Welcome Leap Day and More about Nuptials!

postcardleapyearbecarefulclara1908.jpgI couldn’t let this day pass without a word about Leap Day!

It it said that in the past, women had the option of chosing their mate during a leap year, but the MENFOLK decided that wouldn’t do.  Afraid of being trapped into a marriage not to their liking, they changed the tradition to one day, February 29th, every fourth year!   Babies born on leap day, have few birthdays. Most opt to celebrate their birthdays either on February 28th or March 1st, depending on what calendar they used and how close their birth was to one or another day. So ladies, today is the day … hone up your wedding proposals!

WEDDING NUPTIALS … OLD AND NEW and You’re Invited!

Since I’m deep in the throes of planning our daughter’s wedding in October, I’ve been thinking a whole lot about vwc6641800s-wedding-gown.jpghow weddings have changed over the years.  I can’t imagine planning this wedding without the help of the trusted Bride’s book, Modern Bride Magazine among others and the Internet. How else would I find the photo galleries of recommended photographers?   How else could I view new cake creations and floral bouquets?   And how  in the world could I help my daughter find the “perfect” wedding gown?

I can tell you, I’m almost an expert now, having gone to 8 bridal salons in one weekend.  I now know the difference between a mermaid dress, a ballroom dress, an A-line gown and a Cinderella gown.   Oh … it was fun, but exhausting.   The personal attention and gorgeous dressing rooms were great on the surface and surely seeing my baby, Nikki, dressed in full veil and delicate Swaroski crystal tiara brought tears of joy to my eyes until I realized, heavens … I’m paying for the fancy three-mirror private dressing room with tea and coffee served and very attentive  wedding gown consultant … all in the price of the gown.  I wonder if they made such a hoopla over the wedding dress back in the Old West?

alc122vintage-1880s-gown.jpgHere’s a cream colored 1880’s wedding gown, made with ruching (gatherings) encircling the neckline and 12 bones in the bodice.  The back is tied with wide moire ribbon.  This dress is considered an A-line, made with delicate fabrics which flow freely and a slight bustle in the back.

 This is a 2008 blue Maggie Sattero Estella dress made of satin and lace.  It’s whj1168maggie-sattero-wedding-gown-2008.jpgat’s known as a ballroom wedding gown. See the ruching in the bodice?  Certainly a more sophisticated look, but there’s a slight bustle in the back as well.    I’ll let you in on a secret, picture this in ivory white and it’s my daughter’s wedding gown!  Do you like it?

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This is a mermaid dress contouring to the bride’s shape and curves.

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CONTRASTING PAST AND PRESENT DAY WEDDINGS:

In the time of pre-arranged marriages, the wedding veil was invented to keep would-be grooms from running far and long when they caught sight of their homely bride!  (Hopefully today the groom knows what he’s getting)

Women in the West tended to marry at a later age than thought, the grooms in their late twenties and the brides a few years younger. Many engaged in pre-marital sex and would marry when with child, months or weeks prior to delivering baby. (Hmm … no comment)

In the early 1800’s many married in their homes, though later in the century church weddings became vogue.  (Today anything goes, like marriages while parachuting out of a plane or undersea nuptials in full scuba gear which lend new meaning to destination weddings!)

Usually planning for a wedding took from one to two weeks, enough time to make sure friends and family received their invitations.   (Today you could plan a wedding in one week, IF YOU WANTED TO GO CRAZY!  Customary time is 6 months to one year)

In the west, the wedding cake of choice was a fruit cake.  

Today … we have three or four tiers with different flavors of cake for each tier. Flowers of the season help make the cake a work of art!

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What kinds of weddings do you love to read about?  Is there one wedding scene that stands out in your mind?  And what was your wedding like?   Any special rituals or traditions that you’d like to share? 

 

Happy Trails and Happy Reading!

Taming the Texan – Harlequin Historical available NOW!

 

Working Space

wings-cover.jpg     Is it my imagination, or is there an epidemic of deadline fever going around?  I’ve caught the bug myself.  Twenty pages to go on a WIP that’s due March 1, two books to finish judging for the RWA Rita contest, and, uh-oh, my turn to blog at P & P. So I’m looking around my office wondering what to write about.  Hmmm.  Thinking, every person who reads, writes or otherwise contributes to this page is sitting at a computer.  The setting for that computer is unique to each of us—and tells a lot about us.  So, for what it’s worth, here’s a peek into my working space.           

I live alone, so finding a quiet place to work’s no problem.  My office is in a spare bedroom.  Because I spend so much time here, I surround myself with things that make me happy.  My computer is a year old, but the desk it sits on could tell stories.  I bought it decades ago for $10 at a yard sale and paid my daughter’s friend $25 to strip the varnish for me.  It looks like it might have been in a school–big and solid with dovetailed drawers and a patina of scratches.  I love every inch of it, and wouldn’t get a new one even if I could afford it.

On the wall above my desk is a large (3 by 5 foot) painting done by an Australian Aboriginal woman, made up of thousands of tiny clustered dots on a black background.  Looking at it is like looking into space.  I never get tired of it.   Most of the other pictures in my office, including another large painting behind me, are early works by my daughter, a fine professional artist.  There’s also a photo of  Powder Puff, the cat I had for 23 years.

I have a bookshelf crammed with books and a wooden rack crammed with cd’s that I play on an ancient boom box (currently playing the sound track from Whale Rider).  On top of the shelf there’s a live plant, and a beautiful Pueblo storyteller figure that I bought at Acoma for my mother and got back when she passed away.  Also a small photo taken at the last Thanksgiving dinner I celebrated with my parents.

Under the high window on my right is a big, ugly “cat condo” that I bought on ebay for my current kitties Walter and Sadie.  It lets them watch the birds in the backyard and keeps them off my desk—at least some of the time.  I could shut them out when I’m working, but I enjoy their company.  After all, this is their office, too.

What is your space like?  Is it a kitchen table surrounded by kids?  A quiet corner?  A laptop in your briefcase?  An elegant studio?  When you look around what do you see? 

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Saturday’s Guest, Lois Greiman

taming_the_barbarian_lois_greiman.jpgMiss Lois Greiman, author and horsewoman, is on her way to Wildflower Junction and will arrive Saturday. She’s going to give a talk about inspiration. Now, we all can use a dose or two of inspiration. Shoot, maybe she’ll tell us how to get some! In any account, please do come and help us show her some good ol’ fashioned hospitality. Don’t forget now, you hear?

The Kid in All of Us

TootleI just attended a baby shower and, being a writer, I came up with books as gifts. So they’re in my head right now. I gave her the mother-to-be four favorite books that I read to my daughters when they were little.

Tootle

I think Tootle is THE book for a young mom to read to her children. It’s a Little Golden Book. The moral of the story is: There are nothing but red flags for little trains who get off the tracks. 

Now it might take a bit of considering because that moral is pretty well buried in the silliness of little Tootle frolicking in a field of wildflowers when he’s supposed to be practicing being a locomotive. But this is a deep truth. There truly are nothing but red flags for little trains who get off the tracks. 

I have a day job working with people who are off the tracks in a major way. And there are NOTHING but red flags in these people’s lives. Read your babies and grandbabies Tootle and make sure they get the point. 

The Big Orange Splot

The Big Orange SplotTo go with Tootle I loved The Big Orange Splot by D. Manus Pinkwater. Some people mistake Tootle as a call to live a life of conformity. But there is a difference between following your dreams and being off the tracks. The Big Orange Splot is all about loving what is special about you. Plus, it’s a book long poem and it’s a joy to read. 

My house is me

And I am it

And it looks like all my dreams. 

A Child’s Garden of Verses

Next is ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is the classic best book for children in my humble opinion. 

The Swing

 How do you like to go up in a swing?

Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it’s the pleasantest thing,

Ever a child can do. 

A Child’s Garden of VersesThere are a whole collect of these beautiful, child centered classic poems. I used to recite that poem while I’d push my daughters on the swing and they learned to say it along with me. 

I think this one is hilarious, so how far have we come from this?

The Whole Duty of Children

A child should always say what’s true

And speak when he is spoken to

And behave mannerly at table

At least as far as he is able.

Maude and Claude Go AbroadMaude and Claude Go Abroad

The final one is “Maude and Claude Go Abroad” by Susan Meddaugh. This again is a book length poem. Susan Meddaugh is simply a genius. The way she twists the word to create her poem full of humor and whimsy is just a delight.

My favorite of many lines:

And then we laid eyes on

Land on the horizon. 

I just love that the woman rhymed ‘eyes on’ with ‘horizon’. That’s just creative and funny and the book is full of smart, sharp language like this.

So what’s your favorite book from childhood? Yours and/or your childrens’? Do you read books to children? Do you read for fun, to teach, to quiet the little monsters down so they’ll go to sleep?Let’s talk about books that bring out the kid in us. 

Mythology, the Thunderer and Native America

horseheader1.jpeGood Morning!

Soon, within a few weeks, my latest effort, THE LAST WARRIOR, will be hitting the stands (early March 2008).   Because this book is the last in a series that is set not only within historical times, but within the framework of Native American Mythology, I thought it might be fitting to talk about some of the legends of Native America.

lastwarrior.jpgThe Thunder Being (or sometimes referred to as the Thunder Bird or Thunder God or Thunderer) is one of the main characters in this latest series of my books.   His anger has been stirred by acts of violence against himself and his children by a clan that is part of the Blackfoot Indians — The Lost Clan as they are called in these stories.  Interestingly, the Thunder Being plays a dominant role in most Native American tribes — perhaps because when one is living so closely to nature, the Thunderer, who can produce so much damage, would be a subject of much legend.  In this series of books, the Lost Clan has been  relegated into the “mist” by the Creator, who intervened on the people’s behalf when the Thunderer was bent on destroying every single member of the clan.  Imprisoned within that mist, each band within the clan is given a chance within every new generation to choose a boy to go out into the real world, who is charged with the task of undoing the curse, thus freeing his people from what would be an everlasting punishment (they are neither real, nor dead).  But, not only must the boy be brave and intelligent (there are puzzles to solve within every book), he must also show kindness to the enemy.

july06-yukon-photo-3.jpgLet’s have a look at the Thunderer and some of the different lord about this being.  In Blackfeet lore, the Thunderer often steals women.  He also will often take the image of a very large bird — his wings creating the thunder and his eyes shooting out the lightning.  In Lakota lore, if one dreams about the Thunder god, he becomes a backwards person.   He must do everything backwards.  He washes in sand, become dirty in water, walks backwards, says exactly what he doesn’t mean, etc., etc.  The dream is so powerful that it is thought that if one fails to do these things, he courts certain death.  In THE LAST WARRIOR, because the last warrior has been adopted by the Lakota,  he believes this last to be true.  And so when our heroine dreams of the Thunderer, our hero is at once worried and seeks to protect her all the more.

RedwoodsThere is also a legend of the Thunder Being in the Iroquois Nation.  In this legend, a young woman becomes the bride of the Thunderer and through him saves her village from a huge snake that burrows under her village, thus endangering the lives of everyone in her village.  There is still another legend about the Thunder which you can watch on the Movie called Dream Makers — well, I think that’s the name of the movie (if I am wrong about that name, please do correct me).   In this legend, which is also an Eastern Indian tribe, a young woman marries the Thunderer and goes to live with him in the above world, only to be returned to her own world when she becomes pregnant with his child.

Blue_YonderWhat is very, very interesting to me is how many and how vast are the lores of Native America.  Though we often hear or even study the ancient lore of the Greeks, seldom do we read much our own lore — the mythology that belongs intimately with this land we call America — which by the way, to the Native Americans on the East Coast, it is what we know as America is Turtle Island.   Fascinatingly, there is a story for almost every creature on this continent, from the crow to the sparrow to the coyote (the trickster), the wolf and bear.  There are legends about the stars, the Big Dipper hosts legends about the Great Bear (Iroquois) and the Seven Brothers and their sister (Cheyenne and Blackfeet).  There are still other stories about the Morning Star and the Evening Star and marriages between the Gods and mortals.

july06-yukon-photo-4.jpgSo what I thought I’d ask, and what I thought I’d open up the discussion to, is not only what you think about myths (do you think they are stories about a past time or do you think, like many scientists of our day, that they are the works of imagination), but I’d love to know what is your favorite myth?  Do you like best the stories about the stars,  or the heavens, or the creation of human kind, or of love, or adventure?  So come on in, and let’s see if we can tell some of these wonderful stories from our not-too-distant past.

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THE LAST WARRIOR, March 2008

 

YEE HAW! DRAWING WINNERS!

fish-bowl.jpgLand sakes, the fun times just keep happenin’ here in Wildflower Junction, don’t they?  You never knowwho’s going to be getting autographed copies of these great books the western ladies are writin’.

Well, this weekend, we have THREE winners, count ’em, three, and each one will get a copy of FRONTIER COURTSHIP.

Without further ado, here are the winning names:

9780373827848_smp.jpgJEANNE SHEETS

CAROL

PATRICIA COCHRAN

If this is you, please send me your address at: SaintJohn@aol.com and Valerie will mail your book out to you.

Congratulations and happy reading!

Welcome Our Guest, Valerie Hansen: Mostly Pistols and a Few Smart Mules…

val11.JPGHowdy, or as they say here in the Ozarks, “I’m so proud to be here!”

I’ve been writing for Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired series since 1999, but FRONTIER COURTSHIP, March 2008, is my first historical novel. It was a labor of love, done just because I love the American west, and has proved itself by being included in the first four published by that line, thank the Lord – and my editor.

p7100004.JPGLike many of you, I’ve always been fascinated with the characters and trials of the old west. Often, it seemed to me that I had been born into the wrong century. If you’ll notice, the picture of my house, with me and my dog sitting in the porch swing, fits right into the late 1800s. There’s a reason. That’s when it was built! And the other house picture, with nothing on the porch and daffodils bordering the walkway, is even older. Under the clapboard siding, the outer walls of that place are made of oak logs, hand-hewn and cut right here on the farm. That wood is so hard you can’t drive a nail into it unless you drill a hole, first. We know. We tried. When we moved here and decided to make some improvements to the “new” old house, we found it almost impossible to cut through the original walls because they were made of thick, hand-sawn oak planks that were just as hard as the wood in the log cabin! That got me to thinking of the original woodcutters and carpenters and admiring them even more. 

oldesthouse.JPGI haven’t had a lot of recent experience on horseback but I have ridden when I was younger and was a bit more resilient. A cantering quarter horse fell with me on her back once and we hit so hard the cantle of the saddle cracked. If I’d been a better rider I’d probably have broken some bones but I fell off. When I hit the ground and opened my eyes, there was my friend’s horse’s hooves just missing my head. Whew!

Naturally, I doctored the horse first, then looked at my own hip and promptly cried. It still bothers me in damp weather but the experience was worth it. Besides, it’ll make good fodder for my stories.

Then there’s shooting; pistols, rifles and shotgun, all of which I handle pretty expertly, if I do say so myself. We used to shoot a lot of trap at ranges before we moved out to the country. When our Ozark neighbors invited my husband to shoot with them, he took me along. I was having a very good day and shot a box of 25 shells without a miss – a personal best. Those men were so awe-struck that I quit and went home while my luck was still holding. After I left, my husband tells me one of them said, “She shoots perty good fer a girl.” Darned tootin’ I do.

valshouse.JPGWhen I hike in the woods behind our house I always go armed. I carry a .22 with birdshot for snakes and a .357 for bears or mountain lions, both of which are seen around here occasionally. Neighbors about a mile away have video taped them so it’s not their imagination.  I take my dog with me and the only reason I’d shoot is to protect him – or me. My days of shinnying up a tree in a hurry are probably past, too, even if I am in great shape for the shape I’m in, so it’s a good thing I’m a good shot with a pistol, too. No, it’s not bragging if it’s true.

I do have one confession to make, though. About a year and a half ago, I dropped the .22 on its hammer and it went off. Yup. Hit me in the shin with all those tiny pellets in the birdshot. I was so startled I didn’t even yell, which scared my poor husband something awful when he heard the shot. He insisted we go to the hospital and have it looked at, even though it was a long way from my heart. Once I decided I wasn’t going to die, we all got a good laugh out of it, including the doctor on duty, who happened to also be a friend. And, yes, I have used the incident in a book, WILDERNESS COURTSHIP, that will be out in August of 2008. I didn’t shoot my heroine in the leg but I definitely do know how a grazing bullet wound feels. Hey, might as well get some good out of it, right? No experience is wasted on a writer. Not even the bad ones – or maybe I should say, especially not the bad ones.

mule.jpgWhich brings me to mules. I was acquainted with mules long ago, as both my neighbor out west and a good friend rode them in preference to horses. Of course, the neighbor did it because he drank so much beer he needed a mount that would think for him and the mule was a perfect choice. It was from the family friend that I learned about the special bond a rider can have with a mule and how long they remember being abused. It was that premise that led me to develop FRONTIER COURTSHIP the way I did and I know all you horse and mule lovers will agree with me once you’ve seen it.

9780373827848_smp.jpgThere is an excerpt on my website, www.ValerieHansen.com and as soon as it’s feasible I’ll also be posting the excerpt from WILDERNESS COURTSHIP.

Thanks to the petticoats and pistols ladies for inviting me to post and remember, always keep an empty cartridge under the hammer if you think you might accidentally drop your revolver. That’s what I do — now.

I’ll draw three names from those who post comments this weekend, and I’ll send each reader an autographed copy of FRONTIER COURTSHIP!

Blessings,

Valerie Hansen