Friday, November 27, 2015

Holiday Foods Enrich Your Stories

Part of the fun in writing stories centered around a holiday is the research into specialty foods. For historical stories, this is a bit more difficult than going to my shelf of recipe books. In real life, I look upon foods that are served only at holiday times as culinary delights that help me cement those memories. My older sister has carried on our mom’s tradition of Christmas cookie platters and includes childhood favorites that are enjoyed by new generations.

While writing western historical, The Ring That Binds, I researched food connected with both the Irish and Basque heritages.  Because Celina had been poor as a child before coming to America and was left with debts when her husband was killed seeking his fortune in the silver mines, she is thrifty. She’s hesitant to spend her seamstress wages on frivolous items, even for her beloved 4-year-old daughter, Keena. A holiday treat for the two of them might be gingerbread cookies or molasses cake (personal favorites of mine)—the only extravagance other than the normal baking ingredients regularly found in her kitchen might be the pinch of spices.

In this holiday story, the general store in 1886 Aspen is owned by Basque brothers, Mikel and Danel Toussaint. They receive packages from their family in the home country with the foods they cannot get in America, and the dishes they were raised on. Mikel embraces the melting pot that is America in the 1800s and insists on speaking English, even if his was a bit rough. He’s generous and outgoing and full of good cheer. My goal was to have Mikel woo Irish widow Celina with items from his store, luxuries that she couldn’t herself afford—gumdrops or licorice for her daughter, treats like Basque Cake (cookie-like crust and top with rum-soaked raisins or figs in center) or homemade cider for her. Because both were raised in countries by the sea, they share a special reminisce about eating eel in their homeland.

The sharing of food in a story makes the characters seem like they could be in your own kitchen. If you’re an author, I encourage you to be sure to include food items that expand on the characters’ heritage or give another glimpse into the characters’ personalities. If you’re a reader, pay attention to the details provided in a food scene. Close your eyes, take a sniff and get lost in the author’s creativity at making the story more real.
To purchase The Ring That Binds, click here for Kindle OR Nook OR iBooks.
Learn more about Linda's other published works on her website
Leave a comment detailing a favorite holiday dish for a chance at winning an audio copy of The Ring That Binds.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Today Blog Tour Tuesday features Danni Roan and her historical western romance, Katie - The Cattleman's Daughter. 

Book Description:

Katrion (Katie) James, the oldest daughter of the Broken J ranch has always
been the serious, responsible one. Can she finally let go and answer the call of her heart, or will her mother’s dying words forever bind her to a life without a love of her own?

Strong, independent and dedicated to her family Katie believes that life is all about responsibility. Working alongside her father to see that the ranch is successful she has all but forgotten she is a woman.

Wilson Robertson is down on his luck and tired of dusting the trails. Pushing thirty he longs for a piece of land of his own; a home. But when he meets the cattleman’s daughter, his dreams could be lost for good

Can two people determined to live up to their responsibilities learn that there is more to caring and loving than simple doing the right thing? Find out in this sweet historical western romance.

Kansas City Kansas, June, 1880

Will Robertson was down at the heel and down on his luck.  He’d finished his turn at driving a big herd up from Texas just to have the foreman cheat the hands out of half their pay. He was fed up, angry, and tired of working his tail off for another man.  There had to be something better.  He looked out across the bustling dusty streets of Kansas City and sighed.  At least he had a few dollars, his horse and rig, he thought looking at the red roan pony at the hitching rail before him.   But how was that going to help him now, cow hands were a dime a dozen on the streets of this town and he’d be hanged before he went back to Texas with the crew he’d come up with.  He had to face it there was nothing for him, he didn’t want to sign on for another trail drive, and he wasn’t cut out for city life.  He’d just have to see if he could find work and soon, or he’d be plumb broke.  He looked at his faded jeans, then dusted them off as best he could with his tattered hat and headed to the mercantile across the street.  Maybe someone had posted a job there.

On the other side of the street a large sign hanging above the false fronted square building read ‘James’ General Mercantile’. Perhaps the owner would know of a place he could get a meal cheap and maybe find a job. A tiny bell tinkled above the door, announcing his arrival as he stepped into the store.  The smell of leather, burlap, and spices assailed his senses and he stood a moment letting his eyes adjust to the dimmer light of the interior.  At first it didn’t appear that anyone was minding the store, and he took the time to scan the shelves and display tables filling the space. Barrels, crates, and burlap sacks lined the front wall under a bright display window. Small square tables were stacked with denim trousers, a variety of shirts, and even boots or a display of small and larger farm implements. Brightly colored tins, jars and bottles fill shelves on the other two walls.   

Suddenly a slim, middle aged woman popped up from behind the tall counter near the rear of the establishment.  She must have been reaching for something on the bottom of the floor to ceiling height shelves arrayed along the back wall.  “Well hello there.” She said cheerfully. “What can I get for ya?” 

Her bright smile was contagious and he couldn’t help but smile back, as he crossed the well-stocked room in a few strides. “Mornin’ ma’am, I’m wonderin’ if you know of a cheap place to get some grub, and maybe if there’s any work around.”

“Come a little closer.” She called waving her hand at him impatiently “So I can get a look at ya.” 

He then stepped up to the long wooden counter and for just a moment he felt like prize bull at auction as her sharp blue eyes assessed him.  

“Cowpuncher, are ya?” she asked, almost to herself as she studied him. 

“Yes ma’am.” He replied quietly twisting his tattered Stetson in his hands.  

 “Jeremiah”. She then bellowed over her shoulder making Will jump. “Don’t you worry son, my husband will know just what to do with you.”

“What are you hollerin’ about now woman?” A man’s voice boomed as heavy foot falls crashed down a set of stairs at the back of the building.

“We got a fella needin’ work.” She yelled back with a twinkle in her eye.

“Oh, we do, do we?” The voice replied inquisitively just as a tall square man stepped out of the doorway behind her and grinned. For a moment Will Robinson considered bolting as the man looked at him with a predatory gleem in his eyes. “Well, young man. What kinda work are you looking for?” the older man asked with a smile.

“Ranch work of course, sir.” Will replied feeling like he couldn’t quite get his bearings even if he had both feet firmly planted on the plank floor. 

“That’s grand, just grand.” The big man boomed and chuckling, threw and arm around his shoulders. “Now why don’t you come on upstairs and we’ll have a cup of coffee, you can tell me all about yourself. I think I know just the job for you.”

Wyoming Territory July, 1888.

Joshua James stepped out on to the front porch of the ranch house a big grin splitting his grizzled face. With one hand he tucked an envelope into his breast pocket then patted it before placing his wide brimmed hat on his head of snowy white hair.  For a long moment he gazed around him at the home he’d build.  The large barn, the workshop, even the bunk house and chicken coop.  He breathed deeply of the early morning air. Then patted the letter again.  It had been a long time since he’d heard from his brother Jeremiah.  He’d almost thought he might never get the answer he’d been waiting for, but now… He smiled again. 

“Morning boss.” A hand said as he walked Joshua’s horse to him. 

“It sure is.” The old man replied and taking the reins, swung up on his buckskin gelding and started whistling as he turned toward the open prairie.  Stopping his horse for the third time on the short ride he pulled his brother’s letter from his breast pocket and read it once more.

Dear Joshua,                                                                           June 12, 1880

I believe I’ve found just what you have been looking for.  It should be arriving in about a months’ time hopefully still in good shape. Mabelle helped with the picking and assures me that the packaging is just right; made to order. We had quite a time procuring such an item for you. The mercantile is busier than ever but not all items are of the same standard and the choosing had to be done with care.

We are all well here in Kansas. Have you had any word from Brother Jonas?  I’m sure he is working equally hard at providing you with what you need. Do be patient brother as times are hard everywhere.  Mabelle sends her love to you and the family.

Your Loving Brother,

Joshua tucked the letter back in his breast pocket once more, with a smile and a chuckle then started whistling again. 

You may purchase The Cattleman's Daughter  by clicking HERE.

Author Biography

Danni Roan, born in rural western Pennsylvania, has always loved the country life. Her first work published under her real name, Paula Liddle-Beem, is a collection of folk essays about childhood in the lush, green mountains of PA. Being a teacher of English and English as a Second Language for the past twelve years has only inspired Danni's love of writing Western Historical Fiction. After receiving her Masters of Education in Teaching English as a Foreign Language she determined to indulge her passion for fiction writing. Teaching both in the USA and abroad has exposed Danni to a wide range of people from all walks of life and she tries to capture that unique character in her work.

Click HERE to reach the Author's Amazon Author Page.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The History of Places - New Jersey

As I've written historical fiction in the past, I've concentrated mostly on researching the actual historical events of the era, and then the culture and customs of that time. With my latest project, Hope: Bride of New Jersey, I had a slightly different experience in researching the location where the book was set. The research didn't make it into the book, as the book ended up taking place entirely on an estate, but it was interesting research for me nonetheless, and reinforced in my mind that in order to get a well-rounded idea of history, it's important to look at all the aspects of it, including the locations.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Lenape Indians were the first to settle the New Jersey Shore area. I'd never heard of this tribe until doing research for A Clear Hope, and then I learned while researching Bride of New Jersey that the group is more commonly known as the Delaware, which I had heard of.  As happened with many of the tribes, the Lenape were pushed off their lands as the European settlers came to the country. They were somewhat unprepared for this type of invasion because they'd been fighting amongst themselves and also with the Iroquois.

Then the area was fought over by the Swedes and the Dutch, the Dutch gaining the upper hand. The state was the third to enter the Union, and its agricultural contribution to the country was remarkable.

Over time, the state took part in the Industrial Revolution, and several different factories and mills popped up to create such things as silk, firearms, textiles, and locomotives. At the time I set Bride of New Jersey (1890), the shoreline outside Newark was almost completely factories. It remains today as an industrial leader from those roots.

Ballantine Brewery, Newark (courtesy

It's fascinating to read about places and see how they have grown up from their infancy and how each area gravitates toward its own specialties as far as exports. That all ties in to the traditions and aspirations of the people who settle there, and it all comes together to create an interesting picture in its totality.


Amelia C. Adams is the author of the Kansas Crossroads series, the Nurses of New York series, and two volumes in the American Mail-Order Bride series, Hope and Tabitha. You can learn more about her at

Friday, November 20, 2015

What are you thankful for?

The month of November tends to be a month when we reflect on the thing for which we are thankful. Understandable, since Thanksgiving falls in the latter part of the month.  As a child, my dad instilled a tradition in which each person present for Thanksgiving dinner had to tell two things they were thankful for that year before we could eat. The tradition stuck with me, and my husband and I changed it up so that we do this every night before dinner.  It's a fun experience that I highly recommend. Some nights the kids say something silly, and we even had two months straight of our four year old being thankful for a balloon. But then there are the nights when they don't answer right away.  They tilt their little chins and look up, thinking-really thinking- of all they have to be grateful for, and I remember why we go through it every night.

For this post, I thought it would be fun to travel back one-hundred and fifty years, to the year 1865, and drop in on a family on Thanksgiving.  Let's listen as they circle around the table, giving their thanks for the year.

1870 Ridleys - Thanksgiving, NY

"Before we eat, let's each say one thing we're thankful for." Frank Billings looked around the table, making eye contact with each person sitting at the table. The year had been difficult, and now more than ever, they needed to focus on their blessings. "Ethel, we'll begin with your since you're the youngest."

"I'm thankful for my Alice in Wonderland book, that Aunt Liz brought me from her trip to England, and that Auntie is home again." Ethel stared at the food on her plate, probably wondering how much she had to eat before she was allowed a slice of pie.

Frank smiled. "That was a lovely gift she brought you. Nellie, your turn."

A dreamy expression rested on Nellie's face. "I'm thankful for The Checkered Game of Life."

Angling his head, Frank looked at his daughter, perplexed that she'd choose a parlor game to be her thankfulness item. Then he remembered what Caroline, his beloved wife, had told him last week. Nellie was now of courting age, and had an interest in John Rutgers. Something told him that when she played the popular game, she dreamt of a life with John.  He should prepare himself for a visit from the young man.

To be young and carefree again.

His gaze skipped over the two empty chairs. He couldn't dwell on the vacancies yet without his heart aching for his sons. "Caroline?"

She didn't answer right away but blinked rapidly. Her delicate throat constricted when she swallowed. "I'm thankful the dreadful war is finally over."

So many words unspoken.  Frank Jr, had been killed in '62.  Seth, their second oldest, was missing, even months after the war ended. They couldn't give up hope.

Frank rubbed his jaw. "We can all agree on that."  He needed to do something to lighten the heavy mood. "I'm thankful for my Stetson hat."

The gift had come as a surprise in the post earlier that week. He still wasn't sure why his brother had sent it, but an accompanying note said,"These are the hats everyone will soon be wearing."

A few chuckles circled the room.

"It looks good on you, Pa."

"As would anything."  Caroline offered him a hesitant smile.

Moments of joy had been so rare the last few years. If only...

The door opened and everyone's head turned.  There, in the opening, stood Seth.

He'd come home. They all had something else to be thankful for now.


Did you enjoy your brief travel back in time?

A few notes regarding the "thankfulness" passage.  Alice in Wonderland was first published in England in the summer of 1865, but not in America until November 1865.

The Game of Life was created in 1860 by Milton Bradley. It was originally called The Checkered Game of Life and is considered to be one of the first parlor games.

John Stetson opened his first factory (a rented room) in 1865 with only $100.  Within a year, the "boss of the plains" style would be created.

While Lee's surrender at Appomattox is often synonymous with the end of the Civil War,  President Johnson did not officially sign a declaration to end the war until four months later in August of 1865.  For many soldiers, it would still be months before they saw home again.

One final note- this short narration is not connected to any of my works but is a simple portrayal of a familiar scene from a different time. I hope you enjoyed it and thought about your own things to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Details, Details

Details, Details

Post copyright Doris McCraw
hhj spc 3
I realize part of this post contains early European History. It is all part of the process I use to get to the heart of my stories. As I worked to complete my short story for a Medieval Anthology, along with a Western one and a proposal for next years History Symposium, I was having fun with those delightful details. In the midst of preparing this post, the link for a music video came through. Talk about details. So folks take a listen, then read on for some delightful details from history.
I’ll start with the Symposium. My proposal was accepted and I shall be expected to present a detailed story defending my position on the myth of women doctors. I have been spending time wondering how I would cover such a large subject, then a friend gave me an idea for the hook. How the story of one created the myth we now believe to be true of the women doctors in Colorado. It is the true details of her story and that of others that will bring the story of those early women doctors life. Yes, some women doctors lived and worked in large cities, but even those larger cities were not without their dangers. Just because Leadville was one of the largest towns in Colorado in the 1870’s, there were still shootouts, killings and mining accidents. Even Doc Holliday made his home there awhile. Some women were reported to carry a gun when out on a call in the country.
Image result for leadville colorado During its peak, Leadville bragged over 30,000 residents and at one time was slated to be the capital of Colorado.
A Western Romance, ah the possibilities. Of course there was conflict between the man and women. Most of the time, these stories involve young people. But what about the older widow, the man who has been footloose and fancy free. There is a story, whether true or not, of a woman who bought property in Denver, then found out it was a brothel. Since she had invested all her money, she did what any respectable women would do, she became the Madam, and with the money earned sent her daughter to boarding and finishing school. Delightful details like that add a hint of mystery to what could be challenging romance. We will see what my characters decide will work for them in that story.

Eibingen Abbey
Now to a new arena for me, Medieval romance. Yes, I read a few when I was younger, but how was I going to make this one work. Okay, I set it in 1151, during the time Hildegard of Bingen created the first stand alone convent ever. Now I have done a lot of research on this amazing person. Women were seen and not heard during that time, I think not. Hildegard wrote music, books, and traveled and preached, when women were not allowed to do so. She corresponded with popes and kings. If you want to learn more about her, you can start here. you can also read more at:
To add more detail I studied books on the life of people during the 1100’s.  A cookbook was a great read. Everyone eats, so adding food to the story helps to make it real. It is in those details that our narratives come alive, whether fiction or non-fiction. So the next time you’re telling a story, include those details that bring the reader or listener into the world you’re describing. Until next time, happy researching and writing.
Doris McCraw specializes in Colorado and Womens History. She writes fiction under the pen name Angela Raines. Join her on facebook and her Amazon author page.
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“NEVER HAD A CHANCE” , second in the Agate Gulch stories, in the Prairie Rose Publications “A COWBOY CELEBRATION” anthology
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HOME FOR HIS HEART the first in the Agate Gulch stories.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Today's Blog Tour Tuesday features Emily Claire and her Gabrielle, Bride of Vermont American Mail-Order Brides Series, Book Fourteen.
About the Book:

Gabrielle isn’t looking for love, but circumstances demand she find a husband immediately. Can she agree to marry the only man who’ll accept her terms, even if it means moving to Texas?

Boone Dillingham believes a wife will be the solution for his loneliness. Too bad his heart belongs to a woman other than the one he’s planning to marry!

Boone and Gabrielle are determined to make their marriage of convenience work, but they’re both toting a little more luggage than the other one knew about. Could it be that their union is less about convenience and more about having their hearts renewed?

Gabrielle, Bride of Vermont is an inspirational western historical romance that takes place in 1890. The FREE prequel to the series can be found HERE.

Excerpt from Gabrielle, Bride of Vermont:

     As they stepped onto the porch, the door opened and a handsome man walked out.    “You must be Gabrielle. I’m Colby Clayton. Most folks just call me Doc Colby. Welcome to your home in Texas. Right this way, ma’am.”

     Everyone is so kind here. It’s so different, already.
­     Colby led her to a room near the front of the home. The man on the bed had his eyes closed when she first walked in. She was thankful for the opportunity to look at him before he looked at her. She could see he had plenty of dark, wavy hair under a white bandage that was across his forehead and wrapped around his head. He seemed to take up nearly the entire length of the bed, so he must be tall. His jawline was strong. She took a step closer and stood near his right side.
     Boone’s eyes fluttered open, and he stared up at her. Gabrielle had never gazed into such dark eyes. The lashes were the longest she’d ever seen on a man. He had a nice beard. He squinted his eyes and worked to focus them on her.
     “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Hello.” He smiled at her.
The way he looked at her made Gabrielle’s stomach feel strange. She suddenly felt as though she couldn’t get a full breath. A feeling of warmth spread from her stomach to the top of her head, turning her cheeks bright pink as it made its way up.
     Gabrielle didn’t know how to respond, and even if she could, her mouth failed to open even though she willed it to. She wondered if she was getting sick. The warmth she felt reminded her of the fever she’d had the day the mill burned to the ground. Was she relapsing? She’d felt fine all day, just tired from her trip. But still, it could be something coming on suddenly.
     “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Boone Dillingham. Sorry I can’t get up to greet you properly, but the doc here says I have to rest for a day or two. Folks say he’s pretty good, so I guess I’ll do like he says.” He grinned, the look in his eyes boyish. He reached out his hand toward her.
    Instinctively, she reached out and accepted it. A bolt of electricity traveled from her palm to the back of her neck.
     Boone smiled when he felt her touch him.
     She pulled back her hand a second after she’d felt the surge and took a small step backward.
     “Oh now, don’t go away, pretty one. I like you. You’re good medicine.”
     His grin lit up his face. Gabrielle was lost in it, briefly. “No, I won’t go away. I just need a little water. I’ll be back shortly.”
     She saw Clyde and Mattie glance at each other as she left the room. As Mattie followed her out to show her the kitchen, Clyde chuckled. He was going to enjoy watching how the Lord worked this thing out. He followed them into the other room.
     Boone sighed as she left and closed his eyes slowly. “I’m better now, Doc. I’m just gonna lie here and rest, though.”
     Doc Colby nodded. “I think that’s a good plan.”
     Mattie poured some water for Gabrielle. “Well, now. What do you think of our friend Boone?”
     Gabrielle looked from Mattie to Clyde and then back to Mattie. “Is he always so outspoken? You know, saying everything he thinks like that?”
     Clyde and Mattie shook heads simultaneously.
     “He can be talkative, but he doesn’t usually say what he’s feeling quite like that. I usually have to drag things out of him,” Clyde said.
     Gabrielle asked, “How long have you known him?”
     “It’s been a while. Seven or eight years, I reckon. Something like that.” Clyde looked questioningly at Mattie, and she nodded in agreement.
     Mattie stepped close to Gabrielle. “The situation you expected when you agreed to come here has changed a bit. Are you still planning to stay? We can figure some other plan, if you need to.”
      Gabrielle didn’t hesitate. “I agreed to marry a stranger. Accepting his money and coming here was an act of commitment. I won’t back away from it. He’s a stranger either way. I didn’t know what he was like before and it didn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter now, I guess. We’re about to be married, and he’s had an unfortunate accident. If it had happened twenty-four hours after I’d arrived, I’d be just as committed as I am now. It doesn’t change anything.”
      Just then they heard a commotion from the bedroom. They hurried to see what was going on. Colby was standing at the foot of the bed, laughing quietly, amusement written on his face.
     “Everything all right in here?” Clyde asked, looking at Colby and then at Boone.
     “Heck, yeah!” Boone said loudly, grinning from ear to ear. He nodded toward Gabrielle and pointed in her direction.
     “Doc Colby just told me that pretty little woman is going to be my wife. It was worth getting my head busted open for that!”
     He smiled broadly at Gabrielle. “Did I already ask you to marry me?”
     Gabrielle stepped closer to Boone’s bed. “Well, you invited me to move to Texas to become your wife.”
     Boone adjusted his bandage, slightly. “And what did you say?”
     “I came to Texas, didn’t I? I believe most folks would consider that to be a ‘yes,’ don’t you think?” Gabrielle asked.
     Boone grinned again. “Whoopee! Sounds like a ‘yes’ to me. Definitely does. Thank you very much for agreeing to marry me. Let’s have the wedding right now!”

About Emily Claire: 

Emily Claire lives in Arlington, Texas, with her husband and four children. There's a lot going on in her life! Home-schooling two kids, with another in high school and the oldest in college, keeps her on her toes.

Along with the usual roller coaster of joys and challenges that come with being a wife and mother, Emily shared the following:

"I'm blessed to wear multiple hats. Proofreading books and documents has always been fun for me. I realize that's unusual! Typos frequently jump up and wave in my direction. Additionally, I provide administrative support for a friend's therapy center for children with autism and other behavioral issues.

After proofreading books for bestselling author Kirsten Osbourne, she said, 'You're going to write a book.' It wasn't a question, it was a statement. 'I don't write. I proof,' I countered. She disagreed and proceeded to strongly encourage (okay maybe she gently forced) me to 'just do it.'

REAL. LIFE. STORIES. My desire is to share "G" rated (“sweet”) stories about people facing the ups and downs that life throws at them. I prefer settings that reflect a simpler pace and lives with less clutter, but the solutions to life’s puzzles are remarkably the same whether they occur in the year 1416 or 2016.

I considered what was Important to me. I'm a Christian. I've struggled, and I still work to overcome issues in my thoughts and actions. I've been given a lot of grace in my life and I’ve learned a few things about growing and healing along the way. I wanted to share it. But, I wasn't interested in writing about myself.

I’m honored when I hear from my readers that they’ve laughed, or cried, or contemplated deeper meanings. That's why I write what I write."

Emily Claire would love to hear from you! 

Author Links:  Website Facebook  |  Email  |  Amazon Author Page

Purchase Link:  Amazon