Writer Research

I’m not great at research – I could never be a historical writer. But you’d be surprised how much research goes into even a contemporary book. I write about the West, and I’ve been to a lot of the places I write about (most on a motorcycle), but I’m writing my second ‘road trip’ book in a row, and there’s no way I could have been to all these small towns and back roads…or if I have, I don’t remember them!

So that means lots of maps, measuring miles between places, and TONS of internet searching!

Photo of the map of my latest road trip – and my cat, Harlie

But maps only take you so far (no pun intended). To write a location convincingly, you also need to know the ‘lay of the land’ – the terrain, the demographics, and the ‘feel’ of the place. I find that realtor web pages and homes for sale in the area give you a good cross section of that.

Downtown Sedona
Downtown Seattle

 

Historic Seattle building turned into a condo

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s the really good stuff! I get to look up everything from clothes to tractors to cool motorcycles, and put them into books! I’m telling you, this writing gig can be FUN!

A dress my character wore to an art gallery opening
The motorcycle two sisters are riding in my current work-in-progress
My heroine’s almost-boyfriend. Oh yeah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also get to make up places. For example, in my last romance series, Chestnut Creek, I made up the small town of Unforgiven, New Mexico. It’s small, with a weedy town square with a paint-flaking gazebo in the middle. A lot of the buildings surrounding it have butcher papered over windows. The hub is the diner, housed in an old railroad depot. That was so fun to write, and had me searching for old depot photos and diner interiors. Oh, and more heros!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m telling you, there are a lot worse careers than writing fiction!

 

So tell me, have you ever thought of writing a book? If so, what genre would it be? Do you have a story in mind? If so, tell us a bit about it!

 

 

Inspiration Comes From Many Places

One question authors get asked all the time is where do you get ideas for your stories. No, you don’t have to worry that if you tell me about running into your old high school crush I’m going to use it in my book. Unless, well, if it’s a really good meet cute …

Never mind. Just kidding. I actually get a lot of my ideas from news articles or human interest pieces I read online. Sometimes, however, inspiration comes from a place I’ve visited.

Many years ago, when my kids were young, we took a trip to Bisbee, Arizona and toured the Queen Silver Mine. While there, I saw an old photo of a mule being lowered down into the shaft (mules were used to haul ore carts and often spent their entire lives in the mines). From that tour and photo came the inspiration for Her Heart’s Treasure. While researching that book, I came across an article about a horrific mining accident in Denver and that became the inspiration for my book, The Gate to Eden. Note: this was back in the days when I wrote Western historicals.

A few years after that, we were vacationing at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. One day, we took a tour of the (replica) Ponderosa Ranch and Western town TV set from the show Bonanza. The scenery was incredible, and my mind raced with ideas. Eventually, I wrote a three book series for Harlequin American titled Sweetheart, Nevada.

When I was a teenager, we used to stay at a Western-themed resort outside of Payson, Arizona called Kohl’s Ranch. As an adult, I frequently visit Payson and have returned to Kohl’s Ranch just to check it out. Of course, a story popped into my head. That story eventually became a four-book series called Bear Creek Ranch that was so thinly disguised I actually had readers email me to say they knew I’d used Kohl’s Ranch for my inspiration.

I could go one and on, but I think I’ll end with the McDowell Mountains. I grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona and lived for many, many years not far from the Sonoran Mountain Preserve. Once, while walking my dogs, I found myself gazing up at the mountains and wondering if any wild horses still lived there. Turns out, they do! That question launched a thirteen book series, the first one about a cowboy trying to save his ranch by capturing the last wild mustang roaming free in the mountains near my fictional town, Mustang Valley.

Wow. All this talk about places I’ve visited makes me want to travel again. It’s been too long. Wherever I wind up going, I’ll be sure to take my imagination. Who knows? I could be inspired with a story.

Now, what were you telling me about your old high school crush ?

Women Doctors During WWI

 

The book I’ve spent most of the summer working on takes place during World War I. Before I decided to write this story, what I knew about “the Great War” could have fit in one short sentence.

I spent three weeks immersed in research and, as tends to happen when I’m writing something historical, I fell down the research rabbit hole and Captain Cavedweller wasn’t sure I’d ever resurface.

Reading about the people who sacrificed so much (soldiers, those who served in any capacity, and those at home), just leaves me heartsore, yet so incredibly grateful they were willing to do what they did. Not only were these people in the midst of a world war, but also a worldwide pandemic with the Spanish flu.

As I waded through the research, I discovered something interesting about the doctors from America who served in World War I overseas. Eleven of them were women.

During World War I, the U.S. military would not accept women physicians into the Army Medical Corps, but they would allow them to serve as contracted personnel. This meant they were considered civilians who worked for the Army medical department and were paid a lower salary without military rank or benefits. In total, 56 women physicians became contract surgeons during the war, but only 11 went overseas where they mostly worked as anesthetists.

One of those women was Dr. Anne Tjomsland, who inspired much of the medical part of my story. Born in Norway in 1880, Dr. Tjomsland earned her bachelor’s and medical degrees from Cornell. She became an American citizen in 1917.  She interned, and then worked at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Hospitals around America began forming base hospitals and training prior to the United States officially entering the war in the spring of 1917. The first fifty base hospitals were organized by civilian institutions (medical schools, hospitals) and funded significantly by donations.

The very first base hospital was founded at Bellevue in 1916 and became known as Base Unit #1. They began training that year, anticipating the United States entering the war. When the unit was mobilized in November 1917, Dr. Tjomsland was initially barred from joining as a physician because she was a woman. Since the base commander considered her essential, he fought for her to be appointed as a contract surgeon and won.

Dr. Tjomsland wrote a book in 1941, Bellevue in France, of her experiences that provided so much rich detail, I could easily picture her journey from American doctor to wartime physician.

The ship she traveled on to cross the Atlantic was the RMS Olympic, a White Star luxury ship and sister ship to the RMS Titanic. The ship that had once been known for such luxury was converted to a transport ship during the war. The grand old dame was given a dazzle, or razzle dazzle, paint job that supposedly made it harder for German submarines to lock in on a target. The paint design consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes using contrasting colors, interrupting and intersecting each other. If nothing else, some of the patterns painted on ships looked as though they may have made the enemy dizzy.

Base Unit #1 traveled to Liverpool, England, then traveled by train to Southampton, where they boarded another boat to cross the English Channel, landing at Le Havre, France. From there, they rode a train to Paris, but found the tracks had been bombed, so they had to backtrack and found an alternate route to their destination of Vichy, a spa town known for its healing waters as far back as the time of Roman emperors. A railroad ran through Vichy, making it easy to get to, and it was far enough away from the front to make it relatively safe.

Once in Vichy, Base Unit #1 took over several hotels. Their first patients were recovering French soldiers who were quickly moved elsewhere to make room for wounded American soldiers. The hospital would treat anyone, civilians included, who needed assistance.

By reading Dr. Tjomsland’s book, and the stories of women who served as doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, and other positions in war-torn France, I did my best to convey not only the historical details but also the heart-wrenching emotions they experienced in my story.

 

I often get requests from readers to tell the story of a secondary character. One that has received requests too many to count has been Sadie from my Pendleton Petticoats series. She first makes an appearance as a tough eight-year-old in the book Marnie. Readers get to watch her grow and mature (and torment a boy named Harley John) throughout the rest of the series.

Now it’s time for Sadie and Harley John to get their own story. Sadie releases August 26, but you can pre-order your copy now for just $2.99!

She yearns for far-flung adventures. He longs for the home he’s found in her heart. Will a world at war tear them apart, or draw them closer together?

For most of her life, Doctor Sadie Thorsen has imagined seeing the world on grand adventures. When America joins the war raging across the world in 1917, it seems her dreams are about to come true. She travels overseas as a contracted physician, eager to do her part to help the war effort. Endless streams of wounded push her to the limits of endurance, then she receives word Harley John Hobbs, the man she’s loved for years, is missing in action. Unable to bear the thought of life without him in it, she refuses to let go of her hope that he’s alive.

The day Sadie Thorsen shoved Harley John Hobbs down on the playground was the day she marched off with his heart. He spent years doing everything in his power to become successful, determined to have more than himself to offer Sadie if she ever returns to their eastern Oregon town. Conscripted to join the American Expeditionary Forces, Harley John answers the call and heads to France. Wounded and alone, he clings to the promise of seeing Sadie one last time.

Can deep, abiding love withstand the tragedies and trials of a world at war?

I thought you might enjoy a little excerpt from Sadie today. In this scene, she’s infuriated with the men who refuse to let her go to France.

~*~

The temper Sadie had, to this point, kept in check reached full boiling force. She knew she should leave before it erupted, but instead, walked over to the table and slapped both hands on the surface, causing all four of the men to jump.

“Lieutenant Colonel Grimes, if you could please, for a moment, come down off that high horse you’re riding and forget the fact I’m a woman, you will see I have been working alongside doctors since I was thirteen. I’ve patched up men who’ve been in knife fights, gun fights, dog fights, fist fights, and even a few who were impaled with arrows. I’ve worked on every kind of wound you could imagine, treated burn victims, even assisted with amputations. Because of my varied and vast experience, and the fact I am willing to stubbornly forge onward when others surrender is exactly the reason I should be among those who are with this base hospital in France. I can and will help the soldiers there. If you won’t accept my skill and talents, I’ll find someone who will. I don’t care if I have to row my own boat across the Atlantic, I will get there!”

“Doctor Thorsen, you’re temper fit is exactly the reason why women are not fit to serve in military conditions and times of war.”

“Not fit to serve? Not fit to serve!” Her raised voice bounced off the walls. “Sir, you have enlisted any number of nurses for this venture. Won’t they work alongside the doctors to do whatever they can to help the wounded? Are they not females being thrust into the midst of military conditions in a time of war? Are they not fit to serve? Of course, they are! They are fit to serve, and so am I.” She wanted to reach across the table and shake some sense into the man staring down his long, thin nose at her.

As she did when she was truly angry, she lost the cultured speech she’d worked so hard to acquire and resorted to the language she’d used when Marnie and Lars had first adopted her. “If you’re just too dad-blamed bullheaded and addlepated to see it, then I’m questioning why the Army has declared you fit to serve. I’ve encountered more mulish, malefic, muddleheaded men in the past four years than any woman would ever want to think about meeting, but I do believe, sir, you ought to be crowned King Uppity over them all.”

If you were in Sadie’s shoes, what would you do? 

Also, if you haven’t read any of my Pendleton Petticoats books yet, get this boxed set with the first three stories while it’s on sale for 99 cents!

What Should I Tackle Next?

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today’s post is a bit different than my usual post. Instead of sharing information I came across in my research I’m going to ask you to help me with a bit of research of the reader variety.

I have three older releases that I’ve received the rights back for and I’d like to reissue them as self-published editions. However, they all need to be gone through and updated and right now I’m working on a contracted book that has a firm deadline. That means I have limited time to focus on them and will need to do them as low-priority side projects. So I’d be interested in learning which of the books intrigues you the most. So please rank the following in the order in which they interest you – and there are no wrong answers.  I’ll select at least one person to receive their choice of any book from my backlist (and I still have several copies of the below out of print books I’ll throw in the mix as well)

Book 1 – this was first published in 2002 under the title Whatever It Takes. Here’s the original blurb:

Flirting With Perfection…

To adopt the little girl she’s come to love, widow Maddy Potter needs a fiancé, not another husband. Luckily, she’s found the ideal beau for her purpose:

Clayton Kinkaid agrees to court her, propose marriage, and then leave her at the altar as she requested. But when he arrives on her doorstep she knows their charade will never work. Clay is too handsome, too smooth… too potent. Who would believe such a charming, good-looking man wants to woo her?

Clay accepted Maddy’s proposal in order to repay a family debt of honor. He traveled to Missouri expecting to find a reserved widow, not a beautiful young woman—a woman who has the temerity to suggest he comb his hair differently, mess up his clothes a little, maybe even walk with a limp. She even has the audacity to instruct him on how to court her!  Clay knows he could be the perfect suitor. What he didn’t realize was that he’d soon long to be the perfect husband.

Book 2 – this was originally published in 2004 under the title A Will of Her Own. Here’s the 2004 blurb:

Will Trevaron’s grandfather demands that he leave America and return home to England to claim his title of Marquess. Will is expected to put himself on the marriage market but balks at the idea. He hits on the perfect solution: a marriage of convenience to Maggie Carter. A union with a “nobody from the colonies” would shock and horrify his stuffy family and rescue from poverty the woman who had once saved his life. Will didn’t count on getting three spirited children in the bargain though. And he didn’t expect to fall for his wife.

But as Maggie sets his household straight about what an independent lady from an ‘unsophisticated country’ would and would not accept, the new marquess begins to discover that his marchioness has a will of her own.

Book 3 – this one was originally published in 2010 under the title The Heart’s Song. The 2010 blurb reads:

Widower Graham Lockwood hasn’t stepped foot in church since he lost his family. So he can’t possibly say yes to his new neighbor’s request that he lead the hand bell choir. But widowed mother Reeny Landry is so hopeful—and her fatherless children so in need—that Graham agrees to help.

Suddenly, the man who closed himself off is coming out of his shell. And he finds himself acting the father figure to Reeny’s sweet, mute daughter and her loner son. But going from neighbor to husband is another matter altogether. Until a loving family teaches Graham to hear the heart’s song.

 

So there you have it, the three projects I’m itching to get to work on. Let me know which order you think I should tackle them in and why, and I’ll throw your name in the hat for the drawing!

 

Women can be feminine and still be downright dangerous.

Heather Blanton

Hey, y’all! It’s an honor and a thrill to be back visiting you here at Petticoats and Pistols. You know, the name of this blog says it all. At least for me. Women can be feminine and still be downright dangerous.

My new book, A Scout for Skyler, from the Mail-Order Mama series, has been described as Pride and Prejudice meets The Beverly Hillbillies.

Yes, it’s a comedy, but my heroine, Priscilla Jones, was written as a serious tribute to some of the most amazing pioneer women in American history.

Over the years, my research has introduced me to some gals who defied expectations and overcame some impossible situations. Sometimes, it was life-and-death. Other times, it was a matter of life—hers, and how she wanted to live it.

As I was writing A Scout for Skyler, I had these historical figures in my head:

Of course, when we think of rough-and-rowdy frontier women, the first one to come to mind should be Calamity Jane. She lived in a man’s world. Smoke, drank, chewed, and fought with the best of them.

Orphaned at twelve, left to care for five brothers and sisters, Calamity did not shirk her duty. Most likely she did work as a prostitute early on to provide for the family. She left the lifestyle behind, though, by learning to shoot and throw a respectable punch. Everyone who knew Calamity did respect her courage and her kindness. She rescued a runaway stage from a Cheyenne war party and nursed some Deadwood residents back to health during a smallpox epidemic. The only thing Calamity couldn’t do was win Hickock’s heart.

Susan McSween watched her husband get gunned down in the street during the Lincoln County War. Livid over his murder by a US Army colonel in cahoots with the Murphy-Dolan gang, she stayed in town and hired an attorney to fight for justice. He was soon murdered, as well. Susan still didn’t back down or leave. She changed tactics. She figured out the best way to get back at the corrupt forces in Lincoln County was to hit them in the pocketbook.

Susan McSween was a shrewd businesswoman and she put all her efforts into frustrating her nemesis, James Dolan. Eventually, she became the Cattle Queen of New Mexico, at one point running nearly 5,000 head of cattle. Best of all, she outlived all her enemies.

And I thought of Nancy Hart, a patriot on the frontier of North Georgia. The Cherokee named her War Woman because she was fearless and an accurate shot (even with crossed eyes). Her real legend came about when she killed six British soldiers with their own guns.

Six.

I could go on and on. The women who built this country were tough, stubborn, and courageous. Suffice it to say, the things my girl Priscilla Jones does in A Scout for Skyler—she’s totally capable of them. Because real heroines have gone before her.

My hero, Captain Corbett, is an arrogant Scotsman who believes women should have babies not opinions. How well do you think an attitude like that would have gone over with the rough-and-tumble Calamity Jane, or the fiery, refined Susan McSween?

In A Scout for Skyler, all these ladies have a voice, and the story was a hoot to write. Talk about fireworks and sassy dialogue.

A Scout for Skyler is part of the multi-author series, Mail-Order Mama. All the stories are stand-alones but have one thing in common: the mail-order bride is a surprise. I hope you’ll check them all out.

To buy a copy of A Scout for Skyler click here.

To visit Heather’s website click here.

GIVEAWAY!! Today, I’d like to give TWO random commenters ebooks of A Scout for Skyler. So, tell me, do you have a favorite heroine from history? Belle Starr, Amelia Earhart? Pocahontas? Or…?

The Heart’s Charge – My Favorite Scene

Want a pair of ruggedly handsome Horsemen to charge into your life for a few hours and get your heart pumping with adventure and swoon-worthy romance? Let me introduce you to Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks – the heroes of The Heart’s Charge, my latest release. These men are seasoned ex-cavalry officers with a calling to help those in need. Even if those who need them are homeless children society deems beneath their notice. And when they team up with a pair of passionate women who run the local foundling home, more than one heart will be charging into the fray.

When I first starting researching this story, I knew I wanted it to be set in a small town that was relatively secluded. Enter Kingsland, TX – a town surrounded on three sides by water. Kingsland was founded at the place where the Colorado and Llano Rivers meet, and during the time period for my story, the only way to get into town from the east was to cross a bridge built for the railroad.

I love to study old town maps when I am setting a story in a real place, but Kingsland, TX was never incorporated, so I had a difficult time finding any historic maps of the area. I reached out to the Chamber of Commerce, and they were kind enough to point me in the direction of local historical John Hallowell. Mr. Hallowell generously shared his research with me, including some photographs and personal recollections of that railroad bridge being used for pedestrian traffic. School children crossed it to get to school. People traveling from Burnet County would leave their horses or wagons on the Burnet side then cross the bridge to conduct their business in Kingsland. All of these facts fueled my imagination as I plotted.

However, the most colorful piece of history I uncovered was the fact that people vividly remembered mistiming their crossing on this bridge, and having to make dramatic climbs onto the support piers in order to avoid being hit by a train. I knew I had to use this tidbit at some point in my novel.

Railroad Bridge from the Kingsland Side. The stone pillars are from the original bridge that was built in 1892.

I visited Kingsland during the course of writing the book, and I saw the bridge in question. It still stands today, though a few additional concrete pillars have been added over the years for extra support. Note how there is no railing or trestles or anything to add stability for the people who crossed this bridge. And the Colorado River is no trickling stream. Falling in would spell disaster. Yet school children crossed it every day! I was brave enough to walk out on the bridge to the edge of of the shore, but that was as far as I dared. I had no desire to act out the scene I was plotting in my head, especially since I had no idea if the tracks were still in use.

Bridge from the Burnet Side. I walked a few feet out on the bridge from this side.

Here is the start of the scene that was inspired by this bridge research, a scene that would become one of my favorites in the entire novel.

Katherine clutched Mark’s arm. It didn’t matter if Alice could recognize the man or not. She was putting herself in his path, and if he spotted her, she could be taken, just like the others.

“We’ve got to get to her. Now!”

Mark nodded but took the time to shake the porter’s hand in thanks. Katherine didn’t. Leaving the men behind, she hoisted her skirt above her ankles and sprinted across the platform and down into the street. People turned to stare as she raced past, but she paid them no mind. Her only thought was to follow the railroad tracks and get to the bridge.

Mark called out to her, but she didn’t look back. He’d catch up soon enough. Nor did she hesitate to mount the tracks and start across the bridge. People crossed this bridge on foot every day. Heavens, children from Hoover’s Valley walked across it every morning to come to school in Kingsland.

Once on the bridge, she hiked her skirt up a bit more and watched the placement of each hurried step. There were no railings and no trestles to protect her from falling into the Colorado River below should she lose her balance.

“Kate!” Mark called, much nearer now. “Stop!”

She lifted her head to judge how far she’d come. Almost halfway. And there, across the river, she spied a pair of horses at the end of the bridge. A small child in boy’s clothing moved between them. Alice! Katherine’s heart soared.

“I see her!” She halted momentarily and glanced over her shoulder, her excitement building.

Mark stood on the tracks at the edge of the bridge, waving her toward him. “Come back!” he yelled.

Go back? No. They had to go forward. Get to Alice before she was lost to them again. She shook her head and resumed picking her way across the bridge. Faster now. Nearly at a run. Alice was on the other side. In danger. Nothing else mattered.

But two-thirds of the way across, she realized she was wrong. Something else did matter. Something barreling toward her with such speed that the tracks convulsed beneath her feet. The deep, haunting moan of a train whistle pierced her ears and her heart.

The 6:50 from Burnet. Heading straight for her.

Giveaway!

I’ll be giving away 2 copies of The Heart’s Charge today.

For a chance to win, leave a comment about a favorite bridge-related memory
or about a bridge you would love to visit one day.

 

 

Fort Worth Stockyards

I wrote a blog here a while back about things to do around Dallas. One of those were the Fort worth Stockyards. Well, I can’t very well recommend somewhere I’ve never been, right? The grandkids were visiting from Panama (and getting vaccinated-dual citizens!), so we went on a day trip.

Wow, there’s something there for everyone!

First recommendation – go in early spring or fall – it gets hot there! Second, go early. We got there early enough to snag a shady parking spot, and started wandering.

Tons of shopping! Everything from tourist-trap stuff to really top end boots and attire. These guys were outside one shop, and I was tempted to take one home – instead, settled for the perfect coaster for my desk!

Then we sat on a bench beside the brick of Exchange Avenue, and waited for the cowboys to drive a herd of longhorns past! (happens daily at 11:30 & 4:00) I don’t know if you’ve ever been close to a longhorn, but they are HUGE!

They also had one saddled and standing in the shade that you could get on and grab a photo, but none of us were tempted.

We wandered, and every fifty feet or so there are stars in the sidewalk, like in Hollywood, but they’re for cowboys (and women) that helped settle the west, Western actors, even the cattle trails had one.

After a delicious lunch at Shake Shack (Didn’t know there was one in Texas!), we set off again.

Next stop, Cowtown Coliseum. They have rodeos there every Friday and Saturday night, and the kids would have loved to have seen one, but there just wasn’t time, this trip. But it’s open to the public every day, and there are still things to see there, including Sancho of the curly horns.

It’s also home to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame – I had a blast finding all the bullriders I’ve followed for years, including the King of the Cowboys, Ty Murray. But it wasn’t only just cowboys – rodeo stock (bucking horses and bulls) are represented too!

Next stop, The John Wayne Museum. It was closed, but we went in the gift shop, and I couldn’t believe it! There was Trigger and Bullet! For you youngsters, that was Roy Rogers’ horse and Dog, from his TV show. I’d seen them at the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, Ca, decades before, and it was like seeing slightly macabre old friends!

 

 

 

On the way out, I couldn’t resist – I had to get on the bucking machine. Mind you, it was NOT moving. Trust me, getting up on that thing was hard enough – a sure sign I’m too old for it, but I had to get a photo!

All in all, a great, fun day – I highly recommend it! You can learn more of the details of what to do there, here.

If you make it there, send me a photo of YOU on the bucking bull!

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.

American Indian Trivia, Names & Give-Away

Howdy!

Welcome!  Welcome!

Have you ever wondered what goes into an American Indian’s name?  One of the first things I do when starting a new book is name the hero of the story.  But, why are “eagle,” “hawk,” “horse,” “buffalo,” “bear,” good names for a hero?  Well, there are some rules and I thought I’d talk about them.

The Sioux had three different classes of names.  The first name would show the order of children…like First Child, or First Born Son.  The second class of name (at least in the Lakota society) was the honor name or public names.  The third name was a nickname (sometimes an unflattering name).  Sometimes a man might gain a honoring name different from one of his childhood and this is sometimes called a “deed” name.  And sometimes childhood names remained with a person for all of his/her life.

An honoring name is given usually by the clan medicine-man in a public ceremony.  In the story I’m writing currently called, BLUE THUNDER AND THE FLOWER, the opening scene in the book is a scene where a boy is being given an honoring name.  His grandfather bestows his own name on the boy, BLUE THUNDER STRIKING.

Trivia question:  did you know that Crazy Horse was given his name by his father, who then took a lesser name?  The name Crazy Horse was given to him because of a great deed he performed.

Many years ago, when I was adopted into the Blackfeet tribe in Browning, MT, I was given an Indian name, but it was bestowed on me by the chief of the tribe, Chief Old Person.

In the story, BLUE THUNDER AND THE FLOWER, the boy had been given a nickname prior to his honor name, and that name was somewhat unflattering…Little Skunk.

Deed names usually require some act of courage and so the courageous act is celebrated by giving that man or boy a name from some fear-inspiring animal, like a buffalo, a bear or wolf.  A noble sort of name might be given to a man from one of the nobler birds, like the eagle, the hawk the owl.  Sometimes the character of the courageous act is given along with the name.  For instance, swift or strength or endurance and these give the name a descriptive element, like Challenging Wolf.

Here are some honoring name for boys:  White Eagle; Black Buffalo; Red Wind; Storm; Kills the Man; Shadow Hawk.

What about names for girls?  Well, there were some rules here, as well.  No Indian girl was permitted to wear the skin of a bear or a wolf, a cat, etc.  Nor could she wear eagle feathers as these were masculine representations.  Instead a girl could wear the skins of a doe, ermine, mink, etc.

As far as names were concerned, girls were usually called after the fawn, mink, beaver.  While only boys could have the names of the fiercer animals.  Both boys and girls could be named after the wind or water or sky, but not by the name of Fire.  At least these were the rules in Lakota society.

Here are some names of girls:  White Bird; Sky; Jingles; Earth Maiden; Laughing Maid, Swan Maiden.

Also, often in the stories I write, the hero will give the heroine an Indian name, sometimes flattering and sometimes not.  In the story THE EAGLE AND THE FLAME, the hero first named the heroine, “Deceiving Woman.”  Later, it changes, of course.

So, I thought I’d leave you with an excerpt from my most recent book, IRON WOLF’S BRIDE, and I’ll be giving away a free copy of the book today.  So do please leave a comment.

IRON WOLF’S BRIDE

Excerpt

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 

Iron Wolf followed her.  It was time to learn what was happening here.  Who was that man?

He intended this to be his first question to the woman who should be, and still was, his wife.  His second question to her would be why she believed he, her husband, had betrayed her.  But this could wait.

He noted that she had fled into a maze that was flanked by fragrant bushes which were taller than a man, and, were he not the scout and tracker he was, he might have become lost within these high shrubs, for the paths intersected one another and led in multiple directions.  But he didn’t lose his way.  He found her soon enough.

Once he had discovered her, he spoke out softly, so she might become aware he had followed her. “What is going on here?  Who is that man you were touching, the one who sat next to you?  What is he to you?”

Jane spun around, the look of surprise on her countenance quickly turning to anger.  She didn’t pause an instant, though, as she accused, “How dare you follow me!”

“I am your husband.  It is my duty to follow you.”

“Well, you can go away now.  I came here to be alone.”

Iron Wolf didn’t leave.  Instead, he repeated his question, for he intended it to be answered, and he asked once more, “Who is that man?”

“That man?”

“The one you touched.  The one who sat beside you tonight.”

“He and I were to be married today.”

She turned her back on him and Iron Wolf didn’t speak; he couldn’t, for he felt as though she had punched him in the gut.

She added, “We didn’t marry today, as it turns out, because I would like my sister to be a part of the marriage ceremony.  So we have postponed our wedding for the time being.  And now you see that I, too, might marry another, as you have.”

Although he wished to speak out loudly, to rage the truth at her, he found it impossible to find his tongue, and so he paused until at last he was able to say, “My wife, you have become like a wild pony in my absence.  How can you marry another when you are already married to me?”

“Am I?  Do you forget you divorced me?  And, how dare you call me ‘wild,’ when you…when you…”  Her voice caught.

He ignored the insult and said instead, “You have now accused me of this too many times.  Who has told this to you?”

“No one has ‘told’ it to me, as you say it.  It was written up in the newspapers, and I have the divorce papers that you signed, or have you conveniently forgotten that?  And, how dare you seduce me in front of all these people tonight; you, who are married to another.  Is she here tonight?  Does she care that you looked at me as you danced as though you were making love to me?”

She spoke so swiftly that he took a moment to understand all she had said, and then he asked, “Do you speak of the white-man’s newspapers where you saw my ‘wife’?”

“Of course.”

“Who showed this to you?”

“Does it matter?”

He sighed.  “Hau, hau, it matters.  I would ask you again, who has said this to you?”

“My uncle, if you must know.”

“Your uncle who owns this house?”

“Yes, indeed.”

Iron Wolf took a moment to collect his thoughts, then said, “You are wrong to believe these people, even if they be family.”

“So you can say easily enough.  But, my uncle is beyond reproach and I am certain he wouldn’t lie to me.  Besides, you forget that I have evidence of your betrayal of me.”

“No,” he countered, “what you have is ‘proof’ that is a lie.  And, now I say that it is good you did not marry that man this day, for had you done so, you would have committed a grave error, one I could not easily set aside.  So now, you must decide and choose between one or the other of us: me—your husband or that man.  For, even in my society, a woman may have only one husband.”

“I have already chosen, and that man is not you.”

Hau, then I will go.”

“Good.”

“But before I go, I wish to see these papers you have mentioned to me many times.  I would witness these lies with my own eyes.”

“They are not lies.”

He raised his voice.  “I say they are, and if you continue to tell me these untruths, I will say that you are a woman of no honor, who tells lies, as well.”

“How dare you shout at me, and how dare you say I am not honorable!”

He blew out his breath in an attempt to control his temper.  At length, he said, “I am a man who must be convinced.  Show me the papers you speak of, for I tell you true: I did not place my written name on anything.  I have no other wife, but you.  Why would I want another woman when the one I have is the sweetest, the most beautiful woman I have ever known or seen?  I ask you, why would I throw away the woman of my heart, for, if I were to do that, would I not destroy her and myself, too?”

He noted that the compliment, spoken as it was from his heart, might have found its target.  However, she did not respond favorably, and she turned her back upon him.

He encouraged, “Show me.”

When she turned around, she was crying, and his heart sank to realize that his raised voice and unkind words might have caused her grief.  Still, what he’d said had been true.

“Do you really think I stoop to tell fibs?  That I don’t have these things in my possession which show you betrayed me and then married another?”

“I would see them.”

She paused, as though she seriously considered his demand, even against her will.  At length, she said, “I suppose that might be a fair request.  So follow me.  I will show you, although I am certain you are already aware of what I am talking about.”

He nodded, but he said nothing except, “Show me.  I will do as you ask and follow you.”

She turned around then and stomped out of the maze.  And, Iron Wolf, astonished again by the obvious—that this was no act and that his wife truly hated him— trailed after her.

 

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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.

 

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