Tuesday, October 30, 2012


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

When it comes to the subject of Halloween, there are so many customs and traditions associated with the holiday that I was faced with a mighty big challenge about what I should write about. I decided to focus on three aspects: a traditional game you will not only find in the American West but other parts of the United States, the Pagan origins of Halloween, and the one city in the United States that showcases the best of Halloween each October.

Snap Apple Night:

Have you ever wondered where the traditions and games we often celebrate on Halloween first originated? For example, who thought up bobbing for apples? When and where did that particular game make its chilling debut? Picture the scene. Whilst planning a party to celebrate All Hallows Eve, along with tasty food, music and dancing, ideas are requested for games which might add to the evening’s merriment.

So, naturally, someone (whose name shall go down in infamy) suggests filling a big wooden tub with cold water and apples. Participants are then required to have their hands tied behind their backs, and told to try and grab an apple with their teeth as quickly as possible. Please note the apple must remain firmly affixed between the participant’s teeth as they lift their now drenched head to the delight of onlookers. Sometimes called apple bobbing, it is also known as dooking for apples in Scotland (where it is expected the head be submerged whilst trying to retrieve an apple). In Ireland, the game is known as Snap Apple. In fact, another word for Halloween (especially in County Kerry) is Snap Apple Night.

In the above painting by Daniel Maclise, the Irish artist captured the merriment and festivities of celebrating Snap Apple Night, including the game of snap apple. Maclise painted this piece from memory after attending a Halloween Party in Blarney, Ireland on 31 October 1832. Although young boys are gathered about the tub of water in Maclise’s painting for the ‘fun of it’, there is another connotation associated with the game based on the history of the apple tree, pagan beliefs, and romantic superstition.

Long, long ago, when the Romans brought the apple tree to ancient Britain, their fertility goddess Pomona was associated with the fruit-bearing tree. In fact, her name itself is derived from the Latin word for fruit, pomum, and the French word for apple, pomme. As fate would have it, since the Romans had associated fertility with the apple tree, so did the Celts. How, you might ask yourself? The answer can be found by slicing an apple in half. Ancient Celts saw that the seeds formed a pentagram-like shape and since the pentagram was the Celtic symbol for fertility, it was naturally determined that apples could (drumroll please) "determine marriages”.

In the "romantic" version of the Snap Apple Game, apples were suspended from a string. The same rule of arms being tied behind the back of each participant applied. Allegedly, if you were the first person to bite the apple, you would be the next person to marry. Other customs include being the first person to bite into the apple in which a coin had been hidden; in which case, you would be the first person at the party to sport a broken tooth. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. One can only assume the coins were added as an alternate tangible prize rather than the rather iffy divination that matrimony was in your near future. After all, a young miss might be content with the idea of becoming a bride whereas a young man might prefer the coin.

All fun aside, bobbing for apples is not without risk. Apart from catching a severe cold by repeatedly dunking your head into a bucket of cold water, there is a strong argument these days for cross-contamination of the water and apples among the participants. Of course, skilled mystery writer Agatha Christie also noted a rather glaring potential risk by using the chilling sport to drown a victim in her 1969 Hercule Poirot novel Hallowe’en Party.


As for Halloween itself, most of us have heard about the association with the Pagan holiday of Samhain(pronounced sah-win). A medieval Celtic festival, Samhain was considered (and still is by practicing Pagans) the most important day of their calendar. It is, in fact, the Celtic New Year. However, because of the time it took place, October 31st – November 1st, Samhain marked the end of harvesting (with all its blessings) and turned one’s thoughts toward preparing for the dark days of winter ahead. From a more paranormal perspective, Samhain is one of two days in the Pagan calendar (the other is Beltane) when the door to the Celtic Otherworld is opened, allowing souls of the dead to revisit their homes and loved ones. Faerie folk were also believed to cross the threshold from their world into ours.

However, because harmful spirits and mischievous faeries could also enter the mortal world, costumes were often worn in the highlands and isles of Scotland, Ireland and Wales, to disguise one’s self and provide protection from harm. Hence, the association between wearing costumes then and now cannot be ignored.

Bonfires were lit to ward off evil. Even the art of carving and lighting pumpkins and turnips can be traced back to Samhain as a means to ward off evil. The practice of “trick or treaters” going door-to-door has been tied to the Samhain traditions whereby boys would go to neighboring homes asking for food and fuel donations for the traditional bonfire. By contributing to this cause, one was certain to have good fortune.

However, Christian ties to Samhain were established in the 8th century by Pope Gregory III when he proclaimed November 1st of each year to be celebrated as All Saint’s Day. Sometimes called All Souls Day, this relocated holiday (it was originally held in May) was created to honor all saints and martyrs to the Christian faith. Strangely enough, it seems many of the Pagan traditions of Samhain were ‘grandfathered’ into the Christian Saint's day. For example, the day before All Saint’s Day became known as All Hallows’ Eve, and it was believed that on this night the barrier between the living and the dead was very thin – very much like the Pagan belief of the door to the Otherworld being opened on Samhain.


Salem, Massachusetts may be known as Witch City for 11 months of the year, but every October it becomes Halloween Town. Beginning October 1st of each year, amidst ghostly fog drifting in off the bay and chilled autumn winds sweeping down narrow streets where 17th and 18th century houses still bear the names of their original owners, throngs of visitors gather together to celebrate Halloween.

Something is happening every day in Salem during the month of October. The festivities include Haunted Harbor Cruises (offered by Mahi Mahi Cruises) where passengers tour Salem Sound and are entertained with tales of "ruthless pirates, haunted lighthouses and living monsters who wreak havoc on local ships to this day!" The stories may be chilling, but the ship is heated. Other activities include Ghost Hunting Excursions, a variety of Masquerade and Halloween Balls, Psychic Fairs, Ghost Walking Tours, and Trolley Rides that regale after-dark passengers with the spooky history of Salem.

You'll find magic shows and carnival rides that would tempt Harry Potter himself. Besides, in what other town can you find the New England Pirate Museum, the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum, and the Witch History Museum. There is even a shop that will custom make fangs for you!

Salem is an enchanting city in daylight, too, with stunning historical architecture, wonderful restaurants, beautiful New England scenery (especially in autumn), and one of the nation's largest museums, the Peabody Essex Museum.

So, whether your idea of celebrating Halloween includes a visit to a local haunted house, a stroll through a spooky cornfield maze, a costume party, chaperoning your favorite disguised youngster as they ring doorbells and recite the tried and true saying “Trick or Treat”, or just stay at home and sit back with a mug of spiced apple cider while reading a good ghost story, have a wonderful All Hallow’s Eve, a Blessed Samhain, and a truly Happy and Safe Halloween!

As always, thank you for stopping by Sweethearts of the West blog. ~ AKB

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Who likes the stories of King Arthur and his knights? I do! I have been fascinated with the entire legend of Camelot since I was a child. The Sword In the Stone, the Disney cartoon movie, was a favorite when I was young.

As I got older, I couldn’t get enough of the movie musical, Camelot, with Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, and Richard Harris in the starring roles. I valiantly tried to struggle through T. H. White’s “The Once and Future King” but finally had to admit, it was too heavy for a twelve-year-old. As an adult, I enjoyed it, along with Mary Stewart’s series of the Arthurian legend as told from Merlin’s POV—a “must read” set if you’re a Camelot fan.

So, the story I wrote for the “Six Guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas” anthology is one that is dear to my heart in many ways. Even the title, “The Keepers of Camelot”, was not something I had to think about for long.

Legend says that Arthur will rise once more when the world needs him the most. But in

my story, something goes awry, and Arthur has returned in many times, many places, throughout the centuries since his final battle.

The story opens with Arthur on a stagecoach in the American west—Indian Territory—of the 1880’s. But in this life, he comes across two people he’d never thought to see again—Lancelot and Guinevere. Why are they here—and how will it all end…this time?

The stage is attacked by Apaches minutes before the driver gets the passengers to the safety of the next stage station. Though they’re safe for the time being, a nerve-wracking Christmas Eve is in store as the Apaches wait for them outside.

Arthur has a plan. He’s seen the fearless leader of the Apache—the man they call “Sky Eyes”, a man he knew as Lancelot du Lac a hundred lifetimes ago.

Will Lance’s prowess as a warrior combine with his legendary arrogance to seal the fate of the people inside the station—including Guinevere, the woman he gave up everything for in the past?

One young boy in the group unknowingly holds the key to Lance’s decision. But will the glorious legend of Camelot be remembered?

There are some excellent stories in this book by many great western writers, including Troy Smith, Courtney Joyner, Robert Randisi, L.J. Washburn, James Reasoner, and many more. They’re all paranormal in some way, all about Christmas, and they all take place in a western setting.

I'll be giving away a pdf copy of SIX GUNS AND SLAY BELLS to one lucky commenter. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address in your comment so I can reach you if I draw your name. Drawing will be held on Monday evening, October 29. If you just can't wait to see if you won, this collection makes a great gift for others—or for yourself! http://www.amazon.com/Six-guns-Slay-Bells-Creepy-Christmas/dp/1478189169/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351380533&sr=1-1&keywords=six+guns+and+slay+bells

All my other short stories, anthologies, novels and novellas can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson

Friday, October 26, 2012


What makes you think of fall? Cooler weather? Changing leaves? A few weeks ago my daughter was walking down the aisle of a well-known drug store chain. A woman clasped a package of candy to her chest and said, “Candy corn! It must be fall!”

Tasty Traditional Treat

Are you one of the many who consider candy corn a sign of fall? I admit I adore the tiny candies. October 30 is National Candy Corn Day. Truly! You know I wouldn't lie to you. For those of us over the age of 25  (and some of us are way over that age), when you think of Halloween candy you probably think of candy corn, those sugary little spikes of Halloween cheer. They've been around for as long as I remember and even as long as my grandparents remember, but did you know that they were invented in the 1880's?

George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company, invented the popular confection in the 1880s and Wunderle Candy Company of Philadelphia was the first to go into commercial production of candy corn. However, the company most closely associated with this wonderful confection is the Goelitz Confectionery Company. Founder Gustav Goelitz, a German immigrant, began commercial production of the treat in 1898 in Cincinnati and is today the oldest manufacturer of the Halloween icon.The Goelitz Candy Company is now also Jelly Belly Candy Company (Yum!) and still produces candy corn today.

A serving of Candy Corn is nineteen pieces, and 140 calories and has zero grams of fat. More than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year. That equates to nearly 9 billion pieces—enough to circle the moon nearly 21 times if laid end-to-end. But who's laying it end to end? At our house we're eating that sweet stuff.
Trick or Treat for Candy Corn

When candy corn first appeared, it was popular among farmers because of its agrarian look. The tri-color design was considered revolutionary and the public went crazy for it. Lack of machinery meant that candy corn was only made seasonally from March to November. Candy corn has remained unchanged for more than 100 years and is a favorite at Halloween.

                                                          How is Candy Corn Made?

In 1900, it was the job of many men to produce candy corn for eight months of the year. Sugar, corn syrup and other ingredients were cooked into a slurry in large kettles. Fondant and marshmallow were added to give a smooth texture and bite. The 45 pounds of hot candy was poured into buckets called runners. Men dubbed stringers walked backwards pouring the candy into cornstarch trays imprinted with the kernel shape. A strenuous job at best before the days of air-conditioning and electric fans. It took three passes to make the white, yellow and orange colors. Perishability prevented widespread distribution. Originally, candy corn was delivered by wagon in wooden boxes, tubs and cartons. I prefer my candy corn in a nice sterile wrapper, don't you?

All this strenuous labor wasn't lost on the public. It's tricolor design was considered revolutionary for its time and people flocked to buy them. Their shape was also a big selling point for the mostly agrarian population of the early 1900's. So popular was candy corn that companies tried other vegetable shapes including turnips. (What? Candy turnips? Oh, well, I like the little candy pumpkins.) The Goelitz Candy Company even had to turn orders down for lack of production capacity.

The process of making candy corn is very similar today, but now machines do most of the work, as shown in the video above. Manufacturers use a method called the corn starch molding process. A tray containing depressions is filled with corn starch. Candy corn is made from the bottom to the top and in three-color passes. First, the depression is filled one-quarter full with yellow syrup and allowed to partially set. Next, the orange syrup is added. The mold is then topped off with the white syrup and is cooled. The candy now can gel together. After is it has finished cooling, the trays are emptied and the little candy corns are ready to be eaten.

During WWI, Herman Goelitz, son of Gustav, moved to Fairfield, California to start his own company, the Herman Goelitz Candy Company. Their product? Candy Corn! The fortune of the Halloween treat would rise and fall many times as recession and boom, war and peace, and sugar rationing affected the humble confection. Throughout the hard times it was the sale of candy corn that kept the companies afloat. In the sugar crisis of the mid 1970's when the price of raw sugar skyrocketed, the company had to borrow heavily to buy sugar to keep up production. After the crisis, the market plummeted. Many companies went out of business. It was demand for candy corn that kept Goelitz from bankruptcy.

Today you won't have to look very hard to find candy corn. Computer and machine aided production have made them a plentiful staple no matter what time of year. So plentiful in fact that according to the National Confectioners Association, in 2001 candy manufacturers sold more than 20 million pounds of candy corn. Roughly 8.3 billion kernels! A popular variation called "Indian corn" features a "special" chocolate brown wide end, orange center and pointed white tip, often available around Thanksgiving. During the Halloween season, blackberry cobbler candy corn can be found in eastern Canada. Corn confectioners have introduced additional color variations suited to other holidays. Red, white, and green corn is available for Christmas. Red, pink, and white is sold at Valentines. Pastels corn is produced for Easter. Very impressive for a product that has remained virtually unchanged for well over 100 years.

While you're munching your candy corn and other Halloween goodies, why not read a good book? Any of our authors offers a great read. Ahem, you might even try my latest release, HIGH STAKES BRIDE.



video: The History Channel via You Tube

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It will soon be time to vote...by Lauri Robinson


I’m not going to suggest who you should vote for, try to convince you which party is right or wrong, which candidate will make better decisions, or begin to justify the billions of dollars spent on elections across the United States. But I am going to ask you to please vote.

The presidential election in November 1920 was the first time women in all states were allowed to exercise their right to vote. Only one woman from the 1848 convention, where the right was first proposed, was still alive. Charlotte Woodward was eighty-one years old when she proudly cast her vote—72 years after the battle began.

The right wasn’t gained easily—women were incarcerated, beaten, tortured, and murdered. It was a long and bloody battle, one that is often overlooked or forgotten when Election Day rolls around.

I touch on this issue in several books, including Mail Order Husband, where readers are introduced to Victoria Claflin-Woodhull, the first woman to run for the Presidency. The Equal Rights Party nominated her in 1872. The book also mentions how Woodhull spent Election Day in jail.

The women who initiated and fought for decades for this right weren’t fighting for themselves. They fought for women kind, so future generations would have more say, more opportunities to live a life of equality.

So in 2012—92 years after the right was granted, I’m asking all women to please respect the women who changed our lives. Honor their trials, tribulations and deaths by voting.

A final voting tidbit—Mickey Mouse, via write in lines on ballots, has won elections across the United States. The cartoon character has won everything from school board elections to state Governor. The only election he hasn’t won is the Presidency of the United States. The fact that an 84-year-old mouse (no matter how loveable he is) wins any election should be an embarrassment to all political parties, and not what I believe our foremothers fought for.

Vote! Put your mark on the ballet and proudly wear your little red stickers! 

Monday, October 22, 2012


By Guest Author Suzie Grant

Thank you to the ladies of the Sweethearts of the West blog for asking me to join them today. Being here with like-minded western lovers is a real pleasure.

My kids and I are planning our bucket list trip to find buried treasure. We’ve listed all the important things we’ll need for our trip, a list of possible places to go, and now all we need to do is make a decision. What brought all this on? Well, we were discussing past vacations to ho-hum places like the beach or the mountains, and we decided that next year we’re totally going to blow the lid off our vacation and do something incredibly crazy: like search for buried treasure. How cool is that? I mean how many people can say they’ve done that?

Forget the fact that we’ve never done anything remotely exciting before in our lives, other than camping for boy scouts, and forget the fact that we have no clue what we’re searching for, we’re going for it.

Luckily, we have at least one of us who has done some kind of survival training in their lives. Hubby is ex Cavalry in the military and I love his military speak. I mean how sexy is it when he answers me with a “negative,” or even when he’s spelling something out using the military phonetic alphabet. I love it. But I digress.

He’s trained in special operations stuff…mumbo jumbo…and luckily has taken control of the “what-we-need-to-survive-in-the-wilds list” because obviously the hair dryer I decided to bring doesn’t quite fit with his idea of “roughing it.” Sigh. I’m not sure I like this idea anymore, but I’m trying to stay optimistic here.

Do keep in mind I’ve only been out of my home state of NC a handful of times so any trip is an adventure for me. My kids are 20, 16, and 4 yrs old. All boys. So needless to say they’re all for the “roughing it” mantra that has sprung up in our conversations as of late. Me…not so much. I like to write about epic cowboy adventures but I don’t like to live them. So I’m letting you all know beforehand if I happen to keel over during next year’s vacation, you’ll all know exactly who to blame. *Points finger at the military drill sergeant who lives in my house.*

So where are we going? Well, I just released my new book THE DEVIL’S DEFIANCE, book two in the Devil Ryder series, and it’s an Indiana Jones meets the Wild, Wild West story. I researched and fell in love with the legend of the “San Saba Mines.” So we’re discussing a trip to San Antonio. We’re definitely going to see the river walk, the Alamo, and while we’re there we’re going to search for buried treasure in Meynard county near the San Saba river. Of course, we really don’t expect to find anything but it’ll be fun just to go hiking near the river and pretend. I do have a fairly vivid imagination if I do say so myself.

What is the San Saba mine? A military expedition from Spain headed by one Lieutenant-General Don Bernado de Miranda was sent north from San Fernando (now known as San Antonio) to search for minerals and assess the strength of the local tribes. The slow moving expedition set up camp near Honey Creek and several of his men found a natural cave and cavern, discovering several thick veins of silver inside. While Miranda sent samples back to his superiors in San Fernando, the Presidio was built, as well as a mission, although Miranda was sent off to another military expedition before he could see his venture to fruition.

Though it has never been confirmed, legend has it that the Spanish missionaries started the extracting and smelting of the ore without Spain’s approval, and so, the legend begins. On the morning of March 16th, 1758 the mission was attacked by a large force of Comanche Indians, burning it to the ground. The Presidio was manned by only a small number of men and was incapable of sending help to the missionaries. So the secrets of the San Saba mine are forever lost. There are more rumors that the cave has been found over the years, once in the 1830’s, again in 1878 by a drifter named Medlin, and once more in 1887 as you can read here in a New York Times article written in June 18th 1887.

The history is fascinating behind this little mystery and hundreds, perhaps thousands of treasure hunters, geologists, prospectors, and adventurers have searched for the lost mine. So you can imagine that little old me, three rowdy boys, one drill sergeant, and a tiny three-legged Shih-tzhu will likely never find the cave. But! We’re happy to go exploring, camping, and just plain searching out the wonders of history while we try. As of now we’re still in the planning stages of our trip and the drill sergeant has a heck of a fight if he thinks for one rotten, stinkin’ second that I am not going to find somewhere to camp where I can at least have a decent shower! ☺

Here’s a blurb of THE DEVIL’S DEFIANCE and I hope you enjoy my ragged, hair pulling, planning of a future-trip that is looking less and less likely as a go. So tell me what is the most unusual family trip you’ve ever taken?

                                                        THE DEVIL’S DEFIANCE

New York City Lawyer Garret Ryder takes the law into his own hands when a vicious killer gets away with murdering his family. Nothing will stop him from delivering the justice denied him by the law he vowed to uphold. But when the killer kidnaps a judge’s daughter, his childhood sweetheart, he must decide if any price is too high to exact revenge.

San Antonio socialite Sophia Maria Osbourne doesn’t trust easily. With a dirty politician and a blackmailing judge for a father, she learned not to rely on anyone but herself. But when her father’s shady dealings lead to her kidnapping, she must place her faith in the man who stole her heart long ago, if she hopes to survive.

Suzie’s life has been one big adventure. Her childhood was full of reading the classics like TREASURE ISLAND, ROBINSON CRUSOE, and THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON tales. In fact her mother has another word for her “stories” but to this day, Suzie continues to dream up adventures of her own.

As a pregnant teen her adventure became a life-defining moment as she struggled to survive and raise a child on her own. During those rocky years writing became an emotional outlet. After a very long divorce she again found herself climbing that rocky path of life and learned to live by a single quote: “Obstacles are placed in our path to determine whether we really wanted something, or just thought we did.” By Dr. Harold Smith. Suzie looks forward to each new obstacle.

Taking life by the proverbial horns, Suzie now lives happily ever after with her husband, three boys and one little Shih tzu named Peppy Le’Pew in NC. One day she plans to retire and sail along the east coast, an adventurer to the end.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Wichita Mountains, an Oklahoma Treasure

I first visited the Wichita Mountains a number of years ago. I’d gotten the bright idea to write a novel about a woman geologist from Scotland who explores the Wichitas. That book never came to fruition, but I’m putting my photos and research about the mountains to good use in my WIP, Dearest Druid (Texas Druids, Vol. III.)

Elk Mountain, Wichitas
Elk Mountain, Wichita Mountains; photo from Wikipedia Commons;
licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The Wichitas are among the oldest mountains in the United States. Formed some 550 million years ago, they have weathered and eroded through time. Yet, they still rise over 2,000 feet above sea level and more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape. True, they can’t compare to the majestic Rockies, but seeing them rise out of the Oklahoma prairie is mighty impressive.

More impressive is the mountains’ role in history. For decades, even centuries, they were home to elk, dear, wolves and other native species. A natural pass running through the mountains, now called the Wichita Mountain Byway, provided access for Indians, white settlers and herds of buffalo to the south Oklahoma prairie, the Red River and Texas. When the Army needed an outpost from which to launch campaigns against Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne and other Indian raiders on the southern plains, Fort Sill was built in the foothills of the Wichitas. The fort is the only military post dating from the Indian Wars on the south plains that remains active today.

Old Fort Sill
Fort Sill, 1889; courtesy of the Library of Congress
Rainy Mountain, a lone outlier of the Wichita chain, became famous with the publication of N. Scott Momaday’s book The Way to Rainy Mountain, a poetic glimpse into Kiowa Indian ways and their mystical beliefs. When the Kiowa were forced to give up their wandering life as hunters and raiders, the tribe settled near Rainy Mountain on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation.

The way to Rainy Mountain

Established in 1901, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the oldest protected wildlife area under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s management. It played a large part in saving the American bison (buffalo) from extinction. In 1907, the American Bison Society delivered fifteen bison from the New York Zoological Park to the refuge. When the animals arrived, they were greeted by Indians and whites alike. Comanche chief Quanah Parker is said to have cried at the sight of them. The refuge is now home to about 650 bison. Many other species, including a herd of Texas Longhorn cattle also live in the refuge.
Longhorn cattle in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Now here's a taste of Dearest Druid, planned publication: March, 2013

Rose Devlin, youngest of the three Devlin siblings, is accompanying Choctaw Jack in an urgent attempt to save his mother's life, using Rose's healing gift. Due to past tragedies, she is fearful of men and doesn't fully trust Jack, while he is fighting his attraction to her because she's white.

Riding away from Fort Sill, Rose gazed at the jumble of mountains extending northwest from the fort. “What are those mountains called?” she inquired, lagging a bit behind Jack.

“The Wichitas. Stick close now,” he ordered, glancing at her over his shoulder. When she obediently caught up, he kneed his horse into a lope, and she followed suit.

She’d never seen mountains before and couldn’t keep from staring at them. They weren’t terribly high, surely not as tall as the majestic Rockies to the far west, which she’d seen pictured on postcards and travelers’ Guides. Cloaked in shades of gold, green and brown, these peaks reminded her of dignified old women basking in the sun. She giggled at the thought and wished she could explore them.

“Toppah!” Jack shouted, giving her a start.

“Aye?” Responding without thinking to the Indian name, she jerked her gaze away from the rocky heights. To her surprise, Jack had stopped and turned his mount to face her, some distance ahead.

There was no sign of the gentle smile he’d given her a short time ago. With a fist planted on his thigh, he scowled fiercely. “I said stick close, didn’t I?”

She kneed Brownie, hurriedly closing the gap between them. “Aye, and I’m sorry. ’Tis simply that –”

“You’re not out for a pleasure ride, woman. This is rough country.”

Pulling abreast of him, she watched him warily, half expecting him to cuff her for being so thoughtless. “I know, but --”

“And I’m not talkin’ just hills and gullies. I mean bears and panthers that sometimes come down out of those mountains. I mean the wolves I already warned you about, and poisonous snakes that can kill you with one bite. Cross paths with any of ’em, and that stallion’s liable to shy and dump you on your backside if you don’t stay alert. You want that to happen?”

His mention of snakes made her quake. “No,” she muttered, eyes downcast.

After a brief silence, he added more calmly, “There’s something else you’d best keep in mind. We’re on the Comanche-Kiowa-Apache Reservation. You don’t want to be trailing behind if we meet some braves who’ve had too much firewater. From now on, keep up. All right?”

Feeling like a fool, she nodded meekly.

Darlin’ Druid --Texas Druids book 1:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ASNDES (Kindle)

Dashing Druid -- Texas Druids book 2:

White Witch (prequel novella):


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Look Out, Halloween Is Comin'!

I love Halloween. You get to dress up in costumes and pig out on candy. A lucky bunch get to go to parties or carnavels. Lot's of fun there. another wonderful t5hing about Halloween is the ghost stories and scary movies. Oh yeah. I'm lovin' those.
My most recent release is a short story titled, The Curse of the Amber Tomb, in the 2012 Fall/Paranormal Collection by Victory Tales Press. Some very talented writers have some wonderful stories in the collection.
Now here are the blurbs from all the stories included in the collection:
Love is Eternal by Cate Abbott
Falling in love with a man from work is dangerous enough. What could Angelique possibly be thinking when she goes on a weekend trip – over Halloween, no less – with this dark haired, mysterious male?

Shattered Illusions by Karen Michelle Nutt
Blood stained floors appear and disappear, low whispering voices greet her as a storm causes the lights to flicker. Brona must put her fears behind her and unravel the mystery that haunts the house.

Night of Magic by Stephanie Burkhart
It's 800 A.D. on the Emerald Isle. Samhain. Dark. Dangerous. Powerful. Dare Finn brave the bonfires to bring Aithne home?

Magic Words by Gerald Costlow
Hundreds of years ago, Felipe was cursed to be an immortal frog. Now only the lovely Evelyn can break his curse – if he can convince her that the handsome man she met just this morning is not crazy.

The Curse of the Amber Tomb by Sarah J. McNeal
Edward, a handsome photographer who is afraid of heights and Kate, a lady archeologist afraid to love, must face their fears when they discover a deadly secret in an ancient tomb.
Buy Link:  (digital and paperback available)
Also available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and all other online bookstores.

Here's a fun recipe for Haunted Popcorn:
A treat for watching scary movies or reading stories of ghosts and beasties.
Haunted Popcorn Mix

Ready in: Under 30 minutes
Serves/Makes: 12 cups
4 cups popcorn
2 cups Cocoa Puffs cereal
2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups semi sweet chocolate pieces
1 cup peanuts
1 cup raisins
Combine all ingredients.
148 calories, 8 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein per 1/2 cup. This recipe is low in sodium. Weight Watcher’s points: 4 per 1 cup

This Cocoa Crunchy Snack Mix recipe  serves/makes 12 cups
Happy Halloween Ya'll

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tanya Hanson's Afternoon at Buckhorn Museum...

Okay, I’m not a hunter and for the most part, do not consider the killing of animals a “sport.” Not judging anybody. I’m just a card carrying member of the Defenders of Wildlife and have “adopted” a sea turtle, a wolf, and a polar bear in the wild. And I gotta admit seeing once-living, once-magnificent creatures stuffed for display kinda creeps me out. That said, the animals at the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, San Antonio, are something to see. And I truly admit I enjoyed my visit there.
Longhorn at Buckthorn

On my trip to San Antonio a while back (and my first visit ever to Texas!), I made the trek to Buckhorn’s. It was walking distance from my hotel, and I had GPS to boot. Today you can see over 500 different critters from around the world.  The displays began as the private collection of Albert Friedrich (1864-1928) in 1881. His dad was a master cabinetmaker whose designs expanded into horn furniture. Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm are said to have owned the senior Friedrich’s pieces. Albert began his own collection when he was seventeen.

Albert eventually acquired a saloon on Dolorosa Street in his native San Antonio, and put his collection on display. In 1890, he purchased a seventy-eight point buck for $100 that is still on display at the museum’s present location. He increased his own collection from personal hunting trips and from other hunters and trappers. (This guy was found all trapped in barbed wire.)

Knowing most dusty travelers didn’t have much spare change, he is said to have often swapped a drink for a set of horns he could then display. A collection of firearms and a mirrored bar were eventually added.

It is believed that Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders frequented the saloon during their deployment in San Antonio.

When Prohibition became law, Albert could no longer sell alcohol. Therefore, he, in 1922 he relocated his business and renamed it Albert’s Curio Store. In 1956, the Buckhorn Saloon and the Buckhorn Hall of Horns collection were restored at the Old Lone Star Brewery on Jones Avenue. Today the collections include Hall of Fins and Hall of Feathers.

When the brewing company changed owners in 1977, the collections were sold off. Albert’s granddaughter and her husband  (Mary Friedrich Rogers and Albert Rogers) acquired the entire collection in 1997, and it was then moved to its present  location that it shares with the equally fascinating Texas Ranger Museum. The Museum includes hundreds of actual Ranger artifacts and amazing tableaux and displays. I loved every second and bought a Ranger star badge for my little grandson.

I sure enjoyed my time there!

(This past weekend, I found out that Book Six in my Hearts Crossing Ranch series will be released November 9.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cowboys on The Trail: The Singing Cowboy

by Anna Kathryn Lanier

I’ve found another great resource books—COWBOY CULTURE: A Saga of Five Centuries by David Dary. I’ve only glanced through it, read a few pages and found this bit on why the cowboy’s sang.  I thought I’d share.

Driving cattle to market was a long and arduous job. It often took six to eight months to move herds from Texas to Kansas.  It was not uncommon to lose both cattle and men along the way….from wranglers, shootings, drowning, disease. 

One of the greatest dangers was a stampede. The slightest disturbance could set one off, but lightning and thunder was the most common cause. It was important to keep the cattle calm.  Once bedded down, usually two cowboys would circle the herd in opposite directions. On a clear night, one cowboy would sing one verse of a song, while the other would sing the next.  However, this did not always keep the cattle calm.  One spooked animal could easily set off the others.

One unidentified cowboy wrote in “Report on Cattle, Sheep and Swine”:

“The first symptom of alarm is snorting. Then if the guards are numerous and alert, so that the cattle cannot easily break away, they will begin ‘milling’, i.e. crowding together with their heads toward a common center, their horns clashing, and the whole body in confused rotary motion, which increases, and unless controlled, ends in a concentrated outbreak and stampede. The most effectual way of quieting the cattle is by the cowboys circling around and around the terrified herd, signing loudly and steadily, while too, the guards strive to disorder the ‘milling’ by breaking up the common movement, separating a bunch here and there from the mass and turning them off, so that the sympathy of panic shall be dispersed and their attention distracted, as it is in part, no doubt, by the singing.”

 The songs the cowboys sang were not songs immortalized in old Hollywood movies. Instead they were simple songs about a cowboy’s likes, dislikes and work. The songs reflected their experiences and dreams. They told of stampedes they may have turned or another cowboy’s death.

Andy Adams, who wrote LOG OF A COWBOY, described real cowboy music as a “hybrid between weirdness of an Indian cry and the croon of the darky mammy.  It expresses the open, the prairie, the immutable desert.”  John Lomax, as a young boy, listened to cowboys as they sang to the cattle, which were often bedded down a few hundred yard’s from his father’s house.  Years later, he collected the songs from the very cowboys who sang them.

“On rainy nights,” he said, “I listened to the cowboys softly singing and calling to the cattle to keep them quiet.  Long afterwards I wrote of these calls as yodels.”  Lomax was told by a cattleman that he was wrong, “no cowboy I ever heard yodeled.”  Lomax protested that he had heard the cowboys yodel and demonstrated what he’d heard.  “Oh, that’s what we called humming,” the old cowboy replied. 

Websites to visit:

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester