Hello! I’m Katrina Kyle. I’m thrilled to be here for the first time today, and even more ecstatic to give you a glimpse into my debut novel, Meg’s Motivation. Joining with like-minded readers is something special.
But first, I have a confession. When I set out to write a series about three sisters working to save the family plum orchard, I knew very little about plums. As in, practically nothing at all. The deeper I sank my teeth into the flesh of the matter, the more astounded I became. For instance, did you know that plums are the second-most cultivated fruit in the world and are grown on every continent except Antarctica? Plums are a member of the rose family with varieties that ripen in red, purple, yellow, green, and white. The average life span of cultivated plum trees is 10-30+ years.
Okay. That’s all well and good, but I needed to know about plums in California in particular. You see, that is where the Trudy family orchard called Damson Acres is situated in my series. Like many goods in California, plum production began in the mid-1800’s and really took off as the transcontinental railroad was completed. Today, the San Joaquin Valley in central California produces 95% of domestic fresh plums on 20,000 acres – not to say anything of the 50,000 acres of plums intended to dry for prunes. It takes three pounds of fresh plums to get one pound of prunes. That’s plum crazy! (Alright, that’s the last plum pun I’ll throw in here. I’d like to hear you say ‘plum pun’ ten times fast!)
What could a fictional three-generation farming family possibly do with that many plums? Most of the harvested fruit is packed up and shipped to markets around the country. The rest get processed into juice, spreads, syrup, and desserts made and sold in the Damson Acres Café.
As the eldest Trudy sister, Meg discovers that all is not well financially at the orchard. Money is draining from the accounts much faster than they can make it, and rather than worry her mother and sisters, Meg is motivated to turn things around. She quickly learns, however, that she can’t do so on her own. Enter the handsome travel blogger renting a guest bungalow on the property. Meg’s sisters dare her to kiss him while having lunch at the café, and when Meg finds out who he is, she is mortified! She and Morris are thrown together repeatedly, of course, and as they spend more time together, it’s only natural that they fall in love.
Some surprising twists tangle their relationship until neither is certain they’ll attain a happily-ever-after. But if you know me at all, you’ll understand that a happy ending for two people who are totally good together is a MUST.
I’d love to send a paperback copy of Meg’s Motivation to one lucky reader here today. To enter, tell me about a family legacy or tradition you cherish. I can’t wait to hear about your heritage.(And by the way, if you’d like to share a favorite plum recipe in the comments, I’d love to include it in a collection I’m putting together.)
Hi! Amanda Cabot here. For me, one of the more enjoyable aspects of writing historical fiction is doing the research. I never fail to find at least one tidbit that intrigues me enough to include it in the book. As someone who once aspired to be a newspaper reporter, I had fun researching nineteenth century newspapers while I created a hero who owns a paper. That’s why I thought I’d share six things that might (or maybe won’t) surprise you about newspapers and printing in the mid-nineteenth century.
1. Importance – With the increase of literacy in the US, you’d think people would have had a large supply of things to read. That wasn’t always the case, particularly in smaller towns and rural areas. For them, newspapers were often the only things they had to read besides the Bible. As a result, papers included more than news. It wasn’t unusual to find poems, stories, and recipes in addition to what we would call news.
2. Prices – How much did all this cost the average subscriber? According to my research, an annual subscription to a weekly paper was $5, an amount that was often paid in goods rather than cash. I hope the editor enjoyed hams and jams as well as turnips and apples.
Advertisements frequently had a tiered cost, being priced at $1 for the first time they were run with subsequent weeks at $.50. To put this in perspective, a doctor’s office visit was also $1. Suppose you were running for office and wanted the paper to announce your candidacy. You might think that would be a simple ad at a cost of a dollar. Not so. Political announcements were priced at $10.
3. Revenue – In many cases, subscriptions and ads weren’t enough to support the newspaperman. That’s why he (and, yes, most of them were men) offered personal printing services, providing cards, posters, and stationery to residents.
4. Town Booming – This was a new term for me, but it underscored the power of the press. When towns were first established and sought new residents, they relied on papers to promote the town – sometimes through gross exaggeration – in an effort to attract settlers. One of the first towns to benefit from this practice was Oregon City in 1846 which relied on the Oregon Spectator to tout its attractions to potential residents.
5. Skullduggery – One of the more popular printing presses during the nineteenth century was the Washington Hand Press. Unlike previous presses, it was made of iron rather than wood, making it sturdy. Even more importantly, it could be easily assembled and disassembled – a real plus in the rapidly expanding American West.
For years, Samuel Rust held the patent on the Washington press and refused to sell it to his competitor, P. Hoe and Company. Hoe, however, was determined to obtain the patent and convinced one of his employees to pose as an inventor who wanted to expand on Rust’s design. Rust agreed to sell him the patent, not knowing that it was all a ruse and that the faux inventor would immediately turn the patent over to his boss.
6. Dangers – While the underhanded techniques that robbed Rust of his patent were unfortunate, they weren’t the only danger involved in the newspaper printing business. Sadly, not everything printed in newspapers was true. Many editors, following the practice of their Eastern colleagues, made little distinction between news and opinion. In some cases, diatribes and personal attacks made their way onto the printed page. You can imagine how those were received. Who would have thought that freedom of the press sometimes resulted in death?
Did any of these surprise you? More importantly, did any intrigue you enough to want to explore the world of nineteenth century newspapers? I’ll pick two people from the comments to receive a print copy of Dreams Rekindled (U.S. addresses only.)
If you’d like more information, my primary sources for this post were Red Blood and Black Ink by David Dary and Passionate Nation by James L. Haley.
About the book:
He’s bound and determined to find peace . . . but she’s about to stir things up
Dorothy Clark dreams of writing something that will challenge people as much as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin seems to have. But in 1850s Mesquite Springs, there are few opportunities for writers—until newspaperman Brandon Holloway arrives, that is.
Brandon Holloway has seen firsthand the disastrous effects of challenging others. He has no intention of repeating that mistake. Instead of following his dreams, he’s committed to making a new—and completely uncontroversial—start in the Hill Country.
As Dorothy’s involvement in the fledgling newspaper grows from convenient to essential, the same change seems to be happening in Brandon’s heart. But before romance can bloom, Dorothy and Brandon must work together to discover who’s determined to divide the town and destroy Brandon’s livelihood.
Amanda Cabot’s dream of selling a book before her thirtieth birthday came true, and she’s now the author of more than thirty-five novels as well as eight novellas, four non-fiction books, and what she describes as enough technical articles to cure insomnia in a medium-sized city. Her inspirational romances have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists, have garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and have been nominated for the ACFW Carol, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers Best awards. A popular workshop presenter, Amanda takes pleasure in helping other writers achieve their dreams of publication.
Nettie’s sisters snatched her stuffed bear away and teased her, holding it just beyond her reach. Tears and shrieks did no good. They laughed and ran outside.
Papa picked her up, put her on the broad back of their plow horse, and led them in a slow walk around the corral. Toby’s warmth and the strength of his muscles spread through her body and the rocking motion soothed her baby grief.
Instantly she knew. This was home.
There’s something special about a woman and a horse and the healing, comforting bond they forge. So many western women have found special friendship with their horses. My grandmother in the 1920s was no exception.
My “Cowgirl Dreams” trilogy was inspired by Grandma’s life. She was more at home on the back of a horse than behind a dust mop and wrote of her horses as her “pals.”
Rescuing Samantha continues that theme of healing hearts and horses. Samantha Moser leases the Montana ranch that once belonged to her great grandparents. Like her great-grandmother, she has always felt a close kinship with horses, and city life is a track to failure.
Because she has a rescued Thoroughbred, she dreams of raising a herd of her own, but soon discovers not only financial obstacles, but also harsh, frigid winters and too many miles between the remote ranch and towns of any size. After working with her fiancé to fix up the dilapidated ranch, a disastrous, life-threatening blizzard experience sends him packing and leaves her to struggle on her own.
Samantha discovers, almost by accident, how troubled kids can come out of their shells and begin the road to healing by bonding with a horse.
Reading and watching documentaries about how horses can work miracles for children, veterans, and the disabled, I have incorporated some of these ideas into this new “Rescuing” series. As many of us have learned, never give up on your dreams, but be open to the dream changing. Like her great-grandmother before, Samantha also learns this lesson.
Excerpt from Chapter One of Rescuing Samantha:
FOR SALE OR LEASE:
360 acres prime pastureland. Ingomar, MT. Great starter ranch.
Samantha Moser’s heartbeat echoed every bump in the dusty country road. She was coming home.
Even though she’d never seen this ranch, its history was as much a part of her as the blood pulsing through her veins. Her great-grandparents had once owned this piece of Montana. Made a new beginning here. Realized a dream here. Sam could hardly breathe, and it wasn’t just the dust swirling through the open windows of the car. This might be her chance for her own new beginning.
Scrapbook pictures from the 1940s and ’50s, when Great-Grandma Nettie and Grandpa Jake lived here, conjured images. A white two-story house with a wrap-around porch. A leafy cottonwood tree in front where a hammock swung. And a tall, classic red barn with white trim, horses in the corral. Sam rubbed her sweaty palms on her jeans. I can’t wait to see it. The Realtor said it was a “fixer-upper,” but surely a few repairs and a coat of paint would spruce the place up.
The spring-fresh prairie spread around them like an endless sea, broken only by undulating hills until it reached the low horizon, seemingly the end of the earth. This is how Sam remembered her childhood in Montana, before her family moved to Arizona. This is what had been calling to her since she was ten: Come home, come home.
Do you have a dream you’ve pursued, or want to follow?
Post your answer for a chance to win a copy of Cowgirl Dreams!
Heidi M. Thomas grew up on a working ranch in eastern Montana. She had parents who taught her a love of books and a grandmother who rode bucking stock in rodeos. Describing herself as “born with ink in my veins,” Heidi followed her dream of writing with a journalism degree from the University of Montana and later turned to her first love, fiction, to write her grandmother’s story.
Heidi is a member of Women Writing the West, Professional Writers of Prescott, and Arizona Authors Association, is also a manuscript editor, and teaches local memoir and fiction writing classes.
She is an avid reader of all kinds of books, enjoys the sunshine and hiking in north-central Arizona, where she writes, edits, and teaches memoir and fiction writing classes.
Heidi is also the “human” for a finicky feline, and describes herself primarily as a “cat herder.”
Everyone grew up riding bicycles, right? Wrong. At least not successfully. I was a terrible rider, so nervous I kept falling into parked cars. At least, that was better than falling into the street and being run over by a car.
In my latest book, Gage (Ridge), Cupids & Cowboys Book 7, my heroine rides a bicycle in 1900 Montana. As it turned out, she didn’t do so well either. My hero, Marshal Ridge Givens (one of the triplets born in Barclay, Bachelors & Babies Book 1) went to the train station to pick her up. Instead of stepping down from a rail car as would be expected, she drove an automobile off a flatcar with a bicycle strapped to the back and wearing bloomers. No one in Cutthroat, Montana, had seen a motor car until then. She became the talk of the town.
Honora Keane came to Montana to fetch her orphaned niece, but being a dime novelist, she also hoped to get some first-hand experience in the ways of the quickly disappearing west. Of particular interest was the elder Gage Givens, Ridge’s uncle, though she soon decided Ridge would make a good hero too.
When the bank was robbed, and Ridge and Uncle Gage went after the gang, Honora begged to go along. Ridge said no. Well, being a modern woman and a suffragist, Honora ignored his decree. Not having a horse or knowing how to ride one, she did the perfectly logical thing—she rode her bicycle to follow the men into the mountains. Her experiences on that trip proved pretty hilarious.
Naturally, all this required research. I learned that several men claimed to have invented bicycles (called running machines or Draisines) as early as 1500, but Baron Karl von Drais, a German civil servant, created the first verifiable model in 1817. Being constructed almost entirely of wood, the draisine had no foot pedals, which required the rider to push it along with his feet (hence running machine).
New names came into use with later models, such as “pedestrian curricle” and “velocipede.” However, the public preferred “hobby-horse,” after the children’s toy or, worse still, “dandyhorse,” after the foppish men who often rode them. In the summer of 1819, the hobby horse became the craze in London. John Keats referred to it as “the nothing” of the day. A French metalworker, around 1863, added rotary cranks and pedals to the front-wheel hub to create the first pedal-operated “bicycle.”
From 1820 to 1850, tricycles and quadricycles appeared on the streets in a variety of designs, using pedals, treadles, and hand-cranks. Most suffered from high weight and high rolling resistance until Willard Sawyer of Dover built a range of treadle-operated 4-wheel vehicles and exported them worldwide in the 1850s.
The first mechanically propelled two-wheel vehicle is believed to have been built by Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a Scottish blacksmith, in 1839. A nephew later claimed that his uncle developed a rear-wheel-drive design using mid-mounted treadles connected by rods to a rear crank, similar to the transmission of a steam locomotive. The first bicycle with pedals was invented in 1853.
Developed around 1863, a French design sparked a brief fashionable craze during 1868–70. It used rotary cranks and pedals mounted to the front wheel hub. Pedaling made it easier for riders to propel the machine at speed, but this design’s rotational speed limitation made it unstable and uncomfortable, leading to the large front wheel of the “penny-farthing.” It wasn’t easy to pedal the wheel used for steering. The use of metal frames reduced the weight and provided sleeker, more elegant designs and mass-production. Different braking mechanisms were used depending on the manufacturer. In England, the velocipede earned the name of “bone-shaker” because of its rigid frame and iron-banded wheels that resulted in a “bone-shaking experience.” Later improvements included solid rubber tires and ball bearings.
The bicycle’s popularity grew on both sides of the Atlantic, and by 1868–69, the craze was going strong in rural areas. Velocipede rinks became popular, and riding schools opened in many cities. Essentially, the velocipede proved a stepping stone, creating a market for bicycles that led to the development of more advanced and efficient machines. By 1870, the bicycle remained in favor only in the UK.
The high-bicycle was the logical extension of the boneshaker, the front wheel enlarging to enable higher speeds (limited by the inside leg measurement of the rider), the rear wheel shrinking, and the frame being made lighter. Frenchman Eugène Meyer is now regarded as the father of the high bicycle. Meyer invented the wire-spoke tension wheel in 1869 and produced a classic high bicycle design until the 1880s.
A later invention called the “ordinary bicycle” replaced this type of bicycle, eventually being nicknamed “penny-farthing” in England (a penny representing the front wheel, and a coin smaller in size and value, the farthing, meaning the rear). They were fast but unsafe. The rider sat high up in the air and traveled at great speed. If he hit a bad bit of road, he could be thrown over the front wheel and seriously injured (two broken wrists were common, in attempts to break a fall) or even killed. “Taking a header” (also known as “coming a cropper”) was not at all uncommon.
The rider’s legs could be caught under the handlebars, making it impossible to fall free of the machine. The danger limited cycling to adventurous young men. Older men preferred the more stable tricycles or quadracycles. Women’s fashion of the day made the “ordinary” bicycle inaccessible.
My neighbor owns a high bicycle, and it’s interesting to watch him climb onto it and ride off down the street. I wonder how many of you ride bikes today? They don’t seem to be as popular as when I was a kid (back in the stone age).
And to read more about Ridge and Honora, order their book today!
For a chance to win an e-book copy of Vella
or an e-book copy of Gage,
post your answer to these questions :
Did you ride a bike as a child? Do you still ride one?
Did you have any wild adventures while riding your bicycle?
Bestselling author Charlene Raddon began writing in 1980 after waking up from a dream she knew had to appear in a book. She dragged out a portable typewriter and began writing. That book took nine years to write, as she learned her craft at the same time. A time travel, it has not yet been published. Next, she wrote Tender Touch (Brianna), entered it into the Colorado Gold contest, historical division, and won. That victory prompted her to enter the RWA Golden Heart Contest and Tender Touch became a finalist. She acquired an agent and a year and a half later, signed a three-book contract with Zebra Books, an imprint of Kensington Books.
In 1999, when the historical market plummeted and western romance became almost impossible to sell, she took a hiatus from writing, but her imagination wouldn’t leave her alone. Eventually, she got back into the game. In 2011, she won back her rights to her books and had them released as eBooks by Tirgearr Publishing. In 2012 Tirgearr released two of her books in print, Taming Jenna and Tender Touch.
In 2011, Charlene’s artistic nature prompted her to try a different path and she began designing book covers. Today, she has a long list of clients and her own cover site, silversagebookcovers.com where she specializes in historical romance covers, primarily western.
Her writing and graphic arts business keeps her mightily busy and happy. But she always has time for family, travel, and helping other authors. Connect with Charlene on her website: https://charleneraddon.com/
Please give a warm welcome to Pepper Basham, our guest today!
I think it was Mary Connealy who once said, “If things in a story start getting slow, bring out a man with a gun.”
Well, I haven’t written a whole lot of ‘gunslinging’ stories. Sinking ocean liners, trench mustard gas, or the Spanish Flu, maybe, but not a whole lot of gunslinging. Until now.
And I’m kind of surprised it’s taken me so long, because, evidently, I come from a long line (and a community) where there was gun slinging aplenty. Appalachia. Known for its horse thievery, moonshinin’, and Revolutionary War snipers. Oh, and it’s awesome accent and Andy Griffith 😉
So, when I had the opportunity to write a book about a courthouse shootout in my hometown, I thought I’d give it a try…after all, I could just channel my inner Mary Connealy, right?
Not as easy as it may seem, though Mary is incredibly inspirational, because the “shootout” wasn’t fictional, and a century later people still had strong feelings about which side of the Hillsville Courthouse Massacre was right and which was wrong (and those sides didn’t always agree).
The opportunity to write about my own hometown’s shootout came in The Red Ribbon, a historical suspense novel based on the Virginia Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912. This tragedy made national headlines—including a nationwide manhunt—from March 14th to April 12th, when it was overshadowed by the sinking of the Titanic.
Writing about a hot topic that still resonates with the community you grew up in is a tricky business. People still take sides, and many folks don’t want to talk about what happened (even a century later). What’s even more difficult is taking a story that has VERY little hope in it and turning it into a book that brings hope.
I don’t know about you, but maybe those stories with gunslingers and outlaws and suffering and tragedy…are the ones that need hope the most. This one sure felt like it. And it was a great reminder of how God uses difficulties and situations that leave us asking “why”, to draw us closer to Him and create in us character (Romans 5).
Visiting the historic courthouse that still stands in my hometown and running my fingers over the bullet holes still carved in the walls brought this history to life and (I hope) infused this story with setting. (You can see some of the videos from the courthouse here http://www.truecolorscrime.com/red-ribbon.html)
By the way, the coolest part of this REAL story was that the shootout all started over a KISS!!! (I really don’t know a better way to start a gunslinging, family feud-like story, do you?) So thanks, Mary. I brought in a few guys with guns, some dirty cops, a really smart granny, and an awesome dog. Some of the characters were real folks and some emerged from my imagination, but all contributed to making of The Red Ribbon.
Does your hometown have any significant, interesting,
odd, or exciting history?
Post your answer below for a chance to win a digital or paperback copy of
The Red Ribbon.
I wrote my first story when I was a nine-year-old, freckled-faced tomboy in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains (my earlier writings wouldn’t have been considered “books”, more like short stories). Coming from a long line of oral storytellers, weaving a good yarn seemed a typical part of my life. It wasn’t until I finished college, had two children, and a full-time job before I began to study the ‘craft’ of writing (you know when I had plenty of time).
My music-director turned pastor husband took his first senior pastor position eight years ago, moved the 6 of us to Tennessee, where we added our fifth and final kid to the Basham crew. And now hubby is a music minister in Asheville, NC. Yep, we love the Blue Ridge Mountains.
So…now I’m an older, freckled-faced mommy enjoying life, learning to write, and laughing often. My mom says that I must have a small bit of insanity because I don’t realize how stressed I ought to be.
I’m also a speech-language pathologist who spends her time hanging out with kids who have social communication and language difficulties! It’s a challenge and a blessing – and constantly teaches me about the importance of thinking outside the box!
Thank you so much for hosting me this week and letting me talk about me latest book coming out in April, The Restless Cowboy. I’m so excited to share about the series and the characters and hope you like it too!
I plan my books pretty far in advance, mostly thinking about characters, who they are, and what their book might be. Cam Miller, my hero in The Restless Cowboy, has actually been a character on the page in all of my western romances since the first book in the Redemption Ranch series, A Cowboy’s Salvation. To me, he was the quintessential cowboy. Strong, silent, but still waters run deep and I knew there was a wealth of pain under his calm demeanor. But what was his pain?
His backstory came pretty quickly to me. I like tortured heroes and then finding the right woman to heal him and help him find love again. But heroes also need to find their own way to love and no one needed that more than Cam Miller. So I turned to a wonderful friend, who I only got to know in the last year or so of her life.
Kari Lynn Dell. She was an amazing author, a good friend, and an amazing resource for ranch and cowboy life. Very late one night, I reached out with a question. Very simple. How do you fight a fire on a ranch in Montana when you don’t have a fire hydrant?
Simple right? Not for Kari. She delved into how the fire could start, how people would fight it, and how to make it add complications to the story. Then she asked me about my book and I told her about Cam and how I was struggling. I said, I wanted a rancher, a cowboy, who felt trapped by being just that. How could he break free when that was all he knew?
Several hours later, The Restless Cowboy was born and the fire was completely deleted from the book. Cam became a leather worker, a skill necessary to ranch life, but the quiet artist was a perfect balance for the man who had been forced into a life he had never wanted by a father who was an alcoholic who died, leaving him with a debt-ridden ranch and a much younger sister to raise. Cam was forced to give up any chance of a dream to be a rancher until one day, he was finally free. Only, what did freedom look like?
And that was when he met Molly Brennan, a fiery single mom with whom he had a brief affair before leaving the town of Granite Junction for good, in pursuit of his future. But fate had something else in store for him, and Cam was brought back to Granite Junction to deal with his demons and his past, and to find the family he never thought he wanted or deserved.
Leather working, as Kari Lynn Dell, told me, is a critical skill on a ranch. Who else would mend the tack, the saddles, and other items? As I delved into the world of leather work, it amazed me the beauty created from leather including leather roses and a bouquet of leather! I wasn’t quite sure I could see Cam making these items but the hand tooled saddles for the ring? Sure, he could do that.
Researching leather working was so much fun. I only wish Kari Lynn Dell had lived to see the book finished. She passed away last summer from cancer and I never got to tell her how much she helped me with the book. But she was with me in the writing of this book.
The Restless Cowboy is the second book in my small town western romance series and comes out April 27, 2021. Check out the first book if you haven’t, The Wrong Cowboy, available now and you’ll be introduced to Cam Miller, and his cousin Gabe Buchanan and the feisty Emma Holt.
Free—from family, duty, and responsibility.
Cam Miller has spent most of his life bound by choices others made for him. He did what had to be done to provide for his little sister, and he doesn’t regret that. But now, with her off to college, he can finally put ranching behind him and pursue the life he’s always dreamed of… far from Granite Junction. But after one night of passion comes back to haunt him, he fears his hard-won freedom is only temporary . . .
Independent—from family, relationships, and matters of the heart.
Molly Brennan was living her best life as a rodeo trick rider until a failed marriage forced her from the arena. Now she’s perfectly fine running her own hair salon and raising her daughter solo. She doesn’t need a man, but what could it hurt to indulge in a little no-strings fun with a sexy cowboy?
When Molly realizes she’s pregnant, she pulls herself up by her bootstraps. She’s handled things this far on her own and she can do it again, although she’s finding it isn’t so easy to let Cam go. But Cam’s not the kind of man who shirks responsibility. Finding himself torn between a woman who feels like home and his need to break free, where will Cam’s heart lead him?
Tell me your favorite western romance and what you love about it.
Two winners will receive eBooks of The Wrong Cowboy.
Ever since Megan Ryder discovered Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught while sneaking around the “forbidden” romance section of the library one day after school, she has been voraciously devouring romance novels of all types. Now a romance author in her own right, Megan pens sexy contemporary novels all about family and hot lovin’ with the boy next door. She lives in Connecticut, spending her days as a technical writer and her spare time divided between her addiction to knitting and reading.
Hi, Linda Shenton Matchett here and I’m delighted to visit P&P. Thank you for having me. What do you think of when you hear the term “Old West?” Probably cowboys or ranches. Maybe saloons. But one mainstay of life in the towns that sprang up across the country during the 1800s is the general store, also known as a mercantile. Unlike the cities of the time that featured specialized boutiques, these small hamlets were remote, serving a population that had little time for shopping and often limited funds.
The goal of the general store was to provide whatever the locals needed. Patrons could find tobacco, cigars, hardware, jewelry, buggy whips, horse tack, lanterns, pails, foodstuffs, fabric and sewing notions, household items, tools, small farm implements, soap, crockery, dishes, guns and bullets, clothing, candy, coffee, toiletries, school supplies such as slates and chalk, and patent medicines (most of which were untested and alcohol based!).
Merchandise could be purchased with cash or barter items, such as milk, eggs, or surplus produce. Shopkeepers also extended credit as necessary. In 1853, customers could expect to pay eight to ten cents per pound for rice, eleven cents per pound for pork versus nine cents per pound of salt beef. Fresh beef could be had for five cents per pound, whereas lard would run them up to twelve cents per pound.
Many general store owners began as roving peddlers. After accumulating enough capital and inventory, they would establish a permanent location in a growing settlement. Others specifically sought one of the boomtowns such as a mining camp or railroad town. Sometimes, the mercantile would be the first business in a new settlement.
In addition to providing for the physical needs of the community, the general store was often the social center. A collection of chairs encircled the massive woodstove that was often located in the middle of the store. Some merchants offered inexpensive snacks such as soda crackers to allow folks to “sit a spell.” In his book, Pill, Petticoats, and Plows: The Southern Country Store, Thomas Clark indicated “Fox races, tobacco, cotton, horses, women, politics, religion—no subject is barred from the most serious and light-hearted conversation.”
As the communications center of the town, the general store was typically the location of the post office with the owner acting as postmaster, sometimes even town clerk, Justice of the Peace, and/or undertaker. In later days, the mercantile was the first or only place in the town with a telephone. Less formal communication included a wall filled with lost and found notices, event flyers, election information, auctions, and “wanted posters” for outlaws.
Keeping the shop clean would have been a challenge. With unpaved roads, customers tracked in dirt and other detritus, and the wood stove produced soot that settled on the goods. One report I found indicated it was not unusual to discover rodents foraging inside the store.
The late 1800s saw the advent of the mail order catalog business with Tiffany’s Blue Book considered the first in the U.S. In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward sent out his first “catalog,” a single sheet of paper showing merchandise for sale and including ordering instructions. Twenty years later, he was sending out a 540-page illustrated book selling 20,000 items, including prefabricated kit houses. Sears followed in 1888, and the decline of the general store began. The coming of the automobile in 1910 gave farmers and ranchers greater mobility, and as towns grew in size, the population was able to support specialized shops.
There are remnants of general stores scattered around the U.S., and you may be pleasantly surprised to find one near you.
Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. She is a volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Linda was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry and has lived in historic places all her life. She is now located in central New Hampshire where her favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors.
About Vanessa’s Replacement Valentine:
She’s running toward the future. He can’t let go of the past. Will these two hurting souls experience love in the present?
Engaged to be married as part of a plan to regain the wealth her family lost during the War Between the States, Vanessa Randolph finds her fiancé in the arms of another woman weeks before the wedding. Money holds no allure for her, so rather than allow her parents to set her up with another rich bachelor she decides to become a mail-order bride. Life in Green Bay, Wisconsin seems to hold all the pieces of a fresh start until she discovers her prospective groom was a Union spy and targeted her parents during one of his investigations. Is her heart safe with any man?
Eight years have elapsed since the Civil War ended, and Miles Andersen has almost managed to put the memories of those difficult years behind him. He’s finally ready to settle down, but the women in town are only interested in his money. A mail-order bride seems to be the answer until the woman who arrives brings the past crashing into the present.
Can two wounded hearts find healing in the face of doubt, disappointment, and distrust?
You may have heard the phrase “The seasons of our lives . . .” and then someone will tell you they are in the summer of their life or perhaps the winter. The same can hold true for a book and its characters. Whether or not intentional by the author, chances are the characters of a story can represent the seasons in a year. I did one of these for the second Gallagher book, Gallagher’s Hope, and explored the idea that I could apply it to the latest installment, The Healer of Briarwood.
Rachel’s story as a secondary character begins with tragedy, and yet she is the essence of hope throughout the story. Through her, Katharine and Brody see both the end of sorrow and the renewal of life. She has a long, personal journey ahead, and the best of what is to come for her is just beginning.
Katharine is considered an old maid at thirty years, and while her spring has passed, she has many more seasons to look forward to as she continues to bloom. Like others who have come before her, this is a time for her to make choices and she has big choices to make. She is willing and ready to take risks in life, business, and love, and she does so with courage.
Brody is a practical sort who has seen much of life—good and bad—and has come through it with hope for the future intact. He’s a steady sort with a big heart who isn’t afraid to do whatever is necessary to heal those in need and fight for those he loves, all while living by a code of honor that puts him in good company with the Gallagher men. There is more to Finnegan Brody than anyone realizes.
Elizabeth, as the eldest female, is for all intents and purposes the matriarch at Hawk’s Peak. She is not directly connected to Katharine, Finn, or Rachel, nor does she rule the Gallagher clan, but the people feel her presence from ranch to town, and into every home. She comforts, heals, and is a beacon of strength to all who might ask, “Is it too late?” Elizabeth would reply, “It is never too late to live your best life.”
Just as the seasons blend one into the next, the dreams of the Gallaghers and people of Briarwood complement the dreams of family and friends until there is one common goal—hope, love, and the promise of peace.
MK is giving away an autographed copy of The Healer of Briarwood to one lucky commenter! Come in and let’s talk. What season of life do you think you’re living in?
A man with a healer’s touch. A woman with a healer’s heart.
Doctor Finnegan Brody tends his patients, keeps to himself, and vividly remembers the heartaches and trials from the Civil War and why he devoted his life to healing. He watches the townspeople live their lives, loving and laboring alongside one another, and wonders if one day he will give a woman as much time and dedication as he gives the people of Briarwood.
Katharine Kiely has a deep-rooted stubbornness to never give up, even if it means leaving behind her comfortable life by the sea to protect her father’s health and help expand his empire. When she finally arrives in Briarwood to convince the Gallaghers a spur line should cross their land, nothing goes as she expected.
Finn, with his knowledge of healing the people, and Katharine, who learns how to heal with her heart, join together as the townsfolk of Briarwood face challenges and choices that could alter their way of life forever.
Welcome to Briarwood and Hawk’s Peak, where friendship, love, and hope conquer overwhelming odds.
During the years when Spain ruled Mexico and territories to the north, they allowed very few foreigners to enter, and trade was nearly impossible. However, once Mexico gained its independence in 1821, things opened-up. Almost immediately, traders began to enter New Mexico Territory, and the legendary Santa Fe Trail began.
Much of the merchandise available from Mexico was inferior to that produced in the United States, and those in the territories were eager for the higher quality goods. Hauling the items that far was difficult and dangerous, but the lucrative profits were appealing. From its beginning, the Santa Fe Trail was only meant for wagon trains hauling goods. Other western trails, such as the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail would be for settlers coming to the West. That didn’t keep settlers from trickling in, however, and for the most part, the Mexican government welcomed them.
This is the historical background to my new five-book series set in early New Mexico. The first book in the Cactus Creek series, Second-Choice Bride, is already out, and the second book, Sterling Orphans, will soon follow. In Second-Choice Bride, Abby Carter was horrified with herself when she blurted out a marriage proposal to Preston King. A proper lady would never do such a thing, but her cousin had just jilted Preston, and she wanted to ease his hurt. She cared too much for him. Preston is confused, but he knows he needs a wife to help him run his uncle’s ranch in New Mexico Territory, so he asks Abby to marry him. But will he ever purge Magnolia from his heart, and will they even survive the long journey west?
I lived in New Mexico for two years and learned much about the area and its history during that time. My husband and I bought an old adobe house and remodeled it. I had a great time decorating it with a southwestern theme. When my mother’s health began to fail, and her insurance wouldn’t pay out-of-state beyond six months, we returned to North Carolina, and I began writing some of those novels I had always wanted to write. Second-Choice Bride is my thirtieth published book.
I love writing about the places I have lived and worked, and I have a lot to choose from. I’ve been to all fifty states and about forty-five other countries. With my love of history, I always explore the past and culture of an area. Having grown up in the eastern part of the Appalachian Mountains, I often joke that I lived much as people did in the 1800s. However, there’s some truth in that statement, but it’s given me a good background for writing historical fiction.
Leave the answer to the question below in a comment, and I will give a Kindle copy of Second-Choice Bride to the winner whose name is drawn.
If you could temporarily move to a new place for a year or two, where would you choose and why?
Also, free to ask me any questions or make comments. I look forward to chatting with you.
Hi Everyone! My name is Laura Ashwood and I’m writing to you from the chilly state of Minnesota. Having grown up in North Dakota/Minnesota I am no stranger to the occasional winter blizzard, but I’ve thankfully never been through anything like the Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888.
In January, 1888, a massive cold air mass with a spread of over 780 miles, moved into the United States from Canada. The temperature on the front end of the cold front in some places dropped from above freezing to -20°F in just hours. The storm was extremely fast moving. It entered Montana in the early morning hours of January 12, swept through Dakota Territory and was in Nebraska by mid-afternoon of that same day. Because of the warm spell preceding the storm and the swiftness with which it moved, most people were ill prepared. In just minutes, the strong winds and powdery snow made for zero visibility. The combination of bitter cold temperatures and high winds resulted in a death toll of 235.
Another massive blizzard struck Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873, which began as a pleasant day in southeast Nebraska. That afternoon, rain moved in and temperatures began to drop. During the night, the wind picked up and by morning eighteen inches of heavy, wet snow had fallen. The storm raged for two more days, finally abating on Wednesday, April 17. Drifts as high as 20 feet had accumulated in some areas. Many people perished, including a woman with an infant that died just feet from her home, along with thousands of head of livestock.
So, why am I telling you about blizzards that happened over one hundred years ago? It’s because I’m part of a multi-author series called The Blizzard Brides. This series is loosely based on both of those blizzards. What happens when nearly all the men in town get killed during a blizzard? What are the women to do? This group of talented authors takes that question to task, each story following the journey of one of the women as she begins to rebuild her life.
This is my second historical romance. One of the things I strive for when I write historical is to make sure that I get as much accurate detail for the time period as I can. In my story, A Groom for Ruby, Cullen Parker has a dark past before he ends up in Last Chance. I got to research such things as train robberies, stagecoach robberies, gold mines, and place like Dodge City and San Francisco. Much of that research doesn’t make it into the book, but I love being able to work in some of that information.
In this book, Cullen is making his way back to Dakota Territory, hoping to get a job at the Homestake Mine in Lead. The Homestake Mine was a real working gold mine during that time period. It was actually the largest, deepest mine of its type in the United States. It was operational until 2001, and two of my uncles worked there in 1950’s and 1960s. So, not only did I get to add a bit of reality to my fiction – I was able to make it personal.
Do you like it when authors do little things like that? Do you want to know about it?
I’d love to give away a copy of A Groom for Ruby, as well as a copy of my first historical, An Agent for Clarissa, which is part of the Pinkerton Matchmaker series.
Please stop by my website, and if you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get a free copy of Snowflakes & Second Chances, a contemporary novelette. I’d love to connect with you on Facebook or Instagram, and you can find inspiration boards for all my books on my Pinterest.