Okay, I made it home from the Romance Writers of America national convention in Atlanta last month without melting.
I”d been warned about the humidity, but it wasn’t so bad. Honest. And I even
managed a bit of sightseeing. I mean, any self-respecting romance writer simply must visit the Margaret Mitchell House.
Actually it was in a small, first floor apartment inside this house where Margaret decided to “try writing a book” while healing up from a foot injury that kept her from her newspaper reporter job.
Hmmm. Try writing a
The book of all fiction books? The first book I tried writing is, well, I think it’s stuffed in the attic somewhere. Those were the days when that dinosaur called “the typewriter” didn’t save or print anything. No matter, the tale is garbage. But Margaret’s typewriter can be worshipped today in the apartment. It might be a reasonable facsimile thereof, though. Nonetheless, the miracle machine produced
her One and Only Book. Sheesh.
She wrote the last chapter first. When a publisher visited,
wanting to see her work, she first refused. Then gathered up the manilla envelopes
stuffed throughout the place, each one holding a chapter.
Talk about a pantser. Oh, a pantser who never got rejected.
Sheesh some more.
Supposedly some parts of the book are autobiographical. A suitor with the initials C.H. did die in the war. (WWI) She married one man while in love with another, hubby’s best friend. (No matter, it all worked out.) She
didn’t have kids because, well, Scarlett didn’t think much of motherhood either. Remember her little unwanted Wade and Ella? I always thought SO MUCH of
Rhett for liking those kids.
Of course I was unable to resist purchasing the massive hardback copy as a souvenir. I think it added six pounds
to my luggage weight, but the airport didn’t say a thing.
Oh, the day I visited was a first-rate, hot Atlanta day. Therefore, I also purchased a MM bottle of water proudly wearing
the taglline “I’ll Never be Thirsty Again.”
All right, today you must answer this gut-wrenching question in order to get in a name draw for a copy of my latest release, Midnight Bride. (print for U.S. residents only, please. International guests, PDF or Kindle.)
Who’s your LEAST favorite character in GWTW? (If I’d said
favorite, y’all would pick Melanie. I decided to kick things up a notch.) And
please tell me why.
Now, about Midnight Bride. This is a couple who does give a
damn about each other. Forced to marry or else lose the ranch they both think
they own, Jed and Carrie fight off falling in love while she searches for her
late granddaddy’s will. Hoping to prove her bridegroom is an imposter. And of course
deep down, she doesn’t want any such thing…
He stood in the doorway, hatless just like
he’d been in the mercantile. And just as breathtaking. In one hand he held a bunch of Miss Mattie
Price’s iceberg roses tied with a lavender bow.
From the other hand hung a hatbox from
Gosling’s Mercantile. The lilac shawl she had admired was draped over his
Without a word, he walked over to her and laid the shawl gently across
her shoulders. She had stopped breathing. His eyes locked with hers, and while
she couldn’t read the message in his gaze, she found she couldn’t turn her own
away. When he held the flowers to her determinedly, she had no choice but to
“Take off that mourning bonnet,” he told
her in such a way that it didn’t seem like an order. While she did so, he
opened the hatbox.
Within a half minute, the beautiful purple
chapeau she had fingered lovingly not fifteen minutes ago rested on her head.
He tied the bow jauntily under her chin, then all but snapped his heels
together as he stood in front of her.
“I’m Jed Jones,” he announced. “Your
Carrie’s lips opened but no words came
out. Not knowing what to say or what else to do, she untied the bonnet’s
bow. He never stopped looking at her.
From the corner of her eye, she could see the older men in half-standing postures
like they hoped to escape any second. However, she knew them well, knew they
wouldn’t leave her all alone.
Suddenly she found her voice, willing it
not to tremble.
“My bridegroom? I beg your pardon. What on
earth are you saying?” She turned toward the judge. “Is this about that
‘notorious’ authentic document?
Judge Jacobson was nodding, somewhat
defeated, while the sheriff pulled at his scrawny beard.
When neither spoke, her supposed
bridegroom took up the call.
“It’s true, Miss Zacaria Smith. If you
don’t marry me by midnight tonight, the Lazy J-Z will be deeded to the Mother
of Mercy Orphanage outside San Antone.”
Then he took her hand, placing his lips
against the inside of her wrist.
Hi y’all! Today I’m writing about Cowboy Action Shooting, one of the fastest growing segments of the shooting sports. This sport has been around since the 1970s when a group of California shooters began shooting “cowboy style.” The idea grew and spread, leading to the formation of SASS (Single Action Shooting Society). Today, SASS in an international organization with over 50,000 members, with my husband being one of them. SASS members share a common interest in preserving the history of the Old West and competitive shooting.
One of the unique aspects of Cowboy Action Shooting is the requirement regarding costuming. During competition, competitors are required to wear an Old West costume of some sort. Clothing may be historically accurate for the late 19th century or may just be suggestive of the Old West. My husband wears pin-striped pants with suspenders, a shirt with no collar, cowboy boots and hat. SASS puts a great deal of emphasis on costuming because it adds so much to the uniqueness of the game and helps create a festive, informal atmosphere that supports the friendly, fraternal feeling that is encouraged in the competitors.
Each participant is required to adopt a shooting alias appropriate to a character or profession of the late 19th century, a Hollywood western star, or an appropriate character from fiction. An alias cannot be duplicated and cannot be confused with another member’s alias. My husband’s alias is The Salinas Kid. He chose the name because he was born in Salinas, California.
SASS/CAS requires competitors to use firearms typical of the mid-to-late 19th century. Competition in a match generally requires four guns: two period single-action revolvers (holstered), a 12-gauge shotgun, and a lever action rifle of the type in use prior to 1899. There are specific standards for ammunition.
Competition involves a number of separate shooting scenarios known as stages. Each stage typically requires 10 revolver rounds, 9-10 rifle rounds, and 2-8 shotgun rounds. Typically, targets are steel plates that clang when hit. In some stages, steel knockdown plates or clay birds are used. Some elaborate stages include props, such as chuck wagons, stagecoaches, oak barrels, swinging saloon doors, jail cells, etc. Each match is different, but all are timed events.
Another important piece of equipment every cowboy action shooter needs is a cart for toting around his or her firearms and ammo in. Some carts are elaborate (i.e. cactus, tombstone, stagecoach) and are art forms in their own right. But most people are satisfied with a basic 3-wheeled buggy. That’s what my husband has, and it does the job just fine.
As Cowboy Action Shooting has evolved, the members have developed and adopted an attitude called “The Spirit of the Game.” It is a code by which they live. Competing in “The Spirit of the Game” means the member fully participates in what the competition asks: dressing the part, using the appropriate guns and ammo, and respecting the traditions of the Old West. If you haven’t checked out an event, I encourage you to do so. It’s as much fun to watch as it is to participate.
Thanks for stopping by today. And thanks to the fillies for having me back. Anyone who leaves a comment will be entered in the contest to win a hardback copy of my newest release, “A Haunted Twist of Fate.”
Feel free to check out my website for what’s Coming Soon: “Big Sky” February 10, 2012 and “Tularosa
Moon” sometime in 2012, both from The Wild Rose Press.
While on vacation recently, my husband and I spent a morning visiting the Arizona Cowboy Shooters Association in action. Every second Saturday, enthusiasts of period weapons, dedicated to preserving and promoting the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting gather together to talk history, weapons and shooting.
The Single Action Shooting Society–SASS–is for folks who “…share a common interest in preserving the history of the Old West and competitive shooting.” [SASS website, www.sassnet.com.] There are clubs all in all fifty states, andCanada,New Zealand, Europe,Australia andSouth Africa, too.
Personally, spending a Saturday or two a month enjoying the sport of shooting sounds like a lot of fun. And every club member we met agreed. The day consists of target shooting with revolvers, a shotgun, and a lever-action rifle.
“Cowboy Action Shooting is a multi-faceted shooting sport in which contestants compete with firearms typical of those used in the taming of the Old West: single action revolvers, pistol caliber lever action rifles, and old time shotguns.” [www.sassnet.com]
Every member of the ACSA carried reproduction or original period firearms. There were Colt Peacemakers,Winchester1873s, Model No. 3 “Russians” (pictured to the left), Model 1873 repeating rifles, 1866 “Yellow Boys”… You name it, someone was probably carrying it.
We saw 1897 pump-action and 1887 lever-action shotguns–that one “Terminator” fans would recognize–and lots of double-barreled or side-by-side Coach guns.
There were stations set up on the range, with different targets, arrangements and distances. At one station, participants emptied both revolvers at steel gunslinger- shaped targets, or “steels,” then switched to their rifles and pinged off nine shots at five dinner-plate sized targets from 10 yards away. At the next station, the targets were 25 yards away. And at another, knocking down one “steel” tossed a clay target into the air. Bonus points were awarded for shattering it. There’s also a long-range rifle competition, but we didn’t get up early enough to observe that.
Another fun aspect of the sport is that every participant got to be someone else for a day. “One of the unique aspects of SASS approved Cowboy Action Shooting™ is the requirement placed on costuming. Each participant is required to adopt a shooting alias appropriate to a character or profession of the late 19th century, a Hollywoodwestern star, or an appropriate character from fiction. Their costume is then developed accordingly. Many event participants gain more enjoyment from the costuming aspect of our sport than from the shooting competition, itself. Regardless of a SASS member’s individual area of interest, SASS events provide regular opportunities for fellowship and fun with like-minded folks and families.” [www.sassnet.com]
For sheer fun while shooting, you’d be hard pressed to beat Cowboy Action Shooting. Unless it was mounted cowboy action shooting–but that’s for another post.
I’ve read lots of books in which The Grange played a big part of the story. But it wasn’t until I recently read it in a romance novel that I decided I wanted to find out more about the organization. Before now, everything I knew about it I could put in a thimble. That’s to bluntly say I didn’t know squat.
I found out The Grange is a shortened version of the original name-National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. Having been around for 143 years it’s one of the oldest organizations in the U.S.
It was formed by Oliver Hudson Kelley in 1867. He recognized a need for the farmers to band together. The purpose in the beginning was to provide educational events and social gatherings that were meant to relieve the tedium and isolation of farm life.
But with the Panic of 1873, The Grange became very important and eventually was transformed into a huge political force.
1873 saw a severe financial depression. The New York Stock Exchange closed for ten days. Credit dried up. Foreclosures were common and banks failed. The farmer suffered more than anyone. If his crops made he couldn’t sell them. Without selling them he lost his farm. Is it just me or does this resemble the circumstances this country has had to deal with in the last two years? Strange how history repeats itself.
Farmers in the 1800’s were plagued by low prices for products, growing indebtedness, and discriminating practices by railroads.
Oliver Kelley and his fellow Grange members decided to wage a war against monopolies, especially railroads which almost totally handled shipping of crops to market. At the time, there were only a handful of railroad companies so they charged outlandish prices for their services. The farmers saw that railroads had a stranglehold on the American economy, especially American agriculture.
By banding together during the 1870’s, the Grangers were able to advocate some crucial programs.
Cooperative purchasing as a means to lower prices on farm machinery & supplies
Pooling money to combat dependence on corrupt banks
Cooperative grain elevators which enabled the farmer to hold non-perishable crops until prices rose
Forming The Grange demonstrated that farmers were capable of organizing and changing the political arena.
When The Grange first came into being under Oliver Kelley, they borrowed rituals and symbols from Freemasonry, including secret meetings, oaths, and passwords. Elected officers opened and closed each meeting and there were 7 degrees of Grange membership. During the last few decades, The Grange has moved toward public meetings and no longer meets in secret.
An interesting fact: They were one of the first formal groups to admit women and gave them equality with men. And there was no age limit on any members of either sex; they ranged from young to old.
Another interesting fact: The Grange was responsible for rural mail delivery.
The Grange is still in operation today. In 2005 they were 300,000 members strong.
Today the Grange provides valuable assistance when government can’t and individuals aren’t strong enough. The organization focuses on building community and people. I imagine they’ll be around as long as there are farmers.
The idea for my September 2010 release A Suitor for Jenny lurked in a dusty Kansas museum. While rifling through old newspaper clippings I came across a meeting notice for “The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Male Independence.” I have no idea what happened to the group or even if they succeeded in remaining single, but I know a book idea when I see it and I pounced.
From that clipping came the idea to have my heroine Jenny Higgins breeze into a town of confirmed or unsuitable bachelors looking for husbands for her two sisters. Fireworks, anyone?
What’s Good For the Goose…
Apparently men weren’t the only ones concerned about independence. In 1861, fifty ladies of the first Church of Milford in New York formed a society of old maids. It cost five dollars to join the group and members had to vow never to marry. The interest earned from the money paid for the annual dinner, with the principal going to the woman who remained unmarried the longest.
According to an article in the New York Times thirty years later in 1891 all but fifteen of the original fifty had married. By then the prize money had risen to a thousand dollars. I’ve not been able to find the winner’s name—if, indeed, there was one— but the best part of being a writer is where real life fails, inspiration takes over. Yep, you guessed it; the title of my next series is The Spinster Pact.
Of course not all old meeting notices stir the creative juices and some, like the “Society for the Prevention of People Being Buried Alive,” give me the willies, but they do provide a fascinating insight into the times.
One thing that is clear in reading old newspapers is that women wishing to volunteer outside the home in the early 1800s had little choice but to join an auxiliary of men’s fraternal orders and mutual aid associations. This changed after the Civil War when women became obsessed with academic and cultural pursuits and joined literary, music, art, language, history or science clubs by droves.
Robert? Who’s Robert and What’s He Doing in a Women’s Club?
According to old newspapers, these fledgling women’s clubs could be pretty chaotic as most early club members knew to “gown well” and wear good millinery but didn’t have a clue as to Robert and his rules.
An interesting article written by a club woman’s husband for the New York Tribune in 1910 set this writer’s muse on fire. He wrote: “From what I gather, I can see Robert himself aghast at what his well intentioned rules of order can do to a women’s club. What was originally intended to be oil for the wheels turns out to be a gigantic obstruction that can throw a meeting out of gear so that it never does right itself. Robert’s Rules of order become rules of disorder.”
Apparently, he didn’t exaggerate. In “American Women’s History” Doris Weatherford writes,”The mechanics of organizing—writing by-laws, electing officers and engaging in structured debate was new to most women.” This explains why the first meeting of the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention was conducted by a man. “A crucial factor in the success of future meetings was the participation of a large number of Quaker women, who had long conducted meetings separate from men.”
In the early days of women’s clubs there was a reporter at every keyhole, no doubt waiting for some poor woman to prove herself inept. By the end of the 19th century, however, newspapers all but ignored clubs (except for the antics of the suffrage movement). Before a club could get newspaper coverage there would have to be, as one woman lamented—a regular hair-pulling.
A Women’s Place is Any Place She Wants it to be. So there!
Club women took a lot of heat and were often accused of neglecting their families. In an 1898 San Francisco Call article titled “Are Women’s Clubs Harmful to the Home?” Dr. George Fitch wrote: “Women’s clubs are one of the last milestones toward national destruction, the goal toward which this nation is at present rapidly journeying.
Disorder may have been the rule in those early women’s clubs but this provided valuable training and experience that paid off in later years when women banded full force to fight for Suffrage and Temperance.
Yes, indeed, those early meeting notices tell us much about the times and its people, just as present day clubs and organizations mirror today’s world. A hundred years from now, scholars will only have to look at the Tea Party movement, for example, to get a feel for the country’s current political mood (and what do you think the “Association of Pet Obesity Prevention” will say about us?).
However, even the most creative writer of the future may be challenged to draw inspiration from “The Dull Man’s Club,” whose only requirements for joining is to admit that you’re dull and a vow to keep it that way. And who in their right mind would want to write about a hero belonging to the “Society of Explosive Engineers?” On the other hand, if the muse calls…