Passion, Troubles, and a Whole Lot of Fun by Tammy Barley

Howdy, gals! It’s great to see y’all again! Everyone remember to tell Margaret happy birthday!      

 Here’s a quick bit about me: With Cherokee heritage and such ancestors as James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau, I pretty much inherited the writing bug, as well as my need to write about the Wild West. I’ve ridden horseback over western mountains on journeys up to ten days long.   

  My first book in The Sierra Chronicles, Love’s Rescue, won second place in the Golden Rose Contest, inspirational romance category, went into its second printing only five weeks after it was released, and landed on ChristianBook.com’s best-selling historical fiction list, at number eleven. Book two, Hope’s Promise, the continuing romance of Jake Bennett and Jessica Hale (now Bennett), is already receiving rave reader comments and five-star reviews—yahoo!      

I also judge a number of top writing contests and work as an editor. I’m mom to three teens whom I homeschool. So far, I’ve lived in twenty-eight towns in eight different states, but right now I take off my boots in northeastern Illinois.     

So that’s me. By now, you might be wondering about the title of this here article, Passion, Troubles, and a Whole Lot of Fun. Here’s why I chose it. In a recent radio interview, the interviewer asked this question: “In many famous plays that William Shakespeare wrote, he combined love and tragedy, and also humor, and that made those plays unforgettable. You also include humor in Hope’s Promise (it officially releases tomorrow, August 1st!), a lot of it through a character, a ranch hand, named Taggart. Explain how the addition of humor helps to make a story so memorable, especially as it applies to Hope’s Promise.”     

So that nifty fiction concept has been on my mind—Passion, Troubles, and a Whole Lot of Fun? Here’s how I answered the question:     

“William Shakespeare clearly saw the human condition, all the elements that make up who we are, and what compels us to do what we do.     

“Love, tragedy, and humor are three of the main forces that drive us, and that pull us. Love pulls us through tragedy—God’s love, and each other’s—and humor us what drives us to a fresh level of coping and overcoming. That’s why those three forces work so perfectly together in fiction, because they work so perfectly together in life.      

“Jake and Jess have terrible challenges in Hope’s Promise—they stand to lose everything they hold dear—just as many of us face terrible challenges in situations during our lives. Taggart is more than the comic relief; he’s exactly the person most of us would want with us during our tough times.      

“His is the personality that inspires people to reach past surviving, and to shoot straight for overcoming, to the point where we can laugh and enjoy knowing that the trouble is behind us, or that it will be.      

“Taggart is an absolute hoot. Several times, Taggart made me laugh until I was wiping my eyes and holding my knees together (yep, I actually said that on the radio). All three elements—tragedy, romance, and humor—combine to make a powerful and unforgettable story.”      

So that’s what I said. If you all remember me from Petticoats and Pistols last year when Love’s Rescue came out, you might remember that I love a good guessing game, so much so, that we’ll do a game of three questions here, and see how well you fillies do. Keep in mind that the focus is on Passion, Troubles, and a Whole Lot of Fun. Those who take a stab at answering one, two, or all three will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Hope’s Promise!      

Here’s the first question, based on Passion. Hold on to your saddles—Jake is a tough, hunky rancher who looks like Hugh Jackman. (No drooling. All right, go ahead and drool.) Jake passionately loves his wife, Jessica. Here’s a scene from The Sierra Chronicles book two, Hope’s Promise:      

Beyond the bed, Jake removed his shirt and tossed it to the floor beside the tall chest of drawers. Atop the wooden surface, the oil lamp sat, casting warm, golden light over his skin.      

He set his hands on his hips, a casual stance which rather nicely emphasized his chest and the arm muscles fully capable of lifting a yearling calf.      

Jess wanted to touch him, to feel him against her. She could hardly breathe. “Do you have any idea what that does to me?”      

He gave her his slow, crooked grin as he rounded the bed and approached. “My throwing my shirt on the floor? Apparently it makes you sway on your feet in appreciation. I’ll have to do that more often.”      

Jess lifted her face. . . .      

Here’s the Passion question: What do you think Jess said in response? (What would you say?) Here’s a hint: Jess is a spitfire. It’ll be fun to see your answers. (I’ll answer all three questions at the time of the book drawing.)      

Here’s the second question, based on Troubles. And here’s another scene.      

“We’re going home,” Jess said, a pleasant tightness in her chest. “I feel . . .” She lifted a hand, uncertain how to describe it. “I feel like a young falcon, about to leap into the wind for the first time.”      

Jake smiled his understanding, then suddenly turned tense, alert. He drew his Remington. An instant later, Taggart and Diaz did the same.      

“What—?”      

A rock burst on the ground beside Jess. The sharp report of rifle fire echoed across the desert. All at once shots exploded, pelting the road around them with shattered stones and dust plumes. Drawing her own revolver, Jess whipped her mare around and looked past Jake to an outcropping of rocks where rifles barked and gun smoke curled away.      

The mare abruptly jerked then reared high, spilling Jess’s hat and tumbling her long braid free. The horse teetered on its hind legs then went over backward.      

Pain exploded through Jess’s back and lungs.      

Then, darkness.      

An image flashed through her mind. . . .      

Here’s the Troubles question: What do you suppose Jess might have experienced when she blacked out? Stars running around her head? Horseshoes, perhaps? Something else?   

Here’s the third question, based on a Whole Lot of Fun. And here’s the third scene. 

A minute later Diaz returned, in time to see Taggart jouncing toward them astride a rattletrap buckskin with so rough a gait that Jess chewed her lip to keep from laughing. The horse stopped suddenly, nearly flinging the Irishman over its head. Taggart pushed himself upright, muttered something uncomplimentary to the horse, then gazed between Diaz and Jess. “I’m cursed,” he announced. “Do ye suppose when God drew the plans for Broom here, He said, ‘Why not make its legs all different lengths?’”      
“This is not just a lariat,” Diaz said, pointedly continuing his gentle instruction to the young Paiute girls which Taggart had interrupted. “It is a lasso; it has a knot that holds a circle . . . a running noose,” he explained to the girls, “a honda. The Spanish word for a simple rope is la reata, but for years the American vaqueros have called it ‘lariat.’ When it is made to hold a loop, it is a lasso, though the vaqueros say both lariat and lasso.      
“Let me show you, señoritas,” Diaz offered as he uncoiled the lasso. “See? The lasso always has a loop, like the O in ‘lasso.’”      

Diaz let the straight end trail on the ground beside him and gripped the braided rawhide near his left hip. With his right hand he swung the loop over his head, adding slack, expanding the loop, as he took careful aim at Taggart. “Don’t move none, amigo,” Diaz instructed.      

Young Mattie and Grace both giggled, and Jess pressed her knuckles over her mouth.      

Taggart propped  a fist on  his knee.  “Ye think I’ll sit by while  I’m  roped by the likes  of ye?  You’d sooner find me riding  Broom over a pitted  roach with a  horseshoe in my britches—”      

The rope fell neatly around him, not even brushing his hat.      

Grace climbed over the corral fence and hurried to Diaz.      

Here’s the Whole Lot of Fun question: What do you think young Grace asks Diaz? (Hint: It makes Taggart roll his eyes even more than getting roped!)      

You see? Shakespeare had it right— Passion, Troubles, and a Whole Lot of Fun. It’s a great combination.      

If you’d like to see the book trailer videos for The Sierra Chronicles books one and two, Love’s Rescue and Hope’s Promise, lope over to:

http://www.tammybarley.com/Bookshelf.html.

There you’ll also get to read the blurb for The Sierra Chronicles book three, Faith’s Reward, which will be available in January 2011.    

Also, visit http://www.tammybarley.com/index.html to view an extensive list of Western and Prairie Romance Authors and their recent and upcoming releases, complete with links to their log homes on the Web!

Thank you for whiling a bit of time with me! I look forward to seeing what you all dream up as possible answers to today’s questions!    

THE LAWMAN’S REDEMPTION – in stores now!

If you’ve noticed I haven’t been on the blog schedule lately, you’re right.  I’ve taken a back seat at Petticoats & Pistols to let my Filly sisters run the show so that I can concentrate on another project, but rest assured I haven’t left Wildflower Junction.  Nosirree!  I’ve been right here, keeping a close eye on the corral to make sure the other Fillies behave themselves.  And by golly, they’ve been doing great!

With Tracy Garrett taking the day off while she’s in Orlando at the RWA Conference, I’ve jumped into her slot to let you all know THE LAWMAN’S REDEMPTION is finally on the shelves.  Yee-haw!

Here’s a quick blurb:

Jack Hollister had always wanted to be a lawman, but the night he’s forced to kill his outlaw father in self-defense, he tosses aside his badge and turns cowboy.  He seeks refuge at the Wells Cattle Company, but he’s haunted by his father’s dying wish – to find the man who betrayed him and his gang.

Grace Reilly nurtures a simmering hate for the lawman she believes killed her lawless mother.  She vows revenge, but her respectable life in the east is shattered by scandal.  First, she must travel west to find the answers she needs to save her best friend and all they’d worked for, never dreaming she’d find Jack, too . . ..

Together, Jack and Grace learn love and forgiveness as they encounter the man who’s determined to destroy them—unless they can destroy him first.

Now, we’ve talked about trilogies before and how popular they tend to be with readers.  Well, THE LAWMAN’S REDEMPTION wraps up my Wells Cattle Company trilogy by giving Jack Hollister his own story.   You might recall Trey Wells, owner of the prestigious WCC, started things rolling last May in THE CATTLEMAN’S UNSUITABLE WIFE.  Mick Vasco picked up the reins in THE CATTLEMAN’S CHRISTMAS BRIDE, released in October in a Christmas anthology I shared with Elizabeth Lane, entitled COWBOY CHRISTMAS.  Jack came on stage in that story, and I’m hoping you’ll love him as much as I do in this latest one when he’s forced to do something he’s not sure he wants to do.  Of course, he needs the help of a certain Lady in Blue to succeed.

As with pretty much all of the books I’ve written, these stories involve real-life historical characters.  In the first book of the trilogy, I introduced the astute businessman, Paris Gibson, who is credited with being the driving force behind the growth and establishment of Great Falls, Montana.  (Anyone from Great Falls out there?)  In THE LAWMAN’S REDEMPTION, I bring Louis David Riel on stage.

Without giving anything away, Riel was born Metis—an ethnic mix of French-Canadian, Scottish, English, and various Indian descent.  As a young man, he fought the Canadian government to protect Metis rights and eventually considered himself a divinely chosen prophet for his people. He was exiled and suffered a mental breakdown, eventually being confined to an asylum.  After a slow recovery and promising to lead a quiet life, he was released, only to become involved in more political strife.   The Canadian government considered him an insane traitor and eventually executed him.  Today, after much reconsideration of his deeds, he is now a folk hero in that country, a freedom fighter who devoted his life to protecting his people and their land.

Do you enjoy reading about true historical figures and events in fiction?  Do you approve of an author’s poetic license to construe history to fit her story?  What is your favorite thing about trilogies?

Jump into the discussion, and you’ll be eligible to receive one of two copies of THE LAWMAN’S REDEMPTION!

–“The romance captures the imagination and had me furiously turning those pages.  A keeper.”

**5 Spurs – Love Western Romances

   Buy from Amazon!

Tammy Barley Rides Into the Junction

Hello you little darlin’s,

Miss Tammy Barley has saddled up and headed to the Junction.

She’ll be here come Saturday.

This isn’t Miss Tammy’s first rodeo. She’s been here before and the Fillies thoroughly enjoyed her visit. She’s taken a notion to talk about two of my favorite subjects…passion and a whole lot of fun. To me those fit together like wild  stallions and spirited mares. Hee-hee!

Miss Tammy will give us the lowdown on book 2 of The Sierra Chronicles series…HOPE’S PROMISE.

She’s also going to play a little guessing game and give away a copy of that book. To throw your name in the cowboy hat just get at least one answer right to the three questions.

It’ll be more fun than you can shake a stick at.

Don’t you dare miss it!

STACEY’S CALIFORNIA SUMMER

I hope all our Fillies attending the Romance Writer’s of America National Conference are having a great time in Florida. I figured this would be a good time to share some of my summer travels.

We’ve been jaunting all over California this summer. We started off with a bang by heading to San Jose to take our teens to the Van’s Warp Tour concert; twelve stages, eighty bands, a day full of music mayhem. The next day we took our tone-deaf, sunburned selves to the Winchester Mystery House, the 160-bedroom, 40-bathroom mansion built by the Winchester Rifle heiress. Believing she was haunted by all the spirits gunned down by Winchester rifles, and that the only way to please them was to keep building on her house, she started with a little three-bedroom farmhouse in 1884, and ended with house that covered 4.5 acres at the time of her death in 1922.  A house with stairways to the ceiling, doors to nowhere and countless other oddities to fool the spirits. Can you believe the house was declared uninhabitable after her death and was appraised for $5000. Mary did a post about the house a while back: Haunted Winchester Mystery House.

We then headed to Santa Cruz for the Fourth of July and decided to make spending the fourth on the coast a new family tradition—watching fireworks over the bay was amazing. Boats in the harbor and people on the beach were lighting up the sky nonstop from dusk to midnight. We’d never seen anything like it—amazing. Just as cool, a pod of dolphins had taken up residence in a cove right along the Santa Cruz Warf, I’m talking five feet from shore, getting up close and personal with swimmers and surfers. Better than Sea World 🙂

We then spent a couple days driving down the coast, though due the unseasonably wet and overcast weather, we didn’t get any pictures of the beaches 🙁

Of course, we made it home in time for 110-degree heat. Thankfully, we were only home to repack and head for the mountains. *happy sigh* I had seriously forgotten how much I love the Sierras. We spent a couple days at the Bass Lake resort, the perfect place to really sit back, unwind and recharge the batteries. This was the view from our deck. Check out the diving platform out on the lake.

They’ve got bike trails, boat rentals, a sweet beach to kick back on. We’re all pining to go back! We also celebrated my hubby’s birthday. Here’s a pic of my men, Tanner, Steve and Ethan.

Ethan does not travel without instruments—in fact, that’s his mini-car-guitar, literally stays in the truck. We get live music, all the time 😀

After some relaxation by the lake, we hit the trails for the main attraction—Yosemite’s waterfalls. It had been a couple years since we’d made it to Yosemite (for shame!), and I swear those giant trees have soul-soothing properties. I made the hubby promise to haul me back up there ever couple months  😉

The picture below I took of Bridal Veil Falls. You can so see how it garnered the name—the wind sweeping the water away from the rock to look like a bride’s veil.

Yosemite Falls is my favorite, this is a view from pretty far up the trail—my favorite view—where you can see all three tiers.

Those who want to get right up on the base of the fall can climb over the rocks—see the kid in the white shirt heading for the edge below—that’s Tanner.

When you reach the base, you can really feel the force of that water, the gust of wind and heavy spray in the air.

Definitely the highlight of my summer, and worth the mountain of laundry I was faced with once we unloaded on the home front.

How about the rest of y’all?  Taken any getaways this summer? Care to share any highlights?  Any place you haven’t been that’s on the MUST DO list?

Pam Crooks Talks Lawman’s Redemption on Friday

Pull up a chair and get comfortable! Our own Pam Crooks has a brand new western romance out and she’ll tell us all about it come Friday.

It’s been a while since Miss Pam’s come from the back room to blog so ah’m really gonna enjoy this. Bet you will too.

The title of her book is THE LAWMAN’S REDEMPTION. It sure looks like a humdinger if you don’t mind me saying so. And even if you did mind, I’d probably say it anyhow. Hee-hee! I’m pretty cantankerous and speak my piece more often than not.

But anyway, ah know you’re chomping at the bit to bend Miss Pam’s ear and get the lowdown about her lawman hero. Bet he’s a real doozy!

So don’t you dare miss this.

Get up when the rooster crows and hitch up your buggy.

The Fillies will be waiting for you.

THE NAME GAME

I am a collector of names.  Have been, ever since I was a kid.  Probably because I always wished for a different one, myself.  Mine wasn’t really exotic, but it was…different.  Cheryl.  My parents decided on the pronunciation of “Chair-yl” rather than the more common way of saying it.  The way a million other people sad it…with a “SH” sound, “Sheryl,” rather than the hard “CH” sound.

So when I began writing, I knew my characters had to have ‘good’ names—names that fit.  Names that weren’t too strange, but not too common.  Names that were appropriate for the time period, the setting, and the culture.

The hero, of course, had to have a name that was also something that could be whispered by the heroine in the throes of passion, yet something that would be tough enough on the villain’s lips to strike a modicum of fear in his heart, just by uttering it.

Because I was writing historical western romance, I decided to pull up a chart that would give me an accurate “slice of life”—possible names for my heroes.  According to US Social Security records, the top ten names for men in 1880 were:  John, William, James, Charles, George, Frank, Joseph, Thomas, Henry, and Robert.

Okay, I could maybe work with the top four.  In fact, the first book I ever wrote was about a gunslinger of this time period called ‘Johnny Starr.’ 

And William could be shortened to ‘Will’—still masculine; but never ‘Willie.’  James—very masculine, and unwittingly, calls up the rest of the line—‘Bond.  James Bond.’  At least, it does for me.  I could even go with Jamie.  Charles is pushing it.  George, Frank, and Joe are names I have and would use for a minor character, but I’d never use those for my hero.  They’re somehow just too ordinary.  Thomas? Again, a great secondary character name, but not a show-stopper.  Henry…eh.  And Robert is just ‘okay.’

I fast-forwarded a hundred years to 1980.  Here are the top 10:  Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James, Matthew, Joshua, John, Robert, and Joseph.  Four of the same names were there, though not in the same poll position.  By 2009, only William remained in the top 10.  John had fallen to #20, James to #17, Joseph to #13.  The others had been replaced, not all by modern names, but most in the top 10 were surprisingly “old fashioned.”

2009:  Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Alexander, Anthony, William, Christopher, Matthew.

This told me something.  If you aren’t too wild with the names you choose, you have quite a lot of choices!  We know that Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Daniel, and Matthew were Biblical names.  Just because they weren’t on the “top 10” list in 1880 doesn’t mean they weren’t being used—a lot!

Another source of names for that time period is family records.  If you go back through old family documents, it’s amazing to find some of the odd names that cropped up.

Still maybe not ‘protagonist’ material, but your secondary characters could benefit.  And who knows?  You may find the perfect ‘hero’ name!

No matter what you choose, remember these rules, too:

1. Sound and compatibility—Say your character’s name aloud.  Does the first name go well with the last name you’re using?  Be careful about running the name together—“Alan Nickerson” or “Jed Dooly” may not be good choices.  Avoid rhyming names such as “Wayne Payne”—and try to stay away from cutesy names that might make your hero the focus of ridicule.

2. Uniqueness—I’m sure my parents were only trying to be ‘unique’ by pronouncing my name differently than the other 99.9% of the people in the world would automatically say it, but you don’t want your hero to have such an odd name that readers trip over it every time they come to it.  Louis L’Amour was a master at coming up with ‘different’ names that were simple.  Hondo Lane, Ring Sackett, Shalako, Conagher…and the list goes on.

3. Genealogy—Does it play into your characters’ storyline?  If so, you may want to come up with a neat twist somehow on a common name.  In my first manuscript, Brandon’s Gold, the gunfighter, Johnny Starr, is named for his father, but the names are reversed.  His father was Thomas Jonathan Brandon.  He is known as Thomas in the story.  Johnny was named Jonathan Thomas Brandon.  He goes by Johnny.  This keeps a theme alive in my story of the ‘fathers and sons’ of this family, and their relationships.  It weighs heavily, because Thomas is dying, but Johnny doesn’t know it.  They’ve been estranged for many years.

When Johnny’s own son is born, his wife, Katie, changes the name they’ve decided on just before the birth.  She makes Johnny promise to name him after himself and his father, Thomas Jonathan, bringing the circle around once more, and also completing the forgiveness between Johnny and his dying father.

4. Meaning—This might somehow play into your story and is good to keep track of.  What do your characters’ names mean?  This is a great tool to have at your disposal when you are writing—it can be a great conversation piece somewhere, or explain why your villain is so evil.

5. Nicknames and initials—this can be more important than you think.  You may need to have your hero sign something or initial something.  Don’t make him be embarrassed to write his initials and don’t give him a name that might be shortened to an embarrassing nickname.

In my book, Fire Eyes, the protagonist has an odd name—Kaedon Turner.  I gave him an unusual first name to go with a common last name.  I learned later that Caden, shortened to Cade, though not common for the time was not unheard of.  Kaedon, shortened to Kaed, was just a different variation.  It sets him apart from the other marshals, and emphasizes his unique past in a subtle way.

Below are some excerpts from Fire Eyes, available  through The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.  I hope you enjoy!

EXCERPTS FROM FIRE EYES:

Marshal Kaed Turner has just been delivered to Jessica’s doorstep, wounded and   unconscious by the Choctaw Indians.  This is part of their first conversation, Kaed’s introduction.

 “Just pull.” Her patient moistened his lips. “Straight up. That’s how it went in.”

She wanted to weep at the steel in his voice, wanted to comfort him, to tell him she’d make it quick. But, of course, quick would never be fast enough to be painless. And how could she offer comfort when she didn’t even know what to call him, other than Turner?

“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.”

                                                                        *******

From Kaed’s POV—Finding out his “angel’s” name!

“I need to stop the bleeding. You were lucky.”

“One lucky sonofabitch.”

“I meant, because it went all the way through. So we don’t have to…to dig it out.” There was that hesitation again, but he already knew what it was she didn’t want to have to say to him. He said it instead.

“All we have to do is burn it.”

She let her breath out in a rush, as if she’d been holding it, dreading just how she was going to tell him. “Right. Sounds like the voice of experience.”

“Yeah.”

She touched his good arm and he reached up for her, his warm, bronze hand swallowing her smaller one. Her fingers were cold, and he could tell she was afraid, no matter how indifferent she tried to act.

“You’ve got one on me,” he muttered.

“What’s that?”

“Your name. Or, do I just call you angel?”

He felt the smile again, knew he had embarrassed her a little, but had pleased her as well.

“Jessica Monroe, at your service, Mr. Turner.”

“Don’t go all formal on me.” He paused, collecting his scattering, hard-to-hold thoughts. “I like Kaed better.”

“Better than Mr. Turner?”

He opened his eyes a crack and watched as she gave him a measuring look, her cinnamon gaze holding his probing stare for a moment. “What you’re doin’ for me warrants a little more intimacy, don’t’cha think, Jessica?”

She glanced back down at the seeping wound, worrying her lower lip between even, white teeth. Her auburn hair did its best to escape its bun.

Kaed’s thoughts jumped and swirled as he tried to focus on her, wondering disjointedly how she’d look if she let her hair tumble free and unbound. And her eyes. Beautiful. A man could get lost in the secrets of her eyes.
Maybe he should’ve used a word other than intimacy.

Winnie Griggs’ Winner

Ah sure did enjoy Janét Vincent Lee yesterday! Hope you did too. Such a special lady.

True to her word, Miss Winnie is giving away a book from her backlist.

Ah put all the names in my trusty old coffee can and shook it real hard.

The winner is……..

Judy An

Ah’m smilin’ real big for you Judy! Miss Winnie wants you to contact her through her website at www.winniegriggs.com, let her know which book you want and give her your mailing particulars. That’ll make everyone happy.

Thanks to everyone who trotted…uh moseyed over to chat with Janét. She appreciated it.

On The Road Again

horseheader1.jpeGood Morning!

It seems as though (typically American Indian) that I find myself traveling a good deal of the time.    Incredibly I’ve been driving all over the southeast and southwest.  And I thought I’d take a little time to tell you some of the things that I love most about traveling.page2d.jpeHere is a picture snapped a few years back of myself and a friend on the Blackfeet reservation.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like all those years ago when people traveled by horseback only.  It’s probably one of the few things that I do appreciate about the age we live in — cars.    Of course I could fly across the country, but think of all I’d miss along the way.  There are so many things to see and places to visit and history to learn — all conveniently advertised along the roadside.  On my trips across country (and I’ve probably driven across country now more than a dozen times) I’ve seen canyons that stretch on forever (the Grand Canyon comes to mind); I’ve seen caves — two enormous different ones — and have learned that the rocks in these caves are alive.  Did you know that?  They grow like any life thing and they can die if you touch them — thus, there are many, many signs in these caves not to touch the rocks.hubby.jpe

As part of these trips, I’ve been to pow-wows in Montana, climbed mountains in Vermont, swept down raging water streams in Nebraska — have witnessed glaciers in Montana and have visited Pueblo villages — in the southwest, and have visited and have lingered at battlefields — ones that took place between the cavalry and Indians.  When we were in Crow country in Montana, my husband and I visited Little Bighorn of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull fame.  For one book, War Clouds’ Passion, I visited the battlefield that took place — goodness, I can’t recall the name of that battle off the top of my head – but it took place in Kansas.  Also discovered in Kansas was a former Cavalry outpost, and again, forgive me for the name escapes me.  picturesforblog.jpg 

On one particular trip, I visited a waterfall, where George Washington carved his initals in a rock — there was also an Indian village there, which I went to visit, also.  There I learned how the Indians made flour and cakes from acorns — a very involved process, I must admit.  Sometimes I get lost.  But sometimes this is very good.   On one trip just last year at this very time of year, I was traveling to Vermont to attend my daughter’s wedding. 

img_6598Actually  I didn’t lose my way on this trip until I was well into Vermont, and then I took a wrong turn and ended up at the scene of a very beautiful statue of Ethan Allen.  Although I was very lost, I had driven into a spot where the trees were alive with autumn color and I really do mean live.  They were bright, bright yellow and gold.  So bright that an overcast day looked sunny.  And the trees were overlooking the road as I drove by them.  I’m not certain I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful in Nature.  The only thing that might even come close would be perhaps the Grand Teton area in Wyoming — and of course the Glacier Mountains in Montana.

phot0110The picture here was taken in Montana in the Glacier Mountains which set up against the Blackfeet reservation.  Once another author and myself visited a deserted train station — trying to envision the people who had once used it.  Another time we searched out a town in Louisana called Transylvania.  Nancy Richards Akers and I once skirted along the Choctaw trail and another author and I learned of a legend of a young Indian princess who threw herself off a mountain to avoid marrying a man she didn’t love.  (Her true lover followed her over the cliff, by the way).  And another time, fellow author, Heather Cullman, and I visited Sky City — I’m only calling it that because I can’t recall exactly the name of the town.  Here we were taken on a tour, learned the history of the town and learned that the town was used as a safe refuge in a time of uncertainty.phot0166

We also visited an old church which was again fascinating.  Indeed, there is much to see and visit here in America.  When I was very, very young, I seem to remember a commerical that went like this “See the USA, in your Cheverolet — American is asking you to call” — powwowend21.jpePerhaps I took that invitation a little too much to heart.

Another time, when my husband and I were attending yet another pow-wow in Montana, we visited  America’s edition of Stonehedge — the Medicine Wheel atop a 10,000 foot mountain in the Bighorn Mountains in Northern Wyoming.  Lone Arrow’s Pride goes into my experience atop this mountain at this particular spot.

51obnqdgasl_sl500_aa240_1I guess we Americans — or maybe I should just say we humans — love to travel.  And whatever the cause, I do enjoy my trips — even though it might take me longer to go from here to there.  I bet you’ve had some incredible adventures here in the heartland of America.  And I’d love to hear about your own trips.  Please however remember that today I am still on the road and so won’t be able to see your comments until I return home.  But I would love to hear from you.  So please come on in and tell me your thoughts.  And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Black Eagle and Seneca Surrender today.

RE-ENACTMENT BECOMES A WAY OF LIFE by Janét Vincent Lee

(Note from Winnie:  Our guest blogger today is Janét Vincent Lee – an actress, singer, costumer, western re-enactor and most importantly, my friend.  She and I go way back (I won’t say how many years 🙂 ) to our high school days and have just recently reconnected via facebook.  She very generously agreed to cover for me today while I am away attending a writers’ conference.  In honor of her visit and as a thank you to all of you who I know are going to make her feel right at home, I am going to giveaway a book (choice of any book from my backlist) to one person randomly selected from those who post comments for Janét.)

 

There is no finer way of relieving stress in a marriage than shooting your husband with a shotgun.  At least once a week!

I don’t think there was any wife in our re-enactment troupe who didn’t enjoy opening up with both barrels on her spouse now and then.  Fortunately, the audiences’ favorite shootout skits were always those where the bad guys created havoc, the sheriff and his deputies either were killed or ran away (depending on whether it was a drama or a comedy), and the ladies of the town had to take down the villains on their own.

In the 1990s my then-husband and I managed a troupe of re-enactors known as the Cross Creek Cowboys, based in San Juan Capistrano, California.  The group began with a handful of members from the Living History group at the fabled Mission San Juan Capistrano.  Some of our members were actors but most were not.  Our roster included a physics teacher, a professional cook, an entrepreneur, a bird rescuer, a graphic designer, a mechanic, and diverse others, with our common denominators being a passionate love of the Old West and a burning desire to keep its memory alive. 

Over the course of several years, we had expanded to 22 members and had done hundreds of performances at festivals, parades, fund-raisers and civic events.  We made numerous television appearances, were featured in a number of newspapers and magazines, and amassed a collection of awards and honors for performance and costume authenticity.  Ultimately we produced a half-hour film, shot on a western set in the high desert, featuring all of our members.  But most of all, we had a lot of fun. 

We acquired and constructed enough sets, props, costumes, weapons and supplies to fill a two-car garage and a storage trailer.  We spent untold hours loading and unloading trucks, traveling, pitching and striking tents, designing and sewing costumes, repairing gear, cleaning guns, reloading blanks, doing safety training, researching, writing and rehearsing skits, and, always, looking for more indispensable old goodies.  Most of our free time was spent together.  While performing was undeniably fun, the best part of re-enactment was camaraderie with hundreds of other Old West enthusiasts.  Re-enactment is more than a hobby, it becomes a way of life.

Our troupe were all members of the Single Action Shooting Society, an international organization which formerly held its annual shooting championship in Norco, California before relocating to New Mexico.  The last of these Norco events drew 2500 competitors and over 20,000 members of the public to a five-day encampment.  In addition to wild-west shows, television and movie stars, vendors, artisans, cowboy poets, western musicians, chuck wagon cooks and suffragettes on parade, there was a rambling town set where our troupe and others performed re-enactment skits several times a day.

At the end of the day the gates would close to the public, all weapons would be stowed, lanterns would be lit, and friends would gather around campfires to share a cup of hospitality and rehash the events of the day.  These were the finest times of all.  After dinner there would be music, dancing and socializing in the main tent or the saloon tent, but the campfire visits stretched on into the night until weariness finally dictated that we all retire to our tents, trucks or trailers for the night.

Though some of these multi-day encampments such as End of Trail and Marching Through History no longer take place, the San Bernardino Harvest Fair is still held every November.  Many local troupes of cowboys, townies, mountain men, 7th Cavalry, native American scouts, Buffalo Soldiers, Civil War re-enactors and musicians perform throughout two weekends.

Several excellent annual events are also still held in Tombstone, Arizona, including  Wyatt Earp Days in May, and Helldorado in October, which commemorates the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral.  Re-enactors and tourists from throughout the western states gather to bring Tombstone alive with the sounds of spur jinglebobs on boardwalks and gunfire in the streets.  Although carefully coordinated and approved by a safety committee, gunfights appear to break out spontaneously, and tourists gather on the boardwalks to watch. 

The bad part of doing shootouts in Tombstone is “dying” on the street that is, literally, hot enough to cook an egg, and can raise blisters on any unexposed skin that happens to touch it.  Fortunately, our troupe was often invited to perform in the town’s amphitheater, where horned toads skitter across the dirt stage and hide in the shade of the wood-plank bleachers.  The famous Bird Cage Theater is not used for performances but is a museum and legitimate time capsule from the 19th Century, having been sealed for 50 years before reopening as a museum. 

A favorite memory of mine is of standing alone on the deserted street in front of the Bird Cage, with yellow lamplight in the street and a full moon above.  I heard faint music and laughter from Big Nose Kate’s Saloon a block away, and the clip-clop of hooves of a lone horse walking unhurriedly into town.  It whinnied several times before coming into view at the corner of Allen Street, and the cowboy rode it up to the saloon, tied it to the hitching post and went inside.  It was a magical moment, frozen in time.

There are things I don’t miss about re-enactment.  I don’t miss setting and striking tents in the rain, or dodging horse apples while “dying” in a shooting show on a parade route.  I don’t miss having the police called by neighbors who heard gunfire and hadn’t been informed that there would be a shootout show (“Oh, it’s you guys!  Call off the other car; it’s the Cross Creek bunch again.”).   I don’t miss performing all day in corset, bustle and petticoats in 110-degree heat in Cucamonga.  I don’t miss loading and unloading truckloads of gear as if I were in training as a carnie.  But, as life will do, it parted us and we drifted in different directions, and I miss the countless hours spent with my comrades in arms, bringing the Old West back to life and stepping through the veil of time to live there for a while.  Because, basically, everyone enjoys dressing up and playing cowboy with our friends.