Thursday, December 30, 2010

A SOLDIER'S CHRISTMAS, by Nona Kelley Carver

Please welcome poet Nona Kelley Carver, who shares her poetry about Christmas for our soldiers serving away from family.

A Soldier's Christmas 
A lonely
soldier far from home,
in his heart feels sad tonight.
I know he longs for his family,
but none of them are in sight.
In his grief he may shed a salty tear,
and wipe it away with his sleeve,
For memory reminds him in a certain way
that this is Christmas Eve.
Now his mind drifts back to a bygone time
when he was just a lad,
When he learned of the birth of the Christ Child
from a loving mom and dad.
How they showed him the Christmas Star in the east,
and told him how angels sang.
And it seems so very long ago, when no echo of bullets rang.
He remembered the crèche that they set in place there under the Christmas tree.
And how the sweet baby Jesus was a gift of love that lasts through eternity.
He prays that God will hold him close and restore the world to peace;
That sometime soon this war will end and the shelling and killing cease.
But tonight in his bunker he will watch and a resolute vigil keep
So those at home in the USA will be safe and have restful sleep.
Through the winter snows when the cold wind blows,
his valor is strong and true,
And truly he’s proud he volunteered to defend
the land of the red, white and blue.
Now he thinks again of the Christ Child
who was born to die on a cross,
And this matchless gift
gave his heart a lift
and he felt less sense of loss.
Soft as a velvet whisper’s hush the soldier began to sing
"God Bless America." May her freedom ever ring!
© 2004 Nona Kelley Carver
Used with permission given by Nona Kelley Carver

A Soldier’s Christmas

Monday, December 27, 2010

Reenactments in the California Sierra Mountains

I love living in the Sierra Mountains where the 1849 Gold Rush brought a lot of people to our area. Part of the pleasure of living here are the museums, traditions and old timers that still have memories – and they love to share them with anyone who is clever enough to listen. History is my favorite genre because there are so many interesting tales.

One of the traditions is to bring a wagon train over the high pass between Lake Tahoe and Placerville every year. The historical reenactment of the “Great Western Migration,” a designated bi-state event that takes place in California and Nevada, happens every June. All wagons are authentic vintage replicas and period clothing is worn at all times by wagon train participants.
School groups often travel with them for one or two days, doing all the things a child might have done 150 years ago when he or she traveled west with their parents. It takes about a week and the people who relive this experience make it as close to the actual event that it seems real. The highway patrol closes the road and the horses plod along with their loads. They spend a night in the parking lot of the bowling alley down the road from us and the last day, they ride in a parade through town before throwing a huge barbeque.

We are also on the route of the pony express rider.
One year my daughter and I were at the post office and when we came out, there he was – a reenactment pony express rider, carrying mail back over the high pass toward Lake Tahoe. We followed behind him all the way to our turnoff. Can you imagine how long it took a letter to travel from here to ‘there’, wherever ‘there’ was?

The story of the Pony Express has continued to fascinate Americans since Johnny Fry left St. Joseph April 3, 1860, heading west to Sacramento, CA.
This relay mail service celebrated 150 years on April 3, 2010. The Central Overland and California Pikes Peak Express Company carried letters and telegrams for 19 months proving the train and pony with riders could make the trip over 1,966 miles in 10-14 days.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

As a writer, I often find inspiration for my work in many forms -- music, art, people, and especially places. One of the places that has stirred my imagination for quite some time is the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. In fact, this location plays a pivotal role in my historical western romance entitled Whisper in the Wind.

Located north of Fort Worth, the 98-acre historical district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Apart from being the last standing stockyards in the United States, the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards offers visitors a glimpse into the past of Fort Worth, once known as the "Queen City of the Prairie".

Whether you drive to the Stockyards or take the Grapevine Vintage Railroad to the heart of the historic district, you will find everything from authentic cowboys driving cattle through the Stockyards, the infamous White Elephant Saloon, championship rodeos and Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show, to an array of great restaurants like the Hunter Brothers' H3 Ranch,

or shops that offer fine western art, jewelry, furnishings and apparel, including M. L. Leddy's where you can order custom made cowboy boots and saddles.

For those interested in history, there is the Stockyards Museum and the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Here you will be able to learn about the important role the cattle industry and the Stockyards had in Fort Worth's history. It isn't called Cowtown for nothing, you know.

Basically, between 1866 and 1890, cowboys following the Chisholm Trail led more than four million head of longhorn cattle through Fort Worth, the last major stop for rest and supplies before heading into Indian territory. It should be noted that a major attraction for these cowboys was found in Hell's Half Acre, located south of the courthouse and where saloons and bawdy houses could be found...not to mention any number of gunfights and rather rebellious behavior. But I digress...

Back in the heydey of cattle drives, herds were driven north through Fort Worth and just across the Trinity where drovers made camp. In 1876, the railroad came to Fort Worth and the city became a major shipping point. By the latter part of the 19th century, cattle drives beyond Cowtown had all but ceased to exist. (Pictured below: looking south on Main Street from the Courthouse in 1880.)

Realizing the need to establish a more efficient area for shipping cattle, plans were made in 1887 to build the Union Stock Yards in an area about two and a half miles north of the courthouse bluff. However, it was not until 1889 that the area went into operation. Unfortunately, the early days of the Union Stock Yards faced critical challenges, not the least of which was they didn't have funds to attract local ranchers to sell their herds rather than drive them north themselves. But when Union Stockyards's president Mike C. Hurley invited Greenleif Simpson to Fort Worth as a potential investor, the wealthy Bostonian not only saw the potential of the cattle market in Fort Worth, but invited others to join him, including a neighbor back in Boston who just happened to be in the meatpacking business. The Union Stockyards was purchased by Simpson on April 27, 1893, and its name changed to the Fort Worth Stockyards Company.

Rather than ship cattle to other markets, the Fort Worth Stockyards Company realized the more lucrative proposition of establishing a meat packing facility adjacent to the Stockyards. After a lengthy search, Armour & Co., and Swift & Co., decided to build meat packing plants in Fort Worth. Believe it or not, a coin toss decided which company would build its plant adjacent to the Stockyards; Armour won. Swift would build their plant on the more southern tract of land. Construction began in 1902. In addition, a new Livestock Exchange Building (as well as holding pens and barns) also underwent construction in 1902. The Livestock Exchange Building was designed to house several livestock commission companies, telegraph offices, railroad offices and other support businesses. In 1909, this area known as North Fort Worth was incorporated by the City of Fort Worth. The opening of the meat packing companies brought over $6 million to the local economy and Fort Worth's livestock market continued to prosper. In 1907, an indoor show facility was completed in 88 days, just in time for the grand opening of the Feeders & Breeders Show. Known today as the Cowtown Coliseum, the building was the home of the first indoor rodeo and has been used for numerous cultural, social, agricultural and religious events.

Also in 1907, the beautiful Stockyards Hotel opened. Its impressive clientele has included "cowboys and cattle barons, kings and queens of country music, even an outlaw or two" who "journeyed from near and far by foot, horseback, stagecoach, motorcar and plane to enjoy the incomparable hospitality of this premier hotel". Personally, I just love this hotel -- right next door to my favorite restaurant in the Stockyards, the H3.

As I mentioned before, this area provided great inspiration for my recently completed, exciting and wonderfully romantic novel, Whisper in the Wind, and continues to entice me to visit on a regular basis. One of my favorite things to do is take the Grapevine Historic Railroad to the Stockyards, stay over at the Stockyards Hotel, and just live the unique, colorful, and compelling history that is the Fort Worth Historic Stock Yards.

If you want a true taste of Texas, along with some living history that will sweep you back in time, I strongly encourage you to visit this wonderful place.
Besides, where else can you have your photo taken on a longhorn steer. Look at this one, all dressed up for the holidays!

Happy New Year everyone!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010


It's the time of year when families and friends gather to share food, gifts and memories.

My January contemporary western release, Bridled Heart, which was released early this week in print from my publisher Wild Rose Press is about Gina Montgomery. She's a woman who had the strength to heal herself after a childhood of sexual abuse and learned to help others heal. She encounters the one man who will test the order and rules she's made to keep herself from falling apart.

One of the characteristics I give Gina in the book is a strong memory of her mother. The one person who's love, even after her death, she clung to for strength. And the memory that surfaces in the book is the scent of baking cinnamon rolls and the comfort and love she feels when she eats one.

Do you have any memories that certain foods conjure up?

Here is the blurb and excerpt from Bridled Heart and at the end is my recipe for Cinnamon Rolls.

A specialized placement schedule and self-imposed vow of celibacy keeps ER nurse, Gina Montgomery, from getting too close to anyone. Music is her only solace and release from a past laced with abuse. But when that music draws the attention of a handsome bareback rider, her chosen solitary life—not to mention her vow—gets tested to the limits.

Holt Reynolds let his younger sister down when she needed him most. With the similarities to his sister far too evident in Gina, he can’t get the woman out of his head, or her poignant music out of his heart. But how can he find a way to free her bridled heart before the past resurfaces to destroy their one chance at happiness?

“Why do you help with this event?” He laced his fingers together resting his hands on the table in front of him. His coffee-colored gaze held admiration.
She dropped her gaze and picked at her napkin. His interest was flattering, and he hadn’t attended the event just to inflate his image. If that had been his agenda, he would have stayed to be photographed with the person who purchased his art. She peered into his smiling face. He waited so patiently for her to answer. By this time most men would have given up on her and moved on to someone else. She searched his eyes. He seemed genuinely interested.
She took a deep breath and hoped she wasn’t going to regret divulging more. “I see so many children in the ER rooms who…” she turned her head and chewed on her cuticle. When they arrived needing her care, she put aside her emotions and did the job, but afterward, she always broke down. How could a parent do that to a child? She knew how it felt to grow up feeling different.
He placed a hand over the one on the table. “It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me. I can see their plight affects you.” He squeezed her hand. “I could tell when you were playing the piano your heart is filled with sorrow.”
She stared into his eyes. The sincerity of his words and the acceptance of her pain, even though he thought it was all for others made her want to weep. She hadn’t had anyone care about her in so long, she didn’t know how to act.
Jerking her hand out from under his, she stood. “I have to go.”
“Wait.” He snagged her hand as she grabbed her coat from the back of her chair. “Do you have a phone number?”
He held her firm but gentle. Warmth spiraled up her arm and settled in her chest. Why didn’t she feel frightened or invaded by this man? She shook her head. She didn’t want to see him again. If she did, it would be hard to remain faithful to her vow. He’d started to seep into the empty cracks created over the years.

Cinnamon Rolls

3 1/2 - 4 1/4 cups flour
3 TBSP sugar
1 tsp salt
2 packages Active Dry Yeast
1 C milk
1/2 C water
1/4 C margarine

In a large bowl thoroughly mix 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and undissolved yeast.
Combine milk, water, and margarine in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm.(I use the microwave) Margarine doesn't need to melt. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1/2 cup flour. Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; place bowl in pan of water at about 98 degrees F. Let rise 15 minutes.

Turn dough out onto floured board. Roll out 12" by 20". Spread with soft margarine sprinkle liberally with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up the long side like a jelly roll and cut into 18 pieces. Place cut side down in a pan that has melted margarine and sprinkled with brown sugar. Let rise 15 minutes in draft free warm place.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Frost with powder sugar or butter cream frosting. 18 servings.


Paty Jager

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Cowboy's Christmas Prayer

I was so excited to find this poem! It's something I enjoyed listening to on my mom's old Jimmy Dean Christmas album. I can still hear the scratchy sound of that record as I read the poem even now. As you may have begun to notice (*VBG*) I love all things cowboy and this is the perfect Christmas wish! I hope you enjoy it!

By S. Omar Barker (1894-1985) 

I ain't much good at prayin', and You may not know me, Lord- 
I ain't much seen in churches where they preach Thy Holy Word, 
But you may have observed me out here on the lonely plains, 
A-lookin' after cattle, feelin' thankful when it rains, 
Admirin' Thy great handiwork, the miracle of grass, 
Aware of Thy kind spirit in the way it comes to pass 
That hired men on horseback and the livestock we tend 
Can look up at the stars at night and know we've got a friend. 

So here's ol' Christmas comin' on, remindin' us again 
Of Him whose coming brought good will into the hearts of men. 
A cowboy ain't no preacher, Lord, but if You'll hear my prayer, 
I'll ask as good as we have got for all men everywhere. 
Don't let no hearts be bitter, Lord. 
Don't let no child be cold. 
Make easy beds for them that's sick and them that's weak and old. 
Let kindness bless the trail we ride, no matter what we're after, 
And sorter keep us on Your side, in tears as well as laughter. 

I've seen ol' cows a-starvin, and it ain't no happy sight: 
Please don't leave no one hungry, Lord, on thy good Christmas night- 
No man, no child, no woman, and no critter on four feet- 
I'll aim to do my best to help You find 'em chuck to eat. 

I'm just an ol’ cowpoke, Lord-I ain't got no business prayin'- 
But still I hope You'll ketch a word or two of what I'm sayin': 
We speak of Merry Christmas, Lord-I reckon you'll agree 
There ain't no Merry Christmas for a man if he ain't free. 
So one thing more I'll ask You, Lord: Just help us what you can 
To save some seeds of freedom for the future sons of man.!

Merry Christmas, Sweethearts and western lovers everywhere

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Okay, here’s a pet peeve of mine….those who don’t know when the twelve days of Christmas are. These days I’m seeing all sorts of references to the Twelve Days of Christmas. Between now and Christmas: get free books, recipes, or enter a contest. The only problem is that NOW is not the Twelve Days of Christmas. They are not the twelve days BEFORE Christmas. They are the twelve days AFTER Christmas. This mixed up reference, is to me, as maddening as those who object to Christmas decorations before Halloween. We are putting one celebration before another.

Part of this confusion comes from people who are not part of a liturgical church tradition. This is not a bad thing, it’s just a misunderstanding of when and what the Twelve Days are all about. The churches that follow a liturgical year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost) have set the time-line for the celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas….the Christmas season, which is from December 25th through January 5th, the day before the Epiphany or the traditional day of celebration for the visit of the Three Kings to the baby Jesus.

In some cultures, Christmas is celebrated as a holy day, without the exchange of gifts. Gifts are instead exchanged on Epiphany or, in some cases, a gift a day is exchanged during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Epiphany, January 6th, as said, is the observation of the day the Magi arrived to pay homage to the Christ child. They brought their gifts for the new-born king. In the liturgical year, it is the beginning of the Epiphany season, the time before Lent starts with its forty days of self-deprivation.

No doubt, you’ve heard of Mardi Gras and the big parties held around the world in observance of it. A traditional time of celebration and revelry. One goodie often found at this time is a king cake, a reference to the three kings. This time of celebration is held during Epiphany Season, and ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Ah, but I digress, though I did want to show how the year follows one thing after another. It helps to explain when the correct Twelve Days of Christmas are. The Liturgical Year starts with the First Sunday of Advent, four Sundays before Christmas Day. For 2010, that ‘new year’s day’ was November 28th. From then until Christmas Day, the liturgical church is in the season of Advent. The season of Christmas starts with Christmas Day and goes for twelve days. January 5th is often referred to as Twelfth Night. In some traditions, it marks the removal of Christmas decorations and feasting.

I’m also sure you’ve heard of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. The origin of this song is in dispute, but the meaning behind it doesn’t seem to be. The items given to the ‘singer’ of the song are not as simple as they appear. The do, in fact, refer to God’s grace.

Ace Collins in “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” explains the meanings behind the gifts:
The “true love” giving the gifts represented the pure love of God. Each gift represented a major doctrine of the Catholic faith.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge represents the courage and devotion of Christ dying for his people. A mother partridge will lure predators away from her chicks, even sacrificing her life for them. The pear tree symbolizes the wooden cross upon which Jesus died.

Two Turtle Doves
This represents the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Doves also symbolize truth and peace.

Three French Hens
French hens were the food of kings in sixteenth century England. Here they represent the expensive gifts brought by the wise men to the newborn Jesus.

Four Calling Birds
These symbolize the authors of the four Gospels.

Five Gold Rings
These are the five Old Testament books known as the Law of Moses.

Six Geese A-Laying
Here we have the six days in which God created the world. The eggs, from which new life springs, symbolize creation.

Seven Swans a-Swimming
These represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit outlined by the apostle Paul: prophesy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership and mercy. The swan, a graceful bird, symbolized these virtues.

Eight Maids A-Milking
Being a milk maid was one of the lowest jobs in sixteenth century England. Jesus came to save the poor and the humble, thus this gift represents Jesus’ love for the common people.

Nine Ladies Dancing
This dance represents the nine fruits of the spirit: love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Ten Lords A-Leaping
Here is a reminder of the Ten Commandments.

Eleven Pipers Piping
These represent the eleven faithful apostles who followed Jesus to the end and spread his message after his death. While there were twelve apostles, one betrayed Jesus.

Twelve Drummers Drumming
This is a symbol for the twelve tenets of the Catholic faith laid out in the prayer, “The Apostles’ Creed”. The drummers may provide the cadence for reciting this prayer.

Thinking you might want to give these gifts? Remember first off that the items repeat themselves. So that on the second day, it’s a gift of two turtle doves AND a partridge in a pear tree. On the third day it’s three French hens, two turtle doves and another partridge in a pear tree. So that at the end of the 12 days, you’d have given 364 gifts, which in 2010 would cost $96,824, an increase of 10.8% over last year, according to the annual Christmas price index compiled by PNC Wealth Management.  And remember, you start giving them on Christmas Day...not December 13 or 14th.

Read more at Suite101: The Twelve Days of Christmas: Legend of the Christmas Carol’s Twelve Gifts

Arriving home for Christmas, the last thing Jacob Scott expects in his house is a sexy, shotgun-toting stranger.  Worse, his attraction to her bothers him even more than the gun.  Still reeling from the deception of his long-time girlfriend, he’s not looking for romance.

Tessa Jones has learned one hard lesson—when everyone in your life has failed you the only one you can trust is yourself. Facing the whispers of the townsfolk and an arson charge, Tessa unexpectedly finds herself trusting Jacob with more than her legal troubles.

Struggling between the promise of the present and the hurts of the past, can these two lost souls overcome their pain long enough to discover a gift beyond all measure?

Available now at The Wild Rose Press.

Anna Kathryn Lanier


The holidays are upon us. And I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday. May the spirit of the season stay with you through the coming year. And may 2011 bring you many good books to read.

I’m also taking this opportunity to shamelessly hype my latest self-published digital book, SALVATION, TEXAS. It’s a contemporary romance/mystery/police procedural set in West Texas, and is a re-issue of the print book, which was released in 2007. It’s uploaded to Kindle and is now available for sale for $2.99. It’s also now uploaded to Smashwords, so it should be available soon at Barnes & Noble (Nook), Kobo, Sony (Sony Reader), Diesel and Apple (iPad) for the same price.

Following is a description of the book:

When a deputy’s job opened up in the Sanderson County sheriff’s office, career cop Rusty Joplin left the city and returned to his Texas hometown of Salvation. The last thing he expected to encounter in his new job was a nest of deceit and fraud and a sheriff controlled by a master manipulator, the wealthy rancher/oilman, Randall Ryder. But Ryder’s influence peddling was no surprise to Rusty. He had already had a taste of the millionaire’s deviousness fifteen years back when he had been forced out of town over his heated relationship with Ryder’s youngest daughter, Elena.
The beautiful Elena Ryder still haunts Rusty. He might never know what to do about her presence in his dreams, but he knew how to deal with the corruption in the sheriff’s office. He ran for the office himself, won by a landslide and began to change the way the Sanderson County sheriff’s office operated.
Then, mere months after he takes office, Elena’s older sister, Randall Ryder’s middle daughter, is found dead in her arena, strangled in what looks like a runaway horse accident. But Rusty’s years of experience with both horses and murder investigations, lead him to believe something more sinister. His relentless probe into Carla Ryder’s death not only reveals Salvation’s secrets, but throws him back into Elena’s arms. He had neither expected nor wanted a second go-round with her, but he’s helpless to resist.
Elena Ryder has longed for fifteen years for Rusty’s return, during which she has earned a nursing degree from the college of her father’s choice, lived at home with him and now works at the Salvation hospital as an RN. She has refused to marry any of the men her father chose to be her husband. She has never stopped believing that she and Rusty Joplin are destined to spend their lives together. ... Her sister’s tragic end brings her into contact with Rusty again and only reminds her how much she still loves him. When he labels Carla's death as murder, bringing into question the custody of Carla's three small children, Elena has unwavering trust that Rusty will find the culprit, no matter who he or she is.

So that’s a thumbprint of the story.


The original publication received good reviews:

“Anna Jeffrey continues to demonstrate her spectacular storytelling talents. . . . A first-class romantic suspense tale.” — Affaire de Couer

“Exciting . . . Readers will enjoy Anna Jeffrey’s fine thriller.” — Midwest Book Review

“It was a treat to read a good book set in Texas that really felt authentic. The people in this book were not just pretty folks in Wranglers and Ropers—they felt like they belonged there.” — All About Romance

“A good, solid read with great characters and a fast-paced plot. Do yourself a favor and pick it up, and while you’re at it, clear your plans for the evening!” — Romance Reader at Heart


If a Kindle is in your Christmas stocking, or a Nook or some other reading device, perhaps you would like to read SALVATION, TEXAS or my other digital book, SWEET WATER. Free samples are available from both Amazon and Smashwords.