Wednesday, January 30, 2013


By Charlene Raddon

I’ve blogged quite a bit lately about dugouts, in promoting my new e-release, To Have And To Hold, because the heroine in my book lived in a dugout. But today I’m going to talk about the other typical first home for a frontier settler—the sod house.

Timber was scarce on the Great Plains. Early settlers built their first shelters from what was available, and for many that meant thick prairie sod. A typical “soddy” was about fourteen feet by sixteen feet in size with a seven-and-one-half-foot high wall, a low-pitched roof, a central side door, and one or two windows. Interior walls were often finished with plaster or covered with newspapers. Canvas, suspended from the ceiling, made the room lighter and helped keep down the dust. Furnishings were sparse and simple, although prized lace curtains or an heirloom piece of furniture were not uncommon.

Not all soddies were small

To build a soddy the homesteader first chose a construction site, squared the interior dimensions of the house, and dampened and packed the floor area. Then an acre or so of unbroken ground was selected and a breaking plow used to cut the sod into long strips about twelve to eighteen inches wide and three to four inches thick. These were then cut with a sharp spade into two- to three-foot-long blocks and hauled to the house site on a wagon or sled. Only enough sod was broken and cut for use that day because the sod blocks were easier to handle when the moisture content was high.

Prairie soddie

Walls were constructed two to three staggered blocks deep (providing a wall depth of two or three feet), with the sod blocks grassy side down. Once the third or fourth layer of blocks were in place, a crosswise layer was installed to add strength to the wall. Wood-plank frames were propped in place at the desired locations for the door and windows, and the wall construction continued until it reached about half its final height. Completed walls were scraped on the inside for a smoother, more attractive surface. This also helped to insure a finished wall that was as vertical as possible. 

After the walls were finished, support poles were placed at each end of the soddy, and the ridgepole place across them. Then either planks or poles were attached to form rafters, and poles or brush, sometimes tar paper or canvas, was applied. On top of all this, layers (the number of layers varied) of sod blocks were positioned either with the grassy side down and coated with a thin plaster. Sometimes the grassy side was left up, and vegetation was allowed to grow. Finally, the gabble ends were filled with sod blocks, and a plank door was hung.

Unusually shaped sod house

Windows were the most expensive part of a sod house and were difficult to install. After setting the frame into the wall, the builder continued to lay rows of sod around it. When the bricks reached the top of the window frame settlers left off two layers of brick and laid cedar poles over the gap. The resulting space, stuffed with grass or rags, protected the windows from breaking.

Window and interior
Note beam over window at roof

Dirt floors were found in the majority of the early sod homes. More prosperous families might fasten carpets to the dirt floor. In some cases, rough or planed split logs were used for flooring. But only a few could afford the luxury of wide, rough-cut planks from the sawmill. Many women detested the continual war with dirt, bugs, snakes, leaky roofs and poor lighting. Nothing ever seemed to be clean. Others took the conditions in stride.


A woman without a prayer…

A widow with two children, Tempest Whitney had to mortgage everything to repay the money her husband had stolen. But even as she struggles to hold onto her Utah homestead, a scheming rancher buys up her debts, demanding she either get off his land or marry him. Then a dark-haired stranger shows up, claiming to be her dead husband…

A man without a past….

Buck Maddux spent two years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Now a death bed promise has brought him to Tempest’s dugout. A man without roots, he doesn’t plan to stay—or to feel so fiercely protective of this feisty beauty he saves from a forced marriage. Suddenly, Buck yearns for a home, a family, a lasting love. But what can he offer Tempest? The surprising answer lies in the forbidden canyons of an ancient Anasazi tribe, where fortune and danger await—along with a passion more precious than gold…



Charlene Raddon began her writing life at an early age, often penning stories where she cast herself as the heroine. It was after college when she dug out her old college typewriter and started her first novel, which came from a spirited dream she'd had the previous night.

While that book never sold, her second novel did. Tender Touch became a Golden Heart finalist and earned her an agent who signed the book, and two others, in a three book contract with Kensington Publishing. Kensington went onto publish five of Charlene's western historical romances: TAMING JENNA (1994); TENDER TOUCH (1994 Golden Heart Finalist); FOREVER MINE (1996 Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer's Choice Award Nominee and Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist); TO HAVE AND T HOLD (1997); and as Rachel Summers, THE SCENT OF ROSES (1999).

Charlene took a break from publishing, but not from writing. A KISS AND A DARE is Charlene's first paranormal romance.

DIVINE GAMBLE is Charlene's latest work and won first place in the western historical category of the 2010 Romance Through The Ages contest.

When Charlene isn't writing, she loves to travel, do genealogy, digital scrapbooking and dyes eggs in the Ukrainian style. And she enjoys camping and fishing with her husband in the Utah wilderness. 

Photos supplied by the author

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Monday, January 28, 2013



The story begins in 1880 in County Wicklow, Ireland just after a ball the English Earl and wife and daughter have attended with their young neighbor.When robbers chase the coach, an accident ensues and only ten year old Alaina escapes. She is raised by her Aunt Charlote and Uncle Sebastian Winston at her English Caliborne Manor in England. Much of the night her parents died has disappeared from her memory. Alaina lives for three things: horses, her gardens, and the future promise of revenge for her parents' deaths.

Ten years later she meets Tristan Sheffield, an agent of the English crown who buys the property next to Alaina. He is also a duke, but he never identifies himself as such. Alaina recognizes his name because young ladies swoon about him. Meeting Tristan causes her nightmare to reappear, this time with more detail. Only Tristan can help her recapture the truth; only he can help her solve the mystery surrounding her parents' murder. But life is not so easy as that, for the murderer is not finished with Alaina. Can she and Tristan discover the truth before the murderer strikes again?

Let me also share with you the sage words of advice Lord Christopher Claiborne gave to young Alaina hours before his death. "...Life is a circle and in the circle exist hate, love, happiness, sorrow, and death, and in order to appreciate one, we must experience the others. Without those experiences we are not whole and live only a part of the life we were given, and it is up to us to make our lives full, for only within ourselves can we find peace."

This is a captivating book, although the head hopping drove me crazy. Those who read a lot of English novels may discover errors in titles and propriety for the time. All in all, I loved the characters and depth of emotion and that's what makes a book enjoyable, and I look forward to the next in the series. I recommend ALAINA CLAIBORNE to anyone who loves historical novels.  


How far would you go to avenge your family and save the one you love?

In nineteenth-century England, Alaina Claiborne had a loving family, a cherished friend, and devoted servants. She spent her days riding across the grassy hills of the English countryside, joyful and at peace.

Then tragedy strikes and her world is forever changed. Searching for those responsible is her only focus . . . until she meets Tristan.

Tristan Sheffield, a man of many talents, searches out those who don’t want to be found. His past is filled with secrets and deeds he would rather leave deeply buried. However, when his life unexpectedly entwines with Alaina's, he soon discovers they share more than a
mutual desire to catch a murderer.

On their hunt for a man driven by greed, Tristan and Alaina find that love is the greatest weapon against evil, and they'll stop at nothing to survive.

Available now at Amazon  


Enjoy Excerpts from Alaina Claiborne

may or may not be in the order in which they appear,
and may differ slightly from the final book.)
Excerpt One: 

The moon shone brightly through the clouds of the dark night, and fatigue soon encouraged she lay her head down on his shoulder, falling into a deep slumber. She felt safe in his embrace and nothing seemed to disturb her. Her senses became aware of his strong arms wrapping a little tighter around her. She felt the carriage bounce as they hit a rut in the road, but she enjoyed his comforting warmth too much to let it disturb her. Then she became cold and her eyes opened, watching as her body rolled down a hill, but no sound escaped her though she frantically sought a way to breathe. She felt those strong arms push her toward the broken door as the carriage continued to roll. Somehow she landed on earth, coldness seeping through her clothes. Her head ached, but the source of the other pain remained elusive.

A bush. She had landed in a bush and the branches hurt, but not as much as the pain inside of her. What’s happening?

She fought her way to the ground and then stopped moving. Silence shrouded the

Excerpt Two: 

Across the acres, darkness enveloped another, her surroundings illuminated by the flickering flame of a lamp. Alaina moved around in the attic, searching through trunks of the items that had come from her mother’s cottage in Ireland. It was difficult to see so many memories
that reminded her of her parents, but she also found it calmed her. She had avoided these things since they had been delivered years ago, but now her fears became secondary. She hoped that something from her parents’ past would shed light on what was happening in the present.

      Alaina rummaged through a trunk of some of her mother’s clothes, pulling them out and
smelling them, hoping for a faint whiff of the soft rose scent her mother used to wear. There was something lingering around the old clothes, and it took Alaina back to a time when she was a little girl. Nevertheless, the memory ended there. She paused for a moment, as if the scent reminded her of something else besides her mother. She subsequently released the memory when she saw the bottom of the trunk was not as deep as it should have been. She pulled out the remaining dress and ran her fingers along the bottom and edges. She next looked on the outside of the trunk. Nearly six inches of extra space remained near the
bottom on the inside.
Alaina felt along the inside edges and became excited when she found a gap. Slowly reaching her fingers into the hole, she simultaneously pushed down on the other edge for leverage and surprised herself when the bottom tilted to reveal the extra space beneath. Removing the thin board, she set it aside and gasped when she turned back to the trunk.
“Oh, Mother. What did you do?”

Book Information
January 7th,
Genre: Historical Romance
Formats: Paperback and Kindle
Publisher: Trappers Peak Publishing

The Author

MK McClintock is an over-worked entrepreneur, baker of decadent desserts and all things chocolate, photographer of beautiful places, and most importantly, a writer.

She dreams of a time when life was simpler, the land rougher, and the journey more rewarding. With her heart deeply rooted in the past and her mind always on adventure,
McClintock calls Montana home.
McClintock is a member of Romance Writers of America, Montana Romance Writers,
Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Women Writing the West.

Tour Giveaway
Three Winners!
1-$25 Amazon Gift Card
2 Autographed copies of "Alaina Claiborne"  

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here, as well as emailed, and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter, or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. 

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