Whitcomb Springs – Tracking Amy

We’ve so many good stories to tell and can’t wait to share them. You’ll find straight-up westerns, love stories, humor, encouragement and adventure throughout this new series set in the wild and beautiful Montana Territory. Start with MK McClintock’s lovely short story, “Whitcomb Springs” where you can learn about those pioneers who founded the town. From there let your fancy take you where you will. There is something for everyone!

“Tracking Amy” is another short story scheduled for release April 15, 2018. It is a stand-alone in the new western series, Whitcomb Springs, and written for those who’ve ever struggled with the weight of self-doubts. Riley Buchanan rides into Whitcomb Springs in 1872 and directly into the life of Amy Sutton.

Riley Buchanan knew he’d been in the mining camps way too long when he mistook the pretty widow, Amy Sutton, for a boy! Why a woman like Amy Sutton who could shoot so well was struggling to put food on the table for herself and her daughter presented a puzzle to Riley, one he thought worthy of solving. Curiosity put him on her trail. Destiny placed him in her life at just the right time. Would Riley become the missing piece to the puzzle that was Amy?

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Whitcomb Springs Cover Reveals

Welcome to Whitcomb Springs!

This is a collection of short stories, and the occasional novella, written by multiple authors. The series is filled with stories of adventure, danger, romance, and hope, and is set in the fictional town of Whitcomb Springs, Montana Territory. The stories span the years of 1865-1885. Although each story may be set during a different time, they are stand-alone and may be read in any order. While the first stories will publish on March 15, 2018, this is an on-going project. New stories may be published at any time by one of the participating authors.

This first short story is written by talented and award-winning author, MK McClintock. It tells the story of Whitcomb Springs origins in a lovely valley of Montana Territory.

“Whitcomb Springs”

“Healing Fire”

My first short story for this series is a tender one. It began when I imagined a very clear image of a blacksmith carving the lid of a child’s coffin. Strange that a blacksmith should also be a carpenter? I had recently read of how the job of undertaker often fell to the lot of the blacksmith in small towns on the frontier. Perhaps it was their access to tools needed to repair wagons. The memory of that article somehow gave birth to the first scene of “Healing Fire”.

Here is a preview of “Healing Fire”.

Nora Hewitt cleared frost from the window with her dish towel. She peered across the yard at the open barn door. What was keeping the boy? Surely, he could gather a few eggs in the time she’d taken to stir the stove back to life and boil water for tea. She made a swipe at copper-colored locks which refused to stay restrained by hairpins. Spinning on her heel away from the window, she stamped across the wood floor and threw her dishtowel into the basin.

She braced herself, hands gripping the sides of the basin. A dim, inaccurate reflection shimmered in the murky water. The image glared back at her, those blue unseeing eyes, blinded by grief. What she wanted to do most was break something, anything! Hear it shatter as she could not hear the splintering of her own heart. The days of crying had done nothing to assuage her grief. Now, all that remained was this awful rage. So she held onto it, a grip of fierce desperation to feel something.

The boy, lost in boots too big for his feet, stumbled through the door. “Look, Mama! Three hens have started laying again. Spring is sure to be coming now.” He set the basket carefully on the table, but as he spun back to close the door, his jacket cuff caught the basket, sending it crashing to the floor.

Their collective intake of breath seemed to suck the air from the room. The boy looked up at his mother, face pinched. Before he could say anything, Nora grabbed his arm. “Matthew! How could…” She released him, taking one long stride to the broken eggs, bleeding yellow. Her boot heel came down on the shells, hard and deadly accurate, shattering fragile shells and sending rivulets of yolk in star-like patterns beneath her shoe. Each met the same fate.

Her chest heaving, she glared at the destruction beneath her feet. She brought her shaking hands to cover her face, savoring the emotion and hating it. The small hand that touched her back was warm. It trembled just a little.

“It’s okay, Mama. It’s okay.” The boy’s voice was uncertain, as though he wished it to be true.

Nora knelt before him, her hands on his shoulders. “I’m sorry. I should not have raised my voice.”

He wrapped his arms around her. “I know you hurt, Mama.”

The anger that had sustained her these past two days drained from her like the yolks into the cracks of the floor. In its place stood her son. A resolve flowed back into the aching chambers of her heart. She couldn’t steal his childhood by making him bear her grief. Rising to her feet, she lifted the boy into her arms. As she did, his father’s boots slipped from his feet.

You may pre-order your copy today.  

Available March 15th on Amazon.

 

Lightplay on Snow

 

 

img_4123Years ago when I wrote about the Sierras, it was natural to draw on the observations of others. John Muir referred to those magnificent craggy faces as the Range of Light. But as I walked through powder snow of an early winter snow this December in Idaho, I was struck by the sharpness of the shadows and the dramatic sunlight highlights on the faces of the range of mountains about us.

It is an easy landscape from which to draw inspiration for writing. I know that for me, it gave me the vision for writing the third book in the Sawtooth Range series, Comes the Winter. I’ve come to the point in the story I dread, when I must bring the plot to its crisis and when the writing will take on a faster pace as the story heads downhill to its inevitable conclusion.  I’ve stalled the momentum, imagining I’ve placed a rock in front of the wagon wheels.

These final chapters will be difficult to pen because I am feeling the anguish of my female protagonist facing the crisis alone. Without revealing spoilers, she’s a bit blind to her weaknesses, as are we all at times. But as the author, I know what painful events are awaiting her in those coming pages. Honestly, I like her and like the mother I am, I want to shield her from that painful revelation. Silly? Perhaps.

But I’m taking a moment to remember December in Idaho and the glorious light reflecting off the snow and the river and the high range of mountains. It was exhilarating in the near-zero temperatures walking across snow fields not marred by human footprints, under a brilliant sun with not a cloud in the sky.

Walking in darkness is not a good place to be. From a practical perspective, toes get broken. But in a spiritual sense, we can take wrong turns or not see life choices clearly. I need to take this step back and allow my protagonist to make wrong assumptions and lose her way so that she can find it again. The sunlight will break through the storm clouds in the end, a few chapters from now. I just have to walk with her through the storm until arrives for her happily ever after.

But maybe that can wait until I take another walk in the sun. It’s a bit gloomy lost in Lena’s world as I’ve been. I’ll let you know when the sun comes out there in 1886.

 

 

 

A Setting Speaks

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Nestled up against the rolling foothills bordering the Salmon River, the town of Stanley, Idaho has an expansive view of the Sawtooth Range. This time of year the town has already put on its down jacket and hunkered down for the winter that will soon be bullying its way into the basin trailing harsh winds and snow. But this week, it’s a lovely place to be, free of tourists, dressed in the warm golds and reds of autumn. With a populace numbering far less than 100, it’s a hardy community that’s already stacked in the firewood under wide roof eaves. Shops are closed or only open for limited hours of business. The change of season is caught in the crisp air scented by sweet leaf mold from trees quickly discarding their summer clothes like the residents.

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Highways bringing summer visitors from either Sun Valley to the south or Boise from the southwest converge here, the road bending sharply changes one’s perspective of the landscape from rolling ranch land to majestic mountain peaks. But there is no mistaking this for a hospitable place to settle year round. In the 1820s hardy Hudson Bay fur trappers learned it and were quick to leave when the beaver population did not yield the bounty they’d hoped for. Miners stayed only as long as the veins produced ore. But other souls have found a home here, settling in for the long winter months with ready acceptance, fair trade for the beauty that greets them each day in the form of snow-capped peaks and quiet isolation.

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As a writer, this place speaks to me. Place your romantic fiction here, it whispers, but do not neglect the harsh realities of such a setting. Use it as a character, one that inspires and directs the plot. Let your characters be shaped by this land and this climate that changes so sharply with the seasons, transforming the residents as dramatically as the landscape. Allow your people to learn from the seasons, the rhythms of life that bring comfort in their consistency. Transport your readers here to this place so removed from the modern pace of their lives.

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And so I shall.

Traveling Through Dr. Kat Meriwether’s Country

While traveling through Idaho this past month, we’ve had an opportunity to visit many interesting historic sites. We started in Payette’s long valley leading along the river, where Kat’s Law has its fictional setting. That portion of our travels took us to the bustling recreational center of McCall. But this past Sunday, known locally as Pioneer Day, we spent several hours touring the Fort Hall Museum in Pocatello, Idaho.

One room is dedicated to the frontier doctors who served the community at the end of the nineteenth century and on into the twentieth. From instruments of torture that represented early dentistry to one of the earliest drug stores in this area, there was almost more to absorb than hours in one afternoon provided.

It was interesting to read the labels of “medicines” to treat everything from toothaches to heart palpitations. Worthy of further research was the use of sassafras for a wide variety of ailments, including the relief of constipation. I remember it from my childhood as simply a great tasting tea offered by my great grandmother. Little did I know I was apparently being dosed!

The handsome Rosewood medicine case belonged to a Dr. Augustus Fisher. The label reads that it was made in Germany and that the bottles are labeled in Latin. It made me wonder how long the shelf-life was for these elixirs. But I would imagine most patients would have been impressed by the case alone with all the mystery of strange amber liquids with exotic labels.

The picture on the right is of Dr. James H. Bean, one of Pocatello’s earliest doctors. Receiving his medical degree in 1857 would have made him closer in age to Kat’s father, Nathaniel. What gives him some notoriety is the fact that he owned and operated one of the first drugstores, opening it’s doors in 1891, shortly after Idaho earned statehood. The newspaper clipping reveals the frontier nature of the town at that time. It reads, “A man, Cal Durfey was shot to death while seated in the chair occupied by Red(the dog in this picture). It was an accident. A man named Taylor saw Durfey reach for a handkerchief-thought it was a gun.” 

That small footnote seems to be a good writing prompt to me. Doesn’t it make you wonder what Dr. Bean did? What became of Taylor? Why was the man so obviously jumpy, as to draw his gun as a reflex? So may questions, so little line space in that yellowed newspaper article.

I love museums, don’t you?

 

 

Snowberry, Idaho

Snowberry, the town that Kat Meriwether calls home, is located in the valley along the winding Payette River. The name is fictional, so you won’t find it on any Google map search. However, it was inspired by a small historic town that bears a similar name – Roseberry.

Although Roseberry is located farther south from the fictional setting, the growth and vibrancy it experienced during Idaho’s early days of expansion are similar. Growth came in the establishment of a grand hotel, a logging mill and a very successful creamery. But these improvements came shortly after the turn of the century, later than Snowberry’s rapid growth of 1888.

Like so many towns of the hopeful west, this one was eclipsed by another town that sprang up next to the tracks of the railroad built in 1914-1915. Its name was and is Donnelly. Drive a mere two miles east to find what remains of Roseberry.  If you like history, you’ll find the drive worthwhile. There are a number of dedicated folks there who proudly keep the past alive and accessible.

Nelle Tobias Research Center has established itself as a resource for Valley history.

Living history and Interpretive Programs are available through the summer months.

info@historicroseberry.com

In future posts, I’ll reveal a little more about the differences between the fictional and historic towns.

Have you visited Roseberry? What stories have you taken with you?