Thursday, February 22, 2018

How's the Weather?


It affects us all. Gives us something to talk about. And it's important to have an idea about what tomorrow will be like if you're going fishing, hunting, or planning an expedition across the country.

Daniel Fahrenheit invented the mercury thermometer in 1714.  It wasn't enough to just say it was cold. We want to know ~ How cold is it?

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson regularly recorded the temperature.

With the advent of the telegraph, temperature taking became a recorded event along the stations. In 1870,  Congress established a system of military stations to record the weather and to give notice if bad weather were advancing from the Great Lakes and seacoast.

In 1890, the weather service was transferred to civilian control and the US Weather Bureau was born thanks to President Benjamin Harrison.

Weather has always had bouts of the wild.
In February, 1895: one of the greatest snow falls in an unusual place occurred. the coast of Texas reported snowfall of 20 inches. Galsveton had over 15. And Brownsville - way down in the tip of Texas received 5 inches.

1816 was known as the year without a summer likely due to a volcano.

The drought in the 1850's was so severe it added to the problems of the Bison and their near extinction. This and a later drought aided the locust invasion of the west.

Today, we have forecasts that reach into the future. Are they right? Weeeelll, sometimes, it might be better if they just looked out the window.

Here in Texas, where rain can be scarce, we often have a forecast of rain tomorrow. But it fails to rain and the forecast remains ~ rain tomorrow.  LOL   And I right this as it is pouring rain today.

I love to put weather events in my stories. I've had blizzards, tornadoes, heat and cold. I admit, when enduring a Texas summer, it gives me pleasure to write about snow.

Whatever your weather is, I hope you all are having a good day.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


In 1901 residents of Colorado Springs, Colorado wrote letters to be sealed away in a century chest to be opened in 2001. At the time the letters were written, Colorado Springs had been in existence for approximately thirty years. Not long by many standards, but the residents believed in their town and what it had and would stand for.  Below are some excerpts from some of those letters taken from the book "The Century Chest Letters of 1901: A Colorado Springs Legacy, edited by Judith Reid Finley. 

When I read the beginning of Dr. Caldwell's letter, I had to smile. Yet he seems to capture the essence of the town at that time.

Samuel Le Nord Caldwell M.D.

My dear friends of the 21st century,

I wish that I might be present one hundred years hence, when you open the iron box and read this letter and the others enclosed with it. Be careful how you criticize it for my spirit may be hovering around, or I may be present in my "astral body" listening to what you are saying. 

Dr. Caldwell goes on to say:

The presence of this large element of people of wealth and cultivation, who had traveled and seen much of the world, makes Colorado Springs a very delightful place of residence and different from any other towns in the West. 
Samuel Le Nord Caldwell M.D. 

Mrs. Goddard explains  what life was like for she and her friends. This excerpt is from the beginning of her letter explaining how busy their lives are.

Elizabeth Cass Ledyard Goddard

My Dear Twenty-first  Century Women

As I try to give you a pen and ink picture of today I wonder if you will have made the days any longer whether life will have become less complex. For we think we are very busy women and interested in a great variety of pursuits. Perhaps a sketchy record of one day would give you some idea of what I mean. I am sure someone else will have told you of our houses, our resources, and many of the conditions that go to make our homes comfortable and convenient. We usually breakfast from 8 to 930 — fruit and some sort of serial, such as cracked wheat, oatmeal or one of the many preparations of that nature, eggs in some form, tea or coffee, and griddle cakes, either with or without syrup. Sometimes this is served on trays and sent to the bedroom, but generally the table is set in the dining room area and the family gathers there. A visit to the kitchen where the needs of the larder are disclosed, and the closets and refrigerators (large boxes with ice to hold the food) are inspected. By means of the telephone which is found in almost every home and shop much of the ordering is done. A trip downtown to complete what was not finished through the telephone and to attend to some business follows, and during this little expedition cheery greetings are exchanged and quite a bit of social life is [brought] with the morning walk. In winter we are warmly clothed and wear skirt of some woolen material which escapes the ground by some three inches. A fur or heavy cloth coat, a close-fitting little bonnet, or a hat with plumes or some soft trimming, and comfortable boots, with thick soles and low heels. White is a favorite color for summer — or a "shirtwaist" of some wash material and a different kind of skirt. A little sailor hat is the style of the young girls in the same shape hat found spoken of before for older people, close-fitting and one without strings. On our return from this morning walk in the mail for the day awaits us, when the letters are opened and answered.
Elizabeth Cass Ledyard Goddard

I absolutely love Harriet's letter. This 'salt of the earth' woman is someone I can relate to.

Harriet Peck Farnsworth

Dear Great grandchildren,

This grandma has been asked to write you a letter giving you a little idea of her life in its Western surroundings. It seems rather a ghostly thing to do — this writing to a generation yet unborn! Maybe not my own descendents! Even my dear grandchildren, Alice five years old, Edith three, will not be living when this letter is opened and read; but I hope there will be some of their children who will be interested in the few details I shall put on this paper. It seems weird, that the paper will outlive us all and bear witness that we have lived.

Perhaps you are wondering what my surroundings are, so I will try to give you a picture of this Sunday afternoon — July 28, 1901. My little home has a wonderful view of Cheyenne Mountain and Pike's Peak, and as I look out of the door of my little den, the wondrous beauty of the mountains appeal to me so much that I should like you to see it, just as I see it. Now and then a bird's note is heard, but a Sunday quiet, a New England Sunday quiet, is over it all, and the power of nature's grand silence is felt. The "everlasting hills" will be the same to you, which is a pleasant thought.   Harriet Peck Farnsworth

My final choice is the beginning of Leah Ehrich's letter. She seems to voice the thoughts we ourselves my be asking ourselves about the coming generations.

Leah Lucile Ehrich

To the people of Colorado Springs in the year 2001,

It is with mingled feelings that I begin my letter to you who are as yet unborn and un-conceived, undreamt, and thought of! There is something inexpressibly sad to me in the thought that we can never reach you, never know how you receive our words sent in this manner, never know how much or how little you sympathize with us and feel gratitude for our small achievements.  Leah Lucilce Ehrich

What a gift it is to be able to read what was important to those who lived in the time we write about. Yes, Colorado Springs was not your typical Western town, but its residents lived, loved, laughed and cared about the future. We do the same thing.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Member of National League of American Pen Women,
Women Writing the West,
Pikes Peak Posse of the Westerners

Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Monday, February 19, 2018

What Time Is It?

By Sophie Dawson

It's a question we ask or think about often, sometimes several times a day. Today we have access to consistent time wherever we are. My phone automatically changes to the local time when I take it off airplane mode. It also updates when Daylight Savings Time begins or ends. I still have to change all the clocks in my house but I can match those to my phone easily enough.

It's only been relatively recently in history that consistent time around the world was created. Until the railroad was invented time for each town or city was figured on when the sun was at it's highest point in the sky. This was declared noon. It was based on immediate locality. So, when it was noon in Washington, D.C., the local time in New York City was already minutes ahead. Not a huge issue since travel by horse took so much longer that the exact time didn't really matter.
The advent of the railroad changed that. In the 1800s it was now possible to travel significant distances faster than ever before, a multitude of local times, particularly in large countries such as the US made things confusing when it came to train schedules. Knowing when the train was supposed to arrive and leave town to the minute was important. No one wants to be late or have to sit around at the depot like we do at airports today.

In Britain the standardization of time began in 1847 when Greenwich Mean Time was first created for use by the British railways, the British navy, and the British shipping industry based on the solar mean at the city's observatory. It took about 40 more years for it to come to the US. On November 18, 1883, America’s railroads began using a standard time system involving four time zones, Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. The stations clocks were all synchronized enabling schedules to be set in a consistent manner.

With the railways leading the way, a year later 41 countries came together in Washington DC an agreed to set the time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England to define the "universal day", counted from 0 hours at Greenwich mean midnight.  The railroad industry’s plan was adopted by much of the country, although the time-zone system didn’t become official across the United States until the passage of the 1918 Standard Time Act, which also established daylight saving time.

So, the next time you wonder what time it is you’ll know the invention of the railroad train brought about standardized time around the world. Technology leads the way again.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Where Story Ideas Come From

The other day, someone asked me where my story ideas come from. Actually, I never considered the exact source. My writing process consists of kicking back, closing my eyes, and daydreaming. 
Abagail Eldan, hard at work.
But, if you really consider the question, our story ideas can never come fully formed. They have to get into our brains, somehow. Just as a calm, clear sky does not produce a storm, neither does an empty brain. Clouds must form, grow heavy with moisture, for the thunder to strike.

The brain must have fuel to "storm."
In the same way, we pluck ideas from the very air around us, forming the makings of a cloud, a vague idea that hopefully becomes a story.

An example of this happened to me recently. For Christmas, I received a DNA kit from Someone in my family had already done a great deal of research on my father's ancestors. I knew my family came into south Alabama at an early time, in the early 1800s, and that my great, great grandfather had been married twice.

The story, how much is true I do not know, had been told to me of a young widow who walked along the dirt road in front of my ancestor's house. This was shortly after the beginning of the Civil War, and this young girl's husband had been killed in one of the first battles.

My great, great grandfather, it was said, had recently been widowed and had a houseful of children. He invited this young woman to be his wife, and she accepted.

This has always struck me as a sad situation. This poor girl had nowhere to turn and ended up on a stranger's doorstep. She made a marriage in exchange for a roof over her head. Knowing the offspring of this great, great grandfather, I believe he was a fine man and did the right thing. The marriage, I believe, was a happy one.

However, this is not even the most interesting part of the story. On my family tree I notice something unusual. My great, great grandfather is listed as the father of this young widow's daughter, born before my ancestor's first wife died!

Several explanations can be formulated for this. This young widow may have had the daughter before traveling down that dirt road. My grandfather, compassionate man that he was, may have claimed his wife's daughter as his own. And, yes, that's the explanation I've most comfortable with. 

But other scenarios present themselves, story ideas waiting to be explored.

Time to find the hammock, to close my eyes, and daydream of the endless possibilities!

Abagail's latest book, Melly, Unyielding, will be free tomorrow, for one day only. Grab your copy tomorrow! Melly, Unyielding is book 4 in the Lockets & Lace series from the authors of the Sweet Americana blog!

Connect with Abagail:
Amazon Author Page

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Writing a Historical Mystery-Romance

Well, so far I am really happy with the reviews that Locket Full of Love is getting. This was my first all-out attempt to write a mystery-romance and readers seem to like it. This story was hard to write because of the intricacy of the plot! Plus, I had to do a lot of research into military intelligence during the Civil War.

Two things I learned in this process--One, a mystery has to be carefully, carefully plotted out. You have to think backward and forward to make sure the clues all fit together and the hero/heroine find them in legitimate ways. That was challenging. I mean I really spent a fair amount of time noodling over if this this/then this! Couldn't just have tips and clues falling out of the sky. There had to be a rational, logical progression.

The second thing I learned was how almost slipshod intelligence was during the Civil War. Generals tended to handle it on their own, employing their own men to gather information and make up strategies as they went along. General Grant was fond of using Allen Pinkerton--who at that time was also deeply involved in guarding Abraham Lincoln. I suppose you could argue he did a less-than-stellar job on that case.

Anyway, if you get a few moments and want to curl up a with a good mystery that is built around not only a fine romance but the actual historical character Juliet Watts, I hope you'll give Locket Full of Love a gander!

Was her husband a sinner or a saint? A spy or a traitor? For years Juliet Watts has believed her husband died saving nothing more than a cheap trinket--but the locket he foolishly risked his life for turns out to hold a mysterious key. Together, Juliet and military intelligence officer Robert Hall go on a journey of riddles and revelations. But Juliet is convinced Robert is hiding something, too. Maybe it's just his heart...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wedding Anniversaries are Special

Happy Valentine's Day! A romance writer's favorite day!

Today is the perfect day to talk about weddings and anniversaries.

The practice of celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries, such as the twenty-fifth and fiftieth, started long ago. Research shows that these special anniversaries were marked as early as the middle ages.

Many of the wedding and anniversary traditions we see today started in the Victorian era. Queen Victoria started the tradition of brides wearing white. Most brides wore their best dress for their wedding day no matter what color it was. After Queen Victoria’s wedding, white wedding dresses became more popular and brides would try to wear white if they could.

Queen Victoria’s daughter had the Bridal March played for her to walk down the aisle at her wedding. When there was music at weddings after that, this song was played when possible. This song is the one most associated with a wedding song today.

Giving gifts to mark a wedding anniversary became more common in the eighteenth century, mostly in Europe. The bride was normally given a silver colored wreath for a twenty-fifth anniversary. If the couple made it fifty years, a gold colored wreath would be the gift to the bride.

The gifts were meant to celebrate the commitment it takes to make a marriage last. A marriage built on love went against some of the traditions of arranged marriages or marriages based on purpose or need. Marking milestone years became important as people started to marry for love.

And finally, by the 1860’s the symbols for each anniversary started to evolve. The Farmer’s Almanac designated the first anniversary as the paper anniversary in 1859.

In my latest Cutter’s Creek story released just two weeks ago, Janine and Thad Hewitt have an anniversary coming up. It’s not a milestone year, but Thad feels the need to surprise his wife with something special. He’s sure his plans will please her and bring her out of the doldrums she’s experienced over the past few months.

The romance these two share was sweet to me because it reminded me of how our lives are today. We’re busy. We’re distracted. We’re not always focused on the romance in our own marriages. But the romance can be rekindled. It just takes a little effort and an open mind. And maybe a touch of creativity.

If you’d like to find out how Thad brought the romance back into his marriage, find Committed on Amazon.


Annie Boone writes sweet western historical romance with a happy ending guaranteed in every single story. Inspiration comes in many forms and Annie finds more than one way to make her stories entertain and inspire.

To connect with Annie, find her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

Follow Annie on Amazon, Bookbub and get email updates.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Civil War Lived On

In my most recent book, Otto’s Offer, part of the Lockets & Lace series, several chapters include reference to Otto's service in the American Civil War while serving in the 16th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. The chapter that actually tells of his wartime service and his experience on the Powder River Expedition of 1865 is based on regimental history of the actual 16th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry that was created on November 1, 1863. Although the initial enlistment period was three years, the entire regiment was mustered out December 6, 1865. What they were involved in during those slightly over two years I found interesting enough that I decided to include it in my book.
Capt Adoniram J. Miller 16th Kansas Cav
I was not the only author who wrote for the Lockets & Lace series whose story involved the Civil War in some manner. Starting with book 2 set in 1867 involving three sisters who are left to manage a farm by themselves due to their father and brother having been killed in the Civil War, all the way up to book 7 set in the late 1880’s, five of our books included the Civil War as a key element. It affected lives at the time the war took place, and continued to affect lives decades later.

Here’s a little background on my main character, Otto Atwell, and how his service did and did not accomplish what he desired as far as being a soldier. First, a snippet from my earlier book, Kizzie’s Kisses, where Otto is eighteen and still at home helping his father work their family farm.

The family had moved from Boonville, Missouri to Salina, Kansas, which in the 1850’s was on the edge of the wilderness. One motivation was to obtain prime farmland. Another was to escape the contention with some of their neighbors who were strong advocates of slavery. So, although Otto is of prime age for the Army in this 1862 scene, his parents have discouraged him from being involved with something that might pit him against some of their former neighbors.

In April of 1862, a band of about 40 hostile plains Indians attacked and killed several people on the western outskirts of Salina (a true historical event). The following scene takes place as Otto, with two of his two cousins, hides their best horses along the river to avoid them being stolen by the bushwhackers who invaded Salina in September of 1862 (another true historical event):

          Jesse guessed at what Otto intended to tell them. “You going to join up to go fight in the war, Otto?”
          “Sort of. I intend to join the militia. However, I don’t particularly want to go into battle back east. I certainly don’t want to join one of the regiments that are involved in the border wars between Kansas and Missouri. I’d hate to end up fighting against some of our old neighbors from Boonville. On the other hand, I can’t stop thinking about what the Indians did to all those people last spring. Now we have bushwhackers coming here to threaten us. Somebody has to do something to keep Kansas safe. I figure it’s up to me. I’m the right age. I know people look at me funny sometimes, wondering why I’m still at home helping Pa on the farm. I just have to find the right regiment, then I’m joining up.”

Otto’s father stalls him a year, but finally, at the end of 1863, Otto finds the right regiment—the 16th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He enlisted right away, but found himself in “hurry up and wait” mode as those forming the unit struggled to find enough volunteers to fill a regiment. The regiment trained and served post and escort duty at Fort Leavenworth until General Sterling Price of the Confederacy made a bid to conquer the state of Missouri for the South. At that point, the 16th Kansas Cavalry found themselves on the battlefields of the Second Battle of Lexington, Battle of Little Blue River and the Second Battle of Newtonia—marching within a few miles of Otto’s childhood home.

The involved regiments and companies pushed General Price and his troops south, passing through the southeast corner of Kansas and into Arkansas where the 16th Kansas Cavalry stayed until almost the end of the Civil War.

Those in the regiment who anticipated being mustered out within a couple of months after the end of the war were soon disappointed. All while the Civil War had been going on, the hostilities between whites and the native tribes had not ceased. Some headway had been made by some Army leaders to persuade several tribes like the Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapaho to accept reservation land north and south of of the Kansas-Colorado corridor leading to the gold fields of Colorado (between the Arkansas and Platte Rivers). However, that was disrupted due to the Sand Creek Massacre which took place late November, 1864. 

Powder River
What little progress had been made to peacefully move the tribes away to reservation land was practically destroyed, and surviving warriors, especially the Cheyenne and Lakota dog soldiers who never agreed to peace terms in the first place, made several attacks against white settlements and settlers. 

Brig. Gen. Patrick E. Connor
In response, as soon as the Civil War appeared to about be over, orders were given to Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor to conduct a punitive campaign into the Powder River region against the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux. It was all right if some Indian-hating general like General Chivington from Colorado to slaughter a group of Indians who had already agreed to peace terms and were supposedly under the protection of Fort Lyon. However, it was not all right for the aggrieved, whose demands for justice were ignored, to retaliate.

Thus, in my book, we find my character, Otto Atwell, who desired to join a Kansas military unit in order to help protect Kansas homesteaders living on land granted them by the U.S. Government from attacks by hostile Indians, being ordered to the land set aside for the tribal people in order to attack them there. He was less than happy about that, especially after having become acquainted with his cousin’s half-Kaw brother-in-law who had a different perspective of the government’s dealings with the tribes in order to acquire land for the whites moving west.

The Army reports cite the Powder River Expedition as a success, although history had shown it was far less than such. From comments made by George Bent, the son of a white trader and his Cheyenne wife, the only reason the tribes did not attack more or manage to drive the white soldiers away was because their few weapons were antiquated and no match for the Spencer repeating rifles used by the whites.

Fort Conner, later Fort Reno
Beyond that, nothing substantial was achieved by the men who suffered hardship and starvation. Many of their horses and mules died in the harsh terrain. Fort Collins, named after the leader of the expedition was established. Gen. Collins determined most of the soldiers who arrived at the fort were unfit for further service and sent them to Fort Laramie to be mustered out. Although their fitness was no better than the men of the other units, the soldiers in the 16th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry were kept on duty to man the fort. However, by December 6, 1865, they also were sent to Fort Laramie where they were mustered out of service.

For Laramie in the earlier years
The name for Fort Collins was later changed to Fort Reno. Fort Reno was finally abandoned in 1868 after the Treaty of Fort Laramie ended Red Cloud’s War. Shortly afterwards, the tribes burned the fort to the ground.

This is a brief summary of events used in some of the back story in Otto’s Offer.

As for my character, Otto Atwell, his service in the Civil War will continue to affect him for the rest of his life—not so much due to the Civil War battles themselves, although they play their role in his bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder, but because he was among the unfortunate few who was wounded during the Powder River Expedition by one of those antiquated muskets the Cheyenne used. He is frequently in pain and has a limp as a result. Here is a snippet of part of Otto’s response to his younger brother seeking an affirmation about the glory of battle:

          After the two settled around the still-warm stove in the kitchen after supper, Henry turned to Otto, his face full of anticipation. “I can hardly wait to hear this, Otto. I bet it was right exciting, being able to go after a bunch of Indians to put them in their place after what they did to us white people, wasn’t it?”
          Otto shook his head, his eyes staring at the stovepipe without seeing it. “No, it wasn’t. I’ve never been through anything so miserable in my life. I suppose I learned a lot, but I’d never want to do it again.”
          Henry’s expression fell. He hadn’t expected that answer. “But…the only reason it was miserable was because you got shot, wasn’t it? I can see where that could have turned you sour.”
          “No. Even before that, it was a bad situation.”

For many who lived and fought during the American Civil War and dealt with the aftermath, “It was a bad situation” pretty much sums up how it affected lives for years to come.

Zina Abbott is the author of Kizzie’s Kisses from the Grandma’s Wedding Quilts series (on sale this week only for $.99), as well as The Bavarian Jeweler and Otto’s Offer from the Lockets & Lace series, both offered by authors who blog now or in the past on the Sweet Americana Sweethearts blog. Please click on the hyperlink for each book title to learn more about each book, or visit Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page.