Saturday, January 20, 2024

Valentines Day History

Valentines Day takes place on February 14th. The day is marked by the exchange of romantic gifts, such as cards, flowers, and chocolates, between loved ones. It's a day to express admiration and appreciation for family members, friends, and romantic partners. Did you know the origin of Valentine's Day dates back to ancient Rome? It was a surprise to me. It appears the festival of Lupercalia was celebrated in mid-February. This pagan festival honored the coming of spring and included rituals to promote fertility and purification? Hmm, all this time I thought it was a cupid. As part of this celebration, men and women would draw names from a lottery to form couples and engage in various festivities. Can you imagine this? Research says Christian influence on the holiday can be traced back to the third century when a Roman priest named Valentine defied an edict issued by Emperor Claudius II, which prohibited young men from marrying. Valentine continued to perform marriages for young couples in secret, and he was later executed for his actions. Shocking! Another legend suggests that Valentine, while imprisoned, fell in love with the jailer's daughter and, before his execution, sent her a note signed "From your Valentine," thus popularizing the expression. Over time, Valentine's Day evolved into a celebration of romance, love, and affection. Today, it is celebrated in various countries around the world with customs that include sending greeting cards, giving flowers and gifts, and spending quality time with loved ones. A sad story indeed, yet now we we understand why are day of celebrating our loved ones is called Valentines Day. Here is a sweet short story I have started writing in liu to Valentines Day. I hope to finish it by this Valetines Day.
Title: LOVE is in Bloom In the beautiful city of Paris, a young florist named Juliette dreams of finding true love. She spends her days surrounded by vibrant flowers and helping others express their passion through her artful floral arrangements. However, Juliette has yet to find her own love story. “Why the long face?” asks her best friend and employee Annie as soon as the sweet elderly gentleman who had just bought his wife of sixty-four years a lovely bouquet for their wedding anniversary struggled out the door. Annie is Juliette’s best friend and confidant, but sometimes, she is a little motherly. She is pretty, with cute blond Bob cut hair, big blue eyes, and a smile that brightens her whole face. She is pear-shaped with a little more on the hips than she would prefer. Juliette knows the reason for that is Pierres Bakery across the street from her flower boutique. She knows Annie goes into his bakery at least once daily for her morning pastry and coffee. “I don’t have a long face. I watched Mario make sure he could get out the door safely with the large bouquet of roses he bought for his wife on their sixty-fourth anniversary. You know he comes weekly to buy her flowers, but on their anniversary, he always chooses a mixture of red and yellow roses. Mario says it's because she is his best friend and the love of his life. I find it so romantic, don’t you?” “Yes, he obviously loves her dearly. Juliette, it is no secret to me that you dream of finding your own true love. I promise it will happen.” “You keep saying that. But when? I am ready now. I have a successful business, and thanks to my regulars plus the tourists, I have more savings than I could ever spend. You can manage the shop by yourself, and I could start a family if only the right single man would suddenly appear on his white stallion.” “See, you’re a dreamer. You set your priorities too high. Don’t you think Mario and his wife struggled along the way? No relationship is perfect. And how do you think this Knight on a white horse can find you when you are always in this boutique working? You need to spend time out in the real world.” “What about you and Ronnie? You have a perfect relationship.” “Oh honey, we have a good relationship, yes, but we’re not perfect. He leaves his clothes everywhere and will cook but not clean up his mess. I am a clean freak, you know this, but I love his cooking. Haha. The point is love is hard work and commitment. No relationship is perfect.” “I get that. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with having high standards. I want a man who makes me laugh, is kind but strong. He needs to have strong work ethics and morals. Not a cheater or a liar, nor is he an alcoholic or drug attic. And I want at least three children, so he needs to want and love kids. Is that too much to ask?” “No, he sounds perfect. Haha, but how are you going to find him if you don’t get out? As you pointed out I can run the boutique by myself so why don’t you start taking some afternoons off to go frolic in the city?” “Okay, perhaps I will. There is a problem with this plan, tho.” “What's the problem?” “I need my best friend with me.” Juliette answers with a shy smile. Annie responds with a chuckle. “Okay, just the first couple of times. We can have Angelique run the boutique for a couple of hours till closing. Deal?” “Deal! Let’s start tomorrow afternoon because Angelique is on the schedule. Do you think Ronnie will mind?” “No, he will be happy you are finally getting out to enjoy life.” “Not him too. Does everyone think I am a workaholic?” “Pretty much.”   Chapter Two Just Across the Street Across the street, a charming pastry chef named Pierre operates a cozy bakery filled with the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked pastries. Pierre is known for his delectable treats, but his heart longs for love as sweet as the confections he creates. Turning thirty-five this week he decides it’s time to find this faceless woman of his dreams. “Pierre, where is your mind today? This is the second batch you burned this morning.” Barks his father. Throwing the burnt pastries away. “Oh dang, I guess you are right, my head is not where it is supposed to be.” “Son, you workday and night. Why don’t you take the rest of the day off? Go on an adventure.” His father James says, setting his hand on his son's right shoulder. “Oh, I don’t know about that…” Pierre answers taking off his gloves, but secretly longs for a break. “It is a light load today; we can handle it easily. Now go!” James gave Pierre a slight nudge toward the door. “Okay, okay, I’ll go, but call me if any unexpected big orders come in,” Pierre said, throwing his hands up. “We will,” his father said not meaning a word of it. Pierre works hard and always has and that is why he picked him to take over the bakery when he decided to retire. James still came around to help his son, mostly out of boredom but also because it was in his blood the same as his father who had started the bakery fifty years ago. Pierre had a gift for baking up delicious treats that not only tasted good but looked good too. He had an artistic eye and James knew that is why the bakery went from good to the best bakery in Europe. The problem is now that Pierre is turning thirty-five his mind seems to be somewhere else. His clock is ticking, and he wants a family of his own. He’s a good-looking young man and has had lots of dates, but none of them have stuck around due to him working too much. And it doesn’t help that his mama, my lovely wife, Rosella keeps remarking, “It’s time for you to find a wife and settle down,” every time she saunters by him. Pierre left the bakery feeling strange. What would he do with the afternoon if he wasn’t at work? Everyone he knew was working. Then he remembered that his good long-time friend Callie worked at a nice pub near his Casa. Pierre decided he would go home, work out, then shower. Afterwards he would go to see Callie and eat a late lunch. Two hours later he strolled out of his home towards Callies pub. The sun was bright, and the birds were singing. He felt excited for the first time in a while. Entering the pub, he noticed it was quite busy, and his hopes of visiting Callie began to shrivel. She would be too occupied with customers to visit. He saw an empty spot at the bar and edged over there hoping they could at least catch up a little, and who knows maybe a dark-haired beauty would sit down beside him, he thought. Callie spotted her good friend Pierre as soon as he entered and made her way through the crowd hoping one of the other waitresses didn’t get to him first. She recalled the past before she married Maxwell when she and Pierre were inseparable. They had many good times together. In those days Pierre was the life of the party. The hottest guy in town. The girls had fought for his attention. He never chose one to be his, though. At that point, she thought they might hook up one day. But is wasn’t to be once Maxwell entered the picture and won her heart there was no turning back. Reaching the other side of the counter she poured him a cold one and placed it in front of him saying, “Long time no see, what brings you slumming in the middle of the day, Pierre?” Pierre chuckled, then responded, “I heard they have the hottest waitresses here.” “Damn straight!” Callie said, with a giggle. “It wasn’t really busy today, so I took the afternoon off. I figured I might as well come by this Pub you’re always texting me about and see if the food is as good as you say.” “Well, you are right on. We make the best pizza in town! Here is the menu, be back in a sec.” Callie boasted as she flew off to help another customer. He watched her as she set a couple of women after they entered the pub. One was a beautiful brunette and the other a pretty blonde. As he watched Pierre realized he recognized them from the flower boutique across the street from his bakery. The blond frequented his shop. Annie, he suddenly remembered. The other was the owner of the boutique, Juliette. She never came to his bakery. He recalled how shy she had always been back in school. They never ran in the same circles. “Have you decided?” Callie suddenly snapped him away from his thoughts. “What do you mean?” he snapped, before realizing she was asking what he wanted to order. “Whoa, were you checking out the ladies from the bakery? I saw you watching as I led them to a table. You remember them, right? From school? Wait, their flower boutique is straight across from your bakery. Yeah, you have to know them. Juliette was always on the shy side, remember? I’m surprised she is here this time of day. She is a workaholic just like you.” She rushed off not giving him time to speak. Same old Callie, he thought. He usually liked the fact she carried on most of the conversation, so he didn’t have too. As Callie returned a few moments later he answered, “I remember them both. I wasn’t watching them, silly, I was watching you wondering how long it was going to take for you to come back and take my order,” he said changing the subject. “Uh huh,” she acknowledged knowing him too well. Thinking, is he finally making himself available for love to find him? Then her eyes flew to Juliettes, perhaps I can play the Cupid and get them together. Callie happened to know Juliette was ready for love too. “So, are you ready to order?” “Yes, order me your favorite.” he responded. “Cool, you're going to crave it forever once you’ve tasted it!” Callie spoke up as she put the order in for the cooks. She didn’t miss the fact that he kept glancing over at Juliette’s table, tho. “I’ll let my superior taste buds decide,” Pierre said, then chuckled as she tore off around the counter to take other customers orders. Callie was bound and determined to hook Pierre and Juliette up now that he seemed to be interested in Juliette, and she knew Juliette had been ready to date again for a while and had done nothing about it. Some people just need a little push, she thought. Arriving at the flower ladies’ table, Callie took their order and then stayed around a little longer to put a bug in Juliettes ear. She spoke mostly to Annie knowing Juliette was listening too, then said in a whisper, “By the way, did you girls notice who is sitting up at the bar?” Both heads turned to the bar. “Who?” asked Annie, whose back was to the bar, but Juliette stayed quiet as her eyes went to Pierre at the exact moment, he turned to take another peek at Juliette. Their eyes lingered before he smiled and gave a nod then promptly turned away. Will Juliette and Pierre's love story culminate in a grand gesture that captures the essence of Valentine's Day and their shared passion for romance? Join them on this unforgettable journey of love, laughter, and the unbreakable bonds that blossom when two hearts come together. I hope you enjoyed this preview. Watch for it this Valentines Day! Happy Valentines Day to all of you PS Will you be my Valentine?

Thursday, January 18, 2024

New Release: SHERIFF TYREE, second in the Keeper series



Keeper Tyree has a reputation of being the toughest, most fearsome bounty hunter in Kansas. Now he’s sheriff of El Dorado.



There’s a new sheriff in town.

Instead of chasing bounties all over the state, Keeper Tyree has taken the job of sheriff of El Dorado.

Everything is going well. He’s tamed the town and now he doesn’t have to knock more than a few heads together a day, and has no more than one or two occupants in the calaboose at a time. Then a stranger comes to town. A stranger bent on vengeance and the man he wants to bring down is Keeper.

Mitchell Jordan holds Keeper personally responsible for his daddy being hung. He believes in an eye for an eye and he’s out to even the score. A family member for a family member.

Keeper is fearless, except where his loved ones are concerned. They’re his one weakness and there’s nothing he won’t do to keep them safe. No matter which side of the law he has to come down on. There’s no right or wrong, there’s just taking care of his own. And now they’ve been threatened.

Jordan leads Keeper out of El Dorado down a winding trail of danger and deceit, and that trail won’t end till one of them is lying boots up six feet under.

Keeper surely does enjoy a good cup of coffee.


Dora, one of Maybell’s girls, is always flirting with him, but he only has eyes for his new bride.


When Keeper married Cathleen, he had the exact same ring he gave her made for her young daughter so Aislinn would know there was room in his heart for her too.



Sandra, who writes as both Sandra Cox and S. Cox, is an animal lover and avid gardener. She spent a number of years in the Midwest chasing down good Southern BBQ. By the time she moved to North Carolina where Southern BBQ is practically a staple, she’d become a vegetarian.

She and her husband are ruled by a dog and several cats. An award-winning author, her stories consist of all things Western and more.

Sandra can be found at




Buy Link:



Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The Creation of a Series - Characters

I am not a big fan of flawless characters. I personally don’t know anyone in real life who’s flawless. While I do read to escape, I need to connect with my characters. It is one of the things I keep in mind with each and every character I write. 

Even the billionaire alpha-hole needs a flaw.  As the characters come alive on the page, I have detailed character sketches I keep updated. This helps in so many ways. It usually starts with finding a picture that closely resembles how I see the character. This way, anytime I reference hair color, eye color, height, it’s there. 

The character sheet has several questions that help get into the character's head. How does the character relate to their family, deal with high-stress situations, or life’s aspirations? Are they so set in their ways that it is impossible for them to compromise?

For example, Ryan Weston, the foreman at the Ridge Ranch, was so convinced that there was no way someone could love him with how little he had to offer. He was happy being a simple cowboy and running someone else’s ranch. He saw Heather as a threat to his simple life, but when she didn't back down, she was able to break through his boundaries. 

A novel I’m currently working on shows the character struggling with PTSD. He’s able to help her even though what they lived through was so different. I love watching characters come together and have a happily ever after, even fighting with their anxieties, their insecurities, and challenges. 

What are your favorite flaws?

Monday, January 15, 2024

Artificial Intelligence in the author world...


Generated image using my face. (Not super accurate)

While being trapped on the prairie home because of sub-zero temperatures, I did a little playing around with some Artificial Indigence to entertain myself. I tried out image AI and writing AI. I now understand why artists and writers hate it.

AI has been a real controversy for a while, but I never really knew what it was all about. So I decided to experience it first hand.  

I'll admit I had a great time with the image AI using Aitubo. Though I've never done it before and am sure there is a specific way to describe what you want, I ended up with a lot of images with too many legs, hands, heads, ect.  But it was fun to create characters for books and western scenes. Making fantasy characters for a young adult book I've been tinkering on for the last few years was awesome. Getting a visual for the characters was satisfying.

Captain Sebastian from the planned young adult book

Though I can see the problem artists have with it. It's all generated and there is no talent behind it. Anyone that can type a few words can do it. I've heard it's being used to make book covers as well. A cheap and easy way to make a cover but also taking away business for the serious book cover designers.

Needless to say, though it's been fun to generate characters, I'll stick with Melody Simmons for my book covers. I made two of my covers with photoshop and cover model pictures purchased through Period Images, and I'll stick to that instead of AI.

Next, I tinkered with Squibler, a writing software that can basically write a book for you. Many writing AI places advertise themself as writing assistants, or writing having prompts to help overcome writer's block.

So while it was thirty-four below zero outside, I sat inside all warm and cozy and "wrote" a Hallmark style Christmas small town romance. From typing in a few lines for each scene, a short story was made by using generated paragraphs from the software. The basis were there and a person could go through and add more detail to make it longer. The writing gets repetitive and the characters do the same thing in the different scenes. She stepped out of her house into the snow three scenes in a row in the story it generated for me.

Example: Here is what I typed in.

As the residents of Pineville eagerly prepared for the most magical time of the year, a sense of anticipation hung in the air. The small town nestled in the heart of the mountains was known for its picturesque landscapes and warm community spirit, making it the perfect setting for a cozy Christmas romance.

     Here is what Squibler gave me.   
      Despite the frigid temps and the frequent snowstorms, the people of Pineville were determined to make this Christmas one to remember. As they strung up twinkling lights and decorated their homes with festive wreaths and garlands, there was a sense of unity and joy that filled the streets.
     For many, the holiday season was a time of reconnection and forgiveness. Old grudges were set aside and new friendships were formed. Even the most reserved of individuals couldn't help but be swept up in the infectious spirit of the town.
As Christmas Eve approached, the anticipation grew even stronger. The local church held a beautiful candlelight service and carolers could be heard singing throughout the night. Families gathered around cozy fireplaces, exchanging gifts and stories of Christmases past. And as the clock struck midnight on Christmas morning, the town was blanketed in a peaceful silence.
The soft glow of Christmas lights illuminated the snow-covered rooftops and a feeling of contentment settled over Pineville. This was truly the most magical time of the year, and the residents wouldn't have it any other way.

Is it something I intend to publish? Absolutely not! To me this is cheating! A lazy way for someone to pretend to be an author.

I often get asked by people about self-publishing. They need a "side hustle" to make extra money and when I go into everything that publishing a book deals with, and how much book covers and editors cost, they lose interest. I can see those people using this as a quick way to make an e-book and attempting to pass it off as real work in hopes to make a few dollars.

My take away from this frozen weekend of learning new things...

       Generating character images and scenes is fun.

       Generating a book from a few sentences and letting the Software write it for you. Not a good thing.

Generated western couple

Thursday, January 11, 2024

WHR Writer Life - Writing Dialogue

Crafting authentic dialogue for a western historical romance presents both challenges and rewards. Achieving a language that feels true to the time period enhances the overall atmosphere of the story and helps immerse readers, but it isn't as easy as it looks.

The Challenges

The English language has evolved over time, and certain phrases or expressions that were common in the Old West might sound outdated or unfamiliar to contemporary readers. Striking a balance between authenticity and readability can be challenging. 

Each character's speech must also align with his or her background and experiences. Crafting characters who speak with a foreign accent adds another layer of difficulty. One must give their dialogue the flavor of the accent without making the reading burdensome.

Being true to the setting year is yet another challenge. It's crucial to avoid using words or phrases that didn't exist during the time period of the story. Anachronisms can jar readers out of the historical setting and disrupt the immersive experience. 

Conversely, use of some period language can anger modern readers. Many words that are socially unacceptable today were commonplace then. Writers struggle to balance historical immersion and cultural sensitivity. I personally lean towards being period correct, but I still avoid some words.

The Payoff

Dialogue is a powerful tool for character development. The way characters speak reveals their education, background, and personality. Crafting authentic dialogue allows the author to showcase the distinct voices of his or her characters. And, when readers feel that the characters speak and interact in a manner true to the historical period, it enhances the overall authenticity of the storytelling. 

While research can be incredibly time consuming, it also provides opportunities for discovery. Uncovering forgotten phrases or unique expressions of the time is enjoyable, and incorporating these into your dialogue adds depth to the narrative. It can also be a source of story inspiration. Some of my best scenes were inspired by research.

When done well, authentic dialogue transports readers to another place and time. It creates an immersive atmosphere that enhances the overall reading experience, making the setting come alive.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

New and Improved!

And now let us welcome the New Year
Full of things that have never been -- Rainer Maria Rilke

Ready to begin the new year with enthusiasm? Could you use a little creative push? Here are some activities for you to try that will stir your creativity and get you in the mood to produce paragraph after paragraph of publish worthy prose or help to make the year a little sweeter.
*Clean off your desk or writing space.
*List four things you hope to accomplish this year.
*Stock up on comfort food you enjoy while writing.
*Splurge on a wonderful ink pen and expensive stationery.
*Buy a blank book to use as a 2024 Yearbook.
*Resolve to attract joy to your life.
*Hang some new calendars in strategic places in your home.
*Find and frame your favorite photo of yourself as a child. Find and print or copy your favorite personal motto or prayer and place it near the photo. Look at these every day to get in touch with the fountain of your creativity and childhood enthusiasm and energy.
*Look at your personal motto or prayer and ask yourself why you selected it. Why does it speak to your heart and spirit?

On days that you find it difficult to begin writing, do one of these exercises to prime your writing pump!

1. What I found out about myself when I cleaned off my desk.
2. Why I like the photo of myself that I framed.
3. Use your new ink pen and a sheet of your new stationery and write a letter to yourself. Begin with this:
Dear Friend;
I want this year to be more joyful and more productive. To attract these things to my life I intend to . . . 
January is one of my favorite months because it's my birth month. It is named after Janus -- the god with two faces. In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings.
It's a chance to wipe the slate clean and begin anew. So, embrace it. Take a deep, cleansing breath and step forward into a year of possibilities. 

New Year's Resolutions?

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

I decided to not do resolutions this year. Instead, I'm focusing on Experience, ie: I experience the joy of walking five days a week. However, just for fun, I thought a look at comments and New Year's Resolutions from the 1800s might be kind of fun.

Photo (c) Doris McCraw

From the Leadville Daily/Evening Chronicle of Aprile 21, 1894 we get the following short piece about what happens when you forget your resolutions.

"How many of the young men of this town would recognize their New Year resolutions were they to meet them face to face?"

On February 14, 1892 (Valentine's Day?) The Colorado Daily Chieftain" a Pueblo paper, printed this piece:

"Did some Good. 
Ginsling - It's all nonsense to say that New Year's resolutions do no good. I swore off myself last New Year's.
Lounger - You did, eh?
Ginsling - Yes, sir, and I stuck to it a full week -- saved twenty dollars. 
From the New York Weekly" 

That same publication printed the following on January 1, 1893, reprinted from the New York Herald.

"New Year Resolutions.
Oh, those New Year resolutions that we made with holy awe
How they melted like the snow ganks in a January thaw!
How the man who broke his meerschaum and vowed to smoke no more
Now smokes an old two cent pipe behind the cellar door."

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

From The Avalanche of April 18, 1894, we find the following comment:

"Husband -- One of your New Year's resolutions was that you would not quarrel with me for a year.
Wife -- Yes.
'Well, you are snapping at me half the time already'
'I should like to know what's become of your good resolutions.'
'You would, eh? Well, I wanted mother to see them, and so I enclosed them in a letter to her, and gave it to you to mail. and she writes me that she never received it. That's what's become of them.'

The final look at resolutions is from the Yankee Blade:

"I hereby resolve to be good
Through all the glad New Year.
Be a tireless searcher for all kinds of "vircher,"
And do nothing my conscience to sere;
I grow better at once and seraphicer
And I wish that my language was graphier
To tell without base diminution
The strength of my great resolution.

Yes, I hereby resolve to be good.
I have made up my mind to do right;
You may bet your last copper that I'm going to act proper,
And shine like a star of the night,
Purge all diabolical animus,
Grow honest and good and magnanimous;
This resolve no power can share it--
Until I get ready to break it." 

And that is how they looked at resolutions in the 1800s. How many of you could relate? 

Until next time:  

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Happy 


Monday, January 8, 2024

Do you have a passion? by Jan Scarbrough

I’ve known people who don’t have a passion, and I’m sad for them. I’m not talking about an obsession for ice cream or pizza, but something that colors your life and makes it better.


For me, one of my passions is horses. If you know anything about me, I wouldn’t have to tell you that, would I? My love of horses began in the fourth grade with the Black Stallion Books. A year or so later, my parents gave me riding lessons—hunter jumpers. I fell off a few times and got scared. My passion was hidden for a while until my nine-year-old daughter asked for riding lessons. Six months later, I started riding lessons too, deciding I wouldn’t live my life through my daughter.


That began my obsession with American Saddlebreds. Over the years, I’ve owned three of them, but I don’t own one now. I continue to take riding lessons so I can get a weekly horse fix. My latest “ride” is a chestnut mare named Maggie.


So, it was only natural that one of my first books was about American Saddlebred horses. Kentucky Flame finds two trainers, the hero and heroine, competing against each other at a big horse show. For another book, I toured Kentucky horse country for the setting of Kentucky Blue Bloods.


Do you have a passion for something? Maybe it’s not a living creature, but something you like to do—playing golf, cooking, ball room dancing, gardening, sewing, fishing. Whatever it is, does it make your life better?