Thursday, May 26, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Amy Walsh

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Amy Walsh

Linda: Welcome to my blog! Congratulations on your recent release, His Brother’s Atonement. What was your inspiration for the story? 

Amy: Thank you, Linda! Several things, really. One of my co-teachers, Nikki, camped throughout Wyoming last summer and had so many things to say about the beauty of nature and the lovely small communities. After conversing with her, I started paying more attention to contemporary novels set in the western states and began following the Whispers in Wyoming page on Facebook. I ended up writing His Brother’s Atonement during the nights I stayed with my grandmother in hospice. Honestly, the story just seemed to write itself through my fingertips, the characters coming alive to tell a story of God’s amazing ability to redeem even terrible situations in beautiful ways. 

Linda: How did the opportunity come about to be part of the Whispers in Wyoming series? 

Amy: After I was finished writing Aubrey and Shane’s story, I started to look for a home for it. I approached WiW and asked if they would consider taking me on as an author. When I heard that they thought I would make a good fit to their team, I was ecstatic! I am so honored to be part of a project that has a gospel-centered and heritage-based theme!

LM: What sort of research did you have to do for this book? 

Photo: Pixabay/Sharon Kehl Califano
Amy: Well, I picked Nikki’s brain, and would run ideas by her. For instance, Aubrey, who works as a
designer, gets to create the aesthetic for a restaurant in their small town of Engelmann. Nikki and I hashed back and forth over what sort of food would go over well in some of the towns she visited. By the time we were done conversing, I wanted to move out there and start my own 1 Arroyo Drive bistro! I already had a good inkling from all the contemporary and historical westerns I devoured over the years. I watched many videos and went on rabbit trails about ranching life and the history of Wyoming. I did a lot of zooming all over Wyoming via Google Earth. 

LM: How do you choose character names and places for your stories? 

Amy: It all depends. Sometimes names just pop into my head as I am imagining characters. Sometimes I look for names that have meanings that match certain character traits. Most often, I look through lists of names to get ideas. When I am writing my fantasies for the Dolls of Mahogany Manor series, most of my names are Latin-based, which is fun and easy. Vastaterra was the name of the country, and it just means “large land.” Fascinare (fascinating), one of the main characters, has amazing powers and is mesmerizing. 

LM: As a female, what is the most difficult thing about writing male characters? 

Amy: I have the same difficulty as I have writing other characters when I haven’t walked their walk. Part of their character development is to do the research I need so I can get into their minds. I also have two amazing resources, my husband and my dad. I have rewritten many times because my husband has said things like, “A man would never say that.” Or, “That is just not how a man thinks.” One difficult thing when I am writing romances is that that the heroes that so many romance readers seem to adore would probably not make the most wonderful husbands! Mr. Hot and Moody might be super-hard to live with for multiple decades – ha ha! I loved the challenge of writing a male character who wasn’t hot and moody and making the reader fall in love with him anyway in the novel, A Misplaced Beauty

LM: What books are on your TBR pile? 

Amy: I honestly have a couple hundred TBR books that I have downloaded on my Kindle over the past couple of years: novels written by author friends, books that were free or on sale that looked good, and research books. I prioritize my reading quite a bit because I have limited time as a full-time teacher, mother/wife/friend, and author! I mainly read novels to support other writers for their book launches or if an author is being spotlighted on my blog. I also read books that I think my students would like. These books are at the top of my TBR pile right now: Violet’s Vow by Jenny Knipfer, Big Apple Atonement by Carolyn Miller, Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham, Journey to Joy by Anne Perreault, and A Promise for Faith by Stacy T. Simmons. 

LM: What would you tell your younger writing self? 

Amy: I would tell myself to get started earlier, to force myself to make time for something that I love so much. And not to give up so easily. I was writing pretty heavily when my children were very young, hoping to support myself with my writing and stay at home. However, I discovered I was so obsessed with writing that I was mentally spending more time with my characters than with my children. I didn’t want to shortchange them or miss out on precious moments. I decided to put writing to the side for over a decade -- until my kids were older. I probably could have done better with being self-disciplined, instead! I would also tell myself to spend more time studying the writing of the authors I admire – to read with more awareness of literary aspects instead of purely for enjoyment. I wish I would have made time to go to at least one writing conference a year and looked for a local writers’ group that met regularly. I just feel like I put a major part of what makes me aside for a very long time! 

LM: What’s next for you? 

Photo: Pixabay/
Amy: I have so many exciting projects coming up! In October, my novel Voices in the Sanitorium will be releasing. The story involves the West Mountain tuberculosis hospital where Dick Smith wrote the song “Winter Wonderland” in the 1930s. It is a women’s fiction novel with some suspense. I am working on the second book in the London Debutante’s series and a contemporary novel that involves two sisters on a ‘get-to-know-you’ tour of the Scottish Highlands. I had the blessing of being able to do so in-person research in the United Kingdom in May. I wasn’t able to leave as expected because I came down with COVID, just as I was about to leave for home and had to be quarantined in Edinburgh for an additional ten days. The extended-stay gave me the opportunity to research other book ideas! But that’s another story! I am also looking forward to continuing to collaborate with other authors in Whispers in Wyoming, the Brides of Pelican Falls series, and a couple other multi-author series that have yet to be announced! 

Linda: Where can folks connect with you? 


His Brother's Atonement:

Shane Phillips had given up hope of ever meeting the nephew born to the woman his brother assaulted. After checks he sent to Aubrey Anders were returned, Shane decided the most he could ever do was pray for the Anders family. When Shane discovers that he and Aubrey work for the same graphic arts company, he must find a way to assure her he means no harm before both Wyoming branches meet for a conference. 

Aubrey thinks she has worked through most of her trauma with the help of her psychologist and loving community. However, meeting Shane Phillips seems to have unleashed suppressed anxiety and insecurity. But as their paths continue to intersect, Aubrey begins to wonder if Shane could be part of God's plan for her despite their painful connection. 

His Brother's Atonement is a standalone novel as are the other novels in the Whispers in Wyoming multi-author series. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Wartime Wednesday: The U.S. Draft

Wartime Wednesday: The Draft 

Conscription, more commonly known as the draft, has been used by the U.S. federal government since the early days of the country. In colonial times, a militia system was used, and after the nation received its independence, militia laws continues. “Able-bodied men” were required to enroll in the militia, undergo training, and serve for certain periods of time during war or times of emergency. By 1778, Congress recommended that each state draft men from their militia for a one-year period of service in the Continental Army. However, the program was inconsistently applied and failed to fill the ranks. 

An article in the newly-ratified Constitution allowed Congress to conscript and call the Militia to “execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.” Additionally, Congress could organize, arm, and discipline the Militia. The President was commander-in-chief. The Second Militia Act of 1792 further defined the group who could be called up as “free and able-bodied white male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45.” 

National conscription didn’t occur until the Civil War. However, the large majority of Union troops were volunteers, with only about 2% draftees and another 6% paid substitutes. The Confederacy didn’t have much more success with resistance being widespread. Many Southerners equated conscription with slavery. 

During The Great War (WWI), the Selective Service Act of 1917 was crafted to remedy the defects of the Civil War system, only allowing exemptions for dependency, essential occupations, and religious “scruples.” The act established “a liability for military service of all male citizen, with a selective draft of all those between 12 and 31 years of age (later expanded to 18-45). The draft was universal and included African-Americans on the same terms as whites, however, they served in different units. 

Draft boards were local, and unfortunately, many based their decisions on social classes, with the poorest conscripted more often. The most common tactics to avoid the draft were dodging and desertion, with some communities sheltering their draft dodgers as heroes. 

By the summer of 1940, Germany has conquered France, and most Americans knew the U.S. would eventually be drawn into the conflict, therefore supported the return of the draft. Wilson’s WWI plan served as a model, but the 1940 law instituted conscription during peacetime, requiring all men between the ages of 18 and 35 to register. When President Roosevelt signed the bill, it became the first peacetime draft in the nation’s history. The bill also established an independent agency, the Selective Service System, to be responsible for managing the draft. 
Photo: Courtesy of National Archives 
Initially, a cap of 900,000 men who could be in training at a given time, was set, and service was limited to twelve months unless “Congress deemed it necessary to extend such service in the interest of national defense.” An amendment in August 1941 added eighteen more months to the service period, then the law was amended again after the attack at Pearl Harbor to extend the term of service to the duration of the war plus six months, and expanding the age range to include men ages 18 to 64. 

The World War II draft operated from 1940 until 1946 when inductions were suspended. The bill’s legislative authorization expired in 1947 without extension from Congress. During this time, more than ten million men had been drafted into military services. 


The Mechanic & The MD

All’s fair in love and war. Or so they say. 

High school and college were a nightmare for Doris Strealer and being an adult isn’t much better. Men won’t date a woman of her height, and they don’t understand her desire to repair car engines rather than work as a nurse or a teacher. When her father’s garage closes, and no one will hire a female mechanic, she joins the Red Cross Motor Corps, finally feeling at home. Until she comes face to face with her past in the form of Van Toppel, the most popular boy in school. 

On the brink of a successful career as a surgeon, Van Toppel’s plans crumble when he’s drafted and assigned to an evacuation hospital in England, the last place he expects to run into a former schoolmate. The gangly tomboy who was four years behind him in high school has transformed into a statuesque beauty, but a broken engagement in college leaves him with no desire to risk his heart ever again. 

Will the hazards of war make or break a romance between this unlikely couple?

Monday, May 23, 2022

Mystery Monday: Great WWII Mysteries

Mystery Monday: Great WWII Mysteries 

Mystery fiction written during World War II either provided an escapist novel with no mention of the war or a plot intricately tied to the war. Most of the authors popular during the Golden Era of Detective Fiction that encompassed the 1940s did a little of both. Three such authors are Agatha Christie, Christiana Brands, and Dorothy M. Hughes. 

N or M, published by Christie in 1941 featured the first novel of a “grown-up” version of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, husband and wife amateur sleuths who first appeared in 1922. The title is taken from a catechism in the Book of Common Prayer which asks “What is your Christian Name?” Answer: N or M; the initials representing the Latin “nomen veil nomina” meaning “name or names.” 

Years have passed since the couple’s career with British intelligence, and the Second World War has broken out when they are approached by a secret agent to go undercover to find German spies and fifth columnists. Filled with cryptic messages and clues, Tommy and Tuppence make their way to the fictional seaside town of Leahampton to investigate the situation. Twists and turns abound, but the Beresfords eventually find their man…and woman. 

Reviews of the book were glowing including one by E.R. Punshon touting “Mrs. Christie shows herself as ingenious as ever, and one admires especially the way in which the hero snores himself out of captivity.” Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? 

Interestingly, Christie was the subject of an MI5 investigation after naming one of the novel’s characters Major Bletchley. Their fears were unfounded as she revealed the as one of her “least lovable characters,” the man had been named area of Milton Keynes where she’d been stuck during a train journey. 

Another fantastic novel is Christiana Brands 1944 Green for Danger. Set in a rural British wartime hospital, the story was heavily praised for its clever plot and interesting characters. The head nurse is killed after reporting that the death of a patient under anesthesia was not accidental. Another near murder leaves a nurse dangerously ill, so Inspector Cockrill re-stages the operation to reveal the killer. The entire time German V-1 rockets shower the countryside and all must remain calm. The title for the book refers to the color-coding used on anesthetists’ gas bottles. 

The third and final novel is a thriller published in 1943. The Blackbirder follows the exploits of a young woman who has fled occupied Paris and her Nazi-sympathizer uncle and finds herself as an illegal immigrant in New York City. Because of her status she tries to keep a low profile, but when a man she knew in France is found dead outside her apartment, she must once again flee for her life. In order to leave the country, she must find The Blackbirder, a man who guides people across the US-Mexican border, but in the meantime, she must stay ahead of the Gestapo and the FBI she thinks is trailing her. Plenty of shadowy figures come and go, and tension is high as readers wonder who is trustworthy. 

Hughes wrote fourteen novels and a volume of poetry, but she also held positions with the Los Angeles Times, (New York) Herald Tribune, and (Albuquerque) Tribune as a professional crime-fiction reviewer. The Blackbirder is one of the author’s few novels with a white, female protagonist, instead preferring to create characters vastly different from herself such as psychotic men, black men, Spanish men, Native Americans, jazz musicians, soldiers, and doctors. 

What’s your favorite mystery novel published during WWII? 


About Under Cover

It’s been six months since Ruth Brown followed clues to England and discovered the identity of her sister’s killer. War continues to rage as Ruth reports on food shortages, the black market, the evacuation of London’s children, and the bravery of the British people. 

When a bombing raid destroys her home and unearths a twenty-year-old skeleton in the cellar, her reporter’s senses tingle in anticipation of solving another mystery. Unfortunately, the by-the-book detective inspector assigned to the case is not interested in her theories. As Ruth investigates the case on her own, she butts heads with the handsome policeman. 

Will she get to the bottom of the story before the killer strikes again?

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome back, Sherri Stewart!

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Back, Sherri Stewart!

Linda: Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your recent release, A Song for Her Enemies Where did you get the inspiration for the story? 

Sherri: My publisher wanted to do a collection of stories about real female heroines from a fictional character’s point of view. My heroine has always been Corrie ten Boom, so I signed up to write a book about Neelie Visser, someone like Corrie, from the viewpoint of one of the Jewish guests she hid in her home during WWII. Since it had to be from a fictional character’s point of view, I wrote about Tamar Kaplan, a Jewish aspiring opera singer, who learned about Neelie’s God through their time together in hiding, then at the camps. 

LM: What is it that draws you to the World War II era, and when did you first develop the interest? 

Sherri: My interest in World War II fiction has grown since visiting holocaust museums in Israel and Washington D.C., reading Corrie ten Boom’s books, as well as other novels about that time, and visiting Vught Concentration Camp in the Netherlands. I am appalled at how one evil man could change the course of modern history. Most of the survivors have passed away, but their stories need to survive their deaths; otherwise, the world will let it happen again. 

LM: You’re working on the sequel, In Her Enemies House. Did you set out to write a series? What was your inspiration for this story? 

Photo: Pixabay/
Helena Jankovicova Kovacova
Sherri: I didn’t start out to write a series, but after I wrote A Song for Her Enemies, it occurred to me that the story of the holocaust survivors didn’t end when the war ended. People were physically alive, but the emotional scars they carried had long-term effects on their lives. In the Netherlands, a lot of survivors chose “the Conspiracy of Silence,” which meant they refused to talk about what happened. Since all their choices had been ripped away from them, silence was the one thing nobody could rip away. In the sequel which occurs three years after the war, Tamar Feldman craves justice, but all around her people are living as if the holocaust never happened, including her husband, Daniel, who tells her to bury the past and get on with life. 

LM: How long does it take you to write a book, and can you tell us about your process? 

Sherri: It all depends on the word count. A long book—95000 words—usually takes me a year to write because I spend hours every day editing my clients’ books, so my eyes get a bit tired. My general rule is to write 500 words a day, 6 days a week. Then the editing starts, which adds another month or two to the process. I’m a plantser, which means I have a general idea of where the book is headed, but I leave room for God to take me in all kinds of directions. 

LM: What did you edit out of this book? 

Sherri: What a great question! One thing I deleted was about the three-year-old son of Tamar’s nemesis, Margot, who had Amblyopia, a lazy eye. Tamar asked her husband, who’s a doctor, what could be done for the boy, and he mentioned wearing a patch, then surgery later. It seems I didn’t follow up on it. My sister who’s one of my beta readers noticed, and we decided that it didn’t move the story forward. Also, Margot doesn’t have much to commend her to the reader, but I don’t like my antagonists to be totally bad. Then they just become comic-book characters. 

LM: What is your next project? 

Photo: Pixabay/Arek Socha
Sherri: Right now I’m working on a romantic suspense novella for a collection of books coming out in the fall of 2022. The working title is The Girl with ‘Deer in the Headlights’ Eyes. When I was in law school, I wrote my third-year research paper on Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, which is about an attorney’s or counselor’s duty to warn the victim if they know their client might pose a threat to the victim. My book is about a girl who is being stalked by an obsessive guy, so she moves to Bar Harbor, Maine to get away from him. 

LM: Where can folks find you on the web? 


Quarterly newsletter signup:
If you like historical tidbits, go to

About A Song for Her Enemies

After Nazi soldiers close the opera and destroy Tamar Kaplan’s dream of becoming a professional singer, she joins the Dutch Resistance, her fair coloring concealing her Jewish heritage. Tamar partners with Dr. Daniel Feldman, and they risk their lives to help escaping refugees. When they are forced to flee themselves, violinist Neelie Visser takes them into hiding. 

Tamar’s love for Daniel flowers in hardship, but she struggles with the paradox that a loving God would allow the atrocities around her. When Tamar resists the advances of a Third Reich officer, he exacts his revenge by betraying the secrets hidden behind the walls of Neelie’s house. From a prison hospital to a Nazi celebration to a concentration camp, will the three of them survive to tell the world the secrets behind barbed wire?

A Song for Her Enemies is the story of a talented young opera singer and the bittersweet love that grows amid the tyranny and fear of World War II. Set against the backdrop of neighbors willing to risk their lives in the German-occupied, war-torn Netherlands, A Song for Her Enemies is an inspiring and beautiful novel celebrating the resilience of the human spirit and the determination of Christians in the face of persecution. It is a novel for everyone seeking to understand the pain of the past and be inspired to embrace hope for the future.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Traveling Tuesday: German Resistance

Traveling Tuesday: German Resistance 

Photo: Pixabay/
Brigette Werner
Talking about the German WWII home front is tricky. Even after almost eighty years, the topic can produce strong emotions and opinions. But the bottom line is that the German people suffered, and many of them felt “sucker punched” by Hitler and the ensuing conflict. 

It can be difficult to imagine how Hitler made it into power, but one must study the surrounding circumstances. The German people were humiliated after The Great War (now WWI). They had been dragged into a war they didn’t want, and were embarrassed by the outcome. They were told they couldn’t build a military which made them feel defenseless. Millions of families had lost sons, fathers, brothers, and other relatives. Inflation was so bad that a wheelbarrow full of Reichsmarks wouldn’t buy a loaf of bread, and unemployment was at an all-time high. 

Rather than the two-party system common in the United States, there were multiple parties pushing their agendas in the decade and a half before WWII. Most touted their ability to solve the public’s financial troubles and rebuild the nation into a country its citizens could be proud of. Because of the number of parties in the election, the vote was splintered, meaning that a “majority” win by a particular party wasn’t truly a majority - they simply came out on top with the most votes. 

Like him or hate him, Hitler was a charismatic speaker, and he toured the country far and wide before the election, rallying the people to his party’s rhetoric. Knowing that food shortages had destroyed civilian morale and disorders and riots were factors in the Kaiser’s abdication, Hitler sought to convince the German people that should his party be elected, life would improve a hundred-fold. He even claimed he had no desire to go to war again, although anyone who’d studied his book, Mein Kampf, would have known differently. 

Once elected, Hitler stressed the successes of his party to regain the Saarland, remilitarizing the Rhineland, uniting with Austria, and reclaiming the Sudetenland. By 1939, he knew he could begin to execute his plans to take Germany into war and contrived a story that allowed him to attack Poland, setting off a war that would absorb nearly every country on earth. 

What many people don’t realize is that there was German resistance to Hitler and his nefarious plans. A group of young people known as the Edelweiss Pirates attacked members of Hitler Youth and sang anti-Nazi songs. They also managed to kill a Nazi chief. Nearly 800 of these youth were arrested and twelve were publicly hanged as a result. Another group, called The White Rose published anti-Nazi leaflets and protested at Nazi events. Wing Youth and Jazz Youth groups were formed as well. Adults also protested, hid Jew and other “undesirables,” and helped downed airmen to escape. Opposition also came from the church leaders such as Martin Bormann and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and interestingly, Hitler allowed them to denounce his activities until well into the war. 

Photo: WikiImages
There were two efforts to remove Hitler during the war. After plans were drawn up to attack France, Admiral Canaris staged a coup because he thought the attack would fail. Instead support for the plan fizzled, and Hitler remained in power. In July 1944, a group of Army officers tried to assassinate Hitler and replace him with a government led by General Beck. The bomb did not kill Hitler, and those involved were executed immediately. Field Marshal Erwin von Rommel was accused of being associated with the assassination attempt and forced to commit suicide as punishment. It would not be until May 1945 that Hitler would realize his Thousand-Year Reich would not come to fruition and killed himself.


About Love's Belief

Midwife Pia Hertz and her mother Sabine have been delivering babies long before the Nazis came to power. Now, the Third Reich has implemented mandates that require Jewish babies and other “undesirables” to be killed as part of The Final Solution. Is Pia’s new faith in Christ strong enough to defy the laws of man?

Despite the agony of the injury at the Battle of Drøbak Sound that took his arm, Dieter Fertig is relieved he’s no longer part of Hitler’s army. He returns to Berlin and discovers Jews are being deported by the thousands. When he realizes the Nuremburg Laws require his best friend’s baby girl to be killed, he must find a way to spirit the child out of Germany before the Nazis discover her existence. 

Inspired by the biblical story of Shiprah and Puah, the midwives who saved Jewish babies during Pharaoh’s reign, Love’s Belief shows how one person’s actions can change the world.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Welcome Back, Julie Arduini

Welcome Back, Julie Arduini!

Linda: Welcome back! It’s great to chat with you again, and I look forward to hearing about your latest book, Anchored Hearts. What was your inspiration for the story? 

Julie: I’m a fan of the TV show, This is Us. I was so impressed by the magnitude it took to create a series involving multiples and how an event from the past affected everyone for decades. I thought it was a good challenge to explore a unique birth story. My sister pitched to me donor families, but I’m not ready for that yet. I decided on a family of sextuplets with the challenge---what would happen if a family with a unique birth story stayed in the national spotlight because of tragedy? 

LM: What sort of research did you have to do for this book? 

Julie: I read a lot on the McCaughey septuplets for starters. I researched morning shows and various aspects of a news station. The series is set in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY, specifically, the Elmira-Corning area. That’s my hometown, so I didn’t need too much research there. I did change some things for fiction, though. 

LM: How do you choose character names and places for your stories? 

Photo: Pixabay/
Oliver Cardall
Julie: I remember Jerry Jenkins talking about the name process, and I tend to follow it. I try not to get too complicated, and will use common names or objects. In future books it will be revealed that sextuplets #4 and #5 were names patriarch Paul Hart chose, and they were named James and Kelly in honor of his favorite Buffalo Bills quarterback, Jim Kelly. As for places, I use Upstate NY settings for my romances. I spent 34 years in Upstate NY and there are so many small towns and areas that few know about. When I wrote the YA/Women’s series with my daughter, Surrendering Stinkin’ Thinkin’, I used Ohio as a setting since we have lived in NE Ohio for 18 years. 

LM: As a female, what is the most difficult thing about writing male characters? 

Julie: I have wonderful critique partners who catch a mannerism I use or phrasing, and they know it’s a feminine trait. I’m thankful for them. 

LM: What books are on your TBR pile? 

Julie:. So many. I tend to read by author. I find one I enjoy and I’ll go through everything they have. Late last year I discovered Jess Mastorakos. She writes sweet and inspirational military romances, and I love that. 

LM: What would you tell your younger writing self? 

Photo: Pixabay/Stock Snaps
Julie: Stop overthinking it and just do it. My weakness is grammar and I let that hold me back for decades. Now I have a solid team of critique partners, editors, proofreaders, and Beta readers to help me. 

LM: What’s next for you? 

Julie: Surrendering Hearts is a six-book series featuring each Hart sextuplet. Ryan is the second-born, so he’s next with Repairing Hearts. I am SO excited. 

Linda: Where can folks connect with you? 

Julie: The easiest way is to find me on Link Tree at All my links are included there. I love to connect, so please reach out! 

About Anchored Hearts: 

Can two go-getters surrender their need to control and find a happily-ever-after? 

Jordyn Bell Hart succeeds in everything she does. Her promotion to morning show co-anchor blossoms her career in the same way her mother’s work had. Jordyn keeps tabs on her family and enjoys helping them grow. When life around her starts to change, can she surrender her desire to control? 

Spencer Collins knows how to balance a busy life. He has his work as a reporter, his time caregiving for his grieving father, and looking out for his little brother. When he learns he’s the new co-anchor of a morning show with Jordyn Hart, can he handle working with a celebrity who brings a lot of challenges to life on and off the set?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Western Wednesday: Shopping in the Old West

Western Wednesday: Shopping in the Old West

Photo: Pixabay/
Sabrian Eickhoff
What do you think of when you hear the term “Old West?” Probably cowboys or ranches. Maybe saloons. But one mainstay of life in the towns that sprang up across the country during the 1800s is the general store, also known as a mercantile. Unlike the cities of the time that featured specialized boutiques, these small hamlets were remote, serving a population that had little time for shopping and often limited funds. 

The goal of the general store was to provide whatever the locals needed. Patrons could find tobacco, cigars, hardware, jewelry, buggy whips, horse tack, lanterns, pails, foodstuffs, fabric and sewing notions, household items, tools, small farm implements, soap, crockery, dishes, guns and bullets, clothing, candy, coffee, toiletries, school supplies such as slates and chalk, and patent medicines (most of which were untested and alcohol-based!). 

Merchandise could be purchased with cash or barter items, such as milk, eggs, or surplus produce. Shopkeepers also extended credit as necessary. In 1853, customers could expect to pay eight to ten cents per pound for rice, eleven cents per pound for pork versus nine cents per pound of salt beef. Fresh beef could be had for five cents per pound, whereas lard would run them up to twelve cents per pound. 

Many general store owners began as roving peddlers. After accumulating enough capital and inventory, they would establish a permanent location in a growing settlement. Others specifically sought one of the boomtowns such as a mining camp or railroad town. Sometimes, the mercantile would be the first business in a new settlement. 

Photo: Pixabay/
Brigette Werner
In addition to providing for the physical needs of the community, the general store was often the social center. A collection of chairs encircled the massive woodstove that was often located in the middle of the store. Some merchants offered inexpensive snacks such as soda crackers to allow folks to “sit a spell.” In his book, Pill, Petticoats, and Plows: The Southern Country Store, Thomas Clark indicated “Fox races, tobacco, cotton, horses, women, politics, religion—no subject is barred from the most serious and light-hearted conversation.” 

As the communications center of the town, the general store was typically the location of the post office with the owner acting as postmaster, sometimes even town clerk, Justice of the Peace, and/or undertaker. In later days, the mercantile was the first or only place in the town with a telephone. Less formal communication included a wall filled with lost and found notices, event flyers, election information, auctions, and “wanted posters” for outlaws. 

Keeping the shop clean would have been a challenge. With unpaved roads, customers tracked in dirt and other detritus, and the wood stove produced soot that settled on the goods. One report I found indicated it was not unusual to discover rodents foraging inside the store. 

Photo: Pixabay/
The late 1800s saw the advent of the mail order catalog business with Tiffany’s Blue Book considered the first in the U.S. In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward sent out his first “catalog,” a single sheet of paper showing merchandise for sale and including ordering instructions. Twenty years later, he was sending out a 540-page illustrated book selling 20,000 items, including prefabricated kit houses. Sears followed in 1888, and the decline of the general store began. The coming of the automobile in 1910 gave farmers and ranchers greater mobility, and as towns grew in size, the population was able to support specialized shops. 

There are remnants of general stores scattered around the U.S., and you may be pleasantly surprised to find one near you.

This article is a reprint of a guest post I did in February 2021. 


Gold Rush Bride Tegan

She’s out to prove herself. He’s only looking for adventure. Neither one realizes they’ll find more than gold “in them thar hills.” 

Tegan Llewellyn has always been different than her adopted family, except Grandmother Hannah, a prospector during the 1829 Georgia gold rush. Now, seventy years later there are reports of gold in Nome, and the opportunity is too good to pass up. But Tegan doesn’t count on the dangers that strike from the moment she steps off the steamer, including the threat of losing her heart. 

Elijah Hunter has prospected for gold all over the US and Canada and likes being on the move. The last thing he expects to find on his latest search is a lady miner who proves to be nothing but trouble. Can he convince her that leaving is for her own good before it’s too late...for both of them?

Friday, May 6, 2022

Fiction Friday: New Releases in Christian Fiction

May 2022 New Releases More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website

Contemporary Romance:

Anchored Hearts by Julie Arduini -- Can two go-getters surrender their need to control and find a happily-ever-after? Jordyn Bell Hart succeeds in everything she does. Her promotion to morning show co-anchor blossoms her career in the same way her mother’s work had. Jordyn keeps tabs on her family and enjoys helping them grow. When life around her starts to change, can she surrender her desire to control? Spencer Collins knows how to balance a busy life. He has his work as a reporter, his time caregiving for his grieving father, and looking out for his little brother. When he learns he’s the new co-anchor of a morning show with Jordyn Hart, can he handle working with a celebrity who brings a lot of challenges to life on and off the set? (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)

Finding Love in San Antonia by Miralee Ferrell and Kimberley Rose Johnson -- For TV chef Adela Romero, the lights of LA have lost their luster. The grief of her husband’s death three years ago still hangs heavy over her and her daughter, Fabi. When Adela returns to San Antonio for a summer break with her daughter, she learns her mother-in-law's Mexican diner is struggling. Adela wants to help, but her career is tugging her in another direction.Local food critic David Agraponte has a history with Adela. A history he’d like to rekindle. When he interviews Adela, sparks fly—both good and bad. In Adela’s struggle to put her past behind her, she’s tentative about a new relationship, but David hopes she’ll stay at Romero’s long enough to give him a chance. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

From Shore to Shore by Tabitha Bouldin -- Bree Jamison comes to Sparrow Island for one reason: to study coral reefs. She's not interested in happily-ever-after and certainly won’t allow her handsome boat captain to sway her into believing these islands are different from any others. But when she finds an old shipwreck and learns the history of pirates and treasure, Bree finds herself searching for something that always feels just out of reach. Cooper Carmichael takes the job as boat captain for the enigmatic Bree to further his career. He never expected her to be so driven—or so painfully opposed to God. All Cooper wants is his happy island life. He wants for nothing. In fact, he's made it his mission to be content. In every aspect of his life. Bree throws a wrench in his plan as her presence pushes Cooper to want for things he deems unnecessary. A man striving for contentment. A woman who believes God is picking on her. (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)

Home Where She Belongs by Penny Frost McGinnis -- Small-town romance with a dash of mystery and the promise of hope. Tired of being a pawn for her father and an emotional punching bag for her ex-boyfriend, Sadie Stewart escapes to Abbott Island where she spent summers with her grandparents. Would the love and faith she learned from them be enough to fuel her new life? She wants to believe God's promises, yet broken trust holds her back. Joel Grayson left the island long enough to train at the Police Academy. The community trusts him, even though he's failed. When he finds Sadie at her grandparents' cottages, his heart skips a beat. He'd love to get to know her again, but no one needs to share the hurt he harbors. When Sadie discovers someone is sabotaging her future, she seeks Joel's help. As they are drawn together, will Joel let down his guard and let her in? Will Sadie trust the man who loves her and the Father Who cares? (Contemporary Romance from Mt. Zion Ridge Press)

If You Rescue Me by Jerusha Agen -- Can his love set her free? Not all prisons have bars. Charlotte Davis should know—she’s lived in a prison of abuse for years. When her abuser goes too far and threatens her ten-year-old daughter, Charlotte runs to the stranger her mother believed would save her. She hopes to find answers and escape, but she doesn’t expect to meet a man who’s everything she fears yet everything she could love. Police Sergeant Gabe Kelly can tell Charlotte’s hiding something and doesn’t trust cops. But despite his better judgment, his heart is drawn toward Charlotte and her little girl. What begins as kindness threatens to turn into something riskier if Gabe doesn’t get ahold of his feelings. When Charlotte’s secrets catch up with her, Gabe’s badge puts them on opposite sides of the bars between them. Will God’s redemption be enough to set them free to love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Love in Second Bloom by Sandra Ardoin -- She's searching for direction. He's trying to change his. Are they beyond renewing the dream of a future they once believed in? At a crossroads in her career, Erin Ward works as a groundskeeper in a small town filled with precious, romantic memories. With Shaun Hadley’s surprise arrival, Erin dreams of a second chance at romance with the guy she broke up with in college. But Shaun isn’t the same man she once loved, and she blames herself. As an easygoing college computer geek, Shaun let Erin’s rejection light a determined fire under him. Today, he’s a successful businessman seeking to relax. Letting go of his workaholic ways is harder than he’d imagined, even when it threatens both his health and a renewed relationship with the love of his life. What hope do they have when Shaun can’t slow down, and Erin refuses to stand up for herself and their future...again? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Not Since You by Dulcie Dameron -- When Claudia Clark was involved in a tragic accident in high school, it set her on a devastating path toward heartbreak. For the past eight years, she’s carefully guarded her heart. With her business now thriving, she doesn’t have time for any unwanted distractions. She’s learned from her mistakes. But when the biggest one of all comes face to face with her again, she starts to question the belief she’s desperately clung to for so long. Dorian Vance can’t get over his past—or the girl that it’s wrapped up in. So when a family emergency brings him back to the small town of River Hollow, he decides it's time to accept the truth and confront the girl he left behind. Unfortunately for him, she’s dead set on making him pay for his sins. As sparks start flying and well-meaning townsfolk meddle in their affairs, Dorian and Claudia are forced to resurrect old ghosts that lay buried in a mire of guilt and shame. But as they find themselves in the center of a vengeful scheme, the hope and forgiveness they seek seem impossible to obtain. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Royally Married by Jill Boyce -- Dr. Claire Thomson, queen of Amorley, has banished all the dragons in her life—or so she hopes. Her wedding to Ethan Kane, the love of her life, looms on the horizon, yet unwelcome houseguests of her stepmother, Lord Chicanery of Maltenstein and his son, Hans, threaten her upcoming wedding with new obstacles. New questions abound about the integrity of the crown and the necessity of its future. If Claire cannot prove her loyalty to Amorley and disavow her involvement in a nefarious plot to defraud the country’s coffers for personal gain, then she may have to postpone more than just her wedding. She may have to leave the life she’s come to love in her father’s homeland as Parliament calls the monarchy into question. Dangers lurk in the castle, and if Claire’s not careful, she will lose more than her crown; she will lose her life. If she survives, will Claire and Ethan finally make it to the altar and solidify her position as queen? Can she protect the monarchy and those she loves from the evil plans of her enemies? Has time finally run out for Claire on her quest for her happily ever after? (Contemporary Romance from Winged Publications)

Short and Sweet: 13 Sweet, Romantic Stories by Susan Page Davis -- This collection of short stories is perfect for quick reads. Fall in love with a firefighter, a florist, a soldier, or a church usher. Join Kelly at a wedding, Sam at a charity box social, and Kara at a date she’s looked forward to for ten years. Whether it’s an office romance or a chance meeting on a railroad platform, join the fun and soak up the romance. (Contemporary Romance from Tea Tin Press)

The Road Home by Cathe Swanson -- Christopher Wright came home from Afghanistan a changed man. He’s found peace as an over-the-road trucker, but he’s never forgotten the woman he grew close to overseas – or the promises they made to each other. But when a newspaper article leads him to the Unity Plenkiss Community Center, the elusive Tally isn’t happy to be found – and she’s definitely not interested in picking up where they left off. After two years on the streets, Tally Zemmer has found a home and begun to heal, building a new life for herself. Christopher’s reappearance is a reminder of her scars and the ghosts that followed her home from Afghanistan. But he’s the one man who knows her secrets and still cares for her. They have a special connection, shared faith, and experiences no one else can claim. Can they find a new road home together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

A Promise Engraved by Liz Tolsma -- Can Promises Made in Times of Struggle Endure 200 Years? Young, spirited Josie Wilkins life is about to take a turn when faced with political turmoil and forbidden love in San Antonio of 1836. John Gilbert has won her heart, despite being a Protestant preacher who is forbidden to practice his faith in Texas. Will either of them survive an epic battle for liberty to create a legacy of love? Nearly 200 years later, Kayleigh Hernandez takes breaks from her demanding job as a refugee coordinator working with Mexican migrants to attend flea markets where she has found a uniquely engraved ring. Enlisting the help of appraiser Brandon Shuman, they piece together a love story long forgotten. But will dangers linked to Kayleigh’s work end her own hopes for leaving a legacy built on hope, faith, and love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

When the Meadow Blooms by Ann H. Gabhart -- If any place on God’s earth was designed to help one heal, it is Meadowland. Surely here, at her brother-in-law’s Kentucky farm, Rose and her daughters can recover from the events of the recent past—the loss of her husband during the 1918 influenza epidemic, her struggle with tuberculosis that required a stay at a sanatorium, and her girls’ experience in an orphanage during her illness. At Meadowland, past troubles become rich soil in which faith can grow. Dirk Meadows may have opened his home to his late brother’s widow and her girls, but he keeps his heart tightly closed. The roots of his pain run deep, and the evidence of it is written across his face. Badly scarred by a fire and abandoned by the woman he loved, Dirk fiercely guards his heart from being hurt again. But it may be that his visitors will bring light back into his world and unlock the secret to true healing. (Historical Romance from Revell/Baker Publishing)

Speculative Fiction:

Celestial by Hannah Mae -- For millenniums, angels like Captain Jediah had waged war against their former brethren: the demons. As Keeper of the Abyss, it's his duty to ensure Appolyon's army remains imprisoned until the end of the age. Unfortunately, despite all that God had entrusted him with, Jediah is plagued by an unceasing guilt. It drives him to thirst for Christ's redemptive power, but there's one glaring problem. He's not human. God's gift of salvation is meant for mankind alone. When God appoints him to lead a task force of five wildly different angels to capture two dangerous demons, Jediah ponders if his return to earth might be his only chance to learn what the core of human salvation truly is. however, one of Jediah’s angels hides a secret agenda, and Jediah’s dark past is hellbent on hunting him down too. Can Jediah risk everything for the relief he's desperate for? Or should he even bother chasing what he cannot have at all? What does living redeemed mean? (Speculative Fiction, Independently Published)

This Dreamer by Sara Watterson -- When Evie, an immortal Watcher turned reluctant assassin, finds herself captivated by her intended target, Adan the Dreamer, is it worth the cost to prevent his untimely end? Evie grows restless observing mortals from the safety of her desk in the Control Room. When the promotion for the only job she’s ever wanted—Guardian among humans in Sector Five—is canceled, a friend offers to smuggle her by portal into a booming metropolis called Shura. Evie jumps at the chance to see the world with mortal eyes. Secretly, though, she also hopes to observe Adan, a human Dreamer, in his natural habitat. Only a glimpse, she promises herself. All seems well until she returns to the Control Room, where she has landed in a heap of trouble. Not only did she take an unsanctioned trip to the ground, but the boy, the Dreamer, is missing. And all blame is placed squarely at Evie’s feet. This Dreamer is a clean fantasy romance adventure inspired by Joseph and the coat of many colors. (Speculative Fiction, Independently Published)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Brides of Seattle by Kimberly Rose Johnson, Three strong women discover love where they least expect it. (Contemporary Romance)

Magi Journey: Babylonia by Terry Phillip Garner, Magi Journey – Babylonia – continues the sweeping saga as the Magi continue their journey from Assyria in 734 BC to Bethlehem in the year -0-. (General Historical)

Puppy Ciao: Novel Companion and Study Guide by Annette Ohare, An All in One Devotional and Inspirational Novel Study Guide. (Children’s)

Saving Grace by Candee Fick, Not all heroes wear a uniform. (Contemporary Romance)

The Bookseller’s Promise by Beth Wiseman, The book leads the trio deep into mysterious questions about life and death, love and loss, and the impenetrable purposes of God. (General Contemporary)