You’re flustered and in a rush. Stop. Take a sip of your favorite Starbucks drink and imagine it’s 1850. You are comfortable in your home in Boston. Women are protected. You have your women friends, sisters, mothers, aunts around you. Life is good.
And then Harry, your husband, comes home from the store where he works. He has a wild look in his eye. No, not that wild look! He’s got a map in his hands. A piece of paper with words you may or may not be able to read depending on your status and upbringing.
Back to Happy Harry. He’s excited. His hands are trembling. (Remember, it’s not that wild look.) He sits down at his desk, scribbles out figures, and jumps out of the chair. “We can go.”
Your heart perks up. Maybe a party. You’ll need a new dress. “Yes, dear. Where?”
“To Oregon. No more working in a dark store. I can farm my own land. Realize my dream.”
You don’t want to go. Why leave? You have your friends. Family. Status.
Handsome Harry rushes to you, sweeps you off your feet, and yes, now he has that look in his eye. “Together, we’ll conquer a new land. Adam and Eve in a faraway paradise.” And he smothers your words of protest with a kiss.
Ah, well, you never could resist his kisses.
And you’re off. All your possessions whittled down into one, let me repeat that, one wagon. After tearful good-byes to loved ones you will probably never see again, you are already worn out.
On top of that, you are soon in the chaos of fifty wagons. Some of your fellow travelers are new arrivals to the United States and their different languages add to the chaos. What’s more, men are everywhere, and you are not used to being around other men. But now you are seemingly in the trenches with dirty, smelly, men.
Speaking of smelly, soon after you start on the trail, odors assault your dainty senses. What’s worse – you own them. Oh, the disgrace. It doesn’t take long into the journey and you are walking behind the wagon, suffering long hot days of slow miles and stinging flies.
You wince and cry when a shriek erupts from a wagon behind. A small child has been run over by the big wheels. Or cholera has claimed another life to be buried along the trail with the graves of those who died from other wagon trains that passed by years ago. You wonder if you or your husband will be next.
Water becomes scarce, the sun blazes, and the dust chokes what little air is left. Maybe you cringe at the small kick of the little one letting you know that yes, you are with child. You can only pray you’ll reach Oregon before it comes.
Harry? He’s on his adventure. His dream.
Then you top the majestic mountains and see the green valleys. Your breath whooshes. You look east. Miles and miles of wagon ruts mark the land. Badges of honor to those who made the sacrifice. You look at your hands. Worn and callused. But you are strong. The little one inside you is strong too.
You gaze at Harry. He’s no longer the pale storekeeper. His body is sculpted bronze sinew forged out of the hard county. His eyes mirror the excitement and adventure you feel. Together you will tame a wild land, make a new life, and help build a new state. You realize you are home. You are a pioneer.
Now you’re back in the 21st century. It’s not really that bad. Take another sip of your drink and then whisper a quiet thank you to those brave women who made the trek west and civilized this nation.
Don’t forget them, draw on their courage, and go after
Golden Dreams blurb
Sometimes you have to go through your past to reach your dreams.
The civil war ends, leaving, Katy Gilbreth with nothing but a wounded heart and scarred face. Vowing not to give up, she sets her sights on California where she can get away from the hauntings of her past and start over in a land full of golden dreams. With her faith shattered and hopes fading, Katy trusts no man yet needs one to take her west.
Revelation Tarver has left California and is traveling east. He’s called to preach. A hard thing to do with a reputation as a fast gun. Going to reconcile with his father in Virginia, he believes he can outrun his past. Then he has those visions of asking a woman to marry him, but he definitely has no plans to fall in love again. Until he stops for supplies in a nowhere town and sees the woman in his dreams. Because of her past, Rev shuts his heart to Katy. After all, he’s been called by the Lord to preach, and he is headed east.
Until a killer, land grant, and a tornado throw them together on the California trail. Katy and Rev embark on a journey where their dreams collide as they face the wild land, a wicked outlaw, and their own pasts.
Leave a comment to get your name in the hat for either Liberty Belle (which is available now) or Golden Dreams when it comes out in April.
I’ve always had a macabre fascination with prisons, and when I was formulating the story for HANNAH’S VOW, I knew I wanted a bad one for my hero. It took some digging, but with the help of a family friend who worked in
a local university library, I found the perfect prison in which Quinn Landry would suffer.
You see, he shouldn’t have been in prison in the first place, but his older brother accused him of murder and did some conniving with the local law, and before Quinn could defend himself, he was whisked across Texas state lines and thrown into a notorious prison in New Mexico Territory.
This penitentiary was based on the Maine State Prison in the early 1830s. The convicts were housed in underground cells and sounded just awful. The dungeons were one story high with no way in or out except for a two feet square opening above them, secured with an iron grate. The convicts descended into the pits by a ladder, which was removed, of course, once they were down.
The pits were eight feet long, four feet wide, and nine feet high. Sometimes, the prisoner was in solitary, sometimes he shared the cell. There was no lighting, and at the bottom of the pit, only a small hole, one and a half inch in diameter, which allowed heated air in from the penitentiary’s furnace. No privies, either, but a tub was provided at night so they could do their business.
During the day, the convicts toiled in workshops as blacksmiths, wagon-makers, shoe-makers, wood-cutters and tailors. Some of the hardest criminals worked in a stone quarry. The female prisoners spent their time in wash-houses under the strict eye of a female officer.
In reality, this particular penitentiary sold the fruits of the convicts’ labors at full market price, and convicts were fed well. Their daily rations of beef or pork, bread, potatoes, and mush and molasses (breakfast) were surprisingly generous, as was their allowance for tobacco. They were allowed visitors and attended religious services on Sunday afternoons. For their care, the prisoners rarely died and hardly got sick.
But in fiction, Quinn had it much worse. He lives for revenge. It”s the only thing keeping him alive. When he learns of drug experiments on the prisoners, he knows he could die next. To right the wrongs dealt against him, he must risk his life and escape. And Hannah, of course, is there as his very unwilling ticket to freedom.
Drug experiments on the incarcerated is not a new practice, and there are distinct advantages, if you will. In modern times, the inmates are in a controlled environment, are available and usually healthy. In addition, they have a choice whether to volunteer. They’re informed and often paid for their trouble. The reasons they volunteer are varied, and while that could be fodder for a whole ‘nother blog, suffice to say, Quinn didn’t have a choice. 🙂 And doesn’t that make for much more interesting reading–especially when Hannah is there to stir up a little romance between them?
HANNAH’S VOW is an Amazon Bestseller for western romance!
Miss Patricia PacJac Carroll is making her way to the Junction and will arrive on Saturday, March 30 for a bit of fun.
The dear talented woman has in mind to share to some things about the hearty pioneer woman. Lord knows those women had to be from pretty stern stuff. The journey wasn”t for the fainthearted to be sure. And my mule Jasper was quick to put in his two cents worth to remind me it wasn”t any picnic for the animals either.
And Miss Patricia comes toting a book to giveaway.
The winner will get to choose either “Liberty Belle” or “Golden Dreams.”
So get the lead out and head over to the Junction come Saturday.
Hi! Winnie Griggs here. When we decided to run our favorite posts here this week, I knew exactly which one I”d chose. This story has always fascinated me from the very first time I heard it. If you saw it the first time, I hope you”ll enjoy reading it again. Oh, and read on to learn how to get entered for a nifty giveaway sponsored by our own Phyliss Miranda.
I’ve always been intrigued by the snippets I heard here and there about the time the Mississippi ran backwards, but I never followed up to learn more. The other day I heard another reference to it and decided it was time to do a bit of research. I thought I’d relay a little of what I learned to you here.
Here in America, when the subject of earthquakes comes up, most of us immediately think of California. But there is an earthquake-prone area in the Central Mississippi Valley known as the New Madrid Seismic Zone. It’s also been called the Reelfoot Rift and the New Madrid Fault Line. The fault runs from southern Illinois to Arkansas, cutting through sections of Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee in between.
In the early part of the nineteenth century, a series of earthquakes which occurred over a four month period, shook the area. These started on December 16, 1811 and the first two, only six hours apart, had an epicenter in northeast Arkansas. I was surprised to learn that these quakes have been billed as the most powerful in US history.
They had magnitudes of 8.1 and 7.0 respectively. Because of the scarcity of settlements in the area at this time, there was little damage to manmade structures. The natural environment, however, was violently affected, with the opening and closing of fissures on the earth’s surface, landslides and violent waves on waterways, most notably the Mississippi.
On January 23, 1812, a quake with a 7.8 magnitude struck, this time with an epicenter in southeastern Missouri, an area known as the ‘bootheel’. Again there was landslides, land warping and rerouting of rivers and streams.
Then, on February 7, 1812 an earthquake of magnitude 7.4 struck at New Madrid, Missouri. The entire town was destroyed and this time there were numerous first person accounts of the damage. Witnesses spoke of the ground breaking open, of the sinking and rising of large lands masses, of the ground rolling fluidly like the waves of the ocean. Water poured into the sunken landmasses from ground fissures and entire hillsides were flattened while lowlands became ridges and bluffs. In Arkansas, swampy places along the St Francis River suddenly spewed out sand and coal. The level of the river itself rose by some twenty-four feet. Below are a few eyewitness accounts:
“In more open country the surface of the earth could be seen to undulate in regularly advancing waves proceeding at about the pace of a trotting horse”
“…the earth was rocked about like a cradle & its surface rolling like waves a few feet high & in places causing fissures in the earth from which large volumes of warm water, sand & charcoal was blown up…”
“…at that instant all the shrubs and trees began to move from their roots, the ground rose and fell in successive furrows, like the ruffled waters of a lake…”
Along the Mississippi River, banks caved in, islands disappeared, boats were overturned or washed away. The very course of the mighty river was permanently altered. And for a time, it appeared that the Mississippi did indeed flow backwards. What actually happened, according to scientists is the following:
A thrust fault created a sudden waterfall and two dams on the Mississippi River’s Kentucky Bend. Additional falls may have also been created in other areas. These geographical uplifts caused a severe disruption of the river, generating a major upstream wave and retrograde current as the river adjusted to these changes.
One eye-witness account put it this way:
“… we tied up eight miles north of New Madrid near the house of my cousin… In a moment, so great a wave come up the river that I never seen one like it at sea. It carried us back north, up-stream, for more than a mile. The water spread out upon the banks — covering three or four miles inland. It was the current going backward. Then this wave stopped, and slowly the river went right again.”
The writer in me is fascinated by these accounts. Can you picture these scenes, can you imagine the untold stories of loss and courage, tragedy and sacrifice that must have occurred during these events? What part of this story speaks to you the most?
I”m excited to announce that The Bride Next Door, the second book in my Texas Grooms Series, is now available for pre-order at Amazon.
Love Thy Neighbor?
After years of wandering, Daisy Johnson hopes to settle in Turnabout, Texas where she hopes to open a restaurant. And perhaps find her a husband while she”s at it. Of course, she”d envisioned marry a man who actually likes her. Not someone who offers a her marriage of convenience in order to avoid scandal.
Turnabout is just a temporary stop for newspaper reporter Everett Fulton. Thanks to one pesky connecting door and a local gossip, however, he”s suddenly married, but his dreams of leaving haven”t changed, no matter what his new wife longs for. What Daisy wants – home, family, tenderness – is something he can”t provide. Yet his big-city plans are starting to pale beside small-town warmth….
And now for the giveaway.
Our wonderfully generous Phyliss Miranda is offering to reward one lucky person who posts on this blog today a $25 gift certificate to Bath & Body Works. Just right for scooping up some decadent bubble bath so you can indulge yourself by relaxing in the tub with a wonderful book!
There’s something humbling about standing in a place where history was made. I’ve had that experience a few times, but nothing has ever compared to standing in San Francisquito Canyon in the exact spot where the St. Francis Dam catastrophically failed at three minutes to midnight on March 12, 1928.
San Francisquito Canyon is located near Santa Clarita, California. It’s about 40 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, and the St. Francis Dam was part of the Los Aqueduct system built by William Mulholland. As a child, I picnicked with my parents in this crooked canyon. It was a lazy place, and I mostly remember the bugs and moss on the rocks, the summer heat and just having fun. As an adult, I went back after reading a book called Rivers in the Desert by Margaret Leslie Davis. With the help of pictures and a map, my husband and I found the concrete remains of the dam. It was a humbling moment.
The man most responsible for bringing water to Los Angeles was William Mulholland. The aqueduct was started in 1908 and completed in 1913. In 1924, construction began on the St. Francis Dam and a giant holding basin north of the city. It was completed in 1926 and the long process of filling it began. There were warning signs early on. As the dam was filled, cracks appeared in the massive concrete wall. Mulholland and his assistant deemed them to be expected in a structure the size of the St. Francis, and the water continued to rise, flooding the canyon behind the dam for miles. On March 8, 1928, the dam reached full capacity. It failed less than five days later.
No one saw the dam break, but a motorcyclist who had just ridden past it reported a rumbling and the sound of crashing rocks. He thought it was an earthquake or a landslide, events that are common to the area. What happened next is just beyond belief . . .
A wall of water 125 feet high went crashing down the canyon. It killed the dam keeper and his family who lived a quarter-mile downstream, then it destroyed a pumping station and flooded parts of what is now Valenica, California. The water turned west to the Santa Clara riverbed, flooded Castaic Junction and hit Santa Paula in Ventura County.
When the water reached the Pacific Ocean, it had traveled 54 miles. The floodwaters were two miles wide and traveling at about 8 miles an hour. Approximately 450 people were killed, and bodies were recovered years later from the ocean as far away as the coast of Mexico.
Such a tragedy . . . Seeing those concrete blocks, weathered by time but still recognizable put flesh and blood on that piece of history. I’m thinking about it today in part because of the flooding we’re seeing on the Mississippi River. It’s a different kind of flooding–slow and anticipated–but homes are still being lost, and people are being displaced. And then there’s the tsunami that hit Japan. I can’t begin to imagine and the size and force of that kind of catastrope. I have to wonder . . . Fifty years from now, how will it all be remembered?
Other historic memories come to my mind . . . I’ve visited Ford’s Theater in Washington DC, walked through a Civil War battlefield and visited Arlington Cemetery. What about you? What historic places have you visited? Which one made the strongest impression?
DON”T FORGET! Filly Renee Ryan is giving away a $15.00 Starbucks card…..My personal favorite! Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing!