Many of our ancestors made the trek west, crossing our great continent on foot, horseback, and wagon, long before the convenience of GPS. How did people find their way? Of course the sun, moon and stars have long been landmarks for travelers. The compass existed, but with the twists and turns of rivers and valleys, one could easily go off track. Imagine the delight, therefore, in seeing a known landmark across a plain or prairie to help you know you are heading in the right direction! On a recent trip cross country my husband took the time to examine two such landmarks whose dramatic shapes were visible for miles.

Castle Rock from a distance
Castle Rock up close









In Kansas one finds Castle Rock, an ancient limestone deposit at the bottom of an inland sea. Whittled by sand, wind, and water, it was visible from the Overland Trail.

Huerfano (Spanish for orphan) Butte in Colorado, a volcanic plug, is a volcano that never happened. During a mountain-building phase of our planet’s development, the ancient seabed was uplifted and magma was forced into the surrounding rock, but never broke though the surface. As erosion removed the softer stone, this formation was exposed. Named by early Spanish explorers, el Huerfano (WEAR-fah-no), rising 200’ above the floodplain, was visible from the Trappers Trail to Taos.

Huerfano in the distance
Huerfano up close










In many of my novels, people travel vast distances in every manner possible, from foot to train. Imagine walking from the Appalachians to the Mississippi as Nelly and kin do in my newest release, Kissless in Kansas. At least Barnabas was on horseback making a similar trek a decade earlier in Rescuing Barnabas, also released in July. Neither would have seen the landmarks above as they stopped their journeys in southeastern Kansas.












I introduced the town of Green River (although not by name in that first book) last year in Rescuing Christmas, which I am offering as a gift to one of my discussion participants. I am a fan of family building, leading to world building, and have gradually fleshed out the town of Green River over several decades (their time, not ours!) I try to ensure “standaloneability” in each tale but many of the characters pop up in more than one novel.

So my question to you, and please feel free to expand, is whether you enjoy encountering friends from other books or prefer each story to have all new characters?

Elissa Strati, Author


I enjoy researching and writing about the past. And in my mind some of me lives in the past. Via the magic of photography, I can share a vision of my personal past. This is the age my mind thinks I still am. I wish it would get my body on the same page!

Thank you for inviting me into your lives today.

Here are a bunch of links if you’d like to follow or keep in touch (I’d like that a lot!):


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