Category: 19th Century Novels

A Special Kind of Crazy

 

Please welcome our guest Laura Drake. 

Laura is giving away three eBook copies

of When Things Got Hot in Texas in Kindle or Nook–winner’s choice! So be sure to leave a comment.

(Contest guidelines apply)

 

 

Hey y’all!  For any who don’t know me, I’m Laura Drake, a Contemporary Western Romance author. But I mostly write about a specific kind of cowboy – the crazy ones – bull riders.

I’m a city girl from Detroit, but I married a Bigger-than-life Texan. On my first trip to Texas, he took me my first rodeo and I fell in love! Then I found out bull riding was on TV every Saturday and I was hooked! There’s something about a guy having the courage to get on a one-ton animal that wants to stomp his guts out that gets me. I’ve met a bunch of them, and my faith in the younger generation was bolstered; they’re down home country boys who still say ma’am and sir, and use the manners their mamas taught them. Well, and then there’s always the Wranglers in chaps!

I tend to jump in with both feet, but even I admit, I got carried away. I’ve been to ten regular events, and four World Finals in Vegas, one after breaking my leg in a freak fly fishing accident. Hey, I’m a dedicated fan….and it was a bonus that the handicapped staging area was right outside the guys locker-room!

A couple years later, I was writing a Women’s Fiction about the first woman bull fighter in the PBR (there’s never been one in real life). I felt like I should have more of an insider view of the skills involved, so I went to bull fighting School! No, I didn’t get in the arena with a bull, but if I’d been ten years younger, I would have!

I wrote a three-book series set in the world of pro bull riding. When the first one came out, I called in all my markers, and got with Jory Markiss, who at the time, was the #10 bull rider in the world (and he’s pretty darned cute, besides).

Speaking of seriously cute, for the model for my last hero in the series, Cam Cahill, I used the bull riding legend, Chris Shivers. I mean…whew!

I recently released a novella, Cowboy Karma, in the, When Things Got Hot in Texas anthology. I wanted to explore what would happen if an arrogant love-em-and leave ‘em bull rider tried to reform his bad boy ways.  Meet Stead James:

The When Things Got Hot in Texas was my idea – all five novellas set during a Texas Heat Wave. I contacted my Western Romance buds, and Lori Wilde, Christie Craig, Katie Lane, and Cynthia D’Alba took me up on it!

So, bottom line, yes, I’m a bit obsessive about bull riding. And I haven’t even talked about the bulls! Yes, many fans are there to cheer for them! But that’s a subject for another day.

So tell me, P&P readers – have you ever been to a bull riding event? Do you believe an arrogant man can change, given enough incentive?

 

Updated: June 8, 2017 — 5:04 pm

Pirates, Vaqueros, and Cowgirls Make My Heart Beat Faster

Please welcome our guest, Jolene Navarro 

Jolene has generously agreed to give away a print copy each of Lone Star Bride and Texas Daddy and one eBook of Sweet Summer Night. So be sure to check back and see if you’re one of the winners.  (Contest guidelines apply)

 

I’m a Texas girl through and through so when I started writing Lone Star Bride I thought I knew plenty about Texas history. I mean come on, my family was here before we were Texas. I knew when I wrote about the history I love, it had to include a cattle drive. When people think of the great Texas cattle drives, they picture the millions of longhorn being pushed north along the Chisholm and Goodnight-Loving Trails.    

But long before a single beeve set hoof on these drives heading north, the Old Spanish Trail (also known as the Opelousas Trail) was being used to move cattle and horses from Texas to New Orleans. It is the oldest and longest used trail, so I’m not sure why it didn’t make it into Texas folklore and campfire songs. http://www.wtblock.com/wtblockjr/opelousa.htm

Many of the tools and skills the American cowboy used were picked up from the experienced vaqueros that had been in Texas for more than a century.

I knew that Spaniards had established the ranching industry and had been moving cattle and horses from Texas to Louisiana (most of the time illegally) for over a century, but it was a pleasant surprise to find that the women of Mexico often times had some of the same horse skills as their Vaqueros. That was some of the inspiration for my heroine in Lone Star Bride.

She was taught at an early age how to braid her own rope and the importance of a good horse, but she is denied the chance to work next to her father after the loss of her mother and brother. So what does any good stubborn daughter do to prove herself? She sneaks off to help on the cattle drive. Along the way, she has to rope the trail boss and teach him to live life without fear and love again. Together they find purpose in a life hope seems in short supply.

Captain Hook from Once Upon a Time on a horse.

In plotting, planning and researching the time and place for this story I came across something else that surprised me. Pirates.

Yes! Pirates. I found that for a brief time in history – in the narrow strip between the new country of Texas and the state of Louisiana was a no man’s land ruled by a few retired pirates. Pirates and cowboys in the same place and time in history?

I have to say it was a romance writer’s dream come true. I love Captain Hook in Once Upon a Time. The idea that he’s not as bad as he appears weakens my knees.  Is there hope that under that scruffy exterior is a heart of gold waiting to be healed?

Cowboy, Pirates and a bold woman seeking adventure, what more can you want in a Texas Historical Romance

Hugh Jackson

 

Do you have a favorite type of hero? A silent cowboy that carries a world of hurt? A dashing pirate that hides a soft heart? A greenhorn from Ireland that is looking for a new start in the wilds of Texas? Or maybe the mild preacher that suddenly finds himself in charge of six orphans?

What kind of hero makes you move a book to the top of your reading pile?

 

 

Blurb for Lone Star Bride: An Unwanted Marriage  

 

Sofia De Zavala wants to help her father run their family’s Texas ranch—but he has other ideas for her future. Faced with an arranged marriage, Sofia dresses as a boy and joins a cattle drive, determined to prove herself to her father. But her plan backfires when she’s forced to save her reputation by marrying trail boss Jackson McCreed.

Jackson thought he was hiring a scrappy young boy—instead, the wary widower has landed his business partner’s feisty, headstrong daughter as his bride. He believes a marriage of convenience is the best they can hope for. But Sofia dares him to look to the future again…and find a love strong enough to lasso a lifetime of happiness.

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About Jolene:  Jolene’s life, much like her stories, is filled with faith, family, laughter, and all of life’s wonderful messiness. A seventh generation Texan and PW bestselling author, Jolene Navarro knows that, as much as the world changes, people stay the same. Good and evil. Vow-keepers and heart breakers. Jolene married a vow-keeper who showed her that dancing in the rain never gets old. She uses her art degree to teach inner city kids about the world, and they teach her about life.

If you’re looking for some sweet summer reads, you can get these six stories for only .99 cents. Leah Atwood, Belle Calhoune, Danica Favorite, Jessica Keller and Kristen Ethridge along with myself have put together six fun contemporaries

To purchase click here:

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If you want to talk more about this find my at Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jolene.g.navarro

For my latest books follow me at https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jolene-navarro

 

 

Updated: June 5, 2017 — 1:50 pm

They Said What?

There’s nothing like looking back at the Old West through the words of those who lived it. There were some real characters back them, and here are a few actual quotes to prove it.

Words to Live By

  • “Never run a bluff with a six-gun.”– Bat Masterson
  • “As a good horse is not very apt to jump over a bank, if left to guide himself, I let mine pick his own way.”-Buffalo Bill
  • “Why should I obtain by force that which I can obtain by cheating?”-Doc Holliday
  • “Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” –Wyatt Earp
  • “Shoot first and never miss.” – Bat Masterson

Setting the Record Straight

  • “They say I killed six or seven men for snoring. It ain’t true. I only killed one man for snoring.” – John Wesley Hardin

Famous Last Words

  • “If a man knows anything, he ought to die with it in him.” -Sam Bass
  • “Can’t you hurry this up a bit? I hear they eat dinner in Hades at twelve sharp and I don’t aim to be late.” – Black Jack Ketchum
  • “Let the record show I’ve killed 51 men. Let ’er rip.” Deacon Jim Miller, professional killer
  • “Suppose, suppose …” Wyatt Earp
  • “I see a good many enemies around, and mighty few friends.”-Bill Longley

Calamity Jane

 Girls with Guns

  • “I figure, if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.” -Calamity Jane
  • “A pair of six-shooters beats a pair of sixes.” -Belle Starr
  • “I never killed unless I was compelled to.” -Belle Starr
  • “I ain’t afraid to love a man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him either.”-Annie Oakley

Now That’s Mighty Thoughtful

  • “I didn’t want to send him to hell on an empty stomach.”- Clay Allison after killing a man at dinner

The Hangman Speaketh

  • “I never hanged a man that didn’t deserve it.” Judge Parker’s hangman George Maledon
  • “We never did hang the wrong one but once or twice, and them fellers needed to be hung anyhow jes’ on general principles.”- nameless judge

 That Fighting Spirit

  • “Well, if there ain’t going to be any rules, let’s get the fight started.” -Butch Cassidy
  • “I want results when I fight.”- Frank James

  Reaching for the Stars

  • “All my life I wanted to be a bank robber. Carry a gun and wear a mask. Now that it’s happened I guess I’m just about the best bank robber they ever had. And I sure am happy.” -John Dillinger

 Okay now it’s your turn. 

What saying or words of wisdom would you like to be remembered for?

 

There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!

A Match Made in Texas

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Updated: March 19, 2017 — 7:43 am

For The Love of Candy

 

Save the Earth; it’s the only planet with chocolate

I’ve got candy on my mind this month and it’s not even Valentine’s.  There are two reasons why I’m thinking of all things sweet and it has nothing to do with the empty box of chocolates on my desk; January is national candy month and the heroine of my current work in progress owns a candy shop.  

While doing the research for my book, I turned up some fun and interesting facts.  For example, we can blame our sweet tooth on our cavemen ancestors and their fondness for honey.  But the most surprising thing I discovered was that marshmallows grow on trees—or at least used to.  That was before the French came up with a way to replace the sweet sap from the mallow tree with gelatin.   

I also learned that during the middle ages, the price of sugar was so high that only the rich could afford a sweet treat.  In fact, candy was such a rarity that the most children could expect was an occasional sugar plum at Christmas.  (BTW: there are no plums in sugar plums.  Plum is another word for good).

This changed during the early nineteenth century with the discovery of sugar-beet juice and mechanical candy-making machines.   

Soon jars of colorful penny candy could be found in every trading post and general store in the country. It took almost four hundred candy manufacturing companies to keep up with the demand. 

This changed the market considerably. Children as young as four or five were now able to make purchases independent of their parents. (Had youngsters known that vegetables including spinach was used to color candy, they might not have wasted their money.)

Children weren’t the only ones enjoying the availability of cheap candy. Civil War soldiers favored gumdrops, jelly beans, hard candy and, hub wafers (now known as Necco wafers).     

Never one to miss a trend, John Arbuckle, noted the sugar craze that had swept the country and decided to use it as marketing tool.  He included a peppermint stick in each pound bag of Arbuckle’s coffee to encourage sales. 

 “Who wants the peppermint?” was a familiar cry around chuck wagons. 

This call to grind the coffee beans got a rash of volunteers.  No rough and tumble cowboy worth his salt would turn down a stick of peppermint candy, especially when out on the trail.

Arbuckle wasn’t the only one to see gold in candy. Outlaw Doc Scurlock, friend of Billy the Kid and a Bloody Lincoln County War participant, retired from crime in 1880. Though he was still a wanted man, he moved to Texas and opened up a candy store.

Cadbury, Mars and Hershey rode herd on the chocolate boom of the late 1800s, early 1900s.  Penny candy still made up eighteen percent of candy sales but, by this time, some merchants had refused to sell it.  Profits were thin and selling such small amounts to children was time-consuming. Chocolate was more profitable. The penny candy market vanished altogether during World War II when sugar was rationed.  Fortunately, no war could do away with chocolate.

Okay, so what’s your favorite candy?  Anyone have a candy memory to share?

LeftattheAltarfinalcover

 

Who knew being Left at the Altar could be such

sweet, clean, madcap fun?

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Updated: January 23, 2017 — 5:05 pm

The Wind Beneath My Wings & Book Giveaway

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george

This is the last photo of the two of us together. It was taken at Christmas.

I’m dedicating today’s blog to my husband, George, who passed away on April 3rd.   He was the hero I so often write about in my books and I miss him more than words can say.

Some of you may have noticed that many of the couples in my stories are complete opposites. That’s how it was with George and me.   He met at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Hollywood and even though we had nothing in common, he proposed on the first date. I thought he was crazy. Never one to give up, he persisted until I finally said yes.  Our pastor made us take a premarital compatibility test, which we failed miserably.  Based on the low scores, he tried talking us out of marriage.  Three kids and six grandchildren George said, “I wonder what would have happened had we passed that test.”

When Bette Midler came out with the song The Wind Beneath My Wings from Beaches in 1988 our daughter Robyn was convinced that her father was the inspiration behind it. There’s no better way to describe him.

wagon pic

Photo of George and me taken at Melody Ranch during a cowboy festival.

He spent his entire life helping and supporting others. He was my right hand man and encouraged me to keep writing during all the years of rejection.  A film editor by trade, he never really understood the craziness of the publishing business, but he supported me in every way he could. If any of you reading this won one of my books, you can be sure he wrapped and mailed it.  With each new release, he did the Walmart flybys to make sure my books were displayed properly.

Every conference, convention and book signing found him standing in the shadows, directing any glory my way.   Every day at four p.m. he banged on a pot. That was his signal for me to quit work and join him.  Some days he’d have a cup of tea waiting.  He always seemed to sense when I had a bad day of writing. Those were the days a glass of wine greeted me.  

My dear sweet husband will be remembered for his kind loving heart, gentle warm spirit, abiding faith and ability to make others laugh. He was truly my hero and the wind beneath my wings.

 

Calico Spy V3

To order click on cover.

Tomorrow, April 29th is George’s birthday.  In his honor I’m giving away a copy of Calico Spy, a story about a Pinkerton detective working undercover as a Harvey girl. The last trip my husband and I took together was to Vegas. We stopped in Barstow, California so I could check out the old Harvey restaurant which turned out to be the model for the book.  While I took notes, he took photos for me.  That was the last research trip we took together.

Updated: April 27, 2016 — 7:28 am

Taming the West One Meal at a Time

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Nothing changed America as much as the iron horse. People were finally able to travel across country in relative comfort and not have to worry about the weather, Indians, or some of the other mishaps that plagued early travelers. A train passenger’s greatest fear was food poisoning. That’s how bad meals were along the rails.

It took one efrednterprising Englishman to change the way travelers ate. His name was Fred Harvey and his Harvey House restaurants eventually stretched along the Santa Fe railroad tracks from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles and San Francisco—one every hundred miles.

Hear That Whistle Blow

Fred Harvey invented the “fast-food” concept long before Ray Kroc. Passengers were allowed only thirty minutes to get off the train, eat and board again, so time was of the essence. He devised a system in which train conductors would telegraph passenger food orders to the restaurant in advance. This allowed the restaurant staff to prepare the food before the train pulled into the station.

From Dishwasher to Household Name

Harvey learned the business the hard way. After traveling to America at the age of seventeen, he landed a job as a dishwasher at a famed New York restaurant, working his way through the ranks from dishwasher to line-cook. He eventually landed in St. Louis where he took over the Merchants Dining Room Saloon. His success lasted only a short time. The winds of war could not be ignored and after his partner joined the secessionist army, taking all the money the two men had saved, Harvey’s restaurant was doomed.

After a series of jobs and personal losses, he eventually took over an eating house at the Santa Fe depot in Topeka. He arranged for fresh fruit and meat to be railed in from Chicago and other states. His food was so good that railroad officials worried that no one would want to travel past Topeka.

First Female Workforce

As the number of his depot restaurants increased, so did his troubles. Black men were hired as waiters, but this often created conflict with cowboys. After one unpleasant midnight brawl at the Raton Harvey eating house, Harvey’s friend Tom Gables suggested a radical idea; why not replace black male waiters with women? Harvey decided to give Tom’s idea a try.

Harvey ran ads in newspapers for “young women of good character, attractive and intelligent, 18 to 30, to work in the Harvey Eating Houses.” He offered a salary of $17.50 a month, a tidy sum for a young woman. Soon he had all the help he needed.

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This Harvey House is in Barstow, CA. It’s now a museum. I used it as a model for my story.

The women lived in dormitories above the restaurants under the watchful eye of a house mother. Their uniforms consisted of a black dress, black shoes and stockings, and a crisp white apron. The women had to adhere to strict rules and were not allowed to marry for six months.

His new female staff was a great success and helped ease racial tensions. Even the roughest of cowboys and railroad workers were willing to don the required (and dreaded) dinner jacket just for the pleasure of being served a good steak by a pretty girl.

He Kept the West in Food—and Wives

That quote from Will Rogers says it all; Among his other talents, Fred Harvey not only “civilized the west” he was indirectly responsible for more than 5000 marriages. That’s enough to make you want to forgive him for inventing fast-food. Almost….  

What’s the best or worse meal you had while traveling?

                   

 

Calico SpySomeone is killing off the Harvey Girls. Undercover Pinkerton detective Katie Madison hopes to find the killer before the killer finds her—or before she burns down the restaurant trying.

 

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Updated: January 28, 2016 — 1:36 pm

What’s in a Name?

MargaretBrownley-header

             Most Popular names of the 1880s                                       Most Popular names of 2015

(According to Social Security Records)

Boy                 Girl                                                                            Boy                        Girl
John                Mary                                                                          Noah                    Emma
William            Anna                                                                          Liam                     Olivia
James              Emma                                                                        Mason                  Sophia
George            Elizabeth                                                                    Jacob                    Isabella
Charles            Margaret                                                                    William                  Ava

Twice this week I was asked how I came up with character names for my books. My answer was very carefully. To me, the name is everything. If I get the name right, the character comes alive. If the name is wrong the writing won’t flow.  Sometimes the vision I have for a character changes in the writing of a book, and I’ve had to change the name.

nameSince I write books set in the Old West it’s important that names reflect the times. A name also has to say something about the character and carry the tone of the book. After picking a name I check the census for the year my character was born to see if the name existed back then.  (I’ve also been known to yell the name out the door like I did when naming my children, just to see how it sounded).

Recently I read an article cautioning writers not to name a historical female character contemporary names like Madison. Had the writer checked he would have discovered that name was not as modern as he thought. Thousands of females with a first name of Madison showed up on the 1860 census. I know because I named a heroine Maddie, short for Madison (Did she madden the hero with her bold antics? You bet she did!)

For my heroes, I look for strong masculine names. This means choosing names with hard consonant sounds like Garrett, Rhett or Hunter.

I’ll also work in a soft consonant sound, usually in his last name. That tells the reader that no matter how arrogant or difficult the hero is, he has a vulnerable spot that the heroine will eventually uncover. The sheriff and hero in my next book Calico Spy is named Grant Garrison (January 2016). The s sound indicates there’s more to him than meets the eye.

As for the heroine: It depends what her role is. If she has a humorous bent I’ll name her accordingly. In Undercover Bride, the heroine’s name is Maggie Cartwright. The name Maggie reminds me of the word giggle so we know she’s got a light side. Her last name makes me think of cartwheels. That’s an appropriate vision as she turns the life of the hero upside down.

The letter K makes me smile so I tend to favor names with that letter. You just know that Kate Whittaker will be a fun character.

The current series I’m working on takes place in Two-Time, Texas (ah, the joy of naming towns). I worried that readers might have trouble keeping track of the town’s many residents over the course of three books. I solved the problem by giving minor characters nicknames. The butcher is known as T-Bone and the barber called Ben the BaBa.

I’m constantly on the lookout for character names and keep a notebook handy to jot down names that catch my eye. I study movie credits and concert programs. I even came up with a name for my spindle-shaped mayor at a traffic light when I stopped behind a Troutman Plumbing truck.

What are your favorite character names? Have you ever come across a character who shared your name? Do you ever wonder why a writer chose a certain name?

 

 Oh, no!  She shot the Texas Ranger.  Now what?

Margaret’s story: The Nutcracker Bride

12brides of ChristmasAmazon

Updated: October 29, 2015 — 3:55 am

ARCHERY: VICTORIAN STYLE by Cindy Nord

Cindy Nord - Professional Image

 

I absolutely adore the Victorian years…indeed, those golden decades when Queen Victoria sat her throne. And as we know, what the good queen mandated across the big pond, so obeyed the middle and upper class of America.

Archery1_LaBelleAssemblee_1831

During this era, participating in genteel pastimes allowed a well-heeled lady freedom from the humdrum of her everyday life of reading, playing the piano, or passementarie needlework. Any opportunity to appreciate the great outdoors would most certainly be well accepted. From croquet to tennis to horseback riding, these informal, yet socially-appropriate, affairs helped to bring excitement to her life. Yet, no task delivered as much enjoyment as did the recreation called archery.

 

When the Queen of England proclaimed her love of this hobby, deeming it worthy of a lady’s attention, her vanguard of devoted followers took heart. Archery caught on like wildfire, blazing across nineteenth-century womankind to become the first organized, competitive sport for females. But ladies never lost sight of their femininity. In fact, at the Grand National Archery meeting in Norwich, England, in 1866, the first prize was a magnificent Spitalfields Silk shawl — a coveted item, to be sure! By 1880, archery clubs for the genteel in America could be found coast-to-coast, but only the wealthiest women could afford the equipment needed to join.

Archery2_ScientificAmerican_1894

 

A lady’s bow weighed 40 pounds at full draw and arrows were 30-inches long. Soon archery became the sport, which could even be enjoyed upon a whim as it did not require the changing of dress that accompanied the activities of croquet or tennis. In fact, the lady’s archer outfit simply consisted of her dress for the day. A small quiver containing extra arrows draped one shoulder. Across the archer’s other shoulder draped a “scoring kit,” of sorts. Inside this and usually made of silk was an ivory, acorn-shaped container that held beeswax to keep her gloved fingers from sliding off the bowstring, an ivory pencil, and a small, circular disc containing paper to keep score. Also tucked inside was an extra bowstring and several gold tokens. With every archery match won, the champion would receive a coin from each of her opponents. Archery3_HarpersWeekly_1881

 

Collecting these coveted tokens became the quest of every lady archer. The afternoon event was usually followed by a gala dinner and an evening of a grand and glorious ball. The wealthiest even built their own lodges to host said celebrations. So the next time we wonder what activities the affluent ladies of the Victorian era did to pass the time, now we know exactly which one they preferred.

Cindy will gift one ebook of With Open Arms to one blogger today!! 

 

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Author bio:

Historical romance writer Cindy Nord is the author of No Greater Glory, a number-one Civil War romance at Amazon for more than a year and book one in her four-book The Cutteridge Family series. With Open Arms, book two in the series, debuted in August 2014. Cindy also contributed to the non-fiction anthology Scribbling Women and the Real-Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them. A blend of history and romance, her love stories meld both genres around action and emotionally driven characters.NoGreaterGlory (1)

 

Website:  www.cindynord.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.nord.9

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/cnord2

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/cnord2/

 

GetAttachment with open armsWith Open Arms (http://amzn.com/B00KT23WO0)

A war-weary ex-soldier. An untamable hellion. Love doesn’t stand a chance in hell…

Hardened in childhood by the death of her parents, then left to run the family’s southwestern territory ranch when her brother rode off to fight for the Union years before, Callie Cutteridge hides her heartbreak behind a mask of self-sufficiency. Breaking horses for the army proves she’s neither delicate nor helpless. When a former cavalry officer shows up claiming to own her brother’s half of the Arizona ranch, she steels herself to resist the handsome stranger’s intention to govern even one single aspect of her life. After all, loving means losing…to her it always has.

For months, Jackson Neale has looked forward to putting the bloodstained battlefields back east behind him. Callie isn’t the agreeable angel her brother led him to believe, but he’s damned well not the useless rake this foul-mouthed hellion thinks he is, either. His quest for calm stability contradicts sharply with her need for control, yet still their heartstrings tangle. But how can these mistrusting partners transform their fiery passion into a happily-ever-after when all Callie knows how to do is fight…and all Jackson wants is peace?

 

 Image credits:

Archery1_LaBelleAssemblee_1831.jpg: Illustration from La Belle Assemblee, 1831

Archery2_ScientificAmerican_1894.jpg: “Meeting of the Toxophilite Society.” Scientific American, 1894

Archery3_HarpersWeekly_1881.jpg: “The Archery Tournament, Prospect Park, Brooklyn.” Harper’s Weekly, July 23, 1881

Archery4_HarpersWeekly_1878.jpg: “Archery Practice on Staten Island.” Harper’s Weekly, 1878

 

Updated: September 13, 2015 — 2:11 am

Dime Novels – The birth of the paperback

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Dime Novel - MalaeskaRight around the start of the Civil War, Erastus and Irwin Beadle published a new series of cheap paperbacks entitled Beadle’s Dime Novels. Thanks to increased literacy rates among the American people during this time, and the inexpensive price (yes, they truly did cost a dime), these thin, paper-bound books met with huge success. The debut novel – Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter, by Ann Stephens (a woman – hooray!) sold more than 65,000 copies within the first few months of its publication. Those are the kind of numbers even today’s authors would get excited about – believe me! The book released on June 9, 1860 and was basically a reprint of a serialized story that had appeared in the Ladies’ Companion magazine back in 1839.

Dime novels varied in size and thickness, but the tended to be about 100 pages in length, about the equivalent to today’s novella. At first, dime novel covers had no cover art beyond the fancy title script. But it didn’t take long for the Beadles to move to illustrated covers, better designed to grab a browsing customer’s attention.

If you saw a homicidal squaw about to tomahawk a frontiersman, wouldn’t that grab your attention?  The next one is slightly less blatant with the rifleman helping a young woman escape danger, but there is certainly still an element of adventure and the breathless question of “What will happen next?”

Dime novels were famous for lurid, often melodramatic tales of the frontier. Heroes were larger than life and typically had exaggerated strength and skill. Not that the readers cared. The more jaw-dropping the story, the more fun it was to read. Hence the birth of genre paperback fiction.

In my latest release, A Worthy Pursuit, I have a lot of fun playing with these dime novel ideals. Young Lily is an avid, and rather bloodthirsty, fan of dime novels – her favorites being the tales of Dead-Eye Dan and his winsome companion Hammer Rockwell, who just happens to bear a striking similarity to Stone Hammond, our hero.

Here’s a sneak peak from one of the scenes where Stone and Lily are reading dime novels together:

Taking Dead-Eye Dan in hand, Stone fanned the pages to a random spot in the middle. “‘Dan dove behind a fallen tree as a hailstorm of bullets rained down around him. The Gatling Gang had come by their moniker honestly, laying down rapid fire that mimicked the output of the famed war gun. Unruffled by the deadly flurry, however, Dan flipped onto his back behind the log and reloaded his Henry repeater with methodical precision. The six-gun at his hip sported full chambers. The knife on his belt was razor-sharp and ready for action.'” Stone’s voice trailed off, cueing Lily.

She grinned, taking up the challenge like a seasoned gamester.

“‘Bullets blasted shards of bark all around Dan, but he just brushed the pieces off his chest with a flick of his wrist. Billy’s gang couldn’t aim worth a hill of beans. That’s why they always sprayed so much lead. It was the only way they ever hit anything. Too often, innocent civilians. Dan scowled, his jaw tightening as he rolled onto his side to steal a peek over the top of the log. One against seven were lousy odds, but Billy Cavanaugh and his crew were vermin that needed e-rad-i-cation.'” She stumbled slightly over the large word, but it didn’t stop her. She passed right over it and forged ahead. “‘He’d just wait for them to reload, then take them out one by one.'”

Stone closed the book and set it in his lap. “You do know this story is hugely exaggerated, right?” He tossed the dime novel to Lily and winked at her. “There were only five men in the Gatling Gang, not seven. And Daniel Barrett didn’t bring them all in on his own. He had help.”

A Worthy Pursuit

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Lily’s blue eyes glimmered as she rose up on her knees, bringing her face level with his. “Do you mean to tell me that you know Dead-Eye Dan?”

Stone blew a self-deprecating breath out of the side of his mouth. “Know him? Shoot. He and I were partners back in the day. ‘Course no one actually calls him Dead-Eye Dan. He’s a rancher now, foreman at a place called Hawk’s Haven up north a piece. Gave up chasin’ criminals in order to chase cows. He is a crack shot, though. Saved my sorry hide more than once.” He nudged Lily with his shoulder, nearly toppling her back onto the cushions. “‘Course I saved his hide a time or two, myself.”

“Wait a minute.” Lily drew in a breath so large, he expected her head to start swelling. “You’re . . . You’re . . . Hammer Rockwell. The man who shows up in the nick of time and takes the Gatling Gang by surprise by climbing down the box canyon wall with his knife clenched in his teeth!”

Hammer Rockwell? Knife in his teeth? “Of all the ridiculous, made-up, nonsense,” Stone sputtered. “I’ll have you know, all my knives were safely stowed in their sheaths when I made that climb.”

  • Do you like your fictional heroes larger than life? Or do you prefer more realistic story lines?

THE GRATTAN MASSACRE & Book Giveaway

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juhlarik-HR-3Hey everyone! Thanks so much for having me over today! As I write stories, I love being able to weave historical events and figures into my fiction. In my first novella, Sioux Summer, published in The Oregon Trail Romance Collection, I was able to do just that. The Grattan Massacre was the conflict that spawned the First Sioux War, and it plays a part in my story.

In August, 1854, near Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory (present day Wyoming), one lonely cow wandered away from a group of Mormon emigrants traveling the Oregon Trail. The bovine ambled into an encampment of Lakota Sioux containing roughly 4800 men, women, and children and was killed by a visiting Miniconjou warrior named High Forehead.

Young Bull

Photo credit: Andreas Krappweis.

The cow’s owner who had tracked it down, became fearful at the sight of the Indian encampment, so he went to Fort Laramie and explained the situation to Lt. Hugh Fleming. Fleming approached the Sioux chief, Conquering Bear, to negotiate a solution. The chief offered a horse from his own herd or a cow from the tribe’s herd, but the Mormon man demanded $25 cash. When terms couldn’t be reached, Fleming demanded the arrest of High Forehead. Conquering Bear wouldn’t agree since he had no authority over the Miniconjou tribe, so their negotiations ended in stalemate.

Second Lieutenant John Grattan, a new West Point graduate, took matters into his own hands. With little respect for the Sioux, he, an armed detachment of thirty soldiers, and an interpreter went searching for a fight. They marched into the Sioux encampment, intent on arresting High Forehead. The interpreter, who was drunk at the time, taunted the Sioux warriors, promising that the soldiers would kill them. Grattan demanded High Forehead’s surrender. When he refused, Grattan approached Conquering Bear. The chief once more offered a horse in exchange for the dead cow, but Grattan would accept only the arrest of High Forehead. Again, the negotiations ended in stalemate.

Red_Cloud

Government Archives

What Grattan didn’t know was that the Sioux warriors had flanked the detachment during the negotiations. As he returned to his horse, one soldier became so nervous he fired a shot, and the bullet struck and killed the Sioux chief. With bows and arrows, the Sioux killed Grattan and eleven others. The remaining men retreated to a rocky outcropping nearby, but the warriors, led by rising war chief Red Cloud, pursued and killed them all.

For days, the Sioux raided nearby settlers, trading posts, and Fort Laramie. Finally, the Indians abandoned the area for their respective hunting grounds, and in so doing, broke the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. When a burial party went into the encampment, the thirty soldiers’ bodies were found mutilated almost beyond recognition.

Photo credit:Phil Konstantin.

Photo credit:Phil Konstantin.

 

News of the Grattan Massacre reached the War Department, and a plan for retaliation was formed. On September 3, 1855, a 700-soldier force led by Colonel William Harney descended on an encampment of 250 Brulé Sioux along Ash Creek. The soldiers killed more than one hundred Sioux men, women, and children and took roughly seventy prisoners. So began a long history of attacks and retaliations that continued for many years. And…the Battle of Ash Creek is directly linked to one of the most famous cases of retaliation in all of Indian war history. One of the young boys who witnessed the massacre at Ash Creek grew into the great Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse, who fought and killed Custer twenty-one years later at the Little Big Horn.

 

I hope you’ll be interested to see how The Grattan Massacre fits into my story, Sioux Summer.

You can find The Oregon Trail Romance Collection at bookstores everywhere, or purchase from Amazon. And to one lucky reader, I’ll be giving away an autographed copy. Leave a comment below to enter the drawing.

 

Oregon Trail Collection

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