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.

 

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Cover Reveal for Comes the Winter

Comes the (1)

Available Now for Pre-order on Amazon!

 

Alena Sommer isn’t one to run from adversity. But when the child she’s been governess to dies, she boldly seeks a new life in Idaho Territory by accepting a marriage proposal from a man she’s never met. When she arrives in Sawtooth City she finds the mines are in financial trouble and the man she was to marry is dead. Determined to stay, she ignores the warnings about harsh winters known to plague the Sawtooth Mountains. Will the same man who warns her to leave be the one who gives her the strength to stay? Surviving winter’s threat will take more than courage; it will require mettle forged of two strong wills.

To pre-order Click Here.

CTW new tag Samantha St. Claire_alt1

Irish Soda Bread

Coming from a Scots-Irish background, breads are essential to my well-being. At least it feels that way on an emotional level. After my husband’s sudden diagnosis of heart disease and subsequent open-heart surgery, our diet took a sharp turn towards healthy. While we weren’t eating In-and-Out daily, we were consuming carbs that didn’t help coronary arteries.

It’s doubtful that our nutritional confusion was an isolated experience. More than one study countered the American Heart Association’s promotion of oatmeal consumption. Another study gives the thumbs up to Coconut oil and milk as healthy substitutes for dairy; not so in the opinion of those representing the AHA. Not even our cardiologist is willing to suggest a nutritional diet plan. I could go on at length about the discrepancies, but I won’t. Just suffice it to say that we empathize with all those seeking the healthier high ground.

Our answer to the frustration is to seek a balance and exercise moderation in all things. We won’t impose our limitations on friends or family. This Thanksgiving we will feast, because we have much for which to be thankful. Of course, our friends will make it easy for us since they are paleo by choice.

So, you may ask, why is this a post for Irish Soda Bread? Simple answer – I’m hungry. One of the diet changes has applied to our consumption of bread. Breakfast isn’t breakfast without a carb with tea or coffee. Since I’ve been a bread-making fool most of my adult life, I have to find a remedy. The Lord does provide the manna I require! More than one study reveals the benefits of sprouted wheat. Not only does sprouting wheat transform the little wheat berry into a vegetable category, but the body can absorb the nutrients far better. This looks like some reliable information.

This is from The Whole Grains Council. “Sprouting grains increases many of the grains’ key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in grains, such as lysine. Sprouted grains may also be less allergenic to those with grain protein sensitivities.”  Click Here for a link to their site.

So, we’ve been giving it a go. I have the Whisper Mill and plenty of canning jars to start the process. Success has been, shall we say, spotty. Sprouted brown rice cooked in our Instant Pot has been a thumbs up all around. Sweeter and more moist, it’s almost better than Japanese sticky rice – almost. However, the timing for stopping the sprouting process of wheat berries is tricky, and our bread results have been disappointing.

Now, to the point! Because of this long string of failures, I had to console my carb-starved Scots-Irish soul. Irish Soda Bread to the rescue. It’s like eating scones, my favorite. Without further delay, I give you a successful recipe for your Thanksgiving breakfast. Quick and easy, this recipe is sure to please and possibly clog the arteries even more. Next up, I hope, will be sprouted whole wheat Irish Soda Bread. If we have a successful result, I’ll share the process.

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups flour (Can use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all-purpose)

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

scant teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter, softened (My paleo friends might suggest coconut oil in its solid state. Let me know if it works.)

2/3 cup soured milk (I use 1 T white vinegar or lemon juice and let it stand for 15 min.)

1 egg at room temperature

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl before adding the softened butter and milk. I use my hands to combine the mixture as I do with scones. Shape into a ball and smoosh a bit on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. I cut the top of mine with a sharp knife and dusted with flour. If this is a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose, I’d suggest letting it sit for around 15 minutes before popping it in a preheated 400 degree oven. Bake for about 25 minutes. Look for that slightly golden glow on the crust.

Serve with spinach and kale. No, just kidding. Serve hot with your favorite homemade jam or honey. Yum!

This is the bread that Lena baked to win the hearts of her Irish boarders.

Cover reveal coming this weekend for Comes The Winter!

Skiing is a Dance and the Mountain Always Leads

Some have credited Jim Bowden with this saying, while others say it’s been around a lot longer than Mr. Bowden. The truth of it remains. Risky and wonderful, skis were not always used strictly for sport.

While researching the modes of travel in Central Idaho’s mountainous country, I’ve read of some unusual snowshoes and skis used in the nineteenth century. In the Boise Basin Museum is a fine display of early wooden shoes and skis, including those made for horses. Dick d’Easum’s fascinating Sawtooth Tales recounts the travails of isolation through the severe winters into the Stanley Basin outposts to mining towns of Sawtooth City and Vienna. Transporting the mail from Ketchum to those boom towns was no small feat, requiring a dedicated and physically fit postman.

Even as late as the early 1900s, traveling by motor vehicle in the summer months over the 8,700-foot Galena Summit required serious planning. Engines and brakes over-heated and the curves were so sharp that passengers often opted for walking, catching up to their motor vehicle when the road straightened. It’s even reported that many chose to back up the worst of the road until reaching the summit. Even today, avalanches frequently block the road for winter travelers.

Last week, this photo appeared in my search for Idaho travel in those early years. It was a jaw-dropping photo for me. In Comes the Winter, Evan Hartmann must make that crossing of the Galena pass. Initially, I placed him on snow shoes, but after further research and actually traveling the route this summer by car, I knew it didn’t make sense. He’d have never made the trip I had written. Seeing this photo confirmed my decision to strap some skis on his boots. It would have been an exhilarating trip to make while listening for the warning crack of an avalanche.

Comes the Winter is scheduled for release on February 10th. I’ll be giving away 10 ARCs in a coming post when I reveal the cover. Watch for that or sign up for the newsletter to learn more.

 

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.

 

 

 

Back Under Idaho Skies

Cherry Springs in Fall
Cherry Springs in Fall

After spending the last two months in the forested Pacific Northwest, it feels exceptionally fine to be back in Idaho under this expansive sky I’ve come to love. From the western border of Oregon all across the mountain passes and later spanning the broad rolling plains of central Idaho, the past becomes almost palpable. The imagination seems to be sparked by ghostly voices of earlier travelers.

Each time I make the passage, I am struck with the contrast of traveling at 70 and 80 miles an hour against the struggles of those determined souls who were grateful for a few miles travel in a single day. This especially presses in upon me as we pass along the Snake River, starting with Three Island Crossing. Such a short time ago, the collective breath of an entire wagon train would have been held as each wagon made its way across the fast-moving, sometimes unpredictable Snake. For us, it is passed in a mere eight seconds.

Then there is Massacre Rock and Register Rock nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the route except for a few ignoble road signs. Once again, fear would have gripped the travelers as they approached the narrow passage between two rocks that now have been blasted away for the freeway. Not knowing if vengeance-bent natives were waiting for them on the other side, they made their way through, one wagon at a time. We pass through without a thought in two seconds.

Today we walked along a familiar trail that follows Cherry Creek. We’ve missed the fall color, leaves scattered across the path now by winds notorious to this area. But it’s still beautiful. Leaves shush beneath the feet as birds who will brave the winter or wait for a later migration note our passage casually with soft sounds from the bare branches.

Cherry Springs Nature Area is a riparian habitat that winds along a gentle stream carved between a narrow canyon covered in brush. Shade provided by a variety of trees supports an even greater variety of wildlife, including beavers, voles and even weasels. The signs warn us that this is the time of year to be alert to Moose during the rutting season of late September and October. We missed sighting them all. But the thrill of that possibility added an element of anticipation.

There are places that speak clearly to the soul of man. Idaho sings to me.

Roseberry, Idaho Photo Tour

Driving down a narrow road through pasture lands affording wide vistas took us north through Payette’s long valley. The route paralleled the primary route from Boise to the popular tourist destination of McCall. But this was our true destination, a place to savor the atmosphere of Kat’s fictional hometown of Snowberry, Idaho. We arrived just as the Music Festival was tuning up, which lent an even more celebratory background to our brief visit.

The Long Valley Preservation Society has established its base here working to preserve not only Roseberry history but that of the entire Valley County. Roseberry, like so many other towns built with such hope or a thriving future, met its decline when the promised railroad chose to locate its station elsewhere. In this case the move was to Donnelly, only a few miles west. In fact, some of the buildings now located in Roseberry were originally constructed in Donnelly, having been moved here to become monuments to the nineteenth century settlements.

While there we met some enthusiastic volunteers who shared a passion to keep the memories alive of those who lived and dreamed here. You can learn more about their efforts and town history here. http://historicroseberry.com/

 

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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?