Friday, December 13, 2019

4 Wild Women Musicians Who Made History

By Jacqui Nelson

Details about (and pictures of) many 19th-century woman musicians are scarce, but this month I found these four historic ladies who excelled at their craft: Amelia Muller Fay, Carrie Belle Wilson Adams, Caroline B. Nichols, and Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Amelia Muller Fay
(born 1844 in Bayou Goula, Louisiana) 
Amelia (or Amy as she was also called) was a concert pianist who studied extensively with the most prominent teachers of Europe. In 1880, she published a memoir called Music Study in Germany. In Boston, she performed piano conversations (recitals preceded by short lectures) and in New York, she was the manager of the New York Women's Philharmonic Society.

Carrie Belle Wilson Adams
(born 1859 in Oxford, Ohio)
Carrie was a musical child prodigy who performed in concert for the first time at age seven. From 1887 to 1896, she was employed as a professor of music at the Indiana State Normal School and also chaired the music department there. By the time of her death in Portland, Oregon, she had also become one of the most prolific American composers, completing 4,000 anthems, 12 cantatas, and 28 operettas during her lifetime.

Caroline B. Nichols
(born 1864 in Dedham, Massachusetts)  
Caroline was a violinist and conductor. In 1884 and 1888, she was a founding member of the Marion Osgood's Ladies Orchestra and Fadette Ladies Orchestra (known as the Fadettes of Boston). She led the Fadettes for more than thirty years and they played more than 6000 concerts. She eventually retired to train orchestra members and help other women be financially independent.

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach
(born 1867 in Henniker, New Hampshire)
Amy was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. Her "Gaelic" Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896, was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. She was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training, and one of the most respected and acclaimed American composers of her era.

~ * ~ 

A life filled with music sounds rewarding, but I know every life has its unique challenges.

I'm having great fun challenging and rewarding my musically-talented heroines in my Songbird Junction series. All three women are strong in their own way. Lark, Oriole, and Wren definitely earn their happily-ever-afters. 

Click here to read more about my Songbird Sisters...and about Brynmor, Heddwyn, and Griffin Llewellyn too 🙂   

Join me on… 
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Don't forget to download my FREE story Rescuing Raven (Raven & Charlie's story in Deadwood 1876) 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Guest Author Mina Beckett

Fellow Cowboy Kisses author has a new release. Check it out!  

A Cowboy Charming Christmas by Mina Beckett
Christmas brings romance to Rough Creek Ranch…
A loveless marriage with a man she couldn’t trust has made single mom Sage Parsons leery of relationships and love. But when a stray dog and a pothole mishap land her a date with Carter McDermott, the town's handsome handyman, she’s tempted to believe he may be her Cowboy Charming.
Carter McDermott was searching for a new start when he came to Santa Camino, Texas, after his divorce three years ago. Since then, he’s bought a fixer-upper home and earned a respectable place in the community by lending his carpentry skills to those in need.
Being with Sage and her seven-year-old daughter, Chloe, has helped Carter’s hurting heart to heal. But when rumors about him start running rampant through the small town, he hopes inviting mother and daughter to the snow-capped mountains of his family's ranch in Idaho for a magical Christmas will give him a chance to explain ─ the rumors are true.

AMAZON buy link (KindleUnlimited): 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Moving to the South was like Coming Home by Rhonda Frankhouser

Image Copyright

Christmas at my Grandparent’s home could have graced the cover of Southern Living Magazine, which was odd since we lived in California. Their house exploded with old time holiday cheer, red silk ribbons and lighted garland dangling over every doorway. Stockings filled with Grandpa’s famous oranges dangled from the fireplace. Two 8 foot, fresh-cut, Douglas Firs were trimmed in silver tinsel and twinkling white lights, with piles of brightly wrapped packages spilling from underneath each tree. 

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     The delicious aromas emanating from the kitchen really made Christmas come alive. Grandma busily recreated family recipes passed down from generations. A giant, honey-crusted ham cooled on a cutting board alongside a maple-whiskey brined turkey. Brown beans boiled with smoked hocks, meal covered okra fried to perfection in well-seasoned, cast iron skillets and crispy cornbread browned in the old Wedgewood oven.  

     The women laid the thirty-foot dining table with Blue Willow China and fanned red napkins, while the men strummed country classics on acoustic guitars and a single twanging banjo. Grandma stirred an oversized pot of chicken and dumplings with one hand, a mason jar filled with sweet tea clasped in the other, while Grandpa hugged each of us at the front door as we passed into the Christmas wonderland. “Y’all come on in and stay a-while.” His rich southern accent and broad, white smile made you feel like the most important person in the world. 

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     My grandparent’s gracious country charm and southern holiday traditions brought the miracle of Christmas to life for me and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything in the world. 

     Back in the 1930s, my father’s relatives were spread throughout Georgia and Alabama, having migrated from England and Scotland nearly a century before. The great depression, along with tariffs encouraging foreign consumption, killed what was left of their meager earning potential from farming. They had to make a change or die of starvation. My brave grandparents packed their few belongings and headed west with six hungry children in tow. 
     California was the promised land. During my grandparent’s lifetime, California was indeed, the land of opportunity, but since then things have dramatically changed. Don’t get me wrong, I will always love the west coast and the amazing memories I’ve made there, but the devastating drought, choking pollution, uncontrollable fires, increasing taxes, crazy high cost of living, illegal immigration overloading the states resources, all added to the deterioration of leadership, has really taken a toll on a once great state. 
     So, when my husband got a job offer in Georgia, the decision to move was an easy one for us to make. He was ready for a new challenge, and we were recent empty nesters, so why not? For me, it was a chance to start anew, a time for me to let go of my fourteen-year hospice career and focus on my writing. I couldn’t pack fast enough. 
     When we arrived in Atlanta and started our search for the perfect place to live, we were immediately drawn to the people and beauty of Gwinnett County. Grayson, to be exact. We fell in love with a little Charleston-style neighborhood within walking distance to great restaurants and shopping, only a few miles from the top-rated physicians and facilities at the Gwinnett Medical Center. Our fabulous agent and now, dear friend, Laurie Anderson, worked hard to make our dream come true. She made moving across the country a breeze. 
Image Credit - Rhonda Frankhouser
     This will be my second Christmas in the south, and I’d have to say, moving here has been more of a homecoming than a venture into the unknown. The southern hospitality reminds me of my grandparents. Neighbors wave and stop for a chat. Cashiers remember your name. For someone who grew up in the hot, dry desert, the ocean of green and turning leaves in this region is a sensory phenomenon. The fresh air, cleansing rain, and gentle southern ways, is a soothing reality. Living here has healed a part of me that I hadn’t realized was broken. Gwinnett County is an undiscovered paradise, with a gentle, restorative pulse. Drink it in this holiday season and be ever so thankful to call this place home. 
     Thanks for taking a trip back home with me. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Check out my new release, Christmas at Ruby's Ranch, Book 4 in the award winning Ruby's Ranch Series. Download free on Kindle Unlimited
This year the Ruby’s Ranch family will celebrate Christmas together for the first time in two decades. It’s the miracle Ruby MacCallister prayed for since the day her mother inexplicably disappeared, splitting the family apart.

When an anonymous gift arrives on the doorstep a few weeks before the big holiday, a very pregnant Ruby, finds herself enmeshed in the intrigue surrounding Granny Rube’s death again.

Will Ruby’s holiday wishes come true, or will family secrets devastate their happy reunion?

Award-winning author, Rhonda Frankhouser, writes mainstream fiction, as well as western and paranormal romance. A native of sunny California, she now lives with her own Knight in Shining Armor in the beautiful state of Georgia. Follow Rhonda at

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Secondary Characters and Villains

Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

December, the time of Holiday cheer, parties and family. Of course, for authors, it's still writing time. For me, the longer nights sometimes translate into more writing or at least more reading. It is definitely watching DVDs and streaming old Westerns time.

I am a huge fan of the old B Westerns and older TV Westerns. When I say B Westerns and Old TV Westerns I'm talking about the movies from the 1930s to about 1950 and TV shows from 1950 to 1962. I have many of them on DVD or stream them. There is nothing quite so much fun as watching episodes of "The Cisco Kid", "The Rebel" or "Yancy Derringer". Of course, anything with Alan 'Rocky' Lane or Charles Starrett is quite fun. I will also point out, I'm always watching to see who wrote the stories for the episodes or film. Many of the early pulp authors who later became well-known did stints as scriptwriters.

Charles Starrett 1940.jpg
Charles Starrett - 1940
from Wikipedia
Looking back at these various works brought home how important villains are to a story, but the secondary characters also. In "The Encyclopedia of Feature Players in Hollywood", Jim Goldrup, one of the authors says this in his introduction about secondary characters: "Principle characters are bound by hero or heroine rules, “the others” aren’t, and they of necessity must not be, in order for the good guys to look good, in order for them to play their parts."

For me, as an author, I try to have a strong villain, and additional characters that enhance the story I'm trying to tell. Additionally, because of my background in theater, my villains have to believe in what they are doing as much as the hero/heroine does in their actions. Their misguided humanness can be some of the most powerful storytelling. Some of the best scenes happen when the two clash over their viewpoints. The movie, "The Ox-bow Incident" is so powerful because of that clash and the reactions of the secondary players.

Would "The Magnificent Seven" and it's predecessor "The Seven Samurai" be the powerhouses they are if the villain were not a strong as the leads?

I confess, even though I write romance, with the happy ever after, I am at heart an action-oriented writer. I love the hero who is strong enough to save the day, but his partner, the heroine has to be his equal in strength of character. They both have to be strong enough to survive the dangers of the Western landscape along with the depth to understand what the other is going through. It can sometimes be a fine line between strength and overbearing. That is where the secondary characters add so much. Many times the leads need someone as a sounding board, someone who can listen without judgment and give advice when needed.

Villain, secondary characters, heroes, and heroines can create a world where the author can tell their story, and the reader gets to live the lives written on the pages. So this Holiday season, enjoy family, friends, books, and movies. Then authors, if you so desire, write a few more lines on that story. Readers, look to see how the storyteller combines the pieces to create the world you are enjoying.

For those how would like to check out some of the old shows, The Cisco Kid - YouTube,
Yancy Derringer - YouTubeAlan 'Rocky' Lane movies - YouTube

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Origin and importance of Holiday Traditions. Subtitle: How Not to Ruin Christmas

There is a time we refer to as The Year We Ruined Christmas. Nobody meant to ruin Christmas, but we learned that payback from side-stepping family tradition can be severe.

It was the failure to find our outdoor Christmas lights that started us sliding down the wrong path. My husband and I spent weeks searching every corner of what is a rather small house to no avail. The only conclusion we came to was that one of us, in a rare deep-cleaning fit, had thrown the lights away. So off to the store we went to buy new strings to light up the eaves and porch. After what seemed like hours of indecision, wandering up and down aisles, considering colored lights, cascading stars, plain white points of light, glacial icicles, strands of blue lights, and whatever else was on offer, we finally picked out two sets we thought looked nice together.

We headed home, but not before making what would turn out to be the second error of the day: picking up a tree while we were out. In my mind we were sparing our kids the trip to the tree lot. I love decorating the tree but I’ve always dreaded walking through rows of trees in the cold while folks compare trees. Just pick one out. Any one. I don’t care. Get that thing in the house and cover it with our collection of ornaments, and I guarantee it will look like any other Christmas tree we’ve ever had. (One of my worst memories involved go up to a tree farm in Wisconsin to cut down our own tree. Crossing a state line to pick out a tree is a bridge too far in my opinion.)

Anyway, remember I said our second mistake, alluding to the fact there was a first mistake? With a tree tied to the roof of our car and boxes of lights in the back seat, we pulled up in front of our house where simultaneously our sights strayed to the same spot. We noticed for the first time in nearly 365 days that we never took down last year’s lights. That’s where they’d been hiding out!

Christmas lights had been decorating our house through Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and every minor holiday and birthday in between. To top it off we’d spent all that time agonizing over new lights only to find they were exactly the same as the ones we already owned, and so we’d presumably gone through the exact same process to the same conclusion years earlier, like the lab rats we are.

That was bad enough but we were unprepared for the outrage from our two kids when we walked in with a tree. Apparently, the kids LIKE the whole tree lot ordeal and look forward to it every year. Screaming “You ruined Christmas!” they stormed off. Later they returned with their own tree which they set up in one of their bedrooms, which was quite a feat because they didn’t have what it takes to easily procure a tree, such as a paying job or a car. I never could figure out how they managed any of that, and whenever in later years I asked, I’d get “It’s too soon to talk about it.” This year—ten years later—I learned for the first time that they enlisted the help of a willing aunt, who also holds her holiday traditions dear and her tongue silent.

Whichever holidays your family celebrates there are likely traditions that have made their way through the generations. But where did these traditions come from in the first place?

Christmas Trees
Why do we bring a pine tree in our house once a year? Probably for the same reason our ancestors in cold climates did: bringing in a bit of greenery in the dead of winter is cheering. And the cat likes it. In Germany this custom merged with Christianity where on December 24 the “Paradise Tree” was decorated with apples on Adam and Eve’s name day. It evolved from there.
Give a nod to Queen Victoria and her German born husband, Prince Albert, for popularizing the Christmas tree outside of Germany.

Cookies and Milk
Do your kids enjoy putting out a treat for Santa? Thank the Norsemen. Though you’d be hard pressed to recognize Santa and his reindeer from their inspiration, Odin and his eight-legged horse, Slepnir. Odin and his flying horse would take to the sky and drop off treats to random kids. Children would leave out treats hoping Odin would favor them.
Did you catch how in time an eight-legged horse became eight reindeer? A jolly old man sitting in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer is definitely less terrifying than an eight-legged horse thundering through the night sky with a Viking on its back. 

Odin and Slepnir

This Christmas Eve ritual of leaving treats out for Santa gained traction during the Great Depression as a way to teach children a lesson in gratitude. Incidentally in Ireland, France, and other European countries the children leave Santa something a wee bit stronger than milk. Note to American children: try being more continental this year.

Hanging Stockings
On the eve of St. Nicholas Day Feast Day, December 5, it was customary for children to fill their shoes with straw and leave them out for the donkeys. Overnight the straw would miraculously be replaced by coins. 
Eventually plain stockings hung on the mantel replaced straw-filled shoes, which was a step in the right decoration.
Still, who decorates their house with their children’s socks? (not intentionally anyway).
Thankfully, in 1883 someone came up with the idea of making decorative stockings meant specifically to adorn the mantelpiece. To quote an early New York Times piece heralding the new Christmas decorations, “No one could pretend that the stocking itself was a graceful or attractive object.” 

This tradition I find especially interesting. For the ancient Druids and Celts, mistletoe was associated with fertility. It was considered unlucky to refuse a kiss under the mistletoe.
Cut to the era of big houses staffed by servants. The servants, many of them from far corners of the British Isles, brought this tradition with them. 
Stealing a kiss under the mistletoe moved Upstairs from Downstairs.

Christmas Lights
In my family we’ve pared down this tradition. On December 1 someone yells, “plug ‘em in,” and we’re done with it. We just leave those lights up year round now, unplugging them sometime in January. The lights are cheerful on long winter nights, right? But where did all this start?
Back in earlier times Christians would set lit candles in their windows to signal that visitors were welcome to celebrate with them. Also, lit candles represented the Christmas Star that led the Three Wise Men to the manger. The fireman’s daughter and granddaughter in me is silently screaming at the thought of so many lit candles. Especially lit candles on trees!
Lucky for us near the end of the 19th century, an associate of Thomas Edison made the first string of lights, consisting of 80 bulbs. Not long after, strings of lights were mass produced and sold in department stores. Over time they became safer, cheaper, and available to all, so now we can compete with our neighbors to see who can have the best displays. I don’t know the origin story of inflatable yard displays.
Whatever holiday you celebrate and wherever the customs that are associated come from, do enjoy yourself this season, and do remember that one person’s least favorite tradition might be another’s most treasured so let’s respect each other. Also remember that as fun as it is to decorate at the start of the season, another great tradition is putting away your decorations at the end of the holiday.

Speaking of enjoying the holidays, nobody enjoys them like Melody, one of the main characters in my story Counting Down to Christmas.

About Counting Down to Christmas:
Melody Evans grew up an only child of a single mother, never putting down roots. Instead, they carried family traditions from home to home, none more precious than those surrounding Christmas. Romance? Melody has put a wall around her wounded heart and turned a cynical eye to the concept of happily ever after, despite making a living as a wedding planner.

Veterinarian Leland Jennings IV has roots long and deep at his family’s ranch in South Dakota. What he lacks, according to his meddlesome sister, is someone to settle down with. But he holds on to the unwavering belief that there is only one woman out there for him. Christmas? It’s a holiday for children, not a bachelor living alone.

Once Melody and Leland get over their initial animosity, they come together like two pieces of a puzzle, sparking emotions and nostalgic memories that bring magic to the holiday season. But when tragedy strikes, will their budding romance become a case of the right person at the wrong time, or will they forge a new path together?

You can get my holiday story plus other contemporary western romances by Hebby Roman, Hildie McQueen, Andrea Downing, Carra Copelin, Kristy McCaffrey, and Devin McKay in one set, on sale this month for $0.99!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Paty Jager's Clue Facebook Party

Join Paty Jager and some of your favorite authors for a Clue Facebook Party. Guest authors will be giving out clues for you to mark off on your Clue sheet (available on a Google Document), with the exception of 3 clues that you will need to deduce at the end of the party and enter the contest for a chance to win the grand prize of a Kindle Fire. Authors are hosting their own giveaways during their time slot, so hop on over to Facebook on December 7 for a fun time!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Christmas Cranberry Recipes By: Julie Lence

For most people, Christmas season is a favorite time of year. Shopping, wrapping, tree-trimming and all the rest keep us running on borrowed energy. So does planning the Christmas Day menu. Each year, I cook up something Italian, and very rarely think of slaving in the kitchen preparing a made-from-scratch dessert. Whatever the store has is good enough for me, and for hubby and kiddo. But every year, I also say, ‘we should have something different’. As a child, I wasn’t a fan of cranberries, but the last few years, they’ve grown on me. Below are two recipes I pulled off the internet. They seem simple enough, so maybe this year we will have something different. And if you haven’t tried them, maybe you will, too.
Either way, I’m sending you and your loved ones Christmas Blessings. May your holiday season be fun, healthy, and safe. Hugs!

Cranberry Bundt Cake:


·        2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (for greasing the pan)
·        1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour or more as needed to flour the pan
·        2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
·        1 teaspoon baking powder
·        3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
·        12 ounces fresh cranberries (1 bag)
·        1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
·        2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
·        2 cups sugar
·        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·        4 large eggs at room temperature
·        1/2 cup sour cream
·        1 cup confectioners' sugar or more as needed
·        1/4 cup orange juice or more as needed
·        pinch of kosher salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter and flour a 9" bundt pan.
2. I recommend using 2 tablespoons unsalted butter that is softened to room temperature. Use your fingers to work the butter into the grooves of the pan. It's important to make sure you coat every bit of the pan to ensure the cake releases nicely so it looks purty.
3. Sprinkle with flour and distribute evenly throughout the pan.  Discard any excess flour.
4. Combine 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
5. Whisk to mix well and set aside.
6. Place 12 ounces fresh cranberries (1 bag) in a small bowl and pick through them to weed out any mushy ones.
7. Add 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour and toss gently to coat the cranberries.
8. Set aside until ready to use.
9. In a mixing bowl, combine 2 sticks softened butter with 2 cups sugar.
10.       Mix on low to combine and then turn up the speed to mid-high and beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
11.       Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
12.       Add eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, mixing after each addition until combined.
13.       Mix in 1/2 the flour mixture until combined and add 1/2 cup sour cream and mix well.
14.       Add in the remaining flour mixture until just combined and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all flour is mixed in.
15.       Gently fold cranberries into the batter.
16.       Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth to even out.
17.       Bake on the center rack of the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes until the top springs back when pressed gently or a cake tester inserted comes out clean.
18.       Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes.
19.       Carefully run a flat edge, such as a butter knife, around the edge of the pan to loosen and also around the center hole.
20.       Place a cooling rack over top of the cake pan and carefully flip the cake pan over so the cake slides out onto the cooling rack. The cake pan will be hot, so be sure to protect your hands.
21.       Allow cake to cool completely.
22.       Prepare the sweet orange glaze by combining 1 cup confectioners' sugar with 1/4 cup orange juice and a pinch of kosher salt.
23.       Mix well to combine.
24.       Add more sugar to thicken or more orange juice to thin to your desired consistency.
25.       When cake is cooled, drizzle the glaze over the cake.
26.       Garnish with fresh cranberries and enjoy!

Cranberry Cobbler

·        6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted + more for the pan
·        1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
·        3/4 cup + 4 Tbsp sugar
·        1 cup all-purpose flour
·        1 1/4 tsp baking powder
·        Pinch of cinnamon
·        1/4 tsp salt
·        1/2 cup whole milk
·        1 large egg
·        1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
1. In a small bowl, toss together the cranberries and 4 Tbsp of sugar. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, milk, sugar, egg and vanilla. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring to combine.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared cast iron skillet. Scatter the sugared cranberries over the top of the batter evenly.
5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature (surprisingly awesome at room temp by the way!).

**Note: Food Images taken from their respective recipe site.