Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

As January rolls along, I have been taking some time to look at what I'd like for the year to be for me as a writer and what I can share with my readers and hopefully find some new readers who enjoy the type of stories I tell.

So what kind of stories am I drawn to write? I enjoy stories that move, have action if you will, along with emotions that will move the reader. I love history and enjoy sharing what I find. Almost every story whether Medieval or Western contain or were inspired by pieces of research.

"Josie's Dream" came about because of my love and research of the early women doctors in Colorado. No, that does not include the TV show Dr. Quinn, which was fiction or Doc Susie the Colorado doctor the show was based on. Dr. Susan Anderson did not arrive in Colorado until 1894/5. The women who inspire me were here in the 1870s. Their stories and the reasons they came to this state informed my character, Josephine Forrester. The rest of the story played out in research on railroads, ranching and the land in which Josie walked.

When I was looking at what became "Chasing a Chance" I had read a book called "Holding the Ace Card" and done some research on the town of Boston, Colorado, located in the southeast portion of Colorado. In the case of this story, the location and events that occurred in the doomed town of Boston became the basis of the story.

I was writing a paper on the research I had done on a Colorado criminal names 'Joe Ward' when I began what was the novel "The Outlaw's Letter". Most of the characters in the story came almost directly from extrapolating characteristics of the outlaws and people I'd come across. Places and events were as in sync as I could make them with what was happening in Colorado during that time. I sometimes changed location or names, but as they say, writing is ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.

So who do I go about researching the past? Many times all I do is read old newspapers and city directories at my local library's special collections department. I find names and occupations that catch my eye. Then I will sometimes to an ancestry search on those people to find where they came from, what occupation they had before arriving here.

Additionally from my own background in the criminal justice field, I find myself drawn to crimes that occur during the timeframe I'm writing about. Sometimes, like the town of Boston, Colorado, I will try to find all I can about a location I will be writing about. My current WIP takes place in Colorado in one of the mountain valley's, so I'm reading the newspapers from the towns in that area. All of this serves to add an authentic feel to my story.

So as readers, watch for what your favorite author has to say about the time they are writing about. As authors, what do you do when you're starting or writing a story? I really would love to know. Each piece we share can only make what we do more exciting.

I wish everyone a wonderful and productive year of books read and written. Thank you for taking the time to read my process. If you have enjoyed mine or other author's works, please share a testimonial. We appreciate the feedback.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Monday, January 13, 2020

Treating Brain Injuries & Bruises in the Old West by Zina Abbott

This is one of those blog posts where I need to start with a warning.


Some of the images you are about to see
may be disturbing for sensitive groups.

In Nathan's Nurse, my hero, silver miner, Nathan Price, suffers, among other injuries, a head injury when a crossbeam from a square set (often built in mines to help support the rock walls) glances off the back of his head. With only a mine dispensary in the remote mining community, no modern hospital with a sterile operating room, what was a doctor hired to treat broken bones, scrapes and bruises, and diseases related mining to do?

For my research, I relied heavily on two sources. The first was the book, The Doctor's Bag by Dr. Keith Souter who writes Western fiction as Clay More. although Dr. Souter is a medical doctor educated in modern times, his book focuses on the medical knowledge and practices of the nineteenth century.

In my story, I referred to two medical practices in use in the late nineteenth century. One was trephination (trepanning) to relieve pressure on the brain, and the other was the use of leeches to reduce the build-up of blood in large bruises.

Trepanning to relieve pressure on the brain is an ancient practice.  It was used from the neolithic period forward, both in Meso-America and Europe.
Surgeon performing trephination procedure

The Hippocratic Treatises make mention of trepanning in the chapter on injuries of the head, which states: ‘For a person wounded to the same . . . extent . . . will sustain a much greater injury, provided he has received the blow at the sutures, than if it was elsewhere. And many of these require trepanning.’

Skull showing different trepanning methods
Galen also makes mention by explaining the technique of trephination and the risks involved to the patient:

For when we chisel out the fragments of bone we are compelled for safety to put underneath the so-called protectors of the meninx, and if these are pressed too heavily on the brain, the effect is to render the person senseless as well as incapable of all voluntary motion.

Trephination, or trepanning, is accomplished by using a trephine, or small circular saw with a center pin mounted on a strong hollow metal shaft to which is attached a transverse handle. It is used in surgery to remove circular disks of bone from the skull.

Dr. Souter's book also clued me into the use of leeches. Although the practice of using leeches to bleed patients to remove the "bad blood" that made them sick had been disproved by the latter half of the nineteenth century, leeches were still used to remove partially clotted blood from large bruises. (Quite frankly, these images of using leeches freaked me out more than the ones of cutting into the head.)

Eighteenth century physician applying leeches to patient

My second source of information was my own experience of learning more about my brother's condition after, as a child, he twice suffered from blood clots on the brain. 

The first time it happened, he was two and a half years old. After being rushed to the hospital when he became unconscious for no apparent reason, the surgeons drained a blood clot found during emergency surgery. Because that condition was so unusual for a child that age, and because he fully recovered, nothing more was done.

When he was six and a half years old, after dragging his tricycle up the stairs to the second story of our home, he collapsed. After discovering a second blood clot, the doctors knew there was something else going on, and they performed exploratory surgery. This was in the 1950s, long before laparoscopic surgery techniques were developed.  They found an abnormal cluster of blood vessels that had weakened and burst, causing the blood to escape inside his cranium. Although they fixed it, the damage of that second episode caused my brother permanent brain damage. 

As his thirteen-year-old sister, I had questions about the changes in my brother. I learned that parts of his brain dealing with his reasoning ability were affected, although the part dealing with memory was not. (My brother exhibited fantastic recall throughout his life. Within the months after his surgery, my father took him along when he visited construction sites or the homes of employees and work associates. Sometimes, my dad could not remember how to get someplace when he had been there only once several weeks earlier. My brother pointed out the way.)

My brother ended up being partially paralyzed on half of his body. I learned that the clotting on the left side of his brain affected the left side of his face and head including his left eye and speech. Due to the nerves crossing somewhere in the neck region, the right side of his body became partially paralyzed. He never did regain full use of his right arm and leg. Although he eventually relearned how to speak well, it sometimes took him longer to think through what he wanted to say.

The word "stroke" was never used in relation to my brother. However, that basically was what happened, not due to a build-up of plaque in the blood vessels and arteries that broke loose and blocked blood flow, but due to injury to the blood vessels  in the brain that drained the blood flow to the brain and resulted in a blood clot that put pressure on the brain. 

I used this understanding gained from my experience of living with my brother in my book. My heroine, Dahlia, knew of a boy in her home town who suffered a brain injury when a child, and this boy never fully recovered. When she is confronted with taking care of Nathan, she also worries about his future. 

Excerpt from Nathan's Nurse:

          “No doubt about it, Mrs. Price, he’s pretty battered up. As you can see, he suffered quite an extensive head injury. It might be hard to believe, but he’s doing better than he was. It surprised me when they first brought him to me. He did open his eyes and respond to my voice, although he could not answer my questions regarding his pain level. Not too long after that, he became totally unconscious.”

          “That was when he went into a coma? Not as soon as he was injured in the mine?”
          “That’s right. Don’t get me wrong—he was knocked unconscious when the wood beam first hit him, but he came to while they were bringing him to the dispensary. After he slipped into a coma after that, I suspected a brain clot inside the cranium…er, the skull…and called for Dr. Adams, here in town, to join me for a consultation. He agreed. Fortunately, he has a trephination saw. So, while I stayed and set bones on one of the other miners they brought in, he went back to his office to collect his saw and his medical book on the procedure for us to review before we started cutting into his cranium.”

Trephination operation - 1821 Wellcome from public domain (I spared you the colorized version)
          Dahlia pressed a forearm to her stomach to prevent the bile she felt forming there from rising in her throat. “You cut into his head?”
          “Yes. It was the only way to drain a blood clot that had formed inside his skull. It’s kind of like how apoplexy works. If too much blood presses against the brain and nerves, it can cause considerable damage, even death.”
          As she absorbed this new information, Dahlia stared off to the side. “Oh. I had no idea.”
          “You need to be aware, Mrs. Price, that we removed a small disk of bone from the skull. After we drained what we could, we washed it in a mild carbolic solution to prevent infection and put the bone we removed back in place before we closed the skin and sewed up the incision. Dr. Adams and I debated about leaving it partially open so the bleeding in the brain and beneath his skin could drain. We decided, due to the dust that exists around the mine and its structures, to close it up. Instead, since neither he nor I keep leeches, we contacted the railroad construction crew doctor. He sent a couple down. I used them the next day to keep the blood build-up down and prevent too much pressure on that piece of bone we reset in his head.”
          “I-I didn’t know they still use leeches.”

from Historia Medica by W. van den Bossche 1638

          Dr. Sprague shrugged. “Not as much as they used to, since most physicians no longer believe routine bleeding is beneficial. The railroad doc keeps some on hand because, for one reason or another, the men he treats frequently get into brawls. 

1852 advertisement for leeches for medicinal purposes
Leeches are useful for removing excessive blood from black eyes and other large bruises. Head injuries are known to bleed a lot. So, I was grateful when he sent them down for me to apply to the swelling on the back of your husband’s head. We just need to watch that area. He may end up with a slight indent in his head if the piece of bone we removed gets pushed in too far as it heals. Or it may bulge out a bit. The main thing is to keep the brain healthy and his head free from too much swelling, both from blood accumulation and infection.”
          Dahlia huffed out a breath and looked off to the side, already feeling drained and incompetent to handle the challenge of providing proper care for her new husband. Nathan’s injuries were far more extensive than Royce Bainbridge had led her to believe. However, if she had not agreed to take on his care, who would have?

Nathan's Nurse is the second book in the "Train Wreck in Jubilee Springs" trilogy. The first book is Two Sisters and the Christmas Groom. In spite of its title, Two Sisters and the Christmas Groom does not focus so much on a Christmas theme that you will feel like you are reading the book out of season if you read it now. Likewise, although some scenes in Nathan's Nurse include Christmas Day, the story continues into the new year of 1882. 

You may find both books by clicking on the hyperlinked titles above. The third book will not come out until later in 2020.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Telephone Linemen in the Early Years

by Shanna Hatfield

When I was working on my recently released sweet romance, The Christmas Ring, I knew I wanted the hero to be in town working as a telephone lineman.

The story takes place in 1903 in the real town of Hardman, Oregon, which is today a ghost town without a lot of historical details available. So I decided that would be the year the town received telephone service!

As I delved into the research, I came across an old photograph that really provided so much inspiration for my character, Trace Travers.

Just looking at this photo, I could so easily picture Trace in those bib overalls with the tall boots and the cap on his head set at a jaunty angle. 

He would have worn gaffs similar to these that fastened around his legs. The spikes on the back could be set into the wooden poles to keep the linemen from slipping. They also wore thick leather belts that fastened them to the poles to prevent (hopefully!) them from falling. 

Glass telephone insulators were used to install the wire on top of the poles. Today, you'll often see them in antique shops, the glass having turned blue or purple from years of exposure to the sun.
What I didn't know was that each part of the insulator has a name, like a crown, skirt, and petticoat. How fun is that? 

Trace certainly has fun with it in my story. 

And I had fun creating Trace's character. He's charming, funny, terrified of heights, and a part-time outlaw. 

I hope you'll have fun meeting him and Victoria in The Christmas Ring.

She’s desperate to forget her past
He’s determined to give her a future

Victoria Carter flees from the gossip that dogs her every step. She hopes to embark on a new chapter of her life at her brother’s home in eastern Oregon. What she didn’t plan on was the stagecoach being robbed on the way there, or the immediate attraction she feels to one of the outlaws. Then she meets a telephone lineman she finds charming, witty, and kind. Despite her intentions to avoid all members of the male species, her affections are torn between the two men.

A man of many secrets and talents, Trace Travers knows he has to stay focused on his work. Yet, the lovely sister of one of his friends threatens to capture not just his attention but also his heart. Resolved to ignoring Victoria and the emotions she stirs in him, he discovers she is a difficult woman to overlook, especially when she keeps popping up in the most unexpected places.

Trace and Victoria are swept into the town’s festivities as they ring in the holiday season. But will Christmas bring the forgiveness they both need if they hope to have a future together?

Enjoy this sweet holiday romance, rich with history, laughter, and heartwarming Christmas cheer.

“I want that ring and I’m not leaving until I get it.” The first outlaw pointed to Victoria. Even with most of his face covered, she could easily picture a snide sneer on his lips. “Cut it off.”
“I ain’t cuttin’ off her finger, you half-witted blockhead. The boss would have ten kinds of fits if we done did that.” The second outlaw reached into the stage, grabbed Victoria around the waist, and hauled her out, setting her on her feet in front of him.
An involuntary gasp rushed out of her at being handled so brusquely. The desperado had picked her up as though she weighed nothing and she’d felt hard, solid muscles beneath her hands as she reflexively grasped his arms for balance. She dropped her hands as though she held hot coals, appalled as she wondered if he was as handsome as she imagined behind the bandana hiding his face. Unlike the thief intent on taking her ring, this one wore spectacles with dark lenses that kept her from seeing the color of his eyes. The shade cast over his face by the hat kept her from being able to even see their shape. But she did notice an eyebrow raise in question as she openly gawked at him.
The sagebrush swindler lifted her hand and studied her finger. Without so much as a by-your-leave, he pulled her hand beneath his bandana and stuck her finger in his mouth. His tongue laved her finger, circling it several times. Dumbstruck by the man’s scandalous and unexpectedly intimate behavior, Victoria found it impossible to move. Goose bumps rose on her skin and her knees threatened to quake as he continued bathing her finger with his tongue.
A lightheaded feeling settled over her. For a fleeting moment, she thought she might faint, but then she felt the ring slide off. The second it did, she jerked her hand away from him, causing the bandana he wore to flutter slightly, giving her a partial glimpse of a strong chin covered in brown stubble.
He winked at her as he plucked the ring from his mouth then held it out to his fellow plunderer. “I got it, Guy. Let’s skedaddle.”

USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield is a farm girl who loves to write. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances are filled with sarcasm, humor, hope, and hunky heroes. When Shanna isn’t dreaming up unforgettable characters, twisting plots, or covertly seeking dark, decadent chocolate, she hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.
Shanna loves to hear from readers. 

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

American Travel in the Nineteenth Century - Part 1: Wagons

From the earliest of times, mankind has had a wanderlust, a need to see what’s over the next hill or if the next valley might be greener than the one they’re in. But those men—and the few women—who have traveled over great distances always proved few and far between before the development of travel.

Before the Nineteenth Century in the United States, most folks spent their entire lives within twenty miles of where they were born--the distance a wagon could travel in a day with dry weather conditions and rested draft animals. A horse and rider could do twice that in a hard day, but only a fool or desperate man would push his mount that hard too many days in a row.

Roads posed the biggest problem, usually nothing more than raw cleared, traffic-packed. They soon became rutted and easily washed out in hard rains. But in the first twenty years of the 1800s, men in the New England area built thirty-seven hundred miles of toll roads. And little by little, with the additions of good base and top gravel or bricks, country and town roads improved as well.

Every family, with the possible exception of those who lived right ‘in’ town, had a wagon to get around. They'd ride into town for supplies, go visiting a neighbor, or take the family to church on Sundays. Harnessed horses or mules usually pulled those wagons along. The better the roads got, the faster they could get from one place to another.

As more and more people came to America from all over the world, many wanted to move further out from the crowded New England states, out where they could buy land cheaper, settle on it and farm it. Or if they went far enough, they might get a grant and claim a piece of it for their own. Many of the territories and places like the Republic of Texas offered free land to attract the pioneers.

To travel those long distances to new territories, wagons needed to be bigger and have shelter from the elements, so metal frames were attached, and thick canvases pulled over them. The 'cover' protected not just the travelers, but all their supplies—food, water, furniture, and tools—necessary for the journey then setting up new homes once they arrived.

The wooden wagons were typically four feet wide, ten feet long, and its canvas gave the travels seven to eight feet in height. Some might be as wide as six feet and as long as fifteen feet. Not very much room to store all the provisions pioneers would even need for the trip, much less once they arrived at their destination.

They’re romantically referred to as prairie schooners.

Once the traveler acquired a wagon, he needed something to pull it. Horses had been used mostly on the farm, and they were fast, but required extra grain. That grain would take up too much valuable space in the wagon. Plus, they weren’t as sturdy as mules who could travel twice the distance in a day—twenty miles.

Mules though were often obstinate and would bolt at times, but for the treacherous climbs proved more surefooted. Mules did need some grain—not as much as their equine cousins though, and Indians didn’t steal them as often as horses. And they could take the heat better than the third option to pull the wagon . . . a team of oxen.

Now oxen were strong and sturdy and could subsist longer on poorer grasses. They were slower at fifteen miles a day, but almost never ran off or got stolen by natives. The favorite of most emigrants, oxen pulled one-half to three-quarters of the wagons going west during the mid-1800s!

As for cost, mules brought the highest price, then horses, and the oxen were cheapest at twenty-five to sixty-five dollars per yoke (two animals).

A prudent man would do his best to have seven yoke to pull his wagon, starting out from Missouri traveling the Oregon or California Trail.

Why? Because many would die on the way. Those would be eaten. But a wise man would have enough animals to get him all the way, over two thousand miles of rugged terrain, across rivers, and over mountains. The sojourner who traveled so far in a covered wagon embodies the essence of the American spirit.

I rode the Oregon Trail last year and blogged about my journey. If you like covered wagons, you might enjoy those. Here's the first: Carylin' On the Oregon Trail Day One  To read more, search for that same title (without the 'Day One').


GIVEAWAY: As a special gift for my readers today, I’ve arranged for my Prairie Roses Collection story REMI to be free at Amazon. It’s a wonderful story of romance, hardships, and tragedy along the Oregon / California Trail in 1851. I hope you enjoy it and will share the link with your friends!

Caught between a wagon train and the deep blue sea, Agnes Remington Dalrumple--Remi for short--chooses the overland journey west over crossing the Atlantic with her mother and step-father. Though she’s never been on her own, she decides to go to California and try to find the father she’s never known.

Thwarted at every turn, almost every effort is dashed until a widower’s thirteen-year-old daughter intervenes on her behalf. How can the headstrong woman place herself under the responsibility of the young girl’s father, a perfect stranger? But if she doesn’t, her journey ends right there in Saint Joseph, Missouri. On the Oregon/California Trail, will her pride and independence deter her from the destiny God has prepared?

Asher Adams, a widower with two daughters and a desire to start anew has sold everything he owns and is headed to California with his recently wed sister and her husband. She and his girls conspire every step of the way, hoping he will find someone to be a companion and friend. Remi fits the bill as far as all the women in his life are concerned, but is it too soon?

REMI--while both are stand-alone books, continues the story of UNIQUELY COMMON with the same characters but different hero and heroine. Readers will enjoy reading both!

Bio: Award-winning author Caryl McAdoo prays her story gives God glory! Her best-selling novels are blessed with a lion’s share of 5-Star ratings! Her forty-nine titles surely do just that as Caryl’s faith and trust in God shine through her characters who readers love.

She enjoys writing as well as singing the new songs the Lord gives her—listen to a few at YouTube. With husband Ron, she produced four children who’ve given her eighteen grandsugars. The McAdoos live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County, in far Northeast Texas, waiting expectantly for God to open the next door.