Guest Michael K. Reynolds: Romancing the West!

There is tremendous irony in how popular the Western genre of Historical Romance is with today’s readers.

After all, life in the Western United States in the late 19th century was hardly the stuff romantic dreams were made of.

Sweaty saddles, dusty bedrolls, boll weevils in the breakfast bowl, horse flies feasting on your neck and only the most rudimentary levels of sanitation. Not exactly Harry Met Sally.

painting- New York Harbor about 1855 Fitz Henry Lane,American American, 1804–1865And during the Gold Rush era, romance was barely mathematically possible as there was a severe shortage of ladies in the bustling, burgeoning Barbary Coast area. The fairer sex were even scarcer in the desolate hills of the Gold Country and the few women who did reside in the region were…uh um…mostly of the working variety.

So why is it that historical novelists such as myself and well informed readers…like you…cling so tightly to the notion there is romance in the air of those Western Skies?

For me, there always was something undeniably, absolutely captivating about the wide open spaces of the West. In fact, in writing In Golden Splendor, the second novel of my Heirs of Ireland series, I discovered the landscapes themselves became a central character in the book.

They became inseparably entwined in the courtship of the story. Here are some examples:

The Emptiness

Any good romance starts with our leading lady or man with a yearning in their heart, a sense of aloneness. The great expanses of the unexplored wilderness of the West naturally provoke emotions of deep yearning, always a key to a great romance.

Even at a distance, the ribs of the great beast showed through its patchy and scarred chestnut fur. Through the barrel’s eye, Seamus tracked the young bull as it limped its way over to an aspen tree. The elk raised its head, crowned in mockery by horns uneven and fractured.

Did it catch his scent?

Then the animal relaxed, bared its teeth, and tugged on a low-lying branch, releasing a powdery mist of fresh snowfall and uncovering autumnal leaves of maroon, amber and burnt orange. Brilliant watercolor splashes on a white canvas.

In the deadly stillness of a finger pointed on a trigger, Seamus shared a kinship of loneliness and futility with his prey, whose ear flapped and jaw bulged as it chewed.

The Grandeur

FlightOfTheEarlsWhat is romance without beauty, whether it is expressed through a perfectly sculpted face or experienced in the depths of a pure heart? When it comes to landscapes of the American West there are few areas on our planet that offer as seductive a setting for an epic journey of the soul.

Can you imagine being the first to capture sights of Yosemite? Long before there were roads and campgrounds?

There spinning beneath them, breathlessly and seemingly miles below, was a valley finely tailored in a stunning cloak of white and generously covered with snow-flocked forestry. It lay at the base of a symphony of granite that reached like grateful hands up to the heavens. Tears of adoration poured freely from great waterfalls that descended with fullness, despite the lateness of the season. Behind this all, the sun lowered its head beneath the distant edge of the crucible, pouring into the sky cottony plumes of pink, rose, and rusted orange.

The Struggle

Just as the thorn to the rose, the territory of the West can prove to be the perfect villain in the story, an antagonist who challenges our heroes to the core of their being:

Now also coming into clarity was the gruesome evidence of the trail’s savagery. Lining either side of the pathway were the tragic debris of failed crossings. Sun-blanched rib cages and scattered bones of oxen, horses, mules, as well as broken wagon frames and wheels with missing spokes. Even more haunting were the discarded dolls and toys and even cribs, a reminder of how death dealt no better hands to the young.

The Ephemeral Moods

This scenery of the West as well can prove to be a treasured palette for authors, allowing us to shift emotion and moods of a story.

The harbor fog drifted in as they weaved between the ghost ships, amidst the lofting smells of dead fish, rotting wood, and mildew. The waves splashing against the hulls and moans of bending timber and strained ropes added to the eeriness of the evening. The farther they were from the shoreline, the more desolate and forbidden became this naval graveyard.

Characters of Strength

SongsOfTheShenandoahBut the rich scenery is far from the only tool of the Western-themed novelist. Also in romancing the West a writer can tap into the deep complexity and intrigue of those who would respond to such a Manifest Destiny in their lives.

What great romance awaits such complex characters!

Which is why in the blending of all of this mostly male humanity, the woman who approached appeared so extraordinary and so out of place. She was dark enough in skin color to be Mexican, but her facial features were European, with high cheeks and taut skin. Her hair flowed freely, brown and straight and nearly all the way to her glistening silver belt buckle. She glanced at Seamus with playful and alluring eyes.

Yet rather than being dressed in the bright, ornamental dresses off the painted ladies in town, she was dressed more as a man, with leather leggings, a red plaid shirt, spurred boots, and a black flat-brimmed hat. Most notably, she swayed with confidence and strength.

The Pen is Yours

What about you? What do you think makes the American West such a perfect accompaniment for romance?

One of the commenters who answers Michael’s question will win an autographed copy of his or her choice from the Heirs of Ireland series: Flight of the Earls, In Golden Splendor, or Songs of the Shenandoah. Click on the book covers above to find out more about each book. The winner will be announced Sunday evening (Aug. 23).

 

MichaelKReynolds_GoldABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael K. Reynolds’s debut novel, Flight of the Earls, about the Great Irish Potato Famine was a finalist for RT Book Reviews 2013 novel of the year award in the category of Inspirational Romance. In Golden Splendor, set during the San Francisco Gold Rush, earned fourth place as Forewords Best Historical Novel of 2013 and Songs of the Shenandoah, the Civil War-era conclusion to the trilogy was a Top Pick in RT Book Reviews, as well as a finalist for RT’s Book Reviews Book of the Year and was the Gold Award Winner as Forewords Best Historical Novel of 2014.

You can learn more about Michael at MichaelKReynolds.com. Find all of his books on his Amazon author page.

 

Fallen Lone Stars: Chappell Hill

The Stagecoach Inn has been in continuous operation since it opened in 1850. (photo courtesy of Larry D. Moore)
The Stagecoach Inn has been in continuous operation since it opened in 1847. (photo by Larry D. Moore)

Chappell Hill, Texas — founded in 1847 on 100 acres owned by a woman — is located roughly halfway between Austin and Houston on part of the land Mexico granted to Stephen F. Austin in 1821. Mary Haller, the landowner, and her husband Jacob built a stagecoach inn on the site, at the junction of two major stagecoach lines. Soon, other folks from the Deep South migrated to the area and planted cotton, for which the climate and soil were perfectly suited.

By 1856, the population had risen to 3,000 people, eclipsed only by Galveston and San Antonio. The town included a sawmill, five churches, and a Masonic Lodge, in addition to two of the first colleges in the state — one for men and another for women. A railroad line followed soon after.

A longhorn dozes among bluebonnets outside Chappell Hill, Texas. (photo by Texas.713)
A longhorn dozes among bluebonnets outside Chappell Hill, Texas. (photo by Texas.713)

During the War of Northern Aggression (otherwise known as the American Civil War), the men of Chappell Hill served in both Hood’s Texas Brigade (infantry) and Terry’s Texas Rangers (cavalry), participating in most of the major battles of the conflict. Two years after the war ended, in 1867, many of the Chappell Hill men who survived the fighting perished in a yellow fever epidemic that decimated the town and the rest of the area around the Brazos River.

Chappell Hill never recovered, plunging from one of the largest, most vibrant communities in the state to little more than a memory.

Today, with a population of 300 in town and approximately 1,300 in the zip code, Chappell Hill is an unincorporated community that retains its fighting spirit and independent nature. A May 2008 special election to determine whether the community would incorporate drew two-thirds of eligible voters to the polls. Incorporation was defeated by a vote of three to one.

Today, Main Street in Chappell Hill, Texas, is a National Historic District. (photo by stevesheriw)
Today, Main Street in Chappell Hill, Texas, is a National Historic District. (photo by stevesheriw)

Widely regarded as one of the best historically preserved towns in Texas, Chappell Hill maintains its landmarks with admirable zeal. The Stagecoach Inn has been in continuous operation since the doors first opened. Main Street is listed as a National Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places. Restored homes, churches, and businesses offer tours to visitors, and the annual Bluebonnet Festival and Scarecrow Festival attract tourists from all over the state.

If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a visit.

 

Kathleen Rice Adams header

 

On a Wheel and a Prayer

MargaretBrownley-header

“What was it about yesterday that made you think

I was a gentleman, Miss Blackwell?” 

                                                                                                                           -A Bicycle Built for Two

When you think of the old west, bicycles probably don’t come to mind. I mean can you honestly picture John Wayne chasing down bad guys on a tricycle  or boneshaker? Yet, the bicycle craze that hit the country in the 1890s was just as prevalent in the west as it was in the east.

 

bicyle

The new craze not only changed the way people got around, but also the economy. An editorial in the Fort Macleod Gazette in the early 1890s stated, “If this craze for bicycle riding continues much longer our livery stable men will have to close down.” The same lament could be heard from hatters, dressmakers and carriage workers.

Not only did cowboys, sheriffs and outlaws join the wheeling club, but so did women

One Texas newspaper in 1895 issued this warning regarding female bicycle riders: “We have been watching the course of events with breathless anxiety and Nebuchadnezzar himself never saw the handwriting on the wall more distinctly than we see it now. The bloomer is coming sure enough.”

 

One Kansas newspaper lamented that “Women wear their trowserettes even when their machines are left at home.”  While bikes1jpgsome were criticizing women’s attire others like Susan B. Anthony declared bicycles “Have done more than anything else in the world to emancipate women.”

Head over Handlebars

Bloomers aside, muddy dirt roads and wooden sidewalks made for a wild ride. Newspapers regularly reported people taking a “scorcher” and “being knocked senseless” or “carrying an arm in a sling.”

 

One Texas town responded by adopting the following regulations:

          1.Anyone riding a tricycle or relocopede must be supplied with a bell or horn that must be rung at all crossings.
          2.Any persons riding a tricycle at night must have a suitable lantern.
          3. It is especially prohibited for three or more riders to ride abreast
          4. No person or persons shall rest their bicycle, velocipede, or tricycle against a building (including saloons) where the vehicle will be on sidewalks

 

Some cities imposed a speed limit in town, usually four miles an hour. Fines could be as high as twenty-five dollars. The ordinances created as many problems as they prevented. Not only was there suddenly a shortage of cowbells but the noise created by them posed another problem.

 

It wasn’t just riders that gave sheriffs and marshals a headache, but a new kind of outlaw—a bicycle thief. Bicycles were also used as getaways and one thief led his pursuers on a merry chase through Sacramento.

 

Hold on to Your Stetsons

An Arizona Territory newspaper reported that cowboys in Three Rivers, Michigan “have discarded their horses for bicycles in herding cattle. Cowboys in Arizona would have a happy time herding cattle on bicycles.”

 

Cattle didn’t always take kindly to bicycles as one doctor found out when he unexpectedly ran into a herd of cattle. He ended up with a broken shoulder blade and his $100 bike in ruins. Things got so bad that some insurance companies announced they would charge double for bikers.

 

Some lawmen like Arizona Sheriff Donahue decided to fight fire with fire and announced that he was the proud owner of a “handsome nickel-plated bicycle” and was in negotiations to purchase a Ferris wheel bike for his under-sheriff.  John Wayne will never know what he missed.

 

I don’t know how it is where you live but the bicycle craze has hit my town big time and I recently caught my husband drooling over a $1000 bike. How are wheeling conditions in your town and have you joined the pack?

 New on Amazon today!

BicycleBuiltForTwo
To order click cover

A Bicycle Built for Two

Everything goes to hades in a handbasket when Damian Newcastle rides into Amanda’s life.

No one can pedal a bicycle around turn-of-the-century New York without a license, so Amanda Blackwell’s cycling school has become all the rage. The innovative establishment provides an income for the independent miss and her brother Donny, a special child. But in one afternoon, everything goes to hade in a handbasket. Amanda’s uncle is suing to put Donny into an institution and Damian Newcastle, the man she has every reason to hate, rides into her life to ruin everything.

 

FAIRS and FARES and a Giveaway!

 

 

Travel Town in Southern California Travel Town in Southern California

Right after Christmas we took a little trip to Travel Town in a well-known park in our area that houses locomotives from the earliest days of travel.  It was thrilling to see the steam and wood-burning engines attached to railcars that once barreled down the tracks with intent to reach the next city on the route in due and expected time.

We peeked into dining cars and strolled inside of rail cars that once accommodated many a traveler.  It really got me to thinking about the cost of things way back when.  What could the average American traveler afford?  How much have costs changed over the years?

In 1869 Railroad First Class Fare from coast to coast including meals cost $250 to $300 round trip.

Wow, that’s sounds like a small fortune to me for most folks.  Yet, coach fare (squeezing everyone into a crowded, smoky car) from Omaha to San Francisco was a more affordable $32.20.   First Class Airfare today, is probably equally as costly in relation, whereas coach fare being more affordable.  Yet, by 1886, less than twenty years later, First Class Rail fare between Kansas and California dropped to $12.00

A coal-burning locomotive A coal-burning locomotive

I suppose fluctuations have to do with supply and demand.  Just like today when a product is new and innovative, the cost skyrockets.  The very first video camera/recorder we owned cost close to $800.00 whereas today, more than twenty years later, we can buy a much more advanced camera for less than $100.00

Here’s a list of some other costs I found interesting:

In 1874 Doc Holiday charged $3.00 for a tooth extraction in his Dallas dental practice. (I’m going to the dentist this week…for him to just look inside my mouth is about $100.00)

In 1875 Wyatt Earp earned $60.00 a month as police officer in Kansas.

In 1880 Pat Garrett earned $10.00 a day as special deputy US Marshal.

In 1869 admission to a concert at a fair in Lincoln, Nebraska cost fifty cents.  (compared to the last Tim McGraw concert ticket I purchased at $125.00 … okay Tanya Hanson knows that’s not true…it was more like $150.00)

In 1880 the standard price of an infant delivery in Madison, Nebraska was $10.00 with an additional charge of $1.00 for a house visit outside of town.  (We all know how much it costs to have a baby these days)

 

About $8.00 worth of staples  today About $8.00 worth of staples today

In 1878:

Butter was 18 cents per pound

Sugar was less than 1 cent per pound

Cheese (who doesn’t love cheese?) was 7 cents per pound

Rice was 6 cents per pound

Eggs were 20 cents a dozen.

 

Seeing these prices and how costs have gone up, don’t you wonder what a loaf of bread will cost in the year 2099?  How much will it cost to have a baby or buy a car? What have you noticed lately that’s skyrocketed, ie: the cost of movie tickets these days?  To offset these costs, post a comment here and be entered to win a FREE book.  

You have your choice of my printed book, Secret Heir of Sunset Ranch or the Kindle/Nook version of The Cowboy Contract.  And be sure to look for my next Harlequin Desire, the conclusion to the Texas Cattleman’s Club titled,

Available for Pre-Order
Available for Pre-Order
Win one!
Win one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sign up for my newsletter at www.charlenesands.com

 

Reprise: A Boat With REAL Horsepower

Photo WG2 smallHi!  Winnie Griggs here.

Below is a blog I originally posted on this site back in February 2012.  It was the result of one of those serendipitous research footnotes.

And be sure to read on down to the bottom where I have details of my giveaway.

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The other day I was doing a bit of research into ferry travel in the nineteenth century and came across a little snippet of information that immediately sent me down a rabbit trail to find out more.  Did you know that ferry boats were powered by horses at one time?  I didn’t.  Of course I knew about the horses and mules that walked along the banks of the Erie canal tethered to barges that they pulled along.

But this is something entirely different.  These boats had either a turntable or treadmill type device mounted on or below the deck of the ship.  These platforms were connected to a gear which was in turn connected to the paddle wheels that propelled the boat forward.  When horses walked on the platforms of these mechanisms it set the whole thing in motion.

A number of these horse-powered boats, of several different designs, could be found on the waterways of North America starting in the late eighteenth century and continuing through the early years of the twentieth century.  They reached their heyday in the 1840s and 1850s.

horse ferry diagram1

During the early years of our country they were used on any number of rivers and lakes in the northeast, especially Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.  From there their use spread west to the Great Lakes, to the Ohio and MississippiRivers as well as other waterways that fed from these.  Of course they were generally only used for journeys of a few miles.

These boats came in various sizes.  One of the largest was powered by eight horse and could carry 200-plus passengers at about the same speed as a steamboat of its day.

There were a number of factors that led to the decline in the use of horseferrys, most notably the industrialization that occurred in America during the latter part of the nineteenth century.  With the expansion of bridge construction and railroad networks, there was less need for ferrys of any sort.  And when the internal combustion engine came along the death knell was finally sounded.

The only known surviving example of one of these horseferrys sits beneath the murky waters of BurlingtonBay on Lake Champlain.  It was discovered during an underwater archaeological expedition in 1894 and today is part of Vermont’s Underwater Historical Preserve System.  It has also been added to the national Park Service’s National Register of Historical Places.

So is this something you already knew about?  And are there other unusual ways you’ve heard of animals being used to power man-made devices that you’d like to share?

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And in honor of the upcoming release of A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS, the third book in my Texas Grooms series, I’ll be giving away the small tote bag pictured below and a choice of any of my books, including the new one.

Tote and book

Rue Allyn: The Spirit inside ONE NIGHT’S DESIRE

one nightLadies thank you very much for having me back to visit at Pistols and Petticoats. On my last visit I wrote about what traits define a book as being a western historical romance. Today, I want to discuss the spirit inside my newest book One Night’s Desire.

Since One Night’s Desire is a romance a huge claim could be made that the spirit of the book is love. However, there’s more to this book than romance. The words of Chief Ranger Don Sholly, speaking about Yellowstone National Park as a resource also define the spirit of One Night’s Desire. Ranger Sholly said, “The resource is not twenty thousand elk, or a million lodgpole pines, or a grizzly bear. The resource is wildness. The interplay of all the parts of the wilderness. . . .” I would paraphrase that the spirit of One Night’s Desire is not the love that grows between Ev and Kiera, nor the fires, trials, and plots that endanger and unite them, nor the time period, nor the western setting, the spirit of One Night’s Desire is wildness. A union of all the parts of the story that creates an intensity so special no limits can contain it. Hundreds of examples of this wildness exist in the novel but none illustrates my point better than the wolves. The pair of wolves appears only briefly in the story but the appearances are pivotal. They appear at the moment when Ev and Kiera first make love. The pair appears again at the moment of greatest shared danger when it looks like Ev and Kiera won’t survive a forest fire. The pair appears once more when Kiera is forced to leave a badly injured Ev in order to save another life.

Why wolves? A number of reasons, beginning with the fact that these animals are true representations of the wild—you don’t tame wolves. They do mate for life. ”These creatures do mate for life in the social sense of living together in pairs but they rarely stay strictly faithful.”* Most important for One Night’s Desire the wolf is regarded by the Shoshone (who are Kiera’s friends) as very wise. Thus the wolf is a significant representation of the wild spirit embodied in One Night’s Desire.

Here are some interesting Wolf factoids drawn from the Yellowstone Trivia book:

Wolves once had the widest distribution of any land mammal in North America.

Wolves were completely absent from Yellowstone for 70 years until they were re-introduced in 1995.

Coyotes howl more than Wolves.

Wolves do not howl at the moon. They howl to attract a mate and they never howl while hunting.

*http://www.wonderquest.com/animal-mate-for-life.htm

 

Two Chances to Win a Free E-Download of One Night’s Desire.

Leave a comment here about this post, wolves, the national parks, or any topic you prefer AND/OR 

Leave a review of one of my currently available books at Amazon. Just check my author page for book details

I’ll be collecting entries throughout the entire One Night’s Desire release tour (June 13 – July 29—find the schedule of appearances at http://rueallyn.com/4News.html). The winner will be announced July 31st on my blog http://rueallynauthorblog.com/.

If you’d like to know more about One Night’s Desire here’s the blurb followed by a link to an excerpt.

A WOMAN ON THE RUN: Rustlers, claim jumpers and fire, nothing will stop Kiera Alden from reuniting her family.  But an accusation of murder threatens her dreams and sets Marshall Evrett Quinn on her trail.  She may be able to escape prison bars and eventually prove her innocence, but she can’t escape Quinn’s love.

A LAWMAN IN HOT PURSUIT:  Marshall Evrett Quinn is relentless in pursuit of law-breakers, and pretty Kiera Alden is no exception.  Clever and courageous, she evades him until a chance encounter turns the tables.  Finally he has this elusive desperado under arrest, but success is bittersweet when she captures his heart.

EXCERPT LINK: http://rueallyn.com/2c2ONDexcerpt.html

BUY LINKS: One Night’s Desire and its sister book One Moment’s Pleasure are heavily discounted at Amazon for the entire month of July

ABOUT RUE: Author of historical, contemporary, and erotic romances, Rue Allyn fell in love with happily ever after the day she heard her first story. She is deliriously married to her sweetheart of many years and loves to hear from readers about their favorite books and real life adventures.  Learn more about Rue and her books at http://RueAllyn.com

FB: http://www.facebook.com/RueAllynAuthor?fref=ts

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/RueAllyn

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5031290.Rue_Allyn

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rue-Allyn/e/B00AUBF3NI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Blog:  http://rueallynauthorblog.com/

 

 

 

My Southwest Vacation – And A Giveaway!

Hi!  Winnie Griggs here.  Last month I told you about our planned family vacation to the southwest part of the country.  Well, this month I thought I’d share a little of what we saw and did while we were there.

The first stop on our trip was Vegas and it was the only destination where all 12 of us were in attendance.  Here is a picture of the whole crew shortly after we arrived. 

Several of us were not really into the whole casino thing but there were lots of other things to do.  Our first night we went to see Jersey Boys – great musical!!  The next day we went out to tour the Hoover Dam.  It was an amazing place and I learned lots of interesting and fun facts – some day soon I’ll do an entire blog on it.

 In the photos below, the picture on the right shows me and hubby standing at the state line – hubby is in Nevada and I’m in Arizona.

Another place we visited was the Ethel M Chocolate Factory.  I didn’t get any pictures of it – too busy sampling the wares :).  But there was a beautiful cactus garden next door, and I did take several picture there.

 When we left Vegas, two of our number – my brother and his wife – headed home.  My two daughters stayed over an extra half day but eventually connected back up with us at the Grand canyon.  So there were eight of us  in two cars traveling together.   The scenery for our drive was amazing and  we made a couple of roadside stops to enjoy the view.  Here we are at one of them.

 

 Next stop was the Grand Canyon and WOW!  It was everything I’d heard it was and more.  My sister scored us reservations at Bright Angel Lodge which was literally right on the rim.  Here is the amazing view I had when I stepped outside my cabin.  (Just wished they would have trimmed the bushes).

 

I was told that pictures really can’t do justice to the Grand Canyon, and I now believe that.  But of course I took a whole slew of them anyway :).  Here’s some of the sunrise.

 

And here are a few others I couldn’t resist showing you

 

 When we left the Grand Canyon we lost two other members of our group – my daughters spent an extra half day there and then headed home.  For those of us still roadtripping, our next stop was Sedona.  Again, fabulous scenery everywhere you looked.  We took a ‘Pink Jeep’ tour and had a fabulous time – our tour guide was really entertaining!

 

Of course I have tons more pictures but I’ve probably given you much more than you wanted already :).

So now, on to the giveaway!  I learned just a couple of weeks ago that my September release, Handpicked Husband, was nominated for an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award!!!  I’m super excited and very honored to be in such august company as the other nominees.  So to celebrate, I’ll be giving away a copy to two of today’s commenter.

Here’s a short blurb of the book:

Can she drive away not one, but three suitors?

 Free-spirited photographer Regina Nash is ready to try.  But unless she marries one of the gentlemen her grandfather has sent for her inspection, she’ll lose custody of her nephew.  So she must persuade them – and Adam Barr, her grandfather’s envoy – that she’d make a thoroughly unsuitable wife.

Adam isn’t convinced. Regina might be unconventional, but she has wit, spirit and warmth – why can’t the three bachelors he escorted here to Texas see that?  He not only sees it, but is drawn to it.   His job, though, is to make sure Regina chooses from one of those men – not to marry her himself!

 Can Reggie and Adam overcome the secrets in her past, and the shadows in his, to find a perfect future together?