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Thursday, June 27, 2019

New Release -- Beneath a Fugitive Moon (Prairie Moon Trilogy Book 2) by Elizabeth Clements

Beautiful Jolene Reynolds is on a quest. Is there a man in this world who will love her, kiss her, and treasure her like her father does her mother? It seems that every bachelor in the territory is interested in her—and though the clock is ticking, she has to wonder…is it truly a pursuit of the heart, or is it because of what she’ll inherit? When handsome Mike Sutton rides back into her life her search is over—at least, in her own heart. Mike intrigues her with his laughing eyes and quick wit…but surely, if he felt the same interest, wouldn’t he try to steal one kiss? So…why hasn’t he?

Deputy U.S. Marshal Mike Sutton has been besotted with Jolene for two solid years—and now, he’s got her all to himself. But his honor won’t let him make the most of the perfect situation. He’s promised his best friend, Chase, that he’ll safeguard Jolene until her father’s return from his art show back East—and he’s not about to let Chase down. Though he’s faced deadly outlaws without flinching, he’s on shaky ground emotionally when he holds Jolene in his arms. Young, beautiful, and educated—she’s too good for him. One kiss could be his undoing.

Trouble that has been simmering comes to a dangerous boil, forcing Mike and Jolene to become fugitives—and depend only on one another. Can they finally be honest with their feelings and find love BENEATH A FUGITIVE MOON…

Saddle up! Author Elizabeth Clements is blessed with a true Western voice, which lassoes the reader and takes them on an emotional ride. —Deborah Macgillivray, author of the Dragons of Challon series


Cypress Hills
District of Assiniboine, Canada, 1899

     Two shots shattered the heated stillness of the June evening.
     Deputy U.S. Marshal Mike Sutton reined in his stallion and looked around him. Nothing moved in the sweltering heat, not even a blade of green prairie grass.
     More shots punctured the air, muffled by the hills. Mike nudged Blue into a gallop up the sloping coulee. When he reached the top, the gold-streaked sunset sky silhouetted two riders charging after a buggy pulled by a pair of black horses running at full gallop. Something pink billowed out from the sides of the buggy.
     Mike’s heart lurched. A woman held the reins.
     “Stop shooting!” he yelled. “You’re spooking the—what the hell?” She’s urging the horses faster, not hauling on the reins. Outlaws!


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Palace in the Middle of the USA

Since the Revolutionary War was fought to free the colonies from the rule of a Monarch, it is surprising that the U.S.A. has so many palaces. Of course, the Governor’s Palaces in Williamsburg, Virginia, and New Bern, North Carolina, are left over from the British reign. The palaces in Hawaii are vestiges of the days the Hawaiian royal family ruled the islands. And Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico was originally constructed in the early 17th century as Spain's seat of government for what is today the American Southwest.

One of the most unique American palaces is located in Mitchell, South Dakota.

In 1892, the “World’s Only Corn Palace” was established on the city’s Main Street as a gathering place for locals and visitors at the annual fall festival celebrating the end of the growing season and the harvest.

The venue hosted stage entertainment, and became so popular that a new Palace was built in 1905. When this new building was outgrown, it was replaced by a third Palace, which was completed in 1921. This is the Palace that stands today. Later, in the 1930’s the exterior was restored to the original Moorish style, with minarets and kiosks.

Mitchell still hosts the annual fall festival, but it also serves as a venue for basketball tournaments, local high school events and commercial shows and exhibits.

This unique structure, decorated with naturally-colored corns, other grains, and native grasses, draws half a million tourists each year.

The murals on the exterior are changed each year. The ears of corn are sliced in half lengthwise and then nailed into place by hand in the pre-drawn designs. Approximately 325,00 ears of corn are used, with each ear having 4-5 nails to hold it in place.

The theme for this year is “Salute to the Military.” In addition to the murals on the front of the building, a series of huge panels graces the side wall.

 The detail in the designs is mind-boggling, given the number and variety of colors in the ears of corn that are required. Here are a couple of examples.

Inside the Palace there is an entry and lobby with displays and exhibits. On the second floor is a gallery displaying the works of Oscar Howe, the artist who was the longest-running mural designer.

It is often said that “place” can become a character in a novel, as important as the protagonist(s). The “World’s Only Corn Palace” is certainly a fascinating place with a great deal of character. If you’re in the area, it’s a unique and interesting destination.

Please comment with a fascinating place you have visited or somewhere that pleasantly surprised you.

Ann Markim

    Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle 

Source material: Handouts from the Corn Palace and tourist guides to Mitchell, South Dakota.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Medieval Summer - A Picture blog by Lindsay Townsend

My latest historical romance, "Unicorn Summer" - a novella that is part of One Midsummer's Knight - takes place in summer, a tense summer just after the lord of the land has fallen ill and people are trying to remain normal.

In more usual years, summer for people in the Middle Ages was both very busy and a time of relaxation and pleasure. After the hard graft of winter and spring, May was a holiday month in early summer, with few tasks in the agricultural calendar. May Day, a blend of Christian and older pagan traditions, was celebrated by everyone, with dancing, revels and drink.

May was the time when people would go wandering in the fields and woodlands, to enjoy the fresh greenery and woodland flowers. It was also blossom time, when the fruit trees and hedgerows burst into bloom, wild cherries and wild apples following each other in glorious profusion.

Later summer was a harder task-master: if a peasant worked on the land, later summer was when the sheep were sheared, then the hay and wheat harvests were gathered in. Summer, too, was often the prime time for military activity, when knights might be called to fight for their overlord or king on campaign. However, even in these months there was merry-making.

Midsummer was marked by bonfires, a pagan ‘left-over’ from the earlier festival of Beltane and celebrated in the Middle Ages as the saint’s day of St John. Young couples would sometimes leap over the midsummer bonfire for luck. Wells could also be dressed with flowers around this time – a relic of earlier water-spirit worship, and still carried on today.

July was marked by St Swithin’s day, when the strewings in the churches would be changed from the winter rushes and straw to the summer hay and sedges, and August saw the feast time of Lammas – loaf mass – to give thanks for the hard-won harvest.

[Photo of oxeye daisies and cornflowers by Colin Smith, photo of well-dressing by Bob Embleton, both of The fifteenth-century stained glass harvesting scene is from the Victoria and Albert Museum. All three sourced from Wikimedia Commons.]

Lindsay Townsend 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Historic or Contemporary? Why Not Both?

Depending on who you talk to, I’m either a writer of historic romances, or an author of sexy contemporaries. No, I don’t have a Jekyll/Hyde personality, but sometimes I do feel like I’m using both sides of my brain when I write. I liken it to the Olympics, where the same person competes in various disciplines of the same sport—say downhill skiing, where the object is to go fast and slalom skiing, which calls for precision and accuracy. The basics are the same, but it’s the tricks of each that make them unique and special.

Historical romances for me are like slalom skiing—orderly and analytical. I need to get my facts straight before I begin writing. The Cotillion Ball series takes place in America in the late 1850s and 1860s. Those years were tumultuous times in the country, as the threat of civil war loomed on the horizon. But it wasn’t just the war that happened during that time. Western expansion caused many Americans to move from one coast to the other, gold was discovered in California, railroads and telegraph lines carved pathways across the face of America. What this translates to is plenty to write about, but I’d better make certain my facts are in order. If I have a wagon train going west, it better leave from one of the towns where the trains began, and it better happen in the correct time period.

Fashion is another factor. Do my heroines wear hoop skirts or were they passé? Did women walk by themselves during the day in downtown New York, or did they need an escort at all times? Are the words I’m using too modern? It’s a constant game of checking and double-checking facts. I love to write and read historic romances, but they are difficult, tedious and time consuming to achieve.

By contrast, contemporary romances are just the opposite. They’re the downhill skiing in my eyes. Quick and sometimes verging on out of control. Yes, I still need to fact-check, especially if I’m placing the book in a part of the country I’m not familiar with, or if I’ve got things in the book that I know nothing about—bull riders, motorcycles, lobstermen, tornadoes, jewelry makers, to name a few. But I don’t need to obsess over whether the word was in use in the 19thcentury, and I can use words that I know didn’t see the light of day until the year 2000 or beyond. It’s liberating to me to be able to write a contemporary, and I can find all kinds of fun things to write about. 

I like to change things up after I write a historical and compose a sexy contemporary. But as I write each genre, I’m thinking of the next one, and what I’ll write. So by the time I finish a contemporary, I’m ready to slide back into my world in the 1850s, and can tackle the new story with fresh ideas. Regardless of what the sub-genre is, the basics are still the same. There must be a compelling love story, and the writing has to sparkle. Without those two elements, no one will care what type of writing you do. It’s kind of like skiing. You can sign up for whatever kind of specific discipline you want, but you’d better first know how to ski. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Digging to China: Unearthing a Frontier Chinatown

by Patti Sherry-Crews

Go to any Chinatown found in cities around the world, and you get the feeling of you've been transported to the Orient without even leaving the country. I'm sure many of us have enjoyed dining and shopping in these neighborhoods with their distinctive looking, colorful buildings. But less familiar to us would be the vanished Gold Rush Chinatowns that cropped up alongside mining camps.

These places aren't as well documented as the boom-towns they grew up within, but in recent times there's been interest in these communities within a community. An archaeological dig in Deadwood, South Dakota revealed some clues of the life of the Chinese immigrants in the 19th century in this section of town, known then as Hoptown.

The Boom Town of Deadwood, S.D., 1876 (wiki-commons)

What induces a person to travel so far to a land half a world away where everything from the language to the culture would be an unknown? In this case gold was the enticement. When word of the discovery of gold reached China, it set off a steady stream of migration. Chinese, mainly from the Guangdong Province, an area hit by the Opium Wars with Britain, revolution, famine, and crop failure, headed to America--note these immigrants would primarily be men venturing out alone, leaving their families behind.

Unfortunately, making a fortune in the gold mines didn't always go as planned. Coming into competition with white miners, the Chinese soon found themselves given limited mining rights or restricted to mines that were thought to be depleted. In the face of that, the immigrants found employment building the railroad. But once the rail-line was complete, they had to find new occupations.

They sought out ways that didn't compete with or threaten their white neighbors. Seeing opportunity in the mining camps, where there were few women in proportion to men, the Chinese set up businesses that catered to the miners: laundries, restaurants, housework, and restaurants for examples (water from washing miners clothes were screened for gold dust).

In the 1870's, gold was found in the Black Hills and the town of Deadwood was born. If you've ever been to Deadwood, you know it's built in a narrow gulch nestled in the mountains with little room to expand beyond its central streets. It's a crowded, bustling town, which I imagine was much the same back in its early days. It was at the south end of Main Street that the Chinese settled. We don't know how large the Chinese population was but it seemed to have ranged from over 200 to up to 500 residents.

If you're a fan of the series Deadwood (and I am), you may be familiar with Chinatown pigpens being a convenient place to dispose of bodies. Fiction. That never happened, so let's start with putting that notion to rest. Likewise, don't imagine the Chinatowns you may be familiar with the characteristic oriental features. Deadwood Chinatown seemed to have looked like the rest of the town. Nothing of it remains today. Buildings and people are all gone.

In 2001 a team of archaeologists from the South Dakota State Archaeological Research Center began a four year project. Using old fire insurance maps, they were able to locate the area that was once Chinatown.

Imported Porcelain and Pottery found during excavation (City of Deadwood)

A spot where a boarding house had burned down hid a treasure trove of artifacts, because the building collapsed on the contents of the house. Among the things found were gaming pieces, pottery, tableware, everyday personal hygiene aids, hair ornaments, Chinese coins, opium paraphernalia, and more.

As unpleasant as it might seem, another place archaeologists get excited digging around in are the privies. Much of the trash of the day would be thrown into them. In addition to man-made objects, animal bones and botanical refuse, such as seeds, give clues to the diet of the people who lived there. Keeping in mind they didn't have a garbage collection like we do, the privy was a popular place to dispose of garbage like bottles or objects that had lost their usefulness.

In all, after excavation over 600 boxes of artifacts were recovered and stored.

The picture painted by the findings is one of a community that exported their lifestyle almost whole from China. From the pottery to the medicine bottles to opium, all were brought to America. There was a remarkable oriental-flavored homogeneity to the items unearthed. Even the animal bones tell us the Chinese preferred pork over the beef favored by their neighbors.

Though the Chinese did coexist with the white community while holding onto their ways, cultural exchanges could not be avoided. In the artifacts found, mahjong tiles lay alongside gaming dice. American beer bottles mingled with bottles that once held traditional Chinese medicine.

What did the Chinese bring to their non-Chinese neighbors? Of the eleven restaurants in Deadwood, seven of them were Chinese establishments, who not only served frontier fare but also introduced Asian food. Immigrant Fee lee Wong opened the Wing Tsue Emporium, a large store selling imported silk, medicines, porcelain, and other goods to Chinese and non-Chinese alike. Not to be bragged about, but we can't ignore one thing the Chinese brought to Deadwood: opium. The Chinese got the westerners hooked on opium just as the British had gotten the Chinese hooked on the drug. In the early days, opium dens were legal and were treated like saloons, in that to open one all you had to do was apply for a license. Later opium would be outlawed.

Wing Tsue Emporium (image: Adams Museum, Deadwood, S.D.)

Though living cheek to jowl with the other residents of Deadwood, the Chinese maintained their own community. For obvious reasons, they weren't going to blend in the way an European immigrant could, and often being targets for discrimination and even violence, banding together was a means for security and support. Chinatown even had their own fire and police brigades. All that said, the relationship between the Chinese and general population of Deadwood seems to have been relatively harmonious when compared to some of the other settlements of the day. The residents of Deadwood enjoyed Chinese parades and holiday celebrations which might include fireworks.

"The Champion Chinese Hose Team, who won the great Hub-and-Hub race at Deadwood," 1880 (Wiki-commons)

As important and vital as the Chinese community was in the late 19th and early 20th century, it no longer exists. What happened and where did they go?

Remember, this was a wave of migration that typically didn't include women and families. Of course there was a small group of females and children in Deadwood's Chinatown as represented by women's hair ornaments and such and children's toys found in the dig, but the population was heavily weighted on the male side. The typical Chinese male immigrant was sending money back to his family in China. He may have even been under contract, and when he'd fulfilled his obligation, he left America.

To give the Chinese even less incentive to settle, the Exclusion Act in 1882, halted the flow of immigration from China, denying citizenship to even those born here. Men could not send for their families or brides. So when the gold dried up, there was little reason to stay in Deadwood. Just as the town was limited in growth by its geography, Chinese growth was limited by the society of the time. The Chinese moved on to larger communities like you'd find in San Francisco, or they went back to the East.

But while they were there, the Chinese immigrants played an important part in society.

Reconstructed Altar and Burner, Mount Moriah Cemetery (Wiki-Commons)

In the Mount Moriah Cemetery situated on a beautiful pine tree dotted hill you can see the final resting places of such iconic figures like Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. You can also visit the Chinese altar and ceremonial burner. In 1908, the leaders of the Chinese community were given permission to build the altar and burner to honor their dead in their own way. In later years, decades after the last of the Chinese left, the altar and burner fell into disrepair.

Then in the early part of the 21st century, long after all other traces of the Chinese presence were gone, the city of Deadwood reconstructed the altar and burner, using bricks saved from the demolished Wing Tsue Emporium, to construct it.

To me this unimposing structure tells the tale of the Chinese in Deadwood, South Dakota: their emergence, acceptance, decline, and finally getting a place of honor in the frontier town they helped create.

In the words of Fee Lee Wong's great granddaughter, Edith Wong, who came from California for the dedication of the new altar and burner.

"The addition of this restored burner, just as the integration of the Chinese in a largely white pioneer community, signals acceptance of a different culture and a different way of life," Wong said. "What tangible evidence of the Chinese still exists in Deadwood? Really, not very much. Instead of solely an interpretive sign, this burner will be a physical reminder that the Chinese culture and traditions were definitely an integral part of Deadwood's history."

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Comanchero's Bride by Kaye Spencer – June #blogabookscene #PrairieRosePubs

The #blogabookscene theme for June is On the road again.  The traveling excerpt below is from my western romance novel, The Comanchero's Bride. Mingo and Isabel are on the run from a powerful man hellbent on killing Mingo so he can marry Isabel.


Isabel lost track of the days. Hour after weary hour, creaking saddle leather, plodding steps of horses’ hooves, and the wind worrying the grass were the only sounds. Sometimes, she couldn’t remember what it was like to be warm. Other times, she shed her heavy garments. Horseback riding for pleasure had been one of her favorite pastimes, but with a sidesaddle and only on short jaunts, not for grueling miles at a stretch in a saddle that she had to straddle in an unladylike fashion. Still, tiresome though it was, crossing the prairie on horseback was like attending a traveling school. Each hour, each day brought something new, and she soaked it up with the exuberance of a child who has just learned to read and then realizes an entire world of unimagined adventure awaits her discovery.

Mingo showed her how to keep her directions straight in the dark by using the North Star as a fixed point and to tell time at night by the position of the constellations. Watching The Hunter’s trek across the sky helped her endure many long, cold hours, and when it hung low in the western sky, she knew sunrise was near and that usually meant food and rest in the warmth of Mingo’s arms as they snuggled under the blankets in some secluded hideaway. She learned how to go without hot meals and baths, but most useful of all, she learned how to sleep in the saddle as miles of dark, monotonous prairie sameness lulled her into a stupor.

She loved listening to the stories Mingo told of his life, which helped to pass the time. Then other times, he often didn’t speak for hours, needing silence in order to hear the night noises—coyotes yipping, owls hooting, the breeze humming through the greasewood and scrub trees, and an occasional cow lowing or dog barking in the distance. He said these things talked to him, explaining to him what stirred out in the dark places where he couldn’t see.

Always, though, he focused on the land, constantly surveying it from near-to-far and back, both ahead and behind, and Isabel soon fell into the same observations. He made decisions with the seasoned confidence of a man who knew how to make their passing virtually invisible.

He was a mercurial spirit, constant, yet ever changing with uncanny intuition, which prompted him to leave an obvious path for a trail only he could see. They left tracks. He covered their tracks. They doubled back, and they circled around. He purposely chose rough terrain to discourage followers and to make their passing difficult to trace. 
Sometimes they rode by daylight and rested by night. He plotted their way from water source to water source then, for no reason she could discern, he would pass up watering holes when they needed to refill their canteens. When she asked, he could only shrug and say he listened to his instincts. Even though he thought out every move with deliberate care, the moment she was comfortable with their routine, he changed it. She observed his every movement, questioned him to find out his thoughts in order to learn everything she could.

She prayed nothing would separate them again, but always in the back of her mind, the possibility lurked. And she knew it was those same fears, although he never said so, that pushed him to teach her how to live and survive without him. He told of landmarks to watch for in order to keep her bearings straight for the Rio Grande. She memorized the names of allies along the way and where they lived. He assured her as long as she kept her path southerly, someone in his family would eventually locate her.
The Comanchero's Bride is also included in the boxed set Under a Western Sky.
The Comanchero's Bride is available as a single novel HERE.
It is also included in the boxed set, Under a Western Sky, which is available HERE.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer


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