Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tales of Thanksgivings Past

Since it’s so close to Thanksgiving, I will share with you a few stories of pioneer Thanksgivings that I enjoyed reading. I hope you do too.

Thanksgiving on the Frontier

Wild turkeys were present on the frontier, but on one occasion thankfulness came not for enjoying the turkey, but for still being alive, as recalled by Mrs. Hulda Esther Thorpe.  “One of the best Thanksgiving dinners we ever knew of was when a family of settlers had their nice wild turkey dinner taken by the Indians, who came in silently and just shoved the folks back and eat [ate] it up.

“They did not harm the white people though and after they were gone the women made a big corn bread and with what few things the Indians left, they had a feast, the best as the daughter tells, that she ever eat [ate]. This was because they were so happy and thankful that the Indians spared them.”   (Excerpt from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940, a public government work).
Miracle of the Gulls Monument, Salt Lake City;
photo by David McConeghy; wikipedia creative commons 2.0

The Mormons’ First Thanksgiving

The first Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. They got a late start on planting that summer, and the crops didn’t yield a plentiful harvest, not allowing for any thanksgiving feast. The hundreds of Saints who arrived that year had a rough time just surviving winter.
A late frost in May 1848 killed many crops, and a lack of rain caused further difficulty. The warmer summer planting season would have allowed some of the frozen crops to recover, but crickets came on the frost’s heels and destroyed the few healthy plants that remained.
It was a difficult time to live in the Valley—the outlook was so bleak that a few people continued on to California or returned to the United States. But most of the Saints stuck it out, did all they could to preserve their crops, and trusted that God would make up the difference.
That’s when the famous seagulls came to their rescue, consuming the destructive crickets and leaving the Saints with a chance to plant again. By midsummer they were hopeful for a plentiful harvest. They believed God had brought the seagulls and provided much-needed assistance. They decided to set aside a day for giving thanks to God—August 10, 1848.
That morning, the Saints gathered for the celebration. They raised a white flag on a pole—a traditional symbol of freedom—and decorated the pole with wheat, barley, oats and corn. They fired a cannon and a band played. The Saints shouted “Hosannah to God and the Lamb, for ever and ever, Amen.”
Then they feasted on bread, butter, cheese, cakes, beef, pastries, corn, lettuce, melons, radishes, beets, carrots, peas, onions, cucumbers, parsnips, squash and beans. No Jello salad!

How to Season the Dressing
The most famous Laura Ingalls Wilder Thanksgiving story is the argument between Laura and her sister Mary about how to season the dressing. The argument began when their Pa announced he intended to shoot a goose for Thanksgiving dinner. After he left to hunt, Laura delighted over the prospect of dressing seasoned with onion. Mary objected, saying she doesn’t like it seasoned with onion and wanted it seasoned with sage instead.

The sisters continued to bicker back and forth: “Sage.” “Onion.” “SAGE!” “ONION!” Until Pa came back without the goose. This evidently remained a favorite story for Laura because it’s a reminder at Thanksgiving to look around and be grateful even if “the seasoning of my blessings has not been just as I would have chosen.”



Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a pair of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

Amazon Author Page: viewAuthor.at/LynHornerAmazon (universal link)
Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette http://eepurl.com/bMYkeX
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Angel's Glow

I’ve been doing a lot of research for a new book I’m working on (oh, the rabbit hole which is research on the Internet…what day is it, BTW?). Because I write predominantly in the period of westward expansion immediately after the Civil War, I do a lot of research on that fiery crucible that forged us into a modern nation. The hero in this new book is a galvanized Yankee (AKA a “Reconstructed” Confederate) and he was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh. One of the things I’ve been looking at is why so many men survived their wounds at the Battle of Shiloh as compared to other battles. Those who survived claimed during the long, cold night as they waited for help and the dawn noticed their wounds glowing with a strange, blue-green light.


Today, we can thank the curiosity of a high school student, his intent to win a science fair, and the assistance of his mom—who is also a microbiologist with the USDA and was working at the time with a bacterium that glows in the dark—for answering the question of why those soldiers’ wounds glowed and why their survival rate was much higher.

The Battle of Shiloh, named ironically enough for a small Methodist Church in the center of that bloody battle with a Hebrew word meaning “peace”, was fought in early April of 1862. More than 3500 hundred were killed and over 16000 were wounded. The battlefield itself is located along the Tennessee River and surrounded by extremely marshy, swampy ground. A lot of the battlefield is often swampy in the spring. Swampy, marshy, cold ground—the perfect breeding ground for a particular type of bacterium: P. luminescens. This bacterium lives in the gut of nematodes and is in the ground in fairly large concentrations at Shiloh.

The problem is, P. luminescens can’t survive at temperatures found in the human body. However, because it was so cold, and so wet at Shiloh during the battle, the men who were wounded and remained on the battlefield overnight most likely also suffered from mild hypothermia—a lowering of the body’s core temperature. At the very least, their limbs became chilled with lowered temperatures. Their wounds got muddy (imagine several thousand men, horses, and cannon moving back and forth for a full day over a football field after a four day long, soaking rain and you get the idea of what the ground was like at Shiloh), the bacterium entered the wounds, and began to glow because it is rife with bioluminescent properties. The kicker to all of this: P. luminescens produces as a byproduct of its natural reproduction a potent antibiotic, which minimizes competition from other microorganisms and prevents putrefaction.

So, those men who did survive being wounded at Shiloh called that glow in their wounds “angel glow.” Little did they, or even modern science know until a curious high school student figured it out, that their guardian angel was a humble bacterium vomited up by nematodes. That’s a pleasant thought. I’ll stick with the guardian angel theory.

Friday, November 16, 2018

My favorite song by Kaye Spencer #sweetheartsofthewest #westernmovies

We all have songs that mean something extra special to us whether by our associating them with a special an event, a date, a loved one, a precious moment, etc. In fact, if you’re like me, I could go on for hours singing the words to all the songs that are near and dear to me.

But there is one song—the one song that tops all the others, the one that brings a tear to my eye and a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart.


“My” song is an American rendition of Greensleeves, which is an old English folk song of complicated, and not entirely identifiable origins. Greensleeves was a familiar song (tune) in Shakespeare’s day, because he referenced it in his play, The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1595. Falstaff: “Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of ‘Greensleeves’!”

There is a legend that the original song was written by Henry VIII for his future wife, Anne Boleyn, but that is apparently a myth as there is evidence the song was around before Henry’s time.

By 1690, or so, the original song was becoming associated with Christmas and New Year’s. Then by the 19th century, any Christmas songbook worth its salt included some version of the original folk song (lyrics and tune) as a carol. Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, and a host of other crooners have recorded their renditions of Greensleeves. As a Christmas song, we know it as What Child is This? which has also been recorded by too many artists to list here.

For those of you who desire more history about Greensleeves, click HERE for an overview,  HERE for Wikipedia, and HERE for an interesting bit of medieval history. 

Back to my favorite song… “A Home in the Meadow”

The lyrics for A Home in the Meadow were written by Sammy Cahn and the song was performed by Debbie Reynolds in the 1962 western movie (and book by same title written by Louis L’Amour), How the West Was Won.

For your viewing and listening pleasure, here is the YouTube clip from the movie.

If you've not read the book How the West was Won AND watched the 1962 movie of the same name, you should remedy those most egregious oversights as soon as you can. You can thank me later. *wink*

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Shirleen Davies: Quanah Parker, Comanche Chief

Quanah Parker was born about 1845 to famed war chief, Peta Nocona, and Cynthia Ann Parker, the famed captive of a Comanche raid on Parker's Fort in 1836. In 1860, the Texas Rangers raided the Comanche village where he, his father, mother, and sister were living. Quanah’s father died in the attack and his mother and sister were captured. With the Noconis wiped out from the attack and Quanah, now an orphan, he took refuge with the Quahada Comanches of the Llano Estacado.

Cynthia Ann Parker, Quanah's Mother

Chief Quanah Parker
The Quahadas ("Antelopes")
Quahadas means antelope. The Quahadi (Kwahadi, Kwahari, Kuahadi, Llaneros, Quaahda, Quahada) Indians were a major band of Comanches who dwelled in the southwest in what is called Llano Estacado or the Staked Plains. Antelopes were plentiful there and also a main source of food for the Native Americans who lived in the area.

Of all the Comanche bands, the Quahadas were the supreme warriors. They rejected the Medicine Lodge Treaty Council and refused to go to the reservation as the treaty required. Quanah’s superior skills and strengths in horsemanship, leadership, and military strategy served him and his fugitive band well as he basically held the Texas plains unchallenged, beyond the reach of the US Calvary. For the next seven years, the Quahadas continued to hunt buffalo in the traditional way and raid pioneer settlements in the area.

Quanah on horseback.
Soon, buffalo hunters streamed onto the plains and in turn destroyed the Comanche’s chief source of food. Quanah and a medicine man named Isa-tai, formed a multitribal alliance so they could drive the hunters off the plains. On June 27, 1874, 700 brave warriors—Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanches—attacked twenty-eight hunters and one woman at Adobe Walls. The hunters, with their superior weapons, fended off the repeated attacks. Only one hunter was killed, but the Indians suffered numerous losses and Quanah was wounded. The Indians retreated, and the alliance crumbled. Within a year Quanah and the Quahadas, were suffering starvation. Quanah knew that further resistance would lead to the annihilation of the Comanches. So, on June 2, 1875, Quanah and the Quahadas surrendered at Fort Sill. They were then moved to the Kiowa-Comanche reservation in southwestern Oklahoma.

Adjustment to Reservation Life
Most of the Quahadas had a hard time conforming to life on the reservation. However, Quanah’s adjustment was so smooth, federal agents named him chief. They thought it would help unite the various Comanche bands. This action fell outside the federal government’s jurisdiction and was unheard of in Comanche tradition. But even so, the Comanche agreed to it, since the tribe had been essentially left leaderless. It proved to be a brilliant choice, for over the next quarter century, from the ashes of defeat, Quanah led the Comanches by example, encouraging independence and self-reliance, into the white man’s world of civilization. 

He was all for building schools on reservation lands and advised young people to learn the white man's ways. In fact, his children were educated on the reservation as well as at boarding schools.

Quanah achieved wealth and success from raising his own stock, and he encouraged his people to attain financial security through ranching. Since the ranchers were already using Comanche pasturelands for their herds, he leased grazing lands on the reservation to specific white ranchers. By creating legal agreements with those ranchers, he hoped they would help him prevent ranchers without leases from accessing those grazing lands. He taught his followers to build houses designed like the white man's and to plant crops.

Quanah believed in cooperating with whites and in cultural transformation in the areas of ranching, education, and agriculture. He served as a judge on the tribal court and negotiated business deals with white investors. He traveled many times to Washington DC to represent his people in front of Congress. He also fought efforts to undermine the changes he’d initiated, for example, he prevented the spread of the ghost dance among his people. Quanah also encouraged the establishment of a Comanche police force, to help the Indians handle their own affairs.

He grew rich through his astute investments, including $40,000 worth of stock in the Quanah, Acme, and Pacific Railway. He was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt and many prominent Texas ranchers. In 1905, he even rode in President Roosevelt’s inaugural parade. Quanah was often interviewed by reporters on a variety of subjects, including political and social issues.
Quanah second from left.

However, he was a traditionalist in several ways:
  • ·       He refused to cut his braids
  • ·       Remained a polygamist, maintaining a twenty-two-room house for his seven wives and numerous children.
  • ·       Would not convert to Christianity
  • ·       Belonged to the Native American Church
  • ·       Initiated the use of peyote among the tribes in Oklahoma.

Quanah's daughters.

But, in 1901 the federal government broke the Kiowa-Comanche reservation up into individual holdings and opened it to settlement by outsiders. In the final days of his life, Quanah ran his profitable ranch, continued to build business relationships and friendships with whites, and remained the most influential person among the Comanches. In 1902 his people honored their leader by naming him deputy sheriff of Lawton, Oklahoma.

In February 11, 1911, while visiting the Cheyenne Reservation, he became ill, returned home, and died on February 23.  For his funeral, Quanah was dressed in full Comanche regalia, befitting his position as chief. He was buried beside his mother in Post Oak Mission Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma.  About 1500 people formed his funeral procession that was over two miles long. Unfortunately, thieves looted his grave four years later, since a large sum of money had allegedly been buried with him.

Due to the expansion of a missile base in 1957, Post Oak Mission Cemetery was relocated and Quanah Parker, the last Comanche Chief, was reburied with full military honors at Fort Sill Post Cemetery in Lawton, Oklahoma, in a section of the cemetery known as Chief's Knoll. Cynthia Ann Parker was moved to that cemetery as well.

Please check out my newest release, Rogue Rapids, book 11 in the Redemption Mountain Historical Western Romance series.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Margaret Jewett Bailey

by Rain Trueax

As a writer of romances, often based in the historic West, learning about the 'real' people of that time has been part of writing about my fictional people. A lot of times, I think many, who aren't so fond of history, don't realize how much diversity there was in women's lives in the 1800s. 

Some years back, I got what was a nice review for one of my romances (Arizona Sunset back then but currently retitled as Outlaw Way). She dinged me rating points for believing what my heroine was doing was not realistic to women of that time.
'This story starts easy and seems to follow the traditional lines of a historical romance. The tale takes an innovative turn, when Abby rides to an isolated area for stolen mail bags, asks a rustler to take her along with him, and then gets married to the rustler she knows nothing about. The improbability of those events taking place in that era are far-fetched and unrealistic, although the interactions between the protagonists are heartwarming. Sam’s sensitivity and gentleness with Abby makes his character endearing and has the reader overlooking the fact that he’s a rustler and a man who lives by the gun. The character development is good and the plot moves smoothly.  Ultimately, “Arizona Sunset” is a story of second chances, destiny, and true love. A romance that will have the reader believing in improbabilities and cheering for happily ever after!'
I knew she was wrong. Many women did follow cultural norms, as many do today. Even then, there were those renegades though, ones who chose a different path. When we write a romance, our nontraditional women will have a happy ending. It is a requirement of the genre. Real life has no such rules. Being unconventional was even tougher for women in the Old West where there weren't so many options for a woman who broke society's rules. To be an independent thinker had a price attached, and so it was with Margaret Jewett Bailey, Oregon's first female novelist. 

Margaret Smith was born about 1812 in Massachusetts. Although her family did not approve, she had strong spiritual beliefs and attended Wesleyan Academy. She then secured a position allowing her to come to Oregon as a mission teacher. In 1837, she sailed from Boston with the Reverend David Leslie, his family, and H.K.W. Perkins. For disobeying her father, she was disowned.

Traveling via the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii today), the missionary party arrived in the Salem, Oregon area to be part of the Oregon Mission, which had been established in 1834 by the Reverend Jason Lee as a missionary arm of the Methodist/Episcopal Church.

As a single woman, possibly attractive, although there are no pictures I could find of Margaret, she was under pressure to marry. Complicating her situation, Rev. Leslie had told the Mission that she was a family servant. She didn't have a true position though she did teach. Outspoken and someone who thought for herself, Margaret found other pressures from the man with whose family she had traveled to Oregon, Reverend Leslie, as she fought with him. 

The elders in the church wanted her to marry William H. Willson, a single man, with whom she had boarded. While she had at one time thought she would marry him, she then decided he wasn't spiritual enough. To pressure her, Willson claimed they had been intimate. She at first denied it; but then said, yes they had. She evidently hoped they'd not expel her from the mission if she confessed. When it was made public, she was finished as a teacher there.  

She would have been 25 with no family behind her. What were her options? Marriage was often the only way for single women of that time.

At the time, she was being courted by Dr. William J. Bailey. He had had quite the history coming over from the British Isles with some question as to from where exactly, but he'd had some education as a doctor. Coming to America, he'd done some Indian fighting and killing, ended up with a face damaged by a hatchet from one battle. At the mission, he had been encouraged to resume his medical studies and became a skilled physician.

Despite this career and rather dramatic history, Margaret's friends objected to her marrying him as he had a reputation as a drinker and carouser. She went her own way, and March 4, 1839, they married in a very simple ceremony without so much as a wedding gown. They left on horseback immediately for the cabin he had purchased in French Prairie, close to Champoeg. 

Her first disillusionment came when, though he had earlier converted to Methodism, he said he'd no longer read the Bible or attend church. As a very spiritual woman, this was a huge disappointment; however, she set about making a home, taking care of cows, horses, pigs, and a garden. At some point, she learned she'd married a violent man-- especially when he was drinking. Although some felt their marriage was a good one, others weren't there the times she claimed it turned otherwise. 

Margaret wrote both poetry and articles before and during her marriage. In 1838, she had published letters in church papers, and poetry signed MJB appeared in the Oregon Spectator. One of her poems had been published February 5, 1846, making her the first poet to be published west of the Rocky Mountains.

In 1854, two big things happened in  Margaret's life. Using the pseudonym, Ruth Rover, she found a publisher for her novel-- supposedly fictional but using her own life-- The Grains. In April of the same year, she divorced William. Perhaps she thought she'd get a new start as a published author. 

Reviewers had a hard time putting the book in a genre. It can be seen today as the first example of a Pacific Northwest woman trying to empower herself by telling her story.
As historian Edwin Bingham observed in his foreword to the 1986 edition, The Grains is unusual because it is "part autobiography, part religious testimonial, part history and travelogue" and might even be called "a novel, the first novel written and published on the Pacific Coast." 
Following her divorce, even though her husband was a successful man, Margaret was left with $100, her clothing, and a piano. She had edited six columns for the Ladies Department in the Oregon Spectator and hoped to edit a newspaper of her own for women. But now she was a divorced woman and the Willamette Mission had all that gossip about her. She never published another book and once again found herself on her own with nothing to support her.  
In the persona of Ruth Rover, she confessed in Chapter One of The Grains: "I am avoided and shunned, and slighted, and regarded with suspicions in every place till my life is more burdensome than death would be. I have, therefore, … been impelled by a sense of justice due to myself and a wish that my future life should not be overshadowed by the gloom of the present.” 
Was she too honest in her telling of her life or did she fictionalize what she thought wouldn't make her seem sympathetic? The anonymous Squills of the Oregonian noted this was not the biography of a Napoleon or a Byron, but the story of a mere woman: "[W]ho the dickens cares, about the existence of a fly, or in whose pan of molasses the insect disappeared" (Oregonian, August 5, 1854). 

Squills added: "The immorality, not to say indecency of the work, is far too much in advance even for the fast ideas and morals of young Oregon" (Oregonian, September 9, 1854). Criticisms of "immorality" and "indecency," whether aimed at her writing or her character, continued to follow Bailey throughout her life.

Margaret didn't give up on a happy life, but for women of that time, even more than today, choosing wisely in a mate made the difference in terms of  quality life, especially without family behind them. For an outspoken woman, a woman who thought for herself, she never found her own happily ever after. 

Margaret Bailey's second marriage was to Francis Waddle, in Polk County, in 1855. They were divorced three years later. She then moved to Washington Territory and married a Mr. Crane (no information on him). Her third marriage may have ended no better because, she died destitute in Seattle on May 17, 1882. In my research, I could not find anything about where she was buried, but as a pauper, there was unlikely to be a marker.

Despite being the first novelist in Oregon, she's not a well-known northwestern pioneer. I learned of her from my daughter, who had given a paper on her while studying historical archaeology for her Master's in Anthropology. 

Champoeg is where Oregon Territory first formed its government. William Bailey was a part of that forming. The town site was mostly wiped out by the flood of 1861. My daughter was involved in archaeological digs in Champoeg and French Prairie where they plotted where homes had been and unsuccessfully tried to find Bailey's French Prairie home, which had burned sometime after his divorce. 

My daughter had told me of Margaret's story when we were discussing unconventional women of the Old West. She had read The Grains and said it wasn't an easy book to read. She said it was sensual, which likely explains why, though it was also spiritual, it didn't find popularity in its own time. She said Margaret made it clear she was a woman who liked men, but it also didn't make her feel like a person someone would like to know. While blaming others for her miseries and disappointments, they may have been mostly due to her own personality, but one has to also take into account the time in which she lived.

As, is this book about that time in Oregon's history and more on Margaret and William Bailey

And my own book with a woman who fought against the traditions of her time but found a much happier ending thanks to the old adage that a woman's life, especially then, was mostly happy or not due to the man she chose.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Major Inventions of the 1800's by E. Ayers

Oops! I'm late. But I've brought a few dates with me. Sorry, not the tall, dark, and handsome types. These are important moments in history. Well, some are more important than others. Where would we be without the rubber band? Oh, just because it was invented, doesn't mean it was put into use. Quite a few things took a few years to become a tangible product.

I find these kind of things to be fascinating because they directly influenced the way people lived. And I enjoy writing about the old West but I wouldn't want to go back and live then. Of course, no one expected the house to be as clean and neat as we attempt to keep ours today because they didn't have the things to keep a home as clean.

The 1800’s were filled with inventions. A few people who love to study such things claim that we really didn’t have many inventions during the 1900’s - we just figured out how to make things better, cheaper, and smaller. Here’s a quick overview of inventions, around the world, during the 1800’s. You might find a few surprises.

1801 Jacquard Loom (programmable loom)

1806 Percolator

1809 Tin Can

1817 Draisine (bicycle with no pedals)

1820 Stethoscope

1824 Portland Cement

1827 Photography/Lawnmower/Fountain Pen

1829 Braille

1830 Electromagnetic Motor

1831 Safety Fuse for Explosives

1832 Electrical Motor

1833 Analytical Engine (computer)

1834 Combine Harvester/Refrigerator

1837 Electric Telegraph

1838 Morse Code

1843 Vulcanized Rubber/Paper from Wood/Christmas Cards

1845 Rubber Band

1846 Sewing Machine with Lockstitch

1847 Candy Bar

1849 Safety Pin/Telephone

1850 Bunsen Burner

1853 Kerosene Lamp

1857 Aniline Dyes/Milk Chocolate/Commercialized Toilet Paper

1858 Can Opener

1859 Escalator

1860 Internal Combustion Engine/Vacuum Cleaner

1861 Color Photograph/ Solar-powered Engine

1863 Quad Roller Skates/Granula Cereal (commercial no cooking required cereal)

1864 Pasteurization

1866 Dynamite/Winchester Rifle

1869 Motorbike

1873 Denim Trousers

1876 Four-Stroke Engine/Telephone (US Patent)

1877 Phonograph

1879 Electric Light Bulb

1884 Steam Turbine/Peanut Butter

1885 Anthrax Vaccine/Rabies Vaccine/Photographic Film

1886 Coca-Cola

1888 Modern Day Air Tires/Mass Produced Box Camera

1889 Motorwagen (Automobile)

1891 Basketball/Escalator (an amusement ride)/Incandescent Lamp

1892 Dewar flask (Thermos)

1895 Hearing Aid

1897 Jell-O

It took almost fifty years before someone figured out we needed a can opener to open those tin cans? Don’t you think that someone should have worked on that invention a little sooner? I seriously doubt that opening such a can with a hammer (yes, hammer) was a fun job. 

Did one of these inventions surprise you?

Thursday, November 8, 2018


By C. C. Austin, Guest Author

Hey ya’ll! I’m C.C. Austin. I’m a new author and have been asked by Caroline Clemmons to be your guest blogger today. I’m terrible at biographies, but here is a little bit about me:  I live in South Carolina where I was born and bred. I’ve been happily married to a Mountaineer man for 13 years. He works hard so that our feline fur babies, Indy and Pitch, can have nice things. I’m a Harry Potter fanatic, dark chocolate aficionado, sweet tea slurping, foodie; who loves music, hockey, crafts and funny animal videos. I’m about to publish my first book, BROKKEN WING, as part of the Brokken Road Romances.

Caroline asked that I share a bit of research pertaining to the Old West. In typical C.C. fashion, I can’t follow directions and will instead do something else. So today I’d like to share about my experience with research.

I've come to discover that writing historical fiction has very little actual writing involved. I’d say it is around 70% research, maybe 5% writing, and around 25% rewriting everything that you’ve already written.  I have no data to back up this claim; it's just my non-expert, expert opinion. Back in the day, I enjoyed card catalogues, library stacks, microfiche and encyclopedias. I’m not being sarcastic by saying that (seriously). Nowadays, everything is available at the tip of your fingers. 

I am over the moon in love with Google. If “Big Brother” actually exists, and is watching me, he's probably getting way more than he bargained for with my search history. No, I don’t mean anything dirty. It’s just that my Google searches have gotten totally out of hand. I’m constantly Googling anything and everything. Today, I Googled the origin of the phrase “running on fumes.” It turns out that I couldn’t use that phrase in my book, because it wasn’t around during Old West days. I also spent four hours researching the origins of various alternate curse words. Did you know that the first time the term “fiddlesticks” was used as an absurd oath was in the year 1600?

Domino Effect

Very often, my searches lead to a domino effect of looking up things I found in previous searches. For example, I researched historical recipes, and then had to Google what the ingredients and tools listed in the recipes were. Writers call this” going down the rabbit hole.” I think it’s more of a “spiraling out of control, attainment of sometimes useful, knowledge.” I’m not one of those people who think they know everything. I want to know everything and have an insatiable appetite for trivia.

In researching for my book, I have found that Google does not have an answer for everything (shocking, right?). I have had to turn to books (Yay! I get to read a book! Writers don’t have much time for reading.) and ask people for answers. I’ve been lucky that my friends have been gracious enough to answer my seemingly random questions. My coroner friend probably had a shock getting a text message asking about time-elapsed appearances of mass graves. “What would the rate of decomposition be? How long does it take mounds of dirt to settle? When does grass grow over it?” I’m also thankful that my physical therapist and veterinarian were able to answer my questions. Writing a book is definitely a team effort!

Can't Answer Everything?

Hopefully I'll be able to get some actual writing done soon instead of collecting copious amounts of, sometimes, useful knowledge. For now, I think I’ll go Google what percentage of writing is actually writing.

I would love for you guys to stay in touch. You can find me and some giveaways on Facebook at:

Sunday, November 4, 2018


As authors we know that often times all it takes is an intriguing fact to fire our imagination and add more interest to our stories. Since saloons are synonymous with the American West, my post this month is a list of interesting facts and trivia about those old western icons.

* In 1832, the U.S. Congress passed the Pioneer Inn and Tavern Law, which allowed western establishments to serve alcohol without having the customer lease a room for the night.

* However, reportedly one of the first places actually called a “saloon” — Brown’s Saloon in Brown’s Hole, Wyoming, established in 1822 and catered to the trappers and fur traders.

* The first western saloons were nothing more than hastily thrown together tents or lean—to’s where cowpunchers, miners or soldiers would wet their whistles and while away a few hours.

* Early whiskey served in many of those saloons were made with watered down raw alcohol colored with whatever was available including tobacco, molasses, burnt sugar, or worse yet, shoe leather.

* Names for such rotgut were tanglefoot, tarantula juice, red eye, dynamite, gut warmer, snake poison, and coffin varnish.

* Most popular name for liquor served was Firewater, originated when early traders sold whiskey to the Indians.

* Majority of western saloon regulars drank straight liquor — rye or bourbon. However, saloons also served volumes of beer, never ice cold, usually at 55 or 65 degrees or room temperature.

* Not until 1880’s did Adolphus Busch introduce artificial refrigeration and pasteurization to the U.S. brewing process, launching Budweiser as a national brand.

* Although there were saloons that had the swinging style “batwing doors”, as depicted in popular western movies, most saloons had actual doors. Even those with swinging doors often had another set on the outside, to be able to lock up when closed and to protect the interior from bad weather. Then again, some crude saloons didn’t have any doors, as they were open 24 hours a day.

*  A common custom among patrons was to offer the man standing next to him a drink. If he refused, it would have been considered a terrible insult, regardless of the vile liquor served. On one such instance, a man who refused the offer at a Tucson saloon, was taken from bar to bar at gunpoint until “he learned some manners.”

* Saloons being usually one of the first and biggest buildings in new towns, it was common that they would also be utilized as a public meeting place. One prime example was the infamous Judge Roy Bean and his combination saloon and courtroom. Other saloons have been offices of the Justice of the Peace and a few held church services.

* Several noted gunmen of the west owned saloons, tended bar or dealt cards at one time or another. Most notable were Wild Bill Hickok, Bill Tilghman, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Ben Thompson, and Doc Holliday.

* Almost every saloon had a long-paneled oak or mahogany bar with brass foot rail and a row of spittoons spaced along the floor next to the bar. Along the ledge, patrons could use towels hanging to wipe their mustaches. In the prairie towns and cowtowns, walls were adorned with horns, spurs and saddles. In the mountains, patrons might see taxidermized deer or elk hanging above them. And of course, most saloons included some kind of gambling, such as Faro, Three-Card-Monte or Poker.

* In the early West, men in most places outnumbered women by at least three to one — sometimes more. In California in 1850, 90% of the population was male. Saloon or dance-hall girls were hired to entertain the guests, sing for them, dance with them, keep the lonely men company and” chase away their cares.”

* Dance Halls offered customers dance tickets for sale, the proceeds split between the dance hall girls and the saloon owner. After a dance, the girls would invite the gentlemen to the bar where they would make another commission from the sale of the men’s drinks.

* Surprisingly, saloon or dance-hall girls were very rarely prostitutes. They tended to be in only the sleaziest class of saloons. Though the “respectable” ladies considered the saloon girls “fallen,” most of the girls wouldn’t be caught dead associating with an actual prostitute.

* Even though the saloon girls might have been scorned by “proper ladies,” they counted on respect from the males. Proprieties of treating the saloon girls as ladies were strictly observed, not only because most Western men tended to revere all women, but because the saloon keeper demanded it. 

* Many saloon girls were from mills and farms, enticed by posters and handbills advertising high wages, easy work and fancy clothing. These women, even though of upstanding morals, were forced to earn a living in an era that offered few means for women to do so.

* Among the tales of the American West, several notable events took place in or outside saloons. Well known among them was about the legendary Wild Bill Hickock. When Hickok was marshal in Abilene, Kansas, the owner of the Bull’s Head Saloon, Phil Coe, outraged the townspeople by painting a bull, complete with an erect penis on the outside wall of his tavern. Hickok hired some men to paint over the offending animal, which angered Coe. The two became enemies and in a later altercation, Wild Bill Hickok killed Coe.

* Hickok, a professional lawman, gambler and gunfighter, was killed on August 2, 1876 by Jack Mc Call, who shot him in the back of the head in Saloon No. 10, in Deadwood, South Dakota while Wild Bill was playing cards. His hand — aces and eights, according to tradition — has become known as the “dead man’s hand.”

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