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Saturday, February 16, 2019


We've got two open calls for submissions for boxed sets at PRP right now--our medieval collection, ONE MIDSUMMER'S KNIGHT, and our western historical romance collection, HOT SUMMER NIGHTS! Got a story you want to tell? Now's the time!


Theme: Historical Medieval Romance
Setting: Leading up to/during the summer solstice celebration, and can include Midsummer’s night
Length: 10,000-17,000 words
Heat Level: Sweet, sensual, spicy, hot (no erotica, please)
Deadline: April 1, 2019

In medieval times, Midsummer’s Night brought feasting, dancing, courtship—and love. Prairie Rose Publications is proud to announce a call out for submissions for a brand-new boxed set of novellas that bring you tales of love between daring knights and their ladies during the summer solstice.

Midsummer’s Eve is a night given to celebration. A time of the summer solstice, it is one of the great "charmed" holidays of the year, when hidden treasures lie open in lonely places, waiting for the lucky finder…and when passion is at its height between lovers.

Magic happens under the light of the full moon on Midsummer’s Eve...The Fae come out to play mischief, casting spells on unsuspecting mortals—and love is in the air, along with unleashed desire… When flames of sacred balefires rise high in the night, so do passions— blinding reason, and leading to dark temptations and danger. Wishes made, desires fulfilled, profane bonds forged…all to snare the heart of the handsome knight or maiden fair. Lords and ladies, knights and lovely maids, Faeries and other mystical beings revel in this special night of Midsummer Magic!

If you have a tale of a daring knight or comely wench you wish to share, here is your magical chance to tell it in this exciting new collection of novellas from PRP, ONE MIDSUMMER’S KNIGHT!

Send submissions to:


Theme: Historical Western Romance / time period of 1830-1899
Setting: Historical American West—west of the Mississippi River
Length: 10,000-17,000 words
Heat Level: Sensual, spicy hot (no erotica, please)
Deadline: April 15, 2019

Do you have a sizzlin’ western historical love story that takes place west of the Mighty Mississippi? If so, we’re looking for you! This wonderful Prairie Rose Publications boxed set will contain stories that take place in the heat of the western summer—when days are scorching, but the nights blaze even hotter!

Will love be found in dangerous Indian Territory or on a sultry Texas night? Maybe your couple will meet in a Colorado mining town, or at a U.S. Army fort in Kansas. Whether they’re braving a trek across the Arizona deserts or making their own fireworks at the local Independence Day celebration, there’s no better time for love than on those HOT WESTERN NIGHTS!

Send us your tales of lost love found and new love discovered that sizzle hotter than a blast of heat lightning across that big ol’ Texas sky in July! We look forward to seeing what you come up with! There’s nothing like discovering love on those HOT WESTERN NIGHTS!

Send submissions to:

Friday, February 15, 2019




What happens when a hired gun is forced to save a damsel in distress? Or when an ex-lawman must pick up his six guns once more to stand between a “prairie rose” and outlaws when they come calling?

At PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS, we are opening a call out for submissions for exciting stories like these! This new line, SIX GUNS AND PRAIRIE ROSES, will feature stories of men who are “gun handy” –– for better or worse—who come to the rescue of a woman in need, or in danger.

Does she readily accept his help—or is your heroine anything but a delicate flower looking for assistance? Is she from West Texas, or is she an Eastern socialite? Or could she be an immigrant from another country, making her way west?

Along the way, these lovers will find their own brand of romance (sweet to steamy) as danger lurks at every turn! Make us wonder if this couple is going to survive to see their HEA!

SETTING: Historical American West—west of the Mississippi River
TIME PERIOD: 1830-1899
HEAT LEVEL: Sweet, sensual, spicy, steamy—no erotica

Please send your submissions to Cheryl Pierson for consideration at:



What happens when a knight is granted his own small keep, only to learn he must marry to hold it? Or when a young noble woman is faced with an ultimatum from her king—she’ll wed the man he chooses for her—even if he is a sworn enemy—or else!

At PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS, we are opening a call out for submissions for action-filled stories like these. This new line, THE SWORD AND THE ROSE, will feature stories of mercenaries, knights, and noblemen—or other men of medieval times—who come to the rescue of a woman in danger. Though these lovers may not realize it or plan for it to happen, their circumstances will inevitably lead to a very happy-ever-after ending for both of them!

Does your heroine welcome your hero’s help, or is she determined to try to be independent—and hold things together without him? Is he a stranger to her, or someone she’s known from the past?

Somewhere along the way, the couple will find their own brand of romance (sweet to steamy) as danger lurks at every turn!
Make us wonder if this medieval couple is truly destined to enjoy their HEA!

HEAT LEVEL: Sweet, sensual, spicy, hot—no erotica

Please send your submissions to Cheryl Pierson for consideration at:


Do you have a story to tell about a very special heroine? One who defied the conventions of society to follow her dreams? Maybe your heroine aspired to become a doctor, or an attorney, or some other vocation that was most generally dominated by males. She may have been a woman who preached the gospel, or perhaps she was forced to take over the family business and keep it solvent during a time in our history when men ‘ran the show’ in these realms…and didn’t allow women to participate.

But sometimes, Fate has plans that won’t be altered, and these WOMEN OF DESTINY dream big—with Lady Luck as the wind in their sails, and grit and determination as their rudder, how can they be stopped? Add a good supporting hero in the mix, some unforeseen ups and downs (of course!) and an exciting tale of perseverance and true love is born!

These are just some of the ideas we’ve come up with for these special women and their very unusual success stories! If you have a historical heroine who is destined for an unconventional role in life—discovering love on the way—we’d like to invite you to submit to our new WOMEN OF DESTINY line at Prairie Rose Publications!

Stories will be set in the HISTORICAL time period of 1830-1899.
Primary setting of stories will be in the United States.
Romance? BUT OF COURSE! Any heat level, but please, no erotica.
Length: 50,000-90,000 words.
Open call for submissions immediately (7/21/18)—we look forward to seeing what wonderful creations you come up with!

Please send your submissions to Cheryl Pierson for consideration at:

AND THERE ARE MORE! Just check out our submissions page at the PRP website for all open calls --Men in Uniform, Witty Cozies, and always, any stories that fit our imprints are welcome submissions!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

New Release — Den of Thieves by Patti Sherry-Crews

When his identical twin brother is arrested, the Pinkerton Detective Agency enlists Wynne Palmatier to go undercover and impersonate his outlaw brother, Ennis. His mission is to infiltrate his brother’s gang. Ennis tells Wynne everything he needs to know. Except for one thing: there are two women with the outlaws, and one of them is his wife.

 Lucy House is still paying for the day she strayed away from decency. Now the handsome outlaw she ran away with has lost his appeal and she longs to get away from this life. As the danger mounts, can Wynne and Lucy escape this den of thieves?


Texas, 1883
     She experienced the view as an ache. So impossibly blue and bright. She squeezed her eyes shut to block out the blue sky to savor the sweet scent of the flowers without the distraction of the sky, which even now flashed on the backs of her eyelids. The rain lilies perfuming the air, flowering after a heavy rain, would only last a day or two. How fortunate they were to catch them in bloom. The delicate white petals, so easy to miss. She took this as a good omen. With her eyes still closed, she listened to the sound of the buckboard wheels bumping up and down in the ruts of the dirt road and felt the gentle touch of Billy’s coat sleeve brushing against her as his arms moved with the reins.
     He nudged her. “What are you thinking about? You’ve got a smile lighting up your face like rays of sunshine on a summer morning.”
     Her eyes snapped open at the sound of his voice, a deep melody that reverberated in her heart. She turned in his direction to see his dark eyes sparkling with delight.
     “Why, I’m…” She let out a nervous giggle and tugged at her bonnet strings before fixing him with a bold look. “I’m thinking how this time next week I’ll be living a different life. The life of a married lady.”


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Mail-Order Mix-up - Valentine's Day story by Kaye Spencer – February #blogabookscene #PrairieRosePubs #westernromanceanthology

The theme for February's #blogabookscene is All You Need is Love. Since Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and to shamelessly capitalize upon Sunshine Lake's recent review [ Read the review HERE ] for my story Mail-Order Mix Up, which is in the Valentine's Day-themed Lariats, Letters, and Lace western romance anthology, I'm sharing an excerpt from my story.

Scene Set-up

Through the well-intentioned meddling of his three young granddaughters, widower Dale Forbes gets a surprise on New Year's Day when Irene Maxon, the mail-order grandma the three girls 'ordered' for him, arrives at the house.


While another minute of exchanging weather observations ensued, Irene made a sweeping perusal of the house, or what she could see from the foyer at the foot of a wide staircase with hallways along both sides. The hardwood floor glistened in all directions. Framed pictures hung on the walls. A full-length cheval mirror stood opposite the coat tree. Coming in from the chill, the warmth from an unseen source touched her face, and the mixed aromas of baked bread, cinnamon apple pie, and roast chicken lingered in the air, which reminded her stomach she hadn’t eaten since last evening.

The foyer was crowded with adults and children busy donning winter clothing or assisting with buttoning and mittening.

“And who is this?”

Eloy removed his hat and held it in his gloved hands. “This is Irene Maxon recently of St. Louis.”

All talking stopped; every head turned to Irene. Eloy painstakingly introduced everyone. Irene acknowledged them with a nod and friendly Hello.

Ginny Forbes welcomed Irene with a polite, “We’re so pleased to meet you, but I don’t believe we’ve ever met. What brings you to our home?”

“Forgive me for intruding unannounced, especially during your festivities. I’m here to return—”

“Oh, there you are, Dale, Violet,” Eloy broke in. “This is Irene Maxon from St. Louis.”

Irene followed Eloy’s wave and recognized the man and the girl coming along the hallway from the photograph she’d received with the letter. She also noted with more than passing interest that the photograph had not adequately captured Dale’s handsome maturity, strong chin, and fine, broad-shouldered physique. Before she could greet them, movement at the top of the stairs drew her attention, and she looked up to see a girl descending one slow stair at a time, her hand trailing lightly along the bannister. The girl stopped midway down and looked right at Irene, the little satisfied smirk on her lips as pleasant as the sparkle in her eyes. So this was Meredith—the instigator of the marriage invitation.

Then a wisp of a child with braids flying burst through the midst of the group with a shriek of squealing delight. When she leaped, Irene instinctively caught her, staggering backwards a few steps under the child’s momentum. The girl clamped her arms around Irene’s neck with a grip so tight Irene couldn’t turn her head.

“Grandma! You’re here. You’re really here. I knew you’d come. I just knew it!”

Lydia’s face broke into a bright smile. Clara Jean clapped her hands and blurted, “It worked! She really got Meredith’s letter!”

All attention swung to Clara Jean who realized too late what she’d said as she ducked for cover behind the coat tree.

The few seconds of solemn, stunned silence shattered into echoes when Dale’s booming voice rebounded off the walls. “Meredith Margaret Forbes! What have you been up to now?”

But Meredith was nowhere in sight.

Lariats, Letters, and Lace anthology is available on
Print | eBook | KindleUnlimited

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ada Blackjack - The Female Robinson Crusoe

By Kristy McCaffrey

Ada Blackjack, a petite Inupiat woman born in Alaska, was known as “The Female Robinson Crusoe” after living alone for two years as a castaway on an uninhabited island north of Siberia.

In 1921, Ada set sail on an expedition to Wrangel Island in the Arctic circle. She was given a one-year contract as a seamstress and cook, accompanying four men into the unknown wilderness.

Despite her Inupiat heritage, Ada wasn’t raised with any knowledge of hunting or wilderness survival. Her upbringing by Methodist missionaries ensured that her English was good and gave her a background in the Bible, housekeeping, sewing, and cooking white-people food.

Ada Blackjack and her son, Bennett, in 1923.

At the age of 16, she married Jack Blackjack, a local dog musher, and together they had three children—two of whom who died—before Jack abandoned her. Her surviving child, a five-year-old son named Bennett, suffered from tuberculosis and general poor health, and Ada was forced to place him in an orphanage because she was destitute. But she vowed to find a way to earn enough money to retrieve him. It was at this time that she learned of an expedition heading for Wrangel Island, and they were looking for an Alaska Native seamstress who spoke English.

The expedition was the ill-conceived venture of Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. He recruited four young men to claim Wrangel Island for the British Empire, despite that Britain had never shown any interest in wanting it. Although Stefansson picked the team and funded the trip, he never intended to accompany them, and instead sent the very inexperienced crew into the unknown with only six months of supplies.

Although Ada had reservations about going on expedition with four men, she simply couldn’t pass up the salary of $50 a month, an unheard-of sum for a woman at the time. On September 9, 1921, she boarded a ship with Allan Crawford, 20, Lorne Knight, 28, Fred Maurer, 28, and Milton Galle, 19, and a cat named Victoria.

Ada Blackjack and the expedition crew to Wrangel Island.

For the first year on Wrangel Island, the team was able to supplement their supplies with local game, but when winter descended and the promised boat to fetch them never came (it had to turn back due to impenetrable ice), they were forced to stretch their meager supplies for another year.

At the beginning of 1923, their circumstances had deteriorated. Everyone was starving and Knight was ill with scurvy. On January 28, 1923, Crawford, Maurer and Galle made the decision to set out on foot across the ice to Siberia in search of help, leaving Ada to care for the deathly ill Knight. The three men were never seen again.

The camp at Wrangel Island in late autumn.

For six months, Ada was alone with Knight and cared for him, but it wasn’t easy. She struggled to do the work of four men while playing nursemaid, and Knight, in his misery, constantly berated her. On June 23rd, Knight died. After his death, Ada refused to fall into despair and was determined to survive.

For three months, Ada was alone. During this time, she learned to set traps for the foxes, taught herself to shoot birds, built a platform above her shelter so that she could spot polar bears in the distance, and crafted a skin boat from driftwood and stretched canvas. She even experimented with the expedition’s photography equipment, taking photos of herself standing outside camp.

On August 20, 1923, almost two years after first landing on Wrangel Island, she was rescued, along with the cat, Vic. Heralded as a hero and praised for her courage, Ada shied away from the attention, insisting that she was simply a mother who needed to get home to her son.

She was soon reunited with Bennett and used her payment, which was less than she had been promised, to seek treatment for his tuberculosis in a Seattle hospital. She later had a second son, Billy, and returned to live in Alaska.

While Stefansson and others profited from the story of the tragic expedition, Ada received none of the money, and smear campaigns against her character later emerged claiming that she had callously refused to care for Knight. Bennett’s health issues were never fully resolved, and he died of a stroke in 1972 at the age of 58. Ada passed a decade later at the age of 85, and she was buried beside Bennett.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Riverside Farm in Acushnet, Massachusetts, is linked in history with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. 

In 1826, Thomas and Jane Moss of Winchester, England welcomed their fourth and last child, Mary Francis Moss. Raised and educated as a gentleman’s daughter, Mary Francis married Henry Wellington Taylor in 1844 and together they ran a London pub, until he disappeared, reportedly for the charms of Australia. Whether he went willingly or on a prison ship, he left Mary Francis the single mother of two young daughters. She was counseled by her aunt, a former British actress, to go into the theater. Since it was unseemly at the time for a woman of good birth to work in the theater, Mary Francis changed her name to Laura Keene when she went took to the London stage. Enjoying success, she took her show “on the road” in 1852 and moved to New York, leaving her daughters in the care of their maternal grandmother.

Laura did well in the states, well enough to send for her mother and daughters, and to start her own theater company in Baltimore. After only two years, she took that show on the road, heading for California to take advantage of the ready cash of the gold rush.
When things didn’t work out as well, Laura headed to Australia to hunt up her husband. There she met and began working with Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth.

Upon her return to the United States, Laura and her company returned east, where they performed for audiences on both sides of the War Between the States. While performing in Boston, she and business manager John Lutz took a break and headed into the Massachusetts countryside, where John informed her that she owned the land on which they picnicked. Laura fell in love with Riverside Farm in Acushnet, renamed it Riverside Lawn, and ultimately retired there with her children.

Following the war, Laura Keene, actress, entrepreneur, playwright, director and theater manager, was invited to perform at Ford’s Theater on April 15, 1865. The show was Our American Cousin, to which Keene owned the rights. The proceeds were promised as a “benefit” to her, and Laura was onstage when John Wilkes Booth fired the shot that killed President Abraham Lincoln.

And that’s how a Massachusetts farm is connected to the assassination of our nation’s sixteenth president.

Tracy Garrett

Bookbub  @TracyGarrett
Twitter  TGarrett_Author

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Book Reviews: a duo of stories by Kaye Spencer

On a quest to discover more older couple stories, I ran across A PERMANENT WOMAN by Kay Spencer and adored the story. Then, to my delight, I found out that in a Valentine's anthology, MAIL ORDER MIX-UP told the story of one of the best friends and I couldn't wait to dive in!  Both stories just charmed me to bits and pieces and totally gave me what I was needing!


Widower Simon Driscoll lost his only son and daughter-in-law, with whom he was estranged, in a cholera epidemic. He receives a letter as next of kin granting him custody of his three grandchildren, whom he has never met. The children are in an orphanage, and he cannot take custody unless he shows up with a wife and the documentation to prove the marriage is legal. He has 90 days before he loses his grandchildren, and a month has already passed. Desperate men take desperate measures…

Reputation tarnished and professional career compromised, Tessa Morris wants to start a new life—somewhere, anywhere, as long as that place is far away from here. The problem is, where? Other than attending a university, she’s never lived anywhere else. As the community’s latest pariah, the life and career she’s built in her hometown is finished. At 42, her future seems grim at best. When she happens upon a recent edition of the Matrimony Courier, she finds herself intrigued by one of the advertisements for a wife. That she doesn’t meet any of the qualifications doesn’t bother her in the least, because desperate women take desperate measures…

My Review:

I absolutely love A Permanent Woman!! Tessa and Simon both had some unique circumstances they were dealing with and found the ideal solution with each other. Their meeting had me laughing and smiling and falling in love with them. Simon and Tessa quickly figured out how much they needed each other and built a new family together. When the storms came that should have destroyed their world, they instead discovered their love and need for each other could survive the past. I also love that being older characters (in their 40s) brought a refreshing point of view and proves that a happily-ever-after can come at any age.


Prairie Rose Publications is proud to bring you another wonderful collection of stories of Valentine’s Day romance that is bound to satisfy your need for something “sweet”! Each of these western romance tales revolves around a letter of some kind— with some unexpected results.

It’s nearing Valentine’s Day, and that all-important letter or card could mean romance for a special couple…from a new love to those who’ve wanted to speak up for a while, but have only just gathered the courage. A fateful letter could be the catalyst to match-making, or one that brings news that could change everything. No matter if it’s a newly-discovered love or one that’s been simmering, the contents of these missives could turn someone’s world upside down—just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Linda Carroll-Bradd, Agnes Alexander, Kaye Spencer, Gail L. Jenner, B.J. Betts, Patti Sherry-Crews, Zina Abbott, and Niki Mitchell all contribute their own brand of Valentine’s Day romance to LARIATS, LETTERS, AND LACE, providing some great reading that you’re sure to enjoy.

Join us for some wonderful Valentine’s Day tales that are sure to keep you reading to the very end!

My Review of Mail Order Mix-Up by Kaye Spencer:

Sometimes people think too cautiously (and take too long) for their own good, so three uber-cute granddaughters banded together to get their grandpa a new wife, which of course meant a grandma for them! The history of the main characters softens your heart and has you rootin' for some happy times for Dale and Irene. It's a slow building love story (which perfectly fits with Dale's patient way of thinking and deciding things and Irene's cautious concern) which gives plenty of sweet and charming moments, and then even throws in a little bit of a drama (from outside sources) to keep things moving and exciting.

Loved spending time enjoying Dale and Irene's hea story!

Purchase links:

For A Permanent woman, you can either grab the individual story or you can find it in the Laossing a Mail Order Bride anthology.  You can only find Mail Order Mix-Up in the Lariats, Letters, and Lace anthology.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

New Release — A Knight's Choice and Other Romances by Lindsay Townsend

Six wonderfully sweet medieval short romances in a single anthology. Perfect feel-good reading!

A Knight’s Choice—Morwenna must marry to satisfy her family’s ambitions. Her choice is one of two brothers, but which?

Midsummer Maid—The romance and magic of Midsummer works for everyone—including a beautiful dairymaid and a less-than-handsome woodsman.

The Philosopher and the Herbalist—A light-hearted Not-Beauty and Not-Beast tale, with a romantic twist.

The Bridal House—Alis is reluctant to marry. Her betrothed presents her a beautiful bridal house that might help her see matters in a happier light.

The Seal of Odin—A dark tale of romance set during the age of the Vikings and early Christianity. Sometimes, love is found where we least expect it.

Ugly Meg—Once pretty, now scarred, Meg lives and works in seclusion in Bath—but other jealous guild members are plotting against her. Will fellow carpenter Matthew Warden come to her aid? If so, what will be his price?


     Recognising his father’s voice, he flattened himself against the wall, where the shadows were deepest. Just as he was about to berate his own misguided, suspicious instincts, step back into the flickering torch-light and greet the pair, his brother replied.
     “We keep the whispers alive that my dearest brother is little more than half a wolf, with worth only for fighting.”
     Is he right? In the heat of battle, he knew he was a beast. Shame quickly smothered the rage he felt at his brother’s casual admission of rumour-mongering.
     “Folk will believe it, especially when he rides to war in wolf pelts and rarely takes hostages,” his father gruffly acknowledged, “though the witan liked what he did, rescuing your dam. I did, too.”
     Thank God above. At least that affection of father’s for my mother is something.
     “Yes, yes,” sounding sulky, as he always did when thwarted, his brother waved that off. “Now, the Lady Morwenna—”


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

THE 1918 FLU Pandemic by Sarah J. McNeal

Since we’re in the middle of flu season I thought I would write about the worst flu pandemic in the history of the world.

U. S. Camp Hospital

The 1918 Flu or Spanish flu epidemic following World War I killed more people than World War I, between 20-40 million people worldwide. No subsequent flu breakout has killed that many people. The flu pandemic was caused by a subtype of Influenza A known as H1N1. In the book, “The Great Influenza” written by John Barry he states, “Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century.” I was completely shocked to learn that factoid. It makes me wonder how human beings have managed to survive on planet Earth this long. Look out extraterrestrial aliens; you might not want to come to Earth after all.

Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D.C.

The 1918 influenza pandemic (January 1918 – December 1920; colloquially known as Spanish flu) was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving the H1N1 influenza virus. It infected 500 million people around the world, including people on remote Pacific islands and in the Arctic, and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million (three to five percent of the world's population), making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

Mass Burial of Flu Victims North River in Labrador, Newfoundland

Most viral infections affect the very young, the elderly, and the already weakened population more than young, healthy adults, but the Spanish Flu seemed determined to kill the people who are usually less likely die from flu.
One group of researchers recovered the virus from the bodies of frozen victims, and trans-infected animals with it, causing a rapidly progressive respiratory failure and death through a cytokine storm (overreaction of the body's immune system). It was thought that the strong immune reactions of young adults ravaged the body, whereas the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults resulted in fewer deaths among those groups. The most vulnerable of all were pregnant women. If the mother survived, often times the baby died.
In 2007, analysis of medical journals from the period of the pandemic found that the viral infection itself was not actually more aggressive than any previous influenza, but that the special circumstances of the epidemic, probably due to the war, (malnourished, overcrowded medical camps and hospitals, and poor hygiene) promoted bacterial super-infection that killed most of the victims, typically after a somewhat prolonged death bed. 

So, why is it called The Spanish Flu?

The major troop staging and hospital camp in Etaples, France, was identified as being at the center of the Spanish flu by research published in 1999 by a British team, led by virologist John Oxford. In late 1917, military pathologists reported the onset of a new disease with high mortality that they later recognized as the flu. The overcrowded camp and hospital — which treated thousands of victims of chemical attacks and other casualties of war — was an ideal site for the spreading of a respiratory virus; 100,000 soldiers were in transit every day. It also was home to a live piggery, and poultry were regularly brought in for food supplies from surrounding villages. Oxford and his team postulated that a significant precursor virus, harbored in birds, mutated so it could migrate to pigs that were kept near the front. I guess this is why we gasp when we hear there has been another outbreak of Avian Flu.

Aspirin poisoning

Oh, here is another interesting factoid: the people who died from the flu were helped along by aspirin poisoning. The Surgeon General of the United States Army recommended high doses of aspirin of 8 to 31 grams of aspirin a day as treatment.
These levels produced hyperventilation in 33% of patients, as well as lung edema in 3% of patients convinced Karen Starko with infectious diseases that many early deaths showed "wet," sometimes hemorrhagic lungs, whereas late deaths showed bacterial pneumonia. She suggests that the wave of aspirin poisonings was due to a "perfect storm" of events: Bayer's patent on aspirin expired, so many companies rushed in to make a profit and greatly increased the supply; this coincided with the Spanish flu; and the symptoms of aspirin poisoning were not known at the time.

To get all this in perspective there are 1000 mg in 1 gm. There are 325 mg in each adult aspirin. The normal recommended dose is 2 aspirin every 4 hours with a maximum of 6 doses which would total 4,200 mg a day. So the recommended dose of 8 gm on the low end would be almost twice the maximum dose a person should take and 31 gm on the high end would be over 7 times the maximum recommended dose a person should take. It’s a wonder everyone didn’t bleed to death.  

 So how did the Flu pandemic of 1918 end? 

After the lethal second wave struck in late 1918, new cases dropped abruptly to almost to nothing after the peak in the second wave. One explanation for the rapid decline of the lethality of the disease is that doctors got better at preventing and treating the pneumonia that developed after the victims had contracted the virus; but John Barry stated in his book that researchers have found no evidence to support this.

Electron Microscope View of Reconstructed N1H1 Spanish Flu

Another theory is that the 1918 virus mutated extremely rapidly to a less lethal strain. This is a common occurrence with influenza viruses: there is a tendency for pathogenic viruses to become less lethal with time, as the hosts of more dangerous strains tend to die out.

American Police in Seattle, Washington Wearing Mandatory Masks

Even with prevention methods like the flu vaccines each year it is difficult work to try to predict what strain of the virus will appear in a given year. Some people are dedicated to getting their flu shot every year. I have lost faith in flu shots and don’t take them, but I can tell you I am tenacious about washing my hands, wiping off the handles of grocery carts, and limiting my time in crowded public places during the flu season. I am also grateful for the appearance of antibiotics for treating pneumonia, too.

In my World War I novel , FOR LOVE OF BANJO, the heroine, Maggie, falls ill with the Spanish Flu.


Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for Maggie O’Leary and his search for the father he never knew.

FOR LOVE OF BANJO is the sequel novel to HARMONICA JOE’S RELUCTANT BRIDE. Banjo was the street wise teenager, raised by prostitutes that Joe and Lola took compassion on and Joe’s father, Ben, adopted. In this World War I era story Banjo searches for his biological father and attempts to prove he’s worthy of Maggie, the woman he loves.

Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past. To earn the right to ask for Margaret O’Leary’s hand, he must find his father and make something of himself.
Margaret O’Leary has loved Banjo since she was ten years old but standing between her and Banjo is pride, Banjo’s mysterious father and the Great War.

Excerpt in which Banjo attends Maggie who is stricken by the Spanish Flu:
Banjo hurried to Maggie’s side and took her hand then sat on the bed next to her while Joe listened to her heart and lungs with his stethoscope. She opened her eyes and peered at Banjo. “I’m so sorry, Banjo. Some homecoming. I’m so sorry.” She closed her eyes again and drifted away from him again. He didn’t know if she could hear him, but he spoke to her anyway. “Don’t concern yourself with that right now.
I’m here and I’m not going anywhere ever again. You can count on it.” He squeezed her hands. They felt so cold. Before she closed her eyes, he saw that they had gone glassy. Banjo noticed her flushed cheeks, felt her hot forehead… she had a fever. Why were her hands so cold? Alarm ricocheted through his body. He lifted his eyes to Joe who packed the last of his instruments into his bag having finished his examination. “What is it Joe? Is it bad?”
Joe raised his head, his expression solemn as he seemed to listen to Maggie’s raspy breathing and studied her face. “I’m afraid it’s very serious. She has influenza. We’re definitely going to have to put the hotel on quarantine. It’s extremely contagious.”
Banjo’s faith wavered. At last, he had come home. He had made it through a war, through gunshot wounds and every kind of desperation…only to find the one dearest to him had fallen to a disease that could take her away from him for good. Did God hold something against him that He visited hardship upon him at every turn? Banjo didn’t want to leave Maggie for a minute, because every second with her had become precious to him. He glanced across the bed at Joe. “What can I do? Can you make her well again?”
Joe peered at Banjo with haunted eyes. “I can’t promise you anything. I wasn’t able to save my brother years ago from pneumonia. This influenza may be worse. People are dying from it.” He reached over Maggie’s still form to clasp Banjo’s hand. “I want you to know that I’ll do everything I can to bring her through this.”
“Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it, Joe—except leave her. I won’t do that.” He couldn’t keep his hands from trembling. Joe must have noticed, because he squeezed his shoulder firmly as if to lend Banjo his own strength.
“We have to safeguard ourselves so we don’t fall ill. We won’t be any good to Maggie if we get sick. And we need to keep our family from contamination. They won’t be able to visit with her while she’s contagious. As long as we’re here with Maggie, we have to keep our faces covered with bandannas and wash our hands, coming and going. We’ll have to drop the bandanna in a laundry bag outside the door each time we leave to be washed in hot, soapy water. When we get ready to enter the room, we’ll need to put a clean bandanna over our mouth and nose each and every time. Understood?”
“I understand. I’ll do whatever you say.”
Joe stood up and walked around the bed toward the door. “We’ll do our best for her, brother. I’m going to give you a little private time with her and then I’ll come back and see if we can get some medicine and treatment started.”
“Thanks, Joe.” Before he left, Joe tied a bandanna around the lower half of Banjo’s face. “Don’t take this off until you leave the room. I’ll set up equipment outside the door. From now on, no one comes up those stairs except you, Teekonka, and me. The two of you have to follow my instructions to the letter. Our family and friends, including the hotel staff, can come to the hotel—but first floor only, so they have no contact with Maggie. Their only contact will be through us and that’s why we have to follow my procedure to secure their safety.”
After Banjo nodded agreement, Joe gave Banjo one last look of reassurance before he left the room. Once Banjo was alone with Maggie, he took off his glasses and laid them on the bedside table. He rubbed the bridge of his nose where the glasses had rested then leaned forward to gaze at Maggie. The distant rumble of talk from downstairs was barely audible. Birds chirped outside the window and the sun beamed through it in a column of light. Life around him moved cheerfully along in spite of the dark turn his life had suddenly taken.
He spoke to Maggie in a low voice just above her ear. “I didn’t make it back home just to see you lay down and die. But no matter what Maggie, you have our son to think of.” He leaned closer to her. His voice shook when he spoke again. “You know that I love you and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get you back.”
Maggie moaned. He thought she might open her eyes and speak to him, but she did neither. He couldn’t think of a time in his life when he’d been this scared. He couldn’t organize his thoughts enough to say a decent prayer. Please God, please don’t take Maggie from me. Please. These few words were all he could say, all he could ask.

Sarah J. McNeal
Diverse stories filled with heart

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Stephen D. Richards - The Old West's Serial Killer

Stephen D. Richards - The Old West's Serial Killer

C.A. Asbrey

A number of people have been named as the USA's first serial killer. In truth, the name of that person will probably never be known as baby farming was a common crime in the past. Unfortunate babes were farmed out for a small fee, allegedly for adoption, but in reality for a quick death with plausible deniability. Some of the women, and they were usually females, convicted of such crimes were guilty of killing literally hundreds of children as they operated for years before being caught. The records could never prove all of those though, so most were only convicted for the last few which were provable. Amelia Dyer is calculated to have killed at least 400 babies in her criminal career.

Then there are the more traditional models of the serial killer - the stranger who kills indiscriminately, or the charming psychopath who feels no remorse. People like H.H. Holmes has often been cited as the first serial killer in the USA, but Stephen D. Richards was executed a full twenty years before Holmes. He was hanged for nine murders in Nebraska and Iowa between 1876 and 1878. 

Richards operated under a number of pseudonyms;  F.A. Hoge, Dee Richards, Dick Richards, George Gallagher, D.J. Roberts, William Hudson, W.A. Littleton, J. Littleton, "The Nebraska Fiend". He had echoes of modern-day killer, Ted Bundy, in that he was remarkably calm and assured in the face of certain death by hanging. He was charm personified when dealing with the press too, and would speak only to polite members of the press. This affable murderer was described thus by a reporter;

He is a good reasoner, a fluent talker, uses on the whole very fair English, has a soft, melodious and well-modulated voice, a rare amount of personal magnetism over all with whom he is brought in contact, and is as lithe, graceful and stalwart a specimen of physical manhood as ever strode a prison cell… A constant smile plays over his face... He talks of murders as openly and with as little concealment as of the most trifling matter,” the reporter wrote. “He insists that none of the last five were committed in passion, but with a motive which he will not reveal, and were planned deliberately. He promises revelations in a day or two on matters here which he has kept silent about, which he says will astonish the whole western country as nothing has for years.

The Omaha Herald was his preferred newspaper, although the reason for his cooperating with this newspaper isn't recorded, it may have been just a personal connection to the journalist, or that they gave him a prominence which appealed to his vanity.

While Richards was handsome, charismatic, and eloquent, the resemblance to Ted Bundu ended there. He did not kill for sexual reasons and he did not try to avoid hanging. Nor did he have only one kind of victim. Also, Bundy's brain showed no sign of any kind of old brain injury or abnormality, where Richards did have a head injury shortly before he starting killing; something he shares with many violent criminals.

Richards was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1856. The family moved several times throughout his life. As a young man he worked as an attendant on the violent ward at a lunatic asylum in Iowa, where part if his job was to bury the bodies of deceased patients. “That took away to some extent my feeling and sympathy for mankind,” he is quoted as saying.

After leaving the asylum he drifted into a life of crime, consorting with petty criminals and train robbers around the Midwest. In Kearney, Richards met another man while traveling through the Nebraska countryside. By Richards' account, they camped out for the night near Dobytown and began to play cards for money.

Richards won almost every cent the stranger had. The next morning, the two men set off for Kearney, but before they got far the stranger turned to Richards and demanded his money back. In Richards' words: "I refused to refund, and he got kind of savage, and so I shot him. The ball struck him above the left eye and killed him almost instantly. After killing him I dragged him down to the river and pitched him in."

A few days later Richards had to dispatch a friend of the dead man who had been asking too many questions. "The stranger asked me so many questions that I got nervous, and it seemed to me it would be safest to kill him to stop his mouth." The next time the other man turned his back, Richards shot him in the back of the head and killed him. "I never heard of either one of them afterwards," he said later."

In March 1877, Richards killed another man over an argument about waking the other man too early.

In June 1878, he was imprisoned for theft. While in jail he met Mrs. Harleson, who was imprisoned for helping her criminal husband evade justice. They struck a deal for him to purchase the deeds to her homestead, but the murderous criminal saw a cheaper way. Mrs. Harleson, her and her three children: ten-year-old Daisy, four-year-old Mabel and two-year-old Jasper, nicknamed "Jesse", all had to die.

He gave three reasons for the killings. The first was that Mrs. Harleson talked too much. The second, was that she had asked too many questions, and the third was that she had gone through his papers and had some incriminating evidence on him.

"She would have 'given me away' had I let her live ... and so, knowing what she did, I thought it the safest plan to put her out of the way," he said. "It struck me that it would be just as well for everybody if the whole family were of the world. I thought the matter over, thought of the best way of disposing of the bodies, the chance of discovery, and made up my mind the scheme was a good one.” He dug a mass grave and then killed them all. Richards later said he had no more feeling about it than if he’d slaughtered some jackrabbits."

The killings took no more than half an hour, with everyone dying quickly, "except for Daisy, who "moaned and murmured and writhed around some."

When asked where the family had gone, Richards told people that the family had gone off with another man, name of Brown, who'd been staying at the house.

In December 1878, Richards killed a Swedish neighbour called Anderson after another argument. The Times account of Richards' crimes says, "That evening a party of neighbors came up to inquire after Anderson, and found Richards hitching up the Swede's team. He told them to go into the house and see, and then threw off the harness from one of the animals, mounted him, and made for Bloomington."

Richards was not afraid to die; he said that he would have to die someday and it didn't matter how or when.

At the time, Stephen D. Richards was the worst serial killer to have ever plagued Nebraska. Although he admitted to the murders noted here, law enforcement at the time thought that he may have killed as many as three more people.

The Rope used to hang Stephen D. Richards

Innocent Bystander EXCERPT

A vacant-looking man with prominent yellow teeth walked into her field of vision, striding beyond the blinding sun and dragged her roughly from the horse. She had expected to be searched and had ruthlessly bound her body with bandages to try to flatten and conceal her breasts, but the man merely patted down her sides before turning his attentions to her jacket. He pulled out the pistol which had been loosely placed in her pocket and slapped his way down her legs. She was instantly glad she had foregone the Derringer she usually wore at her ankle. A concealed weapon was too risky.
“He’s clean.”
“Well, boy. It seems like you’re gonna get your wish, but if you’ve been messin’ with us and you ain’t Quinn’s kin, you’re gonna regret it. He don’t like to be messed with.”
Abigail felt her arms grabbed as she was roughly turned around and her carefully dirtied hands were bound behind her back, the rope biting deeply into her skin as it was pulled tight. They must have seen her wince as it provoked a chorus of laughter which rang in her ears.
“Looks like this life’s a bit too rough for you, sonny.”
 A thick, smelly bag was thrust over her head, obliterating the world, before she was lifted back onto her little colt and she felt herself led off to face the rest of the gang.


Monday, February 4, 2019

How The Medicine Man Lost His Headdress 

I had to go to Calgary for a few days to see a specialist and completely forgot that the first Monday in February was here and my turn for a blog. Therefore I hope you'll forgive me for updating and adding to an earlier blog that was posted too late and missed by the readers of the PRP blogs. In a previous blog, I had mentioned some of the interesting names of places in Canada, particularly western Canada. Today I’d like to expand on the history of Medicine Hat and it’s unusual name. This arid, semi-desert area of southern Alberta was home to many First Nation tribes, especially the Cree and Blackfoot. There are several legends that have been associated with this community situated on the South Saskatchewan River. The most popular, and the one that was officially adopted by the City Fathers stemmed from a fierce battle that took place between the Cree and the Blackfoot near the fork in the river. It became known as the place where the (Cree) Medicine Man lost his hat in the river.

The Medicine Man’s headdress was an elaborate bonnet made from the tail feathers of eagles, which the Blackfoot called Saamis (SA-MUS) meaning Medicine Hat when translated into English. For years the signpost greeting visitors to Medicine Hat from the west was the face of a solemn Blackfoot wearing a magnificent headdress and Saamis has many references around the City.

In Medicine Hat’s City Hall, a mural displays another legend: “a mythical mer-man river serpent named Soy-yee-daa-bee—the Creator—who appeared to a hunter and instructed him  to sacrifice his wife to get mystical powers which were manifest in a special hat.”

More recently there is another logo which refers to this community as The Gas City and displays a gaslight post. Residents often shorten the long name by affectionately calling it The HatMed Hat or The Gas City and refer to themselves as Hatters.

When the poet, Rudyard Kipling, visited this city circa 1908 he described Medicine Hat as The City with all Hell for a basement because it is situated over a vast underground field of natural gas. This asset has enabled Medicine Hat to operate numerous gas wells and own its own gas utility. As a result of this abundance, Medicine Hat had gas lamps back in the late 1800’s to light the darkness when the sun set. There was an abundance of coal, as well. Easy access to natural gas encouraged economic growth and businesses produced clay products, bricks, and glass bottles. Medicine Hat is home to numerous greenhouses, aided by the city being voted to be the sunniest city in Canada. Small wonder I am used to sunny blue skies and cannot tolerate for long when the sun takes a break behind gray clouds and rain.

Many communities sprang up along railways when the Canadian Pacific Railway was built to span the entire country. Medicine Hat was no exception and was founded in 1883. The tent town was soon replaced by homes built of pines hauled from the nearby Cypress Hills. It wasn’t long before a brick factory was built and homes and business made of brick were erected. At one point, Medicine Hat was dubbed “the Pittsburgh of the West” because its relatively cheap energy lured all kinds of industry. The cement silos of two idle flour mills pierce the sky, as does the brickyard and glass factories in nearby Redcliff, remain interesting landmarks.

Medicine Hat boasts being the home of the oldest brick residence still standing in Alberta, the Ewart-Duggan home. Many other century-old homes reign along The Esplanade, a short stretch of road at the end of First Street, which it was called back in the early days of the city. Graceful old elms line both sides of the street, their branches meeting overhead like hands in prayer.

The Cypress Hills Massacre in 1873 prompted Parliament in Ottawa to hasten the formation of the North-West Mounted Police to bring law and order to the illegal whiskey trade in the west. Recruits were quickly enlisted and trained and left Manitoba in 1874. One detachment arrived in the Cypress Hills in 1873 and Fort Walsh was erected. The arrival of the N.W.M.P. was the beginning of the end of the whiskey trade but encouraged a new, legal enterprise—supplying the Force with horses, cattle and all the necessities of life. That chapter in our western history begs a future blog of its own. 

Living a stone's throw from the Cypress Hills and all its colorful history made it an easy choice for the setting of my debut novel, Beneath a Horse Thief Moon. It was so easy to incorporate my research into my heroine's daily life. She supplies horses to the mounted police at the fort (pictured above) and she has her fair share of danger fending off outlaws who want her ranch.  Two more stand-alone books complete the Prairie Moon Trilogy.

There are several more N.W.M.P. forts other than Fort Walsh. A couple hours drive west brings you to Fort Whoop-Up and it, too, is open to visitors who wish to explore a bit of history. 

Canadians have a reputation of being modest and polite, but realistically, we’ve had our fair share of robberies, murder and mayhem. The Crowsnest Pass a few hours’ drive west of here fairly bristles with tales of bootlegging.

In 1988 the City of Calgary hosted the Olympic Winter Games and erected a giant teepee as part of celebrating its indigenous history. When a local businessman, Rick Filanti, heard the teepee was to be dismantled and sold for scrap metal (?) he arranged to have the teepee relocated to Medicine Hat to honor our First Nations history. The Saamis Teepee can be seen from practically any direction and is lit up at night where it rests alongside the Trans-Canada Highway. There are round painted panels depicting the history of the indigenous people and one often sees several vehicles parked near the teepee as visitors stop for a closer look. 

In a future blog, I’d love to dip into a bit of crime and passion, unrequited love and betrayal. The pictures of the river and bluffs and the teepee are photographs taken by my son, Nick, who also took all the photographs of Fort Walsh and the Cypress Hills featured on my website. 

Elizabeth Clements is the author of Beneath A Horse-Thief Moon. and