We’re very happy to welcome Shelley Shepard Gray to the corral for a visit. She’s going to give us an interesting overview and the background of her newest book Love Held Captive.
Every so often, I come across something while doing research that surprises me. Discovering that there was a Confederate Officer POW camp on Johnson Island, in the middle of Lake Erie, was one of those things!
Months before that discovery, I had been making dinner with my husband and told him about my idea for a series. I wanted to focus on a band of brothers who made a vow to be there for each other after the War Between the States. One idea led to another, and by the time we sat down to eat, I had the outline for a three book series. The leader of this group was Captain Devin Monroe. I knew he was going to be the heart and the soul of this group of men. So well respected, he was almost larger than life. All of that was good. I just couldn’t figure out how the men had formed their bond. I came up with several scenarios, covering everything from being neighbors to meeting during basic training, to forming a bond during specific battles.
Then I discovered the POW camp on Johnson’s Island. During my research, I read one thing that stuck with me-that the best of the Confederacy was being guarded by the worst the Union had. I learned that these officers were carted up to Sandusky, Ohio by train and marched across the ice to Johnson’s Island. Then, these generals and captains and first lieutenants were essentially left to govern themselves. They made gardens, they whittled, and they cared for each other. One group of men even wrote a play. I knew right then and there that I had my men’s bonding experience!
Of course, no matter how much it differed from other encampments, it was still a POW camp. Dozens of men died while being incarcerated and the officers buried them on the island. When the war ended, groups from several southern states raised funds so the men would have tombstones. The cemetery is still there.
Right before I began writing the first book in the series, my husband and I drove up to Sandusky and visited a Veterans Home. A kind gentlemen took us up to the third floor of the museum there and showed us the many artifacts that remained from the camp. Then, after a few wrong turns and more than a couple dead ends, we finally found the Confederate cemetery. The site of it took my breath away.
People ask all the time how much research I feel I need to do for my historicals. For me, the story and the characters always come first…but the experience of actually being where my characters might have walked? Well, for me, it was priceless.
Love Held Captive is the last book in my Lone Star Hero’s Love Story series. It features both Captain Devin Monroe’s and Major Ethan Kelly’s stories. It takes place in San Antonio at the Menger Hotel and on Johnson’s Island. At its heart, it’s a romance about two men and two women who truly deserve their happiness. But it’s also about perseverance and grit. And about surviving, forging friendships, and clinging to hope in even the darkest of circumstances. I hope you will enjoy the book.
Here’s the link to the website, so you can get a copy in your favorite format.
I love research and love to walk-the-walk when it comes to research. As my friends know, if I could do what I’d really love it’d be researching and outlining novels, while someone else writes the book. I came across two interesting tidbits that I want to share with you all.
The Free State of Van Zandt
Van Zandt County in east Texas was once known as the Free State of Van Zandt, an independent state once in conflict with the United States. Following the Civil War, federal troops were stationed in many Texas towns. Fed up with martial law, the citizens of Van Zandt voted to secede not just from Texas, but from the United States as well. The government wasn’t going to stand for any shenanigans, so United States Army soldiers led by General Sheridan were sent to put down the uprising.
Fortunately, the Van Zandt army had celebrated their new freedom a little too heartily and the drunks were rounded up without too much hassle. Later, many of the men escaped custody. Seceding from the U.S. was no longer in the cards, though the resolution made by the county to separate from Texas and the U.S. was never formally withdrawn.
Where did the word “blurb” come from?
This second little tidbit is for the writers out there, and we have plenty of readers who are also writers! I found it so interesting and had not heard of this before.
Ever wonder where we got the term “blurb” to indicate a short summary or promotional piece accompanying a creative work? At a trade association dinner in 1907, author Gelett Burgess presented attendees with a limited edition of one of his books. It was customary to have a brief summary included on the front of the dust jacket of such books, along with a picture of an attractive woman. Notice I said woman, not author! Burgess followed this custom — with a twist. On the front of his book was an image of a woman with her hand held to her mouth, as if shouting. The caption for this image was “Belinda Blurb, in the act of blurbing,” and bold letters at the top of the dust jacket declared, “Yes, this is a Blurb!” The name stuck.
I found this tidbit about the time, Kensington sent me the back blurb on my newest Kasota Springs Romance story Out of a Texas Night, so I thought I’d share the tidbit with you all.
For an autographed copy of Give Me a Texas Ranger, referred to in the Publisher’s Weekly review, or any one of the six anthologies by Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace and myself, give me your thoughts on Van Zandt County, Texas, withdrawing not just from Texas but the United States.
How many of you have ever heard of “Belinda Blurb”?
Everything’s bigger in Texas…including love.
A deputy sheriff in Houston, Avery Humphrey is ready for some hometown comfort when she heads back to Kasota Springs, but one kiss from Brody VanZant is enough to make her trade “soothing” for “sizzling.” When it turns out hot, hard-headed Brody is another Bonita County deputy, sizzling gets complicated, especially after Avery is made the interim sheriff. Brody knows romancing the boss isn’t on the duty roster, but to him it’s a state of emergency to prove to Avery that he’s the partner she needs—in her life and in her bed—and he’s ready to give her as many kisses as there are stars in the Texas sky to convince her.
Praise for Phyliss Miranda
“Outlaw Savannah Parker finds hope for justice—and redemption—in the arms of Texas Ranger Ethan Kimble in Miranda’s ‘Texas Flame,’ which deftly weaves layers of secrets into a narrative that keeps readers guessing.”
Insults and pejoratives have been around since man’s first spoken word. Below are some that were popular in the 19th-century American west. (Terms for food are here, women here, outlaws here, and gambling here.)
Bigmouth: a person who talks too much, usually about something another doesn’t want discussed. American English, c. 1889.
Bluebelly: from the early 1800s in the U.S. South, a derogatory term for a northerner; a Yankee. From about 1850, a pretentious, opinionated person. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), any Union sympathizer, especially a Union soldier. Union soldiers also were called blueskins, after the color of their uniforms.
Bottom-feeder: a reviled person, especially someone who uses a position of authority to abuse others; a lowlife. Originally used to describe fishes, the word became American slang c. 1866.
Dude: a fastidious man; fop or clotheshorse. The term originated in New York City c. 1880-1885; antecedents uncertain. Westerners picked up the word as derisive slang for any city dweller out of his element on the rough frontier. Cowboys used the phrase “duded up” to mean “dressed up.” Contemporary usage of “dude” as a minor term of endearment or indication of spiritual kinship arose in California’s surfer culture during the latter half of the 20th century.
Fiddleheaded: inane; lacking good sense; “possessing a head as hollow as a fiddle.” Arose c. 1854; American slang.
Grass-bellied: disparaging term for the prosperous (especially those whose prosperity had gone to their waist); originally applied to cattle whose stomachs were dangerously distended due to eating too much green grass. The word arose prior to 1897, when it appeared in Owen Wister’s A Journey in Search of Christmas.
Grayback: Confederate soldier, based on the color of their coats. Arose during the American Civil War.
Greaser: derogatory term for a Hispanic of the lower classes. Arose in Texas before 1836.
Greenhorn: novice, neophyte, or newcomer; pejorative in the American west from at least 1885. In the mid-15th century the word meant any young horned animal; by the 17th century, it had been applied to new military recruits.
Heeler: unscrupulous political lackey. The U.S. slang meaning dates to about 1877, no doubt from the image of a dog following its master’s heels. The word “heel” took on that very meaning in 1810. Previously (dating to the 1660s), “heeler” described a person who attached heels to shoes.
Hellion: disorderly, troublesome, rowdy, or mischievous. Arose mid-1800s in the U.S. from Scottish and Northern English hallion, meaning “worthless fellow.” Americans may have changed the A to an E because “hell seemed appropriate, although the shift could as easily represent a simple mispronunciation that stuck.
High-binder: swindler, confidence man, cheat (especially of the political variety). Americanism; arose 1800-10.
High yellow: offensive term for light-skinned person of mixed white and black ancestry. Arose about 1808 in the southern U.S. The term and the notion are reflected in popular songs of the mid-1800s, including the original lyrics for “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
Hustler: in 1825, a thief, especially one who roughed up his victims. By 1884, meaning had shifted to “energetic worker.” The sense “prostitute” arose c. 1924.
Lead-footed: slow and/or awkward. Arose as American slang c. 1896. By the late 1940s, thanks to the burgeoning interstate highway system in the U.S., the term had taken on the opposite meaning — “fast” — as a reference to a heavy foot on a vehicle’s accelerator.
Loco: Borrowed from Spanish about 1844, the word has the same meaning in both languages: “insane.” “Loco-weed,” meaning a species of plants that make cattle behave strangely, arose about 1877.
Loony: short for lunatic; possibly also influenced by the loon bird, known for its wild cry. American English. The adjective appeared in 1853; the noun followed in 1884. “Loony bin,” slang for insane asylum, arose 1919.
Lunk: slow-witted person. Americanism; first documented appearance was in Harper’s Weekly, May 1867. Probably a shortened form of lunkhead, which arose in the U.S. about 1852.
Mouthpiece: from 1805, one who speaks on behalf of others. The word first became tied to lawyers — especially of the slimy variety — in 1857.
Mudsill: unflattering Confederate term for a Yankee. In the 1680s, the word meant “lowest sill of a house.” In March 1858, it entered American politics when James M. Hammond of South Carolina used the term derogatorily during a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Yankees embraced the term as a way of flipping Rebs the proverbial bird.
Nuts: mentally unbalanced; crazy in a negative way. From 1846, based on an earlier (1785) expression “be nuts upon” (to be very fond of), which itself arose from the use of “nuts” for “any source of pleasure” (c. 1610). Oddly, “nut” also became a metaphorical term for “head” about 1846, probably arising from the use of “nuts” to describe a mental state. “Off one’s nut” as a slang synonym for insane arose c. 1860. The adjective nutty, i.e. crazy, appeared about 1898; nut as a substitute for “crazy person” didn’t arrive until 1903. (The related British term “nutter,” meaning insane person, first appeared in print 1958.)
Panhandle: to beg. Americanism c. 1849 as a derogatory comparison of a beggar’s outstretched hand to a pan’s handle. The noun panhandler followed in 1893.
Rawheel: newcomer; an inexperienced person. Exactly when the term arose is uncertain, but diaries indicate it was in use in California’s mining districts by 1849.
Redneck: uncouth hick. First documented use 1830. Originally applied to Scottish immigrants who wore red neck scarves during the American Colonial period, the word shifted meaning as it traveled west, possibly in reference to the notion farmers’ necks became sunburned because they looked down as they worked in their fields, leaving the backs of their necks exposed.
Secesh: short for secessionist. First recorded 1860 as a pejorative for Confederates during the American Civil War.
Sidewinder: dangerously cunning or devious person. Arose American west c. 1875 as a reference to some species of rattlesnakes’ “peculiar lateral movement.”
Son of a gun: politer version of the epithet “son of a bitch,” indicating extreme contempt. It’s unknown when the American figurative connotation arose, but the literal meaning appeared 1705-15 among the British navy, during a period when officers’ wives accompanied them to sea. Babies sometimes literally were born in the shadow of a gun carriage.
Squatter: settler who attempts to settle land belonging to someone else. Arose in Britain in 1788 as a reference to paupers occupying vacant buildings; first recorded use in the American west 1880.
Tenderfoot: newcomer; inexperienced person. Arose c. 1866 among miners, apparently in reference to an outsider’s need to “toughen his feet” in order to walk among rocks and stones where mining typically took place. Tender-footed, originally said of horses, leapt to humans in 1854 as a description of awkwardness or timidity.
Whippersnapper: young, presumptuous and/or impertinent person. The term arose in England c. 1665-1675, possibly as a variant of the much older (and obscure) “snippersnapper.” Modern Americans have Hollywood westerns to thank for inexorably associating the term with cranky elders in the Old West: The word was virtually unused in America prior to the popularity of western “talkies.”
Windbag: person who talks too much, especially in a self-aggrandizing way. First appearance in print 1827. Originally (late-15th C.) “bellows for an organ.”
Yellow-belly: from 1842, a Texian term for Mexican soldiers. Origin obscure, but possibly from traditional association of yellow with treachery or the yellow sashes that were part of a soldado’s uniform. Yellow became slang for “cowardly” c. 1856, but yellow-belly didn’t become synonymous with coward until 1924.
Yellow dog: contemptible person. First recorded use 1881, based on the earlier meaning “mongrel” (c. 1770).
Americans didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day as we know it until the mid-1800s. By 1856, the practice of sending somewhat sappy cards had become so widespread that newspapers began to call the blossoming tradition a “social disease.” Conservative elements in society tried to stamp out the celebration because they considered such unvarnished expression of fondness evidence of “moral deterioration.” The February 1856 edition of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine included a cartoon depicting card-giving as crass and self-indulgent.
A scant five years later, as the Civil War began, Valentine’s Day took on new significance. Cards often depicted sweethearts parting. Many incorporated flaps that opened to reveal soldiers standing in tents or couples at the altar. Some included a lock of the giver’s hair.
In addition to cards, songs of love and loss became popular with Civil War soldiers on the battlefields. At night, encamped on opposite sides of imaginary lines only hundreds of yards apart, men wearing blue and men wearing gray sang as one. Some of the songs were meant to keep sweet memories alive; many mourned happiness never to be.
The following are a few of the most popular love songs of the Civil War.
The Yellow Rose of Texas
A popular marching tune all over the Confederacy, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” dates to the state’s early colonial period. The first known transcribed version — handwritten on a piece of plain paper — appeared around the time of the Texian victory at San Jacinto in April 1836. In its original form, the song tells the story of a black man who has been separated from his sweetheart and longs to reunite with her. This YouTube video contains the modified version Texas troops actually sang during the Civil War, complete with references to “Bobby Lee” and Hood’s Texas Brigade…with one exception. By the time of the war, the phrase “sweetest rose of color” had been replaced with “little flower” in order not to imply white soldiers were pining for a mulatto woman.
“Aura Lea” (also spelled “Aura Lee”)
Most people today recognize the melody to “Aura Lea” as “Love Me Tender,” which became an instant hit when Elvis Presley sang the song during his first appearance on the big screen in the 1956 movie of the same name. The original, composed in 1861 by W. W. Fosdick (words) and George R. Poulton (music), is one of the happier songs of the era. Nevertheless, this song and “Lorena” (below) were banned in some camps because they tended to provoke desertion, especially among Confederates from 1863 forward.
The Rev. Henry D. L. Webster wrote the words to one of the most popular love songs of the Civil War in 1856 after his intended broke off their engagement. His friend Joseph Philbrick Webster composed the music. Western Writers of America listed “Lorena” as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time; an instrumental version appears in the iconic film Gone with the Wind.
Credit for the lyrics has been given to Marie Ravenal de la Costa and the melody to John Hill Hewett, though the story behind the song may be apocryphal. The version most generally accepted is that, in 1862, Miss de la Costa penned the words in the Atlanta church where she had gone to pray after receiving word of her fiancé’s death on the battlefield. She left the handwritten lyrics behind. One of the saddest songs of the period, “Somebody’s Darling” was as popular in the North as it was in its native South.
When I Saw Sweet Nellie Home
Also known as “Seeing Nellie Home” and “Aunt Dinah’s Quilting Party,” the original was composed by John Fletcher (music) and Frances Kyle (words) in 1859. In 1861, Otto W. Ludwig changed the words to create the strident Union ballad “Courage, Mother, I Am Going,” about a young man who believes he won’t return from a war he is morally obligated to fight. Needless to say, Confederates sang the original. The Union version faded into obscurity after the war.
Published by Stephen Foster in 1848, “Oh! Susanna” was popular with both bluebellies and graybacks, who viewed the words through entirely different cultural lenses. This version contains the original second verse, which is controversial (and potentially offensive) because of the language.
My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night
Published by Stephen Foster in 1853, “My Old Kentucky Home” speaks of love for home and family. The song became enormously popular with both armies during the Civil War—which was odd in the case of the Confederacy, because Foster’s notes on the original handwritten sheet music clearly indicate he intended the song to be an abolitionist anthem inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. (Foster was a staunch abolitionist.)
Just Before the Battle, Mother
One of the saddest Civil War favorites speaks of love not for a sweetheart, but for a young’s man’s mother. With words and music (1862) by George F. Root, “Just Before the Battle, Mother” was strictly a Union song. (The lead-in on this version, performed by the 97th Regimental String Band, is long. The words start just before the one-minute mark.)
The Picture on the Wall
A sad song more popular among the folks at home than soldiers on the battlefield (for obvious reasons), Henry Clay Work’s “The Picture on the Wall” (1864) is almost unknown today. During the Civil War, it expressed tremendous grief about the loss of both sweethearts and sons.
Annie Laurie (also spelled “Annie Lawry”)
Brought to America from Scotland around 1832, authorship of the song is unknown. By the time of the Civil War, the words had changed from the original Scottish. Because the song was so well known, it was one of the most often sung across the lines, despite — or perhaps because of — the haunting chorus: “For bonnie Annie Laurie, I’d lay me down and die.”
Composed in 1863 by Mrs. Parkhurst, the tune to “Sweet Evelina” is spritely even though the words come from the point of view of a young man fated never to marry the beautiful girl he loves. The song was incredibly popular among soldiers on both sides during the war but had all but disappeared by 1900.
Listen to the Mockingbird
Septimus Winner, using the name Alice Hawthorne, wrote the words to “Listen to the Mockingbird” in 1855 and set them to music composed by a guitarist friend. Despite the upbeat melody, the song tells the story of a man’s love for a young woman who has died. The tune was popular with both Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs. As an aside: In 1862, Winner was arrested and charged with treason after he published “Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, the People’s Pride.” The song protested Lincoln’s firing of Gen. George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Federal authorities released Winner only after he promised to destroy all remaining copies of the sheet music…but calling back the 80,000 copies that sold in the first two days after the song’s publication proved impossible. (McClellan was an exceptionally popular man.)
An excellent album called Songs of the Civil War contains renditions of some of these songs by artists including The United States Military Academy Band, Waylon Jennings, Richie Havens, Hoyt Axton, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Kathy Mattea, and Jay Ungar and Molly Mason (of “Ashokan Farewell” fame). It’s available from Amazon on CD and audiocassette, as well as in MP3 format and via Amazon’s PrimeMusic.
Powerful emotion breeds enduring art of all kinds. As heart-stirring as some of the music, poetry, paintings, fiction, and other art forms of the mid-1800s, let’s hope we don’t see another such prolific period for a similar reason ever again.
And speaking of Valentine’s Day…
Prairie Rose Publications is offering a token of its love to readers all week: Fourteen free novels, anthologies, and boxed sets. Who doesn’t love free? Let me tell you something: There are a passel of hunky heroes in that herd I’d love to snuggle up to on Valentine’s Day or any other day. Fourteen more novels, boxed sets, and anthologies have been discounted to 99 cents.
Y’all can find a list of the books here. Go take look if you’re of a mind to spend some time lost in love with sigh-worthy heroes and feisty heroines.
I’m so excited! TEXAS REDEMPTION will be out on Feb 7th- a week from today! This is a reissue of REDEMPTION that released in 2005. The book never got its due back then so I’m very happy to have it back in readers’ hands.
The climate of the story is during a bad time of our history. It takes place in 1869 –4 years after the Civil War. Texas was living under military occupation and the army was still searching for Confederates, especially the spies. Brodie Yates (legendary spy called Shenandoah during the war) is tired to running and wants to see his brother one more time before he dies. He’s going to make a final stand in his hometown of Redemption, Texas. The town is situated in the swamps of far East Texas.
During the war, he meets a beautiful woman known only to him as Lavender Lil in a brothel and loses his heart. Separated by war and miles, he never keeps his vow to get back for her. His skill with a Colt that hangs from his hip is the only thing keeping him alive. But can it when the army has built a stockade a few miles away?
Laurel James (Lavender Lil) is also in hiding after escaping the brothel where she was taken after being kidnapped from the area of Redemption and her family lives nearby but she can’t reunite with them until she cleanses her soul and regains respectability. She engaged to the town mayor, Murphy Yates.
So Brodie and Laurel are deeply shocked when they come face to face and they realize they’re still in love. But they can’t hurt Murphy.
It’s a no win situation. Someone is going to lose.
One man offers her the respectability she craves. The other his heart. Which will she choose?
Here are a few pictures that I took when I visited Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake in East Texas where this is set. Dark, mysterious, and haunting, the swamp was the perfect place. My camera back in the late 1990s wasn’t very good, so excuse the quality.
* * *
Their secret pasts hold the power to destroy them and everyone else around. The stage is set. What will be the outcome?
Question for readers—Are you a fan of unrequited love stories between two people who meet, are torn apart by fate then brought together again—only insurmountable odds keep them from taking what they most want?
I’m giving away two copies of the book. Leave a comment. I’ll draw the winners on Sunday!
Seeds left by tidbits of history frequently germinate into story ideas. I love to find an obscure fact, nurture it and watch it grow. Today’s blog is an example of such seedling.
Do you know what the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history is? If you answer the Titanic, you’re wrong. It was the sinking of the state of the art steamboat The Sultana on April 27, 1865. Few people know this because it was forced to the back pages of newspapers, buried in history by the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Vicksburg had turned into a great repatriation center, and on April 24th, 1865, some 2,134 Union soldiers hitched a ride on The Sultana when it docked. Jubilance abounded. Peace was at hand. The war was over, but it had left its nasty mark on ruined levees and dikes. The Mississippi stood at flood stage with foaming water reaching over the banks. Two days later, near Memphis, 1,800 lost their lives on the mighty Mississippi.
A typical side-wheeler, The Sultana was legally registered to carry 376 passengers, but she carried six times that number at the time of the disaster. Aboard were 2,300 men, women, and children, including weary Union soldiers who had survived the ravages of war and the horrors of prison life and were looking forward to reuniting with their families.
Of interest, The Sultana had been contracted by the U.S. government to transport former POW’s back home to the north and received $5 per man. Due to the bribery of army officers and the extreme desire of the former POWs to get home, corruption ensued with the ship captains giving a kickback of $1.15 to the army officers in charge if they filled the boats with soldiers. Not unlike Andersonville Prison, men were packed in so tightly they could barely find a place to stand, much less enough room to sleep. The exact number will never be known because at some point the army officers stopped logging in soldiers, simply allowing them to board.
In the wee hours of April 27th, an explosion in the ship’s boilers blew into a ball of flames, sending scalding steam, shrapnel and a shower of flaming coals into the night. Fire raged for 20 minutes until the boat sank. Men floated on debris. Many who couldn’t swim or were too weak from being imprisioned to try, drowned in the cold black water. Some were trapped beneath debris and couldn’t escape the fire. With dawn, came the scene of badly burned and unclothed passengers dotting the shores of the Mississippi, both dead and alive. Bodies of some victims were found for months downriver, while others were never recovered. Once enemies, the people of Memphis took the injured victims to heart and forged bonds because of the tragedy.
History held for years that the explosion was simply malfunction of a poorly repaired boiler; however, some historians contradict the premise. There was an official inquiry; yet no in-depth investigation. One theory: While the ship docked at Memphis it took on coal. A relentless boat-burner, Robert Louden, made a deathbed confession that he sabotaged The Sultana with a coal torpedo. Louden had both motive and opportunity to attack the boat, plus he was friends with Thomas Edgeworth Courtenay, the inventor of the coal torpedo. A coal torpedo was easily made from a hollow iron casing filled with explosives covered in coal oil and dust, making it look like any other lump of coal to the naked eye. The bomb was widely used during the Civil War. Unbeknownst to anyone, when shoveled into the firebox, the explosion would have damaged the boiler, rendering the engines inoperable. Consequently, the compromised boiler, under high steam pressure, would explode, scattering burning coals over the deck. A saboteur would only have to place the torpedo in the coal supply on land and never have to step foot on the targeted vessel.
Louden’s claim was supported by a piece of artillery shell in the wreckage. Eyewitnesses confirmed that the explosion of the boiler was secondary to the explosion of the coal box due to flaming coals that rained down on the deck. Louden’s confession is controversial at best and many books have been written on the theories. Historians are divided on whether the explosion was an accident or sabotage.
Ironically, in Memphis some healthy soldiers were saved because they debarked to help unload the hogsheads of sugar in order to earn a tad of money. Excited to be free, many wandered off to see the sights and missed their ride up the Mississippi. They lived to tell stories of the ill-fated Sultana. One can’t help but wonder what this handful of shore-going soldiers who missed their boat at Memphis thought afterwards.
Like these survivors, has a last minute change of plans made a difference in your life? Or maybe led to an opportunity?
To one lucky winner I will give them an autographed copy of either “The Troubled Texan” or “The Tycoon and the Texan”. If you prefer, I can send you an autographed copy of one of the six anthologies written by Sister Filly, Linda Broday; Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace, and me!
Why I wrote the JOURNEY HOME SERIES: Back in 1990-91, a US military operation called Desert Storm took place in the Middle East. Not long afterward, the veterans involved returned home with invisible scars that later became known as PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The heartbreaking stories about the men and women who couldn’t keep jobs or relationships soon became a regular feature on the nightly news. The shocking numbers of veteran suicides have increased over the years.
I write historical fiction and wanted to know how Civil War veterans who suffered with the same symptoms of PTSD were treated. Nineteenth century doctors diagnosed those afflicted with the condition as Soldier’s Fatigue. They offered bed rest in a soldier’s convalescent home, or recommended a discharge and a train ticket home. Often the soldier had a note pinned to his uniform, giving his name and destination, because he was incapable of communicating. Let the veteran’s family deal with the troubled man. If the family couldn’t handle their loved one, suffering acute mania, for instance, then the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C. (St. Elizabeth’s) was the destination. Two cemeteries on the grounds of St. Elizabeth hold hundreds of Civil War soldier’s remains today.
As my story ideas came together, I especially wanted to write my heroes as strong Christians and show how they dealt with the horrors of Andersonville Prison for Union soldiers. Perhaps a 21st century veteran’s spouse, mother, sister, or girlfriend will read PATRIOT HEART, FAITHFUL HEART, AND HOPEFUL HEART and see there is hope for their loved one. Hope for the future in God, the Father, and salvation through Jesus Christ, His son.
HOPEFUL HEART is the last story in my 3-book Journey Home Series. The series is about three Civil War POWs who met in the infamous Andersonville Prison for Union soldiers and survive because of their friendship and Christian faith. Each book features one of the memorable heroes and a unique heroine that’s perfect for him.
HOPEFUL HEART, Journey Home Series 3
An inspirational historical romance set in the West
Pennsylvania. November 1866 –Lucy Garner is a recent widow who just buried her stillborn. Grieving the loss of two people she loved the most in her world, she decides to journey out West and escape her adopted father’s stepson whose intentions strike terror into her being. She goes to work for a difficult and unprepared family, headed to Oregon by wagon train.
Missouri. November 1866 – Nat Renshaw’s boyish good looks disguise his intense personality.
Before the war, his cheating wife died and he gave up on marriage. He joined the Union Army and became a Confederate POW with enough anger to power a locomotive. These events did not improve his outlook on life. Since the war ended, he’s elected sheriff for a river town.
Oregon Trail. March 1867 – Lucy’s arresting features and gentle spirit attract Nat Renshaw’s unwanted interest as he scouts for Lucy’s wagon train. Lucy’s distrustful of Nat’s determination for romance, but ends up admiring his courage and faith in God. Can Lucy open her heart for another chance at love amid the trials of the Oregon Trail?
HAVE YOU EVER VISITED A VETERAN’S GRAVE? LEAVE A COMMENT TO ENTER A DRAWING FOR ONE COPY OF HOPEFUL HEART (PRINT OR EBOOK!)
Texas has seen a number of mass migrations since the Mexican government opened the territory to Anglo settlers in the 1820s, but perhaps none were as transformative as the influx that took place immediately following the Civil War. Carpetbaggers, footloose former Union soldiers, and dispossessed former Confederates all found attractive the state’s untamed rangeland brimming with feral cattle called longhorns. Many a man with nothing more than guts and grit built a fortune and a legacy by shagging longhorns from deep scrub and driving the tough, stubborn, nasty-tempered critters north to the railheads in Kansas and Nebraska. Others pushed herds to Montana and Wyoming to begin new lives where the West was even wilder.
Between 1866 and 1890, cowboys drove an estimated twelve million longhorns and one million horses north. A crew of twelve to twenty men could push a herd of 2,000 to 3,000 beeves about ten to fifteen miles a day, reaching Kansas railheads in three to four months.
The development of barbed wire in the mid-1870s — along with an incursion of sheepmen and farmers — put a crimp in the cattle drives by crisscrossing Texas’s wide-open spaces with miles and miles and miles of fence. To protect themselves and their herds from the yahoos who would use Texas range for something besides Texas cattle, wealthy ranchers strung wire around the land they owned or leased, often extending their fences across public land, as well. What once had been open range across which cowboys drove enormous herds of steak on the hoof became parceled off, causing no end of frustration and unfriendly behavior.
Fence-cutting began almost as soon as the first of the wire went up. Small confrontations over “the Devil’s rope” happened frequently, with wire-nipping taking place in more than half of Texas counties.
In 1883, the conflict turned bloody. Instead of merely cutting fences that got in the way during trail drives, bands of armed cowboy vigilantes calling themselves names like Owls, Javelinas, and Blue Devils destroyed fences simply because the fences existed. Fence-cutting raids usually occurred at night, and often the vigilantes left messages warning the fence’s owner not to rebuild. Some went so far as to leave coffins nailed to fenceposts or on ranchers’ porches. During one sortie, vigilantes pulled down nineteen miles of fence, piled the wire on a stack of cedar posts, and lit a $6,000 bonfire.
In response, cattlemen hired armed men to guard their wire…with predictable results. Clashes became more violent, more frequent, and deadlier. In 1883 alone, at least three men were killed in Brown County, a hotspot of fence-cutting activity, during what came to be known as the Texas Fence-Cutter War.
The bloodiest period of the Fence-Cutter War lasted for only about a year, but in that period damages from fence-cutting and range fires totaled an estimated $20 million — $1 million in Brown County alone.
Although politicians stayed well away from the hot-button issue for about a decade, in early 1884 the Texas legislature declared fence-cutting a felony punishable by a prison term of one to five years. The following year, the U.S. Congress outlawed stringing fence across public land. Together, the new laws ended the worst of the clashes, although the occasional fracas broke out in the far western portion of Texas into the early part of the 20th Century.
The Texas Rangers were assigned to stop several fence-cutting outbreaks, and being the Texas Rangers, they proved remarkably effective…with one notable exception. In February 1885, Texas Ranger Ben Warren was shot and killed outside Sweetwater while trying to serve a warrant for three suspected fence-cutters. Two of the three were convicted of Warren’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1888, a brief resurgence of fence-cutting violence erupted in Navarro County, prompting famed Texas Ranger Ira Aten to place dynamite charges at intervals along one fence line. Aten’s method was a mite too extreme for the Texas Adjutant General, who ordered the dynamite removed. The mere rumor of the explosive’s presence brought fence-cutting to a rapid halt in the area, though.
Though Civil War battles left few scars on Texas, the war’s aftermath was devastating — and not just because barbed-wire fence appeared. Texas existed under federal martial law for five long years after the war ended, becoming the final member of the Confederacy to repatriate only under duress. During Reconstruction, lingering animosity led some of the occupation forces to plunder and terrorize their jurisdictions. Bearing their own grudges and determined to become an independent republic again, Texans demanded “the invading foreign army” remove its boots from sovereign soil. A U.S. Supreme Court decision finally ran the rebellious Lone Star State back in with the rest of the herd in 1870, at last reunifying a divided nation.
My newest story, The Trouble with Honey, takes place during Reconstruction in Texas: A marshal’s widow can escape a Union Army manhunt only with the help of an outlaw condemned to hang. The novella is part of the trilogy The Dumont Way, which begins a saga chronicling the lives and loves of a Texas ranching dynasty from before the Civil War to the turn of the 20th Century.
Boots meandered across the stone floor. The marshal’s snicker slapped Daniel between the shoulder blades. “Injun Creek hasn’t seen this much excitement in a month of Sundays. We’re planning quite a celebration for you.”
One of life’s great mysteries: Had Halverson been born arrogant, or had the skill required practice? “Always did fancy a crowd of folks looking up to me.”
Whistling, the marshal moved away. Daniel stared at the dingy clapboard across the alley. That wall wouldn’t present much challenge. This wall, on the other hand… A barrel of black powder and a lucifer would come in handy right about now.
He rested his forehead against the bars. Daisy would dig up his body and throw a second hemp party if he didn’t show up for the wedding.
The jailhouse door scraped open, and a swirl of fresh air tapped him on the shoulder. Fingering the tender crease running from his eyebrow to his hairline, he pivoted. If Halverson’s lucky shot hadn’t dropped him—
His fingertips stilled. So did his breath.
The marshal ushered in a voluptuous vision and lifted a tin plate from her hands. An abundance of golden hair, gathered in soft swirls at the crown, framed her head like a halo. Curls fell beside rounded cheeks.
“What’re you doing here?” Judging by the pucker in his tone, Halverson had eaten one too many sour apples. “Where’s that old drunk you insist on keeping around?”
“Henry hasn’t touched a drop in—”
“What? Twenty-four hours?”
The angel raised her chin. “He isn’t feeling well.”
Daniel drifted to the front of the cell and slouched onto the forearms he draped over a horizontal bar. The familiar voice… Nectar, fresh from a hive.
Gracing Halverson with a shallow smile, the buxom beauty tipped her head toward the plate. “Chicken and dumplings for your prisoner’s supper.”
Steam rising from the lump meant to be his meal carried a whiff of old socks. Daniel’s thoughts churned right along with his stomach. High point of the day: bad vittles. Now, the lady… She was downright mouthwatering.
A Kiss to Rememberis available exclusively on Amazon (free for those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I’ll give an e-copy to one of today’s commenters who answers this question: If you had migrated to Texas after the Civil War, would you have settled in town or on a ranch or farm? Why?
Thanks for stopping by today! I’m looking forward to your comments. 🙂
Research is one of the most important tools of the fiction author’s trade. Regardless what an author writes—historical, contemporary, fantasy, science fiction—he or she must have some knowledge of the real world in order to create a world in which characters live and breathe.
Good authors don’t beat readers over the head with their research, but what they dig up informs every aspect of their stories. Much of what we discover doesn’t make it into our books. Instead, the information clutters up our heads and trickles out at odd times.
This is one of those times.
Each of the five authors who contributed to Prairie Rose Publications’s new release, the boxed set A Kiss to Remember, uncovered historical tidbits that surprised, charmed, or saddened her. Since all of us are good authors and would never dream of beating readers over the head with our research in our books, we’re taking the opportunity to beat readers over the head with our research in a blog post. We can be sneaky that way.
Without further ado…
Her Sanctuary by Tracy Garrett
Beautiful Maggie Flanaghan’s heart is broken when her father dies suddenly and the westward-bound wagon train moves on without her, leaving her stranded in River’s Bend. But Reverend Kristoph Oltmann discovers the tender beginnings of love as he comforts Maggie, only to find she harbors a secret that could make their relationship impossible.
Tracy: I’m a “cradle Lutheran,” meaning I was born into a Lutheran family, baptized in the Lutheran church… You get the idea. Imagine my surprise when I began researching the history of the church in Missouri and found they’d been in the state a lot longer than I thought. It was fun, though.
Gabriel’s Law by Cheryl Pierson
Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, never suspecting a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob—a man she recognizes from her past. Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, but everything changes with the click of a gun—and Gabriel’s Law.
Cheryl: Orphanages of the 1800s and early 1900s were mainly what I needed to research. And what sad research it was! The Indian orphanages and “schools” were the worst. The Indian children were forced to “assimilate”: cut their hair, wear white man’s clothing, and speak only English. Punishment was swift and sure if they were caught speaking their native tongues. In essence, they were taught they had to forget everything they knew—even their families—and adopt the ways of the whites completely. This only ensured they would never be wholly at ease in either world, white or Indian.
Outlaw Heart, by Tanya Hanson
Making a new start has never been harder! Bronx Sanderson is determined to leave his old outlaw ways behind and become a decent man. Lila Brewster is certain that her destiny lies in keeping her late husband’s dream alive: a mission house for the down-and-out of Leadville, Colorado. But dreams change when love flares between an angel and a man with an Outlaw Heart.
Tanya: The research that fascinated me the most was meeting and getting to know Dr. John Henry Holliday. What a guy. I’ve quite fallen in love with him. This handsome, soft-spoken, peaches-n-cream Southern gentleman can bring me to tears. He died slowly from tuberculosis for fifteen years after losing his beloved mother to the disease when he was 15. Talented pianist, multilingual, skilled surgeon who won awards for denture design… Most of his “deadly dentist” stuff was contrived. He needed a bad reputation to keep himself safe from angry gamblers. I was thrilled and honored both when he asked to be a character in Outlaw Heart.
The Dumont Way by Kathleen Rice Adams
The biggest ranch in Texas will give her all to save her children…but only the right woman’s love can save a man’s tortured soul. This trilogy of stories about the Dumont family contains The Trouble with Honey, a new, never-before-published novella. Nothing will stop this powerful family from doing things The Dumont Way.
Kathleen: Did you realize George Armstrong Custer was part of the Union occupation force in Texas after the Civil War? Neither did I. While I was double-checking my facts about Reconstruction-era Texas, I ran across that little tidbit. Texans may not have liked him any better than any other Yankee, but they were grateful for his kindness. During his five months in Texas, Custer was disliked by his own men because he strictly enforced Army regulations about “foraging” (read “stealing”) and poor treatment of civilians. I must admit I’m one of those who tended to view Custer as one of history’s real-life bad guys, but that one tidbit softened my impression. Funny how little things can make a big difference, isn’t it?
Yesterday’s Flame by Livia J. Washburn
When smoke jumper Annabel Lowell’s duties propel her from San Francisco in 2000 back to 1906, she faces one of the worst earthquakes in history. But she also finds the passion of a lifetime in fellow fireman Cole Brady. Now she must choose between a future of certain danger and a present of certain love—no matter how short-lived it may be. “A timeless and haunting tale of love.” ~ The Literary Times
Livia: I really enjoyed learning about the firefighting companies in San Francisco. The massive earthquake in 1906 was followed by an equally devastating fire, and there were a lot of heroes among those early firefighters.
Have you ever been surprised, charmed, alarmed, or vexed by something you’ve read—in either fiction or non-fiction? What was it? We’d love to hear! One brave soul who shares her or his discovery in the comments will win a digital copy of the brand-new boxed set A Kiss to Rememberbefore it’s available to the public! The five books comprise more than 1,000 pages of heart-melting western historical romance…and that’s a fact.
What makes us write what we write? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you why I penned my debut novel, A Heart on Hold.
I wrote A Heart on Hold for two reasons. One: I really wanted to read it. Two: I had to go get lots of stuff off my chest and it’s hard to afford therapy on a sergeant’s salary. (That was a tongue in cheek joke, by the way.)
My husband was deployed to Afghanistan and I was home by myself with three children under five – one a preemie and just six weeks old. We moved to my hometown, Odessa, Texas, to be near my folks and lucked into renting a house right around the corner from them. However, that didn’t ward off the bad juju to come.
I wish I could say pining away at home for a serviceman was romantic, but if I did, I would be lying. It was stressful, strained our marriage, and put a hurting on our already fragile finances. In the off chance he was able to call, he was a different person – an angry person. Then, Flu-B swept our household, hitting everyone except the newborn. We recovered, only to be struck down with the dreaded H1N1 Flu virus. I honestly wasn’t sure if we were coming out of that one or not. But once again, everyone recovered and lived to tell the proverbial tale.
My husband’s tales from the battlefield were enough to curdle my blood and keep me up at night, on my knees, asking God to keep him safe. His stories, coupled with the ever-present grim news reports, saw me begin to lose weight at an astronomical speed. I figured stress was the culprit. Boy was I wrong.
My thyroid gland was dying and kicking up a fuss, so it had to come out. All of it, right away, and hopefully it wasn’t cancer. Well, the docs piddled and pondered over this all through my husband’s mid-tour leave. Then, once he was safely back in Afghanistan, they decided to schedule a date to operate. The Army didn’t let him come home.
These tales are just a few that are woven through the pages of A Heart on Hold, set against the backdrop of one woman’s undying love for her soldier, no matter what the situation back home brings.
War isn’t romantic, but love can be the silk thread that holds the broken hearts and shattered spirits together that follows in war’s wake. I hope you read A Heart on Hold. I hope you fall in love with Charlotte and Sanderson and Minerva and Jackson. I hope you find kernels of truth that you can take with you in your life. The human spirit is resilient and can bounce back from many pains. Charlotte did. So did I.
Have you ever wondered if you’d survive something? Did your love–or someone else’s–sustain you? I’d love to hear about it! Leave me a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of A HEART ON HOLD.
What’s A HEART ON HOLD about? It’s the first of a 4-book series to be re-issued with Prairie Rose Publications. Book 2, A HEART BROKEN, will be out in June, and I can hardly wait to see these stories “out there” again. They mean so much to me! Here’s the blurb from A HEART ON HOLD:
How long can a heart hold on before it breaks?
Charlotte Adamsland is separated from her husband, Sanderson Redding, the day after their marriage. A captain in the Confederate Army, Sanderson must return to his unit, leaving Charlotte alone on their Arkansas homestead to fend for herself. Yankees camp around the town of Altrose, bringing their own kind of lawless danger. And then, one dark day, a Southern soldier arrives with terrible news…Sanderson has been killed trying to escape a Yankee prison.
Sanderson has found salvation and hell in a single turn of events he could never have imagined—his much-younger brother, Jackson, is his Yankee guard. When Jackson’s cruel commanding officer learns of the brothers’ family ties, he devises a wicked plan to see them both dead. Jackson is determined to get his brother to safety—but a last-minute betrayal by another prisoner could be the death of both brothers.
Charlotte can’t accept the news of Sanderson’s death—he promised to come back to her. She heads north armed with only her faith in God and her beloved horse to bring her love home—one way or the other. Will she be able to rescue him? Or will her love remained locked forever in A HEART ON HOLD…
And here’s an excerpt from A HEART ON HOLD to whet your appetite!
“I had a more romantic howdy planned for you, my dear,” Sanderson said.
His words sounded far away in her sleep-heavy ears as she struggled to wake up.
“I suppose I fell asleep,” Charlotte mumbled. A cold knot formed in her stomach as she realized she had tilted over from her sitting position when she dozed off, allowing her head to land smack dab on Sanderson’s chest. His hand was still stroking her hair.
“Just like Uncle Jake,” Sanderson mused. “It must be nice to be able to sleep wherever your head winds up.”
“Well, it’s about time you woke up,” Charlotte teased sleepily. Although worry strained her voice, she flashed him a smile. “Your color’s coming back, too. Rest and sunshine are good medicine.”
The sunlight streamed in through the holes worn in the transparent linsey-woolsey curtain that she’d tacked up over the precious glass window. The small, muted rays appeared to have shone life back into Sanderson.
“What happened?” he asked as his fingers traced the curve of her face.
He gave Charlotte his full attention as his hand meandered from her face to the back of her neck. As it nestled in her hair, Charlotte felt a rash of goose bumps crop up under his flesh and spread up her neck. A blush colored her face, but wasn’t rightly sure as to why.
It’s just Sanderson.
His free hand found hers atop the quilt. He fingered the delicate golden ring on her finger and smiled that impish smile, revealing the dimples that made the girls in town turn their heads just to watch him pass.
Just the most beautiful, astounding man to ever grace the earth with his footsteps.
Charlotte’s voice came out a bit shaky. “It…ah—seems that you were so happy to see me when you arrived that you fainted dead away and slept for two straight days before you could even kiss me hello.”
Sanderson pushed himself up in Charlotte’s bed. “We shall have to remedy that then, won’t we?” Grinning, he leaned forward and swept her into his arms, cradling her in his lap. “I’ve missed you, my darling Charlotte.”
She closed her eyes and let her senses soak up this moment. Sanderson’s warm breath was moist on her lips and his skin, though roughened by Army life, felt like sunshine wrapped in silk as it brushed against hers.
His kiss fell upon her. His fingers combed through her hair as her arms tightened around his neck.
Charlotte’s tell-tale heartbeat quickened to a gallop in her chest as Sanderson’s hand trailed the length of her tresses coming to rest over her pounding heart. Unable to stay contained within the sumptuous arms of her love, she kissed Sanderson with such carefree enthusiasm that the moment escalated before either of them could escape the other’s grasp. Sanderson’s tender kisses found her neck as Charlotte clasped his muscular biceps, her breath raspy and jagged.
“I love you,” Charlotte whispered, her quiet voice cracking.
Thanks for stopping by today and visiting! For more of my stories and “about me”, I can be found here: