Thursday, June 28, 2012

Willow Vale now on Nook!

Click picture to go to Willow Vale on Nook.

Suitable for readers young adult and up. 
Still only $2.99.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Locations Featured in Willow Vale

   Just as the characters in my historical romance are fictitious, so are the locales.  Saying that Willow Vale is a “Wyoming” novel gives me a big canvas to paint with broad strokes of an imaginary brush. When Francesca Sittoni lands in America, her first home is a Union Pacific coal mining camp in southwest Wyoming.  In 1898, the Union Pacific had seven coal mines in Wyoming, from which the company sold coal in addition to mining coal to feed its own steam engines. 


Two images of U.P. company houses c. 1920s. 
The company boardinghouse is on the right above. 
Photos courtesy
Sweetwater County Historical Museum

  The Union Pacific Railroad did not set out to be a coal mining company.  But its coal supplier in Wyoming was charging excessive rates so the U. P. started its own mining company.  From then on, the Union Pacific Coal Company could dampen competition by requesting that the Union Pacific Railroad Company charge excessive rates to anyone but the U. P. Coal Company to ship coal.  There are several good books on the early railroad; my personal favorite, which I returned to again and again, are the two volumes of Union Pacific by Maury Klein.

Overview of coal camp of Superior, Wyoming c.1920
Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum

My fictional town of Hawk Point, Wyoming, is an amalgam of historic Western coal mining towns.  Coal camps sat atop the mines.  If the coal town survived the closing of the mines with the coming of diesel engines, what resulted was a hodgepodge of former little camps cobbled together into one community with very crooked streets.  In the case of Rock Springs, the main east-west route through town exits from the Interstate highway on 9th Street, changes to Center Street, and then switches to Dewar Drive before finding its sinuous way back to I-80.  
   After her husband’s death in a mine explosion, Francesca goes to fictional Willow Valley to live with Wyoming rancher Kent Reed.  Again I used a compilation of facts about ranching in Wyoming to imagine their life on a Western ranch in the years after World War I. 
Bill Hutton and Jim Campbell haying on what is now Hutton Heights subdivision in Green River, Wyoming.  Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum

Bill Hutton and Dave Logan haying, winter 1914, Green River, Wyoming.
Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum
    The lack of electricity, the stringing of telephone wires on barbed wire fences, dry farming and the trials of traditional homesteading in the arid West are all true. 
Mud Spring Ranch south of Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum
   Burntfork is a real place; I have always loved that name and couldn’t pass up using it as the name of the creek near Kent’s house in my book.  The Burntfork is a tributary of the Henry’s Fork, which is a tributary of the Green River, which feeds the Colorado River, which flows through the Grand Canyon and then all the way to Mexico!  If you don’t get enough Wyoming rural history from Willow Vale, I recommend reading the template for a woman learning to live on an early Wyoming ranch: Letters of a Woman Homesteader, written by Elinore Pruitt Stewart about her life in Burntfork, published in 1914.
   There are fascinating websites dealing with Wyoming history that I found during research for Willow Vale.  Here are two of my favorites.  For at least 13 years, G. B. Dobson has been working on  I recommend it.  For a smaller, more intimate look at Burntfork, see 

Addendum June 12, 2012
   The caption of the last photograph above, of the Mud Spring Ranch, originally said, "Haying on Mud Spring Ranch."  My town-girl roots are showing.  These helpful comments came in on Facebook:
Nancy Radke The bottom picture, the one shown here, is not haying, they are harvesting. Our harvester was pulled by 4 horses and 36 mules. This one doesn't have that big a team, but the land looks flatter. Hay just requires a mower, and then after it is dry, a hay rake, which I used to ride on as a kid to flip the teeth when they got full. That was scary, as I had nothing to hang onto except the small metal seat set above the rake.
Jacquie Rogers ‎Nancy, I remember riding on the seeder, also with no handles, and it was a bumpy ride, too. My job was to let Dad know when any of the bins were nearing empty. To do that, I had to reach down and open the lid--it was a long reach for a kid, and if I fell, the disks would have cut me to shreds. Scared me out of my wits, but everyone had a job and all jobs were important. Ah, the healthy farm life!
Nancy Radke Yes. Hay was cut with a sickle. The turning wheels made the teeth go back and forth if I remember correctly, so it didn't need a motor. Neither did the rake.
Nancy Radke Yes. My grandson just told me I worry too much, but it isn't worry. We learned to look ahead to spot the dangers and try to avoid them. I survived those years with just an injured disk in my back, a scratched eye and a sprained ankle...all three from falling from horses when they were running away.
Nancy Radke I've lots of memories of those times. Our first telephone, the crank kind where you talked with the operator. We even rode horses to school now and then, but we did have a school bus, which was the size of a regular van. There's a book called "Little Britches" by Ralph Moody, where he wrote about his experiences growing up in Wyoming (I think).

Thank you, Jacquie and Nancy, for the helpful comments.  The latest from author and blogger Jacquie Rogers is Much Ado About Marshals, a Western historical available on Kindle at Amazon.  Nancy Radke is the author of Show and Tell Bible, part of a selection of innovative class material.