Saturday, June 27, 2009

Finding Your Inner Pioneer Woman

I was looking through my big, fat book, American West Chronicle, for a blog topic today. I was going to blog about western fashion, or what traveling by stagecoach might have been like, but then I saw a saw a photo of the famous painting of Daniel Boone leading the pioneers through the Cumberland Gap. Right in the forefront, astride a white horse, is a woman. She is looking straight ahead with a resigned, stoic expression. The men around her are holding weapons, axes, a whip, etc., but she is just sitting on her horse, wrapped in a dark blanket and probably thinking, "what in the world am I doing here?"

I flicked through some more pages, and found pictures of Mexican, Native American, Chinese, and freed slave women, staring at the camera with hollow, sunken eyes, with captions next to them noting how tough life was for them in the west. More pictures of white women settlers, surrounded by four or five little children in front of squat, log cabins or peat huts. A glorified painting of Sacagawea pointing westward, a papoose on her back. A gaunt-faced female settler, age iffy from her lined face and bad teeth, shoving a wheelbarrow filled with dried buffalo chips which was used for fuel.

Oh, the glamorous west! Our novels are filled with spunky or fiery heroines, their silky gold or auburn tresses spilling down straight backs or cascading over full bosoms. Their tiny feet are equally at home in dancing slippers or work boots. They borrow their lovers' nightshirts and go swimming at night in crystal clear rivers with no animals or marauders slinking around. They slip between cool muslin sheets at night while a cool breeze blows in through a window. Their complexions are clear and soft as peach fuzz (where are the peach groves in the west?) and their teeth, sparkly white.

I once read a book of pioneer women's diaries while they traveled the Oregon Trail, or numerous other, long trails to a new life, a new start. Some entries were simple: "buried baby Willie today. Moved twenty miles before supper." Or, "Husband succumbed to fever." Imagine burying a beloved family member and then having to move on for the sake of the rest of the party. They wouldn't even bury bodies after a while, but left them on the side of the road. Rather that the wolves and coyotes got them before they were mutilated or the graves desecrated by Indians.

This big book of mine goes on into the 20th Century, to the despairing times of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. When you see capital letters, you take a second look. A photograph of a Kansas family, two young children in tow, running toward a dilapidated shed while a gigantic dust cloud threatens to devour them. I contemplate pictures of 4-year-old boys sitting by a box that reads "donations." How many of us have ever sent our babies outside to beg for money? The abject poverty and total despair is overwhelming. I read about how windmills saved many a farm, bringing precious water to the house and fields. About how women broke their backs beside their husbands, waking before dawn and going to bed after dark. What a hard, harsh life.

Today, we hear on the news, on Twitter, on Facebook, the the water coolers, the coffee shop, lines at bad our economy is. How this husband or wife is out of work, how the bank is taking a house, a car, a boat. How will they pay for college, or just the mortgage next month? What if there's a layoff, a closing, a shutdown? Times are tough, but, as the eyes of the pioneer women stare back at me from across the decades, their faces are defiant. Tough. Strong. Scared. Give me your worst, they seem to say. Give me your droughts, your fires, your depressions. Give me arid fields and influenza. I will prevail.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

I thought, since I featured Annie Oakley in my May blog post, I’d shed some light Calamity Jane’s way.

Born Martha Jane Cannary on May 1st, 1852 in Princeton, Missouri to Robert W. and Charlotte Cannery, Calamity Jane was the oldest of six children, having two brothers and three sisters.

In 1865, Robert packed his family and moved by wagon train from Missouri to Virginia City, Montana. Charlotte died along the way in Black Foot, Montana in 1866 of "washtub pneumonia". After arriving in Virginia City in the spring of 1866, Robert took his six children on to Salt Lake City, Utah. They arrived in the summer, and Robert supposedly started farming on 40 acres of land. They were there only a year before he died in 1867.

Martha Jane took over as head of the family, loaded up the wagon once more, and took her siblings to Fort Bridger, Wyoming Territory. They arrived in May 1868. From there they traveled on the Union Pacific Railroad to Piedmont, Wyoming. In Piedmont, Martha Jane took whatever jobs she could to provide for her large family. She worked as a dishwasher, a cook, a waitress, a dance-hall girl, a nurse, and an ox team driver. Finally, in 1874, she found work as a scout at Fort Russell.
From her autobiography of 1896, Martha Jane writes of this time:
"In 1865 we emigrated from our homes in Missouri by the overland route to Virginia City, Montana, taking five months to make the journey. While on the way, the greater portion of my time was spent in hunting along with the men and hunters of the party; in fact, I was at all times with the men when there was excitement and adventures to be had. By the time we reached Virginia City, I was considered a remarkable good shot and a fearless rider for a girl of my age. I remember many occurrences on the journey from Missouri to Montana. Many times in crossing the mountains, the conditions of the trail were so bad that we frequently had to lower the wagons over ledges by hand with ropes, for they were so rough and rugged that horses were of no use. We also had many exciting times fording streams, for many of the streams in our way were noted for quicksands and boggy places, where, unless we were very careful, we would have lost horses and all. Then we had many dangers to encounter in the way of streams swelling on account of heavy rains. On occasions of that kind, the men would usually select the best places to cross the streams; myself, on more than one occasion, have mounted my pony and swam across the stream several times merely to amuse myself, and have had many narrow escapes from having both myself and pony washed away to certain death, but, as the pioneers of those days had plenty of courage, we overcame all obstacles and reached Virginia City in safety. Mother died at Black Foot, Montana, 1866, where we buried her. I left Montana in Spring of 1866, for Utah, arriving at Salt Lake City during the summer.”

Accounts from this period described Martha Jane as being "extremely attractive" and a "pretty, dark-eyed girl." Martha Jane received little to no formal education but was literate. She moved on to a rougher, mostly outdoor adventurous life on the Great Plains and was involved in several campaigns in the long-running military conflicts with Native Americans.

The following is her account of how she acquired her nick-name of Calamity Jane:
"It was during this campaign that I was christened Calamity Jane. It was on Goose Creek, Wyoming where the town of Sheridan is now located. Capt Egan was in command of the Post. We were ordered out to quell an uprising of the Indians, and were out for several days, had numerous skirmishes during which six of the soldiers were killed and several severely wounded. When on returning to the Post we were ambushed about a mile and a half from our destination. When fired upon Capt Egan was shot. I was riding in advance and on hearing the firing turned in my saddle and saw the Captain reeling in his saddle as though about to fall. I turned my horse and galloped back with all haste to his side and got there in time to catch him as he was falling. I lifted him onto my horse in front of me and succeeded in getting him safely to the Fort. Capt Egan on recovering, laughingly said: 'I name you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains.' I have borne that name up to the present time."

However, it may be that she exaggerated or completely fabricated this story. Even back then not everyone accepted her version as true. A popular belief is that she instead acquired it as a result of her warnings to men that to offend her was to "court calamity". One verified story about "Calamity Jane" is that in 1875 her detachment was ordered to the Big Horn River, under General Crook. Bearing important dispatches, she swam the Platte River and traveled 90 miles at top speed while wet and cold to deliver them. Afterwards, she became ill. After recuperating for a few weeks, she rode to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and later, in July 1876, she joined a wagon train headed north, which is where she first met Bill Hickok, contrary to her later claims.
In 1876, Calamity Jane settled in the area of Deadwood, South Dakota, in the Black Hills. There, she became friends with, and was occasionally employed by, Dora DuFran, the Black Hills' leading madam. She became friendly with Wild Bill Hickok and Charlie Utter, having travelled with them to Deadwood in Utter's wagon train. Jane greatly admired Hickok (to the point of infatuation), and she was obsessed with his personality and life.
After Hickok was killed during a poker game on August 2, 1876, Calamity Jane claimed to have been married to Hickok and that Hickok was the father of her child (Jane), whom she said was born on September 25, 1873, and whom she later put up for adoption by Jim O'Neil and his wife. No records are known to exist which prove the birth of a child, and the romantic slant to the relationship might have been a fabrication. During the period that the alleged child was born, she was working as a scout for the Army. At the time of his death, Hickok was newly married to Agnes Lake Thatcher, formerly of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
However, on September 6, 1941, the U.S. Department of Public Welfare did grant old age assistance to a Jean Hickok Burkhardt McCormick (name of her 3rd husband), who claimed to be the legal offspring of Martha Jane Cannary and James Butler Hickok, after being presented with evidence that Calamity Jane and Wild Bill had married at Benson's Landing, Montana Territory, on September 25, 1873, documentation being written in a Bible and presumably signed by two reverends and numerous witnesses. The claim of Jean Hickok McCormick was later proved to be spurious by the Hickok family.
Jane also claimed that following Hickok's death, she went after Jack McCall, his murderer, with a meat cleaver, having left her guns at her residence in the excitement of the moment. However, she never confronted McCall. Following McCall's eventual hanging for the offense, Jane continued living in the Deadwood area for some time, and at one point she did help save several passengers of an overland stagecoach by diverting several Plains Indians who were in pursuit of the stage. The stagecoach driver, John Slaughter, was killed during the pursuit, and Jane took over the reins and drove the stage on to its destination at Deadwood. Also in late 1876, Jane nursed the victims of a smallpox epidemic in the Deadwood area.
In 1881, she bought a ranch west of Miles City, MT, along the Yellowstone River, where she kept an inn. After marrying the Texan, Clinton Burke, and moving to Boulder, she again tried her luck in this business. In 1887, she had a daughter, Jane, who was given to foster parents.
In 1893, Calamity Jane started to appear in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show as a horse rider and a trick shooter. She also participated in the Pan-American Exposition. At that time, she was depressed and an alcoholic.
By the turn of the century, Madame Dora DuFran was still going strong when Jane returned to the Black Hills in 1903. For the next few months, Jane earned her keep by cooking and doing the laundry for Dora’s brothel girls in Belle Fourche. In July, she travelled to Terry, South Dakota. While staying in the Calloway Hotel on August 1, 1903, she developed pneumonia and died at the age of 51. It was reported that she was on board a train where she had been drinking heavily, and became very ill. The train's conductor carried her off the train and to a cabin where she died soon after. He said that she was dressed in buckskins and smelled badly, and was wearing no underwear. In her belongings, a bundle of letters to her daughter were found, which she had never sent. Some of these letters were set to music in an art song cycle by 20th century composer Libby Larsen called Songs From Letters. There is no significant evidence to prove she was the actual author of these letters. She was buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery (South Dakota), next to Wild Bill Hickock.
Pictures: Top right - Calamity Jane in 1865.
Bottom right - Calamity Jane smoking a cigar while making breakfast.
Top Left - Calamity Jane at the age of 45.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bondage is Behind You, Freedom is Before*

As part of my job, I’ve been immersed in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE) centennial anniversary. For those who don’t know, and that includes many people living in the Seattle area, the AYPE was held the summer of 1909 and was the first world’s fair held in the Pacific Northwest.

Before the Space Needle became a 20th Century icon, there was a world’s fair that celebrated the Pacific Rim, trade, technology and innovative new ideas. Following closely on the heels of the 1897 Yukon gold rush, the AYPE was an opportunity to display the resources of Washington State and herald technological developments such as the automobile.

One of the most interesting events associated with the fair was the 41st Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association held in July, 1909. Suffrage leaders from throughout the country converged on Seattle and a special train was provided from Chicago to Seattle by the Northern Pacific Railroad. This train was dubbed, The Suffrage Special, and it made stops all along the route to court public opinion, add members to their contingent and gain the attention of the newspapers to generate support for their efforts.

On the train were many leaders of the national suffrage movement, including Frances “Fanny” Garrison Villard, the daughter of William Lloyd Garrison; Alice Stone Blackwell, the daughter of abolitionists and women’s rights advocates Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell; Lucy Anthony, the niece of Susan B. Anthony and Pauline Perlmutter Steinem, the grandmother of Gloria Steinem.

These women organized differently than the more militant British suffragettes who chained themselves to fences, were arrested, engaged in hunger strikes and disrupted public meetings. The suffragists relied upon “sweet reason”, using a strategy to gain support for the suffrage amendment through education, speeches, receptions, meetings and newspaper coverage. They even published the Washington Women’s Cook Book with pro-suffrage information interspersed with recipes. Their goal was to use reason, persuasion and influence to gain support for the equal suffrage amendment to be voted on by the Washington State Legislature in November 1910.

July 7, 1909 was Suffrage Day at the A-Y-P, with over 600 suffragists entering the Exposition grounds under enormous banners heralding, “Votes For Women”. The women wore white dresses with green banners, (in honor of the Evergreen State) bearing their message. I can imagine how proudly these women must have walked, chins lifted, eyes straight ahead and focused on the battle to win the vote.

As we approach Independence Day, it’s often the fore-fathers of our country who are honored. I encourage you to take a few moments to consider the immense struggle our fore-mothers faced, as they helped build this great country and yet were forced to fight for economic equality, respect and the right of representation. The first National Women’s Rights Convention was held in 1848, but it wasn’t until 1920 that all women across the United States were given the vote.

This Fourth of July, light a sparkler for those brave, intelligent and amazing women who persevered. We are all the beneficiaries of their hard work and commitment.

*Historical Note: These words are from the international hymn of the suffragists and include: Forward, sisters, forward, Onward Evermore! Bondage is behind you, freedom is before.

Deborah Schneider, RWA Librarian of the Year 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Judge Roy Bean, the Law West of the Pecos

Langtry, Texas-Pop. 30 (est.)
Judge Roy Bean, the self-appointed “Law West of the Pecos”, became a saloon keeper and Justice of the Peace on the Rio Grande in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahuan Desert of SW Texas. He held court when the Texas Rangers weren’t around.

Roy Bean found himself in trouble most of his life from Texas to California. He killed, stole, cheated, swindled, and abused his wife.

Young women considered Bean handsome, and often competed for his attention. In San Diego, a Scotsman named Collins challenged Bean to a pistol shooting match on horseback. He allowed Bean to choose the target, and Roy Bean decided they would shoot at each other. Bean shot Collins in the arm. The sheriff arrested both men and charged them with attempted murder. During the two months in jail, Bean received many gifts of flowers, food, wine, and cigars from the ladies of San Diego. The last gift included knives encased in tamales. He used the knives to dig through the cell wall.

In Southwest Texas by the Rio Grande, Langtry was established as a junction for construction from east and west during the building of the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway. Two origins of the town’s name are under dispute. One claim is the town was named for a civil engineer named Langtry who directed a group of Chinese laborers in railroad construction. The other more popular and accepted claim is that Judge Roy Bean, an eccentric, colorful character, insisted he named the town after his idol, English actress Lillie Langtry, the “Jersey Lily.”
Today, a Texas Visitor’s Center sits next to the preserved 150-year-old-saloon in Langtry, Texas. The center is well-maintained, with clean restrooms, a snack area, landscaping, and a gift shop.
Celia Yeary—All My Hopes and Dreams

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I am a collector of names. Have been, ever since I was a kid. Probably because I always wished for a different one, myself. Mine wasn’t really exotic, but it was…different. Cheryl. My parents decided on the pronunciation of “Chair-yl” rather than the more common way of saying it. The way a million other people said it…with a “SH” sound, “Sheryl,” rather than the hard “CH” sound.

So when I began writing, I knew my characters had to have ‘good’ names—names that fit. Names that weren’t too strange, but not too common. Names that were appropriate for the time period, the setting, and the culture.

The hero, of course, had to have a name that was also something that could be whispered by the heroine in the throes of passion, yet something that would be tough enough on the villain’s lips to strike a modicum of fear in his heart, just by uttering it.

Because I was writing historical western romance, I decided to pull up a chart that would give me an accurate “slice of life”—possible names for my heroes. According to US Social Security records, the top ten names for men in 1880 were: John, William, James, Charles, George, Frank, Joseph, Thomas, Henry, and Robert.

Okay, I could maybe work with the top four. In fact, the first book I ever wrote was about a gunslinger of this time period called ‘Johnny Starr.’

And William could be shortened to ‘Will’—still masculine; but never ‘Willie.’ James—very masculine, and unwittingly, calls up the rest of the line—‘Bond. James Bond.’ At least, it does for me. I could even go with Jamie. Charles is pushing it. George, Frank, and Joe are names I have and would use for a minor character, but I’d never use those for my hero. They’re somehow just too ordinary. Thomas? Again, a great secondary character name, but not a show-stopper. Henry…eh. And Robert is just ‘okay.’

I fast-forwarded a hundred years to 1980. Here are the top 10: Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James, Matthew, Joshua, John, Robert, and Joseph. Four of the same names were there, though not in the same poll position. By 2008, only William remained in the top 10. John had fallen to #20, James to #17, Joseph to #13. The others had been replaced, not all by modern names, but most in the top 10 were surprisingly “old fashioned.”

2008: Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Alexander, Anthony, William, Christopher, Matthew.

This told me something. If you aren’t too wild with the names you choose, you have quite a lot of choices! We know that Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Daniel, and Matthew were Biblical names. Just because they weren’t on the “top 10” list in 1880 doesn’t mean they weren’t being used—a lot!

Another source of names for that time period is family records. If you go back through old family documents, it’s amazing to find some of the odd names that cropped up.

Still maybe not ‘protagonist’ material, but your secondary characters could benefit. And who knows? You may find the perfect ‘hero’ name!

No matter what you choose, remember these rules, too:

1. Sound and compatibility—Say your character’s name aloud. Does the first name go well with the last name you’re using? Be careful about running the name together—“Alan Nickerson” or “Jed Dooly” aren’t good choices. Avoid rhyming names such as “Wayne Payne”—and try to stay away from cutesy names that might make your hero the focus of ridicule.

2. Uniqueness—I’m sure my parents were only trying to be ‘unique’ by pronouncing my name differently than the other 99.9% of the people in the world would automatically say it, but you don’t want your hero to have such an odd name that readers trip over it every time they come to it. Louis L’Amour was a master at coming up with ‘different’ names that were simple. Hondo Lane, Ring Sackett, Shalako, Conagher…and the list goes on.

3. Genealogy—Does it play into your characters’ storyline? If so, you may want to come up with a neat twist somehow on a common name. In my first manuscript, the gunfighter, Johnny Starr, is named for his father, but the names are reversed. His father was Thomas Jonathan Brandon. He is known as Thomas in the story. Johnny was named Jonathan Thomas Brandon. He goes by Johnny. This keeps a theme alive in my story of the ‘fathers and sons’ of this family, and their relationships. It weighs heavily, because Thomas is dying, but Johnny doesn’t know it. They’ve been estranged for many years.

When Johnny’s own son is born, his wife, Katie, changes the name they’ve decided on just before the birth. She makes Johnny promise to name him after himself and his father, Thomas Jonathan, bringing the circle around once more, and also completing the forgiveness between Johnny and his dying father.

4. Meaning—This might somehow play into your story and is good to keep track of. What do your characters’ names mean? This is a great tool to have at your disposal when you are writing—it can be a great conversation piece somewhere, or explain why your villain is so evil.

5. Nicknames and initials—this can be more important than you think. You may need to have your hero sign something or initial something. Don’t make him be embarrassed to write his initials and don’t give him a name that might be shortened to an embarrassing nickname.

In my book, Fire Eyes, the protagonist has an odd name—Kaedon Turner. I gave him an unusual first name to go with a common last name. I learned later that Caden, shortened to Cade, though not common for the time was not unheard of. Kaedon, shortened to Kaed, was just a different variation. It sets him apart from the other marshals, and emphasizes his unique past in a subtle way.

Below are some excerpts from Fire Eyes, available now through TWRP, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. I hope you enjoy!


Marshal Kaed Turner has just been delivered to Jessica’s doorstep, wounded and unconscious by the Choctaw Indians. This is part of their first conversation, Kaed’s introduction.

“Just pull.” Her patient moistened his lips. “Straight up. That’s how it went in.”

She wanted to weep at the steel in his voice, wanted to comfort him, to tell him she’d make it quick. But, of course, quick would never be fast enough to be painless. And how could she offer comfort when she didn’t even know what to call him, other than Turner?

“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”

Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.

His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”
Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath and try not to move.”

He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”

She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”

“Go ahead.”


From Kaed’s POV—Finding out his “angel’s” name!

“I need to stop the bleeding. You were lucky.”

“One lucky sonofabitch.”

“I meant, because it went all the way through. So we don’t have to…to dig it out.”

There was that hesitation again, but he already knew what it was she didn’t want to have to say to him. He said it instead.

“All we have to do is burn it.”

She let her breath out in a rush, as if she’d been holding it, dreading just how she was going to tell him. “Right. Sounds like the voice of experience.”


She touched his good arm and he reached up for her, his warm, bronze hand swallowing her smaller one. Her fingers were cold, and he could tell she was afraid, no matter how indifferent she tried to act.

“You’ve got one on me,” he muttered.

“What’s that?”

“Your name. Or, do I just call you angel?”

He felt the smile again, knew he had embarrassed her a little, but had pleased her as well.

“Jessica Monroe, at your service, Mr. Turner.”

“Don’t go all formal on me.” He paused, collecting his scattering, hard-to-hold thoughts. “I like Kaed better.”

“Better than Mr. Turner?”

He opened his eyes a crack and watched as she gave him a measuring look, her cinnamon gaze holding his probing stare for a moment. “What you’re doin’ for me warrants a little more intimacy, don’t’cha think, Jessica?”

She glanced back down at the seeping wound, worrying her lower lip between even, white teeth. Her auburn hair did its best to escape its bun.

Kaed’s thoughts jumped and swirled as he tried to focus on her, wondering disjointedly how she’d look if she let her hair tumble free and unbound. And her eyes. Beautiful. A man could get lost in the secrets of her eyes.

Maybe he should’ve used a word other than intimacy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Clothing and the Western Woman

Women living in the west in the 1800’s dressed in the silks, satins, and fashionable dresses just like their sisters in the east for special occasions. However, they also dressed decidedly different when facing the rigors of western living.

In the rural areas, women’s clothing could be dated to when they first arrived from the east- up to ten years earlier. Silk and satin could be scarce in the rural areas. In these instances they would make ball gowns out of gingham and calico adding all the extra flounces, bustles, and trains. Adding handmade lace collars and wool braid around the hems to enhance the garments.
They would have one special dress they wore only to dances, church, and socials, and only wear a corset with their finest dresses to special occasions.

Common material for women’s clothing was linsey-woolsey, calico, silk, plaid, muslin, printed cotton, wool challis, dimity, and grosgrain-striped silk taffeta. Most garments had a pocket sewn in the right side seam. Generally each dress was the same style, the fabric and decorations made them different. In the early part of the 1800’s most wore one piece dresses. A dress with a full skirt required 10 yards of calico or 14 yards of silk because silk wasn’t as wide on the bolt as calico. From 1850 on women started wearing two-piece outfits(skirt and blouse). It wasn’t until the 1890’s when the “shirtwaist” or blouse became popular. By 1886 the chemise was replaced with the camisole a shorter version of the chemise with square or round neckline, lace and embroidery. Ready-made clothing became available in stores in 1882.
Traveling on stage coaches and trains they wore linen dusters to keep the dirt and coal dust off their clothing.

Three essentials of any western woman were their apron, bonnet, and shawl. An apron was a full length garment worn while cleaning the house and cooking. It helped to keep their clothing clean, making less laundry. They called any type of hat a bonnet. Most had a sunbonnet with ties under the chin and a wide cloth brim reinforced with cardboard or thin slats of wood to make the brim stiff and keep the sun off their faces. They would also have a winter bonnet or hat. Some would even have a fancy bonnet to wear to weddings, funerals, and socials. The shawl was a quick wrap to throw on to greet company or make a trip to the outhouse. They usually had a special one to wear to social events if their family had the means.

Working and dealing with the heat they would shed undergarment layers, specifically petticoats and a corset. Rather than the 5-6 petticoats that was customary they would work in one or two. This also helped on wash day when they only had to laundry a couple petticoats and not half a dozen. To keep their skirts down without all the layers hide their limbs, they would sew metal bars or lead shot in their hems, thwarting any strong winds. They would also wear bloomers under their skirts rather than all the layers of petticoats. In winter they would wear flannel or quilted petticoats.

Western women worked by their husband’s sides. To make their chores easier they shortened their skirts, wore split skirts and some even wore men’s clothing. It made walking and riding horses easier. They also were less likely to wear the tight corseted styles. They could do their work easier in loose-fitting garments.

This information was found in: The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West by Candy Moulton.

The heroine in my current release Miner in Petticoats wears her late husband’s clothing while working in the mine. It makes more sense when she’s handling a pick and lugging buckets of debris.

Here’s an excerpt when the hero first meets the heroine and she’s dressed in her husband’s baggy clothing:

“Mrs. Miller?” he asked, extending his hand. She kept her head tipped forward just enough her
face was shadowed and hidden behind the brim of the hat.

“Who be askin’?” Her voice caught his attention with its deep, lyrical tone.

“I’m Ethan Halsey. My brothers and I have a claim just over the ridge.” It aggravated him he couldn’t see her face and register how she took his words.

“Are ye lost?” The voice vibrated under his skin, causing his body to warm.

He cleared his throat. “No, I’m not lost. I’m looking for Mrs. Miller. I’m assuming that is you,
since you’re the only grown woman I see here.”

“Ah m Aileen. Ah dinnae fancy bein’ called Mrs. Miller.”

This disclosure piqued his curiosity. “Mrs— Aileen. I’ve come with an offer.” Her head tilted, tipping the wide-brimmed hat to the side and revealing a slip of her face.

“And whit may this grand offur be?” He saw the slightest curve on one side of her lips.

“Ma’am, not to sound bossy, but I’d like to see your face as we discuss this proposition.” Her
shoulders dipped slightly before she squared them, stretched her neck to its full length, and
whipped the hat from her head. Copper sparks reflected off her hair as the sun lit her dark locks.
Ethan hadn’t believed the words of a cowardly man like Miles, and he was happy to see there
wasn’t any kind of mark on the woman’s face, at least none put there by the devil. Her skin was
abundantly sprinkled with angel kisses. That was what his mother had called the freckles on her
face. Angel kisses. He’d always had a fondness for freckle-faced women and children.

“Thank you, I appreciate seeing people’s eyes when talking business.” Ethan took a step closer
to the porch, waiting to be invited to the shade.

“And whit be yer business?” The woman didn’t seem inclined to invite him any closer.

“I’ve scouted the land all around our claim. The five acres of your land down where Cracker
Creek drops in elevation is the perfect spot to set up a stamp mill. The side of the canyon has the
right slope and the water is moving fast enough to power the mill.”

“So yer business is askin’ me tae sell ma land?” She clamped work-reddened hands onto
those ample hips and glared at him.

“We’d give you a fair price for the five acres, and you could use the stamp mill to claim more
gold from your mine.” The information didn’t seem to change her opinion. She still glared at
him. “We’re allowing the nearby claims to build rails to bring their ore to the mill. They can use
the stamp mill, giving us a small cut of their profits.” He smiled at his family’s generosity.

“So ye’re doin’ this oot o’ the goodness o’ yer heart? Takin’ yer neighbor’s land and their gold.”
Her light green eyes flashed with indignation.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It Takes a Villain

What is a villain? I guess you might say they fascinate me, because in their eyes, they aren’t villains. They are motivated to reach certain goals just like the heroes and heroines, but it is their method combined with the main characters' perception of them that causes the rub.

This perception makes a big impact. Using a historical example, here’s a passage about Abe Lincoln from the viewpoint of the South and from the North.

Southerner at the Battle of Gettysburg

Here I sit among my fallen brothers. This war is so senseless. Had it not been for the aggression of Lincoln who had the audacity to attack citizens of his own nation-had it not been for his flagrant disregard of states’ rights. He was elected President of the United States, and what did he do? He only served the ones he wanted to and those with whom he had disagreement he attacked.

Northerner at the Battle of Gettysburg

Here I sit among my fallen brothers. War is so cruel, but this conflict is necessary. Had it not been for the stubbornness of the states which had the audacity to pull out of the Union-had it not been for the flagrant disregard of human’ rights. Had Lincoln not been elected, had a lesser man taken office, we might not have this conflict, yet we forever would be two separate nations. I am proud to serve under his command and glad he had the courage to stand up to those who would usurp the authority of the federal government.

These show very different ideas about this man but are comments about the same situation and the same person. Using POV is an effective tool to “up the ante” of the reader’s perception of the villain.

Villains range in character and motivation. Remember to develop your villain as a character. It’s not enough they do bad things. They need reasons. Based on the type of villain you have the reasons may be different.

Here are a few examples of villainous characters:

The ones who you think are your friends, the Judas type--Brutus in Julius Ceasar, is one we all know. Ike Hawkins, is Bobby’s friend in The Outlaw’s Angel by Helen Hardt, and he trusts the man, but as soon as Bobby’s back is turned....You have Miles in Miner in Petticoats by Paty Jager. Miles pretends to be a friend, he’s only got everyone’s interests at heart, but the man is up to no good.

The ones who suck you dry like a vampire--This would be the wastrel son or brother who bleeds you dry of resources. Always wanting more, never able to live on their own, sapping the strength from those around him.

The psychic, sadistic persona—Several very different characters come to mind for this one. Bubba Buchannan of McKenna’s Woman by Loretta Rogers is evil and sadistic, his cruelty is explained, an injury in childhood changed who he was. Something didn't work right in his head after that. Andrew Fallon in Fire Eyes by Cheryl Pierson is a very different sadistic and psychotic. He beats the hero, Kaed, to within an inch of his life. And he kills another. He lets his men rape and kill for his enjoyment.

The diva-type, selfish and self-serving Helen Pilz crafted a great conniving man in Lord Rochford in With Love, King Henry VIII this is an English Tea Rose. He is greedy for power and manipulates everyone and everything within his path for it. Also there’s the spoiled, selfish daughter Danielle in My Heart Will find Yours who becomes so absorbed with getting what she wants her actions are no longer reasonable. Her desire consumes her.

The downtrodden kid who grows up to seek revenge is someone who easily could be a hero. But instead of turning their energies for good they channel energy into hurting others, making everyone pay for their misfortunes. Again, I am stepping across lines here to American Rose but, Phillip in Meg Hennessy's Shadows of a Southern Moon is a great example. These could be amazing sympathic heroes but their energies focus on self rather than others.

The power mad controller who sees things only their way. Not necessarily "evil" but someone who is strong willed and intends to have their way at all costs. Wonderfully evil mother-in-law, Felicitas Romero, in Celia Yeary's All My Hopes and Dreams is a prime candidate here. She’s so focused on what she wants for her son she’s driven to extremes. She never considers his wishes or thoughts.

Not to oversimplify the villain persona. The villain in Paty Jager’s Outlaw in Petticoats,- Marsh is a composite. He was downtrodden, but he was also spoiled and out for revenge, when you read abouthim you realize, he was a little bit of all of these villains.

Villains come in all shapes and sizes and can be powerful catalysts in your story.

Happy Writing,


Tanya Hanson Writes About the Rules of the Road...stagecoach style

With the heroine of Marrying Minda arriving in a strange town by stagecoach to marry a mail-order husband, I couldn't resist posting "WELLS FARGO RULES FOR RIDING THE STAGECOACH"

Adherence to the Following Rules Will Insure a Pleasant Trip for All

Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink, share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.

If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the Gentle Sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted, but spit WITH the wind, not against it.

Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.

Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort during cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.

Don't snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger's shoulder for a pillow; he or she may not understand and friction may result.

Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.

In the event of runaway horses, remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry wolves.

Forbidden topics of discussion are stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.

Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It's a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient.

And if all that's not bad enough, MInda's wearing a linen duster over her clothes to hold off the grime of travel...because she's got her wedding gown on underneath!

I hope you'll do me the honor during "Cowboy Month" of checking out my story. Sign my guestbook at for a name-draw for an autographed copy.

Yee haw~

Here's a little excerpt.

Night fell soft and silent, and the snuffles of Norman Dale’s livestock comforted Brixton with memories of the trail. Lord, he couldn’t wait to get back.

Habit had him walk quiet as he could from the barn to the house. Even the tiniest noise sparked stampedes on the trail, so his footsteps were cautious wherever he went.

At the back porch, he set down Minda’s valises and paused to peek in the back window. Her lush curves swayed beneath the simple dress as she readied the children for bed, and he couldn’t fill his vision fast enough. The memory of her soft sweet cheek brushed his fingertips once more, and his heart raced and his groin throbbed. It was the heartbeat he didn’t like; a man desiring a beautiful woman was just what a man did. But a galloping heart might mean a man felt something deep inside.

Even worse, night after night alone on the trail, he’d keep seeing her shining hair sweep across little Ned’s shoulders while she kissed the top of the lad’s head. So he pulled out his flask and drank deeper. It was too much like having a family of his own, something he swore he never needed. Suddenly he missed his brother more than he’d missed anything.

Until this minute, he had never felt shy about coming through this door without a knock. His wife’s current disposition gave him pause, but he had goods to deliver and damn, the kids just might like one of his good-night songs. His tongue clicked. Truth to tell, his bride would think him nothing but a rowdy bridegroom wanting a tumble between the sheets. Already she’d tried to disgrace him by letting a room at the boardinghouse just for herself.

Another long hard swig consoled his throat as it emptied his flask. Damn woman.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Old West Gunfighter -- Reality or Myth?

The gunfighters who are portrayed in the movies, the television screen, the dime novel and popular folklore are a myth. The drama of two gunslingers meeting in the street at high noon, the lightning fast draw, the roar of exploding powder, the impact of bullets, the crumpling of a body; these situations were, and still are illusions. What we see today and even in yesteryear has little if anything to do with reality.

Of course there were shootouts in the old West. Many card games erupted into violence. Guns flashed and people died; especially innocent bystanders. These opponents were not gunmen in the accepted sense of the word nor were they skillful with a revolver. A bonafide gunfighter rarely allowed himself to get drawn into a ‘showdown.’ Instead he’d wait until the odds were in his favor before he drew his weapon. In fact, most shootings took place between cowhands, farmers, businessmen, drifter; men usually under the influence of liquor and were certainly not professional gunmen.

The term “gunfighter” didn’t even exist one hundred years ago. Newspapers usually referred to such characters a “gunmen” or “shooters.” “Gunfighter” and “gunslinger” are modern terms cranked out by Hollywood wordsmiths and popular fiction writers.

The fast draw is also a modern innovation. It didn’t exist in what we know as the Wild West. in the period between the late 1860’s and the early 1890’s (heyday of the gunfighters), few towns had been terrorized by roving outlaw gangs and almost none had ever seen a gunfighter.

Practically all towns west of the Mississippi had laws against carry weapons. People ignored these ordinances but, nevertheless kept their six-shooters out of sight. Guns were either tucked inside a belt, slung from a shoulder holster or shoved in a pocket. Those who did wear belt holsters usually rode them high on the hip where it was more comfortable. Gunmen dressed about like everybody else; they wore city clothes. They never worried about blinding speed but sought to gain the advantage, drawing and shooting when the opponent least expected it.

True, the western gunfighter is a myth, but he is an indelible part of our folklore. Today, because of new interpretations, he stands at a crossroads. Many years ago he began as a defender of the opposed, a man who had the strength of ten because his heart was pure. As he largely appears in books or on the silver screen, he still has the strength of ten, but his heart is no longer pure. He is often epitomized as a brutal killer.

The gunfighter is here, to stay. He still makes for a good story in today’s Western novels, and he will continue riding into the sunset for a very long time to come.
Now Available: Lawmen and Outlaws Anthology. Shawn from Gotta Read Reviews says, "This is a need to be read book."

Cactus Rose Time Travels

I have always loved the thought of time travel~

My favorite Back to the Future was the one where Marty went back to the old west and called himself "Clint Eastwood". My fascination with time travel started with an episode of Bewitched. Samantha was zapped back to the Salem Witch Trials. Lately, even more time travels have hit television, the big screen and book shelves as well. I try to watch or read as many as I can.

Cactus Rose has several wonderful time travels out right now. Each one has a little something different to offer.

A Law of Her Own was released late last summer and has received some great comments from reviewers.

Night Owl Romance said, “There is realism to the story that only a few time travel authors can bring to the page.

“With her descriptions of the life and time, Mrs. LaRoque paints a wonderful picture of Texas in the 1800’s. This story makes me want to go back in time! I will be looking for more books by this author to read!” – Kim N., Fallen Angel Reviews

"How to describe A Law of Her Own by Linda Laroque? Yee-haw and bring on the cowboys! Charity Dawson, a true-blue city lawyer from 2008 steals away to the magnificence of the Texas prairies and finds herself trapped in 1888 with Turner Reardon, cowboy and condemned man. Employing modern-day forensics, Charity tries to save the man from the noose, only to be discredited because she’s a woman!" (WRDF)

LASR said, “I loved the premise of a female lawyer traveling back in time just in the nick of time to save an innocent man from hanging…

My Heart Will Find Yours by Linda LaRoque was released in May 2009. This poignant time travel is the story of Texanna Keith who, at the insistence of her elderly neighbor, Pearlina, takes a mystical turquoise locket and boards a train to “travel back in time” so she can prevent the death of Royce Dyson. Texanna is certain Pearlina is senile--until she finds herself in 1880.

This recently garnered 5 Spurs from Love Western Romances. “My Heart Will Find Yours, a wonderful story full of heartache, passion, and the unexpected, is one you won’t want to miss!” ~Jennifer

And don’t miss the Cactus release That Wyoming Wind from Jo Barrett. This one was just recently released as well.

Jodi is at the end of her proverbial robe, all is lost. Her ex-boyfriend has swindled her inheritance and caused her to lose her job. She has no remaining family alive, so she packs all she owns and heads west. Her aging car breaks gown near Iron Horse, Wyoming, and she attempts to walk back to town for help until a strange wind sweeps her up, depositing her in 1907.

This is a feel good tale with vibrant characters, true romance and a wonderful twist. Dan is a true gentleman and a great match for Jodi.

So if you're looking to travel back to the old west, check out these wonderful stories of romance and time travel.

, Eve

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cowboyology 101

We all love our Cowboys—so how much do you know about them. Time for a POP QUIZ! Here are some questions about cowboys movies, cowboy songs and some well-loved Cactus Rose Cowboys—(for the Cactus Rose questions, you’ll find those answers in the “Wanted” blog.) Answer the questions or finish the statements. Send your answers to evemallary@ the wildrose and those who get them all correct will be entered in a drawing (June 16) for a "boot-ful" of Cactus Goodies.   

 1. His horse was named Trigger.

 2. He sang about a Rhinestone Cowboy.

 3. Movie character who called himself “Clint Eastwood” when he needed a “Cowboy     name.”

 4. He wants to be a “Cowboy, baby, with the top let back and the sunshine shining.”

 5. 3:10 to _______

 6. Alias Smith and _________

 7. The Son’s of Ben---Cartwright  (not the poets)

 8. This cowboy escorted Sister Sarah. (Actual actor or the name of the character.)

 9. In the June Cactus releases this man is looking for Bubba Buchanan.

 10. Get ‘em up, move ‘em out---____________

 11. In this June release, Brixton doesn’t want to be saddled with a wife and kids.

 12. In this June release, the woman he's interested in has been widowed twice.

 13. Artemis Gordon was his sidekick, the leading man was ____________

 14. In this June release, name of the McBride brother who is a Sheriff.

 15. In this June release he’s a bounty hunter, not an outlaw but he’s wanted man nonetheless and he kidnaps a preacher's daughter.

 16. Quinn Riley is the Sheriff in this June Release.

17.  This actor played Billy the Kid in "Young Guns"

18. He's a cowboy, on a steel horse he rides, and he's wanted dead or alive. (The singer)

19. This is from which "Western" 

Bart: I better go check out this Mongo character. 

Jim: Oh no, don't do that, don't do that. If you shoot him, you'll just make him mad. 

20. Who said, "Dying aint much of a livin', boy."

Good Luck! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cactus Rose is Steamy this Summer

Wanted: Lawmen, Outlaws, Miners and Mail Order Brides



In just a few days the Lawmen and Outlaws Anthology will be released.

I don’t know which I enjoyed more…outlaws are so—well, who doesn’t love a bad boy? There’s something so compelling about a hero seeking redemption.

     McKenna Smith is doing just that. His pardon is a heartbeat away. All he has to do is help catch a killer. Is it chance or fate that leads him to Audra Tadlock, with her crystal blue eyes and her pale hair-is her resemblance to Bubba Buchannan mere coincidence or is she hiding something?

     Bobby Morgan is just trying to buy himself a bit of time. He’s a sinner through and through and doesn’t feel a bit of remorse about taking a young woman captive. But this devil meets his angel in Naomi, the preacher’s daughter.

Then you have the lawmen. Those tin stars certainly seemed to say a lot about a man.

     Quinn Riley is one of those men who wears his honor like his badge. So giving, so self-sacrificing, he is willing to put himself dead last.

     And Sheriff Adam McBride is a hard man,  but a good man. Hannah Stewart is a runaway. She’s hiding something, a past he just can’t ignore.


Lawmen and Outlaws Anthology

Loretta C. Rogers, Lauri Robinson, Helen Hardt, Linda Caroll-Bradd


Marrying Minda

Tanya Hanson



Marrying Minda written by Tanya Hanson also comes out this month. For mail order bride Minda, Paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Her would-be groom told her more than a few white lies. His small children aren’t such little tikes after all. And the nice little farm…isn’t so nice--plus the groom died before she got to town. Minda marries her intended’s brother only to realize mail order bride means “free nanny” to her handsome new husband who’s suddenly found himself saddled with his brother’s three children. Brixton never wanted a wife or family and now he has both…maybe he'll learn a thing or two from Marrying Minda



Miner In Petticoats



Paty Jager


Miner in Petticoats introduces us to Aileen Miller. She’s a widow who has gone through more than any one woman should. The husband she loved died, and unable to support herself and her small son she remarried a vile, abusive man. The town thinks she killed her second husband, while he certainly deserved it, Aileen was innocent. She has no place for another husband, and she’s not interested in another man to break her heart or complicate her life. Until she meets Ethan Halsey. He’s a giving man and devotes himself to providing for his brothers and the town and he needs a track of land to do so.

Aileen has land he needs,   but she’s not willing to part with it. These two stubborn souls lock in a battle of wills and as their lives become intertwined, their hearts do, too.

As the summer heats up so does the romance...

Happy Reading

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Canning Food/Recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles

Early homemakers were artists at preparing food for storage for use during the winter months when fresh fruits and vegetables were not available. The art carried through the nineteenth and twenty centuries and there are probably still many homemakers who like to garden and preserve natures bounty.

My mother-in-law Geneva, as one of five girls, developed housekeeping skills at an early age and brought those abilities to her marriage. She had a large garden until her health failed and she couldn't take care of it any longer. She raised two sons and then went to work outside the home. All summer long, after working a full day on her feet as a grocery store clerk, she canned until midnight or later. Nothing went to waste. Tomatoes were made into chow chow, cucumbers into pickles, green beans and blackeyed peas were canned, okra battered and frozen, and the list goes on.

Geneva was famous for her bread and butter pickles. No one could could best her. I'm posting her recipe so you can give it a try. I'd love to hear how they turn out.

Geneva's Bread and Butter Pickles

1 gallon cucumbers, sliced.
2 sweet green peppers, chopped.
8 small onions, chopped.
Put 1/2 c. of sack salt over the cucumbers and
cover with cracked ice.
Set for 3 hrs.
Drain well and make syrup as follows:
5 cups sugar
3 c. apple cider vinegar
2 T. mustard seed
1 1/2 t. Powdered turmeric
1/2 t. powdered cloves
1/2 t. powdered cinnamon
Bring to a boil. Drop in onions, peppers, and drained cucumbers. Heat to scalding hot, but do not boil. Seal in Jars. (Cook in enamel ware or stainless steel pot. Do not use aluminum.) Chill pickles before eating for crispness.


Linda LaRoque ~Western Romance with a Twist in Time~ A Law of Her Own, Desires of the Heart, My Heart Will Find Yours, Flames on the Sky10-9, The Wild Rose Press; Forever Faithful, Investment of the Heart, When the Ocotillo Bloom 7-9, Champagne Books.