I thought it might be fun to show you some of what goes into creating a story. So I found the original proposal I sent to my publisher Bethany House. (Honestly I was hoping I ended up writing something at least SIMILAR to that proposal, heaven knows things change as I write.)
Here was the overall idea I had for the series.
Three sisters fought in the Civil War disguised as men. They were pressured by their father to avenge their older brother who died in battle. After all those years, without being revealed as women, they now qualify for homestead exemptions, with their years of fighting reducing the years needed to prove up on a homestead.
Living in western Wyoming on 160 acres each, with their father owning the fourth homestead, they have a real nice spread tucked into the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, a remote area where they can live as they please and no one needs to notice the Wilde family is made up of three sisters.
They’ve gotten away with it by staying to themselves. They homesteaded in the fall, spent the Wyoming winter mostly snowed in but now it’s summer and they’ve avoided town. They’ll have to spend their lives has hermits to get away with this.
And maybe they could do that, except they’ve stepped on the toes of a big rancher who wants to drive the nesters off his land.
Then I added this later, after I’d written a while:
Aaron Masterson, the hero from book #1 is fond of saying of all the sisters, “You might have passed yourselves off as young boys during the war but only a fool would believe you’re men now. And Cage Coulter is no fool.” (Cage Coulter, the hero of book #3) They’ve gotten away with it by staying to themselves. Aaron sees Kylie first dressed in her girl clothes. Then he comes to see her ‘brother’ Kyle and figures out he’s Kylie in about ten minutes, in the dark, with Kylie wearing a hat pulled low over her eyes. So there’s not going to be an extended awkward creepy Aaron-feeling-uncomfortably-attracted-to-a-man issue. I’m intending each book to go like that with the opening dispensing with the disguise almost instantly for each of the Wilde women.
Now for the characters of book one, Tried and True, note I called it Wild at Heart, which we ended up with as the series title.
Wild at Heart
Kylie Wilde, youngest daughter of Cudgel Wilde, is the ladylike one who has more experience living as a woman than her sisters. (Elizabeth Hasselbeck with hazel eyes and not this blonde-I’d like streaked hair to match her eyes) As the youngest she was more indulged than her older sisters and has learned a few feminine wiles and she can’t resist using them.
In defiance of her family she’s grown her hair long and wears dresses when she’s home alone.
Aaron, reflecting on Kylie’s hazel eyes: He’d had one good look at her eyes before they’d filled with tears and she’d buried her face against his chest. They were different, deep and haunting. Striped eyes that radiated out brown and green and gold from the black center like a flashing starburst explosion used to light up a field during night battles.
And one look at those eye left him feeling like his life had just lit up.
Kylie’s hair: Honey brown curls sun-streaked with yellow tumbled down around Kylie Wilde’s falsely-padded shoulders.
Her big sisters have pulled her out of one scrape after another as she sets up a homestead. Her dream is to prove up on her land, sell it and move to some civilized city far away from cold, harsh Wyoming.
Aaron Masterson is a former officer in the Union Army. (Simon Baker) Aaron is a VERY tall, blue-eyed blond Dane. 6’4. When the war was over, he went home, but the valley was plagued by Confederate Raiders and old hatreds so deep to stay home was to die. It sent Aaron west. As a favor to an old commanding officer, he’s agreed to help ease the land rush of homesteaders in Wyoming by acting as a land agent which puts him right in the path of the fraudulent Wilde ‘brothers’.
(Since there is no man on the cover we can go ahead and have Aaron look like Simon Baker forever.) 🙂
And then the story–I didn’t include the whole proposal because in a proposal I always tell the whole story. A publisher isn’t interested (well, maybe they are) in having a partial story dangled in front of them. They want to know beginning-middle-end. Well, I’m not pasting the whole story in here, that seems unwise. So here’s about half of it.
Tried and True:
Aaron meets a pretty young woman—a rare thing out west. Aaron is immediately interested. While talking to Kylie, Aaron realizes her ‘brother’ fought in the same regiment as Aaron. By the time Kylie realizes what she’s revealed, Aaron is eager to come and visit with her brother.
Aaron goes out to the ranch. Kylie barely has time to get there before him and get into her manly disguise. She introduces herself as Kyle Wilde.
Aaron soon enough he realizes Kyle and Kylie are one and the same. Aaron realizes Kylie is defrauding the government because women can’t claim the homestead exemption, only soldiers, but Aaron knows she served but women can’t serve. She knows too much about the battles he was in to be lying about that. He’s torn between the letter of the law and simple justice. She fought in the war. Why shouldn’t she get credit for those years of service?
Aaron soon realizes that, though Kylie helps, her big brothers are doing most of the work. Aaron spends all his free time on her homestead helping. He wants to take her away when his work as a land agent is done, but she has distrusted her father and seen ugliness during the war, though she was considered a very young boy. Yes, she wants a husband and marriage but she needs her own money. She wants a civilized home and time to choose a husband wisely. She does not want to be stuck in a remote mountain ranch for the rest of her life, which is where Aaron is planning to move once his job as land agent is over.
Aaron can make her give up her land by revealing she’s a woman to the authorities. If he betrays her, she’ll never marry him. If he supports her, she intends to live for the next three years as a man, then sell her land and use the money to move back east to a city, exactly where Aaron doesn’t want to go.
Someone’s got to give up their dream.
That’s it, the roots of Tried and True and the tease for the whole Wilde at Heart series. To celebrate the new release of Tried and True I’m giving away a copy today to one lucky commenter.