Saturday, November 30, 2019

DRAGON'S BLOOD by Zina Abbott

There is dragon’s blood, and then there is dragon’s blood. One kind has to do with color, varnish, and medicine; the other has to do with silver mining.

Let’s deal first with the one we might most likely come across today.

Dragon's blood is a bright red resin which is obtained from different species of a number of distinct plant genera: Croton, Dracaena, Daemonorops, Calamus rotang and Pterocarups.

The resin of Dracaena species, "true" dragon's blood, and the very poisonous mineral cinnabar (mercury sulfide) were often confused by the ancient Romans. [I would suggest we not allow ourselves to be confused, and we avoid ingesting or rubbing on our skin anything with “cinnabar” or “mercury sulfide” in it.]

Dragon's blood, powdered pigment or apothecary's grade and roughly crushed incense

Dragon's blood was used as a dye, painting pigment, and medicine (respiratory and gastrointestinal problems) in the Mediterranean basin, and was held by early Greeks, Romans, and Arabs to have medicinal properties. In folk medicine, dragon's blood is used externally as a wash to promote healing of wounds and to stop bleeding. It is used internally for chest pains, post-partum bleeding, internal traumas and menstrual irregularities.

Dragon's blood of both Dracaena draco (commonly referred to as the Draconis Palm) and Dracaena cinnabari were used as a source of varnish for 18th century Italian violinmakers. In modern times it is still used as a varnish for violins, in photoengraving, as an incense resin, and as a body oil. There was also an 18th-century recipe for toothpaste that contained dragon's blood.

In ancient China, little or no distinction was made among the types of dragon's blood from the different species. Both Dracaena and Daemonorops resins are still often marketed today as dragon's blood, with little or no distinction being made between the plant sources; however, the resin obtained from Daemonorops has become the most commonly sold type in modern times, often in the form of large balls of resin.

What does this have to do with American history, other than some of these substances continued to be used through time?
Cornish Miners 1866

I started my search for more information about dragon’s blood after touring the Lebanon Tunnel mine. Although tin miners from Cornwall had left their mark throughout the world since before Roman times, by the nineteenth century, most of the tin and copper mines in Cornwall were depleted. That left a people with centuries of tradition as miners looking for work elsewhere.

It is estimated that about sixty percent of the miners who worked in the Georgetown and Silver Plume Colorado mines were from Cornwall. With them, they brought their own mining terms and folklore – among them the belief in dragons.

Silver, when it is exposed to oxygen, forms silver oxide – that black tarnish we clean off of our silverware. Silver also dissolves in water over time, which is why miners cannot pan for silver like they do for gold.

With the heat, compression, and movement of the earth, veins of various elements will form in the cracks between sections of solid rock. When a vein of silver works its way to where it is exposed to both oxygen and water – even moisture in the air – it turns into a sludgy semi-liquid called dragon’s blood by the Cornish miners. They accepted it as evidence that a dragon guarded a nearby hidden treasure. The treasure within the mine was a vein of silver.

Since the presence of dragon’s blood indicates that large source of silver is nearby, miners looked for the formation of dragon’s blood as an indicator where they should drill and blast out a test pocket in search of the silver vein.

This particular incidence of dragon’s blood has seeped out and formed fairly recently. If it had existed at the time the Lebanon Tunnel was actively mined, there would be a drift there where ore was blasted and removed. It is estimated this dragon’s blood began showing sometime between 1896 when this mine closed for good and was blasted shut, and 1976 when the SeaBees came to open the mine to turn it into an optional tourist attraction add-on to the historic Georgetown Loop Railroad tour. 

I have written seven books for the multi-author series, Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs. Jubilee Springs is a hypothetical silver mining town set in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. My most recent book in the series, Two Sisters and the Christmas Groom, Book 18, is currently available. Please CLICK HERE.

My eighth Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs book, and my next book to be released, Nathan's Nurse, Book 19, is the first book in which I wrote a scene that took place inside the Prosperity Mine. 
Nathan's Nurse is currently on pre-order and is schedule for release on December 27, 2019. You may access the book description and purchase link by CLICKING HERE.

Wikipedia: dragon’s blood & silver oxide
my notes from a tour of the Lebanon Tunnel Silver Mine

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


By Caroline Clemmons

My husband, daughters, and I have long been fascinated by American Indians. We have tromped over Anasazi ruins in summer heat from Tennessee to New Mexico. Although we did make it as far north as Hovenweep and Mesa Verde, the rest of our stops have been in the southern United States.

Recently, I needed a tribe of American Indians to use for my book MELODY. That setting is Montana Territory, so I investigated that area. The Blackfeet/Blackfoot tribe was perfect for my story. I’ve always wondered why they were called Blackfeet.  I found the reason is because they dyed their moccasins black.

The Blackfeet are an Algonquin people who were migratory hunter gatherers of the plains. Late in the eighteenth century, they acquired the horse. Having horses gave them the ability to become great buffalo hunters. They raised tobacco which they mixed with herbs and called kinnikinnik.

You can imagine that for a book, I needed descriptions of their lifestyle, dress, and customs. I found wonderful graphics and photos online as well as customary names. I imagined a chief named Grey Wolf.
Chief Grey Wolf

Because my hero, Nick Walker, was a doctor, I thought he should meet the Blackfeet shaman. The graphic I found would be frightening to encounter. The medicine man dressed in a bearskin with the head attached and worn on top of his head. On the fur were attached reptile skins, bones, and feathers.
Blackfeet Shaman/Medicine Man

There are three major tribal divisions:
Blackfeet (Siksika) – North Blackfeet are those with black-dyed moccasins
Blood Kainai) – Middle
Piegan (Pikani) – Poorly dressed of the Southern area and the largest of the three Blackfeet-speaking groups that make up the Blackfoot Confederacy.

Piegan peoples in Canada and the United States were forced to divide their traditional homelands in the nineteenth century according to national borders. They were forced to sign treaties with one of those two countries, settle in reservations on one side or the other of the Canada/U.S. border. They were enrolled in one of two government-like bodies sanctioned by those two countries. Those in the U. S. are the Blackfoot Nation, a federally recognized tribe in Montana. The Pikani Nation is a recognized Indian band in Alberta, Canada.

Women wore traditional deerskin dresses. Men wore buckskin tunics and breechcloths with leggings. Both were often fringed and decorated with porcupine quills, beads, and elk teeth. In winter, they used buffalo hides as coats.

In spite of treaties, Blackfeet lands were decreased many, many times. In 1896, a 20-mile wide strip of Blackfeet Reservation was ceded. This strip is known today as Glacier National Park. The Blackfeet claim the land was only provided for a 99-year lease.

Twice the band was decreased by smallpox. Other conflicts affected the population. The Blackfoot Massacre, often called the Bear River Massacre, the Baker Massacre, or the Marias Massacre occurred on January 23, 1870. The Heavy Runner Band was camped on the Bear River during cold winter weather. A column of cavalry and infantry under the command of Major Eugene Baker attacked the sleeping camp early in the morning. The attack was purportedly to be in response to the killing of an influential rancher, Malcom Clark. Clark had been in several conflicts with Owl Child, a Piegan, who was not camped with Heavy Runner, but with Mountain Chief. By the end of the attack, 217 people had been killed. The largest numbers of victims were women and children. The army gave the death count at 173. While some political leaders were outraged, no disciplinary actions were taken against Clark or any of the soldiers.

The first land allotments were made on the Blackfeet Reservation in 1907-1908. Approximately 2,656 individual Blackfeet tribal members received allotments. In 1911, this was amended to include children born after the middle of the year, who were allotted 80 acres.

In 1934 of the 1,785 eligible voters, 994 voted in favor of tribal organization under the Wheeler Howard Act, commonly known as the Indian Reorganization Act. Under this legislation, the Blackfeet Tribal Constitution and By-Laws were ratified in 1935, creating a representative form of government through elected tribal council representatives. Originally numbering 13, tribal council representatives now number nine.

Did you find this tribe as fascinating as I did? I hope so. I also hope you’ll chose to read MELODY, Angel Creek Christmas Brides book 7. The universal Amazon link is

Here’s the blurb:

Such a tiny lie…
Desperation drove her…
She couldn’t know the risk…

After the death of her grandmother, Melody Fraser must quickly leave what has been her home in South Carolina. There are those who think she murdered her Nana Fraser. She’s innocent but there’s talk about arrest and prosecution. To escape, this Southern belle agrees to become a mail-order bride in far away Montana.  

Nicholas “Nick” Walker is a doctor from Gettysburg whose wife and children were killed when mortar fire destroyed their home. Eager to escape the memories and ravages of the Civil War, he buys a medical practice in Montana Territory. He wants a competent nurse who can assist him with operations and care for patients as his plans expand for a hospital. He wants a well-organized wife to keep him company and start a family. With his usual efficiency, he combines the two into one job description when he requests a mail-order bride.

What will it take to teach Nick that—although she isn’t what he expected—Melody is exactly what he needs?

Here are a couple of quotes from my beta readers:
“I REALLY like this story. It has a lot of substance with fleshed out characters. I loved reading it.”

“Melody is a charming, engaging story that will heal your heart.”

Sunday, November 24, 2019


November started out feeling like January here in Michigan. The cold wind and blowing snow sent shivers down my back as I looked out the window. It was nasty weather to dart from car to store when I needed to shop for groceries.

Fall of the Cowboy by Frederic Remington
The cold started me thinking about cowboys and the winter weather. Here I am in my cozy, warm house. What about the cowhands?

Not every cowboy stayed employed year-round. The ranches required fewer hands after the fall cattle drive finished. The cattle still might wander during the winter so some hands were needed. Also, cowhands were kept busy cutting holes in ice so the animals could drink or checking on the herd as rustlers might strike, even during winter.

Waiting for a Chinook by C. M. Russell
One winter was particularly historic for the cattle industry. During 1886-1887, freezing temperatures and blizzards killed up to 90% of cattle that had been left to graze the winter range. No wonder that winter is also know as the Big Die-UP (a play on the term round up).

Prior to this winter, life had been relatively easy for ranchers with extremely mild winters in the previous two years. The summer of 1886 was brutally hot and dry which didn't allow for any hay to be harvested and stored in the winter.

That terrible winter began the end of the traditional cowboy way of life, at least that's what I've read. Ranchers faced foreclosure along with a range dotted by carcasses and live cattle that were far from healthy. (To read more about this, check out

Here I sit, much more than a century later, in my warm house kept warm by central heat. A little early winter might not be such a terrible thing after all compared with the life of a rancher or a cowboy in winter.

A man might homestead, but it takes a woman to turn that place into a home! This matchmaker will settle the West one couple at a time.
Under suspicion after his wife’s murder, Elias Kline  heads west. It seems a fine way to start over, but he’ll need a wife to raise his son and cook his meals. 
Reading the widower's letter, Ruby Hastings aches for the little boy and seizes on this chance to be a mama to him. It should be a convenient arrangement. 
What happens when danger follows him from Mills Bluff? Will Elias be able to keep his family together? 

Christmas, 1921

Victrolas, flappers, and a rooming house where two lonely people live. Good thing for them that Mrs. Klaussen, their landlady, has Christmas magic at her fingertips.
Del Peale and Josephine Withers have both loved and lost. That is why neither has pursued their mutual attraction. A newborn left on the front steps brings them together. A cold house forces Del to face the home he shared with his wife and son. Is it enough to let them see that love is still possible if they share that love?
Will strange twists and an abandoned baby be enough to lead them to a Christmas wedding? Perhaps Mrs. Klaussen will need to step in with a miracle and a very special Christmas ornament?

Friday, November 22, 2019

Thanksgiving in the West

Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

As an author and historian, I spend a lot of time in the research section of libraries, museums and of course old newspapers. As I was preparing this post I came across some great articles about Thanksgiving I simply have to share. Perhaps you may find your next story spark, or just enjoy Thanksgiving from back in the day.

This first piece was found in the Pueblo Daily Chieftain, from November 29, 1888.

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From that same issue a bit of humor.

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From the Colorado Miner (Weekly) in Georgetown, CO. of  November 24, 1877, we find a big sporting event.

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I will end with a joyous piece from the Rocky Mountain Sun in Aspen, CO. of November 27, 1885

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I confess I love reading old newspapers. Their language, the sense of humor and stories of what they thought were important for their readers to know. As I write my stories I know I will use pieces of the past to add elements of reality to the fiction I am creating. The authenticity of place, even if fictional, is important to me. The stories from the newspapers in that area are priceless to me for that reason.

I hope you all enjoyed these tidbits from the early days of Colorado and our country. Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Writing fiction as Angela Rains
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Late but Still Here

Sorry for being late posting this! The past few days have been hectic, beginning with our granddaughter's wedding on Saturday. It took place in McKinney, Texas, about an hour from our home in Fort Worth. We spent two nights in a hotel up there rather than drive back and forth for the rehearsal dinner and wedding. The venue was beautiful, a rustic setting in the countryside, and everything went off without a hitch. Grandgirl Hannah was a stunning bride!

Unfortunately, not long after returning home on Sunday, my husband started feeling sick. He has been miserable for the past two days but seems to be fine today. Now I'm waiting to see if I caught whatever bug he had.

Meanwhile, I've been trimming some low bushes and pulling weeds in our back yard, all while kneeling or parked on my backside because my knees are too weak for me to stand for such work. Not quite done yet, but looking better out there.

Summing up, I totally forgot about posting here until a little while ago. So I'll keep this short and just wish you a Happy, Blessed Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 18, 2019

It's a Great Big Land Out There

The story of the settling of the West is the quintessential story of America. It is a story rich in symbolism and full of inspiration. The story of the American West is a narrative of explorers intrepid in their abilities to find the routes across the land; a tale of hardy pioneers seeking what has become the American dream of a better life, and stories of outlaws flouting authority and becoming myth themselves. These all combined to define the American spirit, even today.

Manifest Destiny was both the justification and the inevitable reasoning for westward migration. This expansion was set into motion in 1803 when with a stroke of his pen, Thomas Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase and doubled the landmass of the fledging nation. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were commissioned by Jefferson to explore, map, and discover what this terra incognita held. The Lewis and Clark expedition was a start to learning what was "out there."

Over the following century, waves of settlers dared the West. First came the trappers and hunters. Then came the pioneers. With the discovery of gold in the 1840s and silver in the 1850s, the rush west became supercharged. Lastly, came the sod-busters. All of these dauntless souls faced real, life-threatening dangers. Impossible terrain. Wildlife with big teeth and bigger claws. Outlaws came later--men who were quick to draw, without a care for bystanders. Later came the gamblers and con men. Among all this were weather extremes: searing heat in the desert Southwest, gale-force winds on the plains, blinding blizzards and bitter cold in the Rockies. Lastly, those wishing to make a life in the West faced the Native Americans--the people who robbed of their lands and culture, tormented at nearly every turn by the U.S. Cavalry, and repeatedly betrayed by the government of the U.S. turned violent and hostile.

It took a hardy constitution to survive any of these perils. The men and women who settled the West were toughened by the experience. They also became our nation's future. From the Western plains came men and women who drove economic, political, and social growth. These souls shaped the American pysche.

Is it any wonder why so many of us still love Western movies and why, time and time again, after being declared dead as a genre, the Western roars back? It was formed within the hearts and souls of the very nation itself.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Mail Order and Proxy Brides – Why?

I am participating in the Proxy Brides multi-author series. I’ll be having a new one coming out in March and need to start brainstorming ideas. Since this is my fourth to write for this series, I was scratching my head a bit as to what scenario to write. This coincided nicely with my need to write this article. So I started doing some research and now my brain is abuzz with ideas. This was definitely a win/win situation :-)

One of the most basic reasons that men tried to find spouses through the mail during the nineteenth century was because of an imbalance in the gender ratio. There were many factors that contributed to this imbalance, ranging from the California gold rush, to the American Civil War, to westward expansion. The first significant event to contribute to the unbalanced gender ratio was the discovery of gold in California in 1848. It inspired many a man – both domestic, and international – to head to the American West in an attempt to find his fortune.

Many pioneers were disappointed to discover that all of the easily-accessible gold had already been panned. After investing extensive time and money to travel by ship, wagon, or railway, however, they were not about to head back home. As the 19th century progressed, pioneers headed into the mid-West and West in search of gold, natural resources, open land, and a fresh start. Some were coming from the eastern portion of the United States, but others came from foreign countries. Between 1850 and 1890 approximately 7.5 million European immigrants traveled to the United States, a portion of them settling on farms in the western part of the country. Due to the demanding nature of farming, some men sought to marry and have children who could help them to establish and maintain a farm. For others it was particularly significant to marry and have children so as to carry on the family name.

There were plenty of other reasons that men of the West wanted to marry. Some men desired a spouse because they were lonely, some needed money, and still others hoped for someone who shared their cultural background. It is important to note that while there were not as many white women in the American West, there was not a total absence of women. Indigenous women were, of course, present in the American West, and some pioneers formed relationships with them. Statehood advocates feared that inter-racial marriages would not count as “civilized behavior” and therefore threaten the possibility of transitioning from territory to statehood. Many Americans expected that the presence of (white) women would help to civilize the Wild West by replacing alcohol, gambling, and prostitutes with schools, and churches.

Just as the West drew men with the promise of opportunity, fortune, adventure, and a new beginning, it also did for women. In many cases marriage provided a literal ticket for a woman to go West and seek a better life. Other women also found that the mail-order method of match-making allowed them to pursue ambitions of their own, such as greater personal autonomy.

Some western states made a deliberate effort to encourage the migration of women by promising them liberal women’s legislation. In 1849, for example, California legislators crafted a state constitution that defied the tradition of coverture law. That is, the Constitution allowed women to retain ownership of their property upon marriage. Henry Halleck helped craft the Constitution, and he explained the end of coverture as a means of attracting single women to settle out west. Here’s what he said: “I do not think that we can offer a greater inducement for women of fortune to come to California. It is the very best provision to get us wives that we can introduce into the Constitution.” Kansas (1855), Oregon (1857), and Nevada (1864) also eliminated coverture laws with the intention of drawing women to their states. Since western legislation promised women autonomy, and western men offered marriage, independent women could achieve the former by agreeing to the latter as mail-order brides.

In addition to its favorable property laws for women, California offered women the legal right to initiate divorce. Presuming that women outside of California were aware of this law, it made marriage to a man met through the mail a slightly less risky proposition – if the marriage turned sour, women had legal rights to leave it.

States also wooed women to traverse the country with the promise of suffrage. In 1869 Wyoming became the first state to allow women the right to vote. Utah (1870), Washington (1883), Montana (1887), Colorado (1893), and Idaho (1896) followed suit, all promising women suffrage prior to their East Coast counterparts.

Some women became mail-order brides not to advance their position or pursue their own goals, but simply to survive. Women often depended upon men in their lives to provide for them economically. Losing a husband to death introduced an economic vulnerability. Having to provide for children after the death of the breadwinner only exacerbated economic woes.

The death of men in the Civil War only compounded the gender ratio imbalance that the resource rush to the West had begun. Between 1861 and 1865, nearly three million men fought in the War. One in five would die. Many others survived but came home grievously injured. The death count alone, though, was equivalent to approximately two-and-a-half percent of the general American populace. Although this might not sound significant enough to threaten women’s marriage prospects, the average age of a Union soldier was 25.8 years old – prime for marriage, therefore the one in five was concentrated among eligible men. As such, many women feared that with the new scarcity of men, they would end up spinsters.

This was such fascinating research and will lead to an even better book for me. Thanks for letting me share! In the meantime, have you read my latest Proxy Bride book, A Bride for Alastair?

Secrets divide them. Could love build a bridge to help them overcome their deceptions?
Jane was full of resentment and fear when the man she had married by proxy came to collect her. She resented the circumstances that required her to marry and was afraid of being tied to a stranger, especially a stranger she had to keep secrets from.
Alastair Fredericksburg, Fred to his friends, had arranged successful proxy marriages for a few of his friends but still had mixed feelings about marriage due to his sister’s unhappy union. He was understandably hesitant when his friends Ella and Carter McLain contacted him requesting that he arrange a marriage for their friend, Jane.
When a sudden inheritance that would solve many of his sister’s problems is dependent on his marriage, Fred can’t decide if it’s the Devil or Providence watching out for him. Since Carter had already sent Jane’s proxy, Fred quickly signs and registers their marriage. After making sure his sister was secure, Fred boarded the westbound train to claim his wife.
Jane was certain it was only the sweet wine they had been drinking that had caused her to agree to Ella’s rash suggestion. She had failed to tell Ella of the secrets that made her an ineligible match for Alastair Fredericksburg. Would she be able to keep her secrets from her new husband? And could they ever be happy while divided by deception?

Buy it now from Amazon, included in your KU subscription: