The Fillies give a big welcome to Janice Cole Hopkins. She’s a long-time P&P follower and a lover of history as well as historical western romance. Janice writes her own books many of which are series! Now that’s a big Yee-Haw!
As wagon trains began making the trek west, more of the West opened to settlers. The midwestern states were once the frontier to be settled. However, the discovery of gold in California and the rich, fertile land in Oregon brought larger numbers.
To help protect the pioneers against hostile Indians and to give them a trading post along the way, forts were built. Forts Laramie, Bridger, and Hall in what is now Wyoming were constructed of logs, mostly cottonwood. Fort Kearney in Nebraska was built using adobe, sod, logs, and boards. Fort Boise in Idaho first used adobe. Travelers were excited to visit a fort and break the austere, often monotonous life on the trail. Yet, they found the prices outrageous because it cost to transport the goods there.
In my new release, A Few Bumps in the Road, Judith Johnson takes her younger brother and travels along a portion of the Oregon Trail to Kansas as a mail-order bride after their parents die. She meets her intended and his brother at Fort Ferguson, a fictitious fort based on most of the others I researched. Her husband, although handsome and charming, turns out to be a womanizer and has a drinking problem. Judith is determined to make her marriage work, however, and she keeps telling herself her situation could be worse. At least Calvin’s older brother is stable and responsible, providing a home for all of them on the farm. But farm life on the prairie can be hard in 1850, and Calvin’s attitude makes the struggles even worse. But she knew one thing. After the harsh conditions on the Oregon Trail, she never planned to go back, and she hadn’t even gone all the way to Oregon like most of the others were doing.
Although A Few Bumps in the Road is part of the Idioms & Clichés series, like all my books, it can also be read as a standalone. These books are loosely connected by one family’s generations. It is available in print, Audible, and Kindle.
Here’s an excerpt:
Judith’s eyes began to sweep around the fort when she saw a tall man striding their way. Despite his long steps he didn’t appear to be in any hurry to get there.
Mr. Davis took a few steps forward to meet him and extended his hand. Robbie followed Mr. Davis, so Judith did too.
“Good to see you again,” Mr. Davis said. “Allow me to present to you Miss Judith Johnson and her brother Robert, better known as Robbie. Miss Johnson, this is Matthew Miller.”
A momentary flash of surprise flickered over Matthew’s face, but he tipped his hat and nodded. “A pleasure, Miss. Welcome, Robbie. I hope you both will be very happy here.”
She looked around wondering where Calvin could be. She didn’t see another man who fit what she knew of her fiancé.
“Cal woke up not feeling well and needed some extra time. He sent me on out to meet you, but he should be coming along soon.” Matthew must have seen her search.
“I hope nothing’s wrong.”
“No, we came into the fort yesterday evening. Cal woke up with a headache and queasy stomach this morning.”
Judith’s worry deepened, but she didn’t say anything.
“Come and we’ll go over to the building they use for a church. Cal will meet us there.”
You can read more of A Few Bumps in the Road in the Amazon sample and get more information by clicking here.
If anyone would like a free code for an Audible copy for A Few Bumps in the Road, message me on Facebook or email me at email@example.com. (You must have the free Audible account activated to redeem the code.)
For a chance to win a Kindle copy of A Few Bumps in the Road, what do you think would be ONE of the biggest hazards to living on the Kansas frontier in 1850?
Good Morning (or afternoon or evening) and welcome to another terrific Tuesday. Well, I have some good news. I hope you’ll find it good news. My very first book ever, LAKOTA SURRENDER, which has been out of print for 26 years, is now going back into print. At present it’s only in e-book format, but soon (very soon, I hope), it will be released once again in paperback for the first time in 26 years. It’s a big deal for me. Lots of editing (once again) to hopefully make it a tighter book. The story line hasn’t changed at all, it’s only that it’s a bit of a tighter book, I think. Here’s the cover.
I love this cover. As I was doing the final look through on the edits, I had at the same time just received the cover for the first time. It blew me away. What do you think?
So I’ll be giving this e-book as a gift to one of you bloggers today who leave a message, so do leave a message, if you please. So, with this book newly out in print (hopefully soon), I thought I’d post the blurb and an excerpt. Hope you enjoy.
25th Anniversary Edition, publishing November 1, 2019
Lakota, Book 1
As she travels west to join her cavalry officer father at his Kansas outpost, Kristina Bogard eagerly anticipates new adventures—and her first glimpse of wild Indians. She has long dreamed of flashing black eyes, skin-covered lodges and buckskin and leather.
What she finds in Fort Leavenworth, though, is a far cry from her Indian nanny’s thrilling stories. What few natives she’s encountered have been broken shadows of their proud past. All except one. A handsome warrior who stands tall and proud. A warrior who stirs up an entirely new set of dreams and emotions for Kristina.
Tahiska can’t take his eyes off the green-eyed beauty whose graceful hands are fluent in his native sign language. But he can’t afford to let anything distract him from avenging his father, who was murdered by two white soldiers.
Though anger fills his mind, Kristina steals into his heart, igniting a wildfire passion that must remain their desperate secret. For soon comes the day of reckoning, when justice will be served…or a travesty will shatter their love.
This is the 25th Year Anniversary Edition of this book
Warning: Sensuous romance for the romantic at heart
July 4, 1833
The sun had scarcely been up an hour. The grass was still glistening with dew. The scents of early morning and of breakfast permeated the air.
Kristina brushed her forearm over her brow, her hand gripping the musical tuning fork. She was glad she had already consumed her morning meal. This tuning of the piano was requiring more time then she had anticipated. Soon the fort would come alive with soldiers and traders. She would like to have the piano tuned before it became too crowded.
She was seated at the instrument in the open air, on an erected, foot-high platform. As with most young women her age, Kristina had been taught music at a young age. But, while others played only at small, quiet gatherings, Kristina openly defied convention and played with the cavalry band.
The piano had been moved out of the church last night and set here at the head of the main courtyard, but she’d had little opportunity to tune it last evening. Besides, she had justified to herself, it was better to let the piano sit overnight. The adjusting might hold better.
She worked as quickly as she could. Because it was the Fourth of July, there would be a grand celebration today and the piano was needed to fill in with the band, not only for the raising of the flag, but also for the party afterwards.
She glanced toward the sun in irritation. Already she was warm and the day had just barely started.
She leaned over the instrument, played a middle C, then a C one octave higher, turning the wooden peg until she was pleased with the sound. She hit the tuning fork once again and struck the two notes. Satisfied, she advanced to C sharp.
The sound echoed through the fort, creating a hollow twang whose eerie song had never before been heard by the three pairs of Indian ears.
Tahiska and his two companions were awake and alert long before the sun became a red orb in the eastern sky. The journey to the soldier fort took usually a full moon, but the three young warriors, anxious for revenge, had traversed the distance in three weeks, changing mounts often, traveling into the night and sleeping little.
Tahiska’s heart was saddened still, and, though anger coursed through his veins, he couldn’t deny that there was an excitement about this day that eluded him. Perhaps he would meet his own death today. Perhaps. But he did not think so. A premonition stirred his soul; a feeling that an undertaking of importance was to happen today. He knew it. He could feel it. He had sensed it even as he had hunted and eaten a breakfast of berries and fresh meat. Yes, today was a good day.
The three young warriors had prepared themselves earlier in the morning and had washed in a creek close by, praying to Wakan Tanka, the God of all, for courage and bravery in the face of an enemy they had yet to meet.
Tahiska had formulated his plans well. He did not intend to wage his war against the entire fort. Though his emotions urged him to kill any white person available for atonement, his personal ethic would not allow him to commit such an immoral act. And, he schooled himself to think clearly. He would kill the two who had committed the crime and none else. Such was the courtesy he would show the white man. So it was for this reason that he and his friends would not wear the customary war paint into the fort. Only after he had singled out the two murderers would he prepare for battle.
No, first he would meet with their chief and ask for the murderers to be turned over to his own party. If this failed, and he had no way of anticipating the actions of the white people, he had other plans.
They dressed this day for council, not for war, and, leaving their horses hobbled in their camp, they made their way to the fort on foot. They stood outside the gates, awaiting entry.
They were, each one, dressed richly in elk and deerskins. Their shirts were made of delicate, soft leather, each one fringed and decorated with ornamental porcupine quills. Their leggings were fringed and fell to their moccasins, which in their own turn were adorned with beads and colorful quills. Slung horizontally across their backs were their bows, quivers, and shields. Their lances they held in their hands. While his two friends were dressed in tan, Tahiska was wearing white, and, when the white man acknowledged their presence, it was Tahiska to whom the soldiers addressed their inquiries.
But the white man’s tongue was strange, and only through a long dissertation of repeated signs was Tahiska able to tell the white soldiers that he and his party had come to speak with the fort’s chief. While Tahiska was stunned to learn that the soldiers were in ignorance of the language of hand signs, which was so common and well known on the plains, good manners kept his scorn carefully hidden.
They waited for permission to enter the fort. To an outsider their expressions would seem dour, but courtesy forbid them to show any emotion; their anger, even their contempt at being kept waiting in the ever-increasing heat of the day, was shrouded behind their eyes. They stood patiently, not making a move at all.
It was more than an hour later that the strange notes carried over the garrison walls. The sound was eerie, mysterious, and the Indians began to wonder if Wakan Tanka had heard their prayers this day.
As was the custom at the fur company, so too, at the fort, the Indians’ weapons were placed in an arsenal. Tahiska demanded, and was allowed, possession of his bow. Tahiska sought out the soldiers in the white man’s building and was at last able, through painfully crude sign language, to convey to the soldiers that he desired a council with the white man’s chief. Just as crudely and with great deliberation, the white soldiers told the Indians to return when the sun was at its zenith. Today was the Fourth of July, a holiday. The white chief could see them no sooner. The Indians nodded understanding and turned to leave.
As they strode back into the sun, Tahiska quickly scanned the fort. It took only a second, but his practiced gaze missed nothing—the two women to his right, one hundred yards away; the three soldiers, each carrying one firestick and a long knife; the two guards parading the planks of the garrison walls, each armed with one firestick and another long knife. He sized up the men as opponents, observed that there was no other exit but the gate they had just entered through, and wondered at the buildings along the road. The area around him was practically deserted, though there were sounds of movement elsewhere within the fort.
Tahiska was astounded at the late hour in which the fort commenced to do business. Had he been at home, he could already have hunted for himself and another family. But his thoughts were not revealed on his face, his expression guardedly blank.
There it was again. That sound. The eerie song they had heard over the fort’s walls that morning. It shrieked through the morning air, its sound more disturbing than the cry of a raven. Tahiska’s gaze searched the sky for the cause, but he could see nothing. He had no indication his medicine was bad this day, yet this melody made him uneasy.
“Spread out, investigate each tepee, each home,” Tahiska commanded, “Wahtapah, you on this side and you, Neeheeowee, on the other. I will see what sort of bird sings this song. I will see if it is good medicine or bad. When the sun is high, we meet here. Now go.”
Kristina sat at the piano bench, hunched over the instrument. She had one leg beneath her, one leg on the floor, and her skirts settled around her. The job of tuning the piano was almost done and she was feeling quite pleased with herself. Just two more octave notes and she was finished. She played one, then the other, turning the peg until she was satisfied. This done she moved farther down the piano and began to play a song.
An odd sensation swept over her skin, leaving goose bumps along her arms and a prickly feeling at the back of her neck. She played a few more notes, then cocked her head to the side, her peripheral vision catching a glimpse of a white-clad figure. Thinking her senses were playing tricks on her again, Kristina started to turn away when the clean scent of prairie grass caught at her breath. She stopped, her fingers in midair, as the earth beneath her seemed to reel. To counter the sensation she set both feet on the ground and spun around.
She had to look a long way up to meet the black eyes that were watching her intently. Her breath caught in her throat, and Kristina had to force herself to exhale. Perhaps, she decided, it would be best to stand.
Clutching the piano with her hands behind her, she stood, noting with a mixture of dread, plus an odd sort of excitement, that this Indian stranger stood a good head taller than she.
She stared into his face. He looked foreign, wild, and yet oddly familiar.
She tried to smile, but it was shaky. “Hello,” she tried.
He said nothing, his expression registering nothing, as well, and he looked her directly in the eye.
Kristina, unused to such open scrutiny, blushed, not understanding that he gazed at her so openly because he was uncertain if she were friend or foe. Where have I seen him before? Nervously, she wrung her hands, then gestured toward the piano. “I…I was just tuning it for the…ce…celebration today.”
His glance had left her eyes, was now roaming slowly, meticulously over the golden tan of her hair, the soft oval of her face, her nose, her lips, then downward toward her neck, stopping at the material of her gown as it clung to her shoulders.
His gaze jerked back to hers. Quickly he signed a greeting and Kristina visibly relaxed, for she knew this language well.
She moved her hands, motioning a response, but also asking, “Where are you from—what tribe?”
He didn’t answer, but instead trod to her side, next to the piano.
Kristina noted several things about him all at once: the fluid way he moved, as though it took no effort; the lone tooth dangling from a leather cord around his neck; the beaded earrings hanging from both earlobes, giving him not an air of effeminacy as one would have expected, but a sense of potent strength. His hair was quite long, reaching way past his shoulders, and Kristina was startled to note that it did not detract from his allure. He was probably the most handsome man she’d ever seen.
“What is this?” he signed, indicating the piano. He hadn’t looked at her, but when he turned back to her, catching her scrutiny of him, Kristina felt so embarrassed she couldn’t control the flush that warmed her face. Realizing her cheeks were awash with color, she averted her gaze.
“It’s a piano,” she stated, stumbling over what to sign in reply, finally settling for “song-maker.” “Pi-a-no,” she repeated, pointing to it.
She pressed down on a key; then another and another.
“See, when you finger it, it sings.” She attempted another uncertain smile. “Here, I’ll show you.”
She invited him with gestures to tap a key, but he was not cooperative, and his face revealed no expression whatsoever.
“Here.” She touched his hand. At the contact a sudden tremor shot up her arm, causing her to gasp.
She pulled back, her eyes darting up to his, but she couldn’t easily read his thoughts. His stare was unwavering, and she wondered if she were the only one who had felt it—the shock.
He silenced her with a sign.
Neither one spoke. Neither one moved. And, for a moment, a short space of time, she felt her world stop.
The sun beat down its warmth upon them, and its tawny rays caught a fiery red highlight in his hair, reminding her of fire and passion. All at once, Kristina thought she might burst.
She turned away, but this time, he reached out toward her. It was a light graze, lasting only a moment, its intent clearly to keep her from leaving. A simple gesture. That’s all it was. Yet Kristina felt a jolt all through her body.
He motioned her to sit.
She complied, almost without thinking.
“Sing,” he motioned.
“Sing?” she asked aloud.
He gestured towards the keys, signing again, “Sing.”
“Oh, I see. You want me to play.” She fingered the keys lightly, not pressing down on them. “Like this?”
With one hand, he motioned, ”Yes.”
She played then, her attention not on the notes, but rather on the man who stood at her side. Without thought, her hands moved over the cool, ivory keys in the haunting melody of Pachelbel’s “Canon”; Kristina closed her eyes, trying to concentrate on what she was doing, not on the virile Indian watching her intently. It made no difference. Every other sense she had was alerted to him, from the clean scent of him to the muffled sound of his soft, white-bleached clothing as he moved.
Moved? Kristina played the last note and opened her eyes to find the Indian not at her side as she had thought, but in front of her, the height of the piano between them. She gazed up at him, over the piano, catching a look in his eye that might have been—admiration? She couldn’t be sure because it was so quickly gone that she wondered if she had only imagined it.
“Kristina,” Julia exclaimed, bursting onto the scene. “Come quickly. There’s news that…there’s…” Julia’s words gradually slowed. “That…there…are wild Indians… Kristina, I think you’ve discovered this for yourself.”
“Yes,” Kristina said. She glanced down as she rose from the piano. She had to get away. She wasn’t sure what had happened to her just now and she needed time alone to consider it. Without stopping to think, she quickly signed a good morning to the Indian, smiled unsteadily in his direction, and dashed toward Julia. The tingling sensation at the back of her neck told her the Indian’s gaze had never left her.
What had happened? Why did he look so familiar?
Well, that’s it for now. Please do leave a message and let me know what you think about the cover and also about the excerpt. But most of all, have a beautiful day.
I have scurried down many rabbit holes in my research so that my books set in western Kansas are historically accurate. Rivers, native fish, agriculture, Native Americans, sod houses, native birds and wildlife, cattle drives and cattle breeding are a handful of these “holes.” The internet is a big help in fact-finding, but my-oh-my do I get lost at times and surface just before it is time to prepare supper for my family!
For my next book in the Oak Grove Series, I’ve had to do some research into homesteading on the prairie.
The early inhabitants of Oak Grove, a fictional town set along the Smoky Hill River, lived in tents made from the canvas of their prairie schooners, but with the Kansas-Pacific Railroad now established all the way to Denver (1878), the small town was growing and wooden structures were springing up as the train brought supplies from the east and wood from the Rocky Mountains. The town prospered with the nearby stockyards that shipped cattle (up from the drives in Texas) to the miners in Colorado and to Chicago.
Homestead Act of 1862
However, some who lived out of town on 160 acres of their own, were farmers who’d come west with nothing but a dream to take advantage of the government’s Homestead Act of 1862. Requirements to own a plot of land by this means included:
Must be at least 21 years of age.
Must be a citizen or an immigrant with the intention of becoming a citizen.
Must pay a filing fee (usually at the Land Office in the nearest town where it was also determined that no one else had claimed that particular parcel of land.)
Must farm the land and live on it for five years before gaining the official deed to the property.
Must build a home within six months. (Requirements in some states included the minimum dimensions of the home, one glass window, and also building a well.)
On the open prairie, it seemed that all weather was extreme. On arriving, many of the “sod busters” began by building a small dugout into the side of hill, just to escape the relentless wind, sun, snow and rain. Since there were no trees or large stones for construction material, the settlers would use their mules, oxen, or horses, and a special plow to cut rectangles of sod, 18” x 24” (weight = 50 pounds) to use as “bricks” for their home. These would be set so that the roots could grow and intermingle into the next row of sod, creating a very strong wall.
The base of a soddie was wide and the walls would then taper inward slightly to allow for settling. Most had a dirt floor, but later a puncheon or plank flooring might be used. On the inside, the walls would be plastered with mud to create a smooth appearance. Open windows were covered with oil cloth. A fireplace for cooking would take up one wall of the house.
The roof caused the most concern in the building process. Wooden poles, laid across the rim of the sod house, were then overlaid with bundles of brush. On top of the brush, more sod blocks were placed. Dirt clods dropping form the roof was a problem as well as other insects and an occasional snake. If the sod became too wet after a hard rain it could cave in. Every few years, depending on the severity of the weather, the roof would have to be replaced. Structures had one to three rooms and were surprisingly very snug and warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
With all the difficulties they had to face, the years of too much or too little rain for their crops, less than 50 percent of homesteaders achieved the five-year requirement and acquired the deed to their land. Those who did not, went back home or traveled further west. Although most homesteaders consisted of a husband and wife and often children, a single woman or widow could also homestead and work to own the land. Once source reported that single and widowed women made up to 12 percent of the men and women homesteading in the Rocky Mountain area.
From 1862 to 1900 over 600,000 claims to homestead were filed. The Homestead Act ended in 1976 for the contiguous 48 states and in 1986 for Alaska.
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Learning these facts helped me form the basis of my fictional character’s life on the prairie. I was worried that the land would not be hers after her husband died, but was gratified to know she could hold on to it and it would be there for her son, and her son’s son if he chose that same life. That is why she fights for it so fiercely. The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, a western historical romance, won’t be available for a few more months, but it is available for pre-order here ~ [ Amazon ]
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I doubt that I would have lasted six months living in a sod house! The bugs falling from the roof would have been too much for me! What, for you, would have been the most difficult part of life in a soddie?
Comment to be entered into a drawing to receive my latest release ~ Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove!
I am working on a series of historical western romances for Harlequin that take place in the fictional town of Oak Grove in Logan County in northwest Kansas. The town is situated just north of the Smoky Hill River which has so many interesting stories about it that I wanted to share a few here.
The waters of the Smoky Hill River start in the high plains of eastern Colorado and flow east with many other rivers joining in, until it flows into and forms the Kansas River. From there the water flows into the Missouri River and then on to the Mississippi River.
For many years, Comanche, Sioux, Kiowa, and Arapaho tribes hunted extensively along the river before being forced out by encroaching settlers. Game was plentiful in the extensive grasslands and fish populated the river.
There are differing stories as to how the river got its name. The Plains Indians, depending on which tribe, called it CHETOLAH OR OKESSE-SEBO. The early English and French explorers called it the RIVER OF THE PADOUCAS. It has since become known as the SMOKY HILL RIVER.
George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938—naturalist, explorer, author, anthologist) said that the name came from a large grove of cottonwood trees along the river on the Kansas/Colorado state line. The trees were very tall and could be seen for miles from the flat grasslands. It is said they looked like a cloud of smoke. The place was a gathering place for many tribes to camp and barter and visit with each other. It was also a burial grounds and a place of refuge for the Indians under Black Kettle of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.
James R. Mead’s version differs slightly. He said that the river is named the Smoky Hill because of the buttes along the river, that when seen from afar appear hazy from smoke. James R. Meade was a trapper and trader in the area during the years of 1850 to 1860.
The Smoky Hill Trail used by the Native Americans along the river was the shortest, fastest route west across Kansas. In 1858, it was traveled by those heading to the goldfields of Colorado or beyond. The Native Americans did not want to relinquish the rich land and skirmishes with settlers followed. The army set up several forts along the river. A road followed, and then as more settlers came, a railroad. In 1870, the Kansas-Pacific Railway to Denver was completed.
The Smoky Hill River in the area of Logan County where my story takes place is only about three feet deep. Of course, this level changes dramatically depending on the rains and the melting snow. One bit of research I found interesting took place in 1868 when a drought plagued the plains and the river level was quite low. An immense herd of bison—hundreds of thousands of them (enough to cover a thirty-mile area)—came to the river to drink. The first bison were crowded out by the animals that followed, who in turn, were pushed out by those in the rear. It is said they drank the river dry!
I am collaborating with author, Lauri Robinson, in writing the stories of the people of Oak Grove. Laurie has the fortune of having lived in the area for a few years. Since I have never visited Logan County along the Smoky Hill River, I have had to lean on book and internet research of the area for my next three stories. If any of you have been there and have something you would like to add, suggest or correct—please comment! I have a feeling that I will only feel reassured of my information if I get a chance to visit the area myself. A road trip may just be in my future!
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LOUD & QUIET PERSONALITIES – BRINGING LIFE TO THE WILD WEST
While doing research for my upcoming late-August release BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK (book 2 in my Gambling Hearts series) about a Texas horseman and a Wild West trick-riding superstar, I was eager to delve into everything about 1800s show people including Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley who were the first American entertainers to gain superstardom.
BUFFALO BILL’S WILD WEST: the Greatest Show on Earth
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West ran from 1883 to 1913 and toured all across America including summer seasons on Stanton Island and winter ones at Madison Square Garden. The show also spent four years touring Europe and gave a command performance at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 at Windsor Castle.
THE PERSONALITIES/PERFORMERS: the Colonel and Little Missie
Colonel was an honorary title given to Cody by his many admirers including the top military men of his time. Little Missie was Cody’s name for Annie.
I struck research gold when I read a fantastic non-fiction book by Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry called The Colonel and Little Missie and found the following descriptions…
1. HOW THEY DIFFER: the Loud and the Quiet
Cody: “generous, gushing, in a hurry, incautious, often drunk, and almost always optimistic.”
Annie: “in manner Cody’s polar opposite…reserved, modest to the point of requiring a female embalmer (that she organized in advance of her death), so frugal that many of the troupers believed she lived off the lemonade that Cody and [show manager] Salsbury served free to all workers.”
2. HOW THEY’RE SIMILAR: for the Love of the Show
Cody and Annie were show people “through and through. Even after a bad car wreck, rather late in life, Annie once got onstage and danced a jig in her leg brace.”
ON WITH THE SHOW: History + Personality = Wild West Life
For book 2, BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK, I wanted to write about a character from book 1 in my series. In BETWEEN LOVE & LIES, my hero Noah Ballantyne is a Texas drover who arrives in Dodge City after completing a cattle drive with his friend and neighbor Lewis Adams.
THE QUIET (OR EASY-GOING) PERSONALITY: Lewis Adams – an honest Texas horseman
Buried deep beneath Lewis happy-go-lucky temperament was a territorial streak as wide as it was long. The only time Noah had witnessed Lewis’ anger was when someone threatened to take what belonged to him or those he cared about. (Noah describing Lewis in Book 1)
Who would be the most challenging woman for Lewis?
A woman who’s come to steal his land and add a lot of excitement to his easy-going life.
How could this woman steal his land?
She has a claim to it. She says she’s the previous owners’ long-lost daughter, Jane Dority, who vanished eighteen years ago while riding in a storm with her childhood best friend Lewis – who’s always felt responsible for Jane’s disappearance.
Why were they riding in a storm?
A medicine show with elixirs and acrobatic riders had entertained their community. Jane wanted to replicate one of their acts. Lewis wanted to learn to ride as well as Jane and impress his father so he’d let him join the ranch roundup.
THE LOUD (OR DAREDEVIL) PERSONALITY: Eldora Calhoun – a famous trick-riding superstar
So who is this woman who’s come to claim or steal (depending on your perspective) Lewis’ land?
A confident, well-travel, talented trick-riding superstar in the nation’s most popular Wild West show. She calls herself Eldorado Jane. Is she the long-lost Jane Dority? She might be something even better.
In a town ruled by sin, will he earn her love or her lies?
Dodge City, Kansas – 1877
Sadie Sullivan lost everything when a herd of longhorn cattle bound for Dodge City trampled and destroyed her farm. Now she works in Dodge—one of the most wicked and lawless towns in the West—at the Northern Star saloon. But her survival in this new world of sin and violence depends on maintaining a lie so deadly it could end her life before the town of Dodge can.
The one man capable of unraveling all of Sadie’s secrets is Noah Ballantyne, the Texan rancher whose herd destroyed her home. Back in town and taking up the role of deputy alongside legendary lawman Bat Masterson, Noah vows he won’t leave until he’s made things right. But with the saloon’s madam unwilling to release Sadie and a rich cattle baron wanting her as well, the odds aren’t in favor of finding love…or leaving town alive.
Who is Eldorado Jane? Long-lost friend or scheming superstar?
Texas Hill Country — 1879
Plain Jane Dority vanished while riding in a storm beside her childhood best friend. Eighteen years later, Wild West trick-riding superstar Eldorado Jane returns to claim her birthright: the Dority homestead now owned by the steadfast Texan who never forgot Jane or forgave himself for her disappearance.
Lewis Adams would give anything to see his friend come home, but he’s certain Eldorado Jane isn’t his Jane. So why does this mesmerizing woman—with the talent and fame to have anything she desires—want the small patch of land that he loves? There’s only one way to find out: accept a wager with a deceiver who holds the power to bring back his friend or break his heart. The outcome rests in her hands. Or does it?
Friendship. Betrayal. Blackmail. Eldorado Jane holds every card…except the one that matters most.
Giveaway!– Jacqui has three digital prizes lined up for our readers! Leave a comment for Jacqui and you’ll be entered to win. One winner will receive an e-copy of BETWEEN LOVE & LIES (Gambling Hearts series, book 1) and when it releases, two winners will each get an e-copy of BETWEEN HOME & HEARTBREAK (Gambling Hearts series, book 2).
Encouragement from an unexpected source set Barbara Ankrum’s romance-author’s feet on a new path. Help us welcome Barbara to Wildflower Junction.
By Barbara Ankrum
For years, I resisted the temptation to write a romance with a Native American protagonist. Frankly, I was scared to do it. I might get it wrong. Or, worse, insult someone! So I avoided it even though I longed to write one.
Then my daughter moved to Kansas.
On a visit, I took the grandkids to a cool little farmstead called Deanna Rose, and was surprised to find there a reproduction of a Kanza (tribe) mound lodge. From the outside, the mound looked like a tall, grass-covered hill with two tunnel-like doorways. Inside, it was a circular wood-braced lodge, 14’ high at the center with cottonwood tree trunk poles supporting the arched roof. Beds lined the walls all the way around the forty feet in diameter perimeter. In the center, a fire pit and a hole in the ceiling for smoke to escape.
The earthen walls were fourteen inches thick insulating the interior from the harsh Kansas summer sun. Outside, it was 3,000 degrees, (I jest—but it was Kansas in July!) But inside that mound it was a cool 70-something and I lingered.
A Native American docent started to chat with me about the structure and I asked a bunch of questions. The mounds are scarce—almost non-existent now, because they were nearly all destroyed by the Army in the Indian Wars, set ablaze and collapsed.
When I admitted I write historical romance and secretly always wanted to write a Native American hero, but didn’t have the nerve, this woman looks at me and says, “Why not?” And I was like, “Well, because I’m not Native American. I might not do their story justice.” This sweet woman laughed. “But you see,” she said, “You’d be telling their story, a story that might not be heard otherwise. A story that might never have a voice. You must write it.”
I was dumbfounded but profoundly affected by her words. Maybe I just needed a new perspective. If I did my best with it and gave it my heart and told the story that was calling me, then it might be enough. After all, isn’t that what writers do?
This woman’s off-handed encouragement was the jumping off point for THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS. Set Montana, my hero is a half-breed Cheyenne (okay, so I dipped my toe in!) and my heroine is a white schoolteacher he accidentally kidnaps and drags into the wilds of the Montana Mountains. It’s set in the post-Indian War devastation of the far West tribes and the systematic removal of the Native American children to white-run boarding schools.
And it turned out Essie was brave and maybe a little inspired by that docent’s words, too. When I got a really nice review from a Native American reader thanking me for not backing off the true story of the boarding schools, I could only smile and secretly thank that woman from Deana Rose.
You never know where encouragement will come from. You never know how your words will affect someone else. And you never know what you can do until you try.
I hope you’ll give THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS a read. Maybe it will inspire you to be brave about something in your own life. I think if we just remember that we bring our own heart to the things we do, we bring something to the table that no one else possibly could. And that’s more than enough.
Find The Ruination of Essie Sparks and Barbara’s other books at Amazon.
What is it you’d love to try, but have held back doing? Tell me and I will give away one e-copy of THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS to one lucky commenter.
I’ve been asked by a few people why I chose Lecompton, Kansas, to be the setting of my second book, and the simple answer is: my publisher, Rebecca Vickery at Western Trailblazer, asked for a follow-up effort. I was not planning on writing a second novel, figuring on being a one-and-done author after Borrowed Guns, so when asked for a new effort featuring the same two main characters, I balked by saying I didn’t have any ideas for a story. This was the truth as I am not a very imaginative person, and I also made it clear at the end of the first book there were no further adventures involving the two.
Rebecca then suggested taking an incident mentioned in Borrowed Guns, and making a short story out of it (does a hundred and fifty-five thousand words qualify as short?), featuring one of the characters. Lucky for me, I set that event twenty years earlier in the historically important city of Lecompton, just south of a rowdy little town called Rising Sun.
Rising Sun completely disappeared from the Kansas landscape within a few decades of its founding, unlike the more politically significant city of Lecompton across the Kansas River to its south, which has endured until this day. With the population hovering around six-hundred in 2014, Lecompton is still a proud little town, never having forgotten the major role it played in precipitating the election of Abraham Lincoln, in turn leading to the secession of the southern states, and ultimately, the Civil War.
Following the opening of Kansas Territory, scores of Northerners and Southerners flooded the area in attempt to promote their ideological vision for the future state. Lecompton was the first official capital of the Kansas Territory and was originally founded as a pro-slavery settlement, boasting two newspapers, both in favor of making Kansas a slave state. By 1855, enough Missourians had crossed the border to illegally vote in a pro-slavery legislature which took up residence in Lecompton. Abolitionists in Topeka answered this chicanery by drawing up their own free-state constitution for Kansas, but President Franklin B. Pierce threw his support behind Lecompton, declared the Topeka government in rebellion and rebuked the Topeka constitution, ending its debate in the Senate.
Basking in Pierce’s support, Lecompton legislators drafted their own pro-slavery constitution and submitted it to a vote by the populace in 1857. To make certain it passed, the ballot box was again stuffed with pro-slavery votes from residents of Missouri who crossed the border to vote. The trickery was discovered when an informant saw the candle box containing the fraudulent ballots being buried by two legislative clerks. Upon investigation by the sheriff, it was later found, and a legitimate election was scheduled to be held. Two other constitutions were proposed prior to the new vote, with the free-state constitution winning the election, and all three sent to Washington to be debated on by Congress.
It was during this debate that the fight mentioned in the South of Rising Sun broke out on the House of Representatives floor. President James Buchanan, a pro-slavery advocate, urged the legislators to adopt the original Lecompton Constitution, but it was eventually by-passed in favor of the free-state constitution, paving the way for Kansas to enter the Union as a non-slavery state in January of 1861.
The Lecompton Constitution was mentioned thirteen times in the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates of the 1858 Illinois senatorial campaign. Democrat Stephen Douglas, who ran for president against Abraham Lincoln in 1860, refused to support the Lecompton constitution when it was being debated in Congress, arguing that the citizens of each territory should be allowed to decide the slavery issue by their own vote. Douglas’s outright refusal to support the Lecompton Constitution so enraged Southern Democrats that they split from their Northern counterparts and ran their own candidate for president against Lincoln and Douglas. In addition, a fourth candidate entered the race, and with the vote split four ways, Lincoln won the election with only thirty-three percent of the vote, and the rest became history.
The story is somewhat more complex than the distilled version I have related, but it would require an entire book to elaborate all the intricacies of the politics involved, and I have no intention of going down that path. It does, however, lay to rest the argument that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights.
Today, not a single trace remains of Rising Sun, but visitors to Lecompton (originally called Bald Eagle) can tour the Territorial Capital Museum and Constitution Hall and learn about the fascinating story behind this small but historically important Kansas town. Since doing extensive research for South of Rising Sun, I’ve become engrossed by Lecompton’s past and its role as “the birthplace of the Civil War.” Did you know Lecompton was also home to one of the biggest gunfights in the West? But that’s another story.
I’ll give an e-book of my latest historical western, South of Rising Sun, to ten readers who leave a comment about the setting, Lecompton, Kansas. The winners will be announced Sunday evening (Aug. 30).
J.D. McCall grew up in Kansas during the time when Westerns were king on television and at the movies. Living in a state that was home to such places as Abilene, Dodge, Wichita, and many other of the wickedest cattle towns ever found in the West, he was never far from Kansas lore, which included the legendary figures of Earp, Hickok, Masterson, and Cody. Not surprisingly, he has retained a great affection for that part of American history which was once the Old West. Born too late to be a cowboy, J.D. makes his living in this modern day as an industrial hygienist in the field of occupational health and safety. He continues to reside in the city of his birth, Ottawa, with his wife and three children.