Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wyoming and Mother Featherlegs

Sarah J. McNeal, author
Wyoming Factoids
Mother Featherlegs

(RTW note: To find out more about Sarah, read her interview and an excerpt from her book, For the Love of Banjo, in the previous post.)
. - .
Cool Factoids About Wyoming:

  • After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, people of Japanese descent living on the Pacific Coast were relocated to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming.
  • In 1925, Nellie Tayloe Ross was elected governor of Wyoming, becoming the nation's first woman governor.
  • The restored Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie is a popular attraction for visitors with an interest in the Old West.
  • Wyoming ranks second in wool production, and has over 810,000 sheep.
  • The flag of Wyoming is a bison (or buffalo) with a seal on it. If you look closely at the seal, you will see that it represents the custom of branding.
  • Wyoming was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
  • Devils Tower was designated as the first National Monument (1906)
  • Wyoming is the 9th largest state, but has the fewest people (475,000).
  • Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote.
  • Yellowstone is the first official National Park (1872)
  • The JCPenney stores were started in Kemmerer.
  • Cody Wyoming is named after William "Buffalo Bill" Cody.
  • Statehood: July 10, 1890, the 44th state.
  • Capital: Cheyenne
Mother Featherlegs 
Wyoming’s Monument to a Prostitute
Out on the plains of eastern Wyoming is a lonesome monument dedicated to an American prostitute with the nickname, Featherlegs. Although the citizens must have felt a certain fondness for her, it wouldn’t seem that they would want to erect a monument in her honor. However, it seems that Featherlegs did have a part to play in the history of the old west.
. - .
Mother Featherlegs Shepard established a bordello on the silver Springs Road near Muskrat Canyon in 1876 and lonesome men seeking the comfort of female companionship frequented the rather shabby establishment.
. - .
Featherlegs gained her nickname because she wore lace trimmed red pantalettes that made her look like she had feathery chicken legs when she rode across the prairie with the lace fluttering in the wind. A customer commented that she looked like a feather-legged chicken and the nickname stuck. Her partner in running the saloon and brothel was an outlaw named Dangerous Dick Davis and many of his unsavory comrades frequented the establishment. They entrusted Featherlegs with their jewelry and large sums of money that she kept hidden for them until the miscreants could dispose of the goods.
. - .
Unfortunately, the glory days ended for Featherlegs in 1879. Mrs. O. J. Demmon, the wife of a Silver Springs rancher, found the auburn haired, middle-aged madam’s murdered body lying on the prairie next to the spring. Even though she must have lain there for several days, moccasin tracks like those Dangerous Dick wore, were found around her body. They buried her where she died. Dangerous Dick left the country and took with him the jewelry and money and took off for the swamps of Louisiana where he enjoyed continuing his lawless way. The long arm of the law caught up with him two years later and charged him with robbery and murder. He confessed to the murder of Featherlegs and gave her real name of Charlotte Shepard before they hung him.

In 1964 a 3,500 pound pink granite monument was erected with a reenactment of the Cheyenne-Deadwood stage run. The inscription reads:
“Here lies Mother Featherlegs, so called as in her ruffled pantalettes she looked like a feather-legged chicken in a high wind. She was a roadhouse ma’am. An outlaw confederate, she was murdered by ‘Dangerous Dick Davis the Terrapin’ in 1879.”

Her famous pantalettes were displayed on the monument during the reenactment but were stolen on the first day. In 1990, years later, the pantalettes were discovered in a Deadwood saloon. A “posse” of Lusk residents raided the saloon and got them back but, to prevent further theft, they decided to display them at the Stagecoach Museum in Lusk, Wyoming.

Just in case you’re interested, the monument to the prostitute is located ten miles south of Lusk on the old Cheyenne trail. I hope you have an off-road ready vehicle because the unpaved road can often be pitted with muddy ruts.

♥ ♥ ♥

Contest: Winner's Choice!
Sarah will give away a copy of
or the revised edition of The Violin
(winner’s choice) to one lucky commenter.  Be sure to include your email address or we'll hae to choose another winner.  For print books, USA mailing only.  Winner will be drawn Saturday, March 31, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time and announced on Sunday's Chicken Dinner.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sarah J. McNeal: For the Love of Banjo

For the Love of Banjo
by Sarah J. McNeal

Romancing The West welcomes Sarah J. McNeal, musician, animal-lover, and former registered nurse, now a full-time storyteller. Sarah is a multi-published author, and you won't want to miss Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride, where we first met Banjo, or the almost-true story, The Violin. Today, we're talking about her latest release, For the Love of Banjo.

RTW: Sarah, it's nice to have you here! Tell us about your new book, please.

SM: Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.

Here's the blurb:
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past. To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.

Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.

Will either of them find happiness?

Details at the end of this post

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

SM: Although I never lived in Wyoming, I did live in Nebraska for a while and traveled extensively to all the neighboring states with my friends. Of all the places we traveled, the state that still lives in my memory as the most majestic and beautiful was Wyoming. The sheer magnificence of the open country and rolling hills of Wyoming not only stole my heart, but the character Banjo’s heart as well. During his stay in New York City and in the trenches of France during World War I, Banjo clings to his memories of his home in Wyoming.

RTW: If you lived in 1916-1919, what modern convenience would you miss the most?

SM: Between 1916 and 1919, most modern conveniences we know were available but not everyone had them in their homes. Many households longed for electricity and indoor plumbing but they were considered more of a luxury than a necessity. I can remember using an outhouse at my maternal and paternal grandparents’ houses and pumping water at the kitchen door of my paternal grandfather’s. I was a kid so I thought it was exciting but, if I had to go out to an outhouse in the bitter cold of winter or in the middle of a storm, I’m sure I wouldn’t think of it as exciting.

RTW: Are there any common errors in western historical romances that bug you?

Sarah J. McNeal, author
SM: The time period in which my westerns take place are from 1910 (Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride) to 1919 (For Love of Banjo). Industry took off in this ten-year period to the degree that people find amazing. It was tricky to write because of these innovations but I researched it thoroughly. Although many private homes did not have these modern conveniences, commercial establishments had radiator heat, electricity, indoor bathrooms, the streets of New York were lit with streetlights, and automobiles filled the streets including taxicabs. Still, the false beliefs persist that there were none of these modern conveniences.

RTW: Why is Banjo Wilding perfect for Maggie O’Leary?

SM: Maggie runs a ranch and knows her own mind. It takes a strong, street-wise man like Banjo to have the strength of character and self-esteem to handle such an independent woman. Maggie understands Banjo and his painful past better than anyone. Rather than being repulsed by his history or pitying his circumstances, she admires and respects him. Maggie is the love of Banjo’s life. He would lay down his life for her if need be.

RTW: Now for the part we've all been waiting for! Please set up your excerpt for us.

SM: Banjo is leaving for New York City in the hope of finding the father he has never known. In this scene, he is saying farewell to Maggie O’Leary who fears he will never return to Hazard, Wyoming and to her.

Excerpt of For the Love of Banjo by Sarah J. McNeal:

In one graceful movement, he dismounted the pinto then stepped to the porch where Maggie stood with unrestrained tears that flowed down her cheeks. Banjo swept her into his arms and kissed her. The kiss wasn’t his brotherly, friendly peck on the cheek. He kissed her with a slow burning need and ran his tongue along the groove of her lips then slipped inside.

He tasted of coffee and mint. Maggie reached up to weave her arms around his neck. She stepped on her tiptoes to better reach him and taste him. Her heart raced and heat rushed hungry waves of yearning into places in her body she never knew existed as she responded to his explorations with her own. If only she could slip into his pocket and follow him wherever he went. She wanted to become the marrow in his bones, to always be a part of him.

Just when she thought he would take her to her room and make love to her as she had asked, the kiss ended. Banjo bent his head his rough cheek rasped against hers. The fragrance of him, a combination of horse, pine and crisp snow, caressed her senses. He slipped his hand into her hair and gently rubbed the tender skin of her neck where her blood pulsed beneath his thumb.

His mouth so close to her ear she felt the warm moisture of his breath as he spoke his last words. She would never forget them, not as long as she lived. Breathless from the kiss, he said, “Don’t forget me. Write to me every day and I’ll write back. You are the star in my sky and my compass home. I’ll come back, if it’s the last thing I do, I will come back. I swear it.”

RTW: Whew! (fans self) Excellent excerpt. Where can we buy For the Love of Banjo?

SM: Thank you. You can purchase the book at:Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble.

RTW: So what do you have for us next?

SM: I am writing the next book in the Hazard series. This one takes place in the Great Depression with the English boy that Banjo brought home from New York, Robin Pierpont, all grown up and in love with one of the Wilding sisters.

RTW : Anything else you’d like to add?

SM: Besides the Hazard, Wyoming series, I have a time travel, 1927 historical, The Violin, that has recently released with new revisions and editing from Rebecca Vickery Publishing and Gifts From the Afterlife, a short story in the 2011 Christmas Collection from Rebecca Vickery Publishing.

I am presently submitting my paranormal book, The Light of Valmora, to publishers. It is the third book in the Legends of Valmora series. First two books once published by New Concepts Publishing are now out of contract. I have several other stories in the paranormal series that I’m working on for the future.

RTW: Thank you for visiting with us today, Sarah.

To find out more about Sarah J. McNeal, visit her website, her blog, or contact her on Facebook or Twitter.

Contest: Winner's Choice!
Sarah will give away a copy of Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride or the revised edition of The Violin (winner’s choice) to one lucky commenter.  Be sure to include your email address or we'll hae to choose another winner.  For print books, USA mailing only.

Winner will be drawn Saturday, March 31, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time and announced on Sunday's Chicken Dinner.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Shaman's Medicine Bag and Its Contents

Norman W Wilson, PhD
Author, Publisher

The Shaman's Medicine Bag
and Its Contents
by Norman W Wilson, PhD
Author of Shamanism: What It's All About, and the speculative fiction series, The Shamanic Mysteries.

A disclaimer is necessary. I am not an herbalist, healer or medical doctor, and as such I am not recommending that anyone reading this article should use any of the herbs discussed. As it is with any supplement, one should always consult a doctor.

Medicine Bag
A shaman's medicine bag can be something small enough that could be worn around the neck or large enough so it had to be carried over the shoulder. Generally, and depending upon the reputation of the healer, these bags were plain or had dyed images on them. A few had beaded work. Certainly, it predates the doctor's little black bag.

Shaman's rattles

What then, does the shaman carry in this bag? There will be a variety of amulets representing elements of the spirit world, most likely an eagle's feather, rattles, a hand drum, a soul catcher, and wide selection of herbs and roots. The shaman had many uses for his 'bag' of cures.


Several herbs rank very high on the shamanic list. First, is Angelica whose common name is Masterwort. This plant used as a hot tea breaks up the common cold. Arnica, called Leopard's Bane is used to stop pain of muscle injury, aching joints, and pain caused by arthritis. Barberry is used as a laxative. The common birch tree's bark and leaves are used for the treatment of diarrhea. Pigeon Berry or Poke Root is used in the treatment of syphilis. One more. Sassafras is used to give relief from the after pain of childbirth.

Spirit Healing
 Besides the medicinal use of plants, the shaman used them to ward off evil, to cleanse the soul, and to escort the deceased to the aether world. Sage is often used for this purpose. Sweetgrass, cedar, lemon grass, lavender, Kinnikinnick, Red Willow Bark, and miner's candlestick were pulled from the shaman's medicine bag and used in purification and healing ceremonies.

is author of

Dr. Wilson was just seven years old when he met his first shaman. He and his parents were living in a log cabin in the Baskatong Reserve, Quebec, Canada. The only other humans in the area were a band of First Nation People who still lived in teepees, used canoes for transportation, and hunted with a pack of dogs. His second encounter was with a former college student who was a shaman in training. In writing this collection of essays, Dr. Wilson provides explanation of shamanism and its emphasis on healing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spotlight on Mélange Publishing

Spotlight on
Mélange Publishing

Today, Romancing The West features 
owner of Mélange Publishing
He's also an author of fiction and non-fiction titles, a book and art critic, retired professor of the humanities, and educator in the public school system.  Dr. Wilson is a firm believer in the pay-it-forward concept and has assisted many authors and students in their endeavors.

RTW: Welcome to RTW, Dr. Wilson.  Please introduce us to Mélange Publishing—what is the Mélange philosophy?

Norman W Wilson, PhD
NWW: My wife and I launched Melange Publishing to publish my own books and those of a couple of friends. Tired of the 'traditional' publishing routine we felt that each book should be a creation and not a product. Jacquie Rogers, one of my other authors, and I both feel that we want to celebrate creativity, the pursuit of knowledge, and present quality literary entertainment. As we have developed the company, it has become apparent there is a need for a dedicated independent publishing house. Now that we are getting the kinks worked out we'll accept manuscripts in the near future. We will always be selective and make every effort to maintain the author's integrity.

RTW: What are your personal credentials to run a publishing company?

NWW: Before going into the publishing business I was a professional reviewer for two major publishing houses in the Northeast. I have had several college texts published. Management skills come from chairing an English Department in a public school, owning and operating a bookstore, and just generally being bossy. I write professionally, and review books for the New York Journal of Books.

Western Romance from
Mélange Publishing

RTW: In the current market, many authors choose to self-publish, but you chose to form an actual publishing company with credentials, then invite authors on board. Why do you look at authors first, before you agree to review their books? This is either innovative or crazy.

NWW: Probably more crazy than anything else. I had a source of potential clients in a group called 1st Turning Point, a collective of authors, musicians, and artists. Second, I own a LinkedIn group called Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors and through these and other writers' groups I get to know authors. I gain a sense of what they are all about. If I feel there is a match with Mélange, they might get an invitation to submit a manuscript. Submission doesn't guarantee acceptance.

RTW: Mélange offers quite a mix of books—mystery, romance, non-fiction—what’s in store for us in the future?

NWW: At the present time I am looking toward publishing series in the genres of romance and speculative fiction.

RTW: Let’s talk about your books. Through Mélange Publishing, you personally have released two non-fiction books with another in the works shortly, and two speculative fiction books in your Shamanic Mysteries series. When can we expect to see more of the Shamanic Mysteries, and tell us a little about why you wanted to write about Adam and Esaugetuh in the first place.

NWW: The first two books in the Shamanic Mysteries are out now: The Shaman's Quest, and The Shaman's Transformation.  I hope to have the third book, The Shaman's War in print by late fall. About the series: Adam means 'man of the earth' and Native Americans are known to have had an affinity for the natural and sacred world. Esaugetuh whose name means 'master of breath' plays a dual role: He is a shaman and like young Adam, is on a quest. The mythology of the concepts fascinates.

I have two non-fiction books out: Shamanism: What It's All About, and DUH! The American Educational Disaster.  In a couple of weeks my new non-fiction book, So You THINK You Want To Be A Buddhist will be available.

RTW: Are you taking submissions now? What goes into your decision to invite an author on board?

NWW: Actually, I answered this question a bit earlier. However, I want to point out something about Mélange Publishing. We do not charge the author to publish. We are not a vanity press. We expect the manuscript to come to us, complete and print ready.

Thanks for visiting Romancing The West, Dr. Wilson! 

We'll be treated by an article on shamanism this week, so stay tuned. 

Chicken Dinner: Branding, Ladies Wanted, & Boxing

Spanish-grant brand

Spring has sprung in the Pacific Northwest. Beautiful weather here, so it must be calving season, and that means the work begins (actually, it never stopped) for ranchers. Come autumn, it'll be time to brand those little critters. Yep, the USA's first use of trademarks. The practice came to us from Mexico to Texas, and spread nationwide. Here's an article that will help: The History of Cattle Brands and How to Read Them.

Ever heard of an Idahoan named Gutzon Borglum? Maybe not, but you've probably heard of Mount Rushmore. Borglum was a pretty interesting guy, if not necessarily amicable, and he liked his work in a big way, so to speak. You can read about him in the South Fork Companion.

Here's a snippet of an article from The Owyhee Avalanche(Owyhee County, Idaho), printed March 9, 1872 and reprinted March 7, 2012:
SOUTH MOUNTAIN. Spring has made its appearance both as regards month and weather, and the hills are getting bare about a mile from Bullion City. There have been new discoveries made two miles below town, but how rich or extensive cannot be told. Mr. Nutter intends to commence work on his road right away; he will begin at Camp Three Forks and work this way as fast as the snow will permit, so that by the middle of May teams can get to Bullion City. Then we will want merchants of all kinds, boarding houses, blacksmith shops--plenty of them--livery stables &c., and no doubt but an invoice of the fair sex would be acceptable. As an inducement for ladies to settle here, it is arranged that the first female woman who becomes a permanent resident of Bullion City, shall have 200 feet in some good ledge to be called after her name. Therefore, ladies, come one and all, both small and tall, for there is room for all in South Mountain.
More news from South Mountain--it seems that boxing outranked the ladies in order of acquisition:
The Spring fights commenced before the ringn was completed. The first combat came off at 9½ o'clock A.M., Monda the 4th inst., for the championship of South Mountain. One of the pugilistic aspirants is from Silver City, the other of South Mountain. The contest only lasted a few minutes. The silver City bully stepped up to the South Mountain champion as though he intended to give him a side-winder, when the latter closed in, giving him a few licks on the head and one under the eye. When Silver City got the blow under eye, he said, "let me up." "Holler enough" said South Mountain. "I never did holler enough by Jases and never will do that same thing." Some bystanders said to South Mountain, "let him up," and so he did, when Silver City made tracks down Main Street like a kettled dog. The ring is now finished. It is 400 feet long and 150 feet wide. If you have any more champions in Silver City, send them along, for South Mountain holds the belt.
We don't see a whole lot of boxing matches in western historical romance, but it was an extremely popular sport and many a man bet his ranch or mine on a single bout.

Contest Winner!
This week's drawing was for the winner's choice:
either a print or ebook copy of
Dawn Comes Early
by Margaret Brownley

And The Winner Is...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Margaret Brownley: A Cowboy Comes A-Courting

Margaret Brownley
New York Times Bestselling Author
Dawn Comes Early
(Brides of Last Chance Ranch)

by Margaret Brownley

Heiress Wanted
Looking for hard-working, professional woman
of good character and pleasant disposition
willing to learn the ranching business in Arizona Territory.
Must be single and prepared to remain so now and forever more.

Her latest dime novel banned, twenty-nine-year old Kate Tenney answers an advertisement for heiress to an Arizona cattle ranch. It seems like the perfect solution for a disgraced novelist with no intention of getting married—ever.

Trouble begins the moment she steps foot in Arizona Territory. The west is nothing like she wrote about in her books. Not only does she have to deal with a hard-nosed ranch owner, and nefarious outlaw, but a traitorous heart. Kate does not trust men and has no intention of falling for Luke Adam's charm. She’s determined to learn the ranching business and prove to the doubting ranch owner that she’s up to the task—if it kills her. If only she could stay away from a certain handsome blacksmith and his two matchmaking aunts.

A Cowboy Comes A-Courting

Dawn Comes Early is the first book in my new series Brides of Last Chance Ranch. The story takes place on a cattle ranch in Arizona Territory. As you might have guessed, there’s a whole lot of ropin’ going on—which has nothing or little to do with cattle.

Cowboys had a way with words so it’s not too surprising that they used some pur-ty colorful terms to describe matters of the heart, and that included courting. “Gittin’ hitched” was serious business and spooning or sparking no less so.

Amazon ~ B&N

Nothing changed the concept of marriage and courting as much as the westward movement. Marriage offered a semblance of security in an unsettled land. For a widow or widower with children finding a spouse was a dire necessity.

Rules that had defined courtships for centuries went out the window. Marriages arranged by well-meaning parents were no longer the norm.

Women asserting their rights politically also demanded matrimony democracy as well. Demographics in the west were on their side for women were vastly outnumbered by men. In the mid 1800s one man lamented that there was only sixty or seventy women in all of Houston. He never said how many of those women he’d be willing to take home to mom.

Couples took buggy rides; went on picnics; cuddled in the hayloft; and danced at socials.

A man having fancy for a woman might give her a token. If he was serious he might even start hoarding coffee.

Yes, that’s right coffee. The coffee that won the west may have owed its popularity more to courtship than to taste or convenience. John Arbuckle came up with what at the time was a unique marketing plan; He added coupons or vouchers to packages of coffee that could be redeemed for goods. Arbuckle’s catalog contained thousands of items. Twenty-eight coupons could you get you a razor, for example, but the most popular item was the finger ring.

During the 1890s Arbuckle Brothers was the largest distributor of finger rings in the world. In “Arbuckles” author Francis Fugate quotes a company official who bears this out: “One of our premiums is a wedding ring, and if all the rings of this pattern serve their intended purpose then we have been participants in eighty thousand weddings a year.”

Getting married wasn’t always that easy. Some communities didn’t have a regular preacher and had to depend on a circuit preacher who might not show up for months at a time. It wasn’t unusual for a saddle preacher to ride into town and find couples waiting to get married with toddlers in hand.

It might have been the gun that won the Wild, Wild West but it was love that tamed it.

About Margaret

Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this—except Margaret happened to be writing for the church newsletter. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, "Maybe God's calling you to write fiction."

So that’s what Margaret did. She’s now a New York Times bestselling author and a Romance Writers of America RITA® finalist with more than 25 novels to her credit

The first book in her Brides of Last Chance Ranch series Dawn Comes Early was published March 2012. The book will be followed by Waiting for Morning.

You can find out more about Margaret on her website or contact her on Facebook and Twitter.

Comment to Win!
Margaret has graciously offered a free copy of
Dawn Comes Early
Winner's choice of print or ebook.

Just leave a comment and you're eligible to win!
Be sure to leave your email address so Margaret can get in touch with you!
Winner will be drawn Saturday, March 24th at 9pm Pacific Time
USA mailing only

Sunday, March 18, 2012

NYT Bestselling Author Margaret Brownley: More Love & Laughter

Dawn Comes Early
(Brides of Last Chance Ranch)
by Margaret Brownley

Romancing The West welcomes the fabulous and talented New York Times Bestselling Author, Margaret Brownley. The bio on her website cracked me up so I'm plunking the first paragraph right here:
Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this, except Margaret happened to be writing for the church newsletter. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, "Maybe God's calling you to write fiction."
You can find Margaret all over the place, but after you read her article here, check this out:
Enter Margaret’s “Daily Reasons to Smile” Contest
“I’ve matched up twenty-three couples over the years and in all that time I only made one error. Although I still think the marriage would have worked had she not shot her husband.”
—Aunt Bessie in Dawn Comes Early (Brides of Last Chance Ranch)

Characters from Margaret’s new book will send you a reason to smile every day until April 11th. Join in the fun and you could win a book, potted cactus (the story takes place in Arizona Territory) or an iPod Nano and alarm clock docking station. To enter send an email to Be sure to put “Reason to Smile” in the subject line. That’s it!
Win Dawn Comes Early this week!
Details below

RTW: So let's get down to it. We saw that you wrote quite a wide variety of genres in the church newsletter, so for fiction, why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most?

MB: I love writing about the old west because that’s when women came of age. The westward migration freed women in ways never before imagined. Women abandoned Victorian mores and rid themselves of confining clothes. Women brought churches, schools, newspapers to rustic towns and helped build community. These are the heroines for whom we like to cheer. It must have been a shock to the male ego to have to deal with such strong and unconventional women—and that’s at the very heart of my stories.

I also like writing serious themes with a touch of humor and the old west lends itself nicely to laughter, don’t you think? Since people lived so close to the land it’s also a perfect setting for an inspirational novel.

RTW: If you lived in 1895 what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?

Margaret Brownley, author

MB: The idea for Dawn Comes Early came to me after reading an old newspaper article in the New York Times dated 1891. A group of fifty ladies of the First Church of Milford formed a society of old maids in 1861. Each member vowed she would not marry. Each woman paid five dollars on admission with the principal going to the one who remained unmarried the longest.

Thirty years later all but fifteen of the original had married. I was never able to find out who won the prize so I would definitely want to attend one of the annual meetings to learn why woman joined the group and, finally, who won!

Having done that I would love to sit and listen to people talk. Most historical facts can be Googled, but I want to know what made people laugh and cry. What were their hopes, dreams and fears? The things that make us human is what I like to write about.

RTW: If a person who had never read a Western asked you for a recommendation, what novel or movie would you recommend and why? What did the author do to bring the story alive for you?

MB: You can’t go wrong with Lonesome Dove. I loved both the book and mini-series. There’s so much to love about this story but the friendship between Gus and Call is what really touched my heart.

RTW: Why must Kate Tenney take this particular story journey? What does she have to prove? How does Luke Adams affect her journey?

MB: The heroine is a disgraced novelist traveling to Arizona as” heiress” to a cattle ranch. She soon learns that the west is nothing like the one she wrote about in her books—and that goes double for the men. Deserted by every man she’d ever known including her pa, she longs for permanence. Believing that land will always be there for her she puts her hopes and dreams into the ranch. Little does she know that God has a different plan for her; she just has to learn to trust her own heart.

RTW: I can hardly wait to read your excerpt. Could you please set it up for us?

MB: Kate meets up with trouble the minute she steps into town thanks to the resident outlaw, Cactus Joe. Luke Adams comes to her rescue but it’s clear from the start that he and Kate are from two different worlds; she’s a college educated woman and he’s “just a blacksmith.” He doesn’t know what she’s talking about half the time as the following scene demonstrates:

“I always liked Longfellow’s ‘Windmill,’” she said. “I can’t remember the words exactly but he wrote that the windmill faced the wind as a bravely as a man meets his foe.”

Luke frowned. “Never heard of a Longfellow windmill. Most of the ones around here were made by the Wolcott Union Windmill Company.”

“Oh, but Longfellow’s not a . . . a very well-known company.”

“Probably why I never heard of it.”
♥ ♥ ♥
MB: This couple is about to find out that when all words fail, the heart has a language of its own. 

RTW: Hahaha! You're not just kidding. {stops to catch breath and compose myself--this is a dignified joint, you know} What’s next? Is Dawn Comes Early part of a series?

MB: Dawn Comes Early is the first book in my Brides of Last Chance Ranch series. The second book Waiting for Morning will be published in January.

RTW: It's been fun having you here today, Margaret. Thanks! Anything else you’d like to add?

MB: Thank you so much for having me.  Just for a little cultural enlightenment, here's some advice on stagecoach etiquette:
Comment to Win!
Margaret has graciously offered a free copy of
Dawn Comes Early
Winner's choice of print or ebook.

Just leave a comment and you're eligible to win!
Be sure to leave your email address so Margaret can get in touch with you!
Winner will be drawn Saturday, March 24th at 9pm Pacific Time
USA mailing only

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chicken Dinner: Rockin' Westerns, Tall Ships, & Crow-Head

I hope you had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day (and night!). I've been fortunate to participate in IBC's Lucky Days Free Par-Tay with some terrific western romance authors:
Amber Scott (Wanted),
 Tammie Clarke Gibbs (The Counterfeit), and
Taylor Lee (Aces Wild). 

These books, along with Much Ado About Madams, have been free on Amazon, (March 14-18) so hurry to get your copies!

I find it interesting that while we are fascinated with the life and times of the Old West, people who lived then looked even farther back.  here's an article on old ship printed in the March 16, 1872, issue of The Owyhee Avalanche in the landlocked southwest corner of Idaho Territory:
OLD SHIPS: There is a ship now sailing from Holland built in 1568, when the Prince of Orange was fighting Philip II of Spain, then at the zenith of his power, She was sailing to the Indies when the Hollanders organized themselves into the "Beggars of teh Sea," and as privateersmen earned a reputation which astonished the world.  This Dutch ship is called the "Commissaries des Koning von der Heine."  She passed the Cape of Good Hope, October 1868, from Batavia for Holland, then two hundred and ninety four years old. 
A few numbers back in the Boston Daily Advertiser is a notice that the whale ship Rousseau (another of Stephan Giranrad's ships, built at Philadelphia, in 1801) was then undergoing repairs at New Bedford.  Her planking is being removed, the first time for seventy years.  The live oak timbers underneath are reported to be as sound as they were the day they were first put together.
Who knew that a bunch of miners and ranchers would be call this news?  But then, as now, newspapers had to sell copies, and to do that, they had to print stories their subscribers wanted to read.

Jeff Smith hunted down the model for Johnny Depp's Tonto.  Check it out: Crow-Head, A Chipewyan Story.

Next week on RTW...uh, I don't know.  Pot luck. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wandering the Geyser Basins

M.M. Justus, author

Wandering the geyser basins:
waiting for things to go off
by M.M. Justus

Yellowstone National Park is about as Old West as a person can get in this day and age. Bison thunder across the valleys; their babies, locally known as red dogs, bouncing like rubber balls in the spring. Wolves roam the way they did 150 years ago. Bull elk bugle in the fall -- although it becomes slightly less charming when they do it at three o'clock in the morning under your window, as happened to me one October at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.

Horse corrals offer trail rides. Fort Yellowstone, built in the 1880s, waits to be explored. And at the Roosevelt Lodge, named after Teddy, a person can even go on a hayride to an old-fashioned chuckwagon dinner, set up out on the sagebrush flats where the antelope play. The world's first national park is a paradise for all things Western, and preserves them, especially the animals, for all of us to enjoy.

But in 1871, when the park was created, Wyoming and Montana territories still were the Old West. Critters were commonplace, and there was more than enough wide open space to go around. What fascinated people, what made them take notice and stand in awe, were the thousands of hot springs, fumaroles (steam vents), and mudpots. And, most especially, the geysers.

Everyone knows Old Faithful, of course, but Daisy and Riverside are at least as predictable, and Grand, Castle, Great Fountain, and Beehive are well worth the wait. (labeled .jpgs att). No two eruptions are alike. Geysers are said to play, and there is an exuberance about them that sometimes causes their audiences to applaud in sheer joy at a "performance."

Beehive Geyser
The park's many geyser gazers, who spend entire vacations waiting for eruptions, volunteer with the park service with predictions and research ( Geysers are geology on a human scale, and all of the park's thermal features can change visibly from year to year, and sometimes even from day to day.

Grand Geyser
While Yellowstone National Park has many admirers, for many reasons, for me it's the geysers. My favorite is Grand, but I love them all. I'm just glad our government had the sense to protect them when it did. So we not only have the geysers, but a chunk of the Old West, ours to visit anytime we want.

M.M. Justus's book, Repeating History is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

What would you do if a geyser catapulted you back in time, into the middle of an Indian war? 20-year-old college dropout Chuck McManis gets to find out. The hard way. By the time he escapes to civilization, 1870s-style, he discovers his new life has changed him forever. But he has to risk everything to earn the chance to stay, or lose everything he has become and everyone he loves.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

M.M. Justus: Repeating History

Repeating History
by M.M. Justus
"A GRAND yarn you can't put down." Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures

Romancing The West welcomes M.M. Justus who loves to travel, but when she's home, you'll find her quilting, gardening, or studying meteorology. Yellowstone National Park is one of her favorite places, and she lives within easy reach of her other favorite park, Mt. Rainier. You can read more about M.M. Justus on the bio page of her website.

RTW: So let's get started. Please tell us about your book.

MJ: Repeating History is about second chances. It's also about how heroes aren't always so heroic as the stories say. In Yellowstone in 1959, Chuck McManis, a college dropout and self-described failure, strolls past a geyser, gets hit by an earthquake, and is flung back in time 82 years into the middle of an Indian war and into his great-grandfather's life. He rescues/is rescued by the woman he comes to love, and sets out to fulfill the destiny laid out before him, only to discover that his past is where he really belongs after all.

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

MJ: I think the thing about the West prior to the 20th century that fascinates me the most is how the great distances isolated people, and how much of the country was still wilderness, or at least still wild. The "big city" in my story, Helena, Montana, was a three-day stagecoach ride from the nearest railhead in Utah during the time of my story, and a two-day trip from the head of navigation on the Missouri River. And yet, people didn't feel isolated, they still traveled, for pleasure as well as business, and went over the mountain to see what they could see. Several of the characters in my book went to Yellowstone National Park as tourists in 1877, which surprises many people when I tell them that Eliza is based on a real person (Emma Cowan). And, of course, after they were released by the Nez Perce, Eliza, her young sister Anna, and Chuck set out on the long trailless road to civilization -- and arrived there, after many adventures.

RTW: If you lived in 1877, what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?

MJ: I would head straight for Yellowstone, Indians or no Indians. I've tried to imagine what the park was like back in the days when it was brand-new, when it wasn't possible to bring even a wagon to Old Faithful because there was no road, when you might go for days without seeing another human being. I would love to experience it for myself.

There are complications with that scenario, of course, even if I could time travel as my hero does. For one thing, he was lucky he was male, and didn't have to wear long skirts and corsets, or struggle against inequalities of all kinds. For another, I wouldn't wish wandering lost in the wilderness for over a week or getting kidnapped by Indians on my worst enemy, and I have no desire to experience that for myself.

But to experience the wilderness that was Montana and Wyoming in the late 19th century would be absolutely majestic. I hope my characters appreciated it as much as I did, viewing it through their eyes.

RTW: If a person who had never read a Western (any sub-genre) asked you for a recommendation, what novel or movie would you recommend and why? What did the author do to bring the story alive for you?

MJ: I know it's horrifically idealized to the point of being a fairy tale or a fable, but I love Dances With Wolves, both the book and the movie. It's a journey story, and, as Repeating History proves, I am a sucker for a journey story. It has all of the best memes of the West, the beautiful wide open spaces (even after visiting South Dakota on several occasions, I had no idea it could be that beautiful), the good guys vs. bad guys (although the Indians/whites thing got turned on its head), and the strong, silent hero. The buffalo hunt sequence is shiver-down-the-spine country. And it has a terrific love story. It's just a lyrical movie, with the landscape as a full-fledged character. I think all of the best Western stories treat the land that way.

RTW: Why must Chuck McManis take this particular story journey? What does he have to prove? How does Eliza affect his journey?

M.M. Justus, author

MJ: I can't help grinning at this question. I am going to turn what you're asking me on its head about as much as Dances With Wolves did the Indian/white trope. Chuck doesn't take this trip. His trip takes him. He has nothing to prove, either. As a matter of fact, as the story opens, he's doing nothing more than trying to escape the wrath of his father for a few days before going home to face the music about having flunked out of college. After the earthquake, he's just trying to survive. In some ways, although it takes him a while to realize it, he's glad to have been yanked out of his dead-end life and into one where the way to make something of himself is laid out for him. He thinks all he has to do is put in the work. Not that the work doesn't come close to killing him a couple of times...

As for Eliza, she's destined for him, or so he thinks. But then there's one obstacle after another to challenge that predestination, until their relationship isn't anything like what Chuck thought it would be when he first met her. She's the symbol of everything he thought his new life was going to be, and she's the symbol of how it didn't turn out anything like he had expected. And she's really good at showing him how to get on in 1877, too.

RTW: You have an excerpt today--please set it up for us.

MJ: This passage takes place after Eliza, thirteen-year-old Anna, and Chuck, who is now Charley, have been kidnapped and released by the Nez Perce, out in the middle of nowhere with two exhausted ponies and very little else.

Eliza slid neatly off the horse's back and it struggled to its feet. She tried to stay upright, but she’d have gone down in a heap if I hadn't grabbed her arm. As it was, she hung off of me like a deadweight for a moment before she righted herself and stood, swaying.

She looked like she was about at the end of her rope. No pun intended.

Her once-tidy dress was stained and torn. Her hair hung in ropes around her shoulders. The only word I could think of to describe her face was painful. Her eyes were hollow and somehow full at the same time, of things I didn't think anyone should have to endure.

"It was my second anniversary," she whispered suddenly.


"Sister, don't," said Anna, who had materialized at Eliza's other shoulder.

Eliza went on as if neither one of us had spoken. Her voice was deceptively calm, at first. "Our second wedding anniversary. William--Mr. Byrne," she added, as if we wouldn’t have known "was shot on our second anniversary. That's why we were here. I'd always wanted to see the geysers, ever since I was a little girl when an old mountain man came to visit us. So when William asked me what I would like to do to celebrate our anniversary, I wanted to come here. We didn't have a honeymoon, so this was supposed to be it."

Then her voice cracked for the first time. "And now he's gone." Her words dissolved into tears and she turned to me. Me, not Anna. I wrapped my arms around her and held her as she wept.

Anna stood rooted, her eyes wide open and staring at me over her sister's head. I tried to look reassuringly at her, but I know I didn't succeed.

"Sister?" she asked, all the fear I realized she'd been masking, too, in her voice. Frontier women. They were human, too. They'd just been trained not to show it.

"She'll be okay," I said, as much to convince myself as Anna. "Eliza? I'm sorry. Dammit. Anna won't care if I use your first name."

Eliza raised her head. She swallowed, hard. The tears had run new streaks down her face through the grime, but her eyes didn't look hollow anymore. I wanted to kiss her. Make it all better, somehow.

She backed up slowly. Her reluctance drew an unwilling smile from my lips. "Better now?"

She reached into the pocket of her skirt and drew out a handkerchief. It wasn't all that clean, but it was cleaner than her face, which she wiped with it. It didn't take her long to pull herself together.

"Thank you, Charley," was all she said, but it made me feel ten feet tall.

RTW: Terrific! Where can we purchase this intriguing story?

MJ: Repeating History is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

RTW: What’s next? Is Repeating History a part of a series?

MJ: Yes. It's always been the first book of three in my mind, although because the second book's hero is Chuck's son/grandfather, and the third book's hero is Chuck's father/grandson (I hope that's not too confusing -- I tend to think of the whole thing as a mobius strip), it's a series only in a fairly loose sense of the term. The second book, True Gold, will be coming out this summer. It is set in 1897-98, on the trail to the Klondike Gold Rush. The third book, Finding Home, is set in 1959, back in Yellowstone, in the days after James finds out that his son ran away and is missing in the aftermath of the earthquake, and will be coming out the end of this year or early next.

RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?

MJ: Just that I've really enjoyed being here. Thank you for having me.

You're welcome, any time!

Stay tuned for Thursday's article when M.M. Justus takes us on a journey through Yellowstone.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chicken Dinner: Madams, Saloon Art, and Tonto

Today is a fun day for me because Much Ado About Madams was released on Kindle! This is the second book in the Hearts of Owyhee series, and a fun book. What author would have a great time with a hunky rancher, six whores, a cook, and a suffragist? Here's the blurb:

A suffragist schoolteacher with a hidden past,
Six shopworn whores cooking up plans for a better future,
And a hunky rancher who isn't quite sure what to do with all these women...
Life isn't always comfortable at The Comfort Palace!

This series is set in Owyhee County, Idaho, and The Comfort Palace is in Dickshooter. Yes, that really is a name of a town, although a friend of mine researched it and can't find much information at all. We're not even sure it existed in 1882 when the book is set--but the cool thing about writing fiction is you can play fast and loose with geography, which I did. After all, what better place for a brothel than Dickshooter?

Which got me to thinking about saloon art. I'm on the Wild West History Association group on Facebook, and Jeff Smith frequently posts saloon art--all in the spirit of historical research of course. His dedication knows no bounds. So I went searching on the internet and found some art on Legends of America. You can buy prints from them suitable for framing.

Are you ready for Captain Jack Sparrow to play Tonto? Check out the interview with Armie Hammer about the production of the new Lone Ranger movie. I loved the Lone Ranger television series and I have mixed emotions about the new movie. Keep positive thoughts because a successful movie would be good for all Western readers and writers.

We Have a Winner!
won a copy of Dashing Druid by Lyn Horner
Special thanks to western romance author Lyn Horner who was the RTW guest last week!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Silver Queen and Silver Plume

Lyn Horner, author
 Silver Queen and Silver Plume
by Lyn Horner

Thank you, Jacquie, for having me here. In my interview with you I mentioned Georgetown, Colorado. Today, I’d like to tell you and your readers more about this lovely town and it’s quiet sister, Silver Plume. Their history is inextricably woven together, wealth and power lying in one, hard labor and danger in the other. They are now part of the Georgetown-Silver Plume National Landmark Historic District.

Georgetown Main Street
Silver Queen of the Rockies
Elevation: 8512 Population: 1080
Several years ago I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Denver. While he worked I spent my days in the Denver Library, going through books, maps and precious microfilm records from the 19th century mining days. Then hubby took a day off and we headed west along I-70 into the mountains. Our first stop was Georgetown. With its quaint store fronts and brightly painted Victorian homes, some the former abode of mine owners and managers, the town was a lovely surprise.

Quoting the official town website, “Since its beginning as a mining camp in 1859, Georgetown has attracted those who have sought something very special. First it was the magic of gold and silver ore, now it’s the beauty and ambiance of this picturesque town surrounded by the Rocky Mountains.” As you can see, that is no exaggeration.

Georgetown Saloon
 In 1867, Georgetown became the center of a great silver boom when the Anglo-Saxon mine was discovered, with silver ore assayed at $23,000 per ton. Soon the high mountain valley held thousands of prospectors and miners. Stages from Denver, traveling over new toll roads, regularly delivered more adventurers. Along with the miners came bankers, merchants, saloon keepers, ladies of the evening, and the occasional preacher. The flamboyant little city was incorporated in 1868.
By 1880, George-town had become the judicial seat of Clear Creek County.

Businesses included two banks, eight stamp mills, ore sampling and reduction works (for refining silver ore,) schools, churches, two weekly newspapers, and several hotels. Legendary among the latter was the Hotel de Paris, opened in 1875 by a Frenchman named Louis Dupuy. Now a museum, the hotel became known throughout the West. It had indoor plumbing and electric lighting by 1893. The dining room boasted fine china, glassware and imported table linens. Louis was a first class chef and did most of the cooking himself, serving steaks from cattle raised on his nearby ranch, and fancy delicacies.
The Hotel de Paris dining room was frequented not only by visiting travelers, but by wealthy mine owners and managers who made their home in Georgetown. In my novel, Dashing Druid, the hero and his lady spend a special night at the hotel.

Silver Plume

Silver Plume
Elevation: 9116 Population: 203*
*Population figure may include dogs, drop-ins, and ground squirrels (quote it with caution).

Leaving Georgetown, we continued up the road, and I do mean up, to Silver Plume. Love that name! This is where the silver miners – the hired help – once lived. Many were Cornishmen who came in search of work when the tin mining industry in their native Cornwall collapsed. One of the “Jacks” as they were nicknamed, plays a small but important part in Dashing Druid.

Silver mining declined in the 1890s, and Silver Plume lost most of its population. However, it continued to attract tourists who made the steep climb from Georgetown via the famous Georgetown Loop Railroad. This narrow gage marvel of engineering is still in operation during the warm months. If you’d like a taste of what it’s like to ride the Loop, there are lots of videos on YouTube. Be prepared to hold your breath as the engineer inches the train onto the Devil’s Gate Bridge.
Georgetown Railroad Loop
Nowadays known as a “sleeping town” because so few people live there year around, Silver Plume is built on the side of a mountain, with steep paths leading up to the tiny houses built virtually into the rock. Walking the one actual street that runs along Clear Creek through what’s left of the business district, we saw empty saloons and storefronts dating back to the boomtown days, as well as a stone jailhouse built in 1875. Boy, is it small!

Silver Plume: Original structures (left); Jail (right)
There’s nothing glamorous about Silver Plume. I wouldn’t even call the setting pretty, but the place breathes history. I could almost see tired miners gathering in the narrow, false-fronted saloons (there were nine) to cleanse the rock dust from their throats and ease their aches and pains. Then I imagined them climbing up rough steps carved out of the mountainside to their flimsy shacks, where they’d grab a few hours’ sleep before reporting back to the mines. Theirs was not an easy life but, oh my, what a brave bunch they were, and what an exciting page they wrote in the annals of the Old West.
Your Chance to Win!

Just leave Lyn a comment here on RTW, including your email address so she can contact you if you win. (Or, if you prefer, email it to her:
The entry period ends at 9:00 pm on Saturday, March 10th.
The prize is a Kindle copy of Dashing Druid.

Thanks, Lyn, for joing RTW this week! RTW readers, be sure to enter her contest by leaving a comment with your email address, and for two chances, leave a comment on her Monday interview as well.