Category: Western Novels

Carol Cox: Trouble in Store


While doing research for my latest novel, Trouble in Store, I realized I needed to learn more about Native American cliff dwellings. As enjoyable as it is to study about historic sites in books and online, it’s even more fun to visit them in person. Fortunately, a number of protected sites are within easy reach here in northern Arizona.

One of those is found at beautiful Walnut Canyon, a short drive east of Flagstaff. This site captured my imagination the first time I saw it at age nine, and over the years I’ve become more fascinated with each visit.

Inhabited by the Sinagua people some 900 years ago, the homes in Walnut Canyon were constructed within the limestone ledges in the canyon walls.

The ruins can be reached by way of a steep trail hugging the cliff walls. And that’s one of the things I love most about Walnut Canyon. Visitors don’t have to experience this glimpse into the past at arm’s length. Instead, they’re able to walk in the steps of those who came before, peer into the soot-stained rooms and touch the walls erected so long ago.

Hiking along the narrow path, I tried to envision myself living there centuries ago and wondering about the challenges a mother would have faced in that setting. Can you imagine what it would be like to keep track of a brood of young children, with no baby gates, no fenced lawn to keep them corralled? Or when your “front yard” was only a few feet wide . . . and one false step would lead straight down to the bottom of the rocky canyon?

I’m glad to be a mother in this century. Parenting has never been a simple task, but I’ll take most modern problems over the ones those ancient moms faced any day!

About 50 miles farther south is Montezuma Castle National Monument, located near Camp Verde.

Like the dwellings in Walnut Canyon, Montezuma Castle isn’t what most of us picture when we think of a Native American encampment. Instead of lodges or tepees clustered in a village, this centuries-old, high-rise apartment is nestled into the side of a towering limestone cliff. Try to imagine the logistics of something as simple as making a daily trek to gather food or get water!

These rooms didn’t boast a lot of closet space, so some of the residents’ food and other supplies were kept in storage caves at the bottom of the cliff wall—sort of a “downstairs pantry” concept.

While staring from the abandoned dwellings above to the caves below, I felt a tingle. Suddenly, I could see a similar cliff dwelling as part of the area surrounding my fictional town of Cedar Ridge. That mental image inspired the background for several pivotal scenes in the book.

That’s one of the things I love most about research—you just never know when some tidbit of information will prove to be the very thing that sparks an idea that breathes life into a scene!

Many thanks to Karen Witemeyer for inviting me to spend time with you today! I’ll be giving away a copy of Trouble in Store, so be sure to leave a comment in order to be included in the drawing.


I look forward to hearing from you! Visit me at

For Love of the Wolf


Wolves have always played a fascinating roll in western novels.  There is a mystique about the animals that stems as much from misinformation as information. This week I visited the St. Francis Wolf Sanctuary in Montgomery, Texas. It is less than a twenty minute drive from my house, but I felt as if I were a world away.


We parked at the end of a country road and then walked up a gravel path to the place where the mostly rescued animals were held. While caged, they were being tended by a host of volunteers who were also petting and playing with the animals as one would a familiar pet. My fourteen-year-old grandson was with me and he was quickly as intrigued by the animals as I.


The first woman we met was Reverend Jean LeFevre, the founder and the heart behind the sanctuary. As she told us a little about herself and the animals, we could feel her love for them. She has truly led a fascinating life. One of the things she didn’t tell us but which I read on the website explained a lot about her knowledge and respect for the wolves.


“My first hands-on experience with a wolf was White Tornado, in 1976. She was a white wolf living with Grandmother Twylah Nitsch of the Seneca -Wolf Clan- Iroquois Nation, my friend, and a mentor who has blessed my life. White Tornado was an amazing animal, full of energy and love. She showed me the gentleness of her kind and the love and spiritual learning that they can give to us. I have always been fascinated with the Indian lore of the Wolf and their mysticism and feel myself privileged to be able to experience it first hand.”




While we were at the site, two volunteer handlers who obviously loved the wolfdogs (a mix of wolf and dog) had us sit still while they led the wolf dogs past us so that they could get used to our smell. Then we were allowed to pet the wolves that seemed to love the attention.  It was easy to tell from the feel of the coats which ones were predominantly wolf. Their hair was sticky, almost scratchy.


The mission of the sanctuary as stated on their website is: “Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary (SFWS) is dedicated to the care of rescued, non-releasable wolves and wolfdogs. We do not breed, buy, sell, or trade them. They have often been rescued from dire circumstances. Many have suffered much at the hands of humans; others were simply discarded by their caretakers. We believe they deserve a stable home for the rest of their natural lives, with an abundance of loving and compassionate care.”


They also help educate the public and try to dispel the myths about wolves.  To learn more about the sanctuary, visit their website at




And don’t forget that Trumped Up Charges is on the shelves now. When a mother’s love meets a father’s instinct. Read an excerpt at:







Darlene Franklin: Angels in Disguise



Rosie Carson sat in the circle of chairs gathered for the Young People’s Society of the New Testament Church of San Antonio. She loved the Lord and she loved the Bible, even though she found it a little confusing at times. But if she heard more people read the exciting stories with such droning voices, she’d fall asleep.

By the time Rosie caught up with the teacher in the second chapter of Acts, he was droning on about “tongues of fire” resting on the disciples. She screwed her mouth, trying to imagine a tongue made out of fire. Where did it rest on the head? Did it come out of their mouths?

There was a mention of the Holy Ghost . . . Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. She’d like to hear more about that. The teacher continued read as if he was reciting multiplication tables. His voice didn’t convey any of the excitement Rosie felt when she read the accounts of the early Christians.

Some of the witnesses said, “These men are full of new wine.” A picture formed in her mind of church members so excited about the Lord that they were accused of being drunk. She giggled at the image of people with fire sprouting out of their mouths, like circus entertainers, talking in languages half the congregation didn’t understand, staggering about the stage, hollering “praise Jesus!” She laughed out loud.

The leader stared at her, directing the attention of everyone in the group to her unfortunate outburst. “Miss Carson, would you care to tell us what you find so very amusing?

Rosie gulped. Didn’t these people realize how blessed they were, that they had they read the Bible so often that it rolled over them like wagon wheels, running through the same ruts?

“I’d like to hear what Rosie thinks about the day the church was born.” Macy Braum, a pleasant contrast to her stuffed shirt of a brother, gave Rosie the courage to speak.

“It’s the place where it says people were mocking the disciples and all, saying they were drunk. Here God was doing something amazing and wonderful and all they saw was drunks.”

“Yeah, Braxton, maybe we should hold the next service at the saloon down the street.” A young man Rosie didn’t recognize said.

Laughter followed, although Rosie didn’t think it was such a bad idea. Didn’t Jesus eat with publicans and sinners and even ladies of the night? They were the people who knew they needed a Savior, not people who had grown up without ever wondering where their next meal was coming from.

“At least they took a risk in sharing their faith.” A deep voice from the back of the room said.

Turning, Rosie registered his blond good looks while feeling a bone-deep fear of the authority shouting from every inch of his frame.


Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin lives in Oklahoma near her son’s family.

Darlene loves music, needlework, reading, and reality TV. She has published several titles with Barbour Publishing, including her two latest releases, A Bride’s Rogue in Roma, Texas, and Merry Christmas, With Love, in Postmark: Christmas. She has also written two books in the Texas Trails series with RiverNorth Fiction, Lone Star Trail and A Ranger’s Trail. She’s a member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers.

You can find Darlene online at, and

Darlene’s 5 Questions a Day: ( Darlene answers the first five questions related to the writing life posed on any given day. Group members are also welcome to contribute.

Darlene is giving away a copy of Texas Brides to one lucky commenter today!


Updated: June 4, 2013 — 9:23 am

FINDING BALANCE by Kelli Ann Morgan


Romance, adventure, chivalrous cowboys with chiseled chests and jawlines, and gorgeous horses, placed against the landscape of the open sky and mountainous backdrops of the nineteenth century west—these are some of the things that draw us in to the world of western historical romance.

While we have come far from having to wait ten days to receive any communication from the opposite end of the country (and only that fast because of the efforts of the riders of the Pony Express), and we no longer have to trudge through five feet of snow in the middle of the night in winter to locate the facilities, we do have our own set of challenges.  In fact, some of the advances that were designed to make our lives easier often complicate our lives instead. We have all sorts of gadgets that help us organize and manage our time, yet we fill the saved minutes or even hours with additional projects, jobs, hobbies, or other tasks.  So, how do we find balance?

I wish the answer to that question was simple.  However, it varies for every person because our personalities, our priorities and abilities are all different. My Redbourne series surrounds the lives of eight siblings—seven brothers and a sister—with unique strengths, flaws, and personalities. In each of their stories there are obstacles to surmount, lessons to learn, and potential to discover. Some of the biggest challenges or difficulties hit them because their lives have been thrown off balance by one event or another.  Here are just three of the many things I believe we can learn from them:

Find a quiet place to think, ponder, or meditate.  In The Bounty Hunter, my most recent release, Rafe, the hero, loves to sit on a bench just outside of the house and gaze out into the countryside in the quiet of the evening or early morning. This is when he can think, free of distraction. We don’t all own a plot of property that extends as far as the eye can see, but we can imagine those places and take the time to calm our minds from the chaos that is often in our lives.

Be active. Life in the west was not sedentary. They did not have dishwashers or laundry machines to help with their chores, cars to get them to the next town, or the ability to shop from the comfort of their own homes.  They used elbow grease to get things done. They walked, rode horses, or drove wagon teams to get where they needed to go. And, they had to get out of the house and travel to make all purchases. The act of doing something is invigorating to the soul and releases endorphins, which make us happy. They may not have known about the benefits of being active back then, but the heroes in my books certainly have earned their hardened physiques.

Cultivate family relationships/Spend quality time with family. With all of the modern technology at our fingertips, it is easy to text instead of talk, to fill our calendars with outside activities, to squeeze more time into our work days, and to spend countless hours watching television or gaming at the computer. I believe that we cannot comprehend true happiness without positive, healthy relationships. I think much of the strength inside each of these Redbourne characters stems from the bond they developed as a family as they worked together, played together and stood by each other without question.

I am thrilled to share the first two books in The Redbourne Series with the readers at Petticoats & Pistols. These books have been so much fun to work on as I have gotten to know each member of the Redbourne family, their friends, their enemies, and their love interests. My novels are written on the sensual side of PG—without the graphic love scenes. It is my hope that every time you open one of my stories you will find yourself transported to a different place and time, and when you are done, you will walk away inspired, uplifted, and ready for the next adventure.

Please enjoy this excerpt from The Bounty Hunter: Redbourne Series #2, Rafe’s Story 

“Tayla,” Rafe knocked softly on her bedroom door. It was getting late and he didn’t want to disturb any of the other inn patrons. He realized, with some irritation, that she had no idea that she was Tayla.

“Locket,” he tried again, “will you please answer the door?”Hawthorne or not, his mama would have tanned his hide had she ever heard him talk to a woman the way he had spoken to Tayla all day.

The lock on the bedroom turned and she opened the door just enough that he could see one eye peering at him. She slammed it shut.

“Go away. I have no desire to talk to the likes of you.”

“Locket, please. I have to talk to you. It’s about your father.”

He waited.

The door swung open wide.

Rafe stood in the doorway of her room, frozen. The neckline of Tayla’s nightshift plunged low and hugged her breasts. Her locket dangled between them. She held a brush in one hand and her hair fell in loose tendrils around her face and down her shoulders. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

She pulled her robe more closely around her. “What do you know about my father?” Tayla crossed her arms, hiding his distraction from view.

Rafe needed something to wet his dry throat.

“He’s alive,” Rafe croaked.

“I don’t understand. Do you know me?  My family?”

“Your name is Tayla Hawthorne. The rest we’ll talk about later.”

“I don’t want to wait until later. If you can’t provide me with answers then this conversation is over.” She started to close the door again.

Rafe’s patience was growing thin. He put his boot between the door and the frame.

“You’re not safe here. If they find you, they’ll take you again and I can’t let that happen.”

“Who will find me? And why do you care? You hate me.”

Rafe felt a twinge of guilt twist in his gut. “I don’t hate you.” He took a deep breath. “There is no excuse for my behavior today. I-I’m sorry,” he choked out.

“All the same, I’m staying here with Maggie and Jacob. And Pete.”

The muscles in Rafe’s jaw flexed involuntarily. Pete. She wanted Pete. He was tempted to just walk away and never see her again. He motioned to leave.

Tayla uncrossed her arms and nearly flew out after him. When her fingers touched the skin of his forearm, he froze. She pulled her hand back as if she’d been bitten.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “What about my father? How do I know you’re not dangerous?”

“Oh, honey, I’m dangerous all right…”


I am giving away an e-copy of The Rancher, an autographed paperback of The Bounty Hunter, and an “I Ride With the Redbournes” t-shirt to three separate commenters. Share with us why you love western historical heroes.

Updated: May 21, 2013 — 6:37 pm

Spring In Bloom

Hi. Thought I”d share my April  Newsletter with you. If you”d like to be added to my newsletter email list, let me know. Would also love your comments on what you”re reading this month.

Joanna Wayne

April Newsletter


Happy Spring. We’ve had a beautiful one here in Texas, flowers in full bloom and everything sprouting new growth. Just hope we get enough rain this year to keep it that way.

The wildflowers are in full bloom now. Almost every roadside is colored with brilliant blooms of primrose, Indian paintbrush, verbena, brown-eyed Susans, bluebonnets and countless varieties I can’t name but enjoy all the same. But this picture was taken in my back yard when a friendly neighborhood deer came to check out the golf course.

By now I hope many of you have had the chance to read COVER ME.  I was fortunate enough to team up with two of my

favorite Intrigue writers, Rita Herron and Mallory Kane, to pen a sensual romantic suspense of cold cases created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since I lived many years in New Orleans, the story was especially close to my heart.

Eight years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, three men lost everything. Now it’s time to reclaim what is theirs….

Don’t miss this one.

And in June, the first book in the Big D Dads, The Daltons, series will be available in paperback or digital format from your favorite on-line or local bookseller. As a mother and grandmother, TRUMPED UP CHARGES truly touched my heart.

When a Mother’s love meets a father’s instinct….

Ex-Marine Adam Dalton once dreamed of a life with Hadley O’Sullivan, but the war and a near-fatal injury cost him dearly. Now he returns to Dallas to discover the unthinkable—Hadley is the prime suspect in the disappearance of her twin baby girls….the daughters he never knew he had.


  Beyond Hadley’s terror of having her children kidnapped is the shock of seeing Adam. Yes, she had kept him from his daughters, but now, when he insists they work together as a united front, she knows she is still in love with him. Despite their past, finding their children is their only hope to finally become a family—if time doesn’t run out first.

And in December, watch for UNREPENTANT COWBOY, the second book is in the Dalton family’s adventures.


You can always get in touch with me at or at Also join me on Facebook at Joanna Wayne, novelist.

Happy Reading.



An Epic Western Classic: Lonesome Dove

call and mcrae

Recently Lonesome Dove was on television in its entirely, and even though I’ve seen it a dozen times or more, I watched a lot of it. It’s available on Netflix – and I have a DVD. What is it about these characters and their plight that draws us back again and again? Three-dimensional, well-drawn characters, backstories of Texas Ranger heroes and lost loves, a yearning for times long past and future hopes suck us right in. I’m still as mad today as the first time that Captain Call wouldn’t acknowledge Newt as his son.

Lonesome Dove, written by Larry McMurtry, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning western novel and the first published book of the Lonesome Dove series. Can you imagine the daunting task that native Texan and screenwriter Bill Wittliff took on when he adapted Larry McMurtry’s novel to film? First, he needed to rein in the sprawling 843 page story while still retaining its majestic essence. Wittliff’s work was also made more difficult because, in the novel, McMurtry uses the narrator’s voice to reveal information about characters and to describe events. To provide the same information in the film, Wittliff needed to create dialogue and provide visual cues that did not exist in the novel.

See an original costume sketch below:

costume sketch

A Southwestern Writers Collection is housed at Texas State and many of the original documents he used while creating this western classic can be viewed online at:

The web exhibit features storyboards, costumes, including Gus’s boots, and even Gus’s dead wrapped body.

The epic four-part six-hour mini-series focuses on the relationship of retired Texas Rangers and their adventures driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana. McMurtry originally developed the tale in 1972 for a feature film entitled The Streets of Laredo (a title later used for the sequel), which was to have starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and James Stewart. That didn’t happen, but thank goodness, McMurtry later resurrected the screenplay as a full-length novel. It deservingly became a bestseller and won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The mini-series won six Emmy Awards and was nominated for 13 others.

Casting for this epic was pure genius. Who better to portray these multi-faceted aging Texas Rangers who to this day represent the epitome of courage, loyalty and everything we think of when we think “American West?”

Robert Duvall is Captain Augustus McCrae, co-owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, and considers himself the brains of the outfit. Generous, humorous, and lazy to the point of eccentricity, he serves as a foil to the more serious, practical Call. When not working, which he does as little as possible, Gus pursues his three chief interests in life: women, alcohol and cards. He is well known in the territory for his loud voice, superior eyesight and accuracy with a revolver.


Tommy Lee Jones is Captain Woodrow F. Call, Gus’s partner in the company. Less verbose and chatty than McCrae, Call works long and hard and sees no reason why others should not do the same. A former Texas Ranger, he served with Gus when both were young men. Though Call has utter disdain for lazy men who drink, gamble and whore their lives away, he has his own secret shame, which he hides carefully from his comrade. Call’s ability to manage unmanageable horses is also well known.

Danny Glover plays a magnificent role as Joshua Deets, an ex-slave and former Ranger. When the story starts he’s a ranch hand at the company. On the drive, he serves as scout. A remarkable tracker and morally upright man, he is one of the few men whom Call respects and trusts.

Before he hit the NY streets as a cop, Rick Shroder played Newt Dobbs, young orphan raised by Gus and Call. His mother was a prostitute named Maggie Tilton, who died when he was a child. He knows his mother was a prostitute, and has no idea who his father might be. Most other observers, notably Gus and Clara Allen, are quite certain that Call is his father. Call eventually comes to this realization privately, but is never able to admit it explicitly.


After watching her on the hit series SMASH, I love seeing the beautiful Anjelica Houston as Clara Allen, a former love of Gus’s. She declined his marriage proposals years ago, and now lives in Nebraska, married to a horse trader who is comatose, having been kicked in the head by a horse. They have two girls, though she is afflicted deeply by the death of her sons. Though separated from Gus by many miles and years, she still holds him fondly in her heart. In contrast, she has utter contempt for Call. When Gus arrives at her ranch their reunion is bitter-sweet.


gus and clara


Diane Lane is the lovely young Lorena Wood, a kind-hearted young woman who was forced into prostitution by her lover, then abandoned in Lonesome Dove. Lorena is silent, strong willed, and intimidating, refusing to submit meekly to her various admirers. Discontent with her line of work, “Lorie” hopes to leave the dead town and find her way to San Francisco. Gus is her champion, and who could ask for a better one?

Secondary threads with characters of July and Almira Johnson and Blue Duck are intricately woven into the plot and throughout the journey of the cattle drive. You can’t help but be enamored by the characters and caught up in their adventures. Watching the story unfold brings laughter and tears every time. The music that accompanies the panoramic scenes does a beautiful job of enhancing the grandeur of the vast landscape and feel of the untamed west. I often listen to the original soundtrack, composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris. Lonesome Dove spawned the follow-up miniseries, Return to Lonesome Dove.



Trivia facts about Lonesome Dove:

* Robert Duvall, who has appeared in over 80 movies, told CBS that Augustus McCrae, the character he played in Lonesome Dove, was his all time favorite role. We can see why.

* The characters of July Johnson and Roscoe bear the same names as the sheriff and his sidekick who track James Stewart and Dean Martin in the movie Bandolero! (1968). Also, the sequence where Stewart and Martin discuss Montana resembles a similar scene in Lonesome Dove.

* The book, and the character Gus, is mentioned in country singer George Strait’s song “That’s My Kind Of Woman.”

So, fess up. How many times have you watched Lonesome Dove? Did you think return to Lonesome Dove lived up to the first? Have you watched Streets of Laredo or Deadman’s Walk which precede the story?

If you’re a western lover and you’ve never seen this movie, well, I’m just sad for you. But your situation is subject to change. Head for Blockbuster or put it in your Netflix cue!

Leave a comment today for a chance to win a $15 e-Amazon card from Tanya Hanson.

Legends of the Fall

I love this movie—have probably seen it four or five times, and it never gets old for me.  Take spectacular Montana scenery, Brad Pitt at his most gorgeous, stunning characters brilliantly played, and a story that would wring tears from a block of granite.  For me, this is the perfect film experience.

I’m betting you’ve seen it.  If not, you’re missing out.   Set in the early decades of the Twentieth Century, between World War I and the Prohibition Era, it’s the story of the Ludlow family—the father (Anthony Hopkins), and his sons Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Tristan (Brad Pitt) and Samuel (Henry Thomas) who  live on a Montana ranch.  The tragedy begins when Samuel brings home his fiancée Susanna (Julia Ormond), and both his brothers fall in love with her.  It deepens when the brothers go off to war and

Samuel fails to return.  Tristan, who’d promised to look after him, plunges into a pit of tortured guilt that drives him away from Susanna and his family.

I won’t create a spoiler by telling the whole story, but there are some glorious scenes.  My favorite is the one where Tristan returns from his wanderings, galloping over the hills on horseback, his long golden hair flying in the wind as he drives a herd of wild mustangs ahead of him.  And waiting for him is the woman who can heal his wounded soul.

The movie goes on and on, through the history of this family, riveting to the end, so I reasoned that  this saga must be based on an  equally amazing book.   I decided to order it.

Imagine my surprise when the slender volume arrived containing not one novel but three novellas.  “Legends of the Fall,” was a narrative short enough to read in one sitting.  The other two very dark stories had nothing to do with the movie—though they were superbly written by a fine American author named Jim Harrison (born 1937).

I’m still shaking my head in disbelief.  Most movies based on novels leave out many elements of the book.  In this case, the writer(s) of the screenplay, as well as the production staff and the actors, had built the bare bones of  a story into a visually rich emotional epic.

In the 1995 Oscars, the film won an award for best cinematography and was nominated for best art direction and best sound.  In my opinion it deserved more—especially for the James Horner musical score, one of the most evocative I’ve ever heard.  I have the cd, which I’ve almost worn out playing it in the background while I write my Western scenes.

How about you?  Do you love this movie as much as I do?  Or do you have other Western film favorites?  What’s your all-time favorite Western movie?

Updated: October 8, 2013 — 6:28 am

Using Geneology As a Research Tool, by Charlene Raddon

What? Using genealogy to research a historical novel? No way.

Way. Let’s say you’re writing a Civil War story. Your hero was born in the South but moved to the north as an adolescent. The skills he learned hiding out in the woods to avoid beatings from his father now serve him well as he sneaks through enemy lines to gather intelligence for the Union. The Rebs call him “that dang Yankee ghost.” So what is his name? Something that sounds Southern would be best, something strong.

On, I clicked on military records, then Civil War Records and Profiles. There’s a box for selecting Confederacy or Union, then you choose the first two letters of a surname. I chose Ra because R names have a strong ring to them. My hero is now Stephen Dodson Ramseur. Or how about Winter W. Goodloe? These are actual names of men who served in the Confederate Army in the Civil War. Neither of these names might strike your fancy, but they can give you ideas, or you can keep looking.

Now, remember, names are not copyrighted. Even so, it’s wise to be cautious when using the name of a real person. After all, it might be understandable if someone became put out because you named your horrible, conscienceless villain Abe Lincoln.

More than one of the heroes in my books bears the name of a man who lived in centuries past, such as Bartholomew Noon (from Forever Mine, available at e-book stores now), and Columbus Nigh (from Tender Touch, to be released October 18, 2012).   

Stephen Dodson Ramseur’s father remained in the South and is buried there. Stephen missed the funeral but knows the old guy died of apoplexy, a common cause of death back then, better known now as a stroke, and was buried the next day. Why the next day? Doesn’t sound very respectful, does it? Well, morticians capable of embalming the dead were few and far between back then except in larger cities and towns. Plus, they cost money. So next-day burial was often a necessity.

Infant mortality was high, so old cemeteries tend to have more graves for children than for adults, although you can’t always tell because it was common to bury an infant or toddler with a parent or even a grandparent already buried. Babies lost in childbirth with their mothers were generally buried with Mom.

From death certificates you can learn the most prevalent causes of death and the terms used for them. Unfortunately, such certificates didn’t come into being until mid to late century. Birth certificates are even more difficult to find. Often, in rural areas, there was no such thing as a birth certificate. I couldn’t get one for my father when I was trying to join the DAR.

Census reports are a great place for gaining an understanding of how people lived in the second half of the nineteenth century. Until 1850, they reported only the name of the head of household and how many children of certain age groups lived there. The 1850 report, however, lists each member of the household. The later the report the more information is available. You can learn how long a couple has been married, how many marriages they had before the report, what they did for a living, how much land they owned, their yearly income, where their parents were from, who was literate and who wasn’t.

Does my Stephen Dodson Ramseur know how to read? Few people did back then, especially the women. Children often left school as soon as they were big enough to contribute some real labor to the farm or family business, so their reading abilities were not always good. It’s interesting to see which occupations list the most people who were literate. Farm families were generally at the low end of the scale. Those children were needed at home, and farms were out in the country, frequently too far away for children to attend school.

Another great research source available through genealogy societies and online sites is county history books and town newspapers. These require some time-consuming reading, but you can learn a lot about how people lived, what their social lives were like, and their activities, even how they thought.  County histories list the towns and give descriptions of the area, such as how the towns were laid out, rivers, fields, trees, etc.

Names of towns and counties were changed time and again. You don’t want to set your book in a town or county that didn’t exist then. The wise thing here is to consider inventing your own town. Hard to invent a county, though, and have it be credible, although a quick study of counties in various sections of the country will reveal numerous names that were used over and over. Lincoln County, for example. Washington County. But before you invent a Lincoln County, make sure there wasn’t one already in a different section of the state.

Histories also give biographical information on the earliest and most prominent citizens. Another great chance to learn about life in the time period, and to collect names.

Personal journals are also available through genealogy sites, and these contain a wealth of information. I once started a book set in Utah in 1857. My heroine was a young lady fresh out of finishing school that travels west to live with her father who is an officer at a post called Camp Floyd, southwest of Salt Lake City. As part of my research I acquired the journal of a soldier at that post, which gave me oodles of those tiny details that can make your story truly believable.

All of these sources are available through sites such as,, Cyndi’s List, Genealogy Bank,, and many others. Most require paid yearly memberships. You can get around this by finding a local LDS (Mormon) Ward House that has a genealogy library. There you can use a computer to access sites like without having to pay a fee. The people who maintain these LDS Ward House libraries are usually canny about doing genealogy research and free with their valuable advice. If you need a record that is housed at the main LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, these small local libraries can order a copy for you to study.

I’m only an amateur genealogist, but If you have questions about genealogy research, I’ll be happy to do my best to answer them, or to find someone who can.

Now, I need to excuse myself so I can write down all the plot ideas that came to me while writing this. Stephen Dodson Ramseur is going to be a very busy, very sexy, and courageous young man. Hmm, who is going to be my heroine? Looks like I need to peruse my personal genealogy, or pay another visit to

How much do you know about your own genealogy?

Charlene is giving away a copy of Forever Mine (excerpt below). All you have to do is leave a comment for her.


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Charlene Raddon’s love of the old west drove her to start writing historical romance novels over thirty years ago. Her first completed book was a time travel, unsalable at the time, and had not yet sold, but she’s reworking it now and hopes to have it available soon. Her second book was a Golden Heart Finalist under the title BRIANNA. Between 1994 and 1999 she had five books published by Kensington Book’s Zebra imprint. Her most popular book, FOREVER MINE, received high ratings and a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award nomination. This book is now available as an e-book, and Charlene will be giving away a free copy today to a random winner. Here is a blurb and excerpt:


A mail-order bride from Cincinnati, Ariah Scott had traveled all the way to Oregon to marry one man…only to lose her heart to another. What would become of her now? Ever since her father died at the hands of a vengeful relative, Ariah’s life had been shadowed by dark secrets. And now her forbidden desire for Bartholomew Noon filled her with uncertainty—and a secret longing that could never be fulfilled.


From the moment Bartholomew saw Ariah at the Portland train station, the keeper of the Cape Meares Light was lost. Hopelessly in love with this angelic beauty who was fated to live beside him at the isolated lighthouse as another man’s wife, Bartholomew never dreamed that destiny would someday bring them together. Would Ariah truly be the woman he could cherish…forever?


Ariah. The name suited her. Light and airy. Perfect for a nymph. He struggled to regain his composure and remember what he was about.

Around them, passengers continuing on to Goble, where train and all would be ferried across the Columbia River before resuming the journey to Seattle, were boarding the train. Soon the platform would be empty except for porters and employees of the Union and Northern Pacific Railroads. And Bartholomew suddenly realized he too was eager to be away; he could not wait to have Miss Ariah Scott to himself.

Bartholomew glanced at Miss Scott, wondering if she could be one of fate’s tricks. Something niggled at his memory. He shrugged it away.

“Miss Scott, if you’ll point out the rest of your baggage, I’ll get it loaded while you and your friend finish your good-byes. We’ve a long way to go.”

“Oh, yes, of course.” She gestured to two small crates and a large trunk. “That’s it there.”

            Bartholomew shouldered the trunk as though it contained nothing more than bird feathers, holding it in place with one arm while he squatted to pick up one of the crates.

As he put space between himself and the two women, he chuckled silently, remembering how he had wondered what he would do with the girl during the four long days of the journey home. There was no doubt about what he wanted to do. His hands ached with the need to stroke that smooth, velvet flesh, to explore and discover its secret contours. Thinking about it, four days no longer seemed enough.

He set the crate alongside the boxed-up fancy rosewood étagère Hester had insisted he buy her, and lowered the trunk onto the wagon bed.

Hester. Bartholomew’s fantasy about Ariah burst like the seed head of a giant dandelion, scattered by the wind.

Hester was his wife—till death do us partno matter how much he might wish things different. And Ariah Scott belonged to Pritchard.

His shoulders sagged under guilt as ponderous as a steam engine. He rested his arms on the sideboard, braced his forehead on a fist, and tried to banish the image of the girl’s sweet tempting mouth, so lush, so—

A warm hand closed over his arm. “Are you all right, Mr. Noon? Is there anything I can do for you?”

Bartholomew looked down to see Ariah Scott standing only a kiss away, gazing up at him with those unbelievable forget-me-not blue irises, her luscious lips moist and parted, her concerned expression sweetly, guilelessly intent.

And he plummeted into hell.

FOREVER MINE available at:

and all other e-book stores






Updated: September 17, 2012 — 12:31 pm


My name is Bob Randisi, and boy are my arms tired.

Since 1981 I have been writing Westerns. Backed into it, actually. I started out as a mystery writer, but when an editor asked me if I could write westerns, I said yes. I always said yes back then. However, at the time I had hardly even read any Westerns, just watched them on T.V. and in the movies. So I went out to a used bookstore and bought about 40 books by different authors, in a variety of series, so I wouldn’t come up with anything that had already been done. As a result I created THE GUNSMITH. The first book was published in January of 1982, and they have been appearing once a month since then, under my pseudonym J.R. Roberts. I recently finished writing Gunsmith #378, and I am contracted through #384.

Westerns were red hot in the 80’s. I ended up creating series like Tracker, Angel Eyes, Mountain Jack Pike, Ryder, as well as writing books in other series like Cimarron, Shelter, The Trailsman and Canyon O’Grady. In 1982, my 3rd year as a full time writer, I wrote 27 books in 12 months. In 30 years I have written and published 585 books, a good 400 of them Westerns.

But as the 90’s came the Western genre started to die off, and the number of series being published dwindled. Soon, only The Gunsmith, Longarm, Slocum and The Trailsman were left. And although sales of these series were not what they had once been, there was a loyal readership.

Ah, but wait, of late there’s been a resurgence of the genre. How do I know that? Because for about 15 years I was writing them for Dorchester Books. 10 in all. Also two series for HarperCollins. But then Harper cancelled their Western line, and recently Dorchester went out of business.

Fear not, though. Recently, Gunsmith sales have increased. (I can’t speak for Longarm, Slocum and Trailsman. Those books are written by a stable of excellent writers, while I continue to write all the Gunsmith books.) My sales have increased, as have my royalties. And thanks to ebooks—which, as a reader, I HATE—my early books are back in print. Speaking Volumes LLC has brought back the early Gunsmiths (and plans to reprint the first 200 of them), as well as all of my Angel Eyes, Tracker and Mountain Jack Pike books. They’ll be available as ebooks and as POD trade paperbacks. In addition, some of them have been done in audio. While they all have beautiful new covers, the Gunsmith continues to appear under the J.R. Roberts name while the other books now bear my real name.

Yes, Westerns are back, and none too soon for readers of blogs like this one. Loyal readers have kept us alive, and now new readers are discovering Westerns—reprints and originals. My new book, BULLETS & LIES, is the first in as new series to feature Denver private detective Talbot Roper. The stories are set in the 1880’s. Book #2, THE RELUCTANT PINKERTON, will appear next year. Roper is a character who has appeared in many of the Gunsmith books, so the series is a spin-off. However, it is a traditional series, while the Gunsmith continues to be an Adult Western series.

And the newest development? Amazon has purchased the Dorchester inventory, which means they will be bringing back all of my Amazon Westerns—as well as many others–including last year’s CROW BAIT, my last book for them.

Every decade somebody tries to bury the Western Genre, and every decade we—the readers and writers of Westerns—successfully fight them off. (In fact, I was late delivering this blog because I had to finish two books this weekend—both westerns.)

I’m proud of all of us!

And one lucky commenter today will receive a copy of Bullets and Lies!! 




Updated: September 7, 2012 — 1:34 pm

Lori Wilde – The Allure of the Cowboy

Throughout my life, cowboys have surrounded me. I took them for granted, believing that everyone grew up familiar with men dressed in sharply creased Wranglers that snuggly hugged their behinds, dusty cowboy boots, belt buckles big as saucers and jauntily cocked Stetsons. I thought all men opened doors for women, said ‘yes, ma’am” and “no, sir”, walked with a John Wayne swagger, and passionately defended their family and friends.

I was never surprised to see a cowboy walk into a hamburger joint wearing jangly spurs or a catch of whiff of livestock, rope, sun and leather as he sauntered past. The men I knew wore long sleeves and blue jeans all year round and never, ever put on sandals. They loved their dogs, guns and pickup trucks all pretty much equally.

Because this was the earth from where I was sprung, I did not really take much notice of cowboys. I was attracted to the exotic and unfamiliar, never realizing that cowboys were exotic and unfamiliar to someone. It was only when I started publishing books and an editor pointed out that as a country girl from Texas, I should be writing about cowboys, that I came to truly appreciate what I had.

The stereotypical cowboy is laconic, tall, lean, stalwart, stoic and rides to the tune of his own drummer, but stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. This is the profile of most cowboys I’ve known. They’re loyal, compassionate, practical and honest. The kind of man you can depend on. Most of them can do a mean two-step, a lot of them play guitar and almost all of them like to take their time. Giving new meaning to the phrase “slow hand.”

Don’t ask them to dress in a tux unless it’s aTexas tuxedo. They’re not big on small talk or wasting time with inconsequential things. They work hard, but know how to play when the time comes. They live by a code of honor that’s rare in the twenty-first century.

Honestly, I can’t believe I took cowboys for granted all these years. My bad. These days, I make up for it by writing about cowboys and sharing these great men with readers who aren’t lucky enough to have a cowboy of their own.

How about you? Do you love cowboys? What kind of men did you grow up with? Are there people and things from your childhood that you’ve taken for granted? Leave a comment and be entered in a sweepstakes. I’m giving away ten copies of THE COWBOY TAKES A BRIDE, the first book in my Jubilee, Texas series.

Also, Christie Craig (she writes hot, funny stories about cowboys) and I are giving away a Boot Scootin’ Basket. Here’s the link to enter. Get your cowgirl on!

Updated: August 17, 2012 — 10:52 am