When author, Lauri Robinson, surprised me by asking if I’d be interested in writing a book with her, I had just finished my San Diego Heroes Series and really hadn’t expected to write any more stories set in the Old West. However, her enthusiasm spurred me (please forgive the pun) to accept her request. The process of collaborating has been a learning experience and also a joy. With Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove, we fell in love with the inhabitants of our fictional town and that first book propagated a series. Between Lauri and me there will be seven books by the time we are finished. You can view them all, along with a brief description, here: http://kathrynalbright.com/books/oak-grove-series
Throughout the series, I’ve gotten to know the town-folk with their secrets, idiosyncrasies, heart-aches, and joys from the moment Mary and Maggie, twin mail-order brides, stepped off the Kansas-Pacific train platform. As I type this, I just realized that the final book in the series ends with a scene on that same platform. Talk about ‘book-ends’!
I sketched out a town with buildings and stockyards, but, as I am no artist, I quickly gave up on that idea. Sketching did help me to visualize things better, but initially, I had to have a basic idea where buildings were situated so that both Lauri and I could mention them in their correct perspective without mistakes. (The smallest mistake can pull a reader out of the story.) Even shadows had to be falling the proper direction for the time of day. The Smoky Hill River had to run south of town and be within walking distance for a fishing scene (first book) and also because in the Spring (fourth book) it overflowed its banks, causing a horrific flood. (That is according to the real history of the river in 1879!) Here is the first map I made on my dining room table…
And here are some of my computer scribblings…
And then I stumbled across a picture of a real town’s Main Street that was so very close to what was in my head… it’s missing the school down by the church and Oak Grove doesn’t have a Fire Station yet. Instead, the Fire Station would actually be either the bath house or the Saloon. Still…it looks fairly close to my vision. Oak Grove…being a newly built town…would also be a bit spiffier.
What’s next for the series?
CHRISTMAS WITH THE OUTLAW is coming out NOVEMEBER 1st! This story will be the last in the Oak Grove Series and I am already sad to leave this wonderful community. It’s funny how fictional worlds and characters can become so ‘real.’ I would enjoy going to this town and meeting everyone there! I hear that from many of my readers about the Oak Grove Series and about other story “worlds.” I think that must say something about humanity. Despite the outliers – those ‘lone wolf’ independents, despite introverts and extroverts, we are all made for connection and for community to varying degrees.
What about you?
If you could travel to any fictional book world or setting, where would you like to visit?
(Does not have to be a historical western setting necessarily!)
Answer for a chance in my giveaway and your name might be drawn to win a copy (print or ebook)
of my newest release ~ Wedding at Rocking S Ranch!
(See Giveaway Guidelines at the top of this page)
The westward expansion in the United States began before the Civil War, spurred by a yearning for exploration and discovery. Early settlers were also influenced by the lure of gold and inexpensive land and the belief in something termed “Manifest Destiny.” After the war, there was another catalyst that sent people westward; the desire for a new beginning. But the American west was wild and the way was difficult and dangerous.
Violence was a fact of life as people fought for a foothold in the vast and dangerous landscapes. And lawful governance was hard to come by. In this wide, uncertain world of the western frontier, outlaws thrived. There weren’t nearly enough lawmen to cover all the territories and sheriffs and deputies often found themselves with more than enough to deal with in their small communities. Besides, lawmen were greatly hindered by the limited scope and breadth of their authority. Chasing down outlaws who moved from one place to another was either outside their jurisdiction or beyond the capacity of their manpower.
Relief came as a result of a court decision in 1872 which gave certain individuals the power to track down, imprison (indefinitely, if need be), and turn in anyone who had escaped bail or had a warrant for their arrest. These bounty hunters worked on the side of law but were not regulated by the same rules that tied the hands of true lawmen. They could cross state and territory lines. They did not need a warrant to force entry to a fugitive’s property. They had the unique benefit of anonymity and often had to act outside the law in order to accomplish their tasks.
As you can imagine, this combination of power and independence and the lack of checks and balances attracted a variety of people. Many who took on the role of bounty hunter were former military men who possessed exceptional skill with firearms and the know-how to track and, if necessary, kill known outlaws. One of the most successful and well-known bounty hunters was Charlie Siringo, a Pinkerton Detective. Other bounty hunters were barely a half step away from being outlaws themselves. Some were even convicted fugitives who were recruited to turn on their former partners and rivals.
When it came to outlaws and lawmen in the Wild West, the two were often one and the same. Outlaws became lawmen, lawmen became outlaws, and some men managed to live as both at the same time. That was possibly never truer than when it came to those who took on the mantle of bounty hunter.
In THE GUNSLINGER’S VOW, the first title in my new historical western series, Malcolm Kincaid started out as a vigilante on the hunt for justice. While tracking down the men responsible for his brother’s death, he just sort of fell into the occupation of bounty hunter. Though at his core he has the noble goal of finally seeing justice prevail, he has no problem making sure that happens by whatever means necessary. Unfortunately, he falls for a woman whose life might depend on him giving up his vengeful vendetta once and for all.
Whether set in Regency England or the American West, I write historical romance about dashing and sometimes dangerous men who know just how to get what they want and women who at times may be reckless, bold, and unconventional, but who always have the courage to embrace what love and life have to offer.
I’m so excited to have the chance to share Logan and Evangeline’s story with you. I’ll be sending you an email with instructions on how to claim your prize, so keep your eyes peeled. A rollicking western adventure is on it’s way!
More Than Meets the Eye is the first book in a new series. Each time I start a new project, there is an excitement that comes with getting to know a fresh group of characters, but there is also a pressure to make these characters unique. A challenge that gets increasingly difficult the more books I publish.
The premise behind my new Patchwork Family series is a group of orphans who bond to form their own family when their orphan train derails. These youngsters were overlooked, discarded, and unwanted by the families they met along their journey. Zach, because he is a belligerent loner with a giant chip on his shoulder. Seth, because he is sickly, weakened by asthma. But how could I make my cheerful, tenderhearted Evangeline undesirable to adoptive families?
That’s when I thought of cats. No, I wasn’t going to give her claws. But what about mismatched eyes? Psychologists will tell you that at a subconscious level, humans crave symmetry. It’s why certain faces are universally more attractive than others. When that symmetry is out of balance, it creates cognitive dissonance in the human brain. In our effort to explain away this discomfort, we place blame on the cause, calling it unnatural or even something darker like witchcraft. The greater the dissonance, the greater the reaction. So, I didn’t simply give my heroine slightly different colored eyes, I made them drastically different. One dark brown and one vividly blue. These are the heterochromatic eyes that I patterned Evangeline’s after.
Evangeline grows up with constant rejection, yet she maintains her optimism and cheerful disposition. At least when she’s around her brothers. And when she meets Logan, a mysterious stranger with a hidden agenda, she finally finds a man who sees the woman behind the mismatched eyes.
Here’s a short excerpt from the initial meeting between Logan and Evangeline. Logan has just attempted to rescue Evie from what he believed to be a wild boar. In actuality, the hog is Evie’s pet.
“Since you’re new to the area, you might not be aware that you’re on Hamilton land.” Evangeline crossed her arms over her chest. Lifted her chin. Widened her stance. “My brothers won’t begrudge you snaring a rabbit or even taking down a deer if you’re in need of nourishment, but we don’t take kindly to squatters.”
His lips quirked again.
What was it about her trying to act mean that made men grin? It was quite annoying. Evangeline frowned at him.
His smile widened. “I’m aware of the boundaries. My camp is east of your property line.”
“But you’re not.” She unfolded her arms and poked him in the chest.
He stared at her finger then pointed his own and nudged it against her shoulder. “Because I was trying to save you from being gored by a wild boar.”
“One that wouldn’t actually hurt me.”
“That’s debatable.” The man folded his arms and looked down his nose at her. “Even without tusks, that thing could do serious damage if riled.”
“Then you best not rile him.” Evangeline gave a sassy wave of her head, as if she could order Hezzy to attack at any moment. The only damage her pet would likely render involved non-lethal pig slobber and a head butt that might manage to knock the fellow off-balance. But something told her this man wouldn’t be bowled over too easily. . .
“Thank you, by the way.” Evangeline met his gaze, smiling even broader when he blinked in confusion. “For your heroic rescue.” She dipped her chin. “Just because your actions were unnecessary doesn’t mean they’re not appreciated.”
He cleared his throat and shifted his weight. “You’re welcome.” His voice tapered up at the end, making the statement sound more like a question, but Evangeline chose to interpret it as a successful change of direction anyhow.
“You have a lovely horse.” She stepped to the side and twisted, letting her skirt twirl about her just a little. She’d never been good at standing still. The rhythmic twisting, even in small doses, calmed her growing nerves.
Now that the initial excitement of the discovery, chase, and tackle had subsided, she was becoming acutely aware of the fact that she was alone with a man.
A man who actually treated her like a woman. Not a sister. Not a freak of nature with unnatural eyes. But an ordinary, normal, woman.
“He’s very handsome,” she said. “Your horse.” The horse’s owner qualified for that descriptor, too. That wavy dark brown hair escaping from beneath his hat to curl over his collar. Gray eyes that had softened from steel to the color of fluffy storm clouds that projected the possibility of trouble but also offered shade. Tall. Strong. A little rough around the edges. “And friendly, too.”
The man before her mumbled something beneath his breath about horse sense not being what it used to be, but Evangeline chose to let that bit of cynicism go without comment.
In honor of More Than Meets the Eye’s release, I’ll be giving away autographed copies (US addresses only) to three winners drawn from those who leave comments on this post. Winners will be announced on Thursday, June 7.
To create a scene, quite often authors draw on their life experiences and the emotions they felt at the time. That is how Katie O’Rourke’s “date” with Doctor Graham became a scene in The Prairie Doctor’s Bride.
When my husband took his first job as a school principal, he moved our family to a remote rural area in western Illinois. We rented a big, old farmhouse on a hill surrounded by fields of corn and wheat and woods, three miles from the town where he worked. The picture above is similar to the house, except the condition was much better! I enjoyed living in the country, but there was no hospital nearby for me to work in my profession as an obstetrical nurse. I took a position at the closest place ~ a nursing home. I didn’t last long. Those lovely elderly men and women reminded me too much of my grandparents — one of which had recently passed away. My emotions were frayed after only one day of working there.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Nelson Graham, the doctor in my latest sweet western romance, the Prairie Doctor’s Bride, is in need of a wife (and a nurse.) Growing up in the east, he attended a boarding school and then a university in Boston. He never had much contact with the “fairer” gender and so when he decides to take a wife in Oak Grove from among the mail-order brides that the town has procured, he is more than a bit out of his comfort zone.
He makes a list of attributes he expects in a wife, but he also wants to make sure she will work beside him as his nurse. He is not expecting a love-match. There wasn’t much love in his parent’s marriage and so he decides the best he can hope for is a help-mate.
He goes about meeting each mail-order bride and assessing them to see which one would work out for him the best. Needless to say, I had fun with this part!
The following is an excerpt of one such meeting ~ (Hint: Katie is not the heroine!)
* * * * * * * * * *
The next afternoon he called on Katie O’Rourke. He’d heard good things about her from a few of his more gossipy patients. Miss O’Rourke had the start of lines near her pale blue eyes and a more generous girth than the other brides. He was immediately drawn to her pleasant smile and outgoing personality. He invited her to dine with him in the hotel’s restaurant.
“I’m surprised you asked for me, Dr. Graham. I imagined that you would be interested in a younger woman. After all, your first choice was Mara. She’s the youngest of us from the train.”
“There is something to be said for life experience in a good marriage, Miss O’Rourke. You and I are likely close to the same age and have far more in common.”
Rollie brought in two bowls of cabbage soup and two plates of scalloped ham and potatoes. He set them down before Nelson and Miss O’Rourke. “Hello, Doc. Ah…Miss Katie…I would appreciate your opinion on the meal.”
Nelson raised his brows. Miss Katie, was it? It wasn’t like Rollie to solicit anyone’s opinion, especially when it came to his wife’s cooking. Ever since Rollie married Sadie, he had said that she could do no wrong.
“Oh, Katie here is a fine cook,” Rollie said, catching Nelson’s expression. “She’s been teaching Sadie and me some secrets from her native Ireland. I wish she had been here for Saint Paddy’s Day.”
Across from him, Miss O’Rourke smiled. “You’re too kind, Mr. Austin. I’m sure this will be delicious.”
“Well, I’ll be waiting to hear your thoughts.” And with a quick rap on the table as goodbye, Rollie headed over to another table to speak with another couple.
She could cook! That was good news for Nelson’s purposes. He settled back to enjoy his meal, his opinion of Miss O’Rourke rising steadily.
“What is it you did before coming to Oak Grove?” he asked halfway through his soup.
“Ach. I suppose you might think that I was married before, seeing as how I’m older than the other brides, but I haven’t had the pleasure.”
“It was on my mind,” he admitted. “I find it refreshing that you don’t make excuses. Sensible.”
“Well…it is what it is, isn’t it?”
She took a bite of ham and potatoes before continuing, “Ye see, I took care of my parents. First my ma fell sick, and it became my duty to do the cooking and cleaning and tending to my sisters. Then, a year after she passed, my da had an accident on the river. He needed my help after that.”
“What about your sisters? Did they help?”
She shook her head. “They married off as fast as you can say Christopher Columbus. First Bridget and then Susan. I’m glad of it. They have bonny husbands and they are happy.”
Another mental check went down on the positive side his list. She thought of others before herself, and she’d cared for a sick mother and ailing father and hadn’t minded her duty. “Miss Katie,” he said. “The fact that someone hasn’t snatched you up bewilders me.”
A becoming blush rose up her apple cheeks. “It’s hoping I am that I’ll never have to care for another sickly person again, unless, of course it was my own. You see—I like to be out of doors and I’ve had so little chance to do that. A garden of my own to tend on my own little patch of land, and cooking what I grow. Could anything be better than that?”
Oh no. That didn’t sound like the life he had envisioned. “What about helping your husband?”
“I suppose it would depend on what he did. For instance, I do like animals you see. And as I said—growing things. Anything that is out of doors.”
“Well, what if he was a doctor?”
Her eyes widened. “Are you asking me for my hand?”
His heart nearly stopped. “No, no!” he said quickly. “Of course not. It’s much too soon.”
“Well, then, just what is it you are saying?”
“I’m obviously not doing a very good job of making myself clear. I meant to say, or to ask…” He was stumbling about like a fool! He took a deep breath and began again. He leaned forward. “I would expect my wife to work with me. In my office. Doing things such as a nurse would do.”
She snatched herself back from him as if burned. “I’m sorry, Doctor. I’ve done my duty as a daughter and I hope never to look on another hurt or dying man or woman in my life. It’s my heart, you see…”
“No. I don’t see,” he said perhaps a little too crossly. “You are experienced. You are obviously well suited for the type of work.”
“But I couldn’t bear to go through it again. Every person I tended would remind me of my ma or my da. I—couldn’t.” The last was said in a whisper as if she was remembering more than she wanted. Her eyes filled with tears. She stood. “I won’t be misleading you to think that I would.”
Others in the restaurant were watching the drama with growing interest. This was not how he anticipated the afternoon going. “Please, Miss O’Rourke. Sit down again. I would have you finish your meal.”
She stood there a moment, undecided.
“Believe me, I do understand. I’m disappointed, for myself, but I completely understand your position.” It was obviously too much for her gentle nature.
“Are we to be friends then?” she asked, her voice uncertain.
“That would suit me fine. A person can’t have too many friends.”
“To be sure,” she said, gave a relieved smile and slowly sat back down to finish eating.
* * * * * * * * * *
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt!
(I thought it fit well with Saint Patrick’s Day!)
Do you have a Saint Patrick’s Day tradition? Do you wear green?
To enter the giveaway, Let me know!
I will choose a winner tomorrow from among those who comment.
Raising her son alone, penniless Sylvia Marks has had enough of being the subject of town gossip. But when her son is seriously injured she’ll do anything to save him…even kidnap handsome Dr. Nelson Graham!
Nelson knows what he wants in a wife; she’s to be amiable, biddable and skilled in domestic chores. Gun-toting Sylvia Marks isn’t what he had in mind, but as the two are forced together he realizes she’s exactly what he needs!
Hello Reader! Thank you for joining Petticoats and Pistols on Mountain Brook Ink’s “Romantic Reads Blog Tour.” Follow the tour schedule below from February 23 – March 2 for opportunities to win free e-books, Amazon gift cards, and the grand prize, a Kindle Fire HD. Comment on this post and join the conversation for an opportunity to win a free e-book from Barbara J. Scott. To enter for the Kindle Fire or a giftcard, click the rafflecopter link below. We hope you’ll discover a new favorite author and make some new friends! Have fun!
I am super excited to visit Petticoats & Pistols today, home to many of my western writing heroes— Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, Karen Witemeyer, Margaret Brownley, and so many others.
I cut my teeth on TV westerns!
Back in the 1950s when I was a child, our family religiously watched Gunsmoke, The Roy Rogers Show, The Gene Autry Show, The Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Wagon Train, Have Gun Will Travel, Rawhide, Maverick, and so many more westerns—all on a small black-and-white TV. We didn’t need color TV to fall in love with those handsome, rugged heroes. We used our imaginations. Mom read Zane Grey books, and until the day she passed away, kept a framed picture of Roy Rogers on top of her color TV set.
So, when I returned to writing after a long career as a Christian acquisitions editor, is it any surprise the first book I would write for the sheer joy of it takes place in 1875 Montana Territory? I am over the moon that Dreams of My Heart, Book 1 in The Reluctant Brides series, releases April 1 as an ebook and shortly after in paperback. The book is already up on Amazon to preorder. Thanks to Miralee Farrell at Mountain Brook Ink who fell in love with my Texas cattleman Buck McKean and feisty Irish immigrant Kate O’Brien—two wounded hearts—who end up hitched after less than twenty-four hours to save her reputation. Talk about a whirlwind wedding! How do you court a prickly woman you’ve already married? Kate is featured on the cover of my book against a background of Montana wildflowers.
My heroine is no pushover. Like many immigrant pioneer women, she’s a survivor. She fights to hang on to her brother’s homestead after he’s killed in a suspicious cattle stampede. If she can’t repay the bank loan her brother took out to bring her to America, she’ll be forced to marry the banker’s rotten son or be forced into making a living in town with few skills. But she has guardian angels who attend church with her who aren’t going to let that happen.
Still, Kate won’t be controlled by any man, not after escaping an abusive stepfather. If she has to dress in men’s britches to chop wood, milk the cow, muck the stalls, harvest the garden, or use her brother’s shotgun to drive away a drunken gang sent to harass her, she’s up to the task.
Women who pioneered the West had to toughen up to survive, especially when left on their own in untamed territory. They could fall prey to grizzly bears or unsavory men, die of snake bite, or contract any number of diseases, not to mention accidents.
I chose Deer Lodge Valley as the setting of my series because my best friend grew up in the town of Deer Lodge and had shared its stories with me for years. Gwen Ellis is a Montana woman through and through. She was raised on deer and elk meat her parents hunted, along with fish caught in the famous Montana streams. Garden vegetables were canned and put in the cellar to eat all winter. There’s no task too hard for Gwen. She’s a survivor.
Buck and Kate, both strong-minded individuals, learn as winter closes in that they need each other to survive and overcome the rigors of living in the Old West. They realize two are stronger than one, and eventually, their faith softens their hearts toward each other despite many dangerous twists and turns along the way.
Here’s a Peek at Barbara’s new book
Can A Reluctant Bride and Her New Husband Fall in Love Despite Their Wounded Hearts?
Plucky Irish immigrant Kate O’Brien struggles to hang on to her brother’s homestead after his death in a suspicious cattle stampede. If she’s unable to pay off the loan that paid for her ticket to America, she will be forced to marry the banker’s rogue son, Rafe Hamilton.
When Kate is attacked by a drunken gang, salvation comes in the form of a total stranger—Texas cattleman Buck McKean. He drives the men off her ranch and spends the night in her cabin to keep her safe. However, his act of kindness poses a profound threat to her reputation, and the two marry to prevent the impending consequences.
Kate makes it clear to her new husband that because of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather, she’ll never allow another man to control her life. Left at the altar in Virginia City, Buck has made his own vow never to give his heart to another woman.
When Kate asks Buck for the unthinkable, her choice endangers both their lives.
Can God mend their hearts and save their love?
For a chance to win 1 of 2 ebooks of Dreams of My Heart,
tell us the dream of your heart that you hope will come true.
Barbara J. Scott, an inspirational author and editor, released her first novella with Gilead Publishing in late 2016 titled “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” that appears in the Sleigh Bells Ring novella collection. Her latest novel, Dreams of My Heart, the first book in the Reluctant Brides historical romance series, will be released April 1, 2018, by Mountain Brook Ink. Her best-selling novels Sedona Storm and Secrets of the Gathering Darkness, both contemporary spiritual warfare novels, were written with co-author Carrie Younce and published by Thomas Nelson in the mid-1990s. She has years of publishing experience and has written several novels, screenplays, and gift books.
Barbara and her husband Mike live in the Nashville area with their two Chihuahuas, Riley and Sissy, both rescued from puppy mills. Reading, writing, and research are her passions.
The Yuma Territorial Prison was known as the Country Club on the Colorado. I’ve wanted to visit this prison ever since I wrote A Cowboy’s Redemption (2015, Cowboys of the Rio Grande series).I wasn’t sure how readers would react to a “contemporary” western with an ex-con hero but I soon learned romance fans love a good redemption story. A Cowboy‘s Redemption won the 2015 RT Book Reviewers’ Choice Award for best Harlequin American Romance.
Cruz Rivera is on his last second chance. He can’t afford to blow it by falling for the beautiful blonde widow who just hired him to fix up her family’s New Mexico property. If he’s going to get back on the rodeo circuit, Cruz needs to focus. Besides, a sweet single mom like Sara Mendez can do better than someone with Cruz’s troubled history.
Sara isn’t making it easy for Cruz to keep his distance. He’s a man of many secrets, but Sarah sees only good in his warm brown eyes. Though Cruz knows he should move on before Sara discovers the truth about his past, he can’t leave the closest thing to a home he’s ever known. Cruz is the only man Sara wants—can he become the one she deserves?
The Yuma Territorial Prison is located along the Colorado River on the way from Phoenix to San Diego. Last summer my husband and I toured the historical site. You’ve probably heard of the prison—it’s been the focus of several western movies—maybe the most famous being the original “3:10 to Yuma”, starring Glenn Ford and the 2007 remake, starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Below is a photo of the “country club” from yumaprison.org
A total of 3069 prisoners called the Yuma territorial Prison home, including 29 women during the 33 years of operation. $25,000 was budgeted for the construction in 1876 and the first handful of inmates moved in on July 1, 1876.
In its hay day the Territorial Yuma Prison had more modern amenities than most homes in town: electricity, forced ventilation, sanitation—two bathtubs and three showers, a library with 2,000 books, the most in the Territory at the time, and an “enlightened, progressive” administration and a Prison Band.
Prisoners feared and loathed the Yuma Territorial Prison….because of its “Insufferable heat… that made the place an “inferno,” surrounded by rivers, quick sand and desert in all directions, an inhuman “Snake Den” and Ball and Chain as standard punishment, Tuberculosis was #1 Killer. But of the 112 prisoners who died while at the Yuma Territorial Prison, very few died violently.
Eight were shot while trying to escape. Six commited suicide. Five died in work accidents, only 2 were killed by another prisoner and one was executed by Yuma County.
Yuma Territorial Prison opened in 1876. The guard tower and water reservoir were built in 1882 and electricity hooked up in 1884.
Women’s cells built 1891
The women didn’t have to sleep in steel bunkbeds like the men. The steel bunkbeds were used to cut down on infestations and there were 6 steel bunkbeds to each cell.
1899 legendary stagecoach robber Pearl Hart, known as the bandit queen, was sentence to 5 years for robbing the Globe to Florence stagecoach. She became a media sensation and flirted with both prisoners and guards, leading to her early departure when pardoned after 2 years.
Library 1893 South Wall
This was the location of the library–the image on the wall is what it looked like back in the day.
Dark Cell 1894 South Wall
1909 due to overcrowding the prison closes and prisoners are moved to Florence.
Yuma Union High School occupied the buildings from 1910 to 1914.When the school’s football team played against Phoenix and unexpectedly won, the Phoenix team called the Yuma team “criminals”. Yuma High adopted the nickname with pride, sometimes shortened to the “Crims”. The school’s symbol is the face of a hardened criminal, and the student merchandise shop is called the Cell Block.
1916 famous Yuma flood and prison materials used to rebuild Yuma, destroying remains of prison
1932 depression era victims use prison for shelter.
1939 squatters evicted and 1940 museum built on site with New Deal funds.
1942 guard tower used for WWII spotting.
I hope you enjoyed touring the Yuma Territorial Prison with me and if you get the chance to see it, there’s a wonderful visitor’s center with fabulous historical photos and stories of the old prison. Just a tidbit of advice–don’t visit the prison when it’s 109 degrees out like we did~fall and winter would be the best months to walk around outside.
For a chance to win this coffee mug from the Yuma Territorial Prison gift shop tell me if you’ve ever toured a famous prison before or if there’s one you would like to see some day. I’ll announce the winner in the comment section of this blog post Sunday January 14th!
I’ve wanted to write a Valentine’s story for years, and was lucky enough to do so before my beloved Harlequin Western Romance line closes this year. WRANGLING CUPID’S COWBOY is not only a holiday romance, it has allowed me to share my fascination with the age-old art of farriering.
Many moons ago, I worked on a large reining horse ranch in Northern New Jersey. Up until that point I had always thought of farriers as people who trimmed hooves and put shoes on horses. I hadn’t realized that many farriers work alongside equine veterinarians and provide therapeutic and corrective shoeing to horses suffering from hoof disorders, trauma, neglect and other injuries.
The reddish orange glow of our resident farrier’s forge drew me in and I became captivated watching him precisely sculpt each shoe with what seemed like the most primitive of tools. From the first rise of steam when the shoe met the horse’s hoof, I knew I wanted to write a farrier story. Back then I had always assumed it would be about a male farrier because that’s all I had ever heard about. Years later, I moved to the deep south and discovered most of the farriers in my area are women. The story idea once again began to rattle around in my brain, but I hadn’t given it the attention it deserved until I stumbled across a photo of country singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves with her horse Mismo. The name Delta Grace immediately sprung to mind and I knew I had my female farrier. I just needed a rugged family man to round out my story…and like a sign from above, singer Luke Bryant began playing on the radio. The man epitomizes family and I had all the inspiration I needed to write WRANGLING CUPID’S COWBOY. While this is by far my most heart wrenching story to date, it was one of my favorites to write. I hope you enjoy reading it.
FALLING HEAD OVER BOOTS…
Farrier Delta Grace has a strict rule about not getting involved with clients. Rugged ranch owner Garrett Slade is exactly why. The attraction between them is instant. He’s also her biggest client and the epitome of complicated. A widowed father of two, he’s moved back to Saddle Ridge, Montana, for a fresh start.
Despite her better judgment, Delta can’t stay away from Garrett or his kids. And it’s not long before her heart melts completely, along with her rules. However, when life deals Delta a devastating blow, she needs to distance herself from Garrett—their family has already experienced too much heartache. All is not lost, though, because with Valentine’s Day around the corner, love may actually conquer all!
Want to win a copy of WRANGLING CUPID’S COWBOY?
Tell me what fascinates you most about ranch life in the comments section and one winner will be randomly chosen to receive a copy (your choice: digital or paperback).
Amanda Renee was raised in the Northeast and now wriggles her toes in the warm coastal Carolina sands. Her career began when she was discovered through Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. When not creating stories about love and laughter, she enjoys the company of her schnoodle—Duffy—camping, playing guitar and piano, photography and anything involving animals. You can visit her at amandarenee.com.
I have scurried down many rabbit holes in my research so that my books set in western Kansas are historically accurate. Rivers, native fish, agriculture, Native Americans, sod houses, native birds and wildlife, cattle drives and cattle breeding are a handful of these “holes.” The internet is a big help in fact-finding, but my-oh-my do I get lost at times and surface just before it is time to prepare supper for my family!
For my next book in the Oak Grove Series, I’ve had to do some research into homesteading on the prairie.
The early inhabitants of Oak Grove, a fictional town set along the Smoky Hill River, lived in tents made from the canvas of their prairie schooners, but with the Kansas-Pacific Railroad now established all the way to Denver (1878), the small town was growing and wooden structures were springing up as the train brought supplies from the east and wood from the Rocky Mountains. The town prospered with the nearby stockyards that shipped cattle (up from the drives in Texas) to the miners in Colorado and to Chicago.
Homestead Act of 1862
However, some who lived out of town on 160 acres of their own, were farmers who’d come west with nothing but a dream to take advantage of the government’s Homestead Act of 1862. Requirements to own a plot of land by this means included:
Must be at least 21 years of age.
Must be a citizen or an immigrant with the intention of becoming a citizen.
Must pay a filing fee (usually at the Land Office in the nearest town where it was also determined that no one else had claimed that particular parcel of land.)
Must farm the land and live on it for five years before gaining the official deed to the property.
Must build a home within six months. (Requirements in some states included the minimum dimensions of the home, one glass window, and also building a well.)
On the open prairie, it seemed that all weather was extreme. On arriving, many of the “sod busters” began by building a small dugout into the side of hill, just to escape the relentless wind, sun, snow and rain. Since there were no trees or large stones for construction material, the settlers would use their mules, oxen, or horses, and a special plow to cut rectangles of sod, 18” x 24” (weight = 50 pounds) to use as “bricks” for their home. These would be set so that the roots could grow and intermingle into the next row of sod, creating a very strong wall.
The base of a soddie was wide and the walls would then taper inward slightly to allow for settling. Most had a dirt floor, but later a puncheon or plank flooring might be used. On the inside, the walls would be plastered with mud to create a smooth appearance. Open windows were covered with oil cloth. A fireplace for cooking would take up one wall of the house.
The roof caused the most concern in the building process. Wooden poles, laid across the rim of the sod house, were then overlaid with bundles of brush. On top of the brush, more sod blocks were placed. Dirt clods dropping form the roof was a problem as well as other insects and an occasional snake. If the sod became too wet after a hard rain it could cave in. Every few years, depending on the severity of the weather, the roof would have to be replaced. Structures had one to three rooms and were surprisingly very snug and warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
With all the difficulties they had to face, the years of too much or too little rain for their crops, less than 50 percent of homesteaders achieved the five-year requirement and acquired the deed to their land. Those who did not, went back home or traveled further west. Although most homesteaders consisted of a husband and wife and often children, a single woman or widow could also homestead and work to own the land. Once source reported that single and widowed women made up to 12 percent of the men and women homesteading in the Rocky Mountain area.
From 1862 to 1900 over 600,000 claims to homestead were filed. The Homestead Act ended in 1976 for the contiguous 48 states and in 1986 for Alaska.
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Learning these facts helped me form the basis of my fictional character’s life on the prairie. I was worried that the land would not be hers after her husband died, but was gratified to know she could hold on to it and it would be there for her son, and her son’s son if he chose that same life. That is why she fights for it so fiercely. The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, a western historical romance, won’t be available for a few more months, but it is available for pre-order here ~ [ Amazon ]
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I doubt that I would have lasted six months living in a sod house! The bugs falling from the roof would have been too much for me! What, for you, would have been the most difficult part of life in a soddie?
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