Tag: western historical romance

BYE-BYE MAIL ORDER BRIDES? by CHERYL PIERSON #blogabookscene #westernromance #prairierosepub

Well, I learned something new the other day on Facebook! It seems that, for a large group of readers, mail-order bride stories are a thing of the past—not interesting anymore. Is it possible to use up every single imaginable scenario for a mail-order bride to find herself in? I wonder…

I remember my mom saying several times during my growing up years how sad she thought it would be if every combination of notes had been used, and there was no possibility of any new music being written. Mom was a wonderful vocalist, and I played the piano. Admittedly, I had never thought about that until she mentioned it. But you can bet, after she did, my mind went to work on that idea—what a tragedy it would be if that were to happen! And…COULD it happen? I laid awake at night, my 10-year-old brain running amok.

 

So, in writing, I guess I applied that same thought to telling stories. With so many people in the world who write, isn’t that a lot like composing a certain kind of musical piece? One with your own flair for storytelling and your own “tune” as you weave the characters, the plot, the setting and the inevitable “angst” that has to happen to come to a crashing finale—a satisfying end that leaves the reader with a smile and a desire to read more!

I have to say, I was disappointed to hear that MOB books are not looked upon with as much favor as they once were. To me, those stories, done well, are some of the very best. I think, for me, at least, part of the appeal comes from the thought that mail-order brides were very real—not just something made up that never actually happened in our history. And coupled with imagining all the hardships so many of them went through, I’m not sure I could ever run out of MOB ideas.

The very idea of being desperate enough to leave everything you’d known and held dear to go to a place where nothing was familiar is one that is hard for me to even consider DOING. I think this is so because I do not like surprises. I’m not much of a gambler, or a risk-taker. But I do understand that many of those women felt they had no choice but to go—and again, when I imagine the depths of desperation they must have felt, I believe there is no end to possible circumstances that might have placed these women in the situations they found themselves in.

But the circumstance that forces these women to seek a husband in a faraway place is only the beginning of the story for that couple. For surely, the “other half”, the groom, must have his own reasons for being willing to marry a woman sight unseen, as well. If she needs the security of a man to support her, what are the reasons he needs a permanent woman—rather than a lady of the night?

How can they agree on anything? How can they fall in love in such a forced way? How can they make a marriage last for a lifetime, as so many did? What happened when it didn’t? So many questions—so many stories.

Do you have a favorite MOB story? Or are you sick of them? I’m working on a MOB story right now—so I’m hoping that there are still some readers out there who still love the MOB premise. As for me, I love so many different types of stories, and read so much, I can’t ever say I would get tired of MOB stories, as long as they’re not too “contrived” and strain believability.

How about you? What do you think?

Here’s an excerpt from my last MOB story, SABRINA, which was part of a four-book set called MAIL-ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS. The other authors in this boxed set are Livia J. Washburn, Jacquie Rogers, and Celia Yeary.

BLURB:

Boxed set of four full length mail order bride novels.

Brought up in the wealth and comfort of Eastern “old money” in staid and proper Philadelphia, the Remington sisters are forced to scatter to the four winds and become mail-order brides. In order to gain a fortune, their sinister step-father, Josiah Bloodworth, has made plans to marry them off in loveless marriages. Time is running out, and no matter what lies ahead in their uncertain futures, it has to be better than the evil they’re running from…

EXCERPT FROM SABRINA:

Both Cam and Sabrina have secrets–Cam has pretended to be his brother, Robert, in an effort to find out if Sabrina could care about him. Being half Cherokee is a burden he knows too well–and he knows he’s got to have the right kind of wife to survive in Indian Territory. But Sabrina has not been entirely forthcoming with her situation, either. Let’s take a look…

“I’d—I’d like an explanation,” she said frostily.

“And I’m gonna give you one, Sabrina. The best I can, any-how.” Cam raked a hand through his hair. “Let’s sit down over here—”

“No, thank you. I’ll stand.” Her voice was prim, proper, and as icy as a frozen pond in January.

Cam sighed, hooking his thumbs in his gun belt and tilting his head back to look at the night sky. “You’re not making this any easier.”

“No. I don’t intend to. You’ve deceived me. You’ve made me feel…foolish.” She let out a deep breath. With it went some of her anger. “I trusted you, C-Cameron.” It was still hard to think of him as “Cameron” rather than “Robert”—and it was going to take some getting used to.

Cam took a step toward the boulder he’d sat on earlier. “I’m sorry for that. It was wrong of me, ’Brina. But I had to be sure—”

“Sure? Of what? I’m the one who’s given up everything to come here to a place where I don’t know anyone—evidently, even my husband—to a land that is unfamiliar—”

“Sabrina, you haven’t given up everything. Even though, right now, you may not recognize it, I’m your best bet for any protection you might need.”

“From?”

He bent a dark, searching stare on her. “You’re running from someone—your stepfather, maybe others—there in Philadelphia. When they get here—”

Sabrina’s eyes were wide, and she felt the blood drain from her face. He hadn’t said “if”—he’d said “when”. He believed they were coming. It had been in the back of her mind, ever since she’d boarded the stage west, but to hear it voiced by Cam… Still, he didn’t really even know the full circumstances of her leaving Philadelphia…he couldn’t be sure she’d be followed.

“You believe they’ll follow…for certain.” She shuddered.

Cam’s expression changed, letting her know he’d only speculated up to now; her reaction had let him know he was right. “I’d like the full story. When you’re ready.”

Thanks so much for stopping by today!

CHERYL’S WEBSITE: http://www.prairierosepublications.com

CHERYL’S AMAZON PAGE:

CHERYL’S FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.pierson.92

TIME PLAINS DRIFTER–APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS (AND LOVE!) by Cheryl Pierson

Did someone say ‘paranormal time travel historical western’? That’s what my novel, Time Plains Drifter, is—a very different kind of romance novel than anything I’ve ever read. It’s an “oldie but goodie”–one of my favorite stories that I ever worked on.

The publication of Time Plains Drifter is a story unto itself—but it has its very own ‘happily ever after’ ending. Here’s what happened. After being released in December of 2009 with an unscrupulous publisher, I took my rights back after only three months and spent the next year searching for another home for it. In the spring of 2011, it was placed with WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER, an imprint of PUBLISHING BY REBECCA J. VICKERY.

But that’s not where it ends. When Livia and I opened Prairie Rose Publications, I made the decision to move Time Plains Drifter over from WTB to Prairie Rose. With a brand new cover and a few minor changes, this book can be offered not only in the Prairie Rose Publications line, but also in our New Adult (ages 18-24) category in the Painted Pony Books imprint.

 

That being said, let me tell you why Time Plains Drifter is so hard to pigeonhole and why that may be a bit scary in today’s market…this is also the very reason it’s a perfect fit for PRP.

I knew Time Plains Drifter was going to have to be classified as a time-travel romance; that’s how the H/h meet one another. She’s from the 21st century—he’s from 1879. That was the easy part. The part that was a bit harder to work around was that he was dead. I just couldn’t get past the premise that Rafe d’Angelico was going to be the “paranormal element” of the story. I didn’t want him to be a werewolf, vampire, or shapeshifter. So that left angels, demons, zombies and so forth. I chose for him to be an angel.

Working with Rafe—an angel who didn’t want to be an angel—was a challenge. I told him he had a pretty good deal going. He told me, “I want to be human again.” In the end, I realized he was right, and that was the only way to resolve the issue of time-travel-paranormal-angel-demon-human issues.

Jenni Dalton, the heroine, was completely unsuspecting in all this. She went out on a stargazing field trip with seven of her high school students one night and they never came home. Instead, they ended up in Indian Territory, 1895; one hundred-twenty years in the past.

Jenni’s got it rough, trying to deal with her seven charges, four of them the senior class troublemakers. It takes Rafe to bring them to heel and get them to toe the mark, until the gravity of their situation causes them to all make some surprising adjustments.

As Rafe and Jenni realize their growing attraction to one another is fated, they also understand there is no way anything can come of it on a permanent basis—Rafe is an angel, and Jenni is human—and they will eventually go back to their own times and places in the universe.

The twists and turns that finally bring the book around to the HEA were the most fun to come up with for me. But the story itself, being so unique, is tough to categorize. I think now, it has the best of both worlds. It’s in a place where it can appeal to two separate readerships.

Time Plains Drifter was the recipient of The Reviewer’s Top Pick Award by Karen M. Nutt, PNR reviews. It also received a 4.5 star review, the highest rating given, from Romantic Times Magazine. I was selected as the recipient of the Honorable Mention—Best New Paranormal Author category in PNR’s PEARL Awards (March 2010), for Time Plains Drifter.

I’ve got a sequel in the works, Time Plains Guardian, which has been a delight to work on. There are different twists than what we saw in the first book, and some familiar characters will be the stars of the show this time around since the story is built around Rafe’s brother, Cris, and Jenni’s sister, Victoria.

 

Time Plains Drifter is now available in both print and Kindle. I’ve also written some short stories that have a paranormal twist to them: A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES, THE GUNFIGHTER’S GIRL, HOMECOMING, (these three are Christmas stories) ALWAYS AND FOREVER, (Halloween story) THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS (western) and THE KEEPERS OF CAMELOT (western). Take a look at my Amazon page to order. (See link below.)

Cheryl’s Amazon Author Page:

   

 

 

 

I’ve included the blurb and an excerpt below. I’d love to know what you think you might do if you found yourself in Jenni Dalton’s situation–tossed back in time over 100 years earlier with the responsibility of 7 high schoolers on your hands! ( I  know I would not handle it as well as she did!) Please leave a comment–I always love to hear from readers and other authors.

 

BLURB:

Trapped in Indian Territory of 1895 by a quirk of nature, high school teacher Jenni Dalton must find a way to get her seven students back to the 21st century. Handsome U.S. Marshal Rafe d’Angelico seems like the answer to her prayers; he is, after all, an angel. In a race against time and evil, Rafe has one chance to save Jenni’s life and her soul from The Dark One—but can their love survive?

 

EXCERPT from TIME PLAINS DRIFTER:

Jenni had been so preoccupied with staying in the saddle for the past four hours and worried about Joel that she hadn’t noticed the wind had quickened, the sky darkening as the thunderheads rolled in.

“We better stop here,” Rafe told her reluctantly, nodding toward a small ramshackle house in the distance. “Wait the storm out. Looks like it’s going to be a bad one.”

Jenni nodded, swallowing her protest as she glanced up, seeing the roiling black clouds for the first time. It was true, she reminded herself, some things never did change, no matter what year it was. It was April in Oklahoma—tornado season.

They had to find shelter immediately.

She followed Rafe toward the cottage, relieved to see a lean-to for the horses a few yards away.

As they rode into the overgrown yard, it was obvious the tenants had long since vacated. The runners of morning glory vines climbed along the front porch posts boasting new growth, the purple flowers adding a splash of color to the drab weathered wood.

Rafe swung down, calling a cursory greeting. He opened the front door at the answering silence, his gun drawn. As Jenni made a motion to dismount, he lifted a staying hand, not sparing a backward glance before he disappeared into the little cottage.

Jenni could hear him walking slowly through the house, his footfalls deliberate and hollow-sounding on the bare plank floors. She bit her lip anxiously, wondering what he was looking for. She didn’t like being separated from him, she realized. This was crazy. She thought of Kody and Anna, how quickly they’d come to care so deeply for each other.

Was she in love with Rafe d’Angelico? The idea was absurd. She barely knew him. Yet, when she’d ridden behind him, her arms encircling the lean grid of his waist, she’d felt—something. He’d noticed it too. “Can you feel it, Jen?” he’d asked.

Yes. She still did, stronger now than ever.

Rafe put his head outside the door, ducking through the narrow frame.

“Come on,” he said, reaching up to help her down. “I’ll get our gear, you go on inside out of this wind,” he yelled to make himself heard above the wail and rush of the storm.

Jenni nodded. “The horses—we can’t leave them out here!” she shouted.

He cast a glance back at the animals. “I’ll get ’em in the lean-to! Go on inside!”

Jenni slid off quickly and handed Rafe her reins, then hurried up onto the porch. She watched as Rafe quickly got the horses under the lean-to and looped the reins around the hitching post there, then ran back to her through the tall grass. Just then, the skies opened and rain pelted him.

Small pieces of hail fell. The horses whickered nervously as it hit the wooden structure over them. Rafe took Jenni’s hand, leading her back into the house. He was soaked, and Jenni hurried into the kitchen to see if there were any linens in the top of the pantry.

Whoever had lived here must have loved the place. The kitchen had been cleaned, and as Jenni opened a cabinet door, she noted the sparse pans lined up tidily against the wall. She opened another door to discover a beautiful china sugar bowl that was half full, and a can of beans on top of a can of condensed milk.

She found a clean but ragged towel and brought it to him, offering to dry his back as he shrugged out of his sodden shirt. But he took it from her, shaking his head. “I can do it,” he murmured, turning away from her quickly. “Thanks.” After a moment, he sat down on the chair, watching Jenni explore as he finished drying off.

She came toward him slowly, wrapping her arms around herself tightly. To have been so full of questions before, she certainly was at a loss for words now, she thought. A wry grin curved her mouth.

Rafe patted the side of the bed in invitation, and she sat down next to him. The hail was sporadic now, although rain was hitting the snug little cabin in sheets.

Water for the morning glories, if the hail doesn’t destroy them, Jenni thought, her gaze going out the front window to the thirsty flowers winding their way along the rough posts and roof of the porch. “It’ll wash out the trail,” she whispered to herself.

Rafe’s teeth glinted white against the stubbled growth of beard. His dark eyes were warm with a teasing light. “I think I can still find my way to Fort Sill. I’m pretty familiar with the lay of the land.” He gave her a wink. “This is my territory, Jenni. I don’t need to follow a trail to find them.” He shifted and began to pull off his boots.

“How long will it take us to get there?” Jenni turned to face him.

“At the rate we’re going—”

She grimaced at the teasing note in his voice. “I know I’m holding you up. If I wasn’t with you, you might have already caught them rather than having to go all the way to Fort Sill.”

“I don’t mind. It’s just—time’s not on our side.”

The wind cried around the corner of the cabin, and Jenni thought how much it sounded like the sorrowful wail of a woman. Then there was silence, stretching out between them, broken only by the noise of the storm.

“Who are you, Rafe? Really?”

~*~

GET IT HERE:

Again, I apologize this month–Wordpress is stripping my links for both my Amazon Author Page and for the Time Plains Drifter order page. You can locate both of these by  searching at Amazon.

 

Party Games of the 1800’s

Kathryn Albright Banner 2018

Party games! Don’t you love them? My household is a family of “gamers.” Over the years, snow-days and holidays and birthday parties, whenever we were all together, we would usually have a game of some sorts going. It has come in handy this winter, which has been quite a LONGGGGG one! We are all ready to see some spring flowers here in the Midwest.

What would we have played if we all lived in the 1800’s? Some of the social games from then survived into my childhood, such as Blind Man’s Buff and Twenty Questions and Musical Chairs. But no matter the year, games have always provided a way for people to have fun, “let down their hair” a little, laugh, interact socially, flirt, and enjoy socially approved physical contact.

The spirit of these social games in the 1800s involving boys and girls, men and women of the middle and upper classes, was that an overly competitive attitude was considered “poor form.” The idea was to have fun together and not to “out-do” another player to the point that feelings were hurt. Camaraderie, a relaxing of inhibitions, and laughing at one’s self were the important aspect of social games. I imagine that cowboys, used to a barn dance or two, would feel out of place playing some of these games, but I bet they would have brought an entirely new competitive atmosphere to them!

Barn danceHere are a few examples of games from the 1800s that involve a mixing of the genders ~

Puss, Puss in the Corner

For the game, all that you need is a fairly square room with four corners and the furniture moved out of the way. If played outside, you need something to denote the four corners such as bean bags or chairs. I suppose a baseball diamond could be used, but such a large area would make for a very energetic game. The game requires five or more players. One stands in the center of the square, while the others stand in each corner. The central player calls out: “Puss, puss in the corner!” On the word “corner” everyone moves to a different corner. Since there are five players, one will always be left out and that one becomes the new “Puss.” If more players are involved, the one left out of a corner goes to the end of a line of the others waiting to play, and the first in that line becomes the new “Puss.” Sometimes when this game was played, a “forfeit” was demanded of the one who became the new Puss.

Twirl the Trencher

In this game, everyone sits in a large circle (with or without chairs depending on the age of participants.) Each player is assigned either a number, an animals name, or a flower’s name. The starter goes to the center of the circle and spins a plate on its edge (wooden or some other unbreakable plate or disc.) He calls out a number or one of the names and dashes to his seat. The person being called out, must jump up and rush to the plate to spin it again and call out another player. The play continues until someone is not quick enough and the plate falls. That player, then must pay a forfeit.

The Key of the King’s Garden

This is a memory game much like Grandmother’s Trunk. Players sit in a circle. The one starting begins by saying “I sell you the Key to the King’s Garden.” Then indicates a player on his right or left. That player adds to the sentence. For example, by saying, “I sell you the chain that held the Key of the King’s Garden.” Then it is the next person’s turn in the circle. “I sell you the dog that wore the chain that held the Key of the King’s Garden.” This continues around until everyone has played. If someone does not repeat the words exactly, a forfeit is demanded.

 

Forfeits
(My favorite part!)

These games were played for fun with a light-hearted attitude. Keeping score (numerically) wasn’t done. However, there was such a thing as “forfeits” which added tremendously to the fun. (Personally, I think these should make a comeback!)

Forfeits occurred when someone made a mistake, lost their chance to a seat or space in the game, or lost in some way. That player would write their name on a piece of paper, which would then be placed in a bowl or basket. At the end of the game (or the evening,) a judge would be chosen. A second player would select a paper from the bowl and announce: “I have a forfeit to be redeemed.” The judge would ask whether it belonged to a lady or a gentleman. Upon learning which it was, he would then assign a task for the person to perform (not knowing the actual person’s identity.)

Examples of “forfeit” tasks ~

The Imitation
A man puts on a lady’s hat and imitates the owner. Or a woman puts on a man’s hat and imitates the owner.

The Statue
The “forfeiter” is posed by a selected number of other players, usually in ridiculous positions.

Bow to the Prettiest, Kneel to the Wittiest, and Kiss the One You Love Best
This is reserved for a man. (Hopefully he will do all three tasks with the same lady!)

The Nun’s Kiss
A lady kisses a man chosen by the judge, performing the kiss through the bars of a chair.

The Counsel
The person must give a piece of advice to all (or just one) players. (Always done in the spirit of fun and good humor.)

The Will
The person leaves to each other player an item or a quality he thinks he possesses. (Also done in the spirit of fun and good humor.)

Kiss the One You Love without Revealing Who It Is
The individual must kiss all the players of opposite gender, without letting on which player is the one he or she loves.

There are many others – as varied as the imagination of the judge!

* * * * * * * * * *

With teenagers constantly watching their phones
rather than communicating face to face,
I can’t help but think that these would be fun to bring back!

Who is with me?

What is a social game of yours that you have enjoyed playing?

Comment to be entered into my giveaway drawing for my newest release!

“This book was a pure delight.”
The Prairie Doctor’s Bride/San Francisco Review of Books

WEBSITE

 

Arizona’s ‘Capital on Wheels’ ~ by Susan Page Davis

For my book My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains, my characters needed some transportation in Arizona during the territorial period after the Civil War. There weren’t any trains there yet, so stagecoaches it was.

The first stagecoach appeared in Arizona in 1857, and this mode of transportation had come to stay.

Before the Civil War, the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line had a regular route across Texas and what is now New Mexico and Arizona, to southern California. When the war broke out, however, they abandoned it and used their northern route, through Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

But people still needed to travel in Arizona. When the war ended, the capital was at Prescott, which had remained Union territory. People in more populated southern locations, such as Tucson, needed to go back and forth to the capital. Several independent stage lines sprang up and developed their routes with varying success.

When I went to Prescott to do research for the book, the stagecoach problem was one of my focuses. The place where I found the most help was in the archives at the Sharlot Hall Museum. There I learned about several enterprising men who gave it a good try, and it was tough in those times.

The owners and workers found a great many obstacles to maintaining regular stage service over hundreds of miles of desert, and having to deal with increasingly hostile Indian tribes as well as the inhospitable terrain and climate. Indians stole hundreds of horses from mining operations and stagecoach stations. Some of the station agents had to haul in feed and water for the animals.

My characters attempted to make a stagecoach journey from Tucson to the fledgling mining town of Wickenburg, and from there on up to Prescott. As readers will see, this journey was interrupted several times.

The capital itself was a thorny problem during that period, and it was changed so often it got the nickname “Capital on Wheels.”

After the Confederate Territory of Arizona was formed in 1862, and in February, 1863 officially got Tucson as its capital with Jefferson Davis’s approval, Abraham Lincoln signed the law officially creating the Arizona Territory with Prescott as its capital. The territory was divided into north and south for a while, and for the rest of the Civil War it had two capitals.

Superstition MountainsAfter the war, in 1867, the capital was moved back to Tucson for the reunited Arizona Territory. At that time, Tucson was more developed than any other city in the territory.

However, in 1879, the legislature voted to move the seat of government back to Prescott. That move lasted ten years.

The capital had been located in each location for about the same length of time all told, and some people began to feel it should be moved to a neutral location, somewhere between Tucson and Prescott. By this time, more towns had been founded, and some of them mushroomed. Phoenix was not in existence at the time of my story, but twenty years later it was thriving. In 1889 the capital was moved permanently to Phoenix. Arizona became a state in 1912.

Today we can swiftly drive the length of Arizona in air-conditioned cars in a few hours. We can enjoy the vistas of the beautiful desert without discomfort. But our modern travels are a far cry from what Carmela Wade experienced.

 

About My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains

A Chance for Escape Takes Two Unlikely Allies on a Romantic Adventure through the Desert

Since she was orphaned at age twelve, Carmela Wade has lived a lie orchestrated by her uncle, pretending to be a survivor of an Indian kidnapping and profiting from telling her made-up story on the speaker circuit. But as she matures into adulthood, Carmela hates the lies and longs to be free. On a stagecoach in Arizona Territory, Carmela and her uncle are fellow passengers with US Marshal Freeland McKay and his handcuffed prisoner.

The stage is attacked. Suddenly a chance to make a new life may be within Carmela’s reach. . .if she can survive the harsh terrain and being handcuffed to an unconscious man.

 

Desert Moon

 

 

Susan will give a copy of My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains to one person who comments on today’s post, and a copy of Desert Moon to another commenter. The winners may choose to receive either print or digital format.

 

 

Susan Page Davis

 

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than seventy published novels. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and also a winner of the Carol Award and a finalist in the WILLA Literary Awards. A Maine native, she now lives in Kentucky. Visit her website at SusanPageDavis.com, where you can see all her books, sign up for her occasional newsletter, and read a short story on her romance page.

Buy My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: http://amzn.to/2kGDjPz

 

 

Welcome to Shanna Hatfield–and three books, three winners!

It is a pleasure and a treat to be a guest once again here at Petticoats and Pistols. Thank you to all the fillies for hosting me today. I’ll be giving away THREE ecopies of The Christmas Quandary, so please leave a comment.

bookmark-back

I love history and digging into tidbits of the past as I research details for my sweet western romances.

In my latest release, The Christmas Quandary, I happened upon a toy that captured my interest.

zoetrope-1

A zoetrope is one of several animation devices (pre-motion pictures) that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs, shown in progressive phases of motion.

The name Zoetrope was composed from the Greek root words “life” and “wheel” – meaning “wheel of life.”

zoetrope-2

A cylinder with slits cut vertically in the sides is the basic component of the zoetrope. The inner surface of the cylinder features a band with images from a set of sequenced pictures. As the cylinder spins, the user looks through the slits at the pictures. The slits keeps the pictures from simply blurring together, and the user sees a rapid succession of images, producing the illusion of motion.

A 5,000-year-old earthenware bowl from Iran is considered a predecessor of the zoetrope. The bowl, decorated in a series of sequential images, portrays a goat jumping toward a tree and eating its leaves. zoetrope-4

Variations existed on the idea of the zoetrope, but it wasn’t until December 1866, when an American company, Milton Bradley and Co., advertised a zoetrope.

Zoetropes were eventually displaced by more advanced technology, notably film and later television. Today, some zoetropes can still be found in special art projects and performances.

In The Christmas Quandary, one of the characters purchases a zoetrope for his daughter’s Christmas present. The only quandary surrounding the gift is whether or not the child’s uncles will wear it out before Christmas morning since they can’t seem to stop playing with it.

Have you ever been in a quandary? Had a dilemma?

Share your answers for a chance to win one of three copies of The Christmas Quandary (Book 5 in the Hardman Holidays series).

And if you haven’t read any of the Hardman books, The Christmas Bargain (book 1) will be available for free digital downloads on Monday!

christmas-quandary

~*~

Shanna Hatfield 2Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen, one story at a time. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with characters that seem incredibly real.

When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Find Shanna’s books at:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Apple

Shanna loves to hear from readers! Follow her online:

ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter

Make sure you sign up for her Newsletter to get the latest on new releases

and exclusive giveaways (including a free short story set in the old west)!

christmas-quandry

El Muerto: The Headless Horseman of Texas

Kathleen Rice Adams header

First published in 1820, Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has been terrifying children for almost 200 years. Though the tale of a hapless schoolmaster’s midnight gallop through the New York woods made the phrase “headless horseman” a household term in America, by the time Irving’s story appeared headless horsemen had been staples of European folklore for centuries. German, Irish, Scandinavian, and English legends all offered versions of the ghoulish phantoms, who usually were said to appear to proud, arrogant people as a warning.

headless horsemanTexas has its own gruesome headless horseman legend. Unlike Irving’s unforgettable spook, though, Texas’s headless horseman rode among the living once upon a time.

Some say he still does.

In the summer of 1850, a Mexican bandido by the name of Vidal made an egregious error: He and several compadres rustled a sizable herd of horses from several ranches south of San Antonio. One of the ranches belonged to Texas Ranger Creed Taylor, a veteran of the Texas War for Independence and a man not inclined to forgive his enemies. (Taylor later would be one of the participants in the Sutton-Taylor Feud, a bloody, years-long running gun battle that resulted in four times as many deaths as the better-known fracas between the Hatfields and McCoys.)

Rustling cattle already had earned Vidal’s head a dead-or-alive bounty. Stealing a Texas Ranger’s horses was the proverbial last straw. Together with fellow Ranger William A.A. “Big Foot” Wallace and another local rancher, Taylor set out to put a stop to Vidal’s unbearable insolence.

The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas, 1865

Capt. Mayne Reid’s version of a Texas Legend, published in 1865, received a mention in Charles Dickens’s final novel, Our Mutual Friend.

As a group, the early Texas Rangers were hard men. Tasked with protecting an enormous patch of land rife with outlaws and Indians, the early Rangers were expert trackers, accomplished gunmen, and not opposed to meting out immediate — and often brutal — “frontier justice.” Vidal was about to discover that in a very personal way.

After tracking the bandidos to their camp, Taylor, Wallace, and the third man mounted a surprise attack while the outlaws were asleep. Killing the desperados was not enough for Taylor and Wallace, though. The entire Ranger force was fed up with the rash of rustling plaguing Texas at the time. Not even leaving bodies hanging from trees or hacking them to pieces and using the bits for predator bait had made a strong enough statement.

So, Wallace got creative. After beheading Vidal, he secured the corpse upright on the back of the wildest of the rustled horses, lashed the bandido’s hands to the saddle horn and his feet to the stirrups, and tied the stirrups beneath the animal’s belly. Just to make sure anyone who saw the ghoulish specter got the message, he looped a rawhide thong through the head’s jaws and around Vidal’s sombrero, and slung the bloody bundle from the saddle’s pommel. Then Wallace and his friends sent the terrified mustang galloping off into the night.

William A.A. "Big Foot" Wallace, ca. 1872

Big Foot Wallace, ca. 1872

Not long thereafter, vaqueros began to report seeing a headless horseman rampaging through the scrub on a dark, wild horse. As sightings spread, some claimed flames shot from the animal’s nostrils and lightning bolts from its hooves. Bullets seemed to have no effect on the grisly marauder. They dubbed the apparition el Muerto — the dead man — and attributed all sorts of evil and misfortune to the mysterious rider.

Eventually, a posse of cowboys brought down the horse at a watering hole near Ben Bolt, Texas. By then the dried-up body had been riddled with bullets and arrows, and the head had shriveled in the sun. The posse laid Vidal’s remains to rest in an unmarked grave on the La Trinidad Ranch. Only then did Wallace and Taylor take public credit for the deed. The episode contributed to Wallace’s reputation and had the intended effect on rustling.

Even the revelation of the truth behind the legend did not end el Muerto’s reign of terror. Until nearby Fort Inge was decommissioned in 1869, soldiers reported seeing a headless rider roaming the countryside around Uvalde, near Taylor’s ranch. Thirty years later, a rise in the ground 250 miles to the southeast, near San Patricio, Texas, was christened Headless Horseman Hill after a wagon train reported an encounter with el Muerto. A sighting occurred in 1917 outside San Diego, Texas, and another near Freer in 1969.

El Muerto reportedly still roams the mesquite-covered range in Duval, Jim Wells, and Live Oak counties — still fearsome, still headless, and still reminding those who see him that Texas Rangers didn’t come by their tough-hombre reputation by accident.

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Robbing Banks Stealing HeartsI haven’t written any tales about headless horsemen — yet — but ghosts play a significant role in one of my short novellas. Family Tradition is one of two stories that compose Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts.

Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.

Family Tradition
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?

 

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Stone blinked at the apparitions. If not for Madame Minerva’s confirmation, he’d have sworn he was seeing things—and he hadn’t touched a drop of whiskey in weeks.

He eased backward a step.

So did she, sidling up next to him until her hipbone collided with his leg.

The two ghosts floated around the table, one on each side, and planted themselves close enough for Stone to poke a hand through either misty shape. Forcing a swallow down his throat, he squinted at the nearest. He’d been on the receiving end of that old man’s irritated glare far too often.

Heart racing fast enough to outrun a mule with a butt full of buckshot, Stone faded back another step.

The fake gypsy stayed with him, as though she were glued to his side.

The gauzy forms kept pace.

“Emile?” Madame Minerva’s voice squeaked like a schoolgirl’s.

Even on a ghost, disappointment was easy to spot. A pained frown gripped one apparition’s face. “I’m not part of the con any longer, Pansy. You can’t call me father just once?”

Stone ducked his head and tossed the woman a sidelong glance. “Pansy?”

“Said Tombstone,” she hissed.

The second ghost spoke up, his voice strangely hollow but recognizable. “Boy, you got nothin’ to say to your ol’ pop?”

“I uh… I…” Stone’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.

Thank God, Emile picked up the conversation. “I see my little girl is keeping the family tradition alive.”

“I am.” Pansy’s breathy whisper carried a hint of tears. “Oh, Emile, I wish you had stayed.”

“I’ve been here all along. You just haven’t looked for me before.” Emile’s specter extended a hand to cup his daughter’s cheek. Pansy leaned into the phantom caress.

Stone snatched her before she toppled over. Too late, he discovered she weighed little more than a ghost herself. His grab yanked her off her feet and slammed her into his chest.

He exercised quite a bit more care setting her back on the dirt floor.

 

 

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Susan Page Davis and the Oregon Trail!

susan-2Susan Page Davis here. History is all about people—individuals. I’ve encountered some intriguing people in my research and the Oregon pioneers are a good example.

Thousands of people went to Oregon in the 1850s, and those pioneers have always fascinated me. When I got married and moved to Oregon with my husband, who grew up there, I was very conscious of retracing the steps of those who blazed the western trails. When it came time to write my Prairie Dreams series, I needed to present Oregon’s history accurately, and I found I had a lot to learn!

In these books, starting with The Lady’s Maid, I sent two English ladies over the Oregon Trail on a wagon train. They don’t actually reach the territory until the end of the first book. In writing the section where the wagon train winds along the Snake River for a ways, I began my Oregon research in earnest.

For that first book in the series, I mainly studied the trail itself, and places along the way. It was in very rough shape when my ladies arrived in 1855. I’ve been to the End of the Trail Museum in Oregon City, and to the Oregon Trail Museum near Baker City, on the Idaho side of the state—both wonderful resources with very different collections. I’ve seen the ruts on the prairie and peered into Conestoga wagons. All of that was percolating in the back of my mind, and I was able to find the additional information I needed.
Copyright Historic Oregon City www.historicoregoncity.org

Copyright Historic Oregon City http://www.historicoregoncity.org[/caption%5D

Fort Dalles was one place I used in my books. My brother-in-law lives in The Dalles, and on one visit, he took us to see what is left of the fort. It isn’t much. The surgeon’s house is wonderful, but there is precious little left of the actual military installation. I had to rely on books and Internet sites to bring the fort to life for me. Oregon City was easier, because it’s still there, and many sources exist to tell me about what it was like in “the day.”

In the second book of my series, Lady Anne’s Quest, real historical figures began to show up. Some of them screamed to be included in my story. My two fictional ladies had separated. Elise had married a scout turned rancher, and Lady Anne went on to find her missing uncle. His last known address was near Eugene.

I had a lot of fun researching the Eugene area. It’s where my husband was born. He grew up in Junction City, just a few susan-5miles outside Eugene, and we lived within the city limits after we got married. But Junction City wasn’t there in 1855.

What I did find in my time travel was fascinating people. One was Eugene Skinner, larger than life. He was the founder of the city, and it is named after him. I was also familiar with Skinner’s Butte, which towers over the city and where Eugene Skinner lived for a while. In his active life, he was not only a founder, a farmer, and a ferry operator, but he helped lay out the town and served as a lawyer, postmaster, and county clerk.

One of the first settlers in Lane County, Skinner arrived in 1846. He built the first cabin in what is now the city of Eugene, on the side of the

hill at Skinner’s Butte. He used it as a trading post, and later as a post office. I put the post office and both Mr. and Mrs. Skinner in my story.susan-6

I also learned about Joseph Lafayette Meek, or “Joe Meek,” the famous mountain man. He lived his later years in Oregon and was appointed the first U.S. Marshal for the Oregon Territory.susan

I needed a marshal in my story, but by the time of the tale, Joe had given up the office. He served as Territorial Marshal from 1848 to 1853, and was succeeded by James Nesmith, so Marshal Nesmith is the one who made it into my book. Even so, I enjoyed a rabbit trail of reading about Joe Meek and his family. Maybe he will show up in another book someday.  susan-4

I am making a list of Oregon places I’d like to visit the next time we go there to see family. It’s amazing how many historical sites I managed NOT to visit during the time I lived in the beautiful state of Oregon! Usually those places are associated with people. While I do delve into the plants, animals, and terrain of the regions I write about, most of my research is still about people.

Today I’m giving away a copy of A Lady in the Making from the Prairie Dreams series.susan-3

 

 

A Lady in the Making: Millie Evans boards a stagecoach and finds that one of the passengers is David Stone—a man she and her brother once tried to swindle. As she tries to convince David she’s different now, her brother’s gang holds up the stagecoach. Millie must trust God to show David the truth that she has changed, but will he see before it’s too late?

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than 60 novels, including the Ladies’ Shooting Club series, Texas Trails series, and Frasier Island Series. Her newest books include the historical romances River Rest, Mountain Christmas Brides, The 12 Brides of Summer, and Heart of a Cowboy. She now lives in western Kentucky. Visit her website at: http://www.susanpagedavis.com

 

Apple Days & a Giveaway

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Apples are on my mind!

I visited a local apple orchard yesterday with my family and came back loaded with apples, cider, fudge and pumpkin butter–and we only went for the apple donuts!

One of the things I enjoyed when I was a child was to take family trips in autumn to see the colors and enjoy the Apple Days celebration in Julian, CA. Perhaps that is a reason I set my stories there. Nostalgia. In each of my books I’ve given a nod to the thing that kept Julian on the map after the gold rush there had played out — Apples.

James Madison, a widower, came to the area in 1867 looking for a good area for a ranch. He was born in New York, but grew up in New Orleans. He began breeding race horses (the Shiloh breed of quarter horse) and also Durham cattle. In the early 1870s, he and Thomas Brady traveled to San Bernardino, brought back a wagon-load of apple trees and planted an orchard.

The higher elevation and increased rainfall in the land around Julian, along with the type of apple-orchard-5soil, made the it perfect location for a different kind of fruit other than the lemons and grapefruits and avocado trees that did so well nearer the coast. Before long, Madison also had blackberries, peaches, grapes and almond trees that produced exemplary fruit. (He also grew wheat as well as had a half-share in the Hubbard Mine. He was a very busy man!)

Many other inhabitants of the area, began planting orchards.  By the 1890’s apples from Julian were shipped throughout the country and winning county fairs. They won blue ribbons at the 1893 Worlds’ Fair in Chicago and in 1904 at the St. Louis Fair. In 1907, Julian apples won eight gold medals in the Jamestown Virginia Exposition, one of them being the Wilder Medal, which is the highest award given by the American Pomological Society.

Apple facts

(Courtesy http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2014/07/22/history-of-apples)

  • No other fruit has had the popularity of apples in art, literature, poems, and songs.
  • The original wild apple comes from Kazakhstan. This was found through following the DNA trail. These wild apples are still prevalent there today.
  • The original wild version can be terrifically sour. It is known as the “spitter” because the initial reaction upon taking a bite is to spit it out. It is only domestication and grafting that developed the sweet and tart flavors.
  • John Chapman (a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed) collected seeds from Pennsylvania cider mills and carried them west, starting orchards in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. These apples were too sour for eating and were used to make liquor.
  • The Temperance Movement in the 1880s viewed the apple as sinful (see previous) and pushed for the burning of apple trees.little_leaves1-e1459470207517-300x177
Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

This is my standard recipe for Apple Crisp that I’ve been making for my family for years. (I prefer it warm, with a splash of milk to balance the sweetness.)

In an 8” x 8” buttered pan:

Fill pan with sliced apples OR 1 large can of apple pie filling.

In a bowl mix:

1 cup flour
¾  cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
Add one beaten egg and mix with fork until crumbly.

Spread over fruit.
Melt one stick of butter and pour over mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

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What is your favorite way to enjoy apples?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of Western Spring Weddings,
set in Clear Springs (a.k.a. Julian!)

Psst! My favorite eating apple is the Honey Crisp. What’s yours?

Visit Kathryn at her website and Facebook!

BJ AKIN TALKS ABOUT HER BOOK “NATIVE LOVE” AND GIVEAWAY!

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HOWDY!   EVERYONE! WHAT A YEAR!!!

It has been such an exciting time! I am proud to say that Native Love, my second book came out last fall keeping me busy with book signings and promotions. I have been donating my books to local libraries that I visit and last fall at the Old West Days in Valentine I was lucky enough to meet a Cowgirl Poet from Alberta, Canada. Doris Daley. She was kind enough to take a set of my books back to her local library there in Alberta, so the books they are “atraveling” all over!

In appreciation of this trip to the land of the ‘Petticoats & Pistols’ I will be giving away two of the printed copies of my book, Native Love! So keep a sharp eye out on how to win!

The book is an action packed adventure of Red Feather and an Indian girl, Montana that he has fallen in love with…

PPBLOG NATIVE LOVE COVER FOR BUSINESS CARDS

When Montana, a young Indian maiden, is kidnapped by two ruthless outlaws, she knows there is little chance of rescue. Despite this, she wonders if her new friend, Red Feather, will search for her. That couldn’t possibly happen; he doesn’t even know she’s missing. But if he did, would he risk his future to find her?

Against her adoptive white parents’ wishes, Red Feather has decided to court Montana. But first he must return back East to finish the white man’s medical school. When he is notified that Montana is missing he knows he might lose her before he has the chance to tell her how he feels. There’s only one thing he can do; return to the Sand hills and save the Love of his heart…..

 

My new book is, The Texas Ranger. A man who finishes what he starts and the adventures that lead him from Southern Texas up into the Sandhills of the Nebraska Territory. Will he find the criminals he is tracking or will a certain young lady lead him away from his goal?

Sorry, but you will have to wait for the story! Ha! So watch for its release within the next year. For the rest of the Summer…. Enjoy your lives with love and excitement at the ready!

Once again thanks a million to Petticoats and Pistols for this adventure and thank you all the readers that make ‘our’ dreams come true!!!

Here are some pictures of our local Sandhills Cowboys hard at work!

Blayne Bradley at his family’s branding…Cowboy up!!!

PPBLOGBlayne branding (1)

 

 

 

 

 

And little brother Zach, on the right, holding down the ‘beef’!

PPBLOGZach branding

 

 

 

 

 

Remember, I will be giving away two copies of my new book, Native Love, to two lucky winners!!!

 

HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU ALL!

BJ AKIN

 

New Release and a Giveaway!

KathrynAlbrightBanner

Spring is wedding season!

In the 1800s, I have a feeling spring weddings had something to do with the availability of beautiful flowers, and the (ahem) need for a wedding after the long, cold winter. Tomorrow is release day for Western Spring Weddings of which my story, His Springtime Bride , is roped with two other novellas, each involving a spring wedding.  I am offering a print copy (or Kindle copy) to one lucky person leaving a comment today. (See guidelines on upper right of this page!) Here’s a little bit about the plot and an excerpt that occurs near the beginning of the story.

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Released from prison, half-breed Gabe Coulter must work for his enemy to earn back the deed to his own ranch.
But when his boss’s daughter, Riley Rawlins, returns home with a rebellious son after years away in the east, nothing will stop him from discovering the truth.

Riley no longer trust the man she once loved so completely.
Years of old hurts and his violent past make it impossible to forgive and allow him back into her life or that of her son.

But one thing Gabe has is pure cowboy grit. Will it be enough to make Riley see that she and her son should a part of his future?

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Excerpt ~ His Springtime Bride

 

Western Spring Weddings“Name is Coulter. I want to talk to Frank Rawlins.”

“Johnson. Foreman.” His gaze narrowed and he scratched his scruffy dirt-colored beard. “Coulter? From around these parts?”

Gabe lifted his chin in acknowledgment.

“Most Injuns never make it to prison if they kill a white man. And if they do—they don’t make it out.”

Gabe stiffened. He’d heard the same thing before from guards at the prison—their tone much uglier. It wasn’t the only time his father’s blood had saved him, but it was the most important time. In a world where both whites and Indians looked upon him with suspicion, he had quickly learned to trust no one. He had fought it when he was young, trying to fit in, but it did no good. Now all he wanted was to be left in peace. Obviously, Johnson had heard of him and didn’t care about that.

“Then it’s a good thing I’m half-white. Tell him I’m here,” Gabe said. By his tone, he made it clear he wasn’t asking.

The foreman eyed him for a moment longer and then clomped up the steps and, after a sharp rap on the door, let himself into the house.

Three minutes later, Johnson ushered him inside.

Gabe had been in the house a few times when he was young. His folks had been invited to a ten-year wedding anniversary party for Rawlins and his wife. That’s when he’d first met Riley. He had been quiet and she had been all gangly tomboy arms and legs and talked up a storm. He remembered swinging on the rope swing that hung from the old oak in the side yard with her and a few other children. He had never seen blond hair before that, and each time he tried to touch her braids, she would whip them around just out of his reach to tease him. She laughed and the other kids laughed right along with her, which made him mad—mostly at his own awkwardness.

Had Riley ever come back to visit her father? Once she had loved the ranch and vowed never to leave, despite her mother’s schemes to position her for a rich husband back east. By now she probably had that rich husband along with a baby or two. With effort, he pushed his memories of Riley to the back of his mind. Thoughts of her would only complicate the confrontation ahead with Rawlins.

He squared his shoulders and followed Johnson. The foreman stopped in the hallway before the study and indicated Gabe was to enter. “No such thing as a half Injun,” he said, his eyes cold as Gabe passed by. “Bad blood taints the good.”

Rawlins sat behind a massive cherrywood desk, his expression inscrutable. He had to be in his early fifties now, with silver-streaked hair and black hawkish brows over striking blue eyes. A small amount of paunch around his middle where there hadn’t been any before spoke to his more sedentary days of late. As Gabe stepped farther into the study, Rawlins walked slowly around from behind his desk and hiked one hip onto the corner to sit. “So you are out.”Spring horses

Gabe wasn’t here for small talk. “I was down to my land today. Saw the sign. Looked new.”

Rawlins nodded…watching him carefully. “The sheriff in Nuevo mentioned your release. I thought you might head this way. I also thought you should be clear about the situation here.”

“You mean the part about not owning my own land?”

In the doorway, Johnson straightened, alert to the underlying tension in the room. He rested his hand lightly on his gun handle.

“Taxes hadn’t been paid in three years,” Rawlins said. “I paid them.”

“Stole the place, you mean. And you know why I couldn’t get them paid.”

He nodded again. “Your incarceration was mentioned in the newspaper. I had my eye on that property a long time, Coulter. Has a nice little stream running through it down from the mountain this time of year.”

“I noticed your cattle were enjoying it.”

“Hasn’t been grazed in years. There is a nice thick carpet.”

Of course it hadn’t been grazed. After his father’s death by the cougar, Gabe’s mother had had to slowly sell off the stock to make ends meet. Few would do business with a Kumeyaay woman and her kid. He blew out a breath, unused to having to ask for anything and not liking that he was going to now. He’d best keep calm. “What will it take to get it back?”

Rawlins tilted his head. “Who says I’m interested in selling?”

“I do.”

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His Springtime Bride/Western Spring Weddings Anthology © by Kathryn Albright
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

For a different excerpt from this novella, visit my website!

My favorite part of weddings is hearing the heart-felt vows. Now it’s your turn!

What is your favorite part of a wedding?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of Western Spring Weddings!

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015