Thursday, April 29, 2010


By, Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

I have to admit it, I’m a girlie girl . . . always have been and always will be. I love porcelain dolls dressed in delicate lace, the color pink, canopy beds, nail polish, make-up and above all, perfume. Some of my recent favorites are Chanel’s, Number 5, Clinque’s, Aromatic Elixir and Estee Lauder’s, Super Estee. In high school I wore Coty’s, Emeraude, Dana’s, Ambush and Prince Matchabellie’s, Wind Song . . . not to mention Love's, Lemon and Baby Soft, Chantilly Lace and Oh de London. As a throw-back from my hippie days, I also dabbed on a hint of sandalwood oil and different fragrances of musk; as well as my old staple, Patchouli.

My perfume fetish is something I’m proud of, especially when someone takes the time to ask, “What’s that scent you’re wearing?” So, I did a little research on what the pioneer women wore to smell nice, other then a dab of vanilla extract behind the ears. Thanks to the Crunchy Chicken and several sites on Lemon Verbena, this is what I came up with.

Remember Little House on the Prairie and Laura’s fascination with her teacher, Miss Beadle, who wore lemon verbena perfume? If you were a fan of the show, Mr. Edwards gave Laura lemon verbena perfume in two episodes. So, what better thing to learn as a pioneer skill than how to make your own lemon verbena perfume?

What exactly is lemon verbena and where did it come from?

Lemon verbena (or Lemon beebrush, Aloysia triphylla) is a deciduous perennial shrub native to Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. This plant was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 17th century where it was used widely in perfume in the 18th century.

It grows to a height of 3 to 7 metres and exudes a powerful lemony scent. It prefers full sun, a lot of water, and a light loam soil. It is sensitive to cold, losing leaves at temperatures below 0°C although the wood is hardy to -10°C. Lemon verbena, if covered with some straw, cut down and kept free from very moist conditions, will also withstand up to a -15°C frost and will make new leaves in spring. The light green leaves are lancet-shaped, and its tiny flowers bloom lavender or white in August or September.

Lemon verbena leaves are used to add a lemony flavor to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams, puddings, and beverages. It also is used to make herbal teas and can be used to make a sorbet.

Lemon verbena has medicinal purposes as well. Traditionally, it has been used to treat asthma, fever, colds, flatulence, stomach upset and diarrhea. Today, even though the herb lemon verbena can be used in savory dishes and for medical reasons, it is still a fragrance widely used in perfumes. Lemon verbena has a woodsy scent, which helps add spiciness to many fragrances. And, because of the woodsy smell, lemon verbena in cologne makes a great scent for men as well as women.

If you’re interested in making your own batch of lemon verbena perfume, all you need to start is 100-proof vodka. The vodka, as a carrier for your perfume, is almost completely odorless and evaporates quickly when used on the skin, leaving behind just the fragrance. Combine about 24 drops of lemon verbena essential oil with two teaspoons of distilled water and two teaspoons of vodka. Pour all ingredients into a dark glass bottle and let them steep for at least 48 hours. Shake the bottle occasionally to mix the scent.

In the book, Gone with the Wind, lemon verbena was one of Scarlett O'Hara's mother's favorite scents. During that era, people made lemon verbena lavender perfume using pure essential oils. Lemon verbena lavender perfume makes a great combination since the lavender provides a relaxing scent while lemon verbena is refreshing. Bergamot acts as a refreshing top note. Start with 1/4 cup vodka and add 1/2 teaspoon lemon verbena oil, 5 drops of lavender essential oil and 5 drops of bergamot essential oil. Store and mix as above.

Now, I ask you ladies, who needs Estee Lauder?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Fort Ross...and an Easter Recipe

Fort Ross, California, a former Russian trading post, is now a state historical landmark, 13 miles northwest of the mouth of the Russian River and 80 miles north of San Francisco. The fort represents the southern-most penetration of 19th century Russians who wished to establish a base on the California coast for sea otter hunting (which was relentless) and for the development of agricultural supplies for Russian settlements in Alaska.

In June 1812, a crew of 95 Russians and 40 Aleuts began to build a redwood fort and stockade on an elevated coastal plateau, and the Czar soon issued an edict closing the Pacific Coast north of San Francisco to all but Russian ships. The Russian government's attempt to control the region was responsible for that part of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 which declared the New Would was no longer open to aggression by force and European countries could not extend their holdings in it.

With the horrific extermination of the sea otters and fur seals by the Russians, Americans, and British, the Russians increased agriculture and manufacturing in their California colony, but had little success. By the end of 1839, the officials of the Russian American Company ordered the colonists to sell out and return to Alaska. And Captain John A Sutter of New Helvetia (Sacramento) paid $30,000 in produce and gold for the property. For the next several years, his men demolished some of the buildings and removed the arms, equipment and livestock the Russians had left behind.

After 1845, the fort area became the center of a large ranch, its buildings used in various ways. The G. W. Call family purchased the fort and ranch in 1874. After the 1906 Earthquake destroyed the the Chapel, the fort site was purchased by the California Historical Landmarks Committee of San Francisco and presented to the State of California. Restored in 1955-57, Fort Ross is now open to visitors.

In honor of my Russian heritage, I thought I’d share a recipe today for Paska, otherwise known as Easter Bread.

2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup light cream or half and half
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup raisins and glazed cherries, mixed

Heat milk, half and half and butter till butter melts. Add to
remaining ingredients in the order your machine requires. Add the
raisins/cherries when your machine stops for adding "extras".

Use the dough setting. Punch down. Traditional way to bake is to place dough in a coffee can to make the traditional "top hat" shape to bake, but it also works as a round loaf when baked on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350F., about 25 minutes. Cover top with foil for last 10 minutes if it appears to be browning too quickly.
Will make two small loaves, or one large one.


~Tanya Hanson

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Historical Journey

Today is the release date of my first published book, TAME THE WILD WIND. Like most authors, I used to dream about this day. I probably spent more time dreaming than writing. It seems like I've always been interested in history and romance and writing - they fit naturally together, just like the old commercial where the candy bar falls into the peanut butter jar! I'd like to discuss historical research but with a twist - immersion into the world you're creating. In some cases this may be impossible, but I think you'll get the idea....

I rode in an 1880s stagecoach when I was 19. It was held up by masked bandits. The seats were narrow boards and we were all squished inside. I felt every jolt and start and stop of the horses. Not a comfy ride, and that was only an attraction at Angel's Camp, a historic gold-mining town in northern California. At 19, I'd already completed 3 or 4 historical romances and kept a ready eye out for research moments like this. As I rode in the stagecoach, I examined the interior: the thinly padded leather seat behind my back; the small lanterns inside. The narrow bench in the middle where the unfortunate occupant would have nothing to support him. I couldn't imagine traveling more than a few miles in such a contraption, but this was a viable means of transportation in the not so distant past. Ditto riding in a steam train at Allaire State Park in New Jersey.

Renaissance festivals and military reenactments are also a good source for the feel of a certain era. I recently attended the Crystal River Civil War Reenactment in Florida. Since Jed Hazard, the hero in TTWW is a former Union soldier, watching a battle unfold was interesting and exciting. The officers waited on the sidelines from their safe perches on horseback, giving orders and watching the fray. Women in bonnets and soiled aprons ran behind lines of soldiers, bringing bandages and water. Young drummer boys with sooty faces stayed out of the worst of it, while rebel yells and gunshot abounded. The best was to come - walking among the camps and seeing how soldiers lived was an eye-0pener. They cleaned their weapons, cooked food, drank from canteens, fed horses and dogs, polished boots, patched torn uniforms, smoked corncob pipes, and talked around the fire on wooden chairs or felled logs. There was even a demonstration of a medical tent replete with a cigar-smoking surgeon calling for ether to knock out a potential amputee, nurses crying over the dead, and a chaplain loudly urging the heavens to accept this "poor lost lamb who will no longer feel pain."

These reenactments are also well supplied with vendors, but of the authentic variety. I bought my son a handmade wooden sword and shield (ok, not Civil War, but at least not made in a store!) and they had rock candy, kettle corn, handmade dresses and bonnets, and then the antique dealers were there with hair receivers, mourning brooches, kid leather ladies' gloves, and other samples of daily life in the era.

I grew up in England, and still recall Sudeley Castle's jousting tournaments and medieval fairs. It was like Medieval Times but without the commercialism. Falconry was displayed the way it had been done for hundreds of years, powerful horses were bedecked in armor and colors of their knights, and the knights themselves - whoo boy! Ladies in flowing gowns and headpieces, jugglers, fire eaters - the list goes on. We visited many stately homes and castles, and it was easy to imagine living in another time! Walking on old parquet or ancient stone floors, peering into gigantic gilt-framed mirrors, examining period costumes or bed hangings and tapestries - this was food for my eager little researcher's mind. When Henry VIII's Hampton Court went through a disastrous fire in the 1980s, my mom toured it months later. They were ushered through one of the rooms that had not been restored, and a lingering red tapestry fringe still hung on the wall. Apparently, during the fire, the firemen had sliced the tapestries from the walls where they were bolted on. The fringes and borders remained. Well, being the "research assistant" she is, Mom grabbed a string and kept it. I later embroidered this 10 inch long, 500-year old faded red thread into a little keepsake for her. That little thread could tell stories, I'm sure!

I hope you enjoy reading historical romance for many more years to come. Immerse yourself in a story the way the writer has. Live the history. Feel the romance and joy. Lose your heart in a book!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Men of the West

While thinking of the men who ‘tamed’ the west, lawmen, outlaws, cattlemen and cowboys, gamblers, miners, farmers, preachers and doctors come to mind, as well as a few others, but for my latest release, Boot Hill Bride, the hero is one rarely recognized—a chef. Hog (Howard) Quinter, loves to cook and sets a goal to create the most elegant restaurant/hotel Dodge City ever hosts. When he’s caught in bed with the daughter of the man running for Governor of Kansas, his dream becomes a nightmare.

Everyone who’s ever taken a road trip knows the excitement of getting out of the car and having a good meal. That excitement was there in the 1800’s as well. Restaurants, cafés, eateries, roadhouses, hotels, boarding houses, or whatever we want to call them, were as important to towns as saloons and churches.

Just today we returned from another trip to Kansas to see family, and once again I didn’t find the time to get over to the eastern part of the state where there is a small town, Brookville (population 239), that I want to visit. For years the town boasted one of America’s oldest and longest running restaurants. (The family who has owned the restaurant for the last 100 years opened a replica of the original restaurant up near the interstate several years ago.)

The literature I’ve read says the railroad’s arrival in 1870 made Brookville a central hub for the Texas cattle drives coming up the Chisholm Trail and the town soared with growth, hosting every type of business needed to keep the cowboys and railroad men happy—including an opera house. Less than twenty years later, the trains moved their hubs to Junction City, KS, and the town shriveled, yet continued to survive until an army base was built nearby and brought thousands of soldiers. Then, after the war, when I-70 was built the less traveled highway traveling through Brookville soon became cracked and overgrown leaving the town all but forgotten once again.

Established as the Cowtown Café in 1870 the cafe served meals to buffalo hunters, cowboys, railroad men, soldiers, travelers, and a host of others including local residents. In 1894 the name was changed to the Brookville Hotel. Their chicken dinners are what made them legendary.

It was a few years ago that I picked up the literature about the Brookville Hotel while we were traveling along the interstate and after reading about the restaurant I knew I had to create a hero who loved to cook.

Boot Hill Bride, The Quinter Brides Book 3 was released in print this week and will be released in e-book on April 16th. Here’s the blurb and a short excerpt:

Howard (Hog) Quinter is hell bent on getting The Majestic, the finest hotel and restaurant west of the Mississippi, open by May 1st. The last thing he needs is interference from his family, but that’s exactly what he gets when Ma Quinter strikes one brisk morning. Sound asleep, Howard rolls over to discover a lovely young woman lying beside him, however, standing at the foot of the bed are his mother, the girl's father, and a blubbering preacher reading wedding nuptials.

Randilynn Fulton runs from a forced marriage to her aunt in Dodge City, only to discover Aunt Corrine is one of Danny J’s brothel girls. If she stays, Randi may become one as well, which would damage her father's chance at running for the Governor’s seat. But it gets worse when she finds herself in the middle of what she ran from—a shotgun wedding, and she’s the bride.


Even sitting here, stinging from the cold of the night, his fingers tingled, wanting to touch her silky skin, caress the curve of her back and examine those perfect dimples—

“Holy shit!” Snake exclaimed under his breath.

Howard snapped his head up. Both of his brothers stared over his shoulders, their mouths agape, and their eyes as round as biscuits.

“What?” he asked, twisting his neck to follow the trail of their gazes. His jaw went lax, the bottom of his chin all but slapped against his chest. The sight he stared at knocked the air out of him harder than being thrown off a wild bucking bronc.

Inside the canvas, the flickering light of the lantern made his tent glow brighter than the moon. The white, heavy tarp had become pale yellow, and a dark silhouette moved about inside the gently billowing sides. It was a moment before his eyes locked on the shadow and registered what he saw, sending the impulse to his brain.

Randi was undressing, and the light projected each movement against the canvas screen more clearly than the finest painter could create. Her graceful, womanly profile moved with perfection as she drew her gown over her head. The contours of her breasts, flat stomach, the inward arch of her lower back, and her long, slender legs became clearly visible to onlookers.

“Shit!” Howard leaped to his feet. Almost as an afterthought, he grabbed the hat off his head and swiped it at both of his brothers, knocking theirs askew. “Turn around!” he demanded before storming off toward his tent.

Jogging across the grass, he shouted, “Randi! Randi! Dowse the light!”

The silhouette inside stalled.

“Dowse the light!” he repeated.

Thursday, March 25, 2010



By, Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

The other day my friend’s twelve year old son forgot his homework, and so after school his teacher had him sit in detention. Now, the detention room is one of the class rooms, painted in a clean, neutral color, airy and bright with lots of windows. You are forbidden to talk to the student next to you, but you are allowed to do your homework or read a book for the forty-five minutes you’re serving your sentence.
When my friend’s son came home with the note his teacher sent, my friend explained the importance of him being responsible and then told him if it happened again he wouldn’t be able to play games on his computer for a week.
In my day we were either grounded or had phone and television privileges removed.
Let’s look at the pioneer day discipline:


Misbehaved students were flogged in Pioneer times. It was a totally embarrassing episode whether done in school or at home.
In school, if a child misbehaved the teacher would drag the student struggling up to the front of the class, in full view of other snickering students. The chastised child would then be completely horsed over the teacher’s knee – with an elbow hard upon his neck to keep him securely on. Then, with a thick strap the teacher proceeded to punish the child’s backside with several hard whips. In some schools a whipping post was installed, whereby a child was tied to and whipped in front of his classmates.
“When I’m through, you’ll need a warming pan to sit in tonight,” the teacher would threaten. But it did not end with the comforts of a warming pan once the child got home. Usually more flogging followed and more humiliation.
At home, a parent would make the child go out and find a long, willowy switch from a tree, cut it down and wait in the woodshed. While there, the misbehaved child would have time to ponder his actions. Most times, I’m sure, it was more a worry as to what was to come next that filled his thoughts. After enough time had passed and the child was ripe with fear and regret, the parent would enter the wood shed, sit upon a stool, and take the switch into his own hand. The child would then be ordered over the parent’s knee, breeches or bloomers lowered to the ankles, and a very tender, bared behind reddened by repeated blows using the switch.

Elizabeth Montgomery, in her Reminiscence of 1851, recounts practices in the girls’ school of a Mrs. Elizabeth Way. For permitting her head to fall forward, a girl was forced to wear a necklace of sharp Jamestown weed-burrs, strung on tape. If tasks were slighted, a girl was forced to wear leather spectacles.

The old test of good discipline was, if you can hear a pin drop, then the order in the school is perfect. The implication was that the "wheels in the head" make no noise when in action. The teacher was advised never to smile until Christmas. The youngsters were generally marched into the classroom, marched to classes, and then marched out of the building. The old time teacher, by virtue of his position, was a dictator.

The teacher enforced order and quiet among students except for recitation periods. Pupils spoke only when called upon by the teacher or requested periods. Permission to speak was granted by raising their right arm.They were usually required to stand when speaking to the teacher or to the class. Titles of respect (Miss, Mister, Ma'am, and Sir) were always used in addressing the teacher. Students were required to speak correctly.

Punishment took numerous forms. Corporal punishment was not unheard of nor was other extreme penalties such as detention, suspension and even expulsion. Lesser punishments, more common at that time than now, included such things as a rap on the hands or knuckles with a steel edged ruler; standing in a corner with face to the wall; wearing a dunce cap, facing the room, and sitting upon a high stool beside the teacher's desk; standing for long periods with arms held straight out in front; standing with an arm outstretched, palm up, while holding a heavy book on that hand for a long period; or being banished to the girls' cloakroom (if the culprit were a boy).

“Modern Standards" Appearing in the Later 1800s:

In the period between the Civil War and the middle of the twentieth century, there was increased attention to the individual development of school children. The earlier conceptions of strict discipline and even brutal punishment gave way to more sympathetic views of the child as an individual. Authoritarian discipline and corporal punishment were softened, and greater attention was given to the development of habits of self-discipline.

According to V. H. Culp, author of How to Manage a Rural School, "The discipline of the rural school should be more like that of a well ordered family with the teacher as its head. The children should be able to get a drink or a book or even leave the room, without permission except in occasional cases where such privileges are abused. If the older children are encouraged to help the younger ones upon many occasions a feeling of cooperation will always be in evidence."

When a child could not conduct himself in routine affairs without disturbing the school, or wasted his own time, his liberties must be restricted until the rules were learned. Punishment should always be in proportion to the transgression. The certainty of punishment rather than the severity would deter evil doers. Corporal punishment and suspension should be used only as a last resort. It was taken for granted that the Golden Rule, courtesy, fairness, and good manners were the standard of conduct.

I don’t know what sort of Golden Rule is practiced today. I’ve seen children in markets, malls, and theaters acting out to horrible proportions. They overule the parent's authority, having no fear of the consequences. And the parents are between a rock and a hard place because administering a slap or sending a child to bed without supper today is considered child abuse.

I’m glad my children are adults and I don’t have to deal with such things. And when they call me concerned over problems they’re having with their own offspring, I remember something my grandmother once told to my mother. “Grandchildren are a parent’s revenge.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

First Oregon Female Physician

This being Women in History Month I'd like to introduce you to one of the women in Oregon history who has been an influence on my historical stories.

Bethenia Owens-Adair- 1840-1926

In 1859 Bethienia divorced her husband LeGrande Hill—She was nineteen and had a three-year-old child. She married Hill at the age of fourteen. The stigma of the divorce followed her through her whole life.

She was a strong woman who refused to be a victim. She left the abusive marriage and raised her son as well as earned two medical degrees. One of the first women to practice medicine in Oregon she was also friends with Abigail Scott Duniway and became a subscription agent and regular contributor to Duniway's woman's right newspaper in Portland, OR.

This woman's story is what inspired my heroine in my June release, Doctor in Petticoats. She wasn't married before or divorced but she is strong of character and fights against society to be the best doctor she can be.

Here is the blurb
Clay Halsey not only loses his sight in an accident but his self-confidence as well. His brothers enroll him in a blind school. Feeling worthless and unwanted, it takes the courage of a young man and the trust of a woman to help him see he has future.

Doctor Rachel Tarkiel has settled for a life healing others and ignored her emotional wounds. When Clay shows her friendship and affection, she wonders if there is a chance she can have a life like others, or are her scars too deep to heal?

“I’m going to look in your other eye now.” She, again, placed a hand on his face and opened the eyelids, stilling her fluttering heart as she pressed close. His clean-shaven face had a couple small nicks on the edges of his angular cheeks. The spice of his shave soap lingered on his skin.
She resisted the urge to run her cheek against his. The heat of his face under her palm and his breath moving wisps of wayward hair caused her to close her eyes and pretend for a few seconds he could be her husband. A man who loved her and wouldn’t be threatened by her occupation or sickened by her hideous scar.
His breathing quickened. A hand settled on her waist, slid around to her back, and drew her forward. Her hand, holding the lens, dropped to his shoulder, and she opened her eyes. This behavior on both their parts was unconscionable, but her constricted throat wouldn’t allow her to utter the rebuke.
Clay sensed the moment the doctor slid from professional to aroused woman. The hand on his cheek caressed rather than held, her breathing quickened, and her scent invaded his senses like a warm summer rain.

Paty Jager

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kansas-The Breadbasket of the Nation

If you drive along the highways in Kansas you’ll see signs proudly proclaiming Kansas as the number one wheat producer—which is accurate. Since the 1870’s stats have been kept on wheat production, and the only state closely rivaling Kansas over all the years has been North Dakota.

Wheat is one of the oldest known foods, and is believed to have been derived from wild grasses thousands of years ago. It wasn’t brought to the U.S. until the seventeenth century and not to Kansas until the mid 1800’s. Some early settlers grew wheat, but most grew corn. It wasn’t until a class known as winter wheat proved to thrive in the dry land that the crop really took off. Russian-German immigrants, used to dry land cultivation, started dedicating large portions of their recently acquired Kansas acreage to the plants.

Machinery to harvest the wheat quickly transformed from the hand scythe to horse drawn and steam powered thrashing machines. The railroads criss-crossing the state from the cattle days provided the farmers access to markets and mills. Grain storage also grew rapidly and most every town boasted a grain elevator and mill.

A longtime Kansas farmer was quoted as saying, “Wheat is the crop of first importance. It’s the backbone of our economy, and made Kansas famous around the world.”

Bread was a mainstay, and baked regularly. In some households daily.

From a very old family cookbook, here is a basic bread recipe. (My mother still uses this recipe. I cheat and buy the frozen loaves.)

• 1 tea cup milk
• 2 scoops butter
• 1/2 teacup warm water
• 2 spoons active dry yeast
• 2 big spoons sugar
• 1 palm of salt (teaspoon)
• 1 teacup of warm water
• 6-7 teacups flour
Heat milk and butter until butter melts. Set aside. Mix yeast with the ½ teacup of warm water and stir until well dissolved. Set aside. Put sugar, salt, and 1 teacup of warm water in a large bowl. Mix. Add milk and butter. Add yeast. Add flour one cup at a time until it’s too difficult to mix with spoon. Turn onto floured board and knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth, not sticky. (Add flour if needed.) Grease a large bowl with butter. Put the bread dough into the bowl and roll until well coated. Cover the bowl. Let rise. Punch down and knead into loafs. Place in buttered loaf pans. Butter the tops and let rise again. Bake for 45 min at 350.

I have no idea why they signify ‘teacup’, but there truly is nothing like the smell of homemade bread baking!

With my Quinter Brides series set in Kansas, I knew one of the brother’s would have to be a wheat farmer. Shotgun Bride has Kid, the cattle man. Badland Bride has Skeeter, the bone hunter. Boot Hill Bride has Hog, the restaurant owner, and (finally) the forth book, Guardian Bride, has Snake the wheat farmer. (Wildcat Bride has Bug, the oil man.)

I’ve had so much fun with this family. I’m really going to miss them when I type ‘the end’ on the last story. (Which is probably why I still have one chapter to finish on Wildcat Bride.)

Here’s an excerpt from Guardian Bride—The Quinter Brides Book Four.

The jingle of harnesses and the creak and clatter of wagon wheels interrupted the casual tweets of the prairie songbirds. Frowning, Snake moved beyond the end of the long rows of wheat. The small plume of dust had grown closer. He squinted. With the force of a lightning bolt, his heart plummeted into a dark, spooky place.

An old mule, wearing a hat that someone had cut long slits in the brim so the animal’s ears could stick out and full of purple and pink flowers, trotted along the trail. Dust rose into the air in the animal’s wake. Two women sat on the seat of an odd shaped, little wagon. He began to shake. They didn’t need to come closer for him to know who they were. The driver wore a hat to match the mules, minus the ear slots, and the woman beside her, totted a well-used shotgun.

Fear like he’d never known raced over his body, and he scanned the vast ground, erratically trying to figure out which way to run.

Just as he hefted a leg, which felt like it weighed three hundred pounds, a rough voice sliced the air. “Don’t move! I got you in my sights!”

“Aw, shit!” The two women—together—could only mean one thing. Turning back to the wagon, he shouted, “Put the gun away, Ma, you ain’t gonna shoot me.”

“You don’t know that!” she reiterated.

On second thought, a good round of buckshot wouldn’t be as bad as the alternative—marrying the woman who sat beside his mother, glowering at him like he’d just killed her mule, hat and all.

Summer Austin flinched as the gun in the woman’s hands clicked. Out of the corner of her eye she checked if the woman sitting beside her had cocked the trigger.

Stephanie Quinter had. Moreover, one gnarled finger was set to pull the lever back the rest of the way.

Summer swallowed, stirring up the bile that already churned in her stomach. Marrying Snake Quinter wasn’t necessarily what she wanted, but he was her ticket out of Dodge, and she had to take it. Another option wasn’t likely to come along and time had run out.

(The picture is of the stove my husband bought me about twenty years ago for my dining room. I still love it.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Invention of the Toothbrush

I love research. While gathering information on another topic, I ran across this information about the toothbrush and decided it would make an interesting blog topic. I shudder to think what life would be like without a toothbrush but in one of my books a cowboy who forgot his used a frayed stick to clean his teeth so I guess I would make do. As a child I can remember cleaning my teeth with baking soda at my grandmothers as that's what she used. It's not one of my favorite memories but it did the trick.

Here's a little of what I learned.

Before toothbrushes people in Egypt and Babylonia used "chew sticks", a frayed twig usually made from an aromatic tree, to clean their teeth and freshen their breath.

The first tooth brush can be attributed to the Chinese in around 1498. It was described as having a cattle-bone handle embedded with Siberian pig hair bristles.

The picture below is a stickbrush formed from a tree branch. This photo is shown on the American Dental Association website.

The first mass produced toothbrush was invented around 1770 in Newgate Prison by convict William Addis. Bored, William spent his time thinking of ways to make a living when released. Care of teeth at the time consisted of rubbing the teeth with a rag or sponge, sometimes dipped in sulfer oil, or chalk or salt as an abrasive. He decided this wasn't affective. After some thought, he bored tiny holes in a small bone, remains from his previous meal. He obtained some bristles from the jailer, inserted the bristles into the holes, tied a knot, and applied glue to hold them securely in place. The first tooth brush was born.

In America H. N. Wadsworth received the first patent for his toothbrush. Mass production didn't begin in America until 1885.

Boar bristles were used in toothbrushes until 1938 when nylon bristles were introduced by Dupont de Nemours. This toothbrush was called Doctor West's Miracle Toothbrush. The disciplined hygiene habits of WW II soldiers greatly influenced Americans about good oral hygiene.

In 1960 one of the first electric toothbrushes, Broxodent, was sold by the Squibb company.

The above information can be found on

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, February 25, 2010


By Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

As a writer, I am a firm believer in reading other author’s books to help fine tune my own writing skills. When I read a novel I not only enjoy the author’s work and respect the time and talent it took to weave the story, but I also examine sentence structure, plot and sub-plot, the character’s point of view and the dialogue. I read all genres (authored by both men and women) and take what I learn in these areas to make my own writing skills improve. It’s an ongoing task, as none of us can know everything there is to know about any skill. When we think we do, we cease to learn and then to grow in our field.

Some of my own favorite authors are Diana Gabaldon, Karen Marie Moning, Nicholas Sparks, Dean Koontz, P.C. Cast, Stephanie Meyer, Julie Garwood, and Samantha James to name a few. Being surrounded by my own library, I wondered who and what the pioneer folks read by candlelight once the chores were done and the children bedded down for the night. Here are a few of the American authors and the novels I discovered:

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 – 1864), The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882), The Song of Hiawatha, The Courtship of Miles Standish and Paul Revere’s Ride.

Edgar Allen Poe (1809 – 1849), The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 – 1896), Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Herman Melville (1819 – 1891), Moby Dick.

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892), Calvary Crossing a Ford.

Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888), Little Women

Samuel Clemmons/Mark Twain (1835 – 1910), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Prince and the Pauper.

Washington Irving (1783 – 1859) Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

James Fenimore Cooper (1789 – 1851) The Last of the Mohigans and The Deerslayer.

L. Frank Baum (1856 – 1919) The Wizard of Oz.

They are amazing authors, but what is truly amazing is their stories are still read and enjoyed today. Their talent and creativity have spanned decades and many of them have had their story turned into a movie. I wonder what they'd have to say about that? Hmmm . . . not bad! Perhaps I should re-read and study these authors better myself, hopefully some of their success might rub off on me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Table Tales

My mother is the Queen of garage sales, thrift shops and flea markets. If there's something obscure that I'm looking for, all I have to do is have Mom add it to her "list" and I know sooner or later, it will show up in the famous "goodie boxes" she sends us from the east coast.

Sometimes the goodies might be of questionable value, but we have received antique crocks, old tools and jewelry in those boxes. Just like in the movie Forrest Gump, "you know what you're gonna get".

My mother enjoys the hunt more than anything and being of the generation that experienced the great depression, she likes to get a bargain too.

One of the things she found for me has turned out to be a invaluable resource for historical research. It's a reprint of the 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalogue.

The introduction proudly boasts that should all the records of the late eighteenth century be lost, this book could serve as a historical description for everyday life in that time period. I find myself referring to it often when I'm writing.

Last week when I was looking for some examples of a sideboard for my work-in-progress, I realized something amazing. In the furniture listings, there were several tables that made me laugh. Not because they're goofy or overly elegant in that Victorian style that was so over the top. These were plain, ordinary and very serviceable tables for the kitchen or dining room.

What made me laugh was the realization that I have these tables in my house.

I actually have two baking tables, one in the entry way of my house and one in the upstairs of our barn. We're waiting for our "someday" house to find a place for that one.

My dining room set has been refinished once and we're considering having it done again. The finish is getting a bit sticky, and the chairs have been re glued several times. The table costs $3.40 when it was purchased new.

The really great thing is that my mother bought it at an auction in the sixties for $1.00 and that included six chairs. I know some people who visit us and see all our old stuff wonder why we don't buy some shiny new things. But for me , it's the stories that were told around these tables that make using them everyday so special. I imagine a family in the 1800's on the first day this dining room table was brought home, how proudly the mother put her dinner on it and how rich that family must have felt to have such a treasure.

The baking table might have had a top with a flour sifter, spice jars and other special features. I wonder how many holiday pies and loaves of warm homemade bread sat on the surface? How many family members walked through the door at the end of the day to smell a treat just from the oven?

When I write, I often thumb through that catalog, enjoying all the everyday things people dreamt of owning. It truly was a "wish book" and now it serves to make my imaginary worlds more real to the folks who read my books.
In my book, Promise Me, I have my couple often sitting at a table to eat or talk. The first time Sam and Amanda meet, it's in the Parmeter House kitchen late at night.

She felt as if she had somehow intruded, that the light banter had dissolved into something else. She didn't know what to say, and remained silent while the shadows in the corners of the kitchen grew deeper. What was it about confidences exchanged at midnight? Perhaps it was sometimes easier to confess to a stranger than to talk with a friend.

"I recently lost my husband. He was the only family I had left. . ." Her voice trailed off, and she closed her eyes to keep the tears from forming as she took another sip of the drink.

When she opened her eyes he was staring at her. "How do you feel about that, Amanda -- about being so alone?"

His easy use of her first name was too personal, but she wasn't offended. It seemed natural, as if this conversation had taken place many times before. Perhaps it was the anonymity of talking to someone she didn't know, but for some reason she felt comfortable enough to tell him the truth.

"It's frightening. I'm terrified the sadness will simply overwhelm me someday, and that I'll be consumed by it. And if I disappear, who's going to miss me? I don't think anyone will mourn my passing or even remember me." She swallowed a sob, as a tear trickled down her cheek. What was she doing? This man didn't care how empty and bereft she felt. First, she had flirted outrageously with him, and now she was going to humiliate herself by dissolving into tears in his presence.

She dropped her head, waiting for him to stand up and leave. She didn't share her deepest feelings with people she knew, much less complete strangers. What had he done to make her feel so vulnerable? Listened? Was she that desperate for someone to talk to?

He moved his pie around on the china plate before dropping his fork. When he made no move to rise and walk out of the room, she swallowed and tried to make her voice sound teasing again.

"What are your intentions regarding that pie?" She wiped away a tear and lifted her face to give him a coy look.

He pushed the plate toward her. "Can I interest you in some?"

She nodded, leaning forward to pick up his fork. It was an intimate thing to do, to use his utensil. It simply wasn't proper. It would be like pressing her lips to his in a kiss. That thought made her even bolder. She scooped up a forkful of cherries and grinned.

Do you have an heirloom or antique in your home that comes with a special story?
Deborah Schneider is the 2009 RWA Librarian of the Year
Promise Me is available from The Wild Rose Press
Visit her website at to view her book trailer with photos she and her husband took in Montana and Wyoming.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nez Perce Womanhood

As promised a little more insight into being a Nez Perce woman in the 17 and 1800's. The children of Nez Perce families were taught by their grandparents. The grandfathers taught the boys how to make weapons, hunt, fish, track, and fight. Grandmothers taught the girls how to take care of their families, do the chores, and help their men. The elders passed down the stories of the trickster coyote and how "The People" came to be. By reading books of their legends you see how the legends taught the children basic truths about life and how to conduct themselves to be good Nez Perce.

Grandmothers also taught the girls about the coming of age and were by their sides during marriages and the births. When a girl began her menstrual cycle she would stay in the menstrual lodge for the duration of her bleeding. They believed the women carried strong powers during this time and were susceptible to getting pregnant.

This isolation served a purpose. They held private discussions about personal problems and conditions of health, exchanged views on herbal medicine, and composed songs. The cooked their own meals in the lodge and did not touch anything outside nor could they attend any ceremonies during this time.

They used buffalo hides with the fur still on for menstruation pads or buckskin and milkweed. The pads were put in a hole in the middle of the dwelling and buried.

After puberty girls were no longer allowed to play with boys and stayed in a lodge with their grandmothers and aunts and taught the ways of women.

Paty Jager
Photo source: First People
Source: Nez Perce Women in Transition, 1877-1990 by Caroline James; NeeMePoo by Allen P. Slickpoo, SR. and Deward E. Walker, Jr.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mary Ann Todd, aka Mrs. Abraham Lincoln

While the Civil War raged, Southerners scorned her as a traitor to her birth. Citizens loyal to the Union suspected her of treason. She was holding her husband’s hand when he was shot by an assassin, and declared insane later in her life.

Who was she? Mary Todd Lincoln. Last February 12, I coincidentally had this date for a Cactus Rose blog and of course honored her husband. This year, I decided to learn a little more about her.

Mary Ann Todd was born on December 13, 1818, one of seven children born into a prominent family in Lexington, Kentucky. Her mother passed away when she was seven, and she later described her childhood as “desolate.” An excellent student, she spoke French fluently.

In 1839, Mary moved to Springfield, Illinois, to live at the home of her older sister, and here, the tiny young woman became a popular socialite. She dated both Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, but it was Lincoln who won her heart. At their wedding in 1843, he gave her a ring engraved with the words "Love is Eternal."

Over the next eleven years, four sons were born to the couple who had settled in Springfield. Mary was known as a very loving, devoted mother, but sadly, only Robert (1843-1926) lived to adulthood.

When her husband was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846, Mary and the children lived with him in Washington for part of his single term. Back home in 1849, Abraham practiced law for five years before his interests returned to politics. After his well-known series of debates with Stephen A. Douglas, he was elected over three other Presidential candidates in November 1860 and inaugurated the next March as the 16th president.

Mary’s position as First Lady fulfilled her high social ambitions, but her White House years were a mixture of triumph and misery. Among her joys were refurbishing the White House and spending much time on visits with injured soldiers in hospitals. In addition to bringing them food and flowers, she read to them, wrote them letters, and raised $1,000 for the Christmas dinner at a military hospital.

Mary provided support for the Contraband Relief Association which helped blacks who came to the North during the Civil War. She was ardently opposed to slavery, and she strongly supported her husband's pro-Union policies.

However, Mary incurred ire for extravagant shopping orgies that were deemed unpatriotic extravagances. Her reputation was soundly thrashed because she had relatives who sided with the South in the war. In fact, several kinfolk died fighting for the Confederacy. Resulting, her own loyalty to the Union was often suspect.

After her husband’s tragic death five days after General Lee surrendered to Ulysses Grant in April, 1865, Mary never recovered. A month later, she left Washington to live in Chicago, trying a couple of years later to raise money by selling her old clothes through dealers in New York.

This unsuccessful business deal embarrassed her son Robert, who was fast on his way to becoming a highly-regarded attorney. She moved to Europe for three years, visiting health spas to ease increasingly bothersome arthritis. Upon the death of son Tad, her irrational fears and behaviors alarmed her surviving son, and Robert instigated an insanity hearing.

A jury of twelve men declared Mary insane after witnesses testified to erratic behavior and habits. The judge admitted "the disease was of unknown duration; the cause is unknown." Mary spent about four months in a private sanitarium in Batavia, Illinois.

In September 1875, she went to Springfield once again to live with her sister's family. The next year a second jury found her sane. Later she traveled to France, visiting spas as her health began to decline. It is suspected she suffered from undiagnosed diabetes, spinal arthritis and migraine headaches.

By the time she returned to her sister’s home in 1880, she was going blind. She passed away on July 16, 1882, at age 63. Since physicians wrote "paralysis" on the death certificate, the cause was probably a stroke.

Mary was buried next to her husband in the Lincoln Tomb Cemetery in Springfield. On her wedding ring, quite thin from wear, the words "Love is Eternal" were still visible.

~Tanya Hanson

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Modern Trip or Lifelong Journey

Twice in December, I came home from work to have my husband explain we would leave for Kansas the next morning (family emergencies). It’s about 2000 miles round trip. Our ‘luggage’ consisted of clothes. Period. Sure, we had the extra pair of shoes, boots or coat, our bathroom necessities, and one or two other things, such as cell phones, my laptop and my husband’s pillow. (He goes no where without it.) But we didn't need to worry about food. Anytime we were hungry we could pull into a restaurant and eat. Nor did we worry about ‘fuel’ for our car, because that too was simply and exit away. When we arrived at our destination, we checked into the hotel room we had reserved in advance…

Let’s turn back the clock to a woman whose husband came home one day and informed his family--come spring they would head west. If the husband was an ‘established business man’, the wife may have had a life of leisure up to this point. Meaning, she may have had help with the household chores, which might have provided her with time to tend to a rose garden or have tea with her lady friends. If the husband was a laborer or farmer, the wife most likely not only worked the fields with him, she managed her household single-handedly as well.

It would have been her job to pack the necessities for the long trip, while her husband secured their passage. Conestoga wagons were actually far and few when it came to wagon trains. The original Conestoga’s were freight hauling wagons. It took six to eight horses or up to a dozen oxen to pull one wagon. The floors of a Conestoga wagon were curved upward to keep the cargo from tipping or slipping, and these wagons could haul up to 12,000 pounds.

Some Conestoga wagons were used to for the California Gold Rush, but by the time the migration wagon trains were happening, most wagons were Prairie Schooners. The name came about because some thought the white canvas tops crossing the prairies looked like sail boats crossing the ocean. Schooners were average farm wagon with arched, wooden bows holding the canvas stretched from side to side. Conestoga wagons had suspension, Schooners did not. The ride was usually so rough, people chose to walk. Schooners were pulled by mules or oxen. (Horses weren’t sturdy enough to make the trip.) If oxen pulled the wagon, a drover or teamster walked on the left side of the oxen, shouting commands or cracking a whip. If mules were used, they were harnessed and driven by someone sitting on the wagon seat.

The woman would have had to decide what to take west. She may have created a list of things to sell or giveaway before the trip, and to begin with she may have insisted on frivolous things, such as furniture. As space began to dwindle, she’d realize the importance of the basics—food. Dried meat, beans, coffee, flour, salt, a cow to be milked, and the necessities needed to prepare the foods, feed the animals, and aid their travels. (Tools.)

The trails west were littered with furniture…the family rocking chair, or generations old desk, things that at one time had been treasured, became dead weight that needed to be discarded. Crosses decorated the trails as well. Friends, family members, children, wives , husbands and animals. At one time it was said there were so many dead and decaying oxen carcasses one simply had to follow the smell all the way west. For years, the bleached white bones did serve as trail markers.

The trail was long and full of hardships, (way to many to briefly mention), but men, women and families prevailed, and arrived at their destination intact.

Yet, their work was far from over. Many of the trains arrived west in late summer or fall, which meant winter arrived before many of the homes did. Dugouts and/or hand dug basement were often utilized that first winter. Come spring, there was also land to clear and gardens to plant. Farmers and miners were the most common occupations of wagon train travelers. If the husband was a farmer, it was most likely the wife was out clearing the fields along with him. If he was a miner, she probably would have cleared the ground for her garden herself.

My trips took a few days each time, the pioneer’s, several months, but that’s really the only comparison I can make. After all, mine were simple, modern day ‘trips’, theirs were lifelong journeys.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mendenhall Plantation

~ Not the usual plantation

I recently visited a local historical site. It’s one of those places you always intend to go to, but never seem to get the opportunity to stop. But I made time. Mendenhall Plantation isn’t a plantation in the traditional sense of the word. It’s the home of a Quaker family, and Quakers didn’t own slaves. This is no Tara, this is quite the opposite. It’s a view of pre-Civil War Southerners who didn’t own slaves. The Mendenhalls were from Pennsylvania and came to North Carolina prior to the Revolutionary war.
There were several amazing features of the house—

  • The house itself is a two-story structure build on a dugout basement. Interestingly enough there is a trap door from the first floor to the basement.
  • There were no elaborate decorations no grand curved stairways. These stairways were steep and utilitarian, taking up the smallest footprint possible.
  • A quilt rack was suspended from hooks on the first floor ceiling and could be raised for storage and lowered for use.
  • The barn was a bank barn, two stories yet built on a hill so no stairs were needed. Again there were trap doors here as well to move the hay from the loft on the second floor to the animals on the first.
  • A wagon was one of the most amazing items. It had a false bottom for hiding slaves. Two boys would ride through town with a seeming load of hay but in a hidden compartment were men and women. Giving aid to runaway slaves was a criminal offence, yet these peace-loving, principled people risked their lives and to help others.
  • The trap door on the first floor leads to the basement and not just a hole in the ground an area where people could hide, it was a little apartment where people could reside. Most likely the first occupant had lived in the basement while he built his home and later served a other purpose—a place for slaves to reside until they could find passage to a safer area.

I really gained a greater appreciation for The Society of Friends and their contributions to America’s founding and history.
Here is a link to the website:

Thursday, January 28, 2010


By Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

I hear on the news all the time recalls for such baby items as cribs, car seats, highchairs and infant seats. We’re so cautious and careful with our babies these days, and rightfully so. Babies are precious and a mother can’t be too careful. But all of today’s care and concern led me to wonder about the pioneer day baby and how the mother’s of that time cared for their young. While writing my first historical, THE GOLDEN LADY, I had the opportunity to do research on the Apache people and their custom’s. I was particularly interested in the cradleboard, the baby carrier an Apache mother used.
This is what further research led me to discover:

Made of wood, hide, lichens, decorated with beads, tightly swaddled infants were carried around for up to a year in cradleboards. The cradleboard provided a secure and safe environment for the small baby. The baby was kept in the cradleboard at all times. This helped to keep the child's backbone and legs straight, further strengthen the neck muscles, and provide an opportunity for the infant to be visually and emotionally stimulated by his environment and family. The child was able to be carried on his mother's back using a strap attached to the back of the cradleboard. This way, the mother could be free to work with her hands. Using the strap, they sometimes hung or propped the basket up, so that the mother could also be within the child's view and communicate with the child. When tired, the infant could be rocked to sleep. Then the child could be laid down without disturbing its body or sleep.

Since willows could only be collected in the winter months, it was necessary for the basket maker to plan ahead. Once spring arrived, the willows would have too much water in them and could easily break. River willow was used for the boat cradleboard, which was prepared after the child was born. It was an open-twined weave forming an elliptical head guard for the infant. A rabbit-skin lining was placed inside to cushion the baby's head and body and buckskin laces were used to tie the baby in. Wild dogwood or rosewood willows were used to make the frames for the hoop cradleboard. Once gathered, the larger willows were scraped for the cradleboard frame and backing. The smaller willows would be used for the shade. The other willows would be split, simultaneously, in three parts to be used for weft thread. The same process was used for making other baskets. Using a warming method, the hoop frame was formed by tying the top and bottom frames together. After forming the frame, it was tied down to a flat-surface for a couple of weeks, to prevent it from twisting or bending out of shape. Willows were cut to fit the frame, a horizontal willow backing was used. The willows were fastened together by one or two vertical willows, using buckskin strips. Once the frame was ready, the ends of the willow backing was fit against the frame and attached the willows to the frame by wrapping the willow-backing with buckskin strips. The frame would then be covered with buckskin.The frame was placed on the buckskin. The buckskin was fitted around the frame by pulling it snugly towards the center. The center, top and bottom seam was marked. Then the buckskin was cut and sewn with their specialized bone needles and sinew-thread. The outside strings and loops were then added to the front flaps, using a bone awl to make holes and rabbit-skin batting was placed inside for a cushion.

A willow shade was added to the basket. The willow shade was made using river willows. It was woven in an open-twined weave fashion, using a decreasing procedure while weaving. First, the pattern at the top was made, using a naturally-dyed willow weft. The pattern depended on the gender of the baby. A diamond was used for a girl's shade and diagonal lines were used for a boy's shade. This shade not only provided a shade from the sun, but provided protection for the child's face and head if the cradle was knocked over and with a cover, it kept the wind out. The shade was attached to the outside of the basket. It was threaded through two holes and tied onto the backside.

The cradleboard was decorated by adding fringes to the sides and back. A strap was attached to the back of the cradleboard for carrying. A separate buckskin piece was attached to the bottom, so that it could be removed if soiled.

Today, the cradleboard is still being used. Many families have other tribal members or relatives make the cradle for them since many families have not kept up the tradition of making the cradle. Modern changes have been made in the construction of the cradleboard. Many are covered with a canvas-like material, allowing for a cooler, washable and more available cover for the cradle. Yarn is now used on the shade for the patterns and cloth around the edging, adding more color.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Making a Dress the Nez Perce Way

My current WIP is set among the Nez Perce Indians and I've been reading a lot about them.

For a woman to make a dress she had to first tan two deer hides. That meant soaking the hides in water, then scraping the meat and fat from one side and the hair from the other with sharp stones. They were stretched then she worked the brain of the deer into the hide making it a soft leather.

When the hides were ready to make into a dress, she used a bone awl to punch holes and sinew or buckskin string to sew the skins together. The awl was used to make a hole and the end of the buckskin was moistened with saliva then rolled on their thigh to shape and tighten it. When the end dried it was then pushed through the holes made by the awl. The shoulder seams were constructed by sewing the back legs of the hide together. The sleeves were only elbow length. The tail at the neckline of the dress was folded down to form a faux yoke. The sides were sewn together and at the bottom of the dress, four half circular pieces were sewn between the neck and leg extensions of the hide to even out the hem and give more fullness for walking and riding.

The hair side of the hide was placed against the body for softness and warmth.

Fringes were added at the bottom, sleeves, and sided seams for ornamentation. The yoke and sleeves were solidly beaded. Some ceremonial dresses with all the beading could weigh up to 40 pounds. Every day dresses had minimal beading.

I didn't get a clear idea of how long this would all take, but I'm sure it would be a week or longer to make one garment. I'm pretty happy that I can purchase my fabric and use my sewing machine when I get the urge to make a garment.

Source: Nez Perce Women in Transition, 1877-1990 by Caroline James

Paty Jager

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Writers vs Pioneer Women

I can’t begin to remember how many years my New Year’s Resolution has been to diet and exercise. Every year, I start out gung ho. I create my weekly diet menu, I get on my exercise bicycle, and then. . .kerpoof! Life gets in the way. You know what I’m talking about. Most of us have been there—done that, and will do it again next year.

If we writers were to compare our lives to that of pioneer women, we might conclude we shared many similarities. The one difference many writers might see is weight and exercise. Pioneer women didn’t need to exercise. Hard work and a daily grind kept them lean and muscled. It’s not to say that pioneer women were buffed with sculpted bodies, but think about their lives—lonely; living miles from the nearest town, and often a day or more ride from a neighbor. The pioneer woman lacked from companionship of other women.

The pioneer woman washed clothes, baked bread, and often birthed children without the aid of a doctor, fought snakes, pest and Indians. Her biggest battle was loneliness.

Writers live lonely lives, too. Unlike the pioneer woman (who had no other choice), we writers choose to be writers, because we love what we do. We enjoy the challenge of creating a great plot, creating characters our readers will love, and we even enjoy the stomach-clenching tension of meeting deadlines. Unlike the pioneer woman, writers spend long hours—sitting. Our middles expand from lack of exercise. And while the food pioneer women ate might not have been the most nutritious with fried fatback, bread made with lard, can we writers claim to eat healthy—grabbing a slice of cold pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches or whatever else we can manage while at the computer?

So while spending hours pounding away at the keyboard may be great for our writing careers, it can be tough on our bodies. Here are a few simple stretches to get on the path to a more limber, more alert and more productive writing year. You don’t have to leave your office (or writing place) to perform these, and most can be done while sitting in your typing chair.

Standing stretch: with hands on your hips, gently turn your torso at the waist and look over your shoulder. When you feel the stretch, hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

For wrists: Place hands palm to palm in front of you. Keeping elbows even, push one hand gently to the side until you feel a mild stretch. Hold for five seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Neck: Sit or stand with arms hanging loosely at your sides. Then tilt your head first to one side and hold for five seconds, keeping your shoulders relaxed downward. Repeat on the other side and hold for five seconds.

Back: Sitting in your typing chair, slowly lean forward over your lap, keeping your head down and your neck relaxed. Hold for 20 seconds. Use your hands to help push yourself back to a sitting position.

Arms: (Sitting) Interlace your fingers and straighten arms above your head with palms facing upward. Breathe deeply and think of elongating your arms as you feel a stretch through your arms and the upper sides of your rib cage. Hold for 10 seconds.

Shoulders: (Standing) With right hand, gently pull your left arm down and across behind your back. Then lean your head sideways toward the right shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat stretch on opposite side.

While it may seem like an interruption at first, regular stretching will, with practice, become as much a part of your writing routine as that morning cup of coffee.

While the pioneer woman fought Indians, snakes and braved in climate weather, now, you the writer, can doe the same—except it’ll be with your imagination and a happier, healthy body.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Flying Horses

Leland Stanford (1824-1893), who wore such hats as California governor, railroad baron, university founder and race horse owner, sought to settle one of the hottest debates of the 1870’s: Is there a moment in a horse’s gait when all four hooves are off the ground at once?

Legend says he bet $25,000 that it was true. Common opinion at the time nixed the idea. After all, if God wanted horses to “fly”, He would have given the creature wings. But determined to settle the question, Stanford hired celebrity photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) to prove it.

One of San Francisco’s most celebrated landscape photographers, Muybridge took more than 2,000 photographs with 20x24 inch negatives. His 1867 photographs of Yosemite Valley brought the valley…and himself…almost mythic status.

Accepting Stanford’s challenge in 1877, Muybridge captured Stanford’s horse, Occident, silhouetted against white sheets with all four feet off the ground. He used 12 to 24 cameras and a self-designed shutter that gave an exposure of 2/1,000 of a second. Although these original pictures didn’t survive, Muybridge continued to work with Stanford to develop techniques in the “science of animal motion.”

In 1878, he succeeded in photographing a sequence of frames produced on wet plate with 12 cameras that proved the “flying horse.” The slow wet plate collodion process produced images that were mostly silhouettes, but they showed something never before seen by the human eye.

Scientific American and other prominent publications featured articles on Muybridge’s accomplishment. However, Stanford invited his close friend, horseman and medical physician Dr. J.D.D. Stillman to produce a book analyzing the horse-in-motion. Stillman used Muybridge’s photography without crediting the photographer. Interestingly, when Muybridge sued Stanford and Stillman for copyright infringement, he lost his suit.

Eadweard Muybridge migrated to the University of Pennsylvania after that. His invention of the zoopraxiscope earned him the title of the father of the motion picture. To illustrate his lectures, he developed the scope; its lantern projected images in rapid succession onto a screen. The images came from his photographs, printed on a glass disc. From the rotating disc came the illusion of moving pictures.

Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope display, an important predecessor of the modern cinema, was a sensation at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. His works are still in demand by art students.

--Tanya Hanson
Marrying Minda, available now
Marrying Mattie, tba 2010
Lawmen and Outlaws Christmas Anthology 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Invention of Toilet Paper

Have you ever wondered what people used before the invention of toilet paper? I have. The ones in the picture above are pretty well-known, especially the catalogue, usually the Sears and Roebuck fondly tagged "Rears and Sorebutt." My grandparent's farm had an outhouse and as a child I couldn't believe they used pages from the catalogue for toilet paper. According to The Virtual Toilet Paper Museum - Toilet Paper in the News, the Farmer's Almanac had a hole in the corner so it could be hung on a hook. Per this article, other items used were stones, pieces of clay, sponges on a stick kept in a clay pot full of salt water, and the left hand which is still supposedly considered unclean in the Arabian region.

The first actual toilet paper dates back to the late 14th Century in China. Emperors ordered it in 2 foot by 3 foot sheets. The first packaged toilet paperin the United States was produced in New York by Joseph  C. Gayetty. Pre-moistened sheets were medicated with aloe and named Gayetty's Medicated Paper. Rolled and perforated toilet paper arrived around 1880. One source, the Scott Paper Company wouldn't put their name on the product as it was a sensitive subject in Victorian times. They customized it for their customers. The Waldorf Hotel was a big name in toilet paper. In 1942, a mill in England produced the first two-ply paper and the first toilet paper shortage occured in 1973.  I didn't have time to research the reason for the shortage, so if anyone knows why there was one, please share it with us.

One of the things my heroine in My Heart Will Find Yours missed most from the future was indoor plumbing and toilet paper. Well, actually, she missed a lot of things but not enough to go back to the future and leave Marshal Royce Dyson.

You can read chapter one of My Heart Will Find Yours and of my other novels on my website.

I have a monthly drawing on my blog Linda LaRoque's Musings and give away an ebook -- the winner's choice. All you have to do is leave a comment.

Happy Reading and Writing!

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 Sky, Forever Faithful, Investment of the Heart, When the Ocotillo Bloom

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Victorians

I recently had the delightful opportunity to visit London with my critique partner and friend. Since we both write historical romance, we chose a hotel in Kensington with the idea that it was close to so many things we love - Portabello Road Flea Market, the West End Theatre District and... The Victoria and Albert Museum.

I confuse many people when I talk about writing stories set in the Victorian time period, because they usually say, "you write Westerns". That's true, but the years between 1837 and 1901 are officially the reign of Queen Victoria of England and what we now refer to as, the Victorian era.

As we wandered through the amazing collection of artifacts from the apartments of the Queen and her Consort, examples of work from the Great Exhibition of 1851 and clothing from that era, I started to consider what makes this time period so appealing to those of us who choose to write stories set then?

For me, there are so many things, including the new up and coming middle class developed from the Industrial Revolution, (no need to write about royalty and wealthy aristocrats), the fashions which were elegant, somewhat fussy and quite beautiful, and the social manners and mores.

Everyone has heard about the staid and straight-laced Victorians, who covered piano legs with long fringe shawls and called their underclothes "unmentionables". I have fun discovering the patterns of social interaction and then of course distrupting them in the course of my story in order to create conflict.

In one of my searches through the library catalog, I came across a jewel of a book, Never Give a Lady a Restive Horse: A 19th Century Handbook of Etiquette which are selections from the pages of Professor Thomas E. Hill's famous volumes on etiquette. (I didn't know he was famous but the forward pages tell me he was, so I accept it.)

This book includes chapters on the Laws of Etiquette, The Science of Beautiful Dress, The Language and Sentiment of Flowers and even samples of Tombstone Inscriptions, (in the event that you can't think what to put on a dearly departed ones stone.)

One of my favorite articles is about the Etiquette of Conversation, How, When and Where to Speak. My coworkers and I decided that we would probably be the very undesirable "coarse and boisterous" visitors rather than the "cultured and refined" guests. After all, one of the guidelines is not to talk about private, personal or family matters. In this day and age, we all do that, some people even post their inner- most thoughts on webpages, blogs and Facebook. What would the very private Victorians think of our digital world where privacy has gone to the dogs? I suspect they'd be horrified.

I'm afraid I broke several very important rules of appropriate behavior when my hero, Sam, first meets my heroine, Amanda, in my upcoming release, Promise Me.

You can judge for yourself.

"My mother had a cure for insomnia. Perhaps you'd allow me to fix you a hot toddy. I guarantee it will make you sleep soundly as a baby."

The sultry tone of his voice mesmerized her.

All the deportment lessons she'd suffered since childhood came back to her in a flash. She should keep going back to her room, but his dark and hypnotic voice promised secret delights, and she didn't want to leave. She wanted to sit down and continue to banter with this mysterious man. If he thought her a brazen hussy, so much the better. For a few moments tonight, she'd be that other woman, the one who didn't care what others thought of her.

Swallowing her apprehension, she tossed her braid over one shoulder and crossed the small kitchen to take a chair at the table. She settled her candle next to the oil lamp and gave him an inviting smile.

"A hot toddy sounds perfectly wonderful. Are you sure it won't be too much trouble?"

The man leaned forward. The corners of his lovely mouth lifted slightly. "It would be my pleasure to assist an angel to bed."

She warmed from her cheeks down to her bosom. She had never in her life done anything as brash as this. What would Father Mikelson say? She didn't want to think about the penance she'd do when she confessed. Flirting wasn't the same as adultery, was it? Could she still be an adulteress if her husband was dead? Good Lord, why was she even thinking about such a thing?

When he turned his back to her, she knew what fueled her illicit thoughts. As he poured a concoction into a cup, Amanda forgot to breathe as she stared at the thick, dark hair curling at the edge of his collar, his lean torso and long legs.

"It's you," she whispered.

Are there any Victorian rules of etiquette you'd enjoy playing with in real life? Or do you dream of donning a gorgeous silk gown with pantalettes, hoop skirts, and a corset?

Deborah Schneider - 2009 RWA Librarian of the Year

Promise Me - January 22, 2010