News Flash: qnofdnilesblog is Ann’s lucky winner! Please check your email.
Edith/Maddie north of Boston, where spring might be peeking at us!
I’m super happy to welcome Ann Parker back to the blog. I love her historical mysteries, which began in Leadville, Colorado, and followed Inez Stannert to San Francisco. I can’t wait to read The Secret in the Wall, book #8 in the Silver Rush Mysteries series, which came out last month.
Here’s the blurb: Inez Stannert has reinvented herself―again. Fleeing the comfort and wealth of her East Coast upbringing, she became a saloon owner and card sharp in the rough silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, always favoring the unconventional path―a difficult road for a woman in the late 1800s. Now living in San Francisco, Inez works hard to keep a respectable, loving home for her young ward, Antonia. But risk is a seductive friend, difficult to resist. When a skeleton and a bag of gold coins tumble from the wall of her latest business investment, Inez uses her street smarts and sheer will to unearth a secret that someone has already killed to keep buried.
Inez Stannert and her ilk—Badass Women of the West
When Edith asked me if I’d like to contribute a post on this month’s theme, “Badass Women from the Before Times,” I jumped at the chance. Such women—real or fictional—are always fascinating to explore.
My protagonist Inez Stannert made her appearance in Silver Lies, the first book of my Silver Rush historical series set in Leadville, Colorado, in the American West. Publishers Weekly described her as “the poker-playing, straight-talking, gun-toting owner of the Silver Queen Saloon.” If all those adjectives don’t sum up her badass-ery, I’m not sure what would. In 1879, when Silver Lies opens, if a woman strayed a bit outside the lines of propriety, she risked getting slammed for it. However, in the U.S. “Wild West” those lines were often a little less distinct and there was a bit more room to breathe (corsets allowing) than in the East.
In my newest book, The Secret in the Wall, it is 1882. Much has transpired between Silver Lies and this, the eighth book in the series. Inez has moved to San Francisco and is guardian to 13-year-old Antonia Gizzi, who keeps Inez on her toes and is a badass-bitch-in-training. Inez owns a music store and provides financial assistance to local women-run businesses on the side. She still plays poker on occasion, but only friendly, penny ante with a few of the musicians who frequent her store… nothing like the high-stakes, high-octane games she ran at the Silver Queen Saloon.
Inez is determined to weave a new life for herself and Antonia in San Francisco, but trouble—and mystery— complicate her efforts to walk the straight-and-narrow. In The Secret in the Wall, Inez has formed a business relationship with the very prim and proper boardinghouse owner, Moira Krause. Together, they bought the vacant residence that adjoins Moira’s house, so the common wall can be knocked down and Moira’s business expanded. All their plans go sideways when the wall is breached, and a skeleton dressed in tattered military wear tumbles out, along with a bag of gold coins. Compounding the horror of those present, a glass eye disengages from the skull and rolls across the floor. Antonia’s eyes widen, and she whispers, “Pirates!” Knowing Antonia’s penchant for the tale of Treasure Island, Inez fears her ward’s mind is awhirl with devious little thoughts. But Inez has her own concerns to address, such as determining the identity of the long departed and making sure the gold remains with its rightful owners—that is, herself and Moira.
As a woman who marches to the beat of her own drummer in the 19th century, Inez may be unusual, but perhaps not as unusual as you might think. Coinciding with Inez’s time in San Francisco, for instance, is Mary Ellen Pleasant, an entrepreneur, financier, real estate magnate and abolitionist, who listed herself in the 1890 census as “a capitalist.” Pleasant is mentioned on this Wickeds post on favorite women in history https://wickedauthors.com/2019/03/06/wicked-wednesday-favorite-woman-in-history/, and you can read more about her on FoundSF https://www.foundsf.org/index.php?title=Mary_Ellen_Pleasant.
Much earlier in San Francisco’s history, there was landowner and businesswoman Juana Briones https://www.foundsf.org/index.php?title=Juana_Briones. When California became part of the United States, Mexican landholders were required to certify their land ownership through a complicated legal process. Briones hired a lawyer and took her legal battle for property ownership all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, emerging victorious. Many other fascinating, strong-minded women populated the 19th-century West, including Lillie Hitchcock Coit (“Firebelle Lil”), Lotta Crabtree, and Donaldina Cameron in San Francisco, and Molly Brown, Doc Susie, Mattie Silks, and Alice Ivers (Poker Alice), who made their names in Colorado and elsewhere.
With so many role models out there, you may be wondering who my female protagonist is based on. To create her, I turned, in part, to my forbearers for inspiration. I gave her my Granny Parker’s maiden name, Inez Stannert, and my Grandmother Elsie’s olive skin, hazel eyes, dark brown hair, and cool demeanor.
These are women you won’t read about in the pages of history, but their stories tell of a generation. My Granny Parker moved west from Pennsylvania as a child, when her blacksmith father found employment in Leadville. My Grandmother Elsie left Iowa to teach in Arizona, when it was still a territory. They both married (for better for worse), and raised their children through the 1918 Flu Pandemic, a world war, and the Great Depression, doing the best they could during very tough times. They had steel in their spines, not just their corsets. So, I gifted my fictional Inez with the grit and determination of these women and others I’ve known throughout my life, as well as those I’d read about in my research.
With such real women from historical “before times,” it almost seems unnecessary to defend my Inez as being “of her time.” Although she would consider being labelled a badass as fightin’ words indeed, she would probably embrace the admiration and nod of approval such an appellation carries today.
Readers: What saying / piece of advice from a “strong-willed” woman has stuck with you? (For me, it’s “Life’s not fair.” This was invoked regularly by my mother when we kids whined… and I guess we must have whined a lot!)
I’ll send one of you (US-only) a copy of the new book and a Starbucks gift card – because books and coffee/tea just go sooooo well together!
California native Ann Parker is a science writer by day and fiction writer at night. Her award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series is set in the 1880s U.S. West. Of the newest in the series, THE SECRET IN THE WALL, Kirkus Reviews says, “The year 1882 launches Inez Stannert―sleuth, card shark, musician, saloon owner, and helper of ambitious women―on another adventure…a mystery based on true events and replete with rich period detail, that’s a delight to read.” SECRET was released in February 2022 by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks, and is an Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice.
Ann is listed in the Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame and is a long-time member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Women Writing the West, Western Writers Association, National Association of Science Writers, and a whole passel of other organizations (because, yes, she is a joiner). Find out more about Ann and her books at https://annparker.net/
What a great post for International Women’s Day. I didn’t have many strong women in my life. I got my strength from women in history. Tho’ she never gave me any direct advice, I learned from my wonderful mother-in-law how to prevail even in awful circumstances. Thanks Maggie.
Hello GinnyJC! It’s wonderful how, when we look around, there are role models to admire and emulate, from our personal history as well as widely related history. Here’s to the women! Thanks for reading and commenting…
There were a few but the one I live by is “Family Comes First” as in family obligations are more important than your friends. Attend your family event and then meet up with your friends, they will understand and if not are they really your friend? Thank you for this chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com
Ah yes. I recall “Family Comes First” as well… perhaps not stated explicitly in our family, but a definite foundation for growing up. I am forever grateful to my siblings. When things got tough in the family, we definitely rallied together and supported each other. Thanks for commenting!
Hello qnofdnilesblog – You won the raffle for a copy of THE SECRET IN THE WALL! 😀 Look for an email from me, coming soon….
Congratulations on the new book and welcome back! I love the picture of your grandmother Elsie and your line “risk is a seductive friend!”
Hi Sherry! Thanks for the welcome! It’s great to be here, and what an awesome topic for the month! 🙂 I have a few photos of G’ma Elsie, but this is probably my favorite. This is taken shortly before she headed out to the “Wild West” of the early 1900s to teach…
It is always a pleasure to read a book whose main character is portrayed a a strong person. My paternal grandmother came over from England and through Ellis Island. She married and proceeded to have three children. When my paternal grandfather passed on at an early age, she had to strong tall. Because of her strength my father was taught you have to work for what you want. Nothing is ever handed to you. I have carried this with me all my life. robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com
Ah, that’s a great family value to have and to hold. Kind of goes hand-in-hand with what my mother taught me as well. Thanks for sharing your personal history (or should that be “herstory.”
Some tough cookies you have arrayed for us! Your new book is waiting for me on my coffee table, Ann.
My mom: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Not sure I’ve always followed that – but I try! Or at least something “kind.”
Hi Edith! Thank you for the opportunity to guest post… and on International Women’s Day as well! That’s a double honor for me! 🙂
Here’s hoping the enjoy the book when you get to it. The lovely thing about books: They are patient, and wait until we have the time for them…
(Note: Your mom’s saying was also something I heard frequently as well…)
Wasn’t Elsie gorgeous! I really enjoy reading about these strong women who paved the way for today’s women. Thankfully books help keep their memory alive!
I remember hearing a whole lot of “Just Do It!” from my mother growing up lol! I think I tended to think about things and weigh out choices before I’d take action on something and she’d tire of it.
Hi Kathy! I chuckled at the “Just Do It!” I too tend to–as my own mother put it–“dither” in my decision making, which would exasperate her no end. Maybe that’s why my fictional Inez is impulsive and a tad impatient when others ponder and deliberate… Hmmm. Hadn’t thought of that connection before now! 🙂 Thanks for your comment!
Congratulations! It’s not surprising to me that the expansion west offered women a lot more chances to go outside the boundaries of the more “proper” East coast.
Both of my grandmothers gave me lots of advice, but it’s too early for me to recall a specific saying. But both were great proponents of the “stop whining and just get it done” attitude.
Hi Liz! And thank you! Yes, the “stop whining” vibe was strong in our family. Along with the “Clean your plate there are starving children in [pick-a-country-or-continent].” As if me eating the much-detested boiledbroccoli would somehow stop their starving. (Note: I love broccoli now, but never boil it!)
Oh yes! I got the “there are starving children in ” too. And you’re right. Our eating would not stop their starving. I suppose it was to reinforce that we had food when others didn’t – but what kid wants to eat her broccoli?? LOL
Great question, Ann. The saying I heard growing up, “Quit whining or I’ll spank you ’till you’re happy!” That command from my strong-willed grandma never failed to rearrange my tail feathers — fast!
HA! I’ve not heard that one before… “spank you ’till you’re happy,” a difficult state to reach, I imagine! 🙂 I recall the back of a hairbrush being deployed when I wouldn’t behave. I quickly learned that the louder I yelled and screamed, the faster the spanking stopped. I guess all that corporeal punishment taught me was to be sneaky and “repent” swiftly…
Congratulations on the recent release of “The Secret in the Wall”. It sounds amazing and I can’t wait for the opportunity to read it.
For me it was “Don’t let anyone tell you NO if you heart and mind say YES.” To me it mean not to give up or cave to what’s “normal”.
Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected. Thanks for the chance.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Hi Kay! Oh, I love what you were taught. A great value/belief to carry forward into life! Thanks for commenting!
Like mothers everywhere, “make sure you have clean underwear on in case you get into an accident.”
Hi Terry! Oh my gosh… I remember that one too! (Maybe all our parents went to the same “parenting class,” taught my our respective grandparents! 🙂 ) Thanks for leaving a comment!
Oh HA! I remember that one too… 😀
Oops… replied twice, now three times! :-} Moving along now…
I love the portrait of your Grandmother. Your story sounds fascinating! A saying my parents would say is, “I’m going to count to 3.” That’s when Mom was pretty series! My sis and I would be “whatever” until it got to 1 and then we would immediately panic and stop whatever it is we were getting in trouble for.
Hi Nancy! Ah, another saying from my childhood as well. I remember this being deployed regularly when we were slow at bedtime. We’d race to jump in under the covers before “3.”
What a wonderful family history and book blurb. My great-grandmother used to tell me that life wasn’t fair, it was what you made it. Seems she had a lot of support among others of her generation in one turn of phrase or another!
Hi Kait! That’s a lovely addendum/follow-on to the “life’s not fair” saying. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I come from a family of 6 kids (five of them boys) and we were always getting hurt or sick. My mom’s favorite saying (and it probably came from her mother who had 10 children): “If it’s not an ass, it’s an elbow!” Right? It’s always something…
Hello Anne Marie! Now *that’s* a new one on me! I love it! I can imagine it being said as mercurochrome (or iodine… ouch!) was liberally applied to a scraped knee, elbow, etc.
Congratulations on the new book, Ann. Don’t enter me in the contest as I have the book, as you know, and plan on finishing it today! I absolutely love it.
I think being told you’re only as good as your word has stuck with me like glue. If I say I’ll do something or promise someone something I make sure I do . A person should stand by their word and if they don’t, they are not worth much. Iid much rather have relationships, be they personal or professional, with people whose word is good as gold.
It’s taking me a little longer than usual to read my books because I’ve had to use a magnifying glass since my stroke, but I think this book is well worth it I’ve always loved history and your books are like being in a time machine and being propelled back to another place in another time and it’s fabulous.
Hi Laurie! Awwww thank you for coming here and reading and commenting on the post! I’m glad you liked the book… I had such fun including your kitties Lucky and Eclipse in the story! And “you are only as good as your word” is a wonderful saying to carry through life.
I hope you continue to heal from your stroke… Glad I could offer a little “time travel” during your recovery…
“Does your answer make sense.” My mom would say this to me quite frequently when she was teaching me math (I was home schooled for a number of years). And I still that occasionally in my day job as an accountant. (Yes, please enter me in the giveaway.)
Hi Mark! That’s a great one! As a person with a science background (and, yep, mathematics) I can see the utility of that saying! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your mom’s (and your) saying!
My grandmother use to say, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonaide.” I say it often to others…lol.
Oh yes!! That’s familiar to me too! (Kind of goes along with the “quit the whining” vibe of “Life’s not fair.” 😉 ) Thanks for sharing!
Congrats on your new book! Love the book cover. My grandmother would often say “What others think of you is none of your business” My first thought was, yes, it is! Now I understand the quote better.
Thanks for the chance!!
Hello B! That is a very wise saying. I think it’s only really sinking in for me now in my “later years.” 🙂 Thanks for the reminder!
What saying/piece of advice from a “strong willed” woman has stuck with you? My Grandmother Walker who was a smart, strong willed red headed woman who made sure I knew I could do accomplish anything if I really wanted it and the phrase that stuck with me she always said to me was “Never Give Up.
My Grandmother was so strong-willed and smart too. Back in her day, if you were smart enough you could skip a grade or two. My grandmother Walker was so smart she was able to skip two grades.
When I was in Elementary School, I interviewed my Grandmother for a class. I got an A on it.
She always made sure I knew that when I failed at something that I didn’t give up. Never give up I think was why she was so smart and strong-willed and also being a red head helped too.
Hi Crystal! Oh, this is lovely… I salute your grandmother, for her determination and her intelligence. Sounds like she was a very wise woman, who wanted to be sure you knew your own worth and strengths…. That’s wonderful!
Congratulations on “The Secret In The Wall”. I like reading historical fiction and I’ve been to Leadville and San Francisco and I would enjoy reading about the early days of both cities.
Hi Dianne – That’s wonderful that you’ve been in both locations of my series! I hope you get a chance to read my series. Would love to know what you think, if you do…
My alert sounded telling me 1) it’s the birthday today of Irish PIRATE, Anne Bonny, and 2) Ann Parker has a blog up with Wickedauthors! Thanks for this great post today, Ann!
And I was just mentioning that I have Sea Star on my bookshelf. Anne Bonny rocked.
Sea Star? I’ll have to look that one up! 🙂
Hi Camille! Great to see you here! Anne Bonny? That’s awesome! Hurray for female pirates!
Great looking woman and story!
Hi Madeleine! Glad you enjoyed it!
Congratulations on your newest release! Your book sounds really good and like a Must read! I love they picture of your grandma, she is Beautiful! This is a saying (when dating) that always stuck to me “a man goes as far as a woman lets him”
Hi Alicia! – Ah, I think I recall that saying as well… Thanks for reading and commenting!
Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Hi Debbie! Yep, that’s a good one…
Great post, Ann! I enjoyed THE SECRET IN THE WALL. Now I’m going to read the other seven books in your series.
Hi Susan! Thank you! I consider that very high praise, indeed! 🙂
My wife’s observation that if you’re having to work extra hours because your employer’s inefficient, they’re stealing your time and reducing the value of your pay thereby.
Ooohhh that’s a very wise observation. Thanks for sharing your wife’s insight!
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