trackback thursday: the mountain meadows massacre

mountain meadows massacreIn September of 1857, a wagon train that originated of families mostly from Arkansas, was held under siege for four days until they were lead to their deaths.

These emigrants were headed to California, and consisted of a few wealthy cattle and horse herders, as well as others looking for a better life out West.

When they traveled through Utah, at the time under the “theocratic” ruling, if you will, of Brigham Young and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as LDS or Mormons), they were refused supplies in Salt Lake City and Cedar City due to the Mormons suspecting them or taking part in the murders of some of their church members back East, including their late leader/prophet Joseph Smith.

On the first day, the settlers were attacked at Mountain Meadows, Utah by the local Indians, but when they were lead to their deaths it was under the direction of the local Mormon Militia.

The Mormons rode in under a white flag, offered the settlers help to escape the siege of the Native Americans, and had them march on as though leading them back to Cedar City. The settlers were then attacked by Mormons disguised as the Native Americans, so as to skirt away from blame. Around 120 settlers were killed, leaving only children under the age of seven alive.

There were around 17 survivors.

This massacre has been under debate since it happened. The LDS of the time first claimed innocence. Brigham Young did an “investigation,” which was then blamed on the local Native Americans. But upon further investigation and pushing from the national government, Brigham Young and the Saints sought to blame it on Major John Lee, the one who supposedly lead the attack under no orders from anyone higher ranked.

This post could be incredibly long, for this massacre is the setting for my YA historical fiction novel. So, I’ll just sum it up. But you can visit the Mountain Meadows Association site as well as read witness reports from all those years ago if you are interested.

After completing my novel and preparing to query, I got to visit the massacre site in December 2014. I was mixed with emotions of excitement and heartbreak. For somewhere so beautiful to be ever tainted by these innocent Westward travelers was haunting.

mountain meadows selfie

The massacre itself happened on September 11, 1857.

trackback thursday: burning of D.C. in 1814

classroom_1812-02On August 24, 1814, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross occupied Washington, D.C., and set fire to many public buildings– including the White House, the Capitol, and other U.S. government facilities.

The Burning of Washington was an attack during the War of 1812, between British forces and the USA. The attack was partially a “tit for tat” response to America’s destruction of Port Dover in Upper Canada. (This is when American troops went to destroy grain and mills that were used to provide flour for British soldiers on the Niagara Peninsula.)

This is the only time in history that Washington, D.C. has been occupied by a foreign force.

Less than a day after the attack, a heavy rainstorm put out the remaining fires. After this heavy storm (which also provided a tornado that went through D.C.), British troops retreated to their ships– which were also damaged. This allowed Americans to regain control, making the occupation of Washington last somewhere around 26 hours.

History Buster:

This is where the story of First Lady Dolley Madison comes into play. It circulated (and still does) that she saved the portrait of President Washington from the flames, cutting it from the frame that held it to the wall.


Paul Jennings, President James Madison’s personal slave, published his memoir in 1865 (after purchasing his freedom from none other than Mrs. Madison), and said it was not Mrs. Madison who saved the painting! She would have, apparently, needed a ladder and other tools to accomplish this– and he said there was not time for her to do it. Who were the saviors of this famous art?

According to Jennings, it was John Suse (the French doorkeeper) and Magraw (the president’s gardner).

In 2009, President Obama held a ceremony to recognize Jennings for his bravery and assistance in saving the painting and other valuables from the fire. Several of his descendants attended, and even took a family portrait in front of the very painting.


Have you ever visited The White House? I have actually never been to Washington (D.C.).  I say “actually” because I’ve been a crazy amount of places, (stateside) but D.C. is still on my bucket list!


trackback thursday: first transatlantic hot air balloon flight

In August 1978, three Americans made history by being the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean via hot air balloon. Before this, (debatably) thirteen attempts had been made and failed.

The lucky gentlemen traveled in Double Eagle II over 3,000 miles in 137 hours, taking off from Presque Isle, Maine and landing about 60 miles west of Paris in Miserey, France. They were: Max Anderson, Ben Abruzzo, and Larry Newman. All of them were from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Why was it Double Eagle II, you ask? It was the second attempt for Mr. Abruzzo and Mr. Anderson, who tried their first attempt at crossing in the first Double Eagle.

Why does this matter, you ask?

Because hot air balloons are magical.

I have a small obsession with them, though I’ve actually never been in one myself (bucket list). Also, if you see a picture of this balloon, you’ll be amazed, too. It was fitted with a gondola in case they had to have an emergency landing, which is on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum annex at Washington Dulles International Airport. But if you can’t make it there, here’s a picture that probably doesn’t do it justice:

I moved to the Southwest in 2013, and though there had been hot air balloon events where I had previously lived(ish), I had never looked into or thought of them much. But when we moved, the first thing we saw when we reached our new “hometown” were three hot air balloons just hanging out– and come to find out we could see them from our backyard! It made the move not so horrible, and I still swear by ‘balloon days.’

(OK, I don’t really swear by them, but it’s always a pick-me-up because it lets me know that it’s not TOO hot for the balloons and something about seeing them makes a person happy.)

Have you ever been in a hot air balloon?



Also, today in history, my mother was born. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! I won’t put the year because she might kill me, but here’s a picture for your viewing pleasure of the last time we were together:

mother's day 1

trackback thursday: jesse owens wins four gold medals

In August 1936, Jesse Owens won four gold medals in Berlin.


Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics; picture from

Before this, in 1935, Owens made sporting history when he broke five world records, including the long jump which would not be beat for another 25 years.

At the 1936 Olympic Berlin Games, Owens won his four medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay, and the long jump. He managed to break or equal nine Olympic records, and he set three world records.

Yep. He was pretty much awesome.

At the Berlin Games, Hitler thought and hoped that they would prove his theory of Aryan racial superiority. As you can imagine, this did not go as he planned. Instead, Owens’ achievements led the people of Berlin to hail him, revere him, applaud him– an African-American– as a hero.

Here are some of Owens’ awards and achievements:


  • On May 25, 1935, at the Big Ten Conference Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Owens broke three world records (long jump, 220-yard dash and 220-yard low hurdles) and tied a fourth (100-yard dash), all in a 45 minute span.
  • In his junior year at Ohio State, Owens competed in 42 events and won them all, including four in the Big Ten Championships, four in the NCAA Championships, two in the AAU Championships and three at the Olympic Trials.
  • In 1936, Jesse became the first American in Olympic Track and Field history to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad by winning four gold medals: 100 meter dash in 10.3 seconds (tying the world record), long jump with a jump of 26′ 5 1/4″ (Olympic record), 200 meter dash in 20.7 seconds (Olympic record), and 400 meter relay (first leg) in 39.8 seconds (Olympic and world record).
  • In 1976, Jesse was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award bestowed upon a civilian, by Gerald R. Ford.
  • Owens was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.

A recent movie Race was released this year about Jesse Owens. There are also plenty of books and at least one documentary about him. You can check Amazon for these.

Are you watching the Olympics this year? What’s your favorite event?


book review: the wrath & the dawn

imageThe Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is one of my favorite books that I have read thus far. Based on A Thousand and One Nights, the story of Scheherazade. It was one that I could not put down, and now all I want to do is life my self-inflicted-book-buying-ban to get the sequel, The Rose & the Dagger.

The Wrath & The Dawn was released in May of last year, and the sequel was released in April of this year.

Here is what Goodreads has to say:

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?


When I was young, one of my favorite books was The Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher, was one of my favorite books. It was also based on Scheherazade, but was from the perspective of a young girl who was taken into the story-tellers confidence to fuel her with more stories to share with the Sultan so she may continue to live.

The Wrath & The Dawn was like the story went even further for me, only better. Being able to see from the perspective of many characters, and get to know Khalid and Shahrzad in an entirely new light, I literally could not put down the book.

Another thing that it did was make me desperate for the food and colors of this Arabian world that Ahdieh created. With the descriptions of costumes, foods, surroundings, and traditions– I wanted to dive deeper and deeper into it, and Ahdieh did an amazing job of providing me with enough to fuel my imagination in technicolor.

There were a few parts of the story that I found myself questioning the tale, but then I felt like a ‘traditionalist’ and wanting all the stories of One Thousand and One Nights to come to life, not just the love story between Khalid and Shahrzad. With a killer cliff-hanger ending, I can’t imagine how readers who bought this book when it was first released felt without having the sequel ready at their finger-tips. I’m already itching as it is because I didn’t buy the two together at the same time!

This book gets 5/5 for me. Shahrzad, Jalal, Khalid, Despina– all the characters in this story have a voice of their own that makes a reader love (and sometimes dislike) them. If you haven’t read it (and I already feel late to the game), you must. And heed my warning: buy The Rose & The Dagger at the same time so you don’t end up like I am right now.

trackback thursday: colorado becomes a state

August 1, 1876: Colorado joined the Union.


Sporting one of my #writerslifeapparel tops in CO.

It took sixteen years, four Colorado votes, three suggested state constitutions, and multiple attempts in Congress for Colorado to finally become the 38th state.


Coloradans went through many votes and re-votes to decide if they wanted to go from territory to state. The first of these was in 1860, and though it was only about 400 votes off, they stayed a territory. What was the biggest reason for this? Well, as a state they didn’t have to worry about the expenses of administering a government; as a territory, federal funds took care of that. If they were to become a state, it would be their responsibility.

Colorado’s first bid for statehood was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson in May of 1866, saying that Colorado’s population (which was around 34k) was too small to be a state.

Yep. No joke.

So after a lot of pushing, and when President Johnson was finally out of office, President Ulysses S. Grant issued a proclamation declaring Colorado a state August 1, 1876 – and Colorado officially joined the Union. This proclamation happened the year the United States celebrated its centennial.

Thus, the 38th state is known as the Centennial State. <– (I felt kind of dumb for never knowing why this was so until I looked it up.)

Fun facts about Colorado:

  • my older sister & her family live there (I knew you HAD to know)
  • Colorado is the only U.S. state that lies entirely above 1000 meters elevation.
  • The tallest sand dune in America is in Great Sand Dunes National Park.
  • Denver, lays claim to the invention of the cheeseburger. Denver resident Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In named his sandwitch the cheeseburger
  • The 13th step of the state capital building in Denver is exactly 1 mile high above sea level.
  • Katherine Lee Bates wrote ‘America the Beautiful’ after being inspired by the view from Pikes Peak

Have you ever been to Colorado? What was your favorite part?

trackback thursday: the northwest ordinance

Every Thursday on the blog will be “trackback thursday.” Here I’ll share something interesting/fun/ridiculous/who-knew-it piece of American history. Being a somewhat history nerd myself, and an author of historical fiction, it seemed like something fun to do.

On July 13, 1787, Congress authorized the Northwest Ordinance.

This established the formal procedures for transforming territories into states. So, instead of massive blocks that first made up the Midwest and West, the territories would eventually shrink into smaller states. The Northwest Territory that it created stretched from the Ohio River to the Great Lakes (South to North), and the Appalachian Mountains to, well, pretty much the middle of current Minnesota.

This eventually lead to the establishment of around six states, which were to be considered equal with the original 13. Though it technically didn’t include ALL of some of these states (see above: half of Minnesota), over time they eventually came about because of it.

Considered one of the most important acts of the Continental Congress at the time, it showed that there would be westward expansion and creation of new states rather than existing states ruling and expanding their existing boarders.

Basically, Congress didn’t want anyone getting greedy and ruining the “good thing they had going.”


So, what states eventually came out of this?

I knew you were dying to know.

trackback thursdayOhio- 1803

Indiana- 1816

Illinois- 1818

Michigan- 1837

Wisconsin- 1848

Minnesota- 1858

With all of this, the Ordinance included a Bill of Rights that promised: freedom of religion, right to trial by jury, public education (including a university!), and a ban on slavery. This will be important later (see: Civil War).


I have lived in half of those states– and my parents have lived in 5 out of 6.  That’s my personal fun fact.

Check back next Thursday for more #trackbackthursday– the new #tbt.