Tuesday, November 28, 2023

How to Accidently Build a Town -

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

When I wrote my first novella "Home For His Heart", now a part of the anthology, "Old West Stories of Love" I needed the name of a town. Since this story took place in the Colorado Mountains I used the name of an old campground up in the area I was writing about called Agate Gulch. I have since written two other novellas, also in the anthology, that took place in that small mountain town. It's just a name I haven't really platted out where everything is. I will have to soon as I'm working on another story that takes place there.

When I increased my word count and wrote my first short novel "Josie's Dream", I wanted to town on the eastern plains of Colorado. I thought long and hard about what I would call this town my aspiring doctor would be moving to. After much deliberation, the town of Kiowa Wells burst into being.

I fell in love with Kiowa Wells. So much so my second novel "Chasing a Chance", began there with my main character. But I was not done with Kiowa Wells, a third novel "The Outlaw's Letter" continued with characters from the town.

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

Now in my fourth novel "Amos", a part of the Christmas Quilts Bride series, I am back in Kiowa Wells. It has gotten to the point now where this fictional town is now very much a part of my life. This 'accidental town' has taken on a life of its own. I'm at the point where I'm ready to plot out where all the buildings are, where all the characters that I talk about live and work. And it's a growing town. I have at least one if not two more novels that take place there or near there and a very short story that I'm working on about how the town began.

So this 'accidental town' is now growing because I've fallen in love with it, its location, and the people who inhabit it.

Although my upcoming release of "Amos", on December 22, can be read as a standalone story, it is inhabited by the other people that live in my accidental town.

What is so lovely is that there are people who believe there really is a town in eastern Colorado by the name of Kiowa Wells. Who knows maybe someday there will be.

You can pre-order "Amos" now at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CKP7VG24

Until Next Time Stay Safe & Stay Well


Friday, November 24, 2023

Rose, Christmas Quilt Brides releases today

Setting: Butte City, Montana Territory 1879 

Spinster Rose MacEwen is the shy daughter in the large family of a prominent banker. All her life, her stutter has kept her from experiencing a normal social life like her sisters have. Although she’s the oldest daughter, Rose rarely talks with anyone outside her large family. Her mother believes no man will ever want her because a woman who can’t act serve as hostess won’t aid a husband’s career. Rather than argue, she keeps her thoughts bottled up inside. For years, she has sat at her grandmother’s side and learned the art of quilting. Rose pours her emotions into making quilts that she donates for charitable causes. But what she yearns for is the chance to converse with others in the community about what’s in her heart. 

Blacksmith Berrin Harimann is most at ease in his world of heat and toil. No one bothers him while he’s wresting useful objects from blocks of metal. Those who come to his dark shop don’t linger after transacting their business. A disfiguring injury five years earlier robbed him of his fiancĂ©e. Rather than make excuses for a family who couldn’t look him in the eye, he moved west and set up shop in the Silver Bow Creek Valley. The pain from his burn scar now resides in his lonely heart and festers because of what’s missing from his life. 

When the pulley on her quilt frame breaks, Rose ventures outside the family mansion in search of a blacksmith. Berrin looks up from his forge and sees an elegant lady in his shop doorway. Their gazes meet, and she steps into his world, bringing light. They connect instantly, and their fate seems set. But what chance does this pair have when everyone tells them they are not suited? Can their budding love withstand the expectations of her family and society’s standards? 

Amazon link Also in Kindle Unlimited

I really liked using the same setting as last year's novella in this series, Holle. Butte City has a rich history in German culture, and I was glad to put my research to use again. Plus characters from the first story make cameo appearances, which I hope is as fun for readers as it was for me to write.

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Thursday, November 23, 2023

"Sassamanesh, Ibimi, Bitter Berry or Crane Berry" - A Cranberry by Any Other Name - Jo-Ann Roberts

While plenty of people eat turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie year-round, it seems like cranberry sauce almost exclusively exists only at Thanksgiving. Although the jiggly, gelatinous side dish probably wasn't eaten at the First Thanksgiving, they may have been an ingredient in some "puddings in the belly," as stuffings were called then.

But a little more than 50 years later (according to a 1672 account cited by The Washington Post), Americans and Native Americans had both started to enjoy cranberries. 

"Indians and English use it much, boyling them with Sugar for a Sauce to eat with their Meat."

For Eastern Indians, they were "sassamanesh".  The Pequots and Wampanoags of New England, and South Jersey Leni-Lanape tribes called them "ibimi" or bitter berry, while the Algonquins of Wisconsin dubbed the fruit "atoqua". But it was the early German and Dutch settlers who started calling it the "crane berry" because of the flower's resemblance to the head and bill of a crane.

It was the Native Americans who first took advantage of the cranberry's many natural properties. By mixing mashed cranberries with deer meat, they made a survival food called pemmican. They also believed in the medicinal value of the cranberry, using it in poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds. And the rich red juice of the cranberry was used as a natural dye for rugs, blankets, and clothing.

One of only three fruits native to North America, cranberries grow in the wild on long-running vines in sandy bogs and marshes. While they're primarily harvested in the Northeast, they also grow in Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington. 

But even with its many uses, cranberries weren't farmed on a large scale until the 1800s. At first, growers picked the berries by hand. They then revolutionized the dry harvesting technique with an idea called wet harvesting. By flooding the bog with water, the cranberry's buoyancy allows it to float to the surface, where they are collected.


  • In 1816, the first recorded yield of cranberries was grown and harvested in Dennis, Massachusetts.
  • Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries a year close to 80 million of those pounds during Thanksgiving week.
  • Small pockets of air inside fresh cranberries cause them to bounce and float in water.
  • If you strung together all the cranberries produced in North America, they'd stretch from Boston to Los Angels more than 565 times.
  • Cranberries are picky when it comes to growing conditions. Because they are traditionally grown in natural wetlands, they need a lot of water. During the long, cold winter months, they also require a period of dormancy which rules out any southern region.
Each September, Cape Cod celebrates this most-beloved fruit at the Harwich Cranberry and Arts Festival. My mother-in-law lived in Harwich Port, not far from the festival. When are children were young, this was an annual tradition. Click Here

Happy Thanksgiving dear Friends,
        May you have a joyful day this Thanksgiving. May your holiday be full of blessings and love and brimming with an abundance of happiness. 

New Release

He made a promise to a dying friend.
She vowed never to love again.
"You can't continue living like this, Linnea. You've become a hermit.
Linnea Nyland heard the concern in her sister-in-law's voice. Still filled with grief and missing her husband a year after his unexpected passing, she didn't have the inclination to disagree with the statement. Though she dearly missed working her magic in the family bakery, she liked her life on the farm just the way it was...solitary.

Especially after Deputy Finn McBride came calling with his ridiculous proposal of marriage!

In a moment of panic, Finn made a heart pledge to Erik Nyland to take care of Linnea, to marry her. He'd bungled his first attempt, and he's not sure his heart can endure the vow he made knowing he'd been in love with her from the day he came to Holly Springs.

Giving it one last try, he challenges her to a holiday baking competition. If he wins, she must agree to let him court...if she wins, he'll leave her alone...forever.

Throw in a matchmaking landlady, a Norwegian Buhund dog, and a missing special ingredient, the lonely deputy prays for a Christmas miracle.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Cowboy Sayings - Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Photo generated by Canva

“Make hay while the sun shines” is a phrase that finds its origins in the practical wisdom of farmers and cowboys who understood the critical importance of good weather when it came to harvesting hay. Harvesting hay, a staple in animal feed and bedding, is a delicate process that requires dry conditions. The sun’s warmth helps in drying the hay efficiently, preserving its nutritional value and preventing mold. And when winter comes, they are going to need that hay to feed the animals when the grass stops growing.

Historically, this saying can be traced back further than cowboy times all the way to Medieval England, where agriculture played a central role in daily life. The phrase encapsulates the essence of recognizing and capitalizing on favorable circumstances when they arise. It’s another way of saying, “Seize the day.”

Today, the age-old advice still holds true. It serves as a gentle reminder to embrace the present, tackle challenges head-on, and cultivate success when conditions are favorable. How about you? Have you ever heard this saying before? Used it yourself? Could you see yourself using it now? Let me know in a comment!

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Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Western Expansion and "The Parting of the Ways" - Friendship Quilts A Gift of Remembrance

By Kimberly Grist

With the passing of The Homestead Act of 1862, the Federal Government offered 270 million acres of land in thirty states for homesteading and the birth of what would be known as the Western Movement and one of the largest migrations of people in our nation’s history.

Covered wagon and settlers crossing the West c.1850 (Apic/Getty Images)

Preparation for the Trip

Much preparation was necessary to make a trip West. Pioneers often spent months gathering supplies, wagons, animals, weapons, equipment, tools, household supplies, and food, purchasing coffee, beans, sugar, and flour.

Illustration from: Story of the Great American West. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc, 1977

Pioneer women prepared salted meats, dried fruit, sweet corn, packed dishes, clothing, and utensils, and spent considerable time sewing to prepare for the trip. Travel guides suggested that each family should bring two to three blankets or quilts for each family member. As a result, as Western Expansion continued, friends and family members often created friendship quilts as tributes for those who left to go West.

A wagon loaded with supplies for the trek west is on display at the Trail Center. https://oregontrailcenter.org/supplies

The first 1000 Miles

Since the first 1000 miles heading to California and Oregon followed the same trail, women had a thousand miles to create friendship quilts for friends they made before reaching a point near the Continental Divide at South Pass called “The Parting of the Ways.”

These parting gifts often had visual patterns reminiscent of the journey, such as Wagon Wheel, Wandering Foot, Snail’s Trail, Wild Rose, Indian Trail, Evening Star, Road to California, and Friendship.

A Wagon Wheel Design - Artist Unknown

An example of the Evening Star Pattern https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_642532

The Pin Wheel design reflected the power of the constant prairie wind that blew against the cloth-covered wagons.


In my upcoming novel, Christmas Quilt Brides Book 15, Clementine grew up in an orphanage and was taught by a skilled seamstress to use her creativity to repurpose what was available. Clemmie created a crazy quilt design, a patchwork quilt made from assorted pieces of fabric in irregular sizes, shapes, and colors. Her angel design was inspired by a stained glass window.


Coming Soon

Available for Pre-Order


Clementine has nothing to her name but a quilt and some second-hand clothing. She's aged out of the orphanage and can't afford to be choosey. But she is determined to make the best of things. "If it's true that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, surely any minor flaws like my sassiness will fade away with the aroma of fresh bread."

Disappointed in love, Caleb Ellis is content to live a reclusive lifestyle on the outskirts of his family's ranch. But his father had other ideas and left a condition that he must marry to obtain his inheritance. Time is not on his side, so he has arranged to marry a woman he's never met by proxy. "Anyone growing up in an orphanage, desperate enough to apply as a mail-order bride, is bound to be practical, biddable, and self-sufficient. I'll leave her to her own resources, and she should leave me to mine."

Monday, November 13, 2023

Reverse Research Road Trip by Zina Abbott





I have been known to do things backwards. Onsite research is no exception.

Last month, after spending too many days burning up the highway between home and Fresno, a city an hour and a half drive away where my husband goes for medical care, we decided it was time for a one-day road trip for fun. We enjoy exploring the mountains and foothills to the east of us, so that was where I decided to go. To stay away from the freeways, I planned a trip that kept us mostly on the two-lane highways. The only time we were on a freeway was the short jaunt between Placerville (originally Hangtown) and Pollock Pines.

Map courtesy of Google Maps

We started by taking the back roads from our house until we reached Snelling, the first county seat when Merced County broke away from Mariposa County. I have yet to set a story there, but do not count it out as a future book setting. 

From there, we traveled J59. On the way was this scene, the land in which my characters in Kendrick, Cole, and Madeline would have traveled, and where Cole would have built his ranch. 

This takes us to Hwy 120, the road we take to Sonora, where most of my A Watchman for Willow was set. The volcanic landscape which, over time, has been formed into table mountains, has always fascinated me.

However, Sonora was not our destination that day. We cut off and traveled to Copperopolis, a town that was on the Milton-to-Sonora stagecoach route. Those who have read A Watchman for Willow will recall from my author notes that in real life, Peter Kelly, who died from a gunshot wound in Sonora in 1886, owned and ran the livery and stage station in Copperopolis.  I do not believe that building is still there, but I enjoyed getting a picture of the Union Guard Armory, established in 1864. Copperopolis was a major source of copper for bullet casings used in the Civil War.

 From there, we cut over to Angels Camp, a town that was part of the setting for Madeline, then up California State Highway 49, also known as the Golden Chain Highway because it connects so many of the major gold mining towns and camps in the Mother Lode. Jesse in A Watchman for Willow might not have traveled past this remains of this 1850s rock Butte mercantile, but he probably saw many like it. We also stopped in Mokelumne Hill but using the pictures I took, that town will get its own blog post sometime.

Along this highway, we drove through several little 1850s gold mining camps  that Will and Jeremy from Clara tried their luck in during 1859. One was Drytown. 


From there, we continued up Hwy 49 until we reached today's Placerville, the city originally known as Old Dry Diggin's and then Hangtown. Some of the buildings would have been there when Will and Jeremy arrived in California. However, the bell tower did not come into existence until 1865 after several fires devastated the town.

 When Will and Clara from Clara married, this Cary House hotel, built in 1857, might have been where they spent their wedding night. 

Here's another old-time Placerville building that is currently a historical museum--the Soda Works.

From Placerville, we drove on Hwy 50 east to Pollock Pines, where we exited on Sly Park Road. This area was known as Sly Park at the time of Clara, ever since one of the Mormons who traveled east to Utah found the area, then later came back and claimed it. Sly Park Road connects with Mormon Emigrant Trail, which was cut in 1848 as members of the Mormon Battalion decided to return to the Salt Lake Valley area. It was a EMIGRANT, not an immigrant, trail, because those who blazed that trail were leaving California to travel east. 

However, many thousands used that same trail to immigrate west. Will, Jeremy, and Clara in Clara all traveled this trail, which later became known also as the Carson Pass Trail. Because of the difficulties of the Donner Pass/Truckee trail, this became the preferred California Trail to the gold fields.

Jenkinson Lake did not exist at the time of Clara. Sly Park Dam was built and the area filled in 1955. This photo was taken from the Mormon Emigrant Trail road. It is not far from the area where those first emigrants were required to build fires and chisel rocks to build a section of road. To get over giant granite boulders, they dismantled their wagons and used ropes to pull their belongings and livestock up and over. By the time of Clara, the West Bypass had been built, which took travelers around the boulders. 

We did not travel far on the Mormon Emigrant Trail Road, which would eventually have taken us to Carson City, Nevada, before turning around. After returning to Sly Park Road, also known as E16, we continued west toward Pleasant Valley, the "jumping off" point for that first group of Mormon Emigrants. In Clara, Will and Jeremy end up at the home of a widow with two children along this road. I placed her apple orchard and grain farm east of Pleasant Valley. 

It is too bad that we did not make this trip last winter instead of last month. I knew there was an elevation along the Mother Lode foothills was just right for growing apples. Just north of where I placed her farm is the "Apple Valley" region north of Hwy. 50 between Placerville and Pollock Pines. However, I would have put her farm in a more realistic setting if I had put her in Pleasant Valley. Oh, well.


There is a lot of agriculture that takes place in the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills. After we turned south, we passed several wine vineyards tucked between pines and oaks. Italians, especially, found homes for their various farms from orchards, vineyards, and truck farming, since the region reminded them of where they came from in Italy.

In Clara, Will and Jeremy stopped at Fiddletown for the first time on their way to the Pleasant Valley region. However, we stopped there on the way home.
While there, from a Chinese doctor, Will bought herbs to fight the infection and fever Jeremy developed after breaking his leg. He very easily could have made his purchase from the Chew Kee Store that was established in 1850. There are several Chinese buildings and businesses that have been restored and preserved in Fiddletown by the current residents of Chinese descent. It is another gold rush town that will get its own blog post one day.

Our last big stop was Milton. Milton, which now is nothing more than a wide spot in the road, was the end-of-the-line town for the Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad, which, in 1886 at the time of A Watchman for Willow, was leased to the Southern Pacific Company. From there, starting on Rock Creek Road, the Milton-to-Sonora stagecoach transported foothill-bound travelers to Sonora by way of Copperopolis. This is the start of the Rock Creek Road in Milton.

From there, we headed home through Oakdale, a town also mentioned in several of my California novels. 

Even though I have been familiar with several of these areas for decades, some like Copperopolis, Mokelumne Hill, and Fiddletown were new to me. I hope you enjoyed the pictures I shared.


A Watchman for Willow is now available as a paperback. To find the book description and purchase options, 



To find the book description and purchase options for Clara,

 please CLICK HERE



To find all my books on Amazon, including the other books mentioned in this post, please visit my Amazon account by


Thursday, November 9, 2023

The Sorosis Club for Women


When Captain Cavedweller and I visited Fort Dalles Museum back in August, I kept seeing different signs referring to the Sorosis Club. 
I had no idea what it was, and decided to look into the history of the organization.

Jane Cunningham Croly organized the Sorosis Club in New York City in March 1868 with 12 members. Among its founding members were Josephine Pollard, a children's author, and Fanny Fern. Fern, a popular columnist, had been outraged when women were excluded from the all-male New York Press Club when it had an honorary dinner for the author Charles Dickens the month before.

That rejection to the dinner resulted in the formation of the Sorosis Club, where men weren't allowed. The women began a national movement that would save buildings, encourage literacy, establish scholarships, and, in general, make a big difference in the world around them. 

Sorosis was incorporated in January 1869 with Alice Cary serving as the first president. Within a year, Sorosis had 83 members. Along with Boston's New England Woman's Club, Sorosis inspired the formation of women's clubs across the country.

According to an article shared in 1884, the club was founded to promote mental activity and social opportunities for women.

Sorosis was among the 63 clubs that formed the General Federation of Women's Clubs in 1890.

Sorosis is a comes from a Latin word meaning "sister." The club's object was to further the educational and social activities of women by bringing together women of accomplishment in art, literature, science, and kindred pursuits to share their skills and vision.

Early members of Sorosis were participants in various professions as well as political reform movements such as abolitionism, suffrage, prison reform, temperance and peace. Sorosis expanded into local chapters across the country in the early twentieth century. These chapters went on to organize war relief efforts during both World Wars. Peacetime activities included philanthropy, scholarship funds, and social reforms.


Due to the efforts of the Sorosis Club in The Dalles, the old Surgeon’s Quarters, all that is left of the original fort, were preserved and saved through an Act of Congress. It opened as a museum in 1905. Today, that building is a key part of the museum complex.

It's wonderful what can happen when people (women especially) work together for a common goal.

USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield grew up on a farm where her childhood brimmed with sunshine, hay fever, and an ongoing supply of learning experiences.

Today, Shanna draws on her rural roots to create sweet romances filled with hope, humor, quirky small-town characters, realistic heroes, and women of strength.

When this award-winning author isn’t writing or testing out new recipes (she loves to bake!), Shanna hangs out at home in the Pacific Northwest with her beloved husband, better known as Captain Cavedweller.