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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Book review: The Comanchero's Bride by Kaye Spencer



Beautiful heiress Elizabeth Bradford White is exiled to Texas with family friends until she “comes to her senses” and agrees to marry the prominent politico her parents have chosen for her. Grayson Beal is certainly not the man of her dreams—she finds him so revolting she welcomes her exile and makes a new life for herself in south Texas.

When she is approached at a fiesta by dark-eyed, handsome Mingo Valderas, she knows her heart will never be her own again. But Mingo has a checkered past—a reputation as a Comanchero, and a man who is as fast with his knives as he is with his gun. An ex-outlaw with many secrets, Elizabeth gives her trust to him, and their whirlwind courtship begins.

But Grayson Beal will stop at nothing to claim Elizabeth and her inheritance, along with the political influence her parents have. In a deadly cross-country race for her freedom, only one man stands between her and the monster who follows her. Fueled by their love and dreams of a future together, Elizabeth and Mingo stay one step ahead of Beal…but will that be enough?

My review:

Consuming intensity.

The Comanchero's Bride quickly kidnapped my attention and pulled me into a consuming intense story.

Elizabeth found her real self and thrived beautifully when she was banished to Texas as a punishment for not following the path laid out by her parents. Her tenacity and loyalty and all-encompassing beauty from inside out endeared her to me.

Mingo, while being a well-off Mexican rancher/landowner, kept his bad-boy, dangerous, fiercely powerful air about him. He was a man with many secrets and a past that created a very special, worthy, and captivating hero. His love and focus and devotion to Elizabeth melted my heart over and over again.

Their journey to their hea was intense. So many trials I didn't expect to see, so many heart-stuttering and shattering moments that tangled me up. Add in a bad-guy story line so rabid I had to pause and remind myself that I would get a happily-ever-after (because... well... read the story and you'll find out!). But intertwined within the pages is an enduring love story that makes you believe that love can conquer all.

P.S.  This is all I could imagine during that one dance scene.... Enjoy!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

New Release - This Time Forever by Linda Swift

In a nation ravaged by war, lives change for all time...

An antebellum mansion is transformed into a Confederate hospital when the Union Army invades Tennessee. Clarissa Wakefield remains in her home against propriety to help nurse the wounded. Philip Burke, a prisoner of war, barters his medical skill to avoid prison and is placed in charge.

As opposing armies fight for possession of Chattanooga, Philip and Clarissa wage their own personal battles. Each is committed to another, though kept apart by the endless fighting. Amid the blood and suffering, mutual attraction grows despite their best intentions.

Caught in the passions of love and war, will they be faithful to their vows or listen to their hearts?

     Unable to sleep but not wishing to wake Polly, Clarissa finally pulled on a dressing gown and crept down the stairs to the kitchen to get a glass of milk. The house was colder now with the fireplace embers banked, and she shivered as she debated ringing for one of the downstairs servants.
Nearing the library, Clarissa heard voices and assumed Malcolm and his brother were in there. Curious to know why they were still up at this late hour, she determinedly opened the door. For a moment the two people on the sofa were unaware of her presence, grappling and groaning crude obscenities, their half-naked bodies entangled. Then her shocked gasp penetrated their absorption and Malcolm shoved the woman away and stood, swaying slightly as he pulled his trousers together as best he could, considering his turgid condition. Even in the shadows, she recognized Lydia's maid.
     "What the hell are you doing here?" he snarled.
     Her anger rising, Clarissa shot back, "I might ask you the same thing!"
     He wiped his mouth with the back of one hand before he said with calculated coldness, "What I do is none of your damned business."
     "I am your wife," she reminded him evenly.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Author Interview: Cheryl Pierson

Hello, Cheryl. Please introduce yourself and tell us about Prairie Rose Publications. Where you’re not only a writer, you’re also….

Cheryl: Hi Patti! I’m so glad to be here. Livia and I both wear many different hats at Prairie Rose Publications. I’m the Editor-in-Chief and co-owner of the company but I also do most of the promoting of new releases, and I’m responsible for acquisitions, contracts, and so on. I’m also constantly trying to think up new ideas for authors to contribute to—boxed sets, anthologies, and “lines” to write for. And as you mentioned, I’m also a writer myself in several different genres. When we started Prairie Rose over 4 years ago, we started out as a company only for women who wrote historical romances. But we quickly realized we needed to add some imprints when submissions of all kinds began rolling in. So in addition to our main Prairie Rose Publications imprint, which is also our company name, we added our two imprints for young readers, middle grade, YA, and NA—Painted Pony Books (historical stories) and tornado Alley Publications (contemporary, sci-fi, and fantasy); our Fire Star Press imprint is for contemporary romance, mysteries, sci-fi, and fantasy for adults, and we also have an inspirational imprint, Prayers and Promises Publications. Sundown Press is the imprint which includes westerns as well as some other genres such as self-help, writing, cookbooks, and so on.

I admire your writing style. You’re very precise: besides the obvious things a writer does such as use dialog and action to tell your story, you’re able to drop in concise, well-crafted phrases that draw us in emotionally. Could you tell us something about your journey as a writer? How much comes naturally and how much have you learned from studying the craft of writing?

Cheryl: Thank you so much for the very kind words! I have read books and studied the craft of writing, of course, and even have taught several creative writing classes and workshops for many years. But probably the bulk of what I do in my writing “just comes naturally”, and I thank God for that. Stephen King says anyone can be taught to write. While that might be true, there is a definitive quality that separates those “wow” stories from “eh” stories. And I don’t believe THAT factor can be “taught” – it just has to be there.  I don’t believe it’s something that can be learned—it’s a part of a person’s imagination, their make-up, and really, the fiber of their personality. I think it helped being raised practically as an only child, with much-older sisters who were out of the house by the time I was 8. I have a lot of “make believe” scenarios I kept in my mind and wrote from the time I was able to string words together. So I just naturally imagine what my characters would say, think, do or feel throughout the story, and I try to tell it in their voice.

I notice that the heroine in Fire Eyes and your daughter share something: the name Jessica. I like to bury bits of my life in my stories for my own amusement. Is this something you do?

Cheryl: Actually, I don’t really do it on purpose, but I’ve surprised myself by what I’ve “revealed” in my characters that came from my life. When I was writing Fire Eyes, my daughter was a teenager. When she and my son were younger we talked one day about wishing we had our Indian names since we have Cherokee and Choctaw blood in our family. My daughter said if she could pick her Indian name, it would be Fire Eyes—so it naturally followed that her name would also be Jessica in the story.  (My son was about 6 at the time—he said he wanted to be Eagle Talon, which I thought was pretty thoughtful for a 6-year-old! LOL)

One thing that struck me while reading Fire Eyes is that there is no clear boundary between good and bad guys. For example, the Indians fade in and out of the narrative and sometimes they’re menacing, and sometimes the reader is relieved to see them. And although the villain of the story is a horrible person, one of the most moving scenes to me is one where an outlaw faces his own death. Not to give too much away, but I was right there with him looking up at what would be his last autumn sky. I think you and I grew up watching the same westerns. Do you think there’s been a shift in recent times how iconic figures of westerns (Indians, outlaws, sheriffs, etc.) are portrayed?

Cheryl: I definitely see a shift, Patti. Things were much more defined “back in the day” of the westerns we used to watch on TV, even to the point of the black hats/white hats to show who was good and who wasn’t. But we know that people are usually not one dimensional. Most times, they have more to them than just being “bad” to the core—but there are exceptions.

I know the scene you’re talking about. That was gut-wrenching to write, even though I knew he was a villain. But he also had memories, a family, a mother…he wasn’t ALWAYS bad. I watched an old re-run of Tales of Wells Fargo a couple of nights ago where the sheriff was actually the bad guy—and I remember thinking, “Wow, what a twist for the times that show was filmed.” But I do think as we are increasingly more aware of psychology and reasons for why people behave the way they do, the “shift” has become more prominent in the stories we write. I should add that I do believe there are people who are totally evil, with no redeeming qualities.

You wear many hats as both editor, writer, publisher. Is there a routine you follow? What does your ideal day look like? Do you have a dedicated work space?


Cheryl: Oh, gosh. Wouldn’t a routine be wonderful? LOL But I’m also a wife, mom and proud grandparent of a big ol’ huge Great Pyrenees dog! And so, family comes first, especially the fur-baby (hubby and I are grandparents with custody—our daughter had to move to a place with no fence when Embry was about 2, so he’s lived with us permanently for the last 7 years). I try to get a jump on the books that will be coming out soon on the schedule so I’m never feeling anxious about getting them edited in time—and it leaves a little breathing room in case an emergency comes up. In the winter, I’m usually in my office or in the living room in front of the fireplace! I have different projects on my laptop than what’s on my desktop (I have learned it’s best that way!) LOL

I’m so glad to be here, and glad you enjoyed Fire Eyes so much, Patti.  Thanks again for having me!

Excerpt from Fire Eyes:

THE SET UP: Jessica Monroe is living alone with her adopted daughter in the eastern part of Indian Territory. Her husband has been murdered by Andrew Fallon’s border raiders. Now, the Choctaws have brought her a U.S. Deputy Marshal who has been badly wounded by the same band of outlaws, in the hope that she will be able to save his life. Here’s what happens:
“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”
Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.
His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”
Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath, and try not to move.”
He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”
She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”
“Go ahead.”
Even knowing what was coming, his voice sounded smoother than hers, she thought. She wrapped her hand tightly around the metal and pulled up fast, as he’d asked.
As the metal slid through his flesh, Kaed’s left hand moved convulsively, his fingers gripping the quilt. He was unable to hold back the soft hint of an agonized groan as he turned away from her. He swore as the thick steel pin cleared his skin, freeing the chambray shirt and cotton undershirt beneath it, blood spraying as his teeth closed solidly over his bottom lip.
Jessica lifted the material away, biting back her own curse as she surveyed the damage they’d done to him. His chest was a mass of purple bruises, uneven gashes, and burns. Her stomach turned over. She was not squeamish. But this—
It was just like what they’d done to Billy, before they’d killed him. Billy, the last man the Choctaws had dumped on her porch. Billy Monroe, the man she’d come to loathe during their one brief year of marriage.
She took a washrag from the nightstand and wet it in the nearby basin. Wordlessly, she placed her cool palm against Kaedon Turner’s stubbled, bruised cheek, turning his head toward her so she could clean his face and neck.
She knew instinctively he was the kind of man who would never stand for this if it wasn’t necessary. The kind of man who was unaccustomed to a woman’s comforting caress. The kind of man who would never complain, no matter how badly wounded he was.
“Fallon.” His voice was rough.
Jessica stopped her movements and watched him. “What about him?”
His brows drew together, as if he were trying to formulate what he wanted to say. “Is he…dead?”
What should she tell him?
The truth.
“I—don’t know.”
“Damn it.”
“You were losing a lot of blood out there,” Jessica said, determined to turn his thoughts from Fallon to the present. She ran the wet cloth lightly across the long split in his right cheek.
His breathing was controlled, even. “I took a bullet.” He said it quietly, almost conversationally.
Jessica stopped moving. “Where?”

Fire Eyes in also available in the collection Under a Western Sky

Monday, May 21, 2018

Yuma Territorial Prison-HELLHOLE OF THE WEST

In its 33 years of operation, Arizona's first Territorial Prison, built in 1876 on the banks of the Colorado River and not too far north of Mexico, housed over 3, 069 prisoners, 29 of them women.

Often called the “Hellhole of the West”, in reality the prison was a modern facility for its time with electricity, flush toilets and excellent medical care. The nickname, “Hellhole of the West,” may have been coined because of the extreme heat during the summer, or because of the infamous solitary “dark cell.”

The original fence around the prison was made of wood. To discourage escape a massive 18 foot high Adobe wall was constructed in the 1880s. At ground level the wall was 8 feet thick, and 5 feet across at the top. A whitewash mixture of blue clay, linseed oil, and other chemicals protected the Adobe bricks.

Guards crossed a catwalk to reach the wall. There they monitored prisoners in the East yard inside the prison, and those making Adobe bricks in the outside yard. They had a view of movement in and out of the wood shop, Taylor and shoemaker's shop, laundry facility, bath house, library, and the electric plant.

The main cell block was built to house up to 204 prisoners, but at times the superintendent's report stated that up to her 240 prisoners were kept there.

Each cell was approximately 9 ft by 12 ft and could hold six prisoners. When space became limited, the more trusted prisoners would sleep in the hallways. Cells were constructed of scrap iron and granite rock, which was plastered and whitewashed.

The iron was shipped in from California via steamboat, but the granite was carried by prisoners on site. Originally the cell block was completely enclosed and not exposed to the elements as it appears today. One of the earliest electrical generating plants in the west furnished power for lights and a ventilation system in the cell block.

As the number of prisoners increased, and the buildings were remodeled, the superintendent's office was moved outside the Prison Walls. The Adobe building also held the supply store or commissary. Because it was directly across from the main gate or sally port, a Guard Station was built on the roof.

Yuma Territorial Prison Office (L) and Guards' Housing (R)
A two-story 10 room adobe building served as the guards’ quarters. Single guards had rooms on the first floor, but the assistant superintendent and his family had the second-floor to themselves. Notice the catwalk which was extended from the second floor to the guard shack on top of the superintendent's office.

Yuma Territorial Prison Stables-The State Park office now occupies this spot.
The stables were to the north. Horses were used to pull wagons of adobe bricks, granite blocks, wood, supplies, and people, and may also have provided recreational writing for employees and families. After the prison's closing, the stables became the municipal stables.

Sallyport leading into prison cell block
Prison superintendent was an appointed position often given as a political favor. The pay was a substantial sum for the time, $250 per month plus a residence. A cozy house was built in 1883 on the northwest corner, surrounded by lawn and white picket fence. Since Yuma was still a frontier town, furniture and home improvement materials materials we're not easily purchased there. Any improvements desired by a superintendent were done with inmate labor in prison shops, and that's provided an opportunity for training prisoners new skills. This included landscaping, making furniture, and remodeling.

Because it was such a nice house, this house probably became a teacher's residence while the High School located here in 1910 to 1914 next it was converted to Yuma's County's first community hospital. In 1923 it was demolished to make way for the new railroad bridge.

Yuma of the 1870s had limited marketplace opportunities. Goods were brought in by steamships or many days journey through hostile country. Calamities along the journey claimed belongings and supplies more than once. The government compensated by stocking as many provisions as possible. Offices, commissary, and housing for employees and livestock were close by.

The shops were in example of the self-sufficiency of the prison. Not only did prisoners produce items needed here, but also were trained in skills necessary to become productive citizens. Electric wires were strung along the wall. The electricity was fueled by an electric dynamo which was quite modern for the 1880's. The system was so efficient that after 9 p.m. electricity was sold to the City of Yuma. (See the string of electric light bulbs in the top banner.)

Strapiron over the skylight in the sallyport
As an inmate, 48 hours a week where spent working in the fields, quarry, adobe yard, or on assignment in a shop. Whether you needed a tin cup or a new mattress; designed silver spurs or carved wooden table legs, there was a shop equipped for producing the item. There were two shop buildings inside the prison, both are now gone. Each had several workshops, all different. Out of the tailor and shoe shop came garments to wear. A bakery oven yielded breads and desserts. The rehabilitation program of that time consisted of the more knowledgeable teaching those who wanted to learn

In 1902, a hospital was constructed on top of the main cell block. This well-supplied facility contained a dispensary, a doctor's office, operating room, attendance room, bathroom with flushing toilets, and a consumptive ward. It wasn't uncommon for prisoners from the other institutions to be sent to the Territorial Prison at Yuma to recuperate their health.

By 1907, the prison was severely overcrowded and was no more room to expand on Prison Hill. A new Arizona Territorial prison was built in Florence. After the last few prisoners were transferred 1909, the Yuma Territorial Prison ceased operations.

(The photos are mine, but many of them were taken of display materials at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park. Most of the information in this blog post comes from the same source. These photos and this blog post do not do this historical site justice. If you are visiting the Southwest, consider taking time to visit and explore the Yuma Territorial Prison.)

Anyone who has not yet read my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series which takes place just on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Columbia and Sonora, you may enjoy my first two books in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series. You may find the first book in the series, Big Meadow Valentine, by CLICKING HERE, and the second book, A Resurrected Heart, by CLICKING HERE.

The third book, Her Independent Spirit, touches on Independence Day, 1884. More importantly, it touches on the efforts of two women in the gold mining town of Lundy to declare their own independence from their current circumstances. It also includes an event in Lundy’s history that changed the dynamics of the town from that point forward. You may find this book by CLICKING HERE.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Book review: Fire Eyes by Cheryl Pierson



Beaten and wounded by a band of sadistic renegades that rules the borderlands of Indian Territory, U.S. Marshal Kaed Turner understands what the inevitable outcome will be for him: death. But Fate and a war party of Choctaw Indians intervene, delivering him instead to a beautiful angel with the skill to heal him. Jessica Monroe has already lost a husband and a brother to the outlaws who tortured Marshal Turner. As the rugged lawman lies bleeding on her bed, she faces a difficult decision. Can she afford to gamble with her heart one last time? For when Kaed recovers, he is sworn to join the other Territorial Peace Officers in their battle to wipe out the renegade gang once and for all. When vengeance is done, will Kaed keep riding? Or will he return to claim his future with the beautiful woman the Choctaw call "Fire Eyes?"

My review:

Fire Eyes swept my heart away in an insta-love kinda way with Kaed and his Jessi's insta-love happily ever after story and has earned a place on my favorites and to-be-reread shelf.

This story is packed full of intense feels, nail-biting twists, and swoon-worthy moments. It starts out in such an violent way that you can't help but be hooked into discovering what happens next. I found myself horrified by the torture, tearing up from the care, and happy-sighing because of their strong connection. There's themes of family, inner-strength, and loyalty weaved throughout, as well as a pretty sadistic bad guy story line that honestly gave me the shivers! eek! Oh, and a few minor plot lines that were just the sweetest little pieces of goodness.

Kaed and Jessi gave me one of my favorite kinds of book escapes, making me fall in love with both of them.


Monday, May 14, 2018

#blogabookscene TEXAS ROSE

TEXAS ROSE has several scenes that qualify for this month’s #blogabookscene theme:  Mayday! Mayday! I chose to go with the first one, in the first chapter, so you can meet the hero, Jaret Walker.


Sierra Madre Mountains, Mexico, February 1847 

   The closer they got to the river, the faster they rode.  “Come on, Walker, pick it up.” Nick laughed as he urged his horse to a gallop. “Last one to get wet buys the whiskey.”
   They thundered over the slight rise in the land and straight into a trap. Gunfire erupted from both sides, separating them. Bennett dove from his horse and rolled under some scrub bushes. Jaret managed to find a pile of rocks that offered a little better protection.
   From his vantage, he picked off two of the bandits. Bennett took out a third when the man presented his back while changing positions to get a better angle to shoot Jaret.
   Everything fell silent. “Bennett?”
   “Still in one piece. You?”
   “Yeah.” Jaret shifted, trying to draw any remaining fire. When nothing moved, he worked his way to where Nick lay sprawled in the dirt, careful to stay out of sight.
   “Is it over?
   Jaret studied the land, checking out every shadow. “I’m not sure. Stay put.”
   He balanced on the balls of his feet, ready to make a run for another spot of cover.
   “Look out!”
   Nick dove at Jaret, hitting him in the back. Jaret felt the bullet slam into Nick as they fell. Jaret rolled away and came up firing. The bandit was dead before he hit the ground. In the silence, Jaret heard the sound of a single horse, galloping away toward Texas. At least one man had escaped to carry the tale.
   “Bennett?” Blood was everywhere, running from the gaping wound in Nick’s shoulder.
   “How bad?” Bennett was conscious, but just barely.
   Jaret did what he could to stop the flow of blood. “Pretty bad. You need doctoring that I can’t do. Let me make sure we’re done here, then I’ll get you across the river.”
   “Don’t take too long.” Bennett took a shallow breath and closed his eyes.
   Cursing at the delay, Jaret searched out every bandit to be certain they were dead. He removed guns, ammunition, anything that might be used to shoot them in the back. As he rolled over the last attacker, a chill ran down his spine. He recognized the man. He’d been in the room when Jaret was hired to kidnap Bennett and deliver him to that hell on earth. Jaret glanced around, studying the setup.
   This trap had been laid for him, to eliminate the only witness to Bennett’s disappearance. Jaret blistered the air with curses. He’d been set up and Bennett paid the price.

Texas, 1847~


A loner with a heart of ice and nerves of steel. A dangerous, fast gun for hire. Jaret Walker has only his honor and the reputation he’s built for himself to call his own. When a promise sends him to isolated Two Roses Ranch and Isabel Bennett, the woman he’s come to protect, all he can think of is making her his—in every way. But she’s the kind of woman a man like him can never have—for he’s a man with a past that haunts him, and with no future to share.


The moment Isabel Bennett lays eyes on Jaret Walker, the dreams she’s pushed aside for so long suddenly seem possible. She’s sworn never to marry and give a man control over her ranch. But when Jaret rides into her life, she’s tempted to taste what she’s sworn to give up—a passion that burns out of control with each kiss…desire that consumes them both…and a bold challenge from the future that neither of them believed in…until now…

See you next month! for #blogabookscene!Tracy

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Book Review: Margarita and the Hired Gun by Patti Sherry-Crews


Pampered Margarita McIntosh is not used to being forced to do things she doesn’t want to do—but when her father, Jock, sends her away for her own safety, she has no choice. The long journey from Flagstaff to Durango tests her personal strength of will as never before, and the secret she carries in her saddlebag could be the death of her.

A rough Irish gunman, known to her only as “Rafferty”, is entrusted with getting her to her destination “safe and intact”—something he fully intends to do to claim the reward he’s been promised by Jock McIntosh. With a price on his head, the promised money is Rafferty’s ticket to a new life, and he’s not going to jeopardize that for anything—not even love.

But there are steamy nights and dangers all along the arduous trail for MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN, with deadly secrets between them that passion cannot erase. With her father’s enemies after her and the secret she conceals, will Rafferty’s protection be enough to save their lives? And will the heat of their passionate love be enough to seal their future together—if they do survive?
My review:

(deep breath) oh. my. word.

You know that awesome book hangover feeling you get when you've fallen HARD for both the hero and heroine in a story and you just can't quite start another book yet because your heart is still wrapped up in the pages of the one you finished? Yeah - this story did that to me.

Margarita -- she's like her drink namesake - she sure looks pretty, but wow, is there a surprise punch behind the first yummy lookin' sip! haha! What you think you know about her, you may be surprised after digging just a bit deeper. I ADORED her and found myself wishing that if I could have truly been her, I would have have the same vulnerable sweetness that needed protecting along with the same bad@ssness to hold my own till my rescuer arrived - and just the right mix of innocence and brazenness.

Michael (Rafferty)..... ohhhh, that man!! When we first meet him walking down the stairs in the brothel, his presence overflowed the page and filled the room in real life just as in the book. And I was swoon' with the rest of them. The more I got to know him, the tighter his hold on my heart became - until finally I messaged my friend and said, "That's it -- I'm done *grabby hands* he's MINE." LOL. He was a perfect hero for me: strong, stubborn, protective, bossy, little on the dangerous/bad boy side, but yet also sweet, caring, gentle, honorable, a lot a bit on the swoony side. And can we talk about his scruffy face?!!? (thud)

Watching the relationship grow and bloom between Michael and Margarita was so much fun -- I was laughing, swooning, grumbling, tearin' up as each new drama/danger/situation was faced. Each event organically builds on the next making it so you just gotta keep going and find out what happens next! Watching each individually learn to trust and become a stronger, better version of themselves was natural and beautiful as well.

This is one amazing story that I'm so delighted to have discovered. Margarita and the Hired Gun has totally enthralled me and holds a special place on my favorite shelf. I look forward to rereading their story and experiencing all the thrills and delights over and over again.

Purchase Link

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New Release -- Walk the Promise Road: A Novel of the Oregon Trail by Anne Schroeder

Mary Rodgers has lost everything—or so she believes. Her entire family has been struck down with influenza, leaving her alone in the world—except for her cousin Philip. But Philip is bound for Oregon to meet up with Laurel, his fiancée, who’s waiting for him. Though Mary begs him to take her with him on the Oregon Trail, he resists. What would people think?

Mary’s plan is simple. They already share a last name. They will pose as husband and wife. The wagonmaster is a firm man—and if he finds out the truth, he’ll force them to marry, dashing Philip’s dreams of a life with Laurel. But Mary promises it will be their secret, and Philip can’t leave her behind after all she’s lost. 

When Luke Sayer, their half-Indian trail scout, begins to spend evenings at their fireside, other travelers notice the obvious mutual attraction between him and Mary. Though Mary denies it, she struggles to keep her promise without bringing harm to either her dear cousin, Philip, who has risked everything for her—or to Luke, the love of her life.

Mary's grit and determination will see her through the hardships and sorrows she encounters, but Luke’s love will give her hope for the future as they WALK THE PROMISE ROAD…

“With exquisite details of wagon trains, women and the West, Anne Schroeder takes us on an authentic journey of love and hope giving us characters to cheer for and moments of meaning to cherish.”

 — Jane Kirkpatrick, Award-winning author of ALL SHE LEFT BEHIND.

"The most accurate novel I've ever read on the Trail." 
— Michael Smith, Oregon Trail Preservation Committee


    MARY SAW A familiar dun horse approaching. The sight of the tall stallion seemed to quicken her blood, but she dis-missed the idea as merely anticipation of riding astride in-stead of the bone-jarring pace set by clumsy oxen that moved with the grace of pigs.
     “Morning, ma’am. Ready for that ride?”
Luke formed a slow smile that made Mary forget his question. His shirt was not the familiar red flannel of the other men, but a dusky cream doeskin, fringed at the arms and laced up the front with rawhide cords. He seemed dif-ferent today, rugged and dangerous in a way that she couldn’t define, but he looked as if he lived in the type of garb he was wearing; hadn’t chosen it to enhance his mascu-linity, but rather the other way around.
     “Ready and looking forward to it, Mr. Sayer.” She felt suddenly shy in his company and found herself studying his moccasins where they rested in his stirrups.
     Her formality brought a chuckle. “Better get used to call-ing me Luke. Everyone else will by the time the trip is through.”
     “I’m not sure I should do that, Mr. Sayer. My mother would heartily disapprove.” Her smile belied her words.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Old West Time-Life Books and Van Arsdale Maps by Kaye Spencer @prairierosepubs #westernromance

[Note: I wrote this article for the Western Fictioneers blogspot four years ago. This version has improved images, and the pertinent information has been updated.]

In 1976 or thereabouts, I came across two advertisements in the back of a paperback book (probably a Louis L'Amour novel). If you’ve ever read original Pocket Books paperbacks, you’ve seen these forms. They looked similar to this one, and the items for purchase were varied:

Example of ad in the back of Pocket Book paperbacks

One of these advertisements was for a set of a Time-Life books about the Old West, and the other advertisement was for Old West maps drawn by Perry C. Van Arsdale. I sent off my money order with the order form each month, and when the new volume, I read it cover-to-cover and back again. They probably cost around $13 each.

Over the years, I've carted this set of books around throughout my many moves. They’ve made it through a basement flood; a partial house fire; an aquarium slowly leaking on the shelf above them; toddlers with crayons and scissors; and puppies with sharp teeth. ;-) I still rely on them in my writing.
Here is a picture of my set:
Time Life Books "Old West" - Kaye Spencer's collection
For the maps…

I purchased four Van Arsdale maps in 1978-ish. I don't recall how much they cost at the time. Maybe $10 or so. They, too, have their battle scars, but they're all still in good shape. My four originally purchased maps are: Pioneer Texas, Pioneer Colorado, Pioneer New Mexico, and Pioneer Arizona. I kept the four maps rolled together and in a mailing tube until 2012. So about 35 years after purchasing, my dad mounted them in barn wood frames with protective glass which, by the way, makes it difficult to take a picture without reflections. Consequently, the pictures I’m using here are of an unframed Van Arsdale map of the U.S. Southwest.

Sadly, the Van Arsdale map website appears to have disappeared. However, here is an article that tells a bit of history of how these maps came about: HERE  Briefly, in 1960, Professor Van Arsdale was helping his granddaughter with a project involving the Santa Fe Trail, and he discovered her textbook had incorrect information. He set out to remedy this.

Van Arsdale map of the American West-Southwest - Kaye Spencer's collection

The close-ups offer an idea of the details.

Example of dates and locations

Zoom of the surrounding area where I live in Springfield, Colorado
States from top Left and continuing Clockwise:
Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma Panhandle, Texas Panhandle, New Mexico

Back when I bought the set of books and the four maps, I really couldn't afford them. But something urged me to buy them, but not in an impulse purchase sort of way. My commitment for the books was about two years, and I bought the maps one at a time as I could afford them. It was more of a "you need to buy these, because you'll use them in your writing someday".

That bit of intuition proved true. I’ve plotted my character’s travels using these maps as my guide, while relying upon the information in the Time-Life books for historically accurate information even when I occasionally took (and still take) a bit of literary license to fit my stories.

I treasure my Time-Life Old West books and my Van Arsdale maps as I treasure and appreciate my oldest and dearest friends. They've been with me through the clichéd 'thick and thin', and they've never let me down.

What writing treasures do you have that you turn to for research help?

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

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--MetaFilter. Community Weblog. Perry Van Arsdale’s maps of US historic events. April 27, 2013. May 8, 2018.
--Image. Books and Maps. silverhairster.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Creativity (An 8-Part Series): Part V - Maiden/Mother/Crone

By Kristy McCaffrey

Don't miss
Part I   - Imagination
Part II  - Domestication vs. Wildness
Part III - Shape-Shifting
Part IV - Forbearance

The Maiden-Mother-Crone cycle, while an obvious physical manifestation in a woman's lifetime, is also a recurring sequence within the psyche. If the maiden is innocence personified, then it is the good mothering aspect that forces her into the world and into the wild, to toughen and breed stamina. And it is the crone who not only imparts higher wisdom, showing a broader and more spiritual picture, but also a state that the psyche must reach for maturation.

This cycle is reflected in creativity—the blossoming forth of fresh and untried ideas (maiden), the acquiring of discipline to bring forth the concept into the material plane (mother), and the wisdom to place the work in its proper context (crone).

In the maiden state, women frequently make a most terrible bargain—we settle. We choose a path that promises riches and fulfillment, only to find that we sacrificed our deepest knowing in the process.

We suppress our wilder selves to appease our parents, our teachers, our religion and society at large. We don't make the art that calls to us because it's too crazy, too edgy, too sexual, too anything that offends those that have also made the same bargain, and resent that you would dare step outside these boundaries. Art done in this way is flat, unshaped, and lacking in vitality and life.

To right this wrong, it is necessary to activate the mother. In its positive form, a mother is the protector of life. It becomes crucial for a woman to nurture her intuitive self, to listen to herself above all others, to love oneself when it's so much easier to condemn.

For most women, their own physical mother fills this space within their psyche, and if the mother had a preponderance of positive attributes then this isn't as much a problem than if she displayed shadow aspects. If those are present—the devouring mother, who consumes her children psychologically and emotionally, or the abusive mother, who violates natural law by harming her offspring—then every effort must be made to excise this influence. A woman must learn to mother herself, and in so doing, excavate the terrain of the soul and bring forth the most pressing gifts and talents. Through this loving guidance can instincts and intuition be re-activated.

The crone is a symbol of endurance, of survivorship. To move through the other two stages is to have lost an innocence—more often than not, a painful initiation—but it's also a sign, at least in the inner life, that one never gave up. Amongst those also in the know, this is revered. At this point, the creative life is given the credit it deserves, as necessary to life as air and water.

The crone doesn't squander her time, doesn't play in the shallow areas frequented by those who've given away their dreams. She creates, letting that which has always resided deep in her bones bubble up and out. And it screams of authenticity. It is art that pulsates with life, that triggers the same in others, that speaks directly to the heart and makes it sing.

Works Cited
Estés, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With The Wolves. Ballantine Books, 1992.

Myss, Carolyn. Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential. Harmony Books, 2001.

Don’t miss Part VI in the Creativity series: The Virgin and the Sacred Prostitute

Until next time…

 Connect with Kristy