Monday, May 17, 2021

KEEPING PROSPERITY ALIVE By Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless

Mining has always been a dangerous occupation, but for Western Pioneers life presented so many dangers that one more hardly seemed relevant if it meant prosperity.  Gold and silver lured prospectors West, after which they discovered the value of copper, lead and zinc.  Boom towns flourished and fell as the mines prospered or petered out.

Trying to prevent such an occurrence and foster the longevity and prosperity of Bullet is top-of-mind for my hero Brody, the senior Mason brother in the series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Unfortunately, Brody made a death bed promise to his dying uncle to keep the presence of copper on their ranch a secret.  But some things, like valuable minerals, can only stay buried for so long.  Especially as the demand for copper grew in the late 19th century with advancements in the electrical and telecommunication age.

This is how I picture the crew of miners who arrive in Bullet to work the mine.

For a limited few days, you can download BRODY'S BRIDE for Free from Amazon.


Meanwhile, I am super excited for everyone to meet Shane and Lacey from the Proxy Brides series.  A BRIDE FOR SHANE is brand new today.

Tuesday Teaser: 

“I’m not afraid of dying,” Shane told Jones, the smartly-dressed lawyer who had been a frequent visitor to his jail cell lately. 

   “Only a foolish man would die for something he didn’t do,” Jones said.  “And I don’t consider you a foolish man.”

  “Just unlucky,” Shane muttered.

  “Whoever stole those horses deserves to be the one staring down the hangman’s noose, not you.  The true thief will keep right on thieving, and get away with it because you took the fall.”

  “I don’t need to be rehabilitated,” Shane said stubbornly.  “I’ve got no truck with a bunch of stuffy church ladies going all preachy on me and minding my business.”

  “Taking on a wife will help prove to society that you’ve reformed,” the lawyer said.

  Shane half-snorted, half-laughed.  “Who’d marry me?”

  “Apparently, Lacey Collins has agreed to that honor,” Jones said drily.

  Shane straightened.  “Lacey Collins!  Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

  “So, you agree?”

  “Heck, no.”  He tamped down the image of Lacey that drifted into the recesses of his memory.  A cascade of wavy dark auburn hair and a temper to match.  Beautiful, willful, and used to getting what she wanted.  As his best friend’s twin sister, Lacey was out of his league and completely off limits!

  “She’s agreed to save your sorry hide, allowing me time to find the real perpetrator and get you pardoned,” Jones continued.  “As long as the union isn’t consummated, it can be annulled later.”  The man gave him a closer look.  “Judging by your reaction, that doesn’t seem like it should be an issue.”

  Shane eyed him straight back.  Clearly, the lawyer had never met Lacey. 

Claim your copy here.


If you love Mail Order Bride stories, you won’t want to miss A BRIDE FOR RILEY on May 28th, one of the Mistaken Identity Brides Series.  Notice how plain my heroine looks, on her way to become a nun.    

She was headed for the convent.  How did she wind up married instead?

You can pre-order Riley here

And check out the entire series here

Friday, May 14, 2021

My Story Inspiration for Choosing Bravery

By Jacqui Nelson

What inspires a Western Historical Romance Adventure story? History and love combined with adventure is my favorite mix, but I also adore iconic or intriguing settings. And the story I'm sharing with you today takes place on—and inside—a mountain.

Last month I shared my Story Inspiration pages (the page I've included in the back of all of my books) for Between Heaven & Hell and Following Faith. Today I'm sharing the Story Inspiration page for the story that follows chronologically...

Choosing Bravery's Book Cover


Story Inspiration page ~ from the back of the book

While writing Following Faith and watching six-year-old Élodie Rousseau become such a fundamental part (even while mostly off-screen), I knew my next story had to be her grown-up adventure. I also knew she needed a larger-than-life man to match her big personality. 

A decade or more before, I’d met someone with the surname Bravery and tucked it away for future use. The right story hero never appeared to claim the name. After writing Following Faith and watching The Revenant, I knew Élodie’s match would be a legendary almost mythical mountain man. A man who’d been brought low by a bear, but could be lifted high by Élodie and her mountain home. A man named Bravery. 

When my research led me to Oregon’s Cascade Volcanic Arc, Newberry Volcano, and lava tubes, I knew the majority of their story would be underground—a challenging place to describe. When travel isn’t an option, a writer relies on pictures. I created a Pinterest board to help me visualize the story. For links to Choosing Bravery’s picture board and boards created for my other stories, visit my website

She's French American. He's Scots Canadian. They're a match made on a mountain.


The Cascade Mountains, Oregon – 1868

When legends collide, will the sparks ignite their love or drive them apart?

After her parents vanished in the wilderness, Élodie Rousseau found a home with an Osage warrior and a logging camp schoolmistress who joined forces to return Élodie’s beloved spirit horse. With them as her teachers, she became the legendary mountain guide, Yellow Feather. She knows everything about surviving and thriving in the wild, but something is missing.

Legendary Far North fugitive tracker, Lachlan Bravery, is tortured by his failure to find the one person who mattered most—the mentor who taught him everything he once held sacred. Driven to repay a dead man, his hunt for a notorious band of outlaws brings him to Élodie’s mountain where they must join forces on a final quest deep inside a cave with the power to destroy not only their unexpected love but their lives.

Brave the wild. Bury the past. Choose your destiny.

Click here to read an excerpt on my website.

Book review "a sweet love story of two beautiful souls"


Choosing Bravery is book 3 in my Lonesome Hearts series, which follows the frontiersmen and women who meet on the Oregon Trail and afterward. Each story includes one or more of the characters from the other books but is also a standalone read.

Hope you enjoyed my writing inspiration and that you have a fun Friday full! ❤️💐

~ * ~

Jacqui's author photo

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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Buckaroos in Paradise by Rhonda Frankhouser

Recently, the world lost one of the coolest cowboys to ever straddle a horse. His name, Victor Arriola. He lived a good long life, and had some amazing experiences through the nine plus decades he graced this earth.

I met Vic when I was a child, maybe 4 or 5. He was stocky in stature, quick with a smile and a laugh, but eerily calm in spirit. As a child I didn't understand how a persons childhood and young adulthood could shape the person, but I understood so much more about his quiet confidence after I learned about his past. 

Vic, a Spanish Basque descendant from Nevada, was a father, a husband and a wonderful provider. It was only when he climbed upon the meanest horse in our corral, did I realize, he had a sort of god-like quality atop an un-ride-able Appaloosa named Jobo. 

As a budding rider myself, I watched in awe as he used only his thighs to quiet the horse into gentle submission. I knew I was watching something impressive when I looked over at my slack-jawed father, who had worked himself into a tizzy trying to get that damn horse to even allow him onboard. 

We leaned against the cold, silver pipe fence surrounding that pen and took in the sight of this magnificent horse, now under Vic's uncanny spell. The massive hooves that I'd always worried would trample me to death one day, smooth-danced under the Vic's quiet command. With a litany of almost silent clicks, Vic commanded Jobo to move right, then left, then forward and back in unison. The horse's silky chestnut ears perked back toward his steady rider, ever listening and understanding. 

Now let me remind you, until that day, none of us had seen anyone stay in Jobo's saddle for more than a minute or two. But this man, not tall in stature, but steeped in confidence, somehow settled the horse's soul. His trust seemed complete within minutes. His bond instant.

When Vic swiftly dismounted the horse, and dropped to his booted feet, we all knew the truth.  He was some sort of magician. That horse was always meant to be his - not his slave - but his partner. My dad's words are as clear today as they were when Vic slipped through those silver rungs of that fence, "I guess he's yours now." Vic just smiled that easy smile, his chin scruffy after a long days work, his eyes sparkling with untold knowledge. "No Ron, he's just not interested in being mastered, but he is willing to show you respect, if you show him respect in return."

What I didn't know then is that our friend and neighbor, Victor Arriola, had an incredibly interesting past that he chose to keep to himself. Not a secretive, wicked kind of omission, more a non-braggy kind of omission. He'd been one of the original Buckaroos from Paradise Valley, Nevada. The real deal kind of cowboy -  or better known in the region - a Buckaroo - which is a name derived from the Spanish word Vaquero.  

Before he met and married the girl of his dreams, had two strapping sons and moved to Central California, he spent his days and nights working side by side with other ranch hands, driving herds of cattle over the vast open ranges of northern Nevada. It was of no great surprise that one of his particular specialties was horse training. Buckaroos counted on a trusted mount to carry them through their daily trials, and this man, this regular man turned supernatural being, was one of those people who understood how to create an everlasting bond between horse and rider.

As I've gone on and on about my personal experience witnessing horse-whispering greatness, I'll leave you with a link to learn more about the fascinating life and times of the Buckaroos of Paradise Valley. 

In the meantime, I'm beyond excited that I've found a passionate piece of history to use as fodder for my next Western Romance Series. I can't wait to get started.

Thank you, Victor Arriola, for sharing yourself with my family. You were a great and true friend and will be loved and missed always. 

Thanks for listening. 

Subscribe to and receive a #Free copy of Return to Ruby's Ranch - Book 1 of the Award-Winning Ruby's Ranch Series

Tuesday, May 11, 2021


 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

As a writer sets the stage for the next story, we try to make it real. If you set it in the past, there is a resource many may not think about. Yes, we study traveling in wagons or stagecoaches. We look at what our characters might have worn. Yet, where did they get these items?. When did the stages run, and what were their routes. There is a place where all these things may be found and it's the advertisements in the newspapers.

Photo property of the author

I use 'Newspaper Archive' for a lot of my research. They offer so many options. I also set many of my stories in Colorado, so I use 'Colorado's Historic Newspapers'.

I'll give you a couple of examples:

From the May, 11th 1871 issue of the Rocky Mountain News (daily):

For Sale — A two-story brick house, furnished throughout — 80 x 150 feet of land, fine location. Price $3,500, best bargain in the city. John Clough & Co., Real estate and loan agents

From that same issue the following 'news' item was found:

A middle-aged lady from the country, who had never set for a picture, was in a photograph gallery yesterday for that purpose. Having adjusted her properly in the chair, the operator went to take a look at her through the camera, and was surprised to find she had tucked the bottom of her dress under her feet and under the legs of the chair all around. "Why, Madam., why fix your dress so for?" he asked; "you'll not look half so well that way." "Ah, I know what I am doing; my daughter looked through that thing when she was here to get her picture last week, and she says as soon as you look at that little glass the person you look at turns upside down."

Did you realize that auctions were a thing in 1871? Here is a copy of an advertisement that appears in the paper: 

Rocky Mountain News
May 11, 1871

So the next time you want to add some color, or tidbits for realism take a look at the newspaper; the ads, the personals, and those short pieces of filler. What a treasure trove there is. 

For the reader, you might want to check out a few issues of those historic papers. You might be surprised at what you find.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Author of "The Agate Gulch" Novellas and "Kiowa Wells" novels.
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Post (c) 2021 by Doris McCraw  All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Wild West and Motherhood by Sable Hunter


One doesn’t usually think about motherhood and the wild west being two topics with much in common – but they are. Without a doubt, every cowboy who ever rode a horse had a mother. Women braved the frontier just like men did. They emigrated, developing blisters on their feet from trudging alongside wagons bound for Texas, Colorado, or parts farther west. At the side of their menfolk, they homesteaded, working tirelessly as they took care of their families and farmed the land of Oklahoma, Kansas, and South Dakota. Many of these pioneer women ran businesses – with or without their husbands. Mercantile stores, cattle ranches, mills, and stagecoach inns were just some of the establishments women headed up in this rough and tumble world of men.

Women of the frontier were called upon to take care of each day as it came. Many kept up with these jobs outside the home as well as taking care of their everyday chores – such as housework, cooking, not to mention enduring all of this while pregnant, tending the sick, or taking care of children. Can you imagine the strain and unrelenting toll of this life on the body and soul of these women?
Sometimes I think I have a hard time, but not really.

Thanks to these frontier women, the wilderness inched toward being tamed. They turned makeshift houses into homesteads, and lawless boom towns into thriving communities. We’ll never know the names of the majority of these women, their identities have been lost to history. We can merely see the results of their labors in the country they birthed.

To honor yesterday being Mother’s Day, I’d like to point out a handful of women who left their mark on the Old West. First being an Indian guide by the name of Sacagawea who escorted Lewis and Clark on their famed journey, traveling thousands of miles across treacherous stretches of wilderness, hostile territories, even fording fast rushing rivers. She did all of this while carrying a newborn babe – to boot. Her knowledge of plants and herbs not only kept the party nourished, but the notes and drawings she made along the way were a huge contribution to the natural history and knowledge we take for granted.

Even though she’d been sold at the age of 12 into what we might call slavery, her owner married her and treated her with great respect. She became a peacemaker between the explorers and the natives as they passed through uncharted territory. To me, she is a true symbol of grace and beauty in the face of tribulation. Sacagawea was honored in the year 2000 with her image depicted on a coin. She was holding her baby boy, Jean Baptiste, who grew up to be a military scout. Here is a statue erected to her memory.

Another mother of note was former Comanche captive, Cynthia Ann Parker. Her son, Quanah Parker, became a famous chief and forger of peace between white men and the Native Americans. She’s also one of the first promoters of public breast feeding, since we have a photo of her taking care of her daughter, Prairie Flower. 

Number three on my list is the mother of the Earp brothers – James, Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan. They loved their mother, Virginia. According to history, she passed on her common sense and a soft heart for animals and those less fortunate to her son, Wyatt, who became a famous Western lawman.


A woman who impresses the hell out of me was Maria Rita Valdez, who fought to keep her home after her husband died. Many tried to take it from her, but she stood stalwart and fought for her rights. Her not-so-tiny spread was known then as Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas – better known today as Rodeo Drive, famed shopping street in Hollywood, California. I don’t have a picture of her, but I do have one of the street. I’m not sure how she’d feel about this transformation, but that’s how the street got its name – from the ranchland it now occupies.

An early crusader for women’s rights was Abigail Scott Duniway.
Here is a quote from her – one that fits these thoughts today.
“When women’s true history shall have been written, her part in the upbuilding of this nation will astound the world.” 
And she was right.
This woman was one of the true mothers of our nation. She was not only a mom, Abigail was a teacher, an author, a small business owner, and a crusader for women’s suffrage in the old west. 
When only a teenager, she traveled by wagon train with her family over the Oregon trail. Along the way, she witnessed many things, including cruelty, starvation, and death. She later wrote a book about her experiences.

What worried her the most was watching women work themselves to death for their family but be denied any rights over their life or property. To give herself a platform, she founded a newspaper to raise awareness about the plight of the pioneer women.

When Oregon granted women the right to vote in 1912, she became the first registered woman voter in her county at age 78. And here she is: 

The old west even birthed great women authors – most notably Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie as I’m sure many of you did.

In a day when few women had no true voice, Laura wrote timeless classics about family, pioneer life, and love.

I don’t really have to tell you her life story, we watched it play out in living color, directed by none other than Little Joe Cartwright.

Look at her picture, I think she resembles Melissa Gilbert – don’t you?

Closer to home, I want to remember my own mother. Her name was Pauline. She was a true character. I was born when she was 37 years old. She lost a baby when she was 17 and waited twenty years to try again. Mother could do anything – like the lady pioneers of the old west – she could run her household, sew like a professional, plant a garden, and harvest and can the vegetables. She could milk a cow, ride a horse, and paint a beautiful landscape. During all this, she made sure I went to school, went to church, took piano lessons, and received a college degree. Mother didn’t have a college education, but she was well read and taught me to love reading also.

When I started writing, my mother was my biggest fan. And these were no ‘sweet’ versions. She read and enjoyed my sensual books – once she became so enthralled reading one that she missed her ‘standing’ hair appointment at the salon. An unbelievable thing for her to do.

When the people of the town found out about my writing and ostracized me for it, I considered quitting. Her advice is why I’m still writing today. Her words will forever be with me. She waved her hand dismissively and gave her opinion of what I should do to the entire community - - “To hell with them,” she said. This should probably be our response to most who give us grief.

So, today I celebrate women who made a difference. I hope the same can be said of me someday.

Thank you for listening to me ramble.

Love – Rebecca Schaefer/Sable Hunter 

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Colorado Springs & William Jackson Palmer ~ Julie Lence


William Jackson Palmer
Colorado Springs Gazette

Being an east coast girl from upstate New York, one would think hubby and I would’ve retired to our hometown to be close to our families, but we didn’t. Hubby spent twenty years in the Air Force and one of his assignments was Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. We fell in love with the area and decided to make it home when he retired. In the past 18 years, Colorado Springs has boomed in population and business, and every day, weather permitting, I get to see America’s Mountain.

Pikes Peak

Long before Army lieutenant and explorer Zebulon Pike traveled through the area and discovered the mountain that is now his namesake, Pike’s Peak, the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes called the area at the bottom of what is now Ute Pass home. It was Pike’s wish to summit the peak to map out rivers and the landscape, but feet of snow prevented him from doing so. He published an account of his travels in 1810 naming the mountain, Grand Peak, thus putting it on the map. Fast forward a few years to when gold was discovered in the area and folks rushed to the region, where businessmen established Colorado Springs’ first settlement, Colorado City, at the base of the peak. (Situated west of where Colorado Springs currently sits and Manitou Springs, Colorado City is now known as Old Colorado City.) Colorado City became the hub for selling mining equipment and supplies to those headed up Ute Pass to pan for gold. For a short time, Colorado City was also a territorial capital.

Those looking to strike it rich in the mines weren’t the only people coming west to Colorado Spring’s first settlement. Many came for health reasons, hoping the fresh air and sunshine would cure tuberculosis, and others came for business opportunities, including Colorado Springs’ founding father, William Jackson Palmer. Born in Delaware on September 17, 1836 to a Quaker family, Palmer had a fascination with trains at a young age. He eventually hired on with the Pennsylvania railroad and learned everything he could about the railroad industry and engineering and was the first person to suggest trains should burn coal and not wood, since wood was fast becoming short in supply. Because of his teachings, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the first to use coal.

Vintage Map

A man who loathed slavery, Palmer served as a general in the Civil War and won a Medal of Honor for heroic efforts. After the war, he financially supported education efforts for the freed slaves and ventured to the Kansas Railroad and helped lay the tracks all the way to Denver. He and his friend, Dr. William Bell, founded their own railroad company, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. The first tracks went to the Pikes Peak. The area struck a chord deep inside Palmer and he predicted the foothills would become a booming resort town. Purchasing 10,000 acres of land along the train route, Palmer laid out streets, hauled in thousands of trees to make the city lush and green, and erected lavish buildings resembling European style, to include the Antler’s Hotel. In 1871, his Victorian resort town was born. From the start, Colorado Springs wasn’t a boom town. Palmer used the breathtaking scenery to lure the rich to the area, along with capitalists, artists and intellectuals. Gold was discovered to the west of the peak in Cripple Creek in 1891. More of the wealthy flocked to Colorado Springs and for a spell, the city had more millionaires per capita than any other location in the United States. 

Durango & Silverton RR
ASCE Library

In 1870, Palmer married Mary Lincoln (Queen) and the two enjoyed a honeymoon in the British Isles. It was there he saw and learned about the narrow gauge railroad. The narrow gauge was cheaper to build, could make sharper turns and climb steeper slopes, making it the perfect type of railroad for Palmer to incorporate throughout the state of Colorado to make travel through the Rocky Mountains easier. To date, two of his tracks remain in place; the 45 mile trek between Durango and Silverton in the southwest corner of Colorado, and the Cumbres and Toltec 63 mile trek between Chama, NM and Antonito, CO.    

Colorado Springs today

Palmer went on to bring the railroad to Pueblo. He co-founded the Colorado Fuel and Iron company, and drove the ‘golden spike’ at the Promontory Summit in Utah to finishing America’s Transcontinental Railroad. He eventually retired to Colorado Springs where he helped to establish the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, before passing away March 1, 1909. A statue of him riding his favorite his horse,  Diablo, sits in the intersection of Nevada and Platte Avenue in Colorado Springs across from Palmer High School, which is named after him. 

General Palmer Statue
and high school 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The evolution of a book cover


Back in 2012, I released a book about an out of work mechanic who lived in a big city and was so desperate for a job, he took one on a remote ranch in the middle of nowhere (also known as Eastern Oregon). 

At the time, I had limited funds for my writing projects, which meant I designed the cover myself.  Try not to laugh too hard at it. 

When I got a little more design skill under my belt, and had a little money to purchase a better graphic, I changed the cover to this:

Still not fantastic, although I was quite fond of those arms. ** Sigh**

The next upgrade included the crazy, lovable dog that plays an important role in the story, and a tractor, because, well, I like John Deere tractors. Ty spends quite a bit of time working on them in the book.

Last year, I gave the book a whole different look, and changed the title so it was no longer Learnin' but Learning the Ropes. The reason for that: an erotic book with the same name was making the rounds and since I write sweet romance, it seemed like the prudent thing to do.

Although this cover was getting closer to something I liked, it still wasn't quite there. 

A few months back, I contacted the talented Josephine Blake of Covers and Cupcakes about doing a new cover for the book. 

Boy, did she knock it out of the park!

Isn't it beautiful! 

I just love it. It's soft and dreamy and so, so perfect! There's a scene in the book when the couple are in the Steens Mountains and I can just picture them sitting there like this.

All he wanted was a job…

He didn’t plan on a beautiful boss, a crazy dog, 

and a ranch in the middle of nowhere. . .

Out of work and out of luck, auto mechanic Ty Lewis responds in a moment of desperation to a classified ad for a job in Harney County, Oregon. Offered the position on a remote ranch, he bids goodbye to his sister and his life in Portland. When he arrives in the tiny community of Riley to begin a new adventure, he encounters the behemoth dog that rules the ranch although he has yet to meet his boss, an elusive employer named Lex Ryan.

Lexi Ryan, known to her ranch hands and neighbors as Lex Jr., leaves behind a successful career in Portland to keep the Rockin’ R Ranch running smoothly after the untimely death of her father. It doesn’t take long to discover her father did many crazy things during the last few months of his life, like hiding half a million dollars that Lexi can’t find.

Ty and Lexi are both in for a few surprises as he arrives at the Rockin’ R Ranch and begins learning the ropes.

Amazon | B&N | Apple | KoboSmashwords

USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield is a farm girl who loves to write. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances are filled with sarcasm, humor, hope, and hunky heroes. When Shanna isn’t dreaming up unforgettable characters, twisting plots, or covertly seeking dark, decadent chocolate, she hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:

ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Newsletter | BookBub | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter

Monday, May 3, 2021

Naming A Series After Birds

By Kristy McCaffrey

I wrote my first novel, The Wren, when I was a young stay-at-home mom with four kids all under the age of five running amuck. I'd been writing since I was seven years old, but I didn't envision penning a novel until I was too tired from mothering to realize that what I was about to attempt would be tremendously difficult, yet so rewarding. Not much different than becoming a mom, right?

I'm sometimes asked how I came up with the titles for my Wings of the West series. The simple version is that they just came to me, which for the most part is true. I knew the titles and the order in which they would appear long before I had a clear picture of characters and storylines. But there are deeper meanings as well.

Many years ago, I enjoyed a television show called “Ned Blessing: The Story of My Life and Times,” starring Brad Johnson. Maybe some of you remember it. A recurring character was a woman in town—a soiled dove—who was secretly in love with Ned. She was called “the Wren.” For some reason, that stuck with me when, years later, I began developing my Old West series. In my story, however, the heroine, Molly, isn't a prostitute (that theme is addressed in the next book, the aptly titled The Dove). As a child Molly was quite adept with a slingshot, which she named "the Wren" because she believes the rocks she uses may have been dropped by wrens. Rock Wrens have a habit of leaving a stone path to their nests. This encompasses the broader theme of Molly trying to find her way home after she was thought dead at the hands of the Comanche ten years prior.

In the second book, The Dove, I dealt with the well-used theme of prostitution. The heroine in this story, Claire, lives in a saloon run by her mama. While Claire herself isn't a soiled dove, she still faces the decisions many women do: Does she live a life for herself or for others? How do we “use” others to gain our own ends?

In The Sparrow, my heroine, Emma, undergoes a shamanic journey of initiation while traversing the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. During this process, she is helped by her power animal, Sparrow. I will admit, this novel took a strange turn, but I did my best to follow the bones laid before me and write the story as best I could. Sparrows are known as common birds who speak to the inherent magnificence that can be present in all of us. As I wrote the tale, I knew this bird encompassed perfectly the tone of Emma's pilgrimage.

In The Blackbird, I found a Tennyson quote that mentions blackbirds. The heroine, Tess, while of Mexican descent also has an Irish papa and through him a connection to Tennyson. Blackbirds are mystical birds, linking us to the world of enchantment, which is best accessed through storytelling.

The last book, The Bluebird, jumps ahead several years and features Molly Rose, niece to the first Molly from The Wren. In the story, the hero is searching for an elusive mining claim called The Bluebird. While the bird references have helped to shape the series, I always knew I'd begin with a Molly and end with a Molly, which was the nickname of my great-grandmother.

I'm giving away an autographed print copy of THE BLUEBIRD at my website this month. Click here to enter.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Guest Author Jan Scarbrough


Jan Scarbrough 

Writing a western series is fun


When I decided to set a series in the American West, I looked for a location. Enter the trusty internet. My setting became a guest ranch in Montana, with the name changed, of course. I knew a little bit about professional bull riding, having researched it for another book. So, I incorporated both things into the series. Then in 2016, my husband and I took a dude ranch vacation. We had a great time and saw the setting for my first series.


After that trip, the Ghost Mountain Ranch series was born.



Let me introduce you to The Dawsons of Montana.



When champion bull rider Brody Caldera learns his stepfather has suffered a serious accident, he heads home to the ranch he’d left behind years before. Maybe the clean Montana air of the Six Buckles Ranch, near Yellowstone Park, will help him forget his cheating ex-girlfriend. But returning will also force him to confront another woman, the one he deserted when she needed him most.



The sudden death of Mercer Dawson’s beloved father hit her hard. Everyone at Six Buckles Ranch grieved, but bright spots are appearing in the blue Montana skies. The tragedy brought Mercer’s stepbrother home and now wedding bells are ringing. The best man is a sexy cowboy and Mercer’s teenage crush. Will he notice her now that she’s all grown up?



Since her husband’s tragic death in a riding accident, Liz Dawson has done all she can to keep the Six Buckles Guest Ranch running. When a handsome stranger arrives at the ranch, she fears her daughter-in-law is playing matchmaker. Liz has already been married to two different men—one wonderful and one not so much. She doesn’t need another man in her life.


Then a telephone call opens the door to the next chapter. Hank’s story brings both series together.


Ghost Mountain Ranch



On Christmas Eve, Hank, the head wrangler at Six Buckles Ranch, accepts the job of ranch foreman over the mountains in the Gallatin Canyon, Montana. But something dark is happening at the Ghost Mountain Ranch, where the past is reaching out in dangerous ways to haunt the living.



Thirty years ago, Darby Heston fled her family’s Montana dude ranch. Now she must return to help her father. Would the boyfriend she’d abandoned still be there? Hank Slade has never stopped loving Darby, but is he willing to risk his heart again? Secrets tore them apart once. Given a second chance at love, will more shocking secrets from the past destroy their hopes for the future?



Slade Heston is spending the summer as a hired hand at his grandfather’s dude ranch, trying to figure out life, not fall in love. Laurie Chastain is supposed to write promotions for the ranch, but she has a secret goal. What did a 1970s radical resistance group have to do with her grandfather? Laurie’s only clue leads her to Ghost Mountain Ranch. Will their growing attraction be enough to protect Slade and Laurie from the ghosts of the past?



Kelsey Heston’s using the skills learned at her family’s Kentucky horse farm to improve tourism at her grandfather’s dude ranch. But what is her old college sweetheart doing here? Max Lee has come to Ghost Mountain Ranch searching for a missing woman. Instead, he finds Kelsey. But old secrets are stirring, secrets someone might be willing to kill to keep. Can they finally lay the old ghosts to rest, or will the echoes of a decades-old murder destroy their second chance at love?


The secrets of the past still haunt the living…


The Dawsons of Montana series is on Kindle Unlimited, but Ghost Mountain Ranch is available at most ebook outlets. Thank you Cowboy Kisses for letting me share my stories with you.



About Jan Scarbrough


Whether it is the Bluegrass of Kentucky, the mountains of Montana, or Medieval England, Jan Scarbrough brings you home with romances from the heart.


The author of two popular Bluegrass series, Jan writes heartwarming contemporary romances about home and family, later in life heroines, single moms, and children, and if the plot allows, about another passion—horses. Living in the horse country of Kentucky makes it easy for Jan to add small town, Southern charm to her books and the excitement of a Bluegrass horse race or a competitive horse show.


Jan leaves her contemporary voice behind with two paranormal gothic romances, Timeless and Tangled Memories, a Romance Writers of America (RWA) Golden Heart finalist. Her historical romance, My Lord Raven, is a medieval story of honor and betrayal.


A member of Novelist, Inc., Jan self-publishes her books with her husband’s help.


Jan lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with two rescued dogs, one rescued cat, and a husband she rescued twenty-one years ago.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Sonora, California- "Queen of the Southern Mines" by Zina Abbott


The area known today as Sonora in Tuolumne County, California, was originally the land of the Mi-wuk Indian people. What became Sonora is in a narrow sheltered valley that has two all-year creeks: Sonora Creek and Woods Creek. This was a favorite wintering area these people. They left only after the population in the region increased due to those arriving seeking gold.

What became the city of Sonora was founded during the California Gold Rush. It was established in 1848, by miners emigrating from the State of Sonora in Mexico. The early settlement was often referred to as the “Sonoran Camp,” and was once known as the “Queen of the Southern Mines.”

Although there was mining activity in the Sonora area in 1848, the first documented discovery was in Wood’s Creek near the north part of town on March 17, 1849. Unlike many Gold Rush towns, no specific individual is credited with the discovery of gold in Sonora.

News of the gold discovery at the Sonoran Camp spread, and fortune-seekers came from all over, including from Mexico, Chile, and other South American nations. In addition, many of the city’s early residents came from Germany, France, England, Ireland and Italy. By 1849, the population of the town was approximately 5,000. (According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city’s population remains about that number.)

1866 downtown Sonora

Many gold-seekers boarded ships on the East Coast and sailed to Panama where they crossed the Isthmus on foot or horseback and vied for passage on crowded ships bound for San Francisco. From San Francisco it was an additional two day trip by schooner to Stockton and then a dusty stage ride through the foothills to Sonora. They found that Sonora was mostly a camp of dirt streets. Most of its structures were tents. There was very little in the way of accommodations.

The first record of Sonora organizing as a town was on November 7, 1849. After a scurvy outbreak during the preceding winter affected many members in the region, the citizens gathered to discuss a hospital. Through contributions from the locals and the sale of town lots, the hospital was built and maintained throughout the rainy season that followed. Lime juice, fresh potatoes and other items rich in vitamin C were given to sufferers to stop the epidemic.

Early merchants on Washington St.

No wagon roads were present during the first few years. Travel in and out of Sonora was done on foot, or by horse or mule. Supplies were brought in from Stockton, seventy miles distant. It was said that, during 1849 and 1850, travel between these two towns was so frequent that, “the campfires along the route were near enough together to show the traveler his way, even at night.”

The Old Town Well was dug at the edge of the town’s plaza in 1848. Fed by an underground spring, it was the camp’s first public water well and was responsible for providing fresh water to the inhabitants for many years. (With all those men panning for gold, you can imagine what was in those two creeks.)

Starting on July 4th of 1850, Enos Christman established and operated the Southern Mines first newspaper, The Sonora Herald. It was printed on wrapping paper. A year later, he commented on the human variety to be found in the camp: “Sonora is a fast place and no mistake. Such a motley collection as we have here can be found nowhere but in California. Sonora has a population hailing from every hole and corner of the globe-Kanaka, Peruvians, Spaniards, Mexicans, Chilians, Chinese, British convicts from New South Wales, known as ‘Sidney Birds,’ Englishmen, Frenchmen, Dutch, Paddies, and not a small sprinkling of Yankees. We have more gamblers, more drunkards, more ugly, bad women, and larger lumps of gold, and more of them, than any other place of similar dimensions within Uncle Sam’s dominions. The Sabbath is regarded as a holiday, granting men and women a more extensive license to practice vice than any other day in the week.”

Like so many Gold Rush towns, Sonora had a wild reputation in its early days. According to Frank Marryat, who wrote about his 1851 experiences in Sonora, “No church bells here usher in the Sabbath… every man carries arms, generally a Colt revolver, buckled behind, with no attempt at concealment.”

The area was not completely devoid of religious influence. Catholic Padre Arnault was in Sonora in the fall of 1849 and he established St. Patrick’s. However, Sonora was a pretty wild place. The Mormon “gold missionaries” who came to the region to find a place to pan for gold came first to Sonora. Because Sonora was such a rough town, they soon abandoned the area and set up along Mormon Creek west of Columbia about five miles to the north.

As California became a state following the Treaty of Hilgado marking the end of Mexican-American War, Tuolumne County was established as one of California’s original 27 counties on February 18, 1850. Sonora was established as the county seat. Unlike other counties where the county seat moved from one city to another, Sonora remains the county seat. It remains the only incorporated city in the county. As pack trains, freight wagons, and stage lines all passed through town on their way to the mining camps lying south, it became an important commercial center for the region.

The following is taken from “California State Highway 49: The Golden Chain” written by Bob Dylan (

Sonora became the center of the controversy created when the State Legislature passed the so-called “Foreign Miners Tax” in 1850, requiring all non-American miners to pay a monthly tax of $20. The tax was primarily aimed at Mexican miners, as the white miners had decided that “only Americans had the God-given right to mine for gold, and that Mexicans most certainly were not Americans.” What it really boiled down to was racism and greed. 

The tax was deeply resented; resistance to its collection led to violence and bad feelings between the white and Mexican miners. Soon the “Americans” had the rich placers virtually to themselves as most of the Mexican miners and their families left town. Some of those forced into leaving turned outlaw and took to raiding, robbing and murdering white miners whenever the opportunity arose. The worst violence took place immediately following the imposition of the tax, during May and June of 1850, when assaults became an almost daily occurrence. Dread and terror prevailed throughout the community and no one walked the streets unarmed.

The Foreign Miners Tax resulted in another problem for Sonora and the surrounding communities. The exodus of nearly two thousand Mexican, Chilean, and French inhabitants cut Sonora’s population almost in half, resulting in hard times for the business community. Business declined to such an extent that many merchants were forced into closing and the boom town suddenly became a rather quiet place. The tax was finally repealed in 1851, marking an end to most of the violence as law, order and civilization settle down over Sonora. 

Although Sonora would never again see the dangerous times it once knew, there was still gold in the rivers and the hard rock mines would continue to yield riches for decades to come. In fact, the region became known as one of the famous pocket-mining districts of the Southern Mines, yielding tremendous amounts of gold to those who stumbled across these rich pockets. One such pocket uncovered in the Bonanza Mine yielded 990 pounds of gold in one week, valued at over $300,000. Other mines, such as the Sugarman and the Negro, were known for their pockets of beautifully crystallized gold. In May of 1851, the town was incorporated as a city and was soon an important supply and commercial center. 

After incorporation as a city, Mayor Charles F. Dodge presided over the first town meeting on May 26, 1851. The first Council immediately enacted ordinances related to gambling. Ordinance Number 14 outlawed any game “having in its tendency deception or fraud.” Ordinance Number 15 allowed faro, monte, roulette, other gaming tables, and games of chance, for a license fee.

Sonora had several disastrous fires in its early days. The first took place in 1849 and nearly consumed the entire canvas and brush camp.

The next major blaze took place on June 18 of 1852. It started in the “Hôtel de France,” which was located on the plaza facing Washington Street. Called “The Great Fire,” it burned almost every building in town. A Swiss named Mollier, who was in the Hotel de France, lost his life. The total losses exceeded $700,000. After the fire was extinguished, some rogues tried to jump the land on which buildings once stood, but guards were posted to stop their attempts at stealing the land.

The worst occurred on June 18, 1852. It destroyed almost every structure from Church Street in the downtown, or older part of Sonora, to the northern uptown region where St. James Episcopal Church, also known as The Red Church, was built in 1859.

Prior to the fire, wooden buildings along Washington Street were built close together without side streets. 1853 was a year of three fires which took place on August 17, October 3, and November 2. They caused thousands of dollars in damages and one person lost his life. As a result of those disastrous fires, instead of there being one long, unbroken main street, Sonora rebuilt with side streets to help act as fire breaks. The street layout of Sonora’s downtown has remained relatively unchanged since 1852.

Side of 1853 building built of local rock

Most of the earliest buildings that remain in downtown Sonora were built in 1853 or later—after these fires. Many, like their contemporaries in Columbia, used brick. Quite a few structures were built with rock walls. The local slate in all manner of sizes and shapes were formed into thick walls.

An example is the Wells Fargo & Co. building built of stone by Emanuel Linoberg in 1856. (D.M. Kenfield served as the town’s first Wells Fargo agent.) This building no longer exists. A plaque marks this site located at 87 S. Washington. However, its description is as follows:

“The side wall of this structure provides a great look at one of the early methods of construction used throughout the Gold Country. Stones of countless shapes and sizes were painstakingly formed into thick sturdy walls, which offered excellent protection against fire and burglary.”

Other early buildings are the following:

Gunn House built 1850

The Gunn House is Sonora’s earliest residence and first two-story structure. Dr. Lewis C. Gunn arrived in nearby Jamestown in 1849 where he attempted mining for a brief time. Largely unsuccessful,
in 1850, he returned to medicine and moved his practice to the busier camp of Sonora. In November of that year, he bought an interest in the Sonora Herald. Soon after, he made plans to build an adobe house. Constructed by Mexican laborers, the Gunn House originally had a balcony across the entire front of the second story. The lower floor housed the Sonora Herald’s printing office. When Dr. Gunn was elected recorder in 1850, it also housed the county recorder’s office. The upper floor served as living quarters for Gunn and his family, after his wife and four young children arrived in Sonora on August 13th of 1851, after a six-month long journey from Philadelphia via rounding Cape Horn.

The City Hotel on S. Washington Street, completed in late summer of 1852, became a popular stage stop. It is constructed principally of adobe brick and cut stone. It was built by Alonzo Green and James Lane, two of Sonora’s earliest pioneers.

The Barber Shop on S. Washington Street first opened in 1859. The building has been remodeled with a new “old style” façade.

1883 of Yo-Semite House

The Brick Office Buildings which look so neat and lawyerly, were built in the 1850s to serve as an office building and a bank. Still complete with their iron doors, the buildings stand at 21 and 23 N. Washington.

The Yo-Semite House was built on N. Washington Street in 1858. It was first occupied by Fred Freund, cabinet maker, upholsterer, and undertaker. The building has served as a hotel, saloon, restaurant, hardware store, and general merchandise store.

St. James Episcopal Church, the “Red Church,” is the second oldest wood frame Episcopal church in California. Construction began in 1859 on a site donated by Caleb Dorsey at the north end of Washington Street. Funds for the building materials were also donated. The building was finished in 1860. The Reverend John Gassman, a native of Norway, served as both the architect and the first minister of St. James.

The Burden Undertaking Parlor was built on N. Washington St. during the 1850s for Charles Burden.

The I.O.O.F. Hall was erected during the early 1850s. When the Sonora I.O.O.F. Lodge No. 10 was organized on June 7th of 1853, the Odd Fellows purchased the two-story brick building on W. Dodge Street and have met there ever since.

I.O.O.F. Hall in continuous use since 1853

The Tuolumne County Jail housed prisoners from 1857 to 1960. The site on W. Bradford Ave. was acquired in 1857, after a grand jury determined that the previous jail was a “public nuisance.”


Old Tuolumne Co. Jail, now museum & history center

The first Tuolumne County Courthouse was constructed of wood in 1853. It was a two-story structure that faced Green Street between Jackson Street and Yaney Avenue. It remained in use until 1898.

First Tuolumne Co. Courthouse 1853-1898

By 1860, most of the “easy” gold had been panned out of the local creeks (Sonora Creek and Woods Creek). The city began to shrink as those chasing gold moved elsewhere. Yet, Sonora was a commercial and cultural center for the region. It was a county seat. It continued into the next decade and beyond.


Although my current book, A Lawyer for Linton, is set in 1885, years after Sonora was incorporated, many of the buildings mentioned in this post still existed at that time. They also existed at the time of last year’s novel, Kendrick, set in 1854 Columbia (with a few chapters taking him to Sonora), and in my book published the first of April, Cole, set mostly in 1866 Stanislaus County to the west of Tuolumne County, with Cole taking a few trips to Sonora to purchase land and register a brand.

To find the book description and purchase link for A Lawyer for Linton, please CLICK HERE.

To find the book description and purchase link for Kendrick, please CLICK HERE.

To find the book description and purchase link for Cole, please CLICK HERE.



Wikipedia: Sonora, California