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.
Like 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.
I 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.
When 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.
Which 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.
There 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!