Thursday, July 21, 2016

How's Your Summer Going?

It's hard to believe it's half over. Here is Texas, it's been hot, but not as unbearable as other areas in the U.S.

For many folks, summer is a time for travel. Though we like to travel during the fall, we've done our share during these warmer months.

As is our habit, the Riley girl cousins had our yearly trip in late April. We prefer to be on the road before summer break. This year we went to New Orleans. We'd wanted to tour the cemeteries but decided to take in the free sight and save our money for other eating binets at Cafe Du Monde. Yum! My very first binet experience. Loved them.

Bourbon Street—my first and last visit. It's a place for the younger crowd.
Historic building on Jackson Square.
Macaroni and Cheese with Lobster.
Thunderbird Lodge—the grounds
In late June, Larry and I drove to Gallup, New Mexico where I wanted to shop for a Zuni fetish necklace. While there we stopped again at El Rancho Hotel and ate lunch in their restaurant.

El Rancho.
From there we traveled to Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. We stayed at Thunderbird Lodge on the Navajo Reservation. It was a very nice place, quiet, and surrounded by greenery.

Ancient ruin seen from the canyon floor.
Part of the canyon from above.

The canyon is filled with pueblo ruins, petroglyphs, and fascinating rock formations. Run by the Navajo people, they guide the tours and share their history with visitors. There is not park entry fee for Canyon de Chelly.

Where will your travels take you this summer?

Happy Reading and Writing!


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Followup on Stagecoach Travel—an excerpt for A Touch of Texas Irish

I've had so much fun with researching this story, I've decided to post a short excerpt about stagecoach travel as told in my latest novel, A Touch of Texas Irish. I can't post too much as it's been sent to my editor, but it's not contracted yet.

In the spring of 1890,  Dr. Samuel Walker and his young Irish bride travel from Boston to Monahans, Texas via the train. In Monahans they catch a stagecoach for Fort Stockton, Texas.

A Stage Stand replica near Fort Stockton, Texas (Google Photos)

A friendly mule posing for a snapshot. That or waiting for a treat.
(Google Photos)

They'd just finished breakfast in the cafe next to the depot and returned from the outhouse when the stage roared in and stopped in front of the stand, sending dust flying. Aileen watched in fascination as a gate swung open, and the six mules and stagecoach entered. In ten minutes, the coach came out the same door with fresh stock and a different driver. She'd like to glimpse the inside, but the tender called out, "If you're traveling to Fort Stockton, pay up. First come, first served."
Sam took her arm and hustled her over to the man. "I want two seats facing the front." He counted out a number of bills.
"Claim your seats, mister."
Sam helped her inside. She sat in the middle of the front facing seat and he took the one to her right by the door. A man in a military uniform took the seat on her left. An older couple and a cowboy sat down across from them. Seven men still stood around the tender.
"Any of you men interested in the center seat?" Several stepped forward and paid their money. "The rest of you'll ride on top. You can switch out with the center seat 'bout half way there."
Thank goodness they didn't have to bump knees with those three men. Plus the middle bench had a makeshift backrest—a wide piece of cut leather stretched and attached from one side to the other. Pieces of leather dangled from the ceiling. Aileen shot Sam a questioning glance. "Those in the center hold on to steady themselves when the road is rough." He pulled her arm under his and laid her hand on his bicep. "We'll get more dust on this row, but traveling backwards makes some folks sick." He leaned down and whispered in her ear. "Plus, I didn't want you interlocking your knees with the center row."
Aileen felt sorry for the elderly lady, but not enough to offer to trade places.
The station tender stood at the open door. "All right, folks. Remember no shooting out the windows unless it's in defense. If you don't follow the rules, the driver will put you off in the desert. He's done it before. Men, be respectful of the ladies." He slammed the door.
Sam squeezed her hand. "Hang on."
She heard the crack of a whip and the driver's bellow, "Go boys!" The coach leapt forward and Aileen's head bounced against the back wall. Thank goodness it was padded.
Sam caught Aileen to steady her and prevent further jostling until the coach settled into a steady gait. He chuckled as she repositioned her hat. "You all right?"
"I'm fine. You said he'd take off like a shot, but I assumed you were exaggerating."
The lady across the way eyed Aileen with distaste. Sam noticed she listened in on his and Aileen's conversation, and then said something to her husband. He frowned and muttered, "Mind your own business, Ethel."
Ethel studied Aileen from head to toe, well, as much of her toes as she could observe. Aileen wore one of her new dresses—blue cotton, but it was thick enough for winter wear. He'd cautioned her to wear something comfortable. Over the dress, she wore her new jacket, which she could take off if it grew too hot. Ethel wore a suit dress of heavy gray wool and appeared to be fully corseted. She'd already removed the matching cape and placed it on her knees. Sam hadn't purchased a blanket, as he didn't believe the weather would warrant the need for one. With any luck, he'd not made a mistake.
Ethel made up her mind. She lifted her chin, sniffed, and asked, "Where you from, young woman? Sounds like you have one of them Irish, accents."
"It is Irish. I've only been in the states for three months." She smiled up at Sam. "We've been wed just a little over a week."
The matron snorted. "Come over to get you a rich husband, huh?"
Her husband bit out, "Ethel, for God's sake, woman. Shut your mouth."
Aileen's face reddened and she sat up straighter. "Ethel, not that it's any of your concern, but I didn't have to marry for money. I admire Dr. Walker."
Sam had difficulty keeping his anger in check. The old biddy had no right to insult Aileen. He leaned down and kissed her hair, and then glanced back at Ethel. "As a matter of fact, madam, my wife is an heiress." He winked at Aileen. "I'm the one who married for money."
The three cowboys in the center roared with laughter. One slapped his knees as he hooted, "Har, har, har." He turned back and tipped his hat. "Good for you, old man. Looks like you got a beauty in the bargain."
Aileen blushed scarlet. Sam slipped his arm around her shoulders and worked it down to her waist. He snuggled her closer. "I did indeed, sir."
"I'm Johnson." The one who'd spoken swiveled around and offered his hand. He pointed to his companions. "This here's Dickens and Smith." He pointed to the wrangler by Ethel. "That be Oats." Sam shook Johnson's hand, thumped the brim of his hat, and nodded to the others. "Pleased to meet you. I'm Samuel Walker and this is my wife." They all four tipped their hats and mumbled, "ma'am." The two with their back to her, had to twist their necks.
Sam leaned forward and turned to the soldier. "How about you, Lieutenant?"
"Jeremy Hawkins, sir." He offered his hand. "You are Captain Walker, are you not?"
He didn't recognize the young man, but time on the prairie changed a person. "I am, or was, but I'm sorry I don't remember you."
"No reason to. I was fortunate enough to stay away from your domain, but saw you around from time to time."
"Frank Hardy, gentlemen, ma'am. As you've surmised this is my wife, Ethel. She can be quite nice when you get used to her ways."
Ethel snorted and shot daggers at her husband. He merely patted her knee. His belly bobbed up and down with his silent chuckles. Sam glanced at Aileen. Her eyes were round as saucers and she'd caught her bottom lip with her teeth. He supposed it was to keep from giggling.
Sam pointed out the window, "Look at those plants with the long green stalks and red flowers on the top?"
She peered around him. There were a number of them growing amid the prickly pear cactus, creosote bushes, and buffalo grass, names she'd learned when they'd neared Abilene and Monahans. "Yes, I see them." She tilted her head. "I guess they could be pretty with the right backdrop."
"Wait until you see a field full of them in bloom at sunset. It resembles a sea of red." She leaned back in the seat.
"I'd like that. Do they bloom all the time?"
"No, usually around this time of year—March through April—depending on the amount of rain we get. You can break one of the long stalks off and plant it in the ground. Eventually, with time and care, you can have a living, blooming fence." He lifted one of her hands and examined the soft pads of her fingers. "You must be careful though, as behind each little green leaf is a thorn. Always wear thick gloves."
She looked around and scrunched up her nose. "What is that smell?"
All three men on the middle seat chimed. "Oats!"
The young man blushed scarlet and blurted, "It weren't me." He kicked the shin of the wrangler across from him.
"Yeow! Darn it, that hurt."
Johnson added, "Ma'am, please excuse Oats. He didn't have a mama to teach him manners."
Wide-eyed and red-faced, Aileen turned to Sam. "I'm talking about that stinky medicine smell."
Silence reigned. Sam struggled to keep a straight face. Hardy didn't even try. He slapped his leg and howled, "Har-d-har-har-har." Everyone else in the coach joined him, even Ethel. Aileen gazed around in confusion, but finally chuckled with them.
She sobered. "I don't appreciate being the butt of jokes," she threw her hands up, "especially when I don't have a clue what you're talking about."
"Aw, ma'am, we weren't laughing at you. We thought Oats had...well, know."
When she didn't respond, Sam leaned close to her and whispered, "They thought someone had passed gas and that was the odor you were smelling."
She stiffened and murmured. "Gosh, why would I draw attention to such?"
"Well, anyways, I think what you're smelling is the old ugly creosote bush." Johnson pointed out his side of the coach. "See the small bush with the little yellow flowers and green leaves?"
She nodded.
"They stink so bad the cattle won't eat them less they're starving, but I'm told the Indians make medicine from the shrub." He looked to Sam for confirmation.
"That's right, they do. They dry the leaves and stems, crush, and then boil them to make a tea used for a variety of ailments. The mixture can also be made into a paste to treat conditions of the skin."
"And, Dr. Walker, do you make use of these concoctions in treating your patients?" Asked Mrs. Hardy.
"No, ma'am, I do not, but only because I don't know enough about them. I hope one day to be able to visit one of the Indian medicine men in the area and learn."
 "Harrumph. You'd trust anything those heathens told you about healing?"
"Yes, ma'am, I would—especially if out in the middle of nowhere without medical supplies. I'd say their teachings would be invaluable."

I hope you've enjoyed the excerpt. Thank you for stopping by and Happy Reading and Writing!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

"Gee" and "Haw"—Commands for Animals

For several of my books, I've needed the commands used for draft animals—mules. The terminology used is not something I remember, so decided to post them on my blog. Here I can easily find them when needed. I want to get the commands correct, or my book will draw criticism from someone who knows the correct terminology.

Isn't this fella cute? Love the ears.

The commands I'm listing were taken from My Horse Forum and posted my senior member harli36.

Walk—to go from halt to walk
Walk—to slow down from trot to walk
Trot on—to go from halt or walk to trot
Slooooowww—(well this one is obvious)
Gee—to turn right, most commonly used in tight turns where no forward movement is used.
Haw—same as above only for left hand turns.

I've used these commands in my novella, A Love of His Own, a western time travel, and in my work-in-progress, A Touch of Irish, a historical western that begins in Ireland.

I couldn't resist this picture of a carriage mule at Jackson Square in New Orleans. She doesn't appear too happy about this costume.

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading and Writing!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Welcome Zina Abbott—Her Independent Spirit

Today Zina Abbott will share with you excerpt #3 and
A chance to win a copy of Her Independent Spirit by playing the Amazon Giveaway sweepstakes.

Catch all seven excerpts on participating blogs on Zina Abbott's website by CLICKING HERE.

Please join Zina Abbott on the Sweet/Clean Romance Facebook event
Monday, April 11th at noon/1:00/2:00/3:00p.m. or
Wednesday, April 13th at 3:00/4:00/5:00/6:00p.m.

About the Book:

Beth Dodd has made a promise to help “Lulu”, a young prostitute at the Blue Feather, keep her baby if she decides to leave the whorehouse and become a respectable woman. But Beth hadn’t counted on the obstacles she and the new mother will face from society in the mining town of Lundy. From the obstinate landlady, Mrs. Ford, to her intractable German boss, Gus Herschel, Beth must fight for the woman she’s promised to help. But Beth Dodd never gives in, and she keeps her word with a stubbornness that Lundy folks are not accustomed to seeing from a woman.

Once Lulu, now known as the more respectable Louisa Parmley, starts working for Gus in his kitchen, she proves that Beth was right to take a chance on her. She has every intention of making a good life for her new daughter. But can she also hope to find happiness with Gus? And will Gus be able to accept her and baby Sophie Ann as his? Love was never in the cards for Gus, but Louisa dreams of happiness with the stoic man, and Beth is determined to bring them together through HER INDEPENDENT SPIRIT.

Excerpt #3:

Nein! Ich nicht condemn!” No! I don’t condemn! “Vork, herrisch Witwe!” Bossy widow. “No more stories. Make biscuits!”
Beth motioned Gus aside so she could slide a sheet of biscuits into the oven.
“That’s mighty fine, Gus, ‘cause I done found us another cook. What with all these here miners comin’ into Lundy, we’re slap-full busy. Friday I’ll start her learnin’ how things is done. She’ll be right smart help in the kitchen.”
Gus, his stubborn jaw jutting out, squinted his eyes with suspicion.
“Who? Vat voman?”
 Photo: 1900’s pioneer kitchen from the Prescott, AZ museum
Zina Abbott is offering a copy of the book through Amazon Giveaway sweepstakes with a  one in fifty chance of winning. You may access Amazon Giveaway by CLICKING HERE and following the instructions.

About the Author:
Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. You may find the first two novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine and A Resurrected Heart, by clicking on the hyperlinks for the novel titles or by going to Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.

To learn about new releases and special offers, Zina Abbott invites you to sign up to receive her monthly NEWSLETTER. You may sign up by CLICKING HERE.

Zina Abbott Author Links:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |  Goodreads  |  Google+  |  Twitter 

Purchase links for Her Independent Heart:

Amazon  |   Smashwords  |  Kobo  |  iBooks

Please tweet this blog post:
Excerpt 3 & #AmazonGiveaway on Blog Blitz:

 Thank you readers for stopping by today. I hope you'll leave Zina a comment or question and check out her website and contests. 

I enjoyed your excerpt, Zina. Her Independent Spirit sounds like a fun read.

Happy Reading and Writing!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Stagecoach Stations in the West

I'd hoped to have the book on Stagecoach Inns long before now, but, alas, my book is not here. The seller fears it may have been lost in the mail. So, I'm going to do my best to tell the story with the information I have garnered from the web and Pecos County History.

In the East, stagecoach inns were much like large residences and hotels. The home to the left, the Harry Kennedy House in Centerville, Alabama, was built in 1837 as a stagecoach stop and hotel. Below is a picture of the Glover Tavern, a stagecoach stop in Forkland, AL. To the right is the tavern now.  It has been restored and is now a family residence.    

Many offered overnight boarding and delicious meals. With others, the accommodations and food were not ideal, but to a tired traveler they were, in most cases, acceptable.

The picture to the above right is of the Anderson Stage Stop in Monroe County. Note the dog trot style cabin. The open space provided a nice breeze which helped to cool the house. This stop is the only one remaining on the Old Federal Road. The picture to the left is of a livery stable. I'm not positive of it's location, but it is Alabama.

References for above data and photos :

In San Antonio, the stage often stopped at the Menger Hotel, and in Fredericksburg, at the Nimitz Hotel.

The Menger Hotel is still open to guests and individuals have been known to claim they've seen or heard ghosts. Teddy Roosevelt often frequented the Menger and it's saloon. A wall in the hallway is dedicated to Teddy and The Rough Riders.

The Nimitz Hotel is now the General Nimitz Museum, a fascinating place to visit and explore artifacts from World War II.

Reference:  San Antonio Transportation History Ox, Mule, and Horse Drawn Era 1845 - 1910

As stagecoach routes opened up farther west, accommodations provided were to meet basic needs and not necessarily to provide comfort.

It's important to mention, that in the West horses were rarely used to lead coaches. The best animal to use was the mule. Also, in areas where the roads were particularly rough or mountainous, or for short hauls, Celebrity wagons, also called mud wagons and mail wagons, were used. They were lighter weight than the Concord and cost about 1/2 as much to build. They carried from four to twelve passengers depending on how they were made, and had open sides. Leather or cloth flaps could be rolled down to offer some protection from the elements.

A mule occurs when a female horse is bred with a donkey. The result was an animal that is "strong and sure footed. They lacked the free spirit nature of horses and were, indeed, creatures of habit. A good caporal, the name given to the person in any wagon train in charge of the animals, had only to crack his whip in the morning for the mules to line up not only in front of its assigned wagon but even its assigned place within the team, which could consist of between six and eight animals."

Reference:  San Antonio Transportation History Ox, Mule, and Horse Drawn Era 1845 - 1910

The story I'm writing takes place in Fort Stockton, far West Texas. Stage stops might be from 30-50 miles apart, and schedules had to be kept. So, a break might last 10-15 minutes, just enough time to hitch fresh mules. The stage stands were completed by 1850 as way stations along mail routes. They were all similar, built on the same plan, made of adobe and usually stood on a rise or broad sweep of ground without much foliage. This allowed the stage tender to be able to see for miles around in every direction.

Made of adobe, they had a broad entrance with a gate and a roof overhead. It appeared much like the dog trot on log homes though the opening was wider and the roof was pitched, not flat. A room was located on each side of the entrance—one for cooking and and eating, and the other was used for sleeping and served as a storeroom. The stage company supplied the supplies and any money made off meals and supplies sold were kept by the stage tender. To the rear of these rooms, was a corral or patio where the mules were kept. The walls of the corral, made of adobe brick, were 12 to 15 feet high and two or three feet thick. When a stage entered, the mules were quickly unhitched and the stage was turned around, by hand, and pointed toward the entrance before the fresh team was hitched.

"When the fresh mules were hitched to the stagecoach and the gates again opened, with a yell from the driver, and a crack from his whip, the mules would dash out of the enclosure on a wild run, which did not slacken until the next stage stand was reached."
Stagecoaches traveling through Pecos County, stopped at places where water was available. One of those places was Escondido (Tunas Springs), 20 miles east of  Comanche Springs where Fort Stockton is located today. A replica of the stage stand is on Highway 290, east of Fort Stockton near Escondido. 

Credit for these photos goes to LenRoy Graham.

Reference:  History of Pecos County, Vol. I

Thanks for stopping by today. Happy Reading and Writing!

Linda LaRoque