Starting in the Middle

Back in 2013, I started kicking around the idea for a sweet historical romance. I knew it would involve a mail-order bride coming west from a big city, but I had to decide where she was headed.

That’s when I landed on the idea of using the real town of Pendleton, Oregon, for the setting of the story.  My parents lived in Pendleton during the early years of their marriage (long before I arrived on the scene), but my dad shared such great stories about the area, I decided to look deeper into the history.

That’s when things got interesting and fun!

Located along the Oregon Trail, the city was founded in 1868 and named for George Hunt Pendleton, a Democratic candidate for vice president in 1864. The county judge, G.W. Bailey, suggested the name and the commissioners decided Pendleton suited the town.

In 1851, Dr. William C. McKay established a post office on McKay Creek and called it Houtama. Later, Marshall Station was situated about a half-mile to the east on the north bank of the Umatilla River. Marshall Station was then called Middleton since it rested half way between what was then Umatilla Landing and the Grand Ronde Valley (known today as La Grande).

When the county was created in 1862, the temporary county seat was placed at Marshall Station. The post office was established there in 1865 with Jonathan Swift as the postmaster.

On October 8, 1869, the name was changed to Pendleton. Much of the town proper at that time was owned by Moses E. Goodwin and Judge Bailey. Goodwin arrived in the area around 1861. He traded a team of horses to Abram Miller for squatter rights to 160 acres about three miles from Marshall Station. Goodwin Crossing was a stop for freight wagons. In 1868, Goodwin deeded two and a half acres of his land to the county for a town. A toll bridge that spanned the Umatilla River was constructed along with a hotel, a newspaper, and other businesses and Pendleton began to take shape as a community. In the early days, there was a community well in town where folks gathered.  Some diaries wrote about the delicious, cool, sweet water that came from the well.

In 1872, twenty women started the first church when they began meeting together. The first church building erected in town was the Episcopal Church, constructed in 1875.

One pioneer account claimed the streets were so dusty in the summer, it was nearly up to their knees while the dust turned into a quagmire of mud in the winter. No wonder Pendleton was one of the first cities in Oregon to pave their streets.

If you jump ahead a few decades, Pendleton had become quite the happening place to be by the time a new century rolled around.

Modern and progressive for its time, Pendleton was a unique blend of Wild West and culture. The town boasted an opera house and theater, a teashop, a French restaurant, and a wide variety of businesses in the early years of the new century. On any given day during that time, someone walking down the boardwalk could see well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, as well as Chinese immigrants, Indians from the nearby reservation, miners, ranchers, and farmers. Someone once wrote Pendleton was the only place in the world that had a reservation on one end of town and an asylum for the insane on the other (which they did!).

Pendleton had an enviable railway facility with trains running east and west daily. Telephones as well as running water and sewer lines were available for those who could afford the services.

In the year 1900, it was the fourth largest city in Oregon. By 1902, the population grew to 6,000 and there were 32 saloons and 18 bordellos in the area. If you’re wondering why the town needed quite so much “entertainment,” it was in part because of the sheer number of cowboys, wheat harvesters, sheepherders, railroad workers, and crews of men who descended on the town to work. In 1900 alone, an estimated 440,000 sheep produced more than two million pounds of wool. Pendleton also boasted a maze of underground tunnels where there some of the brothels, drinking rooms, card rooms, and other colorful characters spent their time and money. There was a Chinese operated laundry and opium den, as well as more legitimate businesses like a butcher shop and ice cream parlor.  Today, visitors can tour a small portion of the underground that has been restored through The Pendleton Underground Tours.

By now, you are probably asking yourself what any of this has to do with me starting in the middle.  That book I wrote back in 2013 was my first Pendleton book. I knew before I finished writing it, I wanted it to be a series because I loved the town that existed in my mind (and in history) and the characters I’d created. I decided to call the series Pendleton Petticoats because it had a nice catchy ring to it, and because of the time period, when women still work petticoats (which I would have hated in particular in the summer!).

I released my book Aundy that spring.

Fast forward a few years when I was invited to participate in the epic American Mail-Order Bride series that featured a novella for every state. By the time I joined the project, Oregon was already taken, so I choose North Carolina – the state where my grandpa was born and spent part of his childhood before moving to Oklahoma. Of course, I had to tie the story to Oregon somehow, so the bride in my story, Dacey, is from Pendleton.  I won’t give you any spoilers, but her daughter pops up in Dally, book 8 in the Pendleton Petticoats series, as the love interest for Aundy’s adopted son, Nik Nash.

Then a few years ago, I thought it would be fun to go back and write the story of J.B. and Nora Nash, who were among the early settlers in Pendleton. Gift of Grace was the book was the first in my Gifts of Christmas series.

If you aren’t thoroughly confused yet, I’ll try a little harder. (Just kidding!).

So to recap, I wrote Aundy (technically, the first book in the series) which takes place in 1899, then Dacey which takes place in 1890, and Gift of Grace which takes place in 1870.

Because Dacey and Gift of Grace are part of other series, I decided it might be fun to bundle the three books together.

Ta, da!

You are the first to see the Pendleton Petticoats Boxed Set .

It’s available now on Amazon for $2.99 or through Kindle Unlimited!

Indulge in the romance of a bygone era with three incredible pioneer women.

This boxed set contains two novellas and a full-length historical romance from the Pendleton Petticoats series including Aundy, Dacey, and Nora (Gift of Grace). Strong-willed, courageous women encounter the men who capture their hearts in these sweet western romances full of heart, humor, and hope.

Nora –  Ready to begin a new life far away from the dark memories of the Civil War, J.B. and Nora Nash head west and settle into the small community of Pendleton, Oregon. A devastating tragedy leaves them at odds as they drift further apart. Nora blames J.B. for her unhappiness while he struggles through his own challenges. Together, will they discover the gift of grace and rekindle their love?

Dacey – A conniving mother, a reluctant groom, and a desperate mail-order bride make for a lively adventure. Dacey Butler arrives in North Carolina only to discover Braxton Douglas, her would-be groom, has no idea his mother wrote on his behalf, seeking a bride. Braxton has his work cut out for him if he plans to remain unaffected by the lively, lovely Dacey. Will the promise of hope be enough to keep her from leaving?

Aundy – Desperate to better a hopeless situation, Aundy Thorsen leaves behind city life to fulfill a farmer’s request for a mail-order bride. A tragic accident leaves her a widow soon after becoming a wife. Aundy takes on the challenge of learning how to manage a farm, wrangle demented chickens, and raise sheep, even though her stubborn determination to succeed upsets a few of the neighbor, including Garret Nash. Will she prove to him that courage sometimes arrives in a petticoat and love has a mind of its own?

 

For a chance to win a mystery prize, just post an answer to this question:

If you could set a fictional story in a real town, what place would you choose?

 

Casper, Wyoming…not as big as I thought

Research is tricky.

I once set a book such that it passed through Fort Laramie, Wyoming and the research I did sort of contradicted itself. I wrote it up best I could

Finally, when the book was done and I turned it into my editor, her comment was, “Did you know they moved Fort Laramie three times? And none of those are by Laramie, Wyoming.”

No, I didn’t know that. Yes, I’ll revise.

I once set a book in Fort Union, New Mexico. The only think I needed was…what fort is close to my story because I needed my characters to go to a fort. They stayed a day. No big deal.

So a fort is a fort is a fort right? They entered the stockade gates and searched for the commander.

Except Fort Union had no stockade. In fact, in 1878, the time of my book, it was barely a fort. It was a storage place for supplies. The west was settled for the most part. There were mostly warehouses and very few soldiers. Yes, I’ll revise.

So in my most recent book, Braced for Love–and all my books–I create a fictional town, in this case Bear Claw Pass, Wyoming, and set it near a real town, in this case Casper, Wyoming. It’s the CAPITOL. Sure Wyoming was still a territory, still it stands to reason that the future capitol of a state would have SOMETHING going on. (Mary responding to one of the comments below. This is WRONG. Casper is NOT the capitol of Wyoming. Duh! Thank you for the correction. But it is typical of my error. Even when I KNOW the right thing sometimes the wrong thing makes it into print!)

Nope. 

The key research line I found was about Fort Casper…and this sentence. The town of Casper itself was founded well after the fort had been closed. Instead of this bustling western town I found a quiet little place with the potential for growth because railroad tracks were coming through.

Research will trip you up if you make assumptions and I sometimes do make assumptions and they make it into print, then I just have to hope readers make assumptions along the lines I did and don’t notice, or they are forgiving.

 

So my next series is going to be set somewhere I’ve never written about before, California, near Sacramento and Yosemite, about twenty years after the Gold Rush. You know what? Big cowboy area. I’m having fun researching it and getting off onto side tracks. And learning, learning, learning. Especially I have a woman inventor and as much as we look at that time as being primitive, the industrial revolution was ON. New stuff coming as fast as they old patents aged out. I read once, there were over 100,000 patents taken out just for automobiles.

Guns…the history of guns is the history of America. The fortune that could be made by improving on the design. Every tiny step of progress could make a man a millionaire.

All this industry was built on inventions from before, and others would build on what was new. It’s fascinating reading. The four-stroke cycle engine isn’t invented yet in my books but it is THEORIZED. You get that. A man theorized it would work and it was wild. Explosions, inside a steel box, pushing pistons up and down. It took fifteen years before someone made this theory work.

Anyway, I’m kicking off what I hope is a journey of discovery for my inventor, genius heroine and her very confused cowboy hero who thinks his ranch is the best run place in America (not that he’s ever travelled). She wants to improve it by making explosions inside a metal container? It sounds dangerous and honestly, ridiculous. And she may be smart but it all sounds stupid to him. But he is fond of his pretty, energetic little wife so okay, go on and invent things, just be careful.

Hot and cold running water? Um…turns out that’s nice.

Irrigation on his ranchland? He liked that idea. 

I’m enjoying myself in that series, trying to write my way around the whole Casper, Wyoming debacle in my current Brothers in Arms series, and generally loving exploring history.

 

 

A special treat for Petticoats and Pistols readers.

Hearts Entwined ON SALE NOW. FOR $1.99

Hearts Entwined, a novella collection by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Melissa Jagears and Mary Connealy.

Click to Buy

Hearts Entwined

 

Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor.

In Karen Witemeyer’s “The Love Knot,” Claire Nevin gets the surprise of her life awaiting her sister’s arrival by train.

Mary Connealy’s “The Tangled Ties That Bind” offers the story of two former best friends who are reunited while escaping a stampede.

Regina Jennings offers “Bound and Determined,” where a most unusual trip across barren Oklahoma plains is filled with adventure, romance, and . . . camels?

And Melissa Jagears’ “Tied and True” entertains with a tale of two hearts from different social classes who become entwined at a cotton thread factory.

Each tale is a fun blend of history and romance that will delight readers.

Healing Machines. Work of an Eccentric? Or a Genius? By Pam Crooks

I recently read a fascinating story about an artist that once lived not far from me in the sandhills of Nebraska.  Emery Blagdon was born in 1907, the oldest of six children, and a farmer’s son.  He ended his education at a country school to work on the farm, but at age 18, he left home to drift around the country for ten years, riding the rails for adventure.

Once he returned home, however, he stayed home, surrounded by family. He never married, never had children.  He rarely bathed and wore his hair long, unusual for a man at the time, and donned baggy clothes that often needed laundering.  He chopped wood every day for heat, drew his water from a well, and grew all his own food.  Always a loner, his niece remembers him as being very kind, very gentle and quiet.  When his uncle died, leaving him the family’s 160-acre farm, Emery didn’t work the land but instead leased it, which provided him a modest income and allowed him to do what he loved best.

On the farm was a 800-square-foot shed that Emery devoted the next thirty years to making what he called “my pretties.”  He created metal sculptures using only what others called junk and a pair of pliers. Yet each creation, never measured, was symmetrical.  After the deaths of his parents, brother and sister from cancer, he hoped to heal people with the energy from his art.

Some called him crazy.  While the farm deteriorated from neglect, as did his personal appearance, neighbors couldn’t help but have reservations about him.  Yet inside the shed, which was practically falling apart around him, beams of light touched on bits of foil, wire, colorful beads, and ribbon.  Strings of blinking Christmas bulbs wound around the room.  Visitors report being light-headed, feeling overwhelmed, even out-of-breath.

Emery possessed books on science and physics yet depended on the elements for his energy fields, using ionic salts purchased from a pharmacy in North Platte, NE.  He befriended the pharmacist, and they became lifelong  friends.

Unfortunately, Emery succumbed to the cancer that took family members before him, and just as it seemed the healing machines he’d created to protect himself and others from illness would be dispersed and lost through an estate auction, his pharmacist friend bought the entire lot, including the shed, to preserve Emery’s works.

Over the course of several decades, Emery’s 600 ornate wire sculptures and 80 geometric paintings traveled the country and were eventually displayed in a New York gallery.  Pieces sold from $2,500 to $25,000. The remaining works, including the shed, was acquired by a foundation and donated to an art center in Wisconsin where they all remain today.

As far as the healing machines?  Did they really heal?  Well, they were indeed found to emit measurable electrical energy, but perhaps it was only the sheer rush of unexpected beauty that ripples through one’s body, giving him or her a dazzling hum of appreciation for Emery Blagdon’s passion.

Do learn more about Emery, you can watch a fascinating documentary about him:  http://netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/television/emery-blagdon-and-his-healing-machine

Have you ever known anyone who was a little odd? Crazy? Eccentric?

I can name several, but my favorite has to be the matronly elderly woman we all called the “Chicken Lady” in my hometown of North Platte.  I remember her still in her baggy coat and walking cane.  She truly seemed to love children and, eyes twinkling, always greeted them with loud squawks of “Bawk, bawk-bawk-bawk-BAWWKKK.”

I don’t recall ever hearing her talk normally to anyone, be it children or adults. Surely she knew words.  I don’t know – shrug – but I never knew if I should laugh or feel sorry for her.  One thing is certain, though.  I’ve never forgotten her!

The Battle of Glorieta Pass New Mexico, 1862 and a Give Away!

Hi, I’m Susan Page Davis. Last fall I was writing a novel set mostly in Colorado during the Civil War. Hmm. Did the war reach Colorado? I didn’t want it to be a war story as such, but the characters in my book, being upstanding US citizens, couldn’t ignore the conflict, could they?

Time for research. The hero’s family lived near Fort Lyon, and I soon learned the 1st Colorado Infantry took an active part in the war, including a major role in the Battle of Glorieta Pass.

The battle actually took place in New Mexico Territory, so as you can imagine, getting there was a major challenge. The Union forces marched from Denver a distance of 400 miles in fourteen days to Glorieta Pass, in the Sangre de Cristos mountains. That’s a lot of marching, especially in rugged territory.

Another challenge for me personally was to learn to spell Glorieta Pass with only one T. My fingers want to throw in an extra every time I write it.

Anyway, from March 26 to 28, 1862, Confederate forces under Major Charles Pyron and William Read Scurry battled Union forces led by Col. John P. Slough and Major John M. Chivington.

While the Confederates pushed the Union army back through the pass, they had to retreat when their supply train was destroyed. Instead of breaking the Union’s hold in the West, as the Confederates hoped, this battle signaled the Southern forces’ withdrawal from the New Mexico Territory.
While the battle is past when my story begins, my hero, Matt Anderson, was there. He was wounded, and he’s been recovering for nearly a year. He wants to go back to his company, which is stationed at Fort Lyon. His commanding officer decides he’s not ready, which is disappointing to Matt, but not to several other people in the story.

I could have sent Matt back East to other battles, but Glorieta Pass suited my story just fine. For one thing, it kept him in the West, and he was able to get home to his father’s ranch without a long delay. Since his outfit was stationed nearby, he went home to recuperate, not to a military hospital.

In the next book in the series, Matt’s brother will face battle east of the Mississippi. Jack wonders about his brother, but he and Matt haven’t seen each other for more than twenty years. And right now Jack has a lot of other things to think about, like how he can keep the Rebs from stealing his codebook, and how to escape a fiendish Southerner who thinks he should have been President of the Confederate States of America.

Do you like actual historical events as a story setting? Is so, do you think it adds a certain depth that the story wouldn’t have had otherwise? I will give an ebook copy or a print copy of The Rancher’s Legacy

Guideline rules apply – https://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules/

Here’s a little more about the book:

Matt Anderson’s father and their neighbor devise a plan: Have their children marry and merge the two ranches. The only problem is, Rachel Maxwell has stated emphatically that will never happen.

When Rachel finishes her education in the East and arrives in Colorado, Matt is tasked with retrieving her from the stagecoach. As they crest the hill overlooking the sprawling acreage, Rachel gets her first glimpse of her new home. Only it’s in flames and besieged by outlaws.

She soon learns her father was killed in the raid, shattering her life. Will she allow Matt to help her pick up the pieces?

Meanwhile in Maine, a sea captain’s widow, Edith Rose, hires a private investigator to locate three of her now-adult grandchildren who were abandoned by their father nearly 20 years ago. After weeks of investigation, Ryland Atkins believes he’s located the eldest—in Colorado Territory.

 

Amazon

Book 2, The Corporal’s Codebook, is scheduled to release in November.

Wedding Disasters

My new sweet contemporary romance, Lilac Bride, releases next week. 

It’s the story of a couple who gets engaged on Christmas Eve, plan the perfect wedding, then face one disaster after another when it comes to their upcoming nuptials.

I’ve heard so many horror stories about wedding plans gone awry. In-laws wreaking havoc. Grooms so nervous they drink too much the night before and can barely stand up at the wedding. Brides turning into crazed maniacs in the quest to have a picture-perfect wedding.

Cakes falling to the floor. 

Florists accidentally delivering sympathy flowers instead of the wedding bouquet. 

Torn dresses, lost dresses, dresses that don’t fit. 

If you can imagine it, some poor bride or groom has endured it. 

Writing the story made me think of my own glitch-plagued wedding. 

The first hitch in the plans happened when my mom came down with the flu two weeks before my wedding. There were approximately a gazillion tiny buttons that still needed to be sewn on my dress, along with dozens of details that weren’t quite finished. She and I had planned to make the wedding cake together. Only she was sick, and I was up to my eyeballs with work, wedding plans, and the holidays (not my best idea to get married a week before Christmas but it seemed soooooo romantic at the time). My mother-in-law called me at work and informed me her friend was going to make the cake and that’s all there was to it then hung up. Although her take-charge attitude bothered me at the time, I was so glad her friend made the cake for us. It turned out beautifully, and was tasty, too. 

Captain Cavedweller, and several members of both of our families, caught the same bug that Mom had and began dropping like flies. Helping hands were limited as we neared the big day. The friend I’d asked to play the piano for us backed out two days before the wedding. Fortunately, a lovely girl I worked with at the time offered to step in. 

My maid of honor had sent measurements for her dress, since she lived almost eight hours away at the time. Mom made it, and when my dear friend tried it on, it didn’t fit. At all. So Mom stayed up late frantically ripping seams and making adjustments. 

Somehow, we made it to the wedding rehearsal where my soon-to-be sister-in-law jokingly announced I was pregnant (which I wasn’t). CC was angry. I was livid. My parents were simultaneously shocked and appalled.  I remember standing in the foyer of the church and discussing if eloping was still on the table. For months after the wedding whenever we encountered someone from CC’s side of the attendees who didn’t know me well they would give me a strange look, since I obviously wasn’t pregnant, and inquire about the arrival of the baby.

The day of the wedding, things went along fairly smoothly until the ceremony. My uncle was a county judge and we’d asked him to perform the ceremony. Except he got so nervous, he kept calling me by my sister’s name, and he bungled CC’s last name. When he announced the bride and groom at the end of the ceremony, instead of Shanna Hatfield, it came out Shelley Hathaway. Everyone in the crowd gasped in disbelief, which is evident on the video of our wedding. With all the air that was sucked in at that moment, it was lucky some of the decorations weren’t caught up in the vacuum. 

The wedding was held upstairs in an old church. The reception took place in the basement. On the way down the stairs, the heel broke off my never-before-worn satin wedding heels, leaving me to clomp the rest of the way down the stairs to our waiting guests like a peg-legged pirate. 

By the time we left for our honeymoon hours later, it was evident the flu I’d so carefully avoided catching caught up to me. 

I laugh about all the disasters now. When people ask if there is anything I would do differently about my wedding, I always answer the same: “I’d change everything but the groom!” 

 

In Lilac Bride, Kaden and Katherine endure any number of trials and tribulations when it comes to their wedding plans.  One of the many issues that popped up included their invitations. 

I thought you might enjoy reading a little snippet:

Thoughts of her kisses left him so distracted, he almost ran the drone into a tree. He guided it back toward the barn, then noticed Colt riding one of the horses he was training down the driveway. His brother rode out to the mailbox, gathered the mail, then started back. He was halfway to the house when he kicked the horse into a run and raced toward the barn, waving something over his head.

“Kade! Get down here! Hurry!” He could hear the alarm in Colt’s voice, even from his perch on the barn’s widow’s walk.

Kaden landed the drone, gathered his things, then rushed down the narrow staircase. He’d just reached the bottom when Colt burst into the barn.

“It’s so bad, Kade. She’s going to freak.” Colt waved an envelope and what appeared to be an invitation in his face.

“Who’s going to freak?” Kaden asked, setting his things on a workbench. He brushed his hands on his jeans before taking the pristine piece of creamy cardstock in his fingers and looking at a wedding invitation. His and Katherine’s wedding invitation. He knew she’d been able to get the reception address changed at the last minute and paid extra to have the invitations shipped to the guests from the print shop.

Watercolor lilacs swept across the upper left and lower right corners of the invitation, accented with sage-colored leaves and delicate gold edging. An elegant font announced the wedding and invited guests to attend the ceremony and reception. He glanced at the date to make sure it was correct, then looked at his brother. “It looks good.”

Colt appeared shocked. He tapped the card in Kaden’s hand, pointing to the first line of type. “Did you read it, you idiot?”

Kaden’s gaze dropped back to the invitation, and he quickly read each word. His eyes widened as his jaw dropped open.

He glanced up at Colt as trepidation seeped into every fiber of his being. “She is so going to freak.”

~*~

Lilac Bride releases February 25, but you can pre-order your copy today!

~*~

What about you?

Do you have any wedding disaster stories to share?

Post your comment for a chance to win an eBook copy of Lilac Bride!

Please Welcome MK McClintock and a Give Away!

The Four Seasons of The Healer of Briarwood

with MK McClintock

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.

SpringRachel

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.

 

 

Summer—Katharine

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.

Autumn—Finn

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.

Winter—Elizabeth

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.

Buy Links

E-Book: Kindle

Paperback: Amazon ~ B&N ~ Large Print ~ IndieBound ~ Bookshop.org ~ BAM!

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/kDUreawijNQ

Early New Mexico – by Guest Janice Cole Hopkins

 

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.

You can check out Janice’s books HERE

Fort Worth Facts

I recently moved about 20 miles away from Fort Worth. I’m excited to discover more about this epic historical town, and will, the minute it’s safe to do so. 

I’m putting together a list of little known places I want to see, and I thought I’d share it with you, in case you ever visit (this may even entice you to!)

  • Jesus BBQ – This quaint shoebox on South Main has been in business since 1969. A sign hangs over the sidewalk – “Jesus BBQ and Mexican Food.” The reviewer loved it.
  • Pick Your Own Strawberries 3010 S. Bowen Road, Arlington Pay $10, get a 1-pound strawberry basket and spend a sunny day picking strawberries. Better get there early as sometimes the berries are picked over before closing.

  • The Blue Hole, Dinosaur Valley State Park 1629 Park Road 59, Glen Rose

  • The swimming hole in Dinosaur Valley State Park offers visitors a chance to cool off in 20-feet-deep clear water surrounded by 100 million-year-old fossilized dinosaur tracks. Before you go, check out the Texas Parks & Wildlife website to learn how to map nearby dinosaur tracks because some may be hard to find.

  • Ayres Cemetery2500 Block of Scott Avenue 

    A tiny, antiquated cemetery hides one block off Interstate-30 in a motel parking lot in East Fort Worth. Crumbling gravestones tell a story of one of Fort Worth’s first families. Nestled next to a few of the gravestones are markers indicating that some were citizens of the Republic of Texas, which ended in 1846. The last time someone was buried in this family lot was in 1955. The Ayres Cemetery remains as a symbol of the area’s early settlers.

  • Bonnie and Clyde Shooting Dove Road, Just East of Hwy. 114

    This power couple frequented North Texas reportedly because relatives lived here. However, their career as robbers and gangsters slowed and halted when they played a part in killing several Texas patrolmen near Grapevine.

  • Northside Street Art Intersection of 21st and Roosevelt streets

    An enraged gorilla sits on the side of a nondescript building in an otherwise colorless part of town at the corner of 21st Street and Roosevelt. The artist is unknown.

  • The Stockyards – Lots to do there:
    • Cowtown Opry
    • Fort Worth Herd Cattle Drive
    • Mechanical Bull
    • Cowboy Hall of Fame
    • Cattlemen Maze
    • Filthy McNasty’s Saloon

I don’t know about you, but I love the quirky, the obscure, the unknown. I plan to visit several of these places!

Have you ever been to Fort Worth?  

The Grand Canyon

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  According to my This Day In History calendar, today marks the 113th anniversary of the day Teddy Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument. I myself have visited the park twice, once in 2012 and once in 2017, and can personally attest to the fact that the word awesome fails to do it justice. 

You can find accounts and photos from those trips at the these two links:

LINK:   My First Trip To The Southwest

LINK:   My Second Trip To Southwest

 

And here are some trivia and fun facts about the Grand Canyon.

  • The park is massive in size.
    • To give you some idea of its scale, here are some various types of measurements:
      • It’s 1,904 square miles (1.2 million acres) – the state of  Rhode Island is only around 1,212 square miles.
      • The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and 18 miles wide at its widest point. And at its narrowest point it stretches 4 miles. However that’s less than a fifth of the Colorado River’s total length of 1,450 miles,
    • Though it’s only about 10 miles as the crow flies between the North and South rim visitor services centers, there are 211 road miles and takes more than four hours to drive from one to the other.
    • Though the Colorado River has a maximum depth of 85 feet, it drops in elevation nearly 2000 ft as it travels through the Grand Canyon.

  • One really cool thing about the Grand Canyon is that it actually creates its own weather.
    • From the highest points at the rim of the canyon to its lowest point, the temperature can change by more than 25 degrees. That’s because sudden changes in elevation have tremendous impacts on temperature and precipitation. So whatever weather you’re experiencing could be very different based on your actual location in the park. The coldest, wettest weather station in the region is on the north rim at the Bright Angel Ranger Station while 8 miles away at the depths of the gorge near Phantom Ranch, is where the hottest and driest can usually be found.

  • The canyon is full of hidden caves.
    While only the Cave of Domes is open to the public there are an estimated 1,000 caves within the canyon itself and only 335 have been recorded.

  • Depending on how one measures size (length, depth, width, etc) there are several other canyons that are larger, among them are the Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru, the Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal and the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in Tibet. 

 

  • There is some debate about the age of the Grand Canyon.
    For a long time scientists believed the Colorado River started carving out the canyon six million years ago. Then, in 2012, a study theorized this erosion process may actually go back 70 million years ago.
    It’s also believed that it’s likely that today’s Grand Canyon began as a number of smaller canyons but the scope of today’s canyon didn’t start taking its current shape until more recently.

  • Even though the Grand Canyon is fossil rich, you won’t find any dinosaur fossils among them. What you will find, however, includes diverse specimens that include ancient marine fossils from over 1 billion years ago as well as more recent land mammals that left their remains in canyon caves about 10,000 years ago.

  • The Grand Canyon offers one of the most visible examples of a worldwide geological phenomenon known as the Great Unconformity. The Great Unconformity refers to the fact that rock layers  that are estimated to be 250 million years old unaccountably sit directly on rocks that are 1.2 billion years old. It is a complete mystery as to what happened to the hundreds of millions of years of layers that should lie between them. 

  • The Canyon boasts about 91 species of mammals, 447 species of birds, 58 species of reptiles and 18 species of fish only five of which are native.
    • Several of these species are endangered, including the peregrine falcon, the California condor, the bald eagle, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the Ridgway’s rail, the humpback chub, the razorback sucker, and a species of snail, the Kanab ambersnail. There are also number of endangered plants that can be found there.
    • One interesting reptile, the Grand Canyon Pink Rattlesnake can only be found in the Grand Canyon. It’s one of six rattlesnake species that can be found in the park. The snake’s unusual color is an adaptation that allows it to blend into the surrounding rocks which makes it extra surprising when someone actually catches a glimpse of one.
    • Surprisingly though, even though the Grand canyon is home to dangerous animals such as snakes, Gila Monsters and big horn sheep, if you look at actual attacks on people, the most dangerous animal in the Grand Canyon is the innocuous-looking rock squirrel. Many visitors are bitten each year by this rodent than any other animal, many while trying to take selfies with or feed this “vicious” critter.

  • There are interesting facts around trying to hike the Grand Canyon
    • Believe it or not more people have walked on the moon than have actually completed a continuous length-wise hike through than Grand Canyon. 
    • Hiking the Grand Canyon is not for the casual hiker. A reasonably fit hiker takes four to five hours to trek from the South Rim to the Colorado River and, as to be expected, much longer to make the return trip.
    • The hiking records are interesting. The best known times to make it by foot from the South rim to the North rim and back for women is 7 hours, 28 minutes and 58 seconds and for men it’s  5 hours, 55 minutes and 20 seconds.
    • Trying to hike this area when you aren’t adequately prepared can have serious consequences. About 250 people have to be rescued from inside the Grand Canyon on average every year. According to park rangers, one of the biggest mistake many hikers make is to not carry enough water with them. Of course underestimating the effort involved and their own fitness to undertake the effort plays a part as well.

  • It’s been shown that the air at the Grand Canyon is among the cleanest air in the United States.

  • Like a sculptor, the Colorado River, along with other environmental elements like win and precipitation, is still working on shaping the Grand Canyon, though this is being done at a pace that makes a snail look speedy.

  • The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) owes its existence to the Grand Canyon. Apparently it was common in the 1950s for commercial planes to take detours that  routed them over the ark to give their passengers some breathtaking views. Unfortunately, in 1956, two  planes collided with tragic results – there were no survivors. As a result the federal government moved to create the FAA. 
  • Seven years after the Grand Canyon was established as a national park, 37,745 visitors were counted. In 2019 they had 5.97 million visitors, making it second only to Great Smoky Mountains National Park as the most visited national park.

  • Did you know the Grand Canyon National Park has a physical address? It’s 20 South Entrance Road, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023.    However, if you want to send mail thee, the park’s mailing address is P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

There’s a whole lot more I could tell you but this is probably enough for one post.

So was there anything in this list that surprised you? Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon yourself? What were your impressions?

Guest Julie Lessman and a Give Away!

Dun-Dun-Dun-Dun-Dun-Dun-Bonanza!

Howdy, Everybody! My name is Julie Lessman, and I’m wondering if anybody remembers the above musical intro to the hit Western TV series back in the day, Bonanza? Probably not, because I’m pretty old, but it was a staple in our household growing up and not just in ours either. Bonanza is ranked No. 43 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, and the 2013 TV Guide included it in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time, still in syndication today.

So … why am I talking about an almost 60-year-old TV show? Well, despite the fact I’m primarily known as an Irish family saga author with novels set during the early 1900s on both coasts, one day I had this Western series percolating in my brain so strong I could smell the chicory coffee. Next I know, the dad-burned thing caught on fire like the Ponderosa map at the beginning of every Bonanza episode.

It’s called The Silver Lining Ranch Series, and it’s the story of two suffragists from New York, a godmother and her goddaughter, who fall in love with confirmed bachelor ranchers in Virginia City, Nevada (where Bonanza was set) from 1868 till the 1890s. This is an absolutely fascinating era on the heels of the transcontinental railroad and the discovery of the Comstock Lode silver mine upon which Virginia City was built. 

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that writing a Western scared the pejeebers outta me because, well, to be honest, I was intimidated by so many wonderful Western authors I love like Mary Connealy, Karen Witemeyer, Winnie Griggs, Kit Morgan, and Margaret Brownley, most of which—gulp—are part of this amazing blog!

But once I got into the fascinating research—like the Transcontinental Railroad, which lots of Irish workers helped build (YAY!) and Virginia City, which numbered as many as 115 saloons in its heyday (BOO!), I knew I found a home in the Wild West!

So I’m a-lookin’ to give away some books today, including my latest Western release, Love’s Silver Bullet, which is book 2 in the Silver Lining Ranch Series. Now, to give you the flavor of this novel, my talented artist hubby created a realllllly cool VIDEO/TRAILER that also features pix of my grandchildren, so I hope you check it out.

And if you do and send me an email via my Contact Julie tab on my website telling me where the heroine, Sheridan Donovon, went to school, I will send you a FREE E-COPY of the prequel novel to this series, For Love of Liberty

Have you ever run across some interesting tidbit in history that you wanted to learn more about?

Here’s a sneak peek of my series:

A Match Made in Heaven?
Or Someplace a Whole Lot Warmer?

She’s stubborn, educated, and looking
to give women the vote.
He’s bullheaded, successful, and looking
to give her a piece of his mind.
But when things heat up, they just may give each other
a piece of their hearts.

 

 

Next, here’s a gander at book 1 in the series, Love’s Silver Lining:

She tampers with his life.
He tampers with her heart.
Love tampers with them both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, my new release, Love’s Silver Bullet:

She’s targeting his love.
He’s aiming to steer clear.
Till true love picks them off
in a bull’s-eye of the heart

 

GIVEAWAY!

In addition to my video/trailer giveaway mentioned above, I am ALSO giving away winner’s choice of the entire Silver Lining Ranch series in e-book OR a signed paperback of her choice of one of the novels in the series. So leave a comment, and you’re automatically in the draw!

Hugs and GOOD LUCK!

Julie