I’m more a petticoat than pistol type. Though if it counts, I fired a real rifle once. One of my two brothers talked me into it. We lived in the country with few neighbors so if one brother was off somewhere, the other coaxed me into one boyish thing or another. Perhaps they got their daily ego boost beating me at arm wrestling or HORSE—you know, where you shoot the basketball from the spot the last shot was made and acquire a letter for each miss. I actually got fairly good making baskets in foul shot range. I’m not complaining. I had fun spending time away from my girlish pursuits. Having two brothers had other rewards. I had my own room. No one played with my dolls. And I never wore hand-me-downs. If you have siblings who made your life… well, interesting, take this chance to tattle. J
My childhood petticoat was a crinoline, stiff layers of netting with weak elastic that would slip below my skirt, always at the worst possible moment, of course. In an emergency a safety pin at the waist kept the crinoline up. But if the bulk proved too much and that pin sprung open— Ouch! Not a fun memory. Except for failed pins, a crinoline wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as the corset my heroines wear. I’ve never tried one on, but I’d like to see if that instrument of torture could mold me into an hour-glass figure. J
My experience with petticoats and pistols may be limited, but I’m hooked on history. I write Americana rather than Westerns, but I’ve always loved historical novels. I fell for several of those rugged, oh, so handsome cowboys on TV with their swaggers, spurs and Stetsons: Little Joe Cartwright, Maverick, Wyatt Earp and Cheyenne. Anyone crazy about a cowboy or two? Fictional or the real life variety?
I didn’t marry a cowboy. My husband is a number guy who rounds up spreadsheets instead of cattle. Still his smile and baby blues make my day. He and I don’t think alike, which probably explains our happy marriage. J He listens to my plots and I listen to a replay of his golf game. While we were dating, I told him I’d write books one day. He may have had visions of dollar signs—LOL—but whatever the reason for his support, he’s always encouraged me.
I achieved my dream of writing inspirational historical romances when I sold my first book to Steeple Hill in 2006. I took a newspaper clipping about the orphan train my father sent me, and from the research on the topic created a book, which became Courting Miss Adelaide, Love Inspired Historical, releasing September 9. The history behind the orphan trains fascinates me. Between the years of 1853 and 1929, 250,000-350,000 orphans or half orphans rode trains from New York City to new homes. What an amazing life change for these immigrant children, and for the people who took them in!
The idea to place out orphans originated with a Methodist minister, Charles Loring Brace, founder of The Children’s Aid Society. Brace saw children working in sweatshops, peddling newspapers and living on the streets in abject poverty. He decided relocating these children to homes in agricultural areas would give them a chance for a better life. For some, it did. Others lived more like indentured servants than members of a family. If you’re interested in reading more about their stories, visit: http://www.orphantraindepot.com/index.html
I immediately wanted to use this slice of history in a book. My “what if” moment became the kernel for Adelaide’s story in Courting Miss Adelaide—what if a lonely spinster wanted a child and saw the orphan train as her last chance for motherhood?
I’m thrilled that the sequel Courting the Doctor’s Daughter will release in May 2009.
We fiction writers tend to glamorize the past. But we know the “good ole days” had their downside, like no dishwashers or carryout food or automobiles to get us where we want to go. It’s far easier to travel into the past sitting at my computer or reading a wonderful book, than facing the rigors of the trail or the restrictions 19th Century society placed on women. But countless men and women met the challenge of their times. Their courage so impresses me that I want to tell their stories.
My father and grandfather were storytellers, relating anecdotes about real-life men and women and the world they lived in. My mother created beautiful quilts, using age-old patterns, piecing and quilting each by hand. Perhaps that heritage fostered my love of history and my desire to create. Whatever the reason, at twelve, I wrote and illustrated little romances. But it wasn’t until our daughters were grown that I seriously pursued my dream. It took me nine years to sell my first book, years of rejection and occasional elation. Not the Oregon Trail, but a rugged road nevertheless.
An ideal writing day starts with me at the computer around 10:00. I’ve visited a group blog I’m part of, Seekerville at www.Seekerville.blogspot.com), had my devotions, read and answered e-mail. I’m dressed with my face on and hair combed. I’ve learned the hard way that writing in my jammies doesn’t pay. I write until four, stopping for lunch or if pushing to meet a deadline, I eat at the computer. The board of health might close me down if they knew how many crumbs are caught in that keyboard. J Around 4:00 I head to Curves to exercise. I’m back at 5:00, do e-mail and check blogs. By 6:00, I start dinner. If weather permits, my husband grills. After I tidy the kitchen, I return to my computer to look at… you guessed it, e-mail. I’m seeing a pattern here. J Around 8:00 my husband and I take a walk. If on deadline, I’ll skip e-mail and exercise to write all evening.
When I’m not writing or reading, I relax rubber stamping greeting cards. I play at golf or perhaps it’s more accurate to say it plays me. I also collect antiques. Our ancestors didn’t live in a throw away society and I feel compelled to preserve what family members cherished. A wooden pitchfork, Squire’s desk, copper apple butter kettle and lithographed wedding certificates are just a few of the family pieces nestled among our contemporary furnishings. I’ve collected everything from pattern glass to lady head vases. The latter aren’t antiques but hold a charm for me.
My husband and I love to travel. I especially enjoy visiting historic spots of interest. This summer we stopped at a recreated fort like the one built by the Lewis and Clark and his men. On the Pacific at Seaside, OR we walked to the spot where a few of Lewis and Clark’s men boiled sea water around the clock in order to get the salt needed for the expeditions return to St. Louis. Lighthouses fascinate me,so we visited several all along the coast. These men and their families lived a solitary life. Anyone care to talk about a visit to a fascinating historic site?
But above all the things I enjoy doing, my favorite activity is spending time with our children, grandchildren and extended family. Maybe one day I’ll get back at my brothers with a water pistol or cap gun, so stay alert guys. Your sister may best you yet.
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