Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- August 15, 2018

Last week I highlighted the hawk that's been a backyard visitor. Today's post features a much smaller bird -- a rufous hummingbird. Here it is, perched on a piece of lawn art. What surprises me is how long it'll sit there, almost motionless.

The reason for choosing that particular perch is that only a few feet away are one of its favorite foods -- penstemons. Although it seems to me that the birds (there are at least three) visit the same blossom multiple times a day, making me wonder if there's any nectar left, they don't appear discouraged and keep returning.

I always laugh when I see the little hummer with its full beak and part of its head buried in the flower. Must be tasty!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- August 8, 2018

It's one thing to have robins and sparrows bathing in the birdbath, but a Swainson's Hawk is a different story. Even though this one was a juvenile, he still had trouble fitting in the birdbath, yet he persisted.

A couple weeks later, he returned -- considerably larger than the prior visit -- and decided to do nothing more than drink. As you can imagine, the ground squirrels and bunnies were less excited about the hawk's presence than we humans were.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming -- August 1, 2018

Now, this is something you don't see very often in Cheyenne or -- for that matter -- anywhere.

Mr. Peanut and his NUTmobile came to one of the local grocery stores last month. It was a great photo opp, not to mention a chance to talk to the Peanutters, as the staff who tour with Mr. Peanut are called, and learn more about the famous nut.

Here's the NUTmobile in all its glory. If you were wondering, it's not a repurposed RV. The three NUTmobiles (one for each of three different regions of the country) were all custom made specifically for Planters.

Some fun facts about the NUTmobile itself.

In his almost a century of existence, Mr. Peanut himself has undergone some changes.

A fitting ending to the story, and to the NUTmobile itself: a personalized license plate.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - July 25, 2018

It's Frontier Days time in Cheyenne, and today is Cheyenne Day. In addition to the rodeo itself and the famous Frontier Nights entertainment, there's a pancake breakfast and my favorite event: the US Air Force Thunderbirds show.

What a wonderful example of precision flying, excellence, and teamwork.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - July 18, 2018

What would you think if you saw this on a billboard? Would it catch your eye? The Eiffel Tower windmill certainly caught my attention. I was so intrigued by it that when I discovered that the Laramie County Library was offering poster-sized versions, I snapped one up and have it hanging where I see it every day.

The campaign is a few years old, but the message is as true as it was then: libraries bring the world to us.

When was the last time you visited your library?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - July 11, 2018

Have you seen any of these flags? They're part of Travel Wyoming's campaign to show the world the many aspects of the state and to answer the question of "Why are you vacationing in Wyoming?"  As the Travel Wyoming site says, "Wyoming is home to 98,000 square miles of possibility."

Travelers who pick up the flags (free, of course) at visitors' centers and at historic sites throughout the state  are encouraged to post photos of themselves and their flags using the hashtag #FlyYourWY.

If you're curious, you can find more information at their web site or by searching with the hashtag.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - July 4, 2018

While we celebrate Independence Day across the country, I thought I'd share a few facts that you may or may not know about Wyoming.

It was the 44th state, admitted to the union in 1890.

Part of the reason Wyoming was granted statehood was that it was the first territory to grant women the right to vote. That happened in 1869, so you can see that it still took a while to become a state.

Wyoming has two nicknames: the Equality State and the Cowboy State. I'm sure you can guess why each one of those was chosen.

Wyoming is proud of its firsts. In addition to women's suffrage, it's the site of the first national park (Yellowstone in 1872) and the first national monument (Devils Tower in 1906). And in 1925 Nellie Tayloe Ross became Wyoming's -- and the nation's -- first woman governor.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - June 27, 2018

While the capitol is the largest construction project in Cheyenne, it's not the only one. The famous Big Boy 4004 steam engine, which was retired from service sixty years ago and is currently located in Holliday Park, is also undergoing restoration.

Unlike the capitol project, which requires multiple years of effort, this restoration will be completed later this summer.

Here's some more information about the Big Boy as well as a close-up view of the shrouding.

And, if you wondered what it looks like without all that plastic around it, here's the answer.
Cheyenne owes its existence to the railroad, so it's no surprise that the city treasures its historic trains and wants to preserve them for future generations.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - June 20, 2018

Not everything on the capitol complex is being changed as a result of the Capitol Square Project.

The statue of Chief Washakie, which stands on the opposite side of the main entrance sidewalk from one of Esther Morris, already had its change. It used to be on display inside the capitol itself, but a few years ago it was moved outdoors.

Who was Chief Washakie? Here's an interesting article that I found.

Unfortunately for first-time visitors to Cheyenne, the statue is currently hidden by the fence that surrounds the capitol during construction.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Cover Reveal - A Tender Hope

For me, one of the major milestones between the time I turn in a manuscript and the day the book is actually available for purchase is when I can share cover art with you. After all, even though we're told not to judge a book by the cover, we do ... or at least I do.

A great deal of planning and effort goes into the development of a cover. I'll blog about costume choice, how the background was developed, and the other details that you've told me you enjoy learning as we get closer to the release date, but today I wanted to share the finished product with you.

So, without further fanfare, here it is: the cover for A Tender Hope, the third of the Cimarron Creek books.
What do you think?

I hope you're as pleased with it as I am. I loved the historic costume (notice that it buttons what we would consider the wrong way) and the medical bag that's so essential for Thea's profession as a midwife. As for the house, wouldn't it be fun to live in one like that as long as you didn't have to clean it?

If the name "Thea" sounds familiar to you, it's because you met her in Paper Roses. So many of you asked for her story that I couldn't wait any longer to tell you what happened to her when she grew up.

A Tender Hope will be available on March 5 next year. I know it's a long wait, but while you're waiting, here's a glimpse into the story.

The Really, Really Short Version
An abandoned baby and a young woman warm the heart of a Texas Ranger seeking justice for his brother.

The Longer Version
As far as Thea Michener is concerned, it's time for a change. Her husband murdered and her much-anticipated baby stillborn, there's nothing left for her in Ladreville. Having accepted a position as Cimarron Creek's midwife, she has no intention of remarrying and trying for another child. So when a handsome Texas Ranger appears on her doorstep with an abandoned baby, Thea isn't sure her heart can take it.

Ranger Jackson Guthrie isn't concerned only with the baby's welfare. He's been looking for Thea, convinced that her late husband was part of the gang that killed his brother. But it soon becomes clear that the situation is far more complicated than he'd anticipated and that he'll need Thea's help if he's ever to find the justice he seeks.

A Tender Hope is available for preorder at Amazon now and will be available at the other retailers soon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - June 13, 2018

Last week I featured the repairs to the capitol dome, but that's only a small portion of the work being done as part of the Wyoming Capitol Square Project. A major office building, the Herschler building, is being remodeled and expanded. As you can see, it's located adjacent to the capitol itself, and like the dome, is having its exterior renovated.

For more information about the Herschler project, click here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - June 6, 2018

It's construction season in Cheyenne, and nowhere is that as apparent as at the capitol, which is undergoing a multi-year renovation and restoration project. The latest part of the building to see changes is the dome, which is now surrounded by scaffolding and shrouding. I wouldn't want to be the workers on top of it. Would you?

This isn't the first time the dome has had work done. In 2009, the gilding was replaced, and for a while, the dome itself was covered with wood.

Here's what it looked like between the regilding project and today.
I have to say that it seems strange to drive Interstate 25 north into Cheyenne and not see the golden dome. But in another year or so, it'll be visible again.

If you're interested in more information about the dome repairs, here's a link.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - May 30, 2018

We end this month's tour of Fossil Butte National Monument with the town of Kemmerer's homage to it. I've always been fascinated by murals on the sides of buildings, and this one, with its subtle coloring, is one of the most interesting I've seen.

If you go to Kemmerer to visit the J.C. Penney Mother Store, you can't miss the mural. It's right across the street and yet another reason to visit this small town in southwestern Wyoming.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - May 23, 2018

Sagebrush. At least for me, sagebrush prairies are synonymous with the American West. They were, in fact, one of the reasons I moved to Wyoming, but that's another story.

This prairie, complete with beautiful cumulus clouds, is part of Fossil Butte National Monument, which has been our featured location this month.

Imagine hiking across the prairie, being surrounded by the scent of sage, and wondering what the pioneers were thinking when they reached this part of their journey.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - May 16, 2018

In addition to the possibility of discovering new fossils at Fossil Butte National Monument, the site has numerous opportunities for hiking.

I've included this picture to show you all the green. Depending on where you live, green may be a familiar color to you all year round, but that's not the case in Wyoming. Because it's a semi-arid region, many parts of the state have minimal rainfall and are often golden brown, but for a few glorious weeks, the grass is green. That's definitely cause for celebration.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - May 9, 2018

Fossils, fossils -- they're everywhere at Fossil Butte National Monument, including in this display case just inside the front door of the visitor center.

In addition to exhibits showing the various fossils that were discovered at the site, there are films that explain the process involved in extracting and preserving those fossils and ranger-led walks and talks during the summer.

And, as you'll see from next week's post, there's even more to enjoy at Fossil Butte.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Wednesday in Wyoming - May 2, 2018

Remember Kemmerer, the site of the J.C. Penney Mother Store and the Penney homestead? This small town in southwestern Wyoming has another claim to fame. Just outside the town is Fossil Butte National Monument, also known as America's Aquarium in Stone.

Although most of Wyoming is currently a high desert, it was once covered with water, and water means fish. Lots of fish, not to mention mammals, amphibians, and plants. What makes this site worthy of national monument status is that the fossils of these plants and animals are unusually well preserved. It's a paleontologist's delight.

If you'd like more information, you might want to visit the National Monument's web site.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Getting to Know the Characters

What's a book without characters? If it's a novel, the answer is "nothing at all." It's true that setting is important, and historical facts can enrich a story, but characters are the heart of a novel. That's the reason so many bloggers ask for special insights into a book's characters.

Whether you call them spotlights, interviews, or simply conversations, the goal is always the same: to learn more about the people in a story.

Rel Mollett, who's the person behind the popular site RelzReviews, asked me to create character spotlights for both Catherine and Austin. We talk about  their strengths and vulnerabilities as well as what inspired me to create them.

Heidi Main's Stitches Thru Time blog features a conversation with Catherine, where they discuss everything from dreams to fears to the reason Catherine teaches school. You might discover something new about the heroine of A Borrowed Dream.

Of course we can't neglect Austin. He has his own conversation on the Novel PASTimes site. It's a bit of an uncomfortable time for Austin, but he manages to hold his own, even though he reveals a bit more about himself than he planned.

I hope you enjoyed these insights into Austin and Catherine. Thanks again to Kathy F for suggesting that I summarize my guest blogs so that you don't run the risk of missing them.

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