I’m delighted to visit Petticoats and Pistols and check in with all my friends. After twenty-five years under contract, I took a year and a half away from writing to care for and nurture a new grandbaby. During that wonderful and exhausting time, I refreshed my mojo so that I could write with renewed energy. I also promised myself that from then on, I would only write books I love. And that’s what I’ve been doing.
One of the things I especially like to do is take a character out of their place of comfort and put them into a new and difficult situation to see how they react. This is exactly what I did when I created Raylene Cranford, a gently-raised Southern belle whose new husband and father were killed in the brother’s war. She and her childhood friend survived through the winter in the burned-out remains of her family home, living on acorns and scrawny rabbits, and eventually made their way north to safety.
Determined and resourceful, the two are able to turn a family member’s home into a boarding house to support themselves. The system of male-dominated households existed to protect the weaker gentler sex. All Raylene knows how to do is maintain appearances and reputation, and to perfect the feminine graces—like modesty, piety and meekness—qualities that made a Southern woman the center of attention.
Here’s an interesting article about how the war left these young women at a loss with no way to fulfill the roles they’d been primed to fill:
Raylene’s behavior does not go over well with the gaggle of more practical, capable and single women of Twin Springs, Colorado. Nor does her exaggerated drawl endear her to the former Union Army captain who spent months in a confederate prison.
But Tanner Bell has bigger problems. He’s just become solely responsible for a newborn. He owns a livery, where he lives in a tiny back room. His current arrangement will not do for taking care of a newborn. The most convenient solution is to rent a room at the boarding house. Also convenient is asking his industrious new landlady to help him care for the baby.
All Raylene knows is the past. Tanner is focused on the future. It might seem they have nothing in common, but the more they come to know about each other, the more similar they truly are. Both have faced loss and endured hardships. Both are acutely aware of racial injustice and are making a difference by helping change lives and hearts in their community. Both want the best for the tiny girl who has won their hearts.
Raylene’s journey is one of self-discovery. I enjoyed unwrapping these characters to get to the heart of matters, and I hope readers will enjoy reading their story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Have you ever been out of your comfort zone and having to learn how to reinvent yourself? I’m offering three e-books from the choice of my backlist!
Thank you so much to all the Fillies for the warm welcome, and a big howdy to all my friends!
Guess what I did on Mother’s Day? I bought MYSELF something I have been wanting for a very long time—a six-month subscription to Ancestry . com! I’ve always wanted to do that, but never did because I just knew I wouldn’t “have time” to use it…but guess what? You really DO make time for the things you love! Even if it’s only 15 or 20 minutes here and there, I always discover something I didn’t know.
I think of how my parents would have love to have had this technology and the ability to use it when they were living! There is such a huge network of people out there that are doing the same thing, and contributing what they have to share, so a person can amass a lot of knowledge in a short time!
A lot of family stories can quickly be proven…or DISproven!
I found out that my gr gr grandfather, George Washington Casey, served in the Civil War for the Union in Missouri—I found his application for his pension! I learned that another couple of relatives never married—not until their children were all grown, married and had kids of their own! That was a shocker. But the marriage license is there to prove it.
I’ve used family history in my stories before on several occasions, but this is beyond anything I could have imagined. I have enjoyed this “journey” so much, so far, and look forward to all the things I’m going to find out (yes, if you do this, be prepared to be surprised and shocked) no matter what my discoveries might yield.
I learned that my gr gr grandfather (the Civil War soldier, G.W. Casey) also was married three times and had thirteen children! Someone else I don’t know had posted a picture of him on her family tree. I actually got to see him at a luncheon he attended with four other Civil War veterans. In the picture below, he is on the far right, back row.
I have not started on my mother’s side of the family yet—there is so much I’m learning about my dad’s side right now—I don’t want to get them “mixed up” and believe me, I’m going to have to draw up a family tree so I can actually see it all in black and white to get it straight! In the picture below, George Washington Casey is seen holding one of his granddaughters.
One thing that is unusual is that my gr gr grandmother has a discrepancy in her dates of death. I also read in an obituary someone wrote that she was the daughter of a “Cherokee man and his half-blood wife” –now there is a description for you!
I’m a novice at this, but it’s fun to learn—and I’m sure I’ll come across some more skeletons in the closet here and there…maybe some things I can incorporate into my own stories!
Here’s a fun fact: When my son was born, we named him Casey. But…I had never had any clue that “Casey” was a family name, or that my ancestors carried that last name. I had not started my “ancestry journey” yet at that point. Coincidence? Or…some other connection? I’ve often wondered. When a relative told me she was glad I’d named Casey a “family name” I have to admit, I got chills. I had not had any idea.
Here’s my Casey in a pic taken last year. It’s hard to make out any family resemblance from the poor quality of the pics of G.W. Casey, except that they both have beards! LOL
Do any of you use Ancestry or any other site like that? Have any of you discovered some interesting facts about your long-ago families that you didn’t know? I’m having such fun with this!
I’m obsessed with mail-order bride stories. I can’t imagine what would make a young lady leave her home and head west to marry someone she’d never met, live in unfamiliar surroundings, and basically consign herself to a life of uncertainty from the moment she stepped foot on the train (or stagecoach).
But this “wondering” was what got me started on a massive writing project that I’m loving every minute of! My SWEET TEXAS GAMBLE series (and this is my first series!) was born of wondering what would happen if a gambler, Calum Ross, had won some mail-order brides for himself, his cousin Blake, and their best friends Paxton, Collin, Liam, and Jordan Taylor—four brothers who they’d grown up with.
Returning to Texas when the Civil War ends, the men are eager to get back to life as it was “before” they went off to fight. Calum has all but forgotten that odd bet he “won” in a smoky bar near the end of the war, and the others never even knew about it. Of course, marriage is the very last thing on any of their minds on their travels home.
The six brides who are traveling to Texas from “back east” are as different from one another as any people could be, but during this long journey, they have embraced one another and become as close as sisters—they are family long before they ever cross the Red River.
The brides arrive before the men, to the unsuspecting Taylor family’s spacious home—and this excerpt is about the greeting they receive.
As I said, this is slated to be a series, as each of the couples have their own problems to overcome, with issues that happened before they ever met—and also, those that any couple might face—especially since they are starting marriage on such shaky ground.
I’m hoping this first book of the series will be released by early fall—and I’ll be sharing more about this venture as time goes by—but let me introduce you to some of my characters from SWEET TEXAS GAMBLE!
“Oh…my…stars,” Noelle gasped as the coach pulled to a halt in front of the elegant Spanish-style stucco home.
“As I live and breathe…” Angelica murmured. “Things are looking up already.”
“If we’re welcomed here, that is,” Tabitha added.
“Which we might not be,” Cami said quietly.
“Only one way to find out, ladies,” Jessamyn said firmly. “We’ll ask Mr. Fielding to wait a moment and see what kind of reception we get. No need to unload the luggage until we see.”
Just then, the front door opened wide and a man emerged. At the same time, the stage driver and shotgun rider called out a greeting, and the man lowered the barrel of the rifle he carried.
“Ain’t no call to shoot us, Lowell. We’re bringin’ a bevy of beautiful brides to your door!” Arnold joshed. He stepped lively to the stage door and opened it, and the women began to emerge in the heat of the June day.
“What in the cornbread hell—Arnold, is this some kind of sorry joke you’re pulling?”
The driver gave the man a peeved look, his bushy brows furrowing sharply. “I’ve saved you a drive into town, Taylor,” he said in a low growl. “The least you can do is be respectful in front of ladies.”
“Ladies!” Taylor scoffed loudly. “Load ’em back up. Only one here needs a bride is my foreman, J.A. Decker, and I ain’t gonna tempt him with a woman.”
“What’s going on, Lowell?” A woman’s voice came from somewhere inside the open doorway.
“Nothing, Ellen, just—”
A woman with a head of dark hair and emerald green eyes peered around the door, then, a wide smile of greeting lighting her features she moved past her husband onto the porch.
“Arnold Fielding, and Joe Darwin! Oh, and some weary travelers! Is there trouble?” Her look turned anxious.
“Only just now, Mrs. Taylor,” Joe muttered darkly.
She whirled to look at her husband, who towered over her by a good ten inches. Defiantly, she turned back to the group in the front yard and graciously announced, “Please, come inside and refresh yourselves.” Looking past them, she motioned one of the stable boys forward. “Jose, please unhitch the team and take care of the horses. They’re hot and tired, too.”
The boy nodded, moving toward the horses.
“Should we unload the—” Arnold began.
“That can wait until we’ve cooled off some,” Ellen interrupted, motioning them forward. With a welcoming smile, she threw the door wide. “We have guests, Pilar,” she called.
“Si, senora,” came a muffled voice.
Lowell Taylor stood aside as the travelers climbed the front steps and entered his house. As Arnold brought up the rear, Lowell put a staying hand on his shoulder. “What the hell, Arnie?”
Arnold shook his head. “I don’t know any more’n you. They say they’re mail-order brides on their way here from back east somewheres.”
“Where back east? Hell, ever’thing’s ‘back east’ from where we are.”
“I don’t know, Lowell. It wasn’t my business. Said this is where they was headed, and I offered to bring ’em on out to save you a drive into town. It ain’t too far out of the way.”
Lowell stepped aside grudgingly. “You’ve never been one to trurn down Pilar’s lemonade and sopapillas. Reckon that’s why you offered so kindly.”
Arnold smiled. “No, sir. And I ain’t gonna make today any different.”
“Let’s go see what this is all about,” Lowell muttered. “Then I’ll decide if those women stay.”
Arnie chuckled. “Or, Miss Ellen will.”
It was impossible to remain proper and aloof, the women soon discovered, in Ellen Taylor’s home. What her husband lacked in manners, she made up for in spades, with her welcoming demeanor, the genuine friendliness of her smiles, and her God-given ability to draw them out of their awkward reserve.
“When was the last time you ladies had a proper meal?” she asked, assuming that, no matter what, their funds would be running low by the end of their journey.
Quick looks at one another darted around the room, and she turned a blind eye, as if she didn’t notice.
“Pilar, perhaps you and Luisa could make some sandwiches for everyone,” Ellen instructed. “I’ll pour the lemonade.”
“I’ve made tea, as well,” Pilar said with a quick nod as she excused herself and called to Luisa.
“Let’s move to the back porch, everyone,” Ellen said when she’d poured their glasses full of something to drink. “There’s a good breeze out there, usually.”
They’d all seated themselves except Lowell, who remained standing in the center of the porch looking around at all of the travelers, the driver, and the shotgun rider.
“Now I want some answers. Not to be rude—” he held out a hand as Ellen started to intervene, “—but I need to know what this is all about.”
Silence fell, and the others looked to the woman with blonde hair that was once curled, but now hung in tired, relaxed ringlets at the back, beneath her hat that looked as frayed and threadbare as her spirits. Her blue eyes still sparked with determination, and it was plain to see she was the one the others had come to depend on.
“Miss…” Ellen questioned, meeting the woman’s eyes.
“Thomas. Jessamyn Thomas. But I go by Jessie to my friends.”
Ellen smiled. “Jessamyn. What a lovely name. May I call you Jessie, then? Can you shed some light on this situation?”
Jessie nodded, and glanced at the others to be certain they approved of her speaking for all of them. “For various reasons, we had all ended up in Charleston, South Carolina, during the war, or at the war’s end. Also, we had all applied to the Potter Marriage Pairings Agency—”
“Mail-order brides,” Lowell muttered, raking Jessamyn with a disdainful gaze.
Seeing the fight come into her features, Ellen sent her husband a quelling look. She reached across one of the other women to touch Jessamyn’s hand. “Please, continue, my dear.”
Jessamyn turned away from Lowell’s steady glare to look at Ellen, effectively dismissing him. Ellen held back a smile.
“Yes. But we each have a reason for becoming a mail-order bride. And those reasons are for each of us to tell—our own stories—when the time is right.”
“But how did you come to be here? In Texas?” Ellen prodded.
Jessamyn lifted her chin. “We were…won. On a gamble. It-it was a card game, and Mr. Potter had nothing else to wager but part of his business holdings. Normally, he charges a fee to the—the prospective groom. And the groom would also pay travel expenses for—for the bride. So, Mr. Potter bet six brides.”
Lowell let out an indignant huff of disbelief. “And who would you have us believe would be stupid enough to wager a pot of money against six women who are desperate enough to—”
Jessamyn stood quickly as her anger got the best of her. “Mr. Taylor, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Whatever man becomes the husband of any of us will be the winner of that game, I can promise you.” Her voice shook with fury. “We are all here of our own accord. We are here honestly. We were told that we had husbands waiting for us.” Her blue eyes narrowed, but by now, Lowell Taylor stood, slack-jawed at the young woman’s dressing down.
“As for the man who—as you say—was stupid enough to gamble on us? That would be a dear friend of your family—a Mr. Calum James Ross.”
Lowell’s eyes widened at this, but Jessamyn wasn’t finished.
“So you see, when we meet with Mr. Ross, he will be able to explain everything to your exacting satisfaction, I believe, Mr. Taylor.”
The room fell deathly quiet, and a muttered “Sandwiches are ready,” sounded from the doorway.
I don’t know if I could be a mail-order bride–could you?
The Fillies welcome historical author Gina Danna to the Junction. She has a giveaway at the bottom so leave a comment to get in the drawing.
Last winter in Texas, it was cold enough I pulled out my favorite Polo sweaters to wear and found holes! Moth holes! I pulled a couple more & the little buggers were chomping on most of my Polo and Izod sweaters. They love wool and here they’ve got good – expensive – taste but oh I was sooo mad! What do people do today when this happens? After muttering a few colorful metaphors, the sweater gets tossed, as we’ve become a throwaway society. Broken, buy new! But that’s not how people used to be…
For centuries, many people did not have the wardrobes we have today. Unless you were rich, the majority had a few articles for everyday and one dressy piece for church. During the time of the American Civil War, a great deal of men’s clothing was made of wool. Pants, frockcoats and waistcoats were wool. Why? Because wool is a great durable fabric. Made of tightly woven fibers, it held dirt, mud, and anything else on the surface unlike cotton, which absorbed it. If mud got on wool trousers or skirt, it’d be allowed to dry then a fabric beater, like a carpet beater, would be struck on the item and the dried wool would flake off.
For ladies with those long skirts that hit the floor, what did they do to make them not fray or mar with dirt? Many put a ruffle around the bottom and it took the filth off the streets, sidewalks and home. If it didn’t wash out, the ruffle was torn from the skirt and a new one attached. A new ruffle made of another color or new trims, made the skirt look new. Or they lined the bottom with twill-tape, sewn on the inside so only a glimpse of it showed on the hemline. Colored to match the skirt, this piece saved the hem from dirt and once it was beyond redemption, it was an easy to remove and cheap to replace.
During the Civil War, Southern ladies had to become the Frugal Housewife and find alternatives as the Union naval blockade kept imports out. Therefore, fabric from the North or England wasn’t available, neither were many notions such as stays for corsets, etc. So they redesigned what they had. Fixed their hoops by narrowing them or reverting to corded petticoats. They streamlined their skirts, cutting fabric to repair another area, thus making the skirt not as wide as fashion dictated. Pagoda sleeves were made narrow, cuffs and collars made from other scraps and they reversed the fabric to give it a ‘fresh’ appearance. Women already used shank buttons on their bodices. These buttons were not truly sewn on but the shank went through the slit at the buttonhole and was held there by a ribbon that ran the length of the bodice. To give a change of appearance, they pulled the ribbon, releasing the buttons and they threaded different ones in their place. Quite the ingenious way to make one outfit look like five.
Surprisingly enough, The Gone With The Wind portrayal of using curtains for material wasn’t that far off the norm.
During this time, ladies changed clothing many times a day. During the winter, it may be 3-5 times, summer 7-9 depending. They had their morning gown, working gown, cooking dress, traveling outfit, day dress as well as one for evening supper, evening party and ballgowns. It might sound insane to change but it was a way to keep the outfits cleaner than wearing one all day.
Laundry was a nightmare – an all day affair literally. Washed by hand with a scrub board and soap, it was a task assigned to Mondays. Whites were done in boiling water, colors in cold. Dresses were roughly 7-8 yards of fabric. A big piece to wash so they deconstructed it – bodice from skirt, sleeves from bodice – so smaller pieces to scrub and to dry. Drying was on clothesline outside. Whites placed in sunlight to bleach them whiter; colors turned inside out and hung in the shade to keep from fading. Ironing was with a cast-iron iron like we see for decoration today. It had to warm enough to iron but not hot enough to burn. Regardless of societal class, when they could afford to, they hired a 12 year old to do it for them. I read an account of a lady who wore a new dress in May and didn’t wash it until August! Yet some had to be done and it was much easier to wash collars and cuffs, which get noticeably dirty.
But what about those moth holes? They FIXED them. Women learned how to sew – whether they were good or not didn’t matter. They learned it enough to be able to repair things. Knitting was also a skill majority had. With that knowledge, and using things like cedar chests, they could keep most of their woolen fabric safe.
So what about my moth-holed sweaters? When my mother was alive, she fixed them. My mother was a Depression era child. These children were educated about getting by on nothing and making things last. My mother was great at sewing. Made all my childhood clothes. I remember wishing for store bought clothes…difficult being the one with the pretty – and unique – outfit. She also knitted and for these, she knew how to get into the sweater and reknit the holes closed. Alas, I never acquired those skills…
So, I did the best I could – I used needle and thread to sew them close.
There actually is a book on how to be a frugal housewife: The American Frugal Housewife, Dedicated To Those Who Are Not Ashamed Of Economy by Mrs. Child, 1833. A fascinating read.
Makes you wonder – could you become a “frugal housewife”? I’m giving away one digital copy of RAGS AND HOPE to someone who comments. The drawing will be Sunday.
* * * *
RAGS & HOPE –
Widower Colonel Pierce Duval only wants return to his Union command in Tennessee. A chance and harrowing encounter with a true-blue Southern belle stirs emotions he thought long buried. When her safety is at stake, how can he not help her?
Cerisa Fontaine ran away for a new life far from her family’s awful secret. But her controversial marriage and southern drawl make her a pariah in the North. With her husband death, Cerisa is forced to seek employment at the only establishment that will accept her: a brothel.
To survive, Pierce and Cerisa embark on a journey to Tennessee posing as a married couple. But as secrets stand between them, passion wages its war within them. Do they remain loyal to their cause, or give in to their heart’s desire?
Mary Edwards Walker was a doctor, a Civil War POW and alleged spy, and she is the only woman to have ever earned a Congressional Medal of Honor. She was also a “radical” feminist activist, and an advocate of comfortable dress for women.
Mary was born in 1832 in Oswego, New York to a family of free-thinking abolitionists. Mary’s father thought that women’s clothing was restrictive and encouraged his five daughters to dress as they wanted. Mary embraced the style of Amelia Bloomer, a proponent of dress reform who introduced Turkish-style pants that came to be known as bloomers. Mary went on to wear pants for most of her life. She was arrested several times for impersonating a man. Later in life, she adopted the habit of wearing men’s evening wear to deliver lectures at various gatherings.
Mary’s parents encouraged her to get an education. She became the second woman, after Elizabeth Blackwell, to graduate from Syracuse Medical College in 1855. She was 21 years old. She married a fellow doctor (while wearing pants) in 1856 and kept her own name. She and her husband set up a joint practice, but it did not thrive. People did not want to see a female doctor. She and her husband divorced in 1869.
In 1861, the Civil War broke out, and Mary traveled to Washington D.C. in an effort to join the Union Army. She was denied, so volunteered instead. She was appointed assistant surgeon for the Ohio 52nd Infantry and in addition to treating wounded Union soldiers, made many trips over Confederate lines to treat Confederate civilians. It’s generally thought that she was serving as a spy at this time.
Mary was captured by Confederate troops and sent to a prisoner of war camp in 1864, but after serving 4 months was part of an exchange for Confederate doctors and returned to the Ohio 52nd.
Mary was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1865. Sadly, in 1917, her medal was rescinded, along with those of 910 other recipients after the standards were changed to actually seeing combat with the enemy. According to legend, when federal officers showed up at her house to retrieve the medal, she met them with a shotgun and told them she would not surrender the medal. The federal officers retreated empty-handed. Mary died in 1919, one year before women received the right to vote.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter reinstated her medal, citing her “distinguished gallantry, self-sacrifice,patriotism, dedication and unflinching loyalty to her country, despite the apparent discrimination because of her sex.”
This past year, I was honored to be asked to participate in two more of the “Wolf Creek” collections that are the brainchild of Dr. Troy Smith, a wonderful author, outstanding history professor at Tennessee Tech, and a very good friend. Troy’s vision, when he created the fictional post-Civil War Kansas town of Wolf Creek, was that it would be populated by a very diverse community. That, in itself, would cause its own brand of problems as the people of Kansas were sorely divided during the Civil War—and that conflict left its mark long after the War ended.
With over two dozen western authors making up the fabled “Ford Fargo”, author of the Wolf Creek anthologies and shared universe books, I have found myself in some very fine company to work alongside in these creations. The beauty of this project is that each author has the freedom to incorporate their character(s) into a loose framework that Troy lays out, and every shared story gets off to a great start, has no “sagging middle”, and comes to a very climactic ending—yet, it does so with the efforts of (usually) 6 authors per book.Imagine the thrill of being a part of such a collective effort—and seeing how flawlessly the eventual project comes out!
Available in print and e-book formats at Amazon.
In 2016, I participated in two anthologies. These are somewhat different from the “shared universe” books in which there is one story, divided into chapters. The anthologies are separate short stories, but they do propel the same story along to the completion, in many ways, a lot like the chapter books do.
I had a story in a book that was published in May, Wolf Creek: Book 14—WAR STORIES. This was a fun one, because there is a creepy barber, John Hix, who lives in Wolf Creek. He claims to have had nothing at all to do with the Civil War, yet he’s always wanting others to talk about what THEY did during the War…and he has his own reasons. And let’s just say, there have been some “unexplained disappearances”… This was a bittersweet book, as the incomparable western author, Frank Roderus, was a contributor—and this was one of his last publications before he passed away.
In my story, UNCLE JOHN, my character, Derrick McCain, discovers quite by accident that he has a daughter, six-year-old Viviana, that he didn’t know he had—and her mother is dying. But just as Vivi’s mother passes, Derrick is in for another surprise—one that troubles him to his soul: it becomes apparent that somehow, John Hix, the barber, is well-acquainted with little Vivi and her mother—and this is one man that Derrick doesn’t want anywhere near his family!
Available in print and e-book formats at Amazon.
The second book I contributed to this past year was called Wolf Creek: Book 18—HUNTER’S MOON. My story was THREE GOOD MEN, and this time, the town of Wolf Creek will soon be under siege by a band of raiding Kiowas who will show no mercy. They’ll reach the McCain family farm first, and though Derrick wants nothing more than to stay behind with the three men who’ve come to warn him and make their stand in his farmhouse, he knows he has to see his family to safety above all else. With the help of Sheriff Sam Gardner, a crusty lawman, Derrick and his wife, Leah, begin the trip to Wolf Creek in the dead of night under a hunter’s moon. But it isn’t long before Derrick realizes they are going to have to abandon the wagon and take their chances in the darkness of the forest to have any kind of hope of making it safely to Wolf Creek.
Some of the Kiowas follow, and while Sam and Leah make their way through the night with Vivi and her baby twin brothers, Derrick battles the Kiowas to save his family. When daylight comes, will the McCains and Sam be alive to continue the journey to warn the citizens of Wolf Creek of the impending attack? And what will become of the THREE GOOD MEN who have stayed behind to hold off the Kiowas and give Derrick, his family, and the town of Wolf Creek a fighting chance under a HUNTER’S MOON?
Here’s an excerpt from THREE GOOD MEN. Leah, the children, and Sam are making their way through the forest, and Leah is understandably worried about what’s going to happen. Here, she talks things over with Sam–and wonders where in the heck her husband is–or if he’s even still alive…
They walked in silence for a few more moments. Leah’s mind raced. Where is Derrick? He said he’d be right behind us. By her guess, it had been at least twenty minutes since they’d parted—maybe longer. Leah hurried to catch up with Sam, leaving Vivi out of earshot. “Sam, can you tell me—what was going on with you and John Hix? Were you–”
“Hix is a killer. I figured him out, followed him to your place. Charlie and Roman had ridden up just before I got there. You know the rest.” He shook his head and shifted Liam in his arm. “I hated having to go off and leave him there with Charley and Roman. But…there was no other choice.”
“Do you think—” Leah bit her lip. “I shouldn’t even mention my house at all, with the danger of the Kiowas killing three men. But…I love my home. I love what it means—a family…where my children lay their heads to sleep every night, in safety. Where my husband and I drink coffee in the mornings…and plan our dreams for the future. And where I finally have a place of my own, where I belong. To lose it—”
“Leah, they may not come—”
“Oh, they’ll come. Charley and Roman wouldn’t have stopped at our place if they’d thought there’d be any chance the Kiowas would’ve gone straight on to Wolf Creek. I have a feeling…I know my home will be destroyed.”
“If that happens,” Sam said carefully, “Wolf Creek will help you rebuild. I know that’s small consolation, but—”
She shook her head. “Forgive me. I shouldn’t even be thinking about my things when men’s lives are at stake.” She smiled at him as he glanced at her.
“It’s natural. Thinking about everything you stand to lose,” he replied.
“My family is all that matters. We will rebuild if we have to, of course. The most important thing is that we keep everyone…safe.” Her voice broke.
“You’re worried about Derrick,” Sam stated flatly. “He’s an excellent tracker, as you well know. Could be he decided to go after them; buy us some time. Don’t be thinking the worst, Leah.”
She nodded, and kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to calm her thoughts. Don’t be thinking the worst. But how can I keep from it?
“Mama, Uncle John said he paid for some candy for me at the store,” Vivi reminded her.
Leah forced herself to smile back at the little girl. “I heard. That was nice of him.”
“He’s going away.”
“Yes.” If John Hix was killed by the Kiowas, or if he went away forever, it would be a relief. Leah had never liked Hix, and she knew Derrick felt the same. They tolerated Hix for Vivi’s sake. And to be fair, Hix doted on their daughter. It was strange to think that the odd little barber knew Vivi better than she or Derrick…or, at least, had known her longer.
“Will he ever come back, Mama?”
“I don’t know, Vivi. But at least he was able to say goodbye.”
Vivi nodded, but she looked downcast.
Leah’s heart clutched. Vivi had suffered so much loss—leaving her home, losing her mother, and now, John Hix. Leah refused to consider the further impending loss that weighed so heavy on her soul right now. Where is Derrick? The thought nagged. Thank goodness Vivi was too young to understand what was happening, truly, at the moment.
They could be in the process of losing everything. Everything, including their very lives.
Both of my stories have been entered in the WESTERN FICTIONEERS PEACEMAKER COMPETITION. I’ve been a finalist in that contest three times before, so I’m sure hoping for a win this year in the short fiction category with one of these stories.
Y’all keep your fingers crossed for me!
My character, Derrick McCain, is an odd hero because he is “just a man”—not a lawman or an outlaw or anything glamorous. He is a farmer who did some things in the Civil War he isn’t proud of. He’s half Cherokee and half white, and though he didn’t set out to be a “family man”, throughout the Wolf Creek series, he’s found himself in that situation under very different circumstances.
I’m wondering what kind of heroes you all like to see? A lawman set on seeing right done? An outlaw who’s seen the error of his ways and turned his life around? A cowboy fighting for justice on the range? Or someone like Derrick, who just winds up through fate’s hand becoming a hero—though he never thinks of himself that way…
Leave me a comment! I always want to know what other people think, and I’m giving away a print copy of a past WOLF CREEK book that I’ve been a part of to TWO LUCKY COMMENTERS!
Why I wrote the JOURNEY HOME SERIES: Back in 1990-91, a US military operation called Desert Storm took place in the Middle East. Not long afterward, the veterans involved returned home with invisible scars that later became known as PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The heartbreaking stories about the men and women who couldn’t keep jobs or relationships soon became a regular feature on the nightly news. The shocking numbers of veteran suicides have increased over the years.
I write historical fiction and wanted to know how Civil War veterans who suffered with the same symptoms of PTSD were treated. Nineteenth century doctors diagnosed those afflicted with the condition as Soldier’s Fatigue. They offered bed rest in a soldier’s convalescent home, or recommended a discharge and a train ticket home. Often the soldier had a note pinned to his uniform, giving his name and destination, because he was incapable of communicating. Let the veteran’s family deal with the troubled man. If the family couldn’t handle their loved one, suffering acute mania, for instance, then the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C. (St. Elizabeth’s) was the destination. Two cemeteries on the grounds of St. Elizabeth hold hundreds of Civil War soldier’s remains today.
As my story ideas came together, I especially wanted to write my heroes as strong Christians and show how they dealt with the horrors of Andersonville Prison for Union soldiers. Perhaps a 21st century veteran’s spouse, mother, sister, or girlfriend will read PATRIOT HEART, FAITHFUL HEART, AND HOPEFUL HEART and see there is hope for their loved one. Hope for the future in God, the Father, and salvation through Jesus Christ, His son.
HOPEFUL HEART is the last story in my 3-book Journey Home Series. The series is about three Civil War POWs who met in the infamous Andersonville Prison for Union soldiers and survive because of their friendship and Christian faith. Each book features one of the memorable heroes and a unique heroine that’s perfect for him.
HOPEFUL HEART, Journey Home Series 3
An inspirational historical romance set in the West
Pennsylvania. November 1866 –Lucy Garner is a recent widow who just buried her stillborn. Grieving the loss of two people she loved the most in her world, she decides to journey out West and escape her adopted father’s stepson whose intentions strike terror into her being. She goes to work for a difficult and unprepared family, headed to Oregon by wagon train.
Missouri. November 1866 – Nat Renshaw’s boyish good looks disguise his intense personality.
Before the war, his cheating wife died and he gave up on marriage. He joined the Union Army and became a Confederate POW with enough anger to power a locomotive. These events did not improve his outlook on life. Since the war ended, he’s elected sheriff for a river town.
Oregon Trail. March 1867 – Lucy’s arresting features and gentle spirit attract Nat Renshaw’s unwanted interest as he scouts for Lucy’s wagon train. Lucy’s distrustful of Nat’s determination for romance, but ends up admiring his courage and faith in God. Can Lucy open her heart for another chance at love amid the trials of the Oregon Trail?
HAVE YOU EVER VISITED A VETERAN’S GRAVE? LEAVE A COMMENT TO ENTER A DRAWING FOR ONE COPY OF HOPEFUL HEART (PRINT OR EBOOK!)
Research is one of the most important tools of the fiction author’s trade. Regardless what an author writes—historical, contemporary, fantasy, science fiction—he or she must have some knowledge of the real world in order to create a world in which characters live and breathe.
Good authors don’t beat readers over the head with their research, but what they dig up informs every aspect of their stories. Much of what we discover doesn’t make it into our books. Instead, the information clutters up our heads and trickles out at odd times.
This is one of those times.
Each of the five authors who contributed to Prairie Rose Publications’s new release, the boxed set A Kiss to Remember, uncovered historical tidbits that surprised, charmed, or saddened her. Since all of us are good authors and would never dream of beating readers over the head with our research in our books, we’re taking the opportunity to beat readers over the head with our research in a blog post. We can be sneaky that way.
Without further ado…
Her Sanctuary by Tracy Garrett
Beautiful Maggie Flanaghan’s heart is broken when her father dies suddenly and the westward-bound wagon train moves on without her, leaving her stranded in River’s Bend. But Reverend Kristoph Oltmann discovers the tender beginnings of love as he comforts Maggie, only to find she harbors a secret that could make their relationship impossible.
Tracy: I’m a “cradle Lutheran,” meaning I was born into a Lutheran family, baptized in the Lutheran church… You get the idea. Imagine my surprise when I began researching the history of the church in Missouri and found they’d been in the state a lot longer than I thought. It was fun, though.
Gabriel’s Law by Cheryl Pierson
Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, never suspecting a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob—a man she recognizes from her past. Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, but everything changes with the click of a gun—and Gabriel’s Law.
Cheryl: Orphanages of the 1800s and early 1900s were mainly what I needed to research. And what sad research it was! The Indian orphanages and “schools” were the worst. The Indian children were forced to “assimilate”: cut their hair, wear white man’s clothing, and speak only English. Punishment was swift and sure if they were caught speaking their native tongues. In essence, they were taught they had to forget everything they knew—even their families—and adopt the ways of the whites completely. This only ensured they would never be wholly at ease in either world, white or Indian.
Outlaw Heart, by Tanya Hanson
Making a new start has never been harder! Bronx Sanderson is determined to leave his old outlaw ways behind and become a decent man. Lila Brewster is certain that her destiny lies in keeping her late husband’s dream alive: a mission house for the down-and-out of Leadville, Colorado. But dreams change when love flares between an angel and a man with an Outlaw Heart.
Tanya: The research that fascinated me the most was meeting and getting to know Dr. John Henry Holliday. What a guy. I’ve quite fallen in love with him. This handsome, soft-spoken, peaches-n-cream Southern gentleman can bring me to tears. He died slowly from tuberculosis for fifteen years after losing his beloved mother to the disease when he was 15. Talented pianist, multilingual, skilled surgeon who won awards for denture design… Most of his “deadly dentist” stuff was contrived. He needed a bad reputation to keep himself safe from angry gamblers. I was thrilled and honored both when he asked to be a character in Outlaw Heart.
The Dumont Way by Kathleen Rice Adams
The biggest ranch in Texas will give her all to save her children…but only the right woman’s love can save a man’s tortured soul. This trilogy of stories about the Dumont family contains The Trouble with Honey, a new, never-before-published novella. Nothing will stop this powerful family from doing things The Dumont Way.
Kathleen: Did you realize George Armstrong Custer was part of the Union occupation force in Texas after the Civil War? Neither did I. While I was double-checking my facts about Reconstruction-era Texas, I ran across that little tidbit. Texans may not have liked him any better than any other Yankee, but they were grateful for his kindness. During his five months in Texas, Custer was disliked by his own men because he strictly enforced Army regulations about “foraging” (read “stealing”) and poor treatment of civilians. I must admit I’m one of those who tended to view Custer as one of history’s real-life bad guys, but that one tidbit softened my impression. Funny how little things can make a big difference, isn’t it?
Yesterday’s Flame by Livia J. Washburn
When smoke jumper Annabel Lowell’s duties propel her from San Francisco in 2000 back to 1906, she faces one of the worst earthquakes in history. But she also finds the passion of a lifetime in fellow fireman Cole Brady. Now she must choose between a future of certain danger and a present of certain love—no matter how short-lived it may be. “A timeless and haunting tale of love.” ~ The Literary Times
Livia: I really enjoyed learning about the firefighting companies in San Francisco. The massive earthquake in 1906 was followed by an equally devastating fire, and there were a lot of heroes among those early firefighters.
Have you ever been surprised, charmed, alarmed, or vexed by something you’ve read—in either fiction or non-fiction? What was it? We’d love to hear! One brave soul who shares her or his discovery in the comments will win a digital copy of the brand-new boxed set A Kiss to Rememberbefore it’s available to the public! The five books comprise more than 1,000 pages of heart-melting western historical romance…and that’s a fact.
She’s the sweetest rose of color this darky ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew;
You may talk about your dearest May, and sing of Rosa Lee,
But the Yellow Rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.
Those are the original words to the chorus of “The Yellow Rose Texas,” a folksong dating to early colonial Texas. The first known transcribed version—handwritten on a piece of plain paper—appeared around the time of the Texian victory at San Jacinto in April 1836.
In its original form, the song tells the story of a black man (“darky”) who has been separated from his sweetheart and longs to reunite with her. The lyrics indicate the sweetheart was a free mulatto woman—a person of mixed black and white heritage. In those days, “person of color” was considered a polite way to refer to black people who were not slaves. “Yellow” was a common term for people of mixed race.
During the Civil War, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” became a popular marching tune for troops all over the Confederacy; consequently, the lyrics changed. White Confederates were not eager to refer to themselves as darkies, so “darky” became “soldier.” In addition, “rose of color” became “little flower.”
Aside from the obvious racist reasons for the modifications, legal doctrine played into the picture as well. Until the U.S. Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in 1967, all eleven formerly Confederate states plus Delaware, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia outlawed marriage and sexual relations between whites and blacks. In four of the former Confederate states—Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia—marriage or sexual relations between whites and any non-white was labeled a felony. Such laws were called anti-miscegenation laws, or simply miscegenation laws. In order to draw what attorneys term a “bright line” between legal and illegal behavior, many states codified the “single-drop rule,” which held that a person with a single drop of Negro blood was black, regardless the color of his or her skin.
Texas’s miscegenation law, enacted in 1837, prescribed among the most severe penalties nationwide: A white person convicted of marrying, attempting to marry, or having sex with a person of another ethnicity was subject to a prison sentence of two to five years. Well into the twentieth century, it was not uncommon for the non-white half of the illicit relationship to be severely beaten or killed by irate local citizens.
The first American miscegenation laws arose in the colonies in the 1600s. The laws breathed their last gasp in 2001, when Alabama finally removed the anti-miscegenation clause from its state constitution after a referendum barely passed with only sixty percent of the popular vote.
Texas’s miscegenation law plays a role in “The Big Uneasy,” one half of the duet of stories in my new release, The Dumont Brand. The father of the heroine’s intended “lives in sin” with a free Creole of color. Under a tradition known as plaçage, wealthy white men openly kept well-bred women of color as mistresses in the heroine’s hometown, New Orleans. Texans frowned on the practice nonetheless. The situation causes no end of heartache for the heroine.
The Dumont Brand releases Friday, along with 20 other books, as part of Prairie Rose Publications‘ Christmas in July event. About half of the books are holiday tales (like The Last Three Miles), and the other half are stories set in other seasons (like The Dumont Brand). Each of them will warm readers’ hearts all year long. Prairie Rose will host an extra-special Facebook fandango to celebrate the mountain of releases July 28-29. You can RSVP here. Did I mention the Prairie Roses will be giving away free books, jewelry, and other fun prizes?
On the eve of the Civil War, family secrets threaten everything a ranching dynasty has built…until Amon Collier finds salvation in the wrong woman’s love. In the aftermath of battle, a woman destroyed by betrayal brings peace to his brother Ben’s wounded soul.
The Big Uneasy: To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing. Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.
Making Peace: After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting.
When an accident leaves Hamilton Hollister convinced he’ll never be more than half a man, he abandons construction of a railway spur his lumber mill needs to survive. Believing no woman shackled by social convention can be complete, railroad heiress Katherine Brashear refuses to let the nearly finished track die.
The magic of Christmas in a small Texas town may help them bridge the distance…if they follow their hearts down The Last Three Miles.
You can read excerpts from both books and peruse a complete list of the titles that are part of PRP’s Christmas in July event here.
To do a little celebrating of my own, I’ll give an e-copy of The Dumont Brand to one of today’s commenters and an e-copy of The Last Three Miles to another.
Trading Post, Kansas, near the Marais Des Cygnes River, is about an hour down the highway from where I live. This unincorporated town is reputed to be the longest continuously occupied community in Kansas, established in 1825 as (you guessed it) a trading post with the Osage Indians.
For years I drove by this tiny spot on the map and had no idea of the monumental impact it had on this region and the whole United States.
In 1858, a brutal massacre on “free state” men occurred just a few miles away. John Brown built a cabin close by to protect fellow abolitionists and plotted vengeance on slave owners, which culminated with his raid on Harper’s Ferry Virginia, a year later. From trading post, Kansas Senator Jim Lane and his infamous Jayhawkers launched a retaliatory raid on southern sympathizers in Missouri in 1861.
All this from a little place called Trading Post.
I stopped one day and visited the small museum there and found a few interesting artifacts. Here’s the door to the cabin built by John Brown, who vowed to protect “freestate men” in Kansas after the massacre.
Near the museum, a memorial to the massacre victims was erected.
I also visited the site of the MARAIS DES CYNES MASSACRE, which inspired John Brown to greater violence, spurred Jim Lane to attack Missouri, and arguably lit the spark that started a Civil War.
Did you know?
Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.
The bloodiest single incident in the Kansas-Missouri border struggles (1854-1861) occurred May 19, 1858, when thirty pro-slavery Missourians seized eleven Kansas ‘Free-State’ men and marched them to a creek bed near Trading Post. The eleven men were lined up execution style and promptly shot, apparently for no other reason than occupying land in a Free State.
The incident shocked the nation and galvanized abolitionists.
A few weeks later, John Brown arrived and built a two-story log “fort” (about 14 x 18 feet), which he occupied with a few men through that summer. That December he led a raid into Missouri and liberated eleven slaves, killing one white man in the process. Ultimately, he took his fight east to Virginia, where after his ill-fated raid he was captured and hanged.
Later that same year, Kansans rejected a pro-slavery constitution and entered the Union as a “free state” in 1861.
A Brown follower bought Brown’s property near Trading Post and later, at the site of the fort, built a stone house that still stands there today. The building and grounds are now part of a State Historical Site.
Visiting this and other historical sites caught up in the bloody conflict, I thought about how the border conflict changed the lives of everyday people for decades to come.
The character of the hero in my upcoming novel, Fugitive Hearts, is shaped by this tragedy, which leads him down a path of vengeance first, and then to the pursuit of justice.
Read more about it here:
“Sheriff…I just shot my husband.”
Hotel owner Claire Daines is a respected member of the community. Until she shocks the entire town by rushing into a saloon wearing only her nightclothes and confessing to very inebriated lawman.
Is she a killer? Is she crazy? Or is she covering up something worse?
For years, Claire hushed up her husband’s dangerous condition to guard his reputation. When tragedy strikes, she puts her own life at risk when she vows to keep another terrible secret.
Sheriff Frank Garrity must get to the truth, although the tough, hard-drinking lawman hides his own secrets and would rather walk a lonely path than face his demons. But as Frank unravels Claire’s subterfuge and unlocks her heart, he’s torn between his desire to save her and his duty to bring her to justice.
Will he bring her to justice…or into his heart?
“Pure romance and passion that will steal your breath!”
Linda Broday, New York Times Best Selling Author
Coming July 28, 2015
Available for pre-order on Amazon
Other books in the series:
Today, I’ll be giving away a free eBook in the Steam! Romance and Rails series: A Dangerous Passion. Just comment to enter the drawing.