Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesday Near Wyoming - April 25, 2018

Do you enjoy stepping back into history? Does clean mountain air appeal to you?  Can you deal with high altitude? If you answered "yes" to those questions, you'd probably enjoy a visit to the last of this month's outside-of-Wyoming destinations.

South Park City (no connection to the TV show) is a fascinating -- at least to me -- restored gold mining town in Fairplay, Colorado. All of the more than thirty buildings are filled with period artifacts and are original buildings from Fairplay and other mining towns in the area.

If you visit, you'll have the opportunity to see a blacksmith's shop, the courthouse, a dentist's office, a saloon, a miner's home and much, much more.

One caveat: Since Fairplay is located at almost 10,000 feet above sea level, you'll want to walk slowly and drink lots of water as you tour this remarkable town.

For more information, visit their website.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday Near Wyoming -- April 18, 2018

When you think of South Dakota, you probably think of Mount Rushmore, but did you know that there's a jewel of a state park close by it?

Custer State Park is famous for its bison herd (more than 1,000 of them roam the park), and other wildlife, including one of my favorites: prairie dogs. But for me and many other visitors, the highlights are the scenic drives, including the 14-mile Needles Highway.
The twisting road through the forest provides  views of the granite spires that rise like needles into the sky. Magnificent; simply magnificent.

For more information, visit the park's website. And, if you're traveling to the Black Hills area, don't miss Custer and the Needles Highway.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wednesday Near Wyoming -- April 11, 2018

Did you notice that today's post has a different name? That's because I thought you might like a bit of a change, so this month I'm going to feature special places near  but not in Wyoming.

Today's destination is just outside of Alliance, Nebraska. If you don't have a map at hand, let me tell you that Alliance is in the northwestern part of the state, what is commonly referred to as the Panhandle.

What is it? Carhenge. You read that right: Carhenge. Yes, this is a replica of the famous Stonehenge, only it's made of old cars, all spray painted gray. And, like the British monument that inspired it, the summer solstice played a part in its history. Carhenge was dedicated on the summer solstice in June 1987.

As their website says, it's FUN, and don't we all need more fun in our lives?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Destination Guest Posts

Several weeks ago when I mentioned to a friend that I'd been a guest blogger on a number of sites, she asked why I hadn't mentioned them in my own blog. The simple answer is that it never occurred to me to do that, but the more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea. So, thanks to Kathy F's suggestion, I'm going to blog occasionally about my guest posts.

Since the title of my latest book is A Borrowed Dream, you'd be correct in surmising that dreams play a role in it. They do. My heroine Catherine dreams of going to Paris, so when I blogged for Fresh Fiction, I created an eclectic virtual tour of Paris -- ten spots I recommend you add to your list when you visit the City of Light.

No trip would be complete without a sight of the Notre Dame cathedral, but if you're interested in pictures and descriptions of the other nine spots I recommended, here's the link to the full post.

Closer to home is Fort Robinson, one of Nebraska's state parks. Not only is the setting scenic, but the fort itself has a remarkable history.

I talk about that and more in my post for Petticoats & Pistols.

If you're interested in either Paris or an historic fort, click over to the posts.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- March 28, 2018

What would an old-fashioned home be without a pantry? The one in the back of the J.C. Penney homestead holds such diverse objects as dishes, canned goods, and even a flat iron. 

It looks as if the cane-bottom chair could use some work, doesn't it? When I see something like that, I start spinning stories. Did mice eat the seat? Did an overweight person break it? Could the sun have rotted the caning?

What do you think? And did you enjoy your visit to Kemmerer? I hope so!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- March 21, 2018

Today we're going to look at a few items from the interior of the J.C. Penney homestead in Kemmerer.

Do you know what this is? That's right. It's a butter churn, but not everyone knew that. The guide told me that one of the volunteers thought it was used to wash clothing. I'm still trying to imagine putting clothes inside the churn. I suppose you could, but ...

The butter churn picture also gives you a close-up of the packing crates that were used to panel the enclosed back porch. Isn't the handwriting beautiful? That's become almost a lost art.

Did you know that J.C. Penney once sold its own line of flatware? Here's an example of one pattern, which was part of the table setting in the homestead.

I continue to be amazed at the variety of goods you could purchase in a Penney's store and, later, through the catalog.  As many of you said when I featured the Mother Store in blog posts last year, the Penney's name triggers happy memories.

I highly recommend a visit to the Mother Store and the homestead if you're anywhere near Kemmerer. It's a trip back in history.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- March 14, 2018

Remember the addition at the back of the J.C. Penney home? This enclosed porch is part of it. If you look closely, you'll see that the "paneling" on the walls comes from shipping crates. How's that for recycling or reuse?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- March 7, 2018

One of the highlights of Kemmerer is the J.C. Penney homestead, which has been turned into a museum. Although it's very attractive with its porch and spindle-work trim, the original part of the house is small. Tall people need to duck their heads in the upstairs room.

A side view shows you that the house was built in stages, being expanded as the family grew. (Notice the unmatched siding.)

Are you surprised at how modest a home this was for a man like Mr. Penney?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- February 28, 2018

There's a reason why fairy gardens are popular. After all, who doesn't enjoy admiring the miniature designs and the sheer beauty of them?

If you've been following my Wednesday in Wyoming posts this month, you know that they've highlighted the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens' Grand Conservatory, so you won't be surprised to learn that this fairy garden (and another that's designed for kids and even allows them to enter it) is part of the conservatory.

What may surprise you is that the large log was dredged from the small lake that's adjacent to the Gardens -- another example of the Gardens' commitment to reuse and sustainability.

Can you see why the Gardens are one of my favorite places in Cheyenne? If you're in the area, stop in and see just how beautiful it is.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- February 21, 2018

Elephants in Wyoming? Yes, indeed. Of course they're not real, but they are a popular sight at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens' new Grand Conservatory.

Did you notice that they're both wearing scarves to stay warm during our long winters?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- February 14, 2018

It's Valentine's Day, and while these aren't officially lovebirds, there's no doubt that they're a happy couple. Where do you find these finches? At the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens' Grand Conservatory.

Assistant Director, Tina Worthman, tells me they're a big attraction. I'm not surprised.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- February 7, 2018

If you're in Cheyenne and looking for a place to escape winter's cold, look no further than the Botanic Gardens' new Grand Conservatory. It may be snowing, raining, or just plain cold outside, but it's always warm indoors.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- January 31, 2018

Not all of the Fort Caspar Museum exhibits are indoors. In addition to the fort itself, this reconstruction of a bridge over the Platter River and a replica of the Mormon ferry that carried pioneers across the sometimes treacherous river highlight important aspects of central Wyoming's history.

And, if you wondered what the marker was, it's to commemorate the Oregon Trail.

I hope you've enjoyed a peek inside the museum and that you've learned a little bit about the state I now call home.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- January 24, 2018

One of the bits of trivia that always amuses me is that there are more pronghorn (what some call antelope) in Wyoming than people. What I hadn't realized until I visited the Fort Caspar Museum was that sheep populations were once so high and that they far exceeded both human and cattle. 

No wonder there was conflict between the cattle and sheep ranchers!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- January 17, 2018

You probably recognized this barrel, but I didn't.  Although I've heard countless news broadcasts talking about the price of a barrel of oil, I'd never actually seen an oil barrel.

Central Wyoming, which is where the Fort Caspar Museum is located, is oil country, so it's no surprise that the museum features such an iconic item.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Behind the Cover for A Borrowed Dream

Back by popular demand!

Yes, it's true.  So many of you have told me how much you enjoy my blogs about the cover design process that I plan to blog about each of my books' covers. I'm undoubtedly prejudiced, but I think the covers Revell has given me are gorgeous, and I continue to be fascinated by the amount of work, attention to detail, and sheer artistry that goes into each one.

While a number of people are involved in the creation of each cover, major kudos go to Art Director Cheryl Van Andel, who's responsible for the entire process, and graphic designer Dan Thornberg of Design Source Creative Services, who turned Cheryl's ideas into the cover you see.

The process always begins the same way, with a questionnaire that each author completes. In it, we describe our characters -- not only their physical traits, but also their personalities -- and the basic setting of the book. We're also asked if there are any landmarks that play a prominent role in the story. You'll see how that information is used in the design.

Catherine Whitfield, the heroine of A Borrowed Dream, is a beautiful brunette who's also the town's schoolteacher. Though she was once a carefree young girl, her mother's death has left her with a deep sorrow.

Cheryl and Dan took that description into account when they chose Jenna as the model and again when she posed for the photo shoot.
Though Jenna's smiling here, she's much more serious when she's portraying Catherine. Does that sound as if she's an actress? Perhaps ...

Once the model is chosen, the next step is finding the right clothing. As a teacher, Catherine normally wears skirts and blouses, so Revell gave me a choice for both.

While each of these blouse selections has its own appeal, none of them felt right for the time period. Fortunately, there were other choices, including this one:
To my delight, this design was virtually identical to one I'd seen in my favorite historic costume book. It was perfect for Catherine.

Next came skirts, and again, I had a choice.

I had no strong preference for one over the other, and neither did Cheryl, so she let Dan decide which would work best. As you'll see, he experimented with both during the photo shoot.

As is often the case, the photo shoot for A Borrowed Dream's cover took place in front of a plain white background.
Notice that Jenna is wearing the first of the skirts here.

And here she's in the second. Don't you love the bare feet?

Here she is again in the second skirt.

I liked each of these poses, but there's no doubt that the one that was ultimately chosen is my favorite. Why? It captures both Catherine's somber side and her optimism.
And so, with the photo shoot complete, it was time for Dan to work on the background.

As part of the author's questionnaire, I mentioned that while a schoolhouse might be good in the background, it needed to be made of stone, not a frame building like the schoolhouse on the cover of Tomorrow's Garden.

Dan found a wonderful stone building to use as the starting point for the background.
Notice that I said "starting point." If you compare this to the schoolhouse on the cover, you'll see a number of changes.

  • The whole picture has been flipped, so it's facing the opposite direction.
  • The Texas flag was added to the flag pole.
  • The bell tower was removed from the roof.

But what's a school without a bell? To add more interest to the cover, Dan created a free-standing bell that would be easier for the pupils to ring. He started with a bell.

When Cheryl sent me the next picture, I wondered how it had been used, since there are no birdhouses on the cover.
Then I realized that Dan had used one of the fence posts to create a post for the bell. Clever!

Now that the basic elements were complete, he added grass, bluebonnets, and clouds. With the addition of the title and my name, the cover was complete. Or was it?

There's more to a book cover than the front and spine. Back cover copy is almost as important as the cover itself in helping readers decide whether or not to buy a book. Fortunately, Revell has a staff of experts to write the back cover copy and choose all the elements that make it as appealing as the cover itself. I'm always amazed at how well they capture the essence of a story in only a few paragraphs.

With everything approved, the cover was ready for printing. But, wait! Did you notice that something changed between the photo shoot and the final cover?

Yes,  Catherine's skirt became blue. Not only does the blue complement the blouse better than the original gray, but it highlights the bluebonnets and the title. This is yet another example of Dan and Cheryl's attention to detail and their determination to make this an eye-catching cover.

Did it catch your eye? I hope so. And I hope you enjoyed reading about the whole cover art design process. It's one of my favorite parts of the journey from raw manuscript to finished book.

I've included more information about A Borrowed Dream along with an excerpt on my web page.  And if you'd like to order a copy, here are some buying links:
Barnes & Noble
Christian Book Distributors

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- January 10, 2018

It's just one exhibit -- a simple series of pictures -- but if you look closely, you'll discover that it tells you a lot about Wyoming, including the state's mammals and butterfly.  Who knew that we had a state butterfly?

This exhibit celebrates Wyoming's firsts -- everything from the first national park (Yellowstone, of course), national monument (Devils Tower), and national forest to the first woman governor (Nellie Tayloe Ross).

These and many other exhibits are part of the Fort Caspar Museum.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- January 3, 2018

This month we're going to explore the Fort Caspar Museum. Not only is it the gateway to Fort Caspar itself, which I highlighted during November, but it's filled with interesting facts about Wyoming.

Here's one that surprised me:

I'd never heard of an atlatl and was intrigued by this predecessor to the bow and arrow.  Were you familiar with atlatls?  If so, where did you learn about them?