Valentine’s Day is Nearly Here!

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetIt’s only a few weeks until our special “love day” will be here … Valentine’s Day. Just in time for the occasion, Prairie Rose Publications released one of my short stories, “Tumbleweeds and Valentines”.

A short story about family, love, protection, and caring; each of my family members have the same objectives. It all comes to a head on Valentine’s Day.

I thought it’d be fun to go behind the scenes and let you see how we come up with character’s names, decide on vocations, and what type of historical research we have to do. Using “Tumbleweeds and Valentines” as my example seemed to be a great way to bring this to you and; and, of course encourage you to order the short story from one of the links below.

Tumbleweeds and ValentinesEven the most established author will tell you that more times than not they don’t get the working-title they want for their books through major publishing houses. It’s all up to the house and the contract because they know more about the business than we do as authors. I got to keep my story title, although I knew ahead of time that the name of the collection was ”Hearts and Spurs”. In other words, give your story a title that you like and don’t get down in the dumps or upset when you find out it isn’t the one on the front of the cover … a cover that likely you got no input into either, unless again cover approval/input is part of your negotiated contract.

The first thing I needed, as any other writer, is the names of the hero and heroine (H/H) and the setting. It’s also very important with settings that they are historically accurate; however, you have creative permission to bend it to fit your story, if it’s reasonable. That’s the reason, although I write my western historical romances, in the Texas Panhandle, I stay somewhat accurate.

My setting is in Caprock, Texas. All of the towns that I write about, both historical and contemporary, are based on towns in and around the Caprock of the Texas Panhandle, where I was born and raised. Thus the name Caprock, Texas. Greene Street where Mandy lives is an original street in Amarillo, although it’s long been replaced with another name.

I used a phrase in the story similar to, “Caprock has grown like the merchants of Colorado City wanted….” If you switched the name to Amarillo, you’d be correct. The merchants of Colorado City, Texas, wanted a town to become a railhead plus a passage on up north, so they solicited a number of merchants to set up business in this area, believing the railroad would come through here. The railroad named us Oneida, but we eventually where changed to Amarillo Spanish for yellow soil. All the houses were painted yellow, once the town was settled up on higher ground instead of in a buffalo wallow called then and now Wildhorse Lake. And, yes, we still have a viable railroad and shipping yards for cattle. As a matter of fact, at one time during the mid-1800’s, there were so many cattle to be shipped that the pastures were filled with them and extended nearly 100 miles south and to the New Mexico border.

valentine-chocolateWhere do names come from? Sometimes they are meant to recognize someone, either negatively or positively. Other times, it’s simply a name that works. I’ve also looked up at my reference books shelves and found a name for a minor character. I use a “name your baby” type book sometimes other times folks I know. In this book, I wrote Mandy, which is the name of the daughter-in-law of a friend and of course her last name had to be “Love” for Valentine’s Day.

Her business partner in the confectionary shop is Emma Parker who has two nephews. Trey is the blacksmith and I needed him to be that vocation. Then came time to name his twin, so rhyme time kicked in. Trey and Clay, and their last name is Hemphill and is in honor of a long-time deceased friend of mine. By the way, Emma is my oldest granddaughter, while Parker is my youngest grandson. Jenny, in the book is Emma’s sister, while in real life that’s my youngest daughter’s name and also the name of a friend. I try to respect my friends and family and never use their names or one of their family names without asking. With my family, I use middles names, if at all possible and never their last names or where they live in a blog or anything public.

valentine-graphics-1The neat thing about names is that most authors have a little quirk with a name that is always in a book. In my case you’ll always find the name of a bull of the year or at least a famous bull.

How people dress, especially women, is so very critical. For an historical, I use a series of research books by John Peacock and particularly like “The Chronicle of Western Fashion” From Ancient Times to the Present Day. I find an outfit that fits the era and my lady and try to describe it. In this particular story, Amanda wears a pale blue and while calico dress. I depicted it adequately and then wrote her name next to it in Peacock’s book, so I know I’ve already used that outfit. The nice thing about these research books is at various places it author stops to physically describe the various clothing. I opened it to a random page. In 1605 this picture showed a noblewoman wearing her hair “dressed over pads and decorated with feathers and flowers; gown with high standing lace collar supported on wire frame, long hanging sleeves and wide skirt on cartwheel frame; high-heeled slashed shoes with wired bows.”

I love to cook, so you’ll see characters fixin’ candy, fried pies, and tarts in this story. I use them for actions tags instead of verbal tags for my heroine and her business partner. Since this is a short read and I didn’t have a lot of words to describe what they were makin’ for the Valentine’s barn dance, hootenanny, or shindig … whatever you may have called it in 1889.

There is so much more I’d like to write about, but I hope this gave you a taste, pun intended, of what this story is about and if you’re lucky you’ll win one of two free copies.

Please share with me your favorite Valentine’s goodie. My two most favorite are in the story. Let me hear from you ladies.

Phyliss
A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com
Updated: January 19, 2015 — 9:47 pm

28 Comments

  1. I don’t really have a favorite Valentine’s Day goodie. I love chocolate, but it’s my every day favorite.

  2. I’ve always enjoyed getting that little heart shaped box of chocolates.. 🙂
    “Tumbleweeds and Valentines”… sounds like a ‘sweet’ read ..

    1. Janine, thanks for stopping by. I love chocolate, too; especially the marshmallow covered with chocolate. Have a great evening. Phyliss

    2. Deanna, looks like I responded to you and Janine on the same thread. Sorry. Good to see you. I really enjoyed writing “Tumbleweeds and Valentines”. I hope you enjoy it. Hugs, Phyliss

  3. Congratulations, Phyliss! This story really made me hungry for candy. I could smell the chocolate as they whipped up batches of sweet delights. Of course, it doesn’t take much to spark a craving for chocolate! LOL

    Wishing you much success, dear friend.

    1. Thanks, Miss Linda. I hope all of the readers can taste the chocolates and sweet delights while they read the story.
      Have a great evening, my fellow filly and friend. Phyliss

  4. I do enjoy my fav chocolates… but another Valentine’s fav goodie are the smiles I see when I give my family members some Valentine’s cards!

    1. Hi Colleen, I also like to give family members and neighbors Valentine’s cards, as well as candy. I think most ladies like chocolate! Hugs, Phyliss

  5. anything chocolate

    1. Hi Anon1001, totally agree. It’s obvious that chocolate wins out! Hugs, Phyliss

  6. Hi Phyliss, I so enjoyed learning all the behind-the-book tidbits today! I love Valentine’s Day. I remember my son as a little boy, sitting at the tiny table and chair in his room, poring over all the little cards his classmates had given him. Awwwww. My favorite Valentine is a box of See’s candy, especially nuts and chews. P.s. I love this story! Xoxoxo

    1. Hi Tanya, I’d forgotten about the cards for school kids. I had girls and can remember how excited they would get when they got a card from their “crush”! See’s candy! Yummy. Thanks for the compliment. I really enjoyed writing “Valentines and Tumbleweeds”. It was fun. Did you notice how Livia put a tumbleweed heart on the cover? So cool. Big hugs from Texas, my friend, P

  7. My hubby once gave me a bouquet of purple flowers & a box of chocolate with nuts! He knew that I only eat the ones with the nuts in them anyway, & purple is my favorite color!

    1. Hi Maria, how cool! Purple flowers and chocolates. That is so sweet. I love chocolates with nuts, too, except I cannot eat pecans. Love almonds and cashews. Hope you have a great evening. Hugs, Phyliss

  8. Give me a box filled with chocolates and nuts. Especially if it dark chocolate almond bark and I will be a happy Valentine.

    1. Hi Kathleen. I love dark chocolate best of all. Almond bark dark chocolate sounds wonderful, I’ll have to check it out. Hugs, Phyliss

  9. Hi Phyliss. It’s always fun to get a peek at another writer’s process. When it comes to finding names for my characters, one of the places I look, as ghoulish as it may sound, is in cemeteries. One can find very interesting names – both first and last names- on old tombstones

    1. Hi Miss Winnie. I love to see how another author puts their stories together. Tombstones for names aren’t ghoulish at all. Just this week, one of my friends told me that she and her D/H go through cemeteries for any names from the 1800’s, so it’ll be accurate. Linda and I have visited a number of cemeteries and had fun reading the names. Have a great evening, my friend. Phyliss

  10. Phyliss, I just loved reading about your writing process. This was a story that was filled with not only sweets, but true love! OF COURSE! LOL

    All through my growing up years, my dad would buy my mom, me, and my two older sisters our very own boxes of Valentine candy. That’s one of my very best memories–how he’d come in on Valentine’s Day and put them all across the mantle with a card on each one. So thoughtful, and it always made each of us feel so special that he’d picked out the card and beautiful heart-shaped (usually covered in fabric!) box filled with chocolates. Of course, for many years, mine was the smallest, because I was the BABY of the family–my sisters were only 2 years apart from one another and 10 and 12 when I was born, so theirs were a size bigger than mine, but Mom always got the biggest, most gorgeous box of candy. My favorites out of those boxes have always been and will always be the caramels.

    I love this cover for your single sell story from Hearts and Spurs!

    I love names, too, like you–we’ve talked about that before–I’m very careful about names, too, in my stories.

    Hugs, dear friend, and a VERY Happy Valentine’s Day to you!
    Cheryl

    1. Hi my friend, Cheryl. That’s so sweet about your memories of Valentines with your father. Bob used to get the girls a box of candy for Valentine’s Day. Now they have their own honeys to get them goodies. I love to send cards to my granddaughters. I love my cover too. Such talented ladies you have over at PRP. Thanks and you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, too. Hugs, Phyliss

  11. I have to say I do love chocolate, but I don’t get it often for Valentine’s Day

    1. Hi Quilt Lady, I know it’s a little bit better when your honey gives you chocolate, but if I were you, if hints don’t work, then I’d buy my own and eat all I want! Hugs, Phyliss

  12. Phyliss, you are bad for my waistline. I had to keep raiding the fridge for chocolate while I read your story! 😀

    I used to love getting heart-shaped boxes of Whitman’s Sampler chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I’ll bet if I looked, there would be some in the stores right now.

    Thanks for sharing some of your “process” with us, sweetheart. What a fun read!

    All my best, and BIG HUGS!!!!

    1. Hi Kathleen. Have I ever told you that I have a Kathleen? My book was “yummy” to write LOL. Eating chocolate to keep me in the spirit of valentines before Christmas could be the reason. Like you, I love the heart shaped boxes of chocolates. Since I’m diabetic, I ordered sugar free chocolate covered cherries and they should be here for Valentine’s Day. I thought some of the ladies who don’t write might like to know a little about the process we go through. You never know we might have a readers that’ll decide to be a writer! Take care, my friend, and have a great evening. Hugs, Phyliss

  13. I love this post, Phyliss! And I’m right ther with you. I slipped my paternal Grandma and Grandpa into TOUCH OF TEXAS. They were the couple the villain found” after their wagon broke down. They helped, but just enough to be Christian. Rosa was my grandma to a ‘T.’

    Congratulations on your single release of Tumbleweeds and Valentines!

  14. Hi Tracy, isn’t it fun to have a family member who just hits the spot for a character in a book? In book #2 of the Kasota Spring series, I used Bob’s granddad as my mindset as the mayor. His grandfather was mayor of Clayton, NM, and he just hit the spot, but I didn’t know it until I began writing him. I used one of the founders family names, but his first name is the same as my character. It was fun. Thanks for the congrats! I hope everybody will read it for Valentine’s and give it to their loved one. Have a great evening, my friend. Hugs, Phyliss

  15. I really liked your story in the Valentine anthology. Isn’t is great to have those resource books handy dandy? I don’t know what I would do without mine. I love looking up this old west stuff.
    I’m not a big chocolate fan. My favorite Valentine candy is those heart shaped red gum drop type candies–and of course the heart shaped marshmallow peeps.
    All the best to you, Phyliss.

  16. Thanks for the enlightening post. We readers do often wonder how an author comes up with certain part of their books. I am sure this will be another good story. The two ladies who have won it will enjoy.

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