Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Life in the Old West - Cooking in the Victorian Kitchen

When writing My Heart Will Find Yours I learned a lot about nineteenth-century kitchens.

Very few homes had an ice box, the kind where a block of ice was delivered to sit in an insulated reservoir in the top of the wooden structure. They were invented for home use in the 1840s, but it wasn't until the 1870s that the U.S. had ice plants that produced artificial ice. In the model seen here, the block would go in the unopened door to the left. As the ice melted the cold water flowed down the sides and kept the contents inside cool. Note the pan on the floor. Of course, in hot weather, the ice didn't last more than a couple of days. Owners had a sign with 25 lbs, 50 lbs, 75 lbs, and 100 lbs on each side. You'd prop the side up with the amount you needed out front so when the iceman came by he'd know what size block to bring in for you. This picture can be found in an online article titled Early Days of Refrigeration at www.lclark.edu/

I found an advertisement for a model almost identical to this one. No date was given but the price was $16.98.

My mother-in-law said that even in the early thirties they kept their perishables in a spring house, a small shed built over a spring. Food was covered with dish towels or cheese cloth to keep out flies and other pests, and the flowing water kept the room cool. Some homes had a larder which was a room on the coolest side of the house or in the cellar. None of these solutions would make modern homemakers happy, but folks back then didn't know any difference and the system worked for them.

No kitchen was complete without a cupboard or Hoosier. Here kitchen utensils were stored. Many had a flour bin (see above right in cabinet), a built-in sifter, a granite or tin top for rolling pie crusts and biscuit dough, and drawers for storage. Note the meat grinder attached to the left and the butter churn on the floor to the right with a wash board behind. Hopefully the homemaker had a sink with a hand pump with room to the side to stack clean dishes to dry. A shelf below would hold pails and a dish pan.

This picture was taken at the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore, Texas, and dates somewhere around the 1920s or 1930s. The design in these cupboards didn't change much over time so earlier models looked much like this one. Today cupboards or Hoosiers have become popular decorative additions to modern kitchens, as have old ice boxes. I'd love to have one but my kitchen is too small.

Last, but not least, in importance to the homemaker was the
wood cook stove. Before the cast iron kitchen stove was invented, women cooked over hearths with ovens built into the wall, if they were well-off, or outside in a fire pit. Both methods were hard on the back due to bending over to stir food in pots suspended from iron hooks. Cast iron pot bellied stoves, used mainly for heat, could be used for some cooking, but lucky was the woman who had a genuine kitchen cook stove like the one pictured here.

This is a restored model pictured at http://www.bryantstove.com/ Many models such as this one had a copper lined reservoir on the side to keep water warm for beverages, dishwater, or bathing. In my reading I noticed some even had a kick plate to open the oven door when hands were full. Some of these models were designed to use either wood or coal oil. Restored wood stoves are popular and being added to homes of individuals who like antiques and love to cook. They aren't for the person who wants to pop something in the oven and go about their business as the product must be watched carefully to make sure oven temperature is maintained. Also, they're quite expensive, between two and three thousand dollars.

Managing a house hold during this era wasn't for the weak. Just lifting those iron cooking vessels took a strength many modern women don't possess. But, I guess carrying buckets of milk from the barn, doing the wash in the yard using a scrub board, and their other daily chores built muscles.

Texanna, the heroine in my upcoming Cactus Rose novel, My Heart Will Find Yours, has to learn to cook in a Victorian kitchen. It would have been easier if she could cook in a twenty-first century one, but she's a take-out kinda gal. Below you'll find the blurb and a short excerpt. You can watch the book trailer at http://www.lindalaroque.com/


Fated lovers suffer the agony of loss only to be reunited to fulfill a greater plan.

TEXANNA KEITH doesn’t believe an antique locket is the key to time travel, but plays along, and to her horror, is zapped back to 1880 Waco, Texas. Her mission is to prevent Royce Dyson’s death in a shootout. Wounded, she loses what she longs for most — a life with Royce.

Marshall ROYCE DYSON’S wife disappeared in 1876. Now she’s reappeared, claiming she’s a time traveler from 2007. As he seeks the truth, he’s determined to keep Texanna with him, but it’s not destined to be.


Royce, buttoning his shirt, walked into the kitchen and grabbed the coffee pot. “Come here. I want to show you how to make coffee.”

“I know how to make coffee. With a Mr. Coffee.” She almost laughed at the look on his face.

“Well, I’m your Mr. Coffee so come here and pay attention.”

“I want to know where—”

“Come here and watch.” He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her to the sink.

“Okay, okay.” She’d watch, but then he’d better have some answers.

“Fill the pot with water up to here.” He showed her a line formed from mineral deposits. “Then add a huge scoop of coffee and some egg shells.” He reached into a bowl in the cabinet of the Hoosier and gathered a small handful. “Every time you use an egg, wash the shell and put it in that bowl.” He crushed them, and then dropped them into the pot. He stoked the fire, added wood, and closed the door. “Now, when the coffee starts boiling, let it boil a couple of minutes, and then move it from the flat iron. That way the coffee won’t taste burned.”

Texanna nodded. She could do that. “Okay, I think I can do that.” Stepping back from the stove, she crossed her arms under her breasts and asked, “Now, where’s my underwear?”

The face that had been smiling sobered. “What are you talking about? Do you mean those unmentionables you left hanging on the porch for anyone to come along and see?”

“Those would be the ones.”

“I burned them. They’re indecent.”

She wanted to screech like a banshee but kept her voice down. “You’re lying. Where are they? They’re all I’ve got to put on.”

“You have a drawer full of bloomers and chemises upstairs in the wardrobe.”

“I want my underwear, not those tacky things in the drawer upstairs.”

“They’re not decent. You’re not going to wear them again.”

“Well, I’m sure as hell not going to wear those ugly things upstairs. I’ll go bare-assed first!”

“Now see here, woman. That’s no way for a lady to talk.”

“Who said I was a lady?”

Royce’s face turned red. He was ready to blow. To avoid his anger, she turned and ran upstairs to get dressed.

Enjoy those modern conveniences!

~Romance with a twist in time~
A Law of Her Own available now at The Wild Rose Press

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sony eReader contest

The second round of the SONY eReader contest kicked off this month at my publisher, The Wild Rose Press.

If you check out the website and click on the SONY eReader picture
that says WIN ME you'll find all the details but basically the rules
are easy; purchase any story from any of the participating authors
listed on the web site and you can enter to win a FREE eReader. Last
quarter's winner was Dianne Miley and she received a gorgeous dark
blue reader with a flash drive full of information from the authors
and a free book of her choice.

The contest began September 22 and will continue until Tuesday, December
16 when they will announce the winner in the Tuesday night chat. You don't have to be at the chat to win. Anyone is eligible to participate except TWRP staff members.

If you purchase several stories, you are eligible to send in several
emails to enter. Simply send an email to
SONYREADER@thewildrosepress.com and include your name, the date of
the purchase and the order number. You can do this even if you
bought it at a distributor, simply indicate where and when you bought
the title and the order number so we can verify you did purchase the

Any questions, Martha (martha@thewildrosepress.com).

Here is the list of authors participating. Remember if you purchase one of their books you can enter to win the eReader! And look who is participating???? Me! So if you purchase an ebook or a print book, send the info to the above e-mail address and you could be a lucky winner!

Jean Adams
Kim Amburn
Clare Austin
Clover Autrey
Carol Braswell
Sharon Buchbinder
Anne Carrole
Lynda Coker
Wendy Davy
Tabitha Gibson
Devon Gray
D.K. Harper
Cierra James
Paty Jager
Jennifer Johnson
Sylvia Kaye
Dayana Knight
Renee Knowles
Sharon Lanergan
Liana Laverntz
Hywela Lyn
Cara Marsi
Bess McBride
Lily Rose Moon
Skyhe Moncrief
Beth Morrow
E.G. Parsons
Victoria Pitts-Caine
Amber Polo
Sky Purington
Rynee Raines
Judith Rochelle
Jocelyn Saint James
Jan Scarbrough
Tarah Scott
Susan Shay
Patti Shenberger
Robin Shope
Linda Swift
Margaret Tanner
Sara Thacker
Pam Thibodeaux
Deborah Tompkins
M.K. Trent
Beth Trissel
Shereen Vedam
Lisa Wells
Anne Whitfield
Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter
Patrice Wilton
Michelle Witvliet

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Western Characters

There are so many fascinating occupations you can choose from when making a hero in a western. Lawmen, Outlaws, Ranchers, Entrepreneurs. That's the one I want to talk about today. The character who knows what he wants and single-mindedly makes it happen.

The entrepreneur was a man or woman who could look at a situation and find a way to capitalize on it. It could someone who came with the first hoard of gold seekers and realized he’d make more money selling the miners goods or setting up a saloon. Or it’s the woman brought to the mining area by a husband, father, or son and realizing she can get gold by either doing laundry or cooking meals. There were also the men who realized mining towns needed food and staples to grow. They bought a wagon and horses and started hauling the goods. Eventually, they added more wagons and employees until they dominated the freighting in that area. And don’t forget the men with capital who invested in banks, hotels, saloons, and eventually railroads. When the railroad started moving west, men in an area would pool their finances to help build a railroad in their town hoping to instill growth and bring the larger lines to them. Some of the largest ranches started from hard labor and determination.

And let’s not forget the entrepreneurs who walked a thin line on the right side of the law. The Gambler. This was a man or woman who could walk into a town broke and leave with half the town’s money. Sometimes legally, sometimes not.

An Entrepreneur would have such a single-minded focus that making them fall in love would be an effort and make for good conflict. Especially if the other character was set on making the goal oriented character her/his conquest. There are so many fabulous character traits you can attribute to this type of character that you can make great scenes. And that's one of the reasons I write historical westerns- and the fact you can put them in times and places that are as wild and stubborn and the characters.

What is one of your favorite westerns that had an entrepreneurial character as the hero or heroine?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Coming in November

Shotgun Bride, Book One of The Quinter Brides, will be released in e-book in November. This is the story of the oldest Quinter brother, Kid, and his bride, Jessie.

Like most girls, Jessie Johnson will never forget the first time she met her mother-in-law. After all who can forget a shotgun pointed at them? Bartered for a dead horse and held at gun point, she either agrees to marry Kid Quinter or her brother will hang for stealing the old nag. Equally concerning is the likelihood their wedding will put her handsome husband in danger.

After being knocked unconscious by his brothers, Kid Quinter finds himself surrounded by his uncouth family, the sheriff, a preacher, and an adorable young woman. Tied to a chair, he's given no choice but to marry Jessie Johnson. And that’s just the beginning of his troubles- it appears his pretty little wife had a former life as a prostitute and there’s a notorious gunslinger looking for retribution.

This was to be a stand alone story, but I grew up in western Kansas where the story is set, and while researching some of the locations I had visited years ago, settings and plots for the other brothers popped out.

Recently I was asked if I picture myself as the heroine while writing my stories, and I said no, I always see the characters more as my children, sons and daughters. And this story made that crystal clear, because just like real children, the second brother began to scream so loud in my head to give his story attention, I found myself writing both stories at the same time.

Does that happen to the rest of you Cactus authors? Before you are done with one story, a second one is stepping up to the plate, or perhaps I should say keyboard?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Coming Soon to Cactus Rose

FIRE EYES by Cheryl Pierson

Beaten and wounded by a band of sadistic renegades that rules the borderlands of Indian Territory, U.S. Marshal Kaed Turner understands what the inevitable outcome will be for him: death. But Fate and a war party of Choctaw Indians intervene, delivering him instead to a beautiful angel with the skill to heal him. Jessica Monroe has already lost a husband and a brother to the outlaws who tortured Marshal Turner. As the rugged lawman lies bleeding on her bed, she faces a difficult decision. Can she afford to gamble with her heart one last time? For when Kaed recovers, he is sworn to join the other Territorial Peace Officers in their battle to wipe out the renegade gang once and for all. When vengeance is done, will Kaed keep riding? Or will he return to claim his future with the beautiful woman the Choctaw call Fire Eyes?

MARRYING MINDA by Tanya Hanson

Mail-order bride Minda Becker arrives in Paradise, Nebraska and eagerly marries the handsome man who meets her stagecoach. His wedding kiss melts her toes. Too bad he's the wrong bridegroom. Having honored his brother's deathbed request to marry Minda, cowboy Brixton Haynes can't deny he'd like a wedding night with the eastern beauty. But the last thing he needs is to be saddled with a wife and the three children his brother left behind. First chance he gets, he'll be back point riding along the Goodnight. But leaving Minda proves to be harder than he expected.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Native American Romance

I've always loved history, especially Native American romance. Perhaps because of a romance in my own family. My grandmother told of her own grandfather, a Cherokee man, who went to Texas before it was a state and returned to Georgia over a decade later with an Apache wife. It was a marriage that lasted a lifetime, and they had a large and happy family. During the Civil War this woman fed Union troops and kept her family safe. She was a healer, a provider, and a profound influence on all around her--with perhaps a bit of a temper. My grandmother loved visiting her grandparents and hearing their stories, but she said it wasn't a good day for a visit when they arrived at the house and Grandpap was sitting outside in the front yard, along with all his belongings- (evidently, her grandmother often threw him out of the house.) These grandparents had a lasting impression on my grandmother and she spoke of them quite fondly.

The Earth Songs is an exciting series dedicated to Native American romance, and the people who shaped a nation. The Cactus Rose Line is currently accepting Earth Songs submissions.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Research can be Fun

I've always loved history, but when I started writing I wrote contemporary stories. I thought all the research to write a historical would be hard and complicated. Well, maybe it is a little, but it's also fun and invigorating. My first full length time travel romance, My Heart Will Find Yours, a Cactus Rose, will be out later this year.

The idea popped into my head on a trip to Durango, Colorado as we rode the train to Silverton.
For a short time I considered having my heroine ride into Silverton on that hazardous winding road on a stagecoach. But, after a ride on one, I decided I didn't want to put my heroine through that much pain. Even though she was a young woman, it wouldn't be easy. For one my age, early sixties, it would be agony. Can you imagine a woman with bladder problems? As you can see from my photograph, I gave up sitting inside and climbed up on top with the men. It was much more comfortable up there.

As the story progressed, I moved the location to Waco, Texas, near where I live. I grew in the area with it's rich history. The time period is 1880. Several books I found to be very helpful were Everyday Life in the Wild West by Moulton and Everyday Life in the 1880s by McCutcheon. I also found loads of information on the internet.

Bottom line, I had fun, so much so that I decided to write a short time travel set in 1888, A Law of Her Own. It came out on Wednesday, August 27th.

So, here's to research!