Month – August 2011


I got my author copies last week and can’t wait to start giving them away.  Just leave a comment and I’ll toss your name in the Stetson. Late tonight I’ll draw three names . . . Most of you know that Marrying the Major is Book #4 in the “Women of Swan’s Nest” series.  It’s about Caroline and Bessie, so it’s a two-for-one romance.  Here’s the back cover blurb:

 A Very Practical Proposal . . .

He hired a governess, but what retired officer Tristan Willoughby Smith needs is a wife. Not on his behalf, but to protect little Dora and Freddie. When Caroline Bradley arrives at his Wyoming ranch, she seems perfectly suited–capable, efficient, intelligent . . . if a trifle too appealing.

Caroline knows what a real union of hearts should be, and the major’s polite, no-nonsense offer hardly qualifies. Still, she accepts for the children’s sake, little knowing the complications the marriage will bring to test her confidence and her faith. Yet in this unusual match, Caroline starts to see a glimmer of something strong and true–the makings of the family she never thought she’d find . . .

Here’s an excerpt . . .

This is from the middle of Chapter Two, and it’s one of my favorite scenes. Tristan is ferrying Caroline across a river on the back of Cairo, his prize Arabian stallion. Caroline is terrified of horses. To reassure her, he’s just bragged that Cairo would never disobey him. But that’s exactly Cairo does. He balks in the middle of the river, and Caroline takes a fall…

The water went over Caroline’s head with whoosh. She couldn’t see or breathe. She could only feel the sudden cold and the current grabbing at her skirt. The stallion was bucking and stomping. If she didn’t get out of the river, she’d be pulled downstream or trampled. She tried to stand but stumbled because of the weight of her clothing.

“Get back!” the Major shouted.

He had his hands full with the unruly horse. She didn’t know why it had bucked, but the medical case was slapping against its side. She had a horrible vision of it coming loose. Major Smith would lose the quinine, and she’d lose her only picture of Charles. Bracing against the sandy bottom, she pushed to her feet. She wanted to run for the shore, but if the case tore lose she’d go after it.

Cairo reared back and whinnied. She half expected Major Smith to land in the river with her, but he moved gracefully with the horse, aligning his body with the stallion’s neck and back. Behind her she heard Jon sloshing toward them on Grandma. Being caught between two horses terrified her more than drowning, so she hoisted her skirts and ran downriver.

She stumbled a dozen steps, tripped on her hem and went down. Rocks pressed into her knees and she cried out. She kept her head above water, but her skirt was tangled around her legs. Seemingly out of nowhere, male hands gripped her arms and lifted her from the current.

“Caroline.” She heard the major’s voice, the accent thick as he set her on her feet. “It’s all right. I’ve got you.”

She felt the strength of his arms and the sureness of his stance. As he steadied her, she wiped her eyes with her sleeve and became aware of his body shielding her from the current. She had no business noticing him in a personal way. She was merely an employee, a woman who was afraid of horses and had fallen in the river.

She pulled back from his grasp and staggered away. “I’m all right.”

He splashed closer, reaching for her. “Let me walk you to the shore.”

“No!” She didn’t want to feel his arm around her waist. “Go take care of your horse.”

“Jon has Cairo.”

She looked past him to the shore where Jon and Grandma were leading Cairo up the sandy bank. The black horse had calmed, but he still looked on edge . . . much like the major. He stepped closer to her, his hand extended as if he were giving her a peppermint. “Come now,” he said with authority. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“Oh yes, there is!” She was afraid of him, afraid of her feelings because she couldn’t help but like this man. With malaria symptoms, he had no business jumping into the river to help her. He should have taken his horse to shore and let Jon come to her rescue. Instead he’d risked getting a chill. Even more revealing was the compassion in his eyes. He looked both sincere and commanding, a man of courage who understood fear. She could imagine soldiers following him into battle, trusting him to lead them to victory.

She trusted him, too. But she didn’t trust her feelings. How many times had she felt this spark of interest in a man only to have it dashed?

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing!  To order now  from Amazon, click here:  Marrying the Major


In the category of “dreams come true”, here is my latest one. I became a member of the WESTERN FICTIONEER group about a year ago with the help of one of my friends, Kit Prate.  Kit’s a fantastic western writer who’s been doing this a lot longer than I have, with many more “notches in her belt”—figuratively speaking—in the writing world. She put my name before the group and I was accepted—a greenhorn in the truest sense of the word.

I’m still totally in awe. Robert Randisi, Jory Sherman, Peter Brandvold, Kit Prate, Kerry Newcomb, James Reasoner, Livia Washburn Reasoner…the list goes on—these are the members of the WESTERN FICTIONEERS.

A few months after I joined up, they decided to put together their first anthology.  Livia and James Reasoner worked tirelessly on it—collecting the stories from those of us who wanted to submit, editing, formatting, writing the introduction to the book, and even deciding the order of the stories.  One of the other contributors, Pete Peterson, provided the gorgeous artwork for the cover of the book.

This book is not, by any means, a romance offering.  But there are stories from 24 different authors with many different “takes” on the west. It’s the largest anthology of original western short stories ever put together, and though every one of them might not be to your liking, you’re sure to find some different authors you might want to try out for further reading pleasure from this fantastic collection.

My story is called THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS.  It has a LOT of paranormal twist to it, but it’s one of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on.

I’ll leave you with a blurb and an excerpt.

Jericho Dean is on a one-man mission: to track down the outlaw gang that murdered his wife and daughters. When Freeman Hart joins forces with him, Jericho isn’t sure which side this peculiar stranger is on. Determined to gain his revenge no matter the cost, Jericho finds redemption in a most unlikely circumstance. Will he take that fork in the road, or will his thirst for revenge end his chance for a new start?


Jericho gave Dan one final pat.  “Ain’t many men lost as much as I did on that day, Freeman.  My wife, my daughters, and my desire to exist in this world without them.”  He pointed at the growing pile of wood.  “No fire.”

Hart gave a sage nod.  “I see.  You’re expecting to be reunited once you complete your mission—kill the Comancheros.  Once you die, you think you and Elena will be together again, along with Maria and Ana.”

Jericho stood completely still.  How did this stranger know the names of his family?  How did he know Jericho’s own heart and purpose so clearly?

Hart dropped the last two pieces of wood on top of the pile, then dusted his hands.  “We need to have a talk, Jericho.  A good long visit about things.  I don’t aim to do it in the cold.  And make no mistake, this night’ll be an icy one—way too cold to spend without a fire.  Trust me, boy.  They ain’t gonna know—or care—if you spend it warm or freezin’.  Got a match on you?”

Jericho sized up the other man once more, a shiver running up his spine.  No, things were not what they seemed, but whether for good or evil, he didn’t know.  He cursed his luck, either way.  He didn’t want to be burdened with whatever it was this Freeman Hart brought to the table. He hadn’t asked for it, either way.  He remembered that he had deliberately not prayed, carefully refrained from asking God for any favors, so he wouldn’t have to be in His debt.  Well, he still didn’t plan on owing Him anything, no matter how this all worked out.

He finally forced his legs to move, walking stiffly to his saddlebags.  He put the brush away, and drew out the box of matches wrapped in oilskin.

Hart caught them when Jericho tossed them over, opened the box and struck one of them on the bottom of his boot. The match head flared in the gathering semi-darkness and Hart hunkered down, cupping his hand around the flame as it caught the base kindling of the pyre and the wood above it began to burn.

Jericho stood watching as the fire flared to life, remembering how he’d burned the cabin. After he’d buried Elena, Maria and little Ana, he’d poured kerosene throughout their home.  The smell of it had made his stomach twist and roll over.  He’d poured it over the cabinetry he’d built so lovingly for Elena, remembering how proud she’d been to have a pantry in her kitchen.  He’d poured it across the bed where they’d made love. Made children. Made a family together.

He’d opened up the old trunk that had been Elena’s, full of her keepsake treasures.  He had taken only one thing from the chest before he’d saturated the rest of the contents with the kerosene remaining in the can.  He’d stood at the door and tossed in the match, watching as the trail of fire raced across the dirt floor of the cabin and began to eat the furniture, the woodwork, and finally the walls. 

Then, he had turned his back on the entire dream he’d created and then destroyed, riding away from it as it burned.  It maybe burning still, he mused.  That entire northern part of Indian Territory could be nothing but acres of smoldering blackness destroyed by his hand.  Right now, if he could, he’d set the entire world ablaze.

Yes. A fire would be good to have tonight.

“Say, Jericho.  You hungry? Me, I’m so hungry my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut. I’ve got some tins of beans and peaches we can open up.” Hart rose and crossed to where his saddlebags lay, rummaging for the tins of food. He pulled them out and came back toward Jericho, who stood rooted to the spot where he’d gone moments earlier to get the matches.

Hart nodded toward the fire.  “C’mon.  Let’s get some grub.  Talk a spell.  I can see you’ve got some questions.”

“Who are you?” Jericho’s voice was hoarse.

Hart laughed.  “I knew that’d be the first one.”

To order your copy of THE TRADITIONAL WEST, click here:


Good evening!

My genuine thanks to all those who came here today to post.  It is eery the two earthquakes today — two.  Sigh…

I am going to be giving away a book since I was gone for most of the day.  And the winner is — Corri!

Congratulations go to Corri and if you could please email me privately at — we’ll figure out what book you might like.  Many thanks again to you all.  You rock!

Are You Ready?

.  Good Morning!This is my third article about “Are you ready?”  Perhaps it’s just me — I do tend to worry a bit — but it seems to me that it might be a good idea to look ahead and see what might be around the corner.

As I’ve mentioned, with a drought in the south, flooding in the north and the flooding along our Mississippi Valley region, it might be a good idea to look ahead.  What would you do if the worst happened?  Would you be prepared?  Interestingly the last time I blogged about this topic, we had an incredible post from someone who was in Hurrican Katrina and so had lived through a time when preparedness was essential for survival.

I’ve asked her to come today and to post about Hurrican Katrina and all the things that were needed.  But in the meantime, I thought we’d have a look at another survival essential…fire.

Fire is needed for cooking of course, but as you know, in a survival situation, it is also needed for warmth.  Fire can also be a very needed element in keeping safe — i.e. fighting off animal like wolves.  I’m not so certain fires might keep bears away, but I loved this picture.

But how to make fire without matches.  Unless you are very well prepared, you might find yourself without matches.  I may not be able to teach you to start a fire in this article, but we can certainly go over the basics. I do believed that most Indian tribes used the drill and twisted it by hand or with their bow, the string  the bow wrapped around the drill or wood made into a rod.  At least this is what my studies show.

The rod would fit into a socket in a piece of wood.  Placed beneath this was some tinder that could easily catch fire.  The bow was held at right angles and was twisted, producing friction.  The motion also would pulverize the small particles of wood, which are there to catch fire.  The tinder would eventually begin to glow, meaning that it was ready to produce fire.  Of course there was a very human element involved in making fire.  If the bow wasn’t kept at an utter right angle with the wood, it would often slip, frustrating the person making the fire.  However, with practice, most Indians could start a fire within minutes.   Now once the wood was ready to ignite, it was important to add oxygen, thus one blew on the embers, putting dried grass or moss on the fire in order to get it to ignite.  Needless to say, the type of timber that one used was very important, also.  However, this isn’t the only way to make fire.

Late at night, one might not be able to find the exact tools needed to make a fire in the way mentioned above.  There was also the stone method.  This requires two needed things, which one should carry at all times:  1) flint — 2) lump or crystal with iron pyrites.  This kind of stone is available all over the US.  All that is needed to create fire with this method is striking the stones together.  Sparks will fly and one should have dried grass or dried moss available to catch those sparks, and by adding oxygen (blowing on the sparks) one can create fire.

OF course there are other ways of creating fire — one of the best is lightning.  But one doesn’t always have that available on a cold, snowy night.  It takes a great deal of practice, but it’s a skill that might become handy at some time or place.  The Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts used to teach this skill and perhaps they still do.  It’s a skill worth practicing — even if you don’t see the use of it right now.  As the boy scout motto goes:  “Be prepared.”

I should also note that the Indian kept his fires small and as smokeless as possible.  He also scattered his ashes the next morning so as to prevent others from seeing exactly where he had been and what he was doing.  It was a safety precaution. The American Indian way was ingenious.

I will be gone most of the morning, so if you don’t hear from me until afternoon (Pacific Time) don’t be worried.  Now for my questions of you.  Have you ever had to make a fire without matches and if so, how did you do?  Camping stories would be most welcome, also.  There was a time when being without a hair dryer was “camping” for me.  But I’ve come a long way from there.

The story here to the left had quite a bit of camping stories in it.  The Spirit of the Wolf.  If you don’t have a copy, just go to Amazon and pick up your copy today.

Do come on in and let’s talk preparedness, camping and making a fire without matches…or whatever else you’d like to chat about today.

Mount Of The Holy Cross – A Sign From Above To Push Westward?


Today I want to share with you a little tidbit of history I stumbled across in my research, one I was previously unfamiliar with.

During the early days of the westward movement, when travelers and adventurers were still exploring the Colorado Rockies, there was a legend about a great wonder to be found hidden in a rugged and nearly inaccessible area of the great mountain range.  Rumors floated around for decades about an immense cross of snow that appeared only occasionally on the face of a high mountain peak.  Word of its existence inspired many of the curious and/or devout to seek it out.  But most who claimed to have seen the natural wonder stumbled on the sight accidentally, while others who searched diligently never caught so much as a glimpse.  And even those who saw it, found that it would subsequently disappear from view.

One of the earliest recorded sighting comes from author Samuel Bowles in his 1869 book, The Switzerland of America.  In it he wrote   “Over one of the largest and finest, the snow fields lay in the form of an immense cross, and by this it is known in all the mountain views of the territory. It is as if God has set His sign, His seal, His promise there–a beacon upon the very center and height of the Continent to all its people and all its generations…as if here was a great supply store and workshop of Creation, the fountain of Earth.”

After the Civil War, the Department of the Interior turned its attention to continuing the exploration of the West, including mapping and charting the landscape.  As part of that endeavor they hired photographers and engravers to accompany the expeditions in order to capture images of the environment and the people who populated it.  Photographer William Henry Jackson was picked to accompany the US Geological and Geographic Survey of the Territories from 1870 to 1878.  During that period, Jackson heard the rumors and legends about the extraordinary cross and became determined to be the first to photograph it.  He set out to do so in the summer of 1873.  An experienced wilderness photographer, he led a small party to what was rumored to be the best vantage spot.  But this was no easy trek up the mountain.  This arduous climb involved carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment without the aid of pack animals.  When they finally reached their destination, Jackson and his team spent a night in the high altitude air so that he could be in just the right spot to take the perfect picture when the sun rose.  But all these efforts proved to be worth it.   That photograph won Jackson numerous awards and, among other things, inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to pen his poem The Cross of Snow.

The next year, western artist Thomas Moran accompanied the expedition and made several rough sketches.  When he returned to his studio he did not attempt to create a faithful reproduction of what he’d seen, but rather a “true impression.  As one website stated “In an attempt to capture the “true impression” of the scene rather than a topographical view, Moran freely invented the foreground waterfall in his painting. Forthright about his approach, Moran declared, “I place no value upon literal transcripts from Nature. My general scope is not realistic; all my tendencies are toward idealization….Topography in art is valueless.”  The result was the 7’ x 5’ painting Mountain of the Holy Cross, finished in 1875.

Both Jackson’s photograph and Moran’s painting were exhibited in the 1876 Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia.  The public was immediately looked for religious implications of this natural wonder.  Many saw the presence of the cross in this particular location as a blessing on the idea of the nation’s Manifest Destiny to continue the westward expansion.  Others went so far as to assign it curative powers.   It became the destination of many pilgrimages and was credited with many cures.

Now for the scientific explanation.  Centuries of erosion carved two very deep ravines in the rugged rock face, and these intersected at a ninety degree angle.  These ravines fill with snow during the winter months, and their steep walls keep that snow sheltered in the spring and part of the summer, well after the rest of the mountain’s snowfall has melted away.  It does eventually melt as well, but for 2-3 months every year, a dramatically perfect white cross could be viewed from great distances.  The vertical portion of the cross is about 1200 feet long and 50 feet wide.  The horizontal arms have a combined length of about 700 feet (though this varies with the season).  The altitude of that particular mountain peak is just over 17,600 feet.

In 1929 President Herbert Hoover designated the Mountain of the Holy Cross a National Monument.  The monument was then transferred from the USDA Forest Service to the National Park Service in 1933.  Then in 1950 it lost its National Monument designation and was returned to the oversight of the Forest Service.  In 1951, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Colorado’s statehood, a commenorative stamp was issued and a picture of the Cross was featured in the collage image.

Eventually, visitation to the site fell off, and nature took its toll on the mountain itself as well.  Erosion has caused the right arm of the cross to virtually disappear, making it difficult to visualize the cross as it once was.

The site describes the landmark’s history this way:  “The Mountain of the Holy Cross began as a myth and became a rumor. Then it became a report, a photograph, and a painting. In time it became a destination for pilgrims and tourists. Shortly after that it ceased to exist.”

So what do you think?  Do you believe this was just some natural phenomenon, some accident of nature with no deeper significance?  Or do you believe it was put there at that specific time and place for a deeper purpose?

And do you have any first hand experience with this or any other natural phenomena you’d like to share with us?

Carol Finch’s Winners


Carol Finch blogged with us several days and I’m just now getting around to drawing her winners. I blame it on Jasper, my cantankerous mule (a long and pitiful story.)

Anyway the winners of The Gunfighter and the Heiress are…….



Congratulations, ladies! We’ll contact you with instructions on how to claim your prize.

Our thanks to Miss Carol for blogging with us, despite her mother’s health problems. We sure appreciated it.

Elaine Levine’s Winner


Don’t know about you but I sure had a wonderful time with Miss Elaine. She’s an excellent one to sit and chew the fat with.

The winner of her book giveaway is……………………


I’m jumping up and down for you, Quilt Lady! To claim your prize, please contact Miss Elaine at and tell her if you want it in print or Kindle format. And if you choose print don’t forget to give her your mailing particulars.

That’s it for now.  We’ll see you down the road.

Elaine Levine ~ A Dip into the Wild and Unruly Past

Cimarron, NM

One of my favorite things to do is to visit historic western towns.  In every single one of them, the energy of the last century feels alive to me.  This past spring, my husband and I took a jaunt down to the wild and unruly town of Cimarron, New Mexico–a historic stop along the rugged Santa Fe Trail.  We were on a mission to photograph an amazing saloon bar like the one featured in my latest story, LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER.

Over the years, Cimarron has been home to Anasazi, Apache, and Ute Indians, as well as traders, trappers, miners, and ranchers.  It’s now a lovely small town with historic buildings, a few shops, a museum . . . and a very haunted hotel–the St. James.

The St. James Hotel (originally known as the Lambert Inn) was built in 1872 by Henri Lambert–formerly the personal chef of President Lincoln–after his foray into gold mining proved less than lucrative.

The St. James, an oasis of luxury in the late 1800’s, hosted many

St. James Hotel, Cimarron, NM

well known western personages including Jesse James, Bat Masterson, Black Jack Tom Ketchum, General Sheridan, Kit Carson,

Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid, Clay Allison, Pat Garret, Fredrick Remington, Annie Oakley, and Zane Grey.

What drew us to the hotel was the gorgeous bar in the restored saloon.

The tin ceiling in the saloon still has nearly two dozen bullet holes from gun fights that erupted inside the

room in the days when carousing cowboys rode horses through saloons and settled disputes with lead.

St. James Historic Saloon

When Henri Lambert’s sons were repairing the roof at the turn of the century, they found over 400 bullet holes in the double planked ceiling separating the saloon from the guest rooms above.

The guest rooms in the historic portion of the hotel are filled with antique and reproduction furniture.  The doors of unoccupied rooms are left open but areblocked off by velvet ropes, letting visitors peek inside rooms that look like museum vignettes.

I took some pictures of the hallways, certain I’d capture a ghostly image.  After all, with 26 recorded deaths on the premises, the probability for encountering an entity seemed high.

St. James 1st Floor Hallway

That night, I lay awake in our first floor room, listening to the music and sounds from the saloon slowly grow quiet as the hotel settled down to sleep in the wee hours of the morning.  Not a floor board creaked.  Not a door opened or closed.  No whispers from disembodied visitors echoed in our room or the hallway.  The absolute silence lulled me to sleep.

The next morning, as we were loading up our car, we came across a lovely young couple in the parking lot.  Theyhad stayed on the second floor, near the hotel’s infamous gambling room.  The woman was looking very pale and distraught.

We asked how they enjoyed their stay and quickly learned their sleep had been disturbed all night long by slamming doors, stomping in the hallway, men arguing, and a lingering scent of cigar smoke.  Her husband, a soldier, had tried numerous times to get the other occupants to settle down so that his wife could sleep.

St. James 2nd Floor Hallway

Of course, there never was anyone to scold because hell raisers in the hallway were not visitors from the human realm…

Elaine Levine is the author of 3 books in the Men of Defiance series that take place in Nineteenth Century Wyoming.  She’ll be giving away a copy of her latest release, LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER, to one lucky commenter (be sure to let her know if you prefer a paperback or a Kindle ebook version).  Visit her

website for more information

about her books.

Log Cabins and Book Giveaway




  • Abe Lincoln was born in one.  Okay, so maybe you already knew that, but did you also know that the first president to be born in a log cabin was Andrew Jackson? 


  •  Pound for pound wood is stronger than steel which makes Log Cabins virtually indestructible (except by woodpeckers and carpenter bees).  They can stand up to earthquakes and are pretty much fire-resistant. A log home was the only beachfront home in the Carolinas to remain standing during Hurricane Hugo.


  •  Log cabins were not an American invention. The Swedish bought the idea to American in the 1600s.


  •  Providing there were trees, a log cabin could be built in days, needed no nails and was rainproof, sturdy and cheap to build.  The only tool needed to build one was an ax.


  •  Log cabin designs were influenced by the Homestead Act of 1862 which required homes to be at least ten by twelve and have one glass window.


  •  Foundations were built eighteen inches high because it was believed that termites couldn’t climb that high.


  •  A log cabin helped win a presidential election.  William Harrison made a big deal over his “humble beginnings” and used the log cabin logo (along with hard cider) to show he was a “people’s man.”  Ironically, the man was born in a wood frame house. 


  •  Log Cabin syrup was introduced in 1887 by Patrick J. Towle, a Minnesota grocer. The name was chosen to honor Towle’s hero Abraham Lincoln.



Now that you know as much as I do about log cabins I want to tell you about my new story “Snow Angel” which will be released September 1st in the Log Cabin Christmas collection and can be ordered now.






 The moment schoolteacher Maddie Parker walked into the tumble-down log cabin schoolhouse, she knew coming to Maverick, Texas was a mistake.  Now she’s stuck at school with three of her rowdiest pupils during a blizzard and in terrible danger of becoming unglued.


Sheriff Brad Donovan is fit to be tied.  What kind of teacher would keep her pupils after school in such weather? Now it’s up to him to rescue them—no easy task.  For now he’s stuck at the schoolhouse with no means of escape.  But while the storm rages outside, hearts are thawing inside.


 Brad and Maddie have personal reasons for fighting their attraction to each other, but as the days drag on it becomes increasingly hard to do. Was it fate or bad luck that brought that together? Or could this have been God’s plan all along?


I don’t have my author copies yet but  since I’m making you think about Christmas so early it seems only fair to give one away!

So tell us about your log cabin experiences—past, present or future!


 A Log Cabin Christmas: 9 Historical Romances during American Pioneer Christmases


 A Vision of Lucy (A Rocky Creek Romance) 

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