When I got the idea for my Widows of Wildcat Ridge series, I had no idea what I was doing. The notion popped into my head; I became excited and jumped in with both feet. I think I left my head behind.

The first thing I did was contact a couple of writers I highly respected and ask them their opinions and if they’d be interested in joining me. They said yes. I wonder if they’re glad they did. At this point, we’re about to complete our second multi-author series.

That done, I did some research on locations. I wanted an isolated gold mining town in the mountains where I could destroy the mine and kill most of the miners. Had I seen Godless at the time? No, I didn’t know that TV series existed. Since I live in Utah, a state not often used in romance novels, that’s the location I chose. I avoided the Wasatch mountains where several mines had existed (think Park City and Alta; ski towns now). I decided to set the series In a mountain range a little farther south, the Manti-La Sals. I picked a spot for my mine to sit, with the town nearby. I wrote to several good authors to invite them to join in, and most accepted—a thrilling surprise.

I researched the flora and fauna of the area, which I already knew, but double-checked my facts. I shared this information with the authors, and, with their fertile minds, they quickly came up with ideas. And we were off and running.

Unfortunately, we soon ran into difficulties. What happened to destroy the mine and kill most of the miners? More research. The deeper I dug, the more problems I encountered. The main roadblock was the fact that there had never been a gold mine in those mountains. There were coal mines, and one had suffered a devastating explosion. Two hundred miners killed. Only a ghost town remains.

I decided to base the series there. It didn’t work. Too many differences between coal mining and gold mining. And other problems. So, I kicked the Manti-La Sals into the round bin and went back to work. I settled on the Unita mountain range, where a gold mine had existed in the 1800s. Not only that, but the Spaniards had established mines in the area in the 1600s. Mines no one’s ever found.

We opened our town, destroyed our mine, producing lots of widows to feature in our stories. Our next dilemma? Learning to share, communicate, and weave all our tales together. Now, that was phenomenally painstaking.

You see, we wanted a town and stories that blended, clashed, and intermingled.

We succeeded.

By “we” I mean myself and the other nine authors in the series: Pam Crooks, Caroline Clemmons, Zina Abbott, Christine Sterling, Kit Morgan, Linda Carroll-Bradd, Tracy Garrett, and Kristy McCaffrey. Some of us did more than one book, producing a total of sixteen.

We had maps of the area and town. We had lists of flora and fauna. Weather, travel routes and modes, what towns and cities existed at the time, what Native Americans lived in the territory? At first, we posted our research data on DropBox, but not everyone liked DropBox, so we switched to Google Docs. We formed a Facebook page for the series open to readers and another for the authors to communicate among ourselves. Believe me, tons of emails and posts went back and forth. So many that some of us thought we’d go crazy trying to keep up with everything. Three authors dropped out and were replaced. Our lives breathed, ate, slept, and dreamed of this series from the summer of 2019 to May 2020.  

To achieve our goal, we had to read each story published. We had to keep charts of characters, names, dates, characteristics, minor characters, plots, premises, and on and on. Trying to meld our stories together wasn’t easy. Inevitably, someone used a character from someone else’s story and accidentally gave them the wrong color hair or name. A nightmare in the making. The decisions to be made seemed endless. How often should we publish? What promotions should we do? Who should handle what? You might call the series a co-op.

Then there were the covers, all of which I created, according to the wishes and descriptions of the authors. We made memes for announcements and promos. We arranged launch parties. We worked, and we worked hard.

Despite all that (or because of it), the Widows of Wildcat Ridge (not the first name we came up with) proved a huge success.

I told my friends, if I ever mentioned starting a new series, to shoot me. Amazingly, they didn’t. Nor did I shoot myself. I endured and my fantastic authors along with me. I have come to love each of them.

As you know, in June 2020, we did start another series, just not an interconnected one. The idea for Bachelors & Babies bounced around in my head for a few years. I decided that when Widows of Wildcat Ridge ended, that’s what I would write. It would be a trilogy about three brothers who ran a Montana ranch together and a girl who arrives on their doorstep one night, pregnant and terrified. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what a good series it would make, and so, I jumped into the fire again, taking most of my fellow authors with me.

Those of you familiar with Bachelors & Babies will know how well that series has done. Will I ever do another one? Well, maybe. Keep watching and find out.

And if any of you get any notions about doing your own interconnected series, give me a ring. I might be able to save you a few headaches.

Today I’ll give away a free ebook of Priscilla, book 1 of Widows of Wildcat Ridge, and an audio copy of Barclay, Bachelors and Babies book 4. Be sure to leave a comment!

ABOUT CHARLENE:  Charlene Raddon fell in love with the wild west as a child, listening to western music with her dad and sitting in his lap while he read Zane Gray books. She never intended to become a writer. Charlene was an artist. She majored in fine art in college.

In 1971, she moved to Utah, excited for the opportunity to paint landscapes. Then her sister introduced her to romance novels. She never picked up a paintbrush again. One morning she awoke to a vivid dream she knew must go into a book, so she took out a typewriter and began writing. She’s been writing ever since.

Instead of painting pictures with a brush, Charlene uses words.


Char’s Links:


They’re b-a-a-ck. Those Ten Cent Thrills Known as Dime Novels.

Your Victorian ancestor may have had one shocking vice up her leg of mutton sleeve. She probably read dime novels.

The dime novel craze began in 1860 with the publication of Ann S. Stephens’ book Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter. The success of the book resulted in publishers and writers jumping on the bandwagon.

Critics called the popular books immoral and blamed them for society’s ills. Nevertheless, dime novels sold millions, and Civil War soldiers were the prime audience. Confederates and Union soldiers were on opposing sides politically, but both camps shared the same passion for pirates, mountain men, adventurers, and detectives. The melodramatic books with the lurid covers and purple prose helped them fight the boredom of camp life.

Now, these same books can help Pandemic stay-at-homes combat monotony. The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a grant of $350,000 to Northern Illinois University to catalog and digitize its collection of more than 4,400 dime novels and story papers. Stanford and other universities are also participating, and books are available at

With millions of books to choose from on Amazon, why would anyone want to read books written more than 150 years ago with no known literary value?

The answer is that these books are a treasure trove of cultural heritage and social history.  These stories also reveal the political attitudes of the past and gender stereotypes.

The depiction of Indian women was criticized by the Toronto Times in 1892. “It is a deplorable fact. She is always named Winona, the daughter of a chief, and, inevitably, her ill-fated love for a white man drives her to suicide or death; and, in these stories, the Indian maiden always dies.”

With all their faults, the books did society a favor; they established a new social order in which males were judged by deeds rather than social status. For this reason, the western hero became the symbol of the ideal man.

Books featuring real people like Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, and Jesse James were especially popular. One dime novel featuring Kit Carson had an unexpected impact on him. According to the story, Carson chased down a group of Apaches to rescue a kidnapped white woman only to discover her dead. In her belongings was a copy of the book Kit Carson, the Happy Warrior.

He later told the story in his autobiography: “We found a book in the camp, the first of the kind I had ever seen, in which I was represented as a great hero, slaying Indians by the hundred. I have often thought that Mrs. White must have read it and, knowing that I lived nearby, must have prayed for my appearance in order that she might be saved. I did come, but I lacked the power to persuade those that were in command over me to follow my plan for her rescue.”‘

Even though a woman started the dime novel craze, female writers were not taken seriously and were even resented. That didn’t stop readers from scooping up their books. By 1872, an astounding seventy-five percent of published books were written by women.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of many male writers who lamented the popularity of female fiction. In a letter to a friend, Hawthorne wrote: “America is now wholly given over to a dammed mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash–and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed.”

Now, thanks to the National Endowment for Humanities, the works of those early “scribbling women” will now be given a second chance.

Would you be interested in reading one of these books?  Why or why not?



Charlene Raddon Comes to Visit!

Miss Charlene Raddon will visit us on Friday, July 31, 2020! Mark your calendars.

She’ll tell us about the work involved in writing a large series with other authors.

You don’t want to miss this.

Plus, she’s giving away a book to one winner and an audio to another.

This will be fun, fun!

So head over come Friday and get a seat. Let’s talk continuity series!


Bison Facts


I’m lucky to live close to a bison ranch and these are photos I took as we drove by the other day. They are impressive creatures and when I hear about people having close-up encounters with them in nearby Yellowstone National Park, I always wonder what they are thinking. These animals are powerful!

Here are a few bison facts:

Bison are the largest mammals in North America. (Which is why you shouldn’t try to get close to them.)

Historians believe that bison are called buffalo in North America because boeuf is the French word for beef. 

Bison have lived continuously in the Yellowstone National Park area since prehistoric times.

When a bison’s tail is hanging down or switching, it’s calm. If it’s up or standing straight out, it’s about to do something aggressive. (I’m sure that tail can go up fast, so I wouldn’t use the hanging tail as a safety barometer.)

Bison can run up to 35 miles per hour.

The average life span is 10 to 20 years.

Bison ancestors came from Asia over the land bridge during the Pleistocene. The Asian ancestors were much larger.

Bison are near-sighted.

Bison calves are reddish and are called red dogs.

Bison can be pronounced with an “s” or a “z” sound. The “s” is standard, unless you are rooting for North Dakota State University. They use the “z” proudly. 



The National Cowboy Museum

Meet Tim …

Who doesn’t love a cowboy? And what better place to learn about them than The National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

During these trying times, people began looking for bright spots on the Internet and lo and behold they discovered Tim! He’d been asked by the museum to take over their social media while the museum was closed because of the pandemic. The result was hilarious, not to mention endearing. The man became famous almost overnight and all because he was inept at social media.


 But just because Tim was social media impaired, didn’t mean that people read his tweets and Instagram and made fun of him or hit him with rude comments, quite the opposite. His personality and love of the cowboy come through his trial and error attempts, and because of Tim, the museum’s Instagram followers increased by the thousands within days after he took over their social media. In fact, he became so popular so fast, CNN tracked him down for a phone interview. The result has been great for the museum and not only that, thousands of people have learned about the cowboy and other aspects of life in the old west. Soon other staff members were helping Tim out and creating different snippets of information to educate the public on the life of our beloved Cowboys.


 I myself hope to visit the National Cowboy Museum one day where I’m sure to meet Tim the security guard, Seth from marketing, and Michael Grauer, the McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture/Curator of Cowboy Collections and Western Art.


 In the meantime, you can visit the museum’s website and take a virtual tour. Thanks to Tim, I’ve learned that it’s a fascinating place. I can also relate to his learning curve of tweeting, Instagram use, and other social media! Those of you who participated in Game Day yesterday can relate too I bet! If you’d like to check out the museum’s Instagram, you can find it here.

Just click on the photos to read what Tim and his cohorts have to say about them! There are video demonstrations of various aspects of cowboy life too!

 Have any of you been to a cowboy museum before? The closest I’ve come is the High Desert Museum outside of Bend, Oregon. Tell me what sort of old West or cowboy museums you’ve visited. If you haven’t, which ones would you like to?




Game Day!


Hi Gang! It’s GAME DAY! This goes with my blog post for tomorrow so this will be fun! Okay, ready to play?


So, how many of us text? All, a few, only when you have to? Well here’s a little game to get us all warmed up for tomorrow’s blog post. And this just isn’t about texting, but applies to different forms of social media as well!

Texting involves abbreviating and if you’re like me, you only know a handful! I look at what my kids text or put on their social media and can’t understand half of it. So for the rest of us, here are some guides  …



So for our game, try to make a sentence using just these abbreviations! Example: 2day HMU L8R. Translation: Today hit me up later. And yes, you can add a regular word or two. Such as, Hey Sally, 2day HMU L8TR! I’ll pick not one but THREE lucky winners to receive an e-book of mine of thier choice! Have fun!

Podcast, Anyone? Listen to Mary and Cheryl’s!

A big shout-out to Cheryl Pierson and Mary Connealy for their fascinating interviews with Six Gun Justice!  Would you believe I’ve never heard Cheryl’s voice before? Ha!

Cheryl talks about her western background, her start as a published author and how her publishing company, Prairie Rose Publications, came about, as well as her love for the western genre. She’s fluent in the market and has worked with many western authors beyond romance.

You’ll enjoy hearing how Mary got her start in writing her popular, bestselling books. I just love success stories, and Mary’s is certainly one. 

Grab your ear buds, go for a walk, and indulge yourself with these podcasts!!


Many of our ancestors made the trek west, crossing our great continent on foot, horseback, and wagon, long before the convenience of GPS. How did people find their way? Of course the sun, moon and stars have long been landmarks for travelers. The compass existed, but with the twists and turns of rivers and valleys, one could easily go off track. Imagine the delight, therefore, in seeing a known landmark across a plain or prairie to help you know you are heading in the right direction! On a recent trip cross country my husband took the time to examine two such landmarks whose dramatic shapes were visible for miles.

Castle Rock from a distance
Castle Rock up close









In Kansas one finds Castle Rock, an ancient limestone deposit at the bottom of an inland sea. Whittled by sand, wind, and water, it was visible from the Overland Trail.

Huerfano (Spanish for orphan) Butte in Colorado, a volcanic plug, is a volcano that never happened. During a mountain-building phase of our planet’s development, the ancient seabed was uplifted and magma was forced into the surrounding rock, but never broke though the surface. As erosion removed the softer stone, this formation was exposed. Named by early Spanish explorers, el Huerfano (WEAR-fah-no), rising 200’ above the floodplain, was visible from the Trappers Trail to Taos.

Huerfano in the distance
Huerfano up close










In many of my novels, people travel vast distances in every manner possible, from foot to train. Imagine walking from the Appalachians to the Mississippi as Nelly and kin do in my newest release, Kissless in Kansas. At least Barnabas was on horseback making a similar trek a decade earlier in Rescuing Barnabas, also released in July. Neither would have seen the landmarks above as they stopped their journeys in southeastern Kansas.












I introduced the town of Green River (although not by name in that first book) last year in Rescuing Christmas, which I am offering as a gift to one of my discussion participants. I am a fan of family building, leading to world building, and have gradually fleshed out the town of Green River over several decades (their time, not ours!) I try to ensure “standaloneability” in each tale but many of the characters pop up in more than one novel.

So my question to you, and please feel free to expand, is whether you enjoy encountering friends from other books or prefer each story to have all new characters?

Elissa Strati, Author


I enjoy researching and writing about the past. And in my mind some of me lives in the past. Via the magic of photography, I can share a vision of my personal past. This is the age my mind thinks I still am. I wish it would get my body on the same page!

Thank you for inviting me into your lives today.

Here are a bunch of links if you’d like to follow or keep in touch (I’d like that a lot!):


Facebook ~~ Amazon ~~ Goodreads ~~ BookBub ~~ AllAuthor