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.

 

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.

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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.

 

Finding the Romance at Lake Ozette

Once one really begins to look for the stories, they appear along every trail and byway. Sometimes they take you by surprise even when you aren’t looking. That happened last weekend here on the farthest NW corner of the contiguous 48 states while we were hiking one leg of the amazing loop trail from Lake Ozette to the the coast. We stumbled upon the remains of a homestead after meandering through the Ewok country of the Olympic National Park.

 

Stumbled is not a mere literary affectation. While we were hiking west, nearly to Cape Alava, a young couple told us of the homestead just off the boardwalk. On our return we looked for the small opening leading north off the main trail. It wasn’t obvious, but a narrow path did appear. Looking more like an animal trail at first, we were a little uncertain that we’d found what we sought. We had just heard a bull elk bugle off to the south making us a little jumpy about trekking too far off the trail. After a few steps, the ground showed clear signs of recent human tracks.

Expecting the “homestead” to be little more than ruins, we nearly turned back. Then, through the trees, the structure rose up like the “Shack” from novel and movie fame. Creepy and wonderful at the same time, it invited investigation so we made our way up the gentle rise to the front door. Our first thoughts were to marvel at Washington’s seemingly casual attitude toward allowing the public to explore such historic sites. No fences surrounded the one-story building and only one small sign gave us stern warning not to deface the property.

What remains of Lars Ahlstrom’s shack at the edge of the prairie is a single room with loft. History reports he had a fine house once, but it was destroyed by a fire that grew out-of-control when his friend and neighbor attempted to clear the prairie of brush. The forest is reclaiming the land, encroaching on the house walls. But it stands quite confident in itself. Such a discovery for a writer is the stuff of inspiration. My stories have been rooted in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Until seeing the house and since learning of the history of this area there was little to inspire my muse. This Scandinavian community thrived at the same time as the stories I’m writing. I can imagine it now.

And there were love stories.

Of course, there were. Faith, hope and love are interwoven into the human experience. At one time, the land surrounding Ozette was home to not only the Makah but 130 homesteaders. They thrived in relative isolation, clearing the land by burning trees and brush, growing crops and raising livestock. By the time they abandoned their dreams and left the lake community, they had constructed a church, a school, three post offices and stores. All came to an end when in 1909 President Theodore Roosevelt decreed the land should be used as part of the Mount Olympus National Monument.

But the love story? That is worthy of further research. Conflicting reports exist of the mysterious disappearance of handsome boat-builder, Alfred Nyland. The accounts of the discovery of his skeleton eleven years later agree, but the reason for his sudden departure vary. One report explains how his boat was found floating in Erikson Bay after his disappearance in April. The story proposes that he lost his way as he returned home through the woods. It’s certainly plausible when one sees the density of the forest.

The second report includes the personal tragedy of a love for a woman who rejected Alfred’s offer of marriage. Some suggest that sorrow sent him into the woods to seek consolation. Those who know the answer are forever silent. The fact that he was found, back against that tree with his hand over his chest, makes one wonder. Did he die of a broken heart as this story proposes?

Love and loss – dreams and failed expectations – hardship and courage. All are strong elements for story and character arcs. Heady stuff for a writer’s soul.

 

Sign up for Samantha’s newsletter to receive updates on book releases, cover reveals, and new projects. I’m giving away a sweet short story to newsletter subscribers. Don’t worry, I don’t have time to send many newsletters, so you won’t be hearing from me that often. When you wish those emails to stop, just let me know. My gift to you…

Strong Like Wyoming

A war to win, a promise to keep, a heart to reawaken

A short story

Strong like Wyoming

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Keeping Close to Nature’s Heart

Those words begin an observation made by John Muir.

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Sheepherder’s Bath

“Keep close to nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, climb a mountain, or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

Most of us who have spent any time in the mountains know the truth of this sentiment. On a family trip to central  Idaho’s majestic mountains, we traveled north from Ketchum along the 75 through some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery God ever designed. Along Idaho’s volcanic spine are scattered numerous hot springs. Some are better known than others. We visited one a few miles north of Sun Valley that fits into the category of better-known. A sign directed us to the spring that has been commercialized for years, boasting a swimming pool at a consistent bath temperature. We passed on the experience of bathing with a bus-load of excited, splashing children.

The manager, taking pity on us, told us a number of stories concerning the springs in the area. As I pulled out my pen and began taking notes, he surely recognized he had an interested, even if not captive, audience. To my delight (and I suppose his), I filled the page with dates and names. Customers willing to bath with the masses took his attention away for a time. When he was once more able to speak with us, he paused for a moment as though appraising our worthiness of this next piece of information. Having apparently passed his assessment, he leaned in confidentially and said, “There is another spring not far from here that the locals know.”

Our interest peaked, we too leaned in to accept this conspiracy of information. Giving us clear directions, he explained that it was once known as Sheepherders’ Bath. That name didn’t stick for Google, but the locals still refer to it as such. Just as the miners of the late nineteenth century used the numerous warm springs to wash off the week’s settlement of dust and grime, so the sheepherders of the early twentieth century took comfort in the thermal waters. Convenient to their grazing grounds, the shepherds availed themselves of nature’s provision.

We drove the short distance where we found the spring just as described. No hordes splashed in it’s crystal waters. As though we were alone in the wilderness, we stepped into the 80 degree waters. With a view of the mountains to the east, we could imagine John Muir himself, walking with stick in hand, a flock of sheep trailing behind, walking asking to share the healing waters.

We’d have willingly made room so that we might together wash our spirits clean.

Ghost Town Settings for Historical Fiction

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One log structure remains near Beaver Creek.

Comes the Winter is another sweet historical fiction set on the eastern side of the Sawtooth Range. In 1886, Alena Sommers arrives to the boom town of Sawtooth City expecting to begin a new life with a man she hasn’t met. Together they were to operate a lodging house, more correctly considered a partnership than a romance.  But her future takes a sharp turn when the man who was to be her husband dies before she sets foot in Idaho Territory.

This summer I visited the site of Sawtooth City. Not much remains, some rock foundations scattered here and there across a narrow valley. Just a few miles off Highway 75, it can be found quite easily by driving down a gentle dirt road that winds along Beaver Creek. That ease of access probably explains why so little remains of the once thriving mining community.

There are a few stone foundations, evidence of fireplaces here and there. We were there shortly after the snow melt flooded the rivers and streams of Idaho. Beaver Creek rambled, split, and came together again in lively pathways. It’s been reforested, making it a little more difficult to imagine the saloons, boarding houses and restaurants that written accounts and a few grainy black and white images prove were here. Still, the setting came alive after we found one partial log wall near the stream. The window and door frames were evident. It might have been a nice place for a lodging house.

It was a perfect summer day, lupine and yarrow dressed the tall grasses. Searching for anything that bore witness to the city existence made for a pleasant few hours. Reluctantly, we drove out of the valley, east to the main road. My husband had seen a notation on Google Maps of a cemetery. A little more than a mile beyond the last foundation a narrow forest road let to the top of a knoll with a view to Beaver Creek. I would imagine Sawtooth City would have been visible as well. We found the rustic remains of wooden crosses, nearly lost in tall grass.

The crosses were in random positions close together. No names survived the years of weathering. People who came to strike it rich never returned home. Lonely as it is, the site is peaceful and I could imagine Evan sitting beside his brother’s grave admiring the view.
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Driving west toward Sawtooth City.

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.

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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