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Saturday, February 28, 2015


Good as Cookie’s coffee is, after a long day of fillin’ up on dust on the trail a cowpoke wants to sit back with a cold brew or soda pop...Oh yeah, cowboys love a grape or orange pop, look it up…  And the place that was brewin’ up the best was the Sheridan Brewing Company!


In 1887, Arnold Tschirgi, George Paul, and Peter Demple, joined forces to found The Sheridan Brewing Company. First they had to avoid robbers’ intent on stealing the business’s start-up money. Thieves were common along the Cheyenne to Deadwood stage line. So, the men sent the $10,000 in gold by the Northern Pacific Railroad to Custer Station, and transported the capital the rest of the way by wagon.  By 1888, the brewery distributed its first product.

sheridan0109A year later, in 1889, The Sheridan Brewery expanded its operations, producing millions of barrels of beer before Prohibition in the 1920s. Undeterred by this law, the brewery shifted to new products like near beer Sherex and an assortment of fruit-flavored soft drinks.

By the end of Prohibition in 1933, the brewery was producing 600 barrels of beer a day. During World War II, the Brewery began canning water in their recognizable yellow cans. Canned water was sent to the front for the boys, and later kept by citizens for emergency situations.

By 1954, 60,000 barrels of beer a year left the brewery, and at this time the Sheridan Brewery stopped its beer operations and focused on soda pop. That same year the brewery became the first company in the United States to bottle its products in flat-topped cans.

canapopThe Can-a-Pop Beverage Company quickly became the leading producer of canned soft drinks larger than any other plant in America. Soon, franchises started up in Los Angeles and Compton, California and Peoria, Illinois. But as quickly as Can-a-Pop sprung to the top, its bubble was popped by such brands as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Fanta and Nehi. These brands held national recognition and advertising and edged out the hometown soda company.

The brewery was torn down in 1994, and a park is now at the spot of Sheridan Brewing Company. But never fear there are still plenty of places in Sheridan, Wyoming to have a cold one.

Pictures from the Sheridan County Museum

Blair, Pat, Prater, Dana and the Sheridan County Museum. Images of America: Sheridan. Arcadia Publishing, 2008.

 Kirsten Lynn writes stories based on the people and history of the West, more specifically those who live and love in Wyoming and Montana. Using her MA in Naval History, Kirsten, weaves her love of the West and the military together in many of her stories, merging these two halves of her heart. When she's not roping, riding and rabble-rousing with the cowboys and cowgirls who reside in her endless imagination, Kirsten works as a professional historian.

Friday, February 27, 2015


What? Another submissions call out? Didn't that just happen a few days ago? Well, yes it did! We put a call out for submissions for our PRP 4th of July anthology A COWBOY CELEBRATION just a few days ago. But this news is just so big we can't wait any longer to tell you about it!

Our FIRE STAR PRESS imprint is putting together a new series for 2016 based on music, and it's called (appropriately enough!) DUETS. Each of these books will contain two stories, both with the same basic requirements--but, oh...what will you do with those requirements? That's where the fun begins!


Remember When…The Song Remembers When…Memories…Try to Remember…Unforgettable…

All these song titles about memories gave us an idea at FIRE STAR PRESS. Some song titles evoke memories not only of the song, but also of the times…the era…the place…
They call for a story all their own, and at FIRE STAR PRESS, they’ve inspired a new line of novella-length stories we’re calling “Duets”—with two stories per book.

"Someone To Watch Over Me"--1940's—PARANORMAL
When you think of this song, Someone To Watch Over Me, you probably think of the comfort of having a safe haven in the arms of your true love. But what if the “someone” who was watching over you was not what he appeared to be? What if he was a ghost from the past, or a figment of the future? What if he was an alien from another world, or a shapeshifter? This duet novella lends itself to all kinds of intrigue. Stories should be set in the time period that this song was popular, the 1940’s. We’re not looking for graphic horror or sex—just an “aha” moment and the inevitable decision…what will your heroine decide to do once she realizes exactly WHO watches over her?

"If I Loved You"--1950's—MISUNDERSTOOD LOVE
If I Loved You is a two-story duet that will be set in the 1950’s, dealing with misunderstood love. This could be anything from a series of events that are misunderstood by one or the other partner to one big misunderstanding that could cloud the issue of a relationship forever. A man sees his intended bride kiss another man on the cheek and gaze into his eyes—he calls off the wedding, only to find out later that the man is her brother. A woman learns her boyfriend’s tumultuous break up with her the week before happens because he’s found out some devastating news—he’s suffering from an illness that will take all his energy to battle, and he doesn’t want to burden her. What kind of misunderstood love story will you come up with? The possibilities are endless!

This Magic Moment will contain two stories that will be set in the 1960’s, one of the most turbulent times in American history. It was a time when change happened daily in our society. These stories will be about something that is revealed in a relationship that changes everything. Maybe a civil rights worker must decide between his passion for his job and his passion for his woman. A Woodstock musician realizes that the love he feels for his girlfriend is stronger than the music he makes with his band when he sees her leaving the festival. A preacher’s daughter becomes pregnant and her boyfriend, whom her parents despise, shows them what love truly is when he learns he’s going to be a dad. These are just a few examples of the kind of thing we’re looking for in This Magic Moment. What “magic moment” will your story be about?

"Wonderful Tonight"--1970's—Can True Love Happen In Just One Night?
In the Eric Clapton song “Wonderful Tonight” the story of what happens to a couple in one single night is told. That’s what we’re looking for in this novella duet, set in the 1970’s, with a twist. In the song, the couple has been together a while; but in these two stories, we are looking for tales about couples who may be barely acquainted, or maybe have JUST met—and an incident that throws them into a situation where they somehow find love. And no, we’re not talking about just lust, but also a mutual caring that blossoms into the fragile beginnings of love between them. These stories should be no hotter than spicy, given these parameters. We’re anxious to see what kind of wonderful night—or maybe not so wonderful—brings your characters to the brink of true love!

"I'm On Fire"--1980's—Unlikely Love Blossoms (think Pretty Woman or Prince Edward/Wallis Simpson)
Bruce Springsteen’s hot hit, I’m On Fire, is the inspiration for this duet of 1980’s-setting stories about love between two people that would be a highly unlikely match. Remember Pretty Woman? Trading Places? Or the real life romance of Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson? If you have a story about an interracial couple, a librarian and a party guy, a rock star and a schoolteacher, a wealthy heiress and her chauffeur—any “unlikely pair” for that decade, we’d love to see it—and make it sizzle. This anthology will be spicy/hot. No erotica. What would make your hero say, “I’m on fire…”

“Wicked Game”—1990’s—Circumstances Aren’t Always What They Seem
Chris Isaak’s haunting hit, “Wicked Game” makes us wonder at the things people will do for desire. These two stories will be about something that makes the characters do something they would not ever have done ordinarily…but are driven to do for the love or desire of another person. The “wicked games” people play trap two people in a web of deceit. Maybe a faulty news report—reported by one about the other—or perhaps friends, family, or life itself conspire against the couple to keep them apart by playing one against the other. Could be the hero sets out to destroy the heroine for some reason, only to realize the object of his hatred is not the monster he thought she was. It’s up to you to determine the reasoning and rules for love’s “Wicked Game”…

If you have a novella-length story idea for one of these “duet” books, please e-mail me and let me know which one you’d like to work on—this will help in the planning stages and “pairing up” of stories/authors. We can’t promise everyone will get what they ask for, or that every story will be selected, but as always, we will try our best. If you know of someone who might be interested in this submission call-out, PLEASE FORWARD. This line will debut in 2016.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

#NewRelease -- HANNAH'S WISHES by Agnes Alexander -- #Giveaway

Agnes Alexander will be giving away a free ecopy of Hannah's Wishes to one lucky person, so be sure and leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.

When Hannah Hamilton is born with a shriveled foot, her sick mother knows she’ll never live to raise the child. Upon her mother's death two years later, Hannah’s two older sisters care for her until their father finally admits that the child will never walk. Hannah is sent to live a lonely life with her widowed Aunt Verbena Wedington in Savannah. Though Hannah's sisters attempt to visit her, they are thwarted by their Aunt Verbena, who manages to take control of every aspect of Hannah's life.

Jarrett MacMichael, an Arizona detective, is hired to go to Savannah and check on Hannah’s welfare. Jarrett is surprised to find the object of his mission is a beautiful young woman who is being controlled by her devious aunt. During his investigation, not only does he discover Hannah’s evil Aunt Verbena has a sinister plan for her charge, but Jarrett realizes he’s the only one who can stop her before it's too late.
By the time Jarrett frees Hannah, she has fallen head-over-heels in love with him--but she understands she can't hope for a life with the handsome detective.

Practical man that he is, Jarrett  knows life would be hard if he tied himself to a woman who can’t walk...but how can he live without her? There's only one thing to do. Will he be able to grant HANNAH'S WISHES?


    "How about your brother?”
    “Everett is happily married to a woman he met when he went to England on business. Her daddy is a lord, or a count…or some type of royalty. They live in England and have a little princess of their own.” He wondered how Everett would feel if he knew he’d graduated him from the detective business, married him off, and elevated him to royalty in England
    Verbena’s eyes lit up. “Really? Royalty?” He nodded, and she went on. “Have you visited them?”
    Hannah looked interested, but there was something in her eyes that made him wonder if she knew he was telling a tall tale. He gathered that this young lady was no fool. He answered Verbena’s question with, “I’m so busy with my own enterprises that I’ve only had time to visit them once. They have promised to come visit me in the next couple of years. Everett wants to show his wife and daughter his country.”
    “I think that’s wonderful.”
    There was a knock on the parlor door, and Minerva poked her head in. “Supper is ready, Miz Wedington.”
    “Send Tobias to get Hannah.”
    “Yes, ma’am.” She scurried away.
    Jarrett couldn’t help wondering why the man was to come get Hannah. The fact was, he’d been looking forward to offering her his arm so he could escort her to supper. Jarrett’s question was answered in a matter of a moment. Tobias returned pushing a wheelchair. Jarrett was stunned as the butler pushed it up to the settee and reached down to lift Hannah into it.
    So that was her problem. She couldn’t walk. He never would have guessed.
    Verbena stood. “Shall we go into supper, Mr. MacMichael?”
    “Of course.” He stood, and since he had no alternative, he offered her his arm. They went out of the parlor leaving Tobias to push Hannah’s chair behind them.
    Hannah wondered about Mr. Jarrett MacMichael. Yes, he was as handsome as she thought he’d be now that she’d seen his face. In fact, he was the kind of man she often dreamed about and wished she could meet. Yes, he told a good story about his life, but something didn’t ring true to her. Was he trying to impress Aunt Verbena? If so, why? What could her aunt do for him? And why hadn’t he mentioned her sister? She’d kept quiet just like her Aunt Verbena had told her to, but she didn’t intend to let him get through the meal and leave this house without answering a question or two about Drina.     


Wednesday, February 25, 2015


The Ancient Ones taken by Shayna Matthews.

“You have a very old soul…it’s ancient. Every time I see you, I look in your eyes and wonder what it is you’re searching for.” These were the words of a dear family friend, directed at me. I was in my early teens at the time, and his comment startled me. It isn’t often, after all, that someone tells a fifteen year old they have an ancient soul. I still contemplate the shrewd observation of that friend, and I can only ascertain that he saw something beyond the normal struggles of teenage angst. I wish I would have thought to question him further about what it was. What on earth did he see in me to voice such a strange observation? Whatever it was, I took it as a compliment then as I do now.

Maybe some of us are meant to search for things we are not even consciously aware of. Of course, if we are searching for something we don’t even realize we are looking for, how do we know when we’ve found it? Beats me.

And what of the word “ancient”? My friend specifically chose that word, but why? I like that word, ancient. I like it a lot. The word itself is shrouded in mystery, leaving us to ponder the unknown. ‘Ancient’ is history, and what is history? A plethora of stories…real stories pieced together from the lives of those who came before us. Granted, piecing together life-stories, or ancient history, largely depends upon remnants of fact dependant upon word of mouth, and we all know what happens when we play whisper-down-the-lane. Still, the stories are in the wind…waiting for the right searcher to wander along and find it.

When I finally decided to listen to the whispers in my ear, I laid aside my own reservations and put pen to paper. I knew nothing of what I wanted to write, but characters appeared like visceral spectors before my eyes. No, not characters...people. They took my hand with a wink and a promise, drawing me into the past. I knew as long as I kept my mind open, they would reveal their story to me. It was THE ONE: the thing I was searching for. It seems to me now, a few years later, that this sweeping tale I am now weaving with words was, perhaps, biding its time. As years wore on, and the decades faded into the span of a century, the story waited...searching. Searching for an ancient soul, one who would listen. One who would hear. One who would write.

My husband and I took a trip to the American Southwest a few years ago, where we retraced footsteps of ancestors. We chased them down on horseback through the deserts in Arizona, scaled terrifying wooden ladders up sheer cliffs, drifted down the Colorado through rugged canyons, and visited their homesteads, cabins and ruins.

Chasing the trails of my characters' heroes... this is the last remaining bunkhouse standing from the Hashknife Outfit.

I remember standing on the rim of a canyon, carved by a chocolate-milk river far below, and noticed a cairn only a few feet away. Now I do not know the truth of the myth, but it's said that these little stone stacks are the result of soul-searchers passing by. A stone is conspicuously placed on top of another, and as the next person passes by, another stone is added. It is accompanied by a silent prayer to the ones who came before. I added a pebble to the top of the tower, and sent a voiceless prayer to the four winds. As I did so, I felt something stir around me. Raising my arms to the sun, I embraced the breeze, and I heard them whisper. This is what I was searching for; the release of secrets locked deep within, the secrets of a place I had never been, but knew infinitely well. I found the soul of the American West, or perhaps it found me.

The author, Shayna, in Natural Bridges, Utah. A cairn is shown in the foreground.

Scenes-visions if you will-flashed through my thoughts for the remainder of that journey, and my characters and I have not been silenced since.

We have a fantastic connection now, my characters and I. They are unveiling their stories to me, and it is only when I forget to listen that I flounder. I want to write a different scene, take the story a different way. They laugh, fold their arms across their chest, and shake their heads. "Amateur," they say. "She thinks she's writing this book." We argue; I delete, write, rewrite and delete again, over and over until I scream for mercy, and in the end beg them to guide me back to the right path. And so it goes.

Now, even though I found something already, I'm still searching, for I believe the heart of an adventurer will always do so without fail. But now I can look back on that anguished girl of fifteen as she contemplates her friend's observation, and smile. I have the unfailing love and support of a wonderful man who owns my heart, and a beautiful little boy whose smile lights up the darkest of days. Thanks to whatever (dare I say, Whomever?) it was that took hold of me on the top of that cliff somewhere between Arizona and Utah, I have a firm toehold on the journey chosen to be my path of success...writing western stories from the heart within my ancient soul.

50 foot wooden ladder we climbed to reach the top of a cliff dwelling.

Perhaps, everyone is searching for something, whether they know it or not. Sometimes, the answer is right there in your ear, whispered on the wind. You need only summon the courage to listen.

What are you searching for? Have you found it, yet?

In case you haven't read it yet, here's the buy link to COWBOYS, CREATURES and CALICO VOL. 1 containing my first published story, THE LEGEND OF VENTURE CANYON!

AMAZON REVIEW: "A great compilation of stories. I especially liked "Legend of Venture Canyon" by Shayna Matthews. A great story for a first time published writer!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

#NewRelease -- WILD TEXAS WINDS by Kit Prate -- Giveaway

Kit Prate is  is giving away a free ecopy of her novel, WILD TEXAS WINDS. Be sure and leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.

Dru Beltrain is on the hunt for the men who raped and murdered his wife. Texas drovers, part of the crew led by his friend and mentor Matt Latham, have robbed him of the woman he loves and now threat to his stepson Cass, who's seeking his own revenge against the men who killed his mother.

Torn by a thirst for vengeance and the need to find Cass, Beltrain aligns himself with Latham's daughter Kate, a strong-willed woman who will protect her father at all costs. As the unlikely pair heads for Wichita, passion flares hot between them.

When they reach Wichita, they part company despite their attraction. Dru's revenge still drives him to find Latham and his crew, and Kate is determined to help her powerful father build a railroad spur.

And then, one by one, Matt Latham's men begin to die in a series of brutal killings.

In a desperate bid to discover who the murderer is, will Latham be forced to seek Dru's help? Will Dru and Kate be able to rekindle the passion they'd discovered? Everything depends on what hidden truths the WILD TEXAS WINDS reveal before the killing ends...
** Strong language and sexual content**

    The fire, fanned by the capricious summer wind, had crawled across the flatlands like a plague of hungry locusts. In one night, the town of Newton, Kansas–with the exception of a single brick building–was reduced to a broad wasteland of charred ruins, the heat so intense the Santa Fe tracks buckled and wrenched free from their ties, the warped steel rising skyward like the tentacles of a great dying beast.
    It took them a year to rebuild the town, to erase the black scars of the flames, and to begin again. But the townsmen had learned their lesson. The wood frame structures were replaced with buildings constructed of red brick and stone, an essence of durability and continuity in the carefully trawled mortar and pillared façades.
    Prosperity had touched the town once more. The influx of money from Eastern speculators had boosted the local economy, and the itch to grow–to keep growing–had touched them all. The town had recovered and the cattle pens north of the tracks had been rebuilt.
    And from Texas, the first of four hundred thousand cattle began the slow crawl north.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Jumping Frogs and Jackass Hill

Calaveras County Fairgrounds Gate

Angels Camp in Calaveras County started as one of many placer gold mining towns in the foothills of California with a post office established in 1851. However, much of its current fame has less to do with gold mining and more to do with jumping frogs. You can see from the signage at the Calaveras County fairgrounds that the Jumping Frog Jubilee held there every May is BIG. The city of Angels Camp is often referred to as Frogtown.

Frogtown Logo at Fairgrounds
While young Samuel Clemens stayed as a guest of the Gillis Brothers on Jackass Hill between Sonora and Angels Camp, he gathered material for the short story which brought him his first fame, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,”  and for his book, Roughing It.
Mark Twain Cabin, Jackass Hill, Tuolumne County, CA
Samuel Clemens, who later adopted the pen name of Mark Twain, traveled with his friend Steve Gillis over the mountains from Virginia City, Nevada, and arrived at the cabin on Jackass Hill on December 4, 1864. They stayed with two other Gillis brothers, Jim and Bill, and also with Dick Stoker, all local pocket miners. He lived there until about February 25, 1865. 

The area was surrounded by cities and towns that came into existence due to the gold strikes. Angels Camp is located north of the cabin and across the Stanislaus River. It attracted placer miners until the surface gold disappeared. A few years later, a new gold boom developed due to the discovery of gold-producing quartz. Samuel and his companions would have bought their provisions there or at Tuttletown to the south.

Angels Hotel in Angels Camp where Sam Clemens first heard the jumping frog story.

Original chimney built with native stone

It was while living on the hill and visiting a saloon at the Angels Hotel that Samuel heard the story about the jumping frog. The hotel in 1851 was a tent, but a stone structure was built in 1855 with the second story added in 1857.

In the story, the narrator retells a story he heard from a bartender, Simon Wheeler. The tale is about the gambler, Jim Smiley, who trained a frog to jump and then had the tables turned on him when he placed a bet. The published story ended up capturing the world’s attention.

Twain’s friend, Artemus Ward, asked Sam Clemens/Mark Twain to write the story for inclusion in a book. Twain wrote two versions of the story, but was unhappy with both. By the time he had rewritten it so he was satisfied with it, the book was nearing publication and the story could not be added. Instead, Artemus submitted the short story to The Saturday Press. It appeared in its November 18, 1865 edition as “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.”

Cover of 1867 Book
Although he had been writing and publishing for years, it was this short story that catapulted Mark Twain to national fame. Some of the other tall tales told by his cabin mates made their way into some of Mark Twain’s stories, but none had the far-reaching appeal as the story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
1867 portrait by Abdullah Fréres

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is also the title story of an 1867 collection of short stories by Mark Twain which was his first published book. That book was a collection 27 previously published in magazines and newspapers stories.

The hill on which the cabin was built yielded very coarse gold amounting to about $10,000 taken from 100 square feet of ground. The cabin in which Samuel Clemens stayed was a stopping place for packers carrying supplies to miners. Often 200 jackasses on the hill overnight furnished a concert for their human audience, no doubt prompting the name given to the place, Jackass Hill.

Jackass Hill cabin in early January 2015
Between 2002-2005, a replica of the cabin was built using the original chimney and fireplace.

Although it gets cold in winter, at about 1,800 feet elevation, there is very minimal snow and perhaps only a few weeks of frost each year. These pictures of the cabin were taken in early January of 2015. It was a mild climate in which Mark Twain and his compatriots could pass two winters -- assuming they could stand five people living in the cabin within easy listening distance to braying  jackasses.

By the time twenty  years had passed since Mark Twain's sojourn in the western Sierra-Nevada Mountain foothills, known as the Mother Lode, most gold mining had moved to the eastern Sierra-Nevada slopes, including in Lundy where my lastest novella, Big Meadows Valentine, is set. Both Jackass Hill and Lundy are relatively close to the Sonora Pass used in the 1880s for transporting commodities over the mountains to the mining regions in the eastern part of the state.

Although Big Meadows Valentine does include a Valentine's Day scene, it begins early in the winter of the year 1884. This book is the first in a series, "Eastern Sierra Brides 1884." Each novella is written as a stand-alone book, but the series will follow many of the same characters in the mining town of Lundy and the agricultural community of Bridgeport in the eastern Sierra-Nevada region of Mono County.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novella, Big Meadows Valentine, is now available on Amazon Kindle HERE and on B & N Nook HERE. Please visit the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.