Thursday, July 29, 2021

Creating a Family Legacy for a story

For my recent release, Lightkeeper’s Challenge, I wanted to create a family who had a legacy of being lighthouse keepers. Since the story was set in 1880, looking to Europe for the characters’ ancestors was the logical solution. During the 1800s, America bloomed in size because of the relocation of immigrants seeking a better life.

Part of the fun of writing a new novella is populating it with people who have rich heritages. Research tells us that people who emigrated held tight to their country’s traditions. Besides doing things the way they already knew, heeding tradition kept them connected to those left behind, as well as offering the potential for banding together in their new home.

I chose Denmark as the country of origin for my heroine Lisbet’s family—the Dinesens—partly because of the country’s early history with lighthouses. Lisbet strives to become the fourth generation of lightkeepers. I established her great-grandfather as serving as a lighthouse keeper to the Skagen White Lighthouse at the northern tip of Denmark. This is where Lisbet’s father grew up and learned the trade.

Once the ancestry is selected, then I look for details about the country’s culture to include. If I want the character to be musically inclined, I research native instruments. If the character likes to do handcrafts, I check if the culture invented something contemporary readers would know. I especially have fun with researching details about food and wedding customs.

All of the above are included in Lightkeeper’s Challenge, book 12 in the Keepers of the Light series.

Raised in a Pacific Coast lighthouse, Lisbet Dinesen hopes to follow family tradition and succeed her father as senior lightkeeper. Assistant lightkeeper Hale Warwyck feels he’s paid his dues by working the night shift for five years and deserves command of his own lighthouse.

Principal Lightkeeper Anders Dinesen announces the need for a substitute during his vacation time. Both Lisbet and Hale want to step in. A challenge is established to test their suitability and skills. Has Anders taken on the role of matchmaker for his eldest child? Will the competition drive a wedge into Lisbet’s and Hale’s budding attraction? 

Amazon buy link

Let me know if you like such cultural details in the historical stories you read.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021


The burble of Mossy creek reassured Ty. They were close to the dugout. He remembered it being close to the creek when he visited with his father.
Crazy Jed Wiley’s passing more than a year before left his odd home empty. As the name of the house implied, it was dug into the side of the hill. As it was no more than a hole in the ground, it might conceal them. Most folks could walk by it and never know a door lay concealed by brush.

In my next new release, Lemon Pie by Lucinda, I send my hero and heroine running through the woods from kidnappers. An abandonded dug out provides the hiding place they need. But, why would anyone make a home in the ground?

Fifteen dollars! A man could have 160 acres by merely paying a $10 filing fee on his claim. Then, after five years, he could pay another $5 fee and own the land. The catch? 

The government required the settler to create a home and dig a well. For many who headed to the West, the trip took most of the money. People settling on the Great Plains had few trees to use in building the required house.

The answer was to live in the ground. These homes were known as pit houses or dug outs. Even Laura Ingalls spent part of her childhood in a dug out when the family lived in Minnesota.

A dug out consisted of one small room, usually. Some of these homes had walls made of sod bricks. Very few people had a floor made by laying down boards on the floor.

The pit house was a stop-gap means to provide a quick, temporary home. Good crops, often wheat, brought money to the bank for these pioneers. A clapboard house was a goal so they dug out could either be abandoned or used as a root cellar.

Two ladies named Lucinda...
Lucy never uses her real name and is surprised when Rev. Caldwell calls her that at the pie auction. She's even more surprised when Ty Goodson bids on her pie. He's never shown her a bit of interest, and whoever wins her pie will share a lunch with her.

What follows is a series of misadventures and a night spent in a cave. That night alone with each other leads them into a forced marriage—a shotgun marriage with Ty’s father holding the gun.

How will Lucy win the love of a man who longs for a different Lucinda? And what about the thieves Ty and Lucy witnessed burying something? Will they return?
Pre-order today on Amazon!

Monday, July 26, 2021




By Annee Jones

          You may recall that the article I wrote for this blog last month was all about the fascinating (and quite strange!) history of wedding cakes.  You may wonder why I’m interested in researching this information.  If you look back on the subjects I’ve presented in this blog, most of them contain clues about books I’m writing or planning to write!  Hence, last month I was giving you a “hint.”  Now the cat is out of the bag, and most of you know I am writing for the new Old Timey Holiday Kitchen series sponsored by Sweet Americana Sweethearts.  My first book for this collection releases next month and is titled Charm Cake by Charity.  So let’s talk about the history of cake charms!

          Wedding cakes themselves date back as early as ancient Roman times, when a cake was broken over the bride’s head as a symbol of good fortune.  In 17th century England the tradition developed of sewing charms onto the skirt of the bride's wedding dress.  These charms would later be pulled off by her bridesmaids and kept as tokens of luck and friendship.  Over the course of the next several decades, the trinkets were transferred from the dress to the cakes, creating the Victorian tradition of baking a ring into a “bride’s pie” to be served to the woman’s unmarried friends.  The woman whose slice contained the ring was said to be the next to marry.

          Today, the charms are usually attached to a ribbon and the cake decorator places them under the cake or between the bottom layers before the final decoration is finished up.  It is common for one charm to be included for each member of the wedding party.   Called a “cake pull,” the chosen members stand around the cake and all pull their charm out at the same time.

    If you would like to insert charms into one of your cakes, here are some suggestions:

- Only use sterling silver or food-safe pewter (avoid things like metal alloy that you have no idea what is in it as it may post a health risk);

- Make sure ribbons are securely attached to the charms;

- Provide a guide for guests to know what their charms mean;

- A nice option is to offer your guests a way to wear their charm right away so it doesn't get lost.  Ideas include bracelets, necklaces, keychains, or wine glass charm clips.

    With regard to what the various symbols mean, there is a lot of debate.  Modern charm vendors tend to make them up.  Some of the more traditional meanings include: 

Coin:                        Prosperity

Ring:                        You will find your true love or be the next to marry

Wishbone:               Your wish will come true

Boot:                        You will travel

Bell:                          Betrothal

Baby Booties/ Footprints:  A child soon

Anchor:                   Love that is true and steady

Key:                         You will have a secure life

Four Leaf Clover:  Good luck will find you soon

Bird:                        A new opportunity will soon present itself

Boat:                        An adventure awaits you

Music Note:            Harmony

Fleur-de-lis:            New beginnings


          You’ll have to read Charm Cake by Charity to find out which charms the characters receive and how their meanings feature into the story! 


About Me:

 Annee Jones is an inspirational romance novelist who enjoys sharing her heart and imagination with others.  She is passionate about writing stories that offer hope and encouragement and likes to think of her books as “romance filled with faith and a sprinkle of fairy dust!”

Annee is also a professional book reviewer for Publishers Weekly in the genre of faith-based fiction (fun tidbit: she writes many of the editorial reviews you see on Amazon).

Professionally, Annee works as a disability counselor where she helps her clients navigate through complex medical and legal systems while rediscovering their wholeness in Spirit.

Connect with Annee here:


Available Now for Pre-Order:






Thursday, July 22, 2021

What's For Dessert? - Old West Cuisine in the 1800s by Jo-Ann Roberts


In my new release, Grace-Brides of New Hope, Grace Donegan is the town baker who creates delectable dried cherry tarts, pies, cakes. and cookies for the cafe and the Prairie Queen Hotel in New Hope, Kansas.

While doing research, I read dozens of articles about pioneer women who had to decide what few precious things to carry across the plains. One choice they all had in common was their collection of "receipts", as recipes were then called. For them, these were reminders of a security left behind and a hope for the abundance of the future. In the interim, they simply did what they had to do to keep their families alive.

For the most part, meals were informal and the food hearty. Nothing was wasted. Dried bread was made into bread pudding; a bone was turned into soup and extra milk was made into pudding or cheese.

Early trappers, explorers, miners, and homesteaders all had to be creative when it came to cooking on the frontier. Substitutions of all kinds were made so that the food would not only taste good but that it would taste familiar. It was certainly worth the effort since we're still using some of these recipes even today.

Here are a few examples of dishes these resourceful, hardy people created with limited or unusual ingredients.

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough biscuits were a-little-bit-of-heaven-on-earth delicacy whether on the trail, on a homestead, or in a prairie town cafe. Once a cook got a good sourdough starter he or she cherished it like a prized possession. 

The starter was made by cutting up 2 medium-sized potatoes into cubes and boiling them in water until tender. The cook would remove the potatoes and measure out two cups of the liquid. (The potatoes would be used for the evening meal). The cook would then mix the potato water, flour, and sugar into a smooth paste and set the mixture in a warm place until it doubled in size.

Vinegar Pie

This custard-like pie would have been made when there was no fresh fruit or dairy to be had. Settlers had to make do with ingredients that didn't spoil.

The acidity in the vinegar actually gives the pie a flavor that is reminiscent of lemon. This dessert is one variety of pie Grace Donegan makes to sell at the cafe for Thanksgiving. It doesn't taste like vinegar at all. It's sweet and tasty and brings to mind citrus more than vinegar. Plus, like a chess pie, it gets a little bit of a crust on top when baked.
Sheep Sorrel Pie

Since citrus fruit was hard to come by on the prairie and lemon pie was an extremely popular dessert, sheep sorrel leaves had a lemony, tang/tart flavor making it a perfect substitution. The pioneers used the herb to flavor their pies and is supposedly very close in taste to lemon pie. But homesteaders state that it does take a fair bit of sheep sorrel to get the flavor.


Like corn pancakes, Johnnycakes or hoecakes were a staple for anyone who needed to fill some bellies but had no wheat flour. Corn, being a new world food, made its way in all kinds of dishes. Topped with maple syrup or molasses, this makes a fine meal for breakfast, dinner, or supper.


Missing the traditional puddings from England but lacking the ingredients to make them, settlers created cobblers. A simple dish that combined fruit and bread or biscuit dough, cobblers have since become an American staple.  This dessert would have been cooked over a fire in a cast-iron Dutch oven and lard would have been used in place of butter.

Juneberry Pie (a.k.a. "Saskatoon berry")

Native to North America, particularly the upper Midwest, North and South Dakota, and the northern prairie region of Canada, juneberries had a flavor reminiscent of dark cherries or raisins, and a milder taste than blueberries. The ripe juneberry fruit is dark purple, with several tiny soft seeds, and very closely resembles a highbush blueberry.


When the Europeans arrived in the United States, they brought their cookie recipes with them. Soon, they adapted the old recipes to fit their new country. American butter cookies are a close relative to the English tea cake and the Scottish shortbread.

In the Southern colonies, every housewife knew how to bake tea cakes that had no extra flavoring except butter and sometimes a couple of drops of rose water.

The first American cookies that showed up in a cookbook had creative names like Jumbles, Plunkets, and Cry Babies which gave no clue as to what was inside that cookie. As the expansion of the country grew, new ingredients started showing up in cookie recipes. The arrival of the railroad meant fruits and nuts like coconuts and oranges became available to homesteaders. Even cereal became a popular ingredient in cookie recipes after the Kellogg brothers invented cornflakes in the late 1800s.

In the Brides of New Hope series, cookies are a favorite treat for Eli MacKenzie, Grayson Barrett, and Tripp Walker.

As a native New Englander, Eli enjoyed Joe Froggers, a molasses cookie, while Grayson was partial to sugar biscuits, a treat his English-born mother often baked, and Tripp was fond of lebkuchen, a spice cookie reminding him of his German roots back home in New Braunfels, Texas.

Joe Froggers
Sugar Biscuits

From the treats we still make to this day to the obscure recipes that have fallen by the wayside, the ingenuity of the pioneers to make tasty food is nothing less than astounding. With so many foods unavailable, it is no wonder that a good cook was so often longer for on the trail or in a small prairie town.

 Lessie Brides of New Hope Book One

Posey Brides of New Hope Book Two

Grace Brides of New Hope Book Three


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Westerns from the Early Days

 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

In the month of July I've been looking at the old Westerns, the TV shows I watched or would have watched had the network been available in my area. It has been a fun journey. As I've watched some on YouTube or found the DVDs, it has been eye-opening. Although I love reading about the Western time period, the seed of that love comes from those early shows. I'll be looking at two shows in this post. "Annie Oakley" starring Gail Davis, and "The Cisco Kid" with Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo.

"Annie Oakley" was just the type of show that children would enjoy. It was not so complicated that children couldn't get the message, but there was enough fun that adults could enjoy it also. This was one of the few syndicated shows that had a female lead who, for the time, wasn't the damsel in distress or needing someone else to take care of things. When you realize this show was one of Gene Autry's 'Flying A' productions the show's stories make sense.

Producer Gene Autry and star Gail Davis
photo from Wikipedia

"The Cisco Kid" came to television syndication from the movies. The half-hour shows were shown in black and white but were actually filmed in color. When you watch this show, which ran for six seasons from 1950 until 1956, you will usually see them the way they were filmed, in color. Duncan Renaldo as Cisco and Leo Carrillo as Pancho had great onscreen chemistry and worked together in some of the Cisco Kid movies. Carrillo as Pancho did a fabulous job of butchering the English language. It was just the thing that young people enjoyed. Renado as Cisco was charming, smart, and the two always saved the day. 

Duncan Renaldo as Cisco and Leo Carrillo as Pancho
photo from WesternsontheWeb

The novel, "Josie's Dream" came from my love of independent women who could do what had to be done, who would follow a dream even if it wasn't what was always acceptable.

I am home, Josie thought, as she stepped out onto the road. To the west, looking like clouds on the horizon, the high mountain peaks gave her a sense of permanence, security. The plains around the town reminded her of the rolling hills of eastern Iowa, except these were dry and dusty, instead of green and moist. She felt lighter in the clear air, the sky a shade of blue that defied description.

Breathing deeply of the independence she felt, Josie reached down to pick up her cases. Looking around, Josie took in the small town. It was just as she had dreamed, the main street with its business buildings standing like sentinels to keep the town safe, help it grow. Houses, some with fences, some without, ringed the outer reaches of the area.

Since corresponding with Dr. Harriett Leonard, a past student of her medical school and dear friend, despite the difference in age, Josie had been dreaming of coming to Colorado. Dr. Leonard had offered to let her work at the Spa in Manitou Springs where Harriett was the proprietor, but Josie wanted to create a practice in a smaller town, where people really needed her.

Now here she was in Kiowa Wells, on the eastern plains of Colorado just a few miles from the railhead at Kit Carson. Her biggest obstacle now was finding a place to set up her medical practice.

Despite his reservations, her father gave her a medical bag, equipped with the basics. “Something to remind you of this commitment, your Hippocratic oath,” were his parting words.


Below are links to watch an episode of each show. Perhaps it will bring back memories or maybe give you some new ones. 

Annie Oakley - YouTube

The Cisco Kid - YouTube

Links to the other post in this series are below:

Post 1

Post 2

Until next time, enjoy those old shows.

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


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Cowboy Sayings - It's a Three Dog Night


Two dogs, three dogs, four or more? And what do dogs have to do with nightfall? 

In the 1800's, while working and driving cattle, cowboys often had to sleep outside. In the spring and summer they'd usually sleep under the stars, but in the fall and winter, they'd have to pack tents or canvas "halves" to block wind and work as a shelter to stave off the chill. Additionally, they had working dogs with them for protection, helping move the herd, and for warmth at night.

Cowboys would use dogs for their body heat. The number of dogs in the tent that it took to keep warm signified how cold the night was. If they needed three dogs to stay warm, it was a "three dog night." There is such a thing as a four dog night, or a five dog night, but for some reason, the number three had more sticking power.

It's the cowboy way of talking about how cold it is. Have you ever heard this saying before? Used it yourself? Could you see yourself using it now? Let me know in a comment!

On average, P. Creeden releases a story each month. Interested in learning more? 
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Monday, July 19, 2021

New Release: KRIS KRINGLE'S KUCHEN BY KATRINA by Elissa Strati


We are pleased to announce the release of the first book in the new holiday series, Old Time Holiday Kitchen, sponsored by the Sweet Americana Book Club:

 Kris Kringle's Kuchen by Katrina

Elissa Strati, Author 


About Kris Kringle's Kuchen by Katrina:  

He fell in love with her cooking. Could he love her, too?

Katrina has always considered herself shy, dumpy, and unattractive. Tight lacing makes her overabundant chest too prominent and still does not provide the popular narrow-waisted figure. She’s getting older and sees no prospects in sight, while all of her friends are courting or already married.

Hans is a strong, boisterous, popular man; a good worker who has his own farm, and is every woman’s dream—especially Katrina’s—but she’s barely ever spoken to the man.

Fate throws them together. Is she up for the challenge, and her best chance for happiness?


Katrina watched anxiously as each judge put a taste in his mouth—and then smiled! They looked at each other and nodded in agreement as the head judge placed the blue ribbon next to Katrina’s cake.

A voice boomed out.

“I don’t care if she’s old, plain, and fat! A woman who can cook like this is the woman I could marry!”

Katrina knew that voice. His was the lovely baritone at church and he was, oh, so handsome! He’d never even noticed her when he strolled over to chat with one or another of the other ladies.

Because she was. Old, plain, and fat. All three. And she was the cook who had created the Kuchen about which Hans Johansson was making such a fuss.

“It reminds me of my mother’s kaka (Swedish - cake) and I never thought to taste something as good again!”


Karl Fischer leaned over and reached under the plate, pulling out the card showing the name of the chef. He elbowed Hans.

“Looks as if you get your wish,” he cackled. “She is all three, old, plain, and fat! It is Katrina Schmidt.”

Oh, she moaned to herself, he didn’t have to say it again.

With kind of a mean look in his eye Karl looked over and saw her standing there embarrassed.

“Congratulations, Miss Schmidt! You are the winner! Come on over and get your prize.”

And then he elbowed Hans again.

“Here, you big oaf, you can propose to her now.”

 For the purchase link, please CLICK HERE.


About Elissa Strati:

I split my time between the east coast and southwest and love to travel, locally and internationally. I have held all manner of jobs and gained experience in a variety of fields, all of which comes in very handy when I am coming up with plot ideas. (Gas station attendant translates nicely to stable boy.)

I’ve almost always been a writer, but was invited to become an author—and haven’t looked back! I am presently focusing on historical western romances filled with adventure and humor as I gradually populate the towns I created in Kansas and Texas—real locales, but fictional places.


Here are a bunch of links if you'd like to follow or keep in touch (I'd like that a lot!):