Tag: www.cherylpierson.com

FIRE EYES REVISITED! Everything Old is New Again!

Three years ago this month, my debut western historical romance, FIRE EYES, was published by The Wild Rose Press. I was thrilled! Finally, my dream had come true, with the help of a wonderful editor and publishing company.

When I got my first box of books, I sat and gazed at the covers—just like any first time author would. My husband teased me about “rubbing off the paint”—but I was so proud of them, and justifiably so. A lot of very hard work had gone into that story, not just
from my perspective, but also from many other people. My editor at The Wild Rose Press, Helen Andrew, was wonderful. She really explained in detail why certain things couldn’t stand and had to go or be changed.

But part of what ‘had to go’ was important to the story, in my mind. Still, there were company guidelines to be followed, and neither of us could do anything about that. So we worked together to find a way to take out the parts that made it more “western” than “romance” and still came out with a fine story.

However, this spring, I asked for my rights back for FIRE EYES and got them, and submitted the story to another small publisher who has an imprint for westerns and western romances.  I was able to re-edit the book and add in much of what I’d had to take out or rewrite in the first version, and it was released yesterday with a brand new Jimmy Thomas cowboy cover and lots of renewed interest.

The e-book version is available now at Amazon, Lulu, Monkeybars and many other e-book retailers, and will become available soon at Barnes and Noble, Sony and Apple.

Here are the links for Smashwords and Amazon:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/162817 

http://www.amazon.com/Fire-Eyes-ebook/dp/B0083JYET8

The print version will become available within the week, and again, I’m very happy
about breathing new life into this wonderful story. Once I am able to order my
print copies, I’m sure I’ll sit on the floor and ‘rub the paint off’ again. And
I’ll be grateful that I’ve had two chances to get my story out there—another
thrill, a second time around!

I’LL BE GIVING AWAY A COPY OF FIRE EYES TODAY! JUST LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE ENTERED IN THE DRAWING, ALONG WITH YOUR CONTACT INFO.

EXCERPT FROM FIRE EYES:

“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”

Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.

His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”

Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath, and try not to move.”

He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”

She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”

“Go ahead.”

Even knowing what was coming, his voice sounded smoother than hers, she thought. She wrapped her hand tightly around the metal and pulled up fast, as he’d asked.

As the metal slid through his flesh, Kaed’s left hand moved convulsively, his fingers gripping the quilt. He was unable to hold back the soft hint of an agonized groan as he turned away from her. He swore as the thick steel pin cleared his skin, freeing the chambray shirt and cotton undershirt beneath it, blood spraying as his teeth closed solidly over his bottom lip.

Jessica lifted the material away, biting back her own curse as she surveyed the damage they’d done to him. His chest was a mass of purple bruises, uneven gashes, and burns. Her stomach turned over. She was not squeamish. But this—

It was just like what they’d done to Billy, before they’d killed him. Billy, the last man the Choctaws had dumped on her porch. Billy Monroe, the man she’d come to loathe during their one brief year of marriage.

She took a washrag from the nightstand and wet it in the nearby basin. Wordlessly, she placed her cool palm against Kaedon Turner’s stubbled, bruised cheek, turning his head toward her so she could clean his face and neck.

She knew instinctively he was the kind of man who would never stand for this if it wasn’t necessary. The kind of man who was unaccustomed to a woman’s comforting caress. The kind of man who would never complain, no matter how badly wounded he was.

“Fallon.” His voice was rough.

Jessica stopped her movements and watched him. “What about him?”

His brows drew together, as if he were trying to formulate what he wanted to say. “Is he…dead?”

What should she tell him?

The truth.

“I—don’t know.”

“Damn it.”

“You were losing a lot of blood out there,” Jessica said, determined to turn his thoughts from Fallon to the present. She ran the wet cloth lightly across the long split in his right cheek.

His breathing was controlled, even. “I took a bullet.” He said it quietly, almost conversationally.

Jessica stopped moving. “Where?”

I NEED TO WRITE THAT DOWN

Every so often, I teach a class called “Writing Your Life Story.” Most of the people who are there for classes are senior citizens, who, for the most part, have been urged by family members to come.

As they introduce themselves, it goes something like this:  “I’m Jane Doe, and I’m here because my children keep telling me I need to write this all down—but I don’t know where to begin.”

My first assurance to them all is that they don’t need to write like Laura Ingalls Wilder—their families will be thrilled with anything they put down on paper.  It’s amazing to me how many people don’t feel they have anything of interest to tell their descendants!

I want to tell you about my parents, because they were the epitome of opposites when it came to this. My mother told stories from the time I can remember about her family, about her friends, the small town she grew up in. These were details of an ordinary life that gave me insight into the way times were during the Dustbowl days in Oklahoma. It told me about her life in particular and life in general, and it also brought people I never knew to reality for me through her memories.

Mom had a dear friend, just her age, named Mary. They were both the eldest of their respective families, each with many younger siblings that they were responsible for. Mom mentioned how she and Mary both longed for an d cherished the few times when they could be alone to talk “girl talk” without each having two or three little ones they had to look after.

One of their favorite places to go was the cemetery. They’d both been born in Albany, so they knew the stories of everyone buried there in the small cemetery: The Taylor family, whose six children went berry picking, only to take shelter under an oak tree when a storm blew up suddenly. Lightning struck the tree and killed all by tow of them. The oldest boy crawled to a nearby farmhouse for help, but died later. Out of the six, only one survived. There were no markers on their graves, but Mom showed me where each was buried.

Another grave she showed me was that of a young child who, at eighteen months, crawled under the porch and drank tree poison his father had believed was well-hidden. Mom told me how his lips were stained purple She and Mary had gone to the funeral and it was imprinted in her mind forever.

Christmases were sparse in that time. It was a good Christmas if they each received and apple, and orange, and some hard candy in their stockings, and maybe a doll, in addition, in the better-then-most years. I wrote a story called SILVER MAGIC for an Adams Media Christmas anthology about something she told me. They’d brought home a Christmas tree that particular year, and one of her younger brothers had suggested maybe then could have some tinsel…My grandfather went into the shed and hand-cut tinsel and a star from the foil covering of an old battery. What a thrill that was for them! Yet, who would ever dream that was something that could be done, now, in our world of buy-it-already made?

From Mom I learned about our family ancestors—where they’d come from and who they were. As a child, I thought of them as a story she told, but as I grew older, they became real people to me.

I learned about her, too—how, as a teen, she’d pool her hard-earned money with her younger sister, Joyce, to buy the newest Hit Parade Magazine with all the lyrics to the latest songs. They had sung together from the time they knew how, adding more harmonies as more sisters came along.

My dad never talked about his adolescence much. Even though he and Mom grew up together in the same small community, he never had much to add to the conversations. What I know of his family, I learned mostly from my aunt, his younger sister.

Why write it all down now? Because most people never believe they’ll run out of time. “Someday” never comes. My mom had such fascinating stories, filled with tenderness, charged with emotion—stories that made it seem as if I was there along with her as she spoke. She was a painter, an artist, and she could paint pictures with her words, as well.

Mom always had good intentions, but like so many, never found the time before it was too late, and Altzheimer’s took away that ability.

I will write it all down…all that I can remember of it. But I can’t help thinking how I wish she had written her story, with all the vivid details and description she used in telling about it. There is so much I won’t know. So much will be lost, simply because this was her life.

The memories are hers: the hard times, as well as the good—the days in an everyday life…and, the nights, when entertainment was nothing more than the beautiful harmonies of the four little girls, floating in the summer stillness for miles as they sang on the front porch…in a much simpler, slower time.

If you are interested in getting started on writing your life story, or know someone who is, I will be glad to e-mail you some questions that I use in my classes to help you get started. Just contact me at fabkat_edit@yahoo.com

Cheryl’s Amazon Author Page: 

 

TWO NEW RELEASES! (AND A GIVEAWAY OR TWO!)

Today, I’m blogging about my two most recent releases, JASON’S ANGEL and EVERY GIRL’S DREAM. In case these titles sound familiar to you, they are historical short stories that were both previously released in anthologies with Victory Tales Press. JASON’S ANGEL appeared last year in A HISTORICAL COLLECTION, and EVERY GIRL’S DREAM appeared in A WESTERN SAGA.

I’m excited about both of these being released as “stand alone” stories, selling at only .99 each! And since this is “read an e-book” week…I’m giving away two copies of JASON’S ANGEL today! Please leave a comment along with your contact info and you will be entered—it’s that simple.

Jason’s Angel takes on several issues with the society of that time. The story takes place just as the War Between the States is winding down. Jason McCain wears Union blue, but speaks with a Georgia accent. To make things even more difficult, he’s half Cherokee, half Scottish! When he’s wounded and winds up at a Confederate hospital, there’s only one thing kind-hearted Sabrina Patrick can do…

Jason ‘s Angel by Cheryl Pierson

Two wounded Union soldiers will die without proper treatment. Sabrina Patrick realizes they won’t get it at the Confederate army hospital where she helps nurse wounded men. She does the unthinkable and takes them to her home.

Jason McCain’s pain is eased by the feel of clean sheets, a soft bed, and a touch that surely must belong to an angel. But what reason could an angel have for bringing him and his brother here?

EXCERPT FROM JASON’S ANGEL:  

It was only a brief touch of their lips, Sabrina told herself, and should not have caused the waves of trembling heat to rush over her.  His lips were firm and strong.  And she kissed him back.  

He’d reached up and gently pulled her to him.  As if he’d sensed her concern over Desi being in the room, he’d glanced to where she sat talking to Eli, once more engrossed in conversation, and when Sabrina had started to protest, he’d squeezed her shoulder in silent reassurance.  And she had kissed him back. 

  He’d been so gentle and—oh Lord, had Eli seen that kiss?  She had responded heartily to his brother.  She had not pushed Jason away or protested in the least.  She had welcomed it.  There was no doubt for either of them.  She had definitely kissed him back. 

As she pulled away, she opened her lids to find him watching her.  His dark eyes smoldered with desire.  But it didn’t scare her.  It excited her.  

Good Lord.  She stood quickly, her head spinning so that she almost missed her first step toward the door.  When had she last eaten?  That had to be the cause of her unsteadiness.  But why was her heart pounding so frantically?  It was only a kiss.  One kiss.  

But she had kissed him back.

 

EVERY GIRL’S DREAM

Do you believe in love at first sight?  Can it happen?  More importantly, can it last over the long haul of the ups and downs of a relationship?

Throw in a few obstacles from the very first meeting of the hero/heroine, and the relationship becomes even more intriguing.

In my novella, EVERY GIRL’S DREAM, that’s just what happens.

Sheena McTavish, a young Irish girl, has been raped by the son of her father’s employer. Now, with a baby on the way, Sheena is given an unthinkable choice:  give her baby to the father’s wealthy family to raise, or travel to New Mexico Territory by stagecoach to live with her aunt and uncle until her child is born.  At that point, she will have to place it in a nearby orphanage.

Desperate to buy some time and protect her baby from its father, she chooses to travel west.  Alone and afraid, she starts on the journey that will change her life forever.  Before Sheena’s stage leaves, she meets handsome Army scout Callen Chandler.  The attraction is there, even under difficult conditions.

As the story progresses, Sheena must learn to trust again, and Cal begins to realize he doesn’t have to live the solitary existence he’s endured up to now.  Being half Comanche has left him with no place in either world—white or Indian.  When Sheena comes along, everything changes…for both of them.

TO SET THE SCENE:

Cal is a half-breed U.S. Army scout, who has just rescued Sheena, the heroine, from a Kiowa attack on the stagecoach she was in. They had met briefly the morning before, and as luck would have it, Cal comes upon the stage after the Kiowas have attacked and are getting ready to ride away with Sheena. He tells them he and Sheena are married and the Kiowas reluctantly let him take Sheena, but then… 

Cal felt…something.  His back tingled as he waited for the stinging burn of a shale arrowhead.  He risked a glance backward, and saw the Kiowa leader’s stare heavy upon him. “Sheena, hold on tight.”

“The baby—”

“I know, sweetheart.  We won’t ride hard any longer’n we have to.   Lowell’s Ridge is only about four miles away.” A very long four miles.

She nodded in understanding.  “I’m sorry, Callen.”

“No call for that.”

“You came for me.”

He smiled at that.  There was a small amount of disbelief in her tone, overshadowed by a huge amount of wonder.  Who wouldn’t come for her?

“You could be killed because of me,” she said softly, as if she had only just realized it.  She laid her hand over his, and in that moment, he wondered if dying for her would be worth the twenty-seven years he’d lived so far.

His heart jumped at her touch, then steadied.  But as he risked another glance back, he saw exactly what he’d feared.  Two of the braves were mounting up, and they weren’t riding the opposite way.  “That still might happen,” he murmured.

He leaned forward, trying to protect Sheena with his body as he slapped the reins against the horse’s side, urging him into a lope, then a full-out run.

The Kiowas were close behind them.  There must have been dissension among them. The leader had seemed content to let him take Sheena and ride away.  One of the others must have disagreed with that decision.

Cal reached to pull his revolver from his holster.

They were strangely quiet, he thought. 

The first bullet cracked from behind them, and Cal reflexively bent lower.  The bullet whined past his ear like an angry bee.

Sheena gasped.  He fired off a shot and got lucky.  One of the warriors screamed in agony and fell from his saddle.  But the other rode low, hanging onto the side of his mount. And he kept right on coming.

The next bullet sang over Cal’s head.  He concentrated on eating up the miles to Lowell’s Ridge.  Riding double was slowing them down considerably.  Sheena’s body was tense beneath the shelter of his own.  Fragile, but strong.  Delicate, but determined.  His hand splayed over her stomach, holding her close, cradling her from the jarring of their wild ride.

A whoop from behind them accompanied the crack of a rifle, and this time, the Kiowa warrior’s bullet found its mark.  A bolt of fire seared through Cal’s right shoulder, and for a minute, the pain was so strong he almost sawed back on the reins. But at his harsh curse, Sheena glanced up at him, her hand instantly clamping tightly over his. The reins were still wrapped in his fingers, but Sheena kept her hand on his, reminding him to let the horse have his head and continue their flight for freedom.

“Hang on, Cal!”

The pain was so breathtaking he could do nothing but nod his understanding.

“Dammit!” she cursed.  That almost made him smile, but the agony in his shoulder surged up and stole his breath again as the horse’s hooves pounded the ground below.

The road was not much more than a trail, and where it narrowed, branches reached out to scrape and snarl in hair and clothing, scratching their faces as they blindly rode toward safety.

As they broke through the brambles and low limbs into the clearing on the other side of the wooded section of road, Cal glimpsed the steeple of the church, then in a moment, the rooftops of houses.

He glanced behind him to see the Kiowa had stopped.  He was taking careful, deadly aim with the Winchester he held. “Christ,” Cal muttered.  “Keep down, Sheena.”    

         JASON’S ANGEL is available now at Amazon and other e-book retailers.

http://www.amazon.com/Jasons-Angel-ebook/dp/B007H14KGU/

 DON’T FORGET TO LEAVE YOU CONTACT INFO ALONG WITH A COMMENT TO BE ENTERED TO WIN JASON’S ANGEL!

 EVERY GIRL’S DREAM WILL BE AVAILABLE BY THE END OF THE WEEK, AS WELL! If you enjoy anthologies, you might be interested in these:

ANYONE LIKE CHICKEN SOUP?

Hi everyone,

I wanted to let you all know that I have a new release coming up in a few days with Chicken Soup for the Soul. This book is sub-titled “Messages From Heaven”, and the description reads like this: “The 101 true and miraculous stories in this book of signs and messages from beyond show that death may take away the physical presence of our loved ones, but not their spirit. This book is for everyone, religious or secular, as regular people share their amazing experiences with the other side.” It’s available now for pre-order and will be on sale on February 28.

My story in this collection is called “A TOUCH FROM HEAVEN” and is about something that happened after my mother passed away in 2008, just three weeks after my dad passed in December that let me know she was still there with me, still watching over me. On three separate occasions, I knew she was beside me by something that happened. Many months later, my sister asked me if I had experienced “anything” since Mom had passed. “Like what?” I asked her.  “She called my name,” my sister said, “and it was so clear that I … I answered her!” I could tell it was hard for her to talk to me about it, because it sounded so odd. But when I told her about my experiences, we knew there was no doubt that Mom had been with us each time.  This book has lots of varied stories about comforting, uplifting occurrences that have happened after a loved one has passed on.

This experience gave me an idea for another fictional western story that I started on not long after I wrote this story for the Chicken Soup collection, and I know that is another bit of encouragement from my mom.

Do you have a story to share about something similar that might have happened to you? I’d love to hear it if you do!

I also have two other stories in another Chicken Soup collection, CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE EMPTY NESTERS SOUL, an insightfull anthology of stories about those of us who are going through the period of learning to live without our kids, and not just necessarily when it’s time to go to college.

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: MESSAGES FROM HEAVEN may be ordered at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_27?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=chicken+soup+messages+from+heaven&sprefix=chicken+soup+messages+from+%2Caps%2C257

BREAKING THE RULES

If you’re like me, you have a few rules for writing–and for reading.  In my writing there are some things I would “never” do. Here’s a list of a the top three:

Rule #1 – I never write in first person.

Rule #2 – I never write from a child’s point of view.

Rule #3 – I always have romance somewhere in my stories.

 Well…one out of three ain’t bad.

 I threw Rule #1 out the window when I picked up my pen and started my latest release, Kane’s Redemption. I wrote Kane’s Redemption in first person. It’s the first work of fiction I’ve ever written from this perspective, and after I wrote it, I knew there would be two more of these novellas to follow. There was no better way to tell this story of young Will Green and Jacobi Kane – and the secret that stands between them. 

Will is a child when the story begins, but a young man by the conclusion. So, I guess you could say I broke my own “Rule #2” as well. But there are some stories that have to be told by the child, to take hold of the innocence that only a child possesses and manages to hold on to in the face of reality. Who could have told Scout’s story better than Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird? No one. She was the perfect character to tell us what was happening and the perfect filter for us to see for ourselves those things she couldn’t put into words. Through her eyes, we saw everything. I knew that Will had to tell the story of what happened to him and how Jacobi Kane rescued him…and what happened afterward.

Growing up in the 1800’s on the prairie of the southwest would make an adult of you quickly; even quicker if you watched your entire family murdered in the space of five minutes. This story is not just about Will, though – it’s also about Jacobi Kane, who has some secrets of his own. Although he rescues Will, he wrestles with demons that can’t be fought alone – but how can Will help? In the end, who is the true rescuer – Will, or Jacobi Kane? 

Romance? Well, there’s a bit of that. But it’s the romance that comes with new beginnings and the kiss of forgiveness–sweet, touching and straight from the heart. Come to think of it, the romance in Kane’s Redemption is  a bit different from anything else I’ve ever written, too. 

This story came from somewhere deep; a place I didn’t know existed. It’s a gift I hope you will take as much pleasure in reading as I did in writing. 

Look for Book 2 in the Kane trilogy, Kane’s Promise, in the fall of 2012.

I will be giving away a copy of KANE’S REDEMPTION today! All you have to do is leave a comment, and please leave your e-mail address so I can contact you! I will leave you with the blurb and an excerpt. Hope you enjoy!

BLURB: 

A ten-year-old boy fights for his life when he is taken prisoner by a band of raiding Apache. Steeling himself for death, Will Green is shocked when a lone man walks into the Apache camp to rescue him several days later.

Driven by the secret he carries, Jacobi Kane has followed the Indians for days and needs to make his move to save the boy. With the odds stacked eight against one, his chances for success look pretty slim. But even if he’s able to rescue the boy and they get out alive, what then?

EXCERPT FROM KANE’S REDEMPTION: 

Red Eagle moved back just as fast as before and I felt my cheek burning. Blood dripped off his blade and that was it. I went after that red devil like I had lost my wits. I guess, truthfully, I had – because I don’t remember anything about it, except how good the first smash of my fist in his face felt. 

Blood ran from Red Eagle’s nose and he cried out in a snarl of anger and pain and surprise. 

I felt a pulse of energy rush through me, and I wrapped my fingers around his throat like he’d done to Mama. I tightened them and his blood streamed warm and slick over my grip. His eyes began to bulge, and I thought in another minute, maybe I could have the vengeance I had wanted so badly for the past week. 

Papa always said a man’s quick wits are sometimes his only defense. I was exultant. I may have been foolish for what I did, and I felt sure Papa and I would disagree sharply on the use of my wits. But I did what I had to do.

Suddenly, rough hands were upon me, pulling at me. But I was like a mad dog, snarling, and foaming at the mouth in my pent up anger and hatred that was finally spilling out. What a glorious opportunity! Even if I died for it, I knew I couldn’t have passed it up – whether Papa might have approved, or not. 

The Indians were all speaking at once, yelling, calling out, laughing. The moon was full, providing even more light than what the fire gave, making the night seem even hotter, as if the sun still shone on us. From somewhere in the distance of the woods beyond, I heard the call of the owls, and I knew enough Injun to know what that meant to them. 

Someone was going to die. It might be me, but I was doing my damnedest to take Red Eagle with me. 

A gunshot split the night air. “Dammit, stop it!” Hands like steel bands wrapped around my shoulders and jerked me off of Red Eagle. “Stop it!” 

I couldn’t answer. I was breathing too hard, panting like the mad dog I had become. My hands balled into fists and flexed open again and again, and my fingers were sticky with Red Eagle’s blood. My own pulse sang through my veins in a triumph I had never experienced before. 

“Boy, straighten up or you’re gonna get us both killed.” The voice was calm. I stopped struggling and looked up into the face of a white man. A white man had walked right into Red Eagle’s camp. I figured, now, those owls would have plenty more to tell – at least one more death. 

But he didn’t seem worried. He held his rifle at the ready, pointed in the general direction of the group of eight Indians that rode in Red Eagle’s band. I glanced around the half-circle of painted faces, and I couldn’t help gloating. They all looked as if they’d met up with some kind of spirit or demon more wicked than they were. And that was going some. 

“Can you ride bareback?” 

I nodded. I guessed I could, I wanted to tell him. Been doin’ it for a damn week. 

“Need help getting on?” 

I shook my head and he let me go real slow. “Pick the one you can manage best and get settled on him. Take Red Eagle’s rifle and bullets.” 

“Wait!” Red Eagle challenged. He rolled onto his side, wiping the blood from his nose. It pleased me greatly to hear that he wheezed when he spoke. “You take our horses, our weapons—” 

“I ain’t takin’ your lives, you bastard. And I ain’t takin’ all your weapons,” the big man answered in a slow drawl. “Only yours. Pitch that knife over this way, and do it easy. My trigger finger is mighty nervous tonight.”

For KANE’S REDEMPTION and all my other work, click here:

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

I love the music of Christmas. I could play it all year long if I weren’t married to Scrooge. Those songs are so uplifting and beautiful that they make me feel good just to hear them, and you can’t help but sing along with them.

 

My dad always loved Christmas, and was a great practical jokester. He delighted in making phone calls to his grandchildren, pretending to be Santa. He’d call back later on for a rundown about what happened on our end—the looks, the comments, and the joy of getting a real live phone call from Santa! One of the traditions in our house was the box of chocolate covered cherries that was always under the tree for him from my mom, a reminder of hard Christmases in years past when that might have been the only gift she could afford. Another was that our house was always filled with Christmas music.

 

I was a classically trained pianist from the time I turned seven years old. My father’s favorite Christmas carol was What Child Is This? Once I mastered it, I delighted in playing it for him because he took such pleasure in it, and since it was also the tune to another song, Greensleeves, I played it all year round for him.

 

The tune known as Greensleeves was a British drinking song for many years, a popular folk song that was not religious. In ancient Britain, there have been more than twenty different known lyrics associated with the tune throughout history. It was first published in 1652.

 

Shakespeare mentions it by name in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in which it is played while traitors are hanged. It has been attributed to King Henry VIII, and said that he wrote it for Anne Boleyn. How did this song become one of the best-loved Christmas carols of all time?

 

In 1865, Englishman William Chatterton Dix wrote “The Manger Throne,” three verses of which became “What Child Is This?” During that particular era, Christmas was not as openly celebrated as it is today. Many conservative Puritan churches forbade gift-giving, decorating or even acknowledging the day as a special day for fear that Christmas would become a day of pagan rituals more than a serious time of worship. Although Dix wrote other hymns, in the context of the times, it was unusual for him to write about Christ’s birth, since many hymn writers and religious factions ignored Christmas completely.

 

The words represent a unique view of Christ’s birth. While the baby was the focal point of the song, the point of view of the writer seemed to be that of a confused observer. Dix imagined the visitors to the manger bed wondering about the child who had just been born.  In each verse, he described the child’s birth, life, death and resurrection, answering the question with a triumphant declaration of the infant’s divinity.

 

“The Manger Throne” was published in England just as the U.S. Civil War was ending.  The song quickly made its way from Britain to the United States. Dix died in 1898, living long enough to see “The Manger Throne” become the Christmas carol “What Child Is This?”

 I’m posting some of my Christmas covers for anyone who might be needing some historical Christmas story reading over the holidays! The link appears below.

   http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002JV8GUE 

Hope everyone has a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

 

 

 

 

December 7, 1941–A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Driving down one of the busiest streets of Oklahoma City today, I noticed a flag at a local business flying at half-staff.  It was the only one on that block.  I’m sure many people wondered about it. 

But I remembered

December 7, 1941…the day the U.S. was brought into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. 

Through the years, my mother recounted tales brought home from “over there” by her relatives who enlisted.  She talked also about the rationing here at home—how difficult it was to get needed items, and how impossible it was to get luxuries.  She was 19 when the U.S. entered the war—just the very age of so many of the young men who were killed in the surprise attack on December 7, 1941.  Was there a man of that age who didn’t rush down to sign up for duty after that fateful day?  Many of her fellow students and co-workers did just that, and during the course of the next four years of war, many of them were lost. 

My father tried to sign up, but his lungs were bad.  He was turned away.  I think he was always ashamed of that, because until the day he died, he had one of the most patriotic hearts I’ve ever known.  Secretly, when I was old enough to realize what that might have meant, I was glad that he had not had to go to war.  I knew that would have changed everything in my world. 

Being as close as it was to Christmas made the deaths of the men at Pearl Harbor even more poignant.  Just done with Thanksgiving, looking forward to the Christmas holidays to come, so many young lives snuffed out in the space of minutes. Watching the documentaries, hearing the old soldiers that are left from that time talk about the horror of that day, and of war in general, brings tears to my eyes. 

 

I’m always amazed by the generations that have gone before us, and how they stood up and faced adversity when it was required of them.  Being human, as we all are, the unknown was just as frightening to them as it is to us.  We tend to forget it, somehow, because of the luxury and comforts of our modern lives that we have become used to.  We have let ourselves become numb, in a way, and what’s worse—we have forgotten.

 

We have forgotten what the generations before us sacrificed for us, their future.  We have forgotten how to honor the memory of those men and women, and what they did, individually and collectively.  

I counted flagpoles the rest of the way home from that one, lonely half-staff flag—about a mile and a half to my house.  There was only one other pole along that route that flew their flag half-staff in memory of that day seventy years ago.  A day that ended in smoke, and fire, drowning and death…and war. 

Something peculiar occurs to me.  I have been alive during the time when the last surviving widow of a veteran of The War Between The States died.  I have been alive during the time that the last survivor of World War I died.  There are not that many survivors left of World War II.  Yet, our schools pass over these huge, world-altering events as if they are nothing, devoting a page or less to them in the history texts.  Think of it.  A page or less, to tell of the suffering, the economic impact, the technological discoveries, and the loss of humanity of each of these wars. 

No wonder our society has forgotten the price paid by those who laid down their lives.  When we don’t teach our children, and learn from the past, history is bound to repeat itself.  

President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 as “a day that will live in infamy.”  That statement, spoken so boldly, believed so strongly, held so close to the hearts of that generation, is only true as long as the next generation, and the one beyond that, remembers.

 

Well, many years have passed since those brave men are gone

And those cold ocean waters now are still and they’re calm.

Well, many years have passed, but still I wonder why,

The worst of men must fight and the best of men must die.

(From REUBEN JAMES, by WOODY GUTHRIE) 

 

 

WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR?

Hi everyone. Our Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA is tomorrow. For the last several years, I have not “cooked” a big Thanksgiving dinner. With my daughter going to LA every year at that time and my son opting for McDonald’s so much of the time in the past, there just wasn’t a need to make a big dinner. Yes, my husband did complain. Every year. But he never offered to help with anything, either.  In desperation, we tried different traditions—the “Festive Fajita Party Pack” from our nearest Mexican restaurant, which is wonderful, by the way; the “Smoked Turkey Dinner and Fixin’s” from a fantabulous barbecue place we love…but of course, it wasn’t the same.

This year, my daughter will be home with us, and she wants “the dinner.” I haven’t bought my turkey—or anything else. It’s Tuesday.  I’m not stressed, though. Let me tell you why.

I have the money in the bank to buy those groceries.  So many people don’t. If I want to make sweet potato pie, I don’t have to skimp on the marshmallows. If I want to make turkey, I don’t have to worry about one brand being ten cents cheaper than the brand I really want. And best of all, I can buy both kinds of cranberry sauce, since I’m the only one in my family who really loves the whole berry kind.  So I’m very thankful for the fact that I don’t have to worry about being able to provide the menu I want to make for this holiday dinner.

I have learned to cook pretty darn well. It wasn’t always this way, believe me. My mother was a wonderful cook, but being a child of the 60’s I couldn’t have cared less about learning from her. I was happy with a hamburger (which I did learn how to make for myself) and chips. I learned how to cook only after I got married—and there were quite a few trial and error “errors” that had to be tossed. They were unsalvageable. So I’m glad that now I have learned through the years and am able to do the job right at this point.

I have the physical ability to cook. This may seem like a little thing. We gripe and complain sometimes about having to fix a meal, but I promise you, one short walk through a nursing home will make you thankful for so many things. Seeing the older people there who would give anything to be able to prepare a meal once more, or go work in their gardens, makes me realize how much I have to be thankful for—even the simple preparation of a holiday meal takes on new meaning.

I have a wonderful family. And this year they are all going to be home for Thanksgiving! So many military men and women are far away from everything familiar in dangerous situations. Families separate as children grow up and move away. It’s not always possible to get home for the holidays. And many homeless men and women have no families to go to.

I have fantastic memories of growing up, all of us gathered around my grandmother’s table, or wherever we could manage to find a place to perch with our plates. We spilled out onto the porch, into the living room, eating in shifts. Of course, the men ate first.  It was a huge gathering—my grandmother had eleven children. I have thirty-three cousins on my mother’s side of the family. When we were done there, we’d go to my dad’s side and visit. There were only eight cousins there, but two of them were boys and loved to play cowboys and Indians. What could be better? Another blessing to be thankful for—boy cousins who were just my age.

A good time was always had by all, and that was the holiday that brought everyone home to granny’s house, even if they couldn’t come at Christmas. I had a cousin, Julie, who was a few months older than I. She was my “partner in crime”. One Thanksgiving, we spotted a package of six Milky Way candy bars in the refrigerator—our favorite. With everything going on, we managed to sneak the package out, and she hid it in her jacket. We made it out the door and into the nearby woods. This was quite a trick since she had three younger siblings at the time. We ate those candy bars, three each. I can tell you, I was feeling sick when I ate that last bite. But we were so proud of ourselves for managing to get them out undetected and to actually be alone to commit the rest of the crime. When we got back to the house, our Aunt Joyce was beside herself. It turned out, she had bought those candy bars for a specific purpose—to make her “Mississippi Mud Slide Cake” that two of her brothers-in-law had requested. Of course, as eleven-year-old children, we’d never even thought that the candy bars might be needed for a recipe. We laugh about it now, but at the time, it was serious stuff.

These are only a few of the “everyday” things that I’m so thankful for. This is really just the tip of the iceberg. When we think of everything we have in this beautiful world, it’s impossible to make a list of things to be thankful for, isn’t it?

What are you thankful for this holiday? Do you have a favorite memory to share? Come on, we’d love to hear it!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!

THE SADDEST TWENTY MILES

With Veterans” Day approaching, I wanted to share these thoughts with you today. No one gives more than our military servicemen and women do.  So today, I digress from our customary discussion of books and cowboys to honor these special people by telling the story of one, 2nd Lieutenant Joe Cunningham, who would say he”s no hero…but we know better.

People say all small towns look the same.  The old brick buildings guarding the streets silently speak of the past, when they were new and full of life. The traffic light on Main Street measures the slow pace of life in increments of green, yellow and red.  Most times, the Christmas decorations go up on the streetlights after Halloween and don’t come down until the first warm day of spring.

The flag at the courthouse is no odd sight; flags in small towns are common and patriotism runs high along with societal values. The speed limit is no more than 35, and everyone knows that.  There’s no reason to rush, anyway.

My first clue that something was different about Madill that August day was the sign.  On the very far northern edge of the “city” limits someone had placed a huge banner by the side of the two-lane highway.  It stood unfurled between two wooden poles. 

“A TRUE AMERICAN HERO,” the lettering read, and below that, “2ND LT. JOE CUNNINGHAM.”  Red and blue magic marker starbursts filled the white void of the background around the letters, leaving no doubt that the banner had taken hours of loving, painstaking precision to create.

And the rockets” red glare,

The bombs bursting in air…

The banner stood as the beginning of what was to be a somber twenty miles of driving for me that day.  Only a few feet from where the banner had been placed, small roadside flags were planted in the parched Oklahoma soil. There had been no rain for weeks, and with our record-breaking number of triple-digit days, I could only imagine how hard it must have been to push those small, fragile twelve-inch sticks into the rock-hard ground at such measured intervals.

If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know Saturday mornings are the liveliest, busiest times of the week.  Not so on this Saturday morning.  As I topped the hill and the main part of town came into view, my heart skipped a beat. I had never seen such a profusion of color.  Red, white and blue—everywhere.  Flags flew from every porch, every small business, every conceivable place visible…and that could only mean one very tragic thing.

Gave proof through the night

That our flag was still there…

I slowed down to twenty-five as tears blurred my eyes.  A car pulled out in front of me a little further down the road, and I looked to my right.  The side road had been blocked off.  There were at least two hundred motorcycles parked beside the First Baptist Church.  The Patriot Guard Riders had come to pay their respects—and to be certain that everyone else did, too, should a certain crazy group of fanatics from Kansas decide to make an appearance.

Across from the motorcycles, a huge, beautiful American flag was unfurled, the field of blue lending its stars to heaven, the stripes perpendicular to the ground.  In front of that flag stood perhaps fifty lawmen of every type, a mix from both sides of the Red River, Texans and Oklahomans.

The parking lots for the businesses in the immediate area were full to overflowing, even though none of those businesses were open.  Signs filled the windows under where the flags flew: “CLOSED.  BACK AT 1:00 P.M.  REST IN PEACE, JOE.”

I stopped at the light on Main Street.  The courthouse flag was, of course, flying at half-mast.  There were no other cars on the road.  The one that had pulled out in front of me earlier had turned off a block back, at the first available parking place, a long, half-mile hike away from the church.  I was driving through a ghost town.

The signboard at the Grab & Go read, “OBAMA MAY BE PRESIDENT, BUT GOD IS STILL IN CHARGE.” Any other time, I might have smiled, but not with that small picket of flags that still sporadically lined the road, reminding me of the terrible loss this town was reeling from.

Another hand-lettered sign by the road:  “WE’LL MISS YOU, JOE.  GO WITH GOD.”

And yet, another:  “REST IN PEACE, JOE.  WE WILL NEVER FORGET.”

I drove out of Madill, headed for Kingston, another small town, a few short miles away.

Small towns, close together, are usually rivals on the high school football field and in most other things, but when all is said and done, we remember that we are, all of us, citizens of the same wonderful country, and that’s what matters—more than who wins the game on Friday night, more than which town has the best point guard on the basketball court, and more than which quarterback has better chances with the big college scouts.  As Americans, we all have equal ‘bragging rights’—we are Americans, and no other country pulls together as we do when the going gets tough.

I couldn’t think of anything, anywhere, any time being tougher than losing even one of our young men to war.  A bright smile that would never be seen again, coming through his parents’ door; two arms that could never open to hug his best girl again; the echoing sound of emptiness forever where once his steps fell—an aching, empty hole in the lives of every person he ever knew that could never, never be filled.

My thoughts rolled over one another as I drove.  I wondered about him, about his family—about what he’d left behind, and how the people he’d known would ever manage to survive without him in their lives forevermore.

I was on the fringes of Kingston when the roadside flags started up in earnest again—though they’d never completely stopped.  But now, it looked as if someone had planted a beautiful garden of red, white, and blue flowers in the cracked, dry Oklahoma soil.

As Kingston came into view ahead, flags fluttered in the wind at every business.  Some buildings had bunting on their storefronts.

It doesn’t take long to cover the few miles from one end of Kingston to the other.  But with every inch of ground I traveled, there was no doubt that 2nd Lieutenant Joe Cunningham was remembered, respected, and revered.

As I drove out of town, yellow ribbons tied around several branches of a tree in someone’s yard caught my eye.

“HE IS HOME.  REST IN PEACE.”

No small town rivalry, now.  As Americans all, we share only a unified, joint loss of a shining star; the precious, irreplaceable light of someone’s life.

He was 27.  He loved to hunt and fish.  He had dreams of becoming a highway patrol officer and finishing his degree.  He always wore a smile. 

I will never drive that sad stretch of road again without remembering a man I never met.  A hometown hero is gone forever, but he will never, never be forgotten.

 

THE WHAT IF GAME–WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM?

Have you ever been asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” 

 Where do your ideas for writing fiction come from, and what makes them worthy of the time, effort, and creative energy we expend to bring that idea to full fruition—to craft a well-written story from it? 

One source of story ideas is from real-life experience.  Whether we are retelling a chapter of our own life, or something that happened to someone else, we must have come to the conclusion that that idea was worthwhile and that others would be interested in it, as well.

 Gleaning ideas from actual happenings can be tricky.  For many years, I taught a series of classes on “writing your life story.”  You can’t imagine how popular those classes have remained, especially with the older generation.  The idea that one’s life is unique or different suddenly takes on new meaning when others say, “You should write that down!”  It comes to mean, “Your life has been fantastic!”  It may well have been fantastic but when you stop to think about it, many, many people have had unusual, one-of-a-kind experiences at one time or another.  What would make a person believe that their life story would be the one people would rush to Barnes and Noble to pluck from the shelves and lay down a twenty dollar bill to buy?

 Many times, we, as writers, can draw from our life experiences as a bank of ideas for our fiction. But to write our own life story in full would generally prove to be a project that might, in the end, be a disappointing failure.

 Characters we’ve met in our lives also give us ideas for the characters we create.  Although we might not think of our sourpuss Aunt Betty as a “character” in real life, once we begin to write the fictional story we’ve been plotting, we might see one of the secondary characters begin to take on attributes of Aunt Betty–someone we haven’t been around for the past five years.  People we’ve met casually, or known in a family context, can firmly insert themselves into our stories–much to our surprise.

 Books, poetry or movies that might have influenced our thinking during our lives also can have an impact on our ideas.  I once read a book based on a song that was popular in the early 1970s about a young woman who was in love with a sea captain.

 Other forms of mass media can also add to our treasure trove of ideas. Articles we’ve read in magazines or newspapers spark ideas.  True stories that are fictionalized have become one of the most popular genres ever created.  Truman Capote’s best seller “In Cold Blood” was the book that became the catalyst for and set the standard of this type of fictionalized reality.

 Historical events from the past can also provide us with ideas that can either stay fairly true to history or take a wide turn around the actual events. Alternate history is a new up-and-coming genre that encompasses all types of fiction writing, from science fiction to historicals, including certain genres of romance, mainstream, and political fiction.

 Now that we’ve talked a bit about where some of our ideas might come from, how we know whether an idea is “story-worthy” or not? Have you ever started writing on a manuscript that you loved the idea for, but suddenly…the plot fizzles?  Maybe you get to a certain point and don’t know where to go next. (This has happened to me, since I’m more of a “pantser”, not a “plotter.”) Does that mean your idea is no good?

Or does it mean you are just in need of some brainstorming to re-direct your plot, punch it up, and keep the middle from “sagging”?

 Someone once said, you can wash garbage, but it’s still garbage.  Learning what is garbage and what is salvageable is the most important thing we need to know, as writers.  If you begin with an idea that you love, chances are, there’ll be someone else out there who’ll love it, too—your readers!  If you have an idea that’s “sort of” good, the question is, will you care enough, as a writer, to see it through to the end?

 Of course, everyone who has ever written anything for pleasure has had self-doubt.  Remember Miss Smith’s third grade class?  If the assignment was to write an essay, or a short story, you didn’t dare let that smirk of anticipation cross your face.  What would your friends think of you if they knew you were looking forward to actually writing a paper?  While everyone else wrote a paragraph, you couldn’t help yourself:  you wrote two whole pages!  And the secret was out.  Self-doubt set in the very moment one of your classmates asked, “Gosh, why’d you write so much?”

 So, you see, self-doubt has been instilled in us since we were in Miss Smith’s class.  It will never leave us.  We have to practice introducing ourselves in the bathroom mirror:  “Hi.  I’m (insert your name here.) I’m a writer.” This takes some practice for most, and is one of the most difficult stumbling blocks.

 One of the best idea-getters is the “what-if” game (one of my favorites.)

What if there was a man and he had a beautiful daughter.  What if he fell in love with a woman who had two daughters of her own.  What if they married.  But, what if the woman wasn’t what the man had believed her to be?  What if she hated his daughter and was jealous of her?

CINDERELLA!!!

 I love this game because it leads to all sorts of possibilities.  Our stories can take flight in directions we never imagined, becoming a joyous surprise even to ourselves, the authors!

 Though we must battle our self-doubt on two fronts (a, will the story idea be interesting and good; and b, will I be able to write it, finish it, bring it to fruition through publication) reminding ourselves every day that we are professional writers and that our ideas are worthy is one way to combat that doubt.  I’m not a fan of critique groups normally, but finding other writers who are supportive through other venues is a great confidence booster.

 Something to think about:  The greatest “what-if”?  What if I wasn’t a writer?  That would have a terrible outcome—my stories would have never been written! 

 I’m curious as to how other writers come up with their plots and ideas. And how do most readers see them, once they actually “come about” and appear in a novel or short story? I’ve told you some of my ways of coming up with ideas. I would love to hear yours! And for our readers, what kinds of ideas would you like to see more of? What are you tired of? We’re listening, and we love to hear what you think!

 

CHERYL PIERSON’S AMAZON LINK:   http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002JV8GUE

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