Search This Blog


Monday, September 19, 2016

AURORA: A County Seat in Two Counties

In 1857, gold was discovered in Dogtown which is about seven miles south of Bridgeport. This led to a mining boom in the area.
Other gold strikes occurred in the Mono region, including Aurora in 1860. Aurora became a booming town, at one point reaching 10,000 in population. Mark Twain spent some time there mining. With a shortage of wood, most of the town was built of brick
Aurora Mining Town and County Seat
At one time Mono County was second only to Nevada County in gold production. Mono County was formed in April 1861 and Aurora was named as the county seat. Aurora's mines were so rich that miners came from all over the west. Travel in the spring was much easier than in the winter or colder months. In the Spring of 1863, Aurora had 760 houses, 20 stores, and 22 saloons. Like most mining boom towns, the population had a small number of women and children compared to a large male population.
1876 Map of Aurora and Bridgeport. Note that Bodie just west of Aurora barely within the California state line is not listed.
Although California was convinced Aurora was well within the California border, Nevada Territory believed Aurora was within their jurisdiction and they claimed it as the county seat of Esmeralda County. Both California State and Nevada Territory governed the fast-growing gold mining town at the same time while they waited on the results of a U.S. Government survey that had been requested to determine exactly where the California and Nevada boundary fell. Its California assemblyman was the speaker of the house while the Nevada legislative member was elected as president of the Nevada Territorial Legislature. During this time, the records for each county were kept separately.

Esmeralda County Courthouse built in Aurora in 1874
In September 1863, the survey results determined that Aurora was situated approximately three miles within Nevada Territory. The Mono County officials packed up the offices and all the records for their county and moved them to Bodie, a mining town a few miles to the west that was safely within the border for California and Mono County.
1895 Map of Mono Co. California and Mineral Co. Nevada. Note that the map shows Bodie, but not Aurora.
After a special election in April 1864, Bridgeport was named as the county seat for Mono County.

In the meantime, Aurora remained the county seat for Esmeralda County until it began to go the way of all cities built upon gold and silver mining. As the town began to fail, the county seat was moved to Goldfield. Aurora soon found it itself in a new county, Mineral, with the county seat in Hawthorne 27 miles to the east. As the town completely failed, it became a ghost town. The brick buildings were dismantled, and many of the used bricks from Aurora ended up in Los Angeles homes.
Aurora as a ghost town before most buildings were dismantled

Although my latest book in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Haunted by Love, takes place about twenty years after Bridgeport became the county seat for Mono County, it is easy to understand how its early history as the supply hub and agricultural center in a region of boom and bust mining towns led to its stability. My story is set both in Bridgeport at the Leavitt House, a popular hostelry servicing travelers in the Eastern Sierra-Nevada region, and in Robinson Creek area, part of the Big Meadows that supported cattle, sheep and hay-raising, as well as wood from the foothills immediately to the west. With its economic base being established on agriculture and shipping, it remained an established city in the region long after Aurora had begun to fade into a has-been former gold town.

Today I am giving away one copy of Big Meadows Valentine, the first book in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884, series to one person selected from among those who leave a comment on this blog by midnight, PDT Tuesday, September 20th.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. The first four novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine,  A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit, and Haunted by Love are now available.  He Is a Good Man was published as part of the Lariats, Letters and Lace anthology.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Have Gun – Will Travel – September 14, 1957 by Kaye Spencer

During my growing-up years, I watched reruns or as-they-aired episodes of what are now classic television westerns: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Lone Ranger, The Big Valley, High Chaparral, Rawhide, Laredo, The Virginian, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, Maverick, Wagon Trail, Tales of Wells Fargo, Branded, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Yuma, Laramie, Broken Arrow, Guns of Will Sonnet, Zorro, Lancer, Cimarron Strip,Yancy Derringer... The list goes on and, no doubt, you each have your favorites.

It just so happens that one of my favorite classic western television shows is celebrating its premiere date today.

*The adventures of a gentlemanly gunfighter for hire.*

Fifty nine years ago today the television-watching population enjoyed the premiere of the thirty-minute, Saturday night western show, Have Gun - Will Travel, starring Richard Boone as the somewhat mysterious soldier of fortune, but always a gentleman, Paladin. The premise of the show was Paladin worked as a gunfighter-for-hire who traveled the west c. 1875 offering his special kind of problem-solving skills. He was a high-dollar gunman—$1000 per job wasn’t unusual—but he also provided his services for free to those with a worthy cause who couldn’t afford him otherwise. However, violence by gunplay wasn’t his only weapon. He was a pugilist and dueling champion of some renown in his former life.

General Trivia
  • The word ‘paladin’ derives from the knights in Charlemagne’s Court, who were champions of worthy causes.
  • Paladin was a Union cavalry officer and graduate of West Point.
  • His residence is the luxury Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.
  • When not riding about the countryside doing good deeds—dressed as the original “Man in Black”—he lives the life of a cultured businessman who wears custom-made suits, consumes fine wine, plays the piano, and attends the opera. He also has a weakness for women.
  • With just a sip, he can determine a particular bourbon’s distillery.
  • Paladin is an expert chess and poker player, an accomplished swordsman, and possesses skill in Chinese martial arts having studied under a Kung Fu master.
  • His level of education is such that he quotes classical literature, philosophy, case law, and he speaks several languages. 
  • Paladin’s weapons: 1) custom-made, single action .45 Colt (Army cavalry model) that he carries in a black leather holster adorned with a platinum chess knight symbol, 2) lever action Marlin rifle, and 3) concealed derringer.
  • He has a signature calling card/business card. In Paladin’s words:  “It's a chess piece, the most versatile on the board. It can move in eight different directions, over obstacles, and it's always unexpected.”
  • The show’s four note opening motif was done purposely to create a musical memory akin to other popular television shows at the time: Highway Patrol, Dragnet, Twilight Zone, and Perry Mason.

  • The show closes with the song, “The Ballad of Paladin”, which was written by Johnny Western, Richard Boone, and Sam Rolfe. Johnny Western sings the ballad.

Of General Interest
  • The show ran from 9/14/1957 to 4/20/1963 with 225 episodes.
  • A radio version began in 1958 with actor John Dehner portraying Paladin.
  • From 1974 to 1991, a trademark lawsuit against the concept of the show moved in and out of court culminating with a substantial settlement. You can read the details here: HGWT Website
Hollywood Trivia

Notable Episode Writers:
  • Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)
  • Bruce Geller (Mission Impossible)
  • Harry Julian Fink (Dirty Harry)
  • Sam Peckinpah (directed a plethora of western movies)
  • Unusual for the era, many episodes were filmed outdoors and not on the Old West film lots – Bishop and Lone Pine, California – Paladin Estates between Bend and Sisters, Oregon – the Abbott Ranch near Prineville, Oregon
Notable Guest Stars:
  • Angie Dickinson
  • Ben Johnson
  • Buddy Ebsen
  • Charles Bronson
  • Dan Blocker
  • DeForest Kelley
  • Denver Pyle
  • Dyan Cannon
  • George Kennedy
  • Jack Elam
  • Jack Lord
  • James Coburn
  • Johnny Crawford
  • June Lockhart
  • Ken Curtis
  • Lee Van Cleef
  • Lon Chaney, Jr.
  • Pernell Roberts
  • Robert Blake
  • Suzanne Pleshette
  • Vincent Price
  • Werner Klemperer
Who was Paladin?

Although his real name is never revealed, Paladin’s backstory is shown in flashback sequence in the first episode of the last (6th) season, “Genesis”, which aired 9/16/1962. We do learn Paladin came by his moniker, and his subsequent mission to champion the causes of the less fortunate, via less than praiseworthy actions. Read the episode details at the HGWT Website

Until next time,



*Tagline - IMDb website:

Have Gun, Will Travel website:

Have Gun, Will Travel Wikipedia:

Image: Richard Boone - By CBS Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image: Paladin - By Source, Fair use,

Image: Calling Card - By CBS Publicity;,

Image: John Dehner -

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Baseball in the Old West

By Kristy McCaffrey

The earliest known mention of baseball in the United States was in 1791 in Massachusetts. In 1845, the New York Knickerbockers was the first team to play by modern baseball rules, although it was considered an amateur club and far less popular than the game of cricket. But following the Civil War, over 100 clubs were members of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). The Chicago White Stockings won the championship in 1870. Today they’re known as the Chicago Cubs and are the oldest team in American organized sports.

One of the first games played in the Arizona Territory was a Christmas Day match at Camp Grant near Tucson in January 1873. A Prescott paper, the Arizona Miner, reported, “In the afternoon, an exciting game of base ball took place. This occupied the attention, [of] both of the combatants, until one o’clock, when the welcome call to dinner was wafted to our ears, and readily responded to.”

San Diego and Coronado teams, circa 1873.
Baseball became a holiday fixture (Fourth of July and Christmas Day) for many young communities in the Arizona Territory in the 1870’s and early 1880’s. Matches tended to be played in the winter or early spring, with Christmas an especially favorite day for the sport.

Baltimore Orioles, circa 1896.
On April 10, 1887, the Phoenix baseball club, with a number of its players from Ft. McDowell, played Fort Lowell from Tucson at the territorial fairgrounds with an audience of around 200 people (back then, fans were nicknamed ‘kranks’). A severe wind and sand storm delayed the match for half an hour and blowing sand remained a problem during the first few innings. The Phoenicians, outfitted with “considerable good material here in ball tossers” defeated the “boys in blue” 14-7. At one point in the eighth inning, the crowd surrounding the field made so much noise that the local players couldn’t hear their coaches’ directions and instead of scoring a possible three runs, only marked a single tally.

By 1900, amateur football had become popular and replaced baseball as the traditional game played on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. She’s the author of several historical western romances, all set in the American southwest. She lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, two chocolate labs, and whichever of their four teenage children happen to be in residence.

Connect with Kristy

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bet you didn’t know…

This was making the Facebook rounds recently:  “Hoops had to be removed before taking your seat in a carriage and then they were hooked onto the back of the carriage.”
London. Life Magazine

Umm… Nope!  Not buying it.  No respectable woman would have shimmied out of her hoop—or crinoline—in public.  Heck, men aren’t allowed to see their boot-covered ankles!  Check out the faces of the “gentlemen” watching the woman, probably a servant or a working-class female, as she checks out the merchandise.
And how the heck were they to get it back on?  Those things tie around the waist, have petticoats that go over them, have tapes and buttons and… Just no!

More likely this was a delivery service or an 1858 version of a sales call.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

New Release — XENIA’S RENEGADE by Agnes Alexander — Giveaway!

An urgent plea for help from a family member calls for action from Xenia Poindexter and her sister, Mea Ann. How can the rest of the family ignore Uncle Seymour’s plight and let him hang? Xenia and Mea Ann leave the comfort of their Virginia home for the wild, untamed Arizona Territory to do whatever they must to save their uncle. 

But traveling west is not what these two well-bred, innocent ladies expected. A raid on a stagecoach way station would have seen them dead if not for the quick thinking of one of the other passengers, handsome rancher Ty Eldridge. 

In the midst of the deadly raid, Mea Ann finds an orphaned Indian baby that she adopts as her own. Once the stage reaches Deer Meadow where their uncle is being held, Mea Ann and Xenia discover the deep-seated prejudice that pervades the town. Indians are not welcome—even Indian children. Ty and his cousin Wilt are all too familiar with the bigots in Deer Meadow, being half Sioux, themselves. 

Ty wants to protect Xenia from her uncle’s schemes to use her and Mea Ann as prostitutes in his saloon—sold to the highest bidders—but can he? Though romance blooms for Wilt and Mea Ann, Ty has been burned in the past by his love for a white woman—and he won’t risk his heart again. 

Though others say they’re all wrong for each other, Xenia has never felt more “right” than when she’s in Ty’s arms. She is determined to show him she’s strong enough to adapt to ranch life—his life. For Xenia, prejudice doesn’t exist—there’s enough love in her heart to hold Ty and heal his wounds. But Ty knows if he gives in to Xenia, he runs the risk of being hurt again. Is true love worth the chance of becoming XENIA’S RENEGADE?


     “When you get to Deer Meadow, I’m sure you’ll find the men will appreciate you more. Then you won’t have to be subjected to an Indian raid or a man like Ty Eldridge.”
     “Mr. Eldridge doesn’t seem so bad,” Mea Ann said. “He was careful to make sure there was no danger in here before he let us come in.”
     He shook his head. “Now I know how innocent you and your sister are. Don’t you know what Eldridge is?”
     Xenia interrupted. “I don’t think we should be discussing Mr. Eldridge or anyone else. It looks to me like we should be trying to find out what’s going on here.”
     “Xenia’s right,” Mea Ann said.
     “You don’t have to worry. I’m sure the stage driver will know what to do if Eldridge doesn’t kill him first.”
     “What do you mean?” Mea Ann looked scared.
     “Don’t you know what he is?”
     Xenia wasn’t sure what Lou was going to say, so she said, “It doesn’t matter what he is.” She stood. “I’m going to look out the window and see if I can tell why Mr. Eldridge told us to stay in here.”
     “The breed probably put us here to wait for his friends to come back.”
     She whirled around and glared at him. “What are you saying?”
     “Can’t you tell he’s part Indian? They’re all alike. I got in a little trouble with one in Deer Meadow last time I was there. Just hope it’s all been cleared up by the time we get in.”
     “What difference does it make if he has some Indian blood in him?”

     “Oh, Miss Xenia. It’s an important factor in this area.”

Be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win a free ebook of XENIA'S RENEGADE.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Drawing On Memories & Family History As Inspiration by Sarah J. McNeal

Poppy’s House

We all draw from our histories and experiences to write our stories. Some of my greatest inspiration has come from my grandfather McNeal. I didn’t get to know him very long because I was only 6 when he died at age 88 shortly before his 89th birthday. He was like a skinny Sherman tank, tough, powerful, and stubbornly independent. It’s hard to conceive of the fact that he was a post-Civil War baby born in 1887. Maybe that’s why his parents named him William Grant after the Civil War general and, later on, president of the United States.

Poppy and Grandma McNeal

Poppy bought a tiny red school house when he and Matilda Howard, my grandmother, married and began their lives together. I only vaguely remember the house where my dad and his two older brothers grew up. My first recollection is a large room with long windows when columns of sunlight fell on a large room filled with wooden sailing vessels. Later, I found that Pop had made those ships and Poppy kept and treasured them. The place smelled of old wood and stale sugar cookies. Poppy bought the cookies as a treat for my sister and me. I played on the floor with my Uncle John’s tiny iron wheel-barrel, a metal rabbit, some blocks, and old batteries. All I remembered about the kitchen was the two windows over the porcelain sink.

Left to Right: Pop, Uncle Donald, and Uncle John

Later, when I began writing the almost true story of my Uncle John who died from drowning when he was only 21, I asked my oldest sister to describe the details of Poppy’s house in order to stay as close to the truth as I could while writing the time travel novel, THE VIOLIN. The little school house had just 2 bedrooms—one for the three sons, and the other for my grandmother and grandfather. My grandparents planned their three children, all boys, years apart in order to facilitate enough money for each to go to college. Though my grandparents both had teaching certificates, my grandfather earned his real living by painting houses and barns.

The oldest son, Donald, graduated with a degree in civil engineering and became an inventor for Westinghouse. He returned from World War I, married, and left home to work in Pittsburg. He died when he was 42 during some type of lung procedure.

When I wrote FOR LOVE OF BANJO, a World War I era western for Prairie Rose Publications, I could not resist including my Uncle Donald in the story. Banjo took Donald’s place in the fox hole during the war and Donald makes a trip to Wyoming to visit Banjo and give him a very special gift. So, even though THE VIOLIN and FOR LOVE OF BANJO are completely different stories, they are forever banded together because of my inspired placement of Donald and Banjo together in the war. I can’t explain why, but bringing those to stories together for that moment in mutual history just left me feeling so happy and satisfied as if to say, “I can let this rest now.”

What real life inspiration have you used in a story? Did it make you feel the same kind of satisfaction I felt, or did you experience something different? Have you used the same inspiration from real life more than once?

THE VIOLIN (Time Travel Novel)
Can the heart live inside a violin case? Can a message reach across time?

Genevieve Beaumont is haunted by dreams of a drowning man she is helpless to save. When she buys a violin and discovers news clippings and pictures of its owner who died from downing inside the case, she realizes he is the man in her dreams.
She travels to the little town where he died 90 years before to investigate who he was and how he came to drown that day. Little does she know how her own life will be tangled in the mystery…until she steps through the threshold of time to 1927.
She heard him take in a slow breath before he spoke to her in a more relaxed, quiet tone. "I beg your pardon, miss, I didn't mean to curse. What's your name?" The younger man’s voice soothed her as he knelt beside the couch where she lay. He wrung out a cloth in the bowl of water beside his knee, folded it, and applied it to Genevieve's brow.
"My name is Genevieve Beaumont. I was just standing at the window and now…I'm here." She lifted a shaky hand to her brow. "My head is pounding."
"You bumped your head when you fainted. Is that a French name?"  He lifted a quizzical brow and smiled.
She lifted her eyes and got a good, close-up look at him then. Her heart almost stopped beating in her chest. She sucked in a deep breath. What was happening to her? How could any of this be possible? The man holding the cool cloth to her head was the man in the pictures she found in the violin case!
She would not have guessed he had auburn hair, or that his eyes were such a vivid, bottle green. He wore a collarless, khaki shirt with the sleeves rolled up and suspenders instead of a belt held up his tan, canvas trousers. Oh, but he was handsome—so much more than his pictures ever allowed. She didn't have time to admire the young man's good looks because her mind swirled round and round with the unfathomable implications of her situation.

THE VIOLIN is also included in a boxed set of 5 novels by 5 authors titled LOVE COME TO ME for 99 cents. 

For Love of Banjo (2nd book in The Wildings series)

Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past.  To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.
Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.
In one graceful movement, he dismounted the pinto then stepped to the porch where Maggie stood with unrestrained tears that flowed down her cheeks.  Banjo swept her into his arms and kissed her.  The kiss wasn’t his brotherly, friendly peck on the cheek.  He kissed her with a slow burning need and ran his tongue along the groove of her lips then slipped inside. 
He tasted of coffee and mint.  Maggie reached up to weave her arms around his neck.  She stepped on her tiptoes to better reach him and taste him.  Her heart raced and heat rushed hungry waves of yearning into places in her body she never knew existed as she responded to his explorations with her own.  If only she could slip into his pocket and follow him wherever he went.  She wanted to become the marrow in his bones, to always be a part of him.
Just when she thought he would take her to her room and make love to her as she had asked, the kiss ended.  Banjo bent his head his rough cheek rasped against hers.  The fragrance of him, a combination of horse, pine and crisp snow, caressed her senses.  He slipped his hand into her hair and gently rubbed the tender skin of her neck where her blood pulsed beneath his thumb.
His mouth so close to her ear she felt the warm moisture of his breath as he spoke his last words.  She would never forget them, not as long as she lived.  Breathless from the kiss, he said, “Don’t forget me.  Write to me every day and I’ll write back.  You are the star in my sky and my compass home.  I’ll come back, if it’s the last thing I do, I will come back.  I swear it.”

AMAZON KINDLE    (also available in paperback)

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Are you writing a work of fiction? Whether you're a seasoned author or brand new at writing, Keena Kincaid's DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT workbook and workshop are MUST HAVES! Keena has written a wonderful workbook to help you discover and unlock the secrets that your fictional characters have--secrets even you, the author, may not know about. In addition, Keena also offers on-line workshops with excellent feedback and help to bring you deeper into your characters' personalities and their world--yes, even a world you created.

Learning about the secrets that your characters keep, how these secrets affect personalities and plot line outcomes, and what you can do to discover and guide the revelation of them is crucial to an effective storytelling process.


Secrets. We all have them. Even our characters keep secrets—sometimes from the author. Dirty Little Secrets of Character Development workbook takes you through fun, inventive exercises to root out your characters’ hidden secrets. The lessons and exercises in the book will give you insight into how these secrets affect characters at the deepest level and give you an understanding of how these secrets to propel the plot forward in a logical, engaging manner.

Get your own DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT workbook here, in either print or digital formats, for only $9.99! Keena is offering the next session of her online workshop from September 20 through October 20 for only $15! Yes, that's everything--workbook AND workshop--for around $25!

Contact Keena to sign up for her workshop here: or friend her and private message her on Facebook here: