Taming the West One Meal at a Time

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Nothing changed America as much as the iron horse. People were finally able to travel across country in relative comfort and not have to worry about the weather, Indians, or some of the other mishaps that plagued early travelers. A train passenger’s greatest fear was food poisoning. That’s how bad meals were along the rails.

It took one efrednterprising Englishman to change the way travelers ate. His name was Fred Harvey and his Harvey House restaurants eventually stretched along the Santa Fe railroad tracks from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles and San Francisco—one every hundred miles.

Hear That Whistle Blow

Fred Harvey invented the “fast-food” concept long before Ray Kroc. Passengers were allowed only thirty minutes to get off the train, eat and board again, so time was of the essence. He devised a system in which train conductors would telegraph passenger food orders to the restaurant in advance. This allowed the restaurant staff to prepare the food before the train pulled into the station.

From Dishwasher to Household Name

Harvey learned the business the hard way. After traveling to America at the age of seventeen, he landed a job as a dishwasher at a famed New York restaurant, working his way through the ranks from dishwasher to line-cook. He eventually landed in St. Louis where he took over the Merchants Dining Room Saloon. His success lasted only a short time. The winds of war could not be ignored and after his partner joined the secessionist army, taking all the money the two men had saved, Harvey’s restaurant was doomed.

After a series of jobs and personal losses, he eventually took over an eating house at the Santa Fe depot in Topeka. He arranged for fresh fruit and meat to be railed in from Chicago and other states. His food was so good that railroad officials worried that no one would want to travel past Topeka.

First Female Workforce

As the number of his depot restaurants increased, so did his troubles. Black men were hired as waiters, but this often created conflict with cowboys. After one unpleasant midnight brawl at the Raton Harvey eating house, Harvey’s friend Tom Gables suggested a radical idea; why not replace black male waiters with women? Harvey decided to give Tom’s idea a try.

Harvey ran ads in newspapers for “young women of good character, attractive and intelligent, 18 to 30, to work in the Harvey Eating Houses.” He offered a salary of $17.50 a month, a tidy sum for a young woman. Soon he had all the help he needed.

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This Harvey House is in Barstow, CA. It’s now a museum. I used it as a model for my story.

The women lived in dormitories above the restaurants under the watchful eye of a house mother. Their uniforms consisted of a black dress, black shoes and stockings, and a crisp white apron. The women had to adhere to strict rules and were not allowed to marry for six months.

His new female staff was a great success and helped ease racial tensions. Even the roughest of cowboys and railroad workers were willing to don the required (and dreaded) dinner jacket just for the pleasure of being served a good steak by a pretty girl.

He Kept the West in Food—and Wives

That quote from Will Rogers says it all; Among his other talents, Fred Harvey not only “civilized the west” he was indirectly responsible for more than 5000 marriages. That’s enough to make you want to forgive him for inventing fast-food. Almost….  

What’s the best or worse meal you had while traveling?

                   

 

Calico SpySomeone is killing off the Harvey Girls. Undercover Pinkerton detective Katie Madison hopes to find the killer before the killer finds her—or before she burns down the restaurant trying.

 

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What’s in a Name?

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             Most Popular names of the 1880s                                       Most Popular names of 2015

(According to Social Security Records)

Boy                 Girl                                                                            Boy                        Girl
John                Mary                                                                          Noah                    Emma
William            Anna                                                                          Liam                     Olivia
James              Emma                                                                        Mason                  Sophia
George            Elizabeth                                                                    Jacob                    Isabella
Charles            Margaret                                                                    William                  Ava

Twice this week I was asked how I came up with character names for my books. My answer was very carefully. To me, the name is everything. If I get the name right, the character comes alive. If the name is wrong the writing won’t flow.  Sometimes the vision I have for a character changes in the writing of a book, and I’ve had to change the name.

nameSince I write books set in the Old West it’s important that names reflect the times. A name also has to say something about the character and carry the tone of the book. After picking a name I check the census for the year my character was born to see if the name existed back then.  (I’ve also been known to yell the name out the door like I did when naming my children, just to see how it sounded).

Recently I read an article cautioning writers not to name a historical female character contemporary names like Madison. Had the writer checked he would have discovered that name was not as modern as he thought. Thousands of females with a first name of Madison showed up on the 1860 census. I know because I named a heroine Maddie, short for Madison (Did she madden the hero with her bold antics? You bet she did!)

For my heroes, I look for strong masculine names. This means choosing names with hard consonant sounds like Garrett, Rhett or Hunter.

I’ll also work in a soft consonant sound, usually in his last name. That tells the reader that no matter how arrogant or difficult the hero is, he has a vulnerable spot that the heroine will eventually uncover. The sheriff and hero in my next book Calico Spy is named Grant Garrison (January 2016). The s sound indicates there’s more to him than meets the eye.

As for the heroine: It depends what her role is. If she has a humorous bent I’ll name her accordingly. In Undercover Bride, the heroine’s name is Maggie Cartwright. The name Maggie reminds me of the word giggle so we know she’s got a light side. Her last name makes me think of cartwheels. That’s an appropriate vision as she turns the life of the hero upside down.

The letter K makes me smile so I tend to favor names with that letter. You just know that Kate Whittaker will be a fun character.

The current series I’m working on takes place in Two-Time, Texas (ah, the joy of naming towns). I worried that readers might have trouble keeping track of the town’s many residents over the course of three books. I solved the problem by giving minor characters nicknames. The butcher is known as T-Bone and the barber called Ben the BaBa.

I’m constantly on the lookout for character names and keep a notebook handy to jot down names that catch my eye. I study movie credits and concert programs. I even came up with a name for my spindle-shaped mayor at a traffic light when I stopped behind a Troutman Plumbing truck.

What are your favorite character names? Have you ever come across a character who shared your name? Do you ever wonder why a writer chose a certain name?

 

 Oh, no!  She shot the Texas Ranger.  Now what?

Margaret’s story: The Nutcracker Bride

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ARCHERY: VICTORIAN STYLE by Cindy Nord

Cindy Nord - Professional Image

 

I absolutely adore the Victorian years…indeed, those golden decades when Queen Victoria sat her throne. And as we know, what the good queen mandated across the big pond, so obeyed the middle and upper class of America.

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During this era, participating in genteel pastimes allowed a well-heeled lady freedom from the humdrum of her everyday life of reading, playing the piano, or passementarie needlework. Any opportunity to appreciate the great outdoors would most certainly be well accepted. From croquet to tennis to horseback riding, these informal, yet socially-appropriate, affairs helped to bring excitement to her life. Yet, no task delivered as much enjoyment as did the recreation called archery.

 

When the Queen of England proclaimed her love of this hobby, deeming it worthy of a lady’s attention, her vanguard of devoted followers took heart. Archery caught on like wildfire, blazing across nineteenth-century womankind to become the first organized, competitive sport for females. But ladies never lost sight of their femininity. In fact, at the Grand National Archery meeting in Norwich, England, in 1866, the first prize was a magnificent Spitalfields Silk shawl — a coveted item, to be sure! By 1880, archery clubs for the genteel in America could be found coast-to-coast, but only the wealthiest women could afford the equipment needed to join.

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A lady’s bow weighed 40 pounds at full draw and arrows were 30-inches long. Soon archery became the sport, which could even be enjoyed upon a whim as it did not require the changing of dress that accompanied the activities of croquet or tennis. In fact, the lady’s archer outfit simply consisted of her dress for the day. A small quiver containing extra arrows draped one shoulder. Across the archer’s other shoulder draped a “scoring kit,” of sorts. Inside this and usually made of silk was an ivory, acorn-shaped container that held beeswax to keep her gloved fingers from sliding off the bowstring, an ivory pencil, and a small, circular disc containing paper to keep score. Also tucked inside was an extra bowstring and several gold tokens. With every archery match won, the champion would receive a coin from each of her opponents. Archery3_HarpersWeekly_1881

 

Collecting these coveted tokens became the quest of every lady archer. The afternoon event was usually followed by a gala dinner and an evening of a grand and glorious ball. The wealthiest even built their own lodges to host said celebrations. So the next time we wonder what activities the affluent ladies of the Victorian era did to pass the time, now we know exactly which one they preferred.

Cindy will gift one ebook of With Open Arms to one blogger today!! 

 

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Author bio:

Historical romance writer Cindy Nord is the author of No Greater Glory, a number-one Civil War romance at Amazon for more than a year and book one in her four-book The Cutteridge Family series. With Open Arms, book two in the series, debuted in August 2014. Cindy also contributed to the non-fiction anthology Scribbling Women and the Real-Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them. A blend of history and romance, her love stories meld both genres around action and emotionally driven characters.NoGreaterGlory (1)

 

Website:  www.cindynord.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cindy.nord.9

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/cnord2

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/cnord2/

 

GetAttachment with open armsWith Open Arms (http://amzn.com/B00KT23WO0)

A war-weary ex-soldier. An untamable hellion. Love doesn’t stand a chance in hell…

Hardened in childhood by the death of her parents, then left to run the family’s southwestern territory ranch when her brother rode off to fight for the Union years before, Callie Cutteridge hides her heartbreak behind a mask of self-sufficiency. Breaking horses for the army proves she’s neither delicate nor helpless. When a former cavalry officer shows up claiming to own her brother’s half of the Arizona ranch, she steels herself to resist the handsome stranger’s intention to govern even one single aspect of her life. After all, loving means losing…to her it always has.

For months, Jackson Neale has looked forward to putting the bloodstained battlefields back east behind him. Callie isn’t the agreeable angel her brother led him to believe, but he’s damned well not the useless rake this foul-mouthed hellion thinks he is, either. His quest for calm stability contradicts sharply with her need for control, yet still their heartstrings tangle. But how can these mistrusting partners transform their fiery passion into a happily-ever-after when all Callie knows how to do is fight…and all Jackson wants is peace?

 

 Image credits:

Archery1_LaBelleAssemblee_1831.jpg: Illustration from La Belle Assemblee, 1831

Archery2_ScientificAmerican_1894.jpg: “Meeting of the Toxophilite Society.” Scientific American, 1894

Archery3_HarpersWeekly_1881.jpg: “The Archery Tournament, Prospect Park, Brooklyn.” Harper’s Weekly, July 23, 1881

Archery4_HarpersWeekly_1878.jpg: “Archery Practice on Staten Island.” Harper’s Weekly, 1878

 

Dime Novels – The birth of the paperback

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Dime Novel - MalaeskaRight around the start of the Civil War, Erastus and Irwin Beadle published a new series of cheap paperbacks entitled Beadle’s Dime Novels. Thanks to increased literacy rates among the American people during this time, and the inexpensive price (yes, they truly did cost a dime), these thin, paper-bound books met with huge success. The debut novel – Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter, by Ann Stephens (a woman – hooray!) sold more than 65,000 copies within the first few months of its publication. Those are the kind of numbers even today’s authors would get excited about – believe me! The book released on June 9, 1860 and was basically a reprint of a serialized story that had appeared in the Ladies’ Companion magazine back in 1839.

Dime novels varied in size and thickness, but the tended to be about 100 pages in length, about the equivalent to today’s novella. At first, dime novel covers had no cover art beyond the fancy title script. But it didn’t take long for the Beadles to move to illustrated covers, better designed to grab a browsing customer’s attention.

If you saw a homicidal squaw about to tomahawk a frontiersman, wouldn’t that grab your attention?  The next one is slightly less blatant with the rifleman helping a young woman escape danger, but there is certainly still an element of adventure and the breathless question of “What will happen next?”

Dime novels were famous for lurid, often melodramatic tales of the frontier. Heroes were larger than life and typically had exaggerated strength and skill. Not that the readers cared. The more jaw-dropping the story, the more fun it was to read. Hence the birth of genre paperback fiction.

In my latest release, A Worthy Pursuit, I have a lot of fun playing with these dime novel ideals. Young Lily is an avid, and rather bloodthirsty, fan of dime novels – her favorites being the tales of Dead-Eye Dan and his winsome companion Hammer Rockwell, who just happens to bear a striking similarity to Stone Hammond, our hero.

Here’s a sneak peak from one of the scenes where Stone and Lily are reading dime novels together:

Taking Dead-Eye Dan in hand, Stone fanned the pages to a random spot in the middle. “‘Dan dove behind a fallen tree as a hailstorm of bullets rained down around him. The Gatling Gang had come by their moniker honestly, laying down rapid fire that mimicked the output of the famed war gun. Unruffled by the deadly flurry, however, Dan flipped onto his back behind the log and reloaded his Henry repeater with methodical precision. The six-gun at his hip sported full chambers. The knife on his belt was razor-sharp and ready for action.'” Stone’s voice trailed off, cueing Lily.

She grinned, taking up the challenge like a seasoned gamester.

“‘Bullets blasted shards of bark all around Dan, but he just brushed the pieces off his chest with a flick of his wrist. Billy’s gang couldn’t aim worth a hill of beans. That’s why they always sprayed so much lead. It was the only way they ever hit anything. Too often, innocent civilians. Dan scowled, his jaw tightening as he rolled onto his side to steal a peek over the top of the log. One against seven were lousy odds, but Billy Cavanaugh and his crew were vermin that needed e-rad-i-cation.'” She stumbled slightly over the large word, but it didn’t stop her. She passed right over it and forged ahead. “‘He’d just wait for them to reload, then take them out one by one.'”

Stone closed the book and set it in his lap. “You do know this story is hugely exaggerated, right?” He tossed the dime novel to Lily and winked at her. “There were only five men in the Gatling Gang, not seven. And Daniel Barrett didn’t bring them all in on his own. He had help.”

A Worthy Pursuit
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Lily’s blue eyes glimmered as she rose up on her knees, bringing her face level with his. “Do you mean to tell me that you know Dead-Eye Dan?”

Stone blew a self-deprecating breath out of the side of his mouth. “Know him? Shoot. He and I were partners back in the day. ‘Course no one actually calls him Dead-Eye Dan. He’s a rancher now, foreman at a place called Hawk’s Haven up north a piece. Gave up chasin’ criminals in order to chase cows. He is a crack shot, though. Saved my sorry hide more than once.” He nudged Lily with his shoulder, nearly toppling her back onto the cushions. “‘Course I saved his hide a time or two, myself.”

“Wait a minute.” Lily drew in a breath so large, he expected her head to start swelling. “You’re . . . You’re . . . Hammer Rockwell. The man who shows up in the nick of time and takes the Gatling Gang by surprise by climbing down the box canyon wall with his knife clenched in his teeth!”

Hammer Rockwell? Knife in his teeth? “Of all the ridiculous, made-up, nonsense,” Stone sputtered. “I’ll have you know, all my knives were safely stowed in their sheaths when I made that climb.”

  • Do you like your fictional heroes larger than life? Or do you prefer more realistic story lines?

THE GRATTAN MASSACRE & Book Giveaway

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juhlarik-HR-3Hey everyone! Thanks so much for having me over today! As I write stories, I love being able to weave historical events and figures into my fiction. In my first novella, Sioux Summer, published in The Oregon Trail Romance Collection, I was able to do just that. The Grattan Massacre was the conflict that spawned the First Sioux War, and it plays a part in my story.

In August, 1854, near Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory (present day Wyoming), one lonely cow wandered away from a group of Mormon emigrants traveling the Oregon Trail. The bovine ambled into an encampment of Lakota Sioux containing roughly 4800 men, women, and children and was killed by a visiting Miniconjou warrior named High Forehead.

Young Bull
Photo credit: Andreas Krappweis.

The cow’s owner who had tracked it down, became fearful at the sight of the Indian encampment, so he went to Fort Laramie and explained the situation to Lt. Hugh Fleming. Fleming approached the Sioux chief, Conquering Bear, to negotiate a solution. The chief offered a horse from his own herd or a cow from the tribe’s herd, but the Mormon man demanded $25 cash. When terms couldn’t be reached, Fleming demanded the arrest of High Forehead. Conquering Bear wouldn’t agree since he had no authority over the Miniconjou tribe, so their negotiations ended in stalemate.

Second Lieutenant John Grattan, a new West Point graduate, took matters into his own hands. With little respect for the Sioux, he, an armed detachment of thirty soldiers, and an interpreter went searching for a fight. They marched into the Sioux encampment, intent on arresting High Forehead. The interpreter, who was drunk at the time, taunted the Sioux warriors, promising that the soldiers would kill them. Grattan demanded High Forehead’s surrender. When he refused, Grattan approached Conquering Bear. The chief once more offered a horse in exchange for the dead cow, but Grattan would accept only the arrest of High Forehead. Again, the negotiations ended in stalemate.

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Government Archives

What Grattan didn’t know was that the Sioux warriors had flanked the detachment during the negotiations. As he returned to his horse, one soldier became so nervous he fired a shot, and the bullet struck and killed the Sioux chief. With bows and arrows, the Sioux killed Grattan and eleven others. The remaining men retreated to a rocky outcropping nearby, but the warriors, led by rising war chief Red Cloud, pursued and killed them all.

For days, the Sioux raided nearby settlers, trading posts, and Fort Laramie. Finally, the Indians abandoned the area for their respective hunting grounds, and in so doing, broke the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. When a burial party went into the encampment, the thirty soldiers’ bodies were found mutilated almost beyond recognition.

Photo credit:Phil Konstantin.
Photo credit:Phil Konstantin.

 

News of the Grattan Massacre reached the War Department, and a plan for retaliation was formed. On September 3, 1855, a 700-soldier force led by Colonel William Harney descended on an encampment of 250 Brulé Sioux along Ash Creek. The soldiers killed more than one hundred Sioux men, women, and children and took roughly seventy prisoners. So began a long history of attacks and retaliations that continued for many years. And…the Battle of Ash Creek is directly linked to one of the most famous cases of retaliation in all of Indian war history. One of the young boys who witnessed the massacre at Ash Creek grew into the great Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse, who fought and killed Custer twenty-one years later at the Little Big Horn.

 

I hope you’ll be interested to see how The Grattan Massacre fits into my story, Sioux Summer.

You can find The Oregon Trail Romance Collection at bookstores everywhere, or purchase from Amazon. And to one lucky reader, I’ll be giving away an autographed copy. Leave a comment below to enter the drawing.

 

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The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

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You might think that we owe the celebration of Thanksgiving solely to the pilgrims, but in reality we have Sarah Josepha Hale to thank for it.
Sarah was a prolific author, editor, poet and mother of five.  Her second book of poetry Poems for Our ChilHaledren, published in 1830, included Mary Had a Little Lamb. Controversy still exists as to whether she actually wrote the well-known ditty, but she claimed that she did and it was based on her experiences as a teacher.
In 1837 she became the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book and remained so for forty years until she was ninety. Through her magazine, she set the tone for fashion, reading and cooking. She supported many women’s endeavors including Elizabeth Blackwell’s bid to become a doctor. She also helped raise funds to preserve Mount Vernon.
After reading about the pilgrim’s feast she became captivated by the idea of creating a national Thanksgiving holiday. Two hundred years after the pilgrim’s arrival Thanksgiving had been mostly forgotten. Sarah decided to change that.
So began what would turn out to be a thirty-eight year letter writing campaign. Four U.S. Presidents from Zachary Taylor to James Buchanan turned her idea down.
But Sarah never gave up, not even when the country was at war. At the age of seventy-four she wrote to President Lincoln urging him to make Thanksgiving an annual national holiday. She told him in her letter that a holiday wouldn’t stop the war but it would bring the country together. Abraham Lincoln agreed and in 1863 declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.
So as we enjoy our turkey and pumpkin pie, let’s make a toast to Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who saved Thanksgiving.

 

 Coming December 1st

Many things are worth dying for but modesty isn’t one of them-Petticoat Detective

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A Filly Friend

Most Asked Questions About the Old West

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I picked up an interesting book at a swap meet titled 1001 Most-asked Questions About the American West by Harry E. Chrisman. The book is out of print but there are a few left on Amazon.   I bet you didn’t know there were that many questions to ask about cowboys.  Here are some samples from the book:

Did Indians have any special word to describe the covered wagons they saw on the plains?

They called them “teepees on wheels.”

howdySo many western people say “howdy” when they meet you on the street. Where did the term originate?

Howdy is short for “How-do-you-do?” You don’t have to tell the inquirer how you feel, for he doesn’t care anyway! A cowboy once advised a friend never to say “Howdy” to a talkative, glib Easterner whom they both knew. “Why not?” the second cowboy asked. “Because he’ll tell you,” came the answer.

Is there any record of a woman riding in a cattle stampede?

Old cowboy Anderson from Sequin, Texas told of seeing a lady ride side-saddle being swept into a longhorn stampede. He wrote: “Seeing the cattle gaining, that woman swung herself astride and pulled off a race that beat anything I ever saw.” This is what they called riding “clothespin” style.

Was marijuana used to any extent in the settlement of the Old West?

Marijuana was not used as a drug. However one Western expert has noted that even Bibles and wagon covers were often made from the Devil’s weed, in addition to some of the clothing the pioneers wore and the hemp rope they used.

What was a “pitcher and catcher hotel” in the early West?sign

It has nothing to do with baseball. A pitcher was what they called the washbowl, and the catcher (or thundermug) was the chamber pot. Margaret here: Whoever thought up the name thundermug must have had a real problem.

What was the usual bounty offered for an outlaw when the posters read, “Wanted, dead or alive.”

$500 would bring a man in dead or alive. That was a lot of money back in the 1870-80s.

What did the term “grubline gossip” mean?

Cowboys laid off during the winter months would ride from ranch to ranch looking for odd jobs. In exchange for free food they reported whatever news they heard on their travels and this was called grubline gossip.

What were the worst factors pioneers had to contend with?

Blizzards, Indians, fleas, snakes, cholera, small pox, diphtheria, lice, bedbugs, prairie fire, falls into deep wells, accidents from livestock, cyclones, runaway horses, stampedes, heat sunstroke, silence of the plains and loneliness. Many women thought the latter two the worst.

 

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What would have been the worst

factor for you?

Petticoat Detective

Working undercover is no job for a lady, but one thing is certain;

Come hell or high water, Jennifer Layne always gets her man!

Available for preorder in print, eBook or MP3 CD

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My Ancestors!

Ancestor LOGOSince this is a special week on our ancestors, I want to let you know about some of my family members, who I share with sister Filly, Linda Brody.

Although the Texas Panhandle was founded in 1875 when the town of Mobeetie was settled, Kasota Spring, Texas, didn’t come along until 2008.  Yes, 2008!  But in our minds, it was established in 1890 when our anthology Give Me a Cowboy, written by Linda and me, along with two other Amarillo authors, DeWanna Pace and Jodi Thomas, came to fruition. It is the second of the six anthologies written for Kensington by the four of us.

Since we decided to write all of our stories over the 4th of July rodeo weekend in 1890, we had some logistics to work out.  It also gave us the opportunity for Linda and me to write our stories with a heroine mother and daughter team, who were founders of Kasota Springs and lived on the same ranch. The name came from one of Tempest’s five deceased husbands who won the ranch in a poker game with four jacks … thus the Jacks Bluff Ranch.  The two women were as different as night and day.  The feisty, fun loving; yet, prime and proper Tempest LeDoux had one issue after another with her confident, sassy daughter Alaine Claire LeDoux, who would prefer to wear boots and shoot like Annie Oakley.

Linda Pix for Kasota Springs Family

I don’t know about you, but I think the picture I posted is definitely Tempest LeDoux and her daughter, Alaine.  The second picture (of the couple) I totally believe is Teg Tegler, the ranch foreman of The Jacks Bluff and Edwinna Dewey, who is Tempest’s aunt. They came up to Linda and me at the Cowboy Symposium a few years ago and I couldn’t believe how much they reminded me of the way I imagined Teg and Edwinna.  They asked that their book be autographed to the two characters.

Edwinna Dewey and Teg Tegler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last of the anthologies A Texas Christmas took place over several snowy days in Kasota Springs.  That’s where you’ll meet a lot of our characters who reappear five or six generations later in my contemporary romances.  There’s Randall Humphrey who is the blacksmith and made the belfry for the new church bell that Tess Whitgrove and Sloan Sullivan have brought to town. The town gossip, Edwinna Dewey reappears. This anthology has been released for the last two holiday seasons, so we’re hoping it’ll be released again this year.

The Jacks Bluff and Edwinna appear in my first small town contemporary The Troubled Texan where hunky sheriff Donovan “Deuce” Cowan almost arrests Rainey Michaels before he realizes they went to school together in Denton, Texas. She’s an LA ADA and is on the run from a murderer she prosecuted…a lunatic who promised to kill her. Deuce has to protect Rainey, although he knows she has lots of secrets. Small-town Texas isn’t big enough for both of them…or is it just right? You will also meet Sylvie Dewey who works for Rainey. Sylvie has a mysterious back story with a lot of hidden family secrets. She’s always let men use her and in her own book (planned to be book 4) things do not change in that regard.

Now for the fun, the second Kasota Spring Romance Into the Texas Night is full of fifth and six generation of the founders.  Avery Danielle Humphrey is the daughter of Mayor Humphrey and her mother is a Sullivan.  Deuce Cowan and his deputies from The Troubled Texan remain an important part of this story, but there are new deputies coming to town.  You will get to know Mesa LeDoux and her grandmother Johnson from the Jacks Bluff.  Granny is getting older and has to cut back on being a full time rough stock contractor. Mesa’s interest has turned to horse rescue. Deuce talks Brody VanZant, an undercover deputy, to come out of hiding and work for Bonita County full time.  He agrees and not to soon either. Danielle’s father pressures her to move back to Kasota Springs after her partner is killed while on duty and she can’t get over it.  The problem, she isn’t sure she can come back to the only job she knows … being a lawman, which she tries to keep a secret!

Kasota Springs, in many ways, hasn’t changed an iota since our first anthology in 1887 but it’s more modernized but is based around the same founding families with some new characters showing up.

I had my choice of two of my own family stories, but thought I’d bring you all up to date with what’s been going on in Kasota Springs over the last century and a quarter.  My stories were dull and I would have had to make up parts…most parts.  My maternal grandmother Womack was raised on a southern plantation in Louisiana and married my grandfather Johnson who came from a large family, including a grandmother who was a Blackfoot Princess. He worked building the railroad. We didn’t ask personal questions when they were alive, but I’m wondering how they got together.  I know the plantation is true and the town “Womack, Louisiana” is still on the map.  But one day, I’m writing their stories the way I wish they had gotten together.  Do you have any family stories you don’t know enough about but wish you did?

To two lucky readers, I’ll give away an autographed copy

Of your choice of an eBook or trade back of

The Troubled Texan

“Promise Me Texas” from Jodi Thomas

Jodi in the Garden Headshot GoodI’ve always wanted to write a story about a person who made a decision to change her life in the blink of an eye, because sometimes I think that is what writers do.

In PROMISE ME TEXAS, I found a plot that I loved about taking a chance in life.

Beth McMurray thought she was rushing to meet the perfect man to marry, but after listening to him talk about her while she sat in the back of a train, she knows he’s not right for her.  When the train wrecks, Beth claims who she thinks is an outlaw planning to rob the train as her fiancé.  Deciding a stranger is better than who she had planned to marry.

One decision made on that stormy night changes the course of her life and takes her on a wild adventure through Texas and through love with a man well worth the loving.

Once, when I first started writing, I had to make a decision that would change my life.  I came to a fork in the road of my career and I had to choose.  I could take nine months off and finish my PhD in counseling at TWU. If I kept teaching, I could write at night and be lucky to finish one book a year.  Or I could take a chance on being able to make a living writing.

We decided to take a chance and I never once looked back.  I quit teaching, dropped out of grad school, drew 17 years of retirement out and set up an office in a room the size of a small walk-in closet.

We almost starved that first year.  Little money came in, but I worked and studied writing.  It didn’t come easy or fast but by the second year I was on my way.

My husband always said, ‘If this writing doesn’t work out you can always go back to teaching.’  The writing worked out. 39 books, 12 novellas, 4 RITAS, and all the bestseller lists.

Sometimes, when I take a chance, I have to ask myself what will happen if I don’t try—the answer is usually nothing. Then, I always add, ‘what could happen if I do try.’

The teacher in me didn’t die.  I agreed to be Writer in Residence twelve years ago and work with new writers.  In June, 2014, I’ll be teaching a new class at the WTAMU Writing Academy for one week.  WORLD BUILDING.  With two series, both on the NY Times I think I’m ready to help others build a world that will hold several books.

On Nov 5, 2014, my newest historical PROMISE ME TEXAS will hit the stands.  I think everyone will love my Beth with her adventurous spirit and my Andrew with his open heart.  You’ll also find yourself laughing as my hero, a struggling writer, fights to be the man she wants him to be.

I’d love to hear from you about a time you’ve had a change of heart at the last minute and where that journey led you.

Blessings to you all,

Jodi Thomas

To celebrate the release of “Promise Me Texas” I will give away a copy to two people who comment on my blog!  Good luck! 

Promise Me Texas

 

 

Carol Cox: Trouble in Store

 

While doing research for my latest novel, Trouble in Store, I realized I needed to learn more about Native American cliff dwellings. As enjoyable as it is to study about historic sites in books and online, it’s even more fun to visit them in person. Fortunately, a number of protected sites are within easy reach here in northern Arizona.

One of those is found at beautiful Walnut Canyon, a short drive east of Flagstaff. This site captured my imagination the first time I saw it at age nine, and over the years I’ve become more fascinated with each visit.

Inhabited by the Sinagua people some 900 years ago, the homes in Walnut Canyon were constructed within the limestone ledges in the canyon walls.

The ruins can be reached by way of a steep trail hugging the cliff walls. And that’s one of the things I love most about Walnut Canyon. Visitors don’t have to experience this glimpse into the past at arm’s length. Instead, they’re able to walk in the steps of those who came before, peer into the soot-stained rooms and touch the walls erected so long ago.

Hiking along the narrow path, I tried to envision myself living there centuries ago and wondering about the challenges a mother would have faced in that setting. Can you imagine what it would be like to keep track of a brood of young children, with no baby gates, no fenced lawn to keep them corralled? Or when your “front yard” was only a few feet wide . . . and one false step would lead straight down to the bottom of the rocky canyon?

I’m glad to be a mother in this century. Parenting has never been a simple task, but I’ll take most modern problems over the ones those ancient moms faced any day!

About 50 miles farther south is Montezuma Castle National Monument, located near Camp Verde.

Like the dwellings in Walnut Canyon, Montezuma Castle isn’t what most of us picture when we think of a Native American encampment. Instead of lodges or tepees clustered in a village, this centuries-old, high-rise apartment is nestled into the side of a towering limestone cliff. Try to imagine the logistics of something as simple as making a daily trek to gather food or get water!

These rooms didn’t boast a lot of closet space, so some of the residents’ food and other supplies were kept in storage caves at the bottom of the cliff wall—sort of a “downstairs pantry” concept.

While staring from the abandoned dwellings above to the caves below, I felt a tingle. Suddenly, I could see a similar cliff dwelling as part of the area surrounding my fictional town of Cedar Ridge. That mental image inspired the background for several pivotal scenes in the book.

That’s one of the things I love most about research—you just never know when some tidbit of information will prove to be the very thing that sparks an idea that breathes life into a scene!

Many thanks to Karen Witemeyer for inviting me to spend time with you today! I’ll be giving away a copy of Trouble in Store, so be sure to leave a comment in order to be included in the drawing.

 

I look forward to hearing from you! Visit me at authorcarolcox.com