Friday, August 23, 2019

Writing from Firsthand Sources

My latest completed novella, A Faraway Life--one of three stories in an anthology titled Mercer’s Belles--involved a first for me, which was creating a story that had its base in real-life events. Anyone who grew up in Seattle has heard about these women who traveled from the East to Seattle in 1864 and again in 1866 and took on important roles in developing the frontier society. The single or widowed women relocated for the sake of becoming teachers in a territory with very few women. They either listened to an appeal made by Asa S. Mercer, former president of the Territorial University of Washington, in a Massachusetts church or read newspaper ads in eastern newspapers offering jobs. Every woman who chose to be brave and venture west saw the opportunity as one that would better her life circumstances.

On the planned four-month journey leaving New York City in mid January, 1866, was Roger Conant, a journalist for The New York Times. He journaled his impressions of the travelers, noted the weather conditions (including a lunar eclipse), and recorded the experiences of socializing at American consulates and foreign embassies in several ports of call. His job was to write accounts of the voyage for the newspaper and post them along the voyage. The venture was the subject of much debate with most people denigrating the women who made the trip as being desperate to obtain a husband. But the bulk of the women truly wanted to become teachers. Conant’s journal was not published in his lifetime. A chance meeting connected a researcher studying the Pacific Northwest and Conant’s niece who had Conant’s journal in her possession.

Ninety-four years after the trip, the journal was published. I took advantage of his journal entries (he wrote almost daily) and had my characters enjoy several noted events. Because of what I’m assuming is a journalist’s attention to detail, I gathered specifics about the ship’s layout, menu, social activities, and personalities, which proved a great help in shaping the plot during the voyage. I will look for similar firsthand sources for future books.

Mercer’s Belles, Timeless Western Collection book 3, will release on September 17, 2019.
preorder link

BLURB for A Faraway Life

Teacher Sorcha Geraghty needs a fresh start after the death of her beau and a factory accident maimed her hand. Asa Mercer’s call for teachers for Washington Territory provides a new opportunity, and she joins his ocean-going expedition. Upon arrival, she learns of the expectation for the women to become wives to the many bachelors, and she has to figure out a new plan.

Logging manager Lang Ingemar needs a teacher to provide basic English instruction to his Swedish-speaking crew and keep them out of trouble when they go to Seattle. When he convinces Miss Geraghty to relocate to the logging camp, he has no idea the ways his life will be changed.

I will give away two copies to individuals willing to read and post a review within three days of the anthology’s release.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Sky Pilots - and Other Words

Words! As writers, they are our tools to communicate with our favorite people, readers. Most of the time we get them right, sometimes we don't. But we are always striving to get the correct word.

As writers of books about days gone by, we are presented with another wrinkle. Dated words. We can all see how words have changed just in our lifetimes. 

Meanings change. New words are invented for today but not to be used accurately for the past. Yet, our readers live in the 21st century - so sometimes a compromise is needed.

For instance, receipts vs. recipes. I'm sure those well versed in history know that recipes used to be called receipts. I choose to use recipe because I think it conveys the correct meaning better than the old word. Right or wrong, I'd rather err on the side of communication.

Today, I was watching an old western on Turner Classic Movies, and one of the characters said that he was a sky pilot. Well, that got my attention. Did they make an error? This was clearly cowboy and horse days well before the airplane.

So I got my trusty IPhone, and looked it up. They were correct. The big meaning is a preacher, but why sky pilot? Back in the day, pilot was attributed to a ship's pilot. I'm not sure I would use that term, but maybe I will just have to sneak it in a story.

Once, I almost wrote that my character was taking a nosedive off their horse. I stopped and looked it up. Sure enough, nosedives didn't happen until the airplane.

For fun, think of things that have changed in our lifetimes. Do you really hang up a phone? Roll up your car window? Buy a record to listen to?

Words are fun and changing. 

Nice used to mean silly and foolish
Silly used to mean worthy or blessed
Clue used to be a ball of yarn
Here's a good one - spinster - used to mean a woman who spun
Hussy used to refer to the woman of the household

Our changing meanings can lead to much laughter. For instance, One of my good friends wrote a line about her cowboy tying something with his leather thong.  Yes, we laughed, and laughed some more, and we still laugh about that not so western cowboy mind picture.

So have fun. Enjoy reading the wonderful books all the authors in our group are busy writing for your enjoyment. 

My latest is Cassidy.

Patricia PacJac Carroll

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Co goosttown st elmo1.jpg
Image from Wikipedia
For many in Colorado, when you think ghost town it's St. Elmo that comes to mind. It's easy to reach, is nestled in the mountains and most of the buildings are still in pretty good shape. But what of the history of this town in Chaffee County that sits in the Sawatch Range at an elevation of almost 10,000 feet?

Although there were people in the area in 1878, the town officially started in 1880. By the end, they say, according to "... the population rode the last train out of town and never came back." For a brief story, the following link will give you more detail. St. Elmo

In her book 'Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps", Sandra Dallas has this to say about St. Elmo, "when the Alpine tunnel was under construction, St. Elmo, as the largest town in the area was the scene of raunchy Saturday night sprees. The town was always crowded, and accommodations were scarce. An 1880 traveler recalled he and his companions "put up with the best hotel the place could afford, which was, in fact, the only one, at three dollars per day ... When we ask about a bed and a room by ourselves, the landlord told us the best he could do was to give us a bed and draw a chalk mark around us for a room."
Accommodations were more abundant later in the year when the Denver Tribune reported three hotels, five restaurants, two sawmills, and several stores."

Image result for royalty free historic images of st elmo's colorado
Image from Western Mining
It became big news when a hack line was started between Virginia City (Tin Cup) and St. Elmo.

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Of course, you can't have a town without some controversy and in 1887 they had it when St. Elmo arranged to have the Republican Convention (county) held there.

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Lest you forget, at almost 10,000 the winters could be a challenge as the following article shows.

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I encourage you to learn more about this 'well-preserved' ghost town and its history. In my novel, "The Outlaw's Letter", my hero Grant travels through the area on his way to Virginia City in search of the man who can clear his name. Below is a brief excerpt:

 Even for the noon hour, the town appeared rather boisterous. Grant could hear the roar from where he stood about a half a mile away on the mountainside. "You'd think such a new town would be a bit quieter," he said as he prepared to mount up.
"You might at that mister," came a voice off to Grant's right. "Most folks come in from one of the trails."
Grant stiffened. He cursed himself for not being more vigilant instead of thinking about his wife. But then his wife wasn't like any other woman he'd ever met. "There's a trail from the East?" Grant asked to cover himself. That he was aware of such a trail was true, but he'd hope to get into Virginia City, then out with little notice.
"Mister, there's trails from the east, west, and south. Gettin' so a person can't move through these here mountains without running into some fools looking to get rich quick. You one o' them?"

"No," Grant assured the voice. "Heard of Virginia City and wondered if it was anything like the ones in Nevada and Montana? Plus, it would be the kind of town a man I grew up around would gravitate to."
Purchase from Amazon
Until next time, enjoy the rest of the summer.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride ~ Origin and Meaning

Though there's some argument about who coined the phrase "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride," the first publication of the saying was in a Scottish proverb and nursery rhyme collection printed in the 1600s. Have you ever wondered exactly what it meant?

Throughout history, horses for riding have been a luxury of wealthy. That would be because most common folk couldn't afford to feed them unless they were part of their livelihood. Stagecoach drivers, liverymen, farmers each had their own horses for work, but for personal use, they rarely had them. 

Horses eat about 1.5-3 percent of their body weight every day. That means that the average riding horse weighing 1000 pounds would eat 20 pounds of food per day if they consumed 2 percent of their body weight. (Which is the average for a horse who works a light to moderate amount.)

If the horse consumes it in grass, it would take owning about 2 acres of property per horse to allow for grazing and growth. And during lean winter months, the owner would still need to supply hay or grain rations to help sustain the horse. If the horse doesn't have the luxury of eating all day at their leisure in a grass field, the horse will need enough grain and hay to satisfy their physical needs, and these supplies were not inexpensive during any time in history.

Additionally, a horse generally drinks between 6-12 gallons of water per day. In a time when people had to hand pump water from the ground or draw from a well, just getting their horse the water necessary to survive would be a tremendous chore unless they had a stream running through their property. Horses cannot live without adequate water, and drink more than other animals due to their size, digestive habits, and the fact that they sweat in order to cool themselves.

The purpose of the saying is to put a cold dose of reality on the person who spends much of their time making wishes instead of looking at things logically and working hard to accomplish their goals. Horses are neither inexpensive for the pocket nor are they easy to take care of. So, the Scottish nursery rhyme was likely made in the hopes of getting children to understand that not everyone can have what they wish for simply by wishing. We all have to know what we're getting into and work hard to achieve what we want.

On average, P. Creeden releases 2-3 stories each month. Interested in learning more? 
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Ghost Town Colorado Springs, CO

What a great place to visit.

By Sophie Dawson

My family recently spent a week in Colorado. One of the places we visited was the Ghost Town Museum in Colorado Springs. If you get a chance to go you'll get a chance to step back into a 1880's Western town. You can visit any time of the year since the 'town' is in a building which was part of the gold refining industry. I decided to share some of the many photos I took.

The museum is interactive to an extent. There are items you can touch as well as try, as you can tell from my son and hubby on saddles.

'Modern' conveniences of the time.

Merchandise from a mercantile.

Post Office in the back of a store. 
Two types. The early cubbies for general delivery and the assigned boxes with combination locks.

Instructions in the saloon.
The sign on this stated that this was placed in the doorway to the saloon so no one (wives of patrons) could see who was inside. Seems men didn't want to be found enjoying a libation or three.

In coming blog posts I'll include other images from the Ghost Town Museum. Oh, just one more from the saloon. It's self explanatory.

Sophie Dawson is an award winning author of sweet, faith focused novels, both historical and contemporary. Her books are all available on Amazon in print, Kindle, and KU.

Friday, August 16, 2019

19th Century Medicine By Barbara Goss

19th Century Medicine
By Barbara Goss

   Laudanum was probably the most common medicine used for numerous ailments. Can you guess what was in it? It was used so frequently for every ailment, I thought it must have contained harmless ingredients. Not so.

   Laudanum is a tincture of opium containing approximately 10% powdered opium by weight (the equivalent of 1% morphine).

   Reddish-brown and extremely bitter, laudanum contains almost all of the opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. Laudanum was historically used to treat a variety of conditions, but its principal use was as a pain medication and cough suppressant. Until the early 20th century, laudanum was sold without a prescription and was a constituent of many patent medicines. Today, laudanum is recognized as addictive and is strictly regulated and controlled as such throughout most of the world. The United States Uniform Controlled Substances Act, for one example, lists it on Schedule II.

   By the 19th century, laudanum was used in many patent medicines to "relieve pain ... to produce sleep ... to allay irritation ... to check excessive secretions ... to support the system ... and as a tranquillizer." The limited pharmacopoeia of the day meant that opium derivatives were among the most effective of available treatments, so laudanum was widely prescribed for ailments from colds to meningitis to cardiac diseases, in both adults and children. Laudanum was used during the yellow fever epidemic.

   Innumerable Victorian women were prescribed the drug for relief of menstrual cramps and vague aches. Nurses also spoon-fed laudanum to infants. The Romantic and Victorian eras were marked by the widespread use of laudanum in Europe and the United States. Mary Todd Lincoln, for example, the wife of the US president Abraham Lincoln, was a laudanum addict, as was the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was famously interrupted in the middle of an opium-induced writing session of Kubla Khan by a "person from Porlock." Initially a working class drug, laudanum was cheaper than a bottle of gin or wine, because it was treated as a medication for legal purposes and not taxed as an alcoholic beverage.

Cocaine for Children?

   Cocaine was legal, even as late as this ad (1885), and was not considered harmful in moderate doses. Many other drugs, now restricted by law, were also legal then, including opium, which was sold under city permit on the streets of Victoria.

   In the nineteenth century many substances were used as medicines, some of which are now known to be harmful over the long term, such as mercury and lead. "Patent medicines", like these Cocaine Toothache Drops, were very popular and required no prescription; they were indeed "For sale by all druggists."

In my newest release, laudanum was used on a horse for pain.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Humble Beginnings by Kimberly Grist

The Homestead Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1862 put property ownership within reach for many. The law offered any twenty-one-year-old adult male a claim of up to 160 acres of land in the  Great Plains and Southwest, provided he cultivated the land and built a home on the property. 

Settlers built homes from local materials such as sod, mentioned in my blog in July called, "Home is Where the Soddy is." For families fortunate enough to live in forested areas, their homes were built from rough logs.

Site selection was vital to ensure proper drainage and sunlight. The most basic cabin was one room and had earth floors.

Some cabins were set on large stones to keep the foundations out of damp soil and to provide for storage underneath the home. Thresholds were supported with rock as well.

Building a log house was strenuous. The lot had to be cleared. Straight trees of 14 or 15 feet were cut down and the bark was hacked off to make the sides flat. The ends of the log were “notched” to fit together without nails. With the help of neighbors, logs were laid across the front and back and joined to make a square. The fours sides were built eight logs high.

Replica of  James Garfield's birthplace.
The log cabin has been a symbol of humble beginnings and rags to riches since the mid 19th century. Seven United States Presidents were born in these types of dwellings including James Buchanan, Millar Filmore, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Pierce.  
Replica of Abraham Lincoln's birthplace.
Replica of Millar Filmore's birthplace.

A common style of log home was called a dogtrot house. The floor plan of two cabins joined together by one roof with an open breezeway in the center was particularly popular in Texas. Typically one cabin was used for cooking and dining while the other was used for bedrooms. The open center porch or breezeway was multipurpose. It provided additional living space and created air currents which pulled cooler outside air into the living quarters.

The Jacob Wolf House
Built in 1825, the Jacob Wolf House is a two-story dogtrot with the second floor built over the open breezeway. The building is maintained by the Department of Arkansas Heritage as a historic site.

Following the Civil War from 1870 to 1900 a period of rapid expansion and new fortunes, the west caught up with the mainstream of American architectural fashion the Victorian.

The Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site is located at 609 S. Lamar Avenue in Denison, Grayson County, in the U.S. state of Texas. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in the house on October 14, 1890, the first United States President to be born in Texas.

In my new release Carol's Choice, twenty-year-old Carol Stone finds herself in reduced circumstances with two younger siblings to care for. The suggested marriage of convenience is out of the question, so she stalls for time. When Carol learns she is the sole heir of a small home in a newly expanded railroad town, she throws caution to the Texas wind and packs her bags.

Though warned of the extreme change in lifestyle, she's shocked at the size of the Sunday House. And why didn't she think to ask about indoor plumbing? Leaving her lifestyle of shopping, lavish parties and holiday endeavors for a simpler life is a temporary solution until she can make a match of her own design.

Carol Struggles to let go of the past, embrace the present, and hope for a better future. What she doesn't bargain for is the handsome livery-stable owner, who understands the true meaning of family and Christmas. Will love conquer lavish?

Carol's Choice

Connect with Kimberly:
Combining History, Humor and Romance with an emphasis on Faith, Friends and Good Clean Fun. Kim's stories are written to remind us how God can use adversity to strengthen us and draw us closer to Him and give us the desires of our heart in ways we may never expect.