Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snake Oil & Phrenology by @KeithSouter aka Clay More #Western #Medical

Keith Souter
roleplaying a
Snake Oil Salesman
Snake Oil 

Snake Oil
In the great days of the Medicine Shows, peddlers of patent medicines were derogatively called Snake Oil salesmen. It was thought that they were guys who would entertain you with music and a few conjuring tricks, then wheedle money out of you with their claims of wonder cures before disappearing into the night while you writhed in agony after a dose or two of their poisonous nostrums and potions.

In fact, snake oil is a Traditional Chinese Medicine of great antiquity, used as an embrocation to rub on painful parts of the body. It is prepared from the Chinese Water Snake (Enhydris chinensis) and used for all manner of rheumatic and arthritic pain by practitioners. It found its way to America during the time of railroad expansion and was brought by Chinese workers.

Along with many such rubefacients (A rubefacient is a preparation that is applied to the skin and rubbed on. It will produce some skin irritation, which may over-ride the pain from the underlying tissues.) it may have helped, which would account for many ‘medicine shows’ selling it widely. The thing is that it was then usually done with great gusto about its qualities. A good medicine show man would probably extend the list of conditions that any preparation could be used for, the result being that most of these things were ultimately sold as panaceas to cure everything from piles to baldness, and from minor illnesses to the most serious. And the dangers of such salesmanship are all too obvious.

I wrote a story based on this premise in the Western Fictioneers last anthology Six-guns and Slay Bells. It is about a phrenological Snake Oil salesman called Professor Thadeus Saxpuddle. 

For years I have been making a study of the Victorian practice of phrenology and I have built up a small collection of original nineteenth century phrenological texts.

Essentially it was a system devised by Dr Franz Joseph Gall at the end of the eighteenth century, who proposed that the shape of the skull mirrored the convolutions and functions of the brain. The term was derived from the Greek phren, meaning ‘mind’ and logos, meaning ‘study of, or knowledge.’

In this it is notable that phrenology pre-empted the later science of psychology, which is derived from psychos, meaning ‘soul.’ Hence psychology, to be correct, is the study of the soul.

From extensive anatomical studies and empirical observation Gall had concluded that the brain was made up of individual organs or faculties, each of which represented the various temperaments, emotions, mental abilities and controlling functions of the body. By assessing the shape of the skull, the size of its prominences, its lumps and bumps, he came to believe that it was possible to predict an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, their potentials and their failings.

Gradually, phrenologists built up a map of 46 of these faculties arranged over the skull. They grouped them into four main divisions, so that those faculties at the front of the head represented the intellectual functions and those at the back represented the domestic or social faculties. The top of the head included the moral and religious sentiments and the sides were occupied by the animal propensities.

In the Victorian era professional phrenologists set up in consulting rooms like any medical specialist or general practitioner and made good livings. People flocked to them to have their heads read, to see what they should be doing with their lives, and to gain answers in matters of love, business and life in general. Children were taken to see what path of life they should be groomed for.

And it garnered plenty of praise, all across the world. From Vienna to Chicago it gained huge popularity. Indeed, the town of Fowler in Colorado is named after the eminent New York phrenologist, Oscar Fowler.

Four times Prime Minister of Great Britain, William Gladstone said of it:
‘I declare that the phrenological system of mental philosophy is as much better than all other systems as the electric light is better than the tallow dip.’
Inventor Thomas
Alva Edison
The great inventor Thomas Alva Edison said that:
‘I never knew I had an inventive talent until phrenology told me so. I was a stranger to myself until then.’
And even Professor Alfred Russel Wallace, the explorer, geographer, naturalist, anthropologist and biologist, the contemporary of Charles Darwin, whose own work on natural selection made Darwin rush his Origin of Species into print, said:
‘The phrenologist has shown that he is able to read character like an open book, and to lay bare the hidden springs of conduct with an accuracy that the most intimate friends cannot approach.’

Heads for Murder
In establishing its credibility phrenologists looked for ways of demonstrating that the shape of the head, and the size of various prominences could equate with known characteristics. Accordingly, phrenologists took every opportunity to examine and take casts of the heads of famous and celebrated individuals.

Yet a rich source of heads from which phrenologists could make casts came from the gallows. And here all of the deficiencies of moral faculties, or the prominence of hedonistic and greedy ones was portrayed as giving legitimacy to phrenology.

William Calcaft was the most famous English hangman in the Victorian era, who executed over 450 people the length and breadth of the land. He favored the short-drop method, which often left the victim dangling so that they strangled rather than broke their neck. He supplemented his income by selling segments of the rope he used, apparently charging up to a pound an inch. It is probable that he also permitted phrenologists to take casts of the victims after their execution.

Ambrose Lewis Vargo, a London pharmacist and phrenologist wrote a popular book in 1871 entitled Orthodox Phrenology in which he described the head casts of various types of people including many executed murderers. Indeed, at the back of the book he gives a list of phrenological casts ‘suitable for Public or Private Museums, Literary and Scientific Institutions’, priced at 3s 6d, or 30s per dozen. Of the 74 casts available 26 were murderers, including those of the West Port Murderers William Burke and William Hare and their imitators, the body snatchers known as the London Burkers, John Bishop and Thomas Williams.

James Greenacre (1785-1837), the infamous Edgware Road Murderer was a grocer who lived on the Edgware Road. He murdered Hannah Brown, his fiancée and dismembered her body, throwing her head in Regent’s Canal. He was publically hanged at Newgate Prison by the incompetent hangman, William Calcraft. In his book, Vargo depicts Greenacre’s head with a low, prominent forehead, which confirmed Shakespeare saying ‘Foreheads villainous low.’

Marie Manning (1821-1849) was convicted with her husband of murdering her lover, Patrick O’Connor. The case was called The Bermondsey Horror and ended with the public joint hanging of her and her husband by William Calcraft outside Horsemonger Lane Goal. Charles Dickens attended the event and later wrote a letter to the Times, expressing his disgust at the glee that the crowd took at the execution. Vargo has an illustration of Ms Manning’s head in order to illustrate the well developed faculty of ‘Alimentiveness, which can lead to the taking of pleasure in excess. Her gluttony he felt was demonstrated by the hearty breakfast that she ate on the morning of her execution.

Dr William Palmer (1824-1856), known as The Rugeley Poisoner was publically hanged in Stafford in front of a crowd of 30,000. He was convicted of poisoning one person, but was thought to have been a serial killer, perhaps murdering a dozen more. Vargo has an illustration of his death mask and draws attention to the poorly developed moral faculties.

Another phrenologist, Frederick Bridges, studied the heads of several convicted murderers, including William Palmer and William Dove and concluded that the angle between the nose, the ear canal and the brow – ‘the basilar phreno-metrical angle, ’ gave an indication of an individual’s animal propensities. The greater the angle, the greater the animal desires and the less the moral quality. He found that an angle of greater that 35 degrees was a common characteristic in all murders.

Who knows what the equivalent angle was for a Snake Oil salesman?

Win a Signed Hardback Book!

We will be tossing the names of all commenters this week into Keith’s medical bag, from which one name will be pulled out. The winner will receive an original signed copy of the hardback book Raw Deal at Pasco Springs. The drawing will be held Saturday, March 1, at 9pm Pacific Time.

Be sure to check out Clay More/Keith Souter's interview and read an excerpt of Raw Deal at Pasco Springs right here at Romancing The West!

Raw Deal at Pasco Springs is available at

Monday, February 25, 2013

Clay More: Raw Deal at Pasco Springs @KeithSouter #Western

Raw Deal at 
Pasco Springs

Romancing The West welcomes Clay More, the alter-ego of Dr. Keith Souter, a multi-talented author who's also an expert on Arthurian legend, gambling games, and oh, by the way, he's a medical doctor. His fiction career started with the children's stories he sold while still in college, but gave way to non-fiction when he took up writing prescriptions and articles for medical journals. Now he writes fiction in four genres and The Western Fictioneers Library is reissuing some of his backlist, starting with the book he's telling us about today. You can find out lots more about Clay More (Keith) at his bio page.

RTW: I'm happy that some of us who missed your books the first time around will get another chance with your reissues through Western Fictioneers Library. WF just released Raw Deal At Pasco Springs a week or so ago. What's it about? I'd love to read the cover copy.

CM: Lady Luck smiled down on ex-lawman Tom Mallory when he won the Diamond T ranch in a poker game. Tom begins to wonder if it was actually bad fortune when he is ambushed and then rides into a gunfight where a hooded man in a long duster coat shoots a man pinned under his horse. Furious at this bushwhacking, Tom takes cards in this deadly game, and soon it starts to look like this gamble is going to be his last hand . . .

In a nutshell, it is a traditional western adventure complete with twists and a romance.

RTW: You’re a doctor, you live in England and have written everything from A Classic Guide to King Arthur to children’s stories, and along the way have some cozy mysteries and more, so I’m curious—why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into Raw Deal at Pasco Springs?

CM: First of all, thank you for inviting me along.

When I was a kid westerns were everywhere. On TV, at the movies and on every bookstall. The TV shows were good wholesome entertainment. The whole family sat down and watched The Lone Ranger, Have Gun Will Travel, The Cisco Kid, and all of those classics. I never lost that fascination for the Old West and when I first thought of writing a novel, after having written a stack of medical and non-fiction books, it just seemed inevitable that it should be a western.

My pen name, as you may have guessed, reflects that early enthusiasm. It is a homage to Clayton T Moore, the Lone Ranger.

It is the whole idea of the frontier that intrigues me. It was a place that all sorts of folk drifted to, bringing their skills. Journalists, photographers, doctors and gunmen, they could just drift into a remote town and set themselves up. There was something romantic about that. As a doctor I am interested in the history of medicine and surgery and in all of my fiction I use that and drip it into my stories.

RTW: How did you come to picture Tom Mallory? Did he step into your mind fully formed, or was he based on an historical character, or on one of those TV heroes from your youth?

CM: Tom Mallory is based on an historical character, a fifteenth century knight – Sir Thomas Malory, the author of Le Morte D’Arthur, the first English novel to come off William Caxton’s printing press in 1485. I have always been fascinated by Sir Thomas (my editor suggested that his name should become Mallory in the novel), because he was a complex character. He was a soldier, scholar, gambler and adventurer. He was also a ladies man, which landed him in trouble.

But I loved the fact that he was a swashbuckler in the grand tradition. He wrote Le Morte D’Arthur, the great epic about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, during various periods of incarceration. He was a man of martial prowess, for he broke out of prison on two occasions. Once, on 27th July 1451 he escaped and swam across the moat at Coleshill prison. On another occasion in October 1454 he broke out of Colchester by using great skill with a variety of weapons, including sword, daggers and langues-de-boeuf, a type of halberd with a spiked head the shape of an ox-tongue.

That is Tom Mallory, transported to the old West.

RTW: What a fascinating character he is, and I'm glad you brought him to life again in a western. Many in your neck of the woods might not have read a Western. If someone who's new to the 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?

CM: I would suggest watching the movie Little Big Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway. Its is about Jack Crab, a 121 year old man recounting his life in the Old West. He sees and interacts with just about everyone in the history of the time, from Wild Bill Hickok to General George Armstrong Custer. He meets snake oil salesmen, gunfighters, and gamblers. He sees life from all aspects. He is raised by Indians, becomes a mountain man, a scout and a gunfighter. We see fights, love affairs, peccadilloes and the whole panoply of life in the Old West.

I think that movie is fun and the numerous adventures, told in an almost Baron von Munchausen manner, show you the rich tapestry that was the frontier.

RTW: Back to Raw Deal in Pasco Springs, why must Tom Mallory take this particular story journey? What does he have to prove? How does Lucinda affect his journey?

CM: I partly explained that earlier, since Tom is a bit like Sir Thomas. He was a lawman, but after Annabelle, an outlaw intending to kill Tom killed his fiancée, he had eschewed the law and became a roving gambler. On his way to Pasco Springs he comes upon an ambush and a man is killed. He feels obliged to pin on a badge and see that justice is done. There is a mystery that he has to solve.

Lucinda and Tom connect straight away and they fall in love. But Tom is scared that something could happen to her, the way that it did with Annabelle. She wants them both to run away and start a new life together, but he has a duty to the town and a hand to play in the trouble that is building up.

RTW: You've brought us an excerpt (thank you!), so please set it up for us.

CM: Tom’s arrival in Pasco Springs with the wounded sheriff causes something of a ruckus, not the least being the fact that he can claim ownership of the Diamond T ranch. He had won it in a card game, much to the surprise of the beautiful widow, Nell Trent, the stepmother of the wastrel who had lost it to Tom.

A local cattle baron immediately offers to buy it from him, to the even greater horror of the beautiful Mrs. Trent. The gambler in Tom suggests a solution.

Excerpt from
Raw Deal in Pasco Springs
by Clay More

A crowd gathered round the table as the clientele of the Longbow sensed that the drama was not yet played out.

‘Aces High – three way cut,’ Tom announced. ‘If Mr Wheeler wins he gets to buy the ranch from me. Mrs Trent wins and she gets to keep the Diamond T, but gives me a steak a day until I decide to hoist leather.’

‘And if you win?’ Nell Trent demanded, her brow beetling in consternation. ‘Don’t you think for one minute that I’m part of the ranch furnishings.’

Tom laughed. ‘No ma’am. If I win I keep the ranch, but you and your stepson stay on to help me run it. No strings attached.’ He took the cards, executed a waterfall shuffle, and then pushed the deck towards Nell Trent.

She pursed her lips, hesitated for a few moments, then cut the deck. She smiled, ‘Queen of Hearts.’

Tom nodded to Sam Wheeler, who cut the Four of Clubs. The rancher scowled. ‘I don’t know what your game is, Mallory…’

‘Gambling!’ replied Tom with a grin. ‘I let Lady Luck decide what’s going to happen.’ And with apparent disinterest he leaned forward and cut the deck to reveal the King of Diamonds. ‘Well now, my favourite one-eyed King. Looks like I win and have myself a lady ranch manager.’

Raw Deal at Pasco Springs is available at

RTW: What’s next? Is Raw Deal at Pasco Springs a part of a series? We want to know about your upcoming reissues as well as new books out.

CM: Actually, The Western Fictioneers Library has another four of my westerns stacked up to come out in the future. Two of them are stand alones and the last two are the first two in a series about another character, Jake Scudder.

The next one to come out, I believe, will be Judge on The Run, followed by Double-Dealing at Dirtville. Like Raw Deal they are all mysteries, and things are not at all as they seem. Oh, and they all have love interest in them.

Dr. Logan Munro, my character in the Wolf Creek series is back in Book 4 The Taylor County War, and will also be back in Book 6.

Apart from that I have a couple of medical books coming out in the summer, and a crime novel, the fifth in my West Uist series about Inspector Torquil McKinnon.

And next year I have The Tea Cyclopedia coming out.

RTW: I adored Dr. Munro in Wolf Creek: Bloody Trail, and I'm looking forward to his next appearance.  Thanks for taking time with the RTW readers today.  Anything else you’d like to add?

CM: Yes, you asked about my interests in the Old West, well I am fascinated by Snake Oil salesmen and nineteenth century medicine in general. One of my particular favorite topics is phrenology, which I just happen to be talking about on Thursday.

Win a Signed Hardback Book!

We will be tossing the names of all commenters into Keith’s medical bag, from which one name will be pulled out. The winner will receive an original signed copy of the hardback book Raw Deal at Pasco Springs. The drawing will be held Saturday, March 1, at 9pm Pacific Time.  The winner will have to be patient because the book will be mailed from England.

Be sure to check out Clay More/Keith Souter's article on phrenology this Thursday. You'll learn a lot and Keith's style is always entertaining.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Romancing the West Blog Event|Giveaway

Gotta Love
a Cowboy!

Note: Romancing The West (my blog) is taking part in the Romancing the West Blog Hop (not my blog hop), and while many of the participants have guested on RTW, this is a separate event, so you will find even more terrific authors.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I might as well let the cover model of Much Ado About Marshals (Kyle Walker) do the talking.


Upper left: Um, his hat fell over his eyes.
Upper right: I was faster on the shutter than he was on the draw.
Lower left: Too pensive for a Romance cover.
Lower right: Chillin' while waiting for us to change the lights.

And here's the actual book cover.

*** NOR Top Pick ***
Buy a copy and see for yourself what everyone is talking about. Once you
read just one of Ms. Rogers' books, I can assure you that you'll be a
  Diana Coyle, NOR Reviewer

*** CTRR Award ***
Jacquie Rogers creates a witty, delightful, and downright amusing book with impressive charming players
. Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance and More Reviewer

Like romance? Love stories about the old west? Want a dreamy cowboy to cuddle up and read about? Then this is the book for you.
~~My Eclectic Bookshelf, 5 dragonflies

In the sleepy western town:
A wannabe woman sleuth is determined to marry the recently-hired town marshal
But the man sworn in is wanted for bank robbery!
Then there's a real bank robber and the actual new marshal who both claim the job...
Alas, affairs of the heart mess up everything!

Hearts of Owyhee  series
Book 1: Much Ado About Marshals
Book 2: Much Ado About Madams
Book 3: Much Ado About Mavericks
coming soon...
Book 4: Much Ado About Miners

To win a free copy of 
Comment below and tell me who your ideal romance hero is.  Be sure to leave your email address so I can get in touch with you!  Drawing will be held at the end of the blog hop, on the 26th.

Be sure to visit the other fabulous blogs on the Romancing the West Blog Hop!  


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Westward, Ho! by @CallieHutton

Callie Hutton, author

Westward, Ho!
by Callie Hutton
author of Emma's Journey

I remember that from a TV show many years ago. I always had a fascination for wagon trains, whether it was a TV show, a movie or a book. It only seemed natural that when I wrote my very first romance book it would be a wagon train story.

Like most first books, this one sat on my computer while I wrote, sold, and saw published several others. But I always wanted to go back and resurrect Emma’s Journey. Emma called to me, to tell the world her story, how she’d made the journey from Indiana to Oregon, from timid wife to strong woman.

During my research, I found some interesting facts.

For one thing, Fort Laramie, a very popular stop for wagon trains heading west, was actually an open fort. The building, of course, had walls, but the fort itself had none. An entire population of Indians lived outside the main building, their teepees scattered around. The men hunted meat they sold to the Army, and in return, their women and children were protected while they were gone.

Most travelers started off with a wagon load of supplies, furniture, and cherished items from home. Most of it was discarded along the way as oxen wore out, and plowing through mud and rivers, and up steep inclines, made the weight impossible.

Since the weight of the wagon and supplies was hard enough on the animals, most emigrants walked the trail. In fact, with the swaying and bumping, it was probably more comfortable to walk.

Despite some movies and TV shows, horses were not used to pull the wagons. Sturdy and strong, oxen and mules were the animals of choice.

Most likely no wagon train made it from Independence, Missouri—the starting point for most travelers—all the way out west without losing some emigrants along the way. Weather, illness, injuries, and drowning all took their toll. There were also Indian raids that in some cases, killed every person on a wagon train.

While writing Emma’s Journey, I kept thinking about the courage it took to uproot your family from a place you lived most, if not all, of your life and forge west in the hopes of making a better life. How many of us today would have the tenacity to do that? But these are the people who made our country grow.

As much as we like to romance the past—especially important in romance novels—life on the trail was dirty, hard, smelly, and frightening. But had there not been brave and willing people to set forth, we would all be crowded on the east and west coasts. A scary thought.

But then, our country is made up of descendants of pioneers. Except for our Native American population, we, or our ancestors, came from somewhere else, and made that tremendous sacrifice for a better life.

My great-grandparents made it from Ireland to New York. My grandparents made it from New York to New Jersey, where the bulk of the family remains today. I, on the other hand, made it west to Oklahoma. My trek took place in a crowded airplane, with my dog howling the entire time in the baggage hold. At least there was no Indian raid.

Win a $25 Gift Card!

One lucky commenter will win a 
$25 gift card 
to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble 
(winner’s choice) 
In addition, if the winner has not yet read 
An Angel in the Mail 
Callie will send an autographed copy as well.

Drawing will be held Saturday, February 23rd at 9pm Pacific Time. Please be sure to include your email address in your comment!

Be sure to read Callie's interview, which includes an excerpt of Emma's Journey.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Callie Hutton: Emma's Journey #western #historicalromance

Emma's Journey
by Callie Hutton

Romancing The West welcomes author Callie Hutton this week! Callie has been making up stories since elementary school, and putting pen to paper gave her a way to turn off the voices in her head. Writing has always been her passion, and she’s authored several romance novels, with an emphasis on the American West, both historical and contemporary.

Oklahoma is where she hangs her hat with her husband, two young adult children, and three dogs.  You can catch her hanging out at Facebook, Twitter- @CallieHutton, and her home base. Stop by sometime and say hello.

RTW: Tell us about your featured book, Emma's Journey.

CH: Emma Thorpe did not want to leave her life in Indiana to travel to Oregon on a wagon train, but her husband, Peter, had other ideas. Barely three weeks into the trip, Peter is killed, and Emma is shocked that the wagon master won’t let her return home.

Wagon Scout Davis Cooper has decided this would be his last scouting trip, he intends to obtain land in the new Oregon territory, find a wife, and start a family.

When the Wagon Master orders Emma and Davis to marry, she rebels, but eventually comes to realize she can’t go it alone, no matter how stubborn she is. But nothing will make her give up her dream to return home.

Can Davis change her mind, and have the life he’s always wanted with his unexpected wife?

$25 Gift Card
(details below)

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

CH: I think what intrigues me the most about the Old West was how strong and courageous the men and women were who ventured forth to start a new life. In Emma’s Journey, she starts out anything but strong and courageous, and that’s part of her journey.

Callie Hutton, author
RTW: If you lived in 1851, what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?

CH: If I were zapped back in time (I would love to be), the first thing I would be anxious to investigate is all the clothes and furniture that fills museums that look so old. I’d like to see what they looked like when they were brand new. I’d love to visit a mercantile and other stores of the period, as well as a ‘typical’ home.

RTW: Same here. An afternoon in a mercantile would sure be an education! 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?

CH: There are so many. I particularly loved Leigh Greenwood’s westerns. I think his characters were so well developed you felt like you knew them. I also loved Legend by Jude Deveraux. That fascinated me with how the ‘past’ looked one way, and then another way on a second visit. The story itself was unique in that one. Of course, Sandra Brown’s Sunset Embrace and Another Dawn, although she says on her website she has no intention of re-writing the ending of Another Dawn. I think she upset quite few fans with that one. But I loved them both.

RTW: Why must Emma take this particular story journey? What does she have to prove? How does Davis affect her journey?

CH: Although Emma is a married woman, she never really grew up. This trip brings her, kicking and screaming, from childhood to adulthood. And Davis is the one dragging her the entire way.

RTW: Give us a little taste, please!

CH: In this scene Davis and Emma are now married (against her wishes), and they must cross a river. She’s terrified.

Excerpt from
Emma's Journey
by Callie Hutton

Four wagons had already crossed when Emma and Davis’s turn arrived. One wagon had overturned, causing precious supplies to float down river. Even now she could see barrels and boxes floating away. The occupants and their somewhat bruised wagon had made it safety to the other side, however.

Emma climbed up onto the seat, her whole body shaking with fear. She swiped at the sweat gathered on her brow, then gripped her middle. Dear God, she couldn’t do this.

“You ready, darlin’?” Davis reached for her cold hand and squeezed “Trust me, Emma.”

He grabbed the reins, his full concentration on the animals that would lead them across. They started into the river and hit a bump, swaying the wagon. A jolt of fear sped through her. Her eyes grew wide as the animal’s front hoofs hit the swirling, rapid coursing water. Before she could even think about it, she jumped off the wagon seat, splashing in the water, and ran back to shore.
“Emma!” Shouting a spew of curses, Davis pulled up on the oxen, but once in the water, they refused to stop. Having no choice, he continued across the river, trying his best to concentrate on keeping the animals from panicking as they went deeper into the water. By the time he reached the other side, muscles he didn’t know he owned burned with the strain of holding the animals tight. Moving his wagon up off the bank, he stopped the oxen and hopped off the seat.

“Davis, you better get that wife of yours under control.” Ezra stomped behind him. “Now whaddya gonna do with her over there, and you over here?”

"I’m going back for her on a horse.” He stalked over to several riders on horses guiding the emigrants from the rider. Davis nodded to Nate. “I’d appreciate the use of your horse, Hale.”

“I can go back for her, Davis.”

“Don’t make me drag you off that animal.” He growled.

After mounting the horse Nate had reluctantly vacated, Davis splashed back into the river and returned to the other side.

Emma's Journey is available at Amazon

RTW: What’s next? Is Emma’s Journey a part of a series?

CH: Not really part of a series, but the Nate mentioned above is the protagonist from my already published book, An Angel in the Mail. I currently have two books under contract, a contemporary western, and a Regency. My current WIP is a time travel to 1872 Kansas.

RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?

CH: I want to thank you for having me here this week. It’s always fun visiting Romancing the West.

Win a $25 Gift Card!

One lucky commenter will win a 
$25 gift card 
to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble 
(winner’s choice) 
In addition, if the winner has not yet read 
An Angel in the Mail 
Callie will send an autographed copy as well.

Drawing will be held Saturday, February 23rd at 9pm Pacific Time. Please be sure to include your email address in your comment!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Character Interview and #drawingforfreebooks at Laurie's Thoughts & Reviews

Much Ado 
by Jacquie Rogers

Read an interview with Jake, the not-your-average heroine of Much Ado About Mavericks at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews.  While you're there, comment to win one of two Kindle copies or a print copy of Much Ado About Mavericks.  

Here's a blurb of the book.  I can't wait to see what Jake has to say about it, though!

  • A sexy ranch foreman who just happens to be a beautiful woman
  • A Boston lawyer who wants to settle his father's estate and go back East.
  • Rustlers who have another agenda in mind
  • Mayhem endangers them all—but can the foreman and the lawyer ever see eye to eye?

Benjamin Lawrence is a highly respected attorney in Boston, but in Idaho Territory, they still think of him as that gangly awkward boy named Skeeter. When he goes back home to settle his estate, he's confronted with a ridiculous will that would be easy to overturn—but can he win the regard of his family and neighbors—and the foreman?

The Bar EL's foreman, Janelle Kathryn aka J.K. aka Jake O'Keefe, is recognized as the best foreman in the territory. But being the best at her job still isn't enough—now she has to teach the new owner how to rope, brand, and work cattle before she receives clear title to her own ranch, the Circle J. The last thing she expects is rustlers. Can she save her ranch without losing her heart?

Drawing for the Kindle copies will be March 3rd at 9pm Pacific Time.

Drawing for the print copy will be March 17th at 9pm Pacific Time. USA shipping only.  The book will be sent as soon as it goes live (it's still being proofed).

In your comment, at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews, please indicate which (or both) drawing you want to enter.  Don't forget to include your email address or I'll have no way to contact you, and will have to pick another winner.

Good luck!

 Hearts of Owyhee ♥ 
A fun short story: Willow, Wish For Me (Merlin’s Destiny #1)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Outlaws--Australian Style, by Alissa Callen

Alissa Callen, author
Outlaws – Australian Style
author of
Outback Skies

Australia and America might occupy different hemispheres, but their history, at times, went hand in hand. Whether someone lived in the Old West or the outback, their experiences were often similar. It was just the frontier that differed.

Gold Rush

It was thanks to the Californian gold rush that a town called Orange, not far from me, came into existence. Edward Hargraves, drawing on his experience from the American goldfields, saw that the terrain and topography of Ophir were similar to the gold mining areas he’d left behind. In April 1851 gold was discovered and Australia had its first gold rush.

Where there was gold there was also lawlessness. Just like the Old West and its iconic outlaws, the Australian frontier also possessed its share of bushrangers. Names such as Ned Kelly, Captain Thunderbolt and The Lady Bushranger are all woven into the tapestry that is our colourful past.

Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly is Australia’s most notorious and famous bushranger. Resourceful and ingenious, he made a suit of armour out of mouldboards, the metal components of a farm plough. (View a video that explains exactly how the armour was made.)

Despite his criminal activities Ned Kelly had many sympathizers as he was seen to be an underdog taking on the authorities. Before his capture and death by hanging, he dictated an 8,000-word letter outlining why he’d turned to crime after believing himself and his family unfairly targeted by police.

Captain Thunderbolt

Captain Thunderbolt is another notable Australian bushranger. Renowned for his horse skills and avoidance of violence, he was termed the ‘gentlemanly bushranger.’ Outside of the town of Armidale, where I went to university, there is a huge rock called Thunderbolt’s rock where he used to hide and wait for the approaching mail-coach. Even to this day mystery surrounds his death. For pictures and more information please visit the Uralla website.

The Lady Bushranger

Just like in the Old West the Australian frontier also had female outlaws. In my local area, Elizabeth Jessie Hickman was known as ‘The Lady Bushranger.’ The horse riding skills that she perfected in a bush circus held her in good stead for cattle and horse stealing. An account of her exploits and life, written by her grand-daughter, can be found at Open Writing Web Magazine.

So, despite Australia and America being hemispheres apart, a common historical denominator joins them. Whether panning for gold in California or Ophir, or whether someone was an outlaw or a bushranger, one thing remains the same, the life lived was a frontier one.

photo 1: Ned Kelly’s armour photo credit: photo credit: Skyco via photopin cc
photo 2: Captain Thunderbolt statue photo credit: photo credit: yewenyi via photopin cc

Alissa Callen lives in Australia and writes Australian contemporary romance as well as American western historical romance.  

She penned Beneath Outback Skies, a rural romance (contemporary, set in the outback). To learn more about the author and her latest release, read her interview and the excerpt of her book.

Free Book!
Leave a comment or question about the Outback
and you could win a Kindle book
What Love Sounds Like
Sweet contemporary set in the outback
(Escape Publishing)

Small print: Please leave your email address or Alissa can't send the book to you if your name is drawn. Drawing will be held February 16 at 9pm Pacific Time. Winner will be notified by email.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Alissa Callen: Beneath Outback Skies #australia

Outback Skies

Romancing The West welcomes a fabulous author from Down Under, Alissa Callen, who writes rural novels set in the Outback similar to what we'd call contemporary western. I'm sure you'll find many commonalities in her interview and enjoy the excerpt from Beneath Outback Skies.

RTW: Thanks for joining us this week, Alissa! First of all, we'd love to read your book blurb.

AC: Paige Quinn will let nothing and no one distract her from caring for her wheelchair-bound father, Connor, and fighting for her drought-stricken property, Banora Downs. Least of all a surprise farm-stay guest named Tait Cavanaugh, whose smooth words are as lethal as his movie-star smile.

Except Paige can’t help noticing that, for a city-boy, Tait seems unexpectedly at home on the land. And he does ask a lot of questions…

It doesn’t matter how much he helps out or how much laughter he brings into her life, she soon suspects he is harbouring a big secret – the real reason he has come to Banora Downs…

RTW: Why do you write Westerns and Australian Rural fiction?

AC: Whether it be in the Australian outback or the American Old West, there was a time when men and women carved out a new life in an unfamiliar and often harsh land. I love writing about strong heroes with a fixed moral code and the sometimes unconventional heroines that fight for what they believe, whatever frontier they might live in. While my rural fiction stories might be contemporary they still echo the core values of my Western historical books—the value of community, loyalty and of being self-sufficient.

RTW: Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your Western historical research sources?

AC: I’ve been lucky enough to have lived in Colorado as well as the outback, and am rather addicted to Google, but still remain curious about all the little details of frontier life. Research and photos offer a framework but it is the scents, sounds, tastes and nuances of a world that no longer exists that I wish I could tap into, even just for a day.

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?

AC: Ever since I picked up my first Louis LÁmour book I’ve been inseparable from the western genre. I’ve many Louis LÁmour favorites that could recommend but The Tall Stranger and Killkenny are perhaps at the top of my list. Here in Australia there is an iconic poem written by Banjo Patterson called The Man From Snowy River. In the 1980s it was made into a movie and the result is a beautiful and poignant depiction of pioneer life, Aussie style. So in terms of a visual recommendation, this movie would be a must-see.

RTW: Why must Tait Cavanaugh take this particular story journey in Beneath Outback Skies? How does Paige Quinn affect his journey?

Alissa Callen, author
AC: In my rural novel Beneath Outback Skies, Tait is on a quest for redemption. He must reclaim his birthright and assuage his guilt at believing that he let his mother down. In order to succeed he needs to keep two secrets. But the more he helps stubborn country-girl, Paige Quinn, fight to save her drought-stricken ranch, the harder it is for Tait to conceal such secrets.

RTW: Lucky for us, you've contributed an excerpt. Would you set the scene?

AC: Paige Quinn returns from droving cattle to find an unexpected paying guest on her historic ranch. Tait Cavanaugh’s charm doesn’t fool her. He’ll be nothing but trouble.

Excerpt from
Beneath Outback Skies
by Alissa Callen

‘Mr Cavanaugh, your being allergic to seafood does help. We don’t have insurance. So it’ll be in both our best interests if you stayed elsewhere.’ Paige gave what she hoped qualified as a smile. ‘I personally will arrange accommodation in another farm stay closer to town.’

‘I wouldn’t want to cause trouble.’

‘Oh, it’s no trouble. Believe me.’ She inclined her head toward the phone on the office bench. Her fingers curled into a fist at the urge to reach for the hand-set. ‘It just so happens I have the farm stay’s number on speed-dial.’

‘I bet you do.’ His chuckle failed to disguise the determination clipping his words. ‘But you won’t need any insurance. I’m a good boy scout and brought my emergency adrenaline EpiPen.’ The corner of his mouth kicked into a half-grin. ‘I’m sure you’ll have no trouble sticking a needle in me.’

She compressed her lips to stifle a smile.

Gorgeous. Witty. Used to getting his own way.

This city pretty-boy wasn’t even staying a day.

Beneath Outback Skies
is available at:

RTW: Ha! That's what Paige thinks, but we have an idea that's not so. What are you working on now?

AC: For the next little while I will be taking off my rural hat and putting on my western historical hat and finishing a story called Colorado Christmas Bride.

RTW: Please come back when it's released and tell us about it!  Anything else you’d like to add?

AC: Thank you so much for having me. And if anyone has any questions about Australia or the outback would be happy to answer them.

RTW: What a generous offer! And thank you, Alissa, for taking the time to visit with us today.

Free Book!
Leave a comment or a question about the outback
and you could win a Kindle book
What Love Sounds Like
Sweet contemporary set in the outback
(Escape Publishing)

Small print: Please include your email address with your comment or Alissa can't send the book to you if your name is drawn. Drawing will be held February 16 at 9pm Pacific Time. Winner will be notified by email.  For another chance to win, stop by Thursday when Alissa will tell us all about the outback bushrangers.