Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Love Those Steam Locomotives

by Anita Mae Draper

In keeping with Monday's release party for The Rails to Love Romance Collection which includes a novella, Honeymoon Express, by our very own Inky Susanne Dietze, I'd like to show you a few of my train photos. And if you think this is a way for me to be connected to a book which I somehow missed submitting a story to, then you would be absolutely correct!

In July 1999 we stopped off in Winnipeg, Manitoba to ride the Prairie Dog Central Railway. We only went about 40 miles all total, but there were a couple stops for bathroom breaks as the coaches didn't have plumbing. One of those stops was at a Farmer's Market which was nice, and then we turned around using a wye, and headed back with another break on the way. Altogether it was about 3 1/2 hrs.

Prairie Dog Central Railway, Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 1999

The #3 steam engine on the Prairie Dog Central Railway was built in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1882, was shipped to Canada, and went into service in 1883. Most of her time was spent in Western Canada.

The Manitoba Historical Society has this photo of Steam Locomotive # 3 as it made history in 1896 by pulling the first train into Dauphin, northwest of Winnipeg.

Steam Locomotive No. 3 Reaches Dauphin (1896)
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Dauphin Collection #6, N10011

By the way, if anyone is looking for information on the Hudson's Bay Company, the Manitoba Historical Society website is the place you want to be looking at first.

One more photo I wanted to show of Engine # 3 was taken in July 1999, like the first one above, except this one has Nelson at the top of the stairs holding one-year-old Jeremiah, while Nick and Jess are standing on the platform about to go inside.

Do you know I can still smell the smoke and feel the jerky swaying of that train as if it was only a couple of years ago, and yet this past June we celebrated Jeremiah's high school graduation.

This next photo is a historical tidbit for you as it shows what the end of the cars looked like before the vestibule was put into use in 1887.

I took the photo while enjoying the history of Calgary Heritage Park on my 2011 Alberta trip. The photo not only shows open air between the two cars, but there's no platform or board even connecting the two of them. Then in 1887, the Pullman people invented a flexible gangway which joined two cars together enabling people to safely walk from one car to the other.

Prior to vestibules, people brought their own meals, and many trains made stops for meals and overnight accommodation.  But once the vestibule was in place, specialty cars like dining, sleeping, and parlor cars were added on and passenger travel by train changed forever.

As a train lover, I'm really looking forward to reading The Rails to Love Romance Collection. For a chance at winning a copy, click here

I've enjoyed riding in trains pulled by old steam engines in Winnipeg, Calgary, and Moose Jaw, and I've walked through several more in Saskatchewan's Western Development Museums.

What about you? Have you ever taken an old-fashioned train ride? Crossed a vestibule in a modern train? Checked out a museum train? I do enjoy talking trains.


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details.  Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, and The American Heiress Brides Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience.  Discover more at:
Pinterest -

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Rails to Love Collection Release Party...and a Giveaway!

All Aboard The Rails to Love Collection, featuring Inkwell's own Susanne Dietze!

Here's Susanne, held by her rail-fan dad, with her brother, investigating a train way back in the 1970s. Trains have been a part of her life since infancy, so it's pretty sweet to be in a collection of train stories!

Care for some background noise that is sure to get you in the mood? Click play and then scroll on down.

Now on to the book!

Journey the Transcontinental Railroad along with nine unlikely couples who encounter all the dangers and disappointments of traveling the rails in the late 1800s. From sight-seeing excursions to transports toward new lives, from orphan trains to circus trains, can romances develop into blazing love in a world of cold, hard steel?

Here's our train. Actually, it's THE train. The Honeymoon Express, Susanne's novella, was inspired by a real-life train trip in 1876 called the Jarrett-Palmer Express. This is what it looked like:
Climb aboard and have a seat. Feel free to curl up with a good book or enjoy the passing scenery.

Our porter is Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman's own Sully, who looks suspiciously like Nash, the hero of Susanne's novella.

Image result for sully dr quinn
Welcome aboard. May I offer you a cup of punch? How about some dessert?
While we nibble our little cakes, here's the blurb on Susanne's story, The Honeymoon Express:

Can a jilted bride and a mysterious frontiersman thrown together on a trip meant for honeymooners solve a crime--and find love--before the end of the line?

Ramola Garai in Daniel Deronda - 1870s hair and hat:
Heroine Ellen needs a fresh start.

Ellen is a telegrapher

Image result for sully dr quinn meal
Sully was blue in the railcar on Dr. Quinn. when he wondered whether or not Michaela loved him. I wonder if Nash feels the same way as he struggles with his feelings for Ellen and his decision to never love again in Susanne's story.
If you'd like to win a copy of The Rails to Love Collection, please enter using the Rafflecopter below. Void where prohibited. Contest lasts until 11:59 pm EDT Sept 24, so don't delay!

PSST....The Rails to Love Collection is available from your favorite Christian retailer, and is priced at $7.49 on Amazon...that's half price! You can't beat that! Click here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Susanne Dietze is the proud daughter of a railfan and the author of almost a dozen historical romances. You can learn more about Susanne (but not her dad) on her website,

Friday, September 16, 2016

Release Party - Austen in Austin (Volume 2)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good looks must be in want of an Inkwell release party to host.

Howdy, y’all! Here at Inkwell, we’re celebrating the release of Austen in Austin, Volume 2 today. In case you missed Volume 1 (available here), the idea behind A-in-A is to take the plots and characters of Jane Austen’s novels and transfer them to Old West-era Texas. 

Austin, Texas, of course.

So, pull on your boots and mount your horse. We’re heading back to the Hill Country to throw a Texas-sized release party.

Let's look at the blurb of this delightful 4-in-1 collection of Austen-inspired stories:

Simply Lila by Suzie Johnson, based on Lady Susan
Yearning to find a real-life hero, a wallflower must learn to live outside the pages of an Austen novel. 
Fully Persuaded by Niki Turner, based on Persuasion
A brokenhearted artist struggles with the shame of her family's bankruptcy and the return of her first love whose proposal she'd spurned because he was poor. 
Mansford Ranch by Dina L. Sleiman, based on Mansfield Park
An aspiring novelist with a keen eye for character must determine who is worthy of playing her own leading man. 
Sense and Nonsense by Lisa Karon Richardson, based on Sense and Sensibility
A would-be missionary is determined to make it to Ceylon, but when her funds disappear, she has to accept help from the man she most wants to avoid.
Hmm. Is it just my imagination, or do those blurbs tell us a lot about the heroines, but not much about the handsome swains who capture their hearts? Well, we can fix that--in the interest of fairness, of course. Gentlemen, let the party begin!

Ah, up first, Mr. Kirby Ross, come to take our order.

For some strange reason, Texas suddenly feels even warmer than usual. Perhaps Mr. Ross will start us off with a nice, refreshing beverage.

Bless your heart, Mr. Ross. This is perfect. Ah, I mean the lemonade, of course. 

Doesn't he make a fine waiter for a man who trained to be an engineer? Mr. Ross is here in Austin to oversee the installation of the "moonlight towers."

No, no. Not that tower, although it looks lovely in moonlight, and I understand Mr. Ross has a fascination with the French language. Or is it just the local French teacher that has captured his interest?

Ah, here comes that opposite-of-cold Mr. Ford Winters...

... with a tasty little snack for everyone.

How...delicious. It's so nice to have Mr. Ford back in Texas. I hear guacamole isn't the only green stuff he carries with him these days, if you know what I mean.

He's done quite well for himself, courtesy of a Colorado silver mine. Much better than that think-they're-better-than-the-rest-of-us Ellis family and their too-compliant daughter Annie. So glad they finally got their comeuppance! 

But back to more amusing matters. No party in Austin would be complete without some prime Texas beef.

Whoops! That's not the beef. That's hunky cowboy Eddie Mansford bringing us a platter of grilled-to-perfection steaks from the Mansford Ranch. Mr. Mansford knows a bit about perfection--he's helping his longtime friend determine if she has found the perfect suitor...or if she'll need to lasso someone closer to home.

Goodness, things are sizzling now! In fact, I feel downright hot. Almost as if--

Gracious! The hotel is on fire! Luckily Mr. James Ferris is on hand to rescue us...

with something cool.

Oh, that Mr. Ferris is such a peach. Undoubtedly, however, he will need all the sweetness he can summon to assist a certain woman from his past.

Congrats Suzie, Niki, Dina, and Lisa for whipping up some delicious treats even yummier than chocolate!

(I meant the books. You knew that, right???)

Ebook version only $3.99. Click here.
Print version $14.99. Click here

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Six Things it Helps to Know if You Want to be a Writer

Jennifer AlLee

I’ve been writing seriously for more years than we need to count. I learned a lot during that time, most of it by running into brick walls and experiencing many metaphorical bloody noses. It’s the kind of stuff I wish I’d known ahead of time, which is why I’d like to share some of it with you, in no particular order.

1.  The writing life is hard.
Being an author is not just about writing a wonderful, enthralling novel. The professional writer must also be able to endure the pain of rejection when the publisher of her dreams says, “That's all wrong for us.” She must remain humble on that glorious day, often years later, when the book finally does sell. She must be able to don the multiple hats of writer, speaker, salesperson, marketing expert, and cheerleader, even if she’s really not a hat person. And she must do all this while juggling a personal life.  

2.  The writing life is full of fabulous surprises.
There have been times when I stared at a blank screen, praying for the words to come, and they did. Other times a character would behave in a way I hadn’t planned, taking the story in a new direction. Those are some of my favorite writing moments, because that’s when I know I've got help writing the story.

3.  Your first draft shouldn’t be perfect. 
Back in the beginning, I agonized over each page of my first draft. It took months to write the first few chapters because I’d go over and over them, tweaking and fixing, searching for just the right word or metaphor. Then I heard the advice that set me free: Just get the first draft done, or else you’ll have nothing to edit. It was like the shackles fell off my wrists. I get it now. I don’t have to be perfect out of the gate. After the first draft is done, then I get to edit and polish. I've found that using this approach has not only helped me write faster, it's also allowed me to find my voice.

4.  Don’t stop writing.
Boy, do I wish I’d grasped this concept early on. For some reason, I thought I had to wait for my first book to sell before I could start working on a new one. Like it would be wasted time if I didn’t have a confirmed sale on my tally sheet. Not true! The best thing to do after finishing one project is to begin another. I know an author who sold an amazing seven manuscripts within a two week period. She was able to do this because over the years, as she worked toward publication, she wrote consistently. When she finally had two publishers express interest, she had an inventory of work for them to choose from.

5.  You’ll never learn everything…. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. 
Very early in my writing career, an editor suggested I'd benefit from taking some writing classes. I was highly offended, believing that writing classes were for people who didn’t know how to write and I, after all, had been born with that gift. I hang my head in shame now thinking of the arrogant little pipsqueak I was. If I’d taken that advice, I might have seen my first novel published in my twenties rather than my forties. It’s amazing how many people believe the ability to write is something you’re born with, like brown eyes or red hair. It’s a common belief that writing can’t be taught. Actually, I think it’s more likely that storytelling ability can’t be taught, but even that’s up for discussion. When it comes to the craft and mechanics of writing a crazy-good story, that absolutely can be taught. A writer should always be evolving, growing, refining, and improving his craft. Instructional books, seminars, conferences, and critique groups are great sources of building up writing muscles. No matter how long a person has been writing or how many books he’s had published, there’s always more to learn.

6.  If you touch one soul, you’ve done your job.
We all have our own reasons for getting into the writing biz. I've chosen it as my career, so making money is part of it (the part I'm still building up). First and foremost, I want to entertain people. Second, I hope people feel better after they finish reading one of my novels than they did before. When I get letters or emails from readers telling me how a certain part of my book touched them, then I've succeeded. Writing is hard but it's also incredible. There’s no job I’d rather have.


JENNIFER ALLEE was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. To find out more about her novels, visit her website at

Monday, September 12, 2016


By Niki Turner

As I write this, it is 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I've been mostly awake most of the night. You know those nights when your body craves sleep but your mind won't slow down? And when it does, you just have nightmares that jolt you awake again?

We're moving today. With help from two of my boys and my sweet daughter-in-law, I packed the house yesterday and we're moving stuff to the new house, old town, today and tomorrow, leaving two of our boys here to test out their adult wings (and check up on my parents, who live a half mile away, from time to time.)

And, for those who don't know, eleven days ago we became the owners of a weekly newspaper. And no matter what else is going on in your life, the paper has to go out, as it has every week for 132 years. (Check it out here:

In the middle of all that "normal" transition-y stuff, my husband has been at the hospital with his mom since Wednesday. She's dying of pancreatic cancer. She's now in transition from one phase to another, a bridge we all will cross someday, and one we all fear in the back of our minds because no matter how much faith you have, death still involves an element of the unknown.

For almost 30 years of my life, my MIL has demonstrated what it means to love one's children (and grandchildren) unconditionally. It didn't matter how big of a screw up you were being, she was ready with a hug and a cup of hazelnut coffee at 2 a.m. When she babysat our kids while we went to teach youth group, she was the fun grandma... always willing to let the kids make a mess (birdseed, dress-up clothes, bubble baths with her fancy pewter goblets filled with jelly beans and Christmas lights in the bathroom, a giant nest of pink and white shredded packing material in her living room on Easter, with eggs and candy and toys hidden throughout). Birthday and Christmas cards had beautifully handwritten messages with words of pride and encouragement and love. Her house was ALWAYS decorated for every holiday, from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick's Day, and she was always ready to entertain.

I'm going to miss her, of course, but I'm clinging to the example she set. Her spirit lives on in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Have faith. Be kind. Take advantage of every moment to live. Love others, even when they're a mess or you're a mess.

Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the owner and editor of the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper, one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in Colorado.She is a co-blogger at, and president of her local ACFW chapterNiki is a Colorado native who grew up in Glenwood Springs—home of the world’s largest hot springs pool. She married her high school sweetheart 26 years ago. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two West Highland White Terriers who are kind enough to take them for long walks.You can find all her new releases at under BOOKS.

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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.