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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

North to Alaska by Kaye Spencer #prairierosepubs #goldrush #Alaska #classicmovies


On or about August 16, 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon, which is in northwestern Canada. When word of this discovery reached Seattle and San Francisco, prospectors swarmed to the area between 1896 and 1899.


IMAGE: Klondike Map - Citation below 

This gold rush has several names: Yukon Gold Rush, Alaska Gold Rush, Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush, and Last Great Gold Rush. It’s estimated that 100,000 prospectors tried their hand as diggers and panners. This wasn't the last great gold rush in Alaska, however. In 1899, the Klondike area was all but abandoned for the new gold field in Nome.¹  The Nome Gold Rush lasted from 1899 to 1909-ish.

Chilcoot Pass prospectors

IMAGE: Prospective prospectors on Chilkoot Pass near Skagway, Alaska - Citation below.


But I’m not here for an Alaskan gold rush history lesson.

I’m interested in a song that introduced a movie by the same title and that both tell a story about the Nome gold rush.

Coming up on August 22nd, Johnny Horton’s song North to Alaska will have its 60th anniversary.


Right around the corner on November 13th, the movie North to Alaska will celebrate its 60th anniversary.


The movie is a comedy-western (of sorts) starring John Wayne, Capucine, Ernie Kovacs, Stewart Granger, and Fabian.  The movie was based on a 1939 three-act play, Birthday Gift, by the Hungarian novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Ladislas Fodor aka Laszlo Fodor (1898-1978). It is set during the Nome gold rush.

Johnny Horton’s song introduced the movie as a set-up to the storyline. The song topped Billboard magazine’s Country Singles chart. Horton co-wrote the song. Sadly, he died in a car wreck on November 5, 1960. He was 35.

Side note: His second wife was Hank Williams’ widow, Billie Jean Jones. In one of those weird coincidences in life, Johnny Horton’s and Hank Williams’ last public performances were at Austin’s Skyline Club—Horton on November 4, 1960 and Williams on December 19, 1952, AND they were married to Billie Jean Jones at the time.² (Williams died January 1, 1953 near Oak Hill, West Virginia and Horton died November 5, 1960 after leaving the Skyline Club near Milano, Texas.)

For your listening and viewing pleasure, here is Johnny Horton singing North to Alaska over scenes from the movie. It’s great fun.


Until next time,
Kaye Spencer


Stay in contact with Kaye—

Amazon Author Page | Instagram | Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | BookBub


1. Nome Gold Field information HERE
2. Horton and Williams - Last performances: HERE and HERE
North to Alaska MOVIE
North to Alaska SONG
Klondike Map: created by en:User:ish ishwar in 2005, Tlingit-map-modify, CC BY 2.0
Chilcoot Pass: Cantwell, George G., ChilkootPass steps, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons


Monday, August 10, 2020

The Heroes We Love by Sarah J. McNeal #PrairieRosePub #TheWildingsSeries


The Heroes We Love by Sarah J. McNeal

#PrairieRosePub #TheWildingsSeries


One of my favorite heroes is Robin Pierpont in the story, FLY AWAY HEART. He loves airplanes, his friends, family, animals, and the beautiful red haired girl he’s known since childhood, Lilith Wilding. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for those he loves…even something not quite legal.

Robin was born in England. At age ten he lost his father when he and his parents took the doomed Titanic to find a better life in America. His mother worked in a factory in New York City, but lost her job when the factory burned. Banjo Wilding sent Robin and Jane to Hazard, Wyoming to give them an opportunity to improve their lives. In Hazard, Jane fell in love with the Lakota Shaman, gas station owner, and uncle to Banjo Wilding, Teekonka Red Sky. (Their story is in my Christmas story, A HUSBAND FOR CHRISTMAS). 

It was in the town of Hazard Robin first met the adventurous, willful, and charming Lilith Wilding. His childhood affection for Lilith grew into a deep abiding love over the years. But there are obstacles standing between Robin and his happiness with Lilith…and one of those obstacles may prove fatal.


By Sarah J. McNeal

Prairie Rose Publications/ Imprint: Painted Pony Press

Buy Links:

Amazon Trade Paperback Link

Amazon Kindle



Lilith pushed back from Robin enough to see his eyes.  “I know you’re dying to ask Juliet for a dance.  You could go over and break in, if you like.  She doesn’t care much for Paul Witherspoon any way.”

His eyes grew wide and his mouth pulled to one side.  “Are you trying to get rid of me, Lilith?”  He quirked a crooked smile at her.  “Do I have grease under my fingernails or something?  I swear I took a bath before I came.”

Lilith laughed as he dipped her low over his thigh then bent over her as if he would kiss her.  “Don’t you dare drop me.  I’ll scream bloody murder.”  Underneath her words, her heart thumped against her ribs and her breath quickened.

Robin laughed, deep and unconfined.  Pulling her up, he brought her close to his chest and peered at her with a sparkle of mischief in his eyes.  “Now I want to drop you just to see if you’ll hold good on that threat.”

Her heart thudded in her chest like a mad thing.  She couldn’t breathe with his mouth so close to hers.  If she could have a wish at that moment, it would be for Robin to dip his head just a little more and touch his lips to hers.  A tide of heat ran up her neck into her face just thinking about Robin kissing her with his hands on her bare back.

He lifted a brow and chuckled.  “Are you thinking something naughty, Miss Wilding?  I swear you’re blushing.”




The dog drew his attention when it whined pitifully. Its brown eyes seemed to plead with him. Somehow, he just couldn’t bring himself to walk away from the suffering creature. If he couldn’t get to Lilith, at least he could get this dog to safety. He knew, if he left the poor thing here, it would die a slow death for certain.

He made his way to the shaking pile of bones that resembled a dog and removed the clamp on the heavy chain. The dog could barely walk, and it made Rob sick to see the bones protruding from the animal’s ribs and hips. What kind of human beings were these two men? Did they eat babies for breakfast? He hoisted the dog into his arms, walked back to the car, opened the back door and placed the dog on his jacket on the back seat. Something in its brown eyes looked like gratitude, mixed with fear. Rob felt his heart crack.

“Don’t you worry, little girl, I’m going to see to you now. You don’t need to be scared or hungry anymore.” Thoughts of Lilith drummed through his mind. Please, please God, look after my Lilith and don’t let them hurt her.



There was no choice left. The roaring river was her only hope. To escape these vile men she would have to take her chances and plunge into the deadly current of the white water. With a deep breath to gather her courage, she dived into the rapids. The icy water took her breath. She never imagined it that cold. Helpless to navigate, the current took her down its dangerous path. The weight of her dress drug on her as she attempted to nudge her body toward the rocky island in the middle of the river. Lilith gulped water and fought against the pull of the current. If she could just get to the rocks, she could keep from going over the falls. Certain death would take her if she went over, but there was no turning back now.

Shots rang out and a bullet whizzed past her ear. As she bobbed for an instant above the water, she saw that Edgar had a pistol in his hand aimed at her. He mouthed something at her, but the noise of the rushing water drown out his words. Just as well. She couldn’t get back to the shore if she tried. The current swept her in its cold embrace. Sometimes it rolled her under. She took on water. Her lungs hurt for want of air and the water burned them. Please God, don’t let me die this way.

The river dragged her along, pushed her under, and turned her over and over in a mad rush for the falls and she couldn’t stop it. A picture of Robin came to her. His voice seemed to command her. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.

For Readers and Authors:

Who are some of your favorite story heroes from the books you’ve read? Have you ever fallen in love with a character you created in one of your own stories?  What did you like best about your favorite hero?

Until next time, y’all stay  safe and happy!


Sarah J. McNeal

Diverse stories filled with heart





My Amazon Author’s Page

Prairie Rose Author Page

The Wildings

Prairie Rose Blog

Fantasy & Dreams Blog





A Singer and a Circus Barker

What could a Swedish singer of classical music and a circus barker possibly have in common?

Music. Specifically, a two-year tour of the United States by The Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind, arranged and boisterously (and profitably) promoted by none other than Phineas T. Barnum.

From 1850-1852, Swedish singing phenom Jenny Lind toured the U.S. at Barnum’s invitation. She gave concerts from New York City to St. Louis, Missouri. And P.T. Barnum was the reason she came. She controlled the contracts, stipulating the number of concerts (150) and the amount she would be paid for each. In total, Barnum committed to pay $187,500 (approximately $5,762,000 today) before Lind and her entourage ever left England.

Lind's contract called for the total fee to be deposited in advance with the London banking house of Baring Brothers… To raise the money, Barnum sought loans from New York bankers, who refused to make the loans based on a percentage of the Lind tour, so Barnum mortgaged all his commercial and residential properties. Still slightly short, Barnum finally persuaded a Philadelphia minister, who thought that Lind would be a good influence on American morals, to lend him the final $5,000.”

But Barnum was not a master at promotion for nothing. Though few Americans had ever heard of Lind, Barnum's first press release set the tone of the promotion. "A visit from such a woman who regards her artistic powers as a gift from Heaven and who helps the afflicted and distressed will be a blessing to America." Using the 26 newspapermen on his payroll, he made Lind a household name before she ever sang a note on these shores. More than 30,000 people showed up at the piers in New York when her boat docked. And she didn’t sing a note.
Portrait by Matthew Brady, 1850

The tickets came dear. Barnum held auctions for them, at one point even requiring those interested to pay to get into the auctions. When she realized ho
w much money Barnum stood to make from the tour, Lind insisted on renegotiating their contract. The new agreement, signed on September 3, 1850, gave her the original $1,000 per concert they had originally agreed to, plus the remainder of each concert's profits after Barnum's $5,500 concert management fee was paid.

That still left Barnum with $5,500 from each of the 93 concerts she gave for him. That’s more than half a million dollars. He made back his investment and then some.

According to American poet Emily Dickinson, who was in the audience, Lind made $4,000 off one performance in Northampton, Massachusetts—after expenses. 

But, true to her nature, Lind gave her proceeds to her favored charities in Sweden and here in the U.S.—creating free schools in her homeland, supporting the building of a church in Chicago, and another that birthed the Lutheran Augustana Synod in Andover, Illinois. She also gave $5,000 (approximately $154,000 today) to her Swedish friend, Poly Von Schneidau, for a new camera for his Chicago studio, later used to create one of the earliest images of Abraham Lincoln.

Tracy Garrett

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Book Review: Knight of the Red Rose by Cynthia Breeding

Knight of the Red Rose: The Rose and the Sword by [Cynthia Breeding]


French emissary Stephen Picard arrives a day early in London to attend King Edward’s masquerade ball in order to get a feel for how much support there would be to restore the Lancasterian King Henry to the throne.  Although he is on an official mission from King Louis to work on a treaty with England, secretly he’s on a double mission for his aunt, Margaret of Anjou, wife of the imprisoned King Henry.  He just doesn’t expect to meet a warrior maiden dressed as Boudicca—a Celtic queen even more formidable than his aunt— at the ball.

Luciana Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk and one of the Queen’s personal attendants, spots the handsome, mysterious man dressed as a pirate immediately, and wonders who he is.  She recognizes him instantly the next morning when he is introduced to the English Court, and when asked, she is more than happy to act as the official scribe to the treaty talks.

Only, she isn’t just a scribe.  She’s also been asked to spy on the emissary to make sure he does not secretly support Queen Margaret, who is in exile in France.

But spying becomes more difficult as she and Stephen are more and more attracted to each other, and she is torn between her duty to her York king and her love of a Lancaster knight.  Can there be a future for Luciana and her KNIGHT OF THE RED ROSE? 

My review:

I was delighted to discover I chose well when I picked up Knight of the Red Rose. I was needing another easy-to-get-lost-in story and the charm behind Stephen and Luciana's delivered all the feel goods I wanted.

I loved the history lesson and intrigue of the setting, even though keeping track of the who, why, and hows of royal political games and court drama kept me on my toes. But that fit in perfectly because even our hero and heroine were playing their own games, and not just with each other.

I adored Luciana and how she wasn't the typical female of the time. She was educated and wasn't afraid to show it, and had the smarts to hold her own no matter who she was verbally sparing with - but especially her brother, those were some awesome moments. She was refreshingly real and accepting of herself. She knew what she wanted, and due to how she was treated, found her bravery to grasp hold of the good.

Stephen, a undercover knight, quickly recognized the treasure and delight he found in Luciana and set about pursuing her the only way he could. I loved watching him fall for her and protect her. Their connection was a strong foundation for weathering the betrayals and political games swirling around.

I enjoyed watching how everything played out, especially since several twists were thrown in that I wasn't sure how they'd sort things out. But love is powerful. And it shines bright in this story.

Purchase Links:


Thursday, August 6, 2020

New Release -- Knight of the Red Rose: The Rose and the Sword by Cynthia Breeding

French emissary Stephen Picard arrives a day early in London to attend King Edward’s masquerade ball in order to get a feel for how much support there would be to restore the Lancasterian King Henry to the throne.  Although he is on an official mission from King Louis to work on a treaty with England, secretly he’s on a double mission for his aunt, Margaret of Anjou, wife of the imprisoned King Henry.  He just doesn’t expect to meet a warrior maiden dressed as Boudicca—a Celtic queen even more formidable than his aunt— at the ball.

Luciana Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk and one of the Queen’s personal attendants, spots the handsome, mysterious man dressed as a pirate immediately, and wonders who he is.  She recognizes him instantly the next morning when he is introduced to the English Court, and when asked, she is more than happy to act as the official scribe to the treaty talks.

Only, she isn’t just a scribe.  She’s also been asked to spy on the emissary to make sure he does not secretly support Queen Margaret, who is in exile in France.

But spying becomes more difficult as she and Stephen are more and more attracted to each other, and she is torn between her duty to her York king and her love of a Lancaster knight.  Can there be a future for Luciana and her KNIGHT OF THE RED ROSE


 Her eyes scanned the hall once again and then flicked back to the entrance to the man who’d just entered. Even at this distance, she could feel the power he exuded. He was dressed as a pirate with a cocked hat and a wicked-looking, curved scimitar at his side, although he wore a black mask instead of an eye patch. Tight-fitting breeches clung to muscular thighs and a white linen shirt whose laces were loose exposed a broad, masculine chest. Rolled-up sleeves revealed equally impressive forearms. Everywhere she looked, his skin was sun-bronzed, and she wondered if he really was a pirate. Certainly, the raven-black hair that flowed to his shoulders added to the look. A rather dangerous look. She was sure she’d never seen him at Court.

Who was he?

As if he’d somehow fathomed her thoughts, the pirate turned his head and met her gaze. An odd tingle slid down her spine. She couldn’t tell what color his eyes were with the mask in place, but she had the feeling that the stare was both penetrating and bold before he turned abruptly and was lost in the crowd coming in.

Luciana blinked. Time had seemed suspended, but of course, it wasn’t. The harpist was still strumming the same melody. Where had her—the—pirate gone?


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

My Musical Musings by Elizabeth Clements

My Musical Musings -  by Elizabeth Clements

Have you ever listened to a song in another language and wanted to know what it was all about? I grew up listening to country music on the radio. My mother loved opera, had books that told about some of the operas and arias. She missed not hearing them so when we finally bought a stereo, she’d buy classical lps. I didn’t understand the words, but I loved the melodies. One album that I nearly wore out was Carmen. Oh how I loved The Toreador Song as I dusted the furniture. And then there was Tschaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. In my mind’s eye I’d see the Cossacks flying over the steppes on their speedy steeds and imagine the clash of sabers and the cannon’s roar. Even the cartoons on tv used opera when Tom was chasing Jerry or Road Runner played tricks on Coyote….I think that was his name.

In my humble opinion, nothing speaks to the soul like music— and sometimes without a single word spoken. But when a song had words, oh my, nothing could beat Marty Robbins’ El Paso. That was my teenage anthem. And Frankie Laine singing Ghost Riders in the Sky. And on a Saturday night, at home all alone, laying on the couch and dreamily listening to Elvis asking, Are You Lonesome Tonight, or Jim Reeves saying, He’ll Have To Go. Even my opera-loving mom loved these last two singers.

All four Beetles were songwriters as well as musicians, but Paul McCartney and John Lennon were the most prolific.  Between them they wrote and recorded over 200 songs from 1962 until 1970.  Much of the older population shrugged them off as just another (phenomenally) successful rock group…until someone had the brilliant idea to adapt Yesterday, Penny Lane, Let It Be, and All You Need Is Love, to cite just a few, to be performed by a symphony orchestra. At times one didn’t realize it was a Beetles song until the melody broke into the familiar chorus. I think only then was The Beetles’ incredible talent truly appreciated by the non-rock populace <grin>.

It isn’t just instrumentals that can stoke one’s love of music. I think Spanish and Italian are two of the most beautiful and romantic languages in the world. There have been times when I’ve longed to know the words of a song performed in another language. Two singers I’ve chosen to use as examples are Julio Iglesias and Ivan Rebroff. They are opposites in many ways, but their talent and emotional      contribution to their songs has me often enthralled.

The first time I heard Julio sing (he’s the father of Enrique Iglesias) was back in late 1982 when he made his first appearance on American television on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which we watched every night. Johnny introduced someone but I was half asleep and didn’t catch the name— but in just a few seconds I jerked to full attention.

“That’s him! That’s him!” I squealed. Poor Doug, he didn’t know what the heck I was talking about. At the time I was working on my third book, about two pop singers. I saw Samantha, my heroine, quite clearly, blue eyes and gorgeous long red hair to match her sexy, smoky voice. Samantha’s partner in crime was her manager and accompanied her on the piano. He was also in love with her. I had a hero, of course, also a singer, but I couldn’t “see” him until that incredible moment on late night television.

Okay, back to Julio. He sang with such emotion, often with his eyes closed and I remember demanding out loud, “Open your eyes.” He did, occasionally, for just a couple of heartbeats and I was mesmerized with those soulful, almost bashful brown eyes. (He’s a very humble person).  I felt his emotion, but I didn’t know a single word he was singing. And wanted to. Badly, and yet in one way it didn’t really matter because I was so wrapped up in the melody. But I did want to know his name (this was before the age of Google, let alone the internet <bigger grin>. And then the program ended and to my utter frustration, not any further information was forthcoming about this awesome Spanish singer.  For some reason the video of his first appearance is no longer available, so the video below is his second appearance on The Tonight Show where he sings Natalie.


Two weeks later, the incredible happened. Johnny mentioned their switchboard had lit up after a singer had performed and there was such a never-before-demand for the return of a singer so soon after a performance. And this time I learned his name. Also, by this time my Samantha had kicked my original hero to the curb, had even forgotten his name (as did I) and she was falling in love for real. I gave this transformed hero a fitting name: Julius. Except when I was talking about my story, I kept calling him Julio instead of Julius. So, I thought to avoid further confusion for others as well as myself, I renamed my hero Raphael, a very good Spanish name, right?  

Also, in those two weeks before Julio’s second guest on The Tonight Show, my Muse and I were very active in creating a history and background for Raphael. And here’s the kicker. Several years later, long after I’d finished the book and put it aside to write my first historical romance, I came across a little bio simply called Julio, complete with his life story and pictures. I think I must have somehow channeled Julio’s life because the similarities between his real life and my fictional one were downright psychic.

Julio was born in Madrid, Spain, to wealthy parents. He excelled at sports and had dreams of continuing with soccer when a car accident left him partly paralyzed. A nurse gave him a guitar to help pass the time as well as exercise his fingers. Eventually he started writing songs. Little did he know this exercise would inspire him to write a song, sing it and win a song contest in Spain, likened to Star Search. Since then he has sold more than 100 million records in 14 languages. When he came to the Jubilee Auditorium, Doug and I went to see him. We had excellent seats, but we were also in a direct line with the powerful speakers, so I think my head was a little numb—but oh, my heart was euphoric!


Here’s my favorite song by Julio, which he also wrote and sang in Spanish on The Tonight Show. I so wanted to know the words. He has since recorded Hey in English. But that song, too, proves when a song squeezes the heart, the melody also caresses the soul.

Julio remains my favorite singer to this day (yes, Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves, Tom Jones, Adam Lambert and Elvis, I love your gift that you share with the world…but Julio’s my favorite). And I love his music best of all when he sings in Spanish, even though I only understand a few words here and there…and it doesn’t matter because the heart loves what it loves.

However, now I have to introduce you to Ivan Rebroff because this Russian-German singer is not to be missed and is in my top seven list of favorite singers. I would “guesstimate” that 99.9% of the readers of this blog have never heard of him. Perhaps I never would have, either, if we hadn’t been living in Germany for five years and first saw him on German television back in about 1969 or 1970.

Standing an impressive 6’5”, often performing in Russian peasant clothing and a Cossack hat, Ivan Rebroff was an awesome singer with a 4.5-octave range from deep, deep bass soaring to beyond soprano. In 1931, he was born prematurely on a train station platform in Berlin, Germany, of immigrant Russian parents.  I’m sad to say he died of heart failure in 2008.

His big break came in 1968. Although he sings classical and opera, he is most famous (and popular) for his Russian and/or German folk songs. I have his Christmas album plus a two-CD set that has a collection of many of his beloved songs that he sings in German or Russian. He also sings in English, so a Google search can get you several English renditions such as Old Man River and Danny Boy, etc. I couldn’t find a video of my favorite song by him, but this one is my second favorite, called Abend Glocken or Evening Bells.

I also have to share this next video simply because it shows his playful side and how he can slide from falsetto to deep, deep bass that gives me delicious shivers. It’s called Im Tiefen Keller (literally translated Deep in the Celler and is another one of my favorites because it beautifully demonstrates his awesome range, plus, I absolutely love his sense of humor as he sings a drinking song. After all, he is an actor as well as a singer.

Doug and I attended his concert at the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary and because Doug knew the security guard, we were able to go backstage to meet Ivan Rebroff after the concert. He’s even more impressive in person than on tv. I still have his signed souvenir photograph.

In closing, I just want to mention that music has always been a large part of my life. I come from a long line of musicians, most of whom had their own small bands and played at dances, weddings and other special occasions in the old country. My grandfather played the violin as did my great-uncle. I learned to play the piano, but sadly I didn’t inherit their talent nor their voice.

I treasure childhood memories of Saturday nights at my great-uncle’s home where all my family would gather around for music, singing and dancing (and probably some liquid “refreshments” as musicians were known to love their wine and ale. When we moved to the farm, my mother’s cousins and their wives would sometimes take the hour-long trip to come visit overnight. After supper, the dining room table was pushed against the wall, the scatter rugs rolled up and stashed and it was like old times again, just fewer people. Peter would bring his accordian and play while my mom and his brother, Johnny, danced. They did the waltz beautifully, but it’s the tango I remember the best.  I loved watching them dance, but I also have many memories of Peter, his head cocked to one side, his eyes closed, as he played without any sheet music. He truly felt the music and could play by ear as well as read sheet music. There would be singing and it was wonderful.

I remember rides in the truck going home from town on a Saturday night, my grandmother in the middle and me sitting on my mother’s lap. They sang beautiful harmony while I sang lead because I didn’t have their talent to harmonize and sometimes I’d slide into harmony, too. Hopeless, but now I just smile and ignore my two left feet <grin>.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to the videos and perhaps be lured into watching a few more. I’d love to hear about your musical musings and memories.

In light of my musical musings, here is a little excerpt from my novella, Diamond Jack’s Angel. I’m so proud to be part of the anthology with five other wonderful authors that make up the Hot Western Nights Anthology. It’s great reading any time of the year, not just on a hot summer night.

He shook her off with a smile and wave of his rope-veined hand. “No more talk. Just sing, mein Engel, sing.”

Angela smiled at the endearment. She’d always been his angel from the moment he’d first held her. Her parents had taken her back to Austria for a visit when she was four years old. He’d sat her on his knee and taught her to strum the small guitar he’d bought for her. Hand in hand they’d walked in the alpine meadows where he’d shown her the small white flower, edelweiss, and spoken of his love for the mountains. Years later, lonely after his wife died, he’d travelled to Colorado to visit his daughter and had felt instantly at peace among the Rockies, different from the Alps, but still beloved mountains. Angela instinctively knew he’d never leave them.

And so, she strummed and sang songs her mother and Opa had taught her. One by one, five old miners emerged from their tents and gathered near the fire, joining in on a chorus or simply humming along with the now-familiar songs. When she played the last notes of the song she’d written about edelweiss, it was an unspoken end to the evening and the old men retired to their tents.

Feeling unusually melancholy, Angela stared at the dying fire, stroking Max’s big head, grateful for his company. He was always sensitive to her feelings and pressed closer, nudging his cold nose into her palm. She loved being here with her grandfather, taking care of him, cooking for the miners who treated her like a daughter. They always took time to hunt and bring meat for an evening meal, supplementing their food with the milk and eggs from the goat and chickens. For extra income, she took in laundry, which filled her days. Keeping busy made her forget how much she missed her parents who had been killed in an avalanche while they were skiing.

She couldn’t bear to live in the house, so when her grandfather came to Denver for the funeral, she’d left with him. And how much longer would she have him? He was in his high seventies, getting so frail but far too stubborn to admit it was becoming harder each day to work his claim.

Rising, she doused the fire, picked up her guitar and climbed into the wagon to sleep.



Link for Diamond Jack’s Angel/Hot Western Nights Anthology

Beneath A Horse Thief Moon:



LARGER THAN LIFE - The Real-Life Characters Behind the Characters. Dr. Mary Walker.

By C.A. Asbrey

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

Every writer has something which germinates that little kernel of an idea, which grows into a plot, a character, or a scene. If we're lucky, it inspires a whole universe, or fits neatly into one we are already building. Some of us get our inspiration from movies, T.V. shows, even pictures of models. Others are inspired by real people, or have figures who form from imagination who distil from the ethereal energy in the brain into something more tangible on paper. I'm no different to any other writer in that respect. I get my ideas, and run with them like anyone else, and I thought I might share with you some of the real people who inspired some of the characters in The Innocents Mysteries Series.

It's fair to say that some of the most outrageous characters are actually based on reality, and are people I came across while researching. One of my favourites is Dr. Davida (Vida for short) Cadwallader. In the series she is a friend of the protagonist, Abigail MacKay. They met when Abigail joined the Pinkertons, and became friends. Dr. Cadwallader was arrested as a spy during the Civil War, worked as an Army Surgeon, a Pinkerton, and now consults with the Pinkerton Detective Agency while practicing as a doctor and an Alienist. She was a proponent of The Rational Dress movement, and insists on wearing men's clothes.

In the book 'Innocent Minds' she is introduced as follows:

“I think that’s who you’re waitin’ for. Abi said she might be unusual. Any more unusual and she’d be got up in one of them horse suits. What’s she come as?” 

Both men stared over at the stout woman wearing a man’s frock coat, high-collared shirt, cravat, and stove pipe hat, who stared up and down the quay as though searching for someone. 

“At least she’s wearing skirts,” said Nat. “I guess that’s something.” 

“Yeah,” Jake answered. “That was my first thought when I clapped eyes on her. That’s really somethin’.”

Vida has a remarkable past in the books, but no more incredible than the real woman who inspired her, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, (November 26, 1832 – February 21, 1919). She wasn't a Pinkerton, but none the less remarkable for that.

She was born in Oswego, New York. Her parents were both very progressive for the time and reinforced the idea that there was no such thing as roles defined by gender, but only by ability. Her mother often did heavy farm work, while her father attended to domestic duties. Mary's ideas on female clothing came from her mother, who did not like corsets, and encouraged the girl to wear men's clothes to work around the farm. Tight-lacing was said to be unhealthy and unnecessary, and these ideas seem to have stuck with Mary for life. Her parents also insisted that their daughter be as well-educated as their son, and she gained her medical degree in 1855 from Syracuse Medical College.

She married a fellow medical student, Albert Miller, on November 16th, 1855. True to form, for the wedding she wore a short skirt with trousers underneath for her wedding. She also refused to 'obey' in the wedding vows. They set up a joint practice in Rome, New York, but it failed due to suspicions of female doctors at the time. The marriage was also short-lived due to Miller's infidelities. The couple separated and divorced.

Her insistence that long skirts and numerous petticoats spread dirt, as well restricting the movement of the wearer, led her to experiment with various combinations of trousers and skirts. This was not well-received by many, and she was widely ridiculed, and attacked more than once. At one point she was even arrested by a police officer who twisted her arm, demanding to know if she'd ever had sex with a man. She was released after influential friends kicked up a fuss regarding the matter.

When the Civil War broke out she offered her services to the union side as she was a passionate abolitionist, but women were not permitted to be doctors, so she ended up working as a nurse instead. She was known to wear men's clothes when working, insisting it was more practical in the field. Mary served at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), July 21, 1861 and at the Patent Office Hospital in Washington,  D.C. She also acted as a battle surgeon, without pay, at the Battle of Fredericksburg and after the Battle of Chickamauga. In 1862 she was allowed to become the first female surgeon employed by the US Army, but only as a civilian, and treated both combatants and civilians in that role.

It was during these forays across enemy lines she was captured, and treated as a spy. Mary was held for four months until she was released as part of a prisoner exchange. During her captivity she steadfastly refused to wear clothes 'more fitting to her sex.'

She went on to supervise a women's prison in Louisville, and an orphanage in Tennessee for the rest of the war, but suffered muscular atrophy as a result of her imprisonment. For her disability, she was awarded a Civil War pension

Mary spent the rest of her life touring and campaigning on health care, temperance, women's rights, and dress reform. In those speeches she always insisted that she didn't wear men's clothes. "I wear my own."   

She found herself at odds with her own movement when she insisted that women already had the right to vote, as some states had already allowed it. The movement decided to campaign for constitutional amendment instead. Mary's intransigence on the issue led to increasing alienation, and her insistence on dressing unconventionally made her an easy target for mockery.

Medal of Honor

After the war Mary had been awarded the Medal of Honor, even though her civilian status technically made her ineligible. The medal was based on her service, and the lack of an award being a good match to the nature of her service being available at the time. However, many loopholes in the regulations as to who was entitled to a medal, and who was not, led to many people being awarded who were not involved in combat, or who had civilian roles. In an overhaul of the regulations in 1916, over 900 people were stripped of the medal, including Mary and Buffalo Bill Cody.

True to form, Mary refused to return her medal and continued to wear it until her death in 1919 at the age of eight-six, insisting that men were awarded the medal who spent less time on the front lines than she had. They also did not remove the medal from male surgeons under the same kind of civilian contract as she had. She was buried wearing a plain dark suit, a year before women got the right to vote in the USA.       

During World War II, a Liberty ship, the SS Mary Walker was named after her, and a stamp was released in her honour in 1982. Her home town, Oswego, unveiled a statue to her in 2012. There is also a plaque explaining her importance at the Health Center there.  Her Medal of Honor was returned to her in 1977 by President Carter.


“She hasn’t got the combination to the safe,” said the manager. “You can scare her as much as you want. We all know you’re not gonna use that gun on us.”

Rebecca’s breath halted as she felt a careless arm drape around her shoulder.

“I don’t need a gun to hurt someone. Give us the combination.” The manager remained mute and turned his face away. “Your call, sir.” He pulled Rebecca around to face him as she gasped in alarm. “Just remember who you’ve got to thank for this, ma’am.”

He pointed over at the manager, who refused to meet her eyes. “That man right there.”

“Anything that happens to her is down to you. Not me,” said the manager.

Rebecca felt herself dragged from the room by one arm. She was pulled into the office next door and pushed against the wall. The man walked over and pulled down the blind before returning to her. Her breath came in ragged pants of fear. “Please, no. Don’t.”

He leaned on the wall, a hand on either side of her head, and pressed his face close. “You were gonna hold this place up. Are you some kind of idiot?”

She blinked in confusion. “Huh?”

The man pulled down his mask, revealing the face of the fair man who had walked into her office looking for Fernsby. “Don’t lie to me, honey. You had the same idea as we did— look at Meagher’s bank account to see where he gets his money. We’ve watched you march up and down outside this place all day, like you were on sentry duty, while you built up your courage. You even got in the way of us doin’ it. What the hell is goin’ on in your head? How dumb can a woman get?”

“You? Here?” She couldn’t quite decide whether to stop being scared or not.

“Yeah. Me.” He indicated with his head. “Now, Nat’s in there, and he needs the combination of the safe. It’s too new and sophisticated for him to crack the combination. You and me need to put on a bit of a show to make sure the manager gives it up.”

“You’re not robbing the bank?”

Jake huffed in irritation. “Try to keep up, Becky. I need you to scream for help so the manager gives Nat the combination to the vault. We want Meagher’s records too.”

She shook her head. “Me? I can’t scream.”

“What do you mean you can’t scream? All women can scream.”

“I can’t. I’m just not made that way.”

He frowned. “Look, Becky. If you won’t scream, I’m gonna have to make you. Let’s do this the easy way, huh?”

“Please, help! Noooo.”

Jake frowned. “You call that screamin’? That’s useless.”

“I told you. I can’t.”

Jake flicked up an eyebrow. “Last chance, Becky.”


“Nope.” A gloved hand reached up to her hat as his eyes glittered with mischief. “Don’t say you weren’t warned, sweetheart.”