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Saturday, May 30, 2015


Texas Rising, a miniseries showing on the History Channel is, well, a mess.
Even so, it has drawn a huge audience:
The first night of the 10-hour effort was the most watched miniseries premiere — across all of cable — since 'The Bible.'

I don't expect others to know all about Texas history, or all about the seven distinct geographical regions, but I would expect a movie crew to research both before attempting a seven-part miniseries of such magnitude.
I admit, even as a life-long Texan, I do not know all the details. But the major details? Yes, I know enough.

The series begins shortly after the fall of the Alamo. Admittedly, only a true historian could make perfect sense out of the myriad events and battles, but at least movie makers could learn and use the basics--the important ones.

One thing that bothered me from the beginning was the terrain around Gonzales. Remember, this was the Come and Take It town, located in South Texas. The climate? Hot and Humid. It's truly a warm sub-tropical climate on a rolling plain. The makers of Texas Rising must have assumed all of Texas was dry, colorless, and dusty, with mountains and sheer cliffs.
Goliad, the scene of the massacre of the unarmed Texans by the Mexican Army, is also hot and humid with much greenery-trees, bushes, and grasses. Both these places were depicted as desert-like conditions set in barren rugged mountains. Uh-uh.

I laugh at Santa Anna, or rather the movie's depiction of him.
A handsome, slender, young talented actor named Olivier Martinez plays the general, and does it well. What is wrong with this picture, though? Santa Anna was not tall, not slender and did not have chiseled cheekbones or a dimple. And I don't think he was handsome, either. Poor casting.

I could go on and on, but one big mistake is depicting the rag-tag Texan Army as all white. Many Texans--sometimes referred to as "Texians"--were Mexican. Some came through the revolution and remained loyal to Texas, their home as much as it was the whites'. Numerous towns and counties are named for the "Mexican Texans."

I won't criticize the actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson who played Emily West, known as The Yellow Rose of Texas. Why? Too many variations about this woman exist, including her exact role in the Battle of San Jacinto, her looks, and her age. Instead, I will say the actress is lovely, although perhaps a bit overdressed for her role.

The characters playing the Anglos are indiscernible from one another. They are dressed alike, equally filthy, unshaven, and appear the same color from head to toe as the bland brown dry dusty landscape.

I know Bill Paxton plays Sam Houston, so he's the only one I can identify.
I shouldn't be so harsh with this portrayal of the Texas Revolution. Movie makers are quite adept at taking a historical event and "messing" it up.

Another case was the 1960 version of The Alamo starring John Wayne.
~*~JW and others wore Western clothing, as though the story of The Alamo was a western.
~*~Soldiers sing Happy Birthday to a little girl 57 years before it was written.
~*~The Alamo in this movie had upstairs windows. The real one never has.
~*~Susannah Dickinson's dresses had zippers..all of them. The zipper was not invented until 1930, and even then, dresses did not have zippers.
I could go on and on.

As an author of Western Historical Romance, I try to have my facts straight. Of course, none of us are experts...well, maybe Kathleen Rice Adams is...but I do try to work with the facts.
Come Monday night, I will continue the Texas Rising series. I want to see what the producers do with The Runaway Scrape.

One bright spot is that Kris Kristofferson will sing a song written especially for this series, titled "Texas Rising." I do not want to miss that. Reviewers have praised it and the actor/singer.
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
Handbook of Texas-Online
Movie Synopses, Reviews, and Photos

Thursday, May 28, 2015

#NewRelease--ANAM CARA by Keena Kincaid -- #Giveaway!

While hiking Hadrian’s Wall trail in northern England, Keena Kincaid came up with the idea of a medieval murder-mystery with a minstrel sleuth. At some point, her hero opted to woo the local innkeeper instead, and the murder-mystery transformed into an historical romance—a lucky break for the intended victim. In addition to ANAM CARA, she’s written TIES THAT BIND and ENTHRALLED, sequels to ANAM CARA that will be released from Prairie Rose Publications in the summer of 2015.

Bran ap Owen knows it’s “once to die, then the judgment,” but his hell is to live again and again until he rights an ancient wrong. Unlike other souls caught up on the karmic wheel, he remembers the past—and he always remembers her—his ANAM CARA.

Liza of Carlisle knows nothing of the vow trapping her in Bran’s judgment, yet when he walks into her inn, their instant connection is unnerving. She fights her heart, knowing instinctively this wanderer could destroy the life she loves.

Determined to repair the damage of his first betrayal, Bran uses his visions and the knowledge of a thousand years to court Liza. But Fate conspires against them once more—Liza has secrets of her own. When an evil nobleman, Wakefield, determines to have her young daughter, Tess, Liza is pitted against a danger from which there may be no escape.

Bran regains Liza’s fragile trust, but a fresh betrayal threatens their last hope for love. They both stand to lose everything dear to them in their lives, including one another…again…

Can Bran stop the death of his brother? Can he save Tess from Wakefield’s formidable power? Will he finally be able to make things right with Liza, his ANAM CARA…his unforgettable forever love?

     Her head snapped up. Hatred painted her eyes a brilliant hue. He held steady, never wavering from the single thread that held true in this tangled knot that was his life. He was Roman first, a soldier second, and a man who loved her third.
     “Why? There is no one left to kill me but you.”
     “You will live.”
     “And what is the value of being the only one left?” Her voice was soft, yet deeper than one would imagine from a woman graced with such feminine bounty. It reflected neither her face nor her body, but her power. She was a force that set his blood thrumming and his body reeling. That he still breathed was a sign that she truly loved him. “You promised protection.”
     “You will live.”
     “And I will live alone.”

To enter a drawing for a free copy of ANAM CARA be sure and leave a comment.

BUY LINKS            B&N NOOK            SMASHWORDS         KOBO

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

'BACK TO ONE' by Shayna Matthews

Shayna and her husband in costume (we hope)
"Back to one, people!"

Back to one. A short, simple sentence I was unfamiliar with, until my husband and I fell into an invitation to participate in a steampunk-western movie shoot. After a full day of shooting, the phrase has been pounded into my brain until I began moving to the rhythm of the words: back-to-one.

I like the meaning behind this phrase. As our director, Ron, placed the extras, we gleaned the meaning behind the phrase. No matter where we were by the end of the scene, this was the spot we were to return to, this was our beginning. And so we did. Shot after shot, take after take, action was called, and after the cut, we all went back to one and did it again.

"I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille."
A logical place to start over from, the beginning, is it not? Let's face it, how many times during the course of our lives do we go "back to one"? I do it every day, a hundred times a day while writing my novels, and I know I am not alone. Words form sentences, sentences into scenes, scenes into chapters. Like movie-making, fictional writing is a slow, tedious process. We must first have creative vision to foresee the story, followed by the drive to carry it through. We must prepare for constant obstacles, face them, and react accordingly. If a scene falls flat, or the tone not quite right, we as the writer, or we as the director, must recognize any flaws and start again. Go back to one. Do it again. And again, until the scene is caught like the magic of a midsummer's firefly in a bottle...glowing. Perfection is key, for no self-respecting author, director or actor will go forth with work that we know isn't "quite" right. It isn't fair to our audience, let alone ourselves. Going back to one teaches us patience, builds our character, strengthens our grit and determination to follow our dreams.

Standing in the summer sun for hours in a dusty "prop" town, wearing layers of clothing, I contemplated what led me to this point. Thirty-three years of living history reenacting teaches you to deal with the elements. I have camped during summers so brutally hot that all the photographs taken showcased a golden halo of heat and steam hovering over everyone's heads. To the opposite extreme, we suffered in camp donned with every scrap of wool we could find, bundled masses of blankets chipping ice out of canvas water buckets, and huddled so close to the campfire we melted the soles of our shoes. We endured whatever was thrown at us, just as our ancestors before us. Call us insane, but the thought of going home early never even crossed our mind. We got up every morning, went back to one, and chipped that blasted ice out of the water buckets. And the kicker is, we always had far too much fun!

On-camera perfection isn't easy, you know.
Now that I think about it, a little sun, dust and sweat on a movie set was nothing, even while wearing all that clothing. Some call it "costuming" - I call it attire. Those layers of petticoats, bustles and long sleeves, they are a part of me...more so than the jeans and t-shirts I wear in-between events. I needed that familiarity, for as comfortable as I am in period attire, I am that uncomfortable in front of a camera. I tend to freeze, to resort to inner flight. And yet, I refuse to allow my insecurities get the best of me.

The opportunity arose to become a small part of someone's creative dream, and my husband and I jumped at the chance. I was surprised to find, if I can set aside the fear of the camera, it wasn't so difficult from the inner-workings within my own world, and that I share with my husband. We reenact American history. Not so different from taking cues from the cast and crew on a movie set, and as for writing? The only limits in "building" a fictional story are those you set within your own mind. I refuse to set such limits. When told I cannot do something in my passion of western fiction, I question, why not? Aside from the limit of accuracy in dealing with a traditional historical fiction, anything is possible.

Every herd must have a leader.
A year ago, if someone had told me I would have a story published, an ever-growing friendship with a group of talented authors, and a promising outlook on future books, let alone catch filming fever by playing a role as an extra, I would have laughed. Yet, this is the path I set forth with in mind when I first picked up a pen and began to write - with the lofty dreams of published works, and of the best of those works to be showcased on screen. Lofty goals, some say. Unapproachable dreams, I have been told. Certainly, if one begins a journey with such reservations, they will not go far. I believe if you work hard enough, fight the battle toward conquering your own fears, and work your way up the ladder toward your own chosen destiny...anything is possible. Work for those dreams, and as I learned through observation on set from a talented director with a beautiful vision, if something isn't quite right, if you fall down, get back up, dust yourself off, and go Back to One.

What are your "Back to One" experiences?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A New Era Comes to Prairie Rose Publications

From cowboys, Indians, outlaws, and lawmen to saloon keepers, lawyers, and soldiers, the western historical romance at Prairie Rose Publications is as wild as the West itself. Action-packed or soft and sensual, PRP's novels, novellas, anthologies, and quick reads feature strong heroines who tame their heroes' hearts with a love as big and bold as the frontier.

That's always been our focus, and it always will be.

As people mature, they add new interests and new skills to their repertoire. The same is true of companies. Over a period of slightly less than two years, PRP has created five additional imprints, each with its own set of genres: Fire Star Press, Painted Pony Books, Tornado Alley publications, Sundown Press, and Prayers & Promises Publications. All of them exist because authors requested an opportunity to work with PRP.

Today, PRP announces the addition of a new line under the Prairie Rose Publications umbrella. The Medieval line will bear the Prairie Rose Publications banner and bring to life the best in Medieval romance. Kings, knights, knaves, warriors, and swashbucklers will fight to their dying breath for their fair lady's love.

The first Medieval release will bow Thursday, May 28. Keena Kincaid's Anam Cara is the tale of a man who must live over and over again until he rights an ancient wrong...and claims the heart of the woman he has loved since time began. The novel is available for pre-order now at

If you've written a Medieval story of any length, Editor-in-Chief Cheryl Pierson wants to see it. Query her at

Welcome to the Middle Ages, where heroes and heroines build kingdoms...and loves that will last forever.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sierra Nevada Explorers

I spent the last week on a research trip traveling up and down Highway 395 in eastern California and the Carson Valley of Nevada. My goal: take more pictures and do more research for my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 novella series.

North of Bridgeport I found this historical marker regarding John C. Fremont's attempt to find a pass over the Sierra Nevada mountains that would take him and his party to Sutter's Fort near Sacramento.

The text of the plaque titled Fremont's Trail 1844 reads as follows:

Fremont's Trail 1844 marker
On January 27th, a cold, winter day in 1844, Captain John C. Fremont and his guide, Kit Carson, led a small band of half-starved men west past this point. They were in search of the fabled Buena Ventura River which they believed would give them easy passage through the high range to the west and on to the fort of John Sutter. A short way northwest of here, they were forced to abandon their howitzer because of the deep snow, as their tired men could no longer pull the 1,500 pound gun and caisson. In desperation, Fremont decided to force a winter crossing of the great Sierra Nevada. They succeeded, and with his band of courageous men, reprovisioned themselves at Sutter’s Fort and then
Looking towards eastern slope Sierra Nevadas
recrossed the Great Basin, arriving in St. Louis, Missouri on August 6, 1844. A year later, Fremont
was back in California and was the United States officer who, on January 15, 1847, received the surrender of the California forces under General Andres Pico at Cahuenga Pass.

 Plaque dedicated September 10, 1977 Bodie Chapter of E Clampus Vitus, Mono County Board of Supervisors

Lost Cannon Creek looking west

In what is known as Little Antelope Valley, which is immediately west of Antelope Valley through which Hwy 395 runs, is a creek known as Lost Cannon Creek. It is believed that the howitzer mentioned in the plaque was abandoned somewhere along this creek, possibly as the men attempted to cross the tops of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west. Although it is known from expedition records where the cannon had been abandoned, it has never been found.

Lost Cannon Creek looking east
Eventually, the men found a pass further to the north which Fremont named after his guide, Kit Carson. Carson Pass, which tops out at a little over 8,500 feet, is the route I traveled to and from where we stayed in Antelope Valley.

Carson Pass after a snowstorm in May 2015
In looking into the history of the first European adventurers to enter the valleys east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I discovered that the first on record is Jedidiah Smith and his party in 1827. However, he did not enter California over the top of the Sierra Nevadas. In 1826 he traveled west through the Great Salt Lake valley, and down what is now Utah, followed the Colorado River and turn west in order to skirt the Sierra Nevada mountains on the south. He crossed Cajon pass, which at 3,776 feet, is less than half the altitude of the northerly Carson Pass. Today, Highway 15 linking Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV crosses Cajon Pass.

Jedediah Smith
In 1826, all of the territory through which Jedediah Smith et al traveled was owned by Mexico. They were not sent by the U.S. government, but as part of a private venture to scout out new beaver hunting sites. The Smith party arrived at the San Gabriel mission between San Diego and Los Angeles, where they were welcomed by the monks with a memorable feast. However, once their arrival came to the attention of then-governor of Alta California, Jose Maria Echeandia, Smith and his men were put under arrest. In spite of Smith's insistence that the men were there to earn money for food and supplies to continue their journey home, the Mexican government remained suspicious of their motives, fearing encroachment on Mexican territory by U.S. citizens. Eventually he ordered the men to leave the way they came with a promise to never return to California again.

Jedediah Smith trail - First trip in red
Jedediah Smith did leave the way he came, but only until he crossed the Cajon Pass. He turned north and followed the Old Tejon Pass up to the San Joaquin Valley. By early May 1827, the men had gathered over 1,500 beaver pelts which they needed to get to the Rendezvous near the Great Salt Lake. They started north and east up the American River canyon, looking for the fabled Buenaventura River which would take them over a  pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Due to heavy snow, they turned back and traveled south to the Stanislaus River, a river with which I am quite familiar since I lived within miles of it for many years and rafted down it a couple of times (the lower river, no white water). There they turned east and crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains over the area that today is known as Ebbetts Pass.

Even with paved road, this is a very steep and winding road, with very tight hairpin curves on the eastern slope. To provide an example, my husband and took a three cylinder Daihatsu over Ebbetts Pass about twenty years ago. We traveled the route just fine until we tried to come home. The engine on the car was not powerful enough to make it up the east slope. We had to turn around and travel north to Carson Pass in order to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

From 1844 and the exploration of John Fremont into then-Mexican territory searching for a pass over the Sierra Nevada mountains to my stories set in 1884 Lundy and Bridgeport is a mere forty years. In that time, California became a state in the United States of America, gold and silver had been discovered, and all manner of fortune-seekers had moved into the region. The Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 is a series of novellas set in this exciting historical period of time.


 Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press in October 2014 and her novelette, A Christmas Promise, was published by Prairie Rose Publications in November 2014. The first two novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine and A Resurrected Heart, are now available.
The author currently lives with her husband in California near the “Gateway to Yosemite.” She enjoys family history and any kind of history. When she is not piecing together novel plots, she pieces together quilt blocks.

Please visit the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Some song titles evoke memories not only of the song, but also of the time…the era…the place. They call for stories all their own. At Prairie Rose Publications imprint Fire Star Press, evocative songs from days gone by inspired a new line of novella-length stories: A Song to Remember. Each book in the series will be what we call a “duet,” because each will contain two romantic tales. The two stories in each volume will be set in the same decade.

Theme: The music of life and love
Length: 15,000 to 25,000 words
Deadline: November 1, 2015
Heat: sweet to spicy (no erotica, please)

Someone to Watch Over Me: 1940s—Paranormal
When you think of the song "Someone To Watch Over Me," you probably think of the comfort of a safe haven in the arms of your true love. But what if the “someone” was not what he or she appeared to be? What if he were a ghost from the past, or a figment of the future? What if she were an alien from another world or a shapeshifter? This novella duet lends itself to all kinds of intrigue. Stories should be set in the 1940s. We’re not looking for graphic horror or sex—just an “aha” moment and the inevitable decision: What will your hero or heroine do when they discover exactly who—or what—watches over them?

If I Loved You: 1950s—Misunderstood love
If I Loved You will contain two stories of misunderstood love set in the 1950s. This could be anything from a series of events that are misunderstood by one partner or the other 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 and calls off the wedding, only to discover later the man is her brother. A woman learns her boyfriend’s tumultuous break up with her 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. The possibilities are endless.

This Magic Moment: 1960s—A revealing moment changes everything
This Magic Moment will contain two stories set in the 1960s, one of the most turbulent times in American history. "Free love," rock-and-roll, and the civil rights movement changed society daily. In these stories, a revelation 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 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 drive your story?

Wonderful Tonight: 1970s—Can true love happen in just one night?
Eric Clapton's “Wonderful Tonight” tells the story of what happens to a couple in one single night. That’s what we’re looking for in this novella duet, set in the 1970s, 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 just met. An incident throws them into a situation where they find love. We’re not talking about just lust, but also a mutual caring that blossoms into the fragile beginnings of love between two people. These stories should be no hotter than spicy, given these parameters. We’re eager to see what kind of wonderful—or maybe not so wonderful—night brings your characters to the brink of true love.

I'm On Fire: 1980s—Unlikely love blossoms
Bruce Springsteen’s hit "I’m On Fire" is the inspiration for this duet of 1980s-set stories about love between two people who are a highly unlikely match. Remember Pretty Woman? Trading Places? 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 the decade—we’d love to see it. Make the story sizzle: This duet will be spicy to hot, but no erotica, please. What would make your hero or heroine say "I’m on Fire"?

Wicked Game: 1990s—Circumstances aren’t always what they seem
Chris Isaak’s haunting hit “Wicked Game” makes us wonder about the things people will do for desire. The two stories in this volume will feature characters who do something they wouldn't ever have done ordinarily…but are driven to do for the love or desire of another person. Maybe the “wicked games” people play trap two people in a web of deceit. Perhaps a faulty news report threatens to destroy one or both lives, or maybe 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 or more of the “duet” books, e-mail editor Cheryl Pierson at and let let her know your interest so she can plan accordingly and “pair up” potential stories. Please put DUETS INQUIRY in the subject line. Both published and un-published storytellers are encouraged to submit.

The line will debut in 2016.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"The Three Questions" and a graduation speech by Kaye Spencer

With graduation on my mind since my oldest grandchild graduates from high school this month, I've decided to share the graduation speech I wrote and delivered to the class of 2007 (the school from which I retired two years ago).

photo courtesy

Good evening, graduates:

A favorite short story of mine, The Emperor’s Three Questions, was written by the Russian author, Count Leo Tolstoy of War and Peace fame, and published in 1903. His short story has been retold in a children’s version by Jon J. Muth, under the title, The Three Questions. The story is about identifying what in life is truly important, which is what I want to talk about for the next few minutes.

Everyday, we’re all faced with making decisions about one thing or another, and it is often difficult to decide what to do, let alone determine the best thing to do. Each day is filled with tiny milestones and some days, like tonight, represent more significant events in our lives.

Graduation is just one of many memorable points in your lives to this point. Other milestones you've achieved so far might be:
  • your first birthday;
  • your first day of kindergarten
  • your last day of kindergarten;
  • learning to read;
  • the first 3-pointer you ever made in a basketball game;
  • your first car;
  • your first love;
  • your first heartbreak;
  • and so on.
You’ve now arrived at your first graduation ceremony, and you will embark upon countless adventures and experiences from this moment on. You’re also going to face worries and grapple with questions that have no definite answers.

  • What’s going to happen to me now?
  • Should I start out at a 2-year college or go straight to a 4-year?
  • Maybe I should go to a technical school.
  • Should I take some time to get a job and figure out what I want to do?
As you grow older, questions will still be there, and you’ll still be looking for answers.

  • Did I make the right career choice?
  • Did I marry the right person?
  • Should I get married?
  • Should I change jobs? Change careers?
  • Do I want children?
  • Should I...?
  • Why did I...?
  • Why didn’t I...?
While these are important questions, and they are infused with emotion and influenced by circumstances, they are not the questions. Ultimately, there are only three questions in life—The Three Questions—because according to Tolstoy, everything else is inconsequential in the larger scheme.

The first question is this:    When is the best time to do things?

The second question is:      Who is the most important one?

And the third question is:   What is the right thing to do?

So, when is the best time to do things? How can we really know? It’s important to plan and consider all the options; weigh the pros and cons. There’s just not a simple answer.

Who is the most important one? That’s easy, you say. The important ones are the people you care about; your friends and family. While I agree that’s true, the question is, who is the most important ONE? Now that’s more complicated. And you might argue that it’s impossible to choose just one important person in your life.

It is a dilemma. Now, let’s go on to the third question.

What is the right thing to do? This question prompts even more questions.
  • Is this a moral question?
  • An ethical question?
  • Or is it a spiritual question?
  • Maybe it’s legal question?
  • Perhaps it’s even a financial question.
  • You may be wondering how anyone can possibly resolve this conundrum in light of so many influencing factors to consider.
It’s just one puzzling question creating another!

How did Tolstoy solve the riddle of The Three Questions? While it is up to each of you, individually, to find your own personal answers to life’s mysteries, Tolstoy’s answers are quite straight-forward. To paraphrase, Tolstoy said,

Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. For these, my dear graduates, are the answers to what is most important in this world.

To the graduates of the world, I wish each of you all the best as you search for your own answers to life’s Three Questions.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer