Friday, October 28, 2016

Shoes-on-the-Ground Research

One aspect of being a writer I enjoy a lot is the research. Lots of information can be gathered by spending time online. Now, the trips we used to take to the reference desk at the local library are reserved only for when we get stuck. Clicking links at the bottom of Wikipedia pages can sometimes be like going down the proverbial rabbit hole. Some can lead to obscure articles. But I have followed URLs and found original sheet music from the 1850s or playbills from a 1870s opera. This time what I wanted would be most easily gained from a visit to the site. I was already making the trip to Texas for a writers’ retreat so I tacked on a day before and after to conduct research.
first owner was Goldbeck who built cabin in 1854

1890 blacksmith shop

Last Thursday, I spent time in a small town named Comfort that I’ve kept in my mind as being the one I’ve used as a base for my fictional town of Dorado. I walked the layout of the real town, snapped some pictures of the historic downtown, and gathered what information I could. The series, Dorado, Texas, contains both contemporary and historical stories with ancestors, descendants, and entangled families.
Ingenhuett General Store 1881
Immediately following the acquisition of Texas from Mexico, immigrants came from Europe to settle the land. From 1845 to 1861, many towns were founded by German Freethinkers, who were mostly intellectuals who believed in reason and democracy as ways to create community, instead of religious and political autocracy. Some even held intellectual forums in Latin.

Freethinkers were advanced for the times in that they believed in an individual philosophy over religious dogma and advocated equal rights for all people with many working toward the abolishment of slavery. A respect for life and nature was an important part of their moral values. Secular education and organizations of various types provided social and cultural activities.

I've been away for four years and I'd almost forgotten the gorgeous cloud formations. I'd also forgotten about the wide variety of roadkill--skunk, opossum, deer, fox, raccoon, armadillo.

Now that I’ve walked the streets and gathered local literature, I know I will write the town with more details and accuracy.
I'd love to hear from others how important a sense of place is in the stories they choose.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Blog Tour Tuesday - LOST FORTUNE by Sandra E. Sinclair

This week's Blog Tour Tuesday features 
By Sandra E. Sinclair

About the book:

"What do you do when the world as you know it is ripped from under you, and everything you believed to be true no longer makes sense?"

Rilla travels across the pond to Boston, the place of her birth. After eight years away, she discovers her very existence has been a lie. The people she thought she knew, and those she loved, had kept secrets and lies that could bring scandal and shame if they are discovered. Everything she holds dear could be taken from her. Making matters worse, she is being hunted by a stranger whose sole purpose is to separate her from her inheritance, leaving her in ruin. 

Left with no other choice, Rilla must flee for her very life.

Calvin Dalton has been sent by the Pinkerton Agency to recover a lost fortune. A chance meeting with a beautiful woman on the train into town left him breathless, and unable to get the exotic beauty out of his mind. He is delighted to discover they are staying at the same boardinghouse, even though he knows he has no time to become sweet on the girl. He’d been sent there to do a job, so he’d have to fall in love on his own time. However, when he agreed to take on the job, he had no idea where this journey would lead him, or the lives he’d ruin with his investigation. Calvin’s heart and his job were on a collision course of disaster.

What will happen when the mysterious woman he’d met on the train becomes his prime suspect? It appears his heart wasn’t the only thing she’d stolen.

"Lost Fortune" is the first book in the Unbridled Series.


“It seems you’ve been holding out on me, Mr. Pigeuron,” Wyatt Worthington said, pacing the expanse of the lawyer’s office. He glanced at the door. The woman he’d passed in the doorway flicked briefly through his mind.

His eyes felt like granite as they returned to Pigeuron and pierced the other man. The smile on his lips was uncomfortable as he strained to hold it in place, itching to grind his teeth. At the same time, contemplating how much joy it would bring him to use his fist as a form of dental treatment on this lying, crooked, scoundrel.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Pigeuron said, sweat dripping from his forehead. He removed his jacket, threw it over the back of his chair and sat. The stain under the arms on his shirt spread with every word.

“You know, you really should have made an appointment. You can’t just barge in here. I’m rather busy.” He picked up a file, placed it in a drawer, removed his keychain, and locked it.

Wyatt continued to stride back and forth, his eyes never leaving Pigeuron’s face. He didn’t trust the man any farther than he could throw him.

“I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s been four days since my father and his mistress were killed in that carriage accident. I want to know where the rest of my inheritance has gone.”

“Mr. Worthington, your father has left you very well provided for. You have more than most. There is nothing left.”

Wyatt stopped in front of the desk and folded his arms. “I have it on good authority—that is a lie. I’ve been made to understand my father had property in California, as well as controlling shares he won in a very rich gold mine.” Wyatt pressed his palms flat on the desk and leaned forward. The scent of the other man’s betrayal assaulted his nostrils. Not only did the man look like a pig, he smelled like one.

Through tight lips, Wyatt said, “You were his lawyer. Therefore, it’s up to you to tell me why those things are not in my possession.” He straightened in amusement, when he saw Pigeuron cower under his gaze. He should be afraid of him, very afraid.

About the Author:

I was born and bred in London UK, and faced some of the things I write about in my daily life. Not the historical stuff though, (teehee). I’m a little young for that. This is the first book of a 10 book series and takes place in the 1860’s to 1870’s. I have to do a lot of research on American history for my historical writing. I didn’t start off as a writer, not for anyone else to see. I’m dyslexic and went through my youth and adolescence being afraid to put pen to paper for anyone else to read. I was embarrassed, however, I have overcome my barrier to writing, and today I can call myself a writer. I write contemporary and historical western romance. Both my contemporary and historical romance tend to cover some tough issues people have to face in their lives, but I try to do it with humor, character growth and style.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Porter Rockwell: Mormon Gunslinger

Whenever I think about the Old West, particularly how it pertains to the area where I live, I can't help but think about Porter Rockwell.

Porter was just a bit of a wild man who lived in Joseph Smith's hometown during the time that Joseph Smith was organizing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, he was so committed to helping Joseph produce copies of The Book of Mormon that he picked berries to earn money to pay for the printing. He became one of Joseph's bodyguards, and later was a lawman in Utah Territory. He was a Christian, no doubt, but he killed more outlaws than many of the lawmen of his day combined, and was known as the "destroying angel." This he did while upholding the laws of the land, as he said that he never shot anyone who didn't need shooting.

Stories of Porter Rockwell abound - he kept the Prophet safe on more than one occasion and stood accused of many crimes he didn't commit. He was accused of the attempted murder of Governor Liliburn Boggs, but Joseph Smith insisted he hadn't done it. When asked how he could be so sure, Joseph replied, "He's still alive, isn't he?" as Porter was famous for his shooting skills.

He was promised by the Prophet that if he never cut his hair, his enemies wouldn't be able to touch him, and there are several stories of times when he was attacked, but was uninjured. If you're looking to learn about a colorful character from the Old West, he's your man.

Not too far from where I live, there's a restaurant called Porter's Place that has been set up in a great Western style to commemorate the man and his legacy. It's located on Main Street in Lehi, Utah, not far from where Porter served as deputy marshal.

When bestselling Western romance author Kirsten Osbourne came to visit me this last summer, we went to Porter's Place for dinner. Here are a couple of the pictures we took.

A portrait of Porter Rockwell, as well as a statue in commemoration. 

Kirsten (right) and I at the restaurant.

Display of old-fashioned candies as well as several books
written about Porter Rockwell.

You can learn more about Porter by hitting the Internet or grabbing a book. One thing's for sure--you'll definitely be entertained. 

Amelia C. Adams has been having far too much fun lately researching horrible diseases and how to treat them for her Nurses of New York series. (You never know what authors will find fascinating.)

She spends her days frittering and her nights writing and editing. You can learn more about her at

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Post (c) Angela Raines/Doris McCraw

View of Fort Union looking West/Northwest
Fort Union, in New Mexico, was the terminus of the Santa Fe trail where the Cimarron and Mountain Branch met just north of the fort. From Fort Union is was 75 miles to the town of Santa Fe.

The first Fort Union was located near the bluffs about three miles from the present location. This fort, built to protect travelers on the Santa Fe Trail and locals from Indian attacks was built in 1851 and abandoned in 1861. The Ninth Military Department soldiers called it "Fort Windy" for the constant winds blowing through the area.
Living Quarters
The second Fort Union was a massive earthwork affair built to defend the Trail from Confederate invaders. This fort, was only in use from 1861-62 after the Confederates were driven from the area.

The third and final fort was a massive affair, built by contractors as opposed to the other sites build by the soldiers themselves, was like a city. This fort was in use from 1863 to 1891 when the railroad service to the area caused its demise.

During the heyday of the third fort, it was the main supply base for the Military Department of New Mexico, supplying the other six forts, Fort Sumner, Fort Crag, Fort Stanton, Fort Seldon, Fort Bayard and Fort Cummings, with their supplies. There was a hospital that not only treated the soldiers and their families, but the residents of the surrounding area along with the travelers along the Santa Fe Trail.
Ruins of the Hospital
The hospital had six wards and over its lifetime had between 10 to 126 beds. It was staffed by two doctors, two stewards, a cook, two nurses and three matrons. In one month they could treat upwards of 425 people, approximately 160 who might need hospitalization. About 40% were civilians who payed 50 cents per day for treatment.

Another interesting fact, the third fort had flagstone walkways throughout the interior, which you will notice in some of the photos.Additionally this fort did not have outside walls.

For further information this link will give you a larger overview:

You can learn even more about the Santa Fe Trail and Fort Union here:

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page:

Monday, October 17, 2016

When Nature Called...Have You Ever Wondered?

So, today’s post may be a bit more “delicate” and perhaps a little off the beaten path…but sometimes someone asks you a question that gets your mind thinking, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t rest until you know the answer.

In my years of reading historical romance, there have been so many neat little things that have been mentioned in the stories that really take you back to the place and time.  You can find yourself lost in the era of the story, and imagine the details of what is happening around you.

For obvious reasons, some of the details are left to the imagination of the reader, and some are left out completely since they don’t really add anything to the story.  Not to mention the fact that some of the details might completely stall any glorified scenes the reader is imagining in their minds.

One of these facts, of course, is the characters using the “privy”, or the washroom as we now call it.

The other day, while speaking with someone (who I will leave anonymous to save her the embarrassment), who said while she was reading her many historical western books, she admitted she did sometimes wonder what they would have used to clean themselves before the invention of toilet paper.

Of course, as soon as she mentioned it, it got myself thinking about it too.  We all know that people would use leaves, paper or whatever else they could find, but I couldn’t help thinking that maybe there was something else.

Well, after doing some snooping around on the internet, I discovered that yes, paper was used, and anything else that was nearby when nature called.  If you were outside, you used leaves, sand and whatever was laying near you.  And, yes, sometimes people would grab the wrong leaves and use poison ivy - something they most likely only had to learn once.

In outhouses, paper could be used, and in fact the old farmers almanacs had a hole in the top corner to be hung easily in the bathrooms so they’d always be on hand.  Sears catalogues were used, but their use declined in the 1930’s because it started to be printed on glossy paper which didn’t work as well.

Another common item that was used was a corn cob.  I can’t even imagine…but apparently this was a much used practice.

It was around 1857 when a man named Joseph Gayetty came up with a product that would be used as toilet paper in America.  It sold for around $0.50 a pack, and there were 500 sheets per pack.  The sheets were moist and soaked in aloe, but they didn’t become very popular, most likely because in today’s terms, it would have been around $12 a pack.  And, many people didn't see why they should pay when they could freely use whatever they had available around home.

The Scott brothers - Edward, Clarence and Thomas - came up with a different and more cost effective toilet paper about 10 years later, that weren’t moist or soaked in aloe.  Their product was a softer paper, however was most often full of splinters.

I was quite surprised that it wasn’t until quite recently that toilet paper actually “took off”, most likely due to the paper now being advertised as “splinter free” in the 1930’s.

So, I realize that our books are telling the romantic tales of life back in the old west, but surely there were more people out there who have had the odd niggling thought - “What exactly did these pioneers use before the invention of toilet paper?”

And, if you never did before - I’m quite sure now you will.  But, at least you will already know the answer :)

**I found most of my information from the following sites...

Find Kay P. Dawson…

Click the links below to see the books by Kay P. Dawson, including her latest release in the Love's a Gamble Series, "A Drifter's Fortune"

Kay also has a fun FB group just for fans - you have to request to join, so send your request to

Join us for some fun discussions, great contests and special offers just for fans of Kay P. Dawson.

**Get a free book by signing up for the mailing list at

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Friday, October 14, 2016

The Three R's ~ 19th Century Schools

Prior to the Civil War, schoolteachers were mostly men because the prevailing belief was that women could not maintain discipline in the classroom. When the men left for the war, women moved in and filled positions at 60% less salary. When the men returned, they refused to work at the reduced wages even through they did make more than the women teachers, and most left the profession.

Women teachers were required to be single. They could "sit" for their teaching certificate as long as they had graduated from school. Some were as young as fifteen. If they married, they had to give up their job. They were not allowed to attend public performances or dances. Male teachers were permitted to date one night a week or two if they attended church regularly. Because women were so few in number compared to men in the West, the turn-over rate for teachers was fairly high as women married and started their own families.

Children from the age of five would go to school daily through the week and then on weekends would be expected to come back and help clean the schoolhouse. A teacher might have anywhere from three to forty-five students in the first the first through the eighth grade. Usually girls would sit on one side of the room and boys on the other, with an aisle down the middle.

Discipline could be difficult at times, especially when some of the older boys towered over the teacher. Infractions were dealt with swiftly and often severely. Corporal punishment with hickory switches and rulers was not unusual. The picture of a pupil sitting on a chair in the corner with a dunce cap on was a form of punishment used for a child that hadn't done his lessons or who spoke out of turn (or a similar minor offense.)

The typical school house was a one-room building. A male teacher and his family often lived in a home next door or attached to the school house--teacherage. Women teachers would be housed with one of the families whose children attended the school so that they could be supervised. (Now that would make it hard to "leave your day job" at the end of the day!)

Teachers had to be creative and work with whatever supplies they had. They used memorization, reciting, and oral testing to teach reading, spelling, arithmetic, and history. For many years, the main textbookwas the McGuffey Reader. A staggering amount, approximately 120 million copies of the readers were sold between 1836 and1960. Many parents could not afford textbooks and so they sent their children to school with any book from home--usually the Bible--for instructions in reading. Eliza Mott was a teacher who taught the alphabet using the inscriptions on tombstones!

In doing research about the school in Clear Springs where Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff is set, I learned that the main difficulty for the teacher there was staying single in a town that was predominantly men who worked in the goldmines or on the nearby ranches. School teachers would usually only last a year at most before they married.

Influential people who have graduated from one-room schools:
  • Abraham Lincoln (President)
  • Herber Hoover (President)
  • Joyce Carol Oates (Pulitzer Prize)
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (author) 
  • My father.

My father and his brothers attended a one-room school house that was built on land his father donated for the school. It still stands (and is now a private home,) down a winding country road in central Illinois. It feels like steppeing back in time a hundred years when I go back for a visit. My grandparent's farmhouse is just around the corner--a country mile away...

One of my "old school" memories is that my Junior High School was situatied right up against the back of the San Diego Zoo next to the wallaby and kangaroo enclosures. When the tour bus would drive by loaded with people, the bus driver would often comment on the "animals" on the other side of the fence--meaning the children on the gym field. It was all in good-natured fun (I think...)

What about you? Do you have any unusual or fond memories of school?

For more information about my upcoming release

Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff

Please check out my website where I have an excerpt posted.
The book is now up on Amazon where it is available for pre-order at a reduced rate!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Passion for Pumpkin

by Shanna Hatfield

It's that time of year when my taste buds beg for fall flavors. Nothing makes them quite as happy as pumpkin.
If you think beyond just pumpkin pie, there are so many wonderful recipes out there.

If you are a fan of pumpkin, here are a few more recipe ideas I'm sure our forefathers would have enjoyed!

Is a simple to make recipe with a wonderful pumpkin flavor.

And if that isn’t enough pumpkinfesting for you, try these ideas:
• Make a simple pumpkin soup by adding about four cups of chicken broth to a 28-0unce can of pumpkin. Stir in about 3 ounces of Feta cheese, season with salt and a pinch of nutmeg and enjoy.
• Use canned pumpkin as a thickener. Add it to any type of chili or stew that needs a little thickening.
• Substitute canned pumpkin for half the fat in quick breads. This works well with cinnamon, citrus and chocolate. Or make your tastebuds extra happy and make a loaf of pumpkin bread.
• Add canned pumpkin to half your cheesecake filling. Swirl it into the filling, but don’t mix, before baking to get an awesome design and incredible flavor.
• Mix canned pumpkin into softened ice cream then refreeze for a quick pumpkin dessert. Serve with gingersnaps and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
• Mix a heaping spoonful into grits, top with grated Parmesan cheese and a tiny dollop of butter.
• Mix canned pumpkin with one part apple cider and two parts ginger ale for a fun beverage.
You could also make pumpkin polenta, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin muffins, roasted pumpkin wedges, pumpkin roll or pumpkin seeds.


USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
Find Shanna’s books at:

Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Browning Antique Automobile Collection

A couple of years ago I toured the Union Station in Ogden, Utah. This building is the home to several museums including the Browning Antique Automobile Collection.

I took photos of several old cars, as did my husband. A lot of the engine shots are his. I am not sharing all of the autos in the collection in this post, but only a few of the older cars, those that were available during the first few decades of the 1900’s.

To give a brief summary, the automotive industry in the United States started in the 1890’s. The cost of the first cars were such only the well-to-do could afford them. Jan 1903, Ford introduced the Model A. Ford introduced the Model T in 1908, the same year William Durant formed General Motors. But, they were not the first company to offer cars the middle class could afford.
1901 Oldsmobile. Note the headlamp
The oldest car in the collection is this 1901 Oldsmobile. Here I have transcribed the detail in the description since it is rather small to read:

Olds Motor Vehicle Company was organized in Lansing, Michigan in August 1897.The curved-dash Oldsmobile was the first mass produced vehicle in the world. Production increased yearly to 6,500 by 1905, then declined until production ended in 1907. This car started to put “America on wheels” because it was within the reach of the middle class. The song “In My Merry Oldsmobile” was written to promote the sale of this car. This car has been reported to be the “Oldest registered car in Utah.” Some accessories for the car are a rear facing back seat and a buggy top made of either leather or rubber cloth.

By the end of the 1920s the American automobile industry was dominated by three large companies: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Here are a few other vehicles from the Browning Antique Automobile Collection:

1909 Stearns 30/60

1911 Knox

Engine on 1911 Knox

1911 Knox

1914 mobile gas pump

And last but not least, a Pierce-Arrow: 
1929 Pierce-Arrow

 Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press. Her novelette, A Christmas Promise, and the first four novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit and Haunted by Love were published by Prairie Rose Publications. The fifth book in the series is due out soon.