Friday, October 28, 2011


Love time travel? Crazy about holiday reads? Well, then, I’ve got some great short stories to tell you about, including my latest release, MEANT TO BE, that appears in a new Christmas anthology from VICTORY TALES PRESS.

MEANT TO BE is a time travel set on the last Christmas of the Civil War, in 1864. A young single woman, Robin Mallory, from present day sets out to pay a surprise holiday visit to her elderly relatives. When one of her tires blows out, she finds herself stranded on a lonely stretch of road with no one to call for help.

When a handsome ‘Confederate soldier’ tackles her in the early evening shadows, Robin is outraged and frightened. Jake Devlin is dressed from a time gone by, but what are re-enactors doing in these woods over the Christmas weekend? When the predicted winter storm moves in, Robin has no alternative but to take a chance and trust Jake.

Jake’s presence is comforting, and Robin welcomes the sanctuary from the raw night that his camp offers. But something isn’t right. Once they arrive at the camp, she realizes she’s walked down a gravel road that’s taken her backward in time nearly 150years. Jake is an officer of the Confederate Army, serving under Cherokee Chief, General Stand Watie.

Unsure of Robin’s motives and who she is, the general puts her in Jake’s care. When they are separated from the rest of the unit, Jake is severely wounded. What will Robin do? Will she seize the only opportunity she may have to return to her own time? Or will she stay in 1864 with Jake and take a chance on a love that was MEANT TO BE?

MEANT TO BE appears in the Victory Tales Press Sensual/Spicy 2011 Christmas Collection anthology, along with four other great stories by my fellow authors, Kit Prate, Stephanie Burkhart, Christine Schulze, and Sarah McNeal.

I also want to tell you about some great stand-alone paranormal holiday short stories that are available for only .99 through WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER PUBLISHING.

MEANT TO BE is not the only paranormal Civil War era holiday short story I’ve written. Another one, HOMECOMING, is a sweet love story that first appeared last year about this time in A Christmas Collection: Sweet through VICTORY TALES PRESS (VTP). It’s still available in the anthology, but now is also available in the .99 gallery at WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER as well. Though it’s a Civil War themed short story, it has a very different take and a surprise ending I hope you will enjoy.

Homecoming by Cheryl Pierson
A holiday skirmish sends Union officer, Jack Durham, on an unlikely mission to fulfill his promise of honor to a dying Confederate soldier—his enemy. In an odd twist of fate, a simple assurance to carry young Billy Anderson's meager belongings home to his family a few miles away becomes more than what it seems.
As he nears his destination, the memories of the soldier's final moments mingle with his own thoughts of the losses he's suffered because of the War, including his fiancee, Sarah. Despite his suffering, can Jack remember what it means to be fully human before he arrives at the end of his journey? Will the miracle of Christmas be able to heal his heart in the face of what awaits him?

SCARLET RIBBONS is a story of lost love regained through a holiday miracle. The hero, Miguel Rivera, is a bordertown gunslinger who believes his heart can’t be touched. Christmas brings him a miracle he never expected; one that can’t be ignored.

SCARLET RIBBONS by Cheryl Pierson
Miguel Rivera is known as El Diablo, The Devil. Men avoid meeting his eyes for fear of his gun. Upon returning to a town where he once knew a brief happiness, Miguel is persuaded by a street vendor to make a foolish holiday purchase; two scarlet ribbons.
When Catalina, his former lover, allows him to take a room at her boarding house, Miguel soon discovers a secret. Realizing that he needs the scarlet ribbons after all, he is stunned to find them missing. Can a meeting with a mysterious priest and the miracle of the Scarlet Ribbons set Miguel on a new path?A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES is a novella available through THE WILD ROSE PRESS. This story takes place in Indian Territory of the 1800’s. A widow takes in a wounded gunman and three children on Christmas Eve. The small gifts she gives them all reveal something even more precious for all of them on A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES.

These are all great holiday short stories that will leave you wanting more. If this isn’t enough paranormal reading for you, try my latest novel, TIME PLAINS DRIFTER, a WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER publication. Here’s the blurb for this time travel story of good vs. evil.

Trapped in Indian Territory of 1895 by a quirk of nature, high school teacher Jenni Dalton must find a way to get her seven students back to 2010. Handsome U.S. Marshal Rafe d’Angelico seems like the answer to her prayers; he is, after all, an angel. In a race against time and evil, Rafe has one chance to save Jenni’s life and her soul from The Dark One—but can their love survive?

All my novels, short stories and the anthologies I am a part of can be found here:

I write a mix of contemporary romantic suspense and historical western romance. Here’s wishing you a very happy holiday season with lots of great reading ahead!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


By Caroline Clemmons
Several weeks ago, fellow Sweetheart Ashley Kath-Bilsky invited me to a luncheon to hear Dr. Richard Selcer speak on the history of Fort Worth's Hell’s Half Acre. What a great program for any western history lover! We hated for him to finish speaking, but he had to sell a few books and get away in time to teach his next class. (Yes, of course I bought several books.) Our plan was that we would split the information and I would do Butch and Sundance today while she did Hell’s Half Acre on the 30th.

Seated: Harry Longabaugh (Sundance Kid),
Ben Kilpatrick (Tall Texan), and
Robert Leroy Parker (Butch Cassidy)
Back: Will Carver (News Carver) and
Harry Logan (Kid Curry--
the most feared Wild Bunch member)
You’ve all seen the above grouping, but do you know the story behind the photo? Legend has it that someone saw it in the photographer’s window and alerted authorities, who then had copies made and sent them across the west. After extensive research, Rick Selcer disputes this. His research proved the photographer’s studio was on the second floor. Said photographer did the mug shots for the Fort Worth police. When an officer brought a handcuffed prisoner up to the studio for a mug shot, the officer saw the photo on a shelf. He recognized the Wild Bunch and asked the photographer for a copy. That’s how it came to be distributed to other law enforcement professionals. Together with the other members of The Wild Bunch gang, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid performed the longest string of successful train and bank robberies in American history!

Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid each boasted they never killed a man, and the gang was best known for their lack of violence during the course of their robberies. However, Kid Curry, George Curry, Will Carver and other members of the gang killed numerous people during law enforcement's pursuit. Kid Curry killed nine lawmen and two civilians during shootouts. Elzy Lay killed two lawmen following a robbery, was wounded, arrested, and sentenced to life imprisonment. George Curry killed at least two lawmen, before being killed by Utah lawmen.

"Wanted Dead or Alive" posters were posted throughout the country, some with as much as a $30,000 reward for information leading to their capture or death. The gang began hiding out at Hole-in-the-Wall, located near Kaycee, Wyoming. From there they could strike and retreat, with little fear of capture, since it was situated on high ground with a view in all directions of the surrounding territory.

 Harry Alonzo Longabaugh was born in Mont Clare, Pennsylvania, in 1867, the son of Pennsylvania natives Josiah and Annie G. (nee Place) Longabaugh. He was the youngest of five children and his older siblings were Ellwood, Samanna, Emma and Harvey. At age 15, Longabaugh traveled westward on a covered wagon with his cousin George. In 1887, Longabaugh stole a gun, horse and saddle from a ranch in Sundance, Wyoming. While attempting to flee he was captured by authorities, convicted, and sentenced to 18 months in jail. During his jail time he adopted the nickname of the Sundance Kid. After his release, he went back to working as a ranch hand. I’ll save more about him and his common law wife, Etta Place, for another time. Butch deserves the spotlight today.

 Butch Cassidy, a so-called gentleman bandit, rivals Jesse James and Billy the Kid as the most celebrated outlaw of the American West. His specialty was robbing banks and trains.

Robert Leroy Parker, who later became known as Butch Cassidy, was born on April 13, 1866 to Ann (nee Gillies) and Maximillian Parker. The Parker and Gillies families were British Mormons who came to America and took up residence in Utah, where Ann and Maximillan met. At the age of 13, Butch began working at a ranch some miles from the Parker homestead. In his late teens, Butch found employment closer to the Parker home at a neighboring dairy farm. He met another hired hand, Mike Cassidy, who taught Butch cattle rustling and how to use guns. Butch was an excellent student and later adopted his mentor's surname when he chose his alias.

In June of 1884, 18-year-old Butch left his family home and traveled to Telluride, Colorado. He got into trouble with the law, but he successfully fought the charges. He wandered around Wyoming and Montana as a ranch hand before returning to Telluride in 1887. On the morning of June 24, 1889, Butch, Matt Warner, Tom McCarty, and another man, were seen in and around Telluride saloons watching people going in and out of the San Miguel Valley Bank. Later in the day, one of the four entered the bank and gave a teller a check he wanted cashed. The group quickly gathered up approximately $20,500 before escaping to Robbers’ Roost.

In 1894, Butch and a friend were arrested for stealing horses and possibly for running a protection racket on local ranchers in Lander, Wyoming. Butch was found guilty of horse stealing and sentenced to two years. He entered prison on July 15, 1894, at the age of 28.

After serving 18 months of his term, Butch requested an early release from the Wyoming governor. The governor agreed to release him if he would go straight. Butch said that rustling and robbery were too much a part of him, but promised that if he were released, he would not commit illegal activities in the state of Wyoming. The governor agreed and the early release was granted on January 19, 1896. How's that for justice at work?

Butch began gathering a gang of outlaws that would become The Wild Bunch.
Matt Varner

His former partner Matt Warner was in prison in Utah for murder, so Elzy Lay replaced Warner as Butch's second-in-command. Elzy was a native of Boston who had journeyed west and started a respectable life in Denver as a horse car driver. When a man was harassing one of his female passengers, Elzy threw the man from the horse car. He believed he had killed the man and Elzy fled Denver. Eventually he ended up among the outlaws.

Butch's criminal activities were interwoven with long stretches of legitimate work. Beginning in 1890, Butch purchased some land near Dubois and Blue Creek, Wyoming and set himself up as a rancher. Butch never prospered as a rancher and he soon returned to a life of crime. For a brief stint in Rock Springs, Wyoming, he worked as a butcher, which probably accounts for his nickname.

Butch was true to his word to the Wyoming governor. In August of 1896, Butch, Elzy and an another man traveled to Montpelier, Idaho, and waited until just before a bank’s closing time before they entered and approached a cashier. The bank was nearly deserted, so two of the men entered the bank with bandanas over the lower half of their faces. One kept watch at the door, while the other demanded all of the paper money the bank had. The robbery netted more than $7,000 in cash, gold, and silver. After the Montpelier robbery, Butch added Harry Longabaugh to his gang.

On July 11, 1899, near Folsom, New Mexico, a train was held up and, because one of the principal thieves was Elzy, Butch may have masterminded the robbery. Lawmen chased the gang and caught up with them a few days later. In the shootout that followed, Elzy killed a sheriff and was captured and sentenced to life imprisonment. Butch had lost his right-hand man again to a jail term. Harry Longabaugh stepped in as Butch’s new second in command.

Losing Elzy Lay so soon after Matt Warner’s imprisonment probably contributed to Butch’s decision to seek clemency and end his outlaw life. He consulted Utah Governor Heber Wells and Pacific Railroad to see if an agreement could be reached whereby the Union Pacific would not prosecute Butch for any of the train robberies. A rendezvous was arranged between Butch and Union Pacific officials, and Butch showed. The train officials were delayed by a storm and arrived one day late. Butch had already gone and left a note saying, "Tell the U.P. to go to hell."

Butch allegedly decided to pull a couple of jobs to collect enough money to live on comfortably for the rest of his life and get out of the robbery business. Butch, Sundance, and one other man traveled to Winnemucca, Nevada, on September 19, 1900, and relieved the First National Bank of $32,640. Around noon, three unmasked and armed men entered the bank and ordered a cashier to open the safe. This successful heist was followed up in July 1901 with a $65,000 train robbery near Wagner, Montana.

Following the Wagner heist, Butch, Sundance, and Sundance’s common-law wife Etta Place went east. The trio departed New York on a ship bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina on February 20, 1902.
In South America, the three bought a ranch and lived in peace for several years. No one knows the reason, but they went back into robbery and were joined by Etta. A Buenos Aires newspaper described this new addition to Butch’s gang as "an interesting woman...who wears male clothing with total correctness...a fine rider...handles...all classes of firearms."

In February of 1905, a group of men rode into Rio Gallegos, Argentina, and told residents that they were interested in buying land for raising livestock. After spending some time in the town setting up this fa├žade, the men entered the bank on February 13th and robbed it of $100,000. A posse chased after them but only found the abandoned horses and an empty box the bank had used to store its silver. Most scholars agree that Butch and Sundance did the actual robbing while Etta waited outside and held the horses.

In a similar robbery later that year, four men robbed a bank at Villa Mercedes of about 13,000 pesos. This time the outlaws encountered more difficulties than they had previously. One of the bank employees managed to get to a gun and fired at the bandits, but missed them entirely. A man across the street from the bank ran over when he heard the shots, was held captive by the thieves, managed to escape and return to his office, and later fired at the escaping outlaws but also missed hitting any of them.

After the Villa Mercedes robbery, Butch’s trail goes quiet, and it is unclear how the trio occupied their time or exactly where they went. Etta apparently left after the Villa Mercedes robbery.

So much conjecture and myth abounds of what happened on November 4, 1908 in a remote region of Bolivia, that it is impossible to separate fact from legend. But here's the gist: A man and a mule made the difficult journey along a remote trail in Bolivia, carrying a mining company payroll. Two English-speaking bandits held up the payroll and rode off. The two bandits went to a small village called San Vincente and spent their days and nights in a boisterous manner, drawing attention to themselves and behaving in ways that Butch and Sundance never had previously just after a heist. Three nights after the robbery, the two men were surrounded in the small house where they were staying.

See the resemblance?
 Robert Redford and
Paul Newman as
Butch and Sundance
Researcher Anne Meadows, after many years of investigative searching, unearthed the original report on the events of that night as written by the Bolivian authorities and printed it in DIGGING UP BUTCH AND SUNDANCE, her detailed chronicle of her investigation into the final days of the two bandits. The official document states that the village’s mayor, miscellaneous village officials, and two soldiers went to the house where the two bandits were holed up. One of the soldiers approached the house and was shot by someone from within. The soldier retreated to care for his injury, and a few more volleys of gunfire were exchanged, although no sounds came from within the house after midnight. As the sun came up the following morning, the men outside cautiously approached the house again and found both men inside dead. The money from the mining company payroll heist was also there and was later returned to the company. The bodies of the two outlaws were soon buried in a local graveyard. Later, some time after the hasty burials, someone put forth the theory that the pair was Butch and Sundance.

Almost immediately after this identification, doubt about the identities of the dead men spread, and rumors and sightings of Butch and/or Sundance became common. Matt Warner, Mormon Church officials, and his family claimed sightings of Butch after his death. In her biography of her brother, BUTCH CASSIDY: MY BROTHER, Butch’s sister Lula Parker Betenson cites several instances of people familiar with Butch who encountered him long after 1908, and she relates a detailed impromptu family reunion that included Butch, their brother Mark, their father, and Lula in 1925. Doubtful researchers point to the cessation of all correspondence from Butch after the San Vincente episode, although Butch periodically wrote to his family up until 1908.

Rare book collector Brent Ashworth says he has obtained a 200-page manuscript, BANDIT INVINCIBLE: THE STORY OF BUTCH CASSIDY. The manuscript dates to 1934, and is twice as long as a previously known but unpublished novella of the same title by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane in 1937. Ashworth and Montana author Larry Pointer say the text contains the best evidence yet with details only Cassidy could have known and that BANDIT INVINCIBLE was not biography but autobiography, and that Phillips himself was the legendary outlaw.

BANDIT INVINCIBLE’s author claims to have known Cassidy since boyhood. He acknowledges changing people and place names. "Some descriptions fit details of Cassidy's life too neatly to have come from anyone else," said Ashworth, owner of B. Ashworth's Rare Books and Collectibles in Provo, Utah. They include a judge's meeting with Cassidy in prison in February 1895. The judge offered to "let bygones be bygones" and to seek a Cassidy pardon from the governor. Cassidy refused to shake the judge's hand. "I must tell you now that I will even my account with you, if it is the last act I ever do," Cassidy is quoted as saying by Philips.

Wyoming's state archives contain an 1895 letter by the judge who sentenced Cassidy. The letter relates how Cassidy seemed to harbor ill-will and didn't accept the friendly advances of another judge, Jay Torrey, who had visited Cassidy in prison. Cassidy had sued Torrey's ranch two years earlier for taking eight of his cattle, Pointer said.

"What's really remarkable to me is that, who else cares?" Pointer said. "Who else would have remembered it in that kind of detail...about an offer of a handshake and refusing it in a prison in Wyoming in 1895?"

Others believe the book is a work of fiction. "Total horse pucky," said Cassidy historian Dan Buck, husband of researcher Ann Meadows. "[The book] doesn't bear a great deal of relationship to Butch Cassidy's real life, or Butch Cassidy's life as we know it."

What do you think? Did Butch and/or Sundance die in Bolivia?
Material from to HELL'S HALF ACRE by Richard Selcer,,, and the Butch Cassidy website. 


Monday, October 24, 2011

John Otto and the Colorado National Monument by Sandra Crowley

Who could resist this striking beauty?

John Otto with spyglass. Recently erected in downtown Grand Junction.

John Otto couldn’t. In 1906, he arrived in Grand Junction, Colorado which sits at the confluence of the Gunnison River and the Grand River, renamed the Colorado River in 1921.

Atop CNM looking north across Grand Valley to the Bookcliff range.  

John spent most of the next twelve months exploring the mesas and plateaus that protect the city’s thirty-mile arcing valley home. Uncompahgre Plateau forms Grand Valley’s southern boundary. Its north-facing, sandstone strata rim drops toward the Colorado River in wild, winding canyons with soaring monoliths. This area seemed to speak to John’s soul the most. He thought all the world should experience it the way he did. Determined to make that possible, the eccentric recluse used pick and shovel to carve trails he envisioned visitors using along with him and his two burros, Foxie and Cookie.

His desire to gain National Park designation originally included Grand Mesa, Riggs Hill, the current Colorado National Monument, and McInnis Conservation area between the Monument and the Utah border. His choice of name was Monument Park. To attain this goal, John discarded his solitude in favor of any opportunity to publicize his beloved canyons, like an interview with a reporter and photographer, meeting public representatives, even conducting tours up and down the trails he’d broken to showcase such sights he’d patriotically named Independence Monument and Liberty Cap. Fundraising campaigns, petitions, editorials and letters to Washington politicians won more and more supporters.

On May 24, 1911, President William Taft added the Colorado National Monument to the park system. Smaller than the tireless eccentric had labored for and designated as a monument rather than a park; the thirty-two square miles of stunning grandeur was nevertheless open and preserved for an admiring public.
Coke Ovens

John Otto served as the new attraction's first custodian. And, on June 20, he married Boston artist Beatrice Farnham at the base of Independence Monument. John’s departure from a solitary life was short lived. His wife found the austere reality, and possibly his irascible behavior, far from her romantic idea of their life together. A few weeks after the ceremony, she left. "I tried hard to live his way, but I could not do it, I could not live with a man to whom even a cabin was an encumbrance."

John stayed, living in a tent and working within the monument’s boundaries at a salary of one dollar a month for sixteen years. One of his first accomplishments as a park ranger was the perilous four-hundred-fifty-foot ascent of Independence Monument. He laboriously hand drilled holes into the rock, hammering pipes into the narrow openings to create a ladder to the summit. There, he hoisted an American flag to celebrate Flag Day and Independence Day.

Independence Monument

Otto’s Route uses “Indy’s” broad northwest face and south ridge in four pitches that offer varied climbing techniques on mostly solid rock. It’s the easiest of Colorado’s classic climbs and the easiest of the Colorado Plateau’s major towers. However, don’t let those descriptions lure you into thinking it’s a route for novice climbers. The climb’s dangerous and tricky parts require experience at leading, placing gear, routefinding, multi-pitch climbing, and rappelling.  

John’s peculiar attitudes finally placed him out of favor with local authorities. He retired from park service and headed for California.

His legacy was shouldered by hundreds of young men--the CivilianConservation Corps. The CCC provided employment for young men, ages 18-25, in relief families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression. Paid thirty dollars a month in contrast to Otto’s one, the pay was almost equalized by the automatic sending of twenty-five to each man’s parents. President Roosevelt’s program also implemented a general natural resource conservation program in every state and territory.

Today, thousands of hikers, bicyclists, and motorists enjoy the Colorado National Monument. All owe a debt of gratitude to John Otto’s vision and perseverance.

If you want to learn more about both John Otto and the Colorado National Monument, the USGS offers an absorbing write up on the geologic story of the area.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my backyard. Here's where the shameless plug occurs for my contemporary romantic suspense, CAUGHT BY A CLOWN -- a spontaneous freelance journalist on a mission of mercy gets entangled in the case of a methodical undercover agent out to settle a score.

Visit my website at for more info--like CAUGHT BY A CLOWN is available in both paperback and ebook and can be purchased at Amazon as well as many other online sites. VBG

Thank you,
Sandra Crowley

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Coming Soon... THIS MOMENT IN TIME by Nicole McCaffery

I hope no one will mind if I change course from our usual topic of the Old West to share another of my favorite era’s with you today.  The following is an excerpt from my upcoming release, a Civil War era time travel coming in early 2012 from The Wild Rose Press.

Not even captivity can sway Southern widow  Josette Beaumont from spying for the Confederacy.
Under the nose of the Union army, she willingly risks her life to pass information to her sources.
Until a stranger appears in her bedroom one day with a cryptic message: stop spying or you’ll die. She
has no reason to believe his warnings about the future, but his company is the only solace in her long
days of imprisonment, and his friendship quickly comes to mean so much more. If only she could make
the sacrifice he asks of her…

To hell with history, real estate mogul Jamie D’Alessandro has no intention of saving the historic
mansion he’s purchased, even if it is the home of a famous Confederate spy. But when he steps into an
upstairs bedroom of the old house, time suddenly shifts, bringing him face to face with a very beautiful
and irate Southern lady. Against his will he’s drawn into her cause—to save the Confederacy. But Jamie
has a cause of his own. According to his research the lady spy has only days to live.

Should he change history to save the woman he loves—or sacrifice life in his own century to be with her for This Moment in Time?

 “TV producer and star of The House Flipper, Jamie D’Alessandro was indicted this week in Los Angeles on charges of fraud and grand larceny.
“An appraiser there claims D’Alessandro owes her more than forty-thousand dollars for work she did on some of the homes he flipped. If convicted, D’Alessandro could face up to two years in jail.  This comes just weeks after controversy began swirling around D’Alessandro’s plans to demolish an historic home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  The two-hundred year old house, used as a headquarters by Union General Stillwell during the Civil War, was the home of famous confederate spy Josette Beaumont, once known as the Virginia Rose. 
“D’Alessandro, son of the late real estate mogul James D’Alessandro, maintains the home is too badly damaged from decades of neglect to safely renovate. He plans to replace it with an upscale hotel.
In other news…”
“This doesn’t look good.”
Jamie muted the television and quirked a brow at his chief financial officer.  “I’ve been in worse messes.”
“Ashley—sorry, the plaintiff.  She’s making your life hell.” Len Goldman kicked off her low-heeled shoes and settled into a leather wing back chair. “Why don’t you just pay her off?”
“Because it’s bullshit. We were engaged at the time.  She wasn’t interested in collecting payment as long as there was a half million-dollar rock on her hand.  Now that I’ve called things off she wants compensation.”
“Jame, you could go to jail.”
He pulled a face.  Rising from the leather sofa in his office, he strolled across the room to gaze out at the night sky.  Even at eighty stories up, there were no stars to be seen, just the New York skyline and the artificial lights of the other Manhattan high rises. 
“That doesn’t concern you?”
“Nope.” He swirled the contents of his glass, then tossed it back with one gulp.  “What good is my father’s money and his team of New York attorneys if they can’t keep me out of jail for something I didn’t do?  Hell, they kept me out enough when I was younger for things I did do.”
A shadow of a smile crossed Len’s face. “I suppose they did.  Now what about this place in Virginia? The other board members and I are concerned about the image of D’Alessandro Development.”
He turned and faced his mentor, the woman who had held the company together after his parents’ unexpected deaths and been a surrogate parent to him over the years.  “Lenora. You’re not serious.”
“It doesn’t look good, Jamie.  When you acquired the property, you assured the Daughters of the Confederacy and the local historical society you wouldn’t tear it down.”
“It was a mistake. I should have listened to the appraiser, but I thought it would be great for the show.  It would take millions to restore that thing.” He strode across the room to refill his glass.  “And I never said I wouldn’t demolish the house. I said I didn’t intend to demolish it. Intentions change.” He lifted the brandy decanter toward her in silent question. 
Len shook her head, indicating her half-full glass.  “You know damn well people don’t see it that way.  They just see some hot-shot kid from New York with more arrogance than brains—”
“I’m thirty-three, hardly a kid.”
“Have you even seen the house?”
Jamie settled back onto the leather sofa, resting an ankle on one knee.  “I’ve seen pictures.”
“It’s just… I know you hate to hear this hon, but your father—”
“I’m not—”
“I know.  You’re not your father and no one expects you to be.  But Jimmy was a self-made man.  He didn’t earn his millions overnight like you did; he had to work for it.  And he believed to his dying day that a personal touch made all the difference.  He was never too big, too busy or too important to do things for himself.”
Jamie absorbed her words and the sting of her underlying message.  Unspoken words like spoiled brat and too big for your britches hung in the air between them. He studied the contents of his glass, swirling the amber liquid, listening to the ice clink against the sides.  “I have nothing to gain by going to Virginia.”
“First hand knowledge.  You know this business as well as any appraiser. Hell you’re probably the only heir in New York who has actually done manual labor.  I know what you can do with an old house, Jame.  If you haven’t seen it for yourself, how do you know it’s not worth renovating?”
“Because I don’t care.  I don’t know what it is, Len, but lately… nothing interests me.  I know you think I’m a spoiled brat, but I feel like there’s nothing left.  Like it’s all done.  My father spent his life building his fortune—building all of this,” he gestured to the ceiling.  “When he died, I became a billionaire. At twenty-three.”
“No one could blame you for feeling that way.  You never had the chance to find out what you wanted to be when you grew up. It was thrust on you as Jimmy and Regina’s only child. You’ve spent the last ten years learning the business from the ground up, you’ve proven to the world that you are your father’s son, you are a chip off the old block.  Maybe it’s time to take a breather.”
“I don’t need another vacation; there’s no place I haven’t already been.”
“Then don’t take one.  When the pressures of it all got to your father, he used to say the best medicine was to get your hands dirty.”
He reached to set the glass on a side table. “Are you suggesting I take up gardening?”
She chuckled.  “No. Do what you’re really good at.  Go fix up a house somewhere. Disconnect completely. Forget about New York, forget about real estate. Forget about Ashley and the lawsuit.”
Jamie considered her words for a few moments.  Disconnect? No cell phone, no computers. Nothing? As unreasonable as the idea sounded, it held a certain appeal.  He released a sigh of defeat “Fine. Call off the bulldozers.  I’ll go to Virginia.”
Spring, 1862
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
“I want to know how Stonewall Jackson knew where my men were going to be.”
Josette Beaumont resisted the urge to flinch. She’d not show a hint of weakness, even as General Stillwater’s foul breath bathed her face.
He grabbed her chin between his thumb and finger, squeezing.  “You’ve been locked in this house for a month, yet somehow you still managed to get information to the rebs.  I want to know how.”
She jerked away from his touch, but he didn’t release her.  “Has it not occurred to you, General, that perhaps the Union army isn’t as clever as you think?  You were the ones who intended to win this war in a matter of days, as I recall.  Yet the North hasn’t won a single battle.”
He shoved her against the wall with a thud that rattled her teeth.  “Time spent in a Federal prison would do you good.”
She held her tongue.  Until he could prove she was a spy, he couldn’t truly send her to prison.  At least she hoped not.  Right now he had no proof of anything.
“Fortunately for you, my dear, I’m a man who appreciates beauty.”
A cold knot of fear coiled in her midsection.  She stepped away from the wall, all too aware of the bed in the center of the room and the lusty gleam in his eyes.
He closed the distance between them in one long stride.  “We could work out an arrangement that benefits us both.”
“I’d die before becoming mistress to the likes of you.”
“The time may come when you change your mind.  Until then, if I were you, I’d be very cautious about what you choose to share with your sources.  You never know when the information you have access to is false.  You could unintentionally send those filthy rebels you care so much about directly into harm’s path.”
A lump rose in her throat.  “If I were a spy, as you claim, then that might concern me.  But since I am nothing but a poor widow—”
“A poor widow?”
“You know perfectly well my husband’s passing left me with nothing. What little I had was taken by you and your men.”
“There is one thing I haven’t taken from you, Mrs. Beaumont.”  His cold gaze raked her from head to toe, leaving her as chilled as if he’d stripped her naked.  “I prefer to wait until you offer it freely—“
“Then you’ve a long wait ahead.”
“My patience is wearing thin,” he said, storming toward the door. “One of these nights I may decide I’ve been patient enough.” 
The door slammed. She waited a half breath until she heard the key turn in the lock and the General’s boots retreating down the hallway.
She quickly pulled the pins from her hair, allowing the waist length strands to fall free, combing her fingers through the tangles until the silk-wrapped sachet fell to the floor.  She scooped  it up and hurriedly pulled the contents from inside to review the notes she would slip to her contact later tonight. 
By the dim glow of propane lanterns, Jamie unrolled the sleeping bag and spread it on the floor.  His flight had arrived late, and he’d gotten lost on the way to the house.  It was dusk by the time he arrived.  He’d have to wait until morning to fully explore Beaumont House and the grounds around it. 
He rubbed his arms against the chill of the spring night.  Fortunately, he’d never minded roughing it.  In fact, sitting here in this abandoned house, with only the sound of his own breathing for company, he was more content than he’d ever been in his multi-level New York penthouse.  No servants tiptoeing about, no cell phone buzzing, no financial advisors dropping by for hours-long discussions.
Maybe he’d have a look around before night fully took over the house.  He hadn’t actually stepped foot inside before, had merely relied on the findings of his reconstruction team.  But now, flashlight in hand, the narrow beam of light lit upon yellowed paint, peeling wallpaper and architectural detail the likes of which were rarely seen these days.  He stepped closer, studying the intricate molding on the fireplace and ran his fingers along the smooth, cold surface.  It would need more than stripping and refinishing to restore it, but the wood felt solid beneath his fingertips. 
Stepping back, he drew the light up to reveal the crown molding along the ceiling.  He’d need a ladder and full daylight to get a good look at it, but the idea of working with his hands again—getting them dirty, as Len said—filled him with an excitement that renewed his spirit in a way it hadn’t been in a long time. 
The light glinted off the top of a framed painting.  He lowered the beam, illuminating the portrait.  A woman with dark hair and smoldering dark eyes.  A modest hint—downright puritan by today’s standards—of pale bosom peeked over the ruffled bodice of a white dress.  Somehow that hint of creamy flesh seemed more forbidden—sexier-- than any modern woman he’d ever seen.  There was something prim and ladylike about her that made it feel wrong to stare at her like that.  Was this the famous spy?  Her name escaped him, but he made a mental note to learn more about her.
A loud thump from the second floor caught his attention.  His heart leaped to his throat, and for a moment, he felt like a scared kid in a haunted house.  He shook his head, chuckling at himself.  The house had been locked up tight since the renovation team had come through to inspect it, there was no one around.  Probably a rodent or critter had gotten inside.  Still, he had no intention of spending the night listening to the scratching and thumping of a wild animal.
He shone the flashlight ahead of him until he found the winding, elegant staircase that led to the second floor.  Common sense warned him not to trust the stairs; the old house was full of wood rot.  But curiosity got the better of him and he tested the first step before putting his full weight on it, and the next, and the next.  Fully expecting to go through the boards and land on his ass, he continued the same tenuous journey until he reached the second floor. 
Amazed he’d actually made it, he gave a quick glance behind him, then began to move around the second story.  Shining the light upward, he saw the staircase continued to a third floor, but wasn’t about to push his luck any further. 
He paused, waiting until he heard the scratching again.  With the beam of light at his feet to illuminate the floor, he took slow, cautious steps, following the sound.  As he drew closer to the sound he paused, wondering if he should have brought something for protection. What if the creature was rabid? 
Stepping fully into the room where he’d heard the noises, he paused to appreciate the huge windows that overlooked the valley.  They didn’t make houses like this anymore, and while he had nothing but the utmost appreciation for the trappings of modern society, he had to admit, there was something about the way they built things a couple of centuries ago. They didn’t need high tech gadgets and expensive fabrics to scream wealth and elegance.  It was right here in the architecture. 
Forgetting himself for a moment, he stepped across the room. The loud groan of a floorboard caused him to freeze, wondering if the floor could support him.  The banging now came from behind him.  Heart suddenly pounding, he whirled.  A door—to a closet, perhaps?— rattled insistently.  He swallowed.  He’d never believed in ghosts, had laughed off any notion that they existed.  So what the hell was this? 
As he stood there, a cold draft of air swirled about his feet.  Wasn’t it supposed to get really cold when a ghost appeared?  No, no, he wouldn’t allow his imagination to take him there.  Dammit, he was James D’Alessandro III; he’d never allowed anyone or anything to intimidate him. It would take more than an abandoned old house to spook him.
On silent feet, he crossed the room to the door, mentally counting—one, two… three. He yanked it open.  His breath left him in a relieved exhale.  Nothing stood behind it.  The cold breeze continued, whistling through a broken window.  The branch of a tree had long since grown inside and as the wind blew, it scratched against the wall.  A gust must have blown the door shut; that was probably the bang he’d heard from downstairs. 
He took another deep breath to help slow his heart rate. While he was out gathering tools tomorrow, he’d have to get something to put over the window.  He’d never get any rest with that door thumping all night long, and the air blowing inside would only make the house colder. 
Chuckling at his own ridiculous fear, he started to turn. A voice—not the howling of the wind this time— and the sudden sensation of warmth at his back stilled him.
“Honestly, Sebastian, he can’t keep me locked up here much longer.  I’ll go mad.”
A woman?  She sounded calm, perhaps a little angry.
“Drat it, now I’ve lost count.”  A heavy sigh followed.  “The last I remember was twenty strokes, I’ll have to start over from there.”
Heart back in his throat, he turned just enough to glance over his shoulder.  The first thing to greet him were the windows—the very same windows he’d admired moments ago.  Only they were now adorned with white lace.  To the left, a warm fire crackled in the fireplace, casting a golden glow across the gleaming hardwood floor.  And directly in front of him, a dark gray cat lay sprawled across an ornate four poster bed, calmly grooming itself. It paused, tongue in mid stroke and stared up at him with curious green eyes.
“Twenty one. Twenty two. Twenty…”
Swallowing, he forced his gaze from the cat to the source of the voice.  A woman sat at a vanity, tugging a brush through long, dark hair.  In the mirror, he watched as her gaze moved from her reflection.  To him.  She let out a gasp.  The brush fell from her hand. She whirled on her seat to face him.
“Wh—who are you?”
She could see him!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


By Guest, Lauri Robinson

Hello Sweethearts, and thank you for inviting me over for a visit today! I am so honored. While stacking wood in the woodshed yesterday, I was wondering what I should write about for my guest post, and, well, low and behold, the answer came when I returned to the house and took off my boots.

Fall brings changes, one of those, for me anyway, is to put away the capris, shorts, and sandals and pull out the jeans, sweatshirts, and my Double-H Ropers. I love these boots. Then again, besides being sturdy, comfortable, and versatile, (I’ve been known to shine them up and wear them to weddings and christenings) I believe cowboy boots are the most romantic footwear every created—for both men and women—and have always loved them.

Lauri in her red and white boots with
brother Jeff and unidentified cat
 I was only three in this picture, (that’s my younger brother beside me) yet I remember the boots I have on as clearly as yesterday. They were red and white, and though I don’t remember it, my mother claimed I’d have slept in them if she’d have let me.

Lace-up Roper
 My lace-up Ropers would not have been considered a ‘cowboy boot’ by "Big Daddy Joe" Justin, or his eldest daughter Enid who carried on the family business. The ‘Ropers’ didn’t come about until the mid 20th century, namely for rodeo riders.

The original cowboy boot was perfected, and made famous, because of the protection they provided. Every part had a purpose. A slip-on boot with a narrow, rounded toe (the extremely pointed toe became ‘fashionable’ in the 1940’s) allowed a cowboy to slip the footwear off quickly if he was unseated and a boot became hung up in the stirrup. The underslung heel was designed to ‘lock’ the foot in the stirrup, minimizing the chances of the foot sliding all the way through and unseating the rider while on rough terrain and/or riding an unpredictable horse, and the soles were thick and made to last. Another form of protection or prevention is the tall and wide upper shaft. This warded off water while crossing rivers, brush and thorns, and snakes—they’d get a mouth full of leather instead of the cowboy’s leg. For any of you who’ve heard the old story about a rattlesnake fang embedded in a boot that killed two or three generations of men, it’s a myth—probably one of the oldest ‘urban legends’. It was first mentioned in a book printed in 1782.

It’s been said that Genghis Khan wore boots similar to the cowboy boot, and a calf-length boot with a low heel was named after the Duke of Wellington in the early 1800’s. These "Wellingtons" were preferred by soldiers in the Civil War, and the simple construction made them easy to mass produce. The ‘boys’ took their boots with them when the war ended, and discovered the boots to be perfect for ranching and cattle drives. Boot makers in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas soon perfected the style, making them taller and the heel deeper, and hence—The Cowboy Boot was born. Original boot makers still have highly guarded trade secrets about the actual construction of their boots, and it was Annie Justin, "Big Daddy Joe’s" wife that created a way for cowboys to measure their own feet and receive a perfectly fitted pair of ‘Justins’ in the mail.

Cowboy boots remained a trusted work boot, but also became stylish fashion when Hollywood jazzed them up. Along with Cowboy Heroes came their hand tooled, embossed, silver-tipped and rhinestone-studded footwear. An early American Cowboy would probably drop dead at the sight of some of today’s boots made from exotic skins—shark, stingray, alligator, ostrich, snake, etc.—and at the price.

Son Daniel, Lauri, and
granddaughter Karlee
 This summer my husband and I traveled a circle of states from Minnesota to Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota and back home to Minnesota. It was a fabulous trip and we stopped and visited several museums. Our oldest son and his family joined us for part of the trip and our step-grandson bought a cowboy hat in Telluride, Colorado. In one store, a pair of boots caught the attention of my daughter-in-law and I, and all we could do was laugh at the price. Four digits, (not including cents) and, per the clerk, that was a ‘reasonably’ priced pair. (The covered wagon in the picture was the ‘lawn art’ at our hotel in Cortez, and that me with grandson and granddaughter.)

During the trip, someone asked the meaning of old boots on top of fence posts. We passed them by the dozens in every state, but they’ve also been in cartoons and movies, yet none of us knew why. At the hotel that night I started searching for the answer.

The top five answers I found include:
  1. To signal the family/farmer/rancher was home. (Really? And he walked back to his house barefoot.)
  2. Initially created for a picture/photo op. (There are plenty of pictures of them.)
  3. To protect the wood of the fence post from rotting. (What about the metal and sandstone posts?)
  4. The smell of ‘human’ on the boots keeps coyotes away. (No boot that old still has a scent.)
  5. A sign of respect that the rancher/farmer had passed away. (So a mile of boots means?)
Since then I’ve asked some cowboy friends, and their answers have been relatively the same: "What else are you gonna do with old boots?"

Needless to say, I still don’t know. If any of you do, I’d love to hear it!

Thanks again, Sweethearts, for inviting me over! My latest release, "For a Sister’s Love" is a book I co-wrote with fellow ‘sweetheart’ Paty Jager. She and I would love to give away a copy of this book. A name will be randomly selected from all those who leave a comment on this post between now and Halloween. Please be sure to leave an email address!

Comment to enter a giveaway!
 In 2012, I’ll have four books released from Harlequin and one from The Wild Rose Press. The only dates I know right now are January 1st and February 1st for a duet of Undones (titles still to be determined). Other dates and titles will be posted on my blog, as soon as I learn of them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

HELL ON WHEELS--the Western is back!

by Celia Yeary
The construction of the first American transcontinental railroad is a familiar story we learned in high school history.
The tracks were laid from Sacramento, California to Council Bluffs, Iowa during the years of 1863 to 1869. The Union Pacific laid down 1,087 miles of track, starting in Council Bluffs, Iowa and moved west. The Central Pacific laid down 690 miles of track, starting in Sacramento, California. After many problems and battles, the two sections finally met at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory.
Irish laborers, veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies, and Mormons, and emancipated slaves laid down the eastern section, while Chinese immigrants performed most of the work on the western section.
Using the history of this railroad, AMC has filmed a new western series titled Hell on Wheels. The premiere is Sunday, November 6 at 10/9c.
Hell on Wheels tells the epic story of post-Civil War America, focusing on a Confederate soldier, Cullen Bohannon, who sets out to exact revenge on the Union soldiers who killed his wife. His journey and quest for vengeance takes him west to Hell on Wheels, a dangerous, raucous, melting-pot of a town that travels with and services the construction of the first trans-continental railroad. Bohannon is played by Anson Mount.
Elam Fergerson is an emancipated slave, half black, half white. Elam and Cullen's fates are bound together during the building of the railroad. Elam is played by Common.

Lily Bell is a newly widowed woman trying to survive in a man's world. She worries that the approaching railroad will despoil the West forever. Lily is played by Dominique McElligott.

The series documents the engineering and construction of the railroad, as well as institutionalized greed and corruption, the immigrant experience, and the plight of the newly emancipated African-Americans during Reconstruction.
Hell on Wheels chronicles this turning point in our nation's history and how uncivilized the business of civilization can be.
     Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do Horses Fly? ~Tanya Hanson

Leland Stanford (1824-1893), who wore such hats as California governor, railroad baron, university founder and race horse owner, sought to settle one of the hottest debates of the 1870’s: Is there a moment in a horse’s gait when all four hooves are off the ground at once?

Legend says he bet $25,000 that it was true. Common opinion at the time nixed the idea. After all, if God wanted horses to “fly”, He would have given the creature wings. But determined to settle the question, Stanford hired celebrity photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) to prove it.

One of San Francisco’s most celebrated landscape photographers, Muybridge took more than 2,000 photographs with 20x24 inch negatives. His 1867 photographs of Yosemite Valley brought the valley…and himself…almost mythic status.

Accepting Stanford’s challenge in 1877, Muybridge captured Stanford’s horse, Occident, silhouetted against white sheets with all four feet off the ground. He used 12 to 24 cameras and a self-designed shutter that gave an exposure of 2/1,000 of a second. Although these original pictures didn’t survive, Muybridge continued to work with Stanford to develop techniques in the “science of animal motion.”

In 1878, he succeeded in photographing a sequence of frames produced on wet plate with 12 cameras that proved the “flying horse.” The slow wet plate collodion process produced images that were mostly silhouettes, but they showed something never before seen by the human eye.

Scientific American and other prominent publications featured articles on Muybridge’s accomplishment. However, Stanford invited his close friend, horseman and medical physician Dr. J.D.D. Stillman to produce a book analyzing the horse-in-motion. Stillman used Muybridge’s photography without crediting the photographer. Interestingly, when Muybridge sued Stanford and Stillman for copyright infringement, he lost his suit.

Eadweard Muybridge migrated to the University of Pennsylvania after that. His invention of the zoopraxiscope earned him the title of the father of the motion picture. To illustrate his lectures, he developed the scope; its lantern projected images in rapid succession onto a screen. The images came from his photographs, printed on a glass disc. From the rotating disc came the illusion of moving pictures.

Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope display, an important predecessor of the modern cinema, was a sensation at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. His works are still in demand by art students.

--Tanya Hanson

P.s. Right to Bragg, fourth book in the Hearts Crossing Ranch series, will be released 11-11-11. How about that for a magic number?