Monday, February 25, 2013


A riverboat port in Northeast Texas?  Strange as it sounds, Jefferson, on Big Cypress Bayou, was an important port in the 1870’s. Jefferson is one of my family’s favorite places to sightsee. We visit antique shops and the candy store (for yummy fudge), drive along the lovely streets, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Many of the 19th century homes are now bed and breakfast inns, and the Excelsior Hotel still accepts guests. We’ve even been known to go fishing in Lake Caddo. (Not me - I read a book while my husband fishes.)

During the late 1840s efforts were made to clear Big Cypress Creek for navigation. As the westernmost outpost for navigation on the Red River, Jefferson quickly developed into an important riverport. The first steamboat, the Llama, reached Jefferson in late 1843 or early 1844. Within a few years steamboats were regularly making the trip from Shreveport and New Orleans, transporting cotton and other produce downstream and returning with supplies and manufactured goods, including materials and furnishings for many of the early homes. By the late 1840s Jefferson had emerged as the leading commercial and distribution center of Northeast Texas and the state's leading inland port.

Among the persistent legends that have grown up around the town was the belief that Jeffersonians had shunned the railroads. While much of the city's wealth during the antebellum and early postbellum years derived from the river trade, city leaders recognized early the importance of rail transportation and made efforts to build a railroad linking the town with Shreveport and Marshall. Construction of a line began in 1860, but only forty-five miles of road was completed by the outbreak of the Civil War. During the Civil War a meat cannery was established there, as were factories for boots and shoes.

Jefferson was an up-and-coming city after the Civil War. In 1867 Jefferson became the first town in Texas to use natural gas for artificial lighting purposes, and ice was first manufactured on a commercial scale there in 1868. By 1870, Jefferson was the sixth largest city in Texas. In the late 1860s more than 75,000 bales of cotton were being shipped annually. By 1870 only Galveston surpassed Jefferson in volume of commerce.

Loading cotton bales
The town reached its peak in 1872, but in 1873 two events occurred that eventually spelled the end of Jefferson's importance. The first was the destruction of the Red River Raft. The Great River Raft or Red River Raft began in prehistoric times as the river ate away at the river’s bank, causing trees at the river’s edge to collapse into the river. Timber and driftwood formed solid bridges that stretched across the river. In some places the raft was reported to be twenty-five feet deep. Some areas were solid enough to serve as land bridges that could support a man on horseback, although I can’t imagine a poor horse having to cross. With slow-moving flow of water, the silt carried by the river sank, damming the bayous along the river.

Breaking up the raft

Imagine a 165-mile log jam. In November of 1873 nitroglycerin charges were used to remove the last portion of the raft, which had previously made the upper section of the river unnavigable. The demolition of the raft reopened the main course of the river, but significantly lowered the water level of the surrounding lakes and streams making the trip to Jefferson by boat difficult.

Even more important to Jefferson's decline was the completion of the Texas and Pacific Railway from Texarkana to Marshall, which bypassed Jefferson. Death to any city!  Although another line of the Texas and Pacific reached Jefferson the following year, the development of rail commerce and the rise of Marshall, Dallas, and other important rail cities brought an end to Jefferson's golden age as a commercial and shipping center. Though efforts were made in later years to raise the water level on the Big Cypress, the railroads soon displaced the riverboats, and with them Jefferson.

For my latest release, BLUEBONNET BRIDE, I placed a fictional town called Pearsonville a few miles from Jefferson that shared in the riverboat shipping trade. The heroine’s late husband bullied his way to control Pearsonville. Fortunately for Rosalyn, my heroine, she severed all ties with the area only a month before the area’s decline.

Here’s the blurb for BLUEBONNET BRIDE, Men of Stone Mountain book three:

He’s a by-the-book Texas sheriff; she’s on the run from a murder conviction...

When a tornado provides Rosalyn with the opportunity to escape the gallows, she collects her daughter Lucy and flees. They travel far enough West that Rosalyn believes she’s gone to the ends of the earth. She hopes she and Lucy will be safe in this remote North Texas town where she embarks on a new life as a dressmaker. If only she could avoid contact with people, especially the handsome sheriff who pops up every time she turns around. She fears either she or her chatterbox daughter may slip and reveal too much.

Joel Stone has been content with his life, even if it’s not the one he’d dreamed. His younger brothers are married and living nearby, his aunts have moved to Radford Springs, and he is respected for the efficient job he does as sheriff. When he meets the new widow in town, his instant attraction staggers him. She appears uninterested, but he is determined to win her hand in marriage. 

But life doesn’t turn out the way either Rosalyn or Joel plan. They overcome temporary obstacles, but what of the secret she protects? Can he save her from the gallows?

BLUEBONNET BRIDE is available at Smashwords in e-book:
And in print or e-book from Amazon at:

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Social Media and Blogging in the Old West

Dateline: Late19th Century

A quick trip to the past proves that at the core, blogging and social media are nothing new.

It isn't as portable as a laptop, but a good sized wagon can carry a small press and allow an itinerant printer to set up shop. For a modest price businesses can print handbills. Lawmen can spread wanted posters. And activists can print pamphlets expounding their opinion without being shut down by a newspaper publisher with advertisers to please. 

Tweeters have nothing on telegraphers who have to pay by the character.

Salesmen carry news and gossip as well as sample bags across the country. Of course, you can't rely on the veracity of the information received, but that's nothing new. As Mark Twain said: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

Live chat is popular, especially at the general store. Just pull up a chair by the pickle barrel. If you're a good customer, you might even get a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Keta Diablo Filling in For Ginger - Welcome Keta

*New Release*
Sky Tinted Water
A Sweet Historical Romance
Keta Diablo

* Mystery
* Suspense
* Timeless Love

The story is a ‘sweet’ historical romance.

Familial bonds, malevolent schemes and passion collide in this sweet historical novel. Set in Minnesota during the Civil War and the Sioux uprising, this is the story of Rory Hudson, the exquisite Irish lass with an unbreakable spirit and the enigmatic Dawson Finch, a man bound by honor, duty and loyalty.

When Dawson enlists in the army to bring peace to nation divided, Rory’s world plummets into a tailspin. War, distance and time separate them, but nothing can dispel the haunting memories of their love. Not even death can destroy their fierce passion or a love so strong it beats the odds of the impossible.

* * *
The five star reviews are coming in!

★★★★★ Amazon Reader -"Sweet Historical Romance delivers!"
"I really enjoyed this novel. It contains romance, humor, conflict, and action. The author gives great insight into the characters' personal lives as well as how they're affected by the controversies of their day. I can't wait to see what happens in Part 2."

Available Here:
Amazon UK
Amazon US:
Barnes & Noble:

Watch for Book 2, SKY DANCE, coming to a Kindle and Nook near you in March 2013.!

If you'd like to know more about Keta's books, please follow her Romance Blog, Keta's Keep,

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Mother of the American Valentine

This is the valentine’s box my granddaughter made for school last week, and she was over the moon with all the wonderful valentines she received. Valentine’s Day and boxes have special memories for many of us, so while I hope you are all still enjoying the after effects of last week, I thought I’d share Ester Howland’s valentine success story.

When Ester was 19 years old, and had just graduated college, a friend of her fathers sent her an intricate valentine card from England. The year was 1847 and Ester was intrigue with the idea of creating similar cards and starting her own business. Her father, Southworth Howland, owned a book and stationery store in Worchester, Massachusetts, and ordered the supplies she needed to start her adventure from England and Germany.

Ester assembled twelve different valentines and gave them to her brother (who worked as a traveling salesman for their father) hoping he would return with $200 worth of orders. To her amazement he returned with $5,000 worth of orders. Ester recruited friends and family to assist her and used the third floor of her family’s home as her assembly line workshop. Pictured is an Ester Howland card from 1850.

The New England Valentine Company was born, and at the peak of the company’s success annual sales topped $100,000. The company’s valentines became renowned throughout the United States and Ester was dubbed the Mother of the American Valentine. After many successful years of business, she sold her company in 1881.  

As a late valentine, I'm giving away a paperback copy of my book that releases tomorrow!  
Inheriting a Bride

Kit Becker travels to Nevadaville prepared to use any pretense necessary to discover why she must share her inheritance, and with whom.  
Clay Hoffman knows a thing or two about money-grabbing females, so when he finds one posing as his new ward, he's determined to get beneath every delicious layer of her disguises. Discovering she's telling the truth, Clay is torn--he should be protecting her, not thinking about making her his bride! All he knows for sure is that he's inherited a whole heap of trouble!

Either leave a comment on this post (along with your email address for me to contact the winner) or if you prefer, send me an email (Lauri at izoom dot net). I'll draw the winner's name on Saturday.

Sunday, February 17, 2013



Although prized by antique collectors today, hatpins were once both commonplace and controversial. Ranging between 6 and 12 inches long, depending on the size of the hat they needed to secure to a woman’s head, they were fancy or practical. Every available material was used in their manufacture; precious metals, gemstones, plastics and paste. Hatpin makers marketed their products to the various levels of society, ranging from the extremely ornate and expensive to the simple and functional. The heyday of the hatpin lasted from the 1880's to 1920’s, after which hair styles became short and hats became smaller, making pins unnecessary.

As far back as the Middle Ages in Britain and Europe, pins were used as a device to securely hold wimples and veils that proper ladies used to cover their hair. These wire pins were used for hundreds of years. In 1800 the making of decorative and functional pins became a cottage industry, frequently employing an entire family. Each pin was time-consuming to make, limiting the numbers of pins available to the demanding public.

One way to keep up with demand was to import from France. Parliament became alarmed at the effect the imports had on the balance of trade and, in 1820, passed an Act restricting the sale of pins to two days per year, January first and second. Ladies saved their money all year to be able to purchase pins, which may explain the term “pin money.” Queen Victoria, however, taxed her subjects at the beginning of each year to pay for her own pins, which may also have originated the term.

In 1832 a pin making machine was patented in the U. S. and the production of pins with long tapering points began, usurping the hand-made ones. Within the next two years, England and France as well as Japan began production machine-made pins. Any woman wearing a hat undoubtedly had a hat pin holding it in place. These pins could be up to thirteen inches long with a quite sharp tip, providing Victorian women with a handy weapon. They were so threatening that one judge ordered suffragettes to remove their hats and hatpins, for fear they’d use them as weapons in his court. Arkansas and Illinois passed bills limiting the length of hatpins to 9 inches. If a lengthier pin were desired, a permit had to be applied for. Of course women needed holders for their pins as well, so manufacturers began producing them.

By 1848, head coverings were merely another piece of clothing which changed with fashion. Bonnets came into being, employing ribbons and strings tied under the chin to hold them on. This coincided with the suffrage movement, as women were as eager to be free of bonnet strings as they were to declare their right of equality with men.

The rise in popularity of hatpins as a result of changing fashions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the Charles Horner jewelry business becoming one of the British market leaders in good quality but mass produced hatpins. Some of the high quality makers in the U. S. were the Unger Bros., the William Link Co., the Paye & Baker Mfg. Co. and Tiffany & Co. At the start of World War II women took over the jobs vacated by men who had gone away to war. As they reported to work in the factories, shipyards and aircraft plants the wearing of hats fell out of fashion, along with hat pins, which is too bad because a lot of us today could use a good weapon as handy as our hats, now and then.

If Tempest Whitney, in my book To Have And To Hold had been wearing a hat held in place with a long, sharp pin the day Jonas Creedy attacked her, he'd have gotten what was coming to him a lot sooner.

Here's a sample of what happened:

               Tempest’s heart tumbled. How much had Jonas learned? He obviously thought he knew something incriminating or he wouldn’t be taking such pleasure baiting her. Panic vibrated through every nerve. Buck and Skeet looked nothing alike. Could Jonas have gotten hold of descriptions of the two men that proved who was who? If so, nothing would save her from Jonas. Beneath her shirt-tail, her hand went to the slight bulge of the derringer in her pocket.
                “Is that where your husband’s been the last two years, puss? Prison?” Jonas edged closer. “Did he came back for you . . . or the money he musta stashed after the robbery?”
                Tempest expelled the breath she had been holding. He didn’t know Buck wasn’t Skeet. She was safe. Or would be if she got out of this alley in one piece. She eyed the hotel entrance a dozen steps away. Maybe she could distract him long enough to make it inside. “All right, Jonas. It’s true, Skeet was in the State Penitentiary,” she said, walking again. “But when he went to get the money, it was gone. He thinks one of the soldiers found it and didn’t report it.”
                “And you believe that?”
                The hotel entrance was close, so close. Eight feet. Six. Three.
                Two feet from the door his hand clamped on her arm, spinning her about. “Hold on, you little witch, I’m not done with you yet.” 
             Off-balance, she fell against him, losing her hat. Chuckling, he clutched her tightly to his stocky body. The fear she’d felt before was nothing to what coursed through her now.

Resource Materials and Books on hat pins:

The Collectors Encyclopedia of Hatpin and Hatpin Holders by Lillian Baker
Baker's Encyclopedia of Hatpins and Hatpin Holders, Schiffer Books
Hatpins and Hatpin Holders an Illustrated Value Guide by Lillian Baker, Collector books
Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewelry by Lillian Baker, Collector books
Hat Pins and Tie Pins by Alexandra M. Rhodes, Mackays of Chatham Ltd.
A Celebration of his Life and Work by Tom Lawson, GML Publishing.  

Charlene Raddon is the award-winning author of several historical romance novels set in her beloved American West. One of her books, Tender Touch, was a Golden Heart Finalist. Another, Forever Mine, received a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award Nomination. To Have And To Hold was a finalist in the Affaire De Coeur Magazine Reader/Writer Poll for Best Historical in 1997. All Charlene's books were published in paperback by Zebra Books. Now they are being released as e-books, one by one, by Tirgearr Publishing. Visit her at her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Meg Mims -- Down and Dirty in the Old West: What's a Woman to Do?

Let's face it. When you think of a "western" the first image you have is dirt. Horse manure and dust from carriages and wagons. Mud when it rains. Ugh.

I have a scene in my Double Series sequel where the heroine gets plastered with mud. Oh, sure, grab the bath tub. Wash her hair. With what? Time to research. I read that soap made of lye and ashes was pretty harsh and left a film, but it worked to a point. Then I wandered into other research territory (as usual) in terms of what a lady would resort to in terms of keeping herself as ladylike as possible.

The visible signs of a lady in the 1800s, given the neck to ankle coverage in clothing, had to do with hair, complexion and hands. Many westerns I've read have women wearing their hair flowing over their shoulders -- heaven forbid! One badge of womanhood (besides the embarrassing secret of the menstrual cycle, of course) was a girl pinning up her hair and lowering her skirt hems to the shoe-tops or the floor. And ladies had many ways of utilizing hairpins, ribbons, combs, flowers both real and made of ribbon, switches of hair if God didn't gift them with luxurious tresses, etc. Women almost never cut their hair, and some women had hair long enough to sit on.

How often did women wash their hair? Seldom, from what little I've found in research. If anyone can point me to a book or website, let me know! Shampoo wasn't formulated until the late 1800s. Women used soap, vinegar rinses, mineral oil, whatever they could get their hands on to get dust, dirt, bugs, etc. out of their hair. I still remember my grandmother talking about brushing her hair 100 times each night when she was young.

Let's move on to complexions. Women of the 1800s who wore greasepaint and rouge were either actresses in the theater or 'fallen women' -- and many people considered them one and the same. Who remembers Scarlett O'Hara pinching her cheeks and biting her lower lip in the movie Gone With the Wind? That's about it.

Real ladies kept their skin white, without blemish or freckles. Middle and upper class women bleached their skin if necessary and kept out of the sun. Woe to western pioneer women who worked out in the sun and wind, since sunbonnets were of little help. And ladies always wore hats and gloves to go out, throughout the 1800s until the mid-1960s.

This leads to how often did a lady bathe. Wealthier ladies might have a real tub and servants to carry water, but I'd guess they might bathe once or twice a week. Poorer women might have a washtub for a once a week bath, if that, depending on how plentiful water would be. Daily sponging for cleanliness made more sense.

Most clothes were not washed more than once a week. Ladies' skirts and dresses dragged on the ground and collected dirt and other grime. "Monday is Wash Day, Tuesday is Ironing Day" -- I still remember that little ditty. And everything (and I mean everything given the cotton and muslin fabrics) from underclothes and outer clothing, to linens, handkerchiefs, kitchen towels, etc., would be wrinkled and in need of ironing. No wonder it took all day. If you could afford a laundress, lucky you!

Let's face it. Women had it rough 150+ years ago without today's modern conveniences of vacuums, showers and shampoo, washers/dryers and dishwashers.

Here's the excerpt from the sequel to Double Crossing, coming soon -- titled Double or Nothing -- after Lily is covered in mud and heads home.

Once upstairs in my bedroom, I stripped every bit of clothing off with a weary sigh and tied a wrapper around my waist. My hairpins seemed to be plastered into place. I pulled one out and dislodged a hunk of dried mud. Ugh.

Etta knocked. “I’ve heated water. Let me have your clothes, miss.”

“There’s no use salvaging them.”

“Now, Miss Lily. Your uncle explained everything. It’s not your fault what happened,” she said and bent to gather the filthy clothes. Etta held out a small bowl with creamed paste. “Your favorite type—lavender, honey and a bit of oatmeal. Cover your face and hands with that, and I’ll mix some fresh beeswax with rose hips and almond oil when you’re done.”

I sank into the hot bath water in the screened alcove. Once I scrubbed all over, Etta washed my hair and brought fresh water to rinse all the dirt out. She poured a mixture of rose-scented mineral oil and massaged it into my curls. The room’s chilly air sent shivers up my spine. I slathered my face and hands with cream, slipped into my nightdress and crawled into bed...

Meg Mims is an award-winning bestselling author and artist. She writes blended genres – historical, western, adventure, romance, suspense and mystery. Her first book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from Western Writers of America and  was named a Finalist in the Best Books of 2012 from USA Book News for Fiction: Western. She also wrote two contemporary romances, The Key to Love and Santa Paws. Follow her on Twitter (@megmims), on Facebook and her website blog.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cowboy Lullabies

Anyone who’s read western novels or watched a few cowboy movies knows that cowboys often sang to the cattle they herded, whether on their home range or along the Big Trail to market. Crooning to the cattle helped calm them, especially at night when they might be spooked by a coyote’s yapping, a wolf howling at the moon, lightning, thunder, and countless other causes. I suspect singing also kept the tired night herders awake after a long day in the saddle.

Composed by cowhands riding around the herds, the songs followed the rhythm of a horse's gait and often weren’t very tuneful. Some didn’t even have words. They were called "Texas lullabies." Others had verses that have outlasted their authors..

Today, as a little Valentine gift, I’d like to share two traditional cowboy lullabies. Think of them as love songs to the cattle and the comboy’s best friend, his horse.

Herding cattle in Oklahoma, ca. 1870s - 1880s

Night Herding Song

Author unknown

Slow down little doggies, quit rovin' around
You have wandered and trampled all over the ground
Graze along doggies, feed kinda slow
Don't forever be on the go
Move slow little doggies move slow 

I've circle-herded, trail-herded, night-herded too
To keep you together is what I can't do
My horse is leg weary and I'm awful tired
And if you get away I am sure to get fired
Bunch up little doggies bunch up

Lay still little doggies since you have laid down
Stretch away out on the big open ground
Snore loud little doggies and drown the wild sounds
That will all go away when day roles around
Lay still little doggies lay still

So little doggies quit rovin' around
You have wandered and trampled all over the ground
Graze along doggies, and feed kinda slow
Don't forever be on the go
Move slow little doggies move slow

Doney Gal

Author unknown
“Doney Gal” was a pet name for a cowboy’s favorite horse; it means sweetheart.
A cowboy's life is a weary thing
Rope and brand and ride and sing
Yes, day or night in the sleet and hail
He'll stay with the dogies out on the trail.
Chorus: Rain or shine, sleet or snow Me and my Doney Gal are bound to go
Rain or shine, sleet or snow, Me and my Doney Gal are bound to go.

We're up and gone at the break of day
Driving them dogies on their lonesome way
The cowboy's work is never done
We're up and gone from sun to sun
We yell at the rain, laugh at the hail
Driving them dogies down the lonesome trail
We'll yell at the rain, sleet and snow
When we reach the little town of San Antonio
Rain or shine, sleet or snow,
Me and my Doney Gal are on the go.
We travel down that lonesome trail
Where a man and his horse seldom ever fail.
Chorus repeat
We'll ride the range from sun to sun,
For a cowboy's work is never done.
He's up and gone at the break of day
Drivin' the dogies on their weary way.
Chorus repeat
Travelin' up the lonesome trail
Where a man and his horse seldom ever fail,
Joggin' along through fog and dew,
Wishin' for sunny days, and you.
Chorus repeat
Over the prairies lean and brown,
On through the wastes where there ain't no town.
Swimmin' the rivers across our way,
We fight on forward day-end on day.
Chorus repeat
Trailin' the herd through mountains green,
We pen the cattle in Abilene.
Round the campfire's flickerin' glow
We sing the songs of long ago.
Chorus repeat

Book Excerpt:

Dashing Druid – Texas Druids trilogy, book II

The silhouette of another rider appeared against the cream-colored moon, approaching at a walk from the opposite direction. She knew it was Neil. He was the only man her father trusted out here alone with her at night. Not that she couldn’t take care of herself. She’d learned how to use a knife and a gun when she was a little mite.
“Lily, is that you, colleen?” the man called out low as they neared one another.
“You! What are you doing out here?” she blurted, sawing on her reins, causing her horse to snort. Hearing the nearby cattle stir, she lowered her voice. “Where’s MacClure?”
“In his bedroll by now, I should think.” He grinned, teeth flashing in the moonlight. “I volunteered to take part of his shift so I could have a moment alone with ye.”

“Have you been eating locoweed again? If my father finds out –”
 “I’ll risk it, since this seems to be the only way."
“You dang fool!” she hissed, struggling not to yell. “Pa meant what he said. Unless you want to end up dead, you’d best stay away from me.” She kneed her horse ahead, paying no attention when Tye called softly after her.
They circled the herd and met again, but Lil refused to speak to him. Riding on, she heard a muttered curse behind her.
The third time they met, Tye prodded his horse close before she could get past him and gripped her arm. Lil squeaked in alarm as he leaned toward her without saying a word. His other hand reached out to cup the underside of her jaw. Her hat fell back to dangle by its chin strings as his mouth claimed hers.
Any resistance she might have offered gave way beneath his insistent kiss. She wanted this as much as he did. Laying a hand on his chest, she opened her mouth to his exploring tongue. A rush of heat swept through her, drawing a smothered moan from her throat. His answering groan told her he was just as affected as she was.
Her horse suddenly squealed in protest and shied away from Tye’s mount. Torn apart from him, Lil gasped and fought for balance. She quickly settled her ornery steed, but the ruckus brought several cattle to their feet.
Breathing hard, she faced Tye, sharing the frustration on his moonlit face.
His gaze went to the restless herd. “I shouldn’t have done that,” he said, husky-voiced. “I only meant to speak to ye, but –”
“Don’t talk,” she whispered urgently. “Just start riding and sing. And don’t try that again, or we’ll have a stampede on our hands.”