Thursday, September 22, 2016

September Member News

Donna Baier Stein, The Silver Baron's Wife traces the rags-to-riches-to-rags life of Colorado's Baby Doe Tabor (Lizzie), who worked in the silver mines and had two scandalous marriages, one to a philandering opium addict and one to a Senator and silver baron worth $24 million in the late 19th century. Hers is the tale of a fiercely independent woman who bucked all social expectations by working where 19th century women didn't work, becoming the key figure in one of the West's most scandalous love triangles, and, after a devastating stock market crash destroyed Tabor's vast fortune, living in eccentric isolation at the Matchless Mine. An earlier version of this novel won the PEN/New England Discovery Award in Fiction."

Paty Jager, Reservation Revenge: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery (Book six of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series). Upon learning a cousin is suspected of murder, potter Shandra Higheagle travels to the Colville Reservation to support her family and use the insight she receives from her Nez Perce grandmother in dreams. Detective Ryan Greer soon discovers his own hidden secrets could be as dangerous as century old feuds, jealousy, and the drug running that is connected to the murder. ​
Brigid Amos, A Fence Around Her. Having a mother with a past is never easy. For Ruthie Conoboy it becomes the struggle of a lifetime in 1900, the year Tobias Mortlock arrives in the gold mining town of Bodie, California. Ruthie is suspicious of this stranger, but her trusting father gives him a job in the stamp mill. Soon, Ruthie suspects that her mother and Mortlock have become more than friends. Can Ruthie stop this man from destroying her family?

Marion Mutala, Ukrainian Daughter’s Dance. A poetry collection that speaks to the heart as they document a woman's life journey, as a Ukrainian-Canadian, and as a prairie woman, and her voyage of self-discovery. Her story can be anyone's story. Poems explore issues of immigrant identity and voice in the prairies, and celebrate a cultural heritage expressed through song, dance, art, work and life.

Sarah Byrn Rickman, Finding DorothyScott: Letters of a WASP Pilot (Texas Tech University Press) .WASP Dorothy Scott perished in a midair collision at age 23, one of 38 Women Airforce Service Pilots to die serving in World War II. Dorothy’s extraordinary voice, as heard through her lively letters home and the author’s accompanying narrative, offer a window into the mind of a young, patriotic, funny, and ambitious young woman who was determined to use her piloting skills to help the US win that war. 


Linda Shuler, HiddenShadows, has won or placed in numerous awards. Winner: Willa Literary Award for Original Soft Cover; 2016 Global Ebook Award for Fiction - Popular Literature; NABE Pinnacle Book of Achievement Award for Fiction Finalist. Finalist: Aspen Gold Reader’s Choice Contest, Long Contemporary category; Will Rogers Medallion Award, for Romance Fiction; NERFA (National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award) sponsored by First Coast Romance Writers, for Novel with Romantic Elements; WFWA (Women's Fiction Writers Association, Shining Star Award), for Best Debut Finalist. Short-listed for Eric Hoffer Award Grand Prize; Eric Hoffer First Horizon Award (highest scoring books by debut authors); Honorable Mention, General Fiction, Eric Hoffer Award; Da Vinci Eye, Eric Hoffer Award for the cover; NIEA (National Indie Excellence Award) for Literary Fiction; Top Ten Finisher, Best Other novel: Predators & Editors Readers' Poll 2015.

Nancy Godbout Jurka's illustrated poetry book, The Bright Star of Palmer Lake, recently won the 2016 Colorado Independent Publishing Association 3rd Place EVVY Award in Poetry.  The Bright Star of Palmer Lake is a beautifully illustrated in watercolors by artist Kay LaBella celebrating the historic Palmer Lake Star shining each holiday season for 80 years in the small town of Palmer Lake, Colorado where Nancy Jurka resides.

Nancy Bo Flood, SoldierSister, Fly Home won The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators 2016 SCBWI Book Launch Award. Thirteen-year-old Tess is having a hard enough time understanding what it means to be part white and part Navajo, but now she's coping with her sister Gaby's announcement that she's going to enlist and fight in the Iraq war. Gaby's decision comes just weeks after the news that Lori Piestewa, a member of their community, is the first Native American woman in US history to die in combat, adding to Tess's stress and emotions. While Gaby is away, Tess reluctantly cares for her sister's semi-wild stallion, Blue, who will teach Tess how to deal with tragic loss and guide her own journey of self-discovery.


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Musing on Mourning and Memento Mori

By Ann Parker
Writers of mystery novels are often faced with exploring the lingering effects of unexpected death on those left behind. Given that, and the fact that my newest in the series, What Gold Buys, ended up as a bit of an exploration of “life after death” (circa 1880s), I was on the hunt throughout the story’s creation for items and images that would tell me more about the customs, traditions, and beliefs of the era. 

I read about memento mori—artistic or symbolic reminders of mortality—and went zipping about, virtually speaking, looking for examples. In the nineteenth century, “mourning portraits” were a common and accepted way to memorialize dead loved ones, and photography brought such portraits into the more affordable reach of everyday folks. Another common way to help those living honor and recall their dearly departed were mourning brooches and rings, in which the hair of the deceased was encased within a brooch or braided and woven into a band.
  • My very intriguing memento mori "find" from Western Hardware Antiques, Leadville, Colorado
 On one of my research trips to Leadville, Colorado (the focal point for the Silver Rush series), I was lucky enough to find such a brooch in Western Hardware Antiques, which is one of my favorite haunts (so to speak). The brooch itself is a beautiful piece of work, as you can see from the photo. What I find intriguing is that there appear to be two different strands of hair encased—one of gray encircling another of blonde. I wish I knew the story behind this brooch… but the owner and whatever tale this piece of mourning jewelry might tell are unknown.
  • I took a peek inside the back of a hearse at the House with the Eye Museum in Leadville, Colorado. The ceiling fascinated me!
 In talking to the owner of the store, she mentioned that it is difficult to find memento mori photographs. “These days, people collect them and they fetch a high price,” she said. Which led me to reflect on attitudes on death and mourning, past and present. “Back when,” there were rules and customs that provided a structure for death and mourning. For instance, in the book Our Deportment or the Manners, Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society by John H. Young, A. M. (1880), the “Dress” chapter has a long section on mourning. This section provides insights that go far beyond the appropriate materials for dress for different mourning periods (heaviest black of serge, bombazine, lustreless alpaca, delaine, merino for deep mourning; lustreless alpaca and black silk in second mourning; light gray, white and black, and light shades of lilac for “slight mourning”). This observation, for instance:

“…The people of the United States have settled upon no prescribed periods for the wearing of mourning garments. Some wear them long after their hearts have ceased to mourn. Where there is profound grief, no rules are needed…”
  • Temporary "wicker caskets" were used to transport the remains of the deceased from the place of death to home or the undertaker's. From the House with the Eye Museum, Leadville, Colorado.
Yet rules are provided (of course), not only on what must be worn when and for whom, but for periods of mourning as well. Deepest mourning is reserved for a widow for her husband. This period lasts two years, sometimes longer. Mourning for a father, mother or child is one year. The mourning period for a grandparent, a friend who leaves you an inheritance (!), or a brother or sister is six months. Uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece get three months. What is permissible to wear differs from case to case, and Our Deportment goes into great detail on what kinds of cuffs, gloves, hats, jewelry, and embellishments are allowed and when.

It strikes me that having such strictures could be comforting in times of grief. What’s more, the rules and customs are signals to others, indicating that one is in mourning and in what stage. How different from our quick-paced world of today, in which it seems that the public face of mourning is expected to be short, and that then one should “get on with it,” obliging those who sorrow to do so silently and behind closed doors.
  • Death and dying were not laughing matters in the West... usually. (Tombstone advert circa 1881.)
Ann Parker's ancestors include a great-grandfather who was a blacksmith in Leadville, a grandmother who worked at the bindery of Leadville's Herald Democrat newspaper, a grandfather who was a Colorado School of Mines professor, and another grandfather who worked as a gandy dancer on the Colorado railroads. Her Silver Rush historical mystery series, published by Poisoned Pen Press, is set in the silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, in the early 1880s.