Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lockets--a Must-Have Fashion Item of the Victorians

by Heather Blanton

Recently I became interested in lockets as a potential symbol in a story. Curious about their history, I did a little research. They really are an interesting and emotional reflection of the heart’s capacity for syrupy love.

Scholars pretty much agree that lockets were originally born out of the medieval transition from amulets to a more rational and less “magical” mindset. Still, items of great value, sentimentality, and power were kept in the lockets. Everything from notes, to hair, to poison.

Queen Elizabeth wore a locket with a painting of her mother in it—the famous Ann Boleyn, beheaded by Henry the VIII. I can imagine the picture and her mother’s untimely demise kept the Virgin Queen on her toes and careful with men!

Lockets, however, truly entered the mainstream of fashion with the Victorian age. Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria a bracelet with eight pendants on it, each containing a lock of hair from all their children. The queen was rarely ever without the sweet gift.

When Albert died, she was devastated. She had a locket made with the Prince’s photo inside. Hearts melted by the sentimentality of her gesture, fashion aficionados of the day turned the mourning locket—and then lockets in general—into the fashion trend of the day. Black bog oak (an old wood) was the material of choice. Just as there was a cultural expectation that a widow would wear black for a year, she was also expected not to wear any jewelry other than the mourning locket for the same amount of time.

I was more impressed with the spinner lockets, though—a particular style that became popular during the Victorian era. According to the ebay buyer’s guide, “These lockets have a bail, which is a D-shaped or oval component used to connect the locket to the necklace chain. The bail is not fixed to the locket itself, leaving it free to spin.” I don’t know why that impresses me. Possibly because I’ve never seen one and they tend to be more valuable than a normal locket.

If you find a spinner locket, snap it up!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fort Jackson Colorado

Post (c) Angela Raines

Fort Jackson is the third of the four forts located within fifteen miles of each other in the Platte River area east of Longs Peak and the Rocky Mountains. It came into existence in 1837, two years after Fort Vasquez. The other two to begin in 1837 were Fort St. Vrain and Fort Lupton.

Fort Jackson was started by two partners: Peter A. Sarpy and Henry Fraeb. Sarpy was a Frenchman originally from St. Louis. Sarpy was active in the fur trade and in 1824 was appointed as the Indian trader at Bellevue in Nebraska. (Note - Bellevue, Nebraska in Sarpy county.)

Author Photo from Inside Ft. Vaxquez Museum
Henry Fraeb was of German descent although there is not much known about his early life. By 1829 he was actively involved in the fur trade and during his lifetime worked and was partners with the likes of Milton Sublette and James Bridger. He traversed most of the Rocky Mountain Region between present day Wyoming and Arizona. He died in 1841 near Battle Creek in Routt County Colorado near the Wyoming border in a fight with the Cheyenne, Arapahoes and Sioux.

Records seem to indicate the business started out well. The merchandise bill was around $10,000. The men on the payroll, some of who were paid around $200 for twelve to fifteen months of work. They following were listed as employees of the company that ran Fort Jackson: Michel Sioto, Ls LaJeunesse, Wm. Primeau, Ls B. Myres, John H. Albert, Chas. Kiney, Bartlett, Daugherty, Benito Garcia, Jacog Hawkins, Gilbert Jackson, Trudelle, Woods, and Antoine Latereuse. These men built and worked for/in Fort Jackson.

Author Photo: Native Plants near South Platte River, CO. 
However, the business was short lived and the partners sold out to Bent & Company sometime in 1838 according to some reports. Since Fort St. Vrain was less than ten miles north, after the goods were transferred to St. Vrain, the building itself was probably abandoned and fell into disrepair and disappeared. As of 2011 there has been on definite location found for Fort Jackson, but that it existed is undisputed.

For more on this and other 'Forts' in Colorado during the heyday of trapping and trading the following may be of use: "The Fur Trade in Colorado" by William B. Butler and "Colorado Forts" Historic Outpost on the Wild Frontier" by Jolie Anderson Gallagher.

Join me next month for the fourth and final post of the Forts along the Platte.

Doris Gardner-McCraw - Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Release Day for Perfectly Unacceptable by Linda Carroll-Bradd

This novella is my third in the series and book 13 overall. Although a stand-alone story, Perfectly Unacceptable features cameos of characters from the first two stories, Perfectly Mismatched (Book 1) and Perfectly Unscripted (Book 9).
BLURB: Jared Manning was left wanting on two prior marriage attempts, and this time he wants to be assured of a bride. So he commits to a correspondence courtship with only one potential mail-order bride and anticipates the arrival of Dina Valdis, a retiring schoolteacher, in time for the town’s Harvest Dance. He knows just how he wants his picture-perfect married life to be and assumes he’s found the perfect woman to fulfill the role.
                Dina is passionate about being a schoolteacher who sparks the love of learning in young minds. An incident in her hometown of Kingston, New York forces her from her job, and her reputation is smeared. Not wanting to become a hermit, Dina is reminded how her cousins, Aurelia and Rilleta, found happiness with their husbands in Jubilee Springs. Thinking this is her only option, Dina heads west as a mail-order bride. Seeing the size of the tiny town almost sets Dina running, but an attraction for this handsome miner keeps her there. When she learns the town’s children have no teacher, she starts a campaign to educate the townspeople. Soon, she’ll have to decide if the attraction she feels for Jared is stronger than her passion for teaching.
GIVEAWAY: One lucky commenter will win his or her choice of either Perfectly Mismatched or Perfectly Unscripted (or a backlist title of your choosing).
As a child, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about characters having exciting adventures in places far away. In later years, she started writing romances and achieved her first publication--a confession story. Now Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor.
Amazon Author Page

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dolls of the 1800s

By Kathryn Albright

I often tease my mother that she never grew up—she still plays with dolls. My mother is a doll restoration artist. Years ago she apprenticed to a woman who later retired and sold the business and tools to her. People brought in their broken dolls, modern, antique, or reproduction and she knew just what to do to fix them–whether it involved restringing, a new wig, gluing in eyes, or adding a new limb.

I remember returning home late at night after a babysitting job or an evening out and feeling eyes staring at me from every corner of the house–rather disconcerting, if not down-right frightening. (And don’t even get me started on the boxes of eyes, bodies, and limbs in the basement!)

In an early book of mine, The Angel and the Outlaw, two dolls play a part in getting the hero and heroine together. A china doll from 1860 and a paper mache doll from 1850.  I was fortunate that my mother happened to have two dolls that fit my story to a “T”, even to the point of a lovely green dress on the French doll which matched a description in my story!

Manufactured dolls of this era were generally paper mache or china or bisque. They had an adult face rather than a baby face. (Manufactured dolls with a baby face weren’t available until 1910.) The soft cloth bodies were filled with sawdust, horsehair or cotton. Hairstyles reflected the current styles of the day. Both of these dolls have “flat-top” hairdos that were popular during the Civil War. The heads were often sold by themselves, and a mother would then make the body of the doll and sew the clothes. 

The French china doll was popular from 1860 to 1900. It cost approximately one dollar at that time. The head and shoulder plate, along with the hands and feet are china (with painted-on shoes) and the body is made of cloth. This doll has a painted garter on the left leg.

The German-made paper-mache doll is older with cracks along the bust line.
She has soft leather arms and hands (with separate fingers!) and leather shoes that can be taken off. As sedate as she looks here, she has a lovely corset and petticoat *g*.

For families out on the prairie's that could not afford manufactured dolls or doll heads, a young girl's doll was made from whatever could be spared. I've seen dolls of that era made from corn husks, rags, and flour sacks, with faces that were embroidered with thread or yarn or drawn with pencil or ink. The Raggedy Ann doll above started out in just this way.

Growing up, the doll I remember playing with the most was a Barbie doll (along with her boyfriend Ken and her younger sister Skipper). Usually, there was a ranch involved because I loved horses and had several Breyer horse figurines. 

I’d love to hear about your favorite doll—now or when you were younger. 

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 Amazon  ]

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ruby Feaster's Prize Cream Pie

by Shanna Hatfield

Back when I was in high school, I spent a ridiculous amount of time haunting the county library. It was during one of my forays away from the romance section that I happened upon a recipe for a delicious cream pie. 
I wonder what the landscape of my life would be like now if I’d spent half as much time studying boys as I did cookbooks and wallpaper designs.
Sorry, I digress.
Anyway, this recipe was in an ancient cookbook I found on a bottom shelf at the library. A notation said the recipe was “over 100 years old” so goodness only knows how old it really is. My high school days were a while ago. A long while ago. 
This pie filling is simple to make and always delicious. You can serve it plain, top it with fruit and whipped cream, give it a fluffy meringue topping, fill cream puffs, or even alter the basic recipe by withholding the lemon and adding a little cocoa powder for a chocolate filling.
The recipe was titled “Ruby Feaster’s Prize Cream Pie.” I have no idea who Ruby Feaster was, but she did make a delicious pie filling. And that name always makes me picture some jolly, round grandmother dressed in calico with her snowy white hair piled on top of her head. 
Ingredients for the filling. I tweaked the recipe a little over the years and this is what I’ve found works best.
Beat the eggs slightly, just to break them up, add all the ingrients except for the lemon juice then cook over medium heat in a heavy saucepan (double-boiler if you don’t have a heavy pan) until thick.
Make sure you stir the filling constantly so it doesn’t stick. Scorched pudding is not tasty, not that I’ve ever done that sort of thing. Add the lemon juice when the pudding is thick and stir until it's blended.
Pour filling into a pre-cooked pie shell. Let cool completely.
Top with whatever fun accents tickle your taste buds and enjoy!
Ruby Feaster’s Prize Cream Pie 
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon
2 tbsp. corn starch
pinch of salt
In a heavy saucepan, beat eggs, just until broken up (do not let them foam), then add milk, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick. (If you don’t have a heavy saucepan, use a double boiler).
When it starts to thicken you need to stir constantly. This is not the time to start daydreaming about the hunky hero in the novel you’re writing or the hunky hero who will soon be home, ready to eat the pie. (Not that this ever happens to me.) Pay close attention so you don’t scorch the pudding. When it starts to get a glossy sheen and is nice and thick, remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and pour into prepared pie shell.
Cool completely. Top with whipped topping and a fruit garnish and enjoy!

After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Plain Jane

I recently asked readers what they'd like to see more of from me. I didn't expect some of the answers I got. There was one theme that came up several times and I was really surprised by this one.

Many of my readers would love to see the heroine who may not be described as beautiful, get the man of her dreams. That makes perfect sense, but we're so used to seeing the beautiful girl with the handsome man and that's what just happens as we write. At least that's how it is for me. It's second nature for me to write about pretty girls looking for a husband. There... I've said it.

And to be fair, if we're using a woman on the cover we want the cover to be lovely. Can we still have a fabulous cover and a wonderful story about a plain Jane who gets the handsome man? Of course!

Stories about regular girls getting the guy reminds us that it can happen. It DOES happen! Every day! There are men who look beyond looks to see what's in a woman's heart. And they fall in love with what they find. Love makes all women beautiful.

As it worked out, I started a story about a plain girl who decided to become a mail order bride back in January. I'd been working on it all along, but hadn't finished it. So, when I got this feedback, I decided to finish it sooner rather than later. Now it's ready to read!

Mistmatched is the love story of Janie and Jim. She's young, he's older. She's timid, he's bold. She's plain, he's handsome. She falls in love with him right away. He falls in love with her, too, but it takes him longer to realize it.

This story reminded me that love is usually a process. Staying in love depends on respect for that process and commitment to each other through it all. It was fun and inspiring to write a story where a simple girl could be persistent, steady, and positive even when the odds were stacked against her. Janie never gave up on Jim, even though she knew what he thought of her. She gave him time to see who she really was and believed he had the strength of character to come around. And of course he did just that.

Mismatched is now available 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.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Music of Her Heart Cover Reveal

Hi there. Sophie Dawson here.

SAS has given me the privilege of revealing the cover of my next book on their site. Thanks, Ladies.

Music of Her Heart, Stones Creek Ladies of Sanctuary House #2, is nearly finished with its first draft. I’m ready to write the climax and charting new territory in my writing as it’s a type of scene I’ve never done before. Nope, not going to give any other clues than that. 

If you’ve read any of my Stones Creek novels, you’ll know of Sanctuary House. It’s a place for women from Sanctuary Place Mission for Women to live while they are courted by the men of the town and surrounding ranches. All the Ladies have challenging pasts. 

Yes, I’m going to make you scroll down to see the cover. It’s nasty of me, I know.

Laundry Lady’s Love was the first in this spinoff series. If you’ve read it, you met the main characters in Music of Her Heart. Gema Volkovichna who was orphaned as her family immigrated from Russia and traveled across the country heading West spent four years at Sanctuary Place. She’s come to Stones Creek hoping to work and possibly find a husband. 

Red Dickerson had been given the mitten (Cowboy phrase meaning she broke the engagement) by Laura Duffle in Laundry Lady’s Love. When Gema escapes from her kidnappers, Red finds her. Three nights spent in the line shack during a spring blizzard makes for a reputation-saving marriage. 

Now, Gema and Red have to learn to be husband and wife. Does love follow? How does the Music of Her Heart play into their relationship?

I just love how his hand is on her leg. Red’s protective instincts shine through in the image.

For a peek at the opening scene, check it out on my Little Bits Blog. I'll post more snippets there soon.  

Release of Music of Her Heart is set for November 16.  In the meantime, if you haven’t read any of the Stones Creek books you can find them on Amazon on my author page: Author page