When Halloween Meant Scaring Up a Little Romance

 

It seems to me that Halloween has grown darker over the years.  Growing up in Michigan, we dressed up as beggars and yelled “Help the poor.”  I don’t remember anyone wearing scary costumes.  Another place where you probably wouldn’t have seen werewolves or zombies is in the Old West.

During the 1800s it was considered a night of romance. Many of the tricks and treats of those Victorian Halloween parties were designed with romance in mind.

 In the Old West, Halloween dances were held in schoolhouses, barns or churches.  Guests were required to jump over a broom upon arrival to assure future happiness.  Masquerade balls were popular, too, but mostly held in the east.   

Apples played an important part in these Halloween rituals but so did tin soldiers.  An article in the El Paso Daily paper in 1899 described the ritual of melting tin soldiers.  A young woman would then drip the melted tin from a spoon into cold water. The tin would harden in all manner of shapes, thus foretelling a maiden’s future.  If, for example, the tin looked like a shoe, she would marry a shoemaker.  A ship meant her future husband would be a sailor and a hammer foretold a carpenter in her future.

Bobbing for apples was a must, but with an interesting twist. The apples would each contain the name of a male guest.  A woman lucky enough to sink her teeth into a pippin would come up with more than just a wet face; she’d also know the name of her future mate.

 Some enterprising hostesses who owned apple trees went one step further.  While the apples were still green they glued the initials of single males onto the apples.  When the apples ripened, the paper was washed off revealing the green initials on the rosy cheeks.   Upon arriving at the party, female guests would draw an apple from the tub to find out the name of her dance partner.

 Another popular game involving apples required careful paring so that the peels were cut into one long strip. These were then thrown over the left shoulder.  The initial the peel made on the floor was the initial of a future love.

 Peelings were also hung from barn doors and female guests were given a number. If for example, you got number two, then the second male through the door was your true love.

 Another crowd-pleaser was the cobweb game.  Guests were each given two bright colored threads attached to a cardboard heart in some remote corner. The threads ran through the room in an intricate pattern. The idea was to unravel your thread by bobbing under a red thread or slipping through a tangle of green or blue threads until you reached the heart which named your partner for the night.

Halloween games also included the game of Proposal.  Each woman was given a stack of cardboard hearts and lemons.  The males had to go around the room and propose to each woman. He had thirty seconds to convince her to marry him. When the bell rang, she would either give him a lemon for no or a heart for yes.  At the end of the game, the man with the most hearts won. 

With all the ghosts and goblins of today, it’s hard to imagine a time when Halloween was just another word for romance                             

        How are you and your family planning to spend this pandemic Halloween? 

You’ll Find a List of Margaret’s Books Here:

Amazon

 

Fall Traditions

Although the official date for the beginning of autumn is September 22nd, Americans traditionally mark the fall season from Labor Day through Thanksgiving Day in November.

I was born and raised in Texas, so my experience is based on the wild and wooly weather of the Texas Panhandle.  We can have triple digit days and snow the next.  Trust me, it’s the truth because it happened this year in late spring.  Weird but true.  We broke two weather records just last week with triple digits that went back to the 1930’s.

Now for the first thing we must do to get ready for next Monday. We’ve got to wear our patent shoes all we can because effective Labor Day they, along with our matching purses, have to go up on the shelves until Easter when they can come down for Spring.

I’m showing my age here, but although this year is different than a regular school year beginning, when I was growing up we always began in mid-September.  The reason was simple.  We had no air conditioning and had to wait until Fall set in to begin.  Now with A/C, school begins here in mid-August, under typical circumstances.

I grew up with a true Southern Grannie and I love sweet potatoes.  Any way, any how … but a Sweet Potato Pie is my favorite with real whipping cream on top.

My second favorite “turning to autumn” food is my first pot of homemade chili.  It’s always so good and easy to fix.

Centuries ago, farmers, ranchers, and other folks noticed animal behavior and habits that predicted the weather. Some of these are from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Here’s a few ol’ wives tales involving animals that I found interesting.

Expect rain when dogs eat grass, cats purr and wash themselves.  I found this interesting because my cat purrs when she’s in my lap or happy.  She washes herself continually, regardless of the season, and our dogs eat grass.  We’ve been in a drouth, so I’m thinking these aren’t indicative of rain.  Just my opinion.

Can Cows Forecast Weather?  Many weather adages involve cows because they were common animals on farms, as they are today on ranches.

  • If a cow stands with its tail to the west, the weather is said to be fair.
  • If a cow grazes with its tail to the east, the weather is likely to turn sour.
  • If the bull leads the cows to pasture, expect rain; if the cows precede the bull, the weather will be uncertain

There is some truth here. Animals graze with their tail toward the wind so that if a predator sneaks up behind them, the wind will help catch the scent of the predator and prevent an attack.  So, see there is still today some proof that animal habits tell a story. 

I selected this picture of a herd of cattle because they seem to be confused as to what is expected of them.

I’ve spent time on a couple of ranches and even worked cattle, but truthfully, I’m no cowgirl and sure don’t know anything about how cattle stand because I’ve seen them in every position … and I do mean every position. There is one thing I learned, and it truly stuck with me, when you’re working the gate while cattle are being inoculated, do not wear a white t-shirt. You’ll never get the bull…you know what… out of the it and you have to wash your hair a dozen times.

I’m truly interested in knowing what you readers who own cattle ranches have to say about the ol’ wives’ tales.

When do you consider autumn beginning? What is your favorite fall tradition?  Also, don’t forget to wear those patent shoes because you don’t have many days left.

To one lucky winner I will give you your choice of any eBook of mine

or any short story collection I’m in from Amazon.

Just a note, I found patent shoes spelled patten, patton,

and a couple of other ways, so I had to punt!

Wishing Wells and Various Lucky Charms

As I took pictures of my foster Kimber for a St. Patrick Day’s post, I started thinking about “lucky” items. I love horseshoes. I pick up pennies I find. “Find a penny pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck.” I’ve always wished on the first star I see in the night sky. I throw coins in fountains. I’ve never found a 4-leaf clover, but if I had, I’d have kept it. Considering all that it’s not surprising that when I wanted to add something special to my fictional east Texas town, I chose a wishing well. But I’ve never thought about how the wishing well lore started.

Deciding to fix that, I did some research. The lore started because of man’s natural obsession with water. Since without water we humans are toast, water has been a major concern since we burst onto the scene. Many ancient cultures viewed underground springs as sacred gifts. In appreciation, people dropped tokens for the gods into the water. Wells or well houses built around water sources to protect them became gathering places. Germanic tribes believed spirits who liked to intervene in humans’ lives inhabited these waters, and if someone voiced a wish or hope, the spirits might grant the wish. Someone could increase the chances of the wish being granted by dropping a coin or small token in the well. And it turns out poor Odin, Thor’s father, lost his eye because water deity Mimir, who lived in and guarded the Well of Wisdom, demanded his right eye as payment for a drink. The legend says his right eye was thrown in the well for others to know there was a price for the well’s wisdom.

When I created my well, I wanted a twist so I made my well persnickety, only granting wishes made for someone else. I created a legend which started with two sisters, Anne and Alice. The short version is, after the Civil War when Anne’s husband failed to return, she became despondent and took to her bed. Alice, not knowing what else to do, stood at the family well, her tears dropping into the water as she tossed in a coin. She wished for her brother-in-law to return to the family who loved and needed him. Two days later, Sam returned, and the town’s legend was born.

I’ve had fun starting each book with a wish for the hero or heroine and weaving references to the well through the stories. In To Love A Texas Cowboy, Ty Barnett’s sister Aubrey turns to the wishing well when she’s concerned he’s marrying the wrong woman. Book 2, To Catch A Texas Cowboy, opens with Ty making a wish for his best friend AJ Quinn. In To Tame A Texas Cowboy, my latest release in the Wishing Texas Series, Cheyenne Whitten’s sister Sheridan wishes for her to receive help with her health issues.

But like Odin, a price is demanded before the wish is granted. My hero and heroine must survive trials, struggles and conflict, often caused or exaggerated by what or rather who fate has decided possesses the answer to their loved one’s wish. Yup, my well enjoys stirring up lives and causing trouble before answering those wishes. Because just like in real life as the Rolling Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you might find, you get what you need.”

Today’s giveaway is a horseshoe and a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy. This book contains my favorite wish so far. It’s my favorite mainly because it’s done in such a guy fashion. You’ll have to read the story to find out what Ty wishes for AJ. To be entered in the random drawing leave a comment about your favorite lucky charm or item to wish on. 

Happy Cabbage Night!

I knew Halloween evolved from the Celtic festival of Samhain and All Hallow’s Eve, but that was about all I knew. This year I decided to change that and dove into researching Halloween. First, I learned in New England the night before Halloween is Cabbage Night. Right now, I’m glad I live in Texas, because this tradition involves “pranksters” leaving rotten vegetables near a neighbor’s front door! I doubt this did much to promote good neighbor relations! Despite that, Happy Cabbage Night y’all.

Now on to Halloween…

I discovered many Halloween traditions revolved around helping women identify her potential husband or reassuring her she would indeed find a one. In 18th century Ireland, a cook would bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween. The hope was that the ring would bring the finder true love.

In Scotland, fortune tellers instructed marriage-minded women to name her hazelnuts after her suitors. Boy does that sound odd. 🙂 Then she was to toss them, the hazelnuts not her suitors, 🙂 into the fire. The nut that burned completely rather than exploding represented her future husband. Another legend insisted if a woman ate a sweet treat of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg on Halloween, she would dream of her future husband that night.

Women would throw apple peelings over their shoulders in hopes of forming the initials of her future husband’s name. I wonder if there was strategic throwing involved with this tradition to get a desired result. Another legend told a woman to stand in front of a mirror in a dark room holding a candle. The hope was if she peered into the mirror, would see her husband’s face over her shoulder.

Halloween parties could get competitive regarding matrimony. For example, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut hunt would be the next one to marry. The first one to successfully bob for apples was predicted to walk down the aisle soon. This tradition had visions of unmarried women practicing their bobbing for apple skills before Halloween parties to ensure a victory to pop into my head!

Because beliefs of different European countries mixed with American Indian traditions, America developed its own unique version of Halloween. At first, celebrations featured “play parties” to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors shared stories about the dead, told fortunes, danced and sang. The night also included mischief. But in the late 1800’s, people tried to shift the holiday away from ghosts, pranks and witchcraft to a more community or neighborly get together holiday. Parents were encouraged to remove anything frightening, grotesque or scary from their Halloween celebrations. Despite this community-centered focus, adding parades and town-wide parties, by the 1920’s and 30’s, vandalism became prevalent.

However, by the 1950’s communities had tampered down on the vandalism and Halloween became a more child-centered holiday. This probably was a result of all those post-war babies, too. Communities revived the tradition of trick-or-treating after it was halted due to sugar rationing during WWII. The thought was people could prevent being pranked by giving children a small treat.

Today, Halloween is America’s second largest commercial holiday, surpassed only by Christmas. We spend around 9 billion, yup with a billion with B, annually. That’s a lot of candy, costumes and yard art. It works out to an average American shelling out $86.79.

Speaking of candy…we haven’t even touched that delicious subject. But let’s do that now. Leave a comment on what’s your favorite trick-or-treat candy and why or what one makes you you want to pull a trick on someone to be entered for today’s giveaway. One random commenter will receive the pumpkin coasters and a copy of Family Ties.

Who Was Calamity Jane?

Jennifer Uhlarik

Hi everyone. I’m celebrating this month! June 1 marked the release of Cameo Courtships, a 4-in-1 novella collection which I am part of. My story in the collection is Taming Petra, and my heroine goes by the name of “Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth.” Buckskin Pete is a buckskin-wearing, gun-toting, tomahawk-throwing tomboy, loosely modeled after Old West icon Calamity Jane.

If you’re like me, you know of Calamity Jane, but only in the most general way. So who was Calamity Jane?

She was born Martha Jane Cannary, on May 1, 1852, the eldest child of a gambler father and a prostitute mother. She had two brothers and three sisters. As the family traveled from Martha Jane’s birthplace in Missouri to Virginia City, Montana, her mother fell ill with pneumonia and died. A year later, her father also succumbed to death, leaving Martha Jane, who was just fourteen years old at the time, to take charge of her five younger siblings and support her family. The six siblings settled in Piedmont, Wyoming, where Martha Jane took whatever jobs she could find—from dishwasher, to waitress, to nurse, to ox-team driver, to sometimes prostitute.

 

As her younger siblings grew up and moved on, it freed Martha Jane to strike out on her own as well. In the 1870s, she is said to have acted as scout for the Army, an Indian fighter, as well as displaying excellent aim as a sharpshooter.

Calamity in a dress

When asked how she came to be called “Calamity,” she told the following story in a short biographical pamphlet. While working with the Army near Goose Creek, Wyoming, they were sent out to subdue an Indian uprising. On the way back to the post, they were ambushed about a mile and a half out. As she charged through the fray, being fired upon, she turned in time to see Captain Egan struck and reeling in his saddle. Jane turned back to help, caught the officer before he fell, and pulled him onto her own horse in front of her. Once safely back at the post and the captain recovering, he jokingly stated that he would dub her Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains, and she proudly wore the name from that point forward.

While the story is an entertaining one, several details call its credibility into question. For one, Calamity Jane was functionally illiterate, so she would have had to dictate such a story to someone else for the pamphlet. It’s possible she did just that. But in the story itself, she claims to have singlehandedly pulled a wounded and reeling man from him horse onto her own and held him in the saddle until they reached the safety of the army post. The likelihood of such feats of strength do cause one to question the story. Another alternative for how she came to be known as Calamity Jane is that she would warn any man who crossed her that he was “courting calamity” by doing so.

She is known to have had a kind and generous side. In Deadwood, S.D., she is rumored to have nursed the sick during an outbreak of smallpox. And she was also known to have helped those in need, providing food she’d hunted herself or given money to those unable to provide for themselves.

Calamity Jane at Wild Bill Hickok’s gravesite

Rumors link Calamity Jane to another well-known Western icon—James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok. Some rumors state they were friends. Others tout the pair were lovers. Calamity Jane herself stated that she and Wild Bill were married in 1873 and had a daughter, who was later adopted by another family. No marriage license has been found to support a legal union between the two characters. Of course, Wild Bill died by a shooter’s bullet in 1876, so any romance that may have existed lasted only briefly.

The later years of Calamity Jane’s life saw her become a hard-drinking alcoholic, often down on her luck, living life mostly alone. For a brief time, she performed with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show as a storyteller and sharpshooter, but otherwise, she drifted from town to town. She died of pneumonia on August 1, 1903, at the age of 51. She and Wild Bill Hickok are buried next to each other in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.

My heroine, Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth, is loosely based on Calamity Jane—in their shared propensity to wear men’s buckskin trousers, their ability to scout and track, and their soft sides that enabled both to help those in need. Do you enjoy reading fictional characters you know are based on a true person from history, or do you prefer purely fictional characters that are wholly original? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for an autographed paperback copy of Cameo Courtships.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children. Check out her website and Facebook page or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

 

 

Christmas Stockings

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Are you one of those super organized holiday people who have up their Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving and mail out their Christmas cards the following week? I used to be, but I have to admit, not so much lately.  As of today just about the only decorating I’ve done is to hang up the Christmas stockings. (Mantle is looking mighty crowded these days – I LOVE it!!)

The four stockings made from the same fabric are ones I made for my kids when they were very young. I even crossed stitched their names and a holiday design on the cuff. When my oldest daughter got married I purchased her husband a stocking but cross stitched a cuff to add to it so that it matched the other four. Unfortunately, by the time my next daughter got married my cross stitching days were behind me. So I personalized the rest of them with jaunty embroidered patches.

 

As I was taking care of that fun bit of holiday tradition (and remembering holidays past), it made me wonder, where did the custom of hanging stockings come from.  So I decided to do a bit of research.

It turns out that there are two schools of thought on how this came to be, both shrouded in myth and tradition.

The most popular theory is that it is linked to the stories surrounding the generosity of the original St. Nicholas. Nicholas lived in the third century and was renowned for his concern for and generosity toward those in need. One story tells of a poor widower who had three daughters. The man was distraught over the fate his daughters were facing since he had now dowry to offer prospective husbands. The story goes that Nicholas heard of the family’s plight and secretly, so as to not gain honor for himself, entered their home and left gold coins in the girls stocking which were hung by the fire to dry. Thus the practice of hanging stockings by the fireplace in hopes of receiving a gift was born. Oh, and sometimes an alternate version is given that has Nicholas leaving a small gold ball in each stocking. This is supposedly where the custom of putting oranges in the toe of stockings comes from.

 

The second theory on the origin of the Christmas comes from a completely different belief system, that of Norse mythology. According to this version, children would fill their shoes with straw, root vegetables or sugar and leave them on the hearth for Odin’s flying horse  to eat. As a reward for their kindness Odin would replace their offering with one of his own, that of gifts or sweets.

This practice was widely spread through Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Once Christianity was adopted, the legend of Odin’s benevolence merged with the stories of St. Nicholas evolving over time into today’s current practice.

 

Whatever the truth of the matter, I’m glad this fun tradition is part of our current day holiday celebrations.

 

So what about you? Does your family hang stockings? Is there a story behind any of the stockings themselves?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of two copies of the re-release of The Christmas Journey

Philadelphia lawyer Ryland Lassiter is everything Josephine Wylie wants – for a brother-in-law!  As the sole supporter of her family, Josie’s plans for herself have always had to wait.  But Ryland will be ideal as the new head of the Wylie clan…once he finally realizes how perfect he is for her sister.

 

Ry knows its time to settle down.  The newly appointed guardian to a friend’s daughter, he’s ready for a home and family.  All he needs is a bride…and Josie’s sister is not the Wylie who has caught his eye.  If only Josie would see the truth – that the only Christmas present he needs is her love.

Halloween, Ghost Stories, and Weddings! What? Weddings?

 

Yup, you read that right.  How do I get from the first two to the later? It’s easy when the wedding is in Estes Park, Colorado, at The Stanley Hotel, the famed inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.

First a little history. Freelan Oscar Stanley and his wife Flora, missing the east’s grandeur, opened The Stanley Hotel complete with electric lights, telephones, en suite bathrooms, uniformed staff and a fleet of automobiles in 1909 among the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park, Colorado. However, by the 1970’s the hotel’s splendor had faded, and it might have been demolished if not for Stephen King.

The famed author stayed in Room 217 and a dream here inspired The Shining. The room is thought to be haunted by Elizabeth Wilson. Injured in 1911 in an explosion lighting lanterns in Room 217, when recovered, Mrs. Wilson became head chambermaid and worked at the hotel until her death. Since then, guests have reported luggage being unpacked (now this I’d appreciate ?) and lights being turned on and off. Mrs. Wilson, not a fan of unmarried couples sharing the room, has been known to show her displeasure by climbing into bed between them!

The Concert Hall is another room frequented by otherworldly inhabitants including Flora Stanley. When the hotel opened, F.O. presented Flora with a Steinway Grand Piano. Since her passing, guests and staff claim Flora can still be heard playing. Paul, a jack-of-all trades at the hotel, enjoys frequenting this room as well. Charged with enforcing the hotel’s curfew during his tenure, guests and workers claim Paul can be heard saying “get out” after hours. He’s also said to “nudge” construction workers and flicker flashlights for tour groups here.

On the hotel’s fourth floor, originally a cavernous attic where female staff, nannies and children stayed, guests report hearing children running, laughing, giggling and playing. People also claim a certain closet opens and closes on its own. In room 428, guests report footsteps and furniture being moved above them. However, many claim this impossible due to the roof’s slope. But the room’s most frequent ghostly visitor is a “friendly cowboy” appearing by the bed. Now that’s the room for me! What a great opportunity for hero research!

These are a small sample of the ghost stories associated with The Stanley Hotel. If you’re interested in more tales, I recommend Ghost Stories of the Estes Valley Volumes 1 and 2 by Celeste Lasky. (I purchased mine at The Stanley but they’re available on Amazon.)

If you visit Estes Park, maybe you’ll be inspired as I was. That’s where the idea for my first novel sold to Harlequin, Big City Cowboy, literally walked up to me. But that’s a story for another blog…

If you stay at The Stanley Hotel, could you’ll encounter F.O. Stanley hovering behind his staff at the reception desk. ? If you do, keep these tips from tripsavvy.com on how to capture ghosts on camera in mind. “Take five or six quick shots to capture a fleeting spirit. Oh, and bring up back-up batteries because paranormal experts will tell you if spirits are present, they’ll have a draining effect on your batteries.”

Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about a place where you’ve encountered a ghost or that’s left you feeling a bit creepy to be entered in my give away. And oh, yes, Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

Here We Come a Wassailing

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year … Halloween!  Not only did I have a granddaughter born on Halloween and she’ll turn 21 tomorrow, but I love the kids, their costumes, and giving out treats.  I took ten bags of candy to the church today for our annual Trunk or Treat.  So many wonderful memories.

But oh do I love apple wassail to kick off the holiday season.  I didn’t realize the tradition of Apple Wassail, which is a form of wassailing practiced in the cider orchards of southern England during the winter some five centuries ago.  The first recorded mention was at Fordwich, Kent, in 1585.  Groups of young men would go between orchards performing the rite for a reward. The practice was sometimes referred to as “howling”.  On the Twelfth Night, men would go with their wassail bowl into apple orchards.  Slices of bread or toast were laid at the roots and sometimes tied to branches.  Cider was also poured over the tree roots.  The ceremony is said to “bless” the trees to produce a good crop the next season.

A folktale from Somerset reflecting this custom tells of the Apple Tree Man, the spirit of the oldest apple tree in an orchard, and in whom the fertility of the orchard is thought to reside.  In the tale a man offers his last mug of mulled cider to the trees in his orchard and is rewarded by the Apple Tree Man who reveals to him the location of buried gold.

Here’s a couple of well know and fun traditional Apple Wassail rhymes.

“Stand fast root, bear well to

Pray for God send us a howling good crop.

Every twig apple big.

Every Bough, apples now.”

                                                                            19th century Sussex, Surrey

“But by far here’s the one we all know.

Here we come a wassailing

Among the leaves so green,

Here we come a wandering

So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail too.

And God bless you and send you a happy New Year.

And God send you a happy New Year.”

                                                            Somerset, 1971

The wassail recipe is very easy and fun to make and drink.

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 1 quart cranberry juice
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 16 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 stick (6 inch size) cinnamon.

Tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag.  Add the spice bag and all remaining ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

For a party or a carry-in, heat in a crock pot on low temperature.

Optional:  Garnish individual servings with a cinnamon stick and orange slice.  Serves 24.

My question to you:  What is your favorite holiday beverage?

 

To one reader who leaves a comment, I will give away an eBook of my latest Kasota Springs Romance “Out of a Texas Night”.

THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, Excerpt and Free Give-Away

Howdy!  And welcome to the Tuesday blog.  Well, today I’ll be giving away THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR in either e-book format or mass market paperback, winner’s choice.   There is a restriction.  It is limited to the United States only.  There are also the rules for free give-away — over to the right here — that govern our give-aways, so please do give that a read.

AngelAndTheWarrior-The-CoverSometimes there’s a problem because some sites out there contact you to ensure you know you’ve won.  But we don’t do that here.  We rely on you to come back in a day or two to see if you are the winner.  If you have won, instructions will be given on how to contact me so that the book can be sent to you.  But you must contact me in order to claim your prize.

Off to the left here is the e-book cover of the give-away book and at the very end of this blog is the mass market cover of the book.

All right.  So with that said, let’s have a look at what I consider to be one of the most fascinating parts of this book, and of this series. This is the first book in THE LOST CLAN series.  Now, this series is set not only within historical times, but within the framework  of American Indian Mythology.  There are a couple of characters in this series of four books which are caught in all four books, and one of those characters is the Thunderer.

The Thunder Being (or sometimes referred to as the Thunder Bird or Thunder God or Thunderer) is central to these stories.   His anger has been stirred up by acts of violence against himself and his children by a clan that is part of the Blackfoot Indians – The Lost Clan.  Interestingly, the Thunder thCACKC4HUBeing plays a dominant role in most Native American tribes — perhaps because when one is living so closely to nature, the Thunderer, who can produce so much damage, would be a subject of much legend.  In this series of books, the Lost Clan has been  relegated into the “mist” by the Creator, who intervened on the people’s behalf when the Thunderer became bent on destroying every single member of the clan.  Imprisoned within that mist, each band of the Clan is given a chance within every new generation to choose a boy to go out into the real world.  That boy is charged with the task of undoing the curse, thus freeing his people from what would be an everlasting punishment (they are neither real, nor dead).  But, not only must the boy be brave and intelligent (there are puzzles to solve within every book), he must also show kindness to an enemy.

th[2]Let’s have a look at the Thunderer and some of the different tales about this being.  In Blackfeet lore, the Thunderer often steals women.  He can take the image of a very large bird — his wings creating the thunder and his eyes shooting out the lightning.  In Lakota lore, if one dreams about the Thunder god, he becomes a backwards person.   He must do everything backwards.  He washes in sand, become dirty in water, walks backwards, says exactly what he doesn’t mean, etc., etc.  The dream is so powerful that it is thought that if one fails to do these things, he courts certain death.  In THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, the hero is one of these boys who is charged with the task of freeing his people.  He is desperate because he only has until his 30th birthday to undo the curse, and the hero of the story is 29, with only a few months left to accomplish this task.  Relying on visions and dreams, he is drawn toward a woman with hair the color of starlight.  But he regards her and his growing feelings toward her, as little more than a distraction, and great suspicion.

thumbnail[5]There is also a legend of the Thunder Being in the Iroquois Nation.  In this legend, a young woman becomes the bride of the Thunderer and through him saves her village from a huge snake that burrows under her village, thus endangering the lives of everyone in her village.  There is still another legend about the Thunderer which you can watch on the Movie called Dream Makers — well, I think that’s the name of the movie (if I am wrong about that name, please do correct me).   In this legend, which is also an Eastern Indian tribe, a young woman marries the Thunderer and goes to live with him in the above world.  But she is returned to her own world when she becomes pregnant with his child.

stortell[1]What is very, very interesting to me is how many and how vast are the stories and legends that abounded in Native America.  Though we often hear or even study the ancient lore of the Greeks, seldom do we read much our own myths — the mythology that belongs intimately with this land we call America — which by the way, to the Native Americans on the East Coast, America is known as Turtle Island.   Fascinatingly, there is a story for almost every creature on this continent, from the crow to the sparrow to the coyote (the trickster), the wolf and bear.  There are legends about the stars, the Big Dipper hosts legends about the Great Bear (Iroquois) and the Seven Brothers and their sister (Cheyenne and Blackfeet).  There are still other tales about the Morning Star and the Evening Star and marriages between the Gods and mortals.

Do you, like me, love these kinds of stories?

In closing, I thought I’d post a short excerpt from the book.

THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, by Karen Kay

AngelAndTheWarrior-The-CoverEXCERPT

He stared at her, and in his eyes, Angelia thought she saw a spark of…laughter?

“After all, what trouble could there be, since a man and his wife are often seen alone together?”

Angelia wasn’t certain she had heard Swift Hawk correctly. “What was that again?”

He shrugged. “What?”

“What you just said.”

He gave her a perfectly innocent look and repeated, “Your brother is over by that ridge, trying to discover who trails him.”

“No, not that—that other thing.”

“You mean about my wife and I being alone?”

“That’s it. That’s the one. Your wife? You have a wife?” she asked, feeling more than a little confused.

He said, “Certainly I have a wife.”

She sent him a sideways scowl. “I don’t believe you. Where is this person?”

He grinned. “Right here beside me.”

“Wait a minute. How can I be your wife?”

“Very easily, I think.”

Angelia sat for a moment, dazed. How could this be? On one hand, she was cheered that Swift Hawk was, indeed, very much interested in her. On the other hand, she realized she should have been worrying less and practicing more of exactly what she should say to this man.

Was this what he’d meant when he’d said they belonged to one another? Marriage?

Aloud, she said, “Swift Hawk, have I missed something? I don’t remember a marriage ceremony between us.”

Swift Hawk frowned. “You do not remember? And yet recalling those moments we spent together is forever here.” He pointed to his head, and then to his heart.

“Moments? What are you talking about?”

“You do not remember.” He tsk-tsked.

Angelia grimaced, placing a hand on her forehead, as if to ease the spinning sensation. “There must be something here I don’t understand, because I don’t recall a thing.”

“Ah, then I should refresh your memory. But…surely you do not wish me to do this…” he made a mock glance around him, “…where others might overhear us, or see us.”

“Swift Hawk, please. Be serious.”

“I am.”

She shook her head. “Have you gone crazy?”

“Perhaps, for my wife treats me as though I am nothing more to her than a…” he drew his brows together, looking for all the world as if he were in deep thought, “…friend.”

“You are a friend.”

Haa’he, that I am…plus more. Now, I have something else to tell you, and for a moment, I would ask that we forget all this, switch our duties and I will be a teacher and you will be my pupil.”

“Why?” she asked, still feeling bewildered and having difficulty following his line of thought.

“Because I have a problem in mathematics for you.”

“Swift Hawk, please, we are not doing our lessons now. We are having a discussion about…about…”

Swift Hawk shrugged. “All right. If you do not wish to hear this problem, I will not bore you with it.”

Angelia blew out her breath. “Very well. Tell me.”

“No, I do not wish to disturb you with it…at least not now.”

She sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, all right? I… It’s only that you’ve said some things that have…surprised me, things I don’t understand, and frankly, you’re speaking about a subject that must be discussed by us in greater detail. But by all means, let me hear this problem that you have with mathematics first.”

He ignored the sarcasm in her voice and gave her a look that could have been innocent, but it wasn’t. Before she could decide what he was up to, he said, “Tell me, what is the result when you add a man, a woman, and a morning spent together in each other’s arms?”

“Shh. Swift Hawk. What are you doing? Say that quietly.”

“Very well.” Lowering his voice, he whispered, “What do you get when you add—”

“I heard you the first time. Swift Hawk, really, it…it…wasn’t like that… It was…” She stopped, for she seemed incapable of uttering another word.

Now was the time. Now she should tell him.

Angelia opened her mouth to speak, took a deep breath, then held it. How in the name of good heaven could she begin?

She shut her mouth, thinking, summoning her nerve to say what must be said.

Swift Hawk leaned in toward her. “Ah, I can see that you understand. Now you must observe that all of these things, added together, equals a marriage, does it not?”

“No, it—” Angelia shook her head, exhaling sharply. “It does not equal marriage. There was no ceremony.” She said every word distinctively. “But let’s not quibble. Not now. Not here, where we might be overhead. Besides, we forget that Julian might be in trouble. Now, if you would be so kind as to lead me to my brother, I would be much beholden.”

“How beholden?”

Angelia rolled her eyes. “Please, will you take me to him?”

“Yes, my wife,” said Swift Hawk seriously, though she could have sworn that a corner of his mouth lifted upward in a smile. “Truly, my wife, I will do anything you say.”

“Please, if you must say that, say it softly.”

“Very well.” Leaning up onto his elbows, Swift Hawk spoke quietly, for her ears alone, “Yes, my wife. I am yours to command, my wife.”

Angelia raised an eyebrow. “You are mine to command?”

“It is so.”

“Good. Then I command you not to speak to me of this again.”

Smiling, Swift Hawk inclined his head. “Very well. I will show you instead how eager I am to please you.” He held out a hand toward her.

Angelia rolled away. “Swift Hawk!” she uttered sharply, under her breath. “Stop this at once. Just…just take me to my brother.”

“Yes, my wife. Anything you say, my wife…”

THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR by Karen Kay

 

Gaviota Pass, California

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetFor the last few posts, I’ve been writing about El Camino Real and the haunted missions along the way.  Today, I’m going to discuss one area of Highway 101 that I bet just about everybody has seen on television commericals … the Gaviota Pass one and a half miles west of Gaviota, near Santa Barbara, California.

gaviota-pass-tunnel-for-pp-11-29-16It’s a place where the road narrows to just a few feet.  It’s where El Camino Real moves away from the coast and into the interior of California.  The long climb up the grade takes travelers to Mission Santa Inez and La Purisima, which I’ve previously blogged on.  The land mark is a haunted one, also.   gaviota-pass-memorial-for-pp-11-16

This bronze plaque commemorates where on Christmas day 1846 an ambush set up by Mexican loyalists to stop Lt. Col. John Fremont’s U.S. troops from moving south forcing the Americans to take a more labored approach to capture Santa Barbara where it was captured without bloodshed.

The ghosts of Gaviota Pass date to an earlier time when a detachment of Spanish Lancers were set upon by the local inhabitants. The Spanish were forced to retreat down the road and through the pass toward to coast. For a while it looked like the Natives would win the day, but as the warriors prepared to mount a charge on the exhausted Spanish Troops a strong wind came up from the sea and inland. In desperation the Spanish set fire to the dry grass in the pass. The flames fueled by the ocean’s wind roared up the pass.  The native warriors trapped in the conflagration were burned to death.

Defeated spirits haunt the pass today. Some have reported seeing a figure who wanders alone. Local legend is that this is the chief who led his people into the fiery defeat. There is no doubt this is a spooky place, especially for those who visit the place at night.  When the wind blows one may still hear the horrible wails of those warriors succumbing to fire.

Now my truth.  I’ve gone through this pass hundreds of times, during all times of the night and day, and my daughter who lives in Santa Barbara County travels to LA regularly and neither of us have seen or heard anything.  I certainly want to make it clear that I’m not discounting any of this as fact, because I just know that sole legendary chief will make sure I believe in him the next time I’m around the pass.

Those of you who have traveled the 101 and gone through this pass, have you ever had any weird sensations.

Okay, as I promised this is the month, I’m telling you all about my grandson’s experience at the La Purisima Mission not far from his home.  Last summer when I was out there for four months, he came out from college in Texas to one of his sister’s graduation.  A friend from Texas had moved out to Santa Barbara with her family, so they went ghost busting at the mission.  They climbed over the gate, as others did, and after not finding anything that interested them, they returned to his folks home.  When his friend started to leave, she couldn’t find her keys.  She was sure they were secured in her closed up shoulder bag. They looked everywhere and could find them, so as a last resort they went back to the La Purisima.

When they turned into the drive right outside the gate they saw a flash.  Checking it out, they found not only her keys but a billfold, both which had been crushed.  There was no way a car could have done it.  They came home certain that this had to be an act of one of the Mission’s ghosts.

There wasn’t a driver’s license in the billfold, but a card for a doctor’s appointment and cash.  They physician’s clerk called the gentleman and told him where his billfold was but never mentioned where it was found.  I answered the door when he showed up. He was pleasantly surprised we had his billfold but perplexed because he was sure it had been secure in his back pocket which was zipped up. “Where was it found?,” he asked.  When I told him, all he could say was “That dern ghost must have stolen it, crushed the dern thing to let us know not to go ghost busting out there again.”

Now you tell me whether you think it was just a coincidence or a reminder from our La Purisima ghosts not to bother them at night?

To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will give away an autographed copy of the award winning anthology A Texas Christmas by sister filly, Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace, and me.

ATexasChristmas3