It’s only a few weeks until our special “love day” will be here … Valentine’s Day. Just in time for the occasion, Prairie Rose Publications released one of my short stories, “Tumbleweeds and Valentines”.
A short story about family, love, protection, and caring; each of my family members have the same objectives. It all comes to a head on Valentine’s Day.
I thought it’d be fun to go behind the scenes and let you see how we come up with character’s names, decide on vocations, and what type of historical research we have to do. Using “Tumbleweeds and Valentines” as my example seemed to be a great way to bring this to you and; and, of course encourage you to order the short story from one of the links below.
Even the most established author will tell you that more times than not they don’t get the working-title they want for their books through major publishing houses. It’s all up to the house and the contract because they know more about the business than we do as authors. I got to keep my story title, although I knew ahead of time that the name of the collection was ”Hearts and Spurs”. In other words, give your story a title that you like and don’t get down in the dumps or upset when you find out it isn’t the one on the front of the cover … a cover that likely you got no input into either, unless again cover approval/input is part of your negotiated contract.
The first thing I needed, as any other writer, is the names of the hero and heroine (H/H) and the setting. It’s also very important with settings that they are historically accurate; however, you have creative permission to bend it to fit your story, if it’s reasonable. That’s the reason, although I write my western historical romances, in the Texas Panhandle, I stay somewhat accurate.
My setting is in Caprock, Texas. All of the towns that I write about, both historical and contemporary, are based on towns in and around the Caprock of the Texas Panhandle, where I was born and raised. Thus the name Caprock, Texas. Greene Street where Mandy lives is an original street in Amarillo, although it’s long been replaced with another name.
I used a phrase in the story similar to, “Caprock has grown like the merchants of Colorado City wanted….” If you switched the name to Amarillo, you’d be correct. The merchants of Colorado City, Texas, wanted a town to become a railhead plus a passage on up north, so they solicited a number of merchants to set up business in this area, believing the railroad would come through here. The railroad named us Oneida, but we eventually where changed to Amarillo Spanish for yellow soil. All the houses were painted yellow, once the town was settled up on higher ground instead of in a buffalo wallow called then and now Wildhorse Lake. And, yes, we still have a viable railroad and shipping yards for cattle. As a matter of fact, at one time during the mid-1800’s, there were so many cattle to be shipped that the pastures were filled with them and extended nearly 100 miles south and to the New Mexico border.
Where do names come from? Sometimes they are meant to recognize someone, either negatively or positively. Other times, it’s simply a name that works. I’ve also looked up at my reference books shelves and found a name for a minor character. I use a “name your baby” type book sometimes other times folks I know. In this book, I wrote Mandy, which is the name of the daughter-in-law of a friend and of course her last name had to be “Love” for Valentine’s Day.
Her business partner in the confectionary shop is Emma Parker who has two nephews. Trey is the blacksmith and I needed him to be that vocation. Then came time to name his twin, so rhyme time kicked in. Trey and Clay, and their last name is Hemphill and is in honor of a long-time deceased friend of mine. By the way, Emma is my oldest granddaughter, while Parker is my youngest grandson. Jenny, in the book is Emma’s sister, while in real life that’s my youngest daughter’s name and also the name of a friend. I try to respect my friends and family and never use their names or one of their family names without asking. With my family, I use middles names, if at all possible and never their last names or where they live in a blog or anything public.
How people dress, especially women, is so very critical. For an historical, I use a series of research books by John Peacock and particularly like “The Chronicle of Western Fashion” From Ancient Times to the Present Day. I find an outfit that fits the era and my lady and try to describe it. In this particular story, Amanda wears a pale blue and while calico dress. I depicted it adequately and then wrote her name next to it in Peacock’s book, so I know I’ve already used that outfit. The nice thing about these research books is at various places it author stops to physically describe the various clothing. I opened it to a random page. In 1605 this picture showed a noblewoman wearing her hair “dressed over pads and decorated with feathers and flowers; gown with high standing lace collar supported on wire frame, long hanging sleeves and wide skirt on cartwheel frame; high-heeled slashed shoes with wired bows.”
I love to cook, so you’ll see characters fixin’ candy, fried pies, and tarts in this story. I use them for actions tags instead of verbal tags for my heroine and her business partner. Since this is a short read and I didn’t have a lot of words to describe what they were makin’ for the Valentine’s barn dance, hootenanny, or shindig … whatever you may have called it in 1889.
There is so much more I’d like to write about, but I hope this gave you a taste, pun intended, of what this story is about and if you’re lucky you’ll win one of two free copies.
Please share with me your favorite Valentine’s goodie. My two most favorite are in the story. Let me hear from you ladies.