I’m still writing the English-set novels but am excited that my earlier Texas-set novels which have been out of print for years now will soon be available (November 9) in electronic format through AvonBooks. With their re-release, I’ve been taking some treks down Memory Lane.
Sweet Lullaby holds a special place in my heart because it was my first book to sell. One night when I was working on it, my husband glanced over my shoulder and saw my hero’s name. “Jake?” he asked. “Couldn’t you come up with a better name than Jake?” All I could do was look at him and say, “Jake is his name.” How do you explain to a non-writer that characters have their own names and you can’t change them willy-nilly? It was quite satisfying the afternoon when I called him at work to let him know that Jake’s story sold. Jake put me on my career path and several years later, when we bought a house, my husband surprised me with a plaque that hangs on our patio. It simply says, “The House that Jake Built.”
Jake gave me my start in this wonderful, wacky, crazy world that we call publishing. Jesse followed Jake. Then Clay, Houston, Dallas, and Austin. I always think of my stories as belonging to the heroes. It’s their journey to redemption and love.
When I began writing Texas-set stories, I wanted to provide as realistic a flavor of Texas as I could. To that end, in Sweet Lullaby, I included a jousting tournament. The pageantry of medieval England became popular in Texas following the Civil War. The tournaments were usually held during Fourth of July picnics or other holidays. The local residents would gather as the young men transformed into knights.
These tournaments were highly anticipated and the young men would not only practice for weeks before the event took place, but they also had special costumes that they wore. Black shirts and trousers were trimmed in silver while plumes decorated broad brimmed hats. In Plano, Texas, it is reported that the men also wore a long sash of colored ribbon with a large rosette positioned where the sash crossed.
In West Texas, the young men would assume a different name such as “Morning Star” or “Black Warrior.” In the Dallas area, the participants represented their location and were announced as “Knight of Plano” or “Knight of Spring Creek.”
The track that the horses ran would vary in length from one hundred to three hundred yards. Five posts were positioned along the length of the course. Each post held a ring that dangled from a crossbar.
The spectators would gather along the track. An announcer would yell, “Knight of Plano! Ready! Ride!” and the first contestant would gallop his horse the length of the track and attempt to catch the ring using his long, spiked steel lance. Each challenger rode the length of the track three times and the one who gathered the most rings was proclaimed the Plumed or Champion Knight. He chose a lady to be his queen for the remainder of the festivities, which often included a ball or a square dance.
The British are credited with bringing this tradition with them when they came to settle in Texas. Ivanhoe was also a popular book at the time and fired many a young man’s imagination.
[Sources: Christmas in Texas by Elizabeth Silverthorne, copyrighted 1990; Plano, Texas, the Early Years compiled by the Friends of the Plano Public Library, copyrighted 1985.]
I still love reading books on the history of Texas. Texas is such a large and diverse state. I love the tough and gritty cowboy. And I love the fillies! Thank you, ladies, for having me visit today.
Anyone who comments today will be entered into a drawing for a $20 gift card from Amazon, B&N, or Borders—winner’s choice. AND three lucky winners will receive a copy of the western anthology My Heroes Have Always been Cowboys.
Avon Books is rereleasing all six of Lorraine’s Texas-set historicals! Visit Lorraine’s website, www.LorraineHeath.com, to see the new covers of her westerns, coming November 9, 2010, as well as all of her latest releases from AvonRomance.