “Medicine Pipe Bearer Award” for best first novel was Charlotte Hinger for Come Spring in 1986. The following year Elaine Long won for Jenny’s Mountain, and Ann Gabriel in 1989 for South Texas. Then came a dry spell (mostly men winning or no winner chosen) until 1996 when Allana Martin won for Death of a Healing Woman. In 1998, LaVerne Harrell Clark won for Keepers of the Earth and in 2003, Debra Magpie Earling won for Perma Red. Except for Clark, all had Big Six publishing houses.

The Medicine Pipe Bearer Award was changed to a Spur for Best First Novel in 2004. Carol Buchanan won for God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana in 2009. Now I’ve joined the ranks of other Best First Novel Spur Ladies. Not to knock the men who’ve deservedly won a Spur for their first novel, but I'm grateful. Seriously.

Now for the mixed Spur Award company—any type of Spur. Imagine my shock when I read names like Louis L’Amour (Down the Long Hills), Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, Comanche Moon), Loren Estleman (Aces and Eights, Journey of the Dead, The Alchemist, The Bandit and The Undertaker’s Wife), Tony Hillerman (Skinwalker, The Shape Shifter), Joan Lowery Nixon (The Orphan Train, In the Face of Danger),Stephen Ambrose (Undaunted Courage, a non-fiction historical), Ronald L. Davis (Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne), Michael Landon (a Little House on the Prairie TV script), TV scripts for How the West Was Won, plus a Lancer episode and several for Gunsmoke, and movie scripts such as The Shootist, Dances with Wolves, Sommersby, Wyatt Earp, Comes a Horseman, The Grey Fox, Broken Trail, Unforgiven, Purgatory, Hidalgo and… last but not least, True Grit by the Coen brothers! 


No wonder I’m still a bit “cowed” by it all. (Sorry for the pun!) I have seen almost all of these movies and a huge amount of television westerns. As an armchair westerner, I feel very lax for not reading many books in the western genre – and admit that I had the mistaken belief, like many have about romance being for women, that westerns are primarily written for MEN. (Er, hide that horsewhip!) I’m making up for it now. I promise.

And, as my dad would tell me, “Get off your high horse!” No resting on the laurels for the weary, and I’m sure people are heartily sick of hearing about my award. But I must admit that winning has “spurred” me on to write the sequel, Double or Nothing, with a little more hope. Better sales, if nothing else, and I’d like to explore real-life characters in the Old West for future western novels, short stories and blog posts.
Next month, I’ll bring some interesting tidbit of research to match the excellent past posts here (trains, the Nez Perce, western romance books, guns, cowboys, brands and house cleaning) on the blog.
There’s stories in them there hills, so I’ll mosey along and start digging.

You never know when or how the next inspiration will hit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ginger's View of Housekeeping Then and Now

As I was bemoaning the few chores I faced today, I stopped and gave myself a reality check.  I started thinking about the pioneer women in the novels I read and write, and realized how cushy my life is compared to theirs.

Take for instance making the bed.  All I have to do is spread up the sheets and comforter.  Of course, although I b*tch and groan about how my husband's wiggly foot manages to untuck everything, I gave praise that I don't have to deal with a straw mattress and flour-sack sheets and pillow cases. I didn't have to pluck a chicken or turkey to fill my pillow, nor, do I have to empty a chamber pot like those kept beneath the bed to avoid those nighttime potty calls.

 Next time you have to clean the toilet, thank God you have one. Our pioneer sisters didn't have the comfort of having an "on-suite" bedroom, so those treks to the outdoor privy, especially during the winter months, could really be the pits.

As I tossed a load of clothes in my washer and added my convenient liquid detergent and softener, I paused a moment and pictured the agony of having to visit a local stream and beat the clothing clean on a rock or, in the case of the more modern gal of the ages, lug out a washtub and scrub board and spend a few backbreaking hours laboring to refresh the family wardrobe.  Then my gaze caught sight of my dryer and I remembered back to when I first married in the early sixties.  We couldn't afford a dryer at the time, and I had to hang everything on a clothesline.  OMG, I hated that.  Sure, you got the benefit of a fresh air smell...when there was one, but the towels and linens were stiff and you weren't done with the hanging of the wet laundry, you had to go back and retrieve it.  Somehow, it always managed to rain while I had clothes on the line.  I was so happy to see those days pass, and I can bet the head of a pioneer woman visiting today would spin at all the modern conveniences we take for granted.

How about your vacuum cleaner?  The best a pioneer women could do was gather fresh straw and make a new broom.  They may have owned a rug or two, (handmade of course), but dirt or wood floors were the norm.  No wall-to-wall carpets for them.  Sometimes just sweeping the dirt smooth was the best a gal could do.

Can Openers?  Yeah, some of us may still use the ones you have to "manually" twist, but I've moved on to the one you set on the can and it does its magic all by itself.  Imagine using a knife blade to open a tin?  I'd probably be covered with Bandaids.  Hey, did they even have those back in the day?  I don't think so.  Torn scraps of cloth were some of the best first-aid tools available.

Stoves?  Some of the richer pioneers had them bought from the local mercantile.  They were huge and weighty pieces that took up a lot of room, but a vast improvement over bending over the hearth to stir soups and stews suspended over the fire.  With a turn of a knob, we have flames.  Even their modern stoves required wood, and that meant a lot of chopping and carrying to keep the supply plentiful.

Iced tea anyone?  How often have you sat down to enjoy a nice cool drink during the summer?  I live on iced TN sweet tea, but I'd have to learn to forgo the ice in most cases if I was a pioneer.  Since I wasn't sure how the ice was kept, I borrowed this from Wikipedia:

Ice houses are buildings used to store ice throughout the year, commonly used prior to the invention of the refrigerator. Some were underground chambers, usually man-made, close to natural sources of winter ice such as freshwater lakes, but many were buildings with various types of insulation.  During the winter, ice and snow would be taken into the ice house and packed with insulation, often straw or sawdust. It would remain frozen for many months, often until the following winter, and could be used as a source of ice during summer months.

I'm back. *smile*  You didn't even know I was gone, did you? All the thought of iced tea made me thirsty, so I took a break in blogging and went for something to drink.  As I gazed around my awesome kitchen at the automatic coffee pot, the blender, the toaster, and all the other things that have spoiled me rotten, I opened the refrigerator and noticed the bottled water inside.  Although a few pioneers enjoyed a new-fangled indoor water pump, most had to trek to the well or river for water.  Something as simple as bathing for the early 1800 dwellers, consisted of several trips and buckets full for them in order to fill perhaps the same tub they used for washing the clothes.   Boy, do we have it made or what?

The next time I start to feel sorry for myself, I'm going to pull out my history reference book and remind myself of how far we've come.  As I sit here, blogging on my computer, I wonder how a pioneer woman would react to the Internet and the extended and immediate "reach" we have today.  You know, it often took months for the Pony Express to deliver the mail.  Loved ones might not hear from their families for years.  We can reach out and touch someone in seconds.  How great is that?

Oh, and just to give you a taste of how one might incorporate some of the housekeeping chores in a book, I invite you to share this except from Prairie Peace, my debut novel.  It's listed with all my books, on my Amazon page.


It was apparent why the previous occupants had left behind the odds and ends of furniture. The table and bench were made out of wood so rough, Cecile imagined picking splinters from her behind if she sat. A chair with a broken rocker rested in the corner next to the fireplace, and beside it was an old crate where a rusty lantern perched precariously, most likely to provide light for anyone brave enough to risk the broken chair.

What had she done to herself? She pictured her mother’s living room with its matching furniture and crisp pleated draperies and fought hard to hold back tears. Her mother had never really prepared Cecile for being a wife or housekeeper, requiring she only do minimal chores around the house. She surveyed the challenge set before her. This was going to be a learning experience she'd have to endure on her own. Her days of being spoiled and pampered had ended.

She took a deep breath and dug in, trying to wash away the accumulated dust and grime.
What she hated most was dealing with the various prairie creatures that thought this was
their home. “Oh dear…I hate spiders,” she proclaimed as one skittered across the floor.

Wiping a trickle of sweat from her forehead, she glanced around the room for something
to shuttle the insects outside, and spied an ancient broom in the corner by the fireplace.
Although missing most of its straw, there was still enough left to use. Looking at the dirt
and grime around her, she wondered why the broom looked so worn. How long had it been since anyone used it?

The floor had dried and warped with age, and the cracks between the planks had widened
to reveal the ground below. Cecile vigorously swept several times, trying to get some of the dirt and dust to fall through. When she finished, she wore most of it. Tossing the broom across the room in disgust, she peered at herself through the cracks in the mirror, barely recognizing the reflection staring back. Her hair hung in unruly strands around her face, and her complexion was gray from the coat of dust. She emitted a loud sigh as the looking glass revealed the sagging and dirty mattress behind her. Who or what had slept there before? Clearly, the bedding needed a thorough beating and airing out, and it was
her glorious job to do it.

The tears welled again. She prodded herself to stay busy, believing work would keep her from dwelling on her disappointment. With great effort, she dragged the mattress outside, and for some reason, every whack of the broom against the old tattered thing made her feel better.

She struggled to get it back into the house and onto the bed frame. She refused to call Walt for help because he was busy outside, cleaning the yard and hauling junk from within their poor excuse of a barn. Silly emotions and false pride were not about to get the best of her. She wanted Walt to be proud of her, and she was determined to make the best of this, even if it killed her. Besides, she was tired of sleeping on the hard ground with nothing but a thin blanket between her and the dirt. Even this ugly mattress had some degree of appeal.

As soon as they moved into the house, she’d cover it with the blankets from the bedroll and bring in the pillows still stowed in the wagon. Using the barn as shelter left her worrying the whole thing would fall down and crush them to death in their sleep. So many boards were missing from the walls, she was amazed it remained standing at all.

Note:  The piece of "mirror," hanging haphazardly and cracked, was mentioned in a previous paragraph.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Aw, Those Cowboys

The American Cowboy came about after the Civil War, when the shortage of beef in the northern states gave some enterprising southerners, mainly Texans, the idea of driving their cattle north. Their plan was to drive their cattle to the closest railroads—Kansas. (Texas cattle drives had started before the war, but on a smaller scale and stopped completely during the war since there was no profit in it.)

The cattle drives flourished for about twenty years, 1866-1885, and a cowboy was considered to be anyone with ‘guts and a gun’. Most of the men on the cattle drives were young, late teens or early twenties, and for driving 1,000-5,000 cows over 350 miles of rough, untamed territory for 3-6 months, the cowboy was paid about $25 plus food, per month. Once the cows were delivered they were allowed a few days to wind down, before the shipping started, and the town folks were happy to relieve the cowboys of their hard earned money.

On the trail, each cowboy had 5-10 horses to ride on a rotating basis. The second highest paid man on the trial was the cook. A good cook would attract the best cowboys. The cook was also the doctor, and carried all the bed rolls in the chuck wagon. (Cowboys didn’t carry them on their saddles while on the drive.) Bed rolls consisted of a canvas tarp and a blanket or quilt. The boys kept all their valuables in their rolls, i.e. money, extra clothes, personal possessions, and they put a lot of faith in the cook to guard their treasures. The standard fare for all meals was beans, rice, and coffee. Canned goods were added in the later years.

In the 1880’s the cowboys started to show off their daily skills at informal fairs and celebrations at the end of the drives, often demonstrating calf roping, steer wrestling, and bronc riding, thus the sport of rodeo developed.

Texas cattle often carried ticks that spread Texas fever among the local cattle, and in 1885 an epidemic of splenic fever in longhorns forced many a drive to turn around at the Kansas border and head back south. The stricter quarantine laws along with the low beef prices and the lack of available rangeland to drive through, as well as the fact rail lines had finally reached Texas all played a role in bringing the cattle drives to a halt.

But the cowboy lived on, performing a multitude of duties in winning the west. There is something about those men—rustic, rugged, risky, yet charismatic and downright sexy—that capture women’s hearts. A man we know will be there when needed, whether it’s three in the morning or three in the afternoon.

I’ll leave you with a ‘cowboy kiss’ scene from my next book to be released on May 1st from Harlequin, The Sheriff’s Last Gamble.   

An actress, she was. Her stature was perfect, her face expressionless, but Jake saw through it as if she were bluffing with nothing but an eight high in her hand. He was on to her, on to her good, and no one, not even an adorable little thoroughbred, was going to best him. Two could play at this game. Excitement zipped through his veins. A gambler never lost the thrill, and he was a gambler, through and through.   
“What’s the other part, Stacy?” he asked again, this time low and slow, while tilting his head the other way. She followed the movement, her eyes on his lips. Moving in slowly, keeping her attention on his mouth, he waited until his lips almost touched hers before saying, “It’s me, isn’t it?”
Her denial, for he was sure that’s what it started as, turned into a moan that made his chest rumble when their lips met. The kiss, the experience, went beyond his imagination, almost as if he’d stepped over an unforeseen ledge. This little thoroughbred wasn’t any shyer at kissing than she was at gambling, and that had his senses reeling.
Jake only pulled away when he needed air—briefly, until her smoldering eyes and an unabashed grin had him taking her lips again. Their mouths made a perfect pair, and their tongues twisted and turned with each other as if caught in a tiny tornado.
His hands slid up and down her back, resting to span her slender waist. Every touch heated his palms, making them throb for more, and had him visualizing the alabaster skin beneath her clothes that he wanted to taste from head to toe and everywhere in between. 
When the kiss ended, after a very long time and by some sort of mutual agreement, Jake was envisioning doing so many things to her delectable body he barely knew where he was. But he was supposed to be the one seducing her into submission. Into admitting she was playing a very dangerous game. She needed to understand he wouldn’t become the prize in any competition. Instead, he felt as if he’d just laid a bet on a hand that didn’t even hold a pair of deuces.
Face flushed, she curled her lips into the sweetest smile he’d ever seen. “My, my, Sheriff McCrery, you are a magnificent kisser.”
 “Really?” Drawing up an indifferent tone and expression, he said, “I can’t say the same about you.”
“Yes, I’ve unquestionably met better kissers than you.”
He lifted a brow.
Her eyes narrowed and she grabbed the front of his shirt with all the strength of a cowpuncher, and this time she didn’t even let him come up for air, nor did she stop at kissing. Dexterous little fingers unfastened the buttons of his shirt with the speed of a hummingbird’s wings, and when her hands met his skin, he dug his heels into the floor.


 "There's a little cowboy in all of us, a little frontier."
~Louis L’Amour