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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The History and Meaning Behind the Masks of Venice Carnival

The History and Meaning Behind the Masks of Carnival

The Venice Carnival dates back to the 1300s, but has changed in purpose and style over the centuries, even banned by the Church at points.  Not just a time of festivities, it saw a period of social change by the people, outside of government and Church.  It was often used for political purposes, allowing the common man and nobility to move and navigate the troubled times without revealing their identities.  In ancient years, the lengths of observances ran much longer, often months—sometimes nearly half of the year—as it permitted people to hold votes and work political machinations, giving voice, albeit anonymous to the common citizen, and allowing the nobles to work outside of their sphere to affect change.  It often allowed romantic assignations, as the masked revelers moved from party to party, even indulged in the gaiety in the streets.  Yet, it was so much more.  Carnival was the budding of political and religious change that happened outside normal channels of government and Church.

Currently, it runs the ten days before Ash Wednesday.  On first glance, The Carnival of Venice shares many characteristics with the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.  New Orleans is the Big Easy, with a party on down, Cher that sees less emphasis on the traditional costumes, and focuses on enjoying the best time ever.  The Venice celebration still draws heavily on their Medieval roots and customs of their elaborate costumes.  The fancy attire slowly evolved over the centuries, yet remained firmly rooted in the Medieval origins.  Venetians generally started holding their masked parties on the 26th of December—the start of Lent.  Masks were created to conceal identities, thus reflecting a social change, allowing the lowest classes and nobility to mingle.  Peasants and aristos alike could indulge in grand balls, dancing and partying throughout the long winter nights.  The anonymity of masks permitted a freedom to let their inner wishes and fantasies take life.  Gambling, drinking and indulging in clandestine affairs happened with no repercussions, which soon proved advantageous for furtive political aspirations.  Soon, it was obligatory to wear masks at certain governmental decision-making events, where all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers.  Through the masquerades the divisions of aristo and serf lines blurred.  The protected processes, in truth, were the first steps to a democracy. To see this balloting was fair and secure, men were not permitted to carry swords or guns while wearing masks, and the police enforced this law religiously.  Thus, you see the masks and their meanings carry a more involved significance that just hiding who you were and having a good time.

The original mask was named the Batua.  It was always white, and made of ceramic or leather.  The name comes from behüten, meaning to protect.  The mask fit over the whole face, completely concealing the wearer’s identity.  To further hide who they were, a hood of black or red covered their heads and reached their shoulders, and was topped by a black tricono—a tri-corner hat.  A long black or red cape finished the costume.  While designed for a man, women soon were taking advantage of the opportunity the outfit afforded them.  The mouth on the mask was very small and expressionless, with oval slits for eyes, and two air holes on the nose.  While the mask afforded complete protection, it did not allow the wearer to eat or drink without taking it off.

The Volta was the next style to rise.  It completely cover the face, but often held a ghostly or more sinister expression.  Also called the Larva Mask—Larva meaning ghost—it was a slightly unnerving countenance, though it did let the wearer eat and drink easily. 

Usually worn by men, again they came with black hoods covering hair and shoulders, black capes and the black tricorno hat.

Women quickly saw disadvantage to the full covering, and adopted the Moretta.  Originating in France, the Moretta, allowed their feminine features to be showcased with less coverage.  The design quickly saw this mask losing favor.  Also called the Silent Mask, women held the mask before their face by clenching a tabbed button between their teeth.  I can imagine they quickly wanted changes to this style!  Surely, a man invented this one.  

Disenchanted with the Moretta’s enforced silence, women soon flocked to the Columbina masks.  Inspired by Commedia dell’arte.  The art form was improvised plays, very popular from the 1500s.  Each held a set stock of comedic characters for the actors, a few basic plots—such as troubled love affairs—but often they reflected current events and political protests in the guise of comedy.  Much like political cartoons of today, these street plays poked fun at politicians and the Church, all in the perimeters of comedy and entertainment.  The female standard in the plays had a demi-masque, only covering part of the forehead, eyes and upper parts of the nose and cheeks, revealing, yet more flattering to the female face.  These were decorated with gold, silver, crystals, and colorful plumes, especially peacock feathers, and tied with ribbons to hold them in place or carried on a baton.  Today, the costuming has been taken to a high art form.  

One of the more bizarre ones you will see is the Medico Della Peste (Plague Doctor).  These startling bird-beak style masks were created in the 1600s by a French physician Charles de Lorme, and not for the purposes of Carnival celebrating.  Just the opposite, de Lorme formed them to protect doctors treating plague victims.  By this time, foul airs were suspect as the cause of spreading the plague, and in response, naturally physicians wanted to guard themselves against infection.  De Lorme decided plague tainted the air with these noxious fumes, so then if the physicians breathed perfumed air they would escape catching the disease.  He created this grotesque mask that looked like a larger-than-life bird head.  The exaggerated beak was filled with herbs, and the eye slits were covered with rose tinted lenses.  Literally, several pieces of common knowledge have passed into our consciousness from this horrible period.  The term looking through rose colored glasses, now meaning viewing the world in a beautiful tone, instead of facing reality, came from the creation of these physicians’ masks.  The other was the old tome Ring Around the Rosie—a child’s rhyme that speaks about the mass spreading of deaths from the Black Death.  Children of future generations repeated this morbid singsong without ever understanding what they were chanting.  To further the protection of the healers, physicians wore hoods covering their head and shoulders, long gowns and capes, with huge white gloves that went all the way up their upper arms.  The Japanese used the figure of Godzilla, first to explain the bombs that were dropped on them during WWII, and then through making Godzilla the protector of their island, they faced their terrors and made the nightmare less disturbing.  The Venetians did the same in adopting this bizarre costume as part of the collection of characters. They were saying that death walked amongst them, and they mocked and laughed at mortality.

Arlecchino was a later addition.  Coming from the French Arleguin—this evolved to the more familiar Harlequin.  He was a fool, depicted dressed in diamonds of black and white, or a rainbow of colors.  Another version on this theme was the Pulcinella—a crook-nosed hunchback, that you typically saw as Punch in the Punch and Judy street puppet theatre performers.

The final two you will see are La Ruffinathe Old Woman.  She is usually the mother or, grandmother, sometimes with Gypsy portrayals, who takes great delight in trying to foil a lovers' tryst.  Scaramuccia, again comes from the French Scaramouche.  He was a total rogue, who dashed about with a sword causing mischief, and challenging other males to mock duels.  Rounding out the costumes were ones of the Moon and Sun, religious popes and bishops, kings and queens, or sometimes animals such as cats and wolves.

By the 1800s, Carnival began to fall into decline.  It had changed from the period of Lent, to lasting for six months of every year.  In 1797 Venice became a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, after Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio.  The Austrians quickly took charge of the city, and afterward the celebrations all but stopped.  It was a long absence before Venice saw a true Carnival again.  In 1979, the government decided to revive the traditions of the celebration, using it to draw tourists.  The move worked as over three million visitors come to Venice each year for the colorful pre-Lent parades and parties.  A centerpiece for the ten day festival is the la maschera più bella—the most beautiful mask.  A panel of international designers pick the most stunning mask for each year.

So, even if you have experienced the unforgettable Mardi Gras of New Orleans, you might still wish to indulge in the extravagance, pageantry and historical display of Carnival in Venice.

© Deborah Macgillivray, February 2019
Author of the Dragons of Challon series

It's All in the Family by Ann Markim

     I have friends who can trace their heritage back to the 1200’s. Others can demonstrate how they’re related to famous people as 14th or 17th cousins. Both are interesting and impressive.

    But for me, the most fascinating part of researching my family history is learning small details of their day-to-day lives and the reasons why my ancestors made significant, life-changing decisions.

    Since my mother was the child of one of the younger offspring, she had no recollection of her grandparents on her mother’s side. Years ago, we set off on a quest to learn as much about them as we could. We visited many of her oldest living cousins.

     I started those visits off with a few prompting questions, then let the cousins talk about memories and family stories. All the while, I had my video camera (this was in the era before smart phones) rolling. Not only did I learn a lot about my family’s history, but I also felt much more closely bonded with relatives I had barely known before.

           My great-grandparents (who inspired THE LEGACY) and their 10 children

 Here are some of the tidbits I’ve picked up while researching my family history:
  • ·         My mother’s maternal grandfather came to America to escape conscription into the German Army when South Jutland was occupied by the Germans. This land area was not returned to Denmark until after World War I.
  • ·         My mother’s paternal grandfather died when my grandfather was fourteen. Mom’s paternal grandmother and her children continued to operate the farm successfully, and my mother and her siblings grew up on that farm.
  • ·         One of my mother’s aunts taught high school in Sioux City, Iowa for many years. Among her pupils were the twins who became Dear Abby and Ann Landers.
  • ·         One of my mother’s cousins used to love to go to town with his dad to pick up supplies, especially kerosene. In those days, gumdrops were used as stoppers in the spouts of kerosene containers. Mom’s cousin volunteered to ride home in the back of the wagon with the supplies so he could eat the gumdrop. If he ate it too early, he had to put his hand over the spout to keep the liquid from sloshing out.

    These are just a few of the fun facts I’ve uncovered about my family. I love to speculate about what life was like through the generations. The first two items on the list served as inspiration for my historical novel, THE LEGACY. Although THE LEGACY is entirely fictional, I’ve tucked many of the tidbits I’ve discovered about my ancestors into the story. This made the manuscript fun to write.

Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle      

What fascinating tidbits have you learned about you ancestors Do you have any fun family stories?  How have they inspired you?

Ann Markim

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Villains... or Villeins? A Medieval Issue

In English, ‘villain’ means a criminal. This word is derived from the older word ‘villein’ which originally meant a worker on the land and has a history going back to the Roman villa. In the Middle Ages, villeins were bound by law to their land and their lord and had to perform various low-status jobs, such as working in their lord’s fields. Villeins came to resent these ‘dues’ particularly as the lord was often lax when it came to his side of the bargain (such as protection).

"Harrowing" from the Luttrell Psalter.
Worse, in popular beliefs of the time, villeins were seen as low, crude creatures. In art they were deliberately depicted as ugly, because of their low status. Hence the rather unflattering portraits in the margins of ms such as the Luttrell Psalter. (This has meant that in modern French ‘vilain’ means ‘ugly’.) 

In one of the most famous books of the Medieval Ages, Les Tres Riches Heures, made for the Duke De Berry, one artist showed workers in the fields and drew them with great grace and delicacy.(Archaeology supports this, although women in the middle ages were often under-weight and so less than fertile, since in a peasant household the food had to go first to the plough-man and other heavy labourers.) 
The drawing to the left shows June hay-making and is from 
In contrast, the artist who depicts the traditional November scene of the swine-herd taking pigs

into the forest to fatten up has shown the peasants as rather crude - a reversion to 'type.' 

Again, this picture is taken from Les Tres Riches Heures.

The so-called lower orders were seen as having no entitlements. ‘Villeins ye are, and villeins ye shall remain,’ replied King Richard II after the brutal suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt in England in 1381. The church taught that a villein not doing his lord’s work was not only liable to be fined, but could also expect to go to hell. In church teaching of the time, there were three orders of mankind - those who fought (knights and nobles) those who prayed (the church) and those who worked (peasants and everyone else.) Guess which class was at the base of this pyramid?

Worse, villein women were vulnerable to rape and sexual exploitation by their ‘betters’ and no one complained. Andreas Capellanus, writing in the twelfth century, suggested to any knight seeking to embrace a peasant woman that he should ‘not hesitate to take what you seek and to embrace her by force’.

In verse as well as art the villein was depicted as crude, vulgar, stupid and sulky. Court records of the Middle Ages show villeins being fined for not turning up for work on their lord’s land. Any requested for better treatment was regard as the ‘malice’ of servants. ‘What should a serf do but serve?’ asked a monk. One belief of the time was that villeins were descended from Cain, the first murderer.

So perhaps it is not surprising that 'villain' has come to mean a person of evil deeds!

I explore the sometimes less than chivalrous attitudes of knights to peasants in my stories at Prairie Rose Publications, which you can find here.

Also in my forthcoming Anthology collection, "A Knight's Choice and Other Romances," I show how some medieval knights showed brutal behaviour to those less fortunate than themsleves.

Available from Prairie Rose Publications and free to read with Kindle Unlimited.
A Knight's Choice and Other Romances

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?
Available from Prairie Rose Publications for pre-order, and free to read with Kindle Unlimited.

Also on Amazon com

Amazon UK 

Amazon Canada

This collection also includes details and an excerpt from my Prairie Rose Publications Romance Novel, Dark Maiden.

I hope you enjoy these!

Lindsay Townsend

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Book review: 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?

My Review:

So...... I thought I knew what this book was about. I've seen the research Patti Sherry-Crews had been sharing on the PRP blog, I've read the blurb, I had gotten little teases/hints in some side conversations.... and yet.... I wasn't truly prepared for the mind games and twists and surprises that weaved the story together!

If you're into the sort of thing where you thrive on not knowing anything about a story... just dive right on into the story and stop reading here.  Otherwise here's just a little more for you - besides the encouragement to just keep turning the pages, be prepared, there's some drama and twists and curious moments ahead!

Wynne is not the usual kind of hero I'm drawn to... he's quieter, a little hesitant, a bit more unsure of himself.  Then again, going undercover as your estranged brother into a outlaw gang where you're on your own, totally out of your element, and dependent upon your outlaw brother telling the truth about everything... and then you encounter some pretty major surprises, one has every right to feel off-kilter.  And while overall his personality is on the quieter, gentler side, there's moments where he digs deep and finds an inner strength that I think surprised even him at first.  I enjoyed watching his character growth and how he built his confidence in himself.  I think he was the perfect kind of man Lucy was needing in her life.

Lucy.... oh my, that girl!  She was an unexpected sweet surprise!  Her mix of soft and strong drew me to her, even as my heart was breaking for her and cheering her on at the same time.  She made some choices that set her on a very tough path, and despite the heavy struggles, she found ways to thrive and survive.   When it all was said and done, she definitely needed a man like Wynne in her life to fully bloom.

I was delightfully surprised at how empathetic I felt and attached I became to some side characters... I don't want to spoil anything, just know you may also find yourself rootin' for some of them as well!  Maybe it's because I like a bit of a bad boy.... ;)

Anyways, this was another awesome story by Patti Sherry-Crews that I enjoyed opening the cover and falling into.

*leaves the room whistling an old Alan Jackson song...
still you wonder...
who's cheatin' who
and who's bein' true
and who don't even care anymore
makes you wonder
who's doin' right
with someone tonight...
who's horse is stabled next door.


Purchase Links:


Thursday, February 21, 2019

New Release — The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley by Nina Romano

When Darby McPhee falls in love with Cayo Bradley, a wild cowboy from a nearby ranch, her world is ripped apart. Caught in a lifeless existence of caring for her father and brothers since her mother’s death, Darby does little else but work. But a death-bed promise to her mother to get her education now stands in the way of her heart’s desire to belong to the rough-and-tumble Cayo Bradley.

Darby is Cayo’s redemption from a horrific act in his past that torments him. After being captured as a young boy by the Jicarilla Apache, he now tries to settle back into white society—but how can he? If he loses Darby, he loses everything.

Darby is determined to keep her promise to her mother, but will Cayo wait for her? In this stunning tale of love and loss, Darby comes to understand that no matter what happens, she will always be THE GIRL WHO LOVED CAYO BRADLEY…

Romano’s story sizzles with the tension of lovers—one struggling to blend Apache ways and white, the other torn between East and West—searching for a way to join two lives going in opposite directions.
— Ruth Hull Chatlien, Blood Moon, and The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a superbly crafted romantic page-turner, is a deftly spun tale of ill-starred sweethearts in the American West. Darby, a charming farm girl, and Cayo, Apache raised, a secretive man with a disturbing past. Sparks ignite, burning intensely despite cruel circumstances to separate them—an expertly woven story with witty dialogue, fast-paced plot, and stunning, enchanting prose!

— Michelle Cox, award-winning author of the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series.


     He knew people saw him as part Apache. Others claimed he was left for dead by bandoleros, and because of his aloof and stealth disposition, and the fact that he was shy and non-confrontational like the animal, people believed that’s how he came to be named Coyote. Somewhere along the way, Coyote’s nickname became Cayo. He didn’t care what people called him as long as they did, and for sure he knew his name didn’t matter because he’d never fit in anywhere. Once you’ve lived wild and free, it’s near impossible to return wholly capable of fitting into refined society. He knew others like himself, children who had been taken and lived with Kiowa or other tribes, and what he saw in them he knew was the same for him. They were the same outcast breed he was, not a trace of Indian blood, but Indian in the way they thought. He’d never completely forgotten his own language, English, so when he finally decided to go back to living the white folks’ way, he listened to speech, carefully repeated words, and held himself close, like a gambler in a poker game, keeping his cards to his chest. He shouldered these thoughts about himself and that other life he lived before as a yoke on an ox. It weighed on him, but he could do nothing to shirk it.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019


"Sulky bulldog appearance: looks rather like a blacksmith coming from work; wears cap pulled well down over face."

I came across this wanted poster some time ago and thought it was fake. But, no, Dan Breen was a member of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence and later a major player in Irish politics. This was the poster issued seeking his arrest. 
Curious, I wondered if such hyperbole on a wanted poster was an Irish thing (because, you know...the Irish like to use their words to embellish), but after looking further, I found similarly descriptive Wanted posters in early American criminal history.
I suppose in a time before TV coverage and video recordings, the authorities had to provide the details the best they could, though I expect even the Irish in the early 20th century were scratching their heads over the description, "looks rather like a blacksmith coming home from work."  (by the way, I love the quantifying word "rather" thrown in that sentence.)
I live across the street from a commuter train station, and if someone was described as looking like a "patent lawyer after a grueling week, coming home and looking forward to a G&T," I doubt I'd be able to nab the miscreant.
With the innovation of photography, the police were able to drag the criminal off to the local photographer to have his or her mug shot taken before throwing them in the cell; and thus ending many a criminal career. Newspapers, telegraphs, and now their faces plastered in quick order all over the country!
One incident to illustrate the point is the famous Fort Worth Five Photograph taken in 1900 by John Schwartz, which put an end to Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch.

Forth Worth Five Photograph of the Wild Bunch

Butch and the boys had gathered together in Fort Worth, TX for the occasion of  Will "News" Carver to Lille Davis, a prostitute he met at Madame Fanny Porter's brothel (spoiler alert: not a long and happy union). Someone had the bright idea that it would be a hoot to get dressed up like dudes and have their picture taken. Huge mistake!
One version of the story is that Schwartz was so proud of his work he put the photo in the window of his shop, and when the local law next brought in a criminal for a mugshot, he recognized some the gang. Keep in mind that at this time the law still wasn't clear on who was in the Wild Bunch. So, this was an important development. 
Bam! The Fort Worth Five portrait went directly onto a wanted poster. Go directly to jail, do not pass go. 

To make matters worse, Wanted posters could be churned out and disturbed so quickly, an outlaw had to be almost constantly on the move. There was one incident where "News" Carver had an unfortunate encounter with a skunk. Immediately, posters went out adding the detail that one of the gang stunk like a skunk.

Though some of the gang were slow to realize it, the days of train robbing was over for the Wild Bunch, and in fact for all the gangs. 

Butch and  the Sundance Kid along with Etta Place definitely got the memo saying the game was up and escaped to South America to start a new life.
"Wedding" (if they were legally married) Photo of Harry Longabaugh, AKA, The Sundance Kid and Etta Place (if that was even her name). 

...before embarking on their fresh start, Sundance and Etta had their picture taken in New York, even sending copies to friends and relatives. And, you guessed it, the picture was used on Wanted posters traveling even as far as South America. Now the Pinkertons had Etta as well.

Spanish language poster provided by Pinkerton detectives to local authorities in South America (photo courtesy of True West)

I note with amusement the following description on one of the Wanted poster for the Sundance Kid:

"Complexion, dark (Looks like a quarter breed Indian)
Eyes, Black
Features, Grecian type"

There are so many things wrong about this description, I hardly know where to begin. Okay, let's begin with "black eyes." Unless he has two shiners, I doubt "black" eye color is an accurate description. And then I picture folks in the old west puzzling over Grecian features while they are comparing various skin tones. This description seems more likely to confuse than aid the good citizens.
In any case, this exposure spelled the end for their brief experiment in going straight. They went back to a life of crime on the run--even Etta at times. She eventually had enough of it and went back to the states to disappear from history. Butch and Sundance, depending on which version of history you subscribe to, either were killed in Bolivia or went on to live peaceful lives under assumed names.  But whatever their fate the Wanted posters certainly contributed to their end as train and bank robbers.

Just like the Wanted poster helped end the careers of many a notorious outlaw in the Old West, it is a wanted poster that brought down a character in my new release, Den of Thieves. 

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?


Wynne tied up his horse at the hitching rail and walked in. The sheriff sat with his boots up on his desk. He dropped his boots back down to the floor with a dull thunk when Wynne filled the doorway.
“Sheriff Holden? I’m—”
 The other man stood up, fingers looped in his belt. “I know who you are.” He studied him a good long moment. “Incredible. You look just like him.” The sheriff pointed over Wynne’s shoulder.
“Yeah, that’s one of the defining aspects of identical twins,” he said, turning to see what the sheriff had pointed at.
He gasped. It was a shock to see his visage on a wanted poster.
Mesmerized, he wandered across the room to come face to face with the mugshot. His stomach dropped at the sight. It was one thing to know your brother was an outlaw, but it was another thing entirely to see his face on a poster. “So this is the poster that brought him down.”
Flashes of that same face in more innocent times. Flirting with girls at dances. Singing along with everyone else while Dad played the guitar. Wrestling with a younger cousin and laughing when he pretended to be pinned down by the much smaller boy.
“Yep. He was in Fort Worth having himself a good old time at a faro table when somebody recognized him as one of the gang who robbed a train the week before. They took him into custody without a struggle.”
Listening to the sheriff, he studied the details on the poster. Wanted. Notorious Outlaw. Ennis Green. Six foot tall. 165 pounds. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Reward $500.
 “And then, he escaped. Tricked a deputy into thinking he was having a heart attack and then took the man’s gun off of him when he went to his aid.”
“Nice fellow, my brother.”
“He escaped, but now the Pinkertons have a face to put to his name.”
“Yes, I heard. Someone from our hometown happened to see a copy of the wanted posters and recognized Ennis Green was the Ennis Palmatier who he grew up with. A Pinkerton detective came knocking on our door. Gave my mother quite a shock.”
“Didn’t she know he was an outlaw?”
Always burned in his memory was that day his nephew ran into the store and told him to lock up and come directly home. Then, walking in the parlor to see his mother, her face drained of color and her lips pinched tight as she twisted a handkerchief in her hands. A stranger in the room turned when he came in, his mouth falling open with surprise. “You look exactly like him.” The man, it turned out, was with the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency.
“We weren’t sure if he was even alive. The last thing my father did before he died was kick him out. We knew whatever he was up to, it probably involved being on the wrong side of the law. But we didn’t know how successful he become in his chosen profession.”
What he didn’t add was that he never thought his brother was dead. He knew he’d sense it if he died. Even with the intervening years and miles, he had a feeling in his gut he was out there somewhere, much like the man who loses an arm can still feel it. Right now, with only a floor separating them, he felt a peculiar buzzing in his body.

Available at Amazon

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!