Monday, October 29, 2012

Reid Lance Rosenthall: Threads West #western

Threads West: 
Maps of Fate

Romancing the West welcomes Reid Lance Rosenthal this week! Reid, please tell us about your series.

Reid: The sixteen book Threads West, An American Saga series begins in 1855. It is the tale of disparate threads of lives--brave men and independent women--from locations around the globe, of different social origins, ethnicity and creeds. They are woven together into the tapestry of an emerging nation; a country offering opportunity and freedom and on the cusp of greatness. It is a sweeping, five generation, one hundred and seventy year story arc that will end with the last book of the series set in the real-time, contemporary West. Through the eyes of fictional characters the Threads West series accurately portray what transpired in our history, the evolution of our lands, our thought processes, morals and freedoms. So, too, will the contemporary novel portray in vivid reality—couched in nonstop adventure and romance—the current state of affairs in the West, and the United States. The Threads West series is the adventure and romance of America, her people, her spirit and the West. It is our story.

RTW: Why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into the series?

Reid: Perhaps what drives my pen is my love of land, perhaps a genealogy that goes back four generations almost two-hundred years in land and cattle—including a goodly portion of that time by my ancestors in Europe. Perhaps it is the cowboy hat, the special feel and touch of a woman you care for, or the smell of horse leather and sweat. I love America and the West. I am enamored with romance, history, fiction, and all things western. They epitomize universal energies. So it makes sense that I love Historical Western Romance as a genre: the power of the land, the all-encompassing flow of steamy passion, heartfelt romance, and the intrigue of differing personalities line dancing on the stage of American History.

As a rancher, I am drawn by the power of the land. Alone and far from others, whispers of canyon breezes playin' oh so gentle ’cross my cheek, the smell of earth, sage, leaves and horse sweat might just be the only time I truly relax. It is those moments, high atop a windswept ridge, rifle nestled in the leather of the scabbard, that I am transported to ten thousand years ago where I am a native sojourner, clad in a hide loincloth and carrying a spear in quest of fresh meat for the clan. It is cleansing, and real, this time machine of earth energy. These are the feelings of which I write, and they are universal in their truth of any historical era, though less realized today than at any other time in man's “evolution.”

The American West has a special mystique—a romantic aura that is known worldwide. Some of this magic flows from its violent evolution, part emanates from the image of the cowboy, and a portion from the perception of values the historical west embodies. But underlying all those tugs to the hearts of many is the power of its open spaces, and the courage of its settlers.

In a Western, the tapestry of relationships is always the land. The intertwined twists are fascinating threads that the bind the conflicted men and women of the West back then, and now. I try to make the foundation of my stories that reality. There is intrigue, adversity, vicious duplicity, and triumphs that few know of, but which are always at play beneath the idyllic mosaics of inviting canyons and sundrenched plains.

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?

Reid Lance Rosenthal
Reid: Actually, my taste in genres is wide and varied. The magic of Harry Potter, the action and history of Mila 18, Exodus, Battle Cry, and The Young Lions by Leon Uris. The Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. These would be some of the works that I draw from stylistically. I have read each and every one of Louis L'Amour's Westerns; I have his entire collection. I have devoured Larry McMurtry's stunning Lonesome Dove and Max McCoy's three Spur award winners, one of which is Hellfire Canyon, and his Indiana Jones novels (and movies). I am stunned, and thrilled to have his very rare endorsement on the cover of Maps of Fate.

Each book and author has contributed to my own craft of western words and story, style and structure, some—like Uris and Hemingway—more than others. I read many of these books for the first time of a dozen re-readings in elementary school. Many is the night I would huddle under the blankets, dim light of the flashlight I had snatched from the kitchen tool bag, fading and flickering as morning approached. I eagerly turned pages of the books, once in a while poking my head out to study the approaching light from the East, filled with youthful resentment that my reading time was coming to an end for another night. You could say the genres of Romance, Historical Fiction, and Western chose me, and I chose them. A mutual love affair, no pun intended.

If folks have not read them, the books by any of the authors I have mentioned above will thrill and delight. And, the mini series, Lonesome Dove and North and South, and the movies, Gone with the Wind, Silverado, 3:10 to Yuma, Red River, Bad Day at Black Rock, The Magnificent Seven, and She wore a Yellow Ribbon are just a few of the fantastic—and realistic-western films that will entertain and inform.

RTW: Why must your protagonist take this particular story or journey? What does he or she have to prove? How does secondary characters or settings affect their journey?

Reid: The Threads West series is an epic saga. It breaks the traditional mold in some respects, one of those being the number of characters, and their very diverse origins-the stately row houses of London, cattle farms of Prussia, slums of Dublin, tipis along the Powder River, plantations in Oklahoma and the crowded streets of Shang hai, to name just a few. While there are three “absolute” primary characters—one man and two women, there will be, over the course of the series, more than fifty eight primary, and more than one hundred significant secondary characters. I try to write from the perspective of both genders, and the singular viewpoints of each of these diverse cultures. I have talked with elders in the Mormon Church. (Those threads of lives will be apparent in upcoming books, but were just introduced in Maps of Fate.) My editor is a specialist in Native Americans and her husband is a full-blooded Sioux. Though I myself am an adopted second son of a Mohican Chief (that is yet another tale) being able to be historically accurate to the “nth” degree in how the Western Indians tended to and felt about the most minute aspects of their lives, as portrayed in Maps of Fate, was invaluable. I have interviewed the offspring of slaves, descendants of mountain men and pioneers, and fourth generation Asians whose ancestors stowed away in the bowels of steamships in the 1850’s. Though I rarely do this in a blog, one of the more than fourteen hundred five star reviews and comments on the series might best sum up these thoughts:

“Reid Lance Rosenthal outdid himself with this novel. His settings and descriptions are stunning. I survived that snowstorm - felt the cold wet damp of the snow creep into the bones. The heat of the sun, warming a back, slashing through branches. The smell of a campfire, the tang of raw game, the stench of battle. I was there, traveling with that train every step of the way. What a trek! The plot is excellent. The weaving of the stories together and apart flows easily, creating an incredible depth of experience for the reader...But it's Reid's people that just blew me away. (I hesitate to call them characters - that would insinuate that he made them up...) They are as real - if not more so - as most of the people I have ever met. I know Rebecca better than most people I have ever gone to school with. People I worked with for years have never solidified in my memory the way Sarah and Zeb have...Maps of Fate flowed perfectly, without having to stop and think about where everyone was and when... I love that - running into people I know.

I felt a surprising sense of appreciation for the diversity of the author's people and plots. Every group - cultural, religious, racial...Following Eagle Talon's journey, Israel's escape, Black Feather's tragedy, as well as the wagon train's travelers, all of whom come from even more layers of origin, makes for a rich blend of experience, perspective, and understanding. Ironically, it is this attention to our differences that magnifies so greatly the similarities between us all. Americans may have started out on a million different paths, but it's the strength, determination, and perseverance that all American ancestors had in common, regardless of where they came from and how, that created your purpose. As a Canadian, and a proud one, I know that we have a similar heritage. But whereas we describe our country as a mosaic, we see yours as more of a melting pot. There's a lot to be said for that. And Rosenthal says it beautifully.”

Alexandra Brown
Romantic Shorts

Writing in the genres of the West, romance, and history is in some respects made easier by my fourth-generation land and cattle heritage, and my rancher avocation. I must admit, though from time to time, particularly over the last year, I become confused. Am I a rancher who writes, or an author who ranches? Right now I am a sleepless both!

There is a synergy that flows from ranching to my pen. The land is the true enduring character of the series, the perpetual anvil upon which the characters are shaped. That energy is as much a personality as are the characters who live in the pages.

RTW: Would you share an excerpt with us?

Reid: Delighted, Jacquie! Perhaps a few short excerpts from the very different perspectives of gender and culture might also give your great followers a feel of the scope of characters, action, romance and history in this story of us!
* * * * *
She felt the fire in the smooth caress of his fingertips as they traced across her breast, lingered, then continued down her hips and came to rest lightly, longingly, on the concave valley of smooth belly between her hips. The smell of him, and of them, mingled with the fragrance of sunbaked sage.
* * * * *
“That is called a holy iron. It is the weapon of the hairy-faced ones,” had been the response to his inquisitive tug on his father’s loin cloth. The memory dissipated, and the promise of the spring dawn and later lovemaking were carried away by the east breeze; only to be replaced by a feeling of foreboding deep in Eagle Talon’s spirit.
* * * * *
Mac lowered the spyglass. “It’s Zeb, and he ain’t wasting no time getting back.” His great bushy eyebrows furrowed in contemplation. “Reuben, tell folks to get out their rifles and gather in every other wagon. Get five men on horses, and come back up here. I’d choose Johannes, Charlie, John, Harris and that swine Jacob. He is always looking for a scrap.” He nodded down at the holstered Colt on Reuben’s hip, “I would take the thong off that hammer, son.”
* * * * *
“Don’t you dare ‘now Lucy’ me,” she wagged her finger at him, the digits crooked from years of manual labor. “You know it’s against the law for our kind to read.” Peeling the thick-glassed spectacles from one ear, and then the other, Israel ignored his wife, cleaned the lenses with his shirttail, and though about what he had just read: “New York—January 17, 1855—“Slaves Find Help In Escape.”
* * * * *
The farmer spoke in a cracking voice. “Whatever you want. Please, this is all we have.” The Smoothbore lay across Black Feather’s forearm, its muzzle pointing at the man’s head. “We already know that we can have whatever we want.” Black Feather let his eyes slip to the hysterical girl. Her gangly shape was just taking on the form of a woman.
* * * * *

Purchase links: Amazon,

RTW: What’s next? Maps of Fate is only the second part of the series isn’t it?

Reid: I'm astounded by the success of the Threads West, An American Saga series. The eight National awards, #1 best selling ranking achievements all caught me unaware. I am humbled, surprised and thrilled all rolled into one! Two books are out—Threads West (Book One) and Maps of Fate, the second novel. I’m hard at work on Book 3--Uncompahgre—where water turns rock red and its release is planned late this year. (More info at Book 4, Moccasin Tracks is planned for early spring 2013, and Book 5, Footsteps, for late 2012. I am excited about Uncompahgre because I think, and hope, that I've met my goal of surpassing the high bar I masochistically set for myself with the first novels. The readers will determine that!

Like Book 2, Uncompahgre will examine slavery, from the viewpoint of the slave—a race yearning to be fully American, totally free and self-determining. Lucy and Israel, though elderly, have set their life sails for the winds of freedom. Through the eyes of a young Oglala, Sioux family, the tragic story of the Indians a sad, dark blotch on the pages of American history, further unfolds and will carry forward in the series. New characters, from what will be the Confederate States, Asia, and the Mormon settlements of Cache Valley will catapult into the tale.

And, of course, Uncompahgre will follow the evolving life threads, passions, loves, disappointments, tragedies, romances, and in some cases the pathos filled, lethal experiences of the European and American characters which the readers of Book One and Two seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed and bonded with. Their life threads hurtle through American history towards the cloth of their destinies and still subsequent generations in the balance of the series.

Uncompahgre releases nationally in December, at Amazon, Hastings, Barnes and Noble, and many fine independent bookstores around the country, plus a number of international locations. It will also be available on that date in Nook, and Kindle – iTunes to follow a few days later.

As is the tradition, the publishers are throwing a great Release Branding Day and contest, with terrific prizes. There will be upcoming information on our website and on Facebook. The first and second printings of Book One and Two sold out the mornings of their release, so the publishers have set up a reservation system and everyone who has reserved a copy of the book on our sites (no cost!) or purchases any one of the three novels on the Uncompahgre release date may enter.

In addition, every person who registers on the site (ten seconds, easy, private, no cost) prior to November 5, will be entered in a drawing. Winners will be announced in mid-November and there will be three each—signed copies—of Book One, Book Two and Book Three given away!

RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?

Reid: I knew this series was a big project when I began. But I have come to realize the undertaking is monumental. So—the introspective question becomes “why?” Putting aside my long held, deep need to write, to share, to tell the story, I am inspired by the cowboy hat, the special feel and touch of a woman you care for, or the smell of horse leather and sweat. I love America and the West.

As a rancher, I am drawn by the power of the land. As a man, I am intrigued by the energy of steamy passions and the enveloping flow of heart-felt romance. As an American, I am enamored of the unique spirit of America and her people, and the evolution of all these energies through the relatively short span of American History. Each author needs to choose those energies which call to them.

Having spent most of my time in the wild and remote (my nearest neighbor is 11 miles away) makes writing the setting and creating the theater in which the characters love, lose, triumph, act and interact, far easier. I cannot fathom how an author who does not live within such an environment possibly writes one of these novels. Being a rancher and a cowboy affords me great familiarity with the varying landscapes of the West, many of which I’ve walked or ridden across. The physical environment and specific era of a Western are all-important. Many readers who follow the series will know that most chapters begin with a description of the scene. It’s an ambiance that speaks to the characters, frames the moment, and (I hope) whispers to the readers. That peculiar angle of the sun, sky prisms following rain, shadows creeping with the ever-changing angle of light, is the written image on the page much as a photograph is the visual of film. These are never to be repeated seconds, the sensory underpinning of my writing. Mood, setting, a snapshot of the Earth, of the moment, of the motion, and the current. The pen becomes merely the shutter, and the paper, the film.

Living that life has tremendous advantages in writing detail, too. These are moments, scenes, feelings, history which I feel compelled to capture for the readers of today, and I hope of the future in some small part through my books, lest they be lost in the cobwebs of time. I know, first-hand how the whispers of a Canyon breeze play gentle across my cheek. I am familiar with the smell the earth, sage, last year’s leaves and horse sweat. I have felt, thousands of times, that primordial transport back through eons while sitting in the saddle, rifle in the scabbard, hunting for the table. I’ve heard the bawling of cows, smelled their sweet stench, and breathed their dust. The cool waters of creeks and streams have soothed me, the sun has kept me warm, the chill of windy winter nights have crept through my bones, and I have often experienced the wonder of stars that never end above the friendly crackle of a campfire. And, overall, I have felt the freedom of all that magic.

I am concerned about the future of America. The disintegration of the values of the old West and of our revolutionary forefathers distresses me. These seem to be traits that are slipping away, replaced by entitlement mentality, dependency on the red herrings of government rather than the tried-and-true traits of self-reliance, individualism, family and community. I hope this series evokes emotion, brings smiles and tells a story—but most of all it is my wish that it serve as a reminder—who we are, why we are and a rich and textured history—which while less than perfect—is the foundation of all of us.

Watch for Reid's Thursday article: Westward Expansion--Our Story.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

British Colonies in America

Andrea Downing, author
British Colonies 
in America
by Andrea Downing

When Emma Lazarus wrote her famous sonnet, ‘The New Colossus,’ in 1883, I doubt she had in mind the many British who were then immigrating to the United States at that time. Hardly members of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, a great many were younger sons of the aristocracy—remittance men—who were being supported for a time by fathers or older brothers and were seeking to make their name in the new frontier of America. While doing my research for Loveland in which the ranch at the center of the action is owned by a company headed by an English Duke, I was amazed to come upon a number of colonies specifically aimed at the British upper classes.

Down on the Cumberland plateau of Tennessee, Thomas Hughes, author of Tom Brown’s School Days, started a colony at Rugby. Purchasing 75,000 acres with the help of an emigration society, Hughes chose his site due to the fact the railroad had just opened up this part of Tennessee with links to Cincinnati. Hughes envisioned a settlement of clean-living, Christian, cultured folk dedicated to agriculture and their community. Opened in Oct., 1880, new arrivals were given training in farming, and by 1884, this Utopia had some 300 residents amidst 70 buildings with social clubs and sports venues for their spare time. Sadly, the colony was not to last and cholera, financial problems and weather all combined to take their toll. By 1900 most of the original colonists were gone—some to other parts of America.

Up in Kansas in 1873, the Victoria Colony was started by one George Grant. Grant’s vision was to interest the sons of noblemen into sheep and cattle ranching, and to this end he purchased over 44,000 acres from the Kansas Pacific Railroad. A Hunt Club and a racetrack were organized, and there were dances and socializing with the men at Fort Hays. Grant himself moved into a villa that resembled an English manor house complete with bathrooms, running water and steam heating. Sadly, Grant’s ideas proved rather grandiose and crop failures, grasshopper invasions and bad weather put paid to the idea. Grant died penniless in 1878 and the colony failed. Volga Deutsch soon moved into the area renaming the colony Herzog.

A little to the north in Iowa, the Close Brothers started their own colony in 1879 in the area around LeMars. By far the most successful of these three, the Close Colony was based on the idea that the young gentlemen come over and be placed as students—called ‘pups’—with farmers to learn about running a farm before investing in land. The Close brothers made their money from the placements, from selling land they got cheaply at an increased price, and from other sales commissions, land management fees, share rents, mortgages and bank services. In the colony there were taverns with English names such as Windsor Castle or the House of Lords, a gentleman’s club called The Prairie and sports clubs galore. An effort was made to bring over gentlewomen and place them with couples or families. The Close brothers built a town called Quorn in the hope that the railway, being extended at the time, might use Quorn as one of its stations. Sadly this was not to be and the town died. Yet this was not an unsuccessful venture; the Close brothers were able to expand into Sibley, Iowa as well as into Minnesota. While the Close brothers abandoned the “pup plan” in favor of their own financial interests, colonists stayed, married and thrived.

Moreton Frewen, Wyoming rancher.
Winston Churchill's uncle
At the same time this was going on, British cattle companies were being formed back in the U.K. by both English and Scottish lords who viewed America as offering the same opportunities as South Africa, India, and Australia. Primogeniture denies a lord’s estate to any but his oldest son, or the next in line,which presents a problem for the spare heirs. The cattle companies were therefore managed by these second sons who came and set up ranches, mostly in Wyoming but with others in Colorado, Montana and Texas. The Powder River basin was the most populated area, and overcrowding on the plains there eventually led to the downfall of these huge ranches based on open range.

While America today worries about China ‘owning’ too much of the United States, back in 1884 Congress introduced a bill to try to stop the land grab by non-citizens. According to Curtis Harnack in Gentlemen on the Prairie, one journalist compared the acreage owned by just nine Englishmen to the equivalent of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined. At one stage, the British were believed to own an area in the USA equal to about one quarter the entire area of the British Isles. You might say that having lost the thirteen original colonies, the Brits went ahead and bought others! Yet with regards to the English cattle companies, not much land was actually owned because, as mentioned, they relied upon open range. In order to homestead, non-citizens had to promise to gain citizenship within five years, forcing the cattle companies to count on American employees—mostly cow hands—to gain land and sell it on to them. As for the colonists, their basic idea was to sell on their farms in five years at a greatly inflated price and move on to their next adventure. While this may have happened in some instances, the brain drain to the US of educated, cultured Brits, and the monetary flow from fathers and older brothers who were helping to set up these young men, was a gain for America. Towns and businesses flourished as needs were met for these new immigrants. And what had once been virgin untilled prairie eventually became the bread basket of America.

Further reading, and sources:
Harnack, Curtis: Gentlemen on the Prairie, Victorians in Pioneer Iowa, University of Iowa Press, 1985.
Woods, Lawrence M., British Gentlemen in the Wild West, The Era of the Intensely English Cowboy, The Free Press, 1989.

Win a Free Book!

One randomly selected commenter will win
by Andrea Downing
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads

Drawing will be held October 27, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time. Please include your email address or we'll have to pick another winner.

Be sure to read all about Andrea Downing and her latest book, Loveland.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Andrea Downing: Loveland #historicalromance #western

by Andrea Downing

Romancing The West welcomes Andrea Downing. Ms. Downing has spent most of her life in the UK where she received an M.A. from the University of Keele in Staffordshire. She married and raised a beautiful daughter, and stayed on to teach and write, living in the Derbyshire Peak District, the English Lake District and the Chiltern Hills before finally moving into London. During this time, family vacations were often on guest ranches in the American West, where she and her daughter have clocked up some 17 ranches to date. In addition, she has traveled widely throughout Europe, South America, and Africa, living briefly in Nigeria. In 2008 she returned to the city of her birth, NYC, but frequently exchanges the canyons of city streets for the wide open spaces of the West. Her love of horses, ranches, rodeo and just about anything else western is reflected in her writing. Loveland, a western historical romance published by The Wild Rose Press, is her first book. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Women Writing the West.

RTW: Good to have you here, Andrea! We'd love to know more about your book.

AD: Returning to her father's Colorado ranch, headstrong and willful Lady Alexandra Calthorpe learns more than to lasso the corral fence post. She begins to emulate the lives of the cowpunchers around her and cross the divide from the strictures of Victorian English society to the freedom of the American west. With a burgeoning art career in New York, she tries to reconcile her desire for independence with her love for top hand Jesse Makepeace. But when the brutal winter of 1886/7 blows in killing most of the ranch herd, the life she sought on the open range is changed forever.

Details at the end of the article

RTW: Why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into Loveland?

AD: First off, Jacquie, thanks so much for having me here today. It's wonderful to be among folks who are really interested in the west and reading westerns. You know, I've never actually been asked this before, strangely enough, so I'm really pleased for you to be throwing that question at me! But the answer, quite frankly, is pretty straight forward: I just love the west, I love everything about western culture and so those are the stories that come into my mind. Even when I write contemporary stories they tend to have a western background. But as to what intrigues me the most about the Old West, I guess you'd have to say I'm pretty caught up in the British involvement. Having lived most of my life in the U.K. I was fascinated to learn of how many Brits came over to make their fortunes here--or even just to use the west as a hunting ground! They weren't the poor coming to make a life for themselves; they simply saw the riches here and left great comforts at home to come for adventure. This is quite a part of Loveland, really; the ranch at the center of the book is owned by a company headed by a duke.

RTW: What a unique perspective you have, Andrea! If you lived in 1886, what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?

Andrea Downing, author
AD: There wasn't much in my research that I didn't find that I wanted to know, but the research certainly made me highly curious about life in the west at that time. Moreton Frewen, who ranched on the Powder River and was Winston Churchill's uncle, had a ranch house called by the punchers 'Castle Frewen' because of its comforts. I would have liked to go see some of these manor houses built by the British in the middle of nowhere, complete with bathrooms and beautifully carved woodwork and stained glass windows, and I would have liked to talk to the builders about how these works were accomplished and how difficult it was to bring in these items to the middle of nowhere.

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?

AD: I am a huge Maggie Osborne fan so I would be recommending one of her books, perhaps Foxfire Bride, if they were looking for a western historical romance. Her characters are beautifully drawn and the books are definitely page-turners.

RTW: I love Maggie Osborne's books, too! Why must Lady Alex take this particular story journey? What does she have to prove? How does Jesse affect her journey?

AD: I hope I'm not giving too much away when I tell you Alex has had an unhappy childhood and the only happy time of those years was when she was originally sent to the Faringdon Ranch by her father, when she was aged 8 to 12. I think all her life after that, she has been trying to get back to the comfort of having those people at the ranch around her, her surrogate parents, and the cowpunchers she has always thought of as being better 'uncles' than the one person who bears that relationship to her. Jesse has always been there for her, when she was little and now when she returns. He has made his own journey learning to fit in with the men from a very young age and I think he understands her better than anyone. As Alex sets out to prove she is independent and can stand on her own feet, he knows exactly what she is going through and can love her just the way she is!

RTW: Would you treat us to a little sample?

AD: In this excerpt, they are trying to get back to each other after a huge argument and, I hope, you can feel the building sexual tension:

Excerpt from
by Andrea Downing

As the round-up wound down, the Reps took their stock back to their outfits, and soon the men were back at headquarters or at the camps. Alex knew word had more or less got out and found the punchers were gentler now around her, had a sort of quiet respect for her, and she hated it. She tried to bully them a bit to show them she was still the same girl, jolly them into joshing with her as they had before. It was slow work. At the same time, she yearned to see Jesse, to speak with him, to try to get life back to the way it was before the argument at the corral, and before he saw the scars. The opportunity didn’t present itself.

She would see him from a distance some days, riding with the herd, sitting his horse with that peculiar grace he had, throwing his lariat out with an ease that reminded her of people on a dock waving their hankies in farewell. Hoping to just be near him, she slid into one of the corrals one evening to practice her roping.

The light was failing and the birds were settling with their evening calls. Somewhere in the pasture a horse nickered. She sensed Jesse was there, watching, but she never turned as he stood at the fence. She heard him climb over and ease up behind her. He took the coiled rope from her in his left hand and slid his right hand over hers on the swing end, almost forcing her backward into his arms.

She thought of paintings and statues she had seen, imagining his naked arms now, how the muscles would form them into long oblique curves, how he probably had soft downy fair hair on his forearms, how his muscle would slightly bulge as he bent his arm. His voice was soft in her ear, and she could feel his breath on her neck like a whispered secret.

“Gentle-like, right to left, right to left to widen the noose, keep your eye on the post—are you watchin’ where we’re goin’?”

He made the throw and pulled in the rope to tighten the noose. Alex stood there, his hand still entwined with hers and, for a moment, she wished they could stand like that forever. Then she took her hand away and faced him. For a second he rested his chin on the top of her head, then straightened again and went to get the noose off the post while coiling in the rope. She looked up at him in the fading light and saw nothing but kindness in his face, simplicity and gentleness that was most inviting. A smile spread across her face as he handed her the coiled rope and sauntered away, turning once to look back at her before he opened the gate. Emptiness filled her like a poisoned vapor seeking every corner of her being, and she stood with the rope in her hand listening to the ring of his spurs as his footsteps retreated.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads

RTW: Nice excerpt! What’s next, Andrea? Is Loveland a part of a series?

AD: Well, it wasn't meant to be part of a series but so many people have been asking me about Cal, Jesse's best friend who plays a pretty important role in the book, that I'm beginning to think he better have his own story told. In the meantime, I'm polishing a contemporary romance and am about halfway through an historical novella. Stay tuned!

RTW: Yep, Cal does need his own story! Anything else you’d like to add?

AD: Just my sincere thanks, Jacquie. I do appreciate being here today. It's been great.

Win a Free Book!

One randomly selected commenter will win
by Andrea Downing

Drawing will be held October 27, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time. Please include your email address or we'll have to pick another winner.

Good Luck!

Be sure to drop by Thursday for Andrea Downing's Old West article: British Colonies in America.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Klondike Gold Rush: A last hurrah of the Old West

M.M. Justus, author
The Klondike Gold Rush:
A last hurrah 
of the Old West
by M.M. Justus

The Klondike Stampede of 1897-98 has been called the last great gold rush. It took place less than five years after Frederick Jackson Turner declared the American frontier era was over. Though the Klondike was in the Yukon Territory of Canada, the vast majority of the stampeders were American, to the point where July 4th was a much larger celebration in Dawson City in 1898 than July 1st, Canada Day.

By 1898, most of the U.S. was "civilized." With a few exceptions (some of which still feel very frontier-like today), the Old West was a thing of the past. But not on the way to the Klondike.

The trail to the Klondike was very much a frontier. Before the gold rush, it was very sparsely populated, mostly by Indians and a few hardy miners -- sometimes embodied in the same person, as was true of two of the men who discovered the gold in the first place. The stampede itself was a thin braid of trails across a wilderness perceived as utterly barren by those who traveled them, headed towards the gold fields just as they did to every other strike. After all, the California gold rush of 1849 was only 49 years before 1898.

The people who headed north were a typical frontier cross-section, too. The vast majority were men, ranging from a few experienced outdoorsmen to clerks and shopkeepers who had no idea what they would be up against, and included con men, gamblers, and those who went to mine the miners. The few women who dared the trail were prostitutes and saloonkeepers, cooks, and, like my heroine, seamstresses. Very seldom did a woman make any kind of fortune directly from mining, and she was usually one of the rare wives who came north with her husband.

But it was the last time in North America that such a migration for such a reason would occur, and if it hadn't been for a financial panic in 1893 that left many people destitute, it's questionable whether it would have happened at all. Man would fly for the first time five years after the peak of the stampede. Some people even attempted to bring bicycles along, and there is a record of at least one motorized vehicle, which probably didn't make it much past Skagway.

It was the last chance to be part of the Old West while it still existed. And the Klondike Gold Rush helped the Old West go out with a bang!

♥  ♥  ♥

Want to read a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush? Try True Gold by M.M. Justus, available at Amazon or Smashwords. You'll find an interview with the author and an excerpt at M.M. Justus--True Gold.

You can visit M.M. Justus anytime at her website, Blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter

Sunday, October 14, 2012

M.M. Justus: True Gold

True Gold
by M.M. Justus

Romancing The West welcomes western author M.M. Justus, author, museum curator, and among other things, quilter. The Klondike Gold Rush has always interested me and I'm excited to read her book, True Gold. M.M., please tell us about it.

MJ: When Karin Myre, a young Norwegian seamstress's assistant from Seattle, gets caught up in the excitement of the steamer Portland's arrival with a ton of riches from the Klondike Gold Rush, she decides to escape a future of too much drudgery and no choices. Stowing away on one of the many overcrowded ships bound north, she finds herself trapped in the cargo hold with a crowd of second thoughts. But her rescue from the captain and a fate worse than death by a handsome prospector and his photographer partner is only the beginning of her search for true gold.

RTW: How did you get interested in the Klondike Gold Rush?

MJ: When I was fourteen, my parents and I drove from Los Angeles (where we were living at the time) to Alaska and back, pulling a travel trailer. This was in 1973, when the Alaska Highway was mostly still gravel, and the tourist industry in that part of the world wasn't nearly as developed as it is now. It was one of the great adventures of my childhood, and something I still date events in my life from. We traveled and camped for six weeks through Yukon Territory and Alaska, including part of the trail Karin follows in my book. We got as far as Fairbanks and Denali (then called Mt. McKinley), coming back down on the ferry through the Inside Passage. I've loved that part of the world ever since, although I've only been able to go back once as an adult.

The Yukon and Alaska are permeated with history, the kind that's recent enough that those who experienced it personally haven't been gone all that long. The Klondike, after all, is known as the last great gold rush. And Seattle, which the primary jumping off point for the Klondike, is just down the road from me. The historical resources there about the Klondike are almost limitless.

RTW: Would you have wanted go to the Klondike in 1897?

MJ: Not on your life. Those people went through hardships I can't even conceive of putting myself through, many of them gave up before they even arrived at Dawson, and most of the rest turned around and left once they got there without ever having put shovel to dirt. Only a small percentage of the few who did actually stake claims and mine (most of whom were already there when the stampeders arrived) struck gold, and only a small percentage of them managed to hang onto their fortunes. Most of the journals from that time and place are by people who had no idea what they were getting themselves into, and who were absolutely appalled by it all. However, those same journals do reek with that sense of 'greatest adventure I'll ever have,' so perhaps their rewards weren't quite so tangible as a sack of gold.

RTW: What, to you, is the best part of fiction set in the West?

M.M. Justus, author
MJ: I think it's how close yet how far away it seems. The Old West, as we think of it, was in its prime less than 150 years ago. The Klondike Gold Rush, arguably the last hurrah for that time period, was only 115 years ago. My grandfather was born the year of the Gold Rush. Karin is my great-grandmother's age. That makes it seem so close. But when we went to Alaska in 1973, which itself was 39 years ago, we drove there and back in six weeks and still had time for plenty of sightseeing. We had indoor plumbing and a fully-equipped kitchen that Karin would have killed for. Life was so primitive back then in the wilds that it seems much farther away than it is. I love that paradox. I find it absolutely fascinating.

RTW: Why does Karin take her journey? And what does that handsome prospector have to do with it?

MJ: Literally or figuratively? She takes her literal journey because she's searching for something more than she would ever have if she stayed home. At first she thinks a literal fortune would change her life, and then she discovers that what she really wants is not something she can buy. As for Will, the prospector, he's part of the reason she figures that out. Anything more would be a spoiler.

RTW: We'd love to read a little bit of True Gold. Please set the scene for us.

MJ: This scene takes place just before the last hard climb over the steep pass between the Alaska Panhandle and Yukon Territory. Mr. McManis -- Will, the prospector who has been bullied by his other partner into taking Karin on as part of their party -- is trying to convince her to turn around while, as he thinks, she still can.

Excerpt of True Gold
by M.M. Justus

"Revolutionary," Mr. McManis muttered. But he did not mutter it very loudly.

I held my peace.

"You two are going to be the death of me," he said, not much more loudly.

"Oddly enough, I feel the same way about you," I told him.

"I'll bet you do." He eyed me in that unnerving way of his. "Why?"

That surprised me. "I do not understand your question."

He waved an arm, ostensibly at the men still climbing in the fading light, apparently at the whole adventure. "Why are you doing this?"

I blinked. "Why not?"

He frowned.

"Why are you here?" I asked.

"I'm here to make my fortune." He turned away.

"As am I."

"But you're a woman."

What did that have to do with it? "May a woman not have the same goals as a man?"

"Not the women I know."

"Who are these weak-spined women? And are you not ashamed of them?"

He looked taken aback. "Why would I be ashamed of them?"

I bent back to my cook fire. "You and Mr. Hoel will want my women's work done by the time he returns. So I'd better get started."

The silence ran on for a bit, then he stalked off. Sounds of canvas being shaken out and put over tent poles came to my ears. I did not go to help him. He would not have welcomed my help in any case. Well, and I had told them I would no longer need them once I made it over the pass. It was time I proved it. This would be my last night beholden to Messrs. Hoel and McManis.

You can buy True Gold at 

RTW: We're rooting for Karin! Will there be more?

Yes. The third book in the series, about the missing link generation after Charley and Will, and the man who will become Chuck's father, is in the works, and will be coming out sometime next year. After that, I have a number of ideas yet to come.
♥  ♥  ♥
We're looking forward to it! M.M. Justus will have an article for us on Thursday, The Klondike Gold Rush: A last hurrah of the Old West, so be sure to stop by!

You can visit M.M. Justus anytime at her website, blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Medicine in the Civil War by Lori Austin

Lori Austin
Medicine in the Civil War

Most of us think of the American Civil War as a brutal time, with few medical innovations—and it was. The casualties of this war were the greatest in our history. Most estimates put the death toll at 620,000, though some go as high as 700,000. For the Union, over twice as many died of disease as died in battle. The Confederate disease toll wasn't quite that high but near enough. If one takes into consideration that the Confederacy had less men in the first place, and their records weren't as good, the loss is no doubt comparable.

However, the concept of "biting the bullet" as the only anesthetic is far from the truth. Certainly the conditions in the field were not ideal, and near the end of the war supplies were short. Still, most operations were performed after the administration of ether or chloroform. Reports of screaming from the operating tents were most likely the screams of men who'd just learned they would lose a limb rather than their screams as they were losing it.

Chloroform and ether was administered by dripping the liquid onto cloth then holding the cloth over the patient's nose. When he went limp, the operation commenced. Not the best technique, but better than the alternative. Many soldiers were only half asleep when the operation began. Stonewall Jackson was said to have remembered the sound of the saw cutting off his arm. In the Civil War, speed was often a surgeon's best technique.

Most physicians were aware of the connection between filth and infection, however they had no idea how to sterilize equipment. Because of the conditions—an overabundance of wounded, tents and barns used as field hospitals, a lack of any water, let alone clean water—doctors often went days without washing their hands, thus transferring bacteria from one man to another. A small cut on a hand could result in a "surgical fever" for the doctor himself. And penicillin wouldn't be discovered for another seventy-odd years.

If a soldier survived surgery and escaped fever, his pain might be alleviated by laudanum or morphine, which was made from the opium poppy. Often the drug was rubbed directly onto the wound in powder form. The liquid form could also be injected. As laudanum, the drug could be added to water and made more palatable with sugar. The drug in either form was highly addictive.

Though penicillin was not available to cure infection, quinine could offset malaria. However, the concoction had to be taken daily and the drug was so bitter most soldiers refused to take it all. When mixed with brandy, quinine became more palatable but brandy was soon in short supply. Luckily, malaria was not one of the most rampant diseases of the period.

Smallpox could ravage an army. A vaccination was available, but it was impossible to determine if the vaccination contained enough of the live virus to produce immunity. Nevertheless, most of the soldiers were vaccinated.

Dysentery, typhoid, yellow fever, scurvy, tuberculosis were common. Though we now know poor hygiene, contaminated water and food, overcrowding, poor diets and insects caused these diseases, at the time there was little understanding of such things. Physicians treated the ailments as best they could, though sometimes the cure could kill. For instance dysentery, characterized by intense diarrhea, was treated with "blue mass" a mixture of chalk and mercury. Then again, some physicians treated dysentery with the cure-all of laudanum, a side effect of which was constipation.

Though the Civil War period is considered by many to be lacking in medical treatment, in truth there were many brilliant doctors who applied appropriate cures. Nevertheless, the sheer amount of the afflicted, combined with horrific conditions assured an incredible rate of casualties.


I'm giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate to one random commenter today so you can purchase your choice of new books along with Beauty and the Bounty Hunter, released October 2.

Small print: Drawing will be held Saturday, October 13, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time. Be sure to include your email address with your comment or we'll have to choose another winner.

Thanks for being with us this week, Lori!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lori Austin: Beauty and the Bounty Hunter

Beauty and the 
Bounty Hunter
by Lori Austin

Romancing The West is excited to host western historical romance author Lori Austin this week. Lori Austin is the pen name for NYT Bestselling Author and RITA® winner Lori Handeland. She's published world wide in several genres--historical, contemporary, series and paranormal romance, as well as urban fantasy and historical fantasy--by such publishers as: Dorchester, Kensington, Harlequin, St. Martin's Press, Harper-Collins, Simon and Schuster and Penguin/Putnam. You can learn more about Lori at either her Lori Austen website or her Lori Handeland website.

RTW: Welcome, Lori! First of all, let's hear about your new book, Beauty and the Bounty Hunter.

LA: Bounty hunter Cat O’Banyon, will stop at nothing to find the man who murdered her husband. When he places a bounty on her head, she knows she must get him before he gets her. So she teams up with con artist Alexi Romanov, who taught her every trick she knows. Alexi is a master of deceit, of disguise and of desire. He's difficult to trust and even more difficult to resist. And just like before, the two of them together are nothing but trouble.

See details at the end of this post.
You won't want to miss this one!

RTW: What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into Beauty and the Bounty Hunter?

Lori Austin
LA: I've always been fascinated with the possibilities people found in the Old West. A person could leave their life behind in the east and start over completely. Cat and Alexi make the most of this possibility, over and over again, in my book.

RTW: If you lived in 1870, what modern convenience would you miss the most?

LA: Indoor plumbing. Always and forever, amen.

RTW: Three cheers for hot showers! Are there any common errors in western historical romances that bug you? If so, please set us straight.

LA: Most historical romances gloss over the filth, the disease, the smell. But I don't mind. If I want to read about reality, I read a research book. I'm not looking for that much truth in my fiction.

RTW: Why is Alexi perfect for Cat?

LA: Alexi knows everything about her and loves her anyway. No matter what she does, he's done worse and he'll never let her face her past alone.

Excerpt of
Beauty and the Bounty Hunter
by Lori Austin

"Names don’t bother me.”

Men like Clyde did. Cat had devoted what was left of her life to bringing them in, and if she checked each and every one to see if he was the one . . . Cat gave a mental shrug. It was nothing less than she deserved for doing this job at all.

“Obviously not,” he drawled, “since you use so very many.”

Cat stilled. Did he want her to kill him?

The man flicked an elegant, dark finger at the lightly snoring Clyde.  
“Does he know who you are?”
“I’m—“ Cat’s mind groped for the name she was presently using and came up blank.

“That is often the problem with lies,” he murmured. “So difficult to keep straight. Shall I help you to remember . . . Cat?”

Her trigger finger itched. Should she set it free? This man had seen what she'd done; he knew who she was. She really didn't have much choice.

"You plan to kill me with that?" A dip of his stubbled chin indicated the derringer pointed at his chest.

"You have been asking for it."

Laughter erupted, as startling as the applause had been. "Kitten, that wouldn’t even slow me down."

He might be right. She should get a little closer.

“They say Cat O’Banyon always gets her man.” He indicated the gun, the bound Clyde, then the room with a languid twirl of one gloved finger. “Is this how?”

“This?” She smoothed a hand down the satin-covered ladder of her rib cage, brushing the un-corseted weight of her breasts with her fingertips, curving her palm beneath one ripe swell. “Sometimes.”

If she kept his attention on her body he wouldn’t notice anything else. Like how close she was getting. Just another step and--

He snatched the gun and tossed it onto the bed. His other hand came down on hers where it still rested beneath her breasts. Then he whirled her into the shadows, his large, hard, male body aligning with hers.

Cat wanted to shriek and kick. Instead she went still and quiet. She’d learned disguise from a master, and it involved not only the outer trappings but also the spirit within. Cat O’Banyon wouldn’t panic at the brush of a man’s thigh along hers. Cathleen Chase on the other hand--

Cat shuddered, deftly turning the quiver from fear to arousal with the almost undetectable addition of a moan. She wasn’t stronger; she couldn’t fight. Not with fists. So she lifted her mouth, and she placed it on his.

She’d planned to take charge, to ensure he thought of nothing beyond this until the time he no longer thought at all. She failed miserably as soft and gentle, his lips countered hers. Slow and easy, as if he had eons of time to do anything that he wanted, and what he wanted was her.

This was nothing new. Men had desired her--it was how Cat made a living, or at least how she pretended to often enough—but they hadn’t desired her. Because she wasn’t Sissy the whore, or Betsy the barmaid, or Dorothy the dance hall gal. She was Cat—the woman who’d been born from the ashes that had tumbled across Billy’s grave nearly two years ago.

A sob nearly broke free. She trapped it in her throat, and the stranger set his hand there, as if he’d heard, as if he knew, as if he cared. His tongue flicked out, testing the seam of her lips.

Lust flooded in and, shocked, Cat gasped. He slanted her head with clever fingers, letting his thumb trail across her chest, leaving goose flesh in its wake.

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Funny, but when she touched him he didn’t seem so broad, and she had to reach higher than she’d thought, as if he were taller than he appeared. Her brow furrowed; memory flickered--a mirage—there and then gone and then—

He deepened the kiss, and he tasted like blue night, something dangerous but exciting, something that pulled you in even when you knew you had to get out. She drew in a breath, and he smelled even better—his scent reminding her of places that were green and sunny and gone. Warmth rolled off him; she wanted to bask in that heat like her namesake.

And as long as he was kissing her, he wasn’t paying attention to her hand, which had, seemingly of its own accord, slid across his shoulder—definitely more lithe than large, how peculiar—down his arm, across his oddly slim hip.

Her sigh masked the shift of her palm from his body to her own, the arch of her spine, the press of her breasts into his chest concealing the track of her fingers as they disappeared beneath her skirt.

His tongue traced her lower lip, tickled her teeth, slid through and danced a bit with her own. What would it be like to give in? To feel something more than nothing for a minute?

Cat was tempted, and because she was, she got careless. She concentrated on his mouth when she should have been concentrating on his hands. Ain’t that always the way?

He cupped her breast, one finger dipping beneath the lace and trolling across the nipple. A sharp tug shot through her, awakening sensations she'd forced into slumber long ago. That sob she’d been stifling erupted, becoming a howl of fury as it flew from her mouth. She yanked up her skirt and reached for the Arkansas toothpick strapped to her thigh.

“Looking for this?” He pressed the tip to Cat’s throat, and she froze.

She didn’t much care about living, but she wasn’t ready to die yet either. Not until she found the owner of the voice that whispered through her nightmares. Even if the interminable searching made her feel as if she were just chasing the wind.

Cat lifted her gaze, prepared to beg if she had to. Hell, she’d done it before.

Then her eyes met his, and everything changed

Whew! Can't wait to read it?
Buy links are all

RTW: What are you cooking up for us next?

LA: The second book in the Once Upon a Time in the West series, An Outlaw in Wonderland, will be released in June, 2013. In it you'll discover more about Dr. Ethan Walsh, who appears briefly in Beauty and the Bounty Hunter.

RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?

LA: I am so thrilled to be writing westerns again. I just love them. I hope we see a huge resurgence of the genre. It's been abandoned too long.

RTW: A lot of us have been looking forward to the resurgence of westerns, and I'm so happy you have this new series. Best of luck with your books, and thank you for gifting all of us with such wonderful stories. And now, let's hear about your giveaway!


I'm giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate to one random commenter today so you can purchase your choice of new books along with Beauty and the Bounty Hunter, released October 2.

RTW small print: Drawing will be held Saturday, October 13, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time. Be sure to include your email address with your comment or we'll have to choose another winner.

Thanks for being with us this week, Lori!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

When a Lady Says “I Won’t!” by @margaretbrownly

Margaret Brownley,
NYT Bestselling Author
More Love and Laughter
From Margaret Brownley
N.Y. Times Bestselling Author

When a Lady Says “I Won’t!”

In 1861 fifty ladies of the first Church of Milford in New York formed a society of old maids. It cost five dollars to join the group and members had to vow never to marry. The interest earned from the money paid for the annual dinner, with the principal going to the woman who remained unmarried the longest.

According to an article in the New York Times thirty years later in 1891 all but fifteen of the original fifty had married. By then the prize money had risen to a thousand dollars. I’ve not been able to find the winner’s name—and being a romantic I sincerely hope there wasn’t one— but the best part of being a writer is where real life fails, inspiration takes over. That’s how the idea for my new series The Brides of Last Chance Ranch was born. The first book Dawn Comes Early was out in March and the second book Waiting for Morning will be published in December.

The premise for the series involves a sixty-five year old female rancher who advertises for a “heiress” just in case—heaven forbid—something should happen to her. Any woman wishing to inherit the ranch must first first sign a legal document forbidding her to marry—ever!

Before I could write the books I had to know why a Victorian woman would choose not to marry. The word spinster originally meant a girl who spins wool. During Medieval times spinning was a noble occupation and allowed women to earn their own way without a man’s wages. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that the word spinster became derogatory, though many accomplished women, including Louisa May Alcott and Florence Nightingale, remained single.

Today, a woman has the luxury of staying single if she so desires, but such a decision would have been considered unnatural and even shameful in the 1800s.

Some Reasons Why Some Nineteenth Century Women Said “I won’t” instead of “I do”:
  • When a woman married everything she owned became her husband’s. This included land, money and even patents. (Elias Howe credited his wife with inventing the sewing machine but of course the patent was in his name.) Some women simply wanted to keep what was rightfully theirs.
  • Some professions such as teaching prevented a woman from marrying. In Britain telephone operators were not allowed to marry during the early 1900s.
  • College educated women had a difficult time finding men with similar educations. In Dawn Comes Early Kate Tenney is a college educated woman and Luke a “simple blacksmith.” It makes for an interesting conflict as he doesn’t even know what she’s talking about half the time.
  • Many women lost fianc├ęs or beaus during the Civil War. 62,000 men died and the war created a generation of single southern women.
  • Women entering the paid workforce in the 1860s became more independent. No longer did a woman have to marry for financial security (or put up with an abusive husband).
  • Family responsibilities sometimes prevented marriage. Some women (usually the oldest daughter) were so burdened with caring for parents or siblings there was no time for a private life.
  • The Glorified Spinster: This movement was called a “new model for the Old Maid” and allowed women to pursue independence through voluntary singlehood.
Of course my heroines will have their own reasons for shying away from marriage and it will take some very determined men to get them to change their minds.

My single friends tell me the pressure to marry still exists today.
Agree or disagree?

Answer and you could win 
a copy of Margaret’s book, 

Read her article from Monday and comment on one or both (both gets you TWO chances to win!).  You'll find out all about her December release, Waiting for Morning.

Small print: Drawing will be held Oct. 6, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time. You must leave your email address to be eligible to win (because otherwise we don't know where to send the book!). USA mailing only.