Thank you to all at the Petticoats & Pistols blog for this opportunity to post as a guest blogger.
Today I am going to highlight how I came up with the plot for my latest novel, Escape from Gold Mountain. It is very simple. Many of the elements of the plot came from actual history.
1863 DeGroot map of Mono County: Esmerelda& Bridgeport
Two shooting affrays in the same Lundy saloon three hours apart leaving four men wounded and waiting on the doctor in Bodie thirty miles away to come up the following morning to help patch them up? You bet.
In past years, I wrote a series based in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in remote and sparely-populated Mono County.
Lundy in the 1890s
For the basis of many of my plots and a few known residents for some of my minor characters (and miner characters), I relied on a book titled Lundy by Alan H. Patera.
Characters based on real people:
Until almost the end of this series, I skipped over the information under the heading of “Desperados” about a couple of bad men, or roughs, as the unruly, disorderly elements were called at that time and place. Then, one incident in particular caught my eye. It involved a “Chinawoman” and two roughs.
I started researching—and researching. I wrote a spin-off novel that ended up being twice as long as the longest novella in the original series. I set it aside. I contracted for a cover. I researched some more. In a different local history of the area, I discovered the name of this woman—Ling Loi. I also learned more about the two men, “Tex” Wilson and Charley Jardine, who were involved with stealing her off the Lundy to Bodie stagecoach.
Bridgeport Chronicle-Union Nov. 8, 1884
In fact, up until I received my final editing, I spent hours in my local library perusing microfilms of the available Bridgeport Chronicle-Union newspaper for anything I could find on these people.
Bridgeport Chronicle-Union Nov. 8, 1884
This incident is not well known. There are no photographs I could find of these three historical characters. I found no physical descriptions other than local Mono County historian Ella M. Cain calling Ling Loi a “little, painted Chinese girl.” That may have been a euphemism for being a prostitute more than a physical descriptor. I do not believe any of them had children—at least, for the men, none they knew of. However, their story was too good to keep, and I fictionally expanded the tidbits of real history to create my longest and most researched novel to date.
Singsong girl late 19th century
I did find images of Chinese prostitutes which I included in this post. This can give you an idea of how Ling Loi may had appeared and dressed.
The more I researched about the immigration experience of many of the Chinese women, especially in the 1880s when this story is set, the more I learned how many, if not most, were brought to San Francisco under false pretenses – if not outright abducted in their homeland – in order to be forced into prostitution in the brothels and opium dens of both the China towns of the bigger cities and the small mining communities of the west.
Street slave in Chinatown, 1896
Although the tong owners who bought them forced them to sign a contract of indenture, it really was slavery. The contracts were written so a woman could not live long enough to fulfill her financial obligations. Most of these women only escaped when they died from disease, most often syphilis.
At the encouragement of Alexa Kang, a World War Two romance author who is of Cantonese descent and is familiar with Cantonese customs and language, I gave Ling Loi more personality and a more active role in the plot.
My Mono County settings included Bodie, now a state park.
Historical Bodie, California taken from the old Standard Mine
Until September, 1884, Ling Loi worked as a prostitute in Lundy, now a defunct gold mining town that became a seasonal fishing resort.
Lundy in 2014 with Mt. Scowden in background
Several chapters take place in the Masonic Mountains north and east of Bridgeport.
Also, one scene is based on a real incident that happened in Bridgeport at the Mono County Jail.
In addition to being fictionalized history, this story can also quality as an alternative history. My hero, Luke McDaniels (as well as a few other characters in the book) are fictional. After all, this is a romance. As much as she must deal with all the bad guys, I wanted to be sure the Ling Loi in my story had a happily-ever-after ending.
Here is an excerpt:
Luke shook his head in frustration. “I should have known you two were up to no good. Look, I want no part of this, Charley. You said you’d give me what you owe me after we got back here today. Just hand it over. I don’t want to get caught in the middle of this mess.”
“Ah, but you already are in the middle of it, eh? Don’t worry. It’s but a little change of plans.”
Luke stepped forward, then assumed a stance with feet spread, and his fists on his hips, close to his weapons. “Where’s my money? I want it now.”
Charley fished the reticule out of his pants pocket and emptied the contents in his hand. He counted out part of the half eagles and returned them to the reticule. The rest he put in his pocket. After pulling the strings tight, he tossed the bag to Luke.
Before Luke could pull the purse open, Charley spoke. “There’s twenty dollars in there, Shorty. You want to take it and ride out, then be on your way. You want the full fifty, you’ll have to see this last job through to the end, eh?”
Luke bit back the bitter threats he felt like hurling Charley’s way. Instead, he glared at the man, taking into account the calculating gleam in the Canadian’s eyes and his hand hovering near his knife.
Luke’s mind raced as he considered his options. He could take the money and go, even if it meant fighting his way out. He already knew enough short-cuts through the surrounding remote territory to get far away quickly. However, if he left under these circumstances, would Charley end up fingering him for the abduction just as he once threatened to blame him for the cattle rustling?
Although he gave no indication to the others, an awareness of the Chinese woman seated on one of the log stools not far from him jarred his conscience. He wondered—in addition to being cattle rustlers, thieves, and abductors, were Charley and Tex also murderers? If he left, she had no protection from them. She was not his concern, but he hesitated at the thought of walking away and later discovering the worst had happened to her.
Luke tossed the reticule back to Charley. “I want all my money.”
I will be giving away a digital copy of the book to one person chosen at random who leaves a response on this blog post. Tell us about your favorite gold or silver mining town and/or your favorite mining town location.
Escape from Gold Mountain will initially be offered on more than one vendor. The release day is scheduled for September 4, 2019. If you are a Nook reader, the book will only be available for Nook purchase for about 12 days before it will be offered digitally exclusively on Amazon and in the Kindle Unlimited program.
The book will also be offered in print format and continue to be offered for sale as a paperback on both vendors.
Here are the Kindle and Nook pre-order purchase links:
Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. A member of Women Writing the West, Western Writers of America, and American Night Writers Association. She currently lives with her husband in California near the “Gateway to Yosemite.” When she is not piecing together novel plots, she pieces together quilt blocks.
This month Harlequin has re-released my novel The Rancher and the Vet and Ann Roth’s Montana Vet in a two in one book entitled A Cure for the Vet available in Wal-Mart and on Amazon. In honor of that, I’m doing something special. Today, you’re getting two blogs in one because Ann Roth has joined me to chat about her book.
My novel, Montana Vet, is actually book 3 of my Prosperity, Montana, miniseries. Books 1 and 2 will be out in January, in another 2 in 1 release. No worries—I wrote the books as stand-alone stories featuring siblings. They don’t have to be read in order.
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of Montana Vet.
Veterinarian Seth Pettit has been AWOL from Prosperity for some time. Now he’s come home… with a fourteen-year-old girl in tow.
I have a soft spot in my heart for foster kids. I feel the same tenderness and concern for abandoned and abused dogs, which is one reason I felt compelled to create heroine Emily Miles, who shares my sentiments and has founded a shelter for these animals. The other reason, of course, is that she’s the perfect match for Seth Pettit—even though neither of them is looking for romance.
How Seth and Emily get together and fall in love is a story you don’t want to miss!
A little about me:
My genre is contemporary romance. I love happy endings, don’t you? Especially when two characters are so right for each other, but don’t know it.
To date, I have published over 35 novels, and several short stories and novellas, both through New York publishers and as an indie author.
Like Ann’s story, The Rancher and the Vet, features a veterinarian, but mine is the heroine, Avery McAlister. The hero is her first love, Reed Montgomery who returns to Estes Park to become a surrogate parent to his teenage niece.
I love writing old flame stories because there’s instant conflict, chemistry and sexual tension when they step on the page. But that wasn’t the only reason I enjoyed this story. Another was because I could have animals cause trouble throughout the book. Thor, Reed’s niece’s pet chihuahua, does his best to give Reed a proper welcome, complete with leaving him “presents.”
But I had the most fun with scenes between Reed and his niece. Making a bachelor caring for a teenage girl was more fun than should be legal. Talk about torturing a hero! One of my favorite scenes is when Reed takes Jess shopping for a school dance. Now that’s a man’s worst nightmare come to life. Thankfully for Reed when he’s in over his head, Avery comes to his rescue. At one point, I couldn’t get Avery and Reed alone without them sacrificing their pride. I groused that I wished I could lock them in a closet together. Thankfully Reed’s niece was happy to comply…
Thanks again to Ann Roth for joining me in the corral today. Since Ann’s book is set in Montana and mine is in Colorado, we want to know your favorite ranch location. Two randomly chosen commentators receive a copy of A Cure for the Vet. One signed by Ann and one by me. So, let’s hear what you think. If you could have a ranch anywhere, where would it be?
Eureka! It’s the GOLD DIGGERS come to Pistols & Petticoats, and Jewel Jones—of JEWEL’S GOLD—is from a long line of gold diggers! Her daddy (Joshua Jones) and his daddy before him (Moses Jones, first met in book four SINS OF THE MOTHER of my Texas Romance Family Saga) mined gold in California all the way back to the 1850s during the Gold Rush of 1849. God blessed them, and the family is set financially for generations.
But Jewel’s father wanted to make it on his own, find the mother lode for himself on the claims he’d purchased on Troublesome Creek in Alaska. He just hadn’t found enough gold to warrant opening a mine before he perished. He had faith the mother lode was there though. Jewel loved traveling north with him, helping him in the wilderness in her teen years.
It’s 1895, and now Jewel is a grown, intelligent, headstrong Daddy’s girl bent on proving he was right about the Alaskan mine. Her mother’s dead set against the whole dreadful idea of going there again, but had made the bargain…
Why, you ask, did I decide to organize a collection for Gold Diggers?
So, back in December, my husband Ron and I took off on a research journey to ride the Oregon / California Trail for a covered wagon story. It was indeed a fabulous trip I highly recommend for western history lovers! But towards its end, we made a surprise stop at Sutter’s Mill on the American River. It was an unplanned treasure trove of fun and information.
It’s a park and museum with old buildings and replicas. Seeing the place where the California Gold Rush started in Coloma was awesome! When I talked Ron into going, on the map it only looked like twenty to twenty-five minutes. But the road winding around the mountain down to the beautiful river was an experience in itself!
The place was originally John Sutter’s lumber camp back in 1847. His foreman building the sawmill for him, John Marshall, discovered less than an ounce of shiny metal in January 1848. Some of the other workers started finding gold in their off hours. Rumors were first confirmed in the San Francisco newspaper that March, and by December that year, President James Polk made it official in an address to Congress that gold had been discovered in California, and the Gold Rush of 1849 was on!
The S.S. California was one of the steamships that made the voyage. She left New York in early January 1849 on her maiden mail run, scrambling to fill their vacant rooms with passengers. By the time the steamship got around Cape Horn and to Panama City on the Pacific, there were seven hundred people waiting to board to get to California.
In 1849, 40,000 miners took about ten million dollars in gold; the next year, forty-one million worth was mined. And the following year, that amount doubled to EIGHTY-ONE MILLION taken by a hundred thousand miners! After that year, mining levels declined until by 1865, mining brought in less than eighteen million. Isn’t that amazing?
Jewel’s father Joshua (born in book four SINS OF THE MOTHER of theTexas Romance Family Saga) had mining in his blood and passed it on to his daughter. I fell in love with Jewel. When writing, one needs to remember “unity of opposites” which is a nice way of saying the villain needs to be almost invincible, stronger, and more cunning than the heroine. This man we found in the character of Boaz Branson, the son of a con man set to salt Jewel’s mine to increase its value as his father had won a percentage of it in a poker game, but will he turn into a hero? And if he does, then who’s really the bad guy? It is a story that includes adventure, gumption, high stakes, murder, and mystery . . . oh, yes, and romance of course!
JEWEL’S GOLD is Book Four in a wonderful multi-author collection, including Amy Lillard, Chautona Having, Jennifer Beckstrand and myself! If you love the history of the wild west, you’re sure to enjoy the Gold Diggers Collection, launched this past month! JEWEL’S GOLD is book four in the 2019 Gold Diggers Collection.
Caryl’s offering a free e-book copy of JEWEL’S GOLD to one of the commenters who answer this question:
Would you have followed your husband or want to go yourself to prospect for gold?
Best-selling author Caryl McAdoo is all about loving God and giving Him glory! Though western historical Christian romance is her favorite genre—especially family sagas—she also writes contemporary Red River Romances, Biblical fiction, and young adults and mid-grade readers. The prolific hybrid author loves singing the new songs the Lord gives her, too. (Take a listen at YouTube) Caryl counts four children and sixteen grandsugars life’s biggest blessings. She and high school sweetheart-husband Ron (fifty-plus years) live in the woods of Red River County about five miles south of Clarksville in the far northeast corner of the Lone Star State, waiting for God to open the next door.
It’s funny what “pops up” on Facebook and how it triggers memories–things you might have completely lost track of. Yesterday, a memory from five years ago showed up of where I had shared my “latest” publication–RIDE THE WILD RANGE–with Prairie Rose Publications.
This story had come out as a compilation of three novellas in the Texas Legacy series: RED EAGLE’S WAR (BOOK 1), RED EAGLE’S REVENGE (BOOK 2), and TEXAS FOREVER, (BOOK 3).
I started to write this tale as a short story, but it wasn’t long before it turned into a novella. But after I wrote the novella, I realized I wasn’t done with the story…so I wrote two more. These stories really wouldn’t be classified as “romance”, since there’s no sex and very little romance–not really even any spoken words of love between Jacobi Kane and Laura, who later becomes his wife.
I did this on purpose, since the stories are told from the point of view of a young boy. That stuff would be too mushy for him to think about for too long! No, these stories were more action oriented, and being told from the first person viewpoint, it was necessary to keep a high level of feeling to the forefront.
Will Green is the young boy who tells the stories. In RED EAGLE’S WAR: TEXAS LEGACY BOOK1, we meet him at the age of 9, almost 10. His parents and older sister have just been murdered by the Apache, and he has been kidnapped as they torch his home. But a few days later, just as he’s given up hope, a fearless man walks right into the Apache camp and rescues him. Jacobi Kane has a mysterious past that he isn’t too keen on discussing with Will, though Will senses a kind of kinship between the two of them as they travel toward Fort Worth and safety. Kane harbors a terrible secret that might force Will’s hero worship of him to turn quickly to hatred…or of understanding, that Kane is a man who does what he must. But will that realization be enough, and is Will mature enough to come to grips with what Kane had to do?
In RED EAGLE’S REVENGE: TEXAS LEGACY BOOK 2, Will continues to learn more aboutJacobi Kane’s past when a group of law officers seek Kane’s help in capturing some of the same Apache Indian band that killed Will’s family. Kane resists going because he is now re-married, with a new baby on the way and tells the lawmen he’s turned in his badge for good—years ago. But a promise he made in the past keeps him hungry for vengeance, and his new wife urges him to go and see an end to it all. Of course, Will is not going to be left behind. Jacobi might need him!
TEXAS FOREVER: TEXAS LEGACY BOOK 3 wraps up the trilogy with a surprise visit from a man Will had never expected to see—his ship-building magnate grandfather from Boston, Robert Green. His grandfather first tries to intimidate him into returning to Boston with him, then falls back on honesty only when he must to convince Will to come back. Will vehemently refuses, but when he hears two of his grandfather’s men planning to murder his grandfather, he knows he has to go at least part of the way—to the first stop, back where it all started—the little burned-out cabin where his family was murdered over two years past. Jacobi is out there, trailing them for protection, unseen and silent, but then Will learns a secret that makes his blood run cold. A man that Jacobi thought of as a friend is also caught up in the plot—but Jacobi doesn’t know the tide has turned. He’s in as much danger as Will and his grandfather are.
This is just a short bit about each story, but the big news is, now you can get all three stories under one cover, RIDE THE WILD RANGE! With a little bit of editing and changing here and there for “flow”, these stories are all combined into one novel now. This book is loved by young and old alike, a great YA novel for boys (and girls!), but also something adults enjoy as well. I loved every minute of writing these adventures of Will Green and Jacobi Kane, and I have a feeling I’m not done yet.
Livia J. Washburn did all my wonderful covers for these PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS books, and I just love them all.
I’m giving away one digital copy of RIDE THE WILD RANGE today to a commenter, so please remember to leave your contact info somewhere in your comment! My question for today is, what is the most memorable youngster you’ve read about in any story? I have several–Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the “most” memorable young character, but what about Bob Starrett in Shane? So many, it’s hard to choose!
Here’s an excerpt from RIDE THE WILD RANGE:
THE SET UP: Thirteen-year-old Will and his grandfather are having a meeting of the minds as they travel up to Indian Territory from Fort Worth. Surrounded by men who want to kill both of them, they find themselves at odds in this conversation where Will tells his grandfather some things about himself that his grandfather didn’t know.
I had learned a lot from Jacobi. And by the way my grandfather looked away and fell silent, I knew there was a mighty big hole in the story somewhere.
“What is it you’re not tellin’ me, old man?” My voice was strong but quiet. I wasn’t sure if this was some kind of family secret or somethin’ he didn’t want Jack Wheeler, riding a few paces behind us, to hear.
He gave me a sharp look. “You may call me Grandfather, William. There’s no need for disrespect.”
“No need to tell half the story, either.”
At first, he looked at me from under his eyebrows like he’d like to take a strap to me. But I looked right back at him. Finally, he nodded and glanced away.
“I’ve been so desperate to find you because…you’re my only living heir. I built a ship building dynasty for my family, Will, and there’s no one left but you.” He cursed as the wagon hit a hole and jolted him sharply.
“My sister married a man, Josiah Compton, whose wife had died. He brought two sons to the marriage, but he and Margaret never had any children together. The boys are men, now, of course. George, the eldest, is a pastor. But Ben, the younger of them, is quite a wastrel. He has squandered his inheritance and is looking for more. If you weren’t…alive….well—everything would fall to the two of them. And though George is not the type to seek gain, Ben is quite a different story.
“Ben knows I won’t be around much longer. But you will always be a threat, Will. I’m afraid this is going to end badly for one of you.”
I thought about what he’d told me. It seemed like maybe he needed me to say somethin’. It bolstered my confidence to know that somewhere out there, Jacobi was ridin’ along easy, keepin’ a eye out on us. Especially, now that I’d learned this part of the story.
I looked at him straight in the face. “I’ll tell you one thing. It ain’t gonna be me that ends up dead.”
“I didn’t say that—”
“It’s what you meant though, ain’t it? When there’s a pile of money to be had, somebody’s always worried it’ll get taken away from ’em. Even if he knows I don’t want it, he’ll be worried about it. I’ve killed before. I’ll do it again, if need be.”
His expression turned to one of shock. I went on with what I was saying. “Ain’t nobody gonna take my life over somethin’ I don’t even want.”
He studied me openly, as if he were trying to decide what he should say. I saved him the trouble.
“I know you’re wonderin’ about it, so I’ll tell you.” And I did just that, from start to finish, from the day Papa and I had been out working together and seen the Apaches ride up all the way through when Jacobi had rescued me and we’d ridden out of the Apache camp together.
“We rode as long as we could, until I fell off the horse. Then Jacobi picked me up and we rode some more. When Red Eagle caught up to us, Jacobi and him fought.” My throat dried up just thinkin’ about how I’d felt to see Red Eagle and Jacobi locked close together, fighting with everything they had, and knowin’ one of ’em was gonna end up dead.
“I killed Red Eagle. Shot him dead.”
Grandfather was quiet.
“I ain’t sorry for it, either. It felt good. Everytime I think about what he did to Papa and Mama, I know it was the right thing. But mainly it was right because he was so dang pure evil.”
I’m really proud of this story, and it’s amazing to me to think it came from a short story idea. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to write the story to the length it really needed to be. And you know…I think there is more to Will’s story that needs to be told. So, I’m wondering, what DOES happen between Ben, the evil relative, and Will when the time comes?
And Good Morning! How are you doing today? Well, I hope.
WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, believe it or not, is a story inspired by a legend similar to Zorro (it wasn’t Zorro, but the real legend escapes me at the moment). I must admit that such true legends are fascinating to me. This is book #4 in The Legendary Warrior series (all four books are based on different Native American/Western legends). This book is part of KindleUnlimited at Amazon, and so if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited, you can read it for free. But I’ll also be sending a copy of this e-book to some lucky blogger today, so please, don’t be shy. Come on in and leave a comment. Also, do read the Giveaway Guidelines off to the right here — these govern our give-aways. And please do come back either tomorrow evening or Thursday evening to see if you are one of winners. I rely on your doing so.
I must admit to really loving this particular cover. What do you think?
So, without further wait, I’m going to leave you with a blurb and an excerpt from the very beginning of the book. Hope you enjoy!
Wolf Shadow’s Promise
by Karen Kay
Legendary Warriors, Book 4
She saved his life. The only way he can save hers is to deny their forbidden passion…
When eight-year-old Alys Clayton saved the life of a young Blackfeet Indian, she had no idea her own life would be forever changed. To honor her bravery, Moon Wolf pledged his heart to her, vowing to marry her. But they were both too young…then.
Returning to Fort Benton in the Northwest Territory fifteen years later, Alys again encounters the deeply handsome hero who had once set her heart afire. But Moon Wolf has changed. He has become the legendary Wolf Shadow, a warrior intent on helping his people’s struggle against those who would destroy them.
Because a precious jewel like Alys warrants more from a man than risking death at every turn, Moon Wolf battles his desire for her, denying her what she needs most. But Alys has other ideas. She is determined he will not walk his chosen path alone.
Yet, how can their love survive when they are surrounded by enemies determined to destroy them, in a world where their love is forbidden?
This book has been previously published.
Warning: Sensuous romance that might renew a love that was written in the stars. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE, an excerpt
by Karen Kay
Fort Benton on the Missouri River
1857, Northwest Territory
“Two and two equals…?” The teacher slapped the ruler against the blackboard, the wap of the wooden stick an unspoken threat. The teacher—who, by invitation, had only recently arrived here—stood frowning, arms crossed at her waist. “Young lady,” the teacher threatened as she took a menacing step forward and unfolded her arms, “answer me.”
Still the young Indian girl, standing at the head of the class, didn’t make a sound. Head down, she stared fixedly at her feet.
Looking at the child, who was no older than herself, Alys Clayton felt as if her heart might break. Personally, she had never understood why the wild Indians had been brought to this school. Her mother said the whole matter was an experiment by their Indian agent, Alfred J. Vaughan, to see if the Indians could be civilized, whatever that meant.
But the project was doomed to failure because Indians didn’t learn from this kind of teaching.
At least that’s what her mother had told her: that the Indians of the plains had not been brought up with the same books and stories as the white man; that the Indians had their own legends and tales, their own way of teaching, of doing things. Indians were close to the land, were free, or at least they were supposed to be. Alys’s mother had also said, and Alys agreed, that the Indians would be better off if left independent which, Alys decided, must mean “left alone.”
So, if all these observations were true, why was their teacher making an example of this poor child? What did it matter if the girl could or could not add the two plus two on the chalkboard? Alys knew that if she were to approach the girl and promise her four beads while giving her only three, the young girl would know the difference.
Tears streamed down the youngster’s face as she endured not only the silent threat of the teacher but the sneers and scoffing of her “fellow classmates” too.
Something should be done. Such dealings were not right. Yet Alys felt helpless. She was only eight years old, a child herself. What good was she against a teacher—against the taunts of the others?
Oh, no. Alys caught her breath.
The teacher—an overly skinny, sickly-looking woman, had raised the ruler as though she might hit the girl, causing the youngster to put a hand over her eyes as though to shield them.
Then the worst happened. Down came the ruler, down across the Indian girl’s arm.
The child didn’t cry out, didn’t even flinch, although she whimpered slightly as tears streamed down her face.
The teacher shouted out a few more unmentionable words. Still the young girl remained silent.
“I’ll teach you to sass me, you heathen,” the teacher hissed, while Alys tried to make sense of what the teacher had said. The young girl hadn’t uttered a word.
Wap! Another slap across the girl’s arms. The teacher raised her arm for another blow.
It never came.
In a blur of buckskin and feathers, a young Indian boy, the same one who had been at their school for about a week, burst into the classroom, putting himself between the youngster and the teacher. In his hand, he wielded a knife.
The class went from a mass of jeers and prankish catcalls to abrupt silence.
Where had the boy come from so suddenly? And the knife? Where had he obtained that? It was well known that the wild Indians, even the children, were relieved of their weapons upon entering the fort.
Yet there was no mistaking that knife or the boy’s intent.
Good, thought Alys.
Immediately, the teacher backed up, but in doing so, she tripped over a wastebasket, losing her balance and falling into the trash can, bottom first.
Alys couldn’t help herself. She laughed.
It was the only sound in an otherwise silent classroom. No one looked at her, however. Everyone appeared…stunned.
The teacher’s face filled with color, her hands clenched over the top of the basket. “You…you savage. You pushed me—”
“This one,” the Indian responded, pointing to himself, “has not touched you. But give me good reason to”—he waved his knife in front of her—“and I will.”
The teacher spat ugly words deep in her throat, before she uttered loudly, “I’ll have your skin for this, young man.”
“Humph.” The boy approached the teacher, then said, “And I will have your hair.”
It took a moment for his meaning to register, but as the boy swung out his knife, taking hold of the teacher’s tight bun, she screamed. Whack! Off came the bun, harmlessly falling into the youngster’s hand.
“You heathen, why, I’ll…” In an almost superhuman effort, the teacher jumped up, out of the basket. The boy quickly grabbed hold of the Indian girl, and pulling her after him, fled toward the classroom’s only window.
That was all it took for the other youngsters in the room to come alive. Insults and threats reverberated through the early morning air, while the two fugitives made the best escape they could. Boys, almost all of them of mixed heritage themselves, suddenly sprang up from their chairs, leaping after the two runaways, who had by this time cleared the window.
The entire school became a mass exodus as student after student bolted out the door, out the window, chasing after the pair.
Alys, however, arose from her seat at a more leisurely pace, strolling slowly and thoughtfully toward the doorway of the tiny cabin which served as the schoolhouse. Fingering her soft auburn curls as she moved, she trudged home, concluding that school had been let out for the day.
Poor Indian kids, she mused. Wasn’t it enough that the children had been taken away from their family to be “educated”? According to her mother, the townspeople weren’t making it easy on these wild ones either, scolding them and making fun of them. Who would want to stay amidst such hatred? Alys asked herself.
Her thoughts troubled, Alys left the schoolhouse and slowly trudged toward her home.
Her house, a wooden structure and one of the nicer homes in the fort, lay situated toward the rear of the town, away from the river and isolated from most of the fort’s more rambunctious activities. It was a relatively quiet spot, a location her father had personally selected before he had passed away almost four years ago.
That Alys’s mother had refused to return east after her husband’s passing had been the fort’s greatest gossip during the first few years after his death, at least for the few white women who had come west with their husbands.
There were only two types of unmarried women on the frontier, or so it was said: Indians and the hurdy-gurdy girls. Her mother had been asked which one she was.
And it hadn’t mattered that her mother had helped found this town, right alongside her father. Nor had the richness of her purse given her immunity. As it was in many small towns, there wasn’t much to provide gossip, leaving Alys’s mother to supply fodder for the wagging tongues, a circumstance that had effectively isolated her, and her youngster, from the community.
As Alys made her way through the fort, she wondered what her mother would say about the events of this day, knowing that it was her nature to blame the townspeople, not the Indians. Hadn’t her mother often commented on the unchristian-like behavior of the few white women in this town? Hadn’t she herself observed that those here, more oft times than not, made up the grievances they complained about?
Why? Alys Clayton could little understand it.
She only wished there were something she could do, some way to help. If only she knew where the two Indians were right now, she would offer them kindness and hope. Yes, she decided, with all the naïveté of a young girl her age. She would be kind to them, make friends with them, show them that they could trust her.
Why, she would…
What was that? There is was again, a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. Buckskin, feathers—two small arms and legs? There in the bushes? She turned to look.
A knife suddenly appeared out of nowhere, pressing close into her throat, and a hand covered her mouth as arms slipped about her waist, dragging her backward, toward that bush.
“You cry out…I kill you,” threatened a young male voice.
Alys looked up into a set of the deepest, blackest eyes she had ever seen. She nodded.
The dusty scent of the boy’s skin, the dirt on his hands assailed Alys until she thought she might gag. It wasn’t that the smell was unpleasant, it was more that he held her mouth too tightly. She squirmed.
Two young boys flew past them, more footsteps followed, more shuffling, the pounding of boots, of adult feet striking the ground, rushing by.
Alys struggled in the boy’s arms. She wanted to let him know that she was a friend, that she would help him. It was useless, however. The boy held his hand too securely over her lips.
Gunshots in the distance caught Alys’s attention, and then came more shouts and hurrying footsteps. Gunshots? Surely no one intended physical harm to these two, did they?
She had to do something. Quickly, Alys took stock of where she was. Over to her right was her home—within running distance—and beside her house was the secret place, that place known only to Alys and her mother…
It was a special locale, a part of Alys’s heritage that might prove to be the salvation of these two outcasts, if she could make them understand. Could she?
She had to try. Motioning toward the house, Alys pointed at the two Indians, then flapped her hands like wings, trying to show an image of birds, flying away free. Would he understand?
The young boy followed her hand motions for a moment, then tugged at her to remain still. He looked away.
Alys tried again. Point to the house, to the Indians, a bird flying away free. Once more, over and over. It took a few more gestures before the boy frowned, looking down at Alys, at her hands, at the house.
More voices, more footsteps coming toward them.
Alys gestured again.
With a stern frown at her, the boy loosened his grip, allowing Alys to whisper, “I know a secret way out of the fort.”
Would he believe her? Did he understand she meant to help him?
Dark eyes glared into her own.
“It’s at the side of my home.” She motioned toward the house.
“There is nothing there, white girl; a house, a wall, no more. Do you try to trap us?”
Alys didn’t say a word. And perhaps it was her silence that accounted for her redemption.
He asked, “How we escape there?”
“In our root cellar,” Alys was quick to answer, “my mother’s and mine. There is a hidden tunnel.”
“What is this…root cellar?”
Alys pointed to a set of bushes that almost, but not quite, hid the wooden doors of the cellar. “There,” she said. “See it? It goes down to a passage underground. It’s like a cave. It leads to the hills.”
She could see him hesitate, watched as indecision played across his features. At last, though, he volunteered, “You show us.”
They waited until the approaching footsteps faded away. Then he prodded her forward, and she fled as fast as her small legs would carry her, on and on toward the side of her yard, with the two Indians following close on her heels.
“Here.” She pushed her way into the bushes and pulled at the doors of the cellar. They wouldn’t give. She almost cried.
The Indian boy came to her rescue, tugging on the doors and hauling them up.
“Hurry.” She motioned to the two of them to enter. Quickly, they did as she bid, fleeing down into the cellar, Alys coming in after them and dragging the doors shut behind her. Instantly, all was darkness inside, but it didn’t bother Alys. She merely sighed in relief.
“This is trap,” the boy said, his knife coming once more to Alys’s neck. Maybe he didn’t like the darkness, Alys considered.
“No,” she insisted, unafraid. “I’ll show you.”
Lifting a rug on the floor, Alys uncovered a small earthen mound. Brushing the dirt away, Alys pointed to a meager trapdoor.
Pulling on the door, she glanced up toward the boy, barely able to make out his features in the darkness.
“Come,” she said and dropped down to the ladder. Down and down she climbed, her two charges following.
Plunging to the stone floor of the cavern below, Alys fumbled in the dark until she found the lantern her mother always kept there. Checking first to make sure it was working properly, she lit the wick, instantly throwing a shadow of light throughout the cave. Instinctively, she took the hand of the Indian boy.
“Hold hands,” she instructed and began to lead the two of them through the tunnels. The darkness of the caves, their earthy smells and coolness had never bothered Alys. They were a part of her family, a part of her.
She and her mother came here often, hunting a treasure that had been lost here long ago. Although if Alys were honest, she would admit that sometimes she sought out the comfort of the caves for pleasure alone, these caverns being a legacy to her from her father.
“If you lead us back to…that village, white girl, I will kill you.”
“I know.” Alys hesitated. “But I won’t. I promise you.”
He let out a snort. “The vow of a white girl.”
“The word of Alys Clayton.” She might not be aware of it, but Alys lifted her chin. “Not all white people are bad.”
He didn’t say a word, though another menacing growl escaped his throat.
Well, what did it matter anyway? She would show him. Wasn’t it what her mother had always told her, that actions, not words, were important? It took an hour or so of careful travel, but she didn’t falter in her step. She knew the way.
The tunnel climbed slowly, gradually, until at last, up ahead, she could see light, hear the rush of a waterfall.
Ah, the great falls, behind which lay the tunnel’s entrance. This was her most favorite spot in the world, isolated, untouched and unspoiled. No one else knew of the caverns or the beauty of these cliffs either, as far as she knew, since they were hidden on all sides by the height of the hills. At least, Alys silently corrected herself, no other white man knew of them.
Alys led their party underneath the falls, out onto the rocks and into the bright sunshine, allowing the two young people to adjust their eyesight to the light before she stated, “I don’t know where your people are, but I reckon you’ll be able to find them from here.”
The boy looked around him and inhaled a deep breath before glancing back at Alys and staring intently at her.
Then, without any expression on his face whatsoever, he murmured, “What strange manner is this? A white girl who keeps her word?”
Alys stiffened her spine before she responded, “I told you I would.”
He nodded. “So you did, white girl, so you did.”
The young Indian miss at his side didn’t seem as devoid of human emotion as her male counterpart, however, and she came up to Alys, hugging her profusely and saying something in a very strange tongue.
The lad translated, “She says something good will come to you.”
Alys nodded, smiling. Then it occurred to her. “She doesn’t speak English?”
“So she could not even understand the teacher?”
The boy remained silent, though when he gazed down at Alys, he suddenly smiled, the first cheerful emotion Alys had seen on his face. The action made him look younger still, innocent, and oh, so very handsome. Alys gaped at him, admiring his long dark hair that fell back from his face. The cooling breeze from the falls brought tiny droplets to his tanned skin; his dark eyes, surprisingly full of approval for her, watched her closely. Alys couldn’t help herself. Gazing back, she fell instantly under his spell.
Slowly, the boy took a piece of jewelry from around his neck. A round, single white shell dangled from a chain of bleached buckskin. He drew it over Alys’s head and settled it around her neck.
“Soka’pii, good.” His right hand signed the meaning of the word in a single gesture. “Looks good on you.”
With the tip of his finger, he tilted her face up toward his. “I will remember you always, young white girl, and what you have done for me and my sister.”
So, thought Alys, thè Indian girl was his sister. Pleased by the realization, she said, pointing to herself, “Alys.”
“Aa-lees,” the young lad rolled her name smoothly over on his tongue.
She pointed to him. “And your name is?”
He shook his head. “A warrior does not repeat his own name. To do so would be dishonorable.”
“But I would like to know…”
She was interrupted by the boy saying something to his sister, again in that strange tongue.
With a quick glance up at Alys, the Indian girl spoke, and, pointing to her brother, said, “Ki’somm-makoyi.”
“Ki’somm-makoyi,” Alys whispered. “That is your name?”
“What does it mean?”
“I cannot say.”
He took a deep breath, grinned at her slightly, then said, pointing to himself, “This one is called Moon Wolf.”
She smiled up at him. “Moon Wolf, I will never forget you.”
He stared into her eyes, his look serious, before he volunteered, “Come with us, young Aa-lees. Come with us and I promise that when we grow older, I will take you for wife and show you great honor for what you have done for us this day.”
Under any other circumstance, Alys might have chuckled, the thought absurd for one so young. Yet there was a somberness to his words that she couldn’t discount. “I cannot,” she replied, her voice sounding strangely adult. “I would bring you more trouble if I went with you. No one in the fort would rest until I was found.”
He inclined his head. “That is true. For a small girl, you speak with wise tongue. But still,” his chin shot up in the air, “no matter what others would do, I would honor you in this way.”
His words, or perhaps it was the pride in his manner, reached out to her, its effect on her profound, and she felt herself responding to the boy, tears of appreciation, maybe even joy, coming to her eyes. She said, “I cannot. My mother would miss me too much.”
He remained silent for many moments before he nodded at last. “So it will be,” he uttered, “but know that though you choose to stay behind, I will carry your image with me, here,” he held his hand to his heart, “for so long as this one should live.”
Alys stared. These were strong words, a powerful declaration, for a boy not much older than she, and Alys contemplated him in silence for several seconds, afraid to move lest she spoil the moment. Slowly, he brought his hand up to run his fingers over her cheek, his touch gentle; he reached up with one of his fingers to trace the path of her tears, before bringing that same finger to his own cheek. “And now,” he whispered, touching his face with her own tears, “a part of you is a part of me.”
He didn’t wait for her to respond. All at once, he turned and fled, disappearing with his sister down the rocks and into the countryside as though they belonged to it.
Alys fingered her cheek for what seemed an eternity, letting the warmth of the sunshine wash over her and dry her face. In the distance she could hear the birds sing, while closer at hand, she could smell the perfumed scent of the grasses and wildflowers. Lightly, the wind ruffled her hair, lifting her spirit gently upward until she felt herself becoming a part of all this, a part of the natural course of things.
She would never forget this, never forget him. She couldn’t.
Alys had become, in the space of a moment, infatuated: She had fallen in love. A love that would last her a lifetime, she thought, no matter the state of her youth. And in that instant, she knew she would never be the same.
I love to write westerns (and other stories, too!) but I live in Western New York. I am in the “Eastern Woodlands” according to the Kratt Brothers (we love Wild Kratts!) but if it’s the western part of the state, that should count for something. 🙂
We grow pumpkins.
We grow other stuff too, but we’re a small farm (using about 22 acres of our fifty acres of land) and we sell everything from our front yard…. Which means come September and October, my yard is filled with all kinds of wonderful people!!!!
Hundreds of people. Big people. Little people. People who come to see all the cool stuff we grow and display.
Polar Bear pumpkins and my friend Becky…. Gotta have friends!
Display ideas for stacking pumpkins…. look at those colors! We grow pink, blue, gray, silver, tan, orange, white, yellow, green, red and orange pumpkins and squashes, many are old heirloom varieties that we teach folks about all the time! The pallets you see are for the 1500 chrysanthemums I grow to go along with the pumpkins….
Our September/October front porch photo op… folks can sit on the old steps or their kids can and take photos…. or we take a photo for them! We have several photo ops for people, where they can commemorate their visit with no fee attached. Folks love being able to have a farm-friendly visit at reasonable prices. And we love it!
Chrsyanthemums.… this is my venue. This and baking for the customers, cakes and cookies and breads to make everyone smile…. but the mums are a huge undertaking and I have some young friends who help me with daily watering and feeding….
Mums in so many colors…. 1500 of them and it’s an amazing thing to see how excited customers are when they see the gorgeous colors and display ideas of mums with stacked pumpkins and a bale of straw or hay.
So while I still write in the pre-dawn hours, the rest of my day is filled with farm work… the house is NOT clean…. and I don’t cook all that much, we eat a lot of sandwiches!!!… but in the end, the folks are so excited to come and see the new things, shop, have fun, visit the miniature donkeys (must love donkeys!) and spend some time on the farm, tucked in the country…
So while I don’t live in the west, I’m not afraid to help run a real-live farming effort with my husband and help from family and friends….
Just in case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing….. and then THIS HAPPENED!
Bestselling book from Waterfall Press, the 2nd book in my “Wishing Bridge” series from Amazon/Brilliance has been named a finalist in the “Maggie Award for Excellence” sponsored by Georgia Romance Writers! I was so excited to get this phone call
So that’s how my summer’s been going…. no complaints! How about yours? Do you garden? Farm? Work in an office? Tell me what’s going on this summer in your neck of the woods!
One of the first things people want to know about a writer, besides where we get our story ideas, is how we got started.
In the summer of 2001, I sat methodically underlining the word “change” with a red Sharpie. I doodled through a list of things I had on my bucket list. You know, the endeavors you want to do before you kick the bucket. I realized if I wanted to achieve my dreams, I had to get off high center. Make a change; something I have difficulty with.
I took inventory: Conquer the guitar, skydiving lessons, rappelling, surfing, and writing a cookbook. I tossed the guitar idea, when I remembered how the thin strings burned my fingertips. I vigorously scratched off the extreme sports…leaving the cookbook as my best option. Now, this seemed a reasonable goal. Isn’t our first learned skill after holding a bottle, writing? All babies begin with food before graduating to crayons on the wall.
Luck beamed down. The catalogue for the local college arrived that very day. Obviously, God had sent a signal. I evaluated the offerings. The first thing I discovered, no “cookbook” writing classes! Hum? I pondered the listing. How about “Creative Writing”, taught by a New York Times best-selling author? Doable and challenging. That’s it…I’ll write the Great American Novel, but where should I begin? Registration! I hurried and completed the paperwork and rushed to get it in the mail.
Three weeks to wait. What now? I’d need supplies, right? With my credit card in tow, I scurried off to Office Depot. Two hours later, I returned with an array of pens and pencils, a newly revised Webster’s dictionary and thesaurus, two spiral notebooks, and two reams of paper. Satisfied with myself, I plopped the bag of goodies on my desk. Maybe I should have purchased more paper, but if I couldn’t get a “four hundred page” novel written using a thousand sheets of paper, I’d better forget about becoming an author. As if they were the Holy Sacraments, I placed the dictionary and thesaurus on my worktable. I sharpened the pencils and took out the notepads—one for my first book and the other for the sequel.
While I waited for the class to begin, I wondered what kind of assignment we would get? No doubt, it would be exciting and exotic. I’d better think of a plot. A couple of dim-witted ideas surfaced. “How about my cousin who married his third wife’s sister by her father?” Too complicated, unless I wanted to write a soap opera.
“The Day” finally arrived. Off I trotted, toting my books and thoughts. What did a writer look like? Being a New York Times best-selling author sounded impressive, so I figured our teacher would be dressed like Barbara Cartland—wearing the Hope Diamond and a hat. Yes, one with purple feather plumes. She’d carry a Louis Vuitton bag full of her books just in case someone wanted her to autograph one. I arrived on campus early, and chose a seat up front, so I could get a good look at a real author—truly a phenomenon.
Entered our teacher, Ms. Jodi! A pert blonde, wearing a chic pantsuit with a bright scarf, floated through the door, bringing with her an unmistakable aura. Surely she was the greatest writer I had seen. But then, she was the only author I’d ever laid eyes on. For the next hour, I perched on the edge of my seat spellbound. I’d been to the Tri-State Fair and the circus, but I had never seen anything like her.
“A book begins with an idea, plus many hours of labor and perspiration,” she said. I knew I could handle the perspiration, but I’d have to think about the hours of labor thing. I remembered labor only too well. It hurt like crazy, I couldn’t sit down for a week, and my husband disgusted me for three months.
Then there was the “every bad character has a good trait—every good guy has flaws” theory. Add “a villain has reasons, and a hero has weaknesses,” and you have my schizoid cousin on one of her off days. “Let your mind wander!” Now, I certainly could do that. An idea is ”what if?” Isn’t that like: Where would my cousin be today, if her mother hadn’t slept with the milkman? The sponge from within absorbed every morsel of knowledge.
“Now, for next week’s assignment,” said Ms. Jodi. My anxiety level kicked into full throttle. She was about to give us the mysterious spine-tingling subject for our first writing assignment. Excitement built. A shoe on the side of the road! What in the hay? That wasn’t exotic or thrilling. It was boring. The only other word I could think of, without the thesaurus, was, well, boring!
Quite intimidated, I walked away from my first class, recapping as I drove home. To become a writer, I had to perspire, let my mind wander, appreciate my schizoid cousin, remember my labor pains, and write a short story about a shoe.
At home, I wrangled with the topic. Dang it, this writing thing might get complicated. To begin with, I had to find something unique about a shoe on the side of the road! How in the world could I tell my wonderful, supportive husband that my first story was about a shoe? When asked, I didn’t exactly lie. I professed it was about a nurse and policeman. They wear shoes, don’t they?
Still dwelling on how I beat the truth around a stump, I crawled in bed. Sleep melded with story ideas and darted around me like a screensaver going awry. Suddenly, my eyes popped open. That’s it! That’s my story. I shot straight up and scurried off to my office. Correction, my little self-proclaimed cubicle in the sunroom. I didn’t know pajamas would become my creative wardrobe. Forget pencils and paper; boot that computer! I flipped on the lamp, hoping not to disturb my husband. Didn’t want him to think I’d become obsessive-compulsive. Later when Ms. Jodi told me, “You need an almost demonic compulsiveness to write,” it all made perfect sense.
By candlelight—it was really a nightlight disguised as a mini table lamp, but candlelight sounds more like what a writer should say—I wrote my first short story…”Footprints on the Heart”. Yep, about a policeman and a nurse, and a shoe found on the side of the road.
Now, nearly two decades later, this lackluster assignment brought me to write six anthologies with my teacher, Fellow Filly, Linda Broday; and the late DeWanna Pace, plus other works including two anthologies and two single title short stories with our own Cheryl Pierson’s house, Prairie Rose Publications, along my Kasota Springs Contemporary Romance series based on some of the characters in two of our anthologies. My excitement is just as real today as it was the night I attended my first writing class. No, I haven’t written the cookbook, but it’s still on my bucket list.
And, no doubt by now you recognize my first teacher and mentor as one of our favorite P&P guest bloggers, Jodi Thomas.
So, what’s on your bucket list?
To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will give you an eBook of Out of a Texas Night, my newest Kasota Springs release.
To a second reader, I’ll send you a gift card from Bath and Body Works.
I am fascinated by Cherokee leader Stand Watie. I’ve used him as a character in many of my stories. I think the reason I can’t seem to get enough of him is because of his remarkable life and accomplishments. Here’s a little bit about Stand Watie and what he did–and then I’ll tell you about my stories he appears in.
Only two Native Americans on either side of the States’ War rose to the rank of brigadier general. Standhope Watie (Uwatie), fighting for the Confederacy, was one of those two. Yet, what makes this accomplishment so incredible is the fact that while he was fighting for the Confederate States of America, he was also fighting other Cherokee tribal leaders who held opposing political views and very different visions for the Cherokee nation.
Stand Watie commanded the Confederate Indian Cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. While the cavalry unit was comprised mainly of Cherokee, some Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribal members also served.
Born in Oothcaloga in the Cherokee Nation, State of Georgia, Uwatie (or Oowatie) was also known as Isaac. He was educated in a Moravian mission school. In his early adulthood, he occasionally wrote articles for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. The State of Georgia confiscated Cherokee lands in 1832 when gold was discovered, including the thriving plantation owned by Stand’s father and mother. Stand and his brothers, part of the powerful Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction of the Cherokee council, stood in favor of the Cherokee Removal. Their signing of the Treaty of New Echota facilitated the removal of the Cherokee people to Indian Territory—what is now Oklahoma.
Another faction of Cherokees following John Ross refused to ratify the treaty signing. This segment was known as The Anti-Removal National Party. Members of this group targeted Stand Watie and his brother, Elias Boudinot, along with their uncle, Major Ridge, and cousin, John Ridge for assassination. Stand was the only one who survived the assassination attempt. Although Watie’s family had left Georgia before the forcible removal of all Cherokees in 1838, another brother, Thomas, was murdered by Ross’s men in 1845.
In October, 1861, Watie was commissioned as colonel in the First Mounted Cherokee Rifles. Besides fighting Federal troops in the States’ War, his men also fought opposing factions of Cherokee, as well as Seminole and Creek (Muscogee) warriors who supported the Union.
In 1862, Stand Watie was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, through dissension continued among John Ross’s supporters.
On June 15, 1864, Watie’s troops captured the Federal steamboat J. R. Williams on the Arkansas River off the banks of Pleasant Bluff near Tamaha, Indian Territory. The next morning, Colonel John Ritchie’s men, who were stationed at the mouth of the Illinois River near where the two rivers met, engaged Watie’s men as they attempted to confiscate the cargo. The river was rising, and they fought to a standoff. When Watie learned of the advance of Union troops from Fort Smith, Arkansas, (within about 40 miles), he burned the ship and much of the remaining cargo, then sank it.
Watie surrendered a year later in June of 1865, the last Confederate general to lay down his arms.
In my debut novel, Fire Eyes, I weave this bit of history into my plot. The villain, Andrew Fallon, and his gang have come upon the site where the J.R. Williams was sunk four years earlier. Fallon speculates there could have been gold aboard, and sets his men to dive for it. As mercurial as his temper is, none of them dare question his order. Here’s what happens:
FROM FIRE EYES:
“Damn! I know where we are.” Dobie Perrin said.
Andrew Fallon turned in the saddle, glaring at Perrin, the afternoon sun dappling them through the leaves of the thick canopy of trees. “So do I, you idiot! So do we all, now.”
The secluded cemetery sat on a bluff, overlooking the Arkansas River. They had been wandering for two days, ever since retracing their steps to the first small creek they’d come to. The one Fallon felt sure would give them their bearings. Now, at last, he recognized where they were. He’d figured it out ten miles back.
“Tamaha,” Denver Rutledge muttered. “I was raised up over yonder.” He inclined his head toward the riverbank. “Over in Vian.”
“Then why didn’t you know where we were?” Fallon’s anger surged. “I am surrounded by idiots!”
“I shore ’nuff shoulda known, General,” Rutledge said apologetically. “Right yonder’s where we sunk the J.R. Williams. Rebs, I mean. Stand Watie’s bunch.”
Fallon jerked his head toward the other man. “Right where, soldier?”
Rutledge kneed his horse, coming abreast of Fallon. “Why, right yonder, General. It was in June of ’64. She was a Union ship, the Williams was.”
“Payroll? Gold?” Fallon fingered his curling moustache. “Could be anything, eh, Rutledge? But the Yankees were known to cache their gold profits in casks. Maybe that’s what the J.R. Williams was carrying. Casks that weren’t really supplies, but were filled with gold.”
“Could be, I ‘spect.” Rutledge’s voice was hesitant.
Fallon nodded toward the river. “I think maybe we’ll try to find out.”
The next story Chief Watie was included in was my time-travel western novella, MEANT TO BE. Here’s a little bit about this Civil War story:
Robin Mallory is facing another Christmas all alone when she decides to surprise her aunt and uncle several hours away. A flat tire leaves her stranded near a desolate section of interstate. With a snowstorm on the way, Robin has no choice but to walk, hoping to find shelter before the storm hits full force. But the road she chooses leads her back in time, to a battleground she’s only read about in history books.
Confederate Jake Devlin, an officer in Stand Watie’s Cherokee forces, is shocked when the spy he captures turns out to be a girl. She’s dressed oddly, but her speech and the ideas she has are even stranger than her clothing. Where did she come from, and what is he going to do with her? Will he be able to hold on to his heart? Is it possible for a love this strong to span centuries? It is, if it was MEANT TO BE…
My most recent story that Stand Watie appears in is my first venture into “alternate history” in the alternate history anthology, TALES FROM THE OTHERVERSE released through Rough Edges Press. If you aren’t familiar with alternate history, it’s fascinating to read and to write–because you can change history to suit the story you want to tell. My novella is called MRS. LINCOLN’S DINNER PARTY–a very different story about how the Civil War ended, thanks to Varina Davis, Mary Lincoln, and of all people, Stand Watie. Hmmm…let’s just see what’s going on at this odd dinner party of Mrs. Lincoln’s, shall we?
“If you’ll excuse me, sir,” Mary said, “I must return to the receiving line. You’ve had a long journey—if you’d like a moment to freshen up, Mr. Pennington can show you to your quarters—” She nodded at the guard standing behind the general.
“Yes, please. I’d like to know where I need to place my bag,” the general said.
Mary glared at Mr. Pennington, who squirmed uncomfortably.
“Thought maybe there was a mistake, Mrs. Lincoln—”
“Mr. Pennington. There is no mistake. And I will not tolerate rudeness. Please, show General Watie to his quarters—and you carry his bag.”
General Watie gave Mary a rare smile. “Thank you. I will see you at dinner, Mrs. Lincoln.”
Mary felt Abe’s eyes boring into her as she moved across the floor, back into her place in line.
“I’m…surprised at you, Mary.”
Mary felt the hot flush creep up her neck, into her cheeks.
“I’m wondering, what other—guests—you may have invited without my knowledge.”
Oh, how she did wish he’d keep his voice down! She didn’t want the children to see the discord between them—especially here in public, where it was so easy for others to read between the lines, pick up on any issues that were best kept private. As Robert had said earlier, they could all find themselves on the front page of the papers along with unflattering descriptions and comments if they weren’t careful.
She didn’t answer Abe’s prodding, becoming suddenly resentful of being placed in such a predicament. She wouldn’t have had to resort to this if Abe and the others who had started this war had been more reasonable.
And though, in her heart, she believed fathers loved their children dearly…she couldn’t yet reconcile how fathers could call for sons to go to war. War! Where the children mothers had fought so hard to keep safe and whole all their childhood years could—in one moment—be maimed, or left to die a horrific death at the hands of their enemy…The enemy—people who had, just two scant years earlier, been their neighbors, their friends—even their own families!
She couldn’t sit by any longer and do nothing. Robert would be heading off to West Point in the fall…then Eddie and Willie would follow.
She was not going to lose her precious boys to this confounded idiocy.
“My God,” Abe swore, his tone calling her back to the present. “Is that—”
“Varina Davis. Yes. It is.” Mary turned to look up at her husband. “It looks as if Jefferson declined the invitation. Would you care to accompany me to greet her, or—”
“Yes, I’ll come,” he all but growled. “Mary, we have some talking to do.”
But Mary was already on her way across the floor to greet Varina Davis, Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s wife.
Years ago, I was a restaurant reviewer for a local newspaper. My husband and I would dine at a restaurant like regular customers. At the end of the meal, I’d pull out my card and announce that the restaurant had just been reviewed.
Once I became known, restaurant managers and owners offered me free meals and other bribes in exchange for reviews. In order to write a fair and unbiased review, I never accepted anything free (though I must admit the costly bottle of champagne challenged my integrity), but you can’t blame anyone for trying. Restaurants depend on reviews for survival. So do writers.
Whereas a single review in a newspaper or online can increase business for an eatery, writers needs a number of book reviews to notice a difference in sales. In recent years, writers have lost important review outlets such as Romantic Times. Now writers must depend on reader reviews on outlets like Amazon and Goodreads and those are not easy to come by.
Oh, sure, writers can pay review services and many bestselling writers do just that. But the services don’t come cheap and there’s no guarantee that enough reviews will be provided to offset the costs.
Why All the Fuss About Book Reviews?
Reviews offer writers greater visibility and a better chance of being found. Also, many promotional sites require a certain number of reviews before an author can use the service.
A study conducted by the Northwestern University found that people bought products based on popularity, meaning the most reviews. Oddly enough, the reviews didn’t even have to be good. Products with a lot of bad reviews sold more than products with fewer but better reviews. (With that criteria, even a mouse could become popular if given enough reviews.)
It doesn’t take much. 20-50 reviews are enough to give consumers confidence enough in the product to purchase it.
Why don’t more readers leave book reviews? According to my unscientific survey among friends and family, here are the top excuses, oops I mean reasons, for not leaving a review.
I didn’t purchase it from Amazon
Amazon allows reviews whether the book was purchased from them or not. If purchased from Amazon, it will say verified purchase. Amazon does have an instinct for sniffing out reviews by a writer’s family members and friends (okay, you can’t blame me for trying), but otherwise anyone can review a book.
I’m not a writer
You may not be a writer, but we writers value your words. You don’t have to write anything fancy and you certainly don’t have to compete with a professional reviewer. I liked this book because….is a good start. Or maybe you didn’t like it as much as the author’s earlier works. Honesty is always best when writing a review. If you simply can’t bring yourself to write one, you can locate the book on Amazon, find the review that is closest to expressing your thoughts and click on “helpful.” Yep, in the wondrous and sometimes confusing world of Amazon algorithms, “likes” and “helpfuls” count.
Don’t have time
I heard this one from someone who had recently won a free book from an online contest. I’m sure most winners don’t think about the time it takes the author to package and mail a book. Also, books don’t come free. The writer probably paid for the book out of her own money, not to mention postage. But writers do this willingly hoping the winner likes the book enough to recommend it to her friends, and yes, give it an online review.
My one review won’t make a difference
Oh, but it does, it does, and we fillies appreciate readers who take the time to post reviews. You’ve helped contribute to the success of our books and we can’t thank you enough.
So how important are reviews to you in choosing books, movies, restaurants or Amazon purchases?
Okay, now here’s the good part. Post a comment and you could be one of five winners to receive a copy of my new release The Cowboy Meets His Match—yep five. BUT (yep, there’s a catch!) I’m going to ask for the very thing most writers are too embarrassed to ask for: All I’m asking in return is that winners consider posting a review of the book. Yee-Haw!
Just this past Saturday, June 1st, I had the pleasure of releasing a new book. TRACE is Book 1 in the Bachelors and Babies series, and I threw a baby shower in our readers group to celebrate. It was fun, a little different, and the whole event was very celebratory.
But to get to that point–a finished book–is not nearly as much fun and much more stressful. Since I was the launch book, the pressure doubled. I had to have a book as good as I could possibly make it to build the buzz and give my sister-authors a boost.
One of the ways to make a book GOOD is to make it REAL. To do that, I relied on pictures to help my writing about Trace and Morgana (the hero and heroine) be more vivid and to immerse the reader in the time period.
TRACE is set in Wallace, Kansas, which was an authentic cow town in 1881. Today, it’s a shadow of its former self. Here’s a few of my pictures.
I based Morgana’s home on this photo, and a large portion of the book is set here. It really was a house in Wallace and still stands today.
One of Morgana’s dresses.
After a terrible tragedy, Morgana immerses herself in music. The harp is her favorite.
Another picture crucial to the story. Baby’s carriage. (You’ll just have to read the book to figure out why a baby carriage is crucial. Ha!)
Any idea what this is? It’s a vaporizer! They were new to the medical community at the time, and I was thrilled to find that they were just beginning to use them in 1881. This vaporizer is extra, extra crucial to the story. Yep! Read the book to find out how.
These are the books in the series. They’ll come out the first of every month. You’ll see some familiar names, including my sister-filly, WINNIE GRIGGS, and former filly, CHERYL ST.JOHN.