Monday, January 31, 2011

Winchester House



On September 30, 1862, Sarah Lockwood Pardee married William Wirt Winchester, the only son of Oliver Winchester, owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

The couple had one daughter, Annie Pardee Winchester, who was born on July 12, 1866, but died after a few weeks from the childhood disease marasmus. Sarah fell into a deep depression following the death of her daughter, and the couple had no more children. Oliver Winchester died in 1880, quickly followed in March of 1881 by William, who died of tuberculosis, giving Sarah approximately 50 percent ownership in the Winchester Company and an income of $1,000 a day. (This amount is roughly equivalent to $22,000 a day in 2008.)

According to the legends surrounding her, she felt that her family was cursed, and sought out spiritualists to determine what she should do. A medium, believed to be a psychic, allegedly told her that the Winchester family was cursed by the spirits of all the people who had been killed by the Winchester rifle, and she should move west to build a house for herself and the spirits. The medium is claimed to have told Sarah that if construction on the house ever stopped, she would die. In 1884, Sarah moved west to California and purchased an eight-room farmhouse under construction from Dr. Robert Caldwell. It stood on 161 acres of land in what is now San Jose, California. Immediately, she began spending her $20 million inheritance by renovating and adding more rooms to the house, with work continuing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the next 38 years. She was fascinated with the number 13 and worked the number into the house in many places. (There are thirteen bathrooms, windows have thirteen panes, thirteen chandeliers, and so forth.)


It estimated that 500 to 600 rooms were built, but because so many were redone, only 160 remain. This naturally resulted in some peculiar effects, such as stairs that lead to the ceiling, doors that go nowhere and that open onto walls, and chimneys that stop just short of the roof.


We may never know for sure if Mrs. Winchester built her house to accommodate the spirits, but over the years the story has come down that she believed her life was unavoidably affected by departed souls. Presumably she wanted to be friendly with the ‘good’ spirits and avoid the ‘bad’ spirits – and the way to be friendly with the ‘good’ spirits, it seemed, was to build them a nice place to visit.


According to this theory, Mrs. Winchester accommodated the friendly spirits by giving them special attention. For example, it is said that there were only three mirrors in the entire house at the time of Mrs. Winchester’s death. Legend has it that spirits hate mirrors, since the sight of their reflection causes them to vanish.
This is why Mrs. Winchester’s servants and secretary reportedly used only hand mirrors or went without.

The mansion also contained a profusion of light sources, from gas jets and countless candles, to electric light bulbs. Supposedly spirits feel conspicuous and humiliated by shadows, since they cannot cast their own.

The outside of the mansion received nearly as much care and attention as the inside. The cast external façade is bursting with Queen Anne Victorian architecture features like turrets, towers, curved walls, cupolas, cornices, and balconies, all outlined with finely detailed trim work.

When viewed from different angles, the towers, some topped by ornamental spires called finials, give the house a castle-like appearance. It’s an extravagant maze of Victorian craftsmanship – marvelous, baffling, and eerily eccentric, to say the least. Some of the architectural oddities may have practical explanations. For example, the switchback staircase, which has seven flights with forty-four steps, rises only about nine feet, since each step is just two inches high. Mrs. Winchester’s arthritis was quite severe in her later years, and the stairway may have been designed to accommodate her disability. The miles of twisting hallways are made even more intriguing by secret passageways in the walls. Mrs. Winchester traveled through her house in a roundabout fashion, supposedly to confuse any mischievous ghosts that might be following her. Because of the mansion’s immense size, it contained forty-seven fireplaces and seventeen chimneys. One rambling section in particular, the Hall of Fires, was designed to produce as much heat as possible.


My Aunt used to take us to visit this magnificent house every summer. One of my children refused to go inside because she could feel the intruders, the ghosts from the past. I never saw any ghosts, but found the story intriguing all my life.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

YOU GOT MAIL -- EXPRESSMEN AND THE PONY EXPRESS

By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky


Listen my child and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of...Alexander Todd??



Most of us have heard about American patriot Paul Revere’s critical role as a messenger who rode by horseback from Boston to Lexington, warning his countrymen about the British Army and their imminent attack. Not only did the Battle of Lexington and Concord become the first military engagement of the Revolutionary War, but the midnight ride of Paul Revere has become almost legendary. In fact, on the 85th anniversary of Revere’s ride, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was still so inspired he wrote a poem about it.

Throughout history, messengers on horseback have played key roles in the development of this country. One such messenger was an East coast bookkeeper named Alexander Todd who found his destiny in a rather roundabout way. You see, had it not been for an acute case of ‘gold fever’, he never would have made the 170-day sea voyage around Cape Horn to reach San Francisco. That’s right…170 days at sea to reach California. Hard to fathom, isn’t it?

But, as fate would have it, Todd soon realized he didn’t have the stamina to be a prospector. Wading about in icy streams searching for bits of gold was quickly ruining his health. Thinking about a better way to make a living, it didn’t take him long to recognize how the isolated miles of wilderness in the gold field were also affecting the miners.




Cold, often sick, and working to the verge of exhaustion, they longed to hear from the world they left behind – hoping in vain for a letter from their wives, children, sweethearts, family and friends. But the only way a miner could get mail was if he made the arduous trek to San Francisco, a journey that would not only take weeks to accomplish but leave his dig site unprotected against claim jumpers.

Alexander Todd decided he could provide a humane service and make a profit. Although the United States government held a monopoly over the flow of mail, he rightfully suspected they wouldn’t mind some help with certain deliveries. At the time, the Post Office charged five cents for a half-ounce letter traveling a distance less than 300 miles; 10 cents for more than 300 miles. In addition to these fees, Todd devised a system of three fees for his personal mail delivery. For carrying a letter from the gold fields to San Francisco’s post office, he charged $2.50. Incoming mail was more prized and more expensive; after all, he had to make inquiries at the post office for each individual miner’s mail. A fee of $1.00 was established, and the miner’s name was placed on a subscription list. If he found mail for the subscriber, the price for bringing that mail back would be exactly one ounce of gold dust (worth about $16.00 at the time).



Without blinking an eye, hundreds of prospectors handed Todd their letters, signed up for his subscription list, and paid the required fees. With an investment of two horses – one for him and the other for the sacks of mail – Todd rode from the Sierra foothills to Stockton, then a sprawl of tents beside the San Joaquin River. There he planned to board a boat and travel down to San Francisco. But in Stockton, some merchants heard of his trip and asked him – a total stranger, mind you – to deliver $150,000.00 in gold dust to a company in San Francisco. Todd was willing to accept the responsibility, but not before negotiating a price granting him five percent of the value of the dust, or $7.500.00. Having no other alternative, the merchants agreed.

After stowing the gold dust in a discarded butter keg, Todd boarded his horses and found a boat headed toward San Francisco. Without trouble, he delivered the gold dust for the merchants then went to the post office. There he encountered chaos. Imagine if you will, people standing in line up to half a mile long just waiting to reach the postal clerk’s window. Way back then, with each individual’s inquiry the clerk had to go through stacks of unsorted envelopes by hand. When Alexander Todd reached the window, he turned over his sack of outgoing mail and explained his subscription list. Fortunately for him, the postmaster had an entrepreneurial spirit. In exchange for swearing in Alexander Todd as a postal clerk and allowing him to sift through the mountains of mail from the East, he levied a kickback fee of 25 cents for each letter Todd found for one of his clients. Wanting to repair the small dent in his profits, Todd quickly developed some sidelines, one of which was to buy a load of weeks-old New York newspapers, knowing he could sell them at a healthy profit back in the gold fields. Needless to say, the miners not only embraced their mail but bought the newspapers on the spot for $8.00 a copy.

Soon, Todd had 2,000 clients on his mail subscription list and was earning $1,000 per day for both mail delivery and safeguarding gold dust from his clients in the field to their bank. And so it was that in 1852, the West’s first major express agency was established by Alexander Todd.

Other express companies were started, among them Wells, Fargo & Company, the Butterfield Overland Mail Company, and The Pony Express. By 1860, Pony Express riders were relaying mail across more than half the United States in as little as ten days. Using what could only be described as a cross-country relay race, couriers changed horses about every 12 miles, riding so hard and fast they exhausted as many as six mounts before passing their mail to the next relay rider. Among its early riders, The Pony Express employed a then unknown William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody.


Another important rider for The Pony Express was William Campbell, who not only carried a copy of Lincoln’s first message to Congress in 1861 to California, but in 1932, at 90 years of age, became the last living Pony Express rider.

Eventually, the railroad and telegraph service replaced the need for Expressmen, but there is no mistaking that they provided a much needed service and played an important role in the development of this country’s means of communication. From lone riders like Alexander Todd and later the men of The Pony Express, to The Wells Fargo and Overland stagecoaches, delivery of the mail (and at times passengers) was so dangerous that often an escort of cavalry was necessary. Yet, before the stagecoach became involved, there was the Expressmen, lone riders facing the elements -- relentless heat, rugged countryside, lonely plains, swollen rivers, flash floods, snowstorms and sleet, as well as unfriendly Native American Indians



We often take for granted how easy it is to instantly communicate with loved ones and friends these days. We live in an age where you can call anywhere in the world by telephone in seconds. Emails and texting have become a norm for communicating in writing. Still, I personally still love to get cards and letters in the mail. There is just something more personal, more 'connected' about that piece of correspondence you hold in your hand.
Needless to say, I can only imagine how it must have felt for those miners when Alexander Todd rode back into camp after that first trip and said, ‘You got mail’.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Massacre at Sand Creek and The Battle of Fort Washita

“Kill and scalp all, little and big…nits make lice.”—Colonel John M. Chivington Before the Battle of Fort Washita came the Battle of Sand Creek—also known as The Sand Springs Massacre. (Colorado)

Chief Black Kettle’s Cheyenne camp, and that of another Cheyenne chief, White Antelope, were attacked and destroyed on a cold November dawn, 1864. Although the camps flew an American flag alongside a white flag of truce, Colonel John Chivington, determined to further himself in the political arena of the day, ordered the Cheyennes annihilated. “Take no prisoners,” he ordered, adding his own personal slogan, “…nits make lice.”

The encampment at Sand Creek consisted of about six hundred Indians—most of them, women and children. As the first shots were fired by Chivington’s men, only about one hundred Cheyenne warriors ran out, up the creek bed from the ravine where they were camped, to defend the women and children.

Still, these warriors were able to hold Chivington’s troops at bay for over eight hours, allowing nearly five hundred Indians to escape—including Black Kettle.

Chivington boasted of killing six hundred; eye-witness testimony estimated the umber at less than two hundred. Two-thirds of the dead were women and children. White Antelope was one of the first killed, as he left his lodge, arms extended to show peace.

Black Kettle’s wife was shot. As troopers neared, they shot her eight more times. Black Kettle threw her over his shoulder and ran. He later removed all nine bullets, and his wife lived.

A three-year-old toddler was not so lucky. As he walked out to the dry creek bed, three troopers some seventy yards away took turns shooting at him. The third one finally hit him, dropping the child where he stood.

Chivington received a hero’s welcome in Denver. He and his men exhibited the corpses of the dead Cheyennes they had sexually mutilated and scalped to the cheering citizens of Denver. It is believed that there has never been another battle in North America where more Indians have been slain.

Three years later, a Congressional inquest labeled Chivington’s “battle” a massacre.

In 1867, Black Kettle was one of the signers of the Treaty of Medicine Lodge (Kansas) in which the Cheyenne gave up their holdings along the Arkansas River for land on a reservation in what is now Oklahoma.

By the fall of 1868, Black Kettle and two thousand warriors settled near the Washita River in the southeastern part of Indian Territory. Though the Treaty of Medicine Lodge promised specific supplies, the provisions never came. Many of the Cheyenne joined a young warrior, Roman Nose, who had been leading a series of raids on farms and homesteads of white settlers.

Under General Philip Sheridan, three columns of troops launched a winter campaign against Cheyenne encampments. The Seventh Cavalry, commanded by George Armstrong Custer, was selected to take the lead.

For four days, in a foot of fresh snowfall, Custer and his 800 men followed the tracks of a small raiding party through the continuing snowstorm. The tracks led to the encampment on the Washita River. Custer ordered the attack at dawn.

On November 27, 1868, nearly four years to the day after the Sand Creek Massacre, Custer’s troops charged. Chief Black Kettle and his wife, Maiyuna, were shot dead on the banks of the Washita River, (Indian Territory), their bodies riddled with bullets.

“Both the chief and his wife fell at the riverbank, riddled with bullets,” one witness reported. “The soldiers rode right over Black Kettle and his wife and their horse as they lay dead on the ground, and their bodies were all splashed with mud by the charging soldiers.”

Custer ordered the slaughter of the Indian pony and mule herd—over 800 animals. The lodges of the encampment were burned along with the winter food supply. At the threat of reinforcements from other Indian camps only a few miles away, Custer quickly retreated to Camp Supply with his hostages.

In the Battle of the Washita, though Custer claimed 100 Cheyenne fatalities, Indian accounts claim 11 warriors, and 19 women and children were killed. More than 50 Cheyennes were captured—mainly women and children.

After this battle, most of the Cheyenne were convinced to accept reservation life. On the Washita River, Chief Black Kettle’s vision of peace was crushed, along with the Cheyenne way of life.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out: Texas Trail Drives


Modern cattle drive at the Matador Ranch in Texas
 As long as cattle have been in America, there have been trail drives to move the animals from Point A to Point B. As settlers moved west, so did their cattle. Great drives ended in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and anywhere ranching was possible. But those of Western movies and novels were primarily from Texas to the railheads in Kansas.

After the Civil War, the South faced high taxes imposed by the Northerners brought in to rule and many Southerners hadn’t the resources to pay. Other homes had been seized or burned, families had been killed or scattered. Many Southern men were left homeless and drifting. Most went West of the Mississippi looking for a new life.

Cattle ran free
during Civil War
During the Civil War, ranches were left almost untended while able-bodied men went to fight. Cattle continued to breed, but their progeny went unbranded and scattered. After the war, those cattle belonged to the man who could round them up and brand them. Drives to Kansas began in 1866 and lasted only a little over twenty years.  

According to LONE STAR, T. R. Fehrenbach’s history of Texas, when cattle brought two dollars a head in Texas, they sold for seven to ten dollars a head in Kansas. Cowboys were paid by the month, so it cost the rancher no more to have his men drive cattle to Kansas than to keep them in Texas. At times many ranchers went together for the drive, or one rancher’s hands would drive several combined herds. They also took extra horses for the cowboys to rotate on their ride.

Herding horses behind
the cattle--dusty job!
Driving cattle to market was a dangerous journey with long hours for the men. They faced outlaws, Indians, stampedes, swollen rivers, and inclement weather. At the end of the drive, the trail boss sold the herd on a handshake. His honor depended on final head count being what he told the buyer.

In 1867, Charles Goodnight invented the chuck wagon for use on trail drives. I don't know if many cowboys knew who invented it, but I'll bet they were all pleased to have it with them. It was a modified Army wagon that could carry substantially more and better food than horseback allowed. Other ranchers soon copied him.

Chuck Wagon
Cattle move slowly, so the chuck wagon could go ahead of the herd, find the camping place, and set up for supper. Generally there were only two meals a day, breakfast and supper, although that depended on the trail boss.

For all its fame, the era of the large cattle drive was a short one. By the 1880’s, railroads had begun spiderwebbing across America. Barbed wire had been introduced. The combination meant the end of the massive trail drive across several states. Fort Worth became the Texas destination, and their stockyards were immense. Swift and Armour built packing plants on the hill above the stockyards, which meant the beef was processed immediately and shipped out in refrigerated rail cars.


Famous 6666 Ranch, Guthrie,
Texas, also appears in
movies and commercials
Railroads continued to expand, making it possible to ship cattle to market rather than drive them. That is not to say that cowboys were out of work. There are still large working ranches in Texas—the 6666, King Ranch, Matador, Spur, and others—as well as hundreds of large and small ranches all across the West. But by 1890, the era of the trail drive had ended.


This is the era I write, and in which THE TEXAN'S IRISH BRIDE occurs. Hero Dallas McClintock has a horse and cattle ranch near Bandera, Texas. Dallas is also a horse whisperer as well as a rancher and is gaining fame as a horse breeder and trainer. That buy link is at:
http://www.thewildrosepress.com/caroline-clemmons-m-638.html 

It's also the era of THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE from my backlist, now available with its new cover at  www.smashwords.com/books/view/37683 In that book, hero Drake Kincaid goes on one of the last cattle drives and leaves his angry wife at home. He discovers many surprises when he returns. 
 
Thanks for stopping by Sweethearts Of The West today. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

 

Monday, January 24, 2011

A NEW RELEASE --- CAUGHT BY A CLOWN by Sandra Crowley

Hi all. Today celebrates the official birth of my writing career. My second birthday, so to speak, because of the time and effort invested. I hope you share my excitement by the time you finish this post. Commentors who mention the figure at the end of the book trailer will be placed in a drawing for a free PDF file of Caught by a Clown

CAUGHT BY A CLOWN, a spicy romantic suspense, will warm you and thrill you from its opening at a nudist resort in Arizona, to its race to a Texas horse track, and its tumble into the Florida clown school.

The idea for this story came to me a number of years ago. However, the complexity of the shootout I imagined and its unique setting in a nudist resort convinced me I didn't possess the necessary writing skills at that time. I saved the memory, studied, practiced, and finally re-created it on "paper." The shootout changed location and results, but I'm proud of it. I'm proud of the entire story. 

Here's why:
A spontaneous freelance journalist on a mission of mercy finds herself entangled with a methodical undercover FBI agent who's out to settle a score.

These two people approach life from opposing directions and yet they need each other.

Stacie Monroe's spontaneity lands her in hot water again when her best friend's little brother disappears and Stacie trails him to a nudist resort. To get inside the exclusive oasis and convince him to return home, she must blend in, a move tailor made to shock her oh-so-proper family and renew efforts to bring her in line.

That's exactly what Special Agent David Graham intends to do when she interferes in his case. Yet, the soft-hearted temptress challenges his resolve, revealing the path to a love he thought impossible. Will that love survive when he betrays her in order to unravel the final twist in his case and convict a vicious killer?

Writing Stacie and David's story was more adventure than work. My critique partner, Caroline Clemmons, might not agree. lol Her expert advice and patience taught me the majority of the skills I needed to develop these characters to their publishable level. I'm eternally grateful to her. And, to Stacie's indomitable spirit, David's intrepid honesty. 

Here's a sample:
     
     Stacie tapped one sandal-clad foot on the floor while Agent I'd-Rather-Scare-You-Than-Confide-In-You ignored her. She glanced toward the bathroom, crossed her legs, and wished she hadn't finished that last glass of wine.
     "Aren't you going to search that closet or open those two bottom drawers in the dresser?" she asked when he tucked his camera inside his pack.
     "Can't."
     A nasty suspicion raised its head. "Why not?"
     "Don't have a search warrant. That limits me to a visual inspection of what's in plain sight."
     "I won't tell," she pushed, despite being certain of his response.
     "There are laws."
     She groaned over the close match to a pronouncement she'd heard her whole life. There are rules.
     Boring. Snoring. Gone. Think of something else.
     Like how Agent By-The-Book caused this mess. If he'd mentioned being from the FBI when they met in the office none of this would have happened. He ignored her interest in Alan Walsh and her intelligence in favor of treating her as if she were a child in need of a lesson.
     Nature threatened to float her teeth, but Stacie refused to ask for relief. She fidgeted on the hard chair and crossed her legs the other way. The backs of her thighs pulled where her skin had stuck to the wooden seat. That twinge of pain reminded her she ought to be thrilled Graham claimed a badge and not a rap sheet. Instead, she rattled the handcuffs that shackled her to the chair and worried how far he meant to carry her arrest.


CLICK HERE to buy an ebook or paperback of CAUGHT BY A CLOWN. Find out how far David carries Stacie's arrest and discover who's CAUGHT BY A CLOWN.

Visit my website to request an autograph.  

Thank you for stopping by. Remember to comment about the figure at the end of the trailer for a chance at a free PDF file of Caught by a Clown. The WINNER will be announced Tuesday afternoon.

THE WINNER IS JOY HELD OF WRITER WELLNESS. CONGRATULATIONS, JOY. THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING.

I hope you'll join me at Author Roast and Toast on February 4th for fun and food under the Big Top. It should be an awesome party!



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wild Texas Wind

I've spent the last couple of posts talking about cowboys and my love for all things old west. Today I thought I'd share an excerpt from one of my very favorite scenes, in fact it's the scene that inspired the tagline for the entire book and really set the tone for the relationship between my hero, Raz Colt, and my heroine, Arden O'Hara.

In this scene, they've spent the night hiding out in a whorehouse, but now, before dawn breaks, they need to move on, to stay one step ahead of the men out to kill Arden.

The blurb is below, followed by the excerpt.  I hope you enjoy!


All Raz Colt wants is land, a quiet peaceable existence and to put his life as a hired gun in the past. When the chance to earn a sizable fortune by rescuing a kidnapped heiress comes his way, he seizes the opportunity. Trouble is, the heiress doesn’t want to be rescued. Offsetting Arden O’Hara’s beauty is a rattlesnake personality and shrewish temper. Despite her claim that she faked the kidnapping so her fiancé would ride to her rescue, Raz knows someone is out to kill her. And if anyone gets the pleasure of wringing her lovely neck, it’s going to be him.

Arden O’Hara is desperate to go home. Her fiancé was supposed to ride to her rescue, proving it’s her–and not her father’s money– he loves. Instead an arrogant stranger, with weapons strapped gun-fighter low and a decided lack of sympathy for her situation, shows up spouting a ridiculous tale about someone trying to kill her. It’s infuriating when Raz Colt’s claims prove true after not one but several attempts are made on her life. She has no idea who this fast gun with the deadly aim is, or why he makes her feel as wild and untamed as the Texas wind. But like it or not, if anyone is capable of getting her home alive, it’s Raz Colt.






The predawn air was warm, and though darkness still cloaked the sky, a sprinkling of white stars overhead and the soft glow from the east made it necessary to stick to the shadows cast by the buildings between Raegene’s and the livery.
Not that Colt gave her much time to look around. He’d barely given her time for a sip of coffee in Raegene’s kitchen before urging her out the door. She suspected he’d done so to avoid an emotional goodbye, instead he had merely assured the woman he’d be back “soon.” From the way he and Sugar had been flirting earlier, Arden supposed he would blaze a trail getting back.
But the look in the madam’s misty eyes had nearly torn her heart in two when she reminded her adopted son that she’d just mended his shirt, and asked him to be careful not to get “any holes in it or anything.” Arden didn’t know if Raz had understood what the woman was saying, but she certainly had.
Colt grabbed her hand and yanked her behind him.
“What the hell are—” Male voices drifted toward them on the still morning air, silencing her.
“His horse is there, he couldn’t have gone far.”
As the voices drew closer, Colt flattened her against the building with his body. Warmth surrounded her. A spicy clean scent, mingled with the faint aroma of smoke teased her nose where it met the middle of his chest.
“I’d like to know what he’s done with that girl,” came the second voice.
“I know what I’d do,” snickered the first man. “Her daddy’d get her back all right, but not ’til I was good and done.”
Their bawdy chuckles echoed in the empty street. Revulsion soured Arden’s stomach. She felt Colt’s hand move, knew he was reaching for his gun. She shook her head to indicate she didn’t want to see any more bloodshed and laid a hand to his chest. Solid heat met her fingertips, and she was reminded again of the sight of his naked chest this morning. Her pinky twitched, then slid over a fraction of an inch to where his shirt lay open, until it touched hot, bare skin.
“So that’s the plan?” asked the first man as they drew nearer. “Take the breed by surprise and grab the girl?”
Dread settled over her. Between the man who wanted her dead and Daddy’s offer of a reward, she’d be lucky if they got to San Antonio alive.
“We just gotta find the sneaky bastard.”
The tension in Colt’s body increased as he pressed her even tighter to the wall, flattening his body against hers protectively. She wanted to protest, but it wasn’t so terrible being crushed by him. Not so terrible at all.
He glanced down at her as the men strolled right past them. She couldn’t see his expression well enough to read it, couldn’t see his eyes. But she felt the shallow breaths he took, felt his breath, tinged with coffee, fan the top of her head. Beneath her palm his heart pounded rapidly.
“You sure he didn’t sneak into Raegene’s place?”
“Nah, not with the girl, Raegene wouldn’t stand for that. B’sides, I heard the sheriff was in there lookin’ for him last night. She said she ain’t seen no breed.”
As the men moved out of earshot and rounded a corner, Colt didn’t move. She didn’t want him to. Her nipples swelled and became sensitive where they brushed his chest. Each breath brought exquisite torture as her breasts crushed against him. Her body willingly absorbed, even savored, the feel of his; hard against all the places she was soft. Something wild and hot moved through her, making her feel wanton and alarmed all at once.
Hearing strangers speak of harming her had been spine-chilling. And yet she hadn’t been frightened, had known Colt would protect her.
Gratitude and fierce, hot need mingled to rush through her veins. Her lips parted. She rested her head against the wall of the livery and tried to meet his eyes, hoping for some sign the same thing was happening to him.
He took a step back, his hand moving to cup her elbow. “You all right?”
She frowned at the familiar ring to those words. What was it he’d said yesterday? I got ten grand riding on your well being.
Oh, he would protect her all right. Protect his own interest was more like it. She shoved against his chest, sending him stumbling back a few steps. How foolish to think he was concerned about anything other than money. “Get away from me.”
He muttered a vile curse, took hold of her hand, and yanked. She fell along after him, glaring daggers at his broad back with every step.
Like it or not, if there was anyone who could get her home alive, it was Raz Colt.

Wild Texas Wind – released June, 2010

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SPECIAL GUEST: ANNE CARROLE and Love Western Romances

(Celia) I'm so pleased to introduce Anne Carrole, a Western Romance author and co-founder of the very popular website Love Western Romances.
Anne says she is "a Jersey girl with a Western heart who was raised on a farm in NJ with horses, dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits, and whatever other animals she and her sisters could convince their parents to shelter." Besides reading and writing romances, you can find her rummaging around antique stores, in the garden, or on the tennis court when she's not watching the rodeo. She is married to her own urban cowboy, and is also the proud mother of a teenage cowgirl.
Anne, please tell us about Love Western Romances, the site you and Karyna DeRosa created several years ago. Why and how did this idea come to you?

(ANNE)
Thanks for having me here at Sweethearts of the West—just love that name.
Love Western Romances is a review site devoted exclusively to western historical romances. Our goal is to help readers find new authors and authors find new readers.
Karyna and I met at our local RWA chapter and were bemoaning the fact that we couldn’t find enough of the books we loved to read (and write), that is western historical romances. We figured a lot of other fans of the genre were having the same problem. Being Karyna is a whiz on the computer (she manages website design and programming for her corporate day job), and my day job used to be in marketing, the idea of starting a website devoted to promoting the genre seemed the answer and Love Western Romances was born.

(Celia) With all the success of Love Western Romances, is there extra pressure on you to live up to higher expectation?

(ANNE)
If you mean do we feel pressure to keep things going, we do. I won’t lie that there aren’t days when it seems too much, given we both have day jobs, personal lives, and are working to get our own books published, but when we hear from readers and authors, that keeps us going.

(Celia) I know the website well, and notice you have three main areas of promotion to offer authors of Western Romances. First, explain the Author spotlight and how does it work?

(ANNE)
Each month we feature a western historical romance author. We try to have a mix of up-and- coming authors as well as established authors. Many of the established authors we contacted and asked if they’d appear, but western historical authors can contact us through the site and if we have an opening, we’ll place them in our spotlight. We try not to repeat authors more than every two years and if we do repeat, it has to be because they have something new to say for a visitor’s interest beyond a new book to promote, though we are all for letting people know about the latest books. That’s why readers come to our site, to learn about what’s new in western historical romance.

 When we first got started we were a little intimidated about asking some of the “big names” in western romance to be in our spotlight. I mean, who were we but just an upstart website.  Our first author, Stacey Kayne/Harlequin Historical was releasing her debut novel and so we sort of launched together. After that, Cheryl St. John, another Harlequin author, graciously agreed  to be in our spotlight(she’s a real sweetheart). They both were very helpful in supporting us since they were starting their own blog, Petticoats and Pistols, and felt the more the merrier. Once we had a few authors in the spotlight,  I got bold and approached Leigh Greenwood, because I thought having one of the few male romance writers would be a good draw to our site. He couldn’t have been nicer. In fact that is what I have to say about ALL the authors who have been in our spotlight; every one of them has been gracious, generous and just plain nice.

For me, though, a highlight had to be when I gathered up my courage to ask Linda Lael Miller to be in our spotlight. Anyone who knows me knows she is my idol as far as western romance goes. In the very early days of our site, her publicist had contacted us about reviewing A Wanted Man—still a favorite of mine. So, through her publicist, I contacted her. Talk about being nice and supportive. She mentioned it on her blog, mentioned us on her publisher’s site, put up our logo during that year’s Best Western Romance and donated several times to our voter bundles. She appeared again in 2010. She’s a fan favorite and will always be one of ours.

 (Celia) The review section, I notice, is huge. How does an author get a review from LWR?

(ANNE)
Most of the time they contact us through the website. We get most of our books to review from the authors themselves, rather than their publishers. We can only handle about five a month because we don’t have that many reviewers. (Anyone who wants to review western historicals and will accept them in pdf format, please feel free to contact me. We are always looking for new reviewers.)

We accept only western historical romances because that’s what our site visitors are looking for and, just because of volume, we do not accept self-published or re-issued books for review, though we are happy to mention them in the author news section of our newsletter. Anyone can join our monthly newsletter, which is another way to find out what is happening in western romances at

(Celia) The third important part of the site is the offer to buy ad space for a book cover on the Home Page. How does this work?

(ANNE)
This is the only form of paid advertising we accept on the site. The fees we charge ($10 per month per book cover ad) go to cover our maintenance of the website and to fund our Best Western and other contests. We’ve never made a profit on the site, take no money ourselves (there isn’t enough). This is truly a labor of love because we don’t want this genre to disappear.

An author who has a western historical book cover they want displayed on the Home Page can pay through Paypal on the site. Then they need to e-mail us at


and provide us their book cover or banner in jpeg format.  We’ll then link the book cover back to their website. That’s it.

(Celia) One trivial question: If you bought a car that matched your personality, what would it be?

(ANNE)
Well, that’s definitely a question I haven’t been asked before. I’m not sure of the particular model but it would definitely be red and sporty, I think, but not necessarily an expensive one. Just one that’s fast and nimble. My favorite car back in the day was my Honda Prelude so maybe it would be that.

(Celia) Now, we'd love to know about your books in general and your newest release.

(ANNE)
I have a short story published with the Wild Rose Press called Re-ride at the Rodeo, a contemporary western, that’s available separately as an e-book or in print as part of the anthology Return to Wayback.

(Celia) Can you give us a blurb and a buy link for the book?

BLURB for Re-ride at the Rodeo:
Saddle bronc rider Clay Tanner is looking for a good time and the tempting little blonde who’s working the beer concession at the rodeo looks like she could use one—except she turns him down. Feeling like he’s been bucked off his bronc before the eight second buzzer, Clay’s betting he can score if she’ll give him a re-ride. But qualifying may call for more than he’s prepared to give.

Dusty Morgan’s nonplussed when hard-bodied cowboy Clay Tanner hits on her. She doesn’t exactly have the kind of figure that attracts Texas cowboys. Besides, even though Clay’s deep timbre voice sends tingles clear to her toes, he’s an undependable rough stock rider and a player to boot. Though he may be what she desires, Dusty knows from experience he isn’t what she needs—or is he?
(Celia) I remember this one from the RETURN TO WAYBACK anthology! In fact, I wrote short reviews for each story and posted them on my blog.
Friends--if you want a good read, check out Anne’s rodeo story. It’s part of a series from The Wild Rose Press--I think there are 14 books in the series (I have one in there, too.)   

BUY LINK:


Where else can we find you?

Thank you so much, Anne, for visiting the Sweethearts of the West. Good luck and best wishes for your continuing success.

Celia Yeary



Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Texas and Werewolves and Vamps, Oh My!

The title of this blog was inspired by a line in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Wonderful characters and imaginary animals filled the screen during the movie. We haven’t lost our love for imaginary characters and animals, have we? The movies prove that every year, and werewolves have hit the screen in a big way. Popular movies feature both the villain and the hero as werewolves.

Fortunately, our entertainment doesn’t have to stop with movies. Werewolf fans can find plenty of exciting fiction books featuring werewolves. As a romance writer, I find werewolves make for both tragic and heroic characters. I can let my imagination run wild.

I can envision the story with things I’ve seen and experienced in my own life. I’ll always remember following the narrow dirt road from the family cabin to the fishing hole, and the tree root which formed a menacing claw at the edge of the thick woods I had to walk through to reach the stream. When I was young I imagined the claw shaped roots to be a warning of danger which lurked in the trees’ shadows.

I remember a trip with my family across Texas, trees covered with moss at the shadowed edge of a river at dusk. We drove through the darkness of night and saw a flock of huge birds which flew in front of our car as we crossed a bridge over a river. I’d never seen anything like those giant birds before and had no idea what they were or why they were flying at night. I know they weren’t owls. They’ve become an important part of one of my romance stories about shape shifters which includes werewolves.

Adding romance to a shape shifter story heightens the stakes for the characters. A hero with an emotionally monumental past to overcome is perfect for a werewolf, a larger than life alpha male. He must not only overcome the evil villain, but he must face sacrificing everything, putting his life on the line to protect the woman he loves. Such actions endear him forever to a romance readers heart.

Guardian of Her Heart, an erotic contemporary werewolf romance, under my writing name for the genre, Claire Adele, will be out soon. More information and a photo will be posted here as they become available. Guardian of Her Heart is part of my new series titled Wolves of West Texas, and will be available at Siren-BookStrand.

Following is a story blurb for
Guardian of Her Heart:

Tormented private investigator Mike Wolfson has a killer to catch. Hiding family secrets, including his shape shifter side, alienate him from the one woman he‘s always wanted. Child crisis center director, the stunning Melissa Haven, is threatened by the evil underworld of his greatest enemy. Mike must protect her from kidnappers without revealing his dark reality.

Melissa’s always believed Mike’s wealth and her middle class status kept them apart. Finally together, they can no longer deny their feelings. Daring and determined, she welcomes his tempting caresses as hidden passions ignite. She never expected to share such pleasures with Mike.


As Mike protects the woman he’s always loved from mortal danger, can he reveal his heart-wrenching secret, or will the truth lose her love forever?

I hope you'll enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. You might also like Moonlight Desperado, out now at Siren-BookStrand, if you like werewolf romances. Check out my other books and novellas on my web site. http://www.JeanmarieHamilton.com

When you visit my web site, I would love for you to join my newsletter!
Wishing you a happy new year and lots of great reads!
Jeanmarie Hamilton/Claire Adele

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mail Order Bride Romances

I write contemporary western romances but I have a fondness for historical westerns with Mail Order Bride plots. A contemporary Mail Order bride story that stuck with me long after reading it was Annie in the Morning by Curtiss Ann Matlock. (SSE) There's something very romantic about a man and a woman agreeing to take a leap of faith and marrying each other after exchanging only a handful of letters.

I love strong heroines and Mail Order Brides are among the strongest fictional heroines out there. It takes a very brave (or desperate) woman to travel West alone, straight into the arms of a strange man. Mail Order Brides were a sturdy breed, courageous and possessed a sense of adventure. What drove women to marry a practical stranger—a chance to escape poverty or the servant job they were stuck in or the fear of dying a spinster. If not for women, the West would never have become civilized. Women, not men, saw the need for schools, churches and libraries.

Often the humor in the Mail Order Bride plots is derived from the hero, heroine or both attempting to dupe the other. The hero implying in his advertisement that he is five-feet-ten inches tall and solid muscle, wealthy and owns a large parcel of fertile land. The heroine answering the hero's advertisement with a glowing description of her beauty (and a photo of a women other than herself) and her impressive homemaking skills. Many of the brides arrived only to discover their new husband had one change of clothing, lived in a shanty and owned nothing but the tin plate he used to pan for gold. In turn, the man discovered his new wife was taller, broader and uglier than himself and couldn't bake a decent loaf of bread if her life depended on it.

I highly recommend reading Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier by Chriss Enss (2005) This is a terrific book!

Hearts West includes more than a dozen stories of courageous mail order brides and their exploits. Accompanying the text are actual advertisements placed by both women seeking husbands and men seeking brides.



Following are actual advertisements Enss included in her book:

Wanted: A girl who will love, honest, true not sour; a nice little cooing dove and willing to work in flour:"

"A gentleman of 26 years old, 5 feet 3 inches, doing a good business in the city, desires the acquaintance of a young intelligent and refined lady possessed of some means, of a loving disposition from 18 to 23, and one who could make home a paradise."

"An intelligent young fellow of 22 years, 6 feet height, weight 170 pounds Would like to correspond with a lady from 18 to 22. Will exchange photos: object, fun and amusement, and perhaps when acquainted, if suitable, matrimony."

"A lively widower of 40, looking much younger, 5 feet 7 inches high, weighing 145 pounds would like to correspond with some maiden or widow ladyof honor who would like a good home, kind husband and plenty."

"A lady, 23, tall, fair and good looking, without means, would like to hear from a gentleman of position wanting a wife. She is well educated, accomplished, amiable, and affectionate."

If you have any "Mail-Order Bride" stories in your family tree, I'd love to hear about them!

Marin Thomas
Roughneck Cowboy *Men of the West* Feb 2011
The Bull Rider's Surrender E-HQ March 2011
Rodeo Daddy *Rodeo Rebels* April 2011
The Bull Rider's Secret *Rodeo Rebels* July 2011
Riley's Story (w.t.) *Rodeo Rebels* Dec 2011
www.marinthomas.com

Friday, January 14, 2011

Frontier Teachers

By Anna Kathryn Lanier


As the West was settled, teachers came to educate the children. From 1847-1858, more than 600 women went West to teach, but like everything else in the West, teaching wasn’t easy. There was an abysmal shortage of supplies. Sister Blandena Seagle noted in her journal about a Santa Fe, New Mexico school, “There were no black boards, charts, maps, desks, books….” This was typical of frontier schools everywhere.


Also in short supply was time. Today, schools in the United States must hold classes for 180 days. In the mid-1800’s, the schools usually followed the farming seasons. They were often open for a few weeks at a time, then closed during the planting season, opening again during the growing season. Anna Webber’s Kansas school was open for only three months during the year, May through July.


Another challenge to teaching was the building itself. A community was lucky to have a school building available when the teacher arrived. If it didn’t, a log cabin, shed or abandoned homesteader’s shack would be transformed into school. Or, the community would hold a ‘school raising,’ and build one. In general, the schools were one room and small. Sarah Newman recalls her room being “maybe 10 by 12 feet.” One teacher complained that though her school could only hold a dozen students, she had more than twice that in attendance on occasion. Overcrowding was a problem, even then.


Students, though, were separated, with boys on one side of the room and girls on the other. In some schools, the sexes were even segregated during recess. Edwin C Hewett suggested that a fence divide the backyard of the school, so the girls and boys could play in separate areas of the yard.


Classes tended to focus on the basics: reading, writing, arithmetic, history, spelling and penmanship—which could be difficult when you did not have slates, paper or pencils. The Bible was often the only book a family had to send to school for reading practice. With this shortage of books, lessons were largely memorization, recitation and oral drilling. Spelling bees were popular in the last part of the century.


In the East and first half of the nineteenth century, males dominated the teaching profession, since a woman’s place was in the home. However, as the country moved West, the need for teachers, male or female rose. By the 1870’s, 25% of all American-born white women had taught school at some time in their lives. The community had an advantage in hiring a woman teacher, though. Women were paid 40-60% less than their male counterparts, making $54.50 a year to a male teacher’s $71.40 on average in the 1880’s.


These women, some as young as sixteen, risked the journey west to bring education to the next generation. They are as much responsible for the settling of the West as the gold hunters, mountain men, farmers and businessmen who looked westward to seek their fortune.


Who was your most memorable teacher? Why? Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible for my prize drawing. The prize: a 2011 Studs and Spur Calendar….yeah, hunky cowboys for your viewing pleasure, all year long!


References:


Frontier Teachers: Stories of Heroic Women of the Old West by Chris Enss


Anna Kathryn Lanier
www.aklanier.com
www.annaktharynlanier.blogspot.com


"A story full of emotions... hurt, loss, and betrayal, turning it into a story of love, family, and happiness. A seasonal read, A Gift Beyond All Measure delivers on it's title." ~Talina; Night Owl Reviews

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Plains Cavalry


Doing research for the third book in my spirit trilogy I had to do research on the plains cavalry. This was the mounted army used to curtail Indian uprisings and make sure there was safe passage for the people populating the west.

After the Civil War Southern cavalry officers were demoted to privates. There was feeling that if they were allowed to remain officers they could become in control of the military. So many left the service rather than be demoted. After the war many of the soldiers went back to civilian life, leaving the cavalry shorthanded.

The years following the war most recruits were either illiterate or spoke a foreign language, causing problems when it came to training. Officers, who were graduates of West Point or promoted during the Civil War and had sufficient training and experience in fighting, found themselves teaching ragtag groups how to ride horses and fire a rifle.

The plains cavalry weren't the sophisticated and well oiled machine the movies make them out to be. A good part of the enlisted men were criminals who chose enlisting to going to jail. When the chance came up many would high-tail it to parts unknown.



Not all forts were as large and accommodating as we see in movies either. Most were small complexes of buildings for housing, cooking and eating, and a supply or trade shop along with a stable and farrier. When the soldiers weren't working on their fighting they were the upkeep and builders of the forts.

During a march a company could cover some thirty-five miles in an eight-hour day under good conditions. The would sleep in their saddles on long marches, and the horses would plod along in a sleep-walking state

At a walk they could cover four miles in an hour; at a slow trot, six; at a maneuvering trot, eight; at an alternate trot and walk, five; at a maneuvering gallop, twelve; and at a full extended gallop, sixteen.

Cavalry marches usually covered about six miles per hour - at the trot and walk - with a five-minute halt each hour.

I discovered with my research the cavalry life was not glamorous and you had to have either wanted to stay away from your family really bad or had no other place to go to want to stay in the mundane life that could kill you just as easy from fraternizing with the local women as it could from a bullet or arrow.

www.patyjager.net
www.patyjager.blogspot.com