Meet Abigail from Jane Kirkpatrick’s Something Worth Doing

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today. I’m happy to be here too! I travel a lot despite the stagecoach discomforts, the sometimes-smelly trains and of course, on horseback and walking, so it’s nice to have a little respite here with you today and put my tired feet up. Thanks for asking me to stop by.

Tell us something about where you live. I live in Oregon but I was born in Illinois and crossed the Oregon Trail in 1852 with my parents and siblings. I was asked to keep the diary of our crossing (I was 16 and love words!) and later I used the diary to help me write my very first novel. I’ve written over 20! My husband and six children have lived on farms (one I named Hardscrabble and it was!) and then we moved to Lafayette, Oregon where I taught school and later Albany, Oregon where I ran a millinery and owned a school and then Portland where I was one of the few women in the country to start and operate a newspaper supporting women’s rights for 17 years. We lived on a ranch in Idaho for a time too. We Duniways did get around, sometimes because of poor choices we made.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? My name is Abigail Jane Scott Duniway. My family called me Jenny. I never knew why my parents gave me that name but my mother did admire Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, a signer of the Constitution and later President of the US. Perhaps she indirectly affected my life with that name as women and the rights of other minorities became my life’s calling in response to Micah’s question what does the Lord require?  “To seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.”  I have to work on the humbly part though. That name, Abigail, gave me a sound base from which to seek justice for women.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work? My most important occupation is being a faithful wife and mother. But my calling is to help the downtrodden especially women. My husband and I both felt strongly that helping women get the vote would be the best way of helping women deal with the way the laws discriminate against us. There are laws forcing us to turn over our egg money to husbands or fathers who may well drink it up; or making us pay the debts of fathers and husbands who deserted us. Or not being able to take jobs to support our families because we’re women or like my sister, who was widowed, becoming a teacher but who got paid half of the previous teacher – who was a man. My work of fighting for women’s rights is invigorating, frustrating, inspiring, draining but most of all rewarding.  I get to travel to other states and territories, speak before legislatures; listen to the stories women tell me about their lives. Sometimes I go to court with them. Sometimes I visit them in prisons to offer hope. I also write for a living: novels, articles and then editing my newspaper.

I have a full plate. Novels are considered ideal ways to change people’s hearts and minds so writing them an hour at a time at 4:00am before I get ready to serve the boarding house girls who live with us and then off to work on the paper or off to give a speech, or listen to my one daughter Clara Belle play the piano while I’m stitching a dress for the millinery – I rarely have a minute to myself. In your time, you’d call me a workaholic I guess. In my time, I was often considered strident, maybe a little pushy, but absolutely passionate about my cause to change the lives of women for the better. By the way, I traveled around the Northwest with the famous suffragist Susan B. Anthony and she camped with my family at the Oregon State Fair in 1871. Now that was an adventure!

Who are the special people in your life? My mother was…but she died on the trail along with my youngest brother. Both of Cholera. My mother hadn’t wanted to go west but my father had the bug as they called it. She gave birth to 12 children and I think she was weakened on the journey. She told me once that she was sorry I was a girl because girls had such hard lives. She inspired me to do what I could to make girls’ lives easier.

The other special person in my life is my husband Ben. He is the kindest of men, generous, puts up with me. He invented a washing machine! He has a beautiful singing voice and he’s the diplomatic one who has to smooth over his wife’s sometimes intemperate tongue. I wrote a column for awhile called “The Farmer’s Wife” that was funny and pointed about martial life etc. It was published widely in Oregon and surrounding territories. Sometimes he was the brunt of my stories and he never complained. He was also badly injured in a horse accident and his chronic back pain affected our lives. But he was always there for the family when I traveled and was sometimes gone for months at a time, he was the father and mother of the household. I never could have accomplished what I did without his support.

I have friends, too, of course. Shirley is one such friend though she lives in California. I get to see her on my buying trips for the millinery. And we are both suffragists. And my children are incredibly special to me. One girl and five “potential voters.” I know, I can be a bit much about the voting. 😊

Do you have a cherished possession? My mother’s earrings. I had my friend Shirly and two of my sisters pierce my ears on the trail after my mother died. It was a way of stating I would try new things despite the pain, especially if it meant working on behalf of women trying to make a woman’s life better. It was how I keep her with me and honor her life.

What do you expect the future will hold for you? A big challenge I have is convincing my brother – who is the editor of the largest newspaper in the Northwest and my business competitor– that he should support the right for women to vote. My newspaper, The New Northwest, strongly supports that effort and we have our first vote (only men get to vote!) in 1883. Pretty exciting. My sisters and I are meeting with Harvey, the only surviving boy in our family, to try to convince him to endorse the petition. If the vote fails, we will keep trying. That’s what my future holds – working on behalf of women getting the vote. Falling down and getting up again.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story? I confess, I have a hard time learning from past mistakes. I work at it, I do. And I’ve discovered that I am at times envious of my brother and others who seem to have an easier life which is not very Christian of me. I have come to see though, that it’s in the challenges that we discover who we really are. I’ve had a rich, full life and while I always thought I’d want easier days, when we moved to the ranch in Idaho and I had all the time in the world to rest and write, I found myself missing the excitement of what I called “the still hunt” working for rights without losing my femininity or credibility as a woman. I never participated in a parade or rumbled through a saloon decrying men. I worked quietly and encouraged the same in the organizations I helped start and run. I have few regrets and that to me means a great deal as I grow older. And I can see looking back that it was in the trials that I discovered who I really was.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? At a time when women were not supposed to be public, I began giving speeches.  I gave more than 1500 in my lifetime from New York to California and in between. Some of them are now posted on this thing called the internet. I never read them when I delivered them, hough I wrote them out. But my passion for the subject enabled me to talk for more than an hour, inspiring, encouraging and praising the work of women as wives, mothers, daughters, workers. You can read some of them at www.asduniway.org

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better! It’s my pleasure! I love chatting with people. I hope you’ll find my story Something Worth Doing worthy of your time. I 

About the Author 

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty books, including One More River to CrossEverything She Didn’t SayAll Together in One PlaceA Light in the WildernessThe Memory WeaverThis Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award. Jane divides her time between Central Oregon and California with her husband, Jerry, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Caesar. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com

Meet Destiny McCulloch from Carole Brown’s Caleb’s Destiny

Hi, Destiny. It feels as if I know you personally after all the contact we’ve had for the last three months. Thank you for agreeing to this interview to help promote the book, Caleb’s Destiny.

Destiny:  I’m glad to do it. 

Let’s get started. Why did you come to the wild west? I mean, you had it nice back in Boston.

Destiny:  Why? Ever since I was sent east, I’ve wanted to come back west and find a little boy I knew years ago. He was such a good person who cared for me like no one else ever has. We lost touch, so I figured if we were going to unite, it was going to come from me. 

That’s interesting. But why were you sent back east?

Destiny (tears in her eyes):  I lost my parents when just a child. The young boy who rescued me—his  father couldn’t raise me by himself because his wife was dying. I think he felt helpless in raising a girl child.

That’s so sad, but understandable. I understand you’re engaged. Can you tell me a little bit about your fiance?

Destiny:  Hmm. What to tell? We’re not actually engaged, just almost there. He’s very good-looking and well liked in Boston. Many parents there wanted him to notice their daughters. Oh, yes. He’s a minister too. So very proper.

What did your fiancé, excuse me, the man back east think of you traveling west?

Destiny:  He really didn’t say much. I know my own mind, so I don’t usually ask for permission. But he didn’t protest too much. (Under tone):  It wouldn’t have done any good if he had.

So, do you think you know what you want in a man?

Destiny:  Well, I’m not thinking I’ll get married any time soon. I like my freedom too much.

(Smiling)  I guess we’ll see how that goes, won’t we? But if you were choosing a man for marriage, what would be the character traits you’d like to see?

Destiny:  Since you insist, I would say I like to see a strong man—not just in bodily strength, but in knowing his mind. A man who is also gentle and not afraid of what others think, but will do what he thinks is right. Of course, I’d like him to be handsome, but the other traits are more important. 

So, have you met anyone lately that attracts you? That tempts you to open your heart?

Destiny:  Maybe. There’s Bert Bottoms who’s handsome and has a very good job as president of the town bank. Then there’s Mr. Michael, who makes me angry, but I know he’s a really good man. And he can be charming if he tries. 

You’re saying you have three men to choose from, is that right? 

  • Richard, who is a minister, and loves you, and will probably give you a good and safe life;
  • Good-looking, financially stable Bert Bottoms, and;
  • Mr. Michael, who makes you angry, but can be charming and you think is a good man.

So who will you choose?

Destiny:  Oh, I can’t say. If readers want to know, they’ll have to read my story in Caleb’s Destiny. I think they’ll love it. It’s very romantic, if I do say so myself. 

Well, then, if you won’t tell, I want to thank you for sharing just a bit of your life, Destiny. I’ll be sure to encourage everyone to read your story. 

Thank you for visiting!


Mr. Michael, Destiny Rose McCulloch, and Hunter have a mysterious history. Why were three fathers, all business partners, murdered under suspicious circumstances while on their quest to find gold? Hunter, who is Mr. Michael’s ranch manager, is determined to find the answers and protect the precocious young lady who he suspects holds a key answer to his questions. Mr. Michael wants only to be left alone to attend to his property, but what can he do when Destiny refuses to leave and captures the heart of everyone of his employees? Destiny almost forgets her quest when she falls in love with Mr. Michael’s ranch and all the people there.And thenMr. Michael is much too alluring to ignore. The preacher man back east where she took her schooling tried to claim her heart, but the longer she stays the less she can remember him. She only came west to find a little boy she knew years ago. A little boy all grown up by now…unless, of course, he’s dead.

Readers, you can find Destiny’s story on Amazon here:  https://www.amazon.com/Carole-Brown/e/B00EZV4RFY/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

and on Barnes&Noble here:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/calebs-destiny-carole-brown/1137072312?ean=9781941622636


Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of ten books, she loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons? 

Personal blog: http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CaroleBrown.author

FB Fan Page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/183457429657732/

Amazon Author Page:  https://amzn.to/38Ukljnhttps://amzn.to/38Ukljn

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/browncarole212

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/carole-brown

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/browncarole212/?hl=en

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/sunnywrtr/boards/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5237997-carole-brown

Linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/carole-brown-79b6951a/

Meet Agnes Pratt from Rachel Fordham's A Life Once Dreamed

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Will you introduce yourself? 

Of course, thank you for asking. My names is Agnes Pratt and I am the only school teacher in all of Penance. Teaching has been my life since I left Buffalo, New York, six years ago. I find great satisfaction from working with my school children but there are days when I wish there was more…

 Why did you leave Buffalo?

 Oh, um…I came here to teach. I wanted a fresh start. 

I feel like there’s more to your story than you are sharing. I’ve heard you were well to-do back east. Weren’t there schools there you could have taught at?

You are correct. My family was well to-do and they were so good and kind to me. I love them and miss them dearly. But…well, I couldn’t stay. I have a secret that I can’t share right now and maybe never but it forced me to leave the city, family and man I loved. 

A man? 

His name is James Harris. He was my dearest friend when we were little and then one day we realized we were in love. I don’t want to talk about him. It’s been so long but even now it hurts my heart to think of him and all I left behind. Wondering what might have been is too painful.

Very well, we’ll talk about other things. Do you have friends in Penance? 

Yes! I have such dear friends. The children of course but also the townspeople. I have a loud and obnoxious friend named Minnie. She says the most outrageous things but I love her and I know that if I were ever in a pinch she’d be there for me. I have a gentle friend too. Her name is Hannah. She suffered a great loss recently but is still so full of hope. I do wish you could meet her. I think you’d find her as amiable as I do. 

Penance is a small town and we’re so isolated in the Black Hills that we’ve all grown close and despite our differences we care for each other. 

I know you have a lot to do so I’ll only ask one more question. What are you most afraid of?

That’s a difficult question. When I was young, I would have said I was most afraid of living a life without James but now that is my reality. I’m much braver here in Penance than I was before, perhaps, because I have to be. There are still nights when I find myself afraid that this is all there is. That I’ll never see my family again, that I’ll never have a child of my own or feel the rush of emotion that comes from love. 

That’s a silly fear. Forget I said it. I don’t have time for fears or daydreams anymore. My life is full and for that I’m grateful. 

I thought we were done but I have one more question. If James were to walk back in your life what would you do? 

James…I, well, I would tell him that the same reasons I ran still exist and then I’d lock myself in my room and hide my tears from him. Some things can never be. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better! I hope you get to be more than just the teacher and that somehow your broken heart can heal. 

When Agnes Pratt discovered a shocking secret, she fled her hometown in search of a new life. Now six years later, she has made a predictable life for herself as the lone school teacher in the rugged Dakota Territory town of Penance—one devoid of romance but filled with work and friendship. But when her childhood sweetheart, James, arrives on the scene, her life threatens to be upended by a man who must never know her secret.  

James Harris accepts a position as the town doctor with an ulterior motive—to finally get answers from the girl who left him behind. Undeniably still carrying a torch for “Aggie,” James can tell she’s desperate to keep her distance even if he doesn’t know why. Can James convince Aggie that her secret—and her heart—are safe in his hands?

A Life Once Dreamed is a beautiful story of love and healing that affirms that where you come from matters far less than where you are going.

Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs. She started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She’d pull a book from the shelf, but they’d insist she make one up. Finally, she paired her love of good stories with her love of writing and hasn’t stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

Meet Worie from Cindy Sproles's What Momma Left Behind

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Tell us something about where you live.

I live on what folks call Sourwood Mountain.  You can look right hard, but it’s best to know it’s deep in the Smoky Mountains. Somewhere betwixt Gatlinburg and Chattanooga. It’s a beautiful mountain. I can lay on the ridge, stretch my arms upward, and scratch the clouds.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? Names mean ever thing in the mountains, be it a desire for a youngin or a hardship that followed the family. My Momma give me the name Worie. She was a worrier. I reckon she named me what she felt and the name carried a burden along with it, for I’ve done some worryin myself.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work? 

Early on I just worked with Momma to keep the homestead up but I always wanted to be a teacher. Momma taught me readin and cypherin and I’m right good at it. As I become of age, I saw a need – a need to care for the children on the mountain who’s folks died off from “the fever.” Lord have mercy, they was a slew of them. They needed care to keep them from becomin like animals tryin to survive. That become my lot in life.

Who are the special people in your life? 

Eli and Bess, they was slaves that broke free and made their way into the mountains. And then there is Justice, my brother. And Pastor Jess. They was all like family to me, even when I didn’t want no family.

What is your heart’s deepest desire? 

Lordy, Lordy, that’s a mountain to climb. I don’t desire nothin for myself, just to see these youngins grow up and make good men and women. That would please me. . .it would please Momma too.

What are you most afraid of? 

I was and am most afraid of becoming what I take care of. Bein an orphan. Daddy died some years back and Momma passed  a few years later. I never wanted to be an orphan, but here I was. An orphan carin for  orphans. Funny how life takes a turn.

Do you have a cherished possession? 

Momma’s jar filled with notes. They was penned for me and Justice and Calvin. Calvin never got to read them and that broke my heart. But them notes held all the answers that I needed to know and they was precious notes.

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

More youngins to care for. I never married but I reckon them youngins I raised will bring me grandbabies. Not by kin blood, but by the blood of my brow because I took them all in and made them my children. They’re a blessin and a curse.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story? 

Well, I learned I was a bit more selfish than I thought. I tried to turn a deaf ear to the call I was hearin, but I reckon a body don’t argue with the Good Lord lest they plan on losin. I learned things wasn’t all about me and I could still have my dream to teach, just not in the way I figured. Lessons learned and lessons shared.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

Well, I am what I am. Ain’t got no secrets. Calls things the way I see em. But I’m as faithful as the hound layin on the front   porch. If you need me, they ain’t no hesitating. I’ll be there.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

The Appalachian Mountain community of Sourwood, Tennessee, has been ravaged by death and disease, leaving many orphans behind. When Worie Dressar’s mother dies suddenly, Worie is inundated with orphaned children who keep showing up at her door. With barely any resources of her own, Worie must figure out how and why her mother was able to care for these little ones. As Worie fights to save her home from a good-for-nothing brother, she will discover the beauty of unconditional love and the power of forgiveness as she cares for all of Momma’s children.

Cindy K. Sproles is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. An author, storyteller, and popular speaker, Cindy teaches at writers conferences across the country and directs the Asheville Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina. Editor of ChristianDevotions.us and managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, Cindy has a BA in business and journalism and lives in the mountains of East Tennessee with her family.

An Interview with Eliza Brooks from Waltz in the Wilderness by Kathleen Denly

Good afternoon, miss. I can see you’re in a hurry, but can you spare a moment to answer a few questions for the readers of Novel PASTimes?

Yes, but only a few, I’m anxious to board my ship.

Of course, as are most of the people we’ve spoken with on the wharf today. Shall we begin with your name?

My name is Eliza Brooks—though some folks may know me as Eli. 

That’s a rather unusual name for young lady. 

Well, Aunt Cecilia doesn’t like me to talk about it, but I spent some time working the gold fields with Pa. He thought it’d be safer for me to dress as a boy while we were there. Using my full name would have given the pie away, so we shortened it.

I find it difficult to believe a woman as lovely as you managed to pass herself off as a boy. 

Well, that was a few years back. Things have changed a lot since then. 

Eliza is a lovely name. Is there a story behind it?

I was named after my grandmother—Pa’s ma. Her name was Elizabeth and at first my parents wanted to name me that, but grandma insisted it would be too confusing. So they shortened it to Eliza.

Are you close with your grandmother?
She passed on a few years back. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much more than her pretty smile and warm hugs. She lived in Ohio and my folks moved us out west when I was just seven because Ma had a hankering for adventure and Pa never could tell her no.

He must really love her.

More than you can know. I only hope I can someday find someone to love and who loves me as much they loved each other. You should have seen them waltz. It was like you’d imagine in the fairytales—the ones that fancy tutor read. He had a funny English accent and was supposed to be turning me into a lady, but I drove him so crazy, he finally gave up and started reading in the corner every day until my aunt caught him at it and fired him. Poor man. It wasn’t his fault I had no interest in things like serving a proper tea. Why a person can’t just fill the cups, pass them out, and let people add their own cream or sugar or honey or whatever, I’ll never understand. 

Is it safe to assume you and your aunt don’t get along well?

That’s putting it mildly. She’s been trying to get rid of me since the day we met. Lately she’s been trying to marry me off to anyone dumb enough to accept her supper invitations. 

I’m sorry to hear that.

Thanks, but I’d rather not talk about her anymore. She just did something… Look, Can we please just talk about something else?

No problem. It sounds like you’ve lived something of an adventurous life, traveling from Ohio, living in the gold fields, and now you’re in San Francisco. 

Pa and I lived in Oregon, too, before we came to California.

Were you homesteaders there?

We were and I loved it. It’s so beautiful, so peaceful. No dirty miners turning the rivers to muck and scaring off all the game. No noisy street vendors or drunks wandering the streets. Just the trees and the birds and the little cabin Pa and I built together.

Is that where you’re off to now?

No, I’m boarding the Virginia bound for San Diego. 

Where’s your escort?

I’ll be traveling with the captain’s wife. She’s waiting for me onboard. Speaking of which, I’d better get going. 

Please wait. I only have a few more questions.

*tapping her foot* Very well, but make it quick. This carpetbag is getting heavy. 

What draws you to such a small port town like San Diego?

My pa is there.

You appear anxious. What’s troubling you?

I haven’t received a letter from him in months. 

Is that unsual?

Yes! Why does no one understand that? Pa would never just stop writing me without explanation. Something has happened and I must find him. He needs me.

Find him? I thought you said he was in San Diego. 

Well, that’s where his last letter said he was going to look for work. 

But you said it’s been months since you received that letter. Wouldn’t he have moved on by now?

Of course, he may have moved on, but it’s the only clue I have and I’ve got to start somewhere. I can’t just keep waiting when he might be lying on his sickbed somewhere, wishing I would to come to him. Wouldn’t you go if you’re pa were missing?

My pa can handle himself. 

Well, mine can’t. Not really. He forgets to eat, to sleep. He works himself until he’s sick if I’m not there to remind him to take a break.

What if you don’t find him?

willfind him.

I say, who is that gentleman glaring down at us from the deck of the Virginia?

Oh, that’s just Mr. Clarke. He’s a carpenter who used to work for my uncle but Mr. Clarke’s headed back east now. Apparently his fiancée is waiting for him.  

He doesn’t appear pleased to see you.

There was a misunderstanding when he came to supper at my aunt and uncle’s house a couple weeks ago. I’d rather not discuss it. In fact, I really must board now. The captain’s wife will be wondering where I am.

Very well. Thank you for taking this time to speak with us, Miss. Brooks. I wish you a safe journey and will pray that you find your father healthy and happy to see you.

I appreciate that. Good day.

Kathleen Denly writes stories to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. She enjoys finding the lesser known pockets of history and bringing them to life through the joys and struggles of her characters.

Sunny southern California, a favorite setting in her stories, is also her home. She lives there with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories.

Kathleen’s debut novel, Waltz in the Wilderness,released February 4, 2020 and is available wherever books are sold.

When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, she spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.

Kathleen is also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the San Diego Christian Writers’ Guild.

Always happy to hear from her readers, you can email Kathleen and follow her on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest. You might also consider joining Kathleen’s Readers’ Clubto learn the latest updates, receive exclusive content and be eligible for KRC exclusive giveaways!

A Chat with Becky Campbell from Double Jeopardy by Donna Schlacter

It’s nice to meet you, Becky. What is one important thing you’d like us to know about you?

I am determined to be the success my father always wanted to be.

 I’m so sorry to hear you lost your father, but I hear he’s left you behind with a ramshackle homestead and a silver mine? How’s that going for you?

 Who knew that mining could be such hard work? I hired a local rancher and a couple of laborers to help with the heavy lifting, but those men can be so pigheaded sometimes. Especially that Zeke Graumann.

Have you learned anything about your father’s murder? Are you going to try and solve it?

I know that the sheriff isn’t looking very hard, so it’s up to me. I mean, leaving him lying there dead like so much trash is hard to accept.

How has the adjustment been to living in mining territory compared to living in New York City?

 Ah, New York City. I surely do miss the Big Apple. The theaters. The shopping. The parties. Oh, and my mother, too. Yes, it’s been an adjustment. At home, I didn’t have to lift a finger. Mother paid for whatever I wanted. Here, I have to work really hard just to make a few cents, let alone dollars. But there is a rugged beauty here that I find makes me long to stay here. To settle down. To call something my own.

 Have the people been very friendly?

 Absolutely. Almost right away, I met Polly, who works in the mercantile. She can’t read or write, and I’m going to teach her. My landlady, Mrs. Hicks, was very kind to me. Mr. and Mrs. Dixon at the mercantile are a sweet couple. And apart from two drunks who almost accosted me the first day I arrived, people have been nice.

 What about your foreman, Zeke Graumann? How do you to get along?

 “Get along” is the right phrase. If I didn’t need his help, I’d tell him to get along. Seems no matter what I say, he says the opposite. He has ideas about what a woman should do and shouldn’t do, and no matter how hard I try, I’m always in the ‘shouldn’t do’ camp. Then again, he is easy on the eyes, as Polly says.

 Do you think you’ll keep him on? Why or why not?

 Since I hired him, I’ve managed to pay all the bills and put aside a few cents each week. Before that, I was losing money every week. He’s increased production, keeps the laborers in line, and doesn’t quite eat me out of house and home. Will I keep him on? Hmmm. Did I mention he’s easy on the eyes?

 What do you think the future holds for you?

 The future? If that includes the next two weeks or so, I’m pretty certain I can keep my head above water. Beyond that, I don’t know. The laborers—and Zeke—complain constantly about my cooking. There’ve been all these accidents that don’t quite feel like accidents, if you know what I mean. I’m not sure I trust Zeke or the laborers, but if they aren’t trying to drive me out of business, I don’t know who is.

Thank you for spending time with us, Becky. I hope things work out for you!

About the Author:

Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.

Getting to Know Captain Ben Coleridge from Regina Scott’s A Distance Too Grand

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! It’s a pleasure to meet the man who will be the first to survey the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. How did you manage that assignment?

I’m proud to be a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, ma’am.

So that means you must be a graduate of West Point. What class?

The class of 1866. Since then I’ve completed surveys in the field, helping Wheeler out west, and then worked on monuments in our nation’s capital.

From the Wild West to Washington D.C. Which did you like better?

The frontier, hands down. I couldn’t wait to get back into the field. Although this wasn’t exactly the assignment I had been hoping for.

Oh? Why do you say that?

For one thing, my father the Colonel disappeared in that area two months ago, and no one knows what happened to him. For another, the moment I arrived at Fort Wilverton to meet my team, I discovered Meg Pero was going to be my photographer.

A lady photographer? I didn’t know the Army allowed such things.

Normally we wouldn’t, but there’s another lady along, our cook and the wife of our cartographer. And Meg’s good at what she does. I’ll give her that. But she was the last person I wanted along on this expedition. We’re running late in the season, it’s critical our survey align with another going on down in the canyon proper, and it may be dangerous. No reason to bring along the woman I once thought I was going to marry.

Did you just say you were going to marry Meg Pero?

I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor, ma’am.

You mentioned danger. What concerns you about the North Rim?

It’s said to be a most stunning display of natural beauty, but we’ll be facing wildly fluctuating temperatures, scant water, predators like mountain lion, vermin like rattlesnake.  We might meet flashfloods, wildfire, and lightning storms. Meg would be safer heading back east.

So, are you going to turn her away?

No. I can’t leave without a photographer, and she’s the only one available. Like it or not, I have to take her with us. 

What did she say when you told her?

She just smiled in that way she has and claimed her photographer father had always said nature would kill him if man didn’t do it first. 

“I’m not afraid, Ben,” she told me. “This is a grand adventure. Think of the vistas we could capture.”

All I could think about was how easily she could recapture my heart.

Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.

Yes, ma’am, and I better get to it. You’ll be able to learn how Meg and I, and the survey, came out in A Distance Too Grand, by Regina Scott.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Regina Scott is the author of more than 45 works of warm, witty historical romance. Her writing has won praise from Booklist and Library Journal, and she was twice awarded the prestigious RT Books Reviews best book of the year in her category. A devotee of history, she has learned to fence, driven four-in-hand, and sailed on a tall ship, all in the name of research. She and her husband of 30 years live south of Tacoma, Washington, on the way to Mt. Rainier.

An Interview with Etta Collier of Mail-Order Misfire by Davalynn Spencer

Nice to meet you, Etta. What is one important thing you’d like us to know about you?

I desperately wanted children and long wondered why the Lord didn’t share that blessing with my husband and me. After a while, I stopped begging and simply accepted the situation for what it was. Yet later, I realized how difficult it would have been to provide for even one child once I was on my own.

What did you like about your job as a dressmaker?

I loved the smiles of women and girls when they tried on what I crafted for them and I saw that oh-I-feel-beautiful look in their eyes. That’s how I knew I’d given them exactly what they wanted.

That is a special talent, Etta. That must have given you much satisfaction!

I hear you were recently widowed. I’m so sorry for your loss. What were your greatest fears when you found yourself alone?

Many fears run through a woman’s mind when she finds herself suddenly alone. Not that loneliness hadn’t been creeping into my heart with William’s distractedness over his debts and failures at erasing them. But when one’s husband is shot in a brawl it is somehow a more devastating loss than an illness or accident. It is more of a theft. A blatant robbery of one’s hopes and dreams. Add to that the inappropriate advances of the banker who held the note on our home, and I wasn’t quite sure which I feared more—the man’s insinuations of how I could pay that debt off or the temptation to lace his tea with strychnine the next time he darkened my door.

What an awful situation to be in! I heard you received a letter from a little girl, Gracie, who wanted you to be a mail-order bride for her widowed father. It’s kind of a crazy idea. How did you feel about it before you left?

You are right. It was absolutely a crazy idea. Crazier still when my own pastor suggested I be the one to answer the child’s letter. However, I was about to lose my home because my dress-making was not earning any more than what it took to keep body and soul together. If I answered Gracie’s letter, I could relocate away from the repugnant banker, find at least a temporary home, make a fresh start, and help ease a little girl’s loneliness. With my agreement to merely visit the family I was free to leave if her father were a rogue or ruffian. If not, well, that was a chance I was willing to take.

 What do you think of Sheriff Bern Stidham since you’ve met him?

The man has the most unusual gray-blue eyes—oh, pardon me, you didn’t ask about his appearance.  Well, he is all man. What I mean is, um, he does the best he can where keeping house is concerned. I’ve never seen such dust. But he loves Gracie more than life. He cares also for the townspeople, some of whom attend Sunday morning where he fills in as interim pastor for a small congregation. I enjoy his sermons, for he makes God sound approachable. Reachable. And, well, if I were quite honest, I can see myself as more than just his cook and housekeeper and Gracie’s nanny. I can see … Ah, dreams again. One must not get ahead of one’s self in that matter.

 Do you think there is a future for the three of you as a family?

 I truly hope so, but I’ve not been completely open with Bern about my past—fairly fleeing from Independence, leaving my home behind, and defaulting on my debts. I should have told him at the very beginning of our arrangement. But I’ve learned that should have doesn’t do anyone any good at all. I’m afraid I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with Gracie—the little girl I always wanted. And, well, her handsome father is so strong yet gentle. At times stern and ill-tempered, but always kind. Yes, I admit, my dreams are spinning in a family direction.

Then I wish you the best of luck, Etta! Sounds like it would be the right fit for all three of you.

About the author:

Davalynn Spencer can’t stop #lovingthecowboy. As the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, she writes romance for those who enjoy a Western tale with a rugged hero, both historical and contemporary. She holds the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction, teaches writing workshops, and plays the keyboard on her church worship team. When she’s not writing, teaching, or playing, she’s wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect with Davalynn athttps://davalynnspencer.com. and at Facebook, Twitter,and Pinterest.

A Chat with Clarissa Kliest from Denise Weimer’s The Witness Tress

Past betrayal has turned John Kliest’s passion to his work as a builder and surveyor in the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina. Now, to satisfy the elders’ edict and fulfill his mission in Cherokee Territory, he needs a bride. But the one woman qualified to record the Cherokee language longs for a future with his younger brother.

Clarissa Vogler’s dream of a life with Daniel Kliest is shattered when she is chosen by lot to marry his older brother and venture into the uncharted frontier. Can she learn to love this stoic man who is now her husband? Her survival hinges on being able to trust him—but they both harbor secrets.

Novel PASTimes: It’s autumn 1805, and the fields are lined with corn and dotted with pumpkins here at the Springplace Moravian mission in Cherokee Territory, located on the plantation of Chief James Vann. We’re sitting down to tea with Clarissa Vogler Kliest, heroine of The Witness Tree. We’re gratified for this moment to catch up with her, since so much has changed in her life since August. Do you feel comfortable to tell us about what happened in August, Sister Kliest?

Clarissa: Please, call me Clarissa. *nervous giggle* I’m afraid I’m not quite used to my new last name. I’m married, but, well, my husband and I … that is to say, we’re taking our time to get to know each other.

Novel PASTimes: That is because your marriage was an arranged marriage or a marriage of convenience, is that not correct?

Clarissa: We prefer to call it marriage by the lot, but yes. Would you like a ginger cookie? They are delicious with this autumn spice tea, made in the paper-thin Moravian style from the bakery back home in Salem, North Carolina.

Novel PASTimes: They sound wonderful, but I’m most interested in this marriage by the lot. What does that mean?

Clarissa: Well, we Moravians believe that for major church and life decisions, we can seek confirmation of God’s will through the lot. This is based on Scriptures in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible. After we pray for guidance, our church elders will draw a piece of paper out of a bowl or tube. The paper will read either “yes,” “no,” or “wait.”

Novel PASTimes: And that is what happened with your marriage?

Clarissa: Yes. John Kliest was the builder and surveyor for our town of Salem, but he always wanted to work at the Cherokee mission here at Springplace. Our church was founded and expanded from Germany to America with the focus on missions. But the elders said he must have a wife first.

Novel PASTimes: My, that seems unusual to those who are not familiar with Moravians. Did the elders pick you, or did John?

Clarissa: *blushing* John mentioned my name as a possibility. The elders agreed, and then the lot confirmed. You see, before the Revolutionary War, my father shared the Gospel with the Cherokees. He had told me what he knew of their language and customs.

Novel PASTimes: From what I understand, language is an important part of what you are to do here at the mission.

Clarissa: True. I am uniquely qualified because not only am I to help the other brothers and sisters here teach the children of the chiefs, but the church hopes I will be able to record their language. So far, there is no Cherokee alphabet. 

Novel PASTimes: Despite all that, did you have any say at all in marrying John?

Clarissa: Oh, women can refuse the lot, but to do so would be to refuse the will of God. Although, when my choir helper came to tell me of the proposal, I thought it was from John’s younger brother, Daniel.

Novel PASTimes: You had an understanding with Daniel?

Clarissa: *ducking her head* Please forget I mentioned it. We not to have understandings with members of the opposite sex.

Novel PASTimes: As you wish. Do you find that the lot was correct? You are a good match for John?

Clarissa: John and I are … very different. He is not the most expressive person, and he longs for adventure. In fact, I sometimes wonder how long he will be content here at Springplace. The Vann family is mixed-blood, wealthy, and has learned European ways.

Novel PASTimes: And you?

Clarissa: I loved my comfortable life as a teacher in the girls’ boarding school in Salem. I am not a good Moravian. I like beautiful things. Traveling. I must admit, I pictured traveling to Philadelphia, though, not to the frontier. 

Novel PASTimes: Why Philadelphia?

Clarissa: There is a Moravian painter there, a master, who was to have taught me and D—. *shakes her head* I am an artist, you see. I once thought that using my talent was part of God’s plan, but apparently, it was not. Instead, I am here. I must apply myself to my new purpose. And my marriage.

Novel PASTimes: What challenges do you see before you, Clarissa?

Clarissa: Besides Rosina?

Novel PASTimes: Who is Rosina?

Clarissa: *covers mouth* Did I say that aloud? A fellow missionary who came here with us. She is so very … perfect. I am afraid John would like me better if I were more like her. 

Novel PASTimes: I’m sure that isn’t true. You seem like a lovely woman.

Clarissa: Thank you. In all seriousness, we are not sure how the Cherokees will respond to our teaching. And to my assignment of setting down their language. Some are very progressive and embrace European ways, while others feel their society is being corrupted by outside influences. It was not very many years ago that their warriors scalped settlers in the Cherokee-American Wars.

Novel PASTimes: Well, Clarissa, we pray that God will bless your time here in Cherokee Territory and your new marriage as well. We look forward to a report of how it all turns out.

Denise Weimer writes historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense set in her home state of Georgia. She’s authored over nine novels (including her contemporary story, Fall Flip, new with Candlelight Romance in September 2019!) and a number of novellas. As a managing editor at Smitten Romance, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, she also helps others reach their publishing dreams. A wife and mother of two daughters, Denise always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses.

Meet Mary Sullivan from Jane Kirkpatrick’s One More River to Cross

In 1844, the Stevens-Murphy company left Missouri hoping to be the first wagons into California. Mostly Irish Catholic, they sought religious freedom and education. All went well—until October when a heavy snowstorm forced the party to separate in four directions. Each group risked losing those they loved as they planned their escapes, waited for rescue . . . or even their own deaths.

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Thank you!  The men and women in this story chose me to be the main speaker today. I’m Mary Sullivan, but you should know that there are nine other women who are a part of this amazing story based on real people and a real incident in 1844-45.

Tell us something about where you live.

So, where do I live?  I lived in Canada before heading west and I spent a grueling winter in the Sierra Nevadas. Now I live in California but getting there wasn’t easy! This story is set mostly, though, in the mountains. Now the pass where we wintered is known as Donner Pass. A couple of years later that disastrous party had a terrible time. We were there before them in an equally terrible winter near Lake Tahoe but we had a very different outcome.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name? 

Many in my family were named Mary or derivatives of Mary like Maolisa. One of my fellow travelers bore that name. It has an Irish connection which most of us on this Stephens-Murphy-Townsend wagon train have. Many, like Maolisa Murphy, came from Ireland to Canada then to Missouri and finally to those incredible mountains in the west. We all wanted a new life and an opportunity to worship freely in what was known as Alta California.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work? 

 Like most women of my time, I am a homemaker and had to make adjustments in being my mother’s helper after she and my father died of dysentery just days before we headed west from Iowa. My brother John and two little brothers and I were left orphans.  John, however, wanted me to be sure I behaved like a proper lady. But my real skills are not in knitting or cooking but in working with the oxen and in solving problems and using my physical strength like walking long miles in snowshoes to reach help.  Women can do those things and still be a lady. And I love to read and I helped another young woman — a wife — learn to read. Very gratifying. So is making sure my little brothers have night time stories of encouragement and faith

Who are the special people in your life? 

My brother John who is two years older than me and my two little brothers ages eight and ten. I’m a little shy but because of this journey I’d made new friends including Sarah and Ailbe and Ellen and Mrs. Patterson and…and then I also met Peter. That’s a whole new story!

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

I want to make my mother proud even though she isn’t on this earth anymore. And I want to do that by being true to myself, by speaking up and offering ideas even when others might say a woman should be silent. I also want to keep my brothers and the other children who are waiting for rescue to trust that they are not alone. I want to keep their spirits up.

What are you most afraid of? 

That we will die here in these mountains before I have a chance to live.

Do you have a cherished possession? 

The Aron wool sweater that Sarah showed me how to knit. I took apart the sweater my mother made for me to learn how to do this “womanly” thing, to make my mother pleased that I did learn a woman’s art.

What do you expect the future will hold for you? 

I may not be able to wait for rescue but rather will start out to bring a rescue team to us. The risk is great but I will do what I must for my brothers and my friends.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story? 

Oh my goodness!  I’ve learned that friendships are the fuel that keep us warm in time of trials. I’ve discovered that leadership involves listening more than talking. I’ve witnessed the power of faith in struggle and how helping others in a challenging time is a way to help oneself. I’ve also come to accept that I can be different from other women — liking the outdoors more than cooking and sewing, being physically strong and still be a lady. I also realize that tending and befriending is a better response to stress than fight or flight!

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? 

I was in the background when this story began. Ellen Murphy, a real beauty, was important in this story of One More River to Cross  but she chose a different route out of this winter deluge. Then Maolisa was pretty important because she didn’t realize that she was about to deliver a baby. Now there’s a story! She thought she had another two months! Then Sarah Montgomery’s story took front stage as she came to terms with being abandoned by her husband who stayed behind to guard his weapons. At one point, all the women had moments of abandonment. I came to love each of these women (and a couple more I haven’t even told you about). When we shared things like where our feet had taken us or how we prepared a memorable meal, all ways to help us deal with starvation and the cold and the eight feet of snow, and our fears, I realized how tragedy had brought me into a family of women whom I didn’t know I needed. Now, when things get difficult I pray and I reach out to friends who help to support and sustain me until I can hear God calling me to a new direction. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than 30 books, including Everything She Didn’t SayAll She Left BehindA Light in the Wilderness,The Memory WeaverThis Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Jane lives in Central Oregonwith her husband, Jerry. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.