Three years ago this month, my debut western historical romance, FIRE EYES, was published by The Wild Rose Press. I was thrilled! Finally, my dream had come true, with the help of a wonderful editor and publishing company.
When I got my first box of books, I sat and gazed at the covers—just like any first time author would. My husband teased me about “rubbing off the paint”—but I was so proud of them, and justifiably so. A lot of very hard work had gone into that story, not just
from my perspective, but also from many other people. My editor at The Wild Rose Press, Helen Andrew, was wonderful. She really explained in detail why certain things couldn’t stand and had to go or be changed.
But part of what ‘had to go’ was important to the story, in my mind. Still, there were company guidelines to be followed, and neither of us could do anything about that. So we worked together to find a way to take out the parts that made it more “western” than “romance” and still came out with a fine story.
However, this spring, I asked for my rights back for FIRE EYES and got them, and submitted the story to another small publisher who has an imprint for westerns and western romances. I was able to re-edit the book and add in much of what I’d had to take out or rewrite in the first version, and it was released yesterday with a brand new Jimmy Thomas cowboy cover and lots of renewed interest.
The e-book version is available now at Amazon, Lulu, Monkeybars and many other e-book retailers, and will become available soon at Barnes and Noble, Sony and Apple.
The print version will become available within the week, and again, I’m very happy
about breathing new life into this wonderful story. Once I am able to order my
print copies, I’m sure I’ll sit on the floor and ‘rub the paint off’ again. And
I’ll be grateful that I’ve had two chances to get my story out there—another
thrill, a second time around!
I’LL BE GIVING AWAY A COPY OF FIRE EYES TODAY! JUST LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE ENTERED IN THE DRAWING, ALONG WITH YOUR CONTACT INFO.
EXCERPT FROM FIRE EYES:
“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?”
Even knowing what was coming, his voice sounded smoother than hers, she thought. She wrapped her hand tightly around the metal and pulled up fast, as he’d asked.
As the metal slid through his flesh, Kaed’s left hand moved convulsively, his fingers gripping the quilt. He was unable to hold back the soft hint of an agonized groan as he turned away from her. He swore as the thick steel pin cleared his skin, freeing the chambray shirt and cotton undershirt beneath it, blood spraying as his teeth closed solidly over his bottom lip.
Jessica lifted the material away, biting back her own curse as she surveyed the damage they’d done to him. His chest was a mass of purple bruises, uneven gashes, and burns. Her stomach turned over. She was not squeamish. But this—
It was just like what they’d done to Billy, before they’d killed him. Billy, the last man the Choctaws had dumped on her porch. Billy Monroe, the man she’d come to loathe during their one brief year of marriage.
She took a washrag from the nightstand and wet it in the nearby basin. Wordlessly, she placed her cool palm against Kaedon Turner’s stubbled, bruised cheek, turning his head toward her so she could clean his face and neck.
She knew instinctively he was the kind of man who would never stand for this if it wasn’t necessary. The kind of man who was unaccustomed to a woman’s comforting caress. The kind of man who would never complain, no matter how badly wounded he was.
“Fallon.” His voice was rough.
Jessica stopped her movements and watched him. “What about him?”
His brows drew together, as if he were trying to formulate what he wanted to say. “Is he…dead?”
What should she tell him?
“You were losing a lot of blood out there,” Jessica said, determined to turn his thoughts from Fallon to the present. She ran the wet cloth lightly across the long split in his right cheek.
His breathing was controlled, even. “I took a bullet.” He said it quietly, almost conversationally.
Our generation has lost so many important talents and skills. Technology makes it easier for us, but in some ways, it takes away our independence. Maybe that’s one reason we love to read (and write!) historical romance. We can go back in time vicariously without having to live through all the hardships and trials of everyday life, experiencing only the top layer of what must have been difficult, by our standards, every moment.
Does anyone know how to cut up a chicken anymore? My mother did. I remember her getting out the wickedest looking knife I’d ever seen every Sunday and cutting up a chicken to fry. They had started to sell cut-up chickens in the store, but they were more expensive. Mom wouldn’t have dreamed of paying extra for that. By the time I began to cook for my family, I didn’t mind paying that extra money—I couldn’t bear to think of cutting a chicken up and then frying it.
It’s all relative. My mom, born in 1922, grew up in a time when the chickens had to be beheaded, then plucked, then cut up—so skipping those first two steps seemed like a luxury, I’m sure. I wouldn’t know how to begin to cut up a chicken. I never learned how.
Hog killing day was another festive occasion. Because my husband was raised on a farm, he and my mother had a lot of similar experiences to compare (this endeared him to her in later years.) Neighbors and family would gather early in the day. The hog would be butchered, and the rest of the day would be spent cutting and packing the meat. When my husband used to talk about the “wonderful sausage” his mother made, I was quite content to say, “Good for her. I’m glad you got to eat that when you were young.” (There’s no way I would ever make sausage.)
Medical issues? I was the world’s most nervous mother when I had my daughter. But being the youngest in the family, I had a world of experience to draw on. I also had a telephone and I knew how to use it! I called my mom or one of my sisters about the smallest thing. I can’t imagine living in one of the historical scenarios that, as writers, we create with those issues. The uncertainty of having a sick child and being unable to do anything to help cure him/her would have made me lose it. I know this happened so often and was just accepted as part of life, but to me, that would have been the very worst part of living in a historical time. I had a great aunt who lost all three of her children within one week to the flu. She lost her mind and had to be institutionalized off and on the rest of her life.
My mother was the eldest of eleven children. She often said with great pride that her mother had had eleven children and none of them had died in childhood. I didn’t realize, when I was younger, how important and odd that really was for those times. My father’s mother had five children, two of whom died as children, and two more that almost died, my father being one of them.
It was a case of my grandmother thinking he was with my granddad, and him thinking three-year-old Freddie was with her. By the time they realized he was missing, the worst had happened. He had wandered to the pond and fallen in. It was a cold early spring day. Granddad had planted the fields already, between the pond and the house. A little knit cap that belonged to little Freddie was the only evidence of where he’d gone. It was floating on top of the water. By some miracle, my granddad found him and pulled him up out of the water. He was not breathing. Granddad ran with him back to the house, jumping the rows of vegetables he’d planted. The doctor later told him that was probably what saved Dad’s life—a very crude form of CPR.
Could you have survived in the old west? What do you think would have been your greatest worry? What would you hate to give up the most from our modern way of life? I’m curious to know, what skills or talents to you think we have lost generationally over the last 100 years? I’ve written two time travel stories where the heroine found herself living in the old west, 1800s Indian Territory. They both faced issues that were daunting, simply because of the time period…would they stay if given a choice, or go back to their present-day living? Does love REALLY ‘conquer all’? In my time travel novel, TIME PLAINS DRIFTER, the heroine must go back in time, but in the sequel, I’m turning the tables. The hero of that book is going to go forward. Once he gets there, will he ever want to go BACK to his time?
I’m not sure I would have lived very long, or very pleasantly. I know one thing—my family would never have eaten sausage, unless they had breakfast at the neighbor’s house.
Here’s the blurb and an excerpt from my time travel short story, MEANT TO BE, available in the 2011 Christmas Collection from Victory Tales Press.
Robin Mallory is facing another Christmas all alone when she decides to surprise her aunt and uncle several hours away. She becomes stranded near a desolate section of interstate. With a snowstorm on the way, Robin has no choice but to walk, looking for a house to provide shelter.
Jake Devlin is shocked when the “spy” he jumps turns out to be a girl. She’s dressed oddly, and talks like a Yank. Where did she come from, and what is he going to do with her?
The set up: Jake, a Confederate soldier, has been seriously wounded by a Cheyenne arrow as he tries to protect Robin from the attack. His only hope is for her to be able to go back through the “portal” in the woods to her old truck, parked along the interstate, and get the medicine from another time that he so badly needs. With Cheyenne in the woods along with a platoon of Yankee soldiers, what chance will she have of survival? Can she even find the rift in time again…twice?
Robin turned her back on the pickup and started down the gravel road. Doubt assailed her. Was she crazy to go back to a time she didn’t belong in?
But she did belong. She’d been…alive. More so in that time than here, in her own. And could she possibly hope for a future with Jake? It was too soon for commitments…but wasn’t she making the biggest one of all?
Her steps slowed. If she took the medicine back to him, what guarantee was there that, should she want to come back to her time, she’d be able? She may be stuck in Indian Territory of 1864 with no way back, ever.
She couldn’t let Jake die. How could she live with herself in either time if that happened?
What if she was misreading his intentions? He seemed—interested—in her. Her heart shrank at the thought of another rejection. She wouldn’t be able to handle that. But…that fear might also be keeping her from letting herself fall in love with the kindest, most decent man she’d ever met—in any time. Trusting was so hard.
Yet, he’d trusted her, hadn’t he, with much more to lose than she had. He could very well die if she didn’t take the antibiotics back to him.
And…another thought, too awful to bear, rose up, refusing to be ignored. What if he died in spite of the antibiotics? She might be trapped in a time that wasn’t hers, without the man she’d fallen in love with.
Oh, dear God. She stopped walking as the reality hit her full force. She was in love with Jake already. How could this have happened? The damn magical doorway through time had to have some other influence. There was no other explanation. But…it felt real. And if she lost Jake, the heartache would be very real, she already knew. She’d sworn, after her last romantic fiasco, that she wouldn’t jump into anything again. Yet, here she was, in love with Jake Devlin after only twenty-four hours. And worried sick. She began to run. What if she couldn’t get back through the portal? What if the medicine doesn’t work?
What if Jake doesn’t love me? Her mind seized on the question, mocking her, taunting her, throwing it back to her again and again.
He loves me, her heart answered, remembering the way he’d reached to pull the blanket over her, and the gentle touch of his hand on her cheek in the night when he thought she was asleep.
Remember, her heart reminded her, as she thought of the way he’d put himself between her and their attackers. He would have died for her. He still might.
She stopped running, trying to catch her breath. Her side hurt, and she noticed the sky seemed to be darkening more than normal, which probably meant they were in for more snow.
Nothing else had changed, though. Panic gripped her. The road remained graveled and wide, never narrowing in the least as it had before. The trees weren’t nearly as thick as they had been a scant half-hour earlier when she’d come this way.
With her heart pounding from fear as much as exertion, Robin looked behind her. She could still barely see the top of the rise that hid her truck. Maybe she hadn’t come quite far enough! She couldn’t remember. It had all been so gradual before. But now, everything looked the same, unchanged. She held her breath listening for the far-away sounds of the interstate traffic. She couldn’t hear anything, but maybe it was just because there weren’t many cars. It was Christmas Eve. Everyone would most likely be at their destinations by now, so late in the afternoon, the day before Christmas.
“Oh, please,” she whispered, starting down the road again. “Please.”
The wind whipped up, and the first flakes of snow began to fall. She was so close—so close to getting the medicine back to Jake—how could everything go so completely wrong? She fought back angry tears of frustration, her throat raw from the cold. It would never do for her to really get sick now—now that Jake was in such need of her medication.
She lifted her chin determinedly. She was going to get it to him. Somehow, someway. And she prayed it would be strong enough to heal him. Christmas was a time for miracles. She needed one right now.
Today, I’m blogging about my two most recent releases, JASON’S ANGEL and EVERY GIRL’S DREAM. In case these titles sound familiar to you, they are historical short stories that were both previously released in anthologies with Victory Tales Press. JASON’S ANGEL appeared last year in A HISTORICAL COLLECTION, and EVERY GIRL’S DREAM appeared in A WESTERN SAGA.
I’m excited about both of these being released as “stand alone” stories, selling at only .99 each! And since this is “read an e-book” week…I’m giving away two copies of JASON’S ANGEL today! Please leave a comment along with your contact info and you will be entered—it’s that simple.
Jason’s Angel takes on several issues with the society of that time. The story takes place just as the War Between the States is winding down. Jason McCain wears Union blue, but speaks with a Georgia accent. To make things even more difficult, he’s half Cherokee, half Scottish! When he’s wounded and winds up at a Confederate hospital, there’s only one thing kind-hearted Sabrina Patrick can do…
Jason ‘s Angel by Cheryl Pierson
Two wounded Union soldiers will die without proper treatment. Sabrina Patrick realizes they won’t get it at the Confederate army hospital where she helps nurse wounded men. She does the unthinkable and takes them to her home.
Jason McCain’s pain is eased by the feel of clean sheets, a soft bed, and a touch that surely must belong to an angel. But what reason could an angel have for bringing him and his brother here?
EXCERPT FROM JASON’S ANGEL:
It was only a brief touch of their lips, Sabrina told herself, and should not have caused the waves of trembling heat to rush over her. His lips were firm and strong. And she kissed him back.
He’d reached up and gently pulled her to him. As if he’d sensed her concern over Desi being in the room, he’d glanced to where she sat talking to Eli, once more engrossed in conversation, and when Sabrina had started to protest, he’d squeezed her shoulder in silent reassurance. And she had kissed him back.
He’d been so gentle and—oh Lord, had Eli seen that kiss? She had responded heartily to his brother. She had not pushed Jason away or protested in the least. She had welcomed it. There was no doubt for either of them. She had definitely kissed him back.
As she pulled away, she opened her lids to find him watching her. His dark eyes smoldered with desire. But it didn’t scare her. It excited her.
Good Lord. She stood quickly, her head spinning so that she almost missed her first step toward the door. When had she last eaten? That had to be the cause of her unsteadiness. But why was her heart pounding so frantically? It was only a kiss. One kiss.
But she had kissed him back.
EVERY GIRL’S DREAM
Do you believe in love at first sight? Can it happen? More importantly, can it last over the long haul of the ups and downs of a relationship?
Throw in a few obstacles from the very first meeting of the hero/heroine, and the relationship becomes even more intriguing.
In my novella, EVERY GIRL’S DREAM, that’s just what happens.
Sheena McTavish, a young Irish girl, has been raped by the son of her father’s employer. Now, with a baby on the way, Sheena is given an unthinkable choice: give her baby to the father’s wealthy family to raise, or travel to New Mexico Territory by stagecoach to live with her aunt and uncle until her child is born. At that point, she will have to place it in a nearby orphanage.
Desperate to buy some time and protect her baby from its father, she chooses to travel west. Alone and afraid, she starts on the journey that will change her life forever. Before Sheena’s stage leaves, she meets handsome Army scout Callen Chandler. The attraction is there, even under difficult conditions.
As the story progresses, Sheena must learn to trust again, and Cal begins to realize he doesn’t have to live the solitary existence he’s endured up to now. Being half Comanche has left him with no place in either world—white or Indian. When Sheena comes along, everything changes…for both of them.
TO SET THE SCENE:
Cal is a half-breed U.S. Army scout, who has just rescued Sheena, the heroine, from a Kiowa attack on the stagecoach she was in. They had met briefly the morning before, and as luck would have it, Cal comes upon the stage after the Kiowas have attacked and are getting ready to ride away with Sheena. He tells them he and Sheena are married and the Kiowas reluctantly let him take Sheena, but then…
Cal felt…something. His back tingled as he waited for the stinging burn of a shale arrowhead. He risked a glance backward, and saw the Kiowa leader’s stare heavy upon him. “Sheena, hold on tight.”
“I know, sweetheart. We won’t ride hard any longer’n we have to. Lowell’s Ridge is only about four miles away.” A very long four miles.
She nodded in understanding. “I’m sorry, Callen.”
“No call for that.”
“You came for me.”
He smiled at that. There was a small amount of disbelief in her tone, overshadowed by a huge amount of wonder. Who wouldn’t come for her?
“You could be killed because of me,” she said softly, as if she had only just realized it. She laid her hand over his, and in that moment, he wondered if dying for her would be worth the twenty-seven years he’d lived so far.
His heart jumped at her touch, then steadied. But as he risked another glance back, he saw exactly what he’d feared. Two of the braves were mounting up, and they weren’t riding the opposite way. “That still might happen,” he murmured.
He leaned forward, trying to protect Sheena with his body as he slapped the reins against the horse’s side, urging him into a lope, then a full-out run.
The Kiowas were close behind them. There must have been dissension among them. The leader had seemed content to let him take Sheena and ride away. One of the others must have disagreed with that decision.
Cal reached to pull his revolver from his holster.
They were strangely quiet, he thought.
The first bullet cracked from behind them, and Cal reflexively bent lower. The bullet whined past his ear like an angry bee.
Sheena gasped. He fired off a shot and got lucky. One of the warriors screamed in agony and fell from his saddle. But the other rode low, hanging onto the side of his mount. And he kept right on coming.
The next bullet sang over Cal’s head. He concentrated on eating up the miles to Lowell’s Ridge. Riding double was slowing them down considerably. Sheena’s body was tense beneath the shelter of his own. Fragile, but strong. Delicate, but determined. His hand splayed over her stomach, holding her close, cradling her from the jarring of their wild ride.
A whoop from behind them accompanied the crack of a rifle, and this time, the Kiowa warrior’s bullet found its mark. A bolt of fire seared through Cal’s right shoulder, and for a minute, the pain was so strong he almost sawed back on the reins. But at his harsh curse, Sheena glanced up at him, her hand instantly clamping tightly over his. The reins were still wrapped in his fingers, but Sheena kept her hand on his, reminding him to let the horse have his head and continue their flight for freedom.
“Hang on, Cal!”
The pain was so breathtaking he could do nothing but nod his understanding.
“Dammit!” she cursed. That almost made him smile, but the agony in his shoulder surged up and stole his breath again as the horse’s hooves pounded the ground below.
The road was not much more than a trail, and where it narrowed, branches reached out to scrape and snarl in hair and clothing, scratching their faces as they blindly rode toward safety.
As they broke through the brambles and low limbs into the clearing on the other side of the wooded section of road, Cal glimpsed the steeple of the church, then in a moment, the rooftops of houses.
He glanced behind him to see the Kiowa had stopped. He was taking careful, deadly aim with the Winchester he held. “Christ,” Cal muttered. “Keep down, Sheena.”
JASON’S ANGEL is available now at Amazon and other e-book retailers.
If you’re like me, you have a few rules for writing–and for reading. In my writing there are some things I would “never” do. Here’s a list of a the top three:
Rule #1 – I never write in first person.
Rule #2 – I never write from a child’s point of view.
Rule #3 – I always have romance somewhere in my stories.
Well…one out of three ain’t bad.
I threw Rule #1 out the window when I picked up my pen and started my latest release, Kane’s Redemption. I wrote Kane’s Redemption in first person. It’s the first work of fiction I’ve ever written from this perspective, and after I wrote it, I knew there would be two more of these novellas to follow. There was no better way to tell this story of young Will Green and Jacobi Kane – and the secret that stands between them.
Will is a child when the story begins, but a young man by the conclusion. So, I guess you could say I broke my own “Rule #2” as well. But there are some stories that have to be told by the child, to take hold of the innocence that only a child possesses and manages to hold on to in the face of reality. Who could have told Scout’s story better than Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird? No one. She was the perfect character to tell us what was happening and the perfect filter for us to see for ourselves those things she couldn’t put into words. Through her eyes, we saw everything. I knew that Will had to tell the story of what happened to him and how Jacobi Kane rescued him…and what happened afterward.
Growing up in the 1800’s on the prairie of the southwest would make an adult of you quickly; even quicker if you watched your entire family murdered in the space of five minutes. This story is not just about Will, though – it’s also about Jacobi Kane, who has some secrets of his own. Although he rescues Will, he wrestles with demons that can’t be fought alone – but how can Will help? In the end, who is the true rescuer – Will, or Jacobi Kane?
Romance? Well, there’s a bit of that. But it’s the romance that comes with new beginnings and the kiss of forgiveness–sweet, touching and straight from the heart. Come to think of it, the romance in Kane’s Redemption is a bit different from anything else I’ve ever written, too.
This story came from somewhere deep; a place I didn’t know existed. It’s a gift I hope you will take as much pleasure in reading as I did in writing.
Look for Book 2 in the Kane trilogy, Kane’s Promise, in the fall of 2012.
I will be giving away a copy of KANE’S REDEMPTION today! All you have to do is leave a comment, and please leave your e-mail address so I can contact you! I will leave you with the blurb and an excerpt. Hope you enjoy!
A ten-year-old boy fights for his life when he is taken prisoner by a band of raiding Apache. Steeling himself for death, Will Green is shocked when a lone man walks into the Apache camp to rescue him several days later.
Driven by the secret he carries, Jacobi Kane has followed the Indians for days and needs to make his move to save the boy. With the odds stacked eight against one, his chances for success look pretty slim. But even if he’s able to rescue the boy and they get out alive, what then?
EXCERPT FROM KANE’S REDEMPTION:
Red Eagle moved back just as fast as before and I felt my cheek burning. Blood dripped off his blade and that was it. I went after that red devil like I had lost my wits. I guess, truthfully, I had – because I don’t remember anything about it, except how good the first smash of my fist in his face felt.
Blood ran from Red Eagle’s nose and he cried out in a snarl of anger and pain and surprise.
I felt a pulse of energy rush through me, and I wrapped my fingers around his throat like he’d done to Mama. I tightened them and his blood streamed warm and slick over my grip. His eyes began to bulge, and I thought in another minute, maybe I could have the vengeance I had wanted so badly for the past week.
Papa always said a man’s quick wits are sometimes his only defense. I was exultant. I may have been foolish for what I did, and I felt sure Papa and I would disagree sharply on the use of my wits. But I did what I had to do.
Suddenly, rough hands were upon me, pulling at me. But I was like a mad dog, snarling, and foaming at the mouth in my pent up anger and hatred that was finally spilling out. What a glorious opportunity! Even if I died for it, I knew I couldn’t have passed it up – whether Papa might have approved, or not.
The Indians were all speaking at once, yelling, calling out, laughing. The moon was full, providing even more light than what the fire gave, making the night seem even hotter, as if the sun still shone on us. From somewhere in the distance of the woods beyond, I heard the call of the owls, and I knew enough Injun to know what that meant to them.
Someone was going to die. It might be me, but I was doing my damnedest to take Red Eagle with me.
A gunshot split the night air. “Dammit, stop it!” Hands like steel bands wrapped around my shoulders and jerked me off of Red Eagle. “Stop it!”
I couldn’t answer. I was breathing too hard, panting like the mad dog I had become. My hands balled into fists and flexed open again and again, and my fingers were sticky with Red Eagle’s blood. My own pulse sang through my veins in a triumph I had never experienced before.
“Boy, straighten up or you’re gonna get us both killed.” The voice was calm. I stopped struggling and looked up into the face of a white man. A white man had walked right into Red Eagle’s camp. I figured, now, those owls would have plenty more to tell – at least one more death.
But he didn’t seem worried. He held his rifle at the ready, pointed in the general direction of the group of eight Indians that rode in Red Eagle’s band. I glanced around the half-circle of painted faces, and I couldn’t help gloating. They all looked as if they’d met up with some kind of spirit or demon more wicked than they were. And that was going some.
“Can you ride bareback?”
I nodded. I guessed I could, I wanted to tell him. Been doin’ it for a damn week.
“Need help getting on?”
I shook my head and he let me go real slow. “Pick the one you can manage best and get settled on him. Take Red Eagle’s rifle and bullets.”
“Wait!” Red Eagle challenged. He rolled onto his side, wiping the blood from his nose. It pleased me greatly to hear that he wheezed when he spoke. “You take our horses, our weapons—”
“I ain’t takin’ your lives, you bastard. And I ain’t takin’ all your weapons,” the big man answered in a slow drawl. “Only yours. Pitch that knife over this way, and do it easy. My trigger finger is mighty nervous tonight.”
For KANE’S REDEMPTION and all my other work, click here:
I want to introduce you to a dear friend of mine, Troy Smith, who writes some of the best western fiction you’ll ever lay eyes on. I’ve had the privilege of editing some of Troy’s work, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Not only is Troy a fantastic writer, he’s also a wonderful person, and I’m excited to introduce him to y’all here today at Petticoats and Pistols. He’ll be giving away a copy of CALEB’S PRICE at the end of the day, so be sure and leave a comment along with your contact information!
Now here’s a bit about Troy Smith:
Troy D. Smith was born in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee in 1968. He has waxed floors, moved furniture, been a lay preacher, and taught high school and college. He writes in a variety of genres, achieving his earliest successes with westerns. His first published short story appeared in 1995 in Louis L’Amour Western Magazine, and he won the Spur Award in 2001 for the novel Bound for the Promise-Land (being a finalist on two other occasions.) He is currently teaching American history at Tennessee Tech, and serving as president of Western Fictioneers -the first national writing organization devoted exclusively to fiction about the Old West.
Tell us about your current release.
Caleb’s Price is a very serious story –about the longing that echoes in all of us –that is told in a humorous and sometimes bittersweet way. My goal when I started it was to take all the standard themes, even stereotypes, of the western story and give them a surprising twist. The plot is reminiscent of Shane, Pale Rider, and dozens of B Westerns: an orphaned boy named Joey, raised by his aunt and uncle, is befriended by a mysterious stranger while the whole area is caught up in a range war. Romance seems to develop between the stranger, Caleb, and Joey’s sad and lonely, neglected Aunt Sally. But there are major twists. The “evil cattle baron” is not quite what he seems to be, and Joey (as well as the reader) begins to wonder if Caleb really is there to save them, or if he is there to destroy them. Pretty heavy plot. Yet while I was writing it, the characters took on a life of their own –even the villains (and sometimes it’s hard to tell who they really are) –and the story was imbued with a simultaneous mixture of comedy and tragedy. The only way I could explain it is: imagine if Shane had been written by Thomas Berger, the guy who wrote Little Big Man. It’s at the top of my list of favorites among the things I’ve written.
How did you start your writing career?
Totally by accident! I have always told stories, even as a kid, but it never occurred to me to be a professional writer. When I was in my early 20s I had a job buffing floors at K-mart and Wal-mart stores- in those days the stores were closed from 9pm till 9am, and I was locked in there alone for 12 hours to do a 4 or 5 hour job. I filled the empty hours by reading everything I could get my hands on (including a whole lot of westerns.) While I was buffing, my mind wandered to the stories I was reading- how would I do them differently? So for my own entertainment I started writing those stories down. I was on my 3rd or 4th novel before it dawned on me that I could try to get them published. I started taking the writing seriously, reading every how-to book I could find, and developed my craft.
What was your first sale as an author?
A western short story called “Mourning Glory.” It was in the Nov. 1995 issue of Louis L’Amour Western Magazine. I remember looking at that first paycheck -328 bucks –and thinking that, no matter what happened for the rest of my life, nothing could change the fact that I was a professional, published author. The magazine took several more of my stories –but unfortunately it folded not long after that.
Has someone helped or mentored you in your writing career?
From about 1998 to 2003, there were a number of people I met through Western Writers of America and online Western forums who helped me enormously. Robert J. Randisi included me in several anthologies he edited in that time, and was very encouraging. The list is very long, and I’m bound to slip up and leave someone out… but it included Jim Crutchfield, Dale Walker, Peter Brandvold, John Nesbitt, and more. Some of them introduced me to agents or editors, or read my manuscripts. Jory Sherman and Frank Roderus were especially helpful and encouraging when I was at the bottom of the barrel, devastated both emotionally and financially by a bad divorce. One veteran writer, whom I won’t embarrass by naming, sent me a computer and printer when he learned I no longer had such things, and the only repayment he would ever accept was a promise to do the same for another struggling writer someday (I did just that eventually, when I no longer needed that equipment.) I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people I named above don’t even remember helping me, it was such second nature to them –but I remember, and I always will.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book. How did you develop that character?
My favorite character I have ever created was Lonnie Blake, a supporting character in Bound for the Promise-Land. I wanted my hero, an escaped slave-turned-Union soldier named Alfred Mann, to have two army comrades who could play the roles of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to his everyman. Blake was the MLK character- tormented by his human frailties, yet saintly in his love. I grew quite attached to him –he was the sort of man I’d like to be.
What do you think makes a good story?
Conflict. You can’t have a story without conflict –not much of a story, anyhow. And the best stories have both inner and outer conflict; something is challenging the character in the outside, physical world, and that is mirrored by some inner challenge that the hero must overcome in order to defeat the physical obstacle. I also believe that the hero must be changed inside somehow, if only a little, at the end of the story or else you (and the reader) have just been passing time.
Where do you research for your books?
I used to do a lot of research in actual libraries, but nowadays it is possible to find even the most obscure items and documents online. Five years ago I spent an entire summer going from archive to archive in Oklahoma and Arkansas; everything I looked at then can now be accessed digitally. Of course, it’s still good to get a feel for the landscape, and you can’t do that in your computer chair looking at j-pegs. A lot of the western stuff I’ve written lately, and most of what I have planned, has been set in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Arkansas, and Kansas –the area I researched intensely for my history dissertation, so I’m already pretty familiar with it.
Who are your books published with?
A crime novel I am very proud of, and which I hope grows into a series –Cross Road Blues –was published last year by Perfect Crime Books. My whole Western backlist is in the middle of being re-issued in both paper and e-book format by Western Trail Blazer, with new stuff upcoming as well. So far they’ve done four of my western novels, with four more in the chute, as well as several short stories- I hope to be with WTB for a long time to come. Rebecca J. Vickery is a treasure for our genre, and hopping on her WTB bandwagon when it was first rolling out was one of the smarter things I have done.
Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?
Read a lot. Read to gain factual information, to stir your muse, to examine how other people construct plots and characters. If you want to write good prose, in addition to telling good stories, also practice writing and reading poetry- notice meter and rhythm, and imagery.
And stick with it. Be persistent. Most “overnight successes” had been trying for years –and no one had heard of the ones who quit just before their big break came along.
Do you have a Website or Blog?
I sure do. My official website is www.troyduanesmith.com –there’s info there about my books, and some biographical material. I also blog at http://tnwordsmith.blogspot.com –sometimes about writing, or about westerns, pop culture, history or politics (as a historian, I don’t separate history and politics into different compartments, it’s all part of the same beast!)
How about an excerpt from the book you’re giving to some lucky commenter today, Caleb’s Price?
Glad you asked! Here it is.
EXCERPT FROM CALEB’S PRICE:
“You homesteaders are a stubborn breed,” Caleb said.
“We’re not stubborn,” said Burt. “Our dreams are. Some dreams die hard, and others don’t die at all –so long as they have a bit of rich soil to sink into. Surely you can understand that, Caleb. Even you can’t be as hard as you sound. We all have dreams.”
“I manage to sleep pretty sound, myself. If I have any dreams I don’t remember ’em.”
“You’re an unfortunate man, then. A man who never dreams is a sad thing.”
“How about women?” Caleb asked.
“What do you mean?”
“How about women? Do they have dreams?”
Burt laughed. “Not bein’ one myself, it’s hard to say.”
“Have you ever asked one?”
“Asked one what?”
“About her dreams.”
“No, Caleb, I haven’t. What are you gettin’ at?”
“Nothin’ in particular. I was just wonderin’. You bein’ so big on dreams, I just wondered if you ever noticed anybody else’s.”
Burt frowned. “At least I notice my own.”
“What about your wife, Burt? Does she have any dreams?”
“What do you think?”
“I think that if she does, they’re not about land. Or sheep.”
“Perhaps you’d be good enough to tell me what you think my wife dreams about.” Burt’s voice had taken on a rough edge.
“Oh, I don’t know. The sea, maybe.”
Burt laughed again. I think his laugh was beginning to irritate Caleb. It had been irritating me for years.
“So that’s it,” Burt said. “Sally’s been entertainin’ you with those fairy tales of hers. It’s getting’ plain to me that you have no experience with women. If we had stayed in New Bedford she would have dreamed about the West, and complained about never havin’ seen it. That’s just the way women are. They don’t know what they want. They only know that it’s always somethin’ they’ll never have. It’s different with a man, he dreams about somethin’ simple and sets about gettin’ it. Like me. I know exactly what I want.”
“Then your dreams are important enough to risk your family’s lives over.”
“Yes,” Burt said, in a voice that was softer than normal for him. “That’s how great nations are built. I’m only sorry that you don’t understand any of the things I’ve been tellin’ you.”
“I probably understand more than you give me credit for.”
“I was right about you, wasn’t I, Caleb?”
“What do you mean?”
“About what I said earlier. That you’re a wanderer.”
“I’ve never denied it.”
Burt’s face took on a cold expression. “Then I think that it’s only fair I warn you now, Johnson. Don’t try to include my wife in your wanderin’.”
Caleb chuckled. “What on earth brought that on? The last I knew, we were talkin’ about sheep.”
“All that fancy talk about what her dreams are,” Burt said, his tone hot. “They’ll not come true from the likes of you, I’ll warrant.”
Caleb shook his head. “You sure take a lot out of a little polite conversation.”
“Just don’t fawn over my wife, that’s all.”
“I wasn’t fawnin’ over her, I was just tryin’ to make a point. The point being, you’re risking her life over something she doesn’t even want.”
“I’ll be the judge of what my wife wants, not you. Women are like sheep. All they really want is to be directed. Anything else that comes from ’em is just mindless bleating. And besides, it’s none of your bloody business to start with.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Caleb said. “I was just offerin’ some friendly advice, that’s all.”
“Save your advice for the polar bears. The way you talk, I’d almost believe Ike Majors sent you here as a spy.”
Caleb stared at him for a moment, silent, then said, “If Ike Majors had sent me here, somebody would be usin’ this little wagon as a coffin, and you’d be a lot closer to God’s green earth than you ever wanted to be.”
“Aye. Or else you’d be.”
Troy, thank you so much for being our guest today here at Petticoats and Pistols. We hope you’ll come back and join us again sometime! You’ve got a lot of wonderful work out there and some beautiful covers, for sure!
Have you ever been asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”
Where do your ideas for writing fiction come from, and what makes them worthy of the time, effort, and creative energy we expend to bring that idea to full fruition—to craft a well-written story from it?
One source of story ideas is from real-life experience. Whether we are retelling a chapter of our own life, or something that happened to someone else, we must have come to the conclusion that that idea was worthwhile and that others would be interested in it, as well.
Gleaning ideas from actual happenings can be tricky. For many years, I taught a series of classes on “writing your life story.” You can’t imagine how popular those classes have remained, especially with the older generation. The idea that one’s life is unique or different suddenly takes on new meaning when others say, “You should write that down!” It comes to mean, “Your life has been fantastic!” It may well have been fantastic but when you stop to think about it, many, many people have had unusual, one-of-a-kind experiences at one time or another. What would make a person believe that their life story would be the one people would rush to Barnes and Noble to pluck from the shelves and lay down a twenty dollar bill to buy?
Many times, we, as writers, can draw from our life experiences as a bank of ideas for our fiction. But to write our own life story in full would generally prove to be a project that might, in the end, be a disappointing failure.
Characters we’ve met in our lives also give us ideas for the characters we create. Although we might not think of our sourpuss Aunt Betty as a “character” in real life, once we begin to write the fictional story we’ve been plotting, we might see one of the secondary characters begin to take on attributes of Aunt Betty–someone we haven’t been around for the past five years. People we’ve met casually, or known in a family context, can firmly insert themselves into our stories–much to our surprise.
Books, poetry or movies that might have influenced our thinking during our lives also can have an impact on our ideas. I once read a book based on a song that was popular in the early 1970s about a young woman who was in love with a sea captain.
Other forms of mass media can also add to our treasure trove of ideas. Articles we’ve read in magazines or newspapers spark ideas. True stories that are fictionalized have become one of the most popular genres ever created. Truman Capote’s best seller “In Cold Blood” was the book that became the catalyst for and set the standard of this type of fictionalized reality.
Historical events from the past can also provide us with ideas that can either stay fairly true to history or take a wide turn around the actual events. Alternate history is a new up-and-coming genre that encompasses all types of fiction writing, from science fiction to historicals, including certain genres of romance, mainstream, and political fiction.
Now that we’ve talked a bit about where some of our ideas might come from, how we know whether an idea is “story-worthy” or not? Have you ever started writing on a manuscript that you loved the idea for, but suddenly…the plot fizzles? Maybe you get to a certain point and don’t know where to go next. (This has happened to me, since I’m more of a “pantser”, not a “plotter.”) Does that mean your idea is no good?
Or does it mean you are just in need of some brainstorming to re-direct your plot, punch it up, and keep the middle from “sagging”?
Someone once said, you can wash garbage, but it’s still garbage. Learning what is garbage and what is salvageable is the most important thing we need to know, as writers. If you begin with an idea that you love, chances are, there’ll be someone else out there who’ll love it, too—your readers! If you have an idea that’s “sort of” good, the question is, will you care enough, as a writer, to see it through to the end?
Of course, everyone who has ever written anything for pleasure has had self-doubt. Remember Miss Smith’s third grade class? If the assignment was to write an essay, or a short story, you didn’t dare let that smirk of anticipation cross your face. What would your friends think of you if they knew you were looking forward to actually writing a paper? While everyone else wrote a paragraph, you couldn’t help yourself: you wrote two whole pages! And the secret was out. Self-doubt set in the very moment one of your classmates asked, “Gosh, why’d you write so much?”
So, you see, self-doubt has been instilled in us since we were in Miss Smith’s class. It will never leave us. We have to practice introducing ourselves in the bathroom mirror: “Hi. I’m (insert your name here.) I’m a writer.” This takes some practice for most, and is one of the most difficult stumbling blocks.
One of the best idea-getters is the “what-if” game (one of my favorites.)
What if there was a man and he had a beautiful daughter. What if he fell in love with a woman who had two daughters of her own. What if they married. But, what if the woman wasn’t what the man had believed her to be? What if she hated his daughter and was jealous of her?
I love this game because it leads to all sorts of possibilities. Our stories can take flight in directions we never imagined, becoming a joyous surprise even to ourselves, the authors!
Though we must battle our self-doubt on two fronts (a, will the story idea be interesting and good; and b, will I be able to write it, finish it, bring it to fruition through publication) reminding ourselves every day that we are professional writers and that our ideas are worthy is one way to combat that doubt. I’m not a fan of critique groups normally, but finding other writers who are supportive through other venues is a great confidence booster.
Something to think about: The greatest “what-if”? What if I wasn’t a writer? That would have a terrible outcome—my stories would have never been written!
I’m curious as to how other writers come up with their plots and ideas. And how do most readers see them, once they actually “come about” and appear in a novel or short story? I’ve told you some of my ways of coming up with ideas. I would love to hear yours! And for our readers, what kinds of ideas would you like to see more of? What are you tired of? We’re listening, and we love to hear what you think!
Hey everyone! It’s my great pleasure to introduce our visitor today here at Wildflower Junction, Ms. Rebecca Vickery. Rebecca is one busy lady. Not only does she write some awesome short stories and novels, she owns her own publishing company, Victory Tales Press.
Hi Cheryl and Everybody! It’s wonderful to be here.
I try to stay busy as it helps keeps me out of trouble. (My Hubby says not completely.)
Laura Shinn and I were discussing writing short stories as a way to hone our craft back in March 2010. We decided to invite a few authors to join us for publishing an anthology or two. The idea caught on and snowballed and Victory Tales Press was born. Several authors say that not only have the shorts improved their writing, but they have given them a new excitement by enabling them to try something new. Laura came on board as Chief Designer and Consultant and our first anthology, in which Cheryl’s story, To Make the Magic Last, first appeared, was published June 1, 2010.
Victory Tales Press has only been in existence a little over one year. But what a wonderfully successful year it has been! With 14 assorted anthologies published over the past 17 months, there is no end in sight. Anthologies are a popular venue these days for people who are “on the go”—and who isn’t? Victory Tales Press has a great system for letting you, the reader, know just what you are buying with their “heat” rating. These anthologies are rated sweet, sensual, and spicy.
Laura and I both write Happy Ever After Romance in various sub-genres from sweet to spicy so we decided to stay within boundaries we know. Therefore, we don’t publish erotica or other than traditional romance. (We leave that to others who know more about it.) We always have heat ratings on our VTP books. Our Sweet stories contain long, lingering glances, hand holding, and gentle kisses. The Sensual stories contain passionate kisses, foreplay leading up to the bedroom door, and possible mild cursing. Stimulating is probably my favorite and includes lightly described love scenes, intense emotions, and the more violent thriller or suspense stories. And for the in-depth love scenes, stronger language, and intense passion we have the Spicy rating. We often have an anthology that combines Sweet and Sensual, but we try not to ever include Sweet and Spicy in the same book.
Rebecca’s company has been so successful that she has added two imprints, Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery, and Western Trail Blazers. This imprint boasts well-known western authors such as Pete Brandvold, Jory Sherman, and Kit Prate. Tell us what brought this all about.
Once our anthologies were launched, I began to have requests from authors to assist them with publishing their book and to help them get into print. Rather than charge them money for my services, we agreed to share royalties. Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery was the result and is now the “parent company” according to my legal advisors. At PbRJV we publish in a variety of genres not limited to romance (but do not include erotica) and currently have works available from 17 authors and are adding more all the time. Amanda Ashley is one of the better known, NY Times Bestsellers who contracted a story with us this year.
Then Cheryl introduced me to a Western author who was looking for a new publisher. We began talking and Western Trail Blazer was born soon after. With many traditional publishers closing or discontinuing their Western lines, the American Western I grew up reading was about to die out. I don’t want my grands to grow up not knowing about our Wild West and this is my way to help achieve that. To the authors Cheryl mentioned, we should add Troy D. Smith, Madeline Baker, John Duncklee, John D. Nesbitt, and Chuck Tyrell, all very experienced Western authors and we are adding more there, too.
Now that you know who Rebecca Vickery is, I’ll let her “do the talking”—here are some questions and answers y’all might like to know about Rebecca, and if there’s anything she didn’t tell you here, just ask! She’s a mighty nice lady and very knowledgeable about all aspects of the publishing world. And she’s also a darn good writer, in her own right!
Rebecca, let’s talk about the publishing end of things first. Why did you choose anthologies to focus on in the beginning?
There really isn’t another publisher out there I know of that focuses on romance anthologies.Publishing anthologies was a chance to involve more authors and it provides us all with a much needed break from working on longer books. We can also share a wider variety of romance for our readers and in different heat levels. A win-win situation.
How successful have the anthologies been for you?
Monetarily, we aren’t getting rich by any means. Royalties are split among the authors in each book and Laura and I take a very small cut for expenses. But money was never the point. The anthologies have been successful in helping several authors regain their eagerness to write, come up with new material, step out of their “box”, and improve and tighten their writing skills. So personally, these anthologies have been very successful for me. Best of all, I’ve made friends with authors and readers I would not have met otherwise.
Do you see a resurgence of interest in anthology stories rather than novels?
Book interests seem to be almost as changeable as Hollywood husbands. For a short time anthologies were more in demand than full-length novels. Right now sales are down for both anthologies and novels as a newer trend takes over.
What plans do you have for future anthologies? Do you ever publish “stand alone” short stories?
I’ll answer these two questions together.The current trend seems to be moving away from the anthologies, except for holidays. We plan to cut back on them for 2012 and probably publish only for Halloween and Christmas, which have been our most popular ones so far. The trend is now moving toward short stories published individually and sold inexpensively. With the new reading apps for cell phones and less expensive e-readers, the shorts are perfect for waiting in line, at doctor offices, on work breaks, and even while stuck in traffic. We currently have a 99 cent Gallery for short stories at PbRJV and we offer Dime Novels for 99 cents at WTB. They are extremely popular.
What about your imprint, Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery? Tell us about what kinds of material you publish through that venue?
We offer mainstream fiction and non-fiction, romance, suspense, Inspirational, speculative fiction, fantasy, time travel, and historical. I probably missed something, but it is pretty much all genres non-erotic and non-Western.
Well, you know this is a western-y blog, so tell us all about your Western Trail Blazers imprint.
We are really happy with the way our Western imprint is growing. We published our first story in September of 2010 and had two authors with us. Now we have 15 authors and have published 45 works so far. At WTB we accept submissions in fiction and non-fiction, Action/Adventure, Romance, Historical, Fantasy, Paranormal, SteamPunk, Time-Travel, and Mystery/Suspense as long as they are based in the American West and have a Western theme. No erotica or non-traditional relationships are accepted. We would also like to publish a few non-fiction biographies of Western heroes and maybe a campfire cookbook.
What do you have lined up in the future for these imprints?
We plan to publish more quality reads at affordable prices while helping authors who are tired of the traditional publishing madness, but aren’t quite ready to go out and publish independently. We hope to continue to grow and to help encourage both writing and reading.
Now let’s talk about YOUR writing. Tell us about your novels?
I have four novels currently available and two short stories. Surviving with Love is a sensual adventure romance. A female tracker and an ex-military man must rescue two boys kidnapped by thieves. Looking Through the Mist is a sensual mystery/romance about a detective who does not believe in psychics, but gets stuck working with one when he must locate two missing children. Following Destiny is a highly sensual romance with fantasy elements, in the form of a magic ring, which helps a woman hear warnings from her ancestors about a serial killer. Seeking Shelter is my most recent and a sweet romance about a young woman who gets in a pile of trouble trying to find her horse, a home, and a man she can love. One of my shorts is The Rescue, a speculative fiction story about a crashed spaceship crew and an alien. (Beware it has an ironic ending.) The other short is The Trouble with Fishing and is a slightly humorous, romantic adventure of a city girl on a camping vacation.
I hear you are giving away a prize or two. Tell us about those prizes and how we can win?
Every visitor is welcome to a free download of our VTP recipe book (no coupon needed):
Christmas Dessert Decadence at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/42869
and 2 WTB shorts,
The Divided Prey at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/36979 (coupon code SSWSF)
Kill Crazy at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25001 (coupon code SSWSF)
From PbRJV, my short:
The Trouble with Fishing at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/43093 (coupon code SSWSF)
Then if you leave a comment and your email address, you will be entered in a drawing to win a pdf ebook of either Bad Wind Blowing by Peter Brandvold or In the Shadow of the Hills by Madeline Baker and published by Western Trail Blazer. (Reader’s Choice to 2 winners) I’ll post the winner at 9 EST tonight.
Where can your books be purchased?
Our e-books can be purchased at major online retailers:
Smashwords, Amazon, B & N, Sony, Apple iStore, etc.
Our Print books are available at Amazon, B &N online, Books-A-Million online.
The links are at our website stores for your convenience.
Can you give us a link for the sites we’ve mentioned so everyone can go see what’s available from these awesome imprints?
The link to Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery has just changed. You can now find us at http://pbrjv.com
Western Trail Blazer is at http://westerntrailblazer.com or at
Victory Tales Press is at http://victorytalespress.yolasite.com
Thanks so much for being here with us, Rebecca. I know you said you’ll pick your winner(s) later on tonight, but just to whet our appetites, can you give us an excerpt or two?
This is an excerpt from Peter Brandvold’s Paranormal Western:
Bad Wind Blowing
(To set the scene:
Clay Carmody has ridden into a strange town to bring dead bushwhackers to the Sheriff and stumbled into a gunfight at the saloon.)
Carmody dropped to his butt and pressed his back against the bar. As he automatically began replacing the spent brass from the .44’s cylinder, he glanced left, where the smoke hung thick over the overturned gambling table. Blood-splattered chips and playing cards were scattered across the floor. The man who’d produced the derringer lay limp over an overturned chair, bleeding from several wounds. Carmody caught only glimpses of the other gunmen lying in twisted heaps against the far wall.
The sheriff sat with his back to an overturned table, knees raised toward his chest. The lawman was fumbling with the gun in his lap, reloading from his cartridge belt. He was having a hard time, as his right arm was shaking, apparently from the graze to that shoulder. His face was hidden by the flat brim of his snuff-brown hat.
Carmody got up and walked over to the sheriff, his ears ringing, eyes stinging from the smoke. As he stopped before the man and opened his mouth to speak, the man snapped the Peacemaker’s loading gate closed and jerked his head up suddenly. The pistol shot straight out from the man’s chest, the barrel aimed squarely at Carmody’s heart.
Carmody’s gaze flitted from the revolver to the face of the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.
An excerpt from Madeline Baker’s Historical Western:
In the Shadow of the Hills
(To set the scene: John McKenna, half white and half Cheyenne, has married a white woman. Because his grandfather is rich and powerful, he has been allowed into society.)
My mother was delighted to hear the news of Clarissa’s pregnancy and immediately began making arrangements for one of the rooms in the mansion to be turned into a nursery so the baby would have a room of its own when we came to visit.
The Van Pattens were less than pleased, though they tried to hide it. Grace Van Patten looked at me as if I had defiled her daughter; Belmont looked as though he was going to be sick.
I saw the hurt in Clarissa’s eyes when her mother forced a smile and said, “how nice”. I saw the tears my wife blinked back when her father poured himself a stiff drink and downed it in one quick swallow.
That night, as I held Clarissa in my arms, I was suffused with guilt. But for me, Clarissa would have married some fine, upstanding young man who came from the same background she did, a man her parents would have welcomed with open arms.
And hard on the heels of that guilt came a surging tide of anger at their reaction. Clarissa was their only child. Why couldn’t they see how happy she was? Why couldn’t they be happy for her?
“It doesn’t matter, John,” she told me late one night.
But it did matter. Among the Cheyenne, family was everything. Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers played an important role in the raising of a daughter; fathers, uncles and grandfathers all had a hand in the raising of a boy. No Cheyenne child ever lacked for a lap to sit in, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear. Because a boy’s father was often away hunting or fighting, he spent much of his early years in the company of his grandfather.
“Please don’t let it bother you, John,” Clarissa urged. “You’re my family now, all the family I need. All I’ll ever need. I don’t care what my parents think. I know you’ll be a wonderful father.”
Holding Clarissa in my arms, I vowed that our child would lack for nothing, that, if necessary, I would be father, brother, uncle and grandfather.