THE COWBOY’S SURPRISE BABY by DEB KASTNER recipe, tips, playlist and more

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Deb Kastner returns with The Cowboy’s Surprise Baby – After years away serving his country, Cole Bishop returns home with a newborn baby in tow! The last thing he expects to encounter at his new job is his high school sweetheart Tessa Applewhite. Can Cole trust her again – and in the process, form a forever family?


Folks in Serendipity, Texas love to socialize and will make any excuse for a potluck celebration. The annual June BBQ is a key setting in The Cowboy’s Surprise Baby and is actually the catalyst in the plot.

Serendipity potlucks aren’t organized, yet there’s always more than enough great country cooking in every category, from salads to main dishes to desserts.

Phoebe Hawkins from Cup O’ Jo’s Café is a world-class baker whose pies and pastries are renowned throughout Serendipity, but there’s always room for more. Here’s a recipe for an ooey, gooey Earthworm Mud Pie.


1 Large Package Oreos
1 Jar Hot Fudge Topping Sauce
2 Cups Milk
1 Large Box Chocolate Pudding Mix
1 Small Bag Gummy Worms
1 Can Spray Whipping Cream

Crush the Oreos in a large bowl, leaving 10 aside for topping. Mix the hot fudge into the Oreos to a dough-like consistency. Mash Oreo mixture into a pie tin on bottom and sides. Let sit in refrigerator while mixing other ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix chocolate pudding mix and milk according to the pie instructions on the pudding box. Crush 5 Oreos (not too finely) and mix them into the pudding. Pour the pudding mixture into the pie tin over the crust. Let sit in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Remove pie from refrigerator and place on counter. Press several gummy worms into pie mixture, some all the way, some sticking out a little. Spray whipped cream in a swirl pattern on the edges of pie. Crush remaining 5 Oreos (not too finely) and sprinkle over top of pie. Place 3-5 gummy worms on top of pie. Serve chilled.

I am entirely obsessed with The Texas Tenors so they accompany me through every book deadline. That said, here are some songs specific to The Cowboy’s Surprise Baby.
Brighter than the Sun (Smash Cast Album)
The Climb (The Texas Tenors version)
You Are Music (Phantom—the Kopit/Yeston version of the musical that never hit Broadway)
Feed my Lambs (John Angotti)
Bless the Broken Road (The Texas Tenors version)
You Should Dream (The Texas Tenors)
I Send You Out (John Angotti)

If you’re an aspiring writer I’m going to assume you’re first a voracious reader. I imagine you’ve read across many genres and have your favorites. You may even know exactly which sub-genre you wish to pursue. Once you have an idea what you’d like to write, read some more—everything you can get your hands on specific to your sub-genre. Who are your favorite authors? Why? Analyze your favorites and see why they work for you. Get a feel for the publisher and imprint.

Learn to write. I’m not being trite. There’s certainly a lot of room for natural talent, but talent will only take you so far. Every single published author out there is constantly learning more about writing and working at their craft. Read how-to books. Join a professional writer’s organization or two and attend a conference. Rub elbows with other writers as well as agents and editors. Make use of social media to meet and follow your favorite authors.

When you’re ready to pitch to an editor or send in your query, consider associate and assistant editors and newer agents who might be wanting to build their stable of authors. I was astounded when my editor said the majority of her pitch slots at the latest Romance Writers of America conference remained empty. Apparently everyone wanted to pitch to the senior editor of the line, while all the while writers were missing an opportunity to pitch to a lovely young editor with slots to fill!

Don’t chase after the latest fad. Publishing moves at a snail’s pace. Even if you were to sell that dystopian vampire book, by the time it is released in two years the reading public will have moved on. Write what you would love to read. Yes, write it within the boundaries of your potential publisher/agent guidelines, but write the book of your heart.

Finally, write a book. A whole book. Not a ten-page contest entry. Not a proposal that you plan to pitch to every agent and editor in the country. A book. You’ll never know if you can write a book until you’ve done it. The truth is, many people can’t, or everyone would be publishing books. Your final manuscript may take permanent residence under your bed, but you’ll have written a book! It’s something to be proud of.

At first glance, The Cowboy’s Surprise Baby is a reunion romance. The hero and heroine were high school sweethearts who encounter each other nearly two decades after they originally broke up. Time and life experiences have given them a new perspective on relationships. They needed to mature individually to become the people God wanted them to be. Then they can approach each other with a combined love and maturity they did not have as youths, putting one another’s needs over themselves.

But there are deeper love layers in the book. As one would expect from the title, hero Cole Bishop finds out he is the father of a child born out of his one and only one-night stand, whose mother had no wish to raise the baby. While he could have taken the easy way out, Cole cowboys up and takes his responsibilities as a father seriously, even so much as to retire from the Navy just shy of benefits to return to his hometown to raise his son. He is ashamed of his actions but accepts his obligations and the responsibilities inherent in raising his son. What a delight for him to learn that no matter how he was conceived, Grayson is one of God’s greatest blessings to Cole.

Also within The Cowboy’s Surprise Baby is the story of a teenage girl pregnant by one of her college-professor father’s students. She has nowhere to go and when Cole comes upon her, she tentatively puts her trust in him. He believes he is nobody’s mentor, especially an impressionable teenage girl, but he learns that a man can change the world, one life at a time.

Cole Bishop Bradley Cooper
Tessa Applewhite Cassidy Freeman
Alexis Haddon Jennifer Morrison
Griff Haddon Jack Davenport
Jo Spencer Sharon Gless
Frank Spencer Terry O’Quinn
Marcus Ender Sam Claflin