CHRISTMAS–A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES

 

Christmas has always been a miraculous time for me. It still is. When I was younger, it was because of the presents, and the anticipation that came with the season. My parents were not wealthy, but we had the necessities and a few of the luxuries. My mom was a great manager. She could make the smallest thing seem of the greatest value. She could transform our house into a marvelous Christmas haven with her decorations, wonderful cooking and a few well-wrapped packages. When I became an adult, the torch was passed, but the anticipation merely shifted. The excitement I felt was not for myself, but for my children–the joy I could bring to them.

Once I had written A Night for Miracles, I began to think about my heroine, Angela Bentley, and how I might have reacted had I been in her place. I would like to think that I would have done what she did–transformed her small cabin into a memorable Christmas castle that none of the children would ever forget, simply through a good meal, a warm fire, and a gift. But it was all of these things that made Angela’s “gift” — the gift of her heart — special. She put herself out on a limb, having been emotionally wounded before.

I thought about the old legend–that Christmas Eve is a “night for miracles” to happen. Angela was not a rich person by any means, but she gave what she had, freely. She took in the stranger and the three children from the cold, gave them warm beds and fed them. But then she went even further. She gave her heart to them, although it was a huge risk. She comes through with physical gifts, but the true giving was in her spirit. And that leads to a miracle.

A Night For Miracles is one of those short stories that I didn’t want to end. I love a happy ending, and this is one of the happiest of all, for everyone in the story.

Blurb for A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES by CHERYL PIERSON

Legend says that miracles happen on Christmas Eve. Can a chance encounter between a gunfighter and a lonely widow herald a new beginning for them both? On this special night, they take a gamble that anything is possible–if they only believe! Available now with THE WILD ROSE PRESS!

EXCERPT FROM A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES:

Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.

He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.

“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”

He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”

She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”

“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”

A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.

She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”

He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”

She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”

He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, shefound herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”

He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and that it is a time for miracles for each and every one. 

A Night For Miracles is available here:

http://www.thewildrosepress.com/sweet-danger-paperback-p-4267.html

EVERYDAY HEROES

Have you ever made candy cane reindeer?  The first time I ever got to do this fun project was when my daughter, Jessica, was young.

Having her Girl Scout troop dumped in my lap the night before our first meeting was an experience in itself.  I’d volunteered to be a co-leader.  The lady who was the leader suddenly decided she couldn’t commit, so it fell to me.  I knew nothing about Girl Scouts.  Thankfully, another very “Girl Scout savvy” mom stepped into help.

Scrambling for Christmas projects for the girls, this was one of the first ones we came up with.  Back “in the day,” we had to purchase all the needed items separately.  Now, they come in a kit—candy canes, red “Rudolph” puff-ball noses, google eyes, and green pipe cleaners.

Although this is a simple project, it is tons of fun, and the finished reindeer can be hung over the tree branches for decoration, given as party favors, or distributed as “tray favors” at local nursing homes.

Many years have passed since I put together my first candy cane reindeer.  Many changes have taken place in my life over the last fifteen years.

Last December, I found myself once again scrambling for an idea—this time for low-budget presents for my sister’s aides and nurses at the nursing home where she had been since October.  Annette is my “way older” sister—twelve years older than I.  She suffered a major stroke—her third—in January 2009 while she was in New York visiting her younger daughter for Christmas.  The very next month, in February, her older daughter died of breast cancer at age 39.  Annette was not able to see her or say good-bye as she would have liked to, since the stroke drastically affected her speech.

Those first months after her stroke were a series of ups and downs, the worst thing being that she was in New York with no way to get back to Oklahoma.  Flying was impossible with her medical conditions, so we raised money to bring her home via non-emergency medical transport.  Now with Christmas coming, we needed gifts—cheap gifts!

Oddly enough, those candy cane reindeer flew into my brain and wouldn’t leave me alone.  Annette only has the use of one hand, but she remains fiercely independent, as much as possible.  I remembered those Girl Scout days, and how the younger siblings of some of the girls wanted to “help” make the reindeer; the patience of the older girls as they guided little hands in gluing on the eyes and noses, twisting the pipe cleaner around the curved part of the candy cane to form the antlers. 

But that was truly no “gift”—better than nothing, but not quite the ticket.  Still, I bought one of the kits, and some “curly ribbon” and tiny ornaments to tie under the reindeers’ neck to embellish them a bit.  Then, I saw the answer to my dilemma in the Bath and Body Works ad!  Small, purse-size hand sanitizers in the most wonderful scents imaginable for $1 each!  I ordered 20 of them in a variety of scents.  Taping the candy cane reindeer to the small bottle of hand sanitizer would allow the reindeer to “stand.”  The tape could be easily removed, and the reindeer could serve as a tree ornament once it got to its new  “gift home.”

Annette was thrilled!  We spent two hours one Sunday making the reindeer together.  Once again, I found myself dabbing on the glue, holding the reindeer for other hands to put on the nose.  Then she held it while I put on the eyes, as they were hard for her to manage.  I tied the ornament and bow under the “neck” and twisted the pipe cleaner antlers on top.  We bent the antlers into all kinds of crazy shapes and laughed like we were kids.  Then I taped on the “legs”—the hand sanitizer—and the reindeer went to their “stall” to await being given away.

I couldn’t help but remember when I was little, how Annette was the one who had helped me do those kinds of crafts.  Now, everything is turned around, and I can enjoy this time together in a way that is far different than when I was a child.  I find myself in service to her, in a kind of odd role reversal. 

You wouldn’t think that candy cane reindeer could look much different from one another, but somehow, they do.  When I looked at them all lined up in their cardboard box stable, I thought of the fun we had making them, and the laughter we shared over simple things—a nose that wouldn’t stay on, crooked eyes, bent antlers.  I knew she had enjoyed it as much or more than I had by the look on her face, the way she kept straightening them up, re-bending the antlers on this one or that.  I watched her for a few seconds, and she turned to me with a smile—one of true happiness.  I hadn’t seen that for a long time. 

“I love you.”  She took my hand and held it for a moment.  “I love you,” she repeated; which means what she is saying, but was also her way of saying “thank you.” 

“I love you, too.”  Silently, I thanked her in my heart for still fighting, for still trying. For being my hero.

During this holiday time, I would love to hear about everyday heroes in your lives—people who wouldn’t think of themselves as anything special.  Maybe there’s someone you know who has given you a very precious gift that they don’t even realize or think of? Tell us about it! Everyday heroes are the very best!

“A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION” ANTHOLOGIES

I am so excited to share with you that I just had three holiday short stories released through Victory Tales Press last week!  As you all know, I normally write historical western romance, and two of these stories are just that. The third is a contemporary story, and I would like to tell you a bit about all of them.

HOMECOMING is a story I had written about a year ago.  I knew it was very odd, and probably had no chance of “making it” in the romance market, especially with the larger houses.  I don’t want to give anything away, so I will just have to be content to say that it has a very odd twist to it, a bit of the paranormal, and is a very different kind of story.  It appears in the Sweet edition of A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION.  Darn it, I wish I could tell you more because this is one of my favorite stories, but I’m afraid I’ll say too much!   I’m in this collection with four other wonderful authors.  Here’s the blurb for HOMECOMING, a story of forgiveness and faith at Christmas:

A holiday skirmish sends Union officer Jack Durham on an unlikely mission for a dying Confederate soldier–his enemy.  While thinking of the losses he’s suffered, can Jack remember what it means to be fully human?  Will the miracle of Christmas be able to heal his heart in the face of what awaits him?

My story in the Sensual edition of A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION is called SCARLET RIBBONS.  For as long as I can remember, the song of the same title has been part of my life.  I grew up in the 60’s/70’s and folk music was a staple in my home.  This poignant song, made popular by Harry Belafonte, tells the story of a man who hears his child praying for Scarlet Ribbons for her hair. It’s late, and the streets are empty, with no place to get the Scarlet Ribbons. During the night, the father anguishes over not being able to get such a simple gift for his daughter.  In the morning, just before dawn, he goes into her bedroom and there on the bed are two beautiful scarlet ribbons for her hair. If you have never heard the song, it’s well worth a listen or ten–I promise it will touch your heart (I can never listen to it without crying like a big third grader.)

My story of SCARLET RIBBONS is about a half-breed gunslinger who comes back to Mexico after many years to several surprises.  There is, again, a hint of the paranormal in this story.  I was so happy to be able to place it with Victory Tales Press, as it is quite different.  But this was a story I had had in mind for a long time.  Here’s the blurb:

Miguel Rivera is known as El Diablo, The Devil.  Men avoid meeting his eyes in fear of his gun.  Persuaded by a street vendor, he makes a foolish holiday purchase–two scarlet ribbons.  Can a meeting with a mysterious priest, and the miracle of the scarlet ribbons set Miguel on a new path and restore the love he lost before? 

My contemporary story, WHITE CHRISTMAS, appears in the Spicy edition of A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION along with three other wonderful authors.  I think my idea for this story stemmed from the many hospital visits I have made with my sister this year, and talking with so many wonderful ER nurses and doctors. What happens with their holidays? And what about first responders–fire fighters and police officers?  In my story, I took a lonely divorced ER nurse who hasn’t had a proper Christmas in many years, and a long-single fire fighter who has lost everything dear to him and threw them together for Christmas.  Here’s the blurb for WHITE CHRISTMAS:

Since her divorce, busy ER nurse, Carlie Thomas, is happy to spend Christmas on duty.  Fire fighter Derek Pierce needs special care after being injured on the job.  But Derek’s wounds are more than skin deep.  Will they spend the holidays haunted by the ghosts of the past, or could this Christmas spark a beautiful friendship–or even something more?

If you love holiday stories, this is a treasure-trove!  There are four books in all in the A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION set: sweet, sensual, stimulating and spicy.  The stories are grouped according to “heat” level so there are no surprises.  These are great for gift-giving for this reason.

To order, or for more information, here’s the link. http://victorytalespress.yolasite.com/online-store.php

I’d love to hear from y’all.  What is your favorite holiday story? Is it one of your own, or someone else’s?  I love holiday stories and I’m always looking for new ones.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

 

VETERANS’ DAY REMEMBRANCE

This is a blog I wrote last year for the December 7 anniversary of World War II.  With Veterans’ Day coming up tomorrow tomorrow, I wanted to post it here in honor of veterans of all the wars in the past and present.  This is for all the men, women, and families who have given so much for all of us.  A big hug and THANK YOU to everyone who has ever served, and to the wives and families of those veterans.

Driving down one of the busiest streets of Oklahoma City today, I noticed a flag at a local business flying at half-staff.  It was the only one on that block.  I’m sure many people wondered about it.  

But I remembered

December 7, 1941…the day the U.S. was brought into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. 

Through the years, my mother recounted tales brought home from “over there” by her relatives who enlisted.  She talked also about the rationing here at home—how difficult it was to get needed items, and how impossible it was to get luxuries.  She was 19 when the U.S. entered the war—just the very age of so many of the young men who were killed in the surprise attack on December 7, 1941.  Was there a man of that age who didn’t rush down to sign up for duty after that fateful day?  Many of her fellow students and co-workers did just that, and during the course of the next four years of war, many of them were lost. 

My father tried to sign up, but his lungs were bad.  He was turned away.  I think he was always ashamed of that, because until the day he died, he had one of the most patriotic hearts I’ve ever known.  Secretly, when I was old enough to realize what that might have meant, I was glad that he had not had to go to war.  I knew that would have changed everything in my world. 

Being as close as it was to Christmas made the deaths of the men at Pearl Harbor even more poignant.  Just done with Thanksgiving, looking forward to the Christmas holidays to come, so many young lives snuffed out in the space of minutes. Watching the documentaries, hearing the old soldiers that are left from that time talk about the horror of that day, and of war in general, brings tears to my eyes. 

I’m always amazed by the generations that have gone before us, and how they stood up to face adversity when it was required of them.  Being human,  the unknown was just as frightening to them as it is to us.  We tend to forget it, somehow, because of the luxury and comforts of our modern lives that we have become used to.  We have let ourselves become numb, in a way, and what’s worse—we have forgotten

We have forgotten what the generations before us sacrificed for us, their future.  We have forgotten how to honor the memory of those men and women, and what they did, individually and collectively. 

I counted flagpoles the rest of the way home from that one, lonely half-staff flag—about a mile and a half to my house.  There was only one other pole along that route that flew the flag half-staff in memory of that day sixty-eight years ago.  A day that ended in smoke, and fire, drowning and death…and war. 

Something peculiar occurred to me.  I have been alive during the time when the last surviving widow of a veteran of The War Between The States died.  I have been alive during the time that the last survivor of World War I died.  There are not that many survivors left of World War II, or the Korean Conflict.  Yet, our schools pass over these huge, world-altering events as if they are nothing, devoting a page or less to them in the history texts.  Think of it.  A page or less, to tell of the suffering, the economic impact, the technological discoveries, and the loss of humanity of each of these wars.

No wonder our society has forgotten the price paid by those who laid down their lives!  When we don’t teach our children, and learn from the past, history is bound to repeat itself. 

As a writer, it’s hard for me to write about some conflicts–The War Between the States, especially.  I think it’s because, to me, that was the most tragic of any war we fought–the pitting of brother against brother, father against son.  To think how close we came to being forever divided here in America is frightening.  It seems every line of every battle was etched on President Lincoln’s face during his time as president. 

My husband was a SEAL in the Viet Nam War, and although I have a ready-made reference for all things during that time in him, I’m reluctant to write about it.

What do you all think about writing about soldiers, sailors, any and all veterans of war?  I think that it’s a wonderful way to honor those who fought.  I have some ideas I’d like to get out there, but am still letting them simmer for the time being.

President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 as “a day that will live in infamy.”  That statement, spoken so boldly, believed so strongly, held so close to the hearts of that generation, is only true as long as the next generation, and the one beyond that, remembers.

Well, many years have passed since those brave men are gone

And those cold ocean waters now are still and they’re calm.

Well, many years have passed, but still I wonder why,

The worst of men must fight and the best of men must die.

FROM “REUBEN JAMES,” by WOODY GUTHRIE 

CAN SETTING BE ANOTHER CHARACTER?

Location.  Setting.  Why is it so important to the stories we love to read and write?  It seems obvious in some cases.  In others, there could be a ‘hidden’ agenda. It can actually become another character.

Fifty years ago, the choices were limited.  Regencies and Westerns were prevalent sub-genres in the historical category, and mysteries and detective stories captivated the ‘contemporary’ nook.  Science fiction was still relatively uncharted.

The setting of a novel was a definitive device, separating the genres as clearly as any other element of writing.

The glittering ballrooms and colorful gowns and jewels whisked historical romance readers away to faraway, exotic locales.  Sagebrush, cactus, and danger awaited heroes of the western genre, a male- dominated readership.

But something odd happened as time went by.  The lines blurred.   Rosemary Rogers combined the romance of exotic places with the danger of an action plot, and an unforgettable hero in Steve Morgan that, had a man picked up ‘Sweet Savage Love’ and read it, he certainly could have identified with.

By the same token, the male-oriented scenery accompanied by the stiff, stylized form of western writers such as Owen Wister (The Virginian) and Zane Grey (Riders of the Purple Sage, The Last Trail) gave way to Louis L’Amour (Conagher, the Sackett series) and Jack Schaefer (Shane, Monte Walsh).

Why is the evolving change in description of location so important?  In older writings, many times the location of a novel was just where the story happened to take place.  Often, the plot of the story dictated the setting, rather than the two forming any kind of  ‘partnership.’

But with the stories that came along later, that partnership was strengthened, and in some cases, location became almost another character in the plot.

Take Louis L’Amour’s ‘Conagher.’  As good as the movie was, the book gives us so much more insight into the characters’ thoughts and reasoning.  As he describes the heroine’s (Evie) dismal hopelessness at the land her husband (Jacob) has brought her to, we wonder how she will survive.  Yet, Jacob has plans, sees the possibilities that Evie cannot, or will not see.  The underlying message is, “The land is what we make of it.”

As the story continues, she begins to appreciate the beauty of the prairie, while acknowledging the solitary loneliness of her existence.  She plants a garden, nurturing the plants, and gradually she sees the farm being shaped into a good home from the ramshackle place she’d first laid eyes on.

The land is beautiful, but unforgiving.  Her husband is killed in a freak accident, and for months she doesn’t know what has happened to him.  She faces the responsibility of raising his two children from a previous marriage alone.

In her loneliness, she begins to write notes describing her feelings and ties them to tumbleweeds.  The wind scatters the notes and tumbleweeds across the prairie.  Conagher, a loner, begins to wonder who could be writing them, and slowly comes to believe that whomever it is, these notes are meant for him.

At one point, visitors come from back East.  One of them says to Evie something to the effect of “I don’t know how you can stand it here.”
This is Evie’s response to her:

“I love it here,” she said suddenly.  “I think there is something here, something more than all you see and feel…it’s in the wind.

“Oh, it is very hard!” she went on.  “I miss women to talk to, I miss the things we had back East–the band concerts, the dances.  The only time when we see anyone is like now, when the stage comes.  But you do not know what music is until you have heard the wind in the cedars, or the far-off wind in the pines.  Someday I am going to get on a horse and ride out there”–she pointed toward the wide grass before them–”until I can see the other side…if there is another side.”

The land, at first her nemesis, has become not only a friend, but a soulmate.  If that’s not romance, I don’t know what is.

Within 40 pages of  ‘Conagher’, the reader understands that the land, with all its wild beauty and dangers has become enmeshed in Evie’s character.  She can’t leave it, and it will never leave her.

I think of my own writing projects.  What importance do I give setting in my description, plot, even characterization? In my latest contemporary release, SWEET DANGER, the setting is of utmost importance because of the fact that the story takes place in a neighborhood deli,  a normally friendly, safe place to be.  Jesse Nightwalker and Lindy Oliver are introduced to one another by the deli owner.  On a particularly crowded day, they are forced to share a booth.  It’s a “first date” neither of them will ever forget.   Here’s an excerpt:

FROM SWEET DANGER:

Jesse looked past her, his smile fading rapidly. As the flash of worry entered his expression, Lindy became aware of a sudden lull in the noisy racket of the deli. Jesse’s dark gaze was locked on the front door, a scowl twisting his features.

“Damn it,” he swore, reaching for her hand. “Get down! Under the table, Lindy…”

But she hesitated a second too long, not understanding what was happening. In the next instant, the sound of semi-automatic gunfire and shattering glass filled the air.

Lindy reflexively ducked, covering her head. The breath of a bullet fanned her cheek as Jesse dragged her down beneath the sparse cover of the small table. He shielded her, his hard body crushing against her, on top of her, pushing her to the floor. The breath rushed out of her, and she felt the hard bulge of the shoulder holster he wore beneath the denim jacket as it pressed against her back.

Her heart pounded wildly, realization of their situation flooding through her. A robbery! But why, at this hour of the morning when the take would be so low? The gunfire stopped as abruptly as it had started. From somewhere near the counter, a man shouted, “Come out and you won’t be hurt! Come out—now!”

Lindy looked up into Jesse’s face, scant inches from her own. What would he do? They were somewhat concealed here at the back of the deli, but these men were sporting semi-automatic weapons.

“There’s a back door,” Jesse whispered raggedly. “Get the hell out of here. I’m gonna be your diversion.” She didn’t answer; couldn’t answer. He was likely to be killed, helping her go free. He gave her a slight shake. “Okay?”

An interminable moment passed between them before she finally nodded. “Get going as soon as I get their attention.” He reached to brush a strand of hair out of her eyes, his own gaze softening as he leaned toward her and closed the gap between them. “Take care of yourself, Lindy,” he whispered, just before his mouth closed over hers.

The instant their lips met shook her solidly. Every coherent thought fled, leaving nothing but the smoldering touch of his lips on hers, burning like wildfire through her mind. Soft, yet firm. Insistent and insolent. His teeth skimmed her lower lip, followed by his tongue, as he tasted her. Then, he pulled away from her, their eyes connecting for a heart-wrenching second.

“Safe passage,” he whispered.

Lindy didn’t answer, more stunned by the sudden sweet kiss than by the madness surrounding them. Jesse pushed himself out from under the table and stood up, directly in front of where Lindy crouched. Only then did she hear his muted groan of pain, his sharp, hissing intake of breath. The blossoming red stain of crimson contrasted starkly with the pale blue of his faded denim jacket as his blood sprang from the bullet wound, soaking the material.

He’d been shot!

Lindy gasped softly at the realization. How could she leave him now? He was hurt. Somehow, it didn’t seem right for her to escape, to leave him to deal with these men while he was bleeding.

Jesse hesitated. Lindy couldn’t be sure if it was intentional, or if the agony of the hole in his shoulder kept him still for that extra instant before he slowly walked away from the table, his hands up.

Lindy crept forward. Looking past where Jesse stood, halfway between her and the front of the deli, she caught her first good look at the leader of the small band of thieves. He stood close to the counter, his hair spiking in thin blond tufts, his stance indicating he was ready for anything. From the carnage around him, his cocksure attitude was warranted.

Three of his gang stood near the entrance, guns held on the few patrons who hadn’t managed to get out the door. The leader’s Glock was trained on Jesse’s midsection, a wide grin on his pale face. Then, he began to laugh, the gun holding steady through it all. “Jesse Nightwalker, as I live and breathe.”

“Yeah,” Jesse muttered. “Unfortunately.”

The gunman’s grin faded, and his eyes found Lindy’s from across the room. Mercurial. Hard. Deadly. The Glock never wavered, nor did his stance. Only his gray eyes changed, giving Lindy a silent warning before he spoke.

“Bring that baggage with you, Jess,” he said mildly. “Don’t leave her cowering under the table. There’s a back door to this hole, you know. Wouldn’t want her to get shot trying to do something foolish…like, escape.”

http://www.thewildrosepress.com/cheryl-pierson-m-534.html

LADY RENEGADE

CAROL FINCH

(Connie Feddersen) 

author of

LADY RENEGADE

~~~

 Since I was born and raised in Oklahoma and I am a member of the Osage Indian Nation, I love to write stories about my home state. I have been a published author for 28 years and I’ve written ninety-six books. (To be more accurate there are ninety-nine. The first three didn’t sell early in my career.) Thirty-eight of the books were set in Oklahoma as contemporaries and historicals.

~~~

Thumbing through an Oklahoma history book is a font of ideas for stories. First, there was the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes and the Plains Indians from their homes to reservations that were supposed to belong to Native Americans forever and ever. And guess what? Uncle Sam broke that promise, along with dozens of others.) Then came several Land Runs for free property. Now what, I ask you, could possibly go wrong while settlers lined up to race for the perfect piece of land?) Then somebody had the bright idea to have Land Lotteries. (Again, trouble waiting to happen? You betcha.)
~~~

You can imagine the possibilities of story lines in the Oklahoma Panhandle, known as No Man’s Land. (Gee, I bet no bad guys would hide out there to rob whoever was foolish enough to travel through the bandit-infested area.) Then of course, we had the Twin Territories—Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory—the places were jumping alive with settlers, shop owners, cardsharps, and all varieties of outlaws waiting to thicken a plot.

~~~

In LADY RENEGADE, the November Western Historical from Harlequin, I combined my favorite settings—The Osage Nation of Indian Territory in the 1880s—with one of my favorite heroes—a lawman. U.S. Deputy Marshal Gideon Fox is half-Osage, cynical and hard-nosed. If Lorelei Russell, who was falsely accused of murdering the man who proposed to her, would have known what Gideon was like she would still be hiding out in the Oklahoma Hills. Yet, she went to him for help to clear her name and he arrested her! Gideon presumes Lori shot the poor man because he refused to marry her and now it’s her word against a dead man. Well, except for the witnesses who didn’t see the actual shooting, just saw Lori hightail it away and presumed the worst.

~~~

Gideon plans to take Lori to the “Hanging Judge” in Fort Smith—until snipers try to shoot Lori a couple of times. Then the bushwhackers shoot at Gideon and he begins to wonder if the lady outlaw, who looks like an angel and fires his blood more ways than he can count, is telling the truth. Together Gideon and Lori fight their fierce attraction and solve the murder—while trying to keep from getting their heads blown off.
~~~

I hope you’ll enjoy this fast-paced adventure with a clash of wills and a whodunit. And if you are looking for a setting for your own book, think Oklahoma! Why heck, they even made a musical about it so it’s gotta be good.

~~~

Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for one of the two books Carol Finch will give away today.

Find Carol HERE

GERONIMO–THE LAST APACHE HOLDOUT

 It’s been one hundred years since he died—and the mystique still surrounds Geronimo.

 Who was he, really?  Even now, historians can’t be completely sure of the facts.  Some biographers list his birth date as June of 1829.  Others say he was born somewhere between 1823-1825.  He was the fourth child in a family of four boys and four girls, but even his birth name is disputed.  Some say he was called “The One Who Yawns,” his name being “Goyathlay.”  Others spell it differently:  “Goyahkla.”  But by the time he was in his mid-twenties, he was called by the name we remember:  Geronimo

 In 1850, because his mother, his young wife, (Alope) and his three children were murdered in a raid on their village by Mexican troops, Geronimo pledged that he would avenge their deaths.  He received “the Power”—the life force of the universe that gave him supernatural abilities.  These included being able to see into the future, walk without leaving tracks, and hold off the dawn.  In a vision, he was told that no bullet would ever bring him down in battle, a prophecy that proved true.

 Geronimo fought so savagely, so fiercely, that the Mexican troops began to call to Saint Jerome for deliverance from him.  Thus, their cries for help became the name he was known by: Geronimo.

 In addition to fighting the Mexicans, Geronimo found himself and his Chiracahua Apache tribe at odds with the U.S. Government.  By the early 1870s, the federal government’s newly-instituted policy of placing the traditionally nomadic Apaches on reservations was the cause of regular uprisings.  Geronimo fought for his peoples’ hereditary land for years.

 In 1885, he led a group of more than 100 men, women and children in an escape from the reservation, to the mountains of Mexico.  During this time, his band was pursued by more than 5,000 white soldiers, and over 500 Indian auxiliaries were employed to achieve Geronimo’s capture.  It took over five months to track Geronimo to his camp in Mexico’s Sonora Mountains—over 1,645 miles away.

 On March 27, 1886, exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered, Geronimo surrendered.  His band consisted of only a few warriors, women and children.  Also found was a young captive, a white boy, name Jimmy “Santiago” McKinn who had been kidnapped six months earlier.  The boy had become so assimilated to the Apache way of life that he cried when he was forced to return to his parents.

 As the group began the trek back to Fort Bowie, Arizona, Geronimo and some of the warriors, women and boys escaped once more, making their way back into the Sierra Madre.

 On September 4, 1886, Geronimo surrendered for the last time to General Nelson A. Miles at Skeleton Canyon in southern Arizona.  He was sent to Florida in a boxcar, a prisoner of war.  It was May of 1887 before he was reunited with his family, and they were once again moved; this time, to Mount Vernon Barracks near Mobile, Alabama.

 In 1894, Geronimo was again moved with other Apaches to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  He attempted to try and fit in, farming and joining the Dutch Reformed Church.  He was expelled from the church for his penchant for gambling. 

 The federal government made many empty promises to Geronimo and his people, but they allowed him to keep the money he made from selling buttons from his clothing or posing for pictures at numerous fairs and exhibitions such as the Omaha Exposition in Omaha, NE (1898), the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, NY (1901), and the St. Louis World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO (1904).

 In 1905, Geronimo rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade.  It was also during this year that he told the story of his life to S. M. Barrett, who wrote “Geronimo: His Own Story”, which was published in 1906.

 In 1909, Geronimo was riding home after drinking too much.  He fell off of his horse and lay, wet and freezing, beside the road until he was discovered several hours later.  Never having seen his beloved Arizona homeland again, he died of pneumonia on February 17, 1909.

 Geronimo is buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in an Apache POW cemetery.  There is a simple stone monument at his gravesite where people still bring icons and offerings and leave them.  Baggies of sage, seashells, scraps of paper—homage to the greatest warrior who ever lived.

 Geronimo was not a chief.  He was not a medicine man.  He was a leader of men—a fighter whose battle tactics are studied still in military institutions.  In the quiet of the cemetery, his children, warriors, relatives and wives buried nearby, he is still a leader, respected and recognized all over the world. 

 Did you know:  “Apache” is a word for “street thug” in France?

Did you know:  There is a rumor that some of Geronimo’s warriors “disappeared” mysteriously from the boxcar as they were being transported to Florida?

 Did you know:  Signers of the Medicine Lodge Treaty were given burial rights in the main post cemetery at Fort Sill?  (Quanah Parker and others are buried with white soldiers in the regular base cemetery.)

 Did you know:  The custom of paratroopers yelling, “Geronimo!” is attributed to Aubrey Ebenhart, a member of the U.S. Army’s test platoon at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  He told his friends he would “yell Geronimo loud as hell when I go out that door tomorrow!” Which he did!

 In my novel, Fire Eyes, Kaed Turner was abducted by the Apaches as a young boy, just as Jimmy McKinn was kidnapped by Geronimo’s band.  Kaed and his younger siblings were traded to the Choctaw, where they were assimilated into the tribe.

  This excerpt is a remembrance between Kaed and Chief Standing Bear, the man who raised him.  I hope you enjoy it.

 Cheryl

EXCERPT FROM FIRE EYES

Standing Bear dismounted and came forward to stand beside Kaed, and Kaed turned his full attention to the warrior, waiting for the older man to speak.

It was as it had been all those years ago, when Kaed had come to live with the Choctaw people. The Apache had killed his mother and father, then taken Kaed and his younger brother and sister into captivity. The Choctaws had bartered with the Apaches for the youngsters, so they’d been raised in the Choctaw way.

The healing bruises Kaed wore today were reminiscent of the ones he’d been marked with when he first met Standing Bear, close to twenty years earlier.

 “Seems we’ve stood this way before, Chief.”

“Yes, Wolf. You were marked as you are today. But still strong enough to wear defiance in your eyes. Strong enough to stand, and fight.”

Kaed gave him a fleeting grin, remembering how, as a nine-year-old boy faced with being traded away, he had rammed his head into Standing Bear’s rock-hard belly, catching him off guard, nearly knocking him to the ground in front of the Apaches and Standing Bear’s own warriors.

Standing Bear smiled and put his hand to his stomach. “This recovered before my pride did.” He nodded at Kaed’s arm. “I hope it is not so with you, Wolf. You did all you could, yet I see you still hold some blame in your heart for yourself.”

Kaed had to admit it was true, and he didn’t understand it. When he went over it logically in his mind, as he had done a thousand times, he knew he wasn’t to blame, that he’d done everything he could have. But he’d never expected White Deer to do what she had done, and he understood the parallel Standing Bear was drawing. The chief had never expected the young boy Kaed had been to lower his head and run at him, either.

Standing Bear spoke in his native tongue. “Have you thought upon my words concerning Fire Eyes? Or will she go to one of my warriors?”

      “She is my woman now,” Kaed said in the same language, “and will belong to no other man.”

 

SWEET DANGER IS COMING!

Sweet Danger is my first contemporary romantic suspense novel.  Up until this point, I have stuck with writing western historicals, though Time Plains Drifter was a bit of a departure from that, being a time travel/paranormal.

Sweet Danger is the story of Jesse Nightwalker, an undercover cop, and Lindy Oliver, his beautiful next-door neighbor.  They’ve been very much aware of one another for the past year or so, but have never formally met, until one fateful Friday morning when they both come into the local deli and end up next to each other in line.

 But things turn deadly as a gang of criminals takes over the deli in what seems to be a robbery.  Unfortunately for Jesse, the leader of the pack is Tabor Hardin, a vicious cop killer that Jesse helped put behind bars.  Hardin’s purpose changes instantly.  The robbery was only a façade for a much more heinous crime—kidnapping the governor’s children from the adjoining daycare.  Now, Hardin swears to make Jesse pay for his part in Hardin’s imprisonment before anything else takes place.

 As if things couldn’t get worse, one of the other children in the daycare is Jesse’s own son, Nash.  Jesse has to walk a fine line to figure out what he can do to save his son and Lindy, as well as the other hostages—even though it means certain death for himself.

 When his wife died four years earlier, Jesse cut off all romantic feelings, immersing himself in his undercover work.  Now, Lindy Oliver has reawakened those feelings at a most inopportune time, and Jesse is incredulous at what’s happening between them, now that he stands to lose it all at Hardin’s bloody hands.

 I loved the premise of this book, and especially loved figuring out how to make it all “come around” so that Jesse and Lindy could have the HEA they so richly deserved.  But y’all know me–I always have to write a wounded hero, so…<G>

 Sweet Danger will be available through TheWild Rose Press on October 1, 2010.  I’ve posted the blurb and an excerpt below for your reading pleasure!  Please leave a comment for a chance to win one of two ARC copies of SWEET DANGER.  I always love to hear from readers and other authors.  Visit my website at http://www.cherylpierson.com   

 SWEET DANGER BLURB:

When undercover cop Jesse Nightwalker enters Silverman’s Deli, he doesn’t expect to find himself at the mercy of Tabor Hardin, a sadistic murderer he helped put in prison five years earlier. Now, Hardin’s escaped, and he’s out for more blood—Jesse’s.

Lindy Oliver has had her eye on her handsome neighbor for several months. Fate provides the opportunity for them to finally meet when they both choose the same deli for breakfast. Becoming a hostage was not in Lindy’s plans when she sat down to share a pastry with Jesse, but neither was the hot kiss he gave her when bullets began to fly. That kiss seals both their fates, binding them to one another with the certainty of a vow.

But Jesse’s got some hard-hitting secrets. With both their lives at stake, Lindy has a plan that just might save them—if Hardin takes the bait. Will they find unending love in the midst of Sweet Danger?

 EXCERPT :

 This excerpt takes place in the first chapter.  Jesse Nightwalker, an undercover cop, runs into his neighbor, Lindy Oliver, in the local deli.  Though they’ve never met, they are very aware of one another. The deli owner introduces them officially and points them toward the only available booth.  But their Friday morning takes a quick nosedive in the next few minutes.  Here’s what happens.

Jesse looked past her, his smile fading rapidly. As the flash of worry entered his expression, Lindy became aware of a sudden lull in the noisy racket of the deli. Jesse’s dark gaze was locked on the front door, a scowl twisting his features.

“Damn it,” he swore, reaching for her hand. “Get down! Under the table, Lindy…”

But she hesitated a second too long, not understanding what was happening. In the next instant, the sound of semi-automatic gunfire and shattering glass filled the air.

Lindy reflexively ducked, covering her head. The breath of a bullet fanned her cheek as Jesse dragged her down beneath the sparse cover of the small table. He shielded her, his hard body crushing against her, on top of her, pushing her to the floor. The breath rushed out of her, and she felt the hard bulge of the shoulder holster he wore beneath the denim jacket as it pressed against her back. 

Her heart pounded wildly, realization of their situation flooding through her. A robbery! But why, at this hour of the morning when the take would be so low? The gunfire stopped as abruptly as it had started. From somewhere near the counter, a man shouted, “Come out and you won’t be hurt! Come out—now!” 

Lindy looked up into Jesse’s face, scant inches from her own. What would he do? They were somewhat concealed here at the back of the deli, but these men were sporting semi-automatic weapons. 

“There’s a back door,” Jesse whispered raggedly. “Get the hell out of here. I’m gonna be your diversion.” She didn’t answer; couldn’t answer. He was likely to be killed, helping her go free. He gave her a slight shake. “Okay?” 

An interminable moment passed between them before she finally nodded. “Get going as soon as I get their attention.” He reached to brush a strand of hair out of her eyes, his own gaze softening as he leaned toward her and closed the gap between them. “Take care of yourself, Lindy,” he whispered, just before his mouth closed over hers. 

The instant their lips met shook her solidly. Every coherent thought fled, leaving nothing but the smoldering touch of his lips on hers, burning like wildfire through her mind. Soft, yet firm. Insistent and insolent. His teeth skimmed her lower lip, followed by his tongue, as he tasted her. Then, he pulled away from her, their eyes connecting for a heart-wrenching second.  

“Safe passage,” he whispered. 

Lindy didn’t answer, more stunned by the sudden sweet kiss than by the madness surrounding them. Jesse pushed himself out from under the table and stood up, directly in front of where Lindy crouched. Only then did she hear his muted groan of pain, his sharp, hissing intake of breath. The blossoming red stain of crimson contrasted starkly with the pale blue of his faded denim jacket as his blood sprang from the bullet wound, soaking the material. 

He’d been shot

Lindy gasped softly at the realization. How could she leave him now?

TAMAHA TALES–RESEARCH IN STRANGE PLACES

Hi everyone!  I have kind of an odd  topic today about “strange things happening for a reason.”   Okay, maybe I should have saved this for closer to Halloween, but it’s a story that happened in the summer, and summer is coming to an end, so I wanted to tell you all about it now.

Because everything I write takes place in Oklahoma or Texas, and because I was born and raised in Oklahoma, most of my research tools are right at my fingertips.  Talking to older people in the area, going to the actual places where my stories are set, and visiting museums and landmarks are all part of my research practices for just about all my novels. 

Louis L’Amour said that if he wrote about a creek or a particular landmark, it was authentic; that it was actually where he said it was, and looked the way he described it.  I don’t quite go that far, but I try to keep the setting and every other component of my writing as true to life as possible.  In order to do that, sometimes you just have to “be there.”
 
Tamaha, Oklahoma, was an unlikely candidate to be included in my story, FIRE EYES, until I visited there.  But how its inclusion came about is a story in itself—and proves that sometimes our research, as that other saying goes, “happens.”
 
Though there’s very little to say about the actual town of Tamaha as it exists today, I couldn’t help but use it in my story, FIRE EYES, released last year.  In those long ago days of more than a century past when my story takes place, it was a thriving community.
 
There’s an odd thing that happened that made me include Tamaha in my book.  I’d been working on it, and had come to the part where the villain and his gang needed to reference a landmark.  But which one? And what was the significance? As I said, I try to stay as historically accurate in my writing as possible, and this story takes place in the eastern part of the state, toward the Arkansas/Oklahoma border.  I must admit, I’m not as familiar with that part of the state as I am with the central part, since that’s where I was born and raised.  A lot of these smaller towns don’t even dot the map, and I had never heard of Tamaha, until one day in May, 2005.
 
I’d just spoken with a lifelong friend, DaNel Jennings, who now lives in a town in that eastern area of the state.  In the course of the conversation, she mentioned that she and her husband, Jeff, were doing some genealogical research and she had learned she had some relatives buried in a small cemetery in Tamaha.  Now, the intriguing part of this was that her relatives bore the same last name as my maiden name, “Moss.” 
 
“Wouldn’t it be funny if we really were related?” she asked.  We’d always secretly hoped we were, and pretended that we were, when we were kids.
 
“Yes,” I responded with a laugh, “but where in the heck is Tamaha?” (As if I would know.)  She began trying to tell me where it was, and I said, “Never mind.  It’s a good thing Jeff knows where he’s going.  Let me know what you find.”
 
I hung up, wistfully wishing that I could go with her—but that was a three-hour drive and they were leaving the next day.  No way I could take off and drive down there on the spur of the moment, with family obligations.
 
A couple of hours later, my sister Karen called.  “Cheryl, I need you to come down this weekend,” she said.  I was really intrigued, because she is my “much older” sister—10 years older—and never much “needed” me for anything before.
 
“What’s going on?”
 
“I promised Mr. Borin I would take him to visit the graves of his parents and siblings for Memorial Day, and two of his brothers are buried in a cemetery in Tamaha—”
 
I never heard the rest of her sentence.  I was sure I had misunderstood.  “Where?”
 
“Tamaha.  And the others—”
 
Stunned, I interrupted her. “Wait, I have to tell you something.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I’d never heard of this place before, and now, within the space of 2 hours, two people who were very close to me had told me they were going to be going to the cemetery there! 
  
This was no mere “coincidence.” 

I promised her I would be there—no matter what—Friday afternoon.  We would be going on Saturday morning.
 
I would never have found the place on my own.  I doubt that Mapquest even has it on their site.  But Mr. Borin, an older gentleman my sister had befriended in years past, knew exactly where to go.  Once we got there, I stepped out and found the headstones for the “Moss” family.  It was amazing to think that my best friend, DaNel, whom I had not seen in over a year, had been standing where I was just a few days earlier—a place neither of us had been before. Again, I wondered what our research through family ancestry would yield. Were we related, as we’d always hoped?  There was an incredible sense of connection, for me, not only for what we were doing that day for Mr. Borin and his long dead relatives, but for what DaNel and I might discover about our own. (BTW, cemeteries are also one of my passions–great for research, just by reading the headstones and figuring out what happened.)
 
As the three of us, Karen, Mr. Borin, and I stood in the quiet peacefulness of the old cemetery, a man made his way toward us.  “Can I help you?” he asked, introducing himself.  We explained why we were there. “Let me show you the historical side of Tamaha while you’re here,” he said cheerfully.  He had lived there all his life, and there was no detail about the once-thriving community and surrounding area that he didn’t know.  He was glad to share his knowledge, and believe me, I was writing in my little notebook as fast as I could while he talked.
 
The cemetery is on a bluff overlooking the Arkansas River.  “Right down there is where the J.R. Williams was sunk.  She was a Confederate ship, but the Union seized her and changed the name to the J.R. Williams.  But Stand Watie and his men seized her back.”(June 15, 1864)  Our guide chuckled at the thought. 
 
NOTE:  (Stand Watie was one of only two Native American brigadier generals in the War Between the States.  He was the last Confederate officer to lay down his arms, and was also Chief of the Cherokee Nation at the time.) 
 
“Come on, I’ll show you the largest black oak tree in Oklahoma—and the oldest.”  Sure enough, it stood towering over one of the first buildings of the settlement of Tamaha, dating back to the 1800’s. 
 
Next, we visited the town jail, the oldest jail in Oklahoma, built in 1886.  We were able to walk right into it and take pictures.  “We’re trying to get money up to preserve it,” he said.  It stood in the middle of an overgrown field.  “Watch out for snakes, hon,” he told me. Yep, he didn’t have to tell me twice.  My eyes were peeled.
 
When we left, I knew I had my landmarks that I needed for my book.  I had seen it, and my imagination took over.  It was the “jog” I needed to get on with the writing, but I will never believe for one minute that it was coincidence. 
 
I use many research resources, but because of the nature of what I love to write—western romance—and because I have been so blessed to actually grow up in the area that I’m writing about, I feel like the most invaluable resource available to me are the people and places I meet and visit.  It’s all around me.
 
One of the best “hands on” research places I’ve ever been is The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.  I worked there for two years, and I loved every minute of it. The best advantage of working there was the fact that every morning when the doors opened, there was a whole new crowd of people to visit with, and yes, I carried a piece of paper and a pen in my pocket at all times. As for research books, I swallowed very hard and bought the complete set of Time/Life books about the West.  I use it constantly.  Another set of books that I have that really have been a great research tool have been Shelby Foote’s three-book series on the War Between the States.  Very easy to read and full of rich detail that you wouldn’t find in a “regular history book.”
 
But my day of research at Tamaha is one that I will never forget, and that I’m so glad to have been able to take part in.  Have any of you ever experienced anything like this?  Some kind of remarkable occurrence that has affected your writing  in some way?  Do you classify that as “research”?  Share it, if you have—I know I can’t be the only one!
 
Below is an excerpt from FIRE EYES. I hope you enjoy it! 
  
    
 
THE SET UP:  A stranger has shown up at Jessica’s door in the evening.  She is reluctant to let him inside, even though good manners would dictate that she find him a meal and a place to bed down.  There is something about him she doesn’t like—and with good reason, as we find out.
 
 
“Evenin’, ma’am.”

The stranger looked down the business end of Jessica’s Henry repeater. It was cocked and ready for action.

She drew a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. She stood just inside the cabin door, the muzzle of the rifle gleaming in the lamplight that spilled around her from the interior.

He raised his hands and gave her a sheepish grin. “Don’t mean to startle you. Just hopin’ for a meal. Settlers are few and far between in these here parts.”

“Where’s your horse?” She didn’t lower the gun.

“Well, funny thing. I kinda hate to admit it.” He rubbed the back of his neck and looked away. “I, uh, lost him. Playin’ poker.”

“Where?”

“Over to Tamaha.”

“You’re quite a ways from Tamaha,” she said. “Even farther from where I expect you call home.”

He gave a slow, white grin. “More recently, I hail from the Republic of Texas.”

Jessica raised her chin a notch. It was almost as if this man invited dissension. She disliked the cool, unperturbed way he said it. The Republic of Texas. “Texas is a state, Mister. Has been for over twenty years.”

“Well, now,” he said, placing his booted foot on the bottom porch step. “I guess that all depends on who you’re talkin’ to.”

Her eyes narrowed, and she stepped back to shut the door. “I think you better—”

“Ma’am, I’m awful hungry. I’d be glad for any crumb you could spare.”

“What did you say your name was?” Her voice shook, and she cleared her throat to cover her nervousness. Most people had better manners than to show up right at dark.

“I didn’t. But, it’s Freeman. Andy Freeman.”

“Are you related to Dave Freeman?”

“He’s my brother.” He gave her a sincere look. “Look, ma’am, I’d sure feel a heap better talkin’ to you if I wasn’t lookin’ at you through that repeater. I been lookin’ for Dave.” There was an excited hopefulness in his tone. “You seen him? Ma, she sent me up here after him. She’s just a-hankerin’ for news of him. He ain’t real good about letter-writin’.”

Jessica sighed and lowered the rifle. “Come on in, Mr. Freeman. I’ll see what I can find for you to eat, and give you what news I have of your brother.”

“Thank you, Ma’am. I sure do appreciate your hospitality.”

FIRE EYES  is available at www.thewildrosepress.com

THE NAME GAME

I am a collector of names.  Have been, ever since I was a kid.  Probably because I always wished for a different one, myself.  Mine wasn’t really exotic, but it was…different.  Cheryl.  My parents decided on the pronunciation of “Chair-yl” rather than the more common way of saying it.  The way a million other people sad it…with a “SH” sound, “Sheryl,” rather than the hard “CH” sound.

So when I began writing, I knew my characters had to have ‘good’ names—names that fit.  Names that weren’t too strange, but not too common.  Names that were appropriate for the time period, the setting, and the culture.

The hero, of course, had to have a name that was also something that could be whispered by the heroine in the throes of passion, yet something that would be tough enough on the villain’s lips to strike a modicum of fear in his heart, just by uttering it.

Because I was writing historical western romance, I decided to pull up a chart that would give me an accurate “slice of life”—possible names for my heroes.  According to US Social Security records, the top ten names for men in 1880 were:  John, William, James, Charles, George, Frank, Joseph, Thomas, Henry, and Robert.

Okay, I could maybe work with the top four.  In fact, the first book I ever wrote was about a gunslinger of this time period called ‘Johnny Starr.’ 

And William could be shortened to ‘Will’—still masculine; but never ‘Willie.’  James—very masculine, and unwittingly, calls up the rest of the line—‘Bond.  James Bond.’  At least, it does for me.  I could even go with Jamie.  Charles is pushing it.  George, Frank, and Joe are names I have and would use for a minor character, but I’d never use those for my hero.  They’re somehow just too ordinary.  Thomas? Again, a great secondary character name, but not a show-stopper.  Henry…eh.  And Robert is just ‘okay.’

I fast-forwarded a hundred years to 1980.  Here are the top 10:  Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James, Matthew, Joshua, John, Robert, and Joseph.  Four of the same names were there, though not in the same poll position.  By 2009, only William remained in the top 10.  John had fallen to #20, James to #17, Joseph to #13.  The others had been replaced, not all by modern names, but most in the top 10 were surprisingly “old fashioned.”

2009:  Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Alexander, Anthony, William, Christopher, Matthew.

This told me something.  If you aren’t too wild with the names you choose, you have quite a lot of choices!  We know that Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Daniel, and Matthew were Biblical names.  Just because they weren’t on the “top 10” list in 1880 doesn’t mean they weren’t being used—a lot!

Another source of names for that time period is family records.  If you go back through old family documents, it’s amazing to find some of the odd names that cropped up.

Still maybe not ‘protagonist’ material, but your secondary characters could benefit.  And who knows?  You may find the perfect ‘hero’ name!

No matter what you choose, remember these rules, too:

1. Sound and compatibility—Say your character’s name aloud.  Does the first name go well with the last name you’re using?  Be careful about running the name together—“Alan Nickerson” or “Jed Dooly” may not be good choices.  Avoid rhyming names such as “Wayne Payne”—and try to stay away from cutesy names that might make your hero the focus of ridicule.

2. Uniqueness—I’m sure my parents were only trying to be ‘unique’ by pronouncing my name differently than the other 99.9% of the people in the world would automatically say it, but you don’t want your hero to have such an odd name that readers trip over it every time they come to it.  Louis L’Amour was a master at coming up with ‘different’ names that were simple.  Hondo Lane, Ring Sackett, Shalako, Conagher…and the list goes on.

3. Genealogy—Does it play into your characters’ storyline?  If so, you may want to come up with a neat twist somehow on a common name.  In my first manuscript, Brandon’s Gold, the gunfighter, Johnny Starr, is named for his father, but the names are reversed.  His father was Thomas Jonathan Brandon.  He is known as Thomas in the story.  Johnny was named Jonathan Thomas Brandon.  He goes by Johnny.  This keeps a theme alive in my story of the ‘fathers and sons’ of this family, and their relationships.  It weighs heavily, because Thomas is dying, but Johnny doesn’t know it.  They’ve been estranged for many years.

When Johnny’s own son is born, his wife, Katie, changes the name they’ve decided on just before the birth.  She makes Johnny promise to name him after himself and his father, Thomas Jonathan, bringing the circle around once more, and also completing the forgiveness between Johnny and his dying father.

4. Meaning—This might somehow play into your story and is good to keep track of.  What do your characters’ names mean?  This is a great tool to have at your disposal when you are writing—it can be a great conversation piece somewhere, or explain why your villain is so evil.

5. Nicknames and initials—this can be more important than you think.  You may need to have your hero sign something or initial something.  Don’t make him be embarrassed to write his initials and don’t give him a name that might be shortened to an embarrassing nickname.

In my book, Fire Eyes, the protagonist has an odd name—Kaedon Turner.  I gave him an unusual first name to go with a common last name.  I learned later that Caden, shortened to Cade, though not common for the time was not unheard of.  Kaedon, shortened to Kaed, was just a different variation.  It sets him apart from the other marshals, and emphasizes his unique past in a subtle way.

Below are some excerpts from Fire Eyes, available  through The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.  I hope you enjoy!

EXCERPTS FROM FIRE EYES:

Marshal Kaed Turner has just been delivered to Jessica’s doorstep, wounded and   unconscious by the Choctaw Indians.  This is part of their first conversation, Kaed’s introduction.

 “Just pull.” Her patient moistened his lips. “Straight up. That’s how it went in.”

She wanted to weep at the steel in his voice, wanted to comfort him, to tell him she’d make it quick. But, of course, quick would never be fast enough to be painless. And how could she offer comfort when she didn’t even know what to call him, other than Turner?

“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”

Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.

His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”

Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath and try not to move.”

He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”

She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”

“Go ahead.”

                                                                        *******

From Kaed’s POV—Finding out his “angel’s” name!

“I need to stop the bleeding. You were lucky.”

“One lucky sonofabitch.”

“I meant, because it went all the way through. So we don’t have to…to dig it out.” There was that hesitation again, but he already knew what it was she didn’t want to have to say to him. He said it instead.

“All we have to do is burn it.”

She let her breath out in a rush, as if she’d been holding it, dreading just how she was going to tell him. “Right. Sounds like the voice of experience.”

“Yeah.”

She touched his good arm and he reached up for her, his warm, bronze hand swallowing her smaller one. Her fingers were cold, and he could tell she was afraid, no matter how indifferent she tried to act.

“You’ve got one on me,” he muttered.

“What’s that?”

“Your name. Or, do I just call you angel?”

He felt the smile again, knew he had embarrassed her a little, but had pleased her as well.

“Jessica Monroe, at your service, Mr. Turner.”

“Don’t go all formal on me.” He paused, collecting his scattering, hard-to-hold thoughts. “I like Kaed better.”

“Better than Mr. Turner?”

He opened his eyes a crack and watched as she gave him a measuring look, her cinnamon gaze holding his probing stare for a moment. “What you’re doin’ for me warrants a little more intimacy, don’t’cha think, Jessica?”

She glanced back down at the seeping wound, worrying her lower lip between even, white teeth. Her auburn hair did its best to escape its bun.

Kaed’s thoughts jumped and swirled as he tried to focus on her, wondering disjointedly how she’d look if she let her hair tumble free and unbound. And her eyes. Beautiful. A man could get lost in the secrets of her eyes.
Maybe he should’ve used a word other than intimacy.