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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Book review - In All Innocence by C.A. Asbrey


Nat and Abigail have decided that Canada is their best bet for a clean start with their new baby. It’s the place where American and Scottish accents go relatively unnoticed, and newcomers can get lost in a crowd. The problem is that Canada doesn’t have a transcontinental train, so they have to sneak back into the USA to get to the West coast.

They catch a night train heading over the mountains, and are delighted to find it’s one of the new Palace cars, designed to allow people to sleep, and get the remote areas behind weary travelers. The train is packed full of English butlers heading west to join a new employment agency. They hope to make a fortune providing the New World nouveau riche with the Old World class, which they are desperate to buy for their children.

When the train is stuck in a rock fall, they find that a woman has been attacked in the night, and her moonstone stolen. Our heroes decide it’s best to solve the mystery rather than face too many questions.

They unravel a mystery which has evil tentacles reaching across oceans. Will they be caught up in them too?

My review:

Buckle up and brace, because CA Asbrey’s IN ALL INNOCENCE is going to take you on a train ride turned rollercoaster and leave you gobsmacked.

The Quinn family is looking to settle down someplace and leave their past in the past, but of course, somehow manage to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a murderer becomes cornered on the train with them.  Knowing they need to stay under the radar, the whole family - Abi, Nat, and Jake - focuses on identifying the murderer and protecting their fellow passengers - and themselves - before the law shows up and starts digging around, potentially ending their fresh start.   When the dust settles, they take off again to take possession of their new future, Jake veering off path from the others attempt to reclaim a piece of his past that continues to haunt his every waking and sleeping moment.

With altering points of view, I experienced the adventures Nat and Abi encountered and dove further into Jake’s heart-wrenching past. Moments of light-hearted intrigue are mixed with agonizing revelations, which propelled me through the story at an incredible pace and left me aching for more.

As with the three previous books, Nat, Abi, and Jake continue to capture my attention, drawing me into their story as if I were there experiencing the journey with them.  What did seem different in this story was a more intimate view into their personal lives - almost a tangible connection to the characters.  I have a feeling as their stories continue to unfold, that intimacy will continue to deepen.  I love seeing the bond they have with one another and the protective instincts displayed.

CA Asbrey proves herself to be a masterful storyteller with how she layers and weaves a mystery and throws out just enough hints to keep her readers guessing and off track.  She also knows how to deliver some hilarious moments in the midst of intensity, providing both a welcome relief and a pausing distraction.  My ebook is highlighted all over the place with eye popping and hair raising moments of “wait…. did that just happen?” and laugh-out-loud undercover humor.

If you love mystery and adventure, a generous helping of mirth, a charming bit of romance, and a continuing family saga, The Innocents series is one to open the covers and fall into, with In All Innocence being an amazing piece of the tale.  Just be prepared, because this part of Nat, Abi, and Jake’s journey isn’t going to end how one might expect - there’s more of their story to be told... and that might just leave you speechless.

Links to first three book reviews in THE INNOCENTS series:

book 1 - The Innocents
book 2 - Innocent as Sin
book 3 - Innocent Bystander

Purchase links:

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Rodeo Songs by Kaye Spencer – Part 2 of 4 – Countdown of Kaye’s 7 Favorite Rodeo Songs #rodeo #rodeosongs #prairierosepubs

This is Part 2 of my four-part series about my favorite rodeo songs, which came about because July 4, 2019 was the 150th anniversary of the Deer Trail Rodeo in Deer Trail, Colorado. It was a rodeo from my younger days that I didn't miss.

You can read about my teenage rodeo years in Part 1 HERE.

Also in Part 1, I promised to post pictures of me as the Brush Rodeo Queen c. 1970 before this series is finished. I haven’t located those pictures yet. I will, though. I promise. Hopefully, I’ll have them for Part 3 in November.

Now, on to my favorite rodeo songs…

To remind us, coming in at Number 7 was Bad Brahma Bull sung by Chris LeDoux and Number 6 was Marty Robbins’ Strawberry Roan. The link above to the Part 1 blog has the videos of these songs.

Counting down, my Numbers 5 and 4 share the same theme:

Rodeo cowboy falls for a woman who breaks his heart and his spirit.

Number 5 is Bandy, the Rodeo Clown by Moe Bandy. It was released in 1975. Moe followed the rodeo circuit as a bull rider in his youth, but he turned to a career as a country music artist when the rodeo-related injuries weren’t worth the ride anymore.

Number 4 is another Marty Robbins song called All Around Cowboy (1979). Marty wrote this song, which isn’t surprising, since he wrote many of his songs.

Next month, Part 3 of my favorite rodeo songs will have Numbers 2 and 3. Any guesses?

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

Stay in contact with Kaye here:

Images Courtesy:
Bull and rodeo clown: - license purchased for use
Rodeo Queen: Creative Commons license "At a small town rodeo (22)" by 4nitsirk

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

October Spooky Reads: The Crow Series by Kristy McCaffrey

By Kristy McCaffrey

If you're in the mood for a spooky western romance this Halloween month then you might enjoy my Crow series, a collection of short novellas.

The Crow and the Coyote
Among the red-rock canyons of the Navajo, bounty hunter Jack Boggs aids Hannah Dobbin in a quest to save her pa's soul.

“With just the right amount of mystic and adventure, this novella packs a punch, delivering a charming love story.” ~ Michelle Reed, Sunshine Lake Reviews

The Crow and the Bear

When no one will help Jennie Livingstone enter a haunted ravine to find her papa, she must accept the help of enigmatic bounty hunter Callum Boggs.

“With some surprising twists and lots of unnerving second guesses, The Crow and the Bear is sure to do the trick for a short, easy, sweet and fun Halloween story!” ~ Michelle Reed, Sunshine Lake Reviews

A Murder of Crows

Eliza McCulloch is determined to reclaim her family book of spells and her only hope is Kester Boggs, a manhunter called The Crow.

“A suspenseful ride into the supernatural with a western twist. This is a must read!”  ~  Devon McKay, author of Lead Me Into Temptation, Gold Dust Bride Series

An excerpt from A Murder of Crows

Kit Boggs downed the last of his rye whiskey and settled into the wooden chair, the supports creaking loudly. He fully expected the contraption to give out at any time. He usually kept his liquor intake to a minimum when on a hunt, but the firewater was so watered down that he indulged his thirst.

From his vantage point outside the Wild Dog Cantina, the midday bustle of La Noria buzzed like a bee’s nest. The border town—straddling Mexico and the Arizona Territory—was occupied by mostly local white and Hispanic farmers, but the streets were also swarming with the hungry and savage looks of men who had arrived in search of work in the nearby Patagonia Mountains. With their eyes clouded with dreams of riches, these desperados were no doubt intent on striking it big with copper or silver. But that wasn’t what had brought Kit so far south, farther than the usual region he and his manhunting brothers patrolled.

As he watched the main street, his gaze was drawn to a woman riding a lathered red Indian pony. Both exhibited a stubborn bearing. The woman stopped before the mercantile and slid from the horse, tying the reins to the hitching post, her clothing covered in dust and the hem of her skirt frayed. Pausing, she removed her hat and wiped sweat from her forehead. She gripped the wooden support and appeared to take a fortifying breath, then leaned her head back to read the overhead sign. Her dark hair spilled down her back, loosened from the pins of the bun at the base of her neck, and Kit’s eyes were drawn to the outline of her feminine curves.

“Kester Boggs?”

Reluctantly, Boggs turned to the scrawny Mexican beside him. “Nobody uses that.” He planted all four legs of the chair to the ground. “Call me Kit.”

“Like a kitten?” The gaunt man was also missing a few teeth.

“No.” Kit’s voice was resolute. “Do you have news for me?”

Sí. They will see you tomorrow in an abandoned smithy at the far end of town.”

“What time?”

“Ten o’clock.”

“Gracias.” Kit tossed a coin at the man, then turned back to the woman. She was gone.


He searched up and down the street for her horse, but both animal and female were nowhere in sight.

Had he imagined her?

Connect with Kristy

Sunday, October 6, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author
Sitting and staring at the blank page, I wondered what I would write about for this month. The weather is turning cooler, the leaves are changing, and I'm thinking about what I will do as the days get shorter and the nights get longer. I definitely have a lot of reading that I want to do along with the novel I wish to finish and the ever-dreaded housecleaning.

Because of work this summer, I've been unable to do the kind of research that I would love to do. At the same time looking around my office I also see a lot of resources for some interesting information. On that note, let's see what some of these books have to say.

From "The Book of Colorado Springs" by Manley Dayton Ormes and Elleanor Reddie Ormes is an interesting segment on the Keeley Institute. It seems one Dr. Leslie E Keeley of Dwight Illinois had discovered what he believed to be a cure for alcoholism. That cure 'bichloride of gold'. It seems some people from their Nebraska had bought the rights to the secure for several Western states one of which was Colorado area. The idea was to sell $15,000 worth of stock they secured rooms in the first national Bank building and began receiving patients in early 1892. They even hosted a state convention in February 1894 and a national convention in September 1894. During the two years they were in Colorado Springs approximately one thousand people received treatment. The Colorado Springs Institute combined with the Denver Institute in October 1894, because of "... hard times, and the fact that Maj. Henry Elmer Ensley's father, in charge of the Denver branch needed him".

Mine entrance, Victor, CO.,
Photo property of the author
In "Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps" by Sandra Dallas, we find the brief story of the town of Hesperus. It was located in La Plata County about 11 miles west of Durango. Its post office was established on October 10 of 1891. The town of Hesperus itself was founded in 1894 as a coal town to supply energy for Durango and other towns in the area. In fact, some of the first coal mines in that area were opened in the 1880s by John Porter. He was a mining investor who lived on Colorado's western slope. His Porter Fuel company employed about 175 men and was producing 150,000 tons of coal per year.

In the June 1970 issue of American Heritage magazine, there is an article titled 'A Ride for Life in a Buffalo Herd' by Othniel C. Marsh. Here is a small excerpt, "To my amazement, I saw that the main heard, alarmed by the shots … had started and was moving rapidly southward. I also saw what I had not before surmised; that in my eagerness, I had pushed well into the herd without noticing it, and as the great mass of animals in the rear started, they began to lap around me, and I would soon be enclosed in the rapidly moving throng, liable let any moment to be trampled to death if my pony should fail me."

Also nearby is "The Doctor's Bag, Medicine & Surgery of Yesteryear", by Dr. Keith Souter, a copied list of the early settlers in what is now Old Colorado City, the autobiography of HG Wells, and various other magazines and research information for the numerous topics that I find myself fascinated by. I even have a book of current poetry, seven of the "Covered Wagon Women, diaries and letters" series and "Lynching in Colorado, 1859 to 1919" by Stephen J Leonard.

Mustache cups and curling iron, Photo property of the author
Perhaps some of what I shared will be a spark for your own creativity. I know I will reread many of these articles and books as I tell the stories percolating in my mind that are both fiction and nonfiction. The Colorado women doctors before 1900 is the nonfiction book that I am determined to finish. Those women need to have their stories told. At the same time, I have many other fictional stories that are begging to be put down on paper. Guess I know what I'm doing this winter. Have a wonderful October, keep those fingers moving and minds active.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

Thursday, October 3, 2019

New Release — In All Innocence (The Innocents Mystery Series Book 4) by C. A. Asbrey

Nat and Abigail have decided that Canada is their best bet for a clean start with their new baby. It’s the place where American and Scottish accents go relatively unnoticed, and newcomers can get lost in a crowd. The problem is that Canada doesn’t have a transcontinental train, so they have to sneak back into the USA to get to the West coast.

They catch a night train heading over the mountains, and are delighted to find it’s one of the new Palace cars, designed to allow people to sleep, and get the remote areas behind weary travelers. The train is packed full of English butlers heading west to join a new employment agency. They hope to make a fortune providing the New World nouveau riche with the Old World class, which they are desperate to buy for their children.

When the train is stuck in a rock fall, they find that a woman has been attacked in the night, and her moonstone stolen. Our heroes decide it’s best to solve the mystery rather than face too many questions.

They unravel a mystery which has evil tentacles reaching across oceans. Will they be caught up in them too?


 “Ma’am, this is Halifax Port. Not a nursery. Why didn’t you feed it before you disembarked?”
     “It?” Abigail’s eyes sparked in indignation. “He. His name is Timothy—and no. He wouldn’t eat earlier. Babies don’t work to a schedule.” She lowered her voice and muttered under her breath as she scanned along the long line behind them. “Much like yourself.”
     The man in the peaked cap rolled his eyes and turned to her husband. “Papers.”
     Nat Quinn handed over a sheath of documents. His normally tawny-brown hair had been dyed as black as a raven’s wing by some concoction Abigail had mixed up from sesquichloride of iron and acetic acid. It suited his brown eyes, making him look roguishly Latin with his neatly trimmed black beard. The same mixture had been applied to Jake’s hair, but when put on dry hair it only resulted in the dishwater blond becoming a boring, dull brown. Oiled flat around a center parting, the gunman looked almost pedestrian.

Special sale on the Kindle ebook, only $3.99 if purchased today, October 3rd, 2019.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Get Your Bumps Felt

Get Your Bumps Felt

C.A. Asbrey

In the 19th century 'getting your bumps felt' was a phrase everyone understood. It meant sitting still while an expert in phrenology examines your skull to determine your character, weaknesses, strengths, and even your sexual proclivities. An activity which is now dismissed as pseudoscience was once taken so seriously that people would actually use it to break engagements, fire employees, and plan their lives. It was so popular that even the royal family were doing it. It was used to re-educate the weak-minded, and even to rehabilitate criminals. 

The roots of phrenology go right back into the mists of time. Hippocrates and his followers posited that the brain was the seat of soul, in a shift from the thinking which came before. Prior to this time the heart was believed to be the seat of the soul.  The Greek physician Galen supported this view and a step change in the way people saw the brain changed forever.

Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801) in his Physiognomische Fragmente, published between 1775 and 1778, he put forward the idea that the mind and emotions  were connected with an individual's external frame. "Of the forehead, When the forehead is perfectly perpendicular, from the hair to the eyebrows, it denotes an utter deficiency of understanding."
Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828) 

In 1796 the German physician Franz Joseph Gall began lecturing on the isolation of mental faculties and later cranioscopy which involved reading the skull's shape as it pertained to the individual. It was Gall's collaborator Johann Gaspar Spurzheim who would popularize the term "phrenology".

In 1801 Gall published his principal work which took ten years to write; The Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System in General, and of the Brain in Particular, with Observations upon the possibility of ascertaining the several Intellectual and Moral Dispositions of Man and Animal, by the configuration of their Heads. In the introduction to this main work, Gall makes the following statement in regard to his doctrinal principles, which comprise the intellectual basis of phrenology. "The Brain is the organ of the mind
The brain is not a homogenous unity, but an aggregate of mental organs with specific functions
The cerebral organs are topographically localized
Other things being equal, the relative size of any particular mental organ is indicative of the power or strength of that organ
Since the skull ossifies over the brain during infant development, external craniological means could be used to diagnose the internal states of the mental characters
Through careful observation and extensive experimentation, Gall believed he had established a relationship between aspects of character, called faculties, with precise organs in the brain."       

However, it was Johann Spurzheim, Gall's anatomist who disseminated phrenology throughout the United Kingdom during his lecture tours through and the United States in 1832.

It's easy to forget how forward-thinking the average Victorian was in comparison to earlier generations. The average age in London in the 1830s was only 32 - younger than today's average of 37. It was a youthful population, looking forward to a new future with optimism and vigor, and shedding, what they saw, as the superstitions of the past. Unfortunately they were often replacing them with new ones, but it was seen as a measure of learning and sophistication to embrace the new, so people at all levels of society embraced the new 'science' with enthusiasm. 

Phrenology parties were very popular, and people would enjoy evenings where they hoped to gain insight into themselves, and their friends. More than one budding romance was ruined by a poor diagnosis or by the declarations of failures of character. Phrenology sessions were often coupled with another Victorian craze mesmerism. The benefit of combining mesmerism and phrenology was that the trance the patient was placed in was supposed to allow for the manipulation of the subject's penchants and qualities. For example, if the organ of self-esteem was touched, the subject would take on a haughty expression.
Dumoutier’s “Cephalometre,” a machine the phrenologist created to study the exact contours of the skull via Dumont d’Urville’s Phrenologist: Dumoutier and the Aesthetics of Races

People genuinely believed that phrenology could make the world a better place and societies sprung up throughout the world. Published in 1841, Coombe’s Popular Phrenology explained: “One of the first requisites in a good wife is to ascertain that she has a good head.” Two phrenological organs were important: ‘Philoprogenitiveness’, which produced affection for children and ensured that your future wife would be a good mother; and ‘Amativeness’, which controlled sexual desire. Too little, and the wedding night might suffer. Too much, and you were at risk of being cuckolded. In a society in which it was believed that female sexuality should be carefully regulated, phrenological manuals on marriage proved to be very popular and were seen as a way of avoiding a lifetime of misery with the wrong partner.

The matron of the women's prison in New York started reading phrenology aloud to the inmates in a bid to try to rehabilitate inmates. It wasn't long before the practice spread, and phrenology was seen as a way to rehabilitate prisoners. The concept behind it was that if prisoners understood how their minds worked, they could learn to resist their worst impulses.    

 East India Company surgeon George Murray Paterson set up the world’s first ‘phrenological school’  in Calcutta in 1825 He suspected that education could change the brain. There was also a racist dimension in that he saw the Bengali pupils degenerate and weak. British Education was seen as the way of improving this condition. He measured their heads every with callipers. After six months Paterson found that the areas of the brain associated with intellect had shown great improvement. He seems to have overlooked the fact that these were growing boys. 

Phrenology was already being debunked by the 1840s, but it had such a grip on society that phrenologists had stalls in the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851 and persisted with some people into the early 20th century. A man called William Bally did a roaring trade in miniature busts which could fit in a pocket or handbag. They were one of the most popular souvenirs of the exhibition. The tiny busts were of all kinds of popular figures from Royalty, criminals, politicians, and even famous Philosophers.

Despite it's obvious failings, phrenology did contribute to a interest in the brain and in what makes us behave in certain ways. Although it's now dismissed , it was a forerunner to more empirical and scientific methods used in the study of psychology and neuroscience.   

In All Innocence - EXCERPT

Almost everyone woke simultaneously, jolted by the sound of the brakes grinding, and the engine puffing and huffing in protest at an unscheduled stop. Jake’s hand reached for his gun even before he was fully conscious.

“No!” The cry came from Jeffrey, the younger steward, who staggered into the aisle in shock.

Nat strode out of the curtained area, fastening his trousers. “What’s wrong?”

“Mrs. Hunter,” Jeffrey stammered. “She’s dead.”

Nat dragged the curtain aside, revealing the tiny-framed woman lying in a pool of blood. He kneeled and scrutinized her. “Bring a lamp.” He reached out and touched her face. “She’s alive. She’s warm. Fetch Philpot. He’s a doctor.”

The Englishman wandered groggily forward. “I’m not a doctor. I’m a—”

“We don’t care what you are, Philpot,” Jake growled. “You’re the nearest thing we’ve got. You’ve got medical training. Get in there.”

Mrs. Hunter’s eyes flickered weakly open. “My moonstone. Miss Davies—she took it.” She fell back into insensibility.

Jake frowned and his keen blue eyes looked up and down the railway car at the passengers crowded in the aisle in various stages of undress. “Where is Miss Davies? Have you seen her, Abi? You’re bunkin’ with her.”

“No, she isn’t here.” Abigail frowned. “I haven’t seen her for ages. She wasn’t even in her bunk when I changed Ava.”

Malachi padded briskly up to the group, pushing various butlers out of his way as they milled around. “Oh, my goodness! The poor woman.”

Jake nodded. “Yeah, Philpot’s seein’ to her. She’s still alive. Why’ve we stopped? We ain’t at a station.”

Malachi quickly fastened a stray button. “I’m sorry, gentlemen. I have been informed that a rock fall has blocked the tracks. We will dig it out and be on our way as soon as possible.”

“A rock fall? So, how far to a station?” Nat asked. “We’re high in the mountains, miles from anywhere.”

There was another ominous rumble somewhere above them and the carriage shook. The roof thundered with the thumps and clattering of stones and gravel pounding the roof. Worried glances rose upward while Abigail hunched protectively over her baby. The noise gradually stopped, but for an occasional patter of settling gravel and stones shifting above them.

The head steward’s brow crinkled into a myriad of furrows. “I’d best go and check that out.”

Nat’s brows knotted into a frown. “We’re miles from anywhere? So where has Maud Davies gone?” “With the moonstone?”

Jake strode over to the door and looked out at the huge feathery flakes drifting down from the heavy skies onto an expansive mountainous vista. “There’s nowhere to go.”

In all Innocence


CREEPY AMUSEMENT PARKS by Sarah J. McNeal #EnterIfYouDare

Abandoned Amusement Parks Are Creepy

In my  release, THE BEAST OF HAZARD, from Prairie Rose Publications, I wrote about an unscrupulous circus owner who abandons his circus that wreaks havoc and danger on the fictional town of hazard, Wyoming.

I started researching abandoned amusement parks and, I have to tell you, there is nothing creepier than a place where laughter and fun once resided, now desolate and eerily silent. Imagine, on a hike in the forest, stumbling upon a metal clown half buried in the dirt and a Ferris wheel covered in vines out in the middle of nowhere. Even worse, imagine in the middle of a meadow with low lying fog coming across life size statues of dinosaurs. One might even think the creatures were real at first sight. I, for one, would run shrieking and screaming. Roller coasters and carousels appear particularly sinister empty of passengers and slowly eaten by vines and trees. It just makes me shiver to think how they must appear to someone who might come upon them by accident.

Near my home in North Carolina is an abandoned mill. I saw it every time I drove to the beach down highway 74. The old mill has deteriorated and kudzu vines have taken over most of the structures. It fascinated me, and it creeped me out. Of course, I had to get some photographs of it. Here is one of them.

In my story, THE BEAST OF HAZARD, an entire town is in danger just as the children are preparing to go out trick-or-treating. What is this beast? And what are the townspeople going to do to protect themselves as well as their livestock?

THE BEAST OF HAZARD, A Wildings Western Romance
Author Sarah J. McNeal
Prairie Rose Publications

 A Terrorized Town…A Killer Beast…And Deliverance

Joey Wilding isn’t certain what’s killing the livestock in Hazard. Some believe it’s a bewitched beast, others a wolf gone rabid. As the town veterinarian, he’s seen mutilation before, but not like this, as if something enjoyed the killing.
When Claire Beau asks Joey to help her injured wolf-dog, and begs his discretion, he begins to suspect he has found the Beast of Hazard—and its beautiful mistress. But as he walks through the woods after dark, something more ominous than any wolf stalks him from the shadows.

As they stepped out into the dark night, a chill ran down Joey’s spine as he remembered that terrible growl he heard in the woods. He was comforted a little by the light on the barn that flooded the space between the barn and house with a pale light. From off in the distance, a sound came from the depth of the forest that shook Joey to the core.
Claire’s face grew pale and her eyes widened. “We should hurry,” she said in a voice tight with fear. Whatever that thing was out there, Claire must know something about it. The woman who had a huge wolf as a pet suddenly looked afraid of the thing out there. Her response made him very uneasy. Could he trust her?


Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author who writes diverse stories filled with heart. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged child, Lily, the Golden Retriever. Besides her devotion to writing, she is an environmentalist and animal activist. She also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar, and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints: Painted Pony Books, Fire Star Press, and Sundown Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: