Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Magical Canyonlands National Park

I became interested in Canyonlands National Park while researching the setting for a dramatic scene in my soon to be released book, BEGUILING DELILAH (Romancing the Guardians, Book 6). Since the park is such a fascinating place, I want to share a little of what I've learned with you today.

Canyonlands National Park; photo in public domain

Located in southeastern Utah near the town of Moab, Canyonlands National Park is a colorful wilderness of canyons, mesas, buttes, arches and spires carved by the Colorado and Green rivers and their tributaries. The largest park in Utah, it was officially designated a national park by legislation and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 12, 1964.

The park is composed of four districts: Island in the Sky to the north, the Needles to the east, the Maze to the west, and the River district (the Green and Colorado.) These areas share a desert atmosphere but each is very different from the others. Author Edward Abbey described the Canyonlands as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth—there is nothing else like it anywhere.”

Rock formations in Needles district; photo by Jesse Varner; creative commons share-alike 2,5 generic

Although many people had never heard of this remote land when the park was established in 1964, prehistoric Native Americans hunted and lived in the area as early as 11,500 B.C. By 1000 B.C. their descendants hunted, gathered and grew corn, and began to establish permanent settlements. These people are known as ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi.)

Ruins of later Puebloan villages have been found in the Needles district, and rock art carved by ancient artists can be seen in all areas of the park. Newspaper Rock Recreation Site, on the road into the Needles district, is a popular example of such petroglyphs.

While the Puebloans and another group called the Fremont People cultivated crops in the canyon bottoms for many years, they abandoned Canyonlands in the 13th century A.D. A 20-year drought is believed to be the cause.

Fur trappers and explorers entered the region in the1800s. John Wesley Powell, a well-known geologist and explorer of the west, traveled the area by river in 1869 and in 1871, resulting in the first detailed geologic and topographic information on the canyons.

Around this time, Spanish vaqueros were herding cattle through the area and some small settlements were established to the west of the park. By 1885, cattle ranching was becoming a big business in southeast Utah, and cattle were beginning to graze in Canyonlands. Some of the ranchers’ descendants still raise cattle in the area.

In the 1950s and 60s, before Canyonlands was declared a national park, prospectors explored there for uranium deposits. Deep shafts were dug and some ore was found, but not enough to be worth the effort of extracting it.

Which brings me to Shafer Canyon. Built by uranium miners to transport ore extracted from the Triassic Chinle Formation, Shafer Canyon Trail is an 18-mile-long dangerous dirt track located in Canyonlands. The mining road followed the path of a large natural rockfall. A series of steep switchbacks with sharp turns, negotiating the trail requires extreme caution for auto drivers and mountain bikers. It's a favorite with Hollywood movie producers.
Shafer Canyon overlook; photo by Dsdugan; creative commons share-alike 4.0 international

A well-known point on the trail is Thelma and Louise Point, where the famous scene in "Thelma & Louise" when the two women drove off the edge, into the canyon, was filmed. The view from the overlook, 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. It’s a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands' sculpted pinnacles and buttes. Numerous commercials and music videos have been filmed there.

Now here's a snippet from a scene set on Shafer Trail in BEGUILING DELILAH. No, it's not a western historical, but this setting is a spectacular example of our amazing western lands. The Navajo hero is trying to protect the French Guardian he went to Paris to find. They are being followed by her ruthless enemies.

They were at the top of a wide canyon. The view was spectacular, but gazing hundreds of feet down into the huge hole in the mountainous terrain stole her breath.
“This is Shafer Canyon,” Leon said. “Do you see the trail down?”
“Oui.” The dirt road winding into the depths along steep switchbacks and around sharp curves made her head spin. “Surely you cannot mean to drive down that,” she said in a strained voice.
“Yes, I do. I have driven this trail before, and remember we have four-wheel drive. We will be fine, but I know it is frightening for you. When you get too scared, close your eyes, okay?”
She didn’t try to answer as he started slowly down the narrow dirt path. There weren’t even any guardrails. Clutching the edges of her seat, she stared at the cliff face near them, refusing to look at the heart-stopping drop on the opposite side of the car.
Leon swore in Navajo, drawing her terrified gaze. “The fools are following us. I hoped they would get cold feet and turn back.”
“Wh-what will you do now?” She barely got the words out.
“Speed up, I guess.”
“What?! No!” She couldn’t believe her ears.
“I must.” Jaw set, he gave the car more gas and they shot forward down the steep grade, only slowing slightly as they rounded a hairpin curve.
“Sweet Danu! Protect us!” Delilah gulped, feeling the car fishtail before straightening out. Bracing one hand against the dashboard, she squeezed her eyes shut, expecting them to go flying over the edge at any second, to die on the rocks far below.
“Slow down!” she begged, heart in her throat.
“It’s okay. I know what I’m doing,” Leon insisted, somehow making it down another incline and around a second death-defying curve.
She cracked her eyes open as they headed down yet another switchback. Daring a glance back, she saw the SUV edge around the last hairpin turn. “Their driver is going much slower than you,” she said.
Leon gave a dry laugh. “Good. He’s got more sense than I thought.”
Perplexed, she braced again as he calmly negotiated a third dangerous curve just as fast as the first two. When they straightened out on the next decline, she asked, “You expected him to keep up with us?”
He shrugged. “I expected him to try . . . and fail.”
She stared at him aghast. “You thought they would go over the edge and be killed!”

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West  Begins” - with her husband and a gaggle of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/Y3aotC
Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette http://eepurl.com/bMYkeX
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

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Sunday, June 18, 2017


Many of you may be surprised to learn about the history of Father’s Day and how recently it was established in the United States.

The first observance of a "Father's Day" was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father, following the Monongah Mining disaster that occurred on December 1907. 361 men lost their lives, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children. Clayton suggested that her pastor Robert Thomas Webb honor all those fathers which they did, but Father’s Day was not celebrated anywhere outside of Fairmont after that first celebration.

Sonora Smart Dodd and Her Father, William Jackson Smart

Later, on June 19, 1910, a Father's Day celebration was held at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington by Sonora Smart Dodd. Her father, a Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart, raised his six children by himself.

After hearing a sermon about Jarvis' Mother's Day in 1909 at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Ms. Dodd told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday to honor them. I am certain, Ms. Dodd was inspired to honor her father who was both mother and father to her and her siblings.

Although she initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday in June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father's Day was celebrated, sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city.

In the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was busy studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. Father’s Day faded into obscurity, even in Spokane. However, in the 1930s, Dodd returned to Spokane and began to promote the celebration once again and raised awareness at a national level. She requested the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present for fathers. Naturally, businesses will rally when there is money to be had. By 1938, she had the help of the Father's Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men's Wear Retailers to consolidate and organize the holiday's commercial promotion. Americans resisted the holiday for its first few decades, viewing it as nothing more than an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother's Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. However, the merchants remained resilient and even incorporated these attacks into their advertisements. Sort of reminds me of the things which are said about Valentine’s Day and, these days, about the commercialism of Christmas. Even into the mid-1980s, the Father's Day Council wrote, "Father's Day has become a Second Christmas for all the men's gift-oriented industries."

President Woodrow Wilson

So, now we get to the politics and money part. A bill to establish national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak at a Father's Day celebration. He wanted to make it an officially recognized federal holiday, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized. US President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed throughout the entire nation, but he stopped short at issuing a national proclamation. Two earlier attempts to formally recognize the holiday had been defeated by Congress. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a Father's Day proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, “thus singling out just one of our two parents". Now the part that amazed me: 

President Lyndon Johnson

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. 

President Richard Nixon

Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

Father's Day is celebrated worldwide to recognize the contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children. This day celebrates fatherhood and male parenting. Although it is celebrated on a variety of dates worldwide, many countries observe this day on the third Sunday in June.

Pop and his dog, Guess

It seems to me my family celebrated Father’s Day all my life. I had no idea it was not really official until 1972. I’m glad my family celebrated Father’s Day even before the official date because Pop was the kind of father who raised his daughters to be self-reliant, strong, and well mannered. He was my touchstone when I needed help figuring out the world and the people in it. I miss his wise council and his confident strength. Happy Father’s Day, Pop.

I honor all of you who are fathers or who have fathers either in this world or in Heaven, HAPPY FATHER'S DAY.  

Author, Sarah J. McNeal

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Friday, June 16, 2017

Harvesting Wheat (and Faith) by Linda Hubalek

Combines are running full blast to get the wheat harvested before the next storm blows into the state. Rain is good for the row crops (milo, corn, and soybeans are grown in our area), but not when you need to get the wheat harvested.
Not only must the combines maneuver through the field without being stuck in mud, big trucks must drive next to the combine in the field while the wheat seed is augured out of the combine bin into the truck’s bed.
Then what happens to this grain? The loaded truck drives to a nearby grain elevator to unload the wheat, and then back to the field for the next load. Eventually semi-trucks will move the wheat from the storage elevators to rail cars or ships to travel where it will be used. This Kansas wheat might be in your next loaf of bread or bowl of pasta, whether you live in the United States or overseas.
It takes a lot of hard and fast work—and faith—that you’ll get the wheat cut while it’s at the right ripe stage. Hail can break the straw stems so that it can’t be cut, or continuing rain can cause the wheat seed to sprout while the plants are still standing, and ruin it.
Farming is always a gamble but it seems to be intensified during wheat harvest. No forty-hour weeks now. The combine is running continually until the straw is too tough to cut—which could be anywhere from 6 pm to 1 am. During the downtime (early mornings) machinery needs to be repaired and maintained, besides whatever else needs to be done on the farm.
Uprooting their families and moving to Kansas was a gamble for the Swedish immigrants too, just like wheat harvest. The Planting Dreams series (with Harvesting Faith being the third book) is dedicated to the people that homesteaded on the Kansas prairie to make their living by farming.
After 148 years from my immigrant ancestor’s arrival, my family is still farming and harvesting wheat today.

Want to see a video of a neighbor's last year's wheat harvest? Watch their Peterson Farm Bros video (it starts after the commercial.)

Thanks for stopping by the Sweethearts of the West Blog. 
Linda Hubalek

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chaco Canyon and The Turquoise Legacy


            Chaco Canyon and The Turquoise Legacy. To win an e-copy of both books—My Heart Will Find Yours and Flames on the Sky get your comments in TODAY! Books will be awarded on June 17, 2017.
It’s fascinating for those of us who write flying by the seat of our pants when ideas and settings fall into our laps. I’d written My Heart Will Find Yours, a time travel romance that involves an antique turquoise locket. It has magical powers and transports Texanna Keith back to 1876 Waco, Texas. I wanted to write a sequel and knew the story would be set in the present, would include time travel, and revolve around an ancestor of Texanna’s. My research began with turquoise in the Southwest and boy-o-boy, I hit a goldmine—Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.
Interestingly enough, my husband and I had visited Santa Fe and Madrid, New Mexico and been on part of the Turquoise Trail, though unfortunately we did not visit the Carrillo Mines where the Anasazi of Chaco Canyon obtained most of their turquoise back around 1000 AD. Chaco Canyon was a center of trade and prosperous during their time trading turquoise for items not available to them in the canyon. Remains of parrots, macaws, seashells and other artifacts indicate traders came from far distances to barter with the Anasazi.
The Anasazi occupied Chaco Canyon between 850 AD and 1100 AD. No one knows exactly where they went or what happened to them. There are several theories surrounding the mystery. The one I prefer to believe is they migrated to live with other Pueblo tribes.
Chaco Canyon is a mysterious place and covers a vast amount of space. It includes ten buildings, some of which are believed to have been five stories high. “Pueblo Bonito also the center of an elaborate solar calendar:  all of the buildings are either part of the solar calendar that traces the 18.5-year lunar cycle.”
A large rock structure, Fajada Butte, is seen as you enter the canyon. There archaeologist discovered a sun calendar that has been named “The Anasazi Dagger.” “Concentric circles carved in the rock, with slabs of rock placed in just such a way that would make the light passing through turn into a dagger which, when it hit the circles would reveal the solstices and equinoxes.”
It is now believed that the entire Chaco Canyon, the way that its buildings were placed, the directions of the roads, etc. indicate they were aligned so as to line up with the arch of the sun and moon on important dates of the year.
Though Pueblo Bonito is the most impressive structure, my story, Flames on the Sky, revolves around Una Vida as it is nearer the visitor’s center and the setting was perfect for the scenes I created back in 1000 AD.
If you’ve not visited Chaco Canyon, you should stop by if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

http://www.jqjacobs.net/southwest/chaco.html - photo of Fajada Butte and photo 2 of sundagger.

Links of interest:

http://www.exploratorium.edu/chaco/HTML/canyon.html - this site has interactive videos showing solstice patterns and lighting changes in the canyon.

Here is an excerpt from Flames on the Sky, the second book in the Turquoise Legacy.

“Yes, you need to tell me about the dreams. They started at the time you received the necklace, right?”
Madison nodded. “How did you know?”
“I assumed the ancient Elders would haunt you, but when Lonan called yesterday, I knew so for a fact.” Her smile was sympathetic. “Tell me about them.”
Lilly’s eyes lit with excitement as Madison talked. When she finished, the older woman leaned back and closed her eyes.
Lonan’s brow was furrowed, his mouth pinched. “What did you mean when you said, ‘You are the one’?”
She pierced him with an intent look. “Did not Madison say you were the very image of the warrior in her dream? The prophecy requires that someone from the past, which is you, Son, be chosen to be Madison’s protector.” Lilly turned to Madison.
Oh, no. I dont think I want to hear this. She held up her hands and shook her head. “No—”
“Yes, Madison, with hair of fire, whether you like it or not, the gods chose you, someone from the future, to find the third stone and reunite the twins with the mother stone. Together, you two will find a way to consign the evil one to the pit below Mother Earth, where he belongs.”

Please leave a comment. On the 17th, a name will be drawn for both books in e-book format.
Thank you for stopping by and Happy Reading and Writing!