Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Western Wednesday: Zane Grey, America's Storyteller

Western Wednesday: Zane Grey, America's Storyteller 

Part of my research for stories includes reading books from the time period I’m investigating, and I recently came across the works of Zane Grey while preparing for a series I’ll be releasing in 2022. I had heard of him, along with Louis L’Amour, as two of the best authors in classic western literature. The more I dug, the more intrigued I became. 
Pearl Zane Gray was born on January 31, 1872 in Zanesville, Ohio, a town founded by his mother’s ancestors. (Spelling of the family name was changed from Gray to Grey sometime in the late 1890s.) As a boy, he would hear stories of his forebear’s adventures as pioneers in America’s “First West,” the Ohio Valley. He would later novelize their stories and those of other homesteaders as well as ranchers, cowhands, buffalo hunters, soldiers, and gamblers as the migration westward continued. 
As a young man, Zane was an excellent baseball player whose abilities led to a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. He chose dentistry to please his father and graduated in 1896, but chose to play amateur baseball for several seasons, practicing his dentistry intermittently. In addition, he loved the outdoors and found great joy in fishing. He discovered the town of Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania and visited often. 
It was during one of his visits to Lackawaxen in 1900 that he met Lina Elise “Dolly” Roth, eleven years
his junior, while canoeing near the Delaware House, a boarding house on the river. By this time, he’d been writing, but had yet to find success. Dolly encouraged him to continue his efforts, and in 1902 his first article was published, “A Day on the Delaware,” in Recreation magazine. The following year he wrote, illustrated, and published his first novel, Betty Zane, with money from his sister-in-law Reba Grey. 
Dolly and Zane married in 1905, and he left dentistry to pursue his writing full-time. They settled in Lackawaxen, and the following year visited the Grand Canyon, Zane’s first trip out west. Times were lean as he tried to establish himself as an author. Using the last of Dolly’s inheritance, he went on a hunting expedition with Western conservationist Charles “Buffalo” Jones. He wrote about his experience in The Last of the Plainsmen which was published by Outing Press in 1908 and marked a turning point in his career. 
The Heritage of the Desert
came out in 1910, and his most famous work, Riders of the Purple Sage was published in 1912. By 1915, Zane had fifteen books in print along with many fishing and outdoor adventure articles and serialized stories. His success allowed him to purchase a home in Altadena, California and a hunting lodge on the Mogollon Rim near Payson, Arizona. Each year, he spent several months gathering experiences, then he would return home and craft his stories into tales for serialization, magazine articles, or a novel. 
Being in California allowed Zane to work closely with the motion picture industry which had begun producing films based on his novels. A prolific writer, he wrote ninety books before his death. Another twenty manuscripts were published posthumously. His novels and short stories have been adapted into 112 films, two television episodes, and a television series. 

Have you read any of his books? 

A brand-new widow, she doesn’t need another man in her life. He’s not looking for a wife. But when danger thrusts them together, will they change their minds...and hearts? 
Hannah Lauman’s husband has been murdered, but rather than grief, she feels...relief. She decides to remain in Georgia to work their gold claim, but a series of incidents makes it clear someone wants her gone...dead or alive. Is a chance at being a woman of means and independence worth risking her life? 

Jess Vogel never breaks a promise, so when he receives a letter from a former platoon mate about being in danger, he drops everything to help his old friend. Unfortunately, he arrives just in time for the funeral. Can he convince the man’s widow he’s there for her protection not for her money? 
Gold Rush Bride: Hannah is the first book in the exciting series Gold Rush Brides. Steeped in romance, intrigue, and history, the story will keep you turning pages long into the night.

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Monday, November 29, 2021

Mystery Monday: The Notting Hill Mystery

Mystery Monday: The Notting Hill Mystery 
The Notting Hill Mystery
was initially published as an eight-part serial between 1862 and 1863 in the magazine Once a Week. Written under the pseudonym Charles Felix, the story is thought to be the first detective novel, pre-dating Wilkie Collin’s The Moonstone which is often touted as holding that honor. No one knows for certain who wrote the book, but scholars who love to argue that sort of thing have since come to the conclusion that Charles Warren Adams is the author. 
Not much is known about the man other than the fact he was born in 1833 in England. He became a lawyer and somehow became involved in “bailing out” the London publishing firm of Saunders, Otley & Co. after the two owners died. Despite his efforts, the firm was liquidated in 1869. However, prior to that, the company had published Velvet Lawn in 1864 and The Notting Hill Mystery in book form in 1865, both written by the aforementioned Charles Felix. 
Adams married twice. The first time, he wed Georgina Alethe Polson in 1861, and she passed away in 1880. At some point after that, he met Mildred Coleridge (great-grandniece of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.) She left home to live with Adams, causing an upheaval in her family. Her brother penned a long letter to her attacking Adams who took the man to court for libel and won the case. He and Mildred were married on June 24, 1885 and remained together until Adam’s death in July 1903. 
No matter who wrote The Notting Hil Mystery, it is a fun story told by insurance investigator Ralph Henderson who is building a case against Baron “R_____” who is suspected of killing his wife for the insurance payment. (A plotline that continues to show up to this day.) According to one summary, Henderson “descends into a maze of intrigue including a diabolical mesmerist, kidnapping by gypsies, slow-poisoners, a rich uncle’s will and three murders.” 
Interestingly, the story is presented using diary entries, letters, chemical analysis reports, interviews with witnesses, and a crime scene map. These techniques didn’t become part of crime fiction until the 1920s. The book was illustrated by George du Maurier (Daphne du Maurier’s grandfather). Pilot Press Ltd. Of London reprinted the novel in 1945 as part of its anthology Novels of Mystery from the Victorian Age. In 2011, the British Library made the book available via print-on-demand, and it sold so many copies, they produced a trade edition in 2012. An ebook edition is also available.


Murder at Madison Square Garden:

The dream of a lifetime becomes a nightmare. 

Photojournalist Theodora “Teddy” Schafer’s career has hit the skids thanks to rumors of plagiarism. With any luck, a photo spread with Charles Lindbergh at the America First Rally will salvage her reputation. After an attempted assassination of Lindbergh leaves another man dead, Teddy is left holding the gun. Literally. Can she prove her innocence before the police lock her up for a murder she didn’t commit? 
Private Investigator Ric Bogart wants nothing to do with women after his wife cleaned out their bank account and left him for another man, but he can’t ignore the feeling he’s supposed to help the scrappy, female reporter who is arrested for murder at the America First rally. Can he believe her claims of innocence and find the real killer without letting Teddy steal his heart?

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Thursday, November 25, 2021

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Pamela Desmond Wright

 Talkshow Thursday:  Welcome Pamela Desmond Wright

LM: Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your release The Cowboy’s Amish Haven. What was your inspiration for the story, and did you set out to write for Harlequin/Love Inspired or did that come later? 

Pamela: Thank you for the welcome. I appreciate you hosting me. The Cowboy's Amish Haven was inspired by a country song by George Strait. At the time, I had no idea, really, where it might go. I was sort of thinking Harlequin. But since I'd never been able to sell anything there before, I wasn't holding much hope. However, when I signed with my current agent, she knew exactly that it belonged with Love Inspired. Within a few months of submission, the book had sold. 

LM: What is your writing process like, and how much research was necessary for this story? 

Pamela: I usually do a complete synopsis/outline so I can get to know the characters and the plot. Once I have that on paper, I do a few chapters. Usually, it takes several rewrites for me to get the opening of a book right. As for the book. My hero is a bronc rider. And although I was born and raised in Texas, I was never much of a rodeo girl! I had to learn all about the sport. Never knew there was so much involved to getting on a wild horse! Quite eye-opening. 
LM: What is your favorite aspect of writing? 

Pamela: It's an escape from my own dull life. Like most people, I work and take care of family. You can
pretty much set your watch by my schedule. Taking a few hours a day to write helps take me away to a different place. 
LM: What do you do to prepare for writing? (e.g., do you listen to music, set up in a certain area, etc.) 

Pamela: I usually write in silence, though sometimes I will put on music or a television show if the words just aren't coming. I have a dedicated office area where I can focus. My space must be small and closed in and my screen must be extra large. No way I could write on a laptop in a coffee shop, LOL 

LM: You were out of the publishing arena for over seven years. How had the industry changed while you were gone? How had it remained the same? 

Pamela: Most everything involved with book production has stayed the same. What has changed is promotions. Social media plays such a large part in marketing nowadays. I can see how Twitter or Facebook can help connect an author to their fans, and I am trying to learn to use it in a productive way. 

LM: You’ve accomplished quite a lot. What is one thing you wish you could do? 

Pamela: Fly, LOL. Seriously, I wish I could go back to writing full time and give up the night job. Praying I can do that someday! 

LM: What is one piece of advice you’d like to offer to fledgling writers? 

Pamela: Pursue your passion. One of the mistakes I made as a writer was to chase the market. Whatever my former agent said was selling, I'd write it. And she'd sell it. But there came a point when I realized I did not enjoy writing in those genres. Writing had become a drag and I just didn't like the books I was putting out. After leaving that agent, it occurred to me I could write what I enjoyed, whether or not it was something editors were looking for. Thus began my foray into Amish romance. 
LM: What is your next project? Pamela: I am currently working on another Amish romance for Love Inspired. This one is book 2 in my "Humble Blessings" series, and will continue with characters introduced in book 1. Book 1, which hasn't got a title yet, will be out in July 2022, and I am so excited to share Maddie and Abram's story. Book 2, will go on with Abram's younger sister, Lavinia. I'm also planning another Texas Amish Brides book to follow up The Cowboy's Amish Haven
LM: Where can folks find you on the web? 

About The Cowboy's Amish Haven:

Her home and her heart are on the line… On the same day Gail Schroder’s faced with losing her Amish family ranch, her old crush Levi Wyse shows up on her doorstep. He doesn’t know that when he left ten years ago he’d taken Gail’s heart with him. Now Levi’s her only hope of keeping a roof over her head. But can this cowboy teach Gail the ropes in time to save her home?

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Traveling Tuesday: Las Vegas, Nevada

Traveling Tuesday: Las Vegas, Nevada 

Last week I was supposed to attend a writers’ conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. A number of things came together to prevent me from going in person, but fortunately, there was a virtual option, so I was able to view all of the sessions. Not quite the same as hanging out with fellow authors and getting room service, but a good experience, nonetheless. I’m not sure why the conference founders choose to hold the event in Vegas each year, but the possibility of visiting ignited a desire to know more about the area. 
Sin City, as it has been nicknamed, has a much longer history than I knew. Las Vegas (Spanish for The Meadows or Fertile Plains) was not officially founded until 1905, but had been given its name seventy-six years earlier when a Mexican scout came through the valley in 1829. Later that same year a trader by the name of Antonio Armijo led a 60-man group along the Spanish Trail that connected Santa Fe, NM to Los Angeles, CA. 
In 1844, John C. Frémont, son of a French-Canadian schoolteacher who had immigrated to the U.S.
sometime before the early 1800s, visited the valley and sent reports and writings to the east that found their way into newspapers. The resulting articles helped entice pioneers to head west. Eleven years later, the Mormons chose to erect a fort in Las Vegas but eventually abandoned the location. A native American tribe, the Paiutes, had been living in the area for thousands of years, but when the population of white settlers increased, tensions between the two groups rose, leading to a new treaty that sent the Paiutes away. 
Then came the railroads. 
The San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad was building a line through southern Nevada in 1902 and purchased 1,800 acres from the Stewart family to continue the project. Using the State Land Act of 1885 to offer land at $1.25 per acre, Montana Senator William Clark and Utah Senator Thomas Kearns promoted the area to American farmers who responded in droves. With the use of wells and irrigation, agriculture became the primary industry for the next two decades. Amazing to consider when you realize Las Vegas is located within the Mojave Desert. 
As additional railroads sprang up, more people chose to settle in the area. Businesses, shops, saloons, and casinos lined the streets. However, the city hit a snag in 1910 when Nevada outlawed gambling, going so far as to forbid the western custom of flipping a coin for the price of a drink. Ever creative, business owners ensured that the practice continued in speakeasies and illicit casinos. 
Population declined until 1931– a banner year for two reasons: 1) construction began on the massive Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam), drawing thousands of workers to a site just east of the city, and 2) Nevada legalized gambling bringing back tourists and professional gamblers. By 1936, inexpensive hydroelectricity allowed owners to erect the flashing neon signs that epitomize “The Strip.” Post-war riches enabled corporations and business tycoons to buy and build hotel-casino properties. Gambling became known as “gaming” to transition the industry into a legitimate business. 

More than 600,000 now call Las Vegas home, a far cry from the sleepy collection of farms in the 1800s. 

A Family for Hazel

Can a widowed preacher who must marry to keep his church and an alleged thief find true love? 
After the Civil War takes Hazel Markham’s father, and her mother dies of a broken heart, a friend of her parents hires Hazel as a companion. All is well until the woman’s lecherous son takes an interest in his mother’s assistant. When Hazel spurns his advances one too many times, the man frames her for theft, and she is fired. As a last resort, she applies to be a mail-order bride, and to her dismay, her groom-to-be is a preacher. Will he believe her claims of innocence or reject her as unacceptable? 
Olav Kristensen has no plans to remarry after being widowed five years ago, but when the church elders give him an ultimatum to find a wife or lose his job, he advertises for a mail-order bride. The woman who arrives attests she was unjustly accused of robbery at her last job, but when his daughter’s heirloom locket goes missing, he is hesitant to believe his bride-to-be. Will he lose his church and a second chance at love?

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Thursday, November 18, 2021

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Sarah Anne Crouch

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Sarah Anne Crouch!

Linda: Welcome to my blog. Congratulations on your recent release. What was the inspiration for the story? 

SARAH: Many years ago, during a time when I was thinking a lot about starting to write and my sister was going through a crisis of faith, I had the image of a woman becoming a Christian through the process of painting a picture of Jesus. That image turned into Madeleine and then blossomed from there. 

LM: What is your favorite part of the writing process? 

SARAH: I love all the little breakthroughs that come along the way. I especially enjoy when I’m brainstorming ideas or bemoaning a difficult part of the story with my writing group and someone else gives me the perfect solution that makes all the pieces come together. 

LM: What sort of research was required to prepare you to write the story, and did you find any tidbit(s) you knew you had to include? 

SARAH: I watched a lot of YouTube videos of artists painting murals in addition to reading blogs and listening to podcasts. The scenes where Madeleine and A.J. buy paint at the hardware store and where Madeleine transfers her sketches to the wall came from those YouTube videos. 

LM: Tell us a bit about your journey to publication and what lessons you learned along the way. 

SARAH: Ever since I was young, I wanted to write books. I always thought I’d write for children—and
I still may someday—but I found myself coming up with ideas for Christian romance stories. I wrote about half of the manuscript for A Summer in Shady Springs and gave up before I met an author at church who encouraged me to finish. She helped me edit, I sent it to a few more people, and we got the manuscript polished and ready. When I found out about Faith Pitch on Twitter, I decided to get a Twitter account just for that occasion. My editor at Anaiah Press saw my tweets, liked my pitch, and I sent her the manuscript. I’m very grateful to Kara for seeing the potential in my story and working with me to make it the best it could be!
LM: Do you do anything special to prepare yourself for writing your stories? (e.g., listen to music, go for a run, etc.) 

SARAH: I’d like to add more routine to my writing, but right now the main thing I do is find a quiet place away from my children, haha. I’ve got three little ones, so I take every chance I can to get a little writing in. 

LM: What is one piece of advice you can offer to fledgling writers? 

SARAH: Read, read, read! The best way to learn about writing is to read books in your genre, books about craft, books that are written well, and books that are written poorly (so you know what not to do). Everything you digest will help you become a better writer. 

LM: What is your next project? 

 SARAH: I’m currently finishing up a story about an ice cream man who falls in love with a chocolatier! “A Sweet Dream Come True” will be released in a novella collection called Love in Any Season in September 2022. The collection includes some really talented Christian fiction authors, Amy R. Anguish, Heather Greer, and Regina Rudd Merrick. 

LM: Where can folks find you on the web? 

SARAH: Here are all my links! 

About A Summer in Shady Springs:
The last place Madeleine Mullins wants to be is back in Shady Springs, Arkansas—the town where her whole world fell apart. But when her beloved Aunt Clara begs her for help, Madeleine reluctantly takes a job painting a mural at her aunt’s church. Her plan is to finish quickly and leave her bad memories behind. But the more time she spends with the handsome youth minister and the more she reads her Bible, the more she wonders if she has been wrong about God and the Church all along. 

Three years out of college and A.J. Young still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up. He knows he wants to settle down and build a family but hasn’t found the wife he’d like to share his life with. Then Madeleine comes to town. Their friendship buds quickly, although it can never be anything more as long as she isn’t a Christian. 

An undeniable attraction grows between A.J. and Madeleine, but she’s only in town for a few weeks, and he can’t date someone who doesn’t share his beliefs. How can Madeleine help A.J. discover a passion for the career he’s always wanted? And how can A.J. convince Madeleine to give God and Shady Springs a second chance?

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Old West Wednesday: Charley Parkhurst

 Old West Wednesday: Charley Parkhurst 

Stories of extraordinary people abound from the Old West. The trick is separating fact from fiction, truth from legend. One such story revolves around Charley Darkey Parkhurst, also known as One-Eyed Charley, Six-Horse Charley, and Mountain Charley who worked as a stagecoach driver, then later farmer and rancher. 

The most unusual aspect of this tale is that Charley was a woman. Scholars speculate as to why Charlotte chose to live her life as a man, but because her gender wasn’t discovered until after her death, the real reason followed Charley to her grave. 

Little is known about her early years other than that she was born in Sharon, Vermont, in 1812. She reportedly had two siblings, one of whom died as a toddler, and her mother passed away shortly after Charley’s birth. Nothing is mentioned of her father, but perhaps he’s the one who took her to an orphanage in Lebanon, New Hampshire where she lived until she ran away at the age of twelve. It was at that point, Charlotte became Charley. 

According to one account, Charley met livery owner Ebenezer Balch in Providence, Rhode Island. Balch took the young woman under his wing and taught him about being a stable hand as well as how to be a stagecoach driver. She worked for Balch for some period of time before moving on to Massachusetts and Georgia. 

In 1848, Charley decided to take her chances in the California gold rush and boarded a ship to San Francisco. The vessel stopped in Panama where she met John Morton, owner of a drayage business. He recruited Charley to work for him. She later worked for John Birch’s California State Company and the Wells Fargo Company. 

At some point, Charley was involved in an accident during which a horse kicked her in the face,

causing her to lose her left eye. She took to wearing a patch that covered much of her face, furthering her disguise as a man. Over time, she gained a reputation as “one of the finest drivers on the West Coast.” 

Driving a stagecoach was not only difficult but dangerous. Drivers carried mail as well as gold and passengers and had to deal with hold-up attempts, rattlesnakes that could spook horses, bad weather, and treacherous roads, some of which were no more than trails. Charley’s routes in northern California were the Stockton to Mariposa and San Jose, San Jose to Oakland, and San Juan to Santa Cruz. Described in several accounts as short and stocky, a whiskey drinker, cigar smoker, and tobacco chewer, apparently Charley was up to the task. 

When the railroads cut into the stagecoach business, Charley retired and moved to Watsonville, California where she worked at farming and lumbering. She died in 1879 of tongue cancer, and when neighbors came to lay out the body for burial, her identity as a woman was revealed. An interesting aside is that one site claims the examining doctor determined that Charley had given birth at some point. 

After the LA Times reported the discovery, national newspapers picked up the sensational story, including this piece from the January 9, 1880 edition of The New York Times: “Thirty Years in Disguise: A Noted Old Californian Stage-Driver Discovered after Death to be a Woman: 

He was in his day one of the most dexterous and celebrated of the famous California drivers ranking with Foss, Hank Monk, and George Gordon, and it was an honor to be striven for to occupy the spare end of the driver’s seat when the fearless Charley Parkhurst held the reins of a four- or six-in hand...Last Sunday in a little cabin on the Moss Ranch, about six miles from Watsonville, Charley Parkhurst, the famous coachman, the fearless fighter, the industrious farm and expert woodman died of cancer on his tongue. He knew that death was approaching, but he did not relax the reticence of his later years other than to express a few wishes as to certain things to be done at his death. Then, when the hands of kind friends who had ministered to his dying wants came to lay out the dead boy of the adventurous Argonaut, a discovery was made that was literally astounding. Charley Parkhurst was a woman.” 

 As they say, truth is usually stranger than fiction. 


A brand-new widow, she doesn’t need another man in her life. He’s not looking for a wife. But when danger thrusts them together, will they change their minds...and hearts? 

Hannah Lauman’s husband has been murdered, but rather than grief, she feels...relief. She decides to remain in Georgia to work their gold claim, but a series of incidents makes it clear someone wants her gone...dead or alive. Is a chance at being a woman of means and independence worth risking her life?

Jess Vogel never breaks a promise, so when he receives a letter from a former platoon mate about being in danger, he drops everything to help his old friend. Unfortunately, he arrives just in time for the funeral. Can he convince the man’s widow he’s there for her protection not for her money? 

Gold Rush Bride: Hannah is the first book in the exciting new series Gold Rush Brides. Steeped in romance, intrigue, and history, the story will keep you turning pages long into the night.

Purchase Link:

Monday, November 15, 2021

Mystery Monday: Meet the Lady Pinkertons

Mystery Monday: Pinkerton’s Lady Detectives 

Kate Warne was Allan Pinkerton’s first female detective, but neither was she the last or only woman he hired. Here is a bit about three of his lady “private eyes.” 

Hattie Lewis Lawton: a widow, she was described by Allan as “delicate and driven.” She often went undercover assuming numerous identities. One of her most dangerous assignments occurred during the Civil War. Posing as the wife of fellow operative Timothy Webster, they traveled to Richmond, VA where they pretended to be Rebel sympathizers from Maryland. Prior to this Timothy infiltrated the underground Sons of Liberty organization. Over the course of several months, the pair collected and conveyed information to the home office about troop movements, battle plans, and other intelligence. 

Vinnie Ream: After the plan to assassinate President Lincoln in Baltimore was unearthed, Allan

Pinkerton was placed in charge of the president’s protection. Rumors of plans abounded, and he investigated every report. He felt that some of the threats originated from within Lincoln’s cabinet, so in an effort to get inside the closed circle without suspicion, he hired Vinnie to sculpt a bust of the president. During her time of creating the sculpture, senators and congressmen wandered in and out of her work area to watch her work, giving her the opportunity to overhear conversations that she passed along to Pinkerton. 

Elizabeth Baker: According to Pinkerton, a “genteel woman agent” who was “more than suitable” for her assignment. He had her contact two sets of friends she’d known from her days of living in Richmond and inform them of her intent to visit. She was invited to say with Captain Atwater of the Confederate Navy and his wife. There, Elizabeth met influential socialites, Confederate officers, and politically ambitious Southerners. During the many parties held at the Atwater’s home, she was able to collect vast amounts of information about the Confederate’s plans. Perhaps her most important opportunity was the time she was invited to watch a submarine demonstration. Afterward, she successfully made her way to Washington where she reported everything she’d seen and included a sketch of the sub. 

Although women were not admitted to any police force until 1891 or widely accepted as detectives until 1903, Kate Warne and her “Lady Pinkertons” paved the way for future female officers and investigators. 


May 1942: Geneva Alexander flees Philadelphia and joins the USO to escape the engagement her parents have arranged for her, only to wind up as the number one suspect in her betrothed’s murder investigation. Diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, she must find the real killer before she loses her sight…or is convicted for a crime she didn’t commit. 

 Set in the early days of America’s entry into WWII and featuring cameo appearances from Hollywood stars, Murder of Convenience is a tribute to individuals who served on the home front, especially those who did so in spite of personal difficulties, reminding us that service always comes as a result of sacrifice. Betrayal, blackmail, and a barrage of unanswered questions… Murder of Convenience is the first book in the exciting “Women of Courage” series.

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