Category: Behind the Book

Old West Towns: Real or Myth?

Shops and businesses on the streets away from the center of town were laid out willy-nilly; some with entries facing alleyways. Boarding houses and private homes were seemingly dropped at random, as if tossed like dice from a gambler’s hand. –from my WIP, Stop the Wedding (book #1 Shotgun Brides)

I’m working on a new 3-book series that takes place in the fictional town of Haywire, Texas.   Before I could begin writing, it was necessary to map out my town.  Fans of western movies might think that’s a bit strange.  When a town is only one street wide and a block long, what’s to map out?  Well, for one thing, western movie sets are generally much smaller than a real town ever was, and less spread out.

Gold Hills, Nevada

The town in my book was built prior to the Civil War.  That’s important to know, because towns founded before the war generally sprang-up along wandering cow paths.   If you ever got lost in parts of Boston, as I once did, you’d know how confusing such towns can be.

Fortunately, after the war, town founders hired surveyors to plat grids oriented to railroad specifications. This practice came too late to help the poor residents of Haywire—or my hero who gets lost while chasing a bad guy through town.

Since business taxes in the Old West were calculated on width, shops and saloons were built long and narrow. What was generally called Outhouse Alley ran behind the buildings, parallel to the main thoroughfare.

Some buildings did double-duty. Schools often shared space with the Oddfellows or Masons, and shopkeepers lived over shops.

My town’s main street is T-shaped which runs into the railroad.  On the other end of Main, the town is split in two by a hundred-foot wide cross street.  A street like this was known in many western towns as the Dead Line, the purpose of which was to separate moral businesses from those beyond the pale.

Dead Line streets were wide enough so that anyone who accidentally ventured into the wrong side of town, occupied by saloons, bordellos and in Haywire’s case, the barbershop, could easily turn horse and wagon around.  Thus delicate constitutions were saved and reputations left intact.

Typically, the bank would be built next to the sheriff or marshal’s office, which explains why bank robberies in the Old West were rare. Only the most daring outlaw would attempt a bank robbery. It was much easier to rob stages—and a whole lot healthier.

Movies do get some things right. For example, buildings in many towns were mostly wood with false fronts.  These fake facades were added to make hastily-built buildings look more impressive and provide a place for signage.  Some towns, especially in the south-west where few trees could be found, were built mostly from adobe.

Speaking of movies, what western would be complete without having the hero barge through a saloon’s bat-wing doors? In reality, not every saloon had such doors. In some parts of the country, it was too cold or windy and too much dust would blow inside. Saloons that did have café doors also had standard doors that could be shut and locked when necessary.  A tour guide at Universal Studios explained that movie sets had saloon doors of different sizes: an extra-large one to make the heroine appear small and demure, and an extra-small door to make the hero appear taller and more imposing.

Another thing that frontier towns had that you won’t see in most western movies is a sign telling visitors to check their guns.  Now that’s one area where Hollywood and Haywire can agree.

Have you ever visited a western ghost town or movie lot?

 

Welcome to Two-Time, Texas

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

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Updated: April 27, 2017 — 4:50 am

CROP CIRCLES & LEGENDS OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN (Plus free give-away)

Howdy!

Strange title, eh?  Or maybe not.   THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR from the Lost Clan Series is based on a myth that is common throughout the American Indian myths — tribe to tribe.  The story of the Thunderer.

But there’s another legend that caught my interest early on — and it is the one I thought I’d discuss with you today.  At the time I came upon this myth, I knew nothing about crop circles — had never heard of them — but this legend, and my knowledge of crop circles has left some questions in my mind — and I thought I’d tell you about them.

SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, from the Legendary Warriors Series, is based in no small degree upon the myth of a hunter and the daughters of the Star People.  The book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE actually starts with the hero and heroine and the legend as it is told in Native American lore.  Interestingly, I found this myth not in just one tribe — but several — and the thing is, it was told almost (but not quite) identically, tribe to tribe.  The legend I’m about to tell you is from the Shawnee.stortell[1]

I believe that the name of the hero (it’s from a children’s book that I’m quoting) is Red Hawk, and the name of the book is RED HAWK AND THE SKY SISTERS by Gloria Dominic and Charles Reasoner.  Again, this legend is repeated in several different tribes — although the hero’s name is often different.

Red Hawk is a great hunter.  But he is puzzled because he sees the same thing in the prairie each time he goes to hunt.  It is a circle — a perfect circle — but there are no paths leading up to it — or going away from it.  There is evidence that something was there and made the circle — but how?  Red Hawk decides to spend the night, hiding himself from view.

51GoIbPuXOL._SL110_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-sm,TopRight,10,-13_OU01_[1]And so he does.  He discovers by hiding himself, that a basket gently falls to the earth and that there is singing from feminine voices.  As the basket comes to land softly on the earth, the sisters alight from the basket and dance around it in a circle.  Red Hawk watches this for many nights until one night he falls in love with one of the sisters — the youngest I believe.  And so, once again hiding himself, he waits until the sisters are about to get into the basket and go back into the sky — but suddenly he jumps out from his hiding place and captures the woman of his heart.

They marry and are happy, but she misses her home in the sky (she is a star).  They have a  child and she wishes to take the child and return to visit her home in the sky.  Our hero lets her go, but keeps the child with him, hoping that the child will be enough to cause her to return.  When she doesn’t return, our hero again captures her, and she falls in love with him all over and they live happily ever after.

th[1]I did find that the ending varies a bit from tribe to tribe, and I’m uncertain of how this book ends the story — I have this book, but of course, needing to find it for this post, the book eludes me.  : )

So what does this have to do with crop circles and aliens.  Well, I found it very interesting that crop circles seem similar and are also tied to aliens — here’s a link, if you’ve never heard of crop circles:  https://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/cutting/cropcirc.htm

Here is a picture of an actual crop circle — where the crops have been bent back without any footprints to or from the circle.   They are usually made at night — and made within one night.

Although attributed to more modern times, it’s interesting to me that our legend goes back centuries — to come to us today — to perhaps make the crop circle even more mysterious.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the post today.  And I hope I’ve created some interest in the American Indian legend.   Oh, and by the way, what do you think of the legend and the crop circles in general?

I’ll be giving away an e-book copy of SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE today to some lucky blogger — please see the Giveaway Guidelines over to the right here for our rules that govern giveaways.  Oh, also I wanted you all to know that LAKOTA SURRENDER, PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN, BLACK EAGLE and SENECA SURRENDER are now on KindleUnlimited.  If you are a part of that, you can now read those books for free.  Nice, huh?…

 

Updated: April 24, 2017 — 10:56 am

The Pathfinders — John C Fremont

 

The Pathfinders – John C Fremont

I’ve written a series of posts I call The Pathfinders.

I’ve talked about John Mullen, John Colter, Kit Carson, and Jim Bridger.

Today I’m writing about the guy they call………..The Pathfinder.

Yep, he’s the guy that inspired this whole thing.

John C Fremont — The Pathfinder

As I write my books I am struck, again and again, with how formidable the west was to people traveling through it. The mountains, the deserts, the vast grasslands. Not only the land but the grizzlies, the herds of buffalo. The harsh winters, the burning hot summers, and the storms in all seasons. Let’s add native people who weren’t that crazy about their new neighbors.

A person couldn’t just start driving their covered wagon across the land and hope to survive. There were streams and rivers that were hard to cross. Someone had to find the places shallow enough, without sinking mud and steep sides. Even on fairly level grasslands you had to guide your team to water, and there weren’t just creeks and lakes everywhere.

The deserts had water holes and narrow crossings but you had to know where they were. These are cattle drive stories many of them. The Goodnight Loving Trail was a wonder. Goodnight and Loving found a way through that no one had ever traveled before (well, not with a herd of cattle needing to be watered)

The Rockies. ON MY GOSH. Hello? Sacagawea dragging the Louis and Clark Expedition through? Donner Party anyone??

I am honestly just in awe of the men who made this their life. Finding a path through these places. What compelled them to do such a thing? How would you set out in the mountains and hope to find your way through. First on horseback, then a trail a wagon could cross, finally a path wise enough, up and down those vast, rugged mountains for a train.

John C. Fremont — The Pathfinder

And no one…No One was better at it than John C Fremont. In the 1840s, Fremont led five expeditions into the American West.

Fremont’s first expedition

was in 1842. He went with Kit Carson to present day Wyoming to find and map a path called South Pass, first discovered by Jedediah Smith. This trail was at first only passable on foot, so narrow and with such cliffs and barriers a horse couldn’t cross it. By 1846, after Fremont’s expedition and with tons of work to widen and clear it, it became the Oregon Trail.

Fremont’s reputation was launched from this. He was featured in dime novels, including one called The Pathfinder, which propelled to him to nationwide fame.

Fremont’s second expedition

was began at South Pass and was to map and describe the rest of the trail to Oregon. Jedediah Smith again led the way, but Smith never wrote down a good description, he never drew a map. He just told tales and Fremont, again with Kit Carson, followed Smith’s trail all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

 

Fremont also reached the site of present day Las Vegas and he is the first non-native person to see Lake Tahoe. He saw it from a great height and didn’t go down close to it, but he wrote of seeing it. The maps he drew led the pioneers through the Oregon and California trails, inspired the Mormons to travel to Utah, and were the road map for the 49ers heading for the California Gold Rush.

Fremont’s third expedition

was a wild one. He started out to explore the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains but instead ending up in California, nearly started a war with Mexico, and had battles with the Indians, both of which nearly cost him his entire crew of men. Fremont, the son-in-law of a powerful Senator, ended up being appointed California’s military governor, but there was trouble when the president appointed another man, and Fremont ended up being court marshalled and thrown out of the army. He was pardoned. But his career was over.

And then came

Fremont’s fourth expedition

To restore his honor after the mess in California, Fremont, along with his father-in-law Thomas Hart Benton, went all in to work for America’s Manifest Destiny. That was the idea that the United States should spread all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Mexico had signed California over to America but the country had yet to really take control of the area. Fremont set out to plot a path for the railroad to reach San Francisco. It was a disaster at the time, with ten of his thirty-five men dying on the trip due to unexpected snow storms.

Fremont’s fifth and final expedition

was mostly a second try at finding a railroad path along the same trail he’d tried before. His goal was to pass through the Rocky Mountains in winter. It was a brutal journey but they made it and this path was ultimately the trail taken by the Transcontinental Railroad. Fremont had found the way to connect the nation.

John C Fremont for President 1856 at age 43

Fremont also was an anti-slavery Republican presidential candidate in the election before Abraham Lincoln was elected. He was 43 when he ran. Yes, that’s right, he’d done all that stuff, all those expeditions and he was only 43 and was back east running for president. 

James Buchanan won and many believe Buchanan’s sloppy handling of the growing divide between the north and south led to the Civil War.

Fremont then fought in the Civil War and rose to the rank of General, yes this was after he’d been court martialed and drummed out of the military.

He also discovered and documented countless new species of plants and he has so many western places named after him it’s almost funny, including towns named Fremont in ten states, streams, canyons, counties, schools, on and on and on. Chances are if you named something in the west Fremont, the man had been there.

When I read about Fremont’s life after his exploring years, the man seemed like honestly a radical nut, always in trouble. He declared an emancipation proclamation before Lincoln did, in Missouri and he put the whole state under martial law. He had absolutely no power to do this, but he did it anyway. This is just a sample of some of his wild ways.

But I think a man living in the west, forging his own path, had to be so independent, such an individual and so used to being a in charge and going his own way, that he’d make a darned poor employees.

Long Time Gone

Do you have anything near you named Fremont? Can you imagine what it took to be a pathfinder? Tell me the bravest thing you’ve ever done. The wildest thing?

Could You Have Found a Path Across the West?

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of Long Time Gone (Cimarron Legacy #2)

Long Time Gone 4 Star Romantic Times Review

Here is another amazing, fast-paced, suspenseful, page-turning novel by Connealy! Written in third person, this works as a stand-alone novel, but is the second in the Cimarron Legacy series. You will recognize characters from the first book as well as from a past series. This is a must-read that will stick with you long after you finish. Recommended for fans of historical suspense.

 

Updated: April 20, 2017 — 7:09 am

THE MAKING OF A WESTERN SERIES and a giveaway by Charlene Sands

Most of the romantic series I’ve written are family sagas, with the stories centering around one set of family members or friends and usually, (but not always) the stories are set in the same town, territory, or city.  But the key factor is how to tie in the stories, while still making the plot easy to follow for readers who have not read the other books.  Authors often say the books are part of a series, but they can also be read as a STAND ALONE, meaning they have all the elements in the story to make for a satisfying read even if you haven’t read the other books.   It’s the task and joy for the writer to make sure the story holds up and is a cohesive enough to stand alone.

My series are usually a set of three stories, but sometimes as I’m writing, another character pops up that needs his or her to be told.  So there’s no hard and fast rule about how many books can be in a series.  If an author has a vision for six or ten or fifteen stories and the readers are invested enough and love the stories, the writing, and the setting, more the better.

 

 

What’s Fun About Writing a Series:

The Setting—once the town or ranch or territory is established, readers (and the authors) love to revisit familiar places from the earlier books.  In my Forever Texan series we often see the Bluebonnet Bakery and Wishing Wells and 2 Hope Ranch.

Taming the Texas Cowboy

The Characters—it’s fun to see the characters interact together from one story to another. Brothers, sisters, cousins, moms and dads and best friends all play a role, but the writers strive to make sure the romance between the hero and heroine is the main event in every story. The secondary characters often get their own stories later down the road.

The Theme – Often there’s an underlying theme that connects the stories.  It can something as simple as a holiday, Thanksgiving or Christmas maybe, or a special event such as a rodeo coming to town.  It can also be a wedding or a pregnancy that connects the stories.  The themes know no bounds.  I was once  part of a multi-author series about a Bachelor Auction.  I’ve also written a series centered around a winery called Napa Valley Vows, a series centered around a hotel called Suite Secrets and around a ranching family called The Slades of Sunset Ranch.

The Love–  Not between hero and heroine, because that’s a given,  but for the author.  Once I’ve established my town and the people in it and yes, even the stories I plot and plan out, I sorta fall in love with the whole idea.  These people are my friends, this town is somewhere I’d love to live and it’s the journey and the challenge to make the series click and stick, as I say.   One thing I know for certain, once the love is gone, once the writer tires of the setting or runs out of story, it’s time to move on, to be inspired once again.

I’m really proud of my new Forever Texan story set in Hope Wells, Texas.  The stories center around two cousins and their best friend.  It’s been a labor of love for me, as I started this series long ago and have finally found the right time and place to publish this trio of amazing Texans.   I’ve been lucky enough to have input in the covers, the titles and series name.  It makes this all the more special for me.

You may already know the first book in the series Taming the Texas Cowboy starring Trey and Maddie Walker, but I’m happy to say the second book in the series (Jack and Jillian’s story) is available for pre-order.  And this is the OFFICIAL COVER REVEAL for Loving the Texas Lawman.   I know, it’s a hardship looking at this guy, isn’t it?

 

 

The last thing honorable Sheriff Jack Walker needs is a blast from the past, but that’s exactly what he gets when his high school love, now sexy lingerie designer, Jillian Lane arrives on his doorstep needing his help and protection. 

Jillian is desperate to save her company, Barely There and turning to Jack Walker, the town hero, is her only option. The trouble she left behind in California has followed her home, leaving Jack no choice but to protect her. Unwittingly, Jillian’s put everything Jack has ever wanted in life at risk. 

The years have not made it easier for Jack to say no to his first love, but saying yes may threaten all he holds dear. Jack may have a solution: marriage–the temporary kind. And how can a girl from the wrong side of the tracks refuse a marriage proposal from her one-time love? 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y3MW7HJ/?tag-tulepubli-20&tag=pettpist-20

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1126172852?ean=2940157567781

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/loving-the-texas-lawman/id1224208557?mt=11

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/loving-the-texas-lawman

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06Y3MW7HJ/?tag-tulepubli-21&tag=pettpist-20

 

 

For Fun:  Take a guess at the names of my hero and heroine from FOREVER TEXAN Book 3 titled, Redeeming the Texas Rancher coming this August.  Post either number ONE, TWO OR THREE and be entered into a random drawing to win a backlist book of your choice, either print or digital from my available titles.   Random drawing winner will be posted later tonight.  Be sure to stop by again!

 

  1. Conner and Willow
  2. Tristan and Susanna
  3. Colby and Dakota

 

 

Updated: April 11, 2017 — 12:08 pm

Cowboy Homecoming with Louise M. Gouge

Today Louise M. Gouge joins us at the Junction and she’ll be giving away a copy of her new book, Cowboy Homecoming! Let’s give her a warm welcome!

I’m so happy to be a returning guest here on Petticoats and Pistols. Thank you all for inviting me back! Let me tell you what I’ve been up to in the realm of historical western romance.

When writing a series of novels, we romance authors face a challenge. To keep the series exciting to our readers from one book to the next, we must create a unique romantic conflict between the hero and heroine of each story. For my editor, I also must have an interesting, overarching conflict the couple needs to solve together. It can be anything from unravelling a mystery to reaching a destination on the other side of a deep, dark valley or building a new hotel in a small town.

My brand-new April release, Cowboy Homecoming, the fifth book in my Four Stones Ranch series, is no different. Cowgirl Laurie Eberly already cares for cowboy and newly minted lawyer Tolley Northam. They grew up together on neighboring ranches, and their fathers often spoke of wanting a marriage between the two families. (They have plenty of sons and daughters, so it’s possible for that to happen!) Only problem is, Laurie can’t trust former bad boy Tolley. Does he truly love her, or is he showing interest in her because he desperately wants to please his father?

In the meantime, Laurie and Tolley end up living in the same boarding house so they can help dear old widow Foster, who’s fallen down the stairs while carrying a bucket of water upstairs to clean her boarders’ rooms. Laid up with a sprained leg and broken arm, Mrs. Foster can’t take care of her house or boarders. Tolley comes up with the idea of installing a bathroom on the second floor of the house so the lady will never have to carry water upstairs again. Laurie loves the idea, but she and Tolley have different ideas about how to get the job done, so that adds to the fun of the story.

But were there bathrooms in 1885 homes in small town Colorado? And if so, how would such a room be built in an already completed house? Believe me, I had to check several sources to bring it all together. My best go-to book for the series is A Bridge to Yesterday by Emma M. Riggenbach, which tells the history of Monte Vista, Colorado, the town on which I based my fictional town of Esperanza. Set in the San Luis Valley, this cozy town holds many surprises for people who think all historical western stories are the same.

For instance, in 1889, a grand, three-story hotel was built in Monte Vista. It was constructed of pink stone quarried seven miles from town. In the hotel, artesian water was pumped to all three floors. Taking literary license with that information, I reasoned that because Boston’s Tremont Hotel had full bathrooms since 1830
, and many Boston homes had them by the 1880s, bathrooms were no doubt popping up all over the West. Since my hero has just spent two years in Bean Town, he rather likes the modern convenience and wants to bring it to his hometown. Laurie has spent some time in Denver, and she’s enjoyed bathrooms in finer hotels.

To find out how Laurie and Tolley accomplish their goal of helping dear Mrs. Foster by installing a bathroom in her house AND finding the way to their very own happily-ever-after, you may want to pick up a copy of Cowboy Homecoming. Or you can enter our drawing for a free copy by leaving a comment or question about the history of bathrooms (U. S. residents only).

COWBOY HOMECOMING — After two years, Tolley Northam returns home, transformed from a mischievous youth into an ambitious lawyer confident of winning his father’s approval at last. But he soon begins to wonder if the only way to do so is to marry family friend Laurie Eberly—a woman his father has always liked. If only she weren’t so adamant about refusing Tolley’s proposal…

Laurie’s childhood friend is now a handsome, accomplished lawyer with undeniable charm. But she can’t accept Tolley’s proposal; she believes it’s just to earn his father’s praise. First he’ll have to prove to her that he wants her for a wife not because his father thinks she’s the perfect match, but because he does.

Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical Romances. She received the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award in 2005 and placed in 2011, 2015, and 2016; and placed in the Laurel Wreath in 2012. When she isn’t writing, she and David, her husband of fifty-plus years, enjoy visiting historical sites and museums. Please visit her Web site at http://blog.Louisemgouge.com, https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLouiseMGouge/, Twitter: @Louisemgouge

Can Horses Fly? How About Hearts?~Tanya Hanson and a Giveaway!

Eadweard Muybridge, born Edward Muggeridge in Kingston-upon-Thames, London, (April 30, 1820) became an American icon. How? By inventing the motion picture! When I first read about him years ago, I knew someday, somehow, he would be a character in one of my books—and he finally did, in my latest release, When Hearts Fly. (I’m giving an e-copy away today to one commenter, so please leave some words behind before you ride off.)

What made him stand out to me? Well, first of all, was the name change. I grew up with such an odd name myself, I would never have made it worse. But when he came to America in 1850, Edward Muggeridge spelled it Eadweard Muybridge because he believed the archaic spellings were truer to his Old English roots.

However, he took “Helois” as his professional name as a photographic artist in San Francisco where he earned a stellar reputation. In a traveling darkroom, he produced breathtaking landscapes of the West, most famously Yosemite and Alaska.

At thirty, Muybridge suffered a head injury in a stagecoach accident. Changes in his behavior and vision alarmed his friends. It is believed now the accident damaged his frontal cortex, an explanation for his increasingly eccentric behavior…

…which culminated in the cold-blooded, shot-through-the-heart murder of his wife Flora’s lover in 1874. He had become convinced her baby had been fathered by Major Harry Larkins. Although his lawyers used the stagecoach injury in an insanity defense, the jurors didn’t buy it. Nonetheless, they did acquit Muybridge on the grounds of justifiable homicide.

(His penchant for killing an adulterous male is a plot point in my novella, when my hero’s past behavior with Muybridge’s fictional niece is misconstrued.)

The early 1870’s saw the rise of Muybridge’s place in history. Railroad tycoon, former California governor, and soon-to-be-founder of a great University, Leland Stanford hired Eadweard to settle a bet.

A fiery controversy blazed at this time: was there ever a moment in a horse’s gait when all four hooves left the ground? Prevailing attitudes claimed NO—if horses were meant to fly God would have given them wings.

But Stanford believed differently and wanted Muybridge to capture the moment. However, the moment happened too fast for the human eye to see.

During some five years of experiments at Stanford’s farm in Palo Alto, California, Muybridge’s primitive results did show a horse “in flight” but the results did not survive. Finally, he and Stanford were ready to face the crowds. In June, 1878, at a racetrack at the farm, Muybridge set up 12 cameras with strings tripping the shutters  to capture the images against a screen. In front of enthusiastic spectators, a horse named Sallie Gardener proved four feet off the ground.

The achievement was featured in the October 1878 issue of Scientific American.

In 1883, Muybridge went to the University of Pennsylvania to continue his photographic studies of animals—and humans, some nude!—in motion. He had access to the veterinary college and the local zoo. And unclothed athletes as well.

His invention, the zoopraxiscope, showed images on a rotating glass plate projected against a screen. However, the images on the scope, about the size of a dinner plate, had to be drawn on. At that time, they were not his actual photographs. He toured the country and Europe giving demonstrations of “motion pictures.”

Muybridge’s techniques inspired Thomas Edison back then, and still inspire artists and film makers today. He died of cancer in 1904.

Are you a fan of motion pictures? What’s your favorite movie Western?

Blurb:

Innkeeper Cordy Meeker wants a cowboy all her own and to head to the mountains to find him. But she faces financial ruin thanks to her late gambler brother and a hopeless winter of no paying guests. With the bank threatening foreclosure, she needs help fast.

On his way to his family’s holdings in Colorado, British nobleman Hawk Shockley lands in Paradise, Nebraska on a whim, robbed and penniless. Concocting a money-making scheme with the beautiful Cordy is easy, and giving his heart easier, but a woman has gotten him into a pickle before. So…when Eadweard Muybridge threatens to come to town, will a last-minute wedding make things better? Or worse?

Excerpt:

Cordy tightened the shawl so she didn’t scream. But cry, never that. No man would ever make her cry again. Not even the foolish banker. Never. Not after Lambert Truefitt. In some way, she would outwit Mr. Pelikan and his ilk at the bank. True, she hadn’t had a guest for weeks. True, her Sunday chicken dinners were wildly popular. But also true, locals hurried home after church before it snowed again.

So bills had mounted. She and her horses had to eat. The mercantile allowed her to pay down her debt of nine dollars and twenty cents two bits at a time.

Clancy. She clenched her fists. A trudge to the cemetery would be muddy, but the urge to kick her brother’s headstone wouldn’t be stifled. Finally, anger outranked grief, relief, and guilt. On her way to the tiny vestibule where she kept her rubber boots, the little counter bell clanged. But she didn’t hurry. With her present luck, it would be Sheriff Pelton arresting her on behalf of her felonious brother, and she couldn’t afford bail. Finally she called out on the fourth ring.

“I’ll be right with you.” Then she tripped on a boot, stumbled, flailed.

And landed in the arms of a man just in time to break her fall. His warmth scented from the outdoors snuggled around her. Cordy managed to toss her arms around his neck. He held her panting form against his mighty chest.

Then her breath stopped. The sight of him heated her blood. Here he was, as if stepping out from a dream. Her Wild West cowboy, with his Stetson and scruffy cheeks and lake-blue eyes she wanted to drown in.

“Are you all right?” His voice rumbled from his chest to her ear. A drawl mixed with someplace else.

“Yes.” She saddened when he broke contact and set her down. He kept hold of her hand, and she practically fell in love on the spot. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

“I am Keaton Shockley.” He touched his brim and removed his Stetson. Weather and leather ruffled his rugged coffee-brown hair. “And I’d like to let a room. I must find C. Meeker, proprietor.”

Her heart flipped inside itself. Not only a paying customer, but a handsome one. Oh, and how magnificently that duster tightened around his shoulder muscles when he moved.

“You have found her. I’m Miss Cordelia Meeker. Welcome to my inn.” She held out her hand. Adding the Miss risked her appearing a stuffy spinster, but it was a surefire way to inform him she was unmarried. “But do call me Cordy.” There.

“Do call me Hawk.”

“Hawk?” Oh, so…cowboy!

She sparked to her toes when they touched. He raised the hand he held, slowly, then placed it against his warm lips. “Keaton supposedly means where hawks fly.”

 

 

Updated: March 16, 2017 — 1:49 pm

Foods of the 1800’s

Yesterday, I spent a good eight hours editing some chapters in my upcoming Kasota Spring Romance contemporary series Out of a Texas Night.  A part I’d written a while back brought back memories of  my Granny’s cooking. Here’s a little excerpt:  Since Avery had been staying out at Mesa’s family’s ranch, the Jacks Bluff, she’d had the opportunity to enjoy more than her share of Lola Ruth’s larrupin’ good handmade goodies.  Somewhere deep inside, she figured Lola Ruth had lied for years about not using lard for her famous fried pies.  Somehow, Avery couldn’t see the loveable woman turning to shortening or vegetable oil, much less coconut or avocado oil, after all of this time….

I kept thinking about how wonderful my Granny’s fried pies were and that she fried them in plain ol’ lard.  What changes we’ve had in cooking over the last century.  With Easter dinner nearing and my grandkids coming for the week, I started my grocery list.  While doing so, of course I was thinking about what I planned to blog on today. Suddenly, I remembered a section in a wonderful research book about life in the 1800’s, so I pulled it from the shelf and began getting some ideas.  I thought I’d share a few with you. Coffee: drunk throughout the century, although tea was more popular until after the Civil War. Early in the 1860’s folks began using Borden condensed milk. Chase and Sanborn coffee was sold in sealed cans as early as 1878, while Maxwell House canned coffee came around a few years later.  As I recall from previous research, Arbuckles added a peppermint stick as a treat in each package.

The more I read the more interested I got about things we have today that makes cooking so much easier that were new products in the 1800’s and earlier.

The general store or mercantile were the main source of foods in the 1800’s.  The typical items we use today were available, salt, sugar, spices and the like. Beer, whiskey, molasses and vinegar were dispensed through spigots from barrels. Pickles and crackers were also sold from barrels, while dried legumes/beans were on the floor in bushel baskets.

Canned goods weren’t widely available until the Civil War and after; however beans in tomato sauce were first successfully canned and sold commercially by Van Camp in 1861.  Yes, our familiar Pork and Beans were favorites a century and a half ago.

Baking powder was sold commercially from the late 1860’s. Previously, housewives leavened their cakes and biscuits with sour milk and molasses or pearl ash or saleratus (closely related to potassium bicarbonate, which is similar to soda).   Granny’s chocolate cake recipe that is in back of The Troubled Texan uses soda and buttermilk.  This is what I’ve used for years.

One of America’s favorite foods and one that are especially good at baseball games is the hot dog. To me there isn’t anything better than a good ol’ hot dog. They haven’t been around as long as some of the other cooking items, I’ve talked about.  They were introduced in the 1880’s in St. Louis.

Which of course brings to mind one of the favorite condiments for a dog, ketchup.  Heinz ketchup was bottled for the first time in 1876.  Until then, the housewives made their own by squeezing very ripe tomatoes with their hands until they were reduced to pump, then they put a half a pound of salt to one hundred tomatoes, and boiled them for two hours, stirring frequently.  While hot they’d press them through a fine sieve then add a little mace, nutmeg, all-spice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and pepper to taste.  Then they’d boil over a slow fire until thick and bottle when cold.  One hundred tomatoes made four or five bottles and could be kept for two or three years.

The original potato chip was invented in 1853 in Saratoga Springs, New York,  and applicably named the Saratoga chip.

The Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) opened in 1859 on Vesey Street in New York. Its rows of tea bins contained teas from around the world. By 1880, there were ninety-five A&P stores from Boston to Milwaukee.  And, yes, if you are asking yourself, they are the same A&P Grocery stores that were basically on the East Coast for nearly a century before they filed bankruptcy.

What grocery product would you have trouble doing without?  I’m going to give you my two answers.  Pork & Beans because since my grandkids were little I cut up wieners and put in a can of Pork & Beans, warmed them and they were served with Kraft Mac and Cheese.  My oldest granddaughter will be graduating from college in a few weeks and to this day they all say I’m the only one that can fix P&B’s and Mac & Cheese the way they like it.  Proves that Granny’s (yes, I’m Granny named after my maternal granny) cooking is always the best.The produce I couldn’t do without is soda.  I used it for everything from cookin’ to cleanin’!

So, now tell me your cain’t-do-without product!

 

I’ll be drawing two winners who leave a comment and

send you an eBook of The Troubled Texan

Updated: April 3, 2017 — 7:45 pm

The Allure of Fort Laramie ~ by Amanda Cabot

When you picture a western fort from the nineteenth century, do you envision small, perhaps even dilapidated wooden buildings surrounded by a wooden stockade?  I did until I visited Fort Laramie.  It was the summer of 2004, only a few months after my husband and I had moved from the East Coast to Cheyenne.  We needed a break from the unpacking, picture hanging, and other tasks associated with moving into a new house, so we headed for the Fort Laramie National Historic Site.

Old Fort Laramie store foundation

Foreground: foundation of barracks; background: part of officer’s row, including the post trader’s store (the one-story building in the center back)

It was not what I expected.  There was no stockade, the buildings were far from primitive, and the way they flanked the central parade ground made it reminiscent of a New England village, not one of the military forts those old Westerns made popular.

Old Fort Laramie dining room

Nothing primitive about this dining room.

Old Fort Laramie birdbath

An in-ground birdbath.

As we entered the Visitor Center, the surprises continued, and I found myself fascinated by the elegant lifestyle the officers and their wives experienced during the last decade of the fort’s existence (the 1880s).Houses were surrounded by picket fences, many yards had flower gardens, and women strolled along the boardwalks carrying parasols.  There were even birdbaths.  Of course, since this was Wyoming with its famous winds, the birdbaths weren’t the typical basin-on-a-pedestal style that you might expect.  Instead, they were circular depressions in the ground. As I said, it was not at all what I had expected, but what I saw started my brain whirling, and I knew this would not be my only visit to the fort.

Old Fort Laramie Officers Row

Partially reconstructed officers’ housing and Old Bedlam (the two-story white frame building)

Old Fort Laramie Burt house

Andrew and Elizabeth Burt’s home. The red SUV in the background was definitely not there when they lived at the fort!

There’s a lot to see.  While many of the buildings have been destroyed, a number have been restored to their former glory to give visitors a sense of what life was like at the fort that was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail.  The most famous of those buildings is Old Bedlam, the oldest military structure in Wyoming.  Curious about the nickname?  It was originally constructed for bachelor officers’ housing, and those officers were a little … shall we say rowdy?  Later in its existence, it was used as post headquarters, and only a few years ago it was the site of a wedding.  I suspect the guests were better behaved than those bachelor officers of 150 years ago.One of the restored houses is the one where Lt. Col. Andrew Burt and his wife Elizabeth lived during their two tours of duty at the fort.  If you’ve never heard of the Burts, their story is told in Indians, Infants and Infantry: Andrew and Elizabeth Burt on the Frontier by Merrill J. Mattes, a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants an authentic view of life at nineteenth century forts.  The author used Elizabeth’s Burt’s diaries and letters to create a story filled with fascinating details of real life.

What does all this have to do with my current release?  Absolutely nothing.  A Stolen Heart is set in a charming town in the Texas Hill Country, not on a military fort.  Its hero is a sheriff, not a soldier.  Its heroine is a schoolteacher who becomes a confectioner, not a woman dealing with tasteless dried potatoes.  But Fort Laramie is such a wonderful place that I couldn’t resist taking this opportunity to tell you more about it.  If you visit Wyoming, I hope you’ll consider spending a day at Fort Laramie.  It’s well worth the detour.

And now to the highlight of the post: the giveaway.  I’m offering a signed copy of either Summer of Promise, which takes place at Fort Laramie during its elegant decade, or my new release, A Stolen Heart, to one commenter.

 

A stolen Heart

The future she dreamed of is gone. But perhaps a better one awaits . . .

From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners—like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé.

But when she discovers he has disappeared—and that he left behind a pregnant wife—Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?

The book is available at Barnes & Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.

 

Amanda CabotBestselling author Amanda Cabot invites you into Texas’s storied past to experience adventure, mystery—and love. She more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroad trilogy, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.

Find her online at:
AmandaCabot.com
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Can You Hear Country in My Voice?

LONG TIME GONE — Book #2 of the Cimarrron Legacy Series, releases in under two weeks1!!

by

Mary Connealy

I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published.

At the end of those ten years, on that fateful day when I earned my first contract, I had twenty finished books on my computer.

TWENTY! FINISHED! BOOKS!

And those books were NOT all romantic comedy with cowboys. Among those twenty books were almost all genres….within of course the genre of romance.

Sweet contemporary romances, police dramas, gothic, mysteries, sci-fi. Yep, I just wrote and wrote and wrote. I was trying seriously to get published all those years, but for good or ill, I wasn’t one of those people who wrote one book then started POLISHING for seven years.

Instead, I’d finish a book, and start another one. That’s not to say I never edited and revised. I did and did and did. I wrote stand alone books. I’d see ways to connect them and rewrite them into series. I’d change dates and names and places to move a book set in 1880 in Montana, so it’d be in 1865 Texas to match up with another books.

I had one three book series I wrote in three lengths. 45,000 words long, 55,000 words long and 90,000 words long, so they were ready to pitch to three different publishers with different word requirements.

I say all this because for some reason…for WHATEVER reason, when one of my books finally hit…it was a historical romance.

And then the publisher said, “So what else have you got like this?”

Eleven published books later, I finally had to start writing new books.

Now why, oh why, did that historical romance sell? A style I call ‘Romantic Comedy with Cowboys’.

I think maybe it’s because I know the lingo. I think I bring some authenticity to the western voice. Being from Nebraska … well, it ain’t Texas but it’s cowboy country, I promise you that.

And my husband is a Nebraska cattleman. We have what they call a cow/calf herd. 120 cows. (this is NOT a big operation by Nebraska standards, but it keeps us busy!)

Every one of those 120 cows has a baby every February and March (a few early ones, a few late) and for the last few years I’ve been chronicle-ing the arrival of those babies on Facebook.

Now, I think baby calves are wonderful. So cute, so lively when they’re so brand new. Angus calves are what we have mostly and they arrive this beautiful, shining black. Watching them stand, learn to nurse, run to their mamas when they get startled by My Cowboy or me driving in on our daily calf check. They’re just adorable.

But what amazes me about my calf pictures on Facebook is the response. I am surprised by how many people find what is every day to us, unusual, fascinating, even miraculous.

A baby calf being born.

So posting these pictures has helped me realize just how special our lives are, what a precious opportunity I’ve been given to be a Nebraska cattleman’s wife.

And I think now, maybe the reason my books finally sold, after all those years and all that work, is that I found my voice. I found a subject, westerns, cowboys, cattle, rural life, that I could portray with authenticity.

One of the bits of writing wisdom we hear of all the time is ‘Write what you know.’

Long Time Gone (Book #2 Cimarron Legacy Series)

Well, I suppose that’s what I’ve done. I’ve found a twist on my life, added considerably more gunfire, of course! (thank heavens) and made a career out of it.

I invite you all to join me on my Spring Parade of Calves (which is usually getting over by the time it’s spring) on Facebook.

And check out my new book, Long Time Gone. A book genre, romantic comedy with cowboys, I finally had to knowledge to write.

 

Tell me a story about an animal you’ve known. Or about what you know. If you were going to ‘write what you know’ what would that be? Commenters will get their name in the drawing for a copy of Long Time Gone.

Updated: March 15, 2017 — 7:07 pm

Welcome Guest Author Tracie Peterson!

Hello all of you wonderful readers,

This month I’m debuting a new series titled Heart of the Frontier. Book one is titled Treasured Grace and is the story of three sisters in 1847. The focal setting of the story is the Whitman Mission in the area of present day Walla Walla, Washington.Whitman Mission, Walla Walla, Washington

Whitman Mission aerial of grounds layout

This is a model of the mission layout with the main mission house to the right, the blacksmith shop in the center and the Emigrant’s House on the left. The mill pond (upper left) was where they also had a grist mill.

Treasured Grace by Tracie PetersonThis location was the site of the Whitman Mission Massacre that took place November 29, 1847. It was this massacre that truly changed the course of westward expansion and brought on the setting up of military forts along the Oregon Trail.

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman (she was one of the first two white women who crossed the Rocky Mountains) had tried for over ten years to win the hearts and minds of the Cayuse Indians in their area. However, a measles epidemic struck and killed a great many Cayuse, as well as whites. The Cayuse were convinced that Whitman (who was a doctor as well as a preacher) was trying to kill them and so on November 29th, they attacked and killed the doctor and Narcissa, along with most of the other men who were living at the mission. The remaining fifty-four women and children were taken hostage and held for nearly a month by the Cayuse.

The mission site is part of the National Parks system and open to visitors.

On my many visits there to glean information for my series, I found the park rangers to be some of the best I’ve encountered while doing research.  It was fascinating to learn about the Cayuse people. They were a nomadic people who were known for their horses and horsemanship. They were also considered to have some of the fiercest warriors.

They lived in tulle mat lodges and traveled with the seasons to harvest various roots and vegetation, as well as take advantage of the salmon fishing.

In the 1840’s this area of America was called Oregon Country. It was mostly inhabited by Native Americans and the British. The latter ran a string of Hudson’s Bay Company forts and traded with both the Native Americas and whites who came west. I mention this because another fascinating aspect of this massacre and the aftermath was the part the Hudson’s Bay Company played.

When it was learned that 54 white women and children were being held captive, Peter Skene Ogden (one of the factors at Fort Vancouver – now present day Vancouver, Washington) went to work to secure their release.  He and Chief Factor James Douglas put together a ransom hoping they could convinced the Cayuse to let the women and children go without harm. The ransom included 62 blankets, 63 cotton shirts, 12 Hudson Bay rifles, 600 loads of ammunition, 7 pounds of tobacco and 12 flints.  Eventually the Cayuse did agree to this and the women and children were set free. I thought it quite interesting, if not touching that The Hudson’s Bay Company never billed the American settlers for the ransom. I thought it equally interesting that reimbursement by the American government was never offered.

If you’d like to read a brief summary of the actual attack, this website should help.

I had a lot of fun researching this series and hope you enjoy it.  Book 2 Beloved Hope will come out in June and Book 3 Cherished Mercy is due out in September.Tracie Peterson

 

Tracie will send one of today’s commenters a lovely gift basket containing Treasured Grace and five more of her latest book, plus some other goodies. Take our word for it: You’ll love the prize!

 

Find Tracie online at her website, TraciePeterson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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