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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Book review: Gabriel's Law by Cheryl Pierson



When Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, he doesn't suspect a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn't expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob. When Spring Branch's upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, nobody expects to hear the click of a gun in the hands of an angel bent on justice. Life is full of surprises.

Brandon and Allie reconnect instantly, though it's been ten years since their last encounter. She's protected him before. As Brandon recovers at Allie's ranch, the memories flood back, and his heart is lost to her. He also knows staying with her will ruin everything. She's made a life for herself and her son. She's respectable. She has plans * plans that don't include him. But could they?

Trouble is never far away, and someone else wants Allison Taylor and her ranch. Danger looms large when a fire is set and a friend is abducted. Allie and Brandon discover they are battling someone they never suspected; someone who will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who stands in his way. As Brandon faces down the man who threatens to steal everything from him, he realizes he is desperately in love with Allie and this new life they are making for themselves. Has Brandon finally found everything he's ever wanted only to lose it all? Can Brandon and Allie confront the past, face down their demons, and forge their dreams into a future?

My Review:

Brandon and Allie's story swept me away from page one. The history these two had formed a bond that years of separation couldn't break, and it was detailed so well that the instantaneous connection that flared flowed perfectly with the rhythm of the story. Brandon's strength and determination complimented Allie's to where they were able to share the same dreams and watch them grow. I loved how they communicated and shared with the other. And as I've begun to expect from Cheryl Pierson's writing, there were several twists I wasn't quite expecting, but loved how it all worked out!

Purchase links:


Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Alexa Bailey intends to celebrate her one-year divorce milestone at the luxurious Riverwind Hotel in Dallas. Instead, she’s plunged into a deadly hostage situation at the hands of a rogue faction of the Irish Republican Army led by madman Kieran McShane. The roof of the hotel is her only escape from the seething danger below.

Johnny Logan is an undercover cop assigned to protect the visiting British Prime Minister. When McShane takes over the Riverwind, all hell breaks loose and Johnny is badly wounded before he manages to escape to the roof.

But the relative safety of the equipment building offers only temporary sanctuary for Johnny and Alexa, and they soon realize even in that remote haven, they’re not alone. With a small hostile army occupying the Riverwind, and the lives of the hostages hanging in the balance, the only thing they can do is try to keep McShane guessing until help comes.

Has love come too late for Alexa and Johnny? The clock is ticking, and time is running out. In a wager that means life or death for them all, Johnny pits himself against McShane in a “winner-take-all” battle high above the city. Will he be able to save the handful of hostages who are depending on him to CAPTURE THE NIGHT?

Well, they have been through hell and back but it's not over yet. It's time for the final showdown between Johnny Logan, undercover police officer, and Kieran McShane, the cruel leader of the terrorist group that's taken over the hotel. McShane has the hostages at his mercy...or does he?

Johnny lay very still, looking up at the night sky. The stars tumbled across the velvet darkness like diamonds tossed from some lucky gambler’s hand. Two hours, he thought, by the position of those stars, since Billings had died. Been pushed.

Alexa’s arm came across his chest in a gentle caress, and he turned his head to kiss the back of her fingers near his shoulder. She wasn’t awake, he knew, but he wanted to show her every moment of tenderness allowed them on this, their last night together.

He tried to force his mind to relax. He knew he needed to sleep. But hell, by dawn he may be dead. It seemed a waste to sleep these last hours away.

“Are you awake?” Alexa whispered.

He smiled, realizing how much he’d wanted her awake with him, wondering if he’d made it happen by the strength of his thoughts. He didn’t try to turn his head to look at her. Right now, he wasn’t sure he could. He was spent.

“Yeah. Just thinking, Lex. Just wishing we had a way of—capturing this night and holding onto it forever—until it came out right for us.”

He felt her smile against his shirt. “Johnny, I—I want you to know something.” She came up on her elbow, looking down at him. “I’m not sorry for being here—wrong place, wrong time I guess, most people would say. But it was the right time for me—for us.” She seemed almost shy, looking away from his gaze. “I was married all those years to a man I thought I knew. Thought I loved. But I never knew what love meant until twenty-four hours ago.” She shook her head, an ironic smile curving her full lips. “Twenty-four years I searched for it, Johnny. And in twenty-four hours, I found exactly what I’d missed—with you.” Her brow furrowed and she glanced at him, then looked away again, as if the bright mirror of her love in his eyes was too much to bear.

“I love you.” She gave a self-deprecatory chuckle. “And I feel like I’m sixteen again.” She moistened her lips, glancing up at him. “I have nothing to lose at this point by being completely honest, do I?”

Johnny’s mouth slanted upward. “Alexa…you have nothing to lose with me—ever.”

The wind teased her hair, blowing strands of it across her face. “I’ve never felt this way before. Earlier—when we—” she stopped, searching for the words she needed.

“Honesty, Alexa…” Johnny murmured. “You can say anything to me.”

She nodded. “I know.” She sighed. “It was…the first time I ever wanted anyone so much.”

She lowered her head, a tear dropping to wet his shirt. “So, anyhow,” she sniffed, wiping her eyes as she tried to smile, “I wanted you to know that no matter what happens—I love you. I know, now, what that means. You showed me, Johnny.”

His heart pounded against his chest. “Are you tryin’ to tell me something?”

"We don’t know what’s going to happen. And, even if we do make it out of here alive, you may decide I’m not—what you want—”

Johnny shook his head. “Stop it, Lex. I need you to be strong right now. For me, and with me. I know Richard hurt you, but you’ve got to battle through that.”

He brought his hands up to cup her face, but she still wouldn’t look at him. “Know that I love you, whether it’s here or ten years from now. On this roof or—or in the grocery store’s frozen foods aisle.”

She smiled.

“I’ll never let you go, Alexa—never. So, you better get used to seeing my face every morning when you wake up.” He lifted her chin with a finger, leaning up to kiss her, ignoring the shot of fire that streaked through his side. She smiled, finally—a real smile—and it was all worth it. Then, she put her mouth to his, and he knew he’d do anything he had to do to keep her with him—once they got out of this.

Have you ever been in a situation you had no control over? How did you get through it? I've never been through a hostage situation or kidnapping, thank GOODNESS, but I can only imagine how terrifying it must be! I'm giving away a free digital copy of CAPTURE THE NIGHT to a commenter, here are the buy links in case you can't wait to see if you won!



Observations from a "Word Nerd"

One of the dilemmas of historical fiction is writing it in words that were in use during the era in question. Over the years, I’ve become dependent on etymology dictionaries and similar references. (Okay, so I admit it. I’m a “word nerd.”) I try to tell my stories in words people of the period would have used, especially in dialogue.

But sometimes, what I take for granted as an old word turns out not to be. I’d like to share with you some of my discoveries.

SPREAD: The verb meaning ‘the act of spreading’ came from the 1620s. But the two uses I wanted came after the period I was writing about. Spread, as in ‘ranch where cattle are raised,’ came into use in 1927. Spread, as in ‘degree of variation,’ in 1929.

HANDYMAN: which I thought might be modern, came into use in 1843.

TARPAULIN: has been around since the 1600s. But, TARP, which I grew up using and thought would be perfect, only dates back to 1906.

EON: another that sounds modern, goes all the way back to around 1640.

SMALL: as in ‘little,’ is Old English, but SMALL TALK, as in ‘chit-chat,’ was first recorded in Chesterfield's "Lettersin 1751. (Yea! I can use it in my stories.)

SWEET TOOTH: meaning ‘fondness for sweets,’ has been used since the late 14th century. (Nice to know I’ve had a lot of company over the centuries.)

Over the years, I’ve learned not to trust my assessment of a word’s age, but sometimes I find out too late that a word, or my usage of it, is too modern for my story. For example, the word, SCAN. In the sense ‘to examine closely’, the word has been around since 1540. But I used it to mean “to look over quickly.” That use didn’t come into being until 1926, years after the time period of my story.

Such is the risk of writing historical fiction. And, it's all part of the fun.

Ann Markim

    Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Medieval Jugglers and More - Lindsay Townsend

In the Middle Ages, professional musicians and minstrels were highly thought of and ranked in royal and noble households as the equals to huntsmen and falconers. Dancers, too, were well regarded - in 1306, the only woman paid as a musician in the royal household was an acrobatic dancer (saltatrix, 'tumbler') with the 'stage name’ of Matilda Makejoy. She possibly danced by bending backwards and touching her head with her feet, or on her hands, or on knives - in medieval stained glass Salome was shown dancing on knives.

Such dancers could be athletic and graceful or tumble in a jesting manner, playing for laughter. They could also be well paid and respected - Richard II paid John Katerine, a dancer from Venice, over £6 for playing and dancing before him, a sum not far short of £3,000 today.

Amongst the minstrels themselves there was a kind of ranking, with professional musicians at the top and jugglers and puppeteers at the bottom. Jugglers especially were considered at the time to be coarse, especially those who made a living wandering from fair to fair or village to village. Jugglers were felt to have few morals and to be able to do their tricks through magic - always a dangerous idea in the Middle Ages.

However jugglers were also held in affection, even by the church, and many illuminated manuscripts show jugglers. From the time of William the Conqueror, a 'King of the Jugglers' appeared at the court and would continue to appear through the Middle Ages. Whoever held this title had many rights to go with it. There is also a medieval legend of a juggler who, having nothing else to give, made an 'offering' of his juggling skills before a statue of the Virgin and Child in church. According to some variations of this story, the Madonna or Jesus caught one of the balls.

Juggling using different objects is more difficult than using the same objects. Bouncing objects off a floor is easier than tossing them in the air, and throwing all the objects in the air - called multiplexing in modern juggling - is easier than one after another.

Balls were commonly used for juggling but other things could also be used. In the Irish story of Cuchulainn, the hero juggles nine apples. The later Viking sagas also mention juggling and sometimes with weapons - Snorri Sturluson writes in one saga, "In the doorway of the hall, Gylfi saw a man juggling with knives, keeping seven in the air at a time."

Geraint, my Welsh hero, is a tumbler and juggler. To read more about him and the medieval exorcist Yolande, please take a look at "Dark Maiden"

[Illustrations from Wikimedia Commons.]

Lindsay Townsend

Monday, April 22, 2019

The color Haint Blue and it's origins

The Haunting History of Haint Blue Ceilings

(my veranda with Haint Blue Ceiling)

Since early childhood, I have been fascinated by words and their meanings.  We accept things, repeat them, generation after generation without ever stopping to wonder why we do it.  One example of this is Haint Blue Ceilings.

If you have ever traveled through the South of the USA, and even into parts of the Northeast, you might come upon a curious phenomenon and its even stranger name.  As you marveled at the beauty of these long verandas, which harken back to an era where once ladies sat all afternoon sipping their sweat tea or lemonade, you might wonder at the terrace’s color scheme.  No matter what hue the house was painted—white, pink, yellow—if you looked up you might be surprised to see a green-blue ceiling on these graceful porches.  They are called Haint Blue Porches.  The original idea came from the word haint—a bastardization of the word haunt.  It was often used in the context of a haint being a ghost or spirit that might try to haunt a home.    

The Picts and Celts of Scotland considered the color blue sacred.  Why Pict warriors would paint themselves with blue woad before going into battle.  Blue held a power to these ancient people  as they considered it the color of the sky—the home of the Auld Gods.  The ceiling to the world, you might say.  Long before it was popular to wear white, brides often wore pale shades of blue, because they were wrapping themselves in the protection of their deities.  This also is a part of the wedding tradition we still say even today—something borrowed, something blue.  If the bride didn't wear blue, she most certainly would have carried a blue kerchief, wore blue ribbons in her hair, or her garters would have been blue.  When starting a new life, she would've wanted all the blessings she could gather.  

A lot of the South was settled by immigrant Scots, second or third sons seeking to make their fortune, and with them came many of the traditions, lore and superstitions.  Over the centuries, these customs and their meanings faded from memory.  Brides now view white as the color of choice for weddings—but they still carry that bit of blue for good luck!

In that same mindset of bringing luck to your home, they painted their veranda ceilings a pale sky blue, essentially seeking protection for the entrance to their home with the blessings of blue.  Ghosts were considered spirits doomed to wander the earth, and not allowed to move on to the peace of the heavens.  Thus, when some restless spirit might try to enter a home, they wouldn't cross a porch protected by ancient deities.  Such lore faded.  Yet, those threads of blue bringing protection and good luck linger.  Though the intent in painting the ceilings this shade passed away with long ago generations, people continued to paint their ceilings in this manner.  If asked, the rare knowledgeable person might know some variation of the reasoning.  Some mention blue is the color of water, and ghosts were thought to be unable to cross water.  The blue stopped the spirit from crossing the porch to enter the home.  I think that explanation is an example of how lore changes through the ages—and loses its true meaning.  Similar purpose, though the logic behind has changed from sky to water.  Why I still believe the sky was the origin of the blue ceilings—if they were imitating water to scare ghosts away why not paint the floors blue?  The painting of the ceilings harkens back to old beliefs that transcends centuries and centuries of oral lore.

Even later, the explanation of the blue ceilings changed to a more current view—people sitting and rocking on the veranda on long summer days, could enjoy the shade and yet have a feeling of being out in nature.  You only have to sit in a wooden rocker and gaze upon the blue ceiling to get that sense you are sitting “outside”

Behr Haint Blue Paint Hues

The haint became so attached to the blue ceilings that they were called Haint Blue Ceilings.  So wide spread was the term, that paint companies actually manufacture the precise hues with the Haint Blue name to this day.

When I bought  my current home after fire destroyed the former one, the seller stood on the veranda and spoke about the blue ceilings and how they were painted that way to make the older folk feel they were under a blue sky.  I smiled.  I think she was surprised when I called it a Haint Blue Ceiling.  I was saddened when I moved in, to discover they had very nicely done some spring cleaning before we went to contract, and painted over my Haint Blue Ceiling and made it white.  It was a hurried job of one coat, so the Haint Blue shimmers through the thin covering of white.

So, the next time you cross a porch, and glance up to see a blue ceiling, you can smile to yourself and know you are staring at a piece of history and the lore behind it—not an odd choice in paint pallets.  

Deborah Macgillivray
Internationally Published Author of the Dragons of Challon series

 and the Sisters of Colford Hall

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Join Jon Paul Ferrara on Instagram and win copies of One Snowy Knight

Jon Paul Ferrara
is relaunching his website for
 Jon Paul Studios
 showcasing gorgeously beautiful cover art.

One of the dreams I had even before I sold was to have
 a Jon Paul cover on one of my books, and the model would be John de Salvo. 
That dream became real when Jon Paul allowed me to use this amazing cover
 for my third book in the series of the Dragons of Challon.  MY DREAM CAME TRUE (with a little  I have liked or loved my covers before, but when I saw
 this image I knew it was PERFECT for 

One Snowy Knight
So, to get the word out about his new Instagram account and his coming website, he is showcasing "our" One Snowy Knight this
Easter Sunday 8pm EST on Instagram.

Call it my DREAMS COME TRUE contest.

Click to ENTER:

Go over to his Instagram  page and follow him
like and comment
And just post "I want a copy" to the thread and from the posters over the next week I will pick three to received the beautiful trade size paperback of my book (and his cover!)

So, give Jon Paul a little following love and you could win a copy!

Jon Paul on Facebook

and on Instagram

Friday, April 19, 2019


Are you the kind of reader who likes to have a detailed description of the hero or heroine in romance books? What about other secondary characters? And do you feel the same way about characters in books of genres other than western historical romance, or romance in general?

To me, there is a big difference in how much character description is needed in romance novels versus other genres, and here’s why.

When we read romance, we put ourselves in the story, empathizing with both the heroine and the hero. Of course, we need enough description to let us be familiar with them both, but this might be a case of “less” being “more.”

In our personal lives, we have preferences in how our romantic “leading men” look, speak, behave, and so on. If our preferences are toward the tall, dark, and handsome hero, it will be hard for us to be vested in a story with a hero who’s short, fair, and ugly. Or one who has habits we personally don’t find attractive.

I knew a woman who didn’t like blond heroes. If he had blond hair on the cover, she’d color it brown or black with a marker. In the book, if “blond” was mentioned, she’d mark through it and write whatever color of hair she’d decided he needed. I asked her about the heroines. “They’re all me,” she answered. “I don’t pay attention to their descriptions.”

It made me wonder how many others felt this way.

Stephen King had mentioned at one time in his book ON WRITING that “description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

And in genres other than romance, character description is different and maybe more important, because the reader doesn’t have any preconceived expectations of the story, such as romance readers do.

When I taught creative writing classes, this description was one I used to illustrate how so much could be packed in to a short amount of words without being an info dump.
This is the beginning of St. Agnes’ Stand, by Thomas Eidson, who also wrote The Missing. Take a look:

He was hurt and riding cautiously. Thoughts not quite grasped made him uneasy, and he listened for an errant sound in the hot wind. His eyes were narrowed—searching for a broken leaf, a freshly turned rock, anything from which he could make some sense of his vague uneasiness. Nothing. The desert seemed right, but wasn’t somehow. He turned in the saddle and looked behind him. A tumbleweed was bouncing in front of the wild assaults from the wind. But the trail was empty. He turned back and sat, listening.

Over six feet and carrying two hundred pounds, Nat Swanson didn’t disturb easy, but this morning he was edgy. His hat brim was pulled low, casting his face in shadow. The intense heat and the wind were playing with the air, making it warp and shimmer over the land. He forced himself to peer through it, knowing he wouldn’t get a second chance if he missed a sheen off sweating skin or the straight line of a gun barrel among branches.

And then this, a couple of paragraphs down:

He had been running for a week, and he was light on sleep and heavy on dust and too ready for trouble. He’d killed a man in a West Texas town he’d forgotten the name of—over a woman whose name he’d never known. He hadn’t wanted the woman or the killing. Nor had he wanted the hole in his thigh. What he did want was to get to California, and that’s where he was headed. Buttoned in his shirt pocket was a deed for a Santa Barbara ranch. Perhaps a younger man would have run longer and harder before turning to fight and maybe die; but Nat Swanson was thirty-five years that summer, old for the trail, and he had run as far as he was going to run.

I absolutely love this. Can you feel that you’re right there with Nat Swanson as he’s riding? There are no wasted words, and this is just such an eloquent, masterful description of not only Nat, but the situation and the physical place he’s in as well as the dilemma he’s faced with.

Another excellent way of describing a character and setting the scene at the same time is from another character’s POV. This passage is from Jack Schaefer’s iconic classic, Shane—from the eyes of Bobby Starrett—when Shane first rides into his life.

This is just the very beginning of the book—there is more physical description of Shane a few paragraphs later, but I chose this passage because it lets us know what’s going on in a few short sentences—and that is real talent.

He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89. I was a kid then, barely topping the backboard of father’s old chuck-wagon. I was on the upper rail of our small corral, soaking in the late afternoon sun, when I saw him far down the road where it swung into the valley from the open plain beyond.

In that clear Wyoming air I could see him plainly, though he was still several miles away. There seemed nothing remarkable about him, just another stray horseman riding up the road toward the cluster of frame buildings that was our town. Then I saw a pair of cowhands, loping past him, stop and stare after him with a curious intentness.

He came steadily on, straight through the town without slackening pace, until he reached the fork a half-mile below our place. One branch turned left across the river ford and on to Luke Fletcher’s big spread. The other bore ahead along the right bank where we homesteaders had pegged our claims in a row up the valley. He hesitated briefly, studying the choice, and moved again steadily on our side.

This is tough, because we’re seeing it through two “lenses”—Bobby is nine years old, and this is what he sees, but it’s filtered by the adult Bobby who’s now telling the story of what happened all those years ago.

In writing the story this way, the reader gets the full impact of experiencing the fears, the situation brings, the joy of having Shane there, and the anguish of his leaving all through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy, with the adult overview that lets us know that Shane was not a hero—but he was to Bobby and those small time settlers who needed one so desperately. Yet, leaving was the only thing he could have done and kept Bobby’s view of him untarnished and intact.

Because we don’t know how the story will end, and we don’t know what to expect, we are learning about Shane’s character right along with Bobby so we are actively looking for details and descriptors the author might give us along the way—it will affect our opinion of Shane and let us know if Bobby is a reliable narrator, and it affects the outcome of the story.

I bring this up because in romance, seldom does the description have such a direct effect on the story itself, unless our main characters have scars, afflictions, or disabilities that might have some direct bearing on the story and its outcome.
So what do you think? Do you like a lot of description and detail about the WHR heroes you read about, or would you rather “fill in the blanks” for yourself?

As far as heroines go, most people I’ve talked to are not as concerned wither physical description (maybe because each person sees herself in the heroine?) but are more concerned with her personality traits—is she likable? Is she determined?

If she is not a fierce match for the hero, the story line is doomed.

And what about our hero? Though he can get away with more “questionable” traits, he has to be endowed with almost superhuman strength to overcome everything that’s thrown his way, and that is description that must be thoroughly detailed—not left to the reader’s interpretation.
(I apologize for the Amazon links being all over the place--I could not get them to "stick" under the book covers.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Getting The Train To The Station by Becky Lower

I love to find analogies in everyday life to use in comparison to my writing—both crafting a story and my career in general. So, as I was sitting in my car, watching a train zip by the other day, it occurred to me that writing a novel is very much like linking the cars of a train togeth
er. The analogy may be a bit out there, but since a lot of you are train lovers, I thought I’d share it with you.

You start with an idea—the engine. Then, you add cars to the engine—bits of backstory, introduction of characters and plot points. The big rail yard where all these cars get hooked together is your outline. Each scene becomes another car on the train. Sometimes, the scenes have a lot of graffiti on them, and need to be cleaned up or scrapped altogether. You may need to unhook them and rehook them together in a different order. If you pay attention to any train, you’ll see that cars of a similar nature are interrupted every so often with one containing hazardous material. Those are the dark moments of your story, and need to be evenly spaced out.

If you find yourself heading down the wrong track, you’ll need to readjust your direction and get your story back on the right rails. Eventually, you’ll wrap the story and your train up by putting a caboose on it with either a bang-up ending or an epilogue. What’s left to do? Oh, yes, make sure it follows the correct path to its end point–a publishing house or becoming an independent publisher, whichever track you decide to take, and that you publicly announce its arrival when it’s finally published.

Then, there’s the analogy of a train to a writing career. Watch a train when it begins to leave the railyard. It starts out very slow, as your first book gets released. You hope you can sell a copy or two to someone other than family and friends. When you get your first review from someone you don’t know, the engine begins to gather speed. As you begin to appear on other author’s blogs, and develop deep friendships with these people, your world starts to whiz by. With the second and third book, your rhythm picks up and you gain more readers, and appear on more blogs, maybe even get some national exposure. With a lot of hard work and persistence, your career takes off, and you’re headed down the track full speed ahead, with all the guard rails down and people are sitting in their cars watching you race along.

In both cases—both with a story and a career—there’s an awful lot of hard work, creativity, attention to detail, and some luck involved in getting the train strung together and eventually, to the station. Fortunately, with all the different tracks springing up in the publishing world, it’s a bit easier to get that train into the depot. The trick is now to have a crowd waiting when you get there.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Leadville, Here We Come!

Near the end of the 19th century Nicholas Schutz, son of German immigrants, along with his cousin, joined the ranks of people seeking their fortunes in the silver mines of Leadville, Colorado. Only one of them made it back home alive....But this is not the story of those men. Because to my regret, as a child I never asked more about this strange anomaly in our family history. But, spoiler alert: it was my great grandfather who had to bring his cousin's body back home, which is why I'm here to tell the tale. (I say "strange anomaly" because other than this guy, that side of my family isn't known for their adventurousness. Subsequent generations dropped anchor and stayed put in the same town.)

My great grandfather Nicholas Schutz (seated) and his cousin

Instead this is a story with two different threads. First up is how writers pick locations and the challenges of depicting a location remotely, both in time and space.

I'm currently working on a story for the Women of Destiny series for Prairie Rose Publications. The  real life Bassett Sisters, Josie and Anne, inspired me as I breathed life to my literary heroine. Since Josie and Anne hailed from Brown's Park, CO, I decided to set my novel in that state. The story opens in Denver, where both main characters, strangers to one another, are preparing to journey to their respective homes west of the city. They have to travel on horseback for a time into the Rockies. I wanted them to spend enough time together on the trail where they got to know each other as they wrestle with a mutual attraction, but I didn't want them wandering around in the mountains the whole novel.

So, that was the first challenge. I studied maps of Colorado to find a reasonable destination not too far from Denver but just far enough. I had to figure such things as mileage and then try and convert hours by car to hours on horseback. (I could've made up a town, but I wanted to make it so much harder on myself). I toyed with several locations but none of them felt right. While I was Googling cities in Colorado like mad, I was watched over by a photograph I keep on my desk. It's an old, faded image of my great grandfather and his cousin taken in a studio to memorize their trip out west. Literally every day I look at this picture. I often wonder about this ill-fated adventure to strike it rich in the Leadville silver boom. Leadville. Of course.

For the first time, I delved into the history of this town my direct ancestor had headed off to. The first things I saw in my internet search are the historic Healy House and the Tabor Opera House on Harrison Ave. I had to take a deep breath. My daughter's first name is Healy. Her middle name is Harrison (both family surnames: her whole name is a string of family last names). Leadville, you got me!

Only, I've never been to Leadville.

Harrison Ave., Leadville, CO, circa 1880 (Wikipedia)
How do I write about a place I've never been to? But if I only wrote about places I know first-hand, all my stories would be set in a suburb of Chicago--even my medieval romances. Lucky for us writers, there is a wealth of information accessible from our laptops. Authenticity in settings is the first thing that's going to send me off wandering down side paths, searching the internet. First I go to the area's website, any travel sites, and articles I can find. I also walk the streets virtually through Google Maps. This gives me a good sense of the geography and layout of the town.

Next I study historic street maps and old images of the town from the time period when my story is set. Doing this is extremely helpful to me. In my current WIP very little of the story actually takes place in Leadville, but it's an important section. I could have kept my characters indoors through this part of the book, but I did want them to take a walk. I had to do my best giving my characters the sights and sounds of Leadville at the turn of the century.

Now that I've gotten to know Leadville a little better, I find it is an amazing place. Quick fact: Leadville, CO is the highest incorporated city in America. It's a large flat plain in the heart of the Rockies, ringed by mountain pikes and natural beauty. Famous past residents include Doc Holliday, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Baby Doe Tabor of Matchless Mine fame.

What I find astonishing about Leadville is how quickly it sprung up. Leadville's story is much like the stories of many of the boom-towns had grew up after the discovery of a precious mineral--in this case silver. These towns rose and fell with the discovery and depletion of precious minerals. They were dynamic and had surprisingly diverse populations.

The 2017 census of Leadville puts its population at under 3,000. Quite a drop in population from its 30,000 residents in the 1880's, which is even more jaw-dropping considering the town was only founded in 1877. By 1880 the town had gas lighting, water mains, 28 miles of streets, 5 churches, 6 banks (!), and a school with just over 1,000 pupils. How in the world was all this accomplished so quickly? Let's look at some of its historic buildings.

The construction of the Tabor Opera House is emblematic of rise of a western boom-town.

Tabor Opera House on Harrison Ave, Leadville, CO (Wikicommons)

In 1879, Horace Austin Warner Tabor (future husband of Baby Doe, but at this point married to his first wife), a successful mining magnate built the opera house. All the materials had to be brought in by wagon from elsewhere--an arduous task. It was one of the most costly structures to be built in its time and completed in a record 100 days.
The Healy House (

The Healy House, built in the Greek Revival style by August Meyers for his bride Emma in 1878. Ten years later the house was bought by Irish immigrant cousins Daniel and Nellie Healy and converted to a boarding house. It was one of the social hubs of the day and a desirable place to reside for the influx of fortune-seekers.

Dexter Cabin

In the shadow of Healy House is Dexter Cabin. By the time mining investor, James V. Dexter, finished his log cabin, he had become a millionaire. They don't call them boom-towns for nothing.

Another historic building of interest is the Temple Israel, pointing to the diversity which could be found in a frontier town. The Jewish population of Leadville blossomed in the first five years to the point a place of worship was needed. In the early 1880's Jews accounted for one percent, or about 300 people, of the city. The temple was dedicated in 1884. 

Temple Israel, Leadville

To be able to put my great grandfather in the context of the Leadville's brief heyday gives his story more dimension than I had before. True, I don't know much of his story, but I can now imagine him in this unique time and place in history. I don't know how his cousin died (or even the poor man's name). I don't know if they were successful while there. I do know Nicholas did strike it rich digging in the dirt later. He made a small fortune digging building foundations in Evanston, Illinois. If you have an older home in Evanston, he's probably the guy who responsible for your basement. I'm delighted to uncover a lost aspect of Nicholas' life and to know I have a connection to a frontier boom-town.

Writers, how do you choose your settings? What resources do you find helpful?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Book Review: Blinded by Grace by Becky Lower



New York City, 1858

Halwyn Fitzpatrick thinks he's off the hook for attendance at the annual Cotillion Ball. He has no sister to shepherd down the grand staircase this year, and no real desire to go through the rituals of courtship and betrothal himself. Besides, he'll know the right girl when he sees her—especially now that he has new spectacles. But his mother has other plans for him. At twenty-seven years of age, her son is in dire need of a wife.

Grace Wagner needs a husband by July in order to inherit the trust her father has left for her. Her stepfather, though, has plans for the money that don't include Grace, and the last thing he wants is for her to find a husband before she turns twenty-one, thereby fulfilling the terms of the trust. She's been in love with Halwyn since she was thirteen, but he hasn't noticed her at any of the balls they've been at over the years.

With the aid of his new glasses, he spies Grace from across the room and they share a dance. Grace decides to present him with a business proposition that will satisfy them both. But can a clueless knight in shining armor and a desperate damsel in distress find a way to turn this marriage of convenience into something more?

My Review:

What happens when the best laid plans to give you what you want, ends up not really being exactly what you want after all? For Grace, that's a hard thing to figure out. Good thing she had some Fitzpatricks at her back to meddle... er... help things along.

I adored Grace, even though at times I so wanted to shake her out of her martyr-like thoughts. She was determined to protect those around her and was willing to risk her heart being trampled on to accomplish it. And her sweetness and humbleness made her all the more charming.

Halwyn proved himself to be a worthy hero for Grace. While he may have been a little slow in realizing how much he was drawn to Grace and why he was drawn to her, his actions proved early on that he was all in for claiming Grace for his own. And when circumstances allowed him to act, he shone brightly - whether in pursuing Grace's heart or rescuing his damsel from her distresses.

This was a fun change-of-pace setting for me, going back in time to Eastern society protocol. It's so easy when reading historical stories to forget about the specifics of "back in Eastern society", where rules of the strictest nature condemn more quickly than forgive, but where heroes (and heroines) can emerge as gallant and strong as anyone else.

I truly enjoyed my time with Grace and Halwyn and look forward to discovering more of the Fitzpatrick siblings' stories.

Purchase Links:


Thursday, April 11, 2019


When Kendi Morgan witnesses an attempted murder near her home one stormy November night, she makes the only choice her heart will allow: she has to help the victim. But bringing the handsome stranger into her home traps her in the middle of a deadly drug war.

Wounded DEA agent Jackson Taylor is a man with nothing to lose and nothing to fear—until he falls for the beautiful woman who risks everything to save his life.

With his cover blown, Jackson knows he’s all that stands between Kendi and Benito Sanchez, a powerful drug cartel lord. Sanchez swears his vengeance, vowing to see Jackson and Kendi both dead.

Love comes fast when there may be only hours left…can it survive? Or will Jackson sacrifice his partner’s life—along with his own—in exchange for Kendi’s safety? Does a future exist for them BEYOND THE FIRE…

I'm relaunching my Fire Star Press story, BEYOND THE FIRE, with a brand new cover, and I want to give away a digital copy of this wonderful story to celebrate!

This is a story that was pretty "gritty" to write and make it realistic, but I think you'll be surprised with some of the twists and turns it takes! In BEYOND THE FIRE, Kendi Morgan has been horribly hurt by her ex-husband, but she never lets go of her dreams. She's my kind of girl! She's been knocked down, but she gets up and keeps on moving forward in life. When a wounded DEA agent, Jackson Taylor, shows up on her property, she's not sure if he's a "good guy" or not, but she takes a chance--a big one!

What's the biggest chance you've ever taken in your life? Be sure to comment to be entered for the drawing for a digital copy of BEYOND THE FIRE!


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Movie trivia – Four movies that share the same plot by Kaye Spencer #hollywood #prairierosepubs #movies

 As a trivia nerd, I was delighted to realize these four movies are crafted around the same premise of villagers hiring warriors to defend their village from returning marauders.

A little more about each movie:

Seven Samurai – 1954

  • Japanese movie nominated for two Oscars
  • Epic samurai drama film that takes place in 1586 during the Sengoku Period of Japanese history.
  • Considered a motion picture masterpiece.
Interestingly enough, Seven Samurai has achieved a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 100%. For the curious amoung us, and for what it’s worth, here is a link to a list of movies with the Rotten Tomatoes 100% approval rating: Rotten Tomatoes Ratings


The Magnificent Seven – 1960 version - traditional western

In 2013, this movie was selected for the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.**


¡Three Amigos! – 1986 – western comedy set in 1916

Steve Martin was a co-screenwriter. Originally, he, Dan Aykroyd, and John Belushi were the Three Amigos and Steven Spielberg was going to direct, but he wanted Steve Martin, Bill Murry, and Robin Williams. Also, Rick Moranis would have played Ned had Martin Short been unavailable.***

Contemplate this movie with Robin Williams and Bill Murray in it. Over-the-top comes to my mind.


A Bug’s Life – 1998 – computer-animated comedy (Pixar Animation Studios)

While the film was purportedly inspired by the Aesop fable 'The Ant and the Grasshopper', the underlying plot is the same as Seven Samurai.****


 ...and now you know. ;-)

 Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

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