Friday, October 18, 2019

The History of Dream Catchers ~ by Kristine Raymond

When I moved to Arizona in the early 90s, one of the first things that captivated me, aside from the glorious expanse of blue sky and feeling of openess, was the Native American influence that infused every shop and roadside stall.  Now, I know what you're thinking; what did I expect relocating to that part of the country?  Truthfully, I hadn't given it much thought.  All I knew of the region I'd gleaned from watching T.V. westerns and reading historical romance novels.  Neither had prepared me for the wonders I discovered.

Visit any tourist shop in the Southwest and you'll find the same items - turquoise rings, bracelets, earrings, and bolo ties; Kachinas in varying sizes; colorful, hand-loomed rugs; and dream catchers.  It was this last item that sparked my interest.  Aside from their beauty, the meaning behind them captivated me.

©Deposit photos

According to belief, Asibikaashi ('Spider Woman'), as she was known by the Ojibwa Chippewa tribe, was a spiritual protector of both adults and young children and babies.  As the tribe spread across the nation, Asibikaashi instructed grandmothers and mothers to weave webs made of willow and sinew to protect their loved ones from harm.  Feathers, beads, and other embellishments were added to further enhance the web's apotropaic magic.

©Deposit photos
It wasn't until the 1970s that the name 'dream catcher' became mainstream, appearing in non-Native media.  By the early 90s, around the time I made my trek west, they were considered one of the most popular and marketable craft items available; though oversized and made of plastic and synthetic fabrics, they bore little resemblance to the hand-crafted charms of the Ojibwa. 

The most accepted meaning of the dreamcatcher's shape is that the round circle represents the earth and moon, although makes reference to the hoop representing the sun.  The web's eight connections to the circle symbolize a spider's legs, and the feathers are thought to allow good dreams to float gently to the sleeping individual while any bad dreams get caught in the web, evaporating like dew when the morning sun hits them.

©Deposit photos

While many believe that the dreamcatchers of today are a violation of the culture, beliefs, and traditions of Native Americans, I must admit - I still find them charming.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Old Faithful Inn--a National Historic Landmark

by Andrea Downing

Yellowstone National Park is world-famous for its geology, beauty, and wildlife, but it often seems that the one place visitors wish to go see is Old Faithful.  If one has only a day,  it may make sense to go there and walk the surrounding basin as well as wait for the next eruption.  But with so much to see, viewing Old Faithful has become almost Disneyish with the benches surrounding it and the postings of its next spurt.  Luckily, there is something else of fascination to see there…and it happens to be manmade.

The Old Faithful Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a National Landmark.  The over-300 rooms enjoy full occupancy for the months the hotel is open, from the first weekend in May through the first weekend in October—many rooms being booked a year in advance. The hotel has survived a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in 1959 (which shook it loose from its foundations), 1988 forest fires (saved by, among other things, a sprinkler system just installed the previous year), as well as the notorious winters the Rockies offer. 
There had been a previous hotel on the site, The Upper Geyser Basin Hotel, which burned down.  The Yellowstone Park Company had originally approved a turreted  Queen Anne hotel, but Harry Child, President of the company, had met a young architect, Robert Reamer, whom he admired.  He instructed Reamer to design a hotel with the feel of the ‘camps’ in the Adirondacks.  The lobby and the original guest rooms, now known as
hallway of The Old House

The Old House (rooms without baths but with plenty of atmosphere) were built over 1903-1904 and the Old Faithful Inn welcomed its first guests on June 1, 1904.  The East Wing addition was completed in 1913—these are the rooms you would want in order to have a view of the geyser—and the West Wing

Landings of the half-stories of the West Wing
was finished in 1927, forming a hotel that is now 700 ft. long.  Local materials have always been used:  lodgepole pine, rhyolite rock for the lobby chimney, and local artisans were employed for the clock and sandblasted glass windows of the dining hall and lounges.

It is really an honor to be able to sit in the lobby, glass of wine and book in hand, live music drifting down from one of the upper galleries.  Every so often there is a blast of icy air as the front door is opened, people come and go, chatting in about every language of the world, as a fire blazes beneath the chimney clock.  And outside Old Faithful shoots up night and day on its fairly dependable schedule.
  I hope you enjoy the photos. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Horse of a Different Color

I don't know why I'm thinking about this today, maybe it's because we're fast approaching the holiday season and it makes me think of my very first Christmas book ever, but I've been thinking about the Appaloosa horse.

In the foreground, two Native American men wearing cowboy attire sit crosslegged on the ground. In the background, a dark colored horse with a white and black spotted rump stands saddled and bridled.

The Appaloosa or Appy, as it is often called, is most widely known for its spotted coat or blanket and spots across hips. This color pattern, in general, defines the breed, but not all Appaloosa's have color and you guessed it they can change over time.
The Appaloosa horse was a breed perfected by the Nez Perce Indians who lived in what is now Eastern Washington and Oregon and across Idaho. When Lewis and Clark traveled through this area and encountered the tribe they were quite taken by the horses and the quality of breeding they saw in the herds. They did, however, also note that though some horses were "pieded" or multi-colored, the majority were all one color. It is an odd characteristic of the Appaloosa that they truly are a horse of a different color. They can be born a solid color and over time developed the famous blanket and spots, or be born with the blanket and spots and later in life end up a freckled roan with spots everywhere.
a brown mare with a white rump running alongside her baby foal, who is black with a white rumpFor years there has been a controversy about Appys and color with one side saying that if the horses don't have spots they can't be considered an Appaloosa, while others trace bloodlines and feel that that is enough. This led to the ApHC's decision in 1982 to allow "non-characteristic" horses to be registered.
The history of the United States has largely been built on the backs of the humble horse. Their value as transpiration, labor, and freight animals shaped the nation and many of its people. Today though most horses are kept for recreational riding or as pets, their legacy continues.
As we approach the holiday season, looking toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is interesting to think about the contributions of those who were here before us and this remarkable horse is one of them.
In my very first Christmas story Christmas Kringle my hero rides one of these lovely horses. He's a kind-hearted man who catches an angel as she falls to earth; even his horse Chester falls in love with the sassy Saraphina Adams.

Christmas Kringle: Tales from Biders Clump: Book 1 by [Roan, Danni] Seraphina Adams has always loved the outdoors, so when she is asked to help fetch the family Christmas tree she is thrilled, but a sudden accident and a chance meeting with the boy next door change everything in an instant.
Rafe Dixon barely knows his nearest neighbors; a strong fence and a family feud having separated them for years, but when he hears the anguished cries for help he answers the call with an open heart only to have it stolen by an angel as she falls.
Can two, star-crossed-lovers find love in the season of peace, or with their parent's ancient war banish them forever?

Most of my readers know by now that I'm a horse lover extraordinaire and that my horses often play a huge role in the stories I write. At one point a good friend asked me which character I was in my books and I replied, "I'm the horse. I'm always the horse." However, in this particular book, there is a bit of me as I actually did what sweet Saraphina did at Christmas, though I was perhaps a tad safer than she was.

Here is my own tale: 

Christmas tree hunting was a tradition for my family, even when I, as the baby, was the last kid still at home; we still had the hunt for just the right tree. Dad and I would collect the tree and mom and I would decorate it under dad's supervision of course. That was right up to the year dad decided the big Douglas Firs along the road had gotten too tall. It was true; they had grown so big you couldn't see the river anymore. They were big, healthy trees, each standing between thirty and forty feet tall. So that year everything changed and a new yearly adventure began. On the day we were to 'top' the tree dad came up out of the basement with the trusty hand saw and a length of rope. Together mom, dad and I bundled up in coats and gloves then walked the ten or so yards to the trees. Dad looked at the trees critically and chose our first victim. Mom, muttered about the height and how would it come down but let us begin. Dad tied the rope around my waist, hooked the saw to my belt and with a big grin gave me a boost into the lower branches. An old hand at tree climbing I love my way between the thick evergreen boughs and up the trunk. The higher I climbed the more strident my mother’s voice became. "Pete, it's too high. What if she falls?'
"She'll be fine Mary." My dad replied calmly.
A little halfway up the tree, I took a moment to look down. I've never liked heights but for some reason, it always feels safe nestled in the branches of a big pine. I looked down through the deep green, fragrant branches to see dad standing tall and calm on the ground, carefully feeding the rope out to me while mom stood hunched in her winter garb, wringing glove covered hands. I couldn't help but smile. I scrabbled the last ten feet up to the top of the tree, untied the rope from around my waist, (you didn't think it was for me did you?) Tied it around the top of the tree and then began sawing. As I cut deeper and deeper into the narrow width of the tree, dad pulled back gently allowing the saw to continue its path without binding. I quickly worked my way through the slender trunk. Then gave a shove. Dad pulled on the rope and our first treetop Christmas tree landed with a soft thud in the snow thirty feet below me.
We did this for the next three years and mom never did get any more comfortable with my scrabbling up those scaly trunks.

Whatever you might be thinking of today, I hope you remember how you got to where you are.  Looking back at blessings as we look forward to a new holiday season. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Wild Woman Singer who became a Dame of the British Empire

By Jacqui Nelson

How far can talent and an adventurous spirit get a person? Sometimes you need to leave home to change not only yourself but the world.

Meet the historic opera singer whose pursuit of education and opportunity led her to become a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire plus Lucy Maud Montgomery's inspiration and more.

Dame Emma Albani 

( born Marie-Louise-Emma-Cécile Lajeunesse in 1847 
in the United Province of Canada, present-day Quebec ) 

When Marie-Louise-Emma-Cécile was five, her father started her on a regimen of up to four hours a day learning the harp and piano. In 1856 when her mother died, she continued her education in a Montreal convent-school (run by the Dames du Sacré-Coeur) where her father held the position of Music Master.

Emma - age 5
Nine years later in 1865, she moved to Albany, New York because she was unable to finance a musical education in Quebec–where singing was considered an unsavory career for a woman. 

In 1868, she traveled to Paris and then Italy where she studied opera singing. Under the guidance of her elocution instructor, she changed her name to the simpler and more European sounding name Emma Albani. In 1870, she made her Italian debut and in 1872 her London debut. 
Emma - in 1870
Her career at Covent Garden lasted twenty-four years. In the 1880s, she toured Europe and North America and finally sang professionally in her birthplace of Quebec. 

In 1897, she received the gold medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society. 

Emma in 1899
In 1901 after Queen Victoria died, she sang the solo role at the Queen’s final service.

In Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (published in 1908), the prima donna Madame Selitsky was inspired by Emma. Montgomery also included Emma in the non-fiction book Courageous Women (published in 1934). 

In 1925, Emma was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

In 1911, she released her own book, Forty Years of Song, a memoir about her youth and her career complete with advice on singing. 

In 1939, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada mounted a plaque at her birthplace. And in 1980, Canada Post commissioned a postage stamp honoring her everywhere in her birth country.

Not bad for a woman who was born in a place and time where…singing was considered an unsavory career for a woman.

Dame Emma Albani

In my new release, A Bride for Brynmor, my heroine was born in Canada then she became part of a traveling songbird troupe that took her to many places. But in Colorado 1878, she seizes an opportunity to reach for what she craves most. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned...

Can a sister who’s lived only for others find freedom with one man? Family has always come first—for both of them. He’s never forgiven himself for letting her go. She’s never forgiven herself for almost getting him killed.

When Lark and her songbird sisters are separated fleeing their cruel and controlling troupe manager, only Brynmor Llewellyn can help Lark save her sisters and escape to the far west. But Lark wants more. And so does Brynmor. When they’re stranded in a spot as difficult to guard as it is to leave—a rustic cabin at a train junction between Denver and the mountain town of Noelle, Colorado—they find themselves fighting not only for survival but for redemption, forgiveness, and a second chance for their love.

Will the frontier train stop of Songbird Junction be Lark and Brynmor’s salvation? Or their downfall when her manager, a con artist who calls himself her uncle but cherishes only his own fame and fortune—demands a debt no one can pay?

Welcome to Songbird Junction where Welsh meets West in Colorado 1878. The journey to find a forever home and more starts here. Brynmor, Heddwyn, and Griffin Llewellyn are three Welsh brothers bound by blood and a passion for hauling freight—in Denver where hard work pays. Lark, Oriole, and Wren are three Irish-Cree Métis sisters-of-the-heart bound by choice and a talent for singing—in any place that pays.

Read the opening of A Bride for Brynmor on my excerpt page

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

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Not so Hygienic West by Rhonda Frankhouser

Image Copyright to Owner

How can something so sexy, be so stinky?

As western romance writers, it's our job to 'romanticize' cowboy lore when much about them, and what they endured in the Old West was anything but romantic. The scruffy beard, the dirt covered boots. It's all irresistible, but let's think a minute. If he's scruffy and dirty, might he be in need of a bath!

In Ian Harvey's article in the Vintage News, he tells of the disgust experienced by the Native Americans when they first encountered these foul-smelling western travelers covered in heavy, non-breathable fabrics.

The Natives were accustomed to the harsh conditions, so they knew how to survive, find food, shelter and water and how to keep themselves clean. They bathed regularly, and tended to personal hygiene, while these emigrants moving through their lands, sometimes went months without a proper bath. 

It's a well documented fact that those journeying across the hot desert of the old west, battled many foes. The relentless heat, the barren, dusty plains, the over abundance of insect invasion which led to illness and disease, and most importantly, the lack of clean, fresh water. 

Once settled, keeping the water clean and sanitary was yet another difficulty they faced. The seepage from outhouses often contaminated the only source of fresh ground water to be found for miles. Water saved in barrels and ponds became stagnant as dirt and germs infiltrated. Without knowledge on proper storage and disinfection practices, the much-valued water became a source for infection and disease.

Melissa Sartore, outlined ways water was preserved in her article in Weird History. Sponge baths were often the best they could do, if they could manage to salvage even that much water. Families would share one bathtub, and clothes and dishes were washed in what remained, if they were washed at all. 

Ewww, right? But water was more valuable than gold!

Water became big business. Entrepreneurs took advantage of the thirsty people, and sold gallons of water for ridiculously high prices. Ian Harvey further shares that a cup could be sold for a dollar, five dollars, and in some very destitute places, up to a hundred dollars, while a pound of meat went for a penny. Puts things in perspective, for sure.

Copyright to Owner
So it appears smelling good wasn't the priority back then that it is today. I suppose no one can blame the cowboy of the old west for being a little stinky, when dehydration and death was the alternative. Who knows, maybe women back then, with a lack of bathing choices themselves, might've found something primal and sexy about a man drenched in his own sweat.  

For me, I'll continue to write strong, handsome cowboys who smell enticingly of horses, leather and Sandlewood, so my readers can continue to appreciate when his boots get kicked off and his well worn jeans finally hit the floor. 

Thanks for listening. 

About the Author
After fourteen years in hospice care management in central California, award-winning author, Rhonda Frankhouser now writes full time from her lovely Atlanta, Georgia home. Rhonda's Ruby's Ranch Series, earned a finalist honor in the Uncaged Review Raven Awards; a second runner up in the prestigious InD'Tale Magazine RONE awards and a Book and Benches, Reviewers Top Pic ~ Books of Distinction award. Her follow up Shadowing Souls Series and Let Yourself Believe Series, have captured the attention of both romance and mainstream readers alike. Rhonda is a happily married stepmom to 3 beautiful daughters; 2 adorable pugs and a lazy Labrador named Dutch.

Follow Rhonda on Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, Medium, and subscribe at to get a free copy of Seasons of Love, a Children's Story.

Watch for her new release, Christmas at Ruby's Ranch, coming soon!


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

National League of American Pen Women

post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

How many have heard or know the history of the National League of American Pen Women? It is one of the oldest arts organizations for women in the United States. As a person who is passionate about history and especially women's history, I found this information to be pretty fascinating.

Some background:

It all began in 1897 with Marian Longfellow O' Donoghue, a writer for the newspapers in Washington DC. Along with Margaret Sullivan Burke and Anna Sanborn Hamilton they created a press union for the women writers in DC. By 1898 they had over fifty members from all across the United States. Their goal was that every Pen Woman be paid for their work. To be a member one had to have qualifying credentials. To my way of thinking that was a noble goal. Remember, women did not have the right to vote at this time in history.

Marian Adele Longfellow O'Donoghue, from an 1896 publication.

In 1928 a Book titled "  Women of the West: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Living Eminent Women in the Eleven Western States of the United States of America." was published. It's dedication page reads. "Dedicated to the Women of the West co-builders of a Great Nation." It is full of articles and mini-biographies of women in the west, listed by state.

Their mission statement now: The National League of American Pen Women, Inc. was founded in 1897 when women journalists were not permitted to join male-only professional organizations. The League became a professional organization for women writers, artist and composers, where they could be recognized for their talents. 

Some past members of the organization:

Eudora Welty
Pearl S Buck
Eleanor Roosevelt

If you get the chance, click on the Wikipedia link and follow the links of other notable women members.  National League of American Pen Women

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

Monday, October 7, 2019


By Kristy McCaffrey

A Tommyknocker is a type of troll spirit who lives underground and was therefore of great concern to miners. The term originated in the British Isles, but superstitions surrounding the beings filtered into other places. Miners in Colorado took great care to appease the Knockers by leaving a bit of their lunch out for the sprites.

Standing about two feet tall with a grizzled appearance, many believe that Snow White’s dwarves were Tommyknockers. They usually wear standard miner’s garb and are responsible for any mischief that might befall a miner, such as losing tools and food.

The name derives from the knocking on mine walls that precedes a cave-in, which is usually just the creaking of earth and timbers before failing. Some miners believed the Knockers were malevolent beings, but others took them to be practical jokers.

In Cornish folklore, the Knockers were spirits of those who had died in previous mine accidents and were now trying to help the living by warning of impending dangers. As an offering of thanks, miners usually cast the last bite of their lunch pastie (a type of meat pie) into the mines for the Knockers.

In the 1820’s, Welsh immigrants to Pennsylvania brought tales of the Knockers with them and their presence soon spread all the way to California. Belief in the Knockers remained well into the 20th century. During the closing of a mine in 1956, a petition was circulated by the miners to set the Knockers free (so they could move to another mine) before sealing the entrances, and the owners complied.

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 second novella features a tommyknocker.)

The Crow and the Coyote
Volume 1

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
Volume 2

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
Volume 3

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?

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