Thursday, September 29, 2011

From Buffalo Herds to Big Business

Caroline Clemmons
by Caroline Clemmons
Copyright © 2011 Caroline Clemmons

The setting for my latest release, Home Sweet Texas Home, is in and near where I used to live. That is, I mostly grew up in Lubbock, Texas, known to residents as the Hub of the Plains. The city is located on the Caprock Escarpment called Llano Estacado, or Staked Plain, by the Spanish. Eleven thousand years ago, this was the home of Native Americans who killed the Bronze Columbian mammoth and short faced bear. As those animals died out, the land became home to bison and other mammals including mountain lions, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, less ferocious smaller mammals, snakes, and red ants. There are a lot of varmints, especially in Yellow House Canyon at the edge of Lubbock.


Bronze Columbian mammoth

Growing up, I was not allowed to run wild in the canyon (or anywhere else), but many boys played in the canyon, my husband-to-be included. They searched for and found spear points and arrowheads. I was so jealous. My husband had a perfect Clovis knife. He and I still love visiting prehistoric sites of Native Americans in the Southwest. And we enjoy going back to visit the Lubbock Lake Landmark Site near where my husband used to hunt spear points and arrowheads. Although we weren’t aware of the formal site until about twenty years ago, this year the Landmark Site will celebrate 75 years of discovery that began with the accidental unearthing of a Folsom point in 1936, and continues to the present day.


Lubbock Lake Landmark Center

For thousands of years, across hundreds of generations, people have come to Lubbock Lake. Hunter-gatherers, the Apache and Comanche nations, and the founding of a modern city are each a part of the history of this National Historic Landmark that is one of the premier archaeological and natural history sites in North America. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a designated National Historic and State Archeological Landmark. It is managed by the museum of Texas Tech University with excavations conducted under a Texas Antiquities Committee permit. (And I love the Ranching Heritage Museum behind the formal Texas Tech Museum.)


Commanches

I love visiting the area where I can imagine Comanche roaming in pursuit of buffalo. Not that I would have wanted to encounter Comanches in real life, mind you, but the adventurous side of my nature thrills at the thought of riding along the plains with them. Not killing or butchering the animals. Ugh! No, when romance writers visualize the past, we tend to cull the unpleasant and dwell on the more exciting and interesting parts of history. Hey, we’re the story creators, so we get to call the content, right?

Life in modern Lubbock has become pretty much like any other Texas city. Lubbock is home to two universities, Texas Tech and Lubbock Christian. There are more churches per capita in Lubbock than any other place I know. Celebrities who found their start in Lubbock include Buddy Holly and his band The Crickets (alleged to be the model for the Beatles), Mac Davis, Tommy Hancock, Waylon Jennings, and Ralna English (formerly on Lawrence Welk’s show). Wind turbine farms are popping up in the area, especially in nearby Garza County.

Sandstorm
Lubbock still has sandstorms and dust storms, but not as frequently as when I grew up, due partly to soil conservation and planting trees.

For those who don’t know, there is quite a difference between a sandstorm and a dust storm. A sandstorm picks up bits of gravel and abrasive sand that can actually damage paint--and bare skin. The sky appears almost rosy on the horizon before a sandstorm. Dust storms are comprised of powdery dust that chokes humans and animals. It can sift in through the most air-tight window and door. The sky may appear any color from gray, to brown, to almost black as the dust approaches.


Cotton field

I remember a dust storm the first year my parents and I were back in Texas from California. The house we lived in a few miles north of Lubbock belonged to the cotton gin my dad managed and was not that well built. After a horrible dust storm that lasted all one day and night, my parents waked up and my mom laughed at my dad. He was covered with a fine layer of dust and, when he sat up, his outline was easily defined on the pillow. He looked at her and told her she’d better look in the mirror before she laughed. When she hurried in to check on me, she looked as if she were wearing gray makeup with powdered hair. Everything in the house was covered in a layer of fine, dark gray, powdery dust--except for my room. Since I was puny and asthmatic, Mother had hung wet sheets at my windows to catch the dust so precious little moi wouldn’t have to breathe so much of it. Good mom, right? 

That was the worst dust storm I’d encountered until 1997, when we were visiting my mother-in-law. The dust storm that hit was so dark the sky looked black. We had to leave several hours early because I couldn’t breathe, and I considered that a definite disadvantage. That’s not a part of West Texas I miss! I used an ordinary sandstorm in my book, Home Sweet Texas Home because that type of weather is a part of life for that area. So are lightning storms and tornadoes. Let’s face it, the weather in West Texas is terrible, but the sky is wonderful. It truly lives up to its reputation as the Land of the High Sky. And sunsets are unbelievable! 

I also used a business tycoon in my book because there are many of those in Lubbock and the surrounding area. It’s a ranching and farming center as well as a true hub for trucking, supply centers, and all businesses. So it was the perfect setting for my hero and heroine to work from, although both mostly work from home several miles southwest of Lubbock in fictional Sweet Springs. Writing Home Sweet Texas Home was a nice visit to my hometown. I hope readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Win a free copy of Home Sweet Texas Home!
All you have to do to enter to win a free copy of Home Sweet Texas Home is leave a comment on one of Caroline's posts this week.  One lucky winner gets it all!  Be sure to leave your email address or we'll have to draw another winner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nearly Departed in Deadwood: Bestseller for a Day!


Only 99¢!!!  on Sept. 28, 2011

Today, September 28th, is Ann Charles’ big, fun-filled day! Her multiple award-winning novel NEARLY DEPARTED IN DEADWOOD, is the featured book for BESTSELLER FOR A DAY. The premier promotion of the Indie Book Collective, BESTSELLER FOR A DAY is designed to push indie authors to the top of the Kindle charts!

(Don’t have a Kindle? Grab a FREE Kindle app here.)

What does all this mean exactly? How does this involve me? What do I do?

For you, the reader, it’s easy AND fun! Starting today through midnight Wednesday, 9/28:

1.  Go to Amazon.com and purchase Ann’s eBook NEARLY DEPARTED IN DEADWOOD for only 99¢! (The normal price is $3.99 so you save three dollars.) She digs it when readers save money, especially right before the holiday season--then they can buy more books! Like these 3 breathtaking bonus buys, on sale this week ONLY for just 99¢ each: PINK SLIPPER, MUCH ADO ABOUT MARSHALS, and WANTED.

Only 99¢!!! 
on Sept. 28, 2011

2.  Your purchase helps show the publishing world what indie authors can do when they join forces with reviewers and readers! Every purchase improves Ann’s ranking on the overall Amazon chart. Our goal is to get her eBook, out of the millions of eBooks, onto the Kindle Top 100!

NEARLY DEPARTED IN DEADWOOD, the winner of the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense AND the 2011 winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, has already been in the top 10 on Amazon’s Mystery/Women’s Sleuth chart. It has also held the #1 spot on the Top Rated Amazon Women’s Sleuth chart for months, and is in the Top 100 Rated Amazon Kindle Fiction books. How awesome is that? Ann’s is still in shock over the wonderful reader response to her quirky tale full of mystery, suspense, romance, humor, and a hint of paranormal! She periodically slaps herself in front of the mirror just to make sure it’s not a dream!

To make it into the Top 100 Bestseller chart takes serious firepower! To do it, she really needs your help!

Please shout her out to your Twitter stream, Facebook friends, friends and family, even your dog. Reviewers have called NEARLY DEPARTED IN DEADWOOD: “out of this world,” “a fantastic read,” “fast-paced,“amazing,” “an exciting romping ride.” One reviewer said Ann’s book: “kept me enthralled with goose bump-creepiness and belly-aching laughter.” Another said Ann’s “storytelling capabilities are tremendous!” And yet another said, “With colorful characters and witty dialogue, this is a book sure to please all fans of mystery, romance and the paranormal.”

So…what are you waiting for?

3.      After you purchase her book, head over to the Bestseller For A Day site and enter to win a brand new KINDLE – Ann’s way of showing her appreciation for your time, effort, and support!


Only 99¢!!! 
on Sept. 28, 2011

4.      Wait! There’s more! How about this? 3 MORE AMAZING reads – only 99¢ each! PINK SLIPPER, an entertaining and humor-filled story about finding happiness and friendship while swimming in the unemployment pool; written by the talented, multi-published author, Gina Robinson. The award-winning Jacquie Rogers' book, MUCH ADO ABOUT MARSHALS, a side-splittingly funny romantic western with a touch of sleuthing. And, last but definitely not least, WANTED, a sizzling hot historical western romance by Amber Scott, the author of several Amazon bestselling novels!


Only 99¢!!! 
on Sept. 28, 2011
 5.  If you’re still not sure you should part with that buck and maybe win a brand new KINDLE, here are 74 – yep, 74 – outstanding 5-star reviews that may change your mind. It’s hard to part with your cash in this economy. We get it completely. Look at it this way: your 99¢ is an investment in a great escape from reality, a fun read that will bring a smile to your face and keep you up late into the night flipping pages to see what comes next for Violet Parker and her crazy friends. What’s more, it’s an investment in all indie authors who are trying to prove their worth.

Ann appreciates all the love and support you’ve shown her these past few months, pushing NEARLY DEPARTED IN DEADWOOD up the Amazon charts and onto the Top Rated and Bestseller Lists. We can’t wait to see what Wednesday brings!

Please go directly to NEARLY DEPARTED IN DEADWOOD now to purchase her book or to the BestSeller For A Day site for more details. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email her at ann@anncharles.com or visit her blog. You can also catch her on Twitter or Facebook. When she is not dabbling in fiction, leg-wrestling with her children, attempting to seduce her husband, or arguing with her sassy cat, she is standing on her workshop soapbox, blabbing about what she has learned over the years about the craft and self-promotion.

Comments welcome! Retweets and mentions greatly appreciated!!

Interested in participating in Bestseller For A Day as a Bonus Buy book? We’re always on the lookout for great indie books to include in our promotions! What’s required? You must be available in eBook format, be on Twitter, and have a blog. Want more info? Contact us at indiebookibc@gmail.com for more information!

We Appreciate You!
Want to win a free book?  One commenter will win a free copy of Faery Merry Christmas.  And don't forget, for only $3.96, you can get FOUR outstanding books--NEARLY DEPARTED IN DEADWOOD, PINK SLIPPER, MUCH ADO ABOUT MARSHALS, AND WANTED.  You can't go wrong!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Caroline Clemmons: Home Sweet Texas Home

Featured title: Home Sweet Texas Home
by Caroline Clemmons
Buy links: The Wild Rose Press * Amazon * B&N

Where you can find Caroline on the internet:
Website * Blog * Twitter

RTW: Thanks for joining us today, Caroline.  I love, love, love your books!  I just finished The Most Unsuitable Husband.  A keeper, for sure!  Speaking of love, readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up. Siblings? Locale? Were you the shy kid or the tomboy? Share anything that lets readers get to know the real you.

CC: When I was a baby, my parents moved from North Texas to California and didn’t return to Texas until I was almost eight. My half-siblings lived in California, and being near them was very nice. They were my mom’s age, and always seemed more like aunts and uncles than siblings. I was a tomboy, but also very shy and sickly. My dad thought I should learn to read and write and my numbers while I was still young. He taught me in the evenings. I joke that he taught me to read so he wouldn’t have to read the newspaper comics to me every evening. The truth is that he gave education a high priority.

When we moved back to Texas, we lived near Lubbock for three years while my dad managed a cotton gin, and then moved into the city where my dad was a cotton buyer. The year before we moved into Lubbock, my brother was born in LaMesa. Poor Dad essentially had three families. I lived in Lubbock until I moved to Dallas.

RTW: Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

CC: Initially, my favorite romance authors were Nora Roberts and Julie Garwood. As I met more authors through RWA, my list expanded to so many that I really can’t list them all here. Of course, one of my favorites is Jacquie Rogers for her fast-paced stories and humor. MUCH ADO ABOUT MARSHALS is one of my favorite books.

RTW: How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?

CC: I’m a fast reader, which is not really a good thing. I read anywhere from 10 to 20 books a month. Right now, I’ve just started the new Rhys Bowen cozy in her Royal Spyness series, NAUGHTY IN NICE.

RTW: When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge?

Caroline Clemmons
CC: Reading. Seriously. I love spending time with my family, travel, genealogy, and browsing antique malls and estate sales. I have so much “stuff” that I have been shying away from antique malls, estate and garage sales except to pick up books.

RTW: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?

CC: Chocolate and a Dr Pepper can’t be beaten. Not that they always feed my muse but, hey, it’s chocolate and Dr Pepper . . .

RTW: How long have you been writing?

CC: Forever it seems. I only started writing novels about 20 years ago. Goodness, has it been that long? Why aren’t I on the NYTimes bestseller list by now?

RTW: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

CC: I have a lovely office that was my youngest daughter’s bedroom. I prefer my PC at a nice workstation. The daughter whose room I appropriated decorated it for me with prints she knew I’d love. I feel so at home and comfortable in this room. I joke that it’s my pink cave because I love to hibernated there.

RTW: Are you a plotter or a panzer?

CC: Mostly a plotter. My friend Sandra Crowley is a wonder at helping me plot. Then Ashley Kath-Bilsky and Geri Foster keep my on tract critiquing my work. I’m blessed with such good friends!

RTW: Do you research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?

CC: I prefer to research prior to beginning a project, but sometimes points crop up that require additional knowledge.

RTW: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

CC: I do write daily. I used to set as my goal five pages a day and often went way, way over. Lately, I’ve been a slug and haven’t been diligent. Too much time spent on promotion.

RTW: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

CC: I hope readers sigh with pleasure when they finish my book and that they can’t wait to read the next one. I hope that while they’re reading, my book takes them away from any conflict or problem they face in their lives and lets them relax and enjoy.

RTW: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

CC: As Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep trying to hone your craft and improve your writing.

RTW: Tell us about your latest release.

Two million dollars? What a fortune to inherit! Coutney Madison has battled poverty her entire twenty-five years but is determined to make a safe and happy home for her teenaged brother after the recent death of their mom. She thinks her inheritance in West Texas is the answer to her prayers--but Courtney's problems are definitely not over yet.

Derek Corrigan suspects the worst of his new neighbor and vows to fight his attraction for her. He knows what women do to him--they always leave and take chunks of his heart with them. He's been there, done that, had the vaccination and is cured. Isn't he?


Excerpt from Home Sweet Texas Home by Caroline Clemmons
Copyright © 2011 Caroline Clemmons 

When Jimmy saw his sister in bed, he rushed over. “Sis, what happened? What’s with the towel and the ice packs?” He frowned at Derek. “What’s going on?”

She opened her mouth to explain, but nothing came out.

Derek figured the bizarre situation defied description. He patted Jimmy on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, she’s okay now. We were at the cemetery putting flowers on Sam’s and Maggie’s graves and your sister got trapped in the bathroom.”

Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t understand. How could that hurt her?”

Courtney sighed. “The knob came off in my hand and I couldn’t open the door. So, I climbed out the window.”

Derek held out his hands to indicate the small rectangle. “A small, high window.”

Jimmy looked from his sister to Derek. “I still don’t understand what happened.”

Courtney snapped, “I got stuck, okay?”

Now that he knew her to be okay, the week’s tension suddenly snapped Derek and he lost his perspective on the whole situation. He grimaced at Jimmy. “She, um…” He coughed to keep a straight face. “When she tried to go out the window, she got stuck with her head and one arm sticking outside and the rest of her inside.” He stood like a bird with a broken wing to imitate Courtney’s position. A grin spread across his face in spite of all his efforts not to smile.

Jimmy gaped at his sister. “Courtney? But she’s always so sensible. She’s never does anything stupid.” He began to smile also.

Both males burst into laughter.

“Listen, if you two are so amused, go into the other room to discuss my apparently hilarious antics and leave me to suffer in peace.” In spite of her strained muscles and injuries, she threw a box of tissues in their direction. “Go on, get out of here. Now.”

Derek glanced over his shoulder before he left.

She’d stuffed a pillow over her ears, to block out their laughter.

###

Thank you, Caroline!

Win a Free Book!
All you have to do to enter to win a free copy of Home Sweet Texas Home, is leave a comment on one of Caroline's posts this week.  One lucky winner gets it all!  Be sure to leave your email address or we'll have to draw another winner.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Way to a Cowboy's Heart


Barbara Scott
 by Barbara Scott
Copyright © 2011 Barbara Scott

An army travels on its stomach. Whether or not Napoleon was the first to say this, it is a long accepted truth. A truth that could be justifiably applied to the cowboy on the cattle trail. The wise cattle owner recognized this and gave just as much consideration to the hiring of the cook as he did his trail boss. In fact, next to the owner and the trail boss, the cook usually got the highest salary often as a share of the herd's sale price.

For that pay, the cook generally came with his own chuck wagon. This vehicle, an invention attributed to Charles Goodnight, was specially built on a standard wagon base with room for supplies in the front and a trail kitchen in the back. Equipped with a fold down table, drawers and shelves for utensils, cook pots, plates and the all-important Dutch oven, the chuck wagon was the center of the cowboys' life while on the trail. Many cooks served as not only the creator of meals, but as first aid doc, postal clerk, and steward of the campgrounds.

The cook was responsible for acquiring supplies. He started with a list which included beans, flour, rice, salt pork, syrup, spices, prunes and dried apples, "skunk eggs" (onions), and coffee served hot, strong, and always. He kept a supply of dry wood and cow chips for fuel slung in a cowhide tarp (called a possum belly) under the wagon. Cowboys were told to be on the lookout for fire wood to add to the store. As the season wore on, the prairie was scoured of fuel sources, so cow chips became the fire maker of necessary choice.

With so much meat on the hoof, beef would be a staple of the trail diet. Or so you would think. However, many an owner and trail boss balked at depleting the moneymaker.  Consequently, the steers were relatively safe from slaughter on the trail unless one proved troublesome or a straggler. Then he was ripe for the picking.

Even then, the cook would waste no portion of the animal. A popular or infamous recipe of the trail was som'bitch stew with ingredients including heart,  liver,  kidneys,  brain,  sweetbreads  and everything except the moo. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and chili flakes and cooked as long as practical, the stew was better than it might seem from its contents.

The best cooks were known for their sourdough biscuits. Sourdough starter was carefuly restocked and guarded. On cold nights the prudent cook took his starter to bed with him to be sure it stayed warm enough to raise his biscuits. Biscuits. beans, and Arbuckle's coffee  made up the bulk of the cowboy's trail diet.

Here's a quick historic trail recipe you could try today:

Mormon Johnnycake

2 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 c buttermilk
2 tbsp molasses

Combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in buttermilk an molasses. Pour batter into a greased pan and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. Cut into 16 squares.

To make a lighter cake, add 2 beaten eggs and 2 tbsp melted butter to buttermilk and bake about 25 minutes.

Som'bitch Stew

If you're in the mood to try Som'bitch Stew here are some helpful instructions:

Kill a young steer. Cut up beef, liver, and heart into 1-inch cubes, slice the marrow gut into small rings. Place in a Dutch oven. Cover meat with water and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Take sweetbreads and brains and cut into small pieces. Add to stew. Simmer another hour, never boiling.

Win a Prize Package of Great Stuff!

All you have to do to enter to win a goody bag containing TWO books and other surprises, is leave a comment on one of Barbara's posts this week.  One lucky winner gets it all!  Be sure to leave your email address or we'll have to draw another winner.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Barbara Scott: West of Heaven

Featured title: West of Heaven
by Barbara Scott
Buy links: Amazon * Desert Breeze Publishing * Also available at Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for the Nook, Sony, Kobo and Apple's iBookstore


RTW: Welcome to RTW, Barbara! Tell us about your book.

In my cattle trail historical, West of Heaven, Marcella McGovern unexpectedly inherits the cattle of her ranch owner father and the bawdy house of her mother. To get the cattle to market, she is forced to recruit the women who formerly worked at the bawdy house and hire disgraced trail boss and murder suspect Jean Luc Desloge.

Contest!
To find out how you can win a goody bag containing 2 books and other surprises, see entry details at the end of this blog.

RTW: What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into West of Heaven?

BS: I have always been fascinated by the role of women in the Old West. Their stereotyped image in Western movies has often been limited to prostitute/saloon gal or steadfast wife and mother with an occasional female outlaw thrown in for good measure. Sinner or saint were the only choices assigned to them.

I wondered how the hard work of a cattle trail would be managed by women and decided to cast my sinner and saint characters into the crew on a trailherding expedition. West of Heaven is the result.

RTW: If you lived in 1871, what modern convenience would you miss the most?

Barbara
Scott
BS: The modern convenience I would definitely miss most would be the one designated by that very term, the convenience, the indoor toilet. Although I know they existed in some up-to-date homes at that time, they were not common. The thought of going to the outhouse on a bleak, rainy night keeps me from dreaming about adventuring in the past in any other way than with my keyboard.

RTW: Are there any common errors in western historical romances that bug you? If so, please set us straight.

BS: An error I almost committed was to send my herd into the deep, turbulent waters of the Brazos River crossing at Waco on their way north. I did not discover my mistake until research I did for the final edit that the Waco Suspension Bridge for cattle and other traffic was opened January 1, 1870. You can read about the bridge in my August 28th blog at Seduced by History.

RTW: Why is Jean Luc Desloge perfect for Maureen?

BS: Jean Luc, who is known as Lucky, and Maureen are perfect for each other. She needs a man who reminds her that a chosen family can be as close and supportive as the one you are born into. Lucky needs a woman who reminds him that redemption is possible no matter the mistakes of your past.

RTW: Intriguing! Please lead us into your excerpt.

BS: Hans Weiss wants to become cook for Marcella's crew to practice his recipes for the restaurant he plans to open in Kansas when he gets there. Beans, biscuits and the occasional stew are not enough for Hans.

Here's an excerpt from West of Heaven describing Hans's preferred bill of fare:

Copyright © 2011 Barbara Scott

Last night after hearing Jean Luc's reasoning and instructions for slowing the herd, Marcella had recruited Nell and the two of them went out to collect cow chips. Hans stored them in the possum belly, a basket that hung under the wagon, to use for fuel on the treeless prairie. But this chore did not keep her away from camp long enough. She returned in time to hear the question that had already become a habit with Jean Luc, "Hans, what's for supper? -- or dinner? -- or breakfast?" depending on the time of day.

To which Hans would reply Shinken mit rotkohl " -- or "Linsensuppe" -- or "Biernebrod."

And Jean Luc would throw his head back and walk off laughing.

Yet, when meal times rolled around, she noticed he ate the ham with red cabbage, the lentil soup, or the dried apple bread with gusto, all compliments to the chef, just like the rest of them...

Later after the successful slowing of the herd:

Too soon, it seemed, the signal was passed to break for the night. The herd was put to pasture and first watch began. The rest of the crew gathered to wash up and wait for supper.
When most were assembled, Jean Luc sauntered up. He rocked back on his heels and stroked his stubbly chin. Jake mirrored his actions in almost comical style, though no one dared laugh.

"Hans, what's for supper?"

"Geffulte." Hans replied.

Instead of his customary laugh, Jean Luc nodded his head. "Ahh, large noodles filled with meat, onions and parsley then boiled in beef broth. Very good."

Then it was Jake's turn. "Herr Weiss, what's for dessert?"

"Pfefferkuchen mit honig."

"Ahh, gingerbread cake with honey. Very, very good."

This time no one could suppress their good-natured laughter. Not even Marcella.

After a moment, Jean Luc gestured them to silence. "Hans has made us a gingerbread cake to celebrate.Congratulations, wranglers, you have successfully guided the herd past the first milestone. You are no longer tenderfoots."
###

RTW: Thanks for the excerpt, Barbara! What are you cooking up for us next?

BS: I have a contemporary romantic comedy Talk of the Town coming out October 1st. I'm working on a book set in very early colonial Virginia. The story has a touch of magical realism.

RTW: Sounds great. Anything else you’d like to add?

BS: West of Heaven was my first historical Western romance. It earned the following quote from Romancing the Book: "Barbara Scott blends the perfect amount of suspense, romance, history, and humor into a wonderfully engaging novel. I definitely recommend this novel with 4 stars (Lovely Rose!) and two thumbs up! "

As your readers appreciate, the historical West is an era rich in character and story. I hope my muse leads me back there again soon. Thank you for the space today. I will be back Thursday with more about the history of the cattle trail.

Thank you, Barbara!

Win a Prize Package of Great Stuff!
All you have to do to enter to win a goody bag containing TWO books and other surprises, is leave a comment on one of Barbara's posts this week.  One lucky winner gets it all!  Be sure to leave your email address or we'll have to draw another winner.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chicken Dinner: RTW's Favorite Appaloosa Sites

If you love Westerns, you've gotta love horses. In the 19th Centuray, horses were the primary means of transportation, whether for riding, pulling wagons, or packing. One of the most interesting breeds of horses is the Appaloosa.

Okalahoma State University has a nice overview of the Appaloosa's history. You can look up nearly every breed of livestock imaginable so this is a great site to visit if you need to reseach whether a certain type of animal is appropriate for your story.

If you want a detailed account of the history of Appaloosas, head on over to the Appaloosa Museum. This article follows the development of the breed from prehistoric times, to Spain, to the Spanish invasion of the Americas, to the Pueblo Indian slave revolt and subsequent escape to the north, to the Shoshones in southern Idaho, and then the Nez Perce.

Just about everyone's seen or at least heard of the 2008 movie, Appaloosa, starring Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Renée Zellweger.

And of course Wikipedia has a fairly decent entry for Appies, with a good color chart that describes patterns as well as colors, with pictures.

We Have A Winner!

Patricia Kiyono won a free copy of the 5-star reviewed Double Crossing! Congratulations, Patricia!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Wild Was the Old West?

Meg Mims
Copyright © 2011 Meg Mims

What does the ‘Wild West’ really mean? Was it all that wild? Were the territories overrun with savage Indian tribes, ruthless bandits, trigger-happy gunslingers and horse thieves? Or did the turn of the century dime novels, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows and Hollywood films blow the truth out of proportion?

I’m no expert. I’ve researched through a lot of books, written in the 1800s and 1900s, but never found the topic addressed in depth. Oh, shoot, I found plenty of dirt on notorious outlaws such as Billy the Kid, gunned down in 1881 by Sheriff Pat Garrett. About the O.K. Corral showdown between the Earp brothers, Doc Holliday and the Clantons in Tombstone. About Jesse James (married to Zee Mims, in fact) who was shot in 1882—in the back by the “coward” Robert Ford. About the Younger gang, about gamblers Bat Masterson, Ben Thompson, Wild Bill Hickock, Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang who left for South America after the turn of the century.

Were small towns and settlements peaceful for the most part, despite the reputations of wild towns like Corinne, Utah, Tombstone, Arizona, Dodge City, Kansas, Abilene, Texas and Deadwood, South Dakota? Did outlaws only become heroes due to economics, with the railroad barons and politicians shoving down the common farmers and working poor? Or perhaps, since most men (and many women, even children) learned how to handle guns, rifles and knives at an early age, they really weren’t that incompetent in protecting themselves? Meat didn’t come wrapped in plastic at the local general store, after all. To survive, you had to kill for food whether it was butchering hogs, cattle, chickens, turkeys, or whatever came within range. Maybe the loneliness of living far from other settlers on the prairie, or in hills and mountain valleys, gave people an extra thirst for stories that stretched truth beyond the usual tall tales of folklore.

Women’s roles in society were also quite different over 100 years ago. Girls were married off young, usually leaving their father’s house for their husband’s domain, and if they worked first they taught school, sewed or served at hotels. “Decent” women (not prostitutes) were banned from saloons or gambling parlors, and escorted after dark—or else risked entering the “fair game” category. And widows had limited protection of their dead husband’s name up to a point, and usually remarried—rather than end up taking in laundry, unless they inherited money.

Was all that wildness confined to the post-Civil War years? No. Native Americans didn’t appreciate the government allowing white settlers to take over their lands, with or without negotiations, or being herded onto reservations. Hard-working cowboys spent their pay in cattle towns before and after the War on whiskey, women and a bit of wild fun before slinking meekly back to their outfits. Digging up records of murder rates isn’t easy, especially considering the territories stretched over territories that now make up several states. Given the propensity of wood over stone in buildings, fire often destroyed documents. Criminals walked the streets, as in every society.

Whatever the case, the Old West certainly had violence, murders, even easy access to drugs—just like now.


Judge Isaac C. Parker

Although he is reclusive and rarely talks about his work, Portis has said that Rooster Cogburn was actually a composite of men.  Growing up in Arkansas and later studying at the University of Arkansas, he heard many stories about the deputy marshals that worked from Fort Smith under "Hanging Judge" Isaac C. Parker to bring law and order to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma, which had been overrun by outlaws during the years following the Civil War.

Appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Arkansas by President Ulysses S. Grant, Parker actually opposed the death penalty but became known as the "hanging judge" of Fort Smith because he sent more men to their deaths on the gallows than any other federal judge in U.S. history. The law he was required to follow offered no other penalty than death for many of the crimes that were prosecuted in his court. His courtroom, restored gallows and the infamous "Hell on the Border" jail are preserved today at Fort Smith National Historic Site.

Win a FREE copy of DOUBLE CROSSING!

Meg is giving away a free book!
 
All those who leave a comment this week will be entered to win a free pdf of Double Crossing! It's earned many 5-star reviews, so make sure you enter. Leave more than one comment, double your chances for the win-win! Drawing will be held September 17th at 10pm Pacific Time. Be sure to include your email address with your comment or we'll have to pick another winner. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meg Mims: Double Crossing

Double Crossing
Buy links: Amazon * B&N * Astraea Press

Meg Mims is an author, artist, and amateur photographer. She writes historical mysteries and romantic suspense, and is a staff writer for RE/MAX Platinum in Michigan – writing articles about the real estate market, community events and Realtors – and for Lake Effect Living, a West Coast of Michigan tourist on-line magazine. Meg's article about the one-legged Civil War veteran and lighthouse keeper of South Haven, James S. Donahue, appeared in Vol. 34, No. 2 Summer 2011 issue of The Chronicle, the Historical Society of Michigan magazine. (Read Meg's bio)

RTW: Welcome to Romancing The West, Meg! Please give us an overview of your debut novel, Double Crossing.

MM: A murder arranged as a suicide...a missing deed...and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.

August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father's murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed--both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.

As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust--the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her...for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?

Contest!
See details below.

RTW: Why did you set Double Crossing on the transcontinental railroad? What intrigues you about trains? And did you learn anything about them that surprised you while writing this book?


Transcontinental Railroad Workers

MM: I loved True Grit (the original book, the movie in 1969 and the recent version also) and was inspired to use the premise of a young woman whose father is murdered, setting her on a quest for justice. Because I had to twist it (in many ways, since I couldn't use Rooster Cogburn either!), I chose the transcontinental railroad because I'd always been fascinated by trains. Since the UP and CP first came together at Promontory Point in May of 1869, I decided that setting Double Crossing several months after that historic event seemed a natural fit. And the research all seemed to fall into place, with a book written in 1872 about an English nobleman taking a train trip from New York to San Francisco, plus other interesting sources.

The most surprising thing I learned while writing this book – most people assume trains had normal washroom facilities like modern trains. Think again! Basically they were outhouse holes with waste falling to the track, and caused major hygienic problems over the years. If your great-grandparents or grandparents were told to stay away from playing on the tracks until the 1930s, when plumbing was introduced to passenger cars, there was a good reason for that. Imagine how cold that would be in winter, too.

RTW: If you lived in 1869, what modern convenience would you miss the most? The least?


Meg Mims

MM: Antibiotics, for sure. Probably more than a dishwasher, washing machine, indoor plumbing and even my laptop, cell phone and Kindle. I learned to type, I could wait a year until they came out. Easily. Getting my hands on one, however, without being filthy rich, might be a problem. And I used to write long letters, front and back, a dozen pages at times. What would I miss the least? Hmmm. That's a tougher question! All the accumulated junk in my house. Weed it all out except for the books. I could have a huge library without one ounce of guilt. Perfect.

RTW: Since you mentioned Rooster Cogburn, did you create a character with the same role?

MM: That was also tough. I rolled Rooster and the Texas Ranger LaBoef into Ace Diamond, an ex-Confederate cavalry soldier, poker-player and wanderer...how did he end up in Omaha, Nebraska, without his horse? I'm considering writing a brief prequel short story to explain that soon! He may not be one-eyed or a drunk, but he has an interesting history nonetheless.

RTW: Tell us about Lily Granville. How did she introduce herself to you?

MM: Lily went through many transitions. First she was as young as Mattie Ross, 14 years old and so whiny and spoiled, I disliked her. So I stuffed 'Linnet,' kicking and screaming, back into the centrifuge. Out popped Julia, who was 17, religious and quite bent on revenge for her father's murder. Enough to shoot the killer, in fact, which wouldn't work--she needed to be vulnerable. Needy. Yet spunky enough to undertake a 2,000-mile adventure and seek justice, not revenge. 'Julia' morphed into Lily, who loved her father yet quarreled with him--and then overcame her heartbreak to track the man she believed responsible for his death. Lily, at 19, has many choices ahead of her and discovers her own resilience is much stronger than she ever knew in Double Crossing. She'll need that for the next adventure in Double or Nothing!

RTW: Please share an excerpt with us. What leads up to this scene?

MM: Lily is in Omaha, aware she will need protection from impending danger, and talking to her domineering aunt--who wishes her to return to Chicago and forget this foolish trip.

Double Crossing by Meg Mims
Copyright © 2011 Meg Mims

My face burned. I gritted my teeth, aware of the curious diners' hushed whispers around the room, and lowered my voice. "I overheard your plans about Bellevue. Did you think I'd allow you to shut me away in such a place?"

She gave a dismissive wave. "We only have your health in mind."

"I'm in perfect health. You'd better take the train back to Chicago, Aunt Sylvia, because I already bought my Pullman ticket."

"You cannot travel alone with Mr. Mason. You're not engaged."

"Uncle Harrison is expecting me."

I ignored a twinge of guilt while the fib hovered between us. Her mouth pinched tight, she drummed her fingers on the tablecloth. Charles stood quiet, his face beet red, one hand smoothing back his fair hair, the other adjusting his collar and tie. Angry yells and shouts drifted through the window panes from the street, drowning out the resumed conversation around us, the clatter of plates and flatware. Outside, I caught sight of several men who fought with bare fists. They kicked, bit, scratched and pummeled each other. Sir Vaughn glanced out the window and then sat across from my aunt. He waved a hand.

"Common ruffians. These rustic surroundings breed a lack of manners."

"Lily, you have no idea of the dangers. My husband traveled to Nevada earlier this year," Aunt Sylvia said. "Neither you or Mr. Mason have considered the impropriety of this."

"He's a gentleman for escorting me."

"I can see for myself what you both are--"

A blood‑curdling yell, similar to what I'd read about an Indian war cry, stopped her cold. The moment I glanced up, the window exploded. Shards of glass rained on us and a man rolled over the table. Scattering plates, flatware, cups and teapot, before he crashed onto the floor--unconscious, and half‑draped in the tablecloth among the broken china and glass.

Mere inches from my feet.

# # #

RTW: Great excerpt, Meg!  What's your next offering?

MM: I'm hoping to get Double or Nothing written before 2012. But I'm not a fast writer, given the amount of research I do. I'm hoping to sell Fire Point, my award-winning mystery, so we'll have to see.

RTW: Release Date?

MM: I'll let you know!

RTW: Anything else you'd like to add?

MM: Thanks, Jacquie, for hosting me on Romancing the West! It's a fabulous blog.

RTW: And thank you, Meg, for joining us this week.  Stay tuned for Meg's article on Thursday!

Win a FREE copy of DOUBLE CROSSING!

All those who leave a comment this week will be entered to win a free pdf of Double Crossing! It's earned many 5-star reviews, so make sure you enter! Leave more than one comment, double your chances for the win-win! Drawing will be held September 17th at 10pm Pacific Time. Be sure to include your email address with your comment or we'll have to pick another winner. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chicken Dinner: RTW's Favorite Lady Bandits

Belle Starr
 First of all, thanks to guest blogger Karen Michelle Nutt for contributing an article to RTW about Pearl Hart a few weeks ago. Speaking of lady outlaws...

One of the most colorful of the lady outlaws was Belle Starr. You can find good articles at History of Song, Women in History, and you can see her wedding pictures at The Ellison Collection.
Cattle Annie and
Little Britches
 
Then there was Cattle Annie and Little Britches. The two teenagers only played havoc for a couple years, but they left their marks, nonetheless. Take a look at these pages: Suite 101, theoutlaws.com, and if you want to watch the movie with Burt Lancaster and Diane Lane, read the IMDB description.
Speaking of cattle, let's talk about Ellen Liddy Watson, known as Cattle Kate. The first article is pretty interesting, especially since it was written by her grand-nephew: The Lynching of My Great Aunt. Here's another article from Legends of America, and finally an article from Frontier Justice.

Next week, RTW's guest is the talented Meg Mims who will talk about her debut novel, Double Crossing. Can't wait!

We Have A Winner!

Caroline Clemmons won a free copy of RE-RIDE AT THE RODEO by this week's RTW guest, Anne Carrole. Congratulations!

More Good Reads...

Let me know if you reviewed Much Ado About Marshals and I'll send you a sneak peek of the second book in the series, Much Ado About Madams. It's so new, I don't even have a web page for it yet!