Monday, April 30, 2012

Guest Author - Dawne Prochilo

Today I welcome Dawne Prochilo to talk about what made her decide to write historical western romance.

I have always been an erotic / contemporary romance author but I do have a prolific writing background- from newspaper staff writer to online web content writer and my 12 novels- I have a wide range of writing.
I also have an expansive reading genre selection. Thrillers to suspense and all sub-genres of romance. But my one true love in the romance genre is westerns... historical westerns to be exact.  I have never attempted to write westerns, let alone historical westerns. I've always been a contemporary/present day romance writer. So here I am challenging my writing abilities and styles. I am stoked!

Catherine Anderson, Carol Finch and Linda Lael Miller to name a few, have always been my idols and I love their writing styles, story premises and characters. So here I am, Dawne Prochilo- former erotic romance author, heading into the ranks of these amazing authors.

I started writing my historical western romance series (The Butlers of Willow Creek) about one month ago and have almost 9k into it. I am building the characters, learning the old weest lingo (with the help of a couple of research books purchased from eBay) and starting my own little old west town and story lines.

I am having so much fun with the era words, clothing, etc- I actually had to chuckle recently. I had sent over the first two chapters to a mentor's review. She writes cowboys and knows the lingo very well and I respect her opinion. Everything was perfect with the exception of the man pulling up his knickers... really? Yes, I laughed. She chuckled. I changed it to trousers and moved on.

There's just something about a cowboy calling a woman darlin', his swagger in his denim jeans, the way you just know he smells of leather and a hard day's work and the strut of confidence he has that makes me swoon- see, I got the word right.

It is all trial and error when writing about unfamiliar topics, centuries and all that goes along with them. I have discovered the story flowing from me, with a few roadblocks when I am stumped with verbage. I know the way I want the story to play out, I just need to make sure I say it the right way. My series is based in 1898 in the Northeast Colorado Territory and I want perfection and no reader to question a phrase or word.

I recently read a historical western based in the same era/decade and saw a few phrases that really stood out. One was 'a walk in the park'. Were there any parks in the 19th century old west? Doubtful. But when did that phrase really begin? Regardless, it stuck out like a sore thumb to me. Hence why I am taking my time, re-reading and editing as I go.

I am thrilled with my transformation back to contemporary romance, and even more anxious for this series to be completed and submitted. I do love challenging my writing abilities and hope to continue on with the western writing. I may have found my 'branding' in the business.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Yellowstone Trails - Trout Lake

I had actually planned to talk about the Brink of the Lower Falls Trail today, since I just wrote about it in my latest work in progress, Yellowstone Deception. But yesterday I had a dream about  - strangely enough – Trout Lake. So, I’ll take that as a hint, and write about this beautiful little lake and the hike to get there.
We’ve done this hike twice so far. Each time, the enticing factor for me is to see river otters. Supposedly, the lake is home to those cute little critters. We were lucky one summer to see river otters playing in one of several creeks that flow into the Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley. While we sat along the road, watching three otters at play, people would drive by, slow down, and since we weren’t staring at bison or a bear, kept on driving. That was fine with us. Lots of people would have no doubt scared the otters away.  Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with seeing otters again. We hiked to Fairy Falls last year because a ranger told us that otters were spotted in the Little Firehold River there. No luck for us. So far, we’ve had no luck seeing any at Trout Lake, either. But I think we get there at the wrong time of the day. Hopefully this year, we can plan it a little better.
This hike is best done early in the morning, if you hope to see some otters. It’s also a very popular fishing spot for anglers (catch - and - release only), and can get pretty crowded around lunchtime.
Trout Lake is between Tower and the Northeast Entrance, which means (for us) a scenic drive through the beautiful Lamar Valley. That’s also why we always get there so late. There is so much to see in Lamar. The parking area to the trailhead is rather small, so once again, get there early if you don’t want to park further down the road in one of the pull outs.
The trail starts off very steep uphill, and stays that way the entire hike to the lake, a little over a half mile. (Try this hike as a warm-up, followed later in the day by Hellroaring Creek!)
You’ll hear the rushing sound of water from the lake’s outlet well before you see the lake itself. Coming around a narrow bend, it kind of surprises you – in a good way. It is nestled in a lush green meadow which, at the right time of year, is filled with wildflowers.
You can hike around the twelve acre lake, and in late June and early July, witness the  spawning of cutthroat trout at the lake’s inlet. What a sight! Spend a few hours taking in the scenery (the fish, the mountains in the background, photographing wildflowers, etc), and enjoy a nice lunch. The nice thing about this hike on the way back, it’s all downhill!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Excerpt from Yellowstone Redemption

On the other side of the fire, Chase jumped up suddenly. He slid down on the ground on his knees in front of her so quickly, she pulled her knife in surprise. He gave it no notice, and grabbed her by the shoulders.
“Where did you say your mother is from?” His face was inches from hers, his intense stare startling her.
“New….New York,” she stammered. Squirming, she tried to break away from his grip. “You’re hurting me, Chase.” His mouth relaxed, and his eyes softened.
“I’m sorry.” He released his hold on her, but his hands lingered on her arms, his thumbs rubbing the fabric of her shirt up and down her skin. Warmth spread throughout her body, and her skin tingled from his touch. She forced her breathing to remain steady.
Chase sat back on his heels. “How did she end up here in the wilderness?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Sarah shook her head, her eyebrows narrowing. “I think my father just… found her.” Her voice trailed off. She’d never asked or questioned her parents about that. It was just as natural as breathing that her mother and father should be together. How that came about had never been important.
“He just found her here, in the wilderness?” Chase repeated her words.
“Why is this important?”
“Sarah,” his eyes bored holes right through her, “the stories your mother told you, the magical place, it’s real. The things she told you about are real. They exist in my world…in my time.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Guest Author: Andrea Parnell

1   I’m pleased today to feature western romance author, Andrea Parnell.

1   Welcome, Andrea. Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about the person behind the pen.

When I was a child my parents nailed an old saddle to a sawhorse.  I spent hours at a time astride my imaginary horse, pretending I was riding the range in the old west and chasing bad guys.  Each Christmas I got cowgirl duds and cap pistols.  Today I’m still a cowgirl at heart and even though I sold my saddle long ago, I still spend hours every day imagining adventures in the Wild West.  I’ve published three western romance novels.

2    Why did you decide to write romance?  What is the appeal?

I’m a romantic.  There isn’t a cure for it.  I write romance because the stories are about everyone and for everyone.  Romance can incorporate most every other genre and there are so many genres I like and want to do.  My ten books are primarily historical and all could be tagged romantic suspense.  As for western romances, that’s where my imagination started.

3   Do you have any writing quirks?

Plenty.  Most I won’t mention but I often begin by writing the last page first then looping back to page one and writing my way to the end.

4    Which comes first, the idea or the characters?

The idea shows up first, usually triggered by an object or event or something I’ve read doing general research.  With an idea formed, a character shows up claiming ‘that’s my story’ and soon it’s like a casting call.  Other characters appear and bring more dimension to the original spark.

5    Tell us a little about your writing style? Do you plan and plot your stories, or do you just plow through them?

I’m a fitful writer, that is to say I write in fits and spurts.  My ideal is to be perfectly organized and clock “x” number of words a day and have a neat desk.  I’m a combo writer as well.  I do some planning and some plunging.  My planning consists mainly of outlining a story arc to be sure I include all the structural elements I want.  I do a fairly extensive character chart on primary characters and that gives me most of the conflict.  Secondary characters tend to show up unannounced.  Always fun.

6   Can you tell us a little about your current work, Delilah’s Flame? Is there a story behind the story?
We are very conscious in present day of the impact a traumatic event has on a child.  I wondered how a child in the old west might have fared having witnessed a horrible crime done to a loved one.  And if the child were a girl, what would she do about it?  If she is feisty and determined, she might seek revenge, her way.  And that is Lilah Damon’s story in Delilah’s Flame set in California in 1859.

7    What sets your heroine Delilah apart from all the other women in your hero’s Tabor Stanton life? Why is she perfect for him?

She isn’t.  And that is what puzzles Tabor.  He is at first attracted by her beauty but senses she is out of place in the world in which he finds her.  She is too refined, appears to be a woman of means, all wrong for a saloon singer traveling from place to place.  There is a mystery about her and he wants to know her secret.

8    How did you come up with the title Delilah’s Flame?

Delilah has a theme song she uses in her act.  The title is a phrase from her song.  The song is a warning to someone in the audience, though that person never knows until it is too late. 

9    Can you give us a little background on your hero Tabor Stanton, that’s only in your author notes, and not found in your story? What inspired you to create this character? 

Characters surprise us.  Tabor once traveled to Japan as a naval officer before turning to ranching.  The experience is part of who he is but doesn’t factor into the story.  Tabor is inspired by my cowboy ideal, the tough good guy who loves his horse and the girl.

0   Can you give us an excerpt of your novel?

In this excerpt Tabor Stanton wakes up in jail following his first encounter with Delilah. 

A cloud of uneasiness darkened Tabor's face. "Just what is it I'm supposed to have done?"
"You ain't supposed to have done nothin', cow­boy," Marshal Walsh Peregrine barked. "I got a signed deposition on my desk says you did draw a gun on a lady and threaten to kill her. Maybe would have if her hired man hadn't got you." His eyes bulged as his anger mounted. "We don't take to a man mistreatin' a lady, or to a man welshin' on a bet."
"Delilah," Tabor mumbled as a line of her song echoed mockingly in his mind? ‘If you love Delilah there's a terrible price . . .’ He was finding out what that price was.
"I see you ain't denyin' it," Peregrine growled.
"I sure as hell am denying it." Tabor stood and grabbed the bars, too mad now to feel the pain. "The lady whacked me with a sherry bottle while I was in a vulnerable state. She also cheats at poker."
Peregrine grabbed Tabor by the shirtfront and jolted him against the bars. "Watch your filthy mouth, Stan­ton. Miss Delilah ain't the kind of lady to compromise herself with the likes of you."
"Lady, my eyetooth."
Peregrine shoved. Tabor hit the wood-framed bunk like a cannonball. "Now, don't go makin' me madder, Stanton." Peregrine's eyes threatened to pop out of his head. "Wouldn't take much for me to make you a permanent resident of the Yuba City jail."
Tabor groaned and heaved himself to his feet. He wisely avoided approaching the bars again. "Does that mean you're not holding me long?"
"It means I ain't holdin' you permanently," Pere­grine responded. "Six or eight months ought to be enough to make a better man out of you." He started to leave.
"Wait a minute, Marshal," Tabor called, for the first time realizing the severity of his situation. It wasn't going to be easy to reason with the marshal, not after that redheaded witch Delilah had worked a spell on him. He'd have to think of something. Meanwhile Curtis down at the livery would be expecting him to come for the Admiral. "I need to send word to the livery about my horse," he said.
Peregrine stopped at the door, turned, and grinned. "You ain't got no horse. Miss Delilah took ‘her’ horse with her."

I hope this excerpt tempts you to spend a few hours with Delilah and Tabor between the covers of Delilah’s Flame.  Reviews are welcomed.  Links are below.

1   What else do you have in store for your readers? 

Devil Moon, a western historical romance is next for e-release along with Guns and Garters, a novella, which ropes my western characters into a joint adventure with plenty of bullets and petticoats. 

I invite everyone to download Dark Prelude, a free novella, and look for my Gothic novels, Dark Splendor and Whispers At Midnight, available for Kindle and at any ebook store. 

I love hearing from readers.  Visit me at any of the sites below. 
Happy Trails.

Andrea Parnell's blog:
Twitter:                    @AndreaHParnell
Amazon page:          Amazon
B&N:                       B&N
Smashwords:           Smashwords 
Kindle links:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Campfire Fridays (this week on Saturday)

 by Richard Henderson

OK so I’m stepping off the trail again here and going across country. The voice in my head is telling me that I’m supposed to be writing about campfire cooking and in my mind I am. It’s just that as I have mentioned before, some places you just can’t have a campfire.  Backpacking in the Eastern Sierras  is one of my weaknesses. In many places though, you can’t have an open fire at night (legally). This means cooking over a small camp stove and the inherent hassles that come with it. For those that haven’t tried this let me explain. Imagine trying to cook dinner with a blow torch in the wind while juggling the pan in one hand and the torch in the other. Don’t drop the torch… you might just start a forest fire. That is how it goes for me too often. I know some people take the time (and extraordinary effort) to create gourmet backcountry meals, but not me.  That  has reduced me to boiling water and adding it to a bag of freeze-dried food for many of my meals. Food has been reduced to fuel for the body and that just takes some fun out of the trip.
A few years ago though a friend taught me a neat little way to cook a decent meal over our torches (I mean stoves). He brought along a couple of steaks that he had marinated and cut in half as if to stuff them. Regular steak, but only about ½” thick. He froze them (after marinating) a couple days before we left and stored them in a plastic bag. When we got to camp, the steaks were still safely cold. He placed some thinly sliced onion and peppers on some foil and then added the steak and more onions and peppers on top. He folded the foil over so juices couldn’t spill out.  Now usually I strive to sear a steak before finishing it in an oven. This time though, we just  put the steak in the lid of our pots and blasted away with the stoves (from above) until they were steaming. We flipped ‘em a couple times as we did this. We un-wrapped them and then put them in the bottoms of our pans to sear them. The leftover juices and some water made the best (freeze-dried) mashed potatoes I’d had in the backcountry. It actually turned out pretty well  and I enjoyed a good meal for a change.
The onions and peppers had saved the steak from the blowtorching. The foil and the thin cut of the meat had allowed it to steam and cook quickly (which saves critical fuel). And we were able to brown them a little in the bottom of the pan. That would have created a clean-up mess but the water added to it and boiled for the potatoes cleaned it right up.  So simple, but if Bob hadn’t shared, I’d still be eating  freeze-dried Jamaican Jerk chicken for too many meals. Thanks Bob.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Yellowstone Trail - Hellroaring Creek

I’m coming off a very emotional ride from Yellowstone Heart Song’s two day free run on Amazon. What a thrill ride it was! Who knew that giving away thousands of copies of your book could be so exciting. 
Oh, and my husband promised a campfire cooking post for tomorrow!

Justin ready to go!
So, for today’s featured Yellowstone Trail I chose the Hellroaring Creek Trail, which was rather emotional for me for a bunch of other reasons. Now, I am not a backpacker. I probably barely qualify as a hiker. We hike our local hills here in southern California, and our neighborhood is pretty hilly, which keeps me in shape as I take the dog for his (almost) daily outings. If my husband had his way, we’d be backpacking (ie spending the night in a tiny tent that you schlepp on your back for miles and miles to a location without running water or a toilet) every weekend.  He can count his lucky stars that I do go hiking with him. I actually complain less about it than the kids do.
view of the Yellowstone River about halfway down the trail
For me, hiking is all about the scenery. To be properly motivated, the hike has to be in an area I like to be in. Yellowstone definitely qualifies for that, and I enjoy hiking there. The two things making my hikes less enjoyable for me are; I am terrified of bears, and of heights.
While choosing a trail from our trail book two summers ago, I came across one that sounded pretty neat. It’s called the Hellroaring Creek Trail. The total distance of this trail is about 4.0 miles, round trip to Hellroaring Creek, and the book lists the hike as moderate (the author of the book defines moderate as a hike for someone with some hiking experience and in average physical shape)
suspension bridge
Ok, so far so good. The neat thing I saw about the trail that I thought the kids would enjoy is the suspension bridge you have to cross over the Yellowstone River (remember I said I am afraid of heights). So, my mind zeroed in on the “suspension bridge” part of the trail description. I must have overlooked the part where it says “one mile of switchbacks” to get to the suspension bridge….
The trailhead is a bit hard to find. You might drive right past it if you’re not looking. It’s on the grand loop road about 4 miles past Tower Roosevelt if you’re heading west, or 14 miles east of  Mammoth Hot Springs, and you drive down a short service road.
The trail itself is beautiful (but, in June, it is swarming with hungry mosquitos, so you’d better bring the bug spray!)
The scenery is spectacular as you walk down (remember the switchbacks?) the very narrow trail through open timber and sagebrush meadow. My husband kept giving me the “are you sure you want to do this?” look several times, because the trail is very narrow, and very steep, and it’s a long way down. I was actually good to go, but as we kept walking, I saw an awful lot of hikers coming the other way heading back up, red-faced, sweaty, and breathing hard. What goes down, must come up. After a half mile, it was too late to say I wanted to turn around. I didn’t want to wimp out now, and have my kids make fun of me for the rest of the trip, so I kept my nagging worries to myself.
Yellowstone River from suspension bridge
By the time we got to the suspension bridge, we were all a bit winded (except my husband, of course). The boys had a great time goading mom into actually walking over the bridge. The Yellowstone River narrows in this particular spot, and is a roaring, raging rapid sort of river. Very beautiful to look at, but not standing directly overhead. Not for me anyways. Ok, yes, I did manage to get across the bridge, but it wasn’t easy. We saw lots of hoof prints, so this trail is also used as a stock trail, and I figured if a horse can cross, then so can I.
After a short rest on the other side of the Yellowstone, we decided to turn around. For starters, it was getting a bit late in the day, and my husband suddenly decided we didn’t bring enough water. Boy was he right! Did I mention that a mile going downhill is one thing, but heading back up is a whole ‘nother story! It’s more like five miles coming back up.
I think the whining by the boys started about a quarter mile up. I was in tears another quarter mile further. We went slow, and we did run out of water. Luckily I had a few piece of candy in my pocket to suck on to keep the mouth moist.
Going back up
Okay, so Hellroaring conquered me in 2010. In 2011, every time we drove past the trailhead, the boys would yell “hell no!” when my husband suggested we hike this trail again. They are in for a rude surprise. Mom’s been training this past year, with one goal in mind. I will conquer this trail in 2012, and be the first one back to the car. And this year, we’re actually going to hike all the way to Hellroaring Creek.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

FREE Kindle book today and tomorrow!

Just a reminder: Yellowstone Heart Song is FREE today and tomorrow on Amazon, to celebrate the release of Yellowstone Dawn.
Get your copy here

The entire Yellowstone Romance Series (minus book 5, which  isn't written yet) is also featured today on Kirsten Arnold's WildWest blog.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Excerpt from Yellowstone Dawn

As a reminder, Yellowstone Dawn releases tomorrow, April 18th, on Amazon. And Yellowstone Heart Song will be FREE tomorrow and Thursday. Just click on the book cover to the right, and it will take you to the Amazon page.

Yellowstone Dawn Excerpt:

He stared at her from across the room. He swallowed several times even as his mouth went dry. Dammit, Running Wolf. What the hell’s the matter with you? At what point had Dani changed from a simple white woman to the most breathtaking female he’d ever laid eyes on? She stood motionless, not wavering from his gaze. Her long yellow hair framed her delicate face, highlighted by the dancing flames from the fire. Her puffy eyes told him she’d been crying. Had she even slept? It had been a good three hours since he sent her into the bedroom.
She stepped out into the room, firmly clutching a blanket she’d wrapped around her shoulders. Her bare feet didn’t escape his notice, nor her bare ankles. Josh’s heart hammered in his chest. Was she wearing anything under that blanket?
He cleared his throat, and shook his black forelock out of his eyes. The silence between them was deafening. What the hell was he supposed to say to her?
“Did you get any sleep?” He groaned. Couldn’t he think of anything else to say? The heat in the room became unbearable. Josh fumbled with the sleeves of his heavy coat, and pulled it off. His cotton shirt clung to his back. He turned and moved to hang his coat on a peg near the door.
“I slept a little,” she said behind him. “I think three days in the saddle have made my back sore. It feels better to move around.”
Josh slowly pivoted to face her again. She’d moved towards the hearth, a content smile on her face, one hand pressed into her lower back. He realized the bedroom must still be ice cold. When their eyes met again, Dani raised her chin.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I found some cotton shirts in the bedroom. I didn’t know if they belong to you or Kyle, but I’m wearing one right now. It feels good to get out of that buckskin dress.” She pulled the blanket from her shoulder to give him a glimpse of one of his blue cotton shirts. The idea of her dressed in his clothes sent a warm wave of desire through him.
Dani’s eyes narrowed, and before he had a chance to respond, she added, “Don’t worry. I’ll keep the blanket wrapped around me. I wouldn’t want you to think I was acting like a hussy again.”

Monday, April 16, 2012

Yellowstone Dawn Book Release and Yellowstone Heart Song is FREE!

Just a quick announcement that Yellowstone Dawn, Book 4 in the Yellowstone Romance Series, is scheduled to go live on Amazon on April 18th. I've completed the edits, the formatting, and now it just needs to be uploaded. I'm excited to be offering Josh and Dani's story, two characters I introduced in Book 3, Yellowstone Awakening.
As a special promotional offer, to anyone new to the series, I am offering Yellowstone Heart Song, the book that started it all, FREE on Amazon on April 18th and 19th.

I am several chapters into the last book I plan to write in this series - titled Yellowstone Deception. The idea for this book comes from several of my readers who suggested/nudged/hinted/prodded at me to write a story about Dan Osborne and Jana Evans. If you recall, Jana Evans is Aimee Donovan's (my heroine from book 1) best friend, and she meets Dan Osborne at the end of the story. The plot for this book gets a bit tricky, because it will involve time travel. I also had to consult with some people who know Yellowstone inside and out for their suggestions for the premise for this story. I knew early on when planning this book what I wanted it to be about, but exactly what the "what" (refer to book title) was had me a bit stumped. Thanks to all the great guys on one of the Yellowstone forums I frequent for their awesome suggestions. Each idea would have made a great story, but I had to pick one. So, stay tuned.....
After the Yellowstone Series, I plan to write a prequel novella that goes into the explanation of the time travel element I used in this series. When I first wrote Yellowstone Heart Song, the very early versions contained a prologue that explained the time travel, but I had judges in a couple of contests I entered way back when tell me that I should get rid of the prologue. Since I never fully explain it in any of the novels in this series, I'm going to attempt to do so in a novella.
After the Yellowstone Series, I've got a new time travel series in the works. I'm calling it the Second Chances Time Travel Series. My love of the old west, the mountain men, and the Rocky Mountain wilderness will absolutely play front and center in these stories, just as Yellowstone did in the first series.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Campfire Fridays (this week on Sunday)

Peggy asked me to write “a little bit about campfires and cooking” each week for her. Easy right? Every Friday (the day after Thursday if you  I forgot). But somehow I still forget, and Friday morning my dear wife always has to ask me for my article. And I’ve usually forgotten. This week I celebrated the anniversary of my 21st birthday (or as my kids put it..”you’re one more year older than dirt”) on Wednesday and I guess that was just enough “schedule change” to mess me up (again). I can’t remember to write something EVERY Friday, but I do remember the first thing I cooked in a Dutch oven (well not counting that can of beans that I reheated for dinner).
I only remember buying one piece of cast iron cookware… new. All my others have been gifts or garage sale scores. That new 8” (the real little one) oven was a Lodge brand. Lodge is great in that they include a little cookbook of simple recipes with their wares. One of my favorites that they include in it is the Mountain Man Breakfast. It is the easiest and yet most versatile recipe I think I have ever come upon. Fry some bacon in your pan, add frozen hash browns and some cheese, stir it up and crack a couple eggs right over it. No need to mix again, but I guess if you’re fancy… Just let it cook long enough to finish the eggs and you’ve got the best breakfast that I’ve found for the outdoors. But that’s just the beginning. The frozen hash browns have really proven to be the key.
Most important, they make a great ice pack for the cooler (at least until you eat them).But beyond that, you can also make a dinner dish with them by substituting some cream for the eggs, and adding a little chopped cabbage on the bottom. Fry the bacon first, put it in the lid, throw the cabbage on the bottom of the pan. Add some hash browns, some bacon, (mozzarella anyone?!) more hash browns and the rest of the bacon. Add some cream, or milk and let it cook a while (I don’t check the clock… just til it’s done you know).  Now that I think about it, sour cream and milk might even work well (I’ll have to try that one first… live dangerously you know). You can let your imagination run wild for seasonings. Fried onions, garlic, heck add Tabasco (well not around the kids or wife anyway) if you must. See how versatile these things are.
I guess that’s why I remember what I cooked that first  second time I used my new oven. Now if that oven had just been a little bigger so everybody could have tasted it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Yellowstone Trails - Uncle Tom's Trail

Since Campfire Fridays seems to be turning into Campfire Saturdays, I’ve decided to try something new, and post about some of the interesting trails you can hike in Yellowstone. The one I’ll talk about this week is really not a trail at all, and rather than a hike, this is more your stairmasters workout tenfold. But the rewards are a close-up personal view of the Lower Falls
Lower Falls as seen from Artist Point

It took my husband several years to get me on this particular trail. I am a big chicken when it comes to heights. Since my first attempt (I don’t remember how many years ago, honest), this has become a “must do” trail every year. One plus – highly unlikely to run into a bear.

Husband Rich and son Justin heading down 
The “trail” is called Uncle Tom’s Trail, and it starts out as a narrow paved series of switchbacks (code for steep down or uphill) from the parking lot at Artist Point in the Canyon area. Then you get to your first of 328 (yes, we counted them) steel grate steps that take you down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone about ½ mile. This is the equivalent of climbing the stairs of a 20 story building.
Let me say here, that before you get to the staircase, the park service put up a warning sign that anyone with heart problems should not attempt this trail. First of all, if you’re like me, and a big wimp when it comes to heights, this trail will get the adrenaline going mighty quick. Did I say it goes down? Not a gradual down, but a drop along the canyon face by 500 vertical feet. And the metal grate steps are just that – grates. Very see-through. So if you look down at your feet, you are looking way down into the canyon. The angle of the sheer drop is unbelievable, and gave me the willies. You’ll keep looking at the bolts and supports that hold the staircase to the canyon wall, and pray that someone checks these things for security every now and then.  On the way up, your heart will be working overtime. When we did this trail last year, there were three college age guys – young guys, fairly athletic -  who thought they were tough, and passed us on the way up. By the time we all reached the top, we had passed them. They went way too quick going up, and the last stretch did them in. Thank fully, there are benches along the way to stop and take a breather.
Heading back up
The reward, if you make it all the way to the bottom (actually not all the way to the bottom – the park service got tired of fixing the staircase every year from snow damage, and took out the last 200 or so stairs, so you can’t get all the way to the bottom of the canyon anymore), is a spectacular close up view of the Lower Falls. Almost always, you can see a rainbow through the mist of the waters created by the powerful forces of the falls. Be sure to wave to the people standing on the lookout platform on the other side of the river. To get to that spot, it’s a mere ½ mile paved walk down, but it’s all switchbacks, and a moderately difficult walk back out (but that’s for another post).

Uncle Tom’s Trail was started by a man named “Uncle” Tom Richardson in 1898. He was granted a permit to take tourists across the Yellowstone River and into the Grand Canyon. From 1898 to 1905, he ferried guests across the river and led them along the south rim. From there, he installed a series of ropes and rope ladders that offered some security amid the sheer cliffs of the canyon.
“It was a pretty difficult climb for most people,” says Yellowstone National Park historian Lee Whittlesey. “He would bring pins for the ladies to pin up their dresses to make the hiking easier.”
The park service completed construction on the Chittenden Bridge in 1903, which gave visitors access to the south rim, and they also installed a wooden staircase, and Uncle Tom went out of business. The wood was replaced by metal in the 1930’s.
So, if you are adventurous, in good health, and want to experience a part of Yellowstone that the majority of visitors never will, take a “hike” down Uncle Tom’s trail. Best time to hike this trail: right around the time most people return to their campsites or hotel rooms, around 7pm. Be sure to bring lots of water.

In my book, Yellowstone Redemption, my poor hero, Chase Russell, had to descend and climb back out of the canyon three times, and he didn't have ropes, ladders, or a staircase.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Yellowstone Dawn Release Date

For today's Teaser Tuesday, I have the blurb and cover for Yellowstone Dawn, Book 4 in the Yellowstone Romance Series. The release date for the book is April 18, 2012 on Amazon.

Danica Jensen dreams of a man she knows she can never have. After one brief encounter five years ago, her heart was lost to him forever, and she's never given up hope of seeing him again. Raised by a bitter father, she’s learned to be strong and resourceful on her own. When a pleasure trip to the newly created Yellowstone National Park turns into a battle for survival, her inner strength is tested like never before.
A woman like Danica doesn’t interest Josh Osborne. He’d be crazy to get involved with a bossy, strong-willed white woman. His mixed heritage has always made people weary of him. He prefers to be on his own, and his role as protector of the national park’s game allows for no attachments.
Danica’s dream of ever winning Josh’s heart shatters after a cruel twist of fate changes her life forever. Suddenly forced together, they must confront their deepest secrets. Josh can’t deny his growing respect and admiration for this brave woman, but will the bond they’ve forged be powerful enough to turn his feelings into love? When an unforeseen danger threatens their lives, Josh must protect more than the wild inhabitants of the park.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Guest Author - Caroline Clemmons

I am pleased to welcome Caroline Clemmons today!

Many thanks to Peggy for inviting me to her blog today.

Do you like water sports?  Not being athletic, I love just watching water. Light dancing across, ripples, waves, current, all fascinate and soothe me. Because I live in North Central Texas, the Brazos River is my favorite river. Where does it originate? How fast is the current? Are the shores safe for play?

Going to visit my grandmother in southwestern Oklahoma meant crossing the Red River. Being a stupid kid, I always begged my dad to stop and let me play in the river. He refused and told me there were too many spots with quicksand. Of course, being a stupid kid, that only increased my interest. Hadn’t Nancy Drew survived sinking in quicksand to her waist? Well, yes, but the key to that is that is was only to her waist. Now I’m an adult and, I hope, not quite as stupid. I’ve learned that, as usual, Daddy spoke the truth and there are many spots where quicksand awaits unsuspecting humans and animals.

 My current fascination is with the Brazos River, which is the longest river in Texas. It is unclear when European explorers named it, since it was often confused with the Colorado River not far to the south, but it was reportedly seen by La Salle. Later Spanish accounts call it Rio De Los Brazos de Dios (the river of the arms of God), for which name there were several different explanations, all involving it being the first water to be found by desperately thirsty parties.

The Brazos is a wonderful river here in North Central Texas. There are caves along the banks, places to swim, fish, huge catfish, eerie pools, guessed it...quicksand! The parents of an elderly (age 91) friend lost their wagon and team trying to cross the Brazos almost a hundred years ago. This was before my friend was born, when her mother was pregnant with the friend’s next older brother and had already had one small son. Not only did they lose everything, they had to walk about 20 miles back to Weatherford for help from family. There are other accounts of families suffering the same tragedy attempting to cross the Brazos. Pioneers had it rough!

The Brazos River plays a part in my new trilogy, The Men of Stone Mountain. BRAZOS BRIDE is the first of the trilogy. Here’s the blurb:

Hope Montoya knows someone is poisoning her, but who? She suspects her mother was also poisoned and knows her father was murdered. Who wants her family eliminated? She vows to fight! She realizes she won’t last the eight months until she turns twenty-five and her uncle no longer controls her or her estate. Never will she be dominated by a man as she was by her father, as she has seen her mother and grandmothers dominated. If she marries, she gains control now, but only if she weds a man she can trust. Only one man meets her requirements. Can she trust him to protect her and capture the killer...but then to leave?

Micah Stone has been in love with Hope since the first time he saw her. But he was accused of her father’s murder and surely would have hung if not for his two brothers’ aid. Most in the community still believe him guilty. But the drought has him too worried about water for his dying cattle to care about his neighbors’ opinions. When Hope proposes a paper marriage in exchange for land on the Brazos River and much needed cash, her offer rubs his pride raw. His name may be Stone, but he’s not made of it. He can’t refuse her for long, and so their adventure begins.

And here’s an excerpt from the wedding night of their paper marriage:

She looked at her hands. Perhaps she was unreasonable. Or maybe insane for sympathizing with a man who'd had to work harder because of her family.

"I know it is an odd situation. If—if you wear your shirt and britches, I guess it would be all right if you slept on top of the cover here." She patted the bed beside her.

He froze. Not a muscle moved, and he only stared at her. Had she misunderstood? Did he think her offer too forward?

She babbled, "That is, if you want to. You said I should trust you. Well, maybe you would be more comfortable where you are." Why didn't he say something? Would he prefer sleeping in a chair to sharing the bed?

From the street below, she heard raucous laughter and someone called to a man named Ben. Music from a piano, she supposed in the saloon, drifted in through the open windows. A gust of breeze moved the curtains and slid across her skin. In this room, though, there was no sound.

Slowly, he rose and extinguished the lamp as he moved across the room. She slid one of the pillows beside hers then scooted down. What had possessed her to offer him half her bed? Would he think she invited more?

Too late to take it back now, for the mattress dipped as he stretched out. Quaking inside at the thought of him so near, she turned her back to him. She heard his weary sigh, as if he relaxed for the first time in a long while.

"Good night," she offered, and hoped he understood the finality of the phrase.

"Yep. Good night, Mrs. Stone." The mattress shook as he turned his back to her. She felt the soles of his feet press against her ankles. He must be several inches too long for the bed and she guessed he had to bend his legs to fit. She didn't dare turn to see firsthand.

She lay perfectly still, afraid to take a deep breath. Soon his breathing changed and she knew he slept. Outside the open window the town quieted and the distant tinkling of the piano was the only sound. Light from the full moon illuminated the room and slanted across the bed. A soft breeze drifted across her, lulling her in its caress.

With a sigh, she fought to relax, but abdominal pain kept her awake no matter how her body cried for rest. Perhaps if she planned, she’d forget the pain and chills that racked her frame.

Plan, yes. She needed a plan for food preparation when she returned to her home. No, Micah said he had a plan. Oh, dear, once more he took charge when it was her life, her home.

Maybe Aunt Sofia and Uncle Jorge would have left by then and things would be fine. Already she felt more secure. She sensed her eyelids drifting closed and the sleep’s blessed relief approaching.

A gunshot ripped apart the night.

The blast startled her and she screamed as something thudded near her head, showering her hair and face with splinters. Panic immobilized her. What had happened?

Micah dragged her onto the floor as a bullet ripped into the mattress.

I hope this blurb and excerpt tempt you to buy BRAZOS BRIDE. Only 99 cents at Amazon, it’s a bargain. Here is the link:

About Caroline Clemmons:

Caroline Clemmons writes mystery, romance, and adventures—although her earliest made up adventures featured her saving the West with Roy Rogers. Her career has included stay-at-home mom (her favorite job), newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls and estate sales, and genealogy/family history.

Excerpts from some of her exceptional reviews can be found on her website at View her blog posts Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at and find book reviews, giveaways, interview, and miscellany.
Twitter:!/carolinclemmons (No E in Caroline)
Caroline loves to hear from readers at

Thanks for letting me visit today!

Thank you, Caroline!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Campfire Fridays - Pickle Jars and Campfires

I am a day late with this posting because time just got away from me this week. Well kind of, anyway. It was Spring break for our boys and they had asked to go backpacking out in the desert before it gets to hot. I took a couple days off from work and we headed out to Joshua Tree National Park to spend a night out under the moon and stars.
In most of the wilderness areas that I have traveled to, open campfires are not allowed. This is sad, but at the same time it makes some sense and it got me thinking about just what a campfire really means to me. I still use a simple map and compass to navigate off trail (I’m a relic according to my kids). When I can have an open fire on the trail, I keep it small, build a fire mound and then bury my ashes. This prevents the soil from being sterilized and it doesn’t scar the land as badly as an “open pit” type of campfire. Sadly, I think most people don’t have a clue. They carry a GPS (which I have nothing against except that batteries die), an ePRB (the modern version of 911 in the wilderness, and invaluable if you travel alone), cell phones, and off they go. Unfortunately all too often these things create a false sense of security (if you feel totally secure in the wilderness…. well you just shouldn’t) and people do dumb things. Wind blows, people start bonfires, and the next thing you know the whole wilderness is going up in smoke. Which brings me to …...
A tradition that I learned about as a Boy Scout leader -  keeping an ash jar. Mine is just a non-descript pickle jar that I started when my kids were already about 10 years old.  My memory was just a little more intact back then and so remembering all the campouts and campfires was just a little easier. (insert from wife: wow! Imagine what another four years might do to your memory!) 
It works like this. Each campfire I have with either of my boys gets a sprinkle of the ashes in that jar. In the morning after it cools, I put a scoop back in. The jar remains full. I have a small journal that lists the where and when of it all and someday I’ll pass half of the jar to each of my boys to continue the tradition with their kids. They can figure out how to divide the journal. For those who know something about Boy Scouts, I was lucky enough to have shared a campfire with somebody who had ashes in their jar that had been passed around from a campfire that Lord Baden Powell (founder of the BSA) had attended. That’s the kind of neat connections that can be formed by keeping the jar. It’s a great idea for parents that love to camp, or grandparents too. Start the jar when they are young and just pass it along.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Teaser Tuesday 4/3/12

This short excerpt is from Yellowstone Awakening:

“Why do you need two saddle horses?” Josh stood on Rosie’s other side, looking over the mare’s back. Kyle glared at him, and Josh raised his eyebrows, staring past him towards the cabin.
“How’s Miss Kate this morning? Feeling better?”
“She’s fine,” Kyle answered.
“What was wrong with her last night?”
“I didn’t ask, “ he answered dismissively. “I’m taking her to see the falls along the Firehole. So if you wouldn’t mind getting Blackjack ready, she and I can be on our way.”
“Does she need a chaperone?” Josh asked, still not making a move to bring the other horse out of the corral.
Most likely.
“You sure about that, Kyle?” Josh draped his arms over Rosie’s back, staring at him. “You can’t keep your eyes off her, cousin. You’d better be careful and watch your step, or you’re gonna end up in a heap of trouble.”
“What the hell kind of trouble am I going to get in for showing her around the valley?” Kyle growled. He pushed Josh’s arms out of the way with a saddle blanket that he tossed over the horse’s back. The saddle followed, and Josh had to duck to avoid the stirrup swinging through the air.
“The kind where you’re thinking long term, and wanting to get hitched.”
Kyle smiled at his cousin. “You never think about stuff like that?” He bent down and grabbed for the leather cinch under the mare’s belly.
Josh scoffed. “The only way you’ll ever see me tied to a woman is if someone points a gun at my head.”