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Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Hi everyone! I wanted to show off some of our projects we've put out under our Prairie Rose Publications and Painted Pony Books imprints already this year! I'm going to choose 2 lucky winners from commenters over the next two days to win their choice of one digital copy of any of these books. Just take a minute to leave a comment and PLEASE LEAVE YOUR E-MAIL addy so we can get in touch with you if you win! There are some awesome books here for all ages!

Enjoy browsing!

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Sometimes a story is born from an actual event in history. This is the case with my newest release THE WIDOW'S LAWMAN.  Butch Cassidy, Harry Longabaugh (The Sundance Kid) and the rest of their Wild Bunch are popular subjects of study near where I live, mainly because the Hole-in-the-Wall is right down the road.

From researching the Wild Bunch and the Wilcox train robbery, a stubborn widow and an outlaw failing to reform were born. Along with these two wild and wonderful characters, Butch, Sundance, Etta and the boys came to life and joined forces to wreak havoc on the Wyoming countryside.

First let me give you a little peek at the Hole-in-the-Wall.

In Southwest Johnson County, Wyoming lying between the Red Wall and Big Horn Mountains is the most famous hideout on the Outlaw Trail, the Hole-in-the-Wall. Between roughly the 1860s and 1910, 30 to 40 outlaws stayed in the secluded spot including Jesse James and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.                                                                              

The area was (and still is) isolated taking about a day’s journey by horseback from any semblance of civilization. It is a steep climb to the top of the Wall, but overlooking the country below it is no wonder this location was chosen. With sweeping 360 views the pass was well situated to spot approaching lawmen and the narrowness of the approach made it easy to defend. The grassy plateau at the top and creek bed of the canyon below made it a good spot to graze all the rustled cattle.

In this area in the 1880s and 1890s, rustlers grazed stolen cattle and provided refuge to outlaws. Inhabitants of the six cabins that stood in the valley were known as the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. Members of the gang included Bob Smith, Al Smith, Bob Taylor, George Currie, Tom O’Day, and the Roberts Brothers. Later Robert Leroy Parker (Butch Cassidy), Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid), and Harvey Alexander Logan (Kid Curry).

A trestle across the Union Pacific near Wilcox, Wyoming at 1:00 a.m., June 2, 1899, forces the Overland Flyer to halt. Men wearing masks made from white napkins, possible stolen from the Harvey House Restaurant, boarded the train. One of the men after unsuccessfully forcing the engineer to pull the train forward, clubbed the engineer with a gun butt and pulled the train forward himself. The trestle was dynamited to prevent the second section of train from catching up. The train was pulled forward two miles and stopped.
There the express car was surrounded, and the attendant, E.C. Woodcock, was ordered to open the door. He refused. The car was blown up. Woodcock suffered a concussion from the blast and couldn't remember the combination to the safe. The gang blew up the safe. Initial reports stated the Wild Bunch made off with $30,000, some of the bank notes being scorched by the explosion or stained with raspberries also in the car. Later the superintendent of the Union Pacific, confirmed the gang made off with over $50,000 in stolen items, bank notes and even gold. 
then Union Pacific Superintendent W.L. Park wrote that the railroad had actually lost more than $50,000, some of it in gold. The outlaws escaped in a northerly direction, toward the Hole-in-the-Wall, a well-known outlaw enclave in the middle of Wyoming. - See more at:

Even though the men were masked immediate suspicion fell on the Wild Bunch.  Other newspapers identified the culprits as the Roberts brothers and reported the robbers to be George Currie and the Roberts brothers. It is now believed the name “Roberts” was used by Sundance and Harvey Logan. Authorities believed some of the robbers were headed for the Hole-in-the-Wall. Posses gave chase. Near Teapot Creek some of culprits were cornered by a posse led by Converse County Sheriff Joe Hazen. In the ensuing fire fight, Sheriff Hazen was killed and the train robbers made their escape by swimming across the river.

The members of the Wild Bunch involved included: "Flatnose" George Curry, Harvey Logan "Kid Curry," Lonnie Logan,  Harry Longabaugh "Sundance Kid," Ben Kilpatrick "The Tall Texan,"  and Will Carver.  Butch was thought to have been the mastermind behind the robbery, but did not participate in the actual robbery. In 1896, Butch was pardoned by Governor William A. Richards from the Laramie Penitentiary. The condition of this pardon was Butch promised to never again participate in any crimes within Wyoming's borders.

The Wilcox train robbery became one of the most famous train robberies in the West. A year later the Wild Bunch held up a second train near Tipton, Wyoming. While these robberies were successful, they also signaled the end of the Wild Bunch. Butch, Sundance and Etta made their way to South America. Other members were eventually tracked down and killed or imprisoned.

In one of those history makes a great a story, poor Agent Woodcock was the agent aboard the train during the Tipton train robbery. 

The Flyer also carried horses...And that's where Jake and Ellie enter the picture.

GIVEAWAY: Today I'm giving away THREE e-book copies of THE WIDOW'S LAWMAN, so you can have a chance to join the fun. Please leave a comment and your contact information for a chance to win.

Join Jake, Ellie, Butch, Sundance and the Wild Bunch on the track to true love...and a lot of shenanigans along the way.

Outlaw Jake Avery is handed an ultimatum--hang for his crimes, or become the new Sheriff of Sheridan, Wyoming. When he chooses the life of a lawman, he doesn’t expect a local widow woman to tangle with his emotions.

Ellie Reed needs Sheridan’s new sheriff to help her rob a train, and recover her late husband’s treasured property. She doesn’t expect the outlaw-turned-sheriff to steal her heart, as well.

As the train barrels through Wyoming, Jake and Ellie plan a robbery to avenge the past. But can they heist a future together?



 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, April 24, 2015

A Gem of a Ghost Town--Castle Dome, Arizona by Linda Carroll-Bradd

Research Trip Find—A Privately Owned Ghost Town

Only a four-hour drive away from where we live in the southern California mountains is Yuma, Arizona. I’m the type who travels with paper maps and the AAA travel guide with all the rated attractions. My husband has all he needs in his smart phone. Because we didn’t leave until after 6PM, he begrudgingly agreed to calling ahead for a motel reservation. When he was a kid, his birth family set out on the road for the entire summer, Suburban hauling a trailer, as soon as school let out, so he’s used to driving until tired and then looking for a place to stay. Me, I like national chains for motels and restaurants.

Our first day was spent at a couple of state museums—the quartermaster depot and the territorial prison. We learned some interesting facts that may come in handy in a book someday. But he wanted someplace different so he started cruising around on his phone. So the next day we took a different route, past the Arizona proving grounds toward Castle Dome, a mining ghost town. Once off the state highway at mile marker 55 for only a couple of miles, the paved road ended and we rolled onto a gravel road. My reaction was concern about our Prius navigating the road unharmed. My adventure-loving spouse told me to go for it. Eight miles later (paralleling a barbed wire fence warning “Danger--unexploded ordnance”--gulp), we reached the ghost town.
A couple ready to retire, Allen and Stephanie Armstrong, bought the site where gold mining occurred in the 1860s and set about creating this village of 40+ buildings out in the middle of nowhere. From a note in one of the buildings—“the first description of Castle Dome City was of a brush house, an adobe under construction, 2 tents, and 2 fenced in lots. Over the years, Castle Dome boasted of a school, 5 bars within a mile, [city stretched along a river] two mercantiles, a church or 2, sheriff’s office and jail, assay and mining offices, entertainment spots, blacksmith shop and numerous dwellings.”
(general store counter)

The Armstrongs fixed up what was there, brought buildings from other mining ghost towns or from federal property to this location and recreated what Castle Dome might have looked like in its heyday when its population exceeded 5,000 and was greater than Yuma. But when the shiny gold played out, the inhabitants drifted away to their next money-making opportunity.  They are to be commended because each and every building held artifacts of the time. A self-guided tour gave us (and the dozen other visitors we saw) a sense of the people who chose to live there. Mr. Armstrong was spotted in the livery stable working on a pump for the sluice box, and he and my husband talked motors for a few minutes.
(general store shelves)
I guess if you’re a history lover, then what better way to demonstrate that than by creating a living museum?
Linda Carroll-Bradd writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her latest release is When My Heart Knew, a story in the Cowboy Kisses anthology. Check out her complete backlist of titles at

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I have a confession. Actually, it is more like a badly kept secret.

Hello, my name is Shayna Matthews, and I'm a grammar nerd. Multiple misspellings in a body of text will give me the shakes, and the misuse of words such as their, there and they're? Nooooooooooo! Please, make it stop! Now, with that said, misused grammar does indeed have benefits...IF it is used as a form of art.

You heard me.

Art. The art of bad grammar. Intrigued yet?

I was introduced to the art of bad grammar every year come Easter. I never really believed in the Easter Bunny-never saw a long-eared varmint hopping down the bunny trail to hide goodies for me. I had a different character altogether visit me every spring. He was big, brown and burly, and made me decipher his own language when I was just knee-high to a grasshopper. My Easter hunts started with a compass, and a letter with horrific spelling and grammar in shaky red pen from...The Heaster Bear. I imagine the shaky writing stemmed from that big bear's paw attempting to grip a pen, not an easy feat, no doubt! Of course, what do Heaster bears care about grammar? Not a whole heck of a lot, I'm here to tell you.

My entire childhood revolved around trying to decipher confounded clues and mentally cursing the necessary use of a compass to obtain a plastic egg filled with a few coins, perhaps a dollar or two? I mean, take clue #3 from 1994:

Frum heer luukin (S) 165 whuts a Pifer on a Beech?

Good golly, Mr. Heaster Bear, aside from the compass reading, I don't know, what the heck is a Pifer???!!! My clues usually included rifle rests, cwotches of twees, varmints, hoaks, currs and tommyhawks. Naturally, my Heaster hunts took me a few hours.

One year, I decided to get smart, and I fooled that old grizzled bear. We had a Mountain Cur dog at the time, and if you've not heard of the breed, look them up. They are an old 18th Century breed of dog known for hunting game, running and jumping. They were prized for the protection of forts and pioneer homesteads against Indian raids. Caddie was black with brindle markings, and I believe every word about the breed. She was the epitome of agility, the dog could jump 7.5 FEET in the air, flat-footed. We measured.

So that year, as I geared up with my Heaster Bear note to decipher, and armed with a compass, I loosed Caddie. That year, the compass was not needed. I merely followed the nose of my trusty Cur-she took me straight from spot to spot, sniffing out the goods, and after the last clue, ran over to my father and sat down, thumping her tail on the grass. Hmmm…was she pointing out the identity of the Heaster Bear? Thank you Caddie, good girl.

You know, come to think of it, I believe the following year the Heaster Bear left rather grumbled words about the use of Curs being against Bear rules. Rats.

I believe writers soak up their talent, drive and inspiration from an early age, based on the environment around them. My fathe-err, I mean, the Heaster Bear's notes were a creative struggle, forcing me to bend the corners of my mind to decipher meaning. Since then, The Bear has succumbed to progress-just a little-and uses a cell phone. I receive grand texts from him regularly, and they always make me smile. You see, I heard the Bear's growling over autocorrect...the system gave up, I swear I could hear auto-correct actually say "what the hell is that supposed to spell?" The app was turned off, and now those messages flow through to me like the art-form they are, unspoiled and uncorrected, bad grammar and all.

Bad grammar. I am a writer, and I fear it, generally speaking. But, aside from Heaster Bears, foul grammar still has its place in a novel. Dialogue. You see, I write westerns, and in some instances proper grammar is about as useful as a wind-break in a cyclone.

"COWBOYS" photograph by Shayna Matthews

Good dialogue is not always easy. One has to climb inside the mind of the character speaking and extract words they would say, even if they go against everything the writer says, thinks or feels. For me, it can be exhausting. But one of my characters in my current novel is easy-breezy. His name is Ryder, and he is an uneducated twenty-one year old Texas cowboy. By uneducated, I mean he hasn’t been "book-learnt". In the 1880’s, by the time you hit sixteen or seventeen years old, you were a man and therefore expected to do a man’s job. At twenty-one, Ryder is practically a veteran and will boast of his ability to fork a horse (or a woman) better’n any other critter on two legs. I asked Ryder what he thought of proper grammar, and he looked at me, tilted his jaw and grinned.

“Ain’t much on them fancy words citified folks sling ’round. Hell, I heard a big city fella speechifyin’ in town once; he was usin’ words so long I figured one of them’d fly outta his mouth and have nowhere to go ‘cept ’round his neck. That flannel-mouth wasn’t foolin’ nobody with his throat ticklin’, he just bragged himself out of a place to lean against the bar. No, never had much paw for them fancy words. Show me a man who can ride good as me, and I’ll think about bein’ impressed. Maybe.”

One of my readers asked me once, where my rich cowboy lingo comes from. I mirrored one of Ryder's broad grins, and answered with a laugh, "Aside from reading, research and imagination? Heaster Bears and the art of bad grammar."

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Pony Express in Stamps

As a retired rural letter carrier for the United States Postal Service, I feel a certain connection to the Pony Express riders of yester-yore. Although my “ride” was a right-hand drive surplus government jeep (later a RHD Subaru) instead of a horse, and my risk of being attacked came in the form of aggressive guard dogs instead of hostile Indians, I also rode many miles for long hours day after day to deliver the mail. I also developed a love for stamp artwork, although my personal collection is limited.

The Pony Express began operations on April 3, 1860 and ended eighteen months later in October, 1861. It was organized by the owners of Russell, Majors & Waddell, the overland transportation and communications service started in 1854 to supply military posts. They knew the Pony Express would be of short duration due to the rapid expansion of railroad and telegraph services, but it turns out it ended because the parent company was failing.
Pony Express marker by Fort Laramie, WY

Between losses on the Pony Express and their other shipping services, Russell, Majors & Waddell went bankrupt in 1862.

However in the months leading up to the start of the Pony Express, California was still a fairly new state in the Union that was separated by the railroads east of the Mississippi that connected to this nation’s capital by miles of sparsely-inhabited territories. The Civil War loomed on the horizon, many residents in both California and Oregon had come from the South and advocated for slavery, and, although the big placer gold strikes in California were all but over, there was a lot of wealth in that state that the Union did not want to fall to Southern interests. The Union (with its military forts) needed a speedy means of communication to keep tabs on what was happening on both sides of the continent.

  Based on the advertisement for riders, Russell, Majors & Waddell understood this was a high-risk job. Still, it attracted 80 riders including fifteen year-old William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. 
At the time they were hired, each rider was given a Bible and required to sign a pledge promising not to swear, drink alcohol, or fight with other employees.

The riders carried the mail in a four-pocket pack called a mochilla. It fit over the saddle and was quickly transferred to one horse to the next. The letters inside were wrapped in oil silk to protect them from moisture.

The route started in St. Joseph, Missouri and roughly followed the California/Oregon trail traveled by the freighting operation until it arrived in Sacramento. From there, mail was sent by steamer to San Francisco. Each rider rode approximately 75 miles per day between 184 stations set up into five districts. The mail was able to travel this entire route in ten days.


Robyn Echols writes using the pen name, Zina Abbott. Visit the Zina Abbott's Amazon Author Page HERE.

Big Meadows Valentine, the first novella in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series is available on Amazon Kindle HERE and on Nook HERE . The second novella in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, A Resurrected Heart, is available on Amazon Kindle HERE and on Nook HERE.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


NOTE: It's been twenty years. Hard to believe that twenty years have passed since that fateful day, when a homegrown terrorist snuffed out 168 lives, 19 of them children in the daycare at the Murrah Building. Today there will be a ceremony as there is, every year, at the bomb site. But I think it's especially poignant this year for this milestone. Twenty years is a lifetime--time for a baby to grow to adulthood and strike out on their own; for grandchildren to be born and grow into the people they will become...but for 168 people, that future ended in a single moment.

Where were you when you heard that Elvis had died? Or John Lennon? Where were you when you found out JFK had been assassinated? Where were you nineteen years ago on April 19, 1995?

Many people won’t remember the date, but they remember what happened. This Saturday, April 19, is the anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building here in Oklahoma City. Up to that date, it was the largest number of deaths on U.S. soil caused by a terrorist act. That record was broken, of course, on September 11, 2001, with the destruction of the twin towers in New York City.

On the morning of April 19, 1995, I had gone to work. My job at McDonald’s Corporate Offices was located several miles from the downtown area. I was the “complaint person”—the one everyone called to report everything from an incorrect order to a pot hole in the drive-through on Forty-Ninth Street. We had just received a call from a man who was attempting to sue McDonald’s for a scratch on his car’s paint job. I’d transferred him to my supervisor, irritated at his persistence.

At 9:03, the building shook, and plaster fell from the ceiling onto my desk, and into my hair. We were on the seventh floor of the building, but were not panicked about the safety of the structure.

Someone hooked up the small TV that was used for videos in conferences and we all made our way into the conference room. The picture was grainy since the TV wasn’t on cable, but we were able to see the first reports as they began to come in.

In the beginning, the explosion was thought to be caused by natural gas. Within the hour, though, those initial reports were negated and the public was told the truth. Unbelievably, it had been some kind of bomb.

Another chilling fact was quickly disclosed. Since no one was sure of why the federal building had been targeted, federal and state employees were being sent home from offices in other locations.

My husband worked for the Federal Aviation Administration at the time. Normally, he would have been released. But since he was a former Navy man with extensive military training, he and some of the others with a military background were asked to stay and help do a bomb sweep of the FAA training facility.

The entire facility was on lockdown. This meant I couldn’t get on base to pick up our son, Casey, who attended the daycare there.

Within the next hour, I received a phone call from my mother-in-law, Esta, in West Virginia. You had to know Esta to know, when she put her mind to something, she got it done. In a world gone crazy, with telephone circuits busy and no hope of getting through, she somehow managed without even having my direct number. All she knew was that I worked at the corporate office for McDonald’s.

When I answered the phone on my desk, at the other end of the line was an operator that Esta had commandeered, explained what had happened, and talked into placing the call through as a person-to-person emergency call. I assured the operator that I was Cheryl Pierson and thanked her for placing the call. She sounded worried. “How bad is it?” she asked. “We aren’t sure,” I told her. There was silence for a moment before she turned the call over to my mother-in-law. “Take care, hon,” she said. “We’re all praying for you.” Her voice was gravelly with emotion. That brought tears to my eyes, too.

I didn’t tell my mother-in-law that Gary was still at the FAA, unable to leave. Or that Casey was there, and I couldn’t get on base to get him. I promised to call her when we knew more. I had to get Jessica from school.

You see, the fear was not knowing. Not knowing, at that point, who had done it, or why? How many people were involved? Were they going to target other federal or state agencies…or schools?

I drove to my daughter’s elementary school. The parking lot was full, even though it was not quite 11:30. I asked Jessica if she knew what had happened and was shocked to find out they had had the children in the auditorium with the television on for a big part of the morning…until things got too graphic.

“Are Dad and Casey home yet?”

I put on my best smile. “No, not yet. They’ll be along shortly.”

An hour or so later, prayers were answered and Gary pulled into the driveway with Casey. But our world was changed forever that day.

As the news coverage continued, it was a nightmare we dealt with every day for at least a year: The deaths, the images of loss that came from that day, and the anger.

But there was good that came from it, too. Oklahomans showed the pioneer spirit of those who came before us and rose to the occasion. Because of that tragedy in 1995, we learned the hard way that a terrorist can be home-grown, but we kept strong and showed the world where the bar of the “Oklahoma Standard” was set. When 9/11 happened, many of our first responders and medical trauma professionals rushed immediately to New York City. We were the only other state that had had anything remotely similar happen, and the experience to lend a hand.

Though, thankfully, no one in our family was hurt or killed in that tragedy of April 19, 1995, I don’t know anyone who didn’t know someone—however remotely—that it touched.

I had to quit my job. Casey began having nightmares, and believed his daycare was going to “blow up.” When he built a Lego “daycare” with part of the wall gone and the flag lying in a heap of Lego bricks, I knew I needed to be home with him. Eventually, his fears passed.

But the sadness will always remain for those who lost their lives in that senseless act of terrorism; for those since who have taken their own lives due to “survivor guilt;” for the end of the innocence we might have still harbored—the feeling that we were safe in the heartland of America.

As the years pass, we tend to forget. But as painful as those memories are, we cannot afford to lose the hard-won lessons.


A beautiful memorial museum stands on the site today. There is a chain link fence surrounding part of the grounds where visitors come to leave remembrances and mementos. In nineteen years, I still have not been able to bring myself to visit the museum. I’m glad we have it, and that people come to pay their respects. I don’t need to see it, though. I lived it. And I will never, ever forget.

A SIDE NOTE: My daughter, Jessica, has "the other side" from a child's perspective on her blog, Caution to the Winds. This is a poignant accounting of her memories of what happened that day, when she was only 8 years old, from her now-adult self, remembering. I have to admit, it made me teary. If you are interested and get a chance, please take a look and leave a comment for her.