Wishing You a Merry, Happy Christmas!

We wish our friends and family Happy New Year’s, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday. So why do we say Merry Christmas?

Though the Merry Christmas greeting dates back to the early 1800s, Happy Christmas was the greeting of choice during the early nineteenth century.  Clement Clarke Moore even used it in his poem A Visit from St. Nicholas: “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Merry Christmas became more widely used following the release of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 1843. “A merry Christmas to us all, my dears! God bless us!”  That same year the first commercial Christmas card was sent with the words “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You.”

The fact that the British author made the term popular poses another question; Why does Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain wish her subjects Happy Christmas during her yearly broadcasts?

According to Phrase Finder, the word merry originally meant peaceful, pleasant and agreeable.  Dating back to the 1300s the word was used to describe such things as the peaceful month of May and gentlemen of an amenable nature. Through the years the meaning of the word changed to mean jovial, cheerful and sociable.  Eat, drink and be merry was even printed on tavern walls.

This brings us back to the current queen who, according to Patheos, is said to prefer “Happy Christmas” over “Merry Christmas” for one very good reason. “Merry” is interpreted to have a “connotation of boisterousness, even slight intoxication;” things that the queen does not wish to convey during a religious holiday.

So whether you choose to say Merry Christmas, Happy Christmas, or the all-encompassing Happy Holidays, I wish you the same.


I have a lot to celebrate…

My novella Do You Hear What I Hear? released on the 24th; my do-you-hear-what-i-hearbook Left at the Altar hit the stores on November 1st; and my office is clean (no small miracle).

Left at the Altar is the first book in my new series and I’m excited about it.  The second book A Match Made in Texas will release in the summer of 2017 and the third book How The West was Wed will follow soon after.

The idea for Left at the Altar came to me in a rather unexpected way.  We inherited several antique clocks and they all needed servicing.  My husband called a clock repairman to the house and the horologist was a writer’s dream.  He was full of fascinating stories about clock collectors.  But the story that really made an impression was the one about a client who owned so many clocks, the quarter-hour racket was deafening.  The horologist’s job was to turn the clocks off before each holiday so that guests didn’t have to compete with the cacophony of bongs and chimes during dinner.

Ah, sweet inspiration. Before I knew it, the town of Two-Time, Texas was born and the story of two feuding jewelers fell quickly into place.

The book takes place in 1880 before standard time.  Prior to 1883, the left-at-the-altar-2town jeweler usually determined the time. Trouble arose when a town had more than one jeweler and no one could agree on the time.  One town in Kansas reportedly had seven jewelers and therefore seven time zones.  Talk about confusion!

Just think, a person traveling from the East coast to the West would have contended with more than a hundred time zones. That wasn’t a problem when traveling by covered wagon, but it became a huge problem when traveling by train.  I was surprised to learn that some battles were lost during the American Civil War due to time confusion. When an order was issued to attack at a certain time, no one really knew what it meant. Was that Washington time or local time?  And if it was local time, which one?

Ah, yes, time.  It affects us in ways we might not even be aware of.  It certainly affected the two feuding families in my story.  A marriage was supposed to unite the families and turn Two-Time into a one-time town, but of course nothing ever goes as planned as this little excerpt shows:

The grandfather clock in the corner groaned and the wall clocks sighed. Seconds later the cacophony of alarms struck the hour of eight a.m. Only today, it wasn’t bongs, gongs, cuckoos and chimes that bombarded Meg’s ears. It was mocking laughter. Jilted bride, jilted bride, jilted bride…

Hope you enjoy the story as much I enjoyed writing it.


Stagecoach Rules for Readers

  1. Do not disturb the other passengers by laughing or weeping out loud.

  2. Never applaud, sigh or swoon while reading love scenes.

  3. Refrain from making verbal comparisons between male passengers and the hero in the book.  It will only make passengers feel inferior.

  4. Provocative book covers must be kept hidden beneath a plain buckskin wrapper.

  5. If you must show disapproval spit only on the leeward side of the coach.

  6. In the event of a robbery, do not insist upon finishing a chapter before raising your hands. Outlaws are not known for patience.

  7. Do not ask the driver to guard your book while you sleep.

  8. In the event of a runaway stage, avoid such comments as “Here comes the good part.”

  9. It’s best not to read by the window during an Indian attack.

  10. Anyone causing hysteria among passengers by revealing the end of a book will be tossed from the coach.


Glossary of Mail Order Bride Advertising Terms (And What They Really Mean)

My June release Undercover Bride is a mail-order bride story with a twist.  Some of the advertisements that appeared in the mail order bride catalogs were a hoot and it took a clever man to know how to decipher them.  Here’s a key that might have helped :

* Eager to learn—can’t cook; can’t sew; can’t clean

* Accomplished—can ride, shoot and spit like a man

* Modest dowry—poor as a church mouse

*Loving nature—keep her away from the ranch hands

*Traditionally built—you may wish to reinforce the floors

*Matrimonially inclined—working on husband number three

*Maternal—has six children and one on the way

*Possesses natural beauty—don’t be fooled by the false hair, cosmetic paints or bolstered bosom

*Industrious—give her a dollar and she’ll figure out how to spend ten

*Young looking—doesn’t look a day over sixty.

*And they lived happily ever after—AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.


How to Solve a Crime 19th Century Style

Come Hades or high water,

Jennifer Layne always gets her man.

                                                                  – Petticoat Detective

 

Have you ever wondered what Sherlock Holmes would think about today’s modern crime labs?

Crime-solving in his day was no walk in the park. Can you imagine having to track down criminals without benefit of DNA, fingerprints, security cameras, Facebook, cell phones or computers? But that’s exactly what those early gumshoes had to do.

This posed an interesting problem when I set out to write Petticoat Detective, book one of my Undercover Ladies series.

It seems that years of watching Castle, CSI and Rizzoli and Isles had taught me a lot about modern day forensics (and how to solve a crime in an hour), but left me clueless when it came to plotting my own story. After much research I now have only the greatest admiration for those early sleuthhounds. With little more than wits and determination they almost always got their man—and in some cases, their woman. How did they do it?

Detectives Worked Undercover:
Some like real-life Pinkerton detective Kate Warne were masters of disguise. Kate was hired by Allan Pinkerton in 1852 and could change her accent as readily as she could change her clothes. You’ll never guess how the heroine in Petticoat Detective disguises herself. Let’s just say that a certain handsome Texas Ranger finds her disguise shocking—to say the least.

Detectives Shadowed Suspects (aka Surveillance)
Shadowing was a tiring but necessary part of crime-fighting. The best color to wear for shadowing at night? Blue. Black is not natural in nature and will stand out.

Detectives Resorted to Trickery:
It’s hard to believe but the Federal Bureau of Investigation didn’t get its first forensic crime lab until 1932. It’s no wonder that Pinkerton operatives resorted to some interesting (and probably illegal by today’s standards) tricks to solve crimes.

The heroine of Petticoat Detective resorts to a few tricks of her own. Does she get her man?  That depends what man you’re talking about; the outlaw or the gorgeous hunk…uh hero.

Detectives Pounded the Pavement:
Questioning witnesses was and still is an important part of solving any crime. But then as now witness testimony wasn’t always that reliable. As Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

Detective Were Experts at Body Language (even before anyone knew what body language was):
Detectives of yesteryear were only as good as their observation skills and the best ones could read a person’s personality at a glance. You think social media raises privacy concerns? Just be glad that you never had to walk past Sherlock Holmes.


A Bicycle Built For Two

BicycleBuiltForTwo“What was it about yesterday that made you think I was a gentleman, Miss Blackwell?” 

                                    -A Bicycle Built for Two

When you think of the old west, bicycles probably don’t come to mind. I mean can you honestly picture John Wayne chasing down bad guys on a tricycle  or boneshaker? Yet, the bicycle craze that hit the country in the 1890s was just as prevalent in the west as it was in the east.

The new craze not only changed the way people got around, but also the economy. An editorial in the Fort Macleod Gazette in the early 1890s stated, “If this craze for bicycle riding continues much longer our livery stable men will have to close down.” The same lament could be heard from hatters, dressmakers and carriage workers.

Not only did cowboys, sheriffs and outlaws join the wheeling club, but so did women

One Texas newspaper in 1895 issued this warning regarding female bicycle riders: “We have been watching the course of events with breathless anxiety and Nebuchadnezzar himself never saw the handwriting on the wall more distinctly than we see it now. The bloomer is coming sure enough.”

One Kansas newspaper lamented that “Women wear their trowserettes even when their machines are left at home.”  While some were criticizing women’s attire others like Susan B. Anthony declared bicycles “Have done more than anything else in the world to emancipate women.”

Head over Handlebars

Bloomers aside, muddy dirt roads and wooden sidewalks made for a wild ride. Newspapers regularly reported people taking a “scorcher” and “being knocked senseless” or “carrying an arm in a sling.”

One Texas town responded by adopting the following regulations:

 1.Anyone riding a tricycle or relocopede must be supplied with a bell or horn that must be rung at all crossings.          

2.Any persons riding a tricycle at night must have a suitable lantern.          

3. It is especially prohibited for three or more riders to ride abreast          

4. No person or persons shall rest their bicycle, velocipede, or tricycle against a building (including saloons) where the vehicle will be on sidewalks

Some cities imposed a speed limit in town, usually four miles an hour. Fines could be as high as twenty-five dollars. The ordinances created as many problems as they prevented. Not only was there suddenly a shortage of cowbells but the noise created by them posed another problem.

It wasn’t just riders that gave sheriffs and marshals a headache, but a new kind of outlaw—a bicycle thief. Bicycles were also used as getaways and one thief led his pursuers on a merry chase through Sacramento.

Hold on to Your Stetsons

An Arizona Territory newspaper reported that cowboys in Three Rivers, Michigan “have discarded their horses for bicycles in herding cattle. Cowboys in Arizona would have a happy time herding cattle on bicycles.”

Cattle didn’t always take kindly to bicycles as one doctor found out when he unexpectedly ran into a herd of cattle. He ended up with a broken shoulder blade and his $100 bike in ruins. Things got so bad that some insurance companies announced they would charge double for bikers.

Some lawmen like Arizona Sheriff Donahue decided to fight fire with fire and announced that he was the proud owner of a “handsome nickel-plated bicycle” and was in negotiations to purchase a Ferris wheel bike for his under-sheriff.  John Wayne will never know what he missed.

To order click cover

A Bicycle Built for Two

Everything goes to hades in a handbasket when Damian Newcastle rides into Amanda’s life.

No one can pedal a bicycle around turn-of-the-century New York without a license, so Amanda Blackwell’s cycling school has become all the rage. The innovative establishment provides an income for the independent miss and her brother Donny, a special child. But in one afternoon, everything goes to hade in a handbasket. Amanda’s uncle is suing to put Donny into an institution and Damian Newcastle, the man she has every reason to hate, rides into her life to ruin everything.