Saturday, November 27, 2010

TEXAS...IT'S A WHOLE OTHER COUNTRY

By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, many of us have been reflecting on the many blessings in our lives -- including freedom, family, faith, health, and home. Home for me is in the State of Texas and, like most Texans, I am very proud of my state. I have traveled across the United States as well as other countries, and have enjoyed the beauty and heritage they have to offer. Yet, there is just something about Texas -- about its history, its people, and its beauty that never ceases to touch my heart and soul.

Most Texans will tell you that everything is bigger (and often better) in Texas. But lest you question our bragging rights, allow me to provide some perspective. First of all, people often don't grasp the sheer size of this state and all it has to offer in terms of geography and climate. With 268,820 square miles, the State of Texas is larger than several countries, including France, Germany, Japan and all of the United Kingdom.

Were you to travel across the State of Texas, you would encounter large cities and quaint small towns -- all with a proud history and heritage. But Texas also offers a spectacular, diverse landscape -- from the rugged plains and water-carved caverns of the Panhandle in the north (pictured below), to the more than 625 miles of coastline along the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.


To the east are the Piney Woods, thousands of acres of pine forests, as well as ash, elm, magnolia and cypress trees. Four national forests and five state forests are located in this region.


Go west and find the Big Bend Country (pictured below), including the Guadalupe Mountains and the arid Chihuahuan Desert filled with cacti, scrub brush and tumbling tumbleweeds.



There are the South Texas Plains with the tropical Rio Grande Valley, and the miles of the Prairies and Lakes region which begins at the northern border of the Red River, separates Texas and Oklahoma, then extends down to just east of San Antonio. Major cities like Dallas and Fort Worth are located in this region.

Last, but certainly not least, is the heart of Texas – the beautiful Hill Country where sparkling lakes and rivers, gently rolling hills, and breathtaking wildflowers bloom.




Take my word for it. Drive in any direction. There is no end to discovering some place with beauty, history, and legacy all its own.

Today, I’d like to share one such place in particular. SALADO


Long ago, Native Americans were drawn to a beautiful place with a flowing spring-fed creek believed to possess ‘special curative powers’. Spanish and Mexican travelers also became enchanted by the tranquility and beauty of the area. Known as Salado Creek, the oasis soon attracted pioneer settlers including Col. Sterling C. Robertson (pictured below) who not only built a home and plantation there, but donated land for a village and a college in 1859.

Incorporated as Salado in 1867, the village was situated on the Old Chisholm Trail and became a very important stop of the Overland Stage and Pony Express. In fact, The Stagecoach Inn still stands today.


Originally called The Shady Villa Hotel, the rustic stop opened in the 1860s and provided rest, food and safety for the Overland Stage, Express riders, as well as cavalry and cowboys driving cattle north on the Old Chisholm Trail. Among its prestigious guests were General Robert E. Lee and Texas patriot, Sam Houston.

Both the village and Salado College prospered, but eventually larger state funded and religious founded colleges proved too competitive for Salado College. Consequently, the college closed in 1885.


Yet, among the graduates of Salado College was none other than Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson (pictured left) who not only became the first female governor for the State of Texas, but served two terms as the 29th and 32nd governor.


Today, Salado still takes pride in its serene beauty, historical legacy and warm people. With over 60 shops and galleries, it has also become famous for its exceptional and unique artisans. Located in Central Texas, between Austin and Waco, it is truly a lovely place to visit for a day or perhaps a weekend getaway. And that’s why, as you read this, I will actually be visiting Salado with my family and embracing yet another wonderful place Texas has to offer.


For more information about Salado, visit: http://www.salado.com/index.cfm

Friday, November 26, 2010


My hero in Doctor in Petticoats is blind. It's a risky thing to do and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to write in a blind person's POV and not over use words like hand and touch. I made the conscience decision to have him blind when he was in an accident in the third Halsey book.

An older relative of my husband's spent several summers with us before she passed on. She was blind, angry about losing her sight, yet she was intelligent and knew how to use her other senses to make up for her loss. I enjoyed learning about her, how she felt about losing her sight, and her thoughts on life in general. I used what I'd gleaned from her visits to hopefully structure realism in my blind character. While she lost her sight gradually, my hero lost his in an explosion. He could see the man throwing the dynamite one minute and was in complete darkness the next.

I also researched the blind school which was operational at the time of my book. I called ahead and asked if I could look at their old records to get a feel for how the school was run, who and how many employees they had, and a feel for the students who attended. Reading through the old records was enlightening and fun. It was a state run school and people didn't have to pay to send their family members there. But they were tested. Some comments on the documents were: "He's feeble of mind but should be trainable." "She isn't trainable." It makes you wonder what they put them through and what they considered "feeble fo mind and untrainable". Was it attitude, low I.Q. to lost in their blindness to learn?

A superintendent ran the school with several instructors of classes to teach them a trade, like broom making, crocheting, caning on chairs, and they were taught singing everyday to boost their morale. They also learned to read Braille and use a type writer like machine that punched dots on paper for them to read.

In the real world the doctor wasn't in the school but visited regularly and was paid by the state to do so. I changed it up a little and have my heroine's father contribute to the school in order to get her the job of school doctor.

Blurb for Doctor in Petticoats
After a life-altering accident and a failed relationship, Dr. Rachel Tarkiel gave up on love and settled for a life healing others as the physician at a School for the Blind. She's happy in her vocation--until handsome Clay Halsey shows up and inspires her to want more.

Blinded by a person he considered a friend, Clay curses his circumstances and his limitations. Intriguing Dr. Tarkiel shows him no pity, though. To her, he's as much a man as he ever was.

Can these two wounded souls conquer outside obstacles, as well as their own internal fears, and find love?

Excerpt
Her head rested on his chest, one arm across his middle. He grasped her leg pushing down on his injured one and draped it over his thighs. He breathed in the citrus scent of her hair and waited for the throbbing in his leg to abate. The weight of her limbs comforted him in a way he hadn’t experienced since childhood. Her warm curves pressed against him, fitting to his body perfectly.
Clay brushed a hand over her silky hair. Dull brown, she’d said. It was too downy and sweet smelling to be a dull brown. He traced her small ear hidden under soft, short curls. His fingers followed her velvety skin up along her hairline, down the middle of her forehead, so smooth and warm, over a small bump of a nose and pouty, supple lips. He traced the pointed edges at each side. What would it feel like to taste them? A puff of warm air misted his fingers, and she mumbled.
Clay continued his exploration, moving down her chin and the side of her face. The pads of his fingers ran over a ridge. He held his breath and traced the ridge from just above her jaw all the way to her temple. The narrow pucker of skin lay two finger widths from her hairline and ran the length of her face. A scar? How had it happened? And when?
This was why she pulled back from his touch and gave such a disparaging view of herself. Had someone left this scar on her? If so, he’d find that person and make him pay. His hands fisted. He flexed his aching knuckles and squelched his rage. It wouldn’t do to show how her disfigurement riled him. His limbs gradually relaxed, and he pondered how to help her overcome her poor view of herself. How did he bring up the topic of her scar without upsetting her?
Clay wrapped his arms around Rachel’s middle and clasped his hands, holding her from rolling off the bed. Her warm breath puffed across his chest. His heart expanded at the latest knowledge about the woman. He was falling for Rachel’s caring nature, her witty conversation, and her touch that heated his body like no other. He’d give up on ever getting his sight back if he could end each day with her wrapped in his arms.

Paty Jager
www.patyjager.net
www.patyjager.blogspot.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, Pardner!

Genuine period couple
Kate and John R. G. Clemmons
In the true Old West, I doubt Thanksgiving was the big deal it is today. In my opinion, it was a day of giving thanks to God celebrated with friends and family and not that much different from their usual Sunday dinners. No Black Friday sales for which to plan (I have my list), no GardenRidge Thanksgiving sale (of course I’m going), no television football (thank heavens, my husband doesn't watch football!). Just giving thanks with family and friends. Wait—it’s sounding better and better!

Here are just a few of the things for which I’m grateful:

A grateful bird!
First, I don’t have to kill a turkey, strip off the feathers, clean the bird, and then cook it. If I did, turkeys everywhere would be grateful, because my family would eat cheese sandwiches. Seriously! I'm a writer, not Martha Stewart or Paula Deen, remember?

Our two daughters are joining us for dinner. This is a big thing for my husband and me. The eldest has been seriously ill and almost died from a physician's misdiagnosis and treatment, and both daughters have had health problems this year. We are so grateful they are both alive and well enough to have dinner with us and that each lives within easy travel distance. Here’s the catch. Each daughter has two dogs. 

Our Webster, a
precious guy
  What a wild time it is to have our Webster (a black Shih Tzu), plus our eldest daughter's Amber the elegant white standard poodle and Sandy the eager red Australian cattle dog, our youngest daughter's Brendan the gregarious black chihuahua and Findley the amazing black Shih Tzu whom we love so much he’s the reason we adopted Webster.


Findley, cancer survivor
 Findley has just recovered from a lengthy cancer treatment for which the vet credits our daughter's care with saving Findley's leg and probably his life. Another reason for thanks!

A bit of a problem at our family times is that I have two cats and Sandy finds them irresistible—and I don’t mean as companions. LOL We play trading spaces with big dogs and little dogs and cats during the visit. It starts to resemble a circus. And now in the center ring, I mean the family room . . . My husband and I don't care; we enjoy having out daughters visit us!

Everyday, I get to write in my little pink cave of an office on a nice computer with me wearing whatever I choose to wear that day at whatever hours work for my husband and me. I admit I’d hoped to be highly paid for my writing and to make the NYTimes bestseller list by now, but let’s not quibble about small details, okay?

Our church's sanctuary
last Christmas
I give thanks that I live in a country in which I can worship God as I choose and attend any church I wish—or none if that were my choice—and no one can force me to do otherwise. 
Wonderful friends at the church we attend accept me as I am and pray for and with me.  They know I'm, um, shall we say, a crazy writer and probably pray for me more than I know. LOL During times of trouble they've encouraged and supported me, brought meals, called, sent cards, hugged me, and cried with me. During happy times they've rejoiced with me.

Writer Friends
Terrific writer friends online and face-to-face encourage me. They nurture me, cheer me when I’m feeling down, laugh with me, and talk writing until we are exhausted. Having writer friends who understand what writers face and experience is such a boon. Writing is a solitary profession—we writers need other writers to give feedback and support. And to meet frequently for group therapy! And chocolate.


So not my car!
As much as I love tales of the Old West and writing about hunky cowboys and strong western women, I’m grateful I'm alive NOW. I admire the men and women who were pioneers and I respect all they endured. But I love air-conditioning, hot showers, cell phones, Kindles, electricity, and modern appliances. Not that I dislike riding a horse or buggy, but I’m so grateful I have a nice car to drive where I wish.

Hubby and me--
still in love after
all these years
Last but definitely far from least is for my crazy, eccentric family. My sweet husband supports my writing habit by helping out whenever he can with household chores, troubleshooting computer problems, and supplying whatever I need—or simply want. He tells me he loves me every day and the amazing thing is that he means it! He is and has always been a wonderful husband and father who puts the welfare and happiness of his wife and daughters way before his own. In my opinion, I'm the luckiest of women!

 Our sweet daughters are kind and compassionate toward others, and work to help the downtrodden. They are thoughtful toward my husband and me and willing to lend a hand when we need help. So maybe they treat us as if we are slightly decrepit and senile, so what? You say we are? Hey, watch it!  Remember old age is your age plus fifteen years.

What more could I ask for? Nothing. Well, other than that NYTimes bestseller thingy, right?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving from all the Sweethearts of the West!

Monday, November 22, 2010

When We All Wanted To Be Cowboys

Gone are the days when little boys and girls everywhere wanted to grow up to be cowboys. But a recent web search turned up some fun things from a time when such a simple wish was common.

And since today is a special day for one of my little cowboys, (Happy Birthday, Colton!) I thought it was rather fitting to share it.

GENE AUTRY’S COWBOY CODE OF HONOR

The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
He must always tell the truth.
He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
He must help people in distress.
He must be a good worker.
He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.
The Cowboy is a patriot.

HOPALONG CASSIDY’S CREED FOR AMERICAN BOYS AND GIRLS

The highest badge of honor a person can wear is honesty. Be truthful at all times.
Your parents are the best friends you have. Listen to them and obey their instructions.
If you want to be respected, you must respect others. Show good manners in every way.
Only through hard work and study can you succeed. Don't be lazy. Your good deeds always come to light. So don't boast or be a show-off.
If you waste time or money today, you will regret it tomorrow. Practice thrift in all ways.
Many animals are good and loyal companions. Be friendly and kind to them.
A strong, healthy body is a precious gift. Be neat and clean.
Our country's laws are made for your protection. Observe them carefully.
Children in many foreign lands are less fortunate than you. Be glad and proud you are an American.

WILD BILL HICKOCK DEPUTY MARSHAL’S CODE OF CONDUCT
I will be brave, but never careless.
I will obey my parents. They DO know best.
I will be neat and clean at all times.
I will be polite and courteous.
I will protect the weak and help them.
I will study hard.
I will be kind to animals and care for them.
I will respect my flag and my country.
I will attend my place of worship regularly.

THE LONE RANGER CREED
I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one.
That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
That God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.
In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
That "this government, of the people, by the people, and for the people," shall live always.
That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
That sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
That all things change, but the truth, and the truth alone lives on forever.
I believe in my Creator, my country, my fellow man.

ROY ROGERS RIDERS CLUB RULES
Be neat and clean.
Be courteous and polite.
Always obey your parents.
Protect the weak and help them.
Be brave, but never take chances.
Study hard, and learn all you can.
Be kind to animals and care for them.
Eat all your food and never waste any.
Love God and go to Sunday School regularly.
Always respect our flag and country.

TEXAS RANGERS DEPUTY RANGER OATH
Be alert.
Be obedient.
Defend the weak.
Never desert a friend.
Never take unfair advantage.
Be neat.
Be truthful.
Uphold justice.
Live cleanly.
Have faith in God.

Happy trails and wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun

Stacie Monroe, freelance journalist
My contemporary romantic suspense novel, Caught by a Clown, scheduled for release in January, opens at a nudist resort outside Phoenix, Arizona. I recently had another opportunity to travel there, to the city not the fictitious resort. I’m too introverted to bare all in front of others. However, the area’s popularity for nudists and naturalists suggests I might be missing out on a unique experience; one that Caught by a Clown’s female protagonist, Stacie Monroe, opted to customize to her comfort level by wearing a champagne lace demi bra and panties during her brief visit.
Valley of the Sun
In any case, October is a beautiful time of the year to visit Phoenix. Summer’s intense sun has mellowed; snowbirds haven’t migrated in yet; and one can enjoy all the Valley of the Sun has to offer in the Sonoran Desert’s northeastern expanse.                                  
During the 1300 and 1400’s, the Hohokam peoples created about 135 miles of irrigation canals. Their knowledge of the land and its promise proved valuable in some of those same canal paths being used for the current Arizona Canal, Central Arizona Project Canal (which diverts water from the Colorado River, hence my interest), and Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct water projects.
Phoenix was founded in the 1850s by Jack Swilling, a Civil War veteran, who, like the Hohokam, saw potential in the Salt River Valley at the foot of the White Tank Mountains. He, too, had a series of canals built. The broader availability of water encouraged development of a small community called Pumpkinville. Named for the bumper crops grown alongside the man-made water sources, it lay about four miles east and several name changes from the eventual home 150 years later to 1.6 million people gathered within 475 square miles. Amazing!

David Graham

With that many people, and water at a premium, natural landscaping is popular. Who can blame the residents? The stark, fragile beauty of the Sonoran Desert is breath catching. If you don't believe me, go to the Desert Botanical Gardens and walk through some of its 145 acres. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes. I also prefer long pants. Caught by a Clown’s male protagonist, David Graham, observed at one point after arriving at the nudist resort that sharp edges and needle points dug into him at every turn. Everything around him, including Stacie, seemed to camouflage some form of torture. What else did the undercover agent expect?

Maybe the pampering of a spa? Phoenix boasts about three dozen world class spas. I'm not a fan, but many indulge! And, if you like southwest food, take your pick of famous restaurants. I could eat my weight in quacamole. Try it topped with sun dried cranberries--yummy! 
I hope this post tempts you to read my romantic suspense, Caught by a Clown, when The Wild Rose Press releases it in January, and that you’ll seize an opportunity or create one to visit Phoenix. It’s one of my favorite places under wide open western skies.

BTW, Thanksgiving will be here soon. I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful day. 


Resource:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix,_Arizona  


Saturday, November 20, 2010

WHERE DID COWBOYS COME FROM ANYWAY?


Coming Soon!
Re-Print of "SALVATION, TEXAS"
a contemporary mystery/police procedural/ romance set in West Texas, by Anna Jeffrey

***

Cowboys are uniquely “Texas,” and evolved in the course of sweeping social change. Following is a generalized story of how that came to be, with a lot of details left out.
            After the Civil War, displaced southern farmers largely made up the huge migration that took place from the southern states to Texas. There, the new residents met up with legendary Mexican vaqueros. The vaqueros had been gathering and tending the wild longhorns that roamed the Texas prairies for generations and were known for their skills with a rope as well as for outstanding horsemanship. It didn’t take long for the young men and boys new to Texas to learn those skills from the Mexicans.
            At the same time, with the post-war economic recovery, came the driving demand from the east for beef. Ambitious entrepreneurs knew how to satisfy that demand if they could just get those longhorns to a railhead to be shipped east. Thus came the cattle drive. Many of the hands those entrepreneurs hired to drive the cattle north were mere teenagers or at the most, young adults. These young men, with their southern customs and mannerisms and skills they had learned from the Mexican vaqueros became known as “cowboys.”
            Obviously, the meat from the wild longhorn cattle was tough and the animals were hard to manage. Investors saw an opportunity to provide a better product. From as far away as Europe and England, new domestic breeds of cattle were imported and huge cattle ranches were founded in Texas and the western states, which also required the services of “cowboys” as ranch hands.
            Of course there were plenty of horsemen and cattle tenders in Texas long before the Civil War, but the term “cowboy” didn’t begin to emerge until the cattle drives.
            The “cowboy” legend was further propagated by the emergence of rodeos, where the participants were cowboys showing off skills they used in their daily work. This is probably the legend that has been forwarded to today. When anyone thinks of cowboys these days, they usually think of rodeo cowboys.  

Anna Jeffrey 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

SEDUCTION, Now Available at Reduced Price


I’m happy to let everyone know that my debut novel, Seduction, is now on sale for Kindle at Amazon at $3.99.

In Seduction, business entrepreneur, Cole MacPherson, lives and works in a small town in the old west. This particular town is similar to towns described to me by my grandmother when I was growing up. Just as we enjoy staying in a nice hotel while traveling, people back in the late 1800’s enjoyed staying in beautifully appointed and gracious inns and hotels available in some towns.

Sometimes I like to center my stories around an incident from my family history, or historical events that influenced my family. In Seduction, the heroine’s back story is based on events in Texas following the Civil War. At that time, drifters banded together and raided farms and ranches for livestock and valuables that they sold or used for their own benefit.

Here’s the back cover blurb for Seduction:

They challenged the town and each other with their forbidden affair. Belinda Rose is two people. On stage, she’s a confident vocalist who entertains her audiences. Alone, she longs for a secure home and her own opera house where she can entertain or book others to perform. She carries with her the painful memories of her past, but won’t be denied her future. Can her love for a handsome businessman derail her plans?

Cole MacPherson has become a wealthy entrepreneur in spite of his loveless childhood. Believing he doesn’t know how to love, he seeks power instead. What a shock when a beautiful singer knocks him for a loop. Could he learn to love? Does he dare?

I hope you’ll enjoy reading Seduction as much as I enjoyed writing this story.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve found out about the west? Where would you like to visit in the west?

Jeanmarie Hamilton
http://www.JeanmarieHamilton.com

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soiled Doves of the Old West

The Old West is full of legends…cowboys, gunslingers, Indians, pioneers, outlaws, Marshalls and "soiled doves".



What would a true western novel be without a brothel, cathouse or crib? There are several madams who made their mark on the Old West, but the parlor houses that were most profitable were the ones run by an adept business woman, flaunted elegant furnishings and boasted the most beautiful girls. Those Madams not only turned a profit but had a wealth of real estate, fine horses and material goods.

The finer brothels prided themselves on setting a good table, offering choice cigars and the finest liquor and wine to their male clientele and some would only allow the girls in the house to be seen by appointment. Parlor houses averaged six to twelve girls and the madam entertained only those customers she personally selected. Much of the profit in brothels came from drinks served, which were higher in price than the local saloons. The most successful madams maintained a strict air of respectability and a "charming home life" on the main floor of their houses, insisting the girls wear corsets when in public. Even though parlor houses were not accepted by society, the madams paid their share of community taxes and fines to corrupt law officers. They also contributed heavily to community charities.

Pearl de Vere, Cripple Creek, Colorado's famous madam was known to charge a $1,000 for her personal services. She catered only to the prosperous men of Cripple Creek and her girls were the most beautiful of any parlor in the mining camp. They wore fine clothing, received monthly medical exams and were paid well. Pearl was known to "prance" through the camp daily in a small open carriage led by a team of expensive black horses. Dressed in a different beautiful costume every outing her clothes were the envy of the respectable women in the camp.

Other famous "soiled Doves" of the Old West were Mary Elizabeth "Libby" Haley Thompson better known as Squirrel Tooth Alice because of the gap in her front teeth.



At age ten she was kidnapped by the Comanche and held prisoner for three years. After her release she was considered a "marked woman" and shunned by society. She ran away from home and turned to prostitution to support herself. Libby set up a dance hall and brothel in Sweetwater, Texas which she ran until 1921 when she retired. Libby died in 1953 at the age of 98 in a rest home in Los Angeles.

Dora Dufran was considered the Blackhill's leading madam.



Aside from her parlor house in Deadwood, South Dakota she established branch houses in Sturgis, Rapid City and Belle Fourche. In her early days in Deadwood, she became a friend and occasional employer to Calamity Jane, who sometimes worked as a prostitute. She was also said to have had a "heart of gold," often providing nursing services to those in need and helping the poverty stricken. Sometime after moving to Deadwood, she married a man named Joseph DuFran, a gentleman gambler, who not only wasn't bothered by her profession, but helped her to grow her business.

In 1909, Dora's husband Joseph died at the age of 47 and Dora returned to Rapid City, where she set up another brothel, which became popular during the Prohibition years and served as a speakeasy. Dora DuFran died at the age of 60. Her obituary in the Black Hills Pioneer mourned the passing of "a noted social worker.” Her grave is marked by four urns that feature grinning imps, symbolizing the four brothels that she had owned.

Soiled Doves lived a hard life but no matter what your opinion of their chosen profession, these women shaped the American West and found a way to survive and even thrive in a man's world. For those of you whose family roots go back generations in the Old West, can you claim any "soiled doves" in your family?

Marin
Roughneck Cowboy (Feb 2011)
Rodeo Daddy (April 2011)
Harlequin American Romance
www.marinthomas.com

Saturday, November 13, 2010

ORPHAN TRAINS

The Orphan Trains in the Nineteenth Century both intrigue and inspire the public. Even today, the topic is a viable one, eliciting numerous websites dedicated to the orphans, their stories, biographies, and detailed obituaries.

All the photos of orphans I found were a mixture of sadness and hope. The children appear stoic and brave, but I can imagine their little knees knocking with fear and apprehension, wondering if their time had come. Would a family step forth, holding out their hands, offering the child a home? Would the family treat them fairly, and perhaps even show them love? Or would the family only treat them as workers, employees to give orders to and to house, feed, and clothe? How bewildering it must have been for them.

A DVD available on Amazon contains several episodes of a fictionalized group of children. A recording artist wrote and sang a song about the orphan trains. In 1979, a made-for-TV movie titled “Orphan Train” that starred Jill Eikenberry, Kevin Dobson, and Glenn Close is on DVD. Today, numerous publishers offer fiction, some historical, some romance, centered on an orphan and his/her life.

An estimated 30,000 children were homeless in New York City in the 1850s. The children ranged in age from about six to 18 and shared a common grim existence. Homeless or neglected, they lived in New York City's streets and slums with little or no hope of a successful life. Charles Loring Brace, the founder of The Children's Aid Society, believed that there was a way to change the futures of these children. By removing youngsters from the poverty and debauchery of the city streets and placing them in morally upright farm families, he thought they would have a chance of escaping a lifetime of suffering.

He proposed that these children be sent by train to live and work on farms out west. They would be placed in homes for free, but they would serve as an extra pair of hands to help with chores around the farm. The family should pay the older children for their labors, although they often did not.
The Orphan Train Movement lasted from 1853 to the early 1900s, originating from several northern and Midwestern states. The organization placed 120,000 children. This ambitious, unusual, and controversial social experiment is now recognized as the beginning of the foster care concept in the United States.
Some of the children struggled in their newfound surroundings, while many others went on to lead simple, very normal lives, raising their families and working towards the American dream. Although records weren't always well kept, some of the children placed in the West went on to great successes. There were two governors, one congressman, one sheriff, two district attorneys, three county commissioners as well as numerous bankers, lawyers, physicians, journalists, ministers, businessmen, and teachers.

Part of the fascination of the stories of the orphans is because the children's stories are poignant. But, more than that, the program is a reminder of how unsuccessful the nation has been in finding solutions to the problems of childhood poverty. The orphan train program was dissolved in 1929, not only because of criticism of 'placing out,' but because of reforms of the child welfare system. When we read descriptions of New York City or Boston in the 19th century, we realize those days are not very far off from today. Our nation still struggles with foster care. Many of the same criticisms we find with the orphan train are valid today.
On the trains, the babies would ride in train coaches; the older kids were often just stuck in boxcars. The orphanage operators couldn't afford to put them all in coaches. Citizens in towns along the rail lines learned the orphan train was headed their way when an orphanage agent posted handbills or put notices in the local paper. In the case of children from Catholic orphanages, priests in parishes along the way were notified in advance and asked to line up homes.

When the train arrived, townspeople wanting a child would come to examine them and make a choice. People would poke at their arms and look at their muscles. They would pick out kids they wanted. If any remained, they would go on to the next stop.

I wrote a short Free Read for The Wild Rose Press titled “Wishes Do Come True.” It’s about a lonely young woman who had arrived in the west on an Orphan Train as a young child. Read about Anna Morrison and the man she loves, Ross Davis.

DOWNLOAD FREE from The Wild Rose Press:
http://www.thewildrosepress.com/wishes-do-come-true-p-3644.html
(Or you may e-mail me and I will send it to you.  celiayeary AT Yahoo DOT COM)
THANK YOU--CELIA
  





Friday, November 12, 2010

Covered Wagon Women I

I have discovered that the era of Western Expansion interesting, especially the trials and tribulations of those on the western trails. I've purchased several books that recount true stories of women who travel West in covered wagons. One book, Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1849 by Kenneth L. Holmes is an excellent resource book. He reprints actual diaries written while on the trail and letters written either on the trail or after they reach their destination. Holmes also gives a bit of a biography on each woman. One of the women whose letters he reprints is Tabitha Brown (right), who made the trip starting in April 1846.

Mrs. Brown was a widow and sixty-six years old when she decided to travel from her home in St. Charles, Missouri to Oregon with her seventy-seven year old brother-in-law, retired sea captain John Brown, and two of her children and thirteen of her grandchildren.

While most journeys of this type were dangerous, The Brown family's was particularly hazardous. Mrs. Brown expresses in a letter to her sister and brother, penned after her arrival in Oregon, that the first part of their trip was “pleasing and prosperous.” But all that changed in August when they still had 800 miles to go to Oregon City. Instead of keeping to the tried and true route, “three of four trains of emigrants were decoyed off by a rascally fellow...[who] assured us that he had found a NEAR CUT-OFF; that if we would follow him we would be in the settlement long before those who had gone down the Columbia.” The decision to follow this man was tragic for many of the families.

Mrs. Brown relays that the man took their money and ran, leaving the train “to the depredations of Indians, wild beasts and starvation...we had sixty miles desert without grass or water, mountains to climb, cattle giving out, wagons breaking, emigrants sick and dying…hostile Indians to guard against.”

The men had to hack and clear a trail for them, as there was none. The way behind them was “strewn with dead cattle, broken wagons, beds, clothing and everything but provisions of which we were nearly destitute.” People were caught in the Canyon for two or three weeks, their food running out, they themselves dying of fatigue or starvation. She does not give detail of how she came to lose everything, but writes that her daughter and son-in-law insisted that she and Captain Brown go on ahead by horseback to meet up with wagons that would have food (they stayed behind to give their cattle rest). Her brother-in-law was so weak that he fell off his horse and she had to struggle to get him back up on it. They failed to meet up with the next wagon train before dark and had to spend the night alone in Indian territory, only to discover the next morning that 1) they were only half a mile from the train and 2) the Indians had killed a man just a short distance from where they'd camped.

They were found the next morning and taken to the next train, where fresh venison was available. However, they were far from safe. They still had two mountains to climb and winter was setting in. They were able to travel only two or three miles a day. They finally decided that it would impossible to reach a settlement before spring and decided to settle in for the winter. Mrs. Brown's son-in-law set off on his own to find a settlement, in the hopes of bringing back provisions.

Now as it turned out, her other son had left for Oregon six days ahead of her party and had already reached their destination. He heard rumors of the “wayward” train and he set out with six pack-horses to find the “suffering emigrants at the south.” Shortly after her son-in-law left, the two met up and they returned to the train with the provisions.

Five miles down the road from where they'd camped, they meet up with mixed-blood French-Indians and hired several of them to guide the train to a settlement. On December 24th, four months after they made their dreadful decision to take the 'short-cut,' those who survived the journey arrived at the first settlers' house, a Methodist minister, who offered Mrs. Brown and Captain Brown a place to stay until spring. In exchange for room and board, Mrs. Brown ran the house, because the minister's wife “was as ignorant and useless as a Heathan Goddess.” She also discovered that in her glove was not a button, as she'd assumed, but a “six and one-fourth cent piece” or as the footnote says “one-eighth of a Spanish dollar coin” and not worth a lot of money. But she used it to purchase three needles and traded some of her old clothe for buckskin. She then made gloves out of the buckskin, sold them and made herself $30.00.

As far as I can tell, all of Mrs. Brown's family made it to Oregon as well and Mrs. Brown, even at her advanced age, went on to establish herself as a pillar of the community in the new territory. She established a school for the local children, including orphans, with the help of friends and neighbors. The school was “the forerunner” for Pacific University.

So, this is just one of the fascinating stories to be found out there, one of the 'facts' that we can base our stories on...the question is, will anyone believe us?

What is a strange fact or story that you've come across in your research?

This blog first appeared at Chatting with Anna Kathryn, April 17, 2009.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Cary House Hotel


The Cary House Hotel, built in 1857, still stands in Placerville, CA. This jewel, built when the gold rush town was prospering, still treats its guests to an interesting night’s sleep. During the five years I worked in the Chablis Art Gallery across the street from the hotel, I was able to make friends with the manager who graciously let me take photos inside and out, and meet one of the two most active ghosts. The hotel features such luxuries as hot and cold running water, a novelty in its time, and an elegant grand staircase and a lobby handcrafted in mahogany and cherry woods.

Echoes from a colorful history linger in the halls of the great place. Early days provided a regular stop for stage lines that brought travelers to the gold country and returning with millions of dollars in bullion for transport to the San Francisco mint. Its wrought-iron trimmed balcony lent a great space for Horace Greely to give a speech and the world-renowned “Hangtown Fry” (oysters and scrambled eggs) was created at the Cary House by request of a miner who had struck it rich in the gold fields.

The ghost that I tangled with was Stan. He lives in the lobby of the hotel. He was the lobby clerk for many years, and he loves the place so he sticks around. In the beginning he checked patrons in and out of the Cary House. He had a great love of liquor, especially brand and whiskey. When he wasn’t working, he’d head down to the Rivendell’s Book Store where he could socialize. Back then the store was a great place to visit with fellow drinkers, and to get a drink, especially on cold damp days of winter. He would sneak out during his workday when no one was around, grab a drink and hurry back to the hotel.

Stan loved women, but was ignored by them. He was a short, stocky man with reddish brown hair, balding on the top and not what most people would consider a “ladies man. Truth be known, he also liked men somewhat. He was not really in demand by either. So, he did his job, was polite until the alcohol took affect, loved gossip and checking people out, and was known to be a bit ‘mouthy’ and insulting. Apparently he made a pass at a man, and the fellow stabbed him twice, and Stan fell down the stairs to his death.

My encounter with Stan happened the day I wanted to go upstairs by riding on the elevator. The wrought-iron door wouldn’t open. I tried and so did the manager.

It was no big deal as the staircase was grand and fun to travel up to the second and third floors. However, on the way down the elevator worked perfectly. Guess old Stan was so happy to see me leaving that he gladly let me take the ride. Rumors from patrons have said they see their doorknobs turn when they retire for the night. Some believe he checks each room that has a lady guest just to make sure they are safely locked inside their rooms. Maybe at another time, I can share some of the interesting ghost stories from Cary House. A television show that traveled around the country doing spots on the most haunted buildings did a twenty minute show on the ghosts in residence at Cary House.

Information from The Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Music Behind Western Romance

Last month I featured rodeos in my first Sweethearts post and promised to come back with more on what makes contemporary westerns great in November. Again, I have to say the answer lies in the contemporary West itself because this was where country music was born. Though I can't claim to be a western girl myself - more southern belle - I grew up listening to country. I saw Reba McEntire in concert when I was nine years old. We listened to album after album of Reba, Shania, Alan Jackson, and Brooks and Dunn on road trips. (My poor daddy...)


As I grew older, I grew out of my country music fandom. So it was a nice throwback to old car rides and memories when crafting my first western romance, Blackest Heart. Western romance, whether you live in the heart of the west or not, is all about worldbuilding - a term more often attributed to the paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi genres. The world is real, yes, but it's our job as western romance writers to deliver it on the page as a full sensory experience to the reader. With the Texas setting came the landscape, the summer heat, the wind storms, the small town of Wayback, TX, and the culture of the American west. A lot of that culture, I learned, centered around the rodeo arena, the ranches, and - maybe most of all - the honky-tonk.

I'm one of those writers who is influenced by mood-enhancing music when crafting storylines. For this one, you can be sure I broke out all those old country albums as well as a few new ones. It was only natural that music from the likes of Tim McGraw and LeAnn Rimes are mentioned in the book. Even blues icon Johnny Cash's music makes a cameo thanks to his place on hero Judd's playlist. Bonus points for whoever can guess which one of the Man in Black's songs is featured ;)

When I went back to Wayback to write the sequel, Bluest Heart, the heroine, Josie, was a tonky-tonk singer with plenty of attitude. To help further realize her character, I put together a list of songs Josie would sing onstage. It was a medley of sass featuring Miranda Lambert, the Dixie Chicks, Gretchen Wilson, Dolly Parton, Sugarland, and - of course - that Postcards from the Edge classic "I'm Checking Out." The book itself takes on a more sentimental note as old flame, Casey Ridge, fights for Josie's heart. The medley of the story turns out to be a favorite Kenny Chesney tune. Again, bonus points for anyone who can guess which!
So you see? Country music is part of American culture - specificially western American culture. It's difficult to dive into the contemporary western genre without relying on country music to set the tone in some measure, even when it simply helps you as the writer find the right mood.

Now for some discussion. What is your favorite country music song or artist? Right now, I've got one of my all-time faves from both categories stuck in my head: Reba's "Fancy." And super special brownie points for whoever can tell me the name of Wayback, Texas's honky-tonk!
"Williams has brought the romantic back to romance!" ~ Long & Short Reviews

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

THE YOUNGEST COWBOYS




In the summer of 1909, two young brothers under the age of ten set out to make their own “cowboy dreams” come true. They rode across two states on horseback. Alone.

It’s a story that sounds too unbelievable to be true, but it is.

Oklahoma had been a state not quite two years when these young long riders undertook the adventure of a lifetime. The brothers, Bud (Louis), and Temple Abernathy rode from their Tillman County ranch in the southwest corner of the state to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bud was nine years old, and Temple was five.

They were the sons of a U.S. Marshal, Jack Abernathy, who had the particular talent of catching wolves and coyotes alive, earning him the nickname “Catch ’Em Alive Jack.”

Odd as it seems to us today, Jack Abernathy had unwavering faith in his two young sons’ survival skills. Their mother had died the year before, and, as young boys will, they had developed a wanderlust listening to their father’s stories.

Jack agreed to let them undertake the journey, Bud riding Sam Bass (Jack’s own Arabian that he used chase wolves down with) and Temple riding Geronimo, a half-Shetland pony. There were four rules the boys had to agree to: Never to ride more than fifty miles a day unless seeking food or shelter; never to cross a creek unless they could see the bottom of it or have a guide with them; never to carry more than five dollars at a time; and no riding on Sunday.

The jaunt into New Mexico to visit their father’s friend, governor George Curry, took them six weeks. Along the way, they were escorted by a band of outlaws for many miles to ensure their safe passage. The boys didn’t realize they were outlaws until later, when the men wrote to Abernathy telling him they didn’t respect him because he was a marshal. But, in the letter, they wrote they “liked what those boys were made of.”

One year later, they set out on the trip that made them famous. At ten and six, the boys rode from their Cross Roads Ranch in Frederick, Oklahoma, to New York City to meet their friend, former president Theodore Roosevelt, on his return from an African safari. They set out on April 5, 1910, riding for two months.

Along the way, they were greeted in every major city, being feted at dinners and amusement parks, given automobile rides, and even an aeroplane ride by Wilbur Wright in Dayton, Ohio.

Their trip to New York City went as planned, but they had to buy a new horse to replace Geronimo. While they were there, he had gotten loose in a field of clover and nearly foundered, and had to be shipped home by train.

They traveled on to Washington, D.C., and met with President Taft and other politicians.

It was on this trip that the brothers decided they needed an automobile of their own. They had fallen in love with the new mode of transportation, and they convinced their father to buy a Brush runabout. After practicing for a few hours in New York, they headed for Oklahoma—Bud drove, and Temple was the mechanic.

They arrived safe and sound back in Oklahoma in only 23 days.

But their adventures weren’t over. The next year, they were challenged to ride from New York City to San Francisco. If they could make it in 60 days, they would win $10,000. Due to some bad weather along the 3,619-mile-long trip, they missed the deadline by only two days. Still, they broke a record—and that record of 62 days still stands, nearly one hundred years later.

The boys’ last cross country trip was made in 1913 driving a custom designed, two-seat motorcycle from their Cross Roads Ranch to New York City. They returned to Oklahoma by train.

As adults, Temple became an oilman, and Bud became a lawyer. There is a statue that commemorates the youngest long riders ever in their hometown of Frederick, Oklahoma, on the lawn of the Tillman County Courthouse.