Friday, July 31, 2015


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Her name has become infamous, recorded in history books, and even portrayed on film as Etta Place, yet it is widely believed the name she used was false. To this day, she remains one of the most mysterious women of the American West. Despite the fact many books have been written that address her possible identity, we still know little about her.

Was she an innocent young woman seduced by handsome snake oil salesman Harry Alonzo Longabaugh before he became the Sundance Kid? Was she a schoolteacher? A housekeeper at a sporting house? A prostitute? The proprietor of the Waco Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas? All of the above? Or, are all these simply speculation?

Looking at the only known image of Etta Place, photographed here with her dashing outlaw lover just before they sailed in 1901 (with Butch Cassidy) to South America, it’s hard to believe that so classic a beauty was not a properly raised, articulate, educated young lady. There is a delicate refinement to this young woman, in the innocence of her expression, and in the way she stands with such sweet elegance. Let’s face it; she hardly looks the part of a bank robbing, train robbing outlaw’s woman. Then again, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh hardly looks like a notorious outlaw either.

Does this photograph reflect the true image of these people? They appear to be a handsome young couple in love and devoted to one another. The truth is, there are two sides to every coin. Harry and Etta might have appeared to be nice, quiet, law-abiding citizens, but they also had a living-on-the-edge, dangerous secret identity.

If you are just as curious as me about the true identity of Etta Place, you may find this post of particular interest. Without question she is a fascinating historical figure, and I would like to share with you some of the theories and facts that have been made about her.

According to Richard E. Selcer, author of Hell’s Half Acre: The Life And Legend Of A Red-Light District, it was “believed” Etta Place worked as a housekeeper at Fannie Porter’s Sporting House (in other words, a brothel) in Fort Worth, Texas. And it was there she met the Wild Bunch. [It should be noted however, that there was also a Fannie Porter's Boarding House located in San Antonio, Texas.] Also in Selcer’s book, the real Etta Place reportedly returned to the United States from South America in 1907 and lived the remainder of her life as a schoolteacher in Denver or in Marion, Oregon.

Another claim about Etta Place by the Good Housekeeping Women’s Almanac is that she was a married schoolteacher in Fort Worth before she met the Sundance Kid at a community dance.

An additional, compelling possibility came to light in June 1970. An alleged interview took place in San Francisco, California, between historical fiction author Cary Holladay and a 92-year old woman claiming to be the "real" Etta Place . Ms. Holladay’s interview with this mystery woman makes for interesting reading. However, no actual evidence or documentation (including her real name) are provided. Since Ms. Holladay is an author of historical fiction, one cannot help but wonder if this interview was written as fiction purely to entertain the reader. Then again, it is possible Ms. Holladay left out the woman's real name to protect her identity. But why be interviewed at all if you are not going to 'come clean' at the grand old age of 92, and prove you are indeed who you claim to be. At least that's my thinking. There is no indication that it is a fictional interview. Yet without proof, it's just another story. I would like to point out that I have contacted Ms. Holladay for further details regarding the validity of this interview, but have not as yet received a reply.

Regardless, this elderly woman claimed she was born in 1878. This year coincides with the approximate age attributed to Etta Place by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. The woman also claimed that in June 1897, at the age of 19, she met Harry Alonzo Longabaugh in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. At that time, the Sundance Kid was working with a medicine show selling fraudulent pills that claimed to cure tapeworms. Having been sent to town to buy medicine for her ailing mother, the young woman brought the handsome stranger home and slept with him that very night – with her mother in the next room. Rather scandalous to be sure. She also claims she had black hair, but the description of Etta by the Pinkerton detectives was that she had brown hair, was articulate, and refined in both manner and speech. Although the manner in which this woman speaks in the interview is not the proper grammar one would expect from an educated, refined woman, she does relay some curious information.

For example, this alleged Etta Place made a point to claim credit for suggesting Longabaugh start robbing banks as an alternative vocation. When he left to steal his fortune, he asked her to “wait for him” and they remained in contact for three years. In 1900, Longabaugh sent for her. She traveled by train to St. Louis where they were married by a preacher. This alleged marriage ceremony also fits the information that has been claimed by historians; however, no proof of a marriage has ever been found.

The anonymous woman claimed to have traveled to South America with Butch Cassidy (whom she didn't like) and the Sundance Kid where they owned a ranch in Argentina. This was a well-known fact about Etta and her outlaw companions, even in 1970. Much was known about the life and history of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Etta Place. Not to mention the blockbuster movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" had been released in 1969. In fact, the woman claimed she saw the film during the interview. She also addressed the dramatic ending to the film and the much publicized story that both men were killed in Bolivia in 1908. On the contrary, according to this professed Etta Place . She stated the famous outlaws killed each other in a drunken argument over a piano on their ranch in Argentina. She also claimed they were buried on the ranch.

Unfortunately, for ancient Etta's story, according to Pinkerton evidence, the ranch in Argentina was sold in 1905. After learning the Pinkertons were closing in on them, the outlaws (and Etta) fled to Chile.

There is also documentation Etta was upset they had to sell the ranch and tired of trying to stay one step ahead of the law. She wanted to leave South America for good. Consequently, Sundance (still alive and well) accompanied his wife back to the United States in 1906. He returned alone to South America where he met his fate two years later.

But back to the 92-year old woman. She stated her second husband (no name provided) owned a grocery store in Oregon, and they had a son named Percy. It should be noted here that author Richard E. Selcer claimed one of the places rumored to be where Etta Place lived after returning from South America was Marion, Oregon. A random coincidence or two connecting pieces of the Etta Place mystery puzzle?

As for the confirmed historical facts about the real Etta Place, she had already returned to the United States when both outlaws died in South America. What happened to her afterwards, and how she evaded the law, continues to be the stuff of rumor and conjecture. Even the Pinkertons couldn’t find her, and that says a lot.

Another intriguing candidate for the true identity of Etta Place was a woman named Eunice Gray, owner and manager of the Waco Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas. In the book titled, Fort Worth by Leonard Sanders, the author addresses the identity of Etta Place and references Pinkerton files.

Sanders cites that according to Frank Dimaio, a Pinkerton detective who pursued Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and Etta Place to South America, the detective agency had definite evidence Etta had been a schoolteacher before the two outlaws met her as a prostitute living in Fort Worth, Texas. Of course, I’d like to believe she was—as claimed in the Good Housekeeping Women’s Almanac—simply a schoolteacher, or the housekeeper at that sporting house, but the Pinkerton National Detective Agency findings indicate otherwise.

In any event, on what was to be her last trip back to the United States with Sundance, Etta became ill and underwent surgery in Denver, Colorado. Furthermore, while she recuperated in the hospital, a drunken Longabaugh shot a policeman in the leg then fled back to South America. Contrary to reports he accompanied her to San Francisco in 1906, Pinkerton records documented that after Etta was released from the hospital, her whereabouts became unknown. Their attention was focused on Sundance and his return to South America. Consequently, this provides further confirmation that she was not in South America when Sundance and Butch Cassidy were killed. Neither was she present when and if they shot it out over a piano.

For certain, it seems Etta was finally fed up with the desperado lifestyle. The Argentina property she had in her name had been sold. While recovering from surgery in Denver, Colorado, her 'husband' got in trouble again with the law, abandoned her, and high-tailed it out of the country. What happened when she walked out of that hospital? Where did she go? All we know for certain is that she successfully eluded Pinkerton detectives from that moment on.

However, according to Fort Worth author Leonard Sanders, at approximately the same time Etta Place vanished from the hospital without a trace, a woman named Eunice Gray arrived in Fort Worth, Texas. Noted for her striking beauty, Eunice became a courtesan for very prominent men in Fort Worth. Those that knew Mrs. Gray said she also often spoke of her adventures in South America. Is it another coincidence that Eunice Gray and Etta Place (same age, both beautiful) both happened to live in South America for a time, or yet another piece of a puzzle? And there is also the Fort Worth connection.

According to public records, Eunice Gray operated the Waco Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas for 40 years. On 26 January 1962, she died in a fire at the hotel. At the time of her death, she was the only person living at the hotel, and occupied a lavishly decorated 3-room suite that looked like it belonged in a European estate. Interestingly, after her death, firemen found bank stock worth $90,000 behind a wall. More bank stock was found when the hotel building was torn down to make way for the Tarrant County Convention Center. [Note: The location of the hotel was in Hell’s Half Acre, not a respectable part of Fort Worth, and an area where sporting houses and brothels were abundant.]

Still, historians of Fort Worth, and an individual handling the estate of Mrs. Gray, convinced Leonard Sanders that Etta Place and Eunice Gray were “one and the same”. Even more of a red flag was the fact that after he wrote a newspaper article about the comparison between the two women, Sanders was contacted by a Pinkerton detective. The detective wanted to know the source of his information. When Sanders asked why, he was told, “The file has never closed on Etta Place.” Mind you, the year was 1984.

So, I decided to do some research on my own, particularly since the Pinkertons were interested in a possible connection between Etta Place and Eunice Gray. I located the official Death Certificate for Eunice Gray. She did indeed die from burns and suffocation on 26 January 1962 at the Waco Hotel. Her birth name was listed as Ermine ‘Eunice’ McEntire, and she was born in Saline County, Missouri on 23 April 1880. Although the approximate birth year for Etta Place, according to the Pinkertons, was 1878, a two year difference is not unusual. Additionally, the Death Certificate states her body was to be returned to Missouri for burial. The information provided for the Death Certificate was from a family member.

From genealogical information I was able to obtain, Eunice was the daughter of Thomas S. McEntire, a watchmaker. The US Census records for 1880 in Saline County, Missouri showed that Thomas and Mollie McEntire lived in Brownsville, Saline County, Missouri, and had three children, two boys and an infant girl. The Census was taken in June of 1880, and Eunice McIntire would have been 2-months old at the time. Subsequent research found her mother died in 1885, nine days after giving birth to Eunice’s baby sister. Her father remarried two years later, and had another son. According to the 1900 US Census, Eunice (then 20) was still living at her family home.

Remember, in December 1900, the real Etta supposedly married Harry A. Longabaugh (who had used the alias Harry A. Place) in St. Louis, Missouri. In January 1901, the couple went to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to visit his family. Another discrepancy which discredits Eunice Gray being Etta Place is that the Pinkerton National Detective Agency believed Etta was living in Texas during 1899-1900. Eunice McIntire (not yet having assumed the surname 'Gray') was still living in Missouri with her family, and by her own admission did not move to Fort Worth until 1901.

Additionally, in February 1901, the real Etta Place and Harry Longabaughh went to New York City where he purchased the famous watch pendant for her at Tiffany's and they had their portrait taken. On 20 February 1901, together with Butch Cassidy, they sailed to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Thus, Eunice Gray was living in Fort Worth, Texas in 1901 while Etta Place was aboard a ship en route to South America. Still, the two women did both live in Fort Worth, Texas for a time. And they both spent time living in South America. Eunice Gray left Fort Worth for a 5-year period, and documentation shows her on a 1911 passenger list returning to the United States from Panama. What do you think? Here is a photograph of Eunice McIntire Gray made public on the FindAGrave website. Although she has a dimple in her chin like Etta Place, she does not (in my opinion) resemble the real Etta Place.

So, who was Etta Place and what happened to her? Her name is fictitious. Her surname is, in fact, the maiden name of Harry Alonzo Longabaugh’s mother. There is evidence her first name might have been Ethel since she signed her name as Ethel Place at one time. It is rather ironic that we have no idea what her real name was, or where she was born. She traveled back and forth to South America using a variety of names. She was admitted to a hospital in Denver for an appendectomy yet disappeared afterwards.

Despite the fact that many women have been believed to be her, and a 92-year old woman in 1970 claimed to be her, we still don't know the truth. Was the mystery woman in San Francisco the real Etta Place? Or, was she simply a woman obsessed with the life of Etta -- like the woman who professed for years to be the Princess Anastasia. Only DNA testing proved after her death that she had lied for years and that the skeletal remains of a female found in an unmarked common grave with a male skeleton turned out to be the true Princess Anastasia with her brother.

So, despite my efforts and my fascination with Etta Place, she continues to be a mystery--one that may never be solved. But if you are interested in the actual documented facts about the woman who loved the Sundance Kid, here is the official timeline:


1. In a 1906 Pinkerton memoranda, Etta Place was described as about 27 or 28 years old, making her estimated year of birth 1878. She had brown hair and was 5’5 or 5’6” tall, and weighed about 110-115 pounds.

2. Pinkerton records state she was very attractive, educated, and spoke with a refined manner. Without providing any detailed information as to her origin or background, she claimed to be from the East Coast, and Pinkerton records substantiate this information.

3. In December 1900, using the alias of Harry A. Place, the Sundance Kid married Etta in St. Louis, Missouri. However, no supporting documentation of this marriage exists.

4. In January 1901, Sundance and Etta visit his family in Mont Clare, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

5. In February 1901, Sundance and Etta go to New York City. He buys her a watch pendant at Tiffany's and they have their portrait taken.

6. On 20 February 1901, Sundance, Butch Cassidy, and Etta board the British ship Herminus for Buenos Aires, Argentina.

7. Upon arrival in Argentina, Butch and Sundance purchase a 15,000 acre ranch, of which 2500 acres are deeded to Etta. She is the first woman in Argentina to own land. Before this date, no women were allowed to own land.

8. In March 1902, Etta returns to the Untied States with Sundance. Pinkerton agents obtain evidence she was homesick and wanted to visit family. However, they were never able to locate or identify any family members.

9. In April 1902, Sundance and Etta take up temporary lodgings in New York City at Mrs. Thompson's Boarding House.

10. In July 1902, Sundance and Etta (posing as stewards) return to Buenos Aires from New York City aboard the Honorius.

11. On 09 August 1902, Sundance and Etta register at the Hotel Europa in Buenos Aires.

12. On 15 August 1902, they depart by boat for their ranch in Argentina.

13. In the summer of 1904, Sundance and Etta returned to the United States. At this time the Pinkerton detectives traced them to Fort Worth, Texas, and also the World's Fair in St. Louis.

14. In 1905, having returned to Argentina, the ranch is sold because the law was closing in on them. Sundance, Etta, and Butch Cassidy flee to Chile.

15. By December 1905, the trio returns to Argentina. Butch and Sundance rob another bank, forcing them all to flee once more to Chile.

16. On 30 June 1906, Sundance accompanies Etta back to the United States then returns alone to South America.

17. In 1907, Etta is reportedly living alone in San Francisco.

18. In 1909, a woman matching the description of Etta Place attempts to obtain a Death Certificate for Harry Alonzo Longabaugh. No certificate is issued and the woman is never seen again. Since the law (and the Pinkertons) believed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were dead, Etta Place fell off their radar.

Additionally, if you are interested or curious about the full interview posted by Cary Holladay from 1970, here is the linkt:

As always, thank you very much for stopping by today. I do apologize for the length of this post but, as you can see, there was a great deal of information to share on this subject. Perhaps one day someone will learn the truth about Etta Place. After all, every mystery needs to be solved. ~ AKB

After posting this article, I did receive a reply from author Cary Holladay as to my questions regarding the validity of her interview. Please scroll down to the Comments below to read what Ms. Holladay had to say about the interview, and my feelings on the matter. Thanks. ~ AKB

Fort Worth by Leonard Sanders, 1984
Hell's Half Acre: The Life And Legend Of A Red-Light District by Richard F. Selcer, 1991

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yee-haw! It’s finally here: Prairie Rose Publications’ second-annual Christmas in July. All of the Roses have been a mite excited for weeks now. The event stirred up the corral something fierce, not least because twenty of us wrote the short stories, novellas, and novels that are part of the event. We were sworn to secrecy until yesterday, when the corral gate opened and the herd spilled out a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’.

Do you know how hard it is to keep a secret like that? PRP founders Cheryl Pierson and Livia Washburn Reasoner had their hands full muzzling the herd.

The first Christmas in July around these parts contained only six Christmas short stories written by the six original Prairie Roses. This year’s special sale contains a total of twenty-five heart-warming volumes overflowing with tales about love all year round, plus two additional collections of traditional westerns. Most are priced at 99 cents; five of the ebooks are $1.99 because they contain two stories each.

Is that a deal, or what?

Here’s a quick look at the twenty-one ebooks that released today. Aren’t the covers fantastic? After creating every single one of them all by her lonesome, Livia deserves a break, don’t you think?

Many of this year’s Christmas in July short stories were published last year in one of PRP’s popular anthologies. If you’ve been waiting to try a story by a writer whose work you haven’t read, now is a great time to curl up with a heart-melting tale that will sweep you away to the Wild West. At 99 cents, how can you go wrong? And who knows? You may discover a new favorite author.

Six of the novels on sale for 99 cents have been available for a few months and are some of PRP’s most popular offerings.

More than a few of the Christmas in July stories were written by award-winning and best-selling authors, including James Reasoner and Livia Washburn Reasoner, two of the western genre’s enduring favorites. Some of the ebooks made Amazon’s Top 100 lists during the pre-sale period. (Thank you, early birds!)

You can find more information about all of these extra-special releases on a special page at the PRP website. Take a look. We bet you’ll find something you like.

Because we’re always looking for an excuse to kick up our heels with readers and friends, the Prairie Rose family will host one of our infamous Facebook Fandangos on July 27 and 28. Twenty-one authors will be there to stir things up. RSVP by clicking on the image.

Come join the festivities! The Roses will be giving away lots and lots of prizes, including ebooks and autographed print books, jewelry, Amazon gift cards, cowboy gift bags, and other western gear anyone would love to win.

As a heartfelt thank you for joining us in this celebration of PRP authors and their work, we’ll gift an ebook to several of today’s blog visitors. Simply comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winners will be picked at random and will get to choose their prize from the list of today’s twenty-one new releases.

Thanks for stopping by, and merry Christmas in July!

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Saturday was the Facebook party for the National Cowboy Day. Great bits of cowboy wisdom were shared and it reminded me of a collection I have by Texas Bix Bender titled DON’T SQUAT WITH YER SPURS ON! A Cowboy’s Guide to Life

Here are some of the pearls from that book:

Don’t never interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none.

Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.

Don’t worry about bitin’ off more ‘n you can chew. Your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger than you think.

Makin’ it in life is kinda like bustin’ broncs: you’re gonna get thrown a lot. The simple secret is to keep getting’ back on.

You can just about always stand more ‘n you think you can.

There’s two theories to arguin’ with a woman. Neither one works.

A woman’s heart is like a campfire. If you don’t tend to it regular, you’ll soon lose it.

Control your generosity when you’re dealin’ with a chronic borrower.

Too much debt doubles the weight on your horse and puts another in control of the reins.

Don’t let so much reality into your life that there’s no room left for dreamin’.

Never miss a good chance to shut up.

Nobody ever drowned himself in his own sweat.

Honesty is not something you should flirt with—you should be married to it.

Cowboys are always a welcome subject, aren’t they? In fact, I love reading anything about the West, which is why I write and read western romances. My latest release is the historical romance, McCLINTOCK’S RELUCTANT BRIDE, book three of the McClintock series. Didn't Skhye Moncrief do a fabulous job designing the cover?

Here’s the blurb:

Nettie Clayton’s well-planned life is stolen in a few moments. All she wants is a better life for her family in McClintock Falls, Texas where her father can recover from years spent coal mining. Her teacher’s salary is slated toward saving for her younger brother to attend medical school. Her dreams are dashed when Josh McClintock mistakes her window for that of her neighbor. She wants to resist her parents’ decree, but there’s no way to win.

Josh McClintock’s free-wheeling life comes to an abrupt end after his birthday celebration. He works hard by day on the family ranch; he plays just as hard on weekends. He loves being single to play the field of willing females and has no plan to marry for five or six years. One drunken mistake alters his life and Nettie’s forever.

While Nettie and Josh struggle to deal with an unwanted marriage, a crazed villain planning his revenge against the McClintock family targets Josh and Nettie.  What happens when the villain attacks?

Here are buy links:
Amazon in Deutschland

And why not sign up for my newsletter to stay informed of new releases, contests, and events? Here’s the link:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cowboys, Cowboys and More Cowboys!

I enjoy books from many different genres and eras, but must admit, cowboy heroes are my favorite. It might be because I grew up watching westerns on TV (with a house full of brothers, I didn’t get control of the TV very often—not that I would have changed the channel). Just like many other girls my first boyfriend was Little Joe Cartwright—he just never knew it.

To me, a cowboy isn’t just a man wearing boots and a Stetson. It’s his way of life, and he’s a breed all his own.

Here’s a list of a few traits cowboys are portray:

They respect women. Throwing their coats over mud puddles and opening doors for a lady is embedded in them. Cursing in front of women is a no-no, too.

Faith, in God, the land, animals, and other people runs deep. They expect other to respect that, too.

Humility runs strong in cowboys. The limelight isn’t for them.

They are spendthrifts, until it comes to their horse and gear. Conservative, too, and not just with money. This includes words, deeds, beliefs, and politics,

Protectiveness runs strong in them—over their loved ones, animals, and the land. Don’t mess with a cowboy because he will fight to the death.

Music. Aw, yes, a cowboy loves his music. To play it, to dance to it, to sing. There’s always a song in a cowboy’s heart.

Speaking of his heart—he wears it on his sleeves, although he’d never admit it. His heart is often as well used as his hands, full of scars and covered with calluses, but when he gives it away, it’s for a lifetime.

The strong silent type. Yep, that’s a cowboy. John Wayne meant it when he said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say much.” Prying words out of them can be impossible. They’d rather communicate through actions. A cowboy doesn’t throw words around, especially ones he doesn’t mean.

Critters—they have to have more than one. Horses are a must, but so are dogs. They like other animals, too, but expect each one to have a purpose.

Cowboys are simple men, down to earth, and utterly loveable—when they want to be. A heroine, lucky enough to have a cowboy fall in love with her, needs to understand these things. If she tries to change him, she’s changing who he is, and they’ll both be miserable.

If you love cowboys as much as I do, you are in luck because Harlequin is having a great sale on books with cowboy heroes! For the month of July the following titles are on sale for just 99¢!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

SISTERS by Tanya Hanson

I am so excited to be back in the corral here at Sweethearts of the West. Thanks for inviting me, cowgirls.

Anyway, anybody who knows me knows that reading Little Women when I was eight set my goal to be a writer. Someday, somehow.

And it’s all about a set of sisters. So with my new release, Sisters, out July 24, I simply must regale you with trivia about those March sisters and their stories. See how well you do. (Answers appear at the very peeking now.)

1. Who is the oldest March sister:
a) Amy;
b) Jo;
c) Meg;
d) Beth.

2. Jo works for:
a) Aunt March;
b) The Boston Beacon;
c) the Weekly Volcano;
d) Mr. Laurence.

3.  When Amy burns Joe’s treasured manuscript (Horrors! No back-up or Dropbox...) what melts Jo’s fury?
a) Amy marries Laurie so Jo doesn’t have to.
b) Amy contracts scarlet fever.
c) Aunt March threatens to send Amy to art school in Paris.
d) Amy falls through the ice on a frozen pond.

4.  Beth becomes ill with:
a) consumption;
b) scarlet fever;
c) influenza;
d) appendicitis.

Little Women author Louisa May Alcott
5. Meg marries:
a) Ned Moffat;
b) John Brooke;
c) Friedrich Bhaer;
d) No, she doesn’t. She remains single.

6. Beth dies at age:
a) 19;
b) 18;
c) 17;
d) 16.

7. Originally a two-parter, the second half of Little Women (Part 2 today) was called:
a) Good Wives;
b) Army Wives (this was, after all, Civil War times.)
c) Little Children;
d) The Last March.

8. Aunt March’s home is called:
a) Fruitlands;
b) Orchard House;
c) Apple Farm;
d) Plumfield.

9. Meg’s children are officially christened:
a) Jack and Jill;
b) Jack and Daisy;
c) John and Jane;
d) John and Margaret.

10.  Little Women led to two sequels:
a) Little Men, and Little Children;
b) Joe’s Boys, and Meg’s Twins;
c) The Finale March, and The Final Chapter;
d) Little Men, and Jo’s Boys.

So, what’s with Sisters? Specially since I never had one. Well, when I answered the call to write a mail-order-bride story, hmmm, I wanted a new angle. So debutante Elspeth Maroney leaves her stinkin’, cheatin’ bridegroom at the altar. Problem solved except...prim and proper—and curious—Ellie has had a quickie indiscretion with Said Bridegroom and now, ahem. Needs a mail-order-husband just for a month.  Until she knows for sure she isn’t, you know. But if she is, then, she’s covered.

But her intended, handsome Colorado rancher Hezekiah wants a wife for life. Ellie’s conscience prickles and her heart flutters upon meeting the gorgeous cowboy. Read all about it in Her Hurry-up Husband.

Anyway, my editor (the talented, ever-patient and most excellent Cheryl Pierson) flat out said...Elspeth’s sister Judith has GOT to get away from their awful mama. Hence...(this is an important word in the story)...Judith has her own set of adventures and romance in Her Thief of Hearts. Beautiful socialite (her). Darling orphan and...An outlaw! Bad-boy “Black Ankles” holds up a speeding train, and she’s on it. Along with Elspeth’s spurned bridegroom! Oh no. Can her beloved Tremaine rescue her in time?

And now, both stories are releasing in one set. Isn’t the cover dreamy?  What fun, two-for-one.

(To make it more fun, Tremaine’s brother Ronnie has his own love story coming out at Christmas...)

Anyway, Sisters is joined by another two-fer by my friend Tracy Garrett. A River’s Bend Duo. I wanted to share it with you today.

Wanted: The Sheriff
Martha Bittner may be considered a spinster at twenty-seven, but she’s not planning to stay that way. For four years, she’s wanted the sheriff of River’s Bend, Missouri, to notice her as more than a friend and a really good cook. With the first annual spring dance only weeks away, Martha decides to announce her intentions — and declares the sheriff a wanted man.

Sheriff Matthew Tate always thought he was better off a bachelor. Growing up in Boston society, where marriage is a business transaction and wealth his greatest asset, he’s learned to distrust all women’s intentions. None of them even catch his eye anymore — until pretty Martha Bittner tells him exactly what she wants… and he wonders why he ever resisted capture.

No Less Than Forever
Doctor Franz Bittner is satisfied with his life as it is. He has a good practice in a place where he is respected, in spite of his German birth. He has good friends and enough income to provide him with a few comforts. A wife would only complicate things. Then a tiny blond stranger is pulled from the river and everything changes. With one smile she captures his attention—and steals his heart.

Rebekah Snow Redmann barely survived her abusive husband’s attack. Though she was given to him to pay her father’s debts, she’d rather die than go back. Then she ends up in the care of the handsome local doctor and he stitches up more than her wounds—he mends her soul. With him, she discovers everything that she believes she can never have...a love that will last forever.

Sisters and A River's Bend Duo are two of the twenty-one ebooks that are part of Prairie Rose Publications' Christmas in July event, which starts July 24. All of the stories are priced 99 cents or $1.99. Prairie Rose will be hosting a fandango on Facebook to celebrate the event. All of the authors who have books in the sale will be there, and I hope you'll join us, too. You can find more information about the party—including the nice prizes we'll be giving away—and sign up here.

All right. Here are the answers!
1-c; 2-a; 3-d; 4-b; 5-b; 6-a; 7-a; 8-d; 9-d; 10-d

A native Californian, Tanya Hanson lives on the central coast with her firefighter husband and considers their son and daughter the best thing she’s ever done. After a career teaching high school English, her life is blessed with a happy home, exciting travels, good health, and best of all--two little grandsons. Volunteering at the local horse rescue and recent trips to the Rockies of Colorado and Alberta prove the West is where she wants to write! Visit her at her website,


Monday, July 20, 2015

Canyon de Chelly, Home of the Navaho

This month, I’m going to talk about Canyon de Chelly National Monument and the part it plays in my newest release, Decoding Michaela
By Yoopernewsman real name Greg Peterson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de Shay) National Monument was established on April 1, 1931. The canyon is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation and is wholly owned by the Navaho Tribal Trust of the Navajo Nation. It is the only National Park Service unit jointly managed with a Native American tribe.
One of the longest continuously inhabited places in North America, Canyon de Chelly contains ruins of early inhabitants, the Ancient Pueblo People (also called Anasazi.) The monument covers 83,840 acres and encompasses the floors and rims of three canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. These canyons were cut by streams originating in the Chuska Mountains just to the east.
White House Ruins by Hydrargyrum at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
The name Chelly (or Chelley) is a Spanish rendering of the Navajo word Tséyiʼ, meaning "canyon" or "inside the rock". The Spanish pronunciation de’tʃeʎi was adapted into English: de shā.
Canyon de Chelly had long been home for the Navajo people before it was invaded by Mexican forces led by Lt. Antonio Narbona in 1805. Later, in 1863, Col. Kit Carson and U.S. troops defeated the Navajo within the canyon, resulting in their removal to the Bosque Redondo reservation in New Mexico. Due to poor water and lack of fire wood, they were allowed to return to their native land in May 1868.
Navajo Woman & Child, near Canyon de Chelly, by Ansel Adams [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today, approximately forty Navajo families live in the park. Most park visitors view Canyon de Chelly from the rim, following North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive. Ancient ruins and geologic structures, such as the towering Spider Rock, are visible in the distance from turnoffs along the routes. Visitors are allowed into the canyon only when accompanied by a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide. The only exception to this rule is the White House Ruin Trail.
Canyon de Chelly - Spider Rock
Spider Rock by Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 25, 1970. In 2009 it was recognized as one of the most-visited national monuments in the United States. 
Canyon de Chelly is the setting for the final portion of Decoding Michaela (Romancing the Guardians, Book Two). It will also be featured in upcoming books in this continuing series, and will play a major role in the final book, when the Guardians of Danu come together to battle their enemies.
Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]
Now here’s a look at the canyon through Michaela’s eyes. Her guide is Josie Tseda, who stars in the next book, Capturing Gabriel.

Josie drove them into the canyon the next morning in her Jeep. It was a rough, dusty ride but even without the promise of seeing Lara, the scenery was worth any discomfort. The sheer rock walls and fantastic formations were painted in amber, crimson, burnt umber and orange hues that took Michaela’s breath away. Carved out of the walls were caves, some small, some large enough to hold the ruins of apartment-like stone structures.

Pointing to one such cave, Josie said, “See those pueblo ruins? They were built by the ancient ones who lived here in prehistoric times. Canyon de Chelly is a national monument because of those ruins. They’re guarded by Park Rangers. Tourists are allowed to hike only on one self-guided trail. If they want to see more of the canyon, they have to hire a licensed Navajo tour guide.”

Obviously proud of her heritage, she added, “The canyon lies within the Navaho Nation and a number of families live here. They mostly farm and ranch either sheep or cattle, or both. My dad has a small place up ahead. He grows peaches and herds a few sheep for their wool, which he weaves into blankets.” She chuckled. “Tourist love Navajo blankets.”

As they wound through the canyon, Michaela admired the narrow valley dotted with fruit orchards and pastures where cattle and sheep grazed. Among the green patches stood farm houses or domed, multi-sided hogans, the traditional Navajo shelter, Josie explained. She turned onto a bumpy path leading to one of the latter. As they stopped outside the entrance, an older man with long graying hair walked outside. His dark copper face was lined with age but he stood straight, head erect. He smiled broadly when Josie jumped out of the Jeep.

“Yá'át'ééh, daughter.”

“Yá'át'ééh, Father,” she replied, rushing to give him a hug. “I have brought you more guests.”

Decoding Michael is available on these sites:



Barnes & Noble


Saturday, July 18, 2015

An Old West Serial Killer by Sarah J. McNeal


Nothing scares me more than a serial killer. I don’t mean a gunfighter who kills a lot of people; I mean the kind of killer who stalks people like prey, even children, and finds ways to torture them, or rape them before they finally kill them. Some serial killers even do horrible things to their victims after death. These are sick people with deeply disturbing psychological defects. They’re the kind of killer even the psychopaths would fear.

In my naive thinking, I believed this kind of killer existed only in modern times. What was I thinking? You would think I didn’t get the memos about Jack the Ripper or Mad Vlad the Impaler. When we think of the old west, we know there were plenty of gunfighters, bank robbers and that criminal sort, but what about those opportunistic killers who lurk in the shadows and prey on their victims for some sort of sadistic pleasure? I get chills just thinking about it. 

Herman W. Mudgett, aka H.H. Holmes, was just that sort of devious, evil killer. He started out his career as a scammer for insurance until he moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1893 just before the World’s Fair opened there. Like any wicked spider, he built his “castle”, a three story inn, in which he secretly added a gruesome torture chamber. He constructed some of the rooms with hidden peepholes, trap doors, special gas lines, and padding to soundproof them. Other rooms had secret passages, ladders, and hallways that led to dead ends. Holmes created a greased chute that led to the basement where he installed a surgical table, a convenient furnace, and even a medieval rack just for fun.

Holmes "Castle"

How clever to have an inn where ladies might spend the night believing they are perfectly safe while they make their plans to visit the World’s Fair. Even before the World’s Fair opened, Holmes was already leading his victims to his lovely “castle” where he asphyxiated them with poisoned gas before he took them to his basement for his gruesome experiments. Some bodies went straight to the furnace. Those that didn’t go to the furnace were skinned and their skeletons sold to medical schools. Holmes was eventually convicted of the murders of four people, but he confessed to at least 27 more killings before they hanged him in 1896. “Holmes’ Horror Castle” was later turned into a grotesque museum, but the building burned down before it could be opened. I can only believe there was Devine justice at work with that fire.

After recent news in my area near Charlotte, North Carolina of a couple, a registered nurse with whom I used to work, and, of all things, a supervisor for social services in Monroe, N.C., who fostered young children and who tortured the children in their care shook me to my core. That I could know someone so well who could do such a thing haunted me so much it led me to write
Unexpected Blessings in the anthology, Lassoing A Cowboy.

A broken dream…a cancelled wedding…and an unexpected blessing 

When Juliet Wilding’s dreams are crushed, she cancels her wedding plans to Harry O’Connor. But Harry is not about to give up on the only woman he has ever loved.  What neither of them expects is the event that will forever change both their lives.

Lassoing A Bride, from Prairie Rose Publications. Unexpected Blessings will be released as a single and so will my story, When Love Comes Knocking from the 2014 Christmas anthology, A Present For A Cowboy.

A lonely widow…an indiscretion…a gift for redemption

Penelope Witherspoon was charmed into marriage by Evan Thoroughgood only to learn she loved a philanderer, who gambled away his inheritance and drank too heavily. It came as no surprise that four months after their marriage, Evan was shot dead for cheating at cards. Since his death, Penelope has come to depend on his older brother, Gil. In fact, she has come to love and respect him. No two men could be further apart in character. But, if Gil learns of her secret indiscretion, he will want nothing further to do with her. What is Penelope to do? 

I will be giving away digital copies of these two singles and print copies (in the United States) of  The Violin and Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride at the Prairie Rose 2 day event on Facebook coming up July 27-28. 

    Author, Sarah J. McNeal

To find out more about my western novels about the Wilding family, click on "The Wildings" link in the above link..