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

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  1. Welcome Elissa- I live in Kansas and although I’ve never seen Castle Rock in person, as soon as I saw the photo I recognized it. I love when characters from other books show up in other books. I actually get really excited. It’s amazing how we read about individuals and they become a part of our lives, somewhat surrogate family to us.
    Your books sound wonderful and your covers are beautiful. Come visiting again and May you have a blessed weekend.

    • Thank you for the warm welcome, Tonya! Kansas is an amazing state. The very first time I drove through it I discovered that Columbus was WRONG–the world is, indeed, flat, and . . . there be dragons!

  2. Hi! I have never traveled out west but have a trip scheduled to go to Utah and Colorado at the end of August. I cant not wait. I have always wanted to see the west.

    I enjoy when characters are mixed in to other books. It makes me feel like they are more real. However I definitely won’t turn down a book with all new characters. Lol

    • Good morning, Debra! So far I have six interlinking (by family/friend relationships) stories in three different series which I’m calling “Green River Tales,” starting with Rescuing Christmas. When Charles Barnett rode back home after the war, I had no idea he’d be building a dynasty!

  3. I like it when a character are in a newer book, kinda makes it seem like they are a stable of that town.

    • Good morning! I have a feeling from your “handle” I should get to know you so you can share quilting secrets with some of my characters, like Gladys in “Mail Order Barbara”!

  4. Good morning and welcome to P&P! Thank you for stopping by. I can’t imagine tracking across the wild west with so little direction. I’m sure I would have done my best to just travel the Oregon trail! I’ve seen both the landmarks you mentioned! I love a series of books that has characters from previous books so we can touch base with what is going on with them! If a series is good I don’t want each book to end so a continuation into character in a continued series is what I crave! I’ve yet to read one of your books and a giveaway is an awesome way to find a new author to add to my go to authors list! Stay safe in these difficult times!

  5. Loved your post today. It brightened my day. When characters overlap into other books, it’s like family and friends gathering to live life.

  6. I love meeting old friends from recent books. It makes me feel like im part of the community

  7. Welcome, Elissa! We’re so happy to have you. I would’ve been totally lost if I’d been navigating the route westward. Especially if they said turn right at the crooked tree, then go left at the dripping springs. Getting to the larger, more prominent landmarks would’ve been a chore in itself for me. Very interesting subject. It’s one I’ve often pondered. I hope you enjoy your visit and good luck with your book/series.

    • Linda, I am absolutely delighted to have been invited to be a guest. The feedback has been wonderful and uplifting–and it is still early! I must say I’m a HUGE fan of GPS.

  8. I always enjoy meeting past friends in the book series I read. Congratulations on your new release!

  9. Welcome. I enjoyed your post today. I have been to Castle Rock. It is a very wondrous place. If the books are in a series, I enjoy reading about some of the characters that were in previous books. It is like I am reading about a community/family. I enjoy this.

    • Good morning, Lori! We are lucky to live in a country with an abundant treasure of natural beauty and unique formations.

      Funny you should talk about series. My interrelated stories (mother, daughter, sister heroines in the group above) are in several different multiple author series where the link is the basis for the plot–Christmas, advice column, and secret baby, to name a few. I know several other authors do the same thing, writing a community that spans several series. For me it has made for more interesting plotting but I am concerned that stories don’t get lost.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Abigail! I have so much fun when a character demands his or her own story. Charlie Sue kept popping into every tale until she’d given up on love–and then found it!

  10. I love to read book series, I love it when book characters get to grow and what all goes on with their lives since the beginning. I also love to read standalone books. But my favorite is family sagas and I love reading how their lives turn out as they grow older with families of their own. Thank you so much for the chance . I Love Christmas stories.

    • Hi, Alicia! I love Christmas stories, too. And I’m delighted to learn readers enjoy becoming part of a family over a number of books. Good to hear from you.

  11. It was great to see your photos of Castle Rock which I’ve seen mentioned in several historical romances I’ve enjoyed. To answer your question, I always like seeing former characters in a new story. It feels like catching up with old friends while on a return visit to your hometown.

    • You can see how it would be a major landmark for travelers. I had other pictures but limited space. There are more limestone formations nearby, but these are above the general landscape and most of the others are cut out at a lower level. Thanks for sharing your comments!

  12. You can see how it would be a major landmark for travelers. I had other pictures but limited space. There are more limestone formations nearby, but these are above the general landscape and most of the others are cut out at a lower level. Thanks for sharing your comments!

  13. I like it when characters appear in other books. I enjoyed your post. Beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing.

  14. <3 Thank you, everyone who participated in my contest, and thank you especially for the warm welcome and assistance with my poll. Turns out ALL of you enjoy "Easter eggs"–the old "computer geek" term for little surprises–in the form of familiar characters!

    Petticoats and Pistols will be announcing a winner soon and I will contact you with your ebook. But I have to admit it is I who am the big winner here, getting to meet all of you!

  15. Elissa, welcome. This is such a nice place to visit. For some reason P & P was blocked on my computer last night. Like you, my mind thinks it is still 25 but my body 40+ years past that very vociferously disagrees. I like series books to stand alone. I do, however, like for characters from previous books to reappear in following books. When reading a series, it is nice to revisit “old friends” from previous books to see how they are doing and what is going on in their lives. That is one of the advantages of a series placed in a small town. There is usually no way you can avoid bumping into each other and keep from being in each other’s lives to some degree
    Thanks for the interesting post. We have driven cross country several times, and we do find ourselves looking for landmarks. When seeing how long it takes to each them going 65 or so on a good road, it makes you think how long it took to reach them 100 or more years ago. It must have been very discouraging when after a day of hard travel these landmarks didn’t look any closer.
    Stay safe and healthy.

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