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Mona from Arizona

INTERVIEW WITH IDA SINCLAIR OF TOO RICH FOR A BRIDE

Too Rich for a Bride Pinwords

“Ah! A book I’ve been waiting for. Too Rich for a Bride by Mona Hodgson will charm your socks off. All the ups and downs of a romance with a delightful dose of history and characters who will sneak into your heart and take up residence. More, more, we want more.” —Lauraine Snelling author of No Distance Too Far and the Daughters of Blessing series

Book 2
The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series

In preparation to write Too Rich for a Bride, Ida Sinclair’s story, I interviewed her. I thought you might like to glimpse of Ida before she left Portland, Maine to join her sisters Kat and Nell in Cripple Creek.

Mona: Who are you? 

Ida: I am the big sister, the oldest daughter, the responsible one. I’m the one who makes things happen for other people. Isn’t this what the first-born does?

Mona: What do you want?

Ida: I want to make things happen for myself. I want to be a successful businesswoman, respected for my abilities and my hard work.

Mona: You expect to do that in a mining town out West?

Ida: You think it’s wrong for me to want success in the world of business, to earn my own money?

Mona: No, but it’s certainly not going to be easy. I only wanted to clarify your intentions for your fans.

Ida: My fans?

Mona: Yes, the Sinclair sisters—each of you–have a following of readers who care about you and your journey. What has your life been like since your mother died?

Ida: The moon was high when I heard my father crying. I rushed into the hallway outside my parents’ bed chamber. Dr. Haufbauer stood there rocking back and forth, shaking his head and puffing his pipe. Ever since then, I’ve felt responsible for my father’s well-being and my sisters’ care. Now it’s time for me to follow my dream.

Mona: Have you left any room for romance in your plans? Do you believe in love?

Ida: Although I would like to eventually find love and wed, I’m not searching for a man. Right now romance would be a distraction I can’t afford. If I ever do decide to pursue love and marriage, it’ll be after I’ve found success in business.

Mona: What about your father’s wishes that you and your sisters find a man in Cripple Creek, Colorado who can provide for you?

Ida: Father isn’t in Cripple Creek. He’s busy working in Paris. Besides, I’m not one of the daughters he was worried about. He knows I can take care of myself. Soon, I’ll prove it to him.

Mona: What has your life been like since your father moved to Paris?

Ida: Focused and lonely. I take my business courses in the mornings and work in the school’s office in the afternoons. Aunt Alma’s house is comfortable, but cluttered. Vivian has a beau, but you don’t want to get me started on him. Anyway, between Vivian’s schooling and her fascination with Gregory, she’s too busy for much more than a Sunday checkers game with her big sister.

Mona: What one word would you use to describe the following people?

Ida: Kat – wordsmith; Nell – homemaker; Vivian – Vivacious; Father – Steady; Aunt Alma – Entertaining

Mona: What word would you use to describe yourself?

Ida: Resourceful.

Mona: What word would your sisters use to describe you?

Ida: Dependable.

Mona: What word would your father use to describe you?

Ida: Capable.

Mona: How would you describe your relationship with God?

Ida: It’s more a battle for control, than a relationship.

Mona: Ida, now that you’ve been in Cripple Creek for a while, has your perspective changed any?

Ida: One, you should know. You wrote the book. Two, my story says it all, and I don’t want to spoil the read for our Sinclair Sisters fans.

“A beautiful tale. Intriguing. Inviting. Inspiring.” -Cindy Woodsmall, author of The Hope of Refuge and When the Soul Mends

Read the first chapter of Too Rich for a Bride.

If you haven’t yet read Ida’s story, or if it’s been awhile since you’ve read Too Rich for a Bride, you’ll want to read it soon. A beloved secondary character in the book will be the main character in Twice a Bride.

Mollie O’Bryan

Ida Sinclair has joined her sisters, Kat and Nell, in the untamed mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado for one reason: to work for the infamous but undeniably successful businesswoman, Mollie O’Bryan. Ida’s sisters may be interested in making a match for their determined older sister, but Ida only wants to build her career.

Under Mollie’s tutelage, Ida learns how to play the stock market and revels in her promising accomplishments. Fighting for respect in a man’s world, her ambition leaves little room for distractions. She ignores her family’s reservations about Mollie O’Bryan’s business practices. No matter how she tries, she can’t
ignore the two men pursuing her affections—Colin Wagner, the dashing lawyer, and Tucker Raines, the traveling preacher.

As you read in her interview, Ida wants a career more than anything else, so she shrugs off the suitors and pointed “suggestions” that young ladies don’t belong in business. Will it take unexpected love—or unexpected danger—for Ida to realize where her priorities truly lie?

Bob’s Corner: Headframes and Cable Hoist

Bob’s Corner Glen Eyrie Bob

The pursuit of riches drew tens of thousands of colorful characters to Cripple Creek in the 1890s. The boom town provided me a canvas on which to draw my stories in The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series.

Good news! My hubby Bob agreed to flesh out the workings of a gold mining camp in that era for us. Headframes and Cable Hoists is the first in the series of articles and videos by Bob.

AND NOW, BOB’S CORNER . . .

With a nod to Bullwinkle J. Moose, and his Bullwinkle’s Corner, I have agreed to share what I know about mining in the 1890’s with Mona’s readers. My hope is that I don’t come across as Mr. Know-It-All. (Another of Bullwinkle’s famous characters)

Today’s subject is the most visible part of hard-rock mining–the headframe and cable hoist.

When you drive through Cripple Creek, the first thing you notice on all of the hillsides are the piles of rock, looking like giant gopher holes. They are, indeed, circling holes that are dug straight down into the solid rock. A mining claim protected the owner from anyone encroaching on their ore. The claim was described as a certain surface area and down, literally to the center of the earth. If you had any hope of keeping any of the gold you recovered, you had to stay within your surface measured area.

Lawyers were kept busy protecting the claims from anyone cutting across underground and into your claim. It’s hard to believe, but a lawyer was a good thing at a time when Sam Colt’s famous invention was a more popular deterrent.

Which brings us to the headframe. In order to get men and equipment into the mine, they had to be lowered by cable. Likewise, any ore had to be lifted up and out. And some of the mines in the Cripple Creek District were more than 1000 feet deep.

Two styles of Headframe. The one in the foreground also has a cable hoist. Notice the spoked pulley at the top.

A steel structure was built over the opening, with a pulley at the top. The headframe was built tall enough to lift any elevators or ore buckets clear of the mine, and sometimes enough that a train could pull through, depositing the ore directly into the cars.

At one time, every one of the holes I mentioned had a headframe. If a mine failed to produce, the headframe was moved to the next hole. No effort was made to fill in the holes, so a night-time stroll on the hillsides is not recommended.

A cable was strung over the pulley, and down the shaft of the mine. This took a lot of cable, so it would be wound around the spool of a cable hoist. The cable hoist could be powered by electricity or steam at the time, but steam was a more reliable source of power. It would be extremely disconcerting if the local generator went out when you were at the bottom, or for that matter, anywhere along the way. More on the elevator situation in a later post.

In the video, you will see a steam cable hoist, with a description of it’s basic workings. Also, in the video, I refer to the ore buckets and elevators, and I promise I will show them to you next time. I felt it was more sensible to start at the top.

Click here for video.

Checkers, Anyone?

Two Brides Too Many Slanted

A checkered board with rounded game pieces—here in the United States, we know it as checkers, a timeless table game.

While waiting to be seated at a restaurant in Phoenix, I watched a family of five gathered around a table. A father and daughter were engaged in a playful, but intense game of checkers. The opponent’s game pieces were being captured, kings were crowned and granted special battle privileges. All the while engaged family members sat on the sidelines cheering and advising.

Checkers is a game with roots that date back to Ancient Egypt, perhaps as early as the time of Queen Hatasu (1400 or 1500 BC). Kings and Pharaohs may have sat about the palace in royal garb engaged in a patteia competition, their version of draughts. Modern checkers dates back to 12th Century Europe. Today, checkers is still a game of choice in countries across the globe, as well as in the United States. However, outside the United States, you’re likely to hear the game referred to as draughts.

Stone Town, Zanzibar, East Africa

Two years ago, while walking the narrow, congested streets of Zanzibar, I encountered many sights that made my jaw drop and my eyes widen. Intricately carved wooden double doors with polished brass fitments and adornments. Portuguese castle walls, the remnants of the slave trade into Europe and Asia. The port filled with fishing dhows. The evening open air seafood grill stands and tables. But one sight in particular tickled me. Two Tanzanian Nationals seated on rough cast cement benches huddled over a cement table that held a thin wooden plank checkered by a felt marker. Coke and Fanta bottle caps served as their game pieces.The game of checkers was an Olympic sport at the 1896 games.

Book 1

In my Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series, set in the late 1890’s, checkers is a favorite pastime. A Sinclair family tradition, the sisters (and brothers-in-law now) engage in checkers tournaments on Sunday afternoons as part of their Sabbath rest.

The series opens with one such scene in the first chapter of Two Brides Too Many and the tournament thrives in the subsequent books—Too Rich for a Bride, The Bride Wore Blue, and Twice a Bride.

Book 2

 

 

Book 3

Dr. Quinn Inspiration

DrQuinn

Remaining true to our annual tradition, the summer of 1996, my friend Shirley and I loaded the back of my Jeep and headed to a cabin in Northern Arizona. I would write and she would work on her music. That year, however, we encountered a big problem. No, it wasn’t a bear on the trail, the squirrels in the attic, the midnight mice, or a skunk on the porch.

Our two-day getaway to the cabin swallowed a Saturday. Saturday night was DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN night, and the modest cabin didn’t allow for TV viewing.

Don’t get me wrong—Shirley and I are all about retreating from noise, the hectic pace of small town life, and breathing in the pine-scented tranquility the mountains offer, but miss viewing Dr. Quinn (Jane Seymour) and Sully (Joe Lando) in “real time?” No way!

We had to find a place with good television reception. The nearest town was about thirty miles away. Never mind that we’d be driving back to the cabin in the dark, in the land of roaming bears and deer and elk.

This was before televisions lined the walls of most eateries. Where, oh where, could we go to catch up with the unstoppable Dr. Michaela “Mike” Quinn and mountain man Bryon Sully?  Department stores that sold televisions? Sports bars? Uh, not the kind of shows they broadcast.

Ah ha! Hospital rooms have televisions. Yep. Off we went to the hospital to search for an empty room with a TV. With no time to spare, we settled into the outpatient waiting room, and were swept away into historic Colorado Springs with the beloved cast of DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN.

Yes, it was a dreary day when that show was cancelled. But fast forward to 2012. I’m a historical novelist, writing Old West fiction for WaterBrook Press. I’m still fascinated with the role of female physicians in the 1800’s. It’s no wonder then that Colorado doctor, Susan Anderson known as Doc Susie, serves as my “real life” character in The Bride Wore Blue, Book Three in The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series.

Headed toward a fresh start but tethered by her past,
Vivian longs to break free, to find forgiveness and love.

The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek
Book 3

At last, the sisters are reunited! The youngest Sinclair, the family “baby,” is moving from Maine to Cripple Creek, Colorado and joining Kat, Nell, and Ida. But Vivian is a young woman with a will of her own, and made some decisions back in Portland that have begun to haunt her. Will she be able to live up to the expectations of her three perfect and now happily-settled sisters?

The sisters warmly welcome Vivian to the mountain west, but the wild-and-woolly mining town isn’t ripe with opportunities for a respectable young woman. The youngest Sinclair sister is determined to make her own way, so when she’s offered a job as a hostess in a sporting house, she takes it, thinking the position is appropriate for a tainted, unlovable woman like herself. Although she’s convinced she’ll never be asked to entertain privately, Vivian keeps her employment a secret from her sisters, knowing they’d be mortified—as will Carter Alwyn, the kind and godly sheriff’s deputy who’s sweet on her.

Vivian is descending into a life of secrets, lying to the very people who love her and could help her heal from her mistakes. Will an outpouring of grace remind her that she is still God’s beloved and that her past can be washed as clean as Rocky Mountain snow?

So is it Vivian or Sheriff’s deputy Carter Alwyn who has need of the good Doc Susie’s services? And who is at fault?

Grand Canyon Fortymoon

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El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon

The porch rockers at the El Tovar–our favorite place to be after standing at the rim to gawk.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it, for He founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”

Psalm 24:1

“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.”

Psalm 36:5,6

“Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken, my salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge” Psalm 62:6,7

Heroes: Matt Dillon Style

Any Gunsmoke fans out there?

Marshal Matt Dillon

James Arness played Matt Dillon in the longstanding TV series Gunsmoke. Marshal Matt Dillon’s larger-than-life persona kept me on the edge of the couch rooting for him. Apparently, I was one viewer among a throng who favored the Dodge City drama because Gunsmoke ran for twenty years with a whopping 635 episodes.

The appeal of an Old West lawman is no surprise. A modern day lawman had already captured my heart—my daddy, William “Bill” Gansberg. Daddy was a city policeman and later a California Highway Patrolman. The uniform and the means of transportation were different, but the ideals that made him strap on a gun and stand for justice were the same—good, out to overcome evil.

You may recognize facets of Gunsmoke characters in The Bride Wore Blue, the latest book in The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series.

Book 3, The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series

  • Sheriff’s Deputy Carter Alwyn has Marshal Matt Dillon’s chiseled good looks, integrity, compassion, and confident gait.
  • Vivian Sinclair doesn’t own a saloon, but it won’t take much stretch of your imagination to see a bit of Miss Kitty in her.
  • The wiry miner Boney Hughes definitely reflects some of Festus Haggen‘s backwoods charm.
  • Doc Susie displays the quiet conscience of Doc Adams.

Do you have a favorite character from TV westerns? Why is he or she a favorite?

10 PLACES TO SEE IN CENTRAL ARIZONA

Slide Rock, Oak Creek Canyon

My Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek populate Colorado, but I make my home in Arizona. Central Arizona boasts a lot of family-friendly attractions and historic destinations. I thought it’d be fun to give you a peek at a few of them. If you’re heat-sensitive, I’d recommend you plan your Arizona family vacation or getaway for the more temperate months—mid-October to mid-May.

Oak Creek Canyon

1. Oak Creek Canyon: Hwy 89A, the most scenic route between Flagstaff and Sedona. While you’re driving the canyon, you may want to stop for a visit to Slide Rock State Park and cool off on the natural waterslide.

2. Sedona: Known for its majestic red rock formations, and the internationally famous site of many John Wayne movies.

3. Montezuma’s Castle and Montezuma’s Well: Amazing Anasazi Indian dwellings and an astounding natural spring in the center of ancient ruins.

4. Out of Africa Wildlife Park: Bring your family to see hundreds of animals from all over the world.

5. Verde Canyon Railroad: A wilderness train ride that takes you back in time.

6. Jerome: Billion Dollar Copper Mine. While you’re there, be sure to visit Jerome State Historic Park—The Douglas Mansion, a monument to Jerome’s mining boom days.

7. Blazin’ M Ranch: Talk about family fun—Old West setting, cowboy grub, and a western show full of music and laughter.

8. Fort Verde State Historic Park: Indian war era cavalry fort.

9. Prescott Rodeo: World’s Oldest Rodeo.

10. Red Rock Fantasy: A Christmas season spectacular! An entire community lit up for the season.

I’m curious…have you been to Arizona? If so, what did you see? If not, where in Arizona would you want to go first?

Wanted: Mail-Order Bride Stories

letter

I had great fun living the life of a mail-order bride. Vicariously, that is, through the harrowing, humorous, and heart-warming experiences of Kat Sinclair and her sister Nell. Two sisters, two missing misters, and a shocking welcome to the Wild West.

What pulls you and I toward such an outrageous scenario as a woman leaving what she knows to step into the unknown with a man she doesn’t know?

Mail-order brides represent a stalwart breed of women who exude courage, strength, and a sense of adventure. They are women seeking a new beginning, opportunities, and financial security. We gravitate toward these stories because we like meeting a gutsy woman, young or old, who has a need to be married, but doesn’t have any promising prospects in her current circumstances. Their moxie might inspire us, but we’d happily do without the desperation that drives many of them west.

Usually, the heroine is connected to a possible mate through a response to some sort of advertisement.

Wanted: A single woman who is willing to walk away from the life she knows to travel across the country or even around the world and marry a stranger. She must be willing to bear his children and take care of their home, all while causing him to grow in his affection for her.

The mail-order bride plot line is typically one in which a man living in a western country, most commonly out west in the United States, marries a woman from a depressed or oppressed country or from the male-deprived eastern United States, sight unseen. Personal advertisements for matrimony served as the link between mail-order brides and the men who sent for them.

The fellow placing the ad or responding to an ad may end up being the one the heroine marries, but what if he isn’t? What if he isn’t who he is purported to be? Or maybe it’s the heroine who wears a façade. If so, why? And where does the misleading and misgivings take the characters? I loved finding that out in Stephen Bly’s Code of the West book, It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own.                     .

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan is one of the most popular examples using the mail-order bride scenarios in fiction. Papa lost his wife and placed an ad in the newspaper. Easterner Sarah Elizabeth Wheaton responded, setting her adventure in the west with the widower and his two children in motion. The classic tale began as a children’s novel and emerged as a popular Hallmark television movie.

While the mail-order bride storyline is most commonly seen in historical fiction, the 1993 movie, “Sleepless in Seattle,” offered a contemporary twist on the classic story form. A motherless boy desperate to help his father find a new wife called into a radio show and told his father’s story of loss and loneliness. Letters flooded his father’s mailbox opening the door to a compelling and heart-warming romance.

Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series
Book 1

In Two Brides Too Many, two of four Sinclair sisters travel west and arrive at the depot in Cripple Creek, Colorado expecting to meet the men with whom they’d corresponded. But when the ladies disembark at the train depot, neither fiance’ awaits them. The well-bred Sinclair sisters find themselves alone in the wild, frontier town—a place where fire threatens to reduce the buildings to rubble, the working women strut the streets, rogues will gamble for the shoes on one’s feet, and grace is found among the most unlikely of folks.

If you share my delight in mail-order bride stories with a twist, I hope you’ll ask your favorite bookseller for a copy of Two Brides Too Many.

Read Chapter One.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=ZKhDmjbNhUU]

Do you have a favorite Mail-Order Bride story?

Cripple Creek

Denver and Colorado Springs were popular towns in Colorado Territory, and have remained so since Colorado received statehood in 1876. Although Cripple Creek is often overlooked, the gold mining camp’s footprint is deep and widespread in Colorado’s historical soil.

Cripple Creek, nestled in a saddle valley on the southwestern slopes of Pikes Peak, became a booming gold mining camp in the 1890’s. At an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet, just below timberline, the city’s history is one of highs and lows with fires, disease, outlaws, Indian wars, labor wars, and prostitution.

Here’s a peek at the Cripple Creek that inspired me as I wrote The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series.

  • Tens of thousands of men (and women) flocked to the rocky mountains of Colorado seeking gold.
  • Between 1890 and 1910 more than 22,000,000 ounces of gold were extracted from 500 mines in the Cripple Creek District, mainly Cripple Creek and the neighboring town of Victor.
  • The Cripple Creek District produced more than thirty millionaires.
  • Many influential women made history in Cripple Creek. I feature and fictionalize at least of those women in each of the Sinclair sisters books. You’ll find more about them in future posts.
  • By the time the 1800’s game to a close, Cripple Creek had become a cultural destination, drawing the upper tens of Denver and Colorado Springs to its opera houses and ice cream parlors.
  • This rowdy but charming mountain home of The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek now houses several engaging museums, including the Cripple Creek District  Museum, Pikes Peak Heritage Center, Outlaws & Lawmen Jail Museum, and the Old Homestead Parlour Museum.
  • The last full weekend of June each year, Cripple Creek pays homage to its historical, mining heritage in the Donkey Derby Days Festival. Bob and I participated this year. More about that in a future post.

I hope you’ll spend time in my fictional town of Cripple Creek with Kat, Nell, Ida, and Vivian Sinclair in The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series, and plan to visit the historic Cripple Creek one day soon.

 

The Flying W Ranch

Flying W 60 Years-800

Twenty-two years ago, Bob and I went with my folks to Colorado. One of the highlights of the trip was our time at The Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs. The Old West town setting, the cowboy grub, and the western show was a feast for the eyes, the stomach, and the heart. My dad’s joy was infectious as his whole rocked with explosive laughter and tears ran down his face. Priceless memories.

While laying out our Road Trip Book Tour for The Bride Wore Blue, I decided Bob and I were past due for a return to The Flying W. When I let the owner, Terry Wolfe, know about my Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek series of historical novels and my upcoming trip to Colorado Springs, she welcomed the opportunity to host a book signing at the ranch.

Mona signing The Bride Wore Blue
Flying W Ranch, Cowboy Shop

On Saturday, June 16th, Bob and I returned to the Flying W Ranch in Old West costumes. Terry met us at the gate and walked us through the recreated western town to the Cowboy Shop, ushering in another fabulous evening at The Flying W Ranch.

My marketing and publicity team from WaterBrook Press (publisher of my historical fiction) joined me for the book signing and the chuckwagon supper and western show. As the wranglers stepped onto the stage, new strains of laughter mingled with the old in an evening brimming with new memories.

Days later, I was in Cripple Creek, poised to participate in Donkey Derby Days events, when I received word from my editor in Colorado Springs that the Waldo Canyon Fire had consumed The Flying W Ranch.

My heart ached for the families whose loved ones passed, for the more than 300 families who had lost their homes, for Terry Wolfe and her Flying W Ranch family, and for all who suffered in the path of the Waldo Canyon fire.

Imagine my excitement when I learned of the plans to rebuild The Flying W Ranch. I’m already looking forward to our next visit.

The pioneer spirit of Colorado lives on. Just like the people of Cripple Creek who rebuilt their town after the devastating fires of 1896, the folks of Colorado Springs are moving forward…rebuilding.

Godspeed, Colorado Springs!

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