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Monday, September 28, 2020

Early Feminism and the Battle of the Undergarment

 by Patti Sherry-Crews

"Deliver us from the evils of the dress!" --Annie Jeanness-Miller

Union Suit

Have you ever looked at photographs of Victorian-era women climbing mountains and wondered how in the world did they manage such strenuous activity wearing those clothes? As ridiculous as those outfits look to us today, the attire available to the active women in the mid 19th century was far less cumbersome than previously, thanks to Annie Jeanness-Miller and other pioneers of the Dress Reform movement.

To put the call for dress reform in context, let's first look at what women were expected to wear earlier. Desired silhouettes changed from time to time, but in the early part of the 19th century, the ideal woman had a teeny, tiny waist and full hips. What nature did not provide, artfully constructed clothing did. Women's undergarments were so many and complicated that a lady sometimes needed assistance to dress herself. The first layer of clothing were bloomers. Next came the chemise. So far not so bad. But then the fashion victim had to be squeezed into a corset which laced in the back (we all have that scene in our heads right now of Scarlett O'Hara, who has been starving herself all morning in preparation for the big party, holding on to a bedpost while Mammy stands behind her lacing her corset--admit it, that's what you were thinking of).

Bloomers, chemise, and corset, but that's not all. We're not dressed yet. Before she could slip into her dress, the lady still had to put on a crinoline to hold the shape of a hoop skirt, and over that were several petticoats. And when it was in fashion, the bustle gave the lady the desired S-shaped profile. Now, go climb that mountain, girl!

Then out of the White Mountains of New Hampshire came Annie Jeanness-Miller, and she was having none of it. Annie, who was related to Oliver Wendell Holmes, was a lecturer and a so-called Women in Letters of the time. In addition to dress reform for women she educated the public on other topics such as social justice and the prevention of disease by using proper hygiene.

Annie felt that restrictive clothing, including enormous hats, put women in a subservient position to men. Her goal was to emancipate the waist! To accomplish this, she published a magazine called Dress and sold patterns for more sensible outfits. Outfits a woman could climb a mountain in. Or go yachting--or play a game of lawn tennis. She even designed a business suit and patented athletic wear for women.

Earlier attempts at dress reform weren't successful but what Jeanness-Miller got right was to stay within the norms of contemporary fashion, so in outward appearance there was nothing radical in her designs. She also included beautiful touches like eyelet lace and ribbons, so her line still had feminine appeal.

The first strike in her war against the corset was the Union Suit (different from Long Johns which are comprised of separate top and bottom. Union Suit meaning the union of top and bottom), and yes it had the "trapdoor." The garment fitted to a women's natural shape and could be made from various material like silk or wool depending on the season. This undergarment eliminated bulky fabric, allowing for more natural movement.

"With the Union Suit all of this is obviated, and a woman becomes a dainty object where formerly she looked as if wrapped in yards of meaningless stuff."--Annie Jeanness-Miller

Next,  the Chemilette was worn over the Union Suit to replace the corset.


 And finally came the Model Bodice and the Turkish Leglettes. Notice the exotic names she called her pieces. Annie had quite the flair for marketing.

Turkish Leglettes and Model Bodice

Of the Turkish Leglettes she reasoned, "Why not a divided garment for clothing women's legs as well as a man's? Nothing in their anatomical construction would suggest any other conclusions; and why, then, clothe them differently when by so clothing them, freedom and grace of movement are both sacrificed."

And furthermore, "The Turkish Leglettes are a great improvement over the petticoat, because they are designed with special regard for the legs. They clothe each separately, and for this reason are much warmer than the petticoat, under which the air circulates freely. Each leg lifts its own weight in walking, so that very great resistance at the ankle and knee from the petticoat is gotten rid of, and in wet weather they do not get dragged and soiled as do the petticoats."

The Union Suit proved to be such a practical garment that men picked up on it. Picked it up to such an extent that now when we think of the Union Suit, we generally picture a rugged manly type chopped down a tree or something in red long underwear. Red, by the way, became and still is the most popular color. Why red? Because if a man were to find himself in some distress out in the wild he could strip down to your alarm-red underwear for better visibility.

In my historical novels I like the get my heroines out of their corsets as soon as possible.
Here is an excerpt from my upcoming historical western romance, His Unexpected Companion.

Forget about leaving town at an early hour. He spotted an alley he knew would lead him to the hotel by way of a shortcut. If the store had delivered his supplies and the livery stable had brought around his horse, he could be on his way in a short time.
At last things were falling into place and it looked like a perfect day for traveling...except that woman kept intruding on his thoughts. He worried about her survival in the wild, and that was assuming she could even get out of town unmolested.
Turning down the alley his heart leaped into this throat. There half way down the alley, crumpled into a ball by piles of trash was a sight familiar to him. Green dress! Oh, my lord, no!
He raced down the length of the alley to the form on the ground. As he reached it, something brushed by his shoulder and landed on the ground. A corset!
Looking up, he caught a quick flash of a person...a person who appeared to be not wearing clothes. The figure reappeared again, and he recognized the woman. She waved something out the window and a pair of bloomers floated down toward him. At his feet sat a growing pile of clothes, including the dress she wore last night. He tilted his head back again to be met with the sight of her, half crouched below the window, her mouth frozen into a perfect “O”. She slunk back inside but he heard laughter.
Completely scandalized, he walked away quickly but with dignity. 
This woman was clearly insane.


Olivia had to laugh at the expression on his face. She left him with a puzzle today!
Too bad he was such an old fuddy duddy because he was a good-looking man. Just her sort, really. Tall and lean with lovely auburn hair. The first time she saw him sitting in the restaurant with his hair carefully combed back with pomade, he arrested her attention. He had the kind of hair she liked to muss up and see flopping over his forehead.
Of course, she didn’t have to throw her clothes out of the window. But she sure wasn’t going to take up valuable room in her saddle bags with dresses she had no use of. Besides, she hated them. Watching the garments land in the alley had been the most fun she’d had in months. Picked out for her and bought by somebody else and now so much trash. 

Shedding her skin as it were, she now stood naked as the day she was born. Time to grow a new skin. She gathered her purchases from today and slipped into her new clothes.
The image reflected back to her in the mirror pleased her. The men’s clothing didn’t exactly hide her womanhood but it helped. And wearing pants was so much more comfortable. Nothing more restrictive than lady clothes. It had been especially good to get shot of that device of torture known as a corset. She took in a deep breath, enjoying the way her body expanded to its natural boundaries.
She swung her long hair over her shoulder and plaited it into one braid, which she coiled on top of her head and fixed with pins. 
Before leaving her room for the last time, she crammed the hat over her head and judged the effect in the mirror again. Unrecognizable. Anyone coming after her would have their work cut out for them.

About His Unexpected Companion:

Olivia Darling is her own woman—self-sufficient, intelligent, and wise to the ways of the world. She’s also beautiful enough to rile other women and garner unwanted attention from men, which could bring more danger down on her than living the outlaw life she’s taken to. Headed home to Colorado, she’s ready to put her past behind her—but what kind of reception will she get?

Kit Traver is headed home to Colorado, giving up his law practice back East to return to the place he loves—and the woman he intends to marry. His life neatly planned, this journey will give him the time he needs to be alone with nature before he takes on the responsibilities of practicing law again and being a married man. 

When Kit and Olivia meet in Denver, it’s not the best first impression—for either of them. But, they are traveling the same trail, so it’s only natural they ride along together. It’s obvious to Kit that Olivia needs his protection—if only from herself!

But traveling together ignites a fire between them that can’t be ignored, especially once they arrive, only to discover that everything has changed while they’ve been away. With her father mysteriously murdered, Olivia has her hands full trying to keep the big ranchers from pushing her off her family’s small spread. Can Olivia and Kit make a home together? Will Kit walk away from his socialite family for the love of HIS UNEXPECTED COMPANION?

 Available at Amazon

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Book review: Myra’s Escape by Agnes Alexander

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Escape is her only choice…

Myra Felton’s grandfather has sold her to a banker to pay his debts! But Myra will not become the property of the evil Cosmos Hubbard—she plans her escape… With her future uncertain, she leaves in the dead of night for Charleston, the largest city of any size, vowing to lose herself there. But a chance encounter with a marriage broker gives her the best plan of all—with no money of her own, she agrees to travel to Wyoming, as far from Cosmos Hubbard as she can get!

He’s desperate for a cook…

Anson Barlow fears mutiny from his four younger brothers if he can’t come up with someone to cook a decent meal for them all once in a while! It’s hard enough to run a thriving ranch such as the Circle B without having to worry about cooking and cleaning—talents the Barlow brothers lack. When he signs a contract for a housekeeper, he doesn’t realize that also means a wife.

Love is waiting…

When Anson meets Myra at the train station, she’s not at all what he’s expecting. He can’t protect her from the gossips if he takes her home without marrying her—and though he may be many things, he is not that cruel. But though the marriage may protect her from vicious jealousy in the town, what will happen when Cosmos Hubbard shows up to claim the woman he says is rightfully his? Will MYRA’S ESCAPE have been for nothing?

My review:

I was looking for a sweet historical story to vanish into for a few hours and this book caught my eye.  

I loved the premise of a woman on the run finding herself married to a man and taking care of him and his 4 brothers (a la the classical musical I still adore to this day, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers).  The family bond the brothers have, and the way they envelope Myra into their lives was heart-melting.  I giggled at the brothers antics and enjoyed getting to know them all and fall for them all just a little.  

Anson knew what he wanted in a woman at his ranch but got so much more when his mail order bride showed up.  He was a rancher gentleman - rough and strong and protective, but had a gentle, compassionate side.  He was exactly what Myra needed in a man just like she was just what he needed in a woman.  Myra gave him the feminine softness and presence in his life and home, and showed the promise of the amazing ranch wife she'd become.  I loved these two together and how their relationship was easy and how the 'bad guy' story lines just pulled them closer together.  

There was alot going on in this story, and surprising twists on how it all plays out.  But it all flowed together nicely into one awesome afternoon spent dreamin' in the old west.  The charm of this story swept me away and left me with a happy-vibe as the last page turned.

Purchase links:


Thursday, September 24, 2020

FREE BOOK Beneath a Horse-Thief Moon (Prairie Moon Trilogy Book 1) Kindle Edition by Elizabeth Clements

Free Promotion runs Thursday, September 24, 2020, 12:00 AM PDT through Sunday, September 27, 2020, 11:59 PM PDT for this first book in the Prairie Moon Trilogy. 

Amazon shows the second book as the first book. Hopefully we can get that straight before book 3 comes out on October 1st.


U.S. Marshal Chase Reynolds is on a mission—to track down an escaped train robber, even if it takes him into the wilds of Canada! Hot on the outlaw’s trail, he follows him into the Canadian West—and encounters more than he bargained for when he’s taken prisoner by a beautiful woman.

Sara Cranston is trying to hold on to her ranch that a band of outlaws is determined to steal from her. A woman alone, she’s “easy pickin’s”—and this ruthless crew is after more than the ranch—there’s a legend of buried gold hidden somewhere on her land.

Sara and Chase have a shared past—one that is full of lies and secrets…and love. Seventeen years have gone by, and the passion is still there between them—but will deceit and mistrust keep them from the happiness they both crave?

Chase has a duty to bring in the outlaws, but now he must work fast to do it before they murder the woman he loves. Can he convince her the future is still theirs for the taking if they only survive to enjoy it? Anything can happen BENEATH A HORSE-THIEF MOON…

I loved this heartwarming adventure from talented debut author Elizabeth Clements.
—Jacquie Rogers, author of the Hearts of Owyhee series


Whistling Blaze over, Chase pulled rawhide strips from his saddlebag and hobbled the outlaw. There wasn't much he could do about the man's wounds except clean them with water from his canteen. Folding his handkerchief over the bloody stumps, he bound them with the man's bandana.
“I'd just as soon see you bleed to death,” Chase muttered to the unconscious man. “One less outlaw. But dead men tell no tales. And I want to hear all about your rustling partners.”
Murmuring to calm the skittish tethered horse, Chase slung the outlaw across the saddle and tied him down with a rope. He did the same with the dead man, although neither was a featherweight. His shoulder throbbed and burned like hell. Blood trickled inside his sleeve.
“Hold it right there,” a familiar voice growled behind him.
Damn, I'm getting old if a woman gets the drop on me twice in one night.

Be sure Amazon shows the price for buy the book as free before clicking to buy it.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Gathering Steam

     The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) continued its quiet state-by-state campaign for the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU), led by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, was determined to keep the cause in front of the public.
     In March 1914, the Senate voted on a federal woman suffrage amendment for first time since 1887. The bill was defeated. It was reintroduced the next day.
Chicago's Parade

    That same year, Paul organized May Day parades in cities across the country, garnering local and national publicity for the movement. Additionally, the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, with more than two million members throughout the U.S., formally endorsed the suffrage campaign. In November, women won full suffrage in Montana and Nevada.
     The House of Representatives voted for first time on a federal woman suffrage amendment in January 1915.  The measure was defeated.
     That same month, the CU opened a "freedom booth" at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, where they displayed exhibits in support of expanding full women’s suffrage beyond the eleven states that already had it. Helen Keller, a famous supporter of the cause, spoke at the booth. The CU representatives collected 500,000 signatures on their suffrage petition at the exposition. Suffrage envoys left California in September, carrying the petition by automobile across the country to Congress and President Wilson.
Suffrage Envoys

    Carrie Chapman Catt again assumed leadership of the NAWSA in 1915. She continued the state-by-state efforts to win suffrage. Attempts to reconcile with the CU failed. Despite NAWSA objections, the CU restructured as a national organization and sent organizers to all states to plan conventions and establish state branches. In September, the CU held the first Woman Voters Convention with delegates from states where women had full voting rights.
     In December 1915, the CU held its first national convention in Washington, D.C. The event coincided with the opening of the 64th Congress and the arrival of the suffrage envoys carrying the petition. On December 7, a federal woman suffrage amendment was introduced in the Senate. On the 16th, CU members testified in favor of the amendment before the House Judiciary Committee. The next day, a final attempt at reconciliation with the NAWSA failed.
      To keep the cause before the public, 23 CU members left Washington, D.C. in April 1916 on "The Suffrage Special," a five-week train tour to garner support for the federal woman suffrage amendment among women voters in the West. Subsequently, Alice Paul organized the National Woman’s Party, which was made up of women who already had full suffrage. They supported the efforts of their disenfranchised sisters, who were still represented by the CU. The two complementary organizations coexisted until they merged into the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1917.
NWP  Flag
      The NWP met in Colorado Springs in 1916 to discuss the upcoming election. They chose not to endorse either candidate during the presidential campaigns.  Instead, they decided to oppose all Democratic congressional candidates in order to hold the party in power responsible for failure to pass the suffrage amendment.
      On October 20, a mob attacked NWP members who were demonstrating against Woodrow Wilson outside a Chicago auditorium. Three days later, Inez Milholland Boissevain, leader of the 1913 parade in Washington, D.C. and an NWP organizer, collapsed from exhaustion on the stage while giving speech against President Wilson and the Democratic Party in Los Angeles. She died of pernicious anemia on November 25 at the age of 30, becoming widely regarded as the first martyr of the women’s suffrage movement.
     In the November election, Jeanette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Woodrow Wilson was re-elected President.
     NWP members silently demonstrated at Wilson’s annual address to Congress on December 5. They held a banner that read: “Mr. President, What Will You Do For Woman Suffrage?” A memorial service for Boissevain was held on Christmas Day in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Attendees drafted suffrage resolutions for presentation to the President.
     After two weeks of stonewalling, Wilson finally met with a delegation of 300 women on January 9, 1917. They presented him with the resolutions drafted during the memorial service and asked him to use his influence to promote a federal woman suffrage amendment. Wilson angrily refused and walked out on the women.
Silent Sentinels
     In response to Wilson’s rejection of their request for his support a federal amendment, NWP members began picketing the White House. These “Silent Sentinels” stood outside the fence day after day, despite rain, snow or whatever weather they encountered. They held banners with pro-suffrage messages and other banners of purple, white, and gold, the colors of the NWP.
Grand Picket
     On March 4, the eve of Wilson’s second inauguration, more than 1000 women staged a “Grand Picket.” They marched around the perimeter of the White House, where all gates to the grounds were locked, in driving icy rain, waiting to present him with resolutions from their national convention. After several hours, Wilson and his wife left the White House, driving past the picket line.
     In April, federal women’s suffrage amendments were introduced in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Additionally, the United States entered World War I. Carrie Chapman Catt promised President Wilson that the NAWSA would cease efforts on behalf of winning the vote in support of the war effort. Meanwhile, the “Silent Sentinels” continued their daily pickets.
      The battle had risen to a new level.


Monday, September 21, 2020

A Witch in Medieval England

One of the difficulties of considering the situation of witches in medieval England is the sources. Most of our information comes from trials in clerical or secular courts, and often these were motivated not by fear of sorcery but by greed, spite and politics. In England some kings feared witches – or found that accusing former mistresses or wives of witchcraft was an easy way to dispose of them, much as later Anne Boleyn was accused of sorcery by her disgruntled husband Henry Tudor.

These events were partly high politics. What of the position of witches in more everyday, village settings?

One clue comes from the folklore surrounding plants. Peonies, rowan and St John’s Wort, for example, were believed to protect households from sorcery, which shows how much witches were feared. At the same time, there were those men and women, known in many part of England as ‘cunning folk,’ or ‘wise men/women,’ who were turned to for help in fortune telling, charming and healing.

In the Middle Ages in England everyone was a bit of a witch because everyone believed in magic, often as a curious blend of pagan, folk and Christian ideas. Peasants would chant the Lord’s Prayer over their penned cattle each night, ending with singing ‘Agios, Agios, Agios’ around them every evening as a piece of protective magic. A mixture of charms and prayers were used to solve all manner of problems, and ranged from curing toothache by appealing to the Lady Moon and then praying, to the Anglo-Saxon prayer-charm ordering the devil of pain to flee 3 times and give way to Christ. 

Rowan, a protection against witches.
Nobles had magic gems and amulets to protect them from evil.  A medieval  ring discovered at the Palace of Eltham, Henry VIII’s childhood home near London, was set with ruby and diamonds and carried an inscription promising the wearer luck. Merchants also had  gems and rings to protect themselves, much as people in modern times might wear a St Christopher to give them luck on a journey.  A burglar would  throw a crushed magnet over hot coals to inspire the household  to leave and let the thief work in peace. Priests would use blessings and  prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer and add a charm or two to effect an exorcism or expel illness.  Even the legends of saints have them using charms and magic to cure ills. When all sickness was seen as the result of evil, then it made sense to use ‘good’ magic to counter it.

If a man had to go to court, he might tuck a spray of mistletoe into his clothes to ensure he was not convicted. If he wished to inflame a woman’s lust, then he could slip some ants’ eggs into her bath. However, there were times when such simple ‘magic’ might not work (believe it or not) and people would seek out a recognised practitioner of magic.

To raise the dead or a demon needed a person skilled in rituals, who knew Latin, Greek, writing, 
astrology and fumigation and many of these necromancers were ex-priests or clerics. Some could be involved in the dangerous business of assassination by magic. In 1325 the necromancer  John of Nottingham was accused of taking money in return for killing the king by making a wax effigy of  Edward II and sticking pins into it. John was acquitted.

For love magic, however, and to inspire or stop affection, most people turned to their local ‘cunning folk’, especially the local midwife/healer or perhaps a white witch - who would use magic and witchcraft to good ends and within a Christian setting, using prayers as well as charms. These people could be both feared and revered  and were vulnerable to being accused of evil-doing if a person or animal fell sick. 

Throughout the Middle Ages good witches were mostly tolerated in England. It wasn’t until 1401 that the first act of parliament against witchcraft was passed. If a person was convicted of witchcraft, it was regarded as a form of heresy and the offender was excommunicated. In 1438, Agnes Hancock was excommunicated by a clerical court when she could not account for the meanings of some of the words she used in her love charms. The church took a dim view of love spells, feeling that they interfered with people’s free choice, but it wasn’t until the late Middle Ages or beyond that women casting such spells were threatened with burning.

If you are interested in learning about an English medieval ‘good’ witch in a fictional setting, please see The Snow Bride and its sequel,  A Summer Bewitchment. (Now out in large print and as an ebook and paperback from Prairie Rose Publications)

Lindsay Townsend

Tales from the Family Jewelry Box #1

 Recently, I was searching on eBay for Victorian mourning jewelry.  You know the fancies that take you from time to time?  I had an intense craving to own a mourning brooch, and I decided to see what both fit my budget and appealed to me aesthetically.  Although I'm fascinated by Victorian hair jewelry, I'm also a bit horrified by it, so that was out.  I would have loved a piece of carved jet, especially proper Whitby jet, and I did earmark a few pieces on my watchlist.  But they were either a bit too small for my purposes, or considerably too pricey, or the bidding history suggested someone else might have lost their heart to the piece.  In the end, I chose this, which I absolutely adore.  I'm sure the leaf is symbolic of something, especially as I saw several brooches with a similar design.  New life in the face of death?  Falling autumn leaves?  While most of my antique and vintage jewelry is family pieces, I'm happy to have this one among them.

One thing that struck me, as I looked through the listings, was all of the pins with photographs in them which were labelled as mourning jewelry.  That may have been the case with some of the pieces, but I have two examples in my own collection which I happen to know were "proud parents" pieces, worn by two of my great grandmothers, from the last decade of the 19th century and the first one of the 20th.

The one on the left belonged to one of my great-grandmothers on my father's side.  The two children are my great-uncle Harry and my great-aunt Elizabeth -- this picture must have been taken before my grandfather (Fred), the youngest, was born.  My great-aunt was born in 1893, and as she lived to be 103, I was lucky enough to get to know her well.  The one on the right is my Nana, my maternal grandmother, who's solo because she was an only child.  I absolutely love her masses of curly hair and the off-the-shoulder dress.  I have a copy of the full-length photograph this was cropped down from, and she's wearing adorable high-button shoes, as well.  Nana (Marion) was born in 1905, and she's pretty young here, so I'd guess this is pre-1910. 

They're midway between 18th and early 19th century jewelry with painted miniature portraits, on the one hand, and modern jewelry with children's names or birthstones, on the other.  More public than a locket, less fancy than a cameo, from a time when photography was still an event rather than an everyday occurrence, they speak of parental pride in an absolutely delightful way.

Do you have old family photo jewelry?  What stories does your jewelry box tell?  I'd love to hear!

Cate Simon is the author of Courting Anna, which came out from Prairie Rose last year.  When not teaching college English, she's reading 19th century cultural history and hard at work on her next fiction project.  She would be very, very happy if you bought her book, and she's pretty sure you'd enjoy it, too.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Imperial Russian Samovar

Back in the winter of 1979, I was fortunate to visit the Soviet Union with a group of students from my university. It was a fabulous trip – even though the KGB sent at least two “guides” with us to every city. While in Leningrad (now back to being called St. Petersburg) we explored the Rominov’s Winter Palace. This almost obscenely opulent palace, which is now home of the Hermitage Museum, boasted of marble, mirrors, ceramics, artwork and more gold guilt than a European cathedral.

I remember being fascinated with the Russian samovar. Those in the Palace were ornate and, in some cases, enormous. But nearly every home had one. Brass, silver, ceramic, plain or highly decorated, they all served the same purpose: to keep hot beverages hot or cold ones cold.

The samovar has been around since the Romans used it to heat water to dilute their wine. In
Russia, they boiled water for tea.

The samovar is a large urn-like body with a space around or under the water tank into which hot coals or bits of wood were placed. The heat from the burning material would boil the water. The early Roman models, called an “autepsa”, had the body divided into two parts with a tank for water above and another tank for burning charcoal below. Later models had a single tank for water with a compartment down the center for the hot coals.

The Russian samovar had a spigot for dispensing the hot water. A concentrated tea “syrup” was made and kept warm by placing the tea pot on top of the tank. When you wanted a cup of tea, you measured some of the concentrated tea into a cup and added hot water.

And, if you needed refreshment during the hot summer months, ice was placed into the compartment to chill the water in the samovar.

The samovar can still be bought. The Russian town of Tula has become synonymous with the samovar because it is where all the craftsmen live and work. The samovar comes in all shapes and sizes, simple brass or silver, to works of ceramic and metal-working art.

Thank you for stopping by!

Tracy Garrett


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Book review: When Love Comes Knocking by Sarah J. McNeal

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Penelope Witherspoon was charmed into marriage by Evan Thoroughgood only to learn she loved a philanderer, who gambled away his inheritance and drank too heavily. It came as no surprise that four months after their marriage, Evan was shot dead for cheating at cards. Since his death, Penelope has come to depend on his older brother, Gil. In fact, she has come to love and respect him. No two men could be further apart in character. But, if Gil learns of her secret indiscretion, he will want nothing further to do with her. What is Penelope to do?

My review:

When Love Comes Knocking is a short and sweet story that delivers quite a bit of feels, and I'm not talking the winter's chill on a hot August afternoon.

Emotions are high and rolling as Penelope and Gil finally decide it's time to own up to their desires - even as fear and jealousy grip tight. I just felt bad that it took as long as it did for both of them to find their bravery... all that time lost! However, with thoughts like this from Gil: He would love her until the stars burned out, the wait was obviously well worth it. I was smiling as things finally got sorted out.

One other fun nugget: The way to love a woman can be a mysterious undertaking. Isn't that the truth! lol

Purchase link:

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Grandparents Day by Kaye Spencer #prairierosepubs #grandparentsday #westernromance

This Sunday, September 13th is National Grandparents Day in the U.S.

 The first Sunday after Labor Day was set aside as National Grandparents Day by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Going backward in time, it was in 1969 when a nine-year-old boy named Russell Capper wrote a letter to President Richard Nixon requesting a special day for grandparents. The origin of this day comes from 1956 and is attributed to the work of a woman named Marian McQuade.

These links, HERE and HERE, have more information about Grandparents Day in the U.S. and other countries.

I have three children and six grandchildren. This picture is from June of this year. This is me and my oldest son and one of his girls. They live in California. I live in Colorado. That is entirely too far away in my grandmotherly opinion.

 I am fortunate that I had a close relationship with my maternal grandfather and my paternal grandmother. My maternal grandmother died before I was two, and my paternal grandfather died before I was born.

 I often wonder if part of the discord and disharmony in society nowadays is due to the reality that we live in a mobile society, and that several generations of children have grown up too far from their grandparents to enjoy the benefits of a grandchild/grandparent relationship and the guidance that grandparents offer. It’s sad to me when children don’t have the gift of ‘readily accessible’ grandparents in their growing up years. It’s equally lamentable when parents don’t have their parents nearby to help them during their children’s growing up years.

Yes, I realize I’m over-generalizing, but you get what I mean.

 In my stories and books, published and yet-to-be-published, I either include grandparents as important characters in the stories, or I mention that grandparents exist. Since I write predominantly in historical settings, it is common to have multi-generational families living in close proximity, and I take full advantage of that.

Here are grandparent/grandchildren teaser excerpts from two of my novelettes. (Blogger isn’t playing nicely with these images. I apologize for the inferior quality of the text. Click to enlarge, and they will be sharp and clear.)


Until next time,
Kaye Spencer


Stay in contact with Kaye—

Amazon Author Page | Instagram | Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | BookBub

Monday, September 7, 2020

Things I Learned On My Writer's Journey by Elizabeth Clements


            Why is it when I want to go back to sleep, my mind wakes up and gets my thoughts roiling? Then when I finally cave and go to the computer, my brain takes a hike and I’m scrambling to remember my order of thoughts? So frustrating. I come up with way too many plot or blog ideas or snippets of dialogue when I’m snuggled warm and relaxed in bed. That’s what happened, again, to me today and I became compelled to share my thoughts. The best place to start is at the beginning.

(Note: I started this over two weeks ago after a midnight scramble to write my previous blog and get it posted. So I began this by just jotting down points. Some I filled in, some I left for later. I was going to finish it ahead of time on Friday when I received my manuscript for a final proofread. So, here I am again on Sunday night past midnight, scrambling to finish this. And no time to edit., So, please forgive any typos etc. I know most of you have experienced some or all of my musings, so it’s now for the benefit of someone who wonders about becoming a writer.)

Writing styles change. You just have to read some of the classics, like A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens or The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer with their long narratives that have you itching to “get to the story!” I was always a voracious reader until my second pregnancy when I had twins—with three boys two and under, I was lucky if I had time to brush my teeth let alone read. Then two years later along came my fourth. I guess I wasn’t reading then, either. <grin> And yet the desire to write had always smoldered deep inside me since I threw a Harlequin against the wall and muttered, “I can write better than this.”

            That thought must have festered for another few  years until one day in the midst of cooking breakfast for my four little guys, a plot idea formed and blew my mind. As soon as I could, I scribbled it down—but why would I want to write about the Yukon Gold Rush?  Actually, it turned out to be the backstory for my first book, a contemporary romantic suspense, which Harlequin was not publishing back in the 1980s.

Research The beauty of research is it provides authenticity to your story; the drawback is you get so involved in research it becomes a maze of information, spurring you along another path, and another until you’re hopelessly overwhelmed with all that information. But sometimes you find some really neat nuggets that add punch to your story—and that’s a good thing.

Ideas Write down ideas, snippets of dialogue, a scene that pops to mind. At the moment you believe you won’t forget something so deliciously good and then slap your forehead later because you can’t remember it. You soon learn to carry around a notepad and pen in case inspiration strikes. (Now people can do it on their cell phones).

There was a time when I’d keep a legal pad in the drawer by my bed. One time I had a particularly vivid dream, and wrote it down, eyes closed so I wouldn’t lose the image in my head. When I looked at it hours later, the words slanting across the page were utter gibberish.

Stream of conscious It’s wonderful when this happens. For me it begins either by telling someone about my work in progress or by opening a document and typing everything I know so far. I have surprised myself a few times when suddenly a scene takes off, complete with action and dialogue. And action begs reaction. This becomes what I called my broken string of pearls.

Broken String of Pearls When I first scribbled that story idea down, I left it on the dining room table. Whenever I had further inspiration, I’d write it on another sheet of paper. Then a different scene and a different pile. Then I’d think of a reaction to an action, so added that sheet to the pertinent pile. Soon there were several piles, some related, some not, but the piles grew. Then one pile followed another pile that spread over the table. This became my broken string of pearls. What a happy day when I put the last pile under the stack and it became my unbroken string of pearls. Whimsical, I know, but that’s how I wrote my story.        

I still remember the Saturday noon in November when I joyfully typed The End. I was euphoric. My family wasn’t. We had beautiful wrought iron gates made into the dining room from the big kitchen area. And there stood my four little guys 2, 4, and 6 , hanging onto the iron swirls, with their father standing behind them, all wearing such woebegone faces. “We’re hungry, Mommy.” I think I probably gazed at them like aliens had just landed. How could they be thinking of food? I just finished writing my first book!

Edits, Rewrites and Proofreading Writing for me comes easy, it’s the editing I dread (and still do, but not quite so much) because back then I didn’t know a thing about editing…and years later I’m still learning. Back in the 1980s there was no one I could go to for guidance. I belonged to a writers club, but I was the only novelist and a romance writer at that. They wrote poetry and short family anecdotes or memories. So I typed my first book a second time, and some pages more than once. If you edited or added too much, I had to retype the entire chapter. I had an excellent second-hand IBM Selectric with a correction tape, but still it wasn’t a word processor. That came a few years later. Finally December 31st I sent it off, with great hopes, to Harlequin in Toronto.

Scissors…..don’t cut a scene/dialogue…..copy and paste it into a separate document. Read the scene three days in a row. If you still feel the same after the third read, then cut the scene/dialogue. One day you may love it and the next day you hate it. So, what’s going on in your life the day you hate your writing and think it’s garbage? Did you get bad news, are you feeling under the weather, worried, anxious, etc., etc. Our writing or editing perception is affected by our mood. Copy, cut, paste, save in a new document. Make a folder for such deleted scenes/dialogue. Who knows, that “clever” piece of dialogue might fit elsewhere or in another book.

Brainstorm with yourself or a reader or a writer. It’s amazing how just one comment can have you racing down a new path or solve a problem.

Forget your English teacher. This is extremely important. English teachers may disagree, because it’s their job to teach you to write right. In high school. Well, you’re not in high school anymore <grin> Proper sentence structure was drilled into me in high school. It was further absorbed through the hundreds of books I’d read, especially the historicals of kings and queens written by Jean Plaidy. Thus, it’s little wonder why my first book was rejected. I wrote like I’d read, with complete sentences, even for dialogue. I was so green that I didn’t know what the editor meant when she said my writing was old fashioned and needed tightening up. There’s been a big shift in writing styles over the years, especially lately.

Well, I kinda understood the old-fashioned part—I could have my hero and heroine go to bed together and then get married. (That wasn’t what the editor meant). But what did the editor mean by tightening up? I think I still have that problem as my blogs tend to get too long, but at least I’ve cut out a gazillion adverbs and my characters do not always speak in perfect sentences. I even have one word sentences! <gasp>. My English teacher would probably roll over in her grave if she read my books—a far cry from the essays and book reports I had to write.

Stream of conscious It’s wonderful when this happens. For me it begins either by telling someone about my story so far or by opening a document and typing everything I know so far and suddenly a scene takes off, complete with dialogue.

Writing buddy….to a certain extent it helps if you have similar tastes in reading other than being writers, but it’s not necessarily vital. It’s fun to bounce ideas off one another like a ping pong ball.

Procrastination  Ah, yes, I confess this has been my biggest downfall for years, and not just with my writing. So much lost time, yet it hasn’t all been bad because even though I hadn’t been writing, I was still often thinking about my stories. The sub-conscious is a wonderful helper. It’s like a computer silently working in the background, wrangling with an issue until suddenly it spits out a solution. I find it particularly useful to think about an issue I’m trying to resolve as I hope to drift off to sleep. I tell my Muse that I have a problem, tell what it is, and ask for a solution. Sometimes it comes quickly, other times it comes when I’m in the middle of something and can’t write it down.

Attend workshops, on-line courses, writer groups.

Caution Be careful with whom you share your work, especially if you don’t know the writer very well. Stealing isn’t just restricted to break and enter.

Editing Get the first draft down, then edit. I’m not entirely a panser, but when I get the bit between my teeth I do gallop as long as the story idea lasts. Some people edit as they go; others finish the book, then edit. The latter can be daunting, to edit an entire book; but the person who edits daily may feel discouraged that she/he doesn’t have many pages/words to show for hours at the computer. One really has to learn what works best.

Trust your instincts and listen to your inner voice.

Read, Read, Read Read, study, learn, apply Discern what you liked about the story and what you didn’t like and why. Then apply to your own writing what you’ve analyzed.

Study books for an author’s style, Analyze what you like and don’t like and learn.

Enter contests. I haven’t entered any contests in years. They were helpful back then when one actually received comments from the judges. I understand that has changed and now all one gets are numbers rating your story from 1-10 or 1-5.

Value the good comments from judges, but really learn from the negatives. That’s when one truly learns. Everyone wants praise, naturally, but we really begin to learn when we analyze the comments from the low scores….that is if contests even give feedback.

Trust your instincts with Dialogue  I’ve forgotten how I received some wonderful advice from Dorothy Garlock about dialogue. She may have been a judge I had in a contest I’d entered years ago or perhaps I wrote her a fan letter. In any case, we exchanged some e-mails about dialogue.

Dorothy wrote wonderful books of the early days of the West being settled. A lot of grownups never learned to read, including men. Their grammar was atrocious, but Dorothy wrote their dialogue honestly. Beautiful stories, so interesting and realistic that even my husband became a big fan. I always had pocketbooks laying around and he’d pick one up to read and got hooked. He read everyone, at least thirty of them. Dorothy told me to listen to my instincts, and not what the judges marked me low on.

So when you read my published books, you’ll find outlaws and even the good guys who drop their g’s and say gonna and wanna, and ain’t, etc. If you eavesdrop on people’s conversations, say in a restaurant, you’ll find not everyone speaks in perfect, high school English sentences. Even me. <grin>

Log Keep a log of each character’s eye and hair color, scar, names of their horse or pet, etc. Create a mini-bio for each character. This is even more important if you write a series with reappearing beloved (or hated) characters in earlier books.

Track your story time span on a calendar. I learned a valuable lesson from this when I read the finished first draft of Beneath A Horse Thief Moon. Well into reading it, I suddenly realized I had missed an entire week in my story, thanks to the importance of moonlight in my story. A full moon doesn’t last a week, or even three days. There are days of moonless nights, too. You also have to consider how many days before the moon begins it new cycle.  Luckily, I was able to fix that missing week by saying something like, a week later… 

Here’s what I did. I drew up a calendar and accounted for every day of the month of September, 1897. I found a link that gave me information of the moon's phase that month, including the week days, etc. I applied that information to my calendar. If there was no action on a certain day, I’d simply write in n/a  (no action) but if something happened, I’d jot a word or brief notes i.e. round-up for the three or four days it took Sara to round up her missing cattle, etc.

At a glance I had a very brief summary/time line of the book by the time I typed The End. It also made it easier to write a synopsis from this calendar outline. This can cover a day, a week, a month, but helps keep you on track. I highly recommend it, especially if there are gaps in your writing periods. We think we won't forget, but we do.

Negativity Stay away from it. Run from it. Grind it into the ground with the heel of your shoes. Some people will tear you down for selfish reasons, or jealousy. Believe in yourself and believe in your dream.

Procrastination Don’t procrastinate. Repeat after me. Don’t procrastinate.

Forgive yourself if you procrastinate. Forgive yourself even if you don’t procrastinate and just feel lost or have no self-confidence. It’s so much easier to find writing support now on the internet compared to my early writing days when the internet highway was still someone’s dream. Just be careful. There are a lot of horrid people just out to steal your ideas…or your money. A lot of people make money off writers…remember the gold rush—it was the miners out in the snow or heat, panning for gold, but it was the storekeepers and saloons that raked in the money and got rich.

Cry Have a good cry over disappointment and soldier on. That was my big mistake. I didn’t handle rejection well. Instead of editing that book, I’d just put it aside and start a new book. I have quite a collection now, somewhere in boxes, collecting dust.

Celebrate each step toward finishing your book. As the saying goes, even small steps a journey makes…even a finished book.

Don’t Give Up

I know some of my musings are old hat for the seasoned writers, but if there is a reader here who dreams of becoming a writer, well, I hope there’s a nugget or two in all these words that will help you in your writing journey.

 Excerpt Beneath A Fugitive Moon

            The cow jumped over the moon,” Mike said a week later. He looked up from the book spread out on Jolene’s table in her cabin. “That don’t make no sense, Jolene. Cats don’t play a fiddle and cows don’t jump over the moon.”

            “That doesn’t make any sense.” Jolene said.

            “Yeah, so you agree, too?” He slammed the book shut.

            Jolene smiled. “The correct grammar is doesn’t, not don’t. And you don’t use two negatives in a sentence: don’t and not.” She opened the book and found the page from which Mike had just read.

            “Do kids actually like this kinda nonsense?”

            “Nursery rhymes have been around for a long time.”

            “Nursery rhymes!” Mike gaped at her. “You’re teachin’ me nursery rhymes?”

            Jolene reached up and stroked his cheek. “Don’t look so offended, Honey Bear. Trust me, nursery rhymes are a lot more interesting than the primary books I have to use for my beginners. Besides, they have great rhythm and make children laugh.”

            “Well, I ain‘t laughin’. Not laughing.” But Jolene using his nickname took all the starch out of his indignation. After all, she was the teacher and he the student.

            Clearing his throat, he bent over the book and repeated from memory by just hearing it once, “The little dog laughed, to see such sport, and the dish ran away with the spoon. That’s dumb. A dish can’t do that.” He looked up. “I’m still not laugh—what’s the matter? You got tears in your eyes. What happened?”

            Before he could move, she leaned forward in her chair, wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his open mouth. Now kisses, those he could understand and gave right back. He’d been wondering when she’d kiss him again. Every time he entered his bedroom, he was swamped with memories of her kissing him on his bed.

            Jolene drew back. “You wonderful, wonderful man.”

            Wonderful I can take. Has a nice sound to it. “I am? How so?”

            “You’re such a quick learner.” She dashed away her tears.

            He frowned. “I am? Then how come you’re cryin’…crying?” he corrected. He loved the soft shiny glow in her eyes. He liked having her look at him like that.

            “Because I’m so happy.”

            Huh? Cryin’ because you’re happy? “That don’t make no...doesn’t make sense.”

            “See what I mean? Already you’re correcting your grammar, Mike. I can’t get over how fast you learn. It’s only been a week and already you know the alphabet back and forward. You don’t just read one word anymore. Since our last lesson, you’ve recognized a string of words. You are amazing. Absolutely amazing.” And she kissed him again.

            “Your kisses are amazin’, too,” he said a moment later, his breathing ragged. “But I think I need a little more practice on them.” Holy smoke! Did I just say that?

            For sure she’d slap his face. Instead, she drew his head down, framed his cheeks with her soft hands and kissed him with a gentleness that squeezed his soul. 



Link for Diamond Jack’s Angel/Hot Western Nights Anthology


Beneath A Horse Thief Moon: