Friday, December 28, 2012

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

... and other carols they sang around the piano.

It started with one little plot point and escalated from there. I need my characters to sing carols around the piano. It's a moment of detente between the Union soldiers and the southern family they have moved in with for the winter.

So, what Christmas songs were they singing in the winter of 1862?

Not "Away in a Manger". The words to that carol were published in Philadelphia, 1885. The melodies were older. One version was lifted from Waltz #4,  Op. 325 by Johann Strauss Jr., composed 19 years earlier. Another was based on the old English tune "Sweet Afton." (I have a personal story about that tune. It'll be in the comments.)

Many carols borrowed their music from older pieces. "What Child is This" uses the melody from "Greensleeves". "Deck the Halls" is based on a Welsh song - only the Fa la la la la's remained the same. "Joy to the World" is believed to have been adapted from Handel. The music we sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" to, was originally composed to commemorate the anniversary of the Guggenheim Press in 1840. The carol's lyrics are older, but the original music wasn't nearly as catchy.

"We Three Kings" and "One Horse Open Sleigh" (better known as "Jingle Bells") were composed in 1857. I'm safe with those ones. The English lyrics to "Deck the Halls" were published in 1862, as was the carol "Angels We Have Heard on High." If my story took place on the eastern seaboard, I wouldn't have any qualms about including them. Sheet music was as hot in the 1860's as iTunes are now. However, I'm not sure when the new music, hot off the press, would make it to Tennessee - especially with a war on.

One thing I don't have to worry about is whether or not my family celebrates Christmas. There might be some Calvinists or other Puritanical types among the Yankees who wouldn't observe the holiday, but most of the southern states had already made Christmas an statutory holiday.

My heroine's parents are German immigrants. She would have grown up decorating a tree and putting presents under it. "O Tannenbaum" will definitely be on the play list, as will "Silent Night", which her parents would have known as "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht".

Composed in Austria in 1818, by 1859, Silent Night had been translated into English. Perhaps the most widely known Christmas carol, it has been translated into 140 languages. This is one of the reasons it was sung during the Christmas Truce of 1914. It was one carol that the German, French and English soldiers all knew.

"The First Nowell", "Joy to the World", "O Come All Ye Faithful" and even "The Twelve Days of Christmas" all predate the nineteenth century and would have been well known. My favorite carol is also one of the oldest. Dating back to the fifteenth century, and still being sung today, I conclude with...

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

Alison Bruce is the author of UNDER A TEXAS STAR and DEADLY LEGACY. She lives in Guelph, Ontario with her two children and a pet rat. When she isn't writing fiction, she's usually writing something else.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the World?

If you're reading this post, you either have a few minutes left or the world didn't end as predicted by the Mayan calendar. You should also know that throughout history, the end of the world has often been predicted by lots of people -- all over the world. Just think of the chaos when the calendar changed from the year 999 to 1000, if anyone really was aware of it at the time instead of worrying about where the next meal was coming from, or surviving a common cold, or getting slaughtered by barbarians.

Every time a new century dawned, in fact, people held their breath or sold their goods/houses and waited for the end to hit. Then they had to start all over again, if they didn't die of embarrassment from being wrong. Or maybe they moved in with relatives, who might have thought "oh boy, here's the end of my world!"

I have to admit, I watched the movie 2012 with my curious hubby - and laughed at the incredible totally unbelievable plot. Cool special effects, though, if you're into that. I found Cowboys and Aliens more entertaining with a better message.

But hey, the Mayan calendar RUNS OUT on December 21, 2012. Lots of jokes about they ran out of room, or couldn't find another stone, or what have you.

And for heaven's sake, what about the possibility of Planet X changing course -- Nibiru that is -- and hitting Planet Earth!! Who wouldn't believe that NASA is just part of the conspiracy?

How about looking back between 1800 and 1900 in America for other End of the World events -- you might find it enlightening, to say the least. And these are just a FEW examples.

From April of 1843 until October of 1844, Millerites were rooked into following a charismatic leader. William Miller (1782-1849) -- a plain old farmer, plus a former atheist -- studied the books of Revelation and Daniel from the Bible and chose April 3rd, 1843, as the end of the world. Shooting stars in 1833 and a comet in 1843 seemed to confirm his prediction. Thousands of "Millerites" waited in New England -- although a few murdered their relatives and committed suicide to save time -- until the next day dawned.

Miller moved the "end of the world" to July 7th and began selling "ascension robes" of white. You get the picture -- July 8th came. Miller kept changing the date to March 21st of 1844 and then October 22nd -- but that day failed to bring more than a thunderstorm. And -- you guessed it -- 100,000 disappointed folks went home grumbling. A few formed new factions like the Seventh-Day Adventists. Miller made a fortune selling his robes and delivered over three thousand speeches. A true American con man.

In 1881, experts had used the measurements of the Great Pyramid of Cheops to predict a Second Coming and Day of Judgment. I'm math-challenged, so go figure how they figured this out. Supposedly they based their opinion on a couplet from the writings of Mother Shipton -- published in 1862 by Charles Hindley, and soon proved a forgery in 1873, that "The world to an end shall come in eighteen hundred and eighty one." Didn't even rhyme, either. So much for that prediction when 1882 rolled around. Conned by another con artist. He probably sold tons of books. You just can't trust authors! (insert winking smiley face here)

And in 1899, plenty of other idiots expected the world to end when January 1st, 1900, rang in a new century. Thank goodness the year 1999 had only Y2K problems. Some people believe that was a huge hoax now, and others believe the government used it as an excuse to install tracking software. Uh huh.

So hang onto your hats, people. Sure, look into the sky -- but don't expect to see much except a few moving airplane lights. You can always buy a tee shirt -- from Zazzle!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Take a Quick Visit to Historical Cragfont with Ginger

Photo courtesy of open house album on Cragfont website
Merry Christmas.  This is going to be short and sweet, because as I searched for information on the historical Cragfont mansion just a few miles from where I live, I came across their official website with a wonderful video that tells just enough about the home to make you want to read more.  Rather than paraphrase what is already so abundantly available on the official website, I'm going to post their video here and direct you to the history dating back to 1785 on this wonderful Tennessee 'museum.'

Hope you enjoy, and just click on the link above to get to Cragfont's official page.  Just another reason to visit Tennessee!  This place abounds with history, even though it's on the wrong side of the Mississippi to be considered "western."  Here's a map I copied from Wikipedia which shows the division:

 Although the "plains" states in the lighter shade of red are sometimes included in the "old west" territory, you can see that Tennessee only comes close.  *smile*  Do, I, I can still write about the time period, and I think you'd have a hard time arguing that my heroes aren't true western cowboys.  Take Ellie's Legacy, for example.  Set in Tennessee, specifically Sparta, I sure wouldn't want to tangle with Tyler Bishop about his status or attire. 

Happy Holidays and Cowboy Kisses all around!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The General Store

I completed most of my Christmas shopping online this year, which I found to be very convenient, and other than a slight shipping delay, (the Christmas cards I’d ordered last month just arrived last week) everything was delivered to my front door mere days after I’d placed my order. 

In a way, this is history repeating itself…

Catalog ordering wasn’t unusual for pioneers. The local mercantile, general store, emporium, or country store often provided catalogs for customers to review and place orders from—if they didn’t have what the customer was looking for in stock. The merchandise would be delivered to the store and the customer would come pick it up. 

Country stores did try to hold a variety of merchandise on hand for their customers. They were the “Wal-Marts” of the day, selling most everything the community may need under one roof. The standard stock of supplies usually included foods such as flour, sugar, oatmeal, coffee beans, spices, baking powder, hard candy, crackers, dried beans, tobacco and cigars. They would also have perishables such as eggs, milk, butter, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables (when in season, otherwise canned) and honey. These items they usually procured from local residents. 

The stores also sold dry goods, including bolts of cloth, thread, needles and pins, undergarments, shoes and boots, hats, belts and socks. Of course they also sold essentials such as guns and ammunition, lanterns, lamps, ropes, pots and pans, dishes and cooking utensils, farming equipment, and even coffins. 

There would also be a selection of soaps, medicines, elixirs and other toiletries.

The owners often resided in their store, on the upper level or side/back rooms. The store area itself was usually very crowded, with walls lined with shelves, and floors covered with crates and barrels. Storage rooms were also a must. Most of the merchandise was ordered through drummers, salesmen from establishments in larger cities that maintained regular routes to assure their products were available throughout the nation. The increase of the railroad benefitted many, including store proprietors. Merchandise became easier to obtain. 

These establishments were often the hub of the community. Meetings would be held there, and they were often the number one place of socializing. The country store was also where people picked up their mail. 

In the late 1890’s the postal service created RFD. Rural Free Delivery. This eliminated the need to visit the country store to pick up mail, and it also created a way for people to order merchandise and have it delivered directly to their doorstep. In order to implement the RFD, the government had to build roads to assure mail could be delivered to every home. Companies took great advantage of this, and started sending catalogs to all homes. People now had many more choices of merchandise and the catalogs often times had very appealing prices. 

By the early 1900’s country stores began transforming into more singular focused stores, such as grocery stores, clothing stores, hardware stores, drug stores, etc. etc. 

In my October release, Unclaimed Bride, the hero returns home from town with very ripe bananas. A fruit that was unheard of in Wyoming at the time, and the heroine has to figure out what to do with them. 

With this post I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year.


Friday, December 14, 2012

The Old West Celebrates the Holidays: Jacquie Rogers

Yule Brings Celebration For All

The snow blows nearly sideways as it blankets the range. Ranch hands hunker down in their saddles, scarves over their ears and their Stetsons protecting them from the fierce wind. They dream of a warm fire and hot buttered rum. But they have livestock to save from freezing and starvation, so they ride on.

It's Christmas on the open range. Miserable for man and beast. But it isn't just another day at the office, so to speak. They whittle gifts for one another, sing a few carols as they sit around the campfire warming their hands and feet. Cook gives them a hot meal--the finest beans with maybe some meat thrown in. And with a little luck, Cook could scrounge up a few tins of peaches to use for a pie. Life couldn't be better and they thank their lucky stars for a sound horse and solid tack.

(Yes, I know these cattle are a modern breed and very fat, but it's the only picture I could find.)

Ahavath Beth Israel 

Chanukkah in the mines

It's the 1860's in Silver City, Idaho. The Festival of Lights has been celebrated in the West since the beginning of frontier settlement, but not like their counterparts back East who have a warm and dry place to worship with their families. A menorah can be lit anywhere, and the Jewish silver miners do just that. They pray, play a little dreidel, and think a lot of home.

The picture to the left is the oldest continuously used synagogue west of the Mississippi. It's located in Boise, Idaho, and was built in 1896 by the Beth Israel congregation, now called the Ahavath Beth Israel congregation. Very beautiful.

Christmas on the farm

Everyone has chores to do every day and Christmas is no exception. Cows have to be milked, livestock has to be watered and fed, eggs need gathered, and the barnyard will require the usual tidying (to use a gentile term). So after the chores are done, the family can gather together and celebrate Christmas with what meager resources they have. If they don't have evergreen trees to spare, they might decorate a sagebrush with popcorn and berries. They make ornaments with precious bits of paper and scraps of cloth. Peach tins make nice ornaments, too, and they shine in the firelight.

1876 Christmas, Harper's Weekly

Their celebration might be more humble than those in the eastern cities, but they have a grand time, nevertheless. The women cook for days. They're resourceful and whatever they have available will do for a fine pie or stew. The Christmas feast could consist of chicken, venison, or maybe a ham, along with homemade rolls, freshly churned butter, potatoes and gravy, and pies--maybe one made with dried apples and a vinegar pie. Each family member has made modest gifts for the others and even the smallest child has labored over precious gifts--might be a drawing or a doll made of sticks. They sing carols, maybe read the Bible, and if they're close enough to town, they'd most likely go to church if there was one.  If not there'd probably be a worship service at the schoolhouse or maybe a saloon.

For most Christian families, Christmas is a day for family togetherness and to show their love and appreciation for one another, as well as celebrating the religious aspect of the holy day.

Christmas for Outlaws, Gunslingers, and Cyprians

The saloon owner brings small gifts for the working ladies, the bartender, the resident gambler, and a few of the regulars. A few cowpunchers bring gifts for their favorite girl. They might have a nice meal together before they open for business, and even then, the customers are few. It's one night they can relax.

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

My gift to you: send a message to jacquierogers @ (no spaces) and let me know which book you'd like (be sure to tell me what address to use, if different than the one on the email), Faery Merry Christmas or Much Ado About Madams and I'll gift you a free book.  Offer ends 10pm Pacific Time, December 19th.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Poet-Ranchman of Texas

Cowgirl hat banner

William Lawrence “Larry” Chittenden was born in 1862, in Montclair, New Jersey. In his youth, he worked as a New York newspaper reporter until 1883, when he Larry Chittendenmoved to Texas. From there, he sent articles back to New York newspapers. A few years later he went into partnership with his uncle, a former New York congressman, and founded a ranch near Skinout Mountain, seven miles northwest of Anson in Jones County.

Chittenden soon began to write poetry. His best-known poem, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball," was first published in 1890 in the Anson Texas Western. It was based on Christmas dances the author attended in Anson. A collection of Chittenden's Texas poems, Ranch Verses, was published in 1893 by G.P. Putnam’s sons. The book went through sixteen editions and Chittenden was dubbed the "poet-ranchman of Texas."

At first, Christmas dances were not held on a regular basis in Anson, but in 1934, the event was reenacted under the title Cowboys' Christmas Ball. Held in the high school gymnasium, it became an annual event. Old dance customs, steps, and songs were preserved. Men bowed and women curtsied; the music was slow enough to allow a graceful, unhurried style. Their dances were so unique that the group was invited to perform at the 1937 National Folk Festival in Chicago. At the 1938 festival in Washington D.C., they danced on the White House lawn.

Chittenden’s poem was set to music and sung at the Anson ball in 1946 by folklorist Gordon Graham. The song has been performed before the ball ever since. In recent times, singer Michael Martin Murphey made the ball famous again with his rendition of “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball” and played at the event for a number of years. Anson celebrated the ball’s seventy-fifth consecutive year in 2009. The following year, the Christmas Ball and Pioneer Hall, where the event is now held, were named a historical event and site by the Texas Historical Commission, lending credence to Anson’s claim to be the “Home of the Western Dance.”

I hope you enjoy the poet-ranchman’s humorous ode. cowboy gear & holly dividerThe Cowboys' Christmas Ball
To the Ranchmen of Texas

'Way out in Western Texas, where the Clear Fork's waters flow,
Where the cattle are "a-browzin'," an' the Spanish ponies grow;
Where the Northers "come a-whistlin'" from beyond the Neutral Strip;
And the prairie dogs are sneezin', as if they had "The Grip";
Where the cayotes come a-howlin' 'round the ranches after dark,
And the mocking-birds are singin' to the lovely "medder lark";
Where the 'possum and the badger, and rattlesnakes abound,
And the monstrous stars are winkin' o'er a wilderness profound;
Where lonesome, tawny prairies melt into airy streams,
While the Double Mountains slumber, in heavenly kinds of dreams;
Where the antelope is grazin' and the lonely plovers call—
It was there that I attended "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The town was Anson City, old Jones's county seat,
Where they raised Polled Angus cattle, and waving whiskered wheat;
Where the air is soft and "bammy," an' dry an' full of health,
And the prairies is explodin' with agricultural wealth;
Where they print the Texas Western, that Hec. McCann supplies
With news and yarns and stories, uv most amazin' size;
Where Frank Smith "pulls the badger," on knowin' tenderfeet,dancers sm.
And Democracy's triumphant, and might hard to beat;
Where lives that good old hunter, John Milsap, from Lamar,
Who "used to be the Sheriff, back East, in Paris sah!"
'T was there, I say, at Anson with the lovely "widder Wall,"
That I went to that reception, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The boys had left the ranches and come to town in piles;
The ladies—"kinder scatterin'"—had gathered in for miles.
And yet the place was crowded, as I remember well,
'T was got for the occasion, at "The Morning Star Hotel."
The music was a fiddle an' a lively tambourine,
And a "viol came imported," by the stage from Abilene.
The room was togged out gorgeous-with mistletoe and shawls,
And candles flickered frescoes, around the airy walls.
The "wimmin folks" looked lovely-the boys looked kinder treed,
Till their leader commenced yellin': "Whoa! fellers, let's stampede,"
And the music started sighin', an' awailin' through the hall
As a kind of introduction to "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

The leader was a feller that came from Swenson's ranch,
They called him "Windy Billy," from "little Deadman's Branch."
His rig was "kinder keerless," big spurs and high-heeled boots;
He had the reputation that comes when "fellers shoots."
His voice was like a bugle upon the mountain's height;
His feet were animated an' a mighty, movin' sight,
When he commenced to holler, "Neow, fellers stake your pen!
"Lock horns ter all them heifers, an' russle 'em like men.
"Saloot yer lovely critters; neow swing an' let 'em go,
"Climb the grape vine 'round 'em—all hands do-ce-do!Cowboy kissing sm.
"You Mavericks, jine the round-up- Jest skip her waterfall,"
Huh! hit wuz gettin' happy, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"

The boys were tolerable skittish, the ladies powerful neat,
That old bass viol's music just got there with both feet!
That wailin', frisky fiddle, I never shall forget;
And Windy kept a-singin'—I think I hear him yet—
"Oh Xes, chase yer squirrels, an' cut 'em to one side;
"Spur Treadwell to the centre, with Cross P Charley's bride;
"Doc. Hollis down the middle, an' twine the ladies' chain;
"Varn Andrews pen the fillies in big T Diamond's train.
"All pull yer freight together, neow swallow fork an' change;
"'Big Boston,' lead the trail herd, through little Pitchfork's range.
"Purr 'round yer gentle pussies, neow rope 'em! Balance all!"
Huh! hit wuz gettin' active—"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball!"

The dust riz fast an' furious; we all jes' galloped 'round,
Till the scenery got so giddy that T Bar Dick was downed.
We buckled to our partners, an' told 'em to hold on,
Then shook our hoofs like lightning, until the early dawn.
Don't tell me 'bout cotillions, or germans. No sire 'ee!
That whirl at Anson City just takes the cake with me.
I'm sick of lazy shufflin's, of them I've had my fill,
Give me a frontier break-down, backed up by Windy Bill.
McAllister ain't nowhar: when Windy leads the show,
I've seen 'em both in harness, and so I sorter know—
Oh, Bill, I sha'n't forget yer, and I'll oftentimes recall,
That lively gaited sworray—"The Cowboys' Christmas Ball."

cowboy gear & holly divider

No matter how you celebrate this special time of year, love and blessings to you all.

Lyn’s Amazon Author Page

Lyn Horner’s Corner

Christmas Traditions

By: Peggy L Henderson

This post isn’t about anything western related, but since it’s December and almost Christmas, and since I grew up in Germany, I thought I’d explore the history and traditions about a classic Christmas symbol – the Christmas Tree. Where did the idea of bringing an evergreen tree into the house and adorning it with colorful decorations come from?
Long before the advent of Christianity, plant and trees that remained green all year, especially during the cold winter months were considered special to many cultures. They were considered to be symbols of life during a time when many plants were dormant or could not survive the harsh conditions. Many ancient people hung evergreens from their doors and windows to keep evil spirits and illness out of the home.
Legend has it that St. Boniface, a 7th Century monk, used the triangular shape of the evergreen fir tree to teach about the holy trinity when he went to Germany to teach about Christianity.  In the early 16th century, Martin Luther is said to have decorated a small tree with candles to show his children how the stars twinkled in the night.
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition we know today. As early as the 16th century, Germans brought trees into their homes and decorated them.  Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles. The early trees were biblically symbolic of the Paradise Tree in the Garden of Eden.
Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children
Most 19th century Americans found Christmas trees to be strange and odd. The first record of a tree on display was in the 1830’s by the German settlers in Pennsylvania. Even as late as the 1840’s, Christmas trees were seen as a pagan symbol and not accepted by most Americans. In 1846, Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert, were shown in a sketch in a London paper as standing around a Christmas tree with their children.  Since Victoria was so popular among her subjects, it soon became fashionable to imitate her, not only in Britain, but also the fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The Christmas Tree quickly gained popularity, and by the 1890’s, acceptance was on the rise. While the trees in  European homes were usually no taller than 4 feet, Americans liked their trees to reach from floor to ceiling.
In the early 20th Century, Americans decorated their trees mostly with home made ornaments, while the German-Americans used apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn dyed a red color soon joined the decorations, interlaced with nuts and berries.
Christmas also wouldn’t be complete without baking up a batch of Lebkuchen. Formerly called Honigkucken (honeycake), the Lebkucken is the German variation of gingerbread.
Here is a recipe my mother used to make her Lebkuchen every Christmas:
(Bear with me, as I had to translate this from the German into English)

500g Flour
500g honey
3 tablespoons Cocoa powder
3 tablespoons Lebkuchen spice (a ready mix of spices including cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, ginger, mace, cloves, allspice, and maybe a few others, but you can cheat and use apple pie spices or pumpkin pie spice as well)
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons  milk
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

 Sift the flour into a large bowl, and add all dry ingredients. Mix well. Mix the wet ingredients and slowly incorporate into the dry until the dough is smooth.
Pour dough into shallow baking pan lined with wax paper. Bake at 350 degrees (do not preheat the oven) for 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool completely, and cut into squares or use cookie cutter cutouts.
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?
In my Christmas Novella, A Yellowstone Christmas, Aimee Osborne holds firmly to the tradition of a Christmas Tree that she grew up with in the 21st Century, even though she now lives in the 19th Century with her mountain man husband, Daniel Osborne. Growing up among the Indians, he isn’t familiar with her traditions, but indulges her anyways. Here’s a short excerpt:

Daniel shook the snow from the young pine tree, holding it out to the side like a warrior holding a war lance. He planned to join the trunk of the tree to a base of two flat boards of wood and have the tree standing beside the window in the cabin before Aimee was awake. The warmth of the cabin would melt away any remaining frost on the needles.
He was sorry her plans had been interrupted the day before. His wife always looked forward to this time of year, and decorating her tree was one tradition she never wavered from. Daniel participated in the ritual because it brought such joy to Aimee, even if he didn’t fully understand it. As an added incentive for his cooperation with her traditions, Aimee always baked gingerbread on the day of her tree decorating. She’d been nearly beside herself with happiness when she’d seen the aromatic spice at the dry goods shop in St. Louis the first time he took her to the city four years ago. Along with nutmeg and cinnamon, ginger was one of her most guarded pantry items.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sugar Plums Dancing in my Head by Paty Jager

I wrote a post on another blog to reveal what I learned about oranges and Christmas. A person left a comment about sugar plums which of course started my brain questioning, and I learned sugar plums were not at all what I had envisioned.

I believed sugar plums as in the poem by  Clement C. Moore, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” or also known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”  in the line “Visions of sugar plums danced in their heads,” was an actual plum covered in sugar. I mean what else could it be?

It so happens that in the 1600’s a plum meant dried fruit. And a sugar plum can be made of any combination of dried plums(prunes), dried figs, dried apricots, dried dates, and dried cherries. The chopped dried fruit is mixed with chopped nuts, honey and aromatic spices, like anise, caraway, fennel, and cardamom. The mixture is then rolled into balls and coated in sugar.
Photo: Savory Moments

Sugar Plums
from Saveur Magazine
2 cups whole almonds
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven for ten minutes. Set aside to cool and then finely chop. Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Mix almonds, apricots, dates and spice mix in a large bowl. Mix well. Pinch off rounded teaspoon-sized pieces and roll into balls. Dust the sugar plums with powdered sugar and refrigerate in single layers between sheets of wax paper in airtight containers for up to one month.

I don't have any sugar plums in my Christmas Novella, Christmas Redemption, but it is a heartwarming tale of redemption and love at Christmas time.

Van Donovan returns to Pleasant Valley, Oregon where twelve years earlier as a boy of fifteen he left in handcuffs after standing guard for a bank robbery. He's learned a trade and excelled at it and is ready to prove to his father and the town he can amount to something.

Upon his return he learns the fate of the daughter of an innocent man who died in the robbery crossfire. To make amends he takes her out of the saloon and gives her a job, not realizing she'd been squatting in the very building he'd purchased for his business.

Can two battered hearts find solace or will the past continue to haunt their lives?
BUY LINKS:  Amazon        Nook           Smashwords

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ciara Gold presents A Ghost Town in Texas

I had a rough idea for a story and needed a location. In fact,  I wanted a ghost town, something that had been real once so I could give it life again. My mother, being the genealogy buff she is, suggested Indianola, Texas. In it's heyday, the busy port boasted 5000 citizens in 1875 and was the preferred port for immigrants making their way into Texas. My German ancestors came through Indianola on their way to Fredericksburg. The town was also the county seat at the time and brought in more business than Galveston at the time.

Unfortunately, a hurricane of devastating strength made landfall on September 15, 1875. For research, I referred mostly to Brownson Malseh's book, Indianola; The Mother of Western Texas. His research and attention to details really helped shape my story. I don't know if they had a telegraph office in the train depot. Most depots did have them to communicate between other railway stops, but Indianola did have a Signal Station. The Government set it up as on of the first to gather information on weather. During the beginning of the storm, messages flew regarding updates on the hurricane and based on their limited knowledge on how barometric pressure and air streams worked, they surmised the storm headed for Alabama.

Even more interesting was the upcoming trial for Bill Taylor who had murdered William Sutton and Gabriel Slaughter. His actions were a result of the Taylor-Sutton Feud, a bloody affair that resulted in deaths for both sides. The trial brought visitors from all over. They stood on the docks and watched the roiling waves, unsuspecting of the trajedy to come. The worst of the storm hit on September 16th. That previous evening, the train officials had emptied the train's boiler to put her to bed for the night. As the weather grew worse, many crowded into the depot hoping to take the train out of harm's way. Unfortunately, the flood waters had filled the unground cistern with salt water and undermined the tracks.

I found one small reference online that Bill Taylor, who had been let out of his jail cell due to flooding and who promised to return for his trial, actually may have helped save a few refugees who fought the high waters to seek shelter in the courthouse. I don't know if that part is true but I thought it fun and added it into my story. He and two other prisoners actually escaped and survived the hurricane by heading away from town on stolen horses. (They sent word to the owners where the horses could be found.)

When the eye of the hurricane fell upon the hapless citizens, most thought they were out of danger. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come. It took almost twelve hours for the waters to flood the streets, but then the tide swept back toward the ocean with a speed that proved even more devestating. It only took 6 hours for the waters to recede. Though a true accounting of the death toll can't be determined, they suspect that between 150 and 300 citizens lost their lives.

Ever resilient, folks returned to rebuild but when another hurricane struck in 1886, they elected to abandon the town. My husband and I went to visit. All that remains is the foundation for the courthouse and the cemetary. We ventured into Port Lavaca where they have a museum that houses a lot of artifacts from Indianola.

Please enjoy an excerpt from Texas Forged:

Galin rushed upstairs and flew into Aubrey’s bedroom, all thoughts of an encore performance lost with the danger knocking at their door. “Wake up and get dressed.”
She jerked from her sleep laden position. “What’s wrong?”
“We gotta leave – now. Your house isn’t safe.”
“Galin, you’re scaring me.” She pushed aside the blankets and reached for her under things. “Turn around.”
“Turn around? After all we just did?” he asked but complied anyway. “Didn’t mean to sleep so soundly. Figured on taking an hour nap, then forcing you to head toward Victoria with me. Reckoned to borrow two horses from the livery, but it’s too late now.”
She tugged on her pantaloons and shrugged into her chemise. “What are you ranting about?”
“The storm. You best peer outside.”
She scrambled from the bed and squinted between a gap in the boarded slats. Her eyes rounded, and she quickly dove into action. She reached for her gingham skirt, but he stayed her hand.
“Have you got pants of any kind?”
“Pants? Well, no, of course not.”
“Then no petticoat. Your skirts are going to get weighted with water and wrap around your legs. Petticoats will make it worse. Wish I’d thought to bring a pair of Teebon’s britches.”
“Wait. You’re not suggesting we leave the safety of my house, are you?”
He pulled her scantily clad body against his. “Got no choice.”
“Now’s not the time to be stubborn. The water isn’t going to recede; it’s only going to grow deeper. This house’s foundation isn’t strong enough to withstand the currents. Need to find safer shelter to wait out this monster.”
“No. I don’t want to go out in this. We’ll be just fine waiting it out here.” Fear made her recalcitrant.
“Not giving you a choice this time. You got any valuables, best grab ‘em. We’ll tie ‘em to your person somehow.”
He didn’t give her a chance to respond but left her alone to finish dressing. In the meantime, he hurried downstairs to look for anything that might float. Wind pounded the small house, prompting him to hurry. How they had slept through the noise remained a mystery. Spying the wooden kitchen table, he decided it would do as well as anything else for a raft of sorts. They just had to float seven blocks to the courthouse where the greatest chance at survival existed. As close as it sounded, the task would take an eternity before reaching the safer building.
“Aubrey! Let’s go.”
She rushed down the stairs and met him in the kitchen, her face pinched and drawn. “I really think we should stay.”
He pulled her to his chest, loving the way the smell of gardenia clung to her mussed hair. “Trust me.”
“Trust doesn’t come easy for me. You know that.”
“Then let me prove I’m right and that you can trust me.”
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