Why is it that romance novels outsell any other genre in the bookstore? For that matter, why do women love chick flicks?
It’s all about the men.
We’re fascinated by them. We like to think we understand them, but in truth, we have no clue what most of them will do next.
We love to discover how other women met the love of their lives. Whether it’s fact or fiction, we’re hooked by a good story. The more inappropriate the two seem at first, the more we love the tale.
I think our curiosity has been going on for centuries. Don’t you agree? When women bond at a dinner party, the conversation always turns to the same question:
“So how did you two meet?”
I think that question was asked (grunted) by the very first cavewoman to the second cavewoman, as they were standing over the fire eating their hunk of meat and admiring their hairy men.
Don’t you know how your mom met your dad, your sister met her man, and how your best friend wound up living with the guy next door? Women love to talk about, dissect and analyze relationships.
In novels and in movies, we want realism in our stories. Maybe not always on the outside—fantasy is fun—but down deep, where it matters. The core values of the fictional hero are what we, and the heroine, fall in love with. It’s that part of him that listens to her problems, the part that understands that life is hard and he wants to share her burdens as well as her riches, and mostly, the part of the hero that sees through her defense mechanisms in pushing him away and loves her for them anyway.
When I’m critiquing an unpublished work, I’ll sometimes see these parts of the hero omitted. And if you’ve ever sat through a romantic comedy in the movie theater and thought ‘this is lame,’ you know what I mean. Here’s what’s missing: What is it about the man the heroine truly admires? What does she have that he can’t find in anyone else? What do they overcome in their inner journey in order to be together?
When you pick up your favorite romance novel, or watch your favorite movie for the nth time, it’s that big sigh at the end that sums it all up. We want an emotional journey that proves these two people can’t live without each other.
So…how did you and your partner meet? Are you complete opposites or do you have the same approach to life? Know any juicy stories about how other couples met?
If you post a comment here today, you’ll get a chance to win a copy of KLONDIKE WEDDING! I’m giving away two, so you’ve got double the chance of getting your name pulled out of the hat!
I blogged about the novel two weeks ago—the hero is a veterinarian surgeon with the Mounties. In case you missed it, the blog was titled ‘Do You Know Where Your Hairy Creature Came From?’ and it’s filed under the category of Medicine.
I’m talking about your pet! And veterinary medicine.
Two years ago we got a cute new puppy and instantly fell in love. She’s a Bichon Friseand has the sweetest personality. Her name is Amy.
At the time, I was writing the novel, KLONDIKE WEDDING. (Published in 2007.) I wanted to give my heroine a puppy and started looking into Amy’s history to see if her breed was around then. Lo and behold, yes! Because it was a gold rush story, I named her Nugget in the book.
They weren’t known as Bichon Frises back then, simply bichons. (Double-check the breed names if you’re including them in your novels. The dog may have existed, but the name may have been slightly different. Many official names and standards of a particular breed were formalized later, in the 1900s, for American kennel clubs.)
One thing often overlooked in Klondike history is the huge influx of stampeders’ dogs. People from around the world heard of the gold strike and raced to get there. They brought their faithful companions not only as a remedy for cabin fever, but as work dogs. They pulled sleds, hauled supplies and people, carried mail and acted as security guards. Often times, they were the only friend a gold miner could trust. And extremely valuable. A dog that sold for $15 in the lower states could sell for ten times that amount or more in the Yukon.
When I was in the Yukon, I picked up this great book. GOLD RUSH DOGS by Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jane G. Haigh. It offers such an interesting point of view of the gold rush. For centuries prior to this, Indians and Eskimos in Alaska relied on their huskies and malamutes for transportation (dog sleds) and carrying household goods as they moved seasonally for hunting, fishing and trapping.
Stampeders brought different breeds. Saint Bernards, English mastiffs, water spaniels, Lapphunds (a Norwegian or Lapp dog that was a reindeer herder) and countless other mixed breeds. Many became legendary in the north for their hard work, incredible strength and duration. They bred with the huskies and forever changed the bloodline of northern dogs.
DOGS. Some dog breeds from around the world and their history:
Bichon – French, Belgian and Mediterranean ancestry dating back to the 1300s. Related to poodles, Maltese breeds, and water spaniels. During the 1500s, the breed became popular as pampered lap dogs for French, English and Spanish royalty.
Golden Retriever – Developed sometime around 1865 by Lord Tweedmouth of Scotland. For hunting purposes to retrieve game birds such as grouse, pheasant and quail. The dog is able to swim in cold water, push through vegetation and retrieve gently.
Saint Bernard – Very old breed. Some say they date back to the 1st century A.D. Its ancestors are herding dogs of Swiss and Italian farmers, and watchdogs. Famous for being used by Swiss monks as rescue dogs for travelers crossing the treacherous Swiss Alps. These dogs have a highly developed sense of smell to find people trapped in snowstorms and are excellent pathfinders. In widespread use until the middle of the 19th century.
CATS. Around 4,000 years ago, cats were fully domesticated by the Egyptians as household pets, and used to guard stored grain from rodents. Cats don’t have as many diverse breeds as dogs. Although some breeds are 500 years old, most are roughly 100 years old and new breeds are continually being developed.
Some cat breeds:
Persian – Originated in Persia (Iran). Believed to have been brought to Europe during the Crusades in the 1300s, though first documented in Italy during the 1600s. Introduced to North America in the late 1800s.
American Shorthair – A breed with ancestry related to English cats, which were brought on ships by early explorers (the Mayflower) to guard valuable cargo from mice and rats. Known for longevity, robust health and amiability.
Siamese – Exported from Thailand (known as Siam then) in the late 1800s, to England and America. Known for distinct beauty, intelligence and inquisitive nature.
In KLONDIKE WEDDING, I took the story one step further and made the hero a Veterinary Surgeon who worked for the Mounties. He had a lot on his plate—dealing with a measles quarantine, trapped with the heroine and several other people, while suspecting someone was using his vet supplies for poison.
You can imagine how valuable veterinarians were during those times, especially in caring for horses. Horses were desperately needed for transport, battle, hunting, and basic survival. Veterinary Surgeons became very important during the American Civil War.
Although the Royal Veterinary College was founded in England in 1791, the first college in the U.S. started in 1857—the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons. Up until then, American men became veterinarians by apprenticing with someone who was trained in England, or by practice and hearsay. Unfortunately, in some pockets of the U.S. it took several decades for good education to filter through.
In 1863, the United States Veterinary Medical Association was founded. It went through several name changes, and published the journal, American Veterinary Review, for their members.
My new book cover is here!WANTED IN ALASKA is coming out in February 2009. I’m excited to tell you the story, and what inspired me to write it.
With all the media attention Alaska has been getting lately, I’m reminded how young the state is. The population growth never really got started until the late 1890s, during the Klondike gold rush. Little more than a hundred years ago.
Alaska has an exciting and colorful history. Around 1897, when the rest of America first heard that gold had been discovered in the Klondike, in nuggets as big as a man’s fist, everyone from schoolteachers to mayors to the worst criminals in history headed north for a piece of the action.
The most direct route to get to the rich Klondike River was by ship to the port of Skagway, Alaska. From there, people crossed the mountains by foot, then built rafts to take the rivers to the Klondike.
I took these photos on my research trip to Skagway. What a fascinating place! They’ve restored the buildings as they were during the gold rush, so I felt like I’d stepped through a time machine.
With roughly a hundred thousand people arriving in Alaska within the first two years of the gold rush, it took a while for the law to catch up.
Skagway was run by an organized crime leader who made life hell for folks on the trail. His name was Jefferson Randolph Smith, with a nickname of ‘Soapy.’
Soapy was a con artist from the lower States who fled to Alaska to make a fortune. He had his fingers in everything—his gangs targeted gold miners on the trails who’d struck it rich, stole precious supplies of food and clothing headed into the area, and he conned people right off the boats by declaring he’d set up a telegraph office in Skagway so they could wire their families at home to say they’d arrived safely. Well, in order for telegrams to be sent, there had to be wires strung between the two places, usually on posts that followed the railroads. Although several honest people tried to convince the others that the telegraph office was a hoax, many believed Soapy, and wired home. Can you imagine? They had a real building, using fake instruments where they tapped the fake messages and just pocketed the money. Playing devil’s advocate here, what a great con!
Soapy even had the local law enforcement, what little there was, on his payroll. He bribed them and they did as he asked. This is the spark of history that ignited my novel, WANTED IN ALASKA.
It’s the fictional story of an honest man who’s fighting to get the truth out, but he’s been set up by these organized criminals to take the blame for the violence and robbery on the trails. Quinn Rowlan’s face is plastered on every Wanted Poster from Skagway to the Klondike for stuff he didn’t do. In truth, he and his band of men have been saving lives.
When Quinn’s brother is wounded in one of their heroic fights, Quinn is desperate for medical help. There are no doctors around, so he recklessly kidnaps a nurse. First big mistake.
This would be the heroine, Autumn MacNeil. The book opens with Autumn and her friend at a masquerade ball in Skagway. They’ve come dressed up as each other. Autumn is a singer and her friend is the nurse. Quinn asks for a dance with Autumn, leads her to the balcony, then with the help of his men, snatches her from the party. He doesn’t realize until it’s too late that she’s not a nurse at all.
Besides being an outlaw, Quinn has an interesting profession, but I won’t spoil it by saying what he does. It’s another reason why he has to clear his name.
Of course, Autumn is outraged at what this madman has done, and has a few tricks of her own for survival. What neither of them counts on is how intense and meaningful every moment they spend together becomes.
Slowly, they lower their guard, and set off on a dangerous and exciting plan to set the world right. And their love story unfolds….
Have you ever visited Alaska? Have any of your ancestors been involved in gold mining, or silver or copper, in other parts of the country? So much of our history and our population growth was influenced by the location of precious metals.
Just like Soapy, don’t a lot of con artists still hang out at railroad stations and airport lobbies to lure unsuspecting tourists? I’ve encountered a couple in European railroad stations, and in New York City airports—men who claimed to be legitimate taxi drivers but weren’t. Have you ever come across any con artists in your travels?
In my novels, I often include characters with a wide variety of ages. Sometimes a reader will ask if it’s accurate that one of my characters would have lived to be a senior. I tell them yes, because this is where statistics come in.
Sadly, up until the mid 1800s in America and England, nearly half of all children died before the age of ten. Nearly half. Childhood diseases such as measles, diphtheria (a deadly membrane that grows over the throat) and scarlet fever took many lives. Tuberculosis was another killer. Statistics vary slightly by region and time period, but the average lifespan for the early part of the century was roughly forty.
However, once a person got beyond childhood, these diseases weren’t usually fatal. So, let’s look at statistics. If one person lived until they were 4 years old and another lived till they were 76, the average lifespan of these two people would be 40.Or if one person lived till they were 1 and another till they were 80, their average lifespan would be 40, as well. You get the idea…the average lifespan, statistically, doesn’t give a true picture of what that society looked like back then. It does not mean that people over the age of 40 were scarce. What it means is that half the population was wiped out in childhood.
Fortunately, after the 1850s, people started to understand the connection between germs and disease. Soaps and disinfectants came into common use. Public sanitation, such as garbage collection and water treatment, began in New York City. The average lifespan increased dramatically in the latter half of the century. And later, with the development of vaccines, most children’s lives were remarkably spared.
So how can we improve our own lives?
In writing this article, I goggled tips on longevity and you can imagine how long the list was. We pursue the fountain of youth with zeal. We’ve got anti-aging formulas, bottled vitamins, testimonials on new exercise techniques, cleansing products, and you name it.
What caught my eye were natural solutions, and not based on buying a certain product. In other words, getting back to basics. Besides eating well—especially vegetables and fruits—and getting regular mild exercise, these are some other interesting tips I’d like to share:
1)Some scientists believe that eating only until you feel 80% full, will prolong life. According to the BBC news, residents of Okinawa, Japan have four times more centenarians (those over 100) than the rest of the world. The calendar says they’re 70, but their body says they’re 50. Most impressively, a lot of them are healthy until the very end. They eat more tofu and soya products than any other population in the world, a rich source of anti-oxidants. But they also have a cultural tradition, called hara hachi bu, which means eating only until they feel 80% full. Recent lab studies with mice also mimics this result—those fed less, live longer.
2)Taking deep cleansing breaths for 2 minutes a day stimulates the lymph system. The lymph system is Mother Nature’s way of getting rid of the toxins in our body naturally. Inhale slowly, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Lymph flow improves throughout the body.
3)Studies show that being exposed to nature makes us feel better. A recent study of hospital patients who had a window view of trees and grass went home, on average, a day sooner than patients who didn’t. You don’t even have to be in this environment, you just have to see it!
4)Natural endorphins in our bloodstream—that give us an emotional high and fight disease—can be triggered by laughter. These are the same endorphins that can be triggered by jogging (the runner’s high). So being a couch potato and watching sitcoms can be beneficial.
5)Reduce your stress level. We’re all individuals and as such, different things trigger a lower stress level. For some, it’s exercise, for some it’s reading, others spend time with their children and families, or take a trip to the beach. Here’s one you may not know—scientists aren’t exactly sure why, but they’ve known for twenty or thirty years now that people who go to church regularly, in whatever faith they observe, live longer. It seems that churchgoers have significantly lower levels of stress hormones. What’s your method of relaxation?
6)Singing can help you live longer. According to studies in the UK and one recently done in California with opera singers, and studies from Harvard and Yale with choir singers—singers live longer. Singing releases endorphins (those happy hormones) and increases oxygenation through the heart and lungs. Singing promotes a healthy heart and enhanced mental state. Wow!
Do you have any other tips you’ve heard of? Are you blessed with longevity in your family?
Rumor has it that when the French monk, Dom Perignon, first tasted the champagne he created, he said, “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!” Whether he actually said it or not, it’s a great description of this sparkling wine.
I don’t drink a lot of champagne, but someone recently gave me and my husband a bottle of Dom Perignon. How nice!
French Benedictine monks were the first to create champagne in the 17th century, named after the Champagne region of France where they lived. One of the monks was Dom Pierre Perignon (1639-1715). Some say he was the very first monk to discover champagne, but the topic is controversial. During those times, monks produced wine because it was blessed and used during mass.
Because of the cooler temperatures and shorter growing season of the grapes in the Champagne region, the grapes were picked late in the year and fermentation was often cut short. A second fermentation process began in the spring when weather got warmer. This second fermentation process created natural bubbles of carbon dioxide. If the champagne was stored in barrels, the effervescence escaped. But when stored in bottles, how the monks stored it, the bubbles were trapped inside. Hence, champagne.
Some of the cheaper versions of sparkling wine—some produced in North America—have the carbon dioxide bubbles injected directed by machine. This is not true champagne.
The first bottle of the brand name Dom Perignon was produced in 1936–named after the famous monk.
Sometimes in my Westerns, I’ll have my Mountie hero open a bottle of Bordeaux or Burgundy wine from France, to indicate that Mountie Officers often came from cultured homes and wealthy Eastern families.
What’s your favorite drink? Maybe it’s non-alcoholic? Right now, mine is green tea. This summer, I loved visiting Napa Valley in California. (The photo below.) I live near the Niagara Region of Ontario, and its most southern point goes as far south as the northern tip of California, and so the weather here is conducive to growing grapes. The Niagara region produces some world-class wines. How about you? Do you live near a grape growing region where wines are produced? Or have you visited one?
Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday of October. In the U.S. it’s the fourth Thursday of November. I’m not sure why the difference in dates–from my research, I note it’s a parliamentary thing. Although the dates are different, we celebrate the same things.
Thanksgiving originated as a special time for giving thanks for a rich harvest and our many bountiful blessings. Hooray for the day! We celebrate with turkey dinners and family get-togethers. There’s usually lots of driving involved. It’s my day to blog, and in honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d do something that centered around food or drinks. See the above post!
A photo of my local grocery store, taken yesterday. The pumpkins are also out for Halloween!
Welcome to our front porch! Come on over, put your feet up and sit a spell while we tell you a story….
THE BALLAD OF TEN FILLIES written by Kate Bridges
Ten pretty gals rode in one day
Their legend was heard for miles away
With Miss Pam as their founder, they forged their town
A place for their stories, to write them all down
Some worked in the library, local paper, saloon
The church, the ranches, some wrote by the moon
With quills in hand and heroes to test
Romantic writers of the Wild West
They were known as the Fillies and word soon spread
Their tales about love, sacrifice and villains to dread
By the swish of a petticoat and glint of a gun
At Wildflower Junction they’re all for one
They comfort their animals, share coffee with friends
They nurture their children and dance with their men
With quills in hand and heroes to test
Romantic writers of the Wild West
Miss Pam, Cheryl, Linda and Pat
Always put out a welcome mat
Miss Mary, Elizabeth, Stacey and Karen
Weaving their tales, sometimes funny or quite daring
Miss Charlene, Kate, and Felicia with her charm
The fastest penslingers to give outlaws alarm
With quills in hand and heroes to test
Romantic writers of the Wild West
* * * *
Hope you enjoyed the poem! I’m proud to be a part of Petticoats and Pistols for all the fun and entertainment it provides us, the writers, hopefully as well as you, our friends and readers.
Thank you to everyone who’s dropped by this week to help us celebrate our first anniversary and how far we’ve come. We couldn’t have done any of this without YOU! The number of visitors we get each day continues to amaze us. To our surprise and delight, several of our blogs have been picked up by the media, such as USA TODAY, Reuters and the Chicago Sun Times. Which just goes to show, you never know who’s reading!
How did you first discover our website–who told you about it? And what elements of Petticoats and Pistols do you enjoy the most? Do you visit any other pages on the site, or do you usually stick to the current day’s blog?
I like pretty things.That’s why when I recently visited a preserved village of houses, shops and streets, I was struck by the pretty interior decor. These are original colors, furnishings and buildings restored to the 1860s. For those in driving proximity, it’s called Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto.
How about the rich milky turquoise on these walls? The lovely color surprised me. Isn’t this a stunning kitchen? Homesteaders usually started out with a small log cabin as a first home, as quickly as they could clear the trees to make room. This would’ve been their second house, after living off the land for sixteen years–a two-story structure with more expensive furniture.
Here’s my favorite room in another house—the kitchen where the village seamstress took in sewing and made hats. The original log house was built in the 1830s. The kitchen was framed as a later addition in the 1850s. I’m guessing the room is about 15 x 20. The seamstress packed in a lot of interesting activities into this kitchen, and it was definitely the place where she liked to hang out.
Before the invention of interior plumbing, pioneers used what was called a ‘dry sink.’ They looked pretty much like some of our cabinets today, but with no faucet. When they washed dishes, there would be two pails standing inside the dry basin, one with warm soapy water and the other with clear. They did a whole variety of jobs while standing by this window—anything that was messy or needed water.Canning, preserving, handling cheese, washing hair, cutting meat and numerous others.
The dry sink was positioned close to the stove, just as we like today, handy to grab a pot full of hot water or boil potatoes once they’d been peeled.It was interesting to discover that villages like these, beyond the outskirts of a major city, were healthier than most because they had their own water wells. When epidemics like cholera, caused by contaminated water, plagued bigger cities, farms and villages that had their own water supplies were safe.
Here’s the sewing machine. (And a person dressed in costume demonstrating.)
And some other things the seamstress was working on—hats and dresses and clothing patterns cut of paper.
The decorations hanging near the sill caught my eye. I think it’s always been the woman who makes the home, who adds the pretty little touches and pats down all the feathers.
What’s your favorite room or corner in your house? Is there a special place where you like to read? Have you visited any interesting historical sites?
Drive past any drugstore today and you’ll see the signs. “Open 24 Hours.” “Pharmacist on Duty.” “Refill Orders by Phone.” We even have drive-thru pharmacies, unimaginable a century ago.
How did the settlers ever manage? What did they do if they had a stomach cramp in the middle of the night, or their sinuses were full?
If they lived on the open range, they used a home remedy or suffered through it. But if they lived in a bigger town like St. Louis or Cheyenne or San Francisco, they visited their local apothecary. The drugstore of their day.
The word apothecary came from the word apotheca, meaning a place where herbs, spices and wines were stored. During the thirteenth century, it also came to mean a person who sold these substances from a shop or street stall. Thus the word is used interchangeably—it can refer to the person or the pharmacy itself.
Herbalists existed well before this time, though. Monks, for instance, grew herbal gardens in their monasteries and used them for healing in the ninth century. Native Americans were expert herbalists, too. And across the other side of the ocean, so were the Chinese.
By the mid-sixteenth century, apothecaries in England had become the equivalent of today’s pharmacists, measuring and dispensing medicine.
Some apothecaries had formal college training in medicine, some learned as apprentices. Whatever the case, folks considered them a godsend. Apothecaries diagnosed problems, gave advice and sold remedies. Most drug laws in the U.S. never came into effect till after 1900, so these druggists were free to sell whatever helped.
By the seventeenth century, medical practice in England was divided into three groups: physicians, surgeons and apothecaries. However, at that time the groups did not carry over to the United States. A doctor from England who landed on American soil was expected to practice general medicine, do surgery, and dole out medication. The American Medical Association was formed in 1847 to oversee education and practice. They started to regulate the profession, on who could and couldn’t call themselves a doctor. Specialization started to take place after that.
The American Pharmaceutical Association was founded in 1852.
Famous apothecaries in history
Benedict Arnold, the famous American General in the American Revolution who switched his loyalty to the British side, apprenticed as an apothecary in his youth. Four of his siblings had died of yellow fever.
John Keats, the British poet, also trained as one. He attended medical school before he focused on studying literature. His mother and his brother both died of tuberculosis. Keats eventually died of it, too.
John Parkinson, a famous herbalist and apothecary to King James I, was one of the founding members, in 1617, of the now world-renowned Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in England.
Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman in the U.K. to be granted a medical license, by this Society of Apothecaries, 1865. (The first female doctor in the U.S. to obtain a medical license, graduating at the top of her class, was Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, 1849—not an apothecary.)
On the eastern seaboard, many apothecaries had patrons who were wealthy, and the shops reflected this in their rich architecture, beautiful bottles of various sizes, wall-to-wall shelving and drawers, and huge sunny windows that fronted the streets.
On the Western frontier, apothecaries (the buildings) came in all shapes and sizes. Some were little more than shacks.
This is a pestle and mortar, used to crush and mix substances. (The pestle is the pounding tool, the mortar is the bowl.) They were often made of stone, marble, or brass—hard enough to crush the medicine without crushing fine particles of the tools themselves. The tools had to be extremely washable, where residue from one medicine would not mix with another. Apothecaries sometimes ground uncooked white rice in them to clean them—repeating the procedure until the rice came out completely white.
Apothecaries also had very fine tools and trays where they made their own pills, before pills were manufactured by machine. As you can imagine, precise measurement was extremely important, and keeping each pill exactly the same size was an art form. Apothecaries had their own precise system of weighing mass in liquid and solid form.
Until about 1900, most medical recipes were written in Latin. Latin was the universal language, understood in Europe and America.
Some apothecaries grew their own beautiful herb gardens.
During the twentieth century, drugstores became a blend of soda fountains and drug dispensaries. Remember Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” working in one as a boy?
When you were a kid, what was your local drugstore like? Did you actually know the name of the pharmacist? Did the drugstore smell of licorice? Lotions and potions? What do you remember most?