Friday, March 25, 2016

Lundy: From Gold to Fish


The gold mining town of Lundy in Mono County, California, is the primary setting of my latest novella, Her Independent Spirit in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series.
Original townsite for Lundy at west end of Lundy Lake
Lundy is located on the western end of Lundy Lake on the eastern slope of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains about six miles east of Mono Lake. Today it is a ghost town as far as gold mining goes.  Ever since the dam was built at the eastern end of Lundy Lake, much of the land on which the original structures of Lundy were built is now under water.
Trees in Mill Creek Canyon west of Lundy
The nearby gold mining town of Bodie was being established at a rapid rate. Set in a barren section between two mountain ranges, the need for wood to build structures and to fuel needed operate the mine as well as for cooking and heating required frequent trips to the nearby mountains. A milling operations was started on Mill Creek near the future site of Lundy.
Miners' shack like found in Eastern Sierra mining areas
When mining activity began in earnest in the slopes around Mt. Scowden, new arrivals stayed at a small settlement two miles up the canyon called Emigrant Flat. Too small to accommodate many people, it became obvious a better townsite was needed. Land on the west side of Lundy Lake was chosen. It was covered by a heavy growth of pine trees. After a sawmill was erected on the lakeshore, a town quickly grew.  This lake was originally called Wasson Lake for one of the founders of the mining district, but was changed to Lundy Lake in honor of William Lundy, the first recorder for the mining district.
Lundy in winter - Mt. Scowden in background
The first store opened was in a tent. New buildings went up daily, including cabins, framed houses, a post office and a Wells Fargo agency. Meat was supplied by butchers from Bodie and Bridgeport. According to an early merchant, George Montrose, the new town was first known as Mill Creek. By 1881 it was officially known as Lundy. Between April and June 1880, the population of Lundy increased by between 15 to 20 people per day. O.J. and William Lundy built the May Lundy Hotel, a large lodging house also known as Lundy Hall. The business district soon contained two general merchandise stores, seven saloons, two lodging houses, a couple of boarding houses, two bakeries, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, an assay office, a butcher, freight line, and three stage lines.

Children began attending the new school in 1881. A telegraph line was installed from Lundy to Bodie and telephone service was established between Lundy and Bennettville in 1882.

There was also a weekly newspaper, the Homer Mining Index, published every Saturday. The Index predicted that within one year a hundred stamp mills would be “resounding in Mill Creek Canyon.” And the population would exceed 5,000. The population peaked at 500 in the spring of 1881. Publishers came and went, and the paper was out of business by November 1884.

The closure of the May Lundy mine on August, 21, 1884 had a devastating effect on Lundy. That is the incident you will find as part of the story in Her Independent Heart. You may read more about the May Lundy Mine by CLICKING HERE.

Although other mines in the region continued to operate, the loss of revenue from this mine and mill alone, coupled with the national recession of the 1880’s, severely affected the economy of Lundy. Many miners moved on to other mines. Business owners left their buildings vacant and people walked away from their homes.
Independence Day celebration 1890's. Note rebuilt Lakeview Hotel and Lundy Lake. Four women sported shotguns.
Even though the town of Lundy was built next to a large lake, there was no hydrant system and no fire department. When the Lakeview Hotel burned in 1880, the blaze somehow did not spread to other structures. The hotel was rebuilt. Other fires in 1883 and 1884 spared the town, but the 1887 fire of suspicious origins on August 6th that started in the May Lundy Hotel around midnight mushroomed into an inferno that destroyed twenty-five commercial buildings in the lower part of town. The businesses were not rebuilt.

By the turn of the century the population of Lundy had dwindled to a very few. The people still enjoyed social gatherings, including the Fourth of July celebration.
The fishing resort of Lundy in January, 2015
In the 1920’s Mono County began improving roads making access to Lundy easier. In the 1930’s Carl Miller built the Lundy Resort. It remains a popular destination for camping, fishing, hiking and other recreation.

Here is the book description:

Beth Dodd has made a promise to help “Lulu”, a young prostitute at the Blue Feather, keep her baby if she decides to leave the whorehouse and become a respectable woman. But Beth hadn’t counted on the obstacles she and the new mother will face from society in the mining town of Lundy. From the obstinate landlady, Mrs. Ford, to her intractable German boss, Gus Herschel, Beth must fight for the woman she’s promised to help. But Beth Dodd never gives in, and she keeps her word with a stubbornness that Lundy folks are not accustomed to seeing from a woman.

Once Lulu, now known as the more respectable Louisa Parmley, starts working for Gus in his kitchen, she proves that Beth was right to take a chance on her. She has every intention of making a good life for her new daughter. But can she also hope to find happiness with Gus? And will Gus be able to accept her and baby Sophie Ann as his? Love was never in the cards for Gus, but Louisa dreams of happiness with the stoic man, and Beth is determined to bring them together through HER INDEPENDENT SPIRIT.

You may purchase Her Independent Spirit from the following:

Amazon  |    Smashwords  |  Kobo  |  iBooks
Barnes & Noble  (coming soon)

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical romances. The first book in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine, covers January through Valentine's Day in 1884, and the second, A Resurrected Heart, is set in April, 1884. Her Independent Spirit covers the end of April through September, 1884. You can purchase them all by going to my Amazon Author Page by CLICKING HERE.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What Coould Be A Nightmare for Oprah Winfrey #characterinterviews

On the set of Oprah: Stage is set with couches enough to seat the heroines from author, Ginger Simpson’s historical novels.

Oprah takes the stage:
The applause sign is lit. She raises her hands for silence.
“Thank you, thank you, and welcome to our show. Today we’re lucky to have the lovely heroines straight from the pages of author, Ginger Simpson’s, western historicals.”

More applause: “So let’s bring them out in the order that Ginger introduced them to us: Cecile from Destiny’s Bride, Mariah and Taylor from Time Tantrums, Grace from Dancing Fawn and Sarah from Sarah’s Heart and  Passion. We had planned to have Ellie Fountain join us from Ellie’s Legacy, but she was unable to be here because of a contest of some sort she has going on between her and her father’s foreman.”

The ladies take the stage, three dressed in their long cotton dresses of various prints and one in a smartly fashioned pant suit. The contrast between the hair colors may be a prediction of the differences of opinions about to be shared.

Guests are seated.

Oprah: “Welcome, ladies. I’m so glad you could all find time to join us today. I know there’s been a lot of chatter about which book is the best, so I couldn’t think of any better way than to let the heroines help us decide. Cecile, let’s start with you. Ginger featured you in her debut novel which has now been re-released. What can tell us about it and why might someone favor it over another?

Cecile: I’m certain Destiny’s Bride is her favorite because it launched her into the writing world. Why else would she have given me two lovers? I had the best of both worlds, Indian and white.

Taylor: “Wait a minute. That doesn’t make you her favorite. Mariah and I changed eras and inherited each other’s husbands. Seems that we each had two men in our life, too worlds, actually. Nice try, though.”

Mariah: “Of course, I remained faithful to my husband.” She casts a leering look at Taylor.

Taylor: “Oh, get over Mariah. If you weren’t such an old-fashioned prude you would have enjoyed being in the twentieth century.” *Rolls her eyes*

Grace: “Ms. Winfry, I apologize for the rude behavior. There’s no doubt that Destiny’s Bride and Time Tantrums were wonderful reads, but my role in Dancing Fawn was much more daring. I was captured by the Indians, saved by the cavalry, and then discovered I was expecting a baby. I’d love to tell you more, but that would be giving away the ending.”

Oprah: “Goodness, that sounds frightening. What was it like to live with the Indians back in the 1800s?”

Cecile: “She really didn't have a clue.. She just starred in the sequel to Destiny’s Bride and since I was already at the Lakota Village, I taught her everything she knows about Indian life.”

Grace: “Not everything.” *frowns*

“Sorry, Grace. You were very young and naïve. You wouldn’t have lasted three chapters without my help.

Grace: “Well, I never.” *huffs*

Taylor: “Well, evidently you did. You said you got pregnant.”

Mariah: “Taylor, must you always be so crass?”

Oprah: “Ladies, ladies. We haven’t heard anything from Sarah yet. Sarah, won’t you tell us a little about your story?

Sarah: “Thank you for asking. I refuse to act like these other women. I have a reputation to uphold.”

Taylor: *makes a face* “You’ve got to be kidding. Standards? Go ahead; tell Ms. Winfry how you traveled across country with a half-breed. Shared his blankets, I suppose.”

Sarah: “How dare you. I did no such thing. My story is about a woman's struggles and the unfairness of the time.”

Taylor: “Bet you wanted too, didn’t ya?”  Taylor wrinkles her nose and winks.

Sarah: “That’s none of your business. Just because you have loose morals, that doesn’t mean the rest of us do.”

Mariah:  *Whips her gaze around to her right* “See, Taylor. I told you your mouth would get you into trouble. Didn’t I beg you to behave? David was right when he said his wife was a pain at times.”

Taylor: “Well, you should have heard what your husband said about you…especially in the bedroom.”

Cecile: “Really, you two shouldn’t even be here. Isn’t Time Tantrums a time-travel?”

Taylor: “Yes, but with an historical twist, so we’re just as welcome here as you are.”

Grace: “Well, if you were invited, I don’t see why Cassie from Embezzled Love and Carrie from First Degree Innocence weren’t."

Mariah: “Oh come now, Grace. Those two novels have nothing to do with the historical genre.”

Taylor: “Holy shit, you and I finally agree on something, Mariah.”

Mariah: “Must you always talk like a drunken sailor?”

Taylor: “What do you know about drunken sailors? If you’d said that in the book, the editors would have red-penned it. You know how picky they are about keeping your language and facts pertinent to the era.

Mariah: “You’re right. So, must you always talk like a trailhand? Is that better?”

Taylor: “Fu—”

Oprah: *Waving hands* Well, that about takes up our time for today. Before we cut to commercial, I’d just like to thank you all for taking time to visit with us  If these ladies ever want to share their experiences again,I'd welcome them one at a time, otherwise, I think they truly belong on Jerry Springer's show.. To Ellie, if you’re watching, I’ve heard that Tyler Bishop is quite a handsome hunk and that you really give him a run for his money. Hope you can visit with us sometime. Again, Ladies, thank you, and maybe next time we can find out more about your stories and less about your personalities. *smiles*


Tuesday, March 22, 2016


The button—with its self-contained roundness and infinite variability—has a quiet perfection to it. Running a cascade of buttons through your fingers feels satisfyingly heavy, like coins or candy; their clicking whoosh and blur of colors lull you. A button packs an extraordinary amount of information about a given time and place—its provenance—onto a crowded little canvas. Children learn to button and unbutton early in life, and they keep doing it until they’re dead.

The earliest known button, according Ian McNeil in An Encyclopedia of the History of Technology, "was originally used more as an ornament than as a fastening, the earliest known being found at Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley [now Pakistan]. It is made of a curved shell and about 5000 years old." Early buttons like these usually consisted of a decorative flat face that fit into a loop. (Reinforced buttonholes weren’t invented until the mid-13th century). Percent% Buttons in this period almost never appeared in straight rows, but were used singly as sartorial flourishes.

Along with brooches, buckles, and straight pins, buttons were used in ancient Rome as decorative closures for flowing garments. However, none of these options worked perfectly. Pins poked unsightly holes into precious fabrics. Supporting yards of cloth at a single point required buttons of architectural heft, made of bone, horn, bronze or wood. Some designs took the functional pressure off buttons by knotting the fabric securely into position, then topping off the look with a purely ornamental button.

(Incidentally, as a button alternative, Mycenaeans of the Roman era invented the fibula, a surprisingly modern forerunner to our safety pin. This design was lost with them until it re-emerged in mid-19th century America.)
The button became more prominent among the wealthy in the Middle Ages.  “About the middle of the eleventh century,” writes Carl Köhler in A History of Costume, “clothes began to be made so close-fitting that they followed the lines of the body from shoulders to hips like a glove.” Buttons helped that snug fit along. This didn’t mean clothes were cut more sparingly; wealthy people still liked the costly display of excess fabric. But, on both men’s clothes and women’s, buttons helped accentuate lovely lines, of the arm, say, or the bosom.
Spanish metal button dating from about 1650 to 1675.
Spanish metal button dating from about 1650 to 1675.
Courtesy Button Country.

The first button-makers guild formed in France in 1250. Still regarded as less-than-functional jewelry, buttons were so prized that sumptuary laws restricted their use. Books, Banks, Buttons and Other Inventions from the Middle Ages by Chiara Frugoni relates how, in a period tale, a magistrate quizzed a woman overly bedecked in buttons.
Buttons came in all shapes and sizes, but most often they were mounted on a shank; you ran thread through the shank’s hole to attach the button to fabric. Unlike modern buttons with their iconic four-square holes, the shank style left the button’s face totally free: a tiny blank canvas one could cover, carve, polish, or paint with luxurious abandon.

The medieval period was the era when wearing lots of buttons meant big money. Franco Jacassi, reputedly the world’s biggest button-collector, describes this as a time when you could pay off a debt by plucking a precious button from your suit. Italians still describe the rooms where powerful leaders meet as stanze dei bottoni, “rooms of the buttons.”

On women’s clothes particularly, buttons traced the body’s lines in suggestive ways, making clothes tight in all the right places or offering up intriguing points of entry. Along with ribbons, laces or bows, buttons were often used on detachable sleeves, a fad that ran from the 13th to 15th centuries. These sleeves could be easily swapped between outfits and laundered whenever they got dirty. Courtiers might accept an unbuttoned sleeve from a lady as a love token, or wave sleeves in jubilation at a jousting tourney.
18th Century buttons.
18th century buttons, courtesy Button Country
After the Renaissance in Europe, buttons—along with many other things—became increasingly baroque, then rococo. Among the more extreme examples were “habitat” buttons, built to contain keepsakes like dried flowers, hair cuttings or tiny insects under glass. Hollowed-out smuggler buttons allowed thieves to transport jewels and other booty secretly. (This tradition of buttons-for-crime resurfaced in a heroin-smuggling attempt in 2009.)     

Ornate buttoning among the wealthy required some help. Around this era is when buttons migrated to different sides of a shirt for men and women. Men usually donned their own shirts, so their buttons faced right for their convenience. Women with ladies’ maids wore their buttons on the left, to make it easier for the maids to maneuver while facing them.

George Washington’s 1789 inauguration gave the world its first political button. Made of copper, brass or Sheffield plate, these buttons could close a pair of breeches or a jacket while simultaneously announcing the wearer’s politics. Political buttons took on a more recognizably modern (and less functional) shape during Lincoln’s 1864 re-election campaign. (View 150 years of political buttons here.)
Campaign button for Abraham Lincoln, 1864.
A Campaign button for Abraham Lincoln
Poorer folks wore buttons, too, but they had to craft them laboriously by hand. In Colonial America until the early 20th century, working-class families counted themselves lucky if they owned a hand-held button-mold. You heated up the mold in a bed of hot coals, then filled it with molten lead or pewter, which set into a button shape. The sturdy metal buttons could then be covered with fabric or other embellishments.

Extra buttons made at home could also be sold, which meant button-making could be hellish piecework. Playwright Henrik Ibsen channeled his own awful memories of home button-molding in a pivotal scene in Peer Gynt. Sent to fetch Gynt’s soul, the Button-Moulder explains how the very good and very bad go to heaven and hell, but the middling-good are “merged in the mass” and poured into purgatory, an undifferentiated molten stream from the Button-Moulder’s ladle.

Button-making was mercifully accelerated with the Industrial Revolution. An 1852 article from Household Words, a journal edited by Charles Dickens, marvels at the latter-day miracle that was automated button-manufacturing. The writer describes how engravers cut steel dies into the latest fashionable shape, while women and children stamped out pasteboard and cloth to cover the buttons by machine. Another machine stamped out the four holes that had become prevalent for men’s dress-shirt buttons, while another was used to “counter-sink” the button, pressing its center to form a raised outer ridge. (It’s this four-hole flat button that we regard as its iconic shape today.)

A rash of button patents during this period protected nearly every aspect of button-making, from manufacturing methods for glass or mother-of-pearl buttons, cheaper wire buttons, even improvements to button display cards for sale.
Black glass buttons.
Black glass buttons courtesy Button Country
With the growing number of actual buttons came a parallel growth in button metaphors in everyday speech. The OED lists several, dating from the late 1800s to the early 20th century: “to take by the buttons” is to detain someone in conversation; “dash my buttons!” is an epithet of surprised vexation; “to have a soul above buttons” indicated someone employed in a profession unworthy of them; those who “have all their buttons” enjoy sound intellect, while those who are “a button short” do not.

This grand democratization didn’t stem the tide of expensive ornamental buttons. Victorian “Tussie-Mussie” buttons pictured tiny bouquets whose flowers held symbolic messages. Queen Victoria donned mourning buttons of carved black jet upon her husband Albert’s death, kicking off a fashion among bereaved button-wearers throughout the Empire.

Once they became cheap enough to produce en masse, buttons by the hundreds lined most kinds of tight-fitting clothing, including shoes. (More buttons, closely spaced, gave the wearer the tightest fit.) In his book The Evolution of Useful Things, Henry Petroski explains how this profusion of buttons gave rise to a parallel problem: “Fingers were not a very effective tool for coaxing the crowded buttons through small buttonholes.”
An early 20th century art nouveau steel button hook with a sterling silver handle.
Early 20th century button hook

The solution? Buttonhooks, long crochethook-like devices used to draw buttons through holes rapidly. These evolved into various styles to accommodate different button sizes.

Tracing the body’s curves with increasing exactness, buttons have long equaled body consciousness. In the 20th century, button’s sexier side came more overtly to the fore. Buttons, in other words, designate sites of vitality, embarrassment, and thrill. When told that a certain lady wouldn’t hurt a fly, Dorothy Parker retorted, “Not if it was buttoned up.” Gertrude Stein’s slim volume Tender Buttons (1914) is winkingly named after the clitoris. Electrical devices, newly introduced, often used flat-faced “buttons” to complete a circuit, giving rise to double entrendre phrases like “press all my buttons."
A fabric-printed garter button, used by flappers to hold up their newly-visible stockings.
Fabric-printed garter button used by flappers

Later in the century, buttons migrated as a metaphor from the mechanical world to the virtual one. Buttons now adorn screens big and small, promising to connect us to marvels with a single click. Steve Jobs said of the buttons on Apple’s touchscreens, “We made [them] look so good you'll want to lick them.”
Even though zippers entered the clothing-closure scene around the turn of the century, we still wear buttons today. Why? Reasons abound: Zippers can jam and warp or catch little children’s fingers. Velcro, another new-fangled closure, is too futuristic to be taken seriously. Hook-and-eyes and laces have their adherents, but their ubiquity is nowhere near that of the button.

Buttons, in short, offer everyday pleasures. Their little faces turn up agreeably, asking for personality to be impressed upon them. Buttoning oneself up is a slower, contemplative act; unbuttoning someone else, deliciously more so. Pressing buttons still delivers everything we love in the world to us. Why would we ever phase that out?

Charlene Raddon is a multi-published author of historical romance novels set in the American West. She is also a graphics designer.