When working on a new book, I would make a collage of snippets from magazine pictures to give me a quick visual of scenery and the different terrain in my stories. Anyone who’s read my books knows I like my scene setting, I don’t spend pages describing the flora but I like clear images cut into the page of my characters’ surroundings. Since I usually work on multiple books at a time, the boards helped me keep the stories separated. In the past I had those storyboard collages tacked up by my desk so I could glance up while writing to keep my mind steeped in that imagery. I’m currently working like mad on a new series, but my imagery process has gotten a cyber upgrade–thanks to Pinterest–a place where I can pin pictures to a cyber board and where I’m not limited to just magazines on hand. I have to admit when my critique partner recently sent me an invite I figured she must be mad at me and my first response was NO WAY, I am not joining a social media distraction. But then she told me to go look at her storyboards for the books she’s working on–and bam, I was pinned 😉
I’ve been amazed by the huge volume of pictures and the easy process of finding and pinning. I haven’t had a chance to go back and add to my boards since that first day but in just a couple hours I’d found a dress I felt could be similar to the dress my heroine wears in book one in the opening chapters, well, what the dress may have looked like before she’s drenched, dragged and caked in mud 😉
The coolest aspect of Pinterest for me was links to these pictures led to some amazing historical sites. I found a bunch of great new resources and a ton of visual stimulation for settings and terrain.
Anyone else been pinned? It’s also a great place for finding tasty recipes! Check it out–resistance is futile 😀
Here’s a few more pics I added to my storyboard. One of my favorites is the picture of the Chinese laundry.
I’m happy to announce that Miss Darlene Franklin will arrive at the Junction on Saturday, September 1st.
Miss Darlene is always a delight. We love when she visits.
This time the dear lady will share some tidbits about steamships on the Rio Grande River in Texas. I certainly didn’t know anything about this so I’m excited about the prospect of learning something new.
Miss Darlene has a brand spanking new book out. It’s called A BRIDE’S ROGUE in ROMA, TEXAS. Looks like a humdinger.
You don’t want to miss her. So, hitch up your wagon and shake the wrinkles out of your bustle.
There are an awful lot of modern conveniences I wouldn”t want to do without. Showers come to mind. Coffee pots. Washing machines. I can”t even fathom a day in the kitchen without electricity.
Most of us have heard of the Ben Franklin stove, but it wasn”t really what we think of as a stove at all. In 1744 Ben Franklin invented an open cast iron heater, like an insert, that projected out from the fireplace and radiated to all parts of the room. It was used for heating purposes.
So the stoves we read about clear through the 1850s and 1860s were heaters. The pot bellied stove was a common heater for over fifty years. It was much bigger than we”d imagine, and most often used in depots, general stores, livery stables and shops.
A stove to cook on wasn”t invented until 1870, when the fireplace heater was improved upon for cooking and baking. It was still a fireplace insert, often ornate.
By 1885 the common kitchen range had a flat top and round burners, but still no reservoir.
In the late 1890s and early 1900s hard-coal heaters were common, and the flames inside could be seen through an isinglass window. Once gas was piped into city homes in the 1890s, people had gas cook stoves and space heaters.
The steel-plated kitchen ranges with reservoirs, warming closets and nickel plated trim were the norm around the turn of the century. A fancy one cost about twenty dollars or less.
I can tell you I”m very thankful for my kitchen range and microwave. What would Laura Ingalls make of it?
Years ago, okay decades ago, when I started reading romances I fell in love with the mail-order bride books. Mind you I had just finished reading a series of Dame Barbara Cartland’s books where the young virgin married the dashing rake because he needed a wife and she needed protection. So a shift to the American historical where a woman needs a marriage and the farmer/miner/lumberjack needed a wife was a natural progression for me.
Being a lover of American history I knew these women weren’t going into a life of privilege and ease like Ms. Cartland’s heroines. No, these heroines were going to an unknown, unsettled world to bring civilization not only to their environments, but quite often to the men they’d wed. Just looking at old photos from the late 1800’s homesteaders shows the harsh reality these women must have faced. That alone should tell you what kind of women they were.
Courageous. That’s the first word that comes to mind. Someone who was willing to leave the world they knew in the East to travel west to a land almost as foreign as another country had to have guts.
Hopeful. Many women who became mail-order brides were looking for something different than the lives they were living. Whether they were widows or spinsters these women left all they’d ever known in hopes that their new lives and potential mates would fulfill their needs for a home and family of their own.
Determined. To work side-by-side with the stranger they married to carve out a life would take determination, as well as physical and emotional strength. They would have to face natural disasters, renegades and wild animals in order to protect their families and homesteads.
When I started writing Cantrell’s Bride and it became apparent my heroine was in an American version of a marriage-of-convenience I had to determine how she ended up there and what caused her to be a mail-order bride. My heroine would need to be strong, determined and hopeful.
“Laura Melborne is a spinster librarian in Washington D.C. who witnesses the murder of a senator. In order to escape the murderer, she becomes a mail-order bride to Nathan Cantrell, a Colorado farmer with a strangely silent child. Laura must use all her courage, determination and hope to forge a life with Nathan even as the murderer closes in on her.”
EXCERPT FROM CANTRELL’S BRIDE Copyright Suzanne Ferrell, 2012 All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
Nathan studied the young woman seated on the wagon seat. Damn. What had Neil been thinking? He’d assumed from the list of requirements he’d given Neil his brother would send him an older woman like the governess they’d had growing up. Older, strict, unappealing. Certainly not this round-faced miss with the warm brown hair pulled back in a serviceable knot, flushed pink cheeks and excitement in her eyes. Dammit, Neil. His brother knew he wasn’t in need of a wife for his own physical desire and he certainly wasn’t ever falling for the foolishness others called love again. No, he’d learned his lesson the first time. Women—especially young, beautiful women—couldn’t be trusted.
Nathan ground his thin cigar under his boot toe before stepping forward to offer a hand to the woman. She hesitated, a look of fear darkening the excitement he’d seen in her eyes. For a moment he thought she’d refuse him. Then something in her changed. Whatever frightened her—him or the new town—she shoved it aside, took a deep breath, sat a little straighter and put her hand in his.
“I’m Laura, Mr. Cantrell.” She gave him a determined look as he helped her down from the wagon.
Standing on the ground she came only to the top of his shoulders and had to tilt her head back to look up at him. For a brief moment he was caught in the clear appraisal of her deep emerald eyes. A hint of roses, reminiscent of his mother’s garden, wafted up to him.
A movement to his right caught his attention. He glanced around and stiffened. The townsfolk had stepped out of their businesses to watch.
Anger flared inside him. It wasn’t idle curiosity that brought them out like rats searching for food. They wanted to make his business fodder for their gossip mill once more.
Damn. He hated their scrutiny, had his fill of it while Kirsten lived and then again when he’d brought Rachel home. He needed to get out of here. He’d be damned if he’d discuss this situation with his new wife on the streets of Doverton.
Grasping his bride’s elbow, he half hauled, half led her to his wagon.
“Mr. Cantrell.” Her prim voice stopped him before he actually tossed her up onto the seat. “I think I can manage this myself, if you wish to get my belongings.”
“Your belongings?” He released her and glanced back at Zeke’s wagon where the old coot had unloaded two boxes.
“Yer wife done brought a few things with her, Nathan.” A large carpetbag landed beside Laura’s wooden boxes. Zeke leaned against the wagon’s tailgate, grinning like an idiot.
Nathan glanced around the street. Everyone stood watching him to see if he’d accept Laura as his wife or send her packing. Getting a complete stranger to marry him in order to have someone to care for Rachel was a mistake. He never should’ve listened to Micah’s crazy scheme.
With a look up at his wife, he saw her staring ahead, her back ramrod straight and her lower lip caught between her teeth. She knew everyone was watching them. Her quiet dignity doused his indignation.
Muttering an oath, Nathan hefted up the first of the boxes. What the hell does she have in here? Bricks? He nodded at Zeke. “Don’t just stand there, help me get it all loaded.”
The wiry mule skinner lifted the carpetbag and set it in the wagon. He walked around to the side where Laura sat. Nathan shoved a heavy crate onto the wagon as Zeke doffed his worn raccoon hat and offered his hand to Laura.
“Ma’am, it sure was a pleasure makin’ yer acquaintance. You ever need anythin’ at all, you just give old Zeke here a holler.”
Without hesitation, Laura took his hand and shook it once. “You were a delight to travel with, Mr. Zeke. Your stories made the time pass quickly. Thank you for bringing me safely here.” She settled a very sincere and tender smile on the old man. The smile lit up her eyes, softened her features and transformed her face into beauty that struck Nathan so hard he nearly dropped the box he was lifting onto the wagon.
“Yer most welcome, ma’am.” The mule skinner’s weathered skin turned a deep red under his beard and he actually scuffed his boot in the dirt as if he were a smitten pup.
Recovered from his reaction to her smile, Nathan rolled his eyes and settled in the seat beside the woman. She had the old man blushing – great. He’d married another flirt. He flicked the reins and set the horses into motion. His new wife grabbed hold of the seat to keep from falling out. Zeke jumped out of the way.
Heading west out of town, Nathan stewed for the better part of the five-mile trip. No way was he keeping another flirt for a wife. His gut instincts told him she was nothing but trouble. But then, weren’t all women?
He glanced at the woman beside him. She sat stiffly, looking off to the side. The only clue the town’s rudeness had upset her was the way she clutched at the wagon seat with one hand and fingered a locket hanging on a chain against her coat.
She sure was a quiet one. Totally unlike Kirsten.
From the moment they’d met, Kirsten chatted and flirted with him until she had him married to her and her hands on his money. He’d done anything she wanted, loved her with all his heart and given her every dime he had. It was never enough.
Now he knew better than to trust a woman with anything – even one that appeared different from his she-bitch first wife.
The team turned the bend in the road just below his farm.
“Is that your home?”
Instinctively Nathan bristled. He’d heard those exact words before. His farm might not resemble a Southern plantation, but it was all his and he was damn proud of it. He turned to inform the woman at his side just that.
The words died on his lips.
Instead of sneering with a look of disdain as Kirsten had when she’d first seen his farm, Laura’s face softened with the same smile she’d given Zeke. Again it struck him how much it transformed her looks. It wasn’t a flirty smile. No, it appeared to come from her heart. Focused on his home, she seemed to drink in the sight before her – just like he had the first time he rode into the valley nestled between several mountain peaks.
He stopped the team for a moment to admire the picture his home presented. The sight never failed to please him. The road led down between pastures fenced by logs to the white clapboard house.
Now in the middle of winter, it nearly blended into the snow except for the dark roof and windows. Other dark shapes dotted the landscape the landscape. The chicken coop, outhouse and lower barn spread out in a crescent shape within walking distance of the house. In the upper fields stood a second barn for housing grain and cattle throughout the winter.
Behind the house, far enough to prevent flooding from the spring runoff, the creek cut a meandering path through the evergreens farther down the valley to join other creeks that fed into the South Platte River.
“It’s lovely,” Laura whispered.
Her awed appreciation at his home eased some of the tension humming through him. Nathan started the team up the narrow lane to the house. He drove around back and stopped the wagon next to the porch. While he hopped off his side, Laura scrambled to lower herself down before he could help her.
For some reason, it bothered him that she wouldn’t want his help. It couldn’t be that he’d enjoyed her nearness when he helped her from Zeke’s wagon.
“Come on inside and warm up.” he held open the kitchen door and allowed her to pass into the house first. The scent of roses again. How did she smell like roses in the middle of winter? Nathan followed her inside, going to the wood-burning stove. He stoked up the fire then stood and studied her under that hooded gaze of his. Finally he stalked to the door. “It should get warm enough for you to take off your coat in a few minutes. I need to see to the animals, then I’ll be back to talk.”
Laura caught the tobacco scent from the cigar as he passed. A shiver of awareness ran over her body, followed by a moment of apprehension. Never in her life had she been this alone with a man. Given his surly greeting, she wondered if she’d jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
As the door closed behind him her shoulders slumped. Things weren’t going as well as she’d hoped. On the cross-country trip, she’d prayed Mr. Cantrell would accept her, if not with open arms, then at least with gratitude for her help. What if the trip had been for naught?
After setting her carpetbag on the table, she moved around the stark kitchen. The windows were bare, the walls painted white. No decorations of any kind hung anywhere. Opening the cupboards, she found chaos among the dishes and cookware, as if someone had just thrown them inside and slammed the doors shut. A layer of dust covered most of the shelves. She glance down at the floor. It had been swept recently, but she doubted it had seen the use of a mop in some time.
Through the window she watched her husband drive the team of horses and wagon between the barn’s wide doors. He closed the doors and disappeared behind them. She might a well look about the rest of the downstairs.
The hallway led to the front parlor. Here a small settee and two wingback chairs sat beneath dust-covered sheets. Two end tables that hadn’t seen dusting in years flanked the chairs. The mantle clock’s hands stood in idle disuse. Otherwise the windows had no curtains and the room was as empty as the kitchen.
Shaking her head, Laura closed the door and returned to the kitchen. Were the bedrooms as bleak? She didn’t dare go upstairs to find out until she’d been invited.
The kitchen had warmed considerably so she removed her coat and both the sweaters she’d needed for warmth during the wagon trip over the pass. She laid them on the back of a ladder-back kitchen chair and sat at the table to consider her situation. Mr. Cantrell might not want her as his wife, but he certainly needed her, even if he didn’t know it yet.
So that’s my reasons for loving mail-order bride books. Strong heroines in a fish-out-of-water sort of story. Do you like these kinds of stories? If so, what draws you to them?
Suzanne is giving away on $10 Amazon gift card — so the winner can get a copy of CANTRELL’S BRIDE for themselves.
Janet, if you will contact me at PhylissMiranda.com and give me your snail mail address and your choice of an anthology, I’ll get an autographed copy in the mail to you right away! Major congratulations, Phyliss
In my last blog, I talked about the Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona, and its connection to Weatherford, in North Central Texas. One of my writer buddies who read the blog gave me some research on Texas Ranger Captain John Baylor, who headed up the last Indian battle on Texas soil with the help of low-flying doves. The information was way too interesting not to share.
George Baylor, Confederate military officer and Texas Ranger, the son of United States Army surgeon John Baylor, was born in Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, on August 2, 1832. Baylor is reputed to have raised the first Confederate flag over the capital of Texas in Austin.
In 1860, Baylor, then living in Weatherford, ran down a party of Indian raiders on Paint Creek in Parker County and killed nine of them. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in Company H of the Second Cavalry, John Robert Baylor’s Arizona Brigade, and served as regimental adjutant before resigning to become senior aide-de-camp to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in 1861.
After Johnston’s death at the Battle of Shiloh, Baylor returned to Texas and was elected lieutenant colonel and commander of the Second Battalion of Henry H. Sibley’s army. When the battalion merged with the Second Cavalry regiment of the Arizona Brigade, Baylor was elected its colonel. He also commanded a regiment of cavalry during the Red River campaign of 1864 and was commended for gallantry at the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill.
After the Civil War, Baylor was commissioned a first lieutenant and appointed to take over as commander of Company C, Frontier Battalion of Texas Rangers in El Paso.
Baylor left San Antonio on August 2, 1879, with his wife, two young daughters, and a sister-in-law, riding in an ambulance and with two wagons full of provisions and household goods, the latter including a piano and a game cock and four hens. The caravan, guarded by Sgt. James B. Gillett and five other Rangers, was forty-two days on the road to Ysleta, where Baylor established his headquarters.
I have to confess that much of my “first hand” research on Texas Rangers came from incidents documented in a fantastic book written by Sgt. James B. Gillett, Six Years with the Texas Rangers 1875 to 1881.
Baylor opened his campaign against raiding Apaches, whom he often pursued beyond the Rio Grande, in cooperation with Mexican officials. During 1879 and into 1880, Baylor’s rangers were occupied in the pursuit of the Mescalero Apache Chief Victorio and his band, an endeavor that proved largely ineffective.
In one incident, a party of twelve warriors deserted with four women and four children, made their way through the mountains of west Texas, and began attacking small parties of Texans, including a stagecoach in Quitman Canyon, killing the driver and a gambler named Crenshaw. Baylor investigated and began to trail the Apache. The tracking was difficult. It was intensely cold, and the ground was so frozen that the Apache left no track. They lost the trail.
Doves played a crucial (if little-known) role in this milestone event in Texas history.
Lieutenant Charles Nevill found the tracks on the west side of Quitman Canyon where it led across the plain from Eagle Springs to Diablo Mountains. They joined up with Baylor’s group, and they tracked for five more days, getting closer and closer. Although they thought they neared the Indians, they might not have been able to locate them if it hadn’t been for the help of low-flying doves obviously headed toward water. Knowing the Apaches likely would be camped near water, the Rangers followed the birds. Sure enough, they surprised the Apaches as they cooked their breakfast and prevailed in what latter came to be recognized as the last-ever encounter between Rangers and American Indians in Texas.
After resigning from ranger service in 1885 Baylor was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from El Paso and served as clerk of the district and circuit courts for a number of years. He always got along well with his Mexican neighbors; a trait not shared by all Rangers, and lived in Mexico from 1898 until 1913, returning to San Antonio where he died on March 17, 1916. Baylor, Colonel CSA, was buried in the Confederate Cemetery in that city.
I happen to love doves. Since we have a lot of old trees and my husband has several birdfeeders out, we have numerous birds, including a zillion mourning dove. I enjoy the male’s melancholy cooing in the morning while I’m having my first cup of coffee. As a matter of fact, as I’m finishing this blog, I can see two big gray doves who came in to get a drink from the birdbath in the yard. Do you have a favorite bird?
I will give away an autographed copy of any one of our anthologies to one person who leaves a comment today.
In 1856, a New Orleans doctor, Jean LeMat designed and created a truly unique weapon: a pistol that was both revolver and buckshot weapon in one. The original LeMat revolver was 13¼” long with a 6 ¾” barrel, weighed 3 pounds-8 ounces, and sported a .44 caliber nine-shot revolver. Other calibers were later produced, primarily .40 caliber. But what made it unique was the 20-gauge, 5 7/8” smooth bore barrel mounted beneath, originally designed to fire buckshot.
Dr. LeMat started production of his pistol at a Philadelphia armory, but the outbreak of the Civil War—and the subsequent order of 5000 LeMats by the Confederacy—had him moving production overseas. Reports suggest nearly 2500 of the cavalry revolvers were smuggled through the Union blockade into service with the Confederate cavalry.
Manufactured from 1856 to 1865, the LeMat revolver was carried by such notable figures as Major General Braxton Bragg, General Richard H. Anderson and flamboyant Confederate cavalry officer J.E.B. Stuart.
“The LeMat revolver is similar to the standard black-powder sidearms of the time in several ways. The LeMat is classed as a “horse pistol” (meaning it was big enough and heavy enough that a soldier tended to leave it in his saddle sheath rather than carry the revolver on his belt).” http://www.squidoo.com/lematrevolver
Note the ring on the base of the grip–that was for a lanyard so the pistol could be tied to the saddle and not be lost.
What I think is most interesting is that both barrels—the revolver and the buckshot—were fired with a single pivoting striker (see the “bump” on the top of the hammer in the pic to the right). That means a lever on the hammer (the part you pull back to fire) was flipped to allow the other barrel(s) to be fired. Or the shooter could flip it back and forth as the situation warranted.
There were a few downsides, though. The LeMat was single action so the hammer had to be pulled back or cocked manually between each shot. And the pistol had to be reloaded one cylinder at a time—all 10 of them. That meant it took as much as 60 seconds PER CHAMBER. Six minutes to reload it! No wonder the dragoons and cavalry officers carried as many LeMat revolvers as they could afford.
The smooth bore shotgun barrel formed the center of the revolver cylinder and could be filled with buckshot, shrapnel or a single, very large, lead ball. And the spread of the buckshot was about 6 inches at 20 feet—which made it a formidable weapon.