Sunday, September 14, 2014

September Member News

More releases and awards for our wonderful members!

Shanna Hatfield, Wrestlin'Christmas
Shanghaied by his sister and best friend, former steer wrestler Cort McGraw finds himself on a run-down ranch with a worrisome, albeit gorgeous widow, and her silent, solemn son. Five minutes after Cort McGraw lands on her doorstep, K.C. Peters fights to keep a promise she made to herself to stay away from single, eligible men. When her neighbor said he knew just the person to help work her ranch for the winter, she never expected the handsome, brawny former rodeo star to fill the position. Ready to send him packing, her little boy has other plans.Buy Link:

We can never get enough about Cowgirls. History of rodeo and the first women involved publicly from the late 1800s to the first half of the twentieth century, framed in the context of the earliest days of the first wave of the women’s movement, emphasizing the word-champion cowgirls of Montana. 

Linda Rettstatt, Rescued (A sweet contemporary romance)
Proceeds benefit the Tunica (MS) Humane Society.Alexandra Ramsey has been rescuing strays since she was abandoned by her mother at the age of seven. Now Alex’s passion is poured into Harley’s Haven, the no-kill animal shelter she built from scratch in Cade's Point, Mississippi. Evan Whiting rode the crest of the wave of success as a top chef in Manhattan until 26 people were sickened by bad crab meat. He lost his restaurant, his savings, his reputation and his wife. Evan retreats to the home he inherited in rural Mississippi to start over. Both Alex and Evan are about to be RESCUED. Then there’s Walter…

Doris McCraw, writing as Angela Raines, Home for His Heart (a novella) 
Clara Cross ran away as a young girl after the suspicious deaths of her parents, and has spent the last nine years trying to find safety from a man she had reason to fear. Finally landing in the small town of Agate Gulch in the high Colorado mountains, she believes she may have found a safe home ...

Patsy Schwartz has bigger problems to deal with than the Great Depression, the raging Dust Bowl, or another looming world war. Forced to disappear from Baywater, Minnesota to avoid an arranged marriage to the local sheriff’s son, Patsy hits the open road with her best friend, Virginia Burg. Chasing the Strawberry Moon is an account of the adventures of a young woman as she makes her way west, running from conniving parents, the mob, and corrupt local law enforcement. The two travelers encounter truckers, ranchers, Communists, preachers, an artist working for the WPA, women motorcyclists, and Civilian Conservation Corpsmen, to name a few.

In 1858 Edward Wynkoop arrived in the frontier town of Denver City. He was twenty-two years old and soon became a town leader and Denver’s first sheriff. During the American Civil War, he joined the Colorado Volunteers and played an important role in the Union victory at the Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico. 


Roni McFadden, TheLongest Trail has won gold for non-fiction in Dan Poynter's Global eBookAwards in the autobiography/memoirs/nonfiction category. As she travels "The Longest Trail", Roni evolves from a girl stumbling along treacherous and twisted paths to become a strong young woman who knows where she is going, how to get there, and understands she will have help along the way. 

Nancy Oswald, Insects in the Infield won the CIPA Evvy Award, 1st place in Juvenile division. Ants, bees, dragonflies, limping millipedes… Buster would rather ignore his brainy sister Maggie’s insect zoo, but he needs her help with the carnival fundraiser for his baseball team, the Cougars. Unfortunately, Buster needs more than fundraising help from his sister. 

Lorrie Farrelly Terms of Surrender, medaled in the Western category at the 2014 Readers' Favorite International Book Awards.  Former Confederate cavalry Captain Michael Cantrell has lost his home and everyone he loved. He roams the western frontier, trying to outrun his demons and find some purpose to his life. One spring day along the Wind River in Wyoming, a violent encounter lands him smack in the middle of Annie Devlin’s war. Standing with the determined young rancher will test the limits of Michael’s courage, his honor – and his passion.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Strong Medicine of Flint

By Natalie Bright

As you drive through the simple brick entrance and journey along the winding blacktop, the sparse trees and stark landscape might not impress you. There is history hidden among the rolling hills and behind scrubby mesquite, and to the ancient inhabitants who once lived here it is a place of strong medicine. The rock found in this area was revered by Native American tribes for generations. The colors of the rock is like no other found anywhere else in the world. Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in the Texas Panhandle is the source of the rock called flint.

Lying in the northeast corner of the Staked Plains, along the sloping sides of the Canadian River Valley, the national park was considered sacred and neutral ground. It was a place where tribes visited in peace over a period of about 12,000 years until around 1870, to trade and mine the valuable rock. Most traveled to the area on the muddy red Canadian River, which once flowed much deeper and ran year round.

The unique rusty red and colorful striations seen in Alibates flint is a result of a fault. As thermal springs deep underground moved hot water through the fault, it passed around and through the Permian shelves which consists of significant iron content. The silica rich water emerged to form Alibates flint, named after a local ranch cowboy, Allen “Allie” Bates, who disclosed the location in 1906. The flint can be found in abundance on about 60 acres atop a  weathered mesa where it is exposed to the surface.

The park ranger guides visitors along a winding path through yucca, prickly pear cactus and mesquite. Several covered benches provide shade and rest stops. The informative history lecture is ongoing as you work your way to the top of the mesa. The path leads to a mining pit where early inhabitants broke off larger pieces to be toted back to their villages. The small boulders were then worked into useful tools. The rock was treasured for its ability to break into smooth flakes for a sharper, cleaner edge for points, spearheads, scrapers, and knives. This strong and very sharp rock cut deep and played a significant part in survival. It was worked, used and traded everywhere, with pieces of Alibates flint being found and identified as far away as Canada.

Between 1150 and 1450 permanent villages were located in the area. Several times a year small groups are allowed to tour the remains of these dwellings. The rock slab roofs are visible revealing rectangular, semi-circular, or circular shaped shelters with tunneled entranceways and stone enclosures. Most signs of these earliest inhabitants have disappeared, but faint imprints of an active village remains today.

Alibates Flint Quarries is located approximately 35 miles north of Amarillo, Texas on highway 136 north which takes you to Borger. Turn off of 136 before you get to the town of Fritch, and follow Cas Johnson Road to the parks Visitor’s Center.

Bio: Natalie Bright is an author, blogger, and speaker. She is represented by Mr. Stephen Fraser, of The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, NYC, who is currently shopping her historical novels for middle grade readers. She’s on the web at Facebook/Natalie-Bright-Author, Twitter @natNKB, Amazon Author Pages, Pinterest/natbright, she blogs every Monday at, and for articles about the history and people of the Texas Panhandle read Prairie Purview Blog on her website,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Writing Historical Fiction Is So Much Fun

 by Carolyn Niethammer

While readers can learn a great deal from historical fiction, it’s even more of a treat for writers.. For my novel The Piano Player, I read The Tombstone Epitaph on microfilm to learn what life was like in that dusty frontier town in the 1880s. It is said that Tombstone at that time had the best food between St. Louis and San Francisco, and the menus published in the paper confirmed that fact with offerings of  fresh oysters, lobster, six salads, five roasts, four different pies and three puddings all at one restaurant on one Sunday.

Researching what a fashionable young woman might wear led to an enjoyable afternoon in the historical society library looking over old ladies’ magazines with pictures and descriptions of bustles and bows and laces. Then there were the fabulous hats. The under garments were even more fascinating, calling for layer upon layer of fine batiste and corsets with whalebone and laces.

One of my characters, the real life Nellie Cashman, had mining interests in Alaska and Yukon Territory, so I went to Fairbanks to look at the old mining records. Down in a locked cage in the courthouse basement, in huge dust-covered books, I found Nellie’s signature when she signed for her claims. Seeing her actual handwriting sent a chill down my back. Did it ultimately make a difference to what I wrote about her? Probably not, but it sure was fun.

Next I went to Dawson City in the Yukon, and out to Nolan Creek where Nellie Cashman mined. When I figured out approximately where her claim was, I sat on a rock and willed her spirit to speak to me, to help me make her character come alive. Alas, no appearance from the other side with guidance on my project.

Stories have been told about the founder of the Arizona Historical Society and how she would attend funerals of the old-timers, accosting their relatives for diaries or memoirs. She was considered brazen, but she did collect an astounding amount of material that gives great insight into Arizona life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Reading those fading typescripts, now carefully preserved in acid-free folders, were windows into lives both mundane and exciting.

Now all this research has been woven into my novel The Piano Player. Well-bred Mary Rose follows her dream to Tombstone and quickly discovers that she is not prepared for the challenges of being a piano player in the Bird Cage Theater. Help comes from her landlady, Nellie Cashman, proprietor of The Russ House. It is an unlikely friendship. Years after each has left Tombstone, they join up again to seek their fortunes during the Alaska gold rush. Together they deal with a lover who turns out to be a murderer, imprisonment in a Mexican jail, near death falling into the icy Yukon River and disappointment when their quest for gold is dashed. They postpone romance with the men who love them until for one, it becomes too late.
               You can find The Piano Player at 
Carolyn Niethammer grew up in the territorial capital of Prescott, Arizona and now lives in Tucson in a downtown historic district. She is the author of nine nonfiction books on southwestern subjects including five cookbooks and two biographies. The Piano Player is her first novel. Find her at 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

City Mouse & Country Mouse

By Jonnie Martin

My cousin Sharon McAmis was the inspiration for my book, Wrangle.  Like the protagonist in the novel, Sharon ran her dad’s quarter horse ranch and she still owns acreage. We both live in Hempstead, Texas and there the similarities end, for I am a City Mouse and Sharon is a Country Mouse, and our lives could not be more different. 

Sharon’s day begins before sunrise with the crow of feral roosters in the trees.  She rolls out of bed into plaid shirt, jeans and boots, and strides outside to feed animals.  She opens the cages on the porch, to let hens and chicks out for daily grubbing, and unpens her 3 quarter horses and 5 thoroughbreds who freely roam the 15 acres.

As the sun creeps over the horizon and the kinetic sounds of animals increase, she makes mental note of the day’s errands.  Too early to pick up feed – hen scratch, chick starter, alfalfa, hay to horse standards.  A cow might eat anything, but not her well-bred horses, and the wet spring has compromised the hay supply.

A few more steps and she’s on the tractor, headed to the west field to continue her assault on Texas Goatweed, Silverleaf, Nightshade, Pigweed, and Thistle.  Over the past 3 years she has reclaimed 8 acres of pasture that had been lost to wild growth.  Sometimes she’s progressing; at other times she’s not sure.  It’s hard to keep accurate markers.

At 10:00 a.m. Sharon is still working the land, managing a burn pile, repairing fence line . . . and by now I have climbed bleary-eyed from bed.  I’m a late riser, a benefit of retirement, and first, last, always I trail to the computer to pick up emails, check the sales on Wrangle, and consult my writing and marketing schedule.

As Sharon’s day hits 90 degrees and rises, I’ve made an appointment to interview a rodeo cowboy, drafted a blog post about Cuero’s Chisholm Trail Museum, and calendared the deadline for submitting Wrangle for the WILLA Award.  By afternoon I am in sandals and sundress and headed to Houston boutiques.

By afternoon Sharon will have bought provisions and given the horses their afternoon shower; refilled the water tanks and headed out for more spraying, digging, burning, hauling, hoeing.  Late afternoon, she lets the horses into the corral for their night feed, first the two older mares so they get their fair share, and then the young ones, jockeying for position.

Then there is watered-down chick starter, dry and wet cat food, grain for the wood ducks who sit atop the barn, scolding.  As day fades Sharon walks the property, assessing the next day’s needs. At nightfall she clucks to the hens to bring along their babies, back into the protective cages on the porch.

By 10:00 p.m., I have dined out then headed home to a good book.  Sharon has missed supper to rescue a neighbor stuck in a field bog.  Soon we’ll each answer email, watch a late night TV show, perhaps talk by phone.  On a good night, we are both in bed at midnight.  One of us is terribly, terribly tired.

Jonnie Martin is a native Texan who returned both physically and emotionally to her home state to write her first novel, Wrangle, set on a 1970s quarter horse ranch (available on Amazon).  She also writes a bi-monthly column about ranchers and other “people of the land” for The Waller County News Citizen and a weekly blog, Jonnie’s Writerly Notes, about the West in general and Texas in particular.  Martin’s first career was as a journalist before migrating into business, where she continued to write.  In recent years she has completed a second Bachelor’s (in Literature and Creative Writing) and a Master’s (an MFA in Fiction).