The School Mistress – by Tess Thompson

Hi to all you Petticoats and Pistols readers! I’m thrilled to be guest blogging today. I thought I’d share a little about me and my books and do a giveaway of a paperback of The School Mistress.

I write mostly small-town romances/family sagas, some contemporary and some historical. Almost always, they’re set in the Pacific Northwest. (I’m from Oregon originally and have lived in Seattle for thirty years.) As a writer and readers, my true love are historical novels but I wasn’t sure my contemporary audience would agree. I’d had a lot of success with two small town series set in Oregon and northern California. However, that all changed two years ago with the release of my first Emerson Pass Historical, THE SCHOOL MISTRESS. It and the others in the series have been in the top twenty American historical romances on Amazon for almost two years. I’m delighted, of course! Mostly because that means I get to write more of them.

 

Often readers ask me what inspired a certain book or series. I’m never totally sure how to answer because once the creative process starts, it is easy to forget how you came up with the idea in the first place. However, the origin of Emerson Pass I remember well. One morning about three years ago, I woke up from a dream in which the Barnes family were the main characters. I grabbed my notebook, kept at the side of my bed for this very reason, and wrote down the names, ages, and descriptions of the children as well as Quinn and Alexander. The scene I’d dreamt was of a young woman arriving in a frontier town on the train with snow falling all around her. This is the first scene in the book.

I was in the middle of writing my Cliffside Bay Series, thus I had to set aside the Barnes family for about a year. Finally, in December of 2019, I gave myself a present. I would write THE SCHOOL MISTRESS as a Christmas gift to myself. I didn’t think it would sell well or be a hit at all, but it was something to fill my creative well. It was a book I would like to read!

I was wrong about the hit factor. Readers loved the tale of my courageous schoolteacher and the widower with five children. It was so popular that I committed to writing a story for each of the children. Then, Quinn had two babies, so that made their stories necessary too. At the same time, I decided the descendants of the first characters should have some stories too, thus the contemporary Emerson Pass were born!

I’m about to begin writing the eighth and final book of the series. The seventh comes out September 20th. I feel a little blue saying goodbye to this family I’ve known so well. However, another historical series will release next year with a new family and new love stories.

If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, the whole series is in there, so you can read them for free!

GIVEAWAY

I’m also giving a paperback copy of THE SCHOOL MISTRESS to one lucky winner. 

Just tell me what your earliest memory of school is.

To enter to win, head to my website and subscribe to my newsletter and then comment to let me know you did it.

You get a free novella just for signing up!

PURCHASE THE SCHOOL MISTRESS HERE

 

Writing a Home Town Romance

My childhood years were spent on a farm 12 miles from the nearest town (population 1,000) that sat on the banks of the Malheur River in Eastern Oregon.

We usually ventured into town twice a week – once for my piano lessons, and on Sunday for church. Mom usually did her grocery shopping while I pounded the ivories. If my lesson wrapped up early and the weather was nice, I sometimes waited for Mom outside, studying the old buildings, imagining what the town might have been like when they were constructed.

One building, in particular, always fascinated me. It was made of stone and the oldest building in town.

Through the years, I learned more about the Stone House, as it’s called.

 

 

Built in 1872, this sandstone structure was the first permanent building in Malheur County, Oregon.

Jonathan Keeney had previously settled there, near the banks of the Malheur River where pioneers on the Oregon Trail crossed it, and enjoyed the hot springs bubbling nearby. He sold his property to Lewis and Amanda Rinehart, who replaced the log house Keeney had built with the sandstone house. The house opened to all on New Year’s Day 1873 with a grand ball upstairs.

Just picture how welcoming that lone two-story house would have looked to weary travelers. After crossing the Snake River, it was about twenty miles across sagebrush-covered hills to reach the Malheur River. In the summer, it would have been miserable. Hot. Dry. Dusty. With mile after mile of sagebrush, rocks, hills, and not much else.

In fact, one weary traveler is said to have perished (supposedly from thirst) not far from the river, given up his battle to survive just a few yards too soon.

But on the other side of the Malheur River stood the Stone House. In fact, many referred to the community as Stone House for years, until the town was incorporated as Vale.

The house became a wayside stop for travelers until the early 1900s. It was a stage stop where travelers could wait to board. And during the Bannock Paiute uprising of 1878, it served as Field Headquarters to General O.O. Howard as well as a refuge for settlers on outlying ranches and farms.

Amanda Rinehart was known as a gracious hostess, welcoming visitors to her home.

The Stone House original floor plan

 

 

Originally, the house had six “rooms” downstairs: a main lobby area for passengers waiting for the stage with a curtain separating it to create a space for women and children. The dining room took up most of the first-floor space, with a sizeable kitchen, a pantry, and the Rinehart’s bedroom. Upstairs was originally a ballroom which was then converted to rooms for guests. And the stairs to reach the second story were located outside.

Today, the Stone House is a museum that reminds of us the past. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

When I was invited to participate in the Regional Romance Series again this year, I thought about how fun it would be to write a romance set in the community of Stone House before it became the town of Vale. A few old records refer to the town as Rinehart’s Crossing, and I loved the way Romance at Rinehart’s Crossing sounded. All those times I sat and imagined the stories of the buildings in town were finally going to be put to use as I envisioned the Rinehart’s Crossing of my story.

Before I started writing, I made a trip to visit the Stone House and took my dad along. He had a grand time because he knew the volunteer working there that day and they farmed at least two acres while I wandered through the rooms, snapping photos of the things on display.

Like this horse hair coat (which I mention in the story!).

And just look at all the neat antiques in the kitchen.

I will proudly note the stove was donated by my dad to the museum. When I was very young and we lived in what we called the “old house” it had a place of honor in our dining room. The stove originally belonged to my sister-in-law’s grandmother. It was sitting out in a shed and she asked Dad if he wanted to buy it, so he did. I love to think of all the meals it cooked and all the memories it holds.

This enormous hook was used with the ferry at the Snake River Crossing. The volunteer (thanks, Gary!) gave a detailed description of how the hook worked, and how the ferry could be adjusted to flow with or against the current.

When we finished up at the museum, we drove a few miles out of town to Keeney Pass, named for Jonathan Keeney, were you can actually stand right on the Oregon Trail. With the dried weeds and grass, it’s a little hard to see, but where the dip is on the right and left are the actually ruts made by the wagons that rolled through the area. I get goose bumps every time I go out there, picturing the hot, tired, weary travelers as they head up another hill to see the river and a little town in the distance.

It was fun for me to write about an Oregon Trail town, especially one where I grew up!

 

 

Tenner King is determined to make his own way in the world far from the overbearing presence of his father and the ranch where he was raised in Rinehart’s Crossing, Oregon. Reluctantly, he returns home after his father’s death to find the ranch on its way to ruin and his siblings antsy to leave. Prepared to do whatever is necessary to save the ranch, Tenner isn’t about to let a little thing like love get in his way.

Austen – After spending her entire life ruled by her father, Austen Rose King certainly isn’t going to allow her bossy older brother to take on the job. Desperate to leave the hard work and solitude of the Diamond K Ranch, she decides a husband would be the fastest means of escape. If only she could find a man she could tolerate for more than five minutes.

Claire – Two thousand miles of travel. Two thousand miles of listening to her parents bicker about the best place in Oregon to settle. Two thousand miles of dusty trails, bumpy wagons, and things that slither and creep into her bedding at night. Claire Clemons would happily set down roots that very minute if someone would let her. What she needs is her own Prince Charming to give her a place to call home. When a broken wagon wheel strands her family miles from civilization, she wonders if handsome Worth King, the freighter who rescues them, might just be the answer to her prayers.

Kendall – Anxious to escape her mother’s meddling interference, Kendall Arrington leaves her society life behind, intent on experiencing a Wild West adventure. Hired as the school teacher in a growing town on the Oregon Trail, Kendall hopes to bring a degree of civility and a joy of learning to the children of Rinehart’s Crossing. However, the last thing she expects to find is a cowboy with shaggy hair, dusty boots, and incredible green eyes among her eager students.

Will love find the three King siblings as Romance arrives in Rinehart’s Crossing?

Read all the books in the Regional Romance Series featuring historic locations, exciting drama, and sweet (yet swoony) romance!

If you could write a story about your hometown, what would it be about?

Any key buildings or characters you would include? 

Post your answer for a chance to win an autographed copy of Romance at Rinehart’s Crossing! 

 

The Thermos that Saved the Day

First, this is my inaugural post. I’m so glad to be here. I’ve posted as a guest a few times, but to be included as a Filly has been humbling and I’m grateful and thankful.

In case we’ve never met, I write a whole host of things including historical Christian westerns, contemporary romance and romantic suspense, and women’s fiction under the name Teri Blake. I look forward to getting to know you all better.

Great Lakes Light book cover

On Friday, my new book Great Lakes Light will release in the same series as 2 other Fillies, Kit Morgan and Shanna Hatfield. I don’t want to give away too much of this story, but this is a fictionalized account of how the Split Rock Lighthouse came to be. Some aspects of the story are complete fiction, others are drawn from resources (and I offer a complete source list in the back of the book). You’ll want to preorder it before Friday, as the preorder price will go away when it publishes. I just LOVE that my designer was able to use a real image of the lighthouse.

Have you ever read a bit of history and been completely blown away? Such was the case for me. I love my insulated water and coffee tumblers, those metal mugs used to keep drinks warm or cold for hours. Did you know that the first one was created in 1892!! I didn’t either! Even though this is the period I write most often, I’m always blown away by their inventiveness and ingenuity.

Because I was so amazed, I absolutely had to include a Thermos (though it went by various names before settling on that one, as things often do) in this story. And it was perfect because at the time of my story, there was only one store that sold the illustrious thermos and it was in New York. Since the entire middle of the book actually takes place in Washington D.C… a congressman would certainly have access to one…and it just might save him. But you’ll have to read the story to find out how.

Image of original thermos

Interestingly, these containers didn’t come into existence to keep coffee warm for the men working on the huge skyscrapers being built at the time in New York. They were originally created by a mortician who realized he needed to keep chemicals at a stable temperature. The original (used for embalming) thermos, was glass with a vacuum between the two layers. It was his glassblower who realized the commercial prospects, created a patent, and sold it to three US companies.

Do you use a thermos? I have two different one, one for the water I drink all day and one I bought on my last trip to Deadwood, SD that keeps my morning coffee hot. Drop your answer below and I’ll ship out a print copy of Great Lakes Light to one lucky commenter.

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 ?

Starting in the Middle

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

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

That’s when things got interesting and fun!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I released my book Aundy that spring.

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

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

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

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

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

Ta, da!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Early New Mexico – by Guest Janice Cole Hopkins

 

During the years when Spain ruled Mexico and territories to the north, they allowed very few foreigners to enter, and trade was nearly impossible. However, once Mexico gained its independence in 1821, things opened-up. Almost immediately, traders began to enter New Mexico Territory, and the legendary Santa Fe Trail began.

Much of the merchandise available from Mexico was inferior to that produced in the United States, and those in the territories were eager for the higher quality goods. Hauling the items that far was difficult and dangerous, but the lucrative profits were appealing. From its beginning, the Santa Fe Trail was only meant for wagon trains hauling goods. Other western trails, such as the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail would be for settlers coming to the West. That didn’t keep settlers from trickling in, however, and for the most part, the Mexican government welcomed them.

This is the historical background to my new five-book series set in early New Mexico. The first book in the Cactus Creek series, Second-Choice Bride, is already out, and the second book, Sterling Orphans, will soon follow. In Second-Choice Bride, Abby Carter was horrified with herself when she blurted out a marriage proposal to Preston King. A proper lady would never do such a thing, but her cousin had just jilted Preston, and she wanted to ease his hurt. She cared too much for him. Preston is confused, but he knows he needs a wife to help him run his uncle’s ranch in New Mexico Territory, so he asks Abby to marry him. But will he ever purge Magnolia from his heart, and will they even survive the long journey west?

I lived in New Mexico for two years and learned much about the area and its history during that time. My husband and I bought an old adobe house and remodeled it. I had a great time decorating it with a southwestern theme. When my mother’s health began to fail, and her insurance wouldn’t pay out-of-state beyond six months, we returned to North Carolina, and I began writing some of those novels I had always wanted to write. Second-Choice Bride is my thirtieth published book.

I love writing about the places I have lived and worked, and I have a lot to choose from. I’ve been to all fifty states and about forty-five other countries. With my love of history, I always explore the past and culture of an area. Having grown up in the eastern part of the Appalachian Mountains, I often joke that I lived much as people did in the 1800s. However, there’s some truth in that statement, but it’s given me a good background for writing historical fiction.

Leave the answer to the question below in a comment, and I will give a Kindle copy of Second-Choice Bride to the winner whose name is drawn.

If you could temporarily move to a new place for a year or two, where would you choose and why?

Also, free to ask me any questions or make comments. I look forward to chatting with you.

You can check out Janice’s books HERE

Art of Letter Writing

 

Did you know January 23 is National Handwriting Day? It’s true! The celebration began back in 1977 when the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association established the day to promote the use of pens, pencils, and paper. It also happens to be the birthday of John Hancock, a man remembered for his stylish signature on the Declaration of Independence. In fact, in the U.S., his name became a synonym for one’s signature.

As technology pervades (invades!) more and more of our daily life, it seems we write things by hand less and less.

There’s just something about writing something by hand that is almost therapeutic. And it’s an art that is quickly becoming lost. 

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love getting something handwritten in the mail, whether it’s a card or a letter. Even a sticky note with a message written in Captain Cavedweller’s chicken scratch handwriting brightens my day. 

Writing a letter is an art – from choosing the card or paper to the writing utensil, to the words that are expressed. 

Writing a letter does require a little more effort than sending a quick text, but think about how personal a letter can be. How special it is to the recipient. How meaningful and appreciated even the simplest message of “I’m thinking of you” is to someone who loves you. 

Letters build relationships in a way, a personal caring way, that text messages and emails never will. It’s something tangible that can be held in the recipient’s hand. Whether it’s a card full of glittery sparkles or a formal piece of heavy parchment, what really matters is the message conveyed from your hand to the heart of the reader. 

 

In my sweet historical romance, The Christmas Wish, the heroine, Brynn, writes anonymous letters to people in the town of Hardman. Her only goal is to offer encouragement and cheer to the recipients.

Here’s a little excerpt from the book:

Percy had heard about someone writing letters full of positivity and hope to people in town. His parents had been the recipients of one a year ago, and his mother proudly kept the letter in the desk in the apartment. It was one of the first things she showed him when he returned home.

The handwriting was sometimes shaky, which made Percy wonder if it was an elderly person, but the turns of phrase the writer used hinted at someone younger.

Regardless, the wisher’s identity remained a mystery that Percy rather hoped continued. It gave the people in Hardman something happy to focus on and look forward to since a letter popped up once a week and no one could guess who would be the next recipient.

He glanced at Brynn as the conversation shifted to the holiday season and noticed her looking quite pleased. He wondered if it had something to do with the wisher or the way her grandfather continued to cast adoring glances at Dora Granger.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if  there were more Brynn’s in the world? 

I’m going to try to be more like her, and write by hand more personal notes this year. 

What about you?

Do you write notes for friends and loved ones? Do you enjoy receiving them?

Do you have a favorite note or card that you’ve kept as a keepsake? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a handwritten note from me! 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY: A DAY FOR ROMANCE

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

We have a special guest today, so please give Caroline Clemmons a big, warm Petticoats and Pistols welcome! 

Happy Valentine’s Day! Thanks to the fillies for sharing the blog with me today.

What better time for us romance readers and authors than a day to celebrate romance? In addition to Valentine cards, common expressions from a man to a woman include chocolates and red roses. I hope I get chocolate! I wouldn’t mind both, of course.

Do you remember how exciting the day was in elementary school when you exchanged Valentines with other children? The smell of library paste and red paper stuck to your fingers? Did you experience the desperation of Charlie Brown for the Little Red-Haired Girl if you were hoping a special classmate gave you a Valentine? Later, when did you get your first heart-shaped box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers? I was in the eighth grade and caught by surprise.

I’d always thought the custom of sending Valentines originated in the nineteenth century. I was wrong. Valentine greetings were exchanged as early as the 15th century and printed cards appeared in the seventeenth century. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s.

In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” (Hmm, reminds me of the word “scrapbooking”.) Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year (more cards are sent at Christmas). No surprise—women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

If you remember studying his works, I don’t want to give you a headache. However, the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to record St. Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration in his 1375 poem “Parliament of Foules,” writing,

“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day

Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

<Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2&gt;

We’re more concerned with our Valentine’s Day, aren’t we? What I recommend for the day is a book, a romance of course. Kick off your shoes and curl up in a cozy spot to read. So many great writers have romances available to fit every taste.

I’m offering a free e-book of the winner’s choice to three people who leave a comment today. You can find my books listed on my Amazon Author page at: https://amazon.com/Caroline-Clemmons/e/B001K8CXZ6/

While you’re there, why not Follow me?

By the way, I have an upcoming release on February 19 for A BRIDE FOR LUKE (The Proxy Brides Book 10). Although it was considerable work, this was fun to write and I’m hoping readers will enjoy the book. Beta reader results have been very positive! It’s available for preorder now at the Universal Amazon link: http://mybook.to/Maeve. It will be in e-book and print and free in Kindle Unlimited.

Here’s a synopsis blurb:

Each is struggling to build a better life . . .

Two strong-willed people are bound to clash . . .

Danger forces them to focus on what is at stake . . .

Maeve Kelly came to America for a better life but found only signs that said No Irish Need Apply. When the cousin with whom she is staying leaves Boston, Maeve is left desperate. Her job at the laundry doesn’t pay enough for her to survive alone. Her friend suggests a way out, Maeve resists but finally accepts. What else can she do?

Sheriff Luke Sullivan is proud of his accomplishments. Known for his strong principles, he is admired and well-respected in the community. When he learns his mother and aunt have schemed to get him a proxy bride he’s furious. If he’d wanted a wife he would have found one. He respects and loves his mother and aunt and finally agrees to the marriage. Before he and his bride can adjust to one another, Luke is caught in the middle of an explosive situation between striking miners and the railroad.

Threats against Luke by each side have him fearing for the safety of his wife, mother, and aunt. He must resolve the strike to protect his family and many others. Will he succeed in time to save lives?

Enjoy an excerpt:

He pushed back from the table. “How can I keep you safe if you don’t follow orders? Do you understand?”

She put her hands on her hips. “Oh, so it’s orders you’re giving me, is it? Weel, Lucas Brady Sullivan, I take orders from no man. Do you understand?”

“Mae, you’re making something from nothing.” He tapped his chest. “I’m your husband. You promised to obey me when we wed.”

That brought her temper down a notch. She had promised and Father Patrick had lectured her on the husband being the head of the household. “Mayhap I did, but not high handed orders.”

“And what would you consider obeying? You want a written invitation to remain home? Shall I show you the other wanted poster and suggest you avoid that man? You’ve no idea what these other men look like so how would you know if they were walking down the street or shopping in the Mercantile? How can you know who’s an upstanding citizen and who’s a stranger in town? You were in front of the Mercantile when Higgins accosted you.”

She turned toward the sink, hands on her face to hide her shame. “Aye, ‘tis sorry I am. The worry of what’s going to happen has me in bits. I can’t get out of my mind the fact someone may shoot at you from an ambush.”

He wrapped his arms around her. “Don’t fret, honey. I’m doing my best to keep this situation from becoming violent. I can’t focus on my job if I’m worried about where you are and what you’re doing and who’s around you.”

She leaned her head against his broad chest. His strong heartbeat reassured her. “I see the way I was wrong. ‘Twas my mistake and I said ‘tis sorry I am.”

She looked up at him. “But, for us to have a peaceful marriage you’d best consider making requests instead of giving orders.”

ABOUT CAROLINE

Through a crazy twist of fate, Caroline Clemmons was not born on a Texas ranch. To compensate for this illogical error, she writes about handsome cowboys, feisty ranch women, and scheming villains in a tiny office her family calls her pink cave. She and her Hero live in North Central Texas cowboy country where they ride herd on their three rescued indoor cats and one dog.

The books she creates in her pink cave have made her a bestselling author and won awards. She writes historical and contemporary as well as time travel and mystery. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading her friends’ books, lunching with friends, browsing antique malls, checking Facebook, and taking the occasional nap. Find her on her WebsiteBlogFacebookTwitterNewsletter.  She loves to hear from readers at caroline@carolineclemmons.com

Baker City Mining

 

Admittedly, the history of mining isn’t something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about or researching. And then I happened to include a setting of mines in not one but two stories and dove into researching hard rock mining in the Baker City, Oregon, area at the end of the 1800s.

I knew before I started that there were many, many mines in the area from the 1880s through the 1890s and on into the new century. Dozens of little mining towns popped up on the horizon and just as quickly faded one the mines closed. 

From 1880 through 1899, Oregon produced more than $26 million dollars in gold and silver with more than $18 million of it coming from Baker, Grant and Union county (which are all in the Baker City region). 

To say mining was a big deal at the time is something of an understatement. It was a huge business.

Thankfully, the Baker County Library has an incredible digital library of thousands of old images. I found many that illustrated the mining business and aided my research more than I can even say. 

As a visual person, it was fantastic to look at these images, read the descriptions and picture how things would look at my fictional mines. 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This advertisement was such a help to me because the illustration lets you look inside the various levels of the mill and see how they were built into the hills. 

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This is an image of the Eureka & Excelsior Mine mill building in the Cracker Creek District, Oregon. You can see how it’s built into the hill, quite similar to the illustration in the advertisement. 

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This image shows the vanner room at the Bonanaza Mine, which was one of the top producing mines during the mining heyday in the Baker City region. It was located four miles from Greenhorn City which straddled both the Baker and Grant county lines.

Vanning is a process of separating the material of value from that which is worthless. Typically, a powdered sample of orestuff is swirled with water on the blade of a shovel and then given a series of upward flicking motions. The heavier ore is tossed up through the water and appears as a crescent shaped patch at the top of the charge with the lighter material that is unusable below.  In the 19th century, the process was automated and used to separate ore on an industrial scale. The Frue Vanner was a widely-adopted machine, invented in 1874 by W.B. Frue in Canada. 

With a Frue vanner, a continuous rubber belt (usually 4 feet wide and about 27.5 feet long, shown in the center of this photo) passed over rollers to from the surface of an inclined plane. The orestuff was concentrate on in the belt and the belt traveled uphill from three to twelve feet per minute while being shaken anywhere from 180-200 times. Crushed orestuff from the stamps fed onto the belt. As it traveled uphill, it met small jets of water which gradually washed the gangue (the commercially valueless material in which ore is found) off the bottom of the belt. The heavier ore adhered to the belt as it went over the top roller and passed into a box containing water where the ore was deposited. To make this work, anywhere from three to six gallons of water per minute was required. One machine could treat approximately six tons per twenty-four hours of orestuff.

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

 

This is a photo of the stamping room at the Golden Gate mine, also located near Greenhorn City. There are ten stamps shown here. The stamp is a large mechanical device used to crush ore and extract minerals. Repeatedly, the stamps and raised and dropped onto ore that is fed into the mill, until the coarse ore is reduced to a finer material that can be further processed. The number of stamps used depended on the size of the mill and the amount of ore being taken out of the mine.

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

The Red Boy Mine (also located near Greenhorn City) boasted it’s own laboratory, at least in this 1902 photo. On-site labs were considered to be a strategic value to a mine. Among the work done there was testing and sampling to derive critical operational, metallurgical, and environmental data needed to make the most of mining and mineral processing production.

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This amazing photo (undated) was taken at the Bonanza Mine.  Five men are working in a tunnel wielding four-pound hammers that were called “single jacks” and steel drills. Note the candles on a wire stuck in cracks in the walls to provide light.  Total production at this mine from 1899-1904 was just shy of a million dollars. It was mostly a gold mine, although they did find some silver. Reports show total production from the mine totaled $1.75 million dollars. 

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

And this awesome image is taken inside the superintendent’s cabin at the St. Anthony Mine in 1901.  One might assume the woman in the photo is the superintendent’s wife. Many of the mines refused to allow women in the camp and were called a “boar’s nest.” 

If you’d like to read more about mining in this region of Oregon, there’s a lot of detail in this digital report

And if you’d like to read about the adventures of my characters at the fictional mines that exist only in my head, you’ll find Graydon (Grady) Gaffney at the Lucky Larkspur Mine in Gift of Hope.

 

When his affections are spurned by the girl he plans to wed, Graydon Gaffney rides off in the swirling snow, determined to stay far away from fickle females. Then a voice in the storm draws him to a woman and her two sweet children. Despite his intentions to guard his emotions, all three members of the DeVille family threaten to capture his heart.

Giavanna DeVille holds the last frayed edges of her composure in a tenuous grasp. In a moment of desperation, she leaves her sleeping children in her cabin and ventures out into a storm to release her pent-up frustrations where no one can hear her cries. Much to her surprise, a man appears through the blinding snow. He gives her a shoulder to cry on and something even more precious. . . hope.

Can the two of them move beyond past heartaches to accept the gift of hope for their future?

You’ll also find the characters of my latest book Dumplings and Dynamite (releasing tomorrow!) at the Crescent Creek Mine, up in the hills out of Baker City. 

Widow Hollin Hughes doesn’t care how long it takes or the depths of deception required to discover how her husband really died. She’s determined to unearth the truth and unravel the mystery surrounding his death. Then a new dynamite man arrives at the mine and throws all her plans off kilter.

With a smile that makes females of any age swoon, Deputy Seth Harter can charm his way into or out of almost anything. When he’s sent undercover to Crescent Creek Mine, even the cranky cook seems entirely immune to his rugged appeal, making him wonder if he’s losing his touch. Eager to get to the bottom of a series of unexplained deaths, Seth counts on catching the criminals. He just didn’t anticipate a tempestuous woman claiming his heart in the process.

Brimming with humor, tidbits from history, and a sweet, unexpected love, don’t miss out on a heartwarming romance packed with adventure.

And here’s a little excerpt from the story:

A flash of pity swept through him for the baby’s mother who lost her husband and was now working for the contemptible Eustace Gilford. He had no doubt the woman had to rise in the wee hours of the morning to be able to cook a big breakfast for a camp full of miners. It had to be challenging to cook and care for such a newly-born child.

Mrs. Parrish hurried back into the kitchen, saw him holding the baby, and her pale skin blanched white.

“What are you doing?” she asked in a harsh, quiet tone. She moved across the room and took the baby from him with such haste, he had no idea how she’d managed to reach him in so few steps. He couldn’t be certain, but he thought maybe she’d forgotten about her limp.

“I hoped if I held her, she’d stop crying. It worked,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets, although he moved a step closer to the widow. “What’s her name?”

“Keeva.”

“I’ve never met anyone named Keeva. Is it a family name?” he asked.

The woman merely nodded. “It was her great-grandmother’s name.”

“Then I’m sure she’d be proud to have a beautiful little granddaughter to share it with.”

The woman looked at him over her shoulder with an uncertain glare, as though she couldn’t quite figure him out, before she turned back to the baby. “Breakfast is on the table. The men will be in soon. If you want something to eat, you best get out there. If Mr. Gilford didn’t mention it, the men pack their own lunches from the food on the tables near the door.”

“He did say something about that. Thank you, Mrs. Parrish.” Seth tipped his head to her then made his way to the dining room where men began trickling inside.

Eustace directed Seth to a chair at the far end of the long table. When everyone was seated, he pointed to Seth. “Meet our newest employee, Seth Harter. He’ll be drilling and blasting.”

Mrs. Parrish nearly dropped the pot of coffee she carried at this announcement but quickly recovered. Seth wondered how hard he’d have to work to charm the truth out of her. In spite of her appearance, something about her made him look forward to trying.

Although Dumplings and Dynamite releases tomorrow, you can pre-order it today!

If you were a miner back in the 1800s, what kind of mineral would you have been searching for? Gold? Silver? Quartz? Copper? Lead? Something with a little more sparkle? 

Where Bustles and Spurs Meet

The thought of bustles and spurs and how at odds the two things can be just makes me smile.

I love (LOVE) writing about cowboys and anytime I can work in the jingling of spurs, even better! 

I also love writing about unlikely couples. You know the type… it might be city versus country or uptight versus laid-back. 

One book in particular, Crumpets and Cowpies, was such fun for me to write because the couple was about as opposite as they could be. She was an English Lady. He was a rough rancher from Eastern Oregon. How in the world could these two find common ground let alone fall in love? 

Well, that’s part of the joy of writing for me. 

In this story, Lady Jemma despises the rough cowboy who’s shown up on her doorstep. She’s as proper as they come and refuses to put up with what she views as his insufferable ideas and overbearing disposition. 

Thane Jordan is called to England to settle his brother’s estate only to discover he’s inherited much more than he expected. To claim his inheritance, he has to put up with the fussy, tightly-laced Lady Jemma. 

Here’s a fun little scene that illustrates how well the two of them get along:

“There’s one more thing we need to discuss.” Thane smirked in the familiar way that both aggravated and excited her as she looked at him again.

“What might that be?”

“This…” Thane reached behind her, grabbing her bustle and giving it a gentle tug. She sucked in a gulp of air at his outlandish behavior. “Has got to go.”

At her abhorrent glare, he let go of the bustle and took a step back, although his grin broadened. “You can’t work on a ranch with that thing flopping around behind you. You can dress however you like when we go into town, but for life on the ranch, you need to put it away. While I’m on that subject, you can’t go around with your corset laced so tight it makes you faint.”

She glared at him. “I did not faint.”

“You came darn close and I won’t have you putting your health in danger just to make an already tiny waist smaller. You can wear it, if you insist, just don’t lace it so tight. Since you’re going to be getting new clothes, make sure you get them to fit with the corset loosened.”

Jemma trembled with fury as she stood in front of him, about to combust with anger. She couldn’t believe he would dare converse about such personal, sensitive topics as her bustle and corset.  “You, sir, are a…”

“Save it, Jem. Unless you can invent some new words to call me, I’ve heard it before.”

Thane gave her bustle another tug as he walked by, returning outside to where he’d been hammering horseshoes at the forge.

You can find Crumpets and Cowpies along with the other Baker City Brides stories on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/yxer7bca

To enter for a chance to win a digital copy of the prelude to the Baker City Brides series along with the first three books, just post your answer to this question: 

If you were Lady Jemma, what would you do?

Set aside your bustle or continue to wear it?