Wednesday, April 1, 2020

New Release Willow's Worth Release Day

No foolin...New Release Willow's Worth

Although April Fool's Day, has been celebrated for centuries, its origins remain a mystery. Some say it dates back to 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian Calendar. News traveled slowly and people who continued to celebrate the New Year during the last week of March through April 1st became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.

Slow communication is a novel concept today. We live in a world where we have news at our literal fingertips twenty-four hours a day. By the 19th century, news traveled more quickly. First by horse-and-carriage mail carts, trains and of course The Pony Express. Electricity combined with the telegraph transformed communication forever. The news could be relayed between telegraph stations almost instantly. The telegraph also had a profound economic effect, allowing money to be "wired" from great distances.  
Telephone and Telegraph Office, Arts and Industries Building, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, 1886. Smithsonian Institution Archives
While researching for my new release, I became fascinated by the life of a Telegraph operator. Willow Graham benefited from a unique lifestyle growing up with her grandfather. She's independent and loves spending time riding and training animals. With her twenty-first birthday approaching, her family pressures her to return to the city and take to the city and take up the lavish lifestyle her uncle has planned for her. But another option piques her curiosity - a matchmaking agency's recommendation that she begins a correspondence with a handsome farmer.

Hardworking, twenty-seven-year-old, Leo Weaver, is a man of many talents. He's helped his father develop a successful farm. Loyal to Carrie Town, he volunteers as a deputy sheriff. Handsome and charming, Leo's become the target of several well-meaning ladies in the community who have submitted his name for a new matchmaking venture. Willow craves the outdoors. Leo loves the community and wants to live in town.

Chapter 1
Willow’s Worth by Kimberly Grist
Alliance, Tennessee –  September 1891
“Best be yourself, imperial, plain, and true.”
 ~ Robert Browning

The engineer activated two long whistles with the pull cord, and clouds of steam and fire shot up from the engine as it began its departure from the station. The windows in the telegraph office rattled, and twenty-year-old Willow Graham experienced the illusory motion of riding on the train away from Alliance, Tennessee. Perhaps the illusion was prophetic. There was a choice to make  
The familiar sound of irregular clicks, then successive ticks interrupted her, a signal from another office. She let out a sigh as she deciphered the message from another female telegraph operator about fifty miles north. Willow submitted a series of dots and dashes via morse code. “No decision. Will reply tomorrow.”
The creaking of the door and the appearance of the rotund stationmaster interrupted her thoughts. His plump cheeks rose in a smile. “Any messages?”
Willow rose from her wooden chair and retrieved a paper from her desk. “I have communication about Number 9. The train will arrive approximately fifteen minutes late.”
Mr. Randolph removed his pocket watch attached with a T-bar and silver chain to his vest pocket. “Seems to be the norm lately.” His dark eyebrows drew together at the sight of a gangly youth speaking to the baggage handler.
“Harold is excited about starting his training as a telegraph operator tomorrow. The young man is determined to do well. He took the morse code manual home last week and comes in every morning with questions.” Willow forced a smile. Is it possible to be truly happy about training someone who is slated to take your position? Her solace was the young man would do an excellent job, and his earnings would support him and his widowed mother.
“I’m sorry about your position, Miss Graham. It certainly is not a reflection of your work ethic.”
Willow studied the smoke-colored eyes of the middle-aged stationmaster. They both knew her uncle’s extended arm of influence was the reason for the replacement operator. Her father’s brother wanted her to return to his home to live the life of a socialite—attending parties and marrying someone from a carefully crafted list of suitors. “Thank you, Mr. Randolph. I’ve enjoyed working for the railroad.” Willow busied herself, removing her long apron. “I suppose I should be grateful my uncle and aunt want me to live with them. But this town is home to me.”
The stationmaster followed her gaze toward the livery stable and stockyard property, aligning the railyard once belonging to her grandfather. A soft breeze whooshed. The familiar creaks and groans of the windmill reminded her of years past.
 “You and your grandfather shared some wonderful memories in Alliance over the years. I believe you spent almost as much time here as you did in the livery. What do you think he would want you to do?”
“Since he left my inheritance in the hands of my uncle, my grandfather trusted him to direct me. But a few days in a large city is about all I can stand.” Willow blew out a breath. “I must sound extremely spoiled and ungrateful.”
“Perhaps your next visit will go better.” The stationmaster returned his hat to his head and winked. “You might meet some handsome young man who will change your mind about city life.”
 “They’re all a bunch of dandies who are more interested in my money than what I think or feel.” Willow shuddered. “Although I’m in no hurry. My desire is to wed someone who enjoys simple things. Perhaps a farmer or a rancher, a man who knows what it’s like to earn his living and not one who wants to marry so he won’t have to.”
The stationmaster removed his hat and rubbed a hand along his receding hairline. “For the first time in my life, I’m happy I won’t be providing my daughters with anything substantial to inspire a greedy fellow to come courting.”
“My inheritance is a double-edged sword.” Willow squared her shoulders. “Wish me luck. I’m headed over to the church to see if I can get my cousin to plead my case to his father.”
Willow retrieved her shawl and reticule and stepped on to the platform. She shivered as a gust of wind ruffled her skirts, hinting at the approach of cooler temperatures. Shielding her eyes from the sun, she followed a whirlwind of leaves bouncing along the boardwalk past the bank, post office, and town hall.
She reached into her skirt pocket and pulled out her few coins. After paying for her room at the boardinghouse, there wasn’t much left. She’d have no choice but to ask her cousin for approval to withdraw money from her trust fund.  Squaring her shoulders, she glanced toward the mercantile and the roof of the new hotel which faced the church. I’d best get this over with.
Willow’s eyes wandered from the arched entry door and windows to the bell tower of the white weatherboard-sided building. She removed her compact. Her blue eyes stared back at her above a cheek marked with soot. She removed the dust with a handkerchief and smoothed her light brown hair. Taking a deep breath, she entered the church. Her boots made quick taps across the wooden floors to her cousin's office.
Luke Graham, an attractive man in his late twenties, wore tailored trousers and a dark vest. His fashionably-styled hair was smoothed into place, except for one lock of hair at the crown of his head, which waved in protest. His thick eyebrows flew upward. “Afternoon, Willy. This is a surprise.”
“Have I come at an inopportune time?” Willow raised one eyebrow at the sight of the papers covering his desk. A discarded suit coat hung on the hat rack in the corner. His rolled-up sleeves and slightly disheveled look were sure signs he was troubled about something.
He smoothed his sleeves back in place and buttoned the cuffs. “Believe it or not, your timing is perfect. Have a seat.”
 Willow lowered herself onto an upholstered bench and bit her lip to conceal a smile at the sight of her cousin’s unruly lock of hair. Luke sorted some papers on his desk and retrieved a file. “For weeks, I’ve been thinking and praying over your situation. As compelling as my father’s argument is, I agree with you. Forcing you to move to St. Joseph is unfair. My wife believes I’ve lost my mind, but I have another opportunity for you to consider.”
“Opportunity? Do you mean a job?” Willow squirmed in her seat.
Luke shook his head and chuckled. “Cousin, while I appreciate your desire to remain independent and understand the restraint of your purse at the moment. In a few months, you will have at your disposal a yearly income which would satisfy many a young woman with an appetite for a lavish lifestyle.” 
Willow scrunched her nose in protest. “You know I’m much too practical for anything of the sort. There are many other things I could do with my inheritance than shop and give parties.”
Her cousin tapped his pencil on the edge of his desk. “You forget, I know your weakness. Your money will undoubtedly go toward rescuing horses, dogs, and various animals who lost their usefulness.”
“Point made.” Willow’s mouth twitched. “All the more reason for me to remain in the country where I won’t need to purchase fashionable outfits and can continue my obsession of misfit animals.”
Her cousin nodded absently and began pacing. “Several years ago, when Grandfather’s health began to decline, my father and I took on various responsibilities. I was asked to take his place on the board of directors for the Counting Star Children’s Home.”
 Willow swallowed. “I’ve heard you mention the orphanage from time to time.”
 Luke paused mid-step, then retrieved a chair and positioned himself across from her. “When Grandfather brought you from the children’s home, the family thought it would be best not to mention the days you spent there. I didn’t question the reasoning at the time, but in retrospect, I believe we did you a disservice, not encouraging you to talk about the loss of your home and parents and your time at the orphanage.”
Willow clenched the edge of the bench. “My memories are vague. I don’t even know how long I was there before Grandpa came for me.”
“The communication we received came during the height of the yellow fever epidemic. It was months before the quarantine lifted. Even then, information was sketchy. If it hadn’t been for the diligence of your father’s solicitor, we might not have known of your survival. By the time he tracked you down, you’d been in the care of the orphanage for more than a year.”     Luke rubbed the back of his neck.
Willow fidgeted with the heart-shaped locket hanging from a chain around her neck. “Thankfully, there are photos, letters, and other items in my mother’s trunk. Otherwise, I don’t know if I could recall anything about my parents. I have few memories before coming here.”
“Other than being extremely thin, you were healthy. We were shocked by your cheerful demeanor and tendency to burst into song.” He shook his head. “You were barely old enough to start school but could read and do simple math problems.”
 “There was a young teacher with long blond hair who taught us. She was very kind and would make up songs and games to pass the time.” Willow stared out the window and took in the assorted colors of gold and amber beginning to break out amongst the trees. She tapped her finger along her cheek. “I recall having friends too. There was a girl named Daisy and another we called Bees.”
Luke rubbed his chin. “Bees? Maybe it was short for Beatrice.”
“Maybe.” Willow straightened. “The most vivid memory I have is punching someone in the mouth, who attempted to take my rag doll from me. One of the older girls came to my aid and took the blame.” She stared into the distance. Memories of a young girl with dark hair holding her hand and reading her stories flooded her mind. “Victoria was a fierce protector.”
Her cousin’s Adam’s apple jumped, and he swallowed hard. “If I didn’t already have a wife, I would find this young woman and marry her on the spot.”
“Sight unseen?” Willow inclined her head. “I wonder what became of her and the other children? Do you think their families came for them?”
Willow's Worth “Unfortunately, once children arrive at the orphanage, most spend the rest of their childhood there.” Luke returned to his desk and scribbled something on his notepad. “Grandfather was not only grateful but impressed by the care you received under the supervision of Mrs. Shelby. Which is why after his business became more profitable, he provided for the orphanage monetarily and ultimately took on responsibilities by serving on its board over the years.” Luke resumed his pacing. “Which brings me back to a possible solution and a way to avoid returning to live in St. Joseph with my parents.”
Her eyebrows narrowed. “If the children’s home was not so far away, I’d love to volunteer there.”

Luke moved closer. “What I have in mind is a more permanent solution.”

About Kimberly Grist:
Connect with Kimberly:

Monday, March 30, 2020


She's trapped in a lie to provide for her family. 

How can God still love and bless her?

Ginger Snap is a story of a girl realizing her worth, both in the eyes of God and to the man who is drawn to her. 

I've always loved the play, As You Like It, by William Shakespeare. Borrowing the idea of a girl forced to dress as a boy, I created a heroine, Ginger, who is forced to pose as her dead brother. For the first time in a long while, she is comfortable and well-fed--all because she's lying.

When Ginger overhears the plans of thieves, she runs for her life. Just when she'd hoped to appear at a dance as a girl. She'd like the new lawyer in town, Theo, to see her as a woman. 

Will the lawyer be able to rescue her if she can't save herself? Can she trust the Lord to protect her even though she's broken a commandment?

Here's a short snippet:

With three cows to milk and two dozen hens, Ginger and Willard took milk, butter, and eggs into town twice a week. This allowed them to have luxuries such as sugar, something she’d rarely tasted at home in Tennessee.

At times, Ginger felt like an Israelite entering the land of milk and honey. With the plentiful food, she’d begun to round out. The bindings became a necessity now as her bosom developed. Ironically, she daily became more womanly even while Ginger pretended to be a man.

Things had never been better. So why did it eat at something deep inside of her?

Life, she was discovering, was funny that way. Her ma had taught her that liars and cheaters didn’t prosper, yet she and the others had never been better. And it was all because she was misrepresenting herself to the lawyer and the entire population of Kearney Junction each time she went into town.

Step Pappy, scamp that he was, had managed to set up a still soon after they arrived at the farm. He’d used the extra corn stored on one side of the small granary to cook up his mash. Since then, boys from town began visiting to drink and carouse after dark. It was another reason Wiley Snap was so jolly these days. He had a new bunch of young men to corrupt.

At home in the Hollow, she’d seldom went to town. Her family didn’t attend church, and she and her brother rarely attended school. Especially not after they were eight or nine. They could read enough and cipher some. It would get them by. At least, that’s what her father figured.

The family did own a large family bible, something Wiley Snap also sold in Camden. Ginger’s mother used it to further her children’s reading. Guy fidgeted and pleaded to go outside during those lessons.

Not Ginger. She read the scriptures faithfully. Verses she’d memorized came back to her lately. It was one more reason she knew that her deception was wrong.


Friday, March 27, 2020

Release Day for HANNAH'S HANDKERCHIEF by Zina Abbott

Announcing the release of my latest Lockets and Lace book:
Hannah's Handkerchief 
by Zina Abbott
Book 24 in the series.
About Hannah's Handkerchief:

With her blonde hair and blue eyes, Hannah Atwell, a Kansas farmer’s daughter, knows she is pretty—and she enjoys pretty things. She spent her life striving to be the perfect, obedient daughter. She feels she is destined for something more than being a farmer’s wife living in a soddie.

While at a party held at Fort Riley, Kansas, to celebrate the end of the Civil War, Hannah begins to question if always doing what she is told is to her advantage. The special event, complete with dancing with handsome young officers and a chaste kissing fundraiser for the Sanitary Commission, opens Hannah’s eyes to possibilities for her life as surely as Lieutenant Jake Burdock captures her heart. She impulsively offers him her handkerchief as a token of her regard. Missed connections, parents who want her to marry locally and warn against the intentions of some Army officers, and dealing with those close to her who have suffered combat injuries conspire to drive her away from Jake. Only the letters they exchange seem to keep them connected.

Not long after the dance, Jake, who works under Captain Prescott, the quartermaster at Fort Riley, is assigned to duty at the frontier forts in western Kansas. There, many of the living quarters are more primitive than a Kansas soddie. Supplying the uniforms, supplies, horses and mules the soldiers need is challenging at best. In spite of the hardships involved, the Army is Jake’s chosen career. With his life constantly at risk, must he sacrifice his chance to share his life with the young woman who had won his heart?


          Hannah turned seventeen two months earlier. For her, this dance would be comparable to a cotillion, or a coming out social such as she had read took place among the aristocracy in Britain or even high society in this country. This event would mark her entry into womanhood and availability to be courted. Since moving to Salina, she knew of a few local girls who married at her age. Hannah had no one she wished to marry at this time, but she was open to the idea, if she could find the right man.
          However, her parents had let it be known they preferred she wait until she was a few years older to be courted. From comments made, she gathered they worried she would want to marry the first boy she felt attracted to, only to discover later, after it was too late, she did not really love him and had chosen poorly.
          Hannah smiled at the thought. It was already too late for her to insist on marrying the first young man who had caught her fancy. For several years now, she found boys fascinating. A few of them had sent her giddy with infatuation. As much as she sought to spend time with them, she had not wished to marry any.
          Hannah opened her carpetbag. She fingered the book but rejected it in favor of her latest embroidery project, a handkerchief she was doing in pink flowers and green stems and leaves. She had already rolled and hemmed the edges but had not yet crocheted a lacy border on it. She pulled out the smaller bag holding her project, her thread, and scissors, and forced herself to sit in the chair. Twisting to catch the light from the window, she continued the floral design on the third corner.
          Perhaps after tonight, Mama and Papa will stop saying I need to wait until I’m older before I’m ready to choose a husband. After all, I’ve tried to show how willing I am to listen to them by being as obedient as possible.
          As a thought struck, Hannah dropped her hands holding the project in her lap, causing her needle to prick her. She jerked her finger away and raised it to her lips to lick the drop of blood from her broken skin.
          What if the reason her parents did not think she was ready to make her own decisions was because she always tried to be obedient? What if they believed, because she seldom acted independently, especially when it came to going against their wishes, she did not know how to think for herself? What if they thought she was incapable of knowing her own mind—knowing what she truly wanted from life?

Hannah's Handkerchief is now available from Amazon. To find the book link,

The following are my books in the Lockets and Lace series:
Prequel: The Bavarian Jeweler 
(Click on the book cover in the right sidebar to download your free copy)
Book 3: Otto's Offer

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Grace, Unimagined by Abagail Eldan RELEASE DAY

In a moment of tragedy, Grace Jansen's life changes 
in a way she never imagined. 
This is a story of finding hope and love 
even in our darkest moments.

Authors are often asked where their ideas for books come from. Most of the time I answer that they are in the very air around us, ready to be plucked and put into a book. In the case of Grace, Unimagined, I was channel surfing and came across a documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsburg that revealed her brother was chosen to attend college, and she was not. That became the seed, the inspiration for this story. 

Also, woven into this story is the conclusion of the Three Sisters Series that includes two other Lockets & Lace books, Melly, Unyielding and Joy, Unending, the story that began in Abby and Joshua.

Here's a short synopsis:

Grace Jensen longs to be a doctor, but her dream died long ago when her brother is sent instead. When her brother squanders his opportunity, the responsibility for her family's welfare comes to rest solely upon Grace's shoulders.

Ward is not sure of his true name after he was struck with an ax at a young age. Many cannot bear to see his devastating scar, and he walks alone. He never imagines what awaits when he arrives in River City, Texas.

Grace, Unimagined.

And here's an excerpt:

From the road came a sound of hooves and the creak of a wagon. Grace's horse neighed as the wagon came toward them, and the moon clearly defined two men sat on the seat. She straightened and strained to see if it was Mr. Taron. It was not.
As the wagon drew nearer and swerved around to the side of the house where she stood, her brother’s features grew clearer. Even without the light of the moon, she would have recognized him by the reek of whiskey as the wagon came to a stop.
He jumped down, stumbled before he righted himself, and then raked his fingers through his disheveled, thick, dark hair. The other man set the brake, looped the lines, and quickly climbed down.
He was a stranger and, although he acknowledged her presence with a nod, rudely did not remove his hat. “Miss, we wish to speak to Mrs. Babbitt. It’s urgent,” he said. His gaze did not tarry on her long but went back to the wagon as if he guarded it.
“Mrs. Babbitt? Dr. Robbie, you mean?” His words made fear catch in her throat. She swallowed hard. “Is it about her husband?”
“Go get her, Sis,” her brother said, his words clearly enunciated despite his drunken state. His eyes were serious and held something more, were haunted, if she had not known better.
She swallowed hard, shook her head, and tossed her brother the horse’s reins, and hurried to the side of the wagon. A lantern hung on the back, and the stranger, without speaking, unhooked it and held it so light flooded the wagon bed. Her fingers tightened on the wagon’s side as she recognized Mr. Taron.
Without thought, she clambered into the back and felt for Mr. Babbitt’s pulse, finding none. She lowered her head to listen for a breath, to look for the rise and fall of his chest, no matter how slight, but he was still, and all was silent eerily so.
Then a wolf or large dog howled in the distance. She raised her head to listen, and a sadness intermingled with longing, a longing for something she could not name, could not delineate.
She sat back on her heels. “He’s dead,” she pronounced, dispassionately.
“Are you sure?” her brother asked. He’d come around to stand next to the strange man.
Her brother was slim and tall, over six feet, but the stranger was taller by a good two inches and his shoulders broader. Everything came into sharp focus, the gray wagon, her brother’s forlorn face, the stranger whose hat obscured his face, the horse whose reins her brother still held, and the velvet darkness stretching beyond into infinity. The cool breeze stung her face with a million tiny needles.
She refocused on her brother, looked down at the body that had once held the life of Mr. Taron, and nodded. “I’ve been working for Dr. Robbie long enough to recognize death.”Without speaking, the stranger came to the back of the wagon and raised a hand to help her down. She took it, glad of it, happy to feel the warm grasp, to be brought back from the brink, from the precipice between death and life, and hovered on the edge of the wagon, reorienting herself. She glanced down, to thank the man, when the words caught in her throat. With his free hand, he’d raised the lantern and his face was tilted to her, illuminated, ghostly and pale, with eyes that were neither blue nor green, but a vivid turquoise, as luminous and bright as her mother’s best silk dress bought before her father’s death, an unworldly color, rare and haunting. 

Released today! ~ Abagail

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Why Women Went West

The role of a woman in the west in the 1800s was quite different from today. Women were supposed to stay home and take care of the family, doing the housework and be under the protection of their husbands, or fathers if they were unmarried. Some women became nurses or teachers but others wanted something different.

 Once the westward movement began, things started to change for women. There was a need for teachers, so some women were luckier than others and were allowed to attend universities to learn. They also helped to run missions, churches and teach Native Americans. This was an opportunity for a woman to become independent.

Even banks out West didn't hesitate to loan money to women so they could start their own business as well. The bankers felt the women were much more reliable than men and they probably were right.

There were some women who wanted to forget their past and start over. They wanted a future with fewer restrictions like they had to deal with in the East. Some of these women had nothing to lose so they dug out a way of life that was best for them.

There were plenty of wealthy women too. Men were not the only ones who earned lots of money. Mattie Silks, whose real name was really Martha Ready came from Pennsylvania and went to Springfield, Illinois to become a madam. She rented an apartment and took in twelve girls. They were actually called Upstairs Girls.

The interesting thing was Mattie never prostituted herself. She was a smart businesswoman and started several places in Dodge City, Kansas, and Denver, Colorado. By then she was one of the best-known madams out west. It was said she took care of her girls, gifting each one with a knife to keep in case they needed to protect themselves.

Legend has it that she was the wealthiest madam of the west.

Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane are well-known women who found their own way out west. I won't repeat their stories since their names and stories are known by almost everyone today. So many women have gone west to start over or find their way. From dance hall girls to savvy businesswomen helped to tame the west and their daughters and granddaughters have done even more than them in some cases.

These unsung heroes are also in my stories as well. In my series, Pistol Ridge, strong women exist in a town that was taken over by a horrible sheriff who tried to run the town in a bad way. With the help of some ex-soldiers, the women find a hero and help to get rid of the evil sheriff.

Property Owners

Western women were encouraged to hold property in their own name, so families could increase their family’s holdings. This led to some women running ranches and farms by themselves, including supervising male employees.


The demand for professionals led to people in the West to accept women as doctors, lawyers and business owners much sooner than people in the Eastern United States.

The Negative Side

The negative side of women’s lives in the West was drudgery and loneliness. Because of the shortage of labor, women often had to do farm work in addition to housework and caring for children.

In Business

Some banks in the West preferred offering loans to woman to start businesses, because they were more reliable than men.


Because of the need for teachers, Western women were allowed to attend universities; many of them went on to become school administrators and serve on state boards of education. They were also instrumental in helping run missions, churches and schools for Native Americans.

Video of the Day

Property Owners

Western women were encouraged to hold property in their own name, so families could increase their family’s holdings. This led to some women running ranches and farms by themselves, including supervising male employees.


The demand for professionals led to people in the West to accept women as doctors, lawyers and business owners much sooner than people in the Eastern United States.

The Negative Side

The negative side of women’s lives in the West was drudgery and loneliness. Because of the shortage of labor, women often had to do farm work in addition to housework and caring for children.