Thursday, August 11, 2022

On This Day in the Old West: August 12

 On August 12, 1969, Emperor Joshua A. Norton issued a new proclamation. What? You weren’t aware that the United States had an emperor? Well, we did, from 1859 to 1880.


Joshua Norton was born in England, but not much is known of his life until he arrived in San Francisco in late 1849. We do know he spent much of his early life in South Africa, but there’s no clue as to what he did for a living or how he got to San Francisco from Boston, Massachusetts, where he landed in March 1846.


Norton operated in San Francisco as a successful commodities trader and real estate speculator. He was actually one of the city’s richest citizens by late 1852. In December 1852, Norton saw a business opportunity. China, faced with a severe famine, banned the export of rice, a move which caused the price of the grain to rise in San Francisco from four to thirty-six cents per pound. Norton bought out a shipment of rice from a Peruvian ship carrying 200,000 pounds. He paid twelve cents a pound, thinking to make a profit when he sold the rice at thirty-six cents. However, shortly after he signed the contract, other Peruvian ships arrived with more rice, causing the price to plummet to three cents a pound. 


After spending nearly two years in a heated court battle with the Peruvians, Norton lost his bid to have the rice contract voided. He lost his fortune and the Lucas Turner & Company Bank foreclosed on his holdings in North Beach to pay his debts. Norton declared insolvency in August 1856.


There followed a three-year period during which Joshua Norton practically disappeared from the public eye. It is known that he took lodgings in a working-class boarding house and in September 1857, he served on the jury during the trial of a man accused of stealing a bar of gold from Wells Fargo. In August 1858, Norton ran an ad announcing his candidacy for US Congress. 


By 1859, Norton had become completely disillusioned with what he considered “the inadequacies of the legal and political structure of the United States.” In July, he published his first “Manifesto” in the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, addressed to the “Citizens of the Union” and outlining what he saw as the national crisis. Norton suggested the imperative for action to address this crisis but did not lay out any concrete plans for such action.


Two months later, on September 17, Joshua Norton hand delivered a letter to the offices of the Bulletin:


At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of San Francisco, California, declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of February next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.


He signed this letter Norton I, Emperor of the United States.


The newspaper, thinking this a grand joke, printed the letter in their evening edition, and the 25 year “reign” of Emperor Norton officially began.


The Emperor issued many decrees on matters of state, such as the one abolishing the US Congress in 1859, and the subsequent decree ordering the US Army to depose the elected officials in 1860. Neither the Army nor Congress paid any attention to these official notices.


On August 12, 1869, a decree was issued abolishing the Democratic and Republican Parties. Norton stated he was “desirous of allaying the dissentions of party strife now existing within our realm.” Sounds like a reasonable plan--maybe we need a new Emperor nowadays.

Emperor Norton spent most of his days inspecting the streets, taking note of the condition of the sidewalks and cable cars, the state of repair of public property, and the appearance of the local police officers. He spent time in parks and libraries and paid visits to newspaper offices and old friends in the city, in Oakland, and in Berkeley. In the evenings, Norton was often seen at political gatherings or at theatrical or musical performances, where he was given free admission.


He wore an elaborate blue uniform with gold-plated epaulettes, sometimes given to him secondhand by officers at the Army post at the Presidio of San Francisco. Norton embellished this with several accoutrements, such as a beaver hat sporting an ostrich or peacock feather and his rosette. He also carried a walking stick and an umbrella. 


The 1870 US Census lists Joshua Norton as a 50-year-old living at 624 Commercial Street; occupation: Emperor. It also noted that he was insane.


Emperor Norton reigned until January 8, 1880, when he collapsed on the corner of California Street and Dupont Street (now Grant Avenue), in front of Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The police immediately sent for a carriage to take him to the nearest hospital, but Norton died before it arrived. The San Francisco Morning Call reported the following day, “On the reeking pavement, in the darkness of a moonless night, under the dripping rain … Norton I, by the grace of God, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, departed this life.” Two days later, the San Francisco Chronicle posted an article on Norton’s funeral with the headline “Le Roi Est Mort.”


Your characters would likely have been aware of the existence of this beloved eccentric, as his antics and proclamations were widely reported in newspapers around the West. They might well have run into the Emperor if they traveled to San Francisco during the years of his reign. The Emperor always makes a wonderfully humorous addition to a historical story.


J.E.S. Hays

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

 Ranger Jim's Ramblings for August, 2022

Howdy, all,

I realize I'm a day late, but there's two reasons. First, I've been a bit under the weather. Second, today was release day for the 12th volume in my LONE STAR RANGER series, A RANGER AT PEACE.

Nate Stewart is now 21 years old, a Lieutenant commanding a small company of Rangers. Trouble a-plenty awaits them in Tascosa, the most dangerous town in the Texas Panhandle. 

However, Nate's got a bigger concern. Does he want to remain a Ranger, or get married, settle down, and have a family? Sonya Martinez knows what she'd like. But Nate just isn't certain. Besides, the outlaws of the Panhandle have other plans for Nate... like seeing him dead.

Here's a trivia question for all of you. Two of the characters in the book are named Colby Sawyer and Avery Fisher Hall, Who can tell me where those names come from?

Pick up your copy from Amazon today!

Until next month, when hopefully the weather will be cooler.

"Ranger" Jim

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Ron Schwab - 2021 Peacemaker Award Winner


Family can be a good thing. We can thank Ron's son for giving Ron the nudge to get his stories out in the world. Ron's dedication to telling those stories is pretty inspiring. Read on to find out how this former lawyer is making his mark in the fiction world.

From Ron's Amazon Author Pag

* Do you like to write short or longer stories?

I have never mastered the short story and do not enjoy writing them. I am in awe of the skill of those who craft good short stories. I had some success with a 30,000-word novella, Peyote Spirits, but that is my minimum for word count. Almost everything I write falls within the 65,000-to-90,000-word range.

* Do you write for the market or yourself? 

Both. My publisher son gives me his thoughts on the type of novel he thinks he can market best and then the idea strikes. For instance, Old Dogs published in April 2021 was our biggest financial success. I had assumed that the book would remain a standalone, but in December Mike said it was time for a sequel. Day of the Dog was released in April 2022 and has been a great commercial success, bringing with it a revival of the first book. We try to produce four novels annually, and the market decides when another series book is due.

Amazon -
2021 Peacemaker Award Winner

* What life experiences influenced your writing?

It would be more difficult to think of something that has not. It has been helpful, however, that I was a large animal veterinarian’s son and grew up in a rural atmosphere. I also have raised cattle and hogs and in my previous profession worked with many farmers and ranchers in Nebraska.

* Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am a pantser. I’ve never outlined a project, and I have no idea what is going to happen in the next chapter till I get there. It wouldn’t do much good. In the novel Medicine Wheel, I created a female character who was fated for death, but by the time I got to that point I was so enamored of her, I couldn’t bring myself to kill her, and she recovered from her illness. I confess that I am sometimes forced to write myself out of a plotting corner.

* Is there a writing routine you follow or do you write when the muse strikes?

I try to write something every day with a goal of 2000 words. I’m not too hard on myself when I don’t reach my objective, though, and of course, quite pleased when I hit 3000.


* Is there anything else you feel people would like to know or would be surprised to learn about you?

 I am 81 years old and started my writing career at age 74, not counting three best-forgotten titles published under a pseudonym for Tower/Leisure books over 40 years ago. I was a country lawyer for 50 years and wrote a few novels which I did not attempt to publish during those years. My youngest son Mike read one of them, called, and said he thought he could publish and sell that book and the several others I had lying around. Two of those novels, Last Will and Night of the Coyote were Peacemaker finalists in 2015. Changing careers was a risk, because there is no market for a small-town law practice, and I made enough bad financial decisions in my life to assure that I would not be retiring before age 95. My wife Bev, who does first edit, was supportive, and we now live most of the time in a Kansas Flint Hills cabin. It has worked out quite well, and I am very fortunate to be living my dream in my old age, although I will still need to keep writing and publishing for another 15 years or so.

* Do you write in other genres?


* Research, do you find it important? 

It is important in most of my books. I have written a few historical westerns, including Cut Nose, which was a Spur finalist, and I always try to include bits of history in my novels sufficient to give the reader the illusion of my expertise.


* Do you have unique ‘marketing’ tips you are willing to share?

I write for the Amazon/ Kindle market. It was my son’s idea, and he formed his own publishing company to publish my novels. He has since worked with a few other writers but is convinced that to find commercial success in that market, a writer needs to release multiple titles during a year’s time. Some of these may be from a writer’s backlist, but it appears important to keep books in front of the reading public in that market. It’s different, of course, if one has million-book best sellers.

* What advice would you give to those who dream of writing, or what advice would you give your younger self?

Persistence. My hero Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not…genius will not…education will not.” I suspect most writers understand this.

For more about Ron and his Books:

Amazon Author Page

or follow him on Facebook:

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Lawmen Triumphing Over Illness - Jim Bowie, The Alamo, & Three-Legged Willie by Vicky J. Rose, aka V. J. Rose, aka Easy Jackson

The older I get, the more I find myself  battling chronic illnesses. Although not life-threatening, they often leave me weeping at the most inappropriate times or wanting to figuratively yell, “Put up your dukes!” at the slightest perceived cross word or act. 

As a writer, it is frustrating to have to struggle to put sentences on paper when unwell. Christians are reminded of the Biblical verse: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." But sometimes I don’t always feel very Christian, and it helps to remember that others fought infirmaries and overcame them, one way or another, to make their mark in history.

After being shot in the pelvis, Bat Masterson was forced to use a cane. The cane became one of his famous trademarks. 

Bat Masterson took part in the Second Battle of Adobe Walls when 28 buffalo hunters defended themselves against an Indian alliance 700 strong led by Quanah Parker. Billy Dixon called it a “splendidly barbaric sight.” Masterson went on to become a gunfighter, gambler, sheriff of Dodge City, and journalist. 

Heck Thomas

Heck Thomas’s
career as a soldier ended with a bout of typhoid fever. Instead, he became a U.S. deputy marshal in Indian territory under Judge Isaac Parker. Tired of the frontier, his wife took their children and left. After being nearly killed in a shootout, a young schoolmarm fell in love with Heck while he recuperated, giving him a second chance at happiness. 

Doc Holliday suffered from tuberculosis and carried a cane on his way to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Doc Holliday

Beefcake actor Victor Mature was totally miscast as the 122-pound tubercular Doc Holliday in “My Darling Clementine.” Mature gave it his best shot, however, and one of his most endearing qualities was his unpretentiousness. When rejected from membership in a country club because he was an actor, Mature replied: “Not true. I’ve never been an actor—and I’ve got 70 movies to prove it.”

Frank Hamer intended on becoming a preacher. After the rancher he was working for offered him $200 to kill somebody, later unloading a shotgun in his back for refusing, Hamer decided on a career in law enforcement instead. 

Texas Ranger Frank Hamer
was wounded 23 times in the line of duty and left for dead four times. He overcame bullet wounds and near death to find fame as the man who finally brought down Bonnie & Clyde. 

Robert McAlpin Williamson was crippled as a youth, his leg bent back at the knee. Rather than amputate it, he fitted a peg leg to the knee and became affectionately known as “Three-Legged Willie.”  He studied law and came to Texas, establishing one newspaper and editing three others. Stephen F. Austin urged him to use his newspaper to promote peace with Mexico; instead, the firebrand became such a proponent of independence, he was known as “The Patrick Henry of Texas.” 

Despite his handicap, Willie served as a Texas Ranger and fought at the Battle of San Jacinto, along with loving to dance and playing the banjo. He also liked to perform a rhythmic thigh-patting, hand-clapping, and foot stomping entertainment known as pattin' juba.

Robert McAlpin Williamson—Three-Legged Willie was known as a delightfully eccentric character with a colorful oratory style. When asked to offer a prayer to a group of drought-stricken farmers, he beseeched the Lord “to send a drencher that will … make corn ears shake hands across the row and not one of those little rizzly-drizzly sprinkles that’ll make nubbins that all hell can’t shuck.” 

The First Congress of the Republic of Texas elected Williamson judge of the Third Judicial District, automatically making him a Supreme Court Justice. He once held court in a region known for its lawlessness, with two rival gangs fighting for control. One attorney made a motion that court should not be held. When Willie asked on what grounds, the man plunged a Bowie knife in the desk Willie sat at and said, “This is the law that governs here.” Willie pulled out a long-barreled pistol and said, “This is the constitution that overrules it.” 

James Bowie

Jim Bowie, tall, heavy framed and raw-boned, rode alligators and trapped bears in Louisiana. He reportedly had an open and frank disposition, but when he felt he had been insulted, his temper was a terrible sight to behold, his gray eyes transforming into those of a tiger.

I know what you are thinking. “Is she crazy? Jim Bowie was a despicable human being, an illegal slave trader and land speculator. And besides, he wasn’t a lawman.” He also went on a two-day drunken spree when voted commander of volunteers at the Alamo, fighting with Col. William B. Travis and wreaking havoc on the city of San Antonio by releasing prisoners and harassing citizens. An angel he was not. But he possessed an energy and charisma that other men admired, along with undeniable courage.

The 1950s are criticized for trying to make a buck glamorizing men like Bowie, but
I don’t know if the 2000s are any better off trying to make a buck tearing them down. 

The first Bowie knife was made in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, according to Rezin Bowie’s specifications. He later gave it to his brother Jim who made it famous. Rezin basked in his brother’s fame and in the knife he had designed. 

In frontier days, when engaged in close fighting, a man would fire his flintlock, and immediately draw his knife. To be a good knife fighter was much more important than being a good shot. Because of his high-stake speculations involving large sums of money, Bowie’s brother, concerned for his safety, gave him a long-bladed butcher knife for protection. When partaking in an infamous brawl known as the “Sand Bar Fight,” Bowie made history by successfully defending himself with the knife despite being shot twice and stabbed several times. A demand for the “Bowie Knife” was born.

"All the steel in the country it seemed was immediately converted into Bowie knives,” reported the Red River Herald of Natchitoches. Schools were opened to teach to teach the arts and dodges of Bowie knife fighting, especially in the Southwest. "In the history of American arms," wrote historian Harold L. Peterson (1958), "three weapons stand out above all the rest: the Kentucky rifle, the Colt's revolver, and the Bowie knife." 

Bowie recovered from his wounds, and three years later drifted into Texas, drawn by visions of vast sums to be made land speculating. He married a beautiful young woman, Ursula de Veramendi, the daughter of a powerful and influential Tejano family. Always on the move, looking to make a deal somewhere, Bowie was in Natchez recovering from a bout with malaria when word came his wife had died of cholera. Bowie recovered physically from his illness, but till the end of his life, his eyes would often tear up at the mention of his wife’s name. 

A depiction of Jim Bowie’s Sandbar Fight is on display in the Natchez, Mississippi, Convention Center.

Returning to Texas, Bowie and his brother Rezin searched for a supposed lost silver mine at an old Spanish mission, Santa Cruz de San Sába. Bowie didn’t find the mine, but he further enhanced his reputation by successfully fending off a large band of hostile Tahuacanos Indians for several days with the help of a few prospectors. (The numbers are estimated 124  to 11.)

What’s left of the Santa Cruz de San Sába Mission sits 
near the San Saba River about three miles east of the 
present town of Menard and four miles from the ruins 
of San Luis de las Amarillas Presidio. 

Bowie was unhappy when General Santa Anna put a stop to his land speculating schemes in Texas, but it was more upsetting that the dictator overthrew the Constitution of 1824. Stephen F. Austin had preached for years to the Texans to try to get along with the Mexican government. Nevertheless, when Austin tried to get the Mexican government to recognize Texas as a state within that government so they could have representation, he was thrown into a Mexican prison and left there for months. 

The majority of settlers in Texas were Anglos with a long history of the Magna Carta. Writ of Habeas Corpus and trial by jury were sacred to their ideas of freedom and liberty. They realized even if they were allowed to stay, they would be living under a volatile and everchanging government, subject not to laws but to the whims of whoever happened to be in power at the time. It was either leave and give up everything they had worked for, or stay and fight. Bowie threw his lot in with those determined to stay and wage war for the liberties they held dear, and he returned to San Antonio, the home of his beloved wife. 

 “There is no man on whose forecast, prudence, and valor, I place a higher estimate,” Sam Houston wrote of Bowie. He possessed leadership, charisma, and popularity in spades, and Texas needed him.

My great-great grandmother Elizabeth Jackson Heffington said the Texas settlers were much more afraid of the Mexican army than they were of the Indians. She should know—her husband was killed by Indians in Waco, so for them to be worse in her mind was a very real thing.

Bowie was determined to hold the line at San Antonio de Béxar and protect the bexareños from the same fate Santa Anna had inflicted on the rebellious Zacatecans: rape, murder, and pillage of rebels and innocents alike. 

“In this war you know there are no prisoners.” General Santa Anna

Bowie volunteered to defend the Alamo and was put in charge of the volunteer forces, ready to “die in these ditches than give up this post to the enemy.” 

The Alamo

But Bowie became ill with an unknown respiratory disease, and he ceded command to Col. Travis, who was already in charge of the regular army. Despite his illness, Bowie continued to rouse confidence in the men. When he became too ill to move from his cot, he would often ask his men to carry his cot out so he could speak encouraging words to the soldiers, reminding them Travis was now their commander. The confidence given to the soldiers by having men like Bowie and Crockett at the Alamo is immeasurable. 

Statue on the grounds of
the Alamo of Wm. B.
Travis drawing the line
in the sand.

At the darkest hour, knowing surrender would only mean death, Col. Travis declared his decision to sell his life as dearly as possible. He took his sword and drew a line in the sand.* Any man who wished to leave the Alamo under cover of darkness could do so, but he asked every man who would stay and perish with him to step over the line. Every man did so, except one, a Frenchman who wasn’t ready to die and thought he could pass for a Mexican if he had to, Louis “Moses” Rose. (No relation to me, at least, not that I know of.) A dying Bowie asked that his cot be taken over the line.

Louis Rose, nicknamed Moses because of his age (51), followed his friend Jim Bowie to the Alamo. He had served with distinction with Napoleon, but left the Alamo because he wasn’t ready to die. Until the day he did pass away, though, he suffered in pain from the thorns embedded in his flesh that he received during his perilous escape through rough country.

Bowie fighting from
his deathbed.

It is generally believed that Bowie fought to the death from his cot in the Alamo, his body mutilated. We think of the cries of the men and women enslaved by Bowie, of the tears and anguish of the wives and children of the men he killed in fights, but we also remember the brave actions that helped the cause of freedom take another step down the road to a place where one day all men will be free. And that is the highest law of all. 

When Texans regained control of San Antonio, the bones and ashes of the Alamo dead were still in visible piles. They were shoveled into a large coffin and secretly buried under the altar of what is now the San Fernando Cathedral. In 1936, the coffin was accidentally dug up. Two years later the remains were placed inside an ornate sarcophagus to be put on public view, where it can still be seen today.

I will never participate in any defining moments in history, acquitting myself of sin as Jim Bowie did even in illness or limping into legend like Doc Holliday. But as an author, I can take the emotion so close to the surface when I am feeling unwell and turn it into fervor on the pages of a manuscript. My embarrassing impulse to fight anyone who crosses me can be transmuted to my characters, filling paragraph after paragraph with action and adventure for the enjoyment and inspiration of others.

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” —Vince Lombardi

*The veracity of Louis Rose and the line in the sand has long been a subject of hot debate. William P. Zuber, who first wrote of the incidence, has been called both a lurid storyteller and a reliable individual. He claims Louis Rose did escape and made his way to Zuber’s family home, telling his parents the story. Zuber’s aged mother, known for her remarkable memory, attested it was true and
several neighbors remember hearing the Zubers tell it. Unfortunately, William Zuber had a tendency to embroider the truth in other areas, casting doubt over this one. However, the incident of the line is confirmed by Alamo survivors Susanna Dickinson and Enrique Esparza. Furthermore, documents in the Nacogdoches courthouse confirm the presence of a Louis Rose living there after the fall of the Alamo. Historian J. Frank Dobie saw the line in the sand as more important than any argument over it. “It is a line that not all the piety nor wit of research will ever blot out,” Dobie wrote. You may do as you wish, but as for me, I am not willing to call Grandma Zuber a liar.  

Sources: The Blood of Heroes by James Donovan. Eyewitness to the Alamo by Bill Groneman.;;;;,been%20shot%20in%20a%20fight;

For more blogs see: 

Texas Outlaws and Lawmen - Texas Ranger Cicero Rufus Perry

Wild Bill Longley - The Lone Wolf 

My websites:


As V.J. Rose


A broke Texas rancher risks all to drive longhorns through the wilds of West Texas to sell to the government in New Mexico, but he’s hindered by the feuding relatives and green cowboys he is forced to hire as drovers. 

TREASURE HUNT IN TIE TOWN—Reader’s Favorite Five Star Award

A rancher takes his nephews on an adventurous hunt for buried treasure that lands them in all sorts of trouble.


Two lonely people hide secrets from one another in a May-December romance set in the modern-day West.

As Easy Jackson 

A BAD PLACE TO DIE—Will Rogers Medallion Award and A SEASON IN HELL

Tennessee Smith becomes the reluctant stepmother of three rowdy stepsons and the town marshal of Ring Bit, the hell-raisingest town in Texas.

MUSKRAT HILL—Peacemaker Finalist

A little boy finds a new respect for his father when he helps him solve a series of brutal murders in a small Texas town. 

Short Stories:

WOLFPACK PUBLISHING - "A Promise Broken - A Promise Kept"—Spur Award Finalist

A woman accused of murder in the Old West is defended by a mysterious stranger.

THE UNTAMED WEST – “A Sweet-Talking Man” —Will Rogers Medallion Award

A sassy stagecoach station owner fights off outlaws with the help of a testy, grumpy stranger. A Will Rogers Medallion Award Winner.

UNDER WESTERN STARS - "Blood Epiphany"—Will Rogers Medallion Award

A broke Civil War veteran's wife has left him; his father and brothers have died leaving him with a cantankerous old uncle, and he's being beaten by resentful Union soldiers. At the lowest point in his life, he discovers a way out, along with a new thankfulness. A Will Rogers Medallion Award Winner. 


Seventeen-year-old Dulcie is determined to find someone to drive her cattle to the new market in Abilene. 

Reenactment Video on YouTube “Blood in the Streets” 



“Katie Jennings & John Holland Jenkins: Young Heroes in the Fight for Texas Independence” 

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Engaging Readers and Our Love of Westerns

Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

Photo property of the author

The regularly scheduled post has been preempted by this short post. If I've done my job, it should be a 5-7 minute read.

How do we engage people to want to learn history, read history, and the stories we tell about the history of the West?

We have a short window of time to pique interest. We want to share our love, our passions, and our stories. Unless they are already a fan, the information dump is usually a turn-off. Leaving people wanting to know more, well, I think that is more of a win.

I liken this to the 'crisis' class I was semi-required to attend today. In a crisis, you narrow in on the event that is the issue. You tell the authorities what they need to know, leaving out the minute details that are not important at that time. Later, when the crisis is no longer threatening, you will have time to add the other details. If the media is involved, and they try to be first on the scene, you have to ignore their demands and focus on taking care of business. You talk to them later.

It may be better to be brief, leaving people wanting to know more so that they will engage. Once you have engagement, you are far more likely to build a long-term relationship with the reader of your blog, your essay, or your book. 

The other lesson from the class today? Dealing with situations is usually a team effort. As writers, we are used to going it alone. When I decided to pursue this 'next' career, I purposely sought out others who were writing what I was at the time. I connected to a group that was writing a series. By doing so, I was able to not only learn from them but also connected with a wider audience. Never a bad thing as an author.

Those are the thoughts for now. With luck, the regularly scheduled post will show up next month. For now, it back to the book "Under the Stone, Women Doctors in Evergreen Cemetery". It's due soon, so, until next time...

Mock-up of the book cover

Doris McCraw

Friday, July 22, 2022

Mea Culpa, or, Finding That Balance

Back at the beginning of the year, I volunteered to write a post for this blog for the third Friday of every month. I’ve failed at that. I’ve written a few, but the months I’ve missed outweigh those I didn’t by a considerable margin.

There is, of course, a reason for that, or more properly, an excuse. Here’s my situation.

Over the past 18 months I’ve written six novels (or will have, if I make my August 1 deadline for the sixth, which I intend to do), a novella, and a handful of short stories. If I were writing full time, or if I were super-powered like our own James Reasoner and some others I know, that wouldn’t be a problem. But I’m not. Also, I have a demanding day job—I’m the managing editor for a company that makes online and print study aids for law student and lawyers, where I manage a team of nine editors as well as handling my own editorial workload and running the entire print program.

On top of that, there’s the home situation. My wife and I have five kids, of which three are still living at home. Only one of those can drive yet. My wife’s partially disabled from a collision a few years ago, and she can’t drive or work a full-time job. I do the vast majority of the household driving and many of the more physically demanding household chores. She is also a writer, so since losing her lucrative job after being run into, she’s been selling short stories, poems, and novels right and left, which definitely helps with the household income.

But none of that can create more hours in the day or more days in the week. I have to prioritize, and focus on the things that a) are crucial to the household, and b) earn money.

What I’m getting to is the lesson learned—one has to find the right balance in life. The conflicting demands of a novel deadline every three months and the day job have caused a lot of unnecessary and unhelpful stress. It’s cut into family time and reading time and relaxing time. It’s also cut into the time available to promote the books, which is an important part of any writer’s job these days. And it cuts into the time available for extracurricular writing, like these blog posts.

I’m still trying to find that balance. I’m grateful to Wolfpack Publishing and Rough Edges Press for taking a chance on my work, but if I sign another contract with them it’ll have to have more time built in for the books. I have artists waiting to work with me on graphic novel projects, other publishers wanting some of my time, and projects in mind that don’t fit into the series mold.

Or I need to make enough money writing to quit the day job, which will leave me significantly more writing time. Writing’s my first love—the day job has always been to keep the family housed and fed while I do it. Anybody have some spare Mega Millions tickets lying around?

Every writer needs to find the right balance in his or her own life. It can be hard for some of us, easier for others. My advice is, figure out what you can accomplish without stressing yourself out too much. Despite the myth of the starving writer in a garret pounding away on a used Underwood, a happy, fed, and rested writer is probably a more productive writer, and a better one.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


When I was a young girl, I became fascinated with wanting to learn to embroider. Mom started showing me when I was about 10 or so—just the simple stitches, nothing fancy. But by the time I was in high school in the 70’s, I was pretty darn good at it and could do a lot of pretty things to jazz up my blue jeans and chambray shirts! I think my mom lamented the days gone by of embroidering handkerchiefs and aprons. At one point, I made my husband a shirt and had an artist friend free-hand the cover of the Eagles’ One of These Nights album onto the back of it. I embroidered it for him, and he had people offer him money for that shirt several times!

My grandmother had some tea towels she had embroidered. Where she found time to do that with raising 11 kids, I will never know. But now, I’m thinking that must have been something that was somewhat relaxing for women to do during that time period—after all, they could SIT DOWN while they worked! Granny had used Aunt Martha’s embroidery pattern iron on transfers (a staple for homemakers back then!) and she gave me a couple of packages of them. I still have them somewhere—I think they were puppies and lambs.

A few years ago, my sister and I were at a yard sale and we came upon a box of embroidered tea towels, pillow cases and table runners. All done by hand. All so unappreciated. The entire box for $2. We couldn’t pass it up, because we both just love old things. So we bought it, knowing we’d never use any of it. Just wash it and keep it because it was so old and someone had spent a good deal of time working on those things. I think we both must have been thinking of our mom, who spent long hours of the night painting—thinking of the time and love and effort she put into that hobby of hers. Did someone do the same with these old tea towels?

I’d forgotten about them until we moved the china cabinet. I had to clean it out to move it and then put everything back inside. I “found” them and it was like Christmas all over again! I didn’t take time to iron them, but you can get an idea of the age and care that was used to embellish these everyday kitchen towels from long ago. I still have some pillowcases I did many years ago. I don’t think my eyes could handle working on those projects now. I miss it!

Do you remember seeing tea towels, pillow cases, even sheets—and other household items from the past that had been lovingly embroidered?

Monday, July 11, 2022


Three Women Who Fought to be Doctors in the 19th Century
By Jesse J Elliot

    Many Americans remember watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman on television. Occasionally met with scorn and derision by some men in her town, she usually was able to overcome their prejudices and save them from some ungodly condition that was probably never even named back then. The real female pioneer doctors not only battled prejudice in receiving their education but fought for women’s health, suffrage, education, and racial equality. One of the women, Elizabeth Blackwell was only admitted to the medical college as a joke; Mary Edwards Walker insisted upon wearing pants throughout her career; and Sarah Loguen Fraser, daughter of a former slave, earned her medical degree and served in Santa Domingo and the United States.

Elizabeth Blackwell: 

    On January 29, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell graduated and was the first female to receive an official degree in medicine. Born in Bristol, she came from an intellectual family that championed women, racial equality, and universal education.  She was awarded her medical degree to the chagrin of many of her medical professors and fellow [male] students. “It was, quite literally, a joke even to the men who accepted her to Geneva Medical College—the question of whether or not to accept a woman was put up to a vote of the students, who voted in favor as a practical joke. Nevertheless, Blackwell received her acceptance letter and started school in 1847.”

She went on to found an infirmary for women and children, train nurses for the Civil War, and establish a hospital. She encouraged other women to become doctors, and her own sister and a friend followed in her footsteps. She returned to England and there become a professor of gynecology at the School of Medicine for Women. She spent her life not only tending to the sick but helping and encouraging other women to follow their paths.

Mary Edwards Walker

    In all of United States History, there has only been one woman to receive the Presidential Medal of Honor. Mary Edwards Walker is that woman. As a surgeon, women’s rights advocate, abolitionist, and spy, Walker became the first female U.S. Army surgeon during the Civil War. Her legacy has been celebrated across the country, and in 2012 Walker’s hometown unveiled a 900-pound bronze statue in honor of her contributions.

    Shortly after she graduated, Walker married another medical school student Albert Miller on November 16, 1855. They started a medical practice together in Rome, New York. However, the practice did not succeed because the public did not want to accept a female doctor. When the Civil War began in 1861, Walker wanted to join the Union’s efforts. She went to Washington but was not allowed to serve as a medical officer because she was a woman. She decided to still serve as an unpaid volunteer surgeon at the U.S. Patent Office Hospital in Washington. At the time, the army had no female surgeons, so Walker was only allowed to practice as a nurse. She also wrote to the War Department in September of that year requesting to become a spy, but she was rejected. However, in 1863 her request to practice as a surgeon was finally accepted. She became the first female U.S. Army surgeon as a "Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian)" in Ohio.
During Walker’s work as a surgeon in the war, she often crossed battle lines to care for all soldiers and civilians. She was even a POW, arrested by the Confederates while she was aiding a Confederate soldier. Even when imprisoned, she refused to wear the women’s clothes provided to her. She wore men’s clothes her entire life because they were more comfortable and hygienic.
Walker even wore pants under her skirt at her wedding. She became the assistant surgeon of the Ohio 52nd Infantry a month later. After the war, Walker was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson. 
    She was arrested several times for wearing men’s clothes. Walker merely responded by saying, "I don't wear men's clothes, I wear my own clothes." She not only fought for suffrage but was arrested when trying to vote.  She even tried to run for Congress twice.

Sarah Loguen

    Sarah Loguen was born on January 29, 1850, in Syracuse, New York, one year after Elizabeth Blackwell graduated with her medical degree.  Her father, the Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen was a former slave and prominent abolitionist. His wife, Caroline Loguen, was the daughter of prominent local abolitionists. Her father started the first school for black children in the Syracuse area and used his home as a safe house for hundreds of slaves traveling the Underground Railroad.
    In 1872, when Loguen was twenty-two, her father died and because her mother had died previously in 1867, she became head of the household as her eldest sister, Amelia, had married and moved to Washington, D.C. However, in 1873 she saw a young boy pinned under a wagon, needing immediate medical attention after an accident. She was disturbed by her own inability to respond. That day she vowed she’d be able to make a difference by joining the medical profession. She spent the next five months shadowing Dr. Michael D. Benedict, the family’s physician. Because of her work with Dr. Benedict she was admitted to the Syracuse School of Medicine on October 3, 1873. 

    Dr. Sarah Loguen graduated with her medical degree from the Syracuse College of Medicine in the spring of 1876, becoming the fourth female African American physician in the United States. With encouragement of her mentor, Dr. Benedict, she completed an internship at the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1877, and a second internship at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston, Massachusetts in 1878.

    Dr. Loguen moved to Washington, D.C. in 1879 and established her first private practice.  While in Washington she met her soon-to-be husband, Charles Alexander Fraser, a pharmacist from Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic). The couple married in her hometown of Syracuse, New York on September 19, 1882, and moved to Santo Domingo where Dr. Fraser became the first female physician in that nation. Charles Fraser died of a stroke one year into their marriage.

    After a period of international travel and a period where Fraser lived in Paris, France to allow her daughter to attend school, she returned to Syracuse and practiced pediatric medicine and mentored black midwives.  Dr. Sarah Fraser died at home in Washington, D.C. in the company of her daughter on April 9, 1933.

    Three amazing women who refused to allow society to keep them from their desired path: to become a medical doctor.

JAMA. 2008;300(18):2182-2183. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.590
Three 19th-Century Women Doctors: Elizabeth Blackwell, Mary Walker, and Sarah Mary LeClair, Justin White, and Susan Keeter

J. Marion Sims and the Historical Aspects of Race and Medicine. August 10, 2021.

MLA – Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Mary Edwards Walker.” National Women’s History Museum, 2019. Date accessed.

Chicago – Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Mary Edwards Walker.” National Women’s History Museum. 2019.

Staten, C. (2014, March 14). Sarah Loguen Fraser (1850-1933).