Arkansas celebrates spring

A field of jonquils

A field of jonquils

Normally in Arkansas spring arrives the end of February when the old fashioned jonquils, planted a century or more ago, burst forth in glorious bloom. They are almost like wild flowers, for the woods are filled with them. Yet they must be planted by humankind. So why are the woods and pastures ablaze with golden blooms? Because once someone lived everywhere you find a large patch of these lovely flowers.

When I visit the new Lake Ft. Smith State Park I can find those my mother planted more than

Lake from our place

Lake from our place

70 years ago. A picnic table sits on a knoll above the new lake and there was once the house in which I was born and lived until the age of five when we moved to town so I could attend school. Around that table still bloom those jonquils she lovingly planted so long ago.

There are spots all over these Boston Mountains where a lonely stone fireplace reaches into the sky, and at its feet are spread carpets of sunshine. Deep in the wilderness, where roads no longer exist, a brave hiker off the beaten path will stumble upon a field of jonquils nodding in the warm spring breezes. And know that her feet trod where once a family lived and worked and played.

It is said that the more you leave them alone, the easier these bulbs spread and the more proficient the blooms. If you take a lawn mower to them after they bloom, and before six weeks have passed, they will stop blooming and eventually die out.

This year spring came late to the Ozarks. It was the end of March before the jonquils bloomed and everything else has followed suit. The dogwood and redbud are just now bursting forth.

springfest 006Here I am with my new writing pal, Alice White, offering our books. The skull is an older friend of mine who now helps me promote my latest book, The Purloined Skull.

But every year, no matter the cycle of blooms, Fayetteville, Arkansas celebrates spring with a festival they’ve dubbed Springfest. Up to 10,000 people gather along famed Dickson Street. Vendors of everything one can possibly dream up line the street. There are bed races and plenty of other fun events. Bands play, singers sing and dancers perform. This year writers represented by Oghma Creative Media were present to sign their books. For the first time in my memory we were actually invited to take part, along with musicians and performers, thanks to the efforts of Casey Cowan and his crew.

Big Foot showed up at our booth because Pamela Foster, one of our authors, has written a book called Big Foot Blues. He was popular with the kiddies and many of the dogs checked springfest 005him out too. I worried that huge 300 pound mastiff might take Big Foot on, but he wisely ignore him.

I visited with Pam as well as western authors Dusty Richards and Greg Camp, mystery author Gil Miller, Mike Miller, Alice White, Nancy Hartney, Ruth Weeks and Jan Morrill, and a good time was had by all. Do want to mention Robin Cowan, a young man who took charge of me and saw that I was where I needed to be, no easy task. If he’s any indication of teen agers today, we are in very good shape indeed.

If I’ve missed anyone, put it down to my loss of memory. What a perfect way to welcome redbudsspring in the Arkansas Ozarks.

 

 

Here’s a redbud tree showing its glorious colors in my backyard. Happy Spring to Everyone!!

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Everyone Loves A Mystery

Magnifying the clues

Magnifying the clues

…or if they don’t, they sometimes like other qualities embodied in mysteries. Perhaps they latch on to a character, especially in a mystery series, and decide to follow only because of that character. So it’s up to the author to let readers know not only about their mystery, but about the characters contained therein.

When I think of some of my favorite detectives, for instance, I put Spenser from the Robert B. Parker novels high on the top of my list. Then there’s Harry Bosch by Michael Connelly, or I could go back a ways and date myself by mentioning Mike Hammer, a rough and tough detective who did it for me in the Fifties and Sixties when Mickey Spillane was writing hard hitting stuff that no other writer would touch. And who can resist Lincoln Rhyme, a clever man who overcomes great physical limitations to solve some of the grittiest crimes. One of my favorite all time mystery novels is The Bone Collector in which author Jeffery Deaver introduced the Rhyme character. Another mystery writer who, it is argued, is really a western writer, or vice-versa, is Craig Johnson, the creator of the wildly popular lawman Walt Longmire, who chases down the bad guys in the wilderness of Absaroka County (fictional) in Wyoming.

Examining these books, I asked myself why I enjoyed them so much? Why was I so fascinated that I went looking for other books by these authors and/or featuring their main characters.

First, I have to admit that mysteries and detective novels in particular are not my only love

Black cat for mysterious

Black cat for mysterious

when choosing a book to read, those are the ones I decided to pick apart today and try to learn, as a writer, what draws me, as a reader, to specific authors and subjects.

First and foremost, I need a terrific story, but if there are no point of view characters I can relate to, or give a damn about, then I probably won’t continue to read, even if I’m intrigued by the story. At any rate, that means that I probably want intriguing characters first. Yet where would they be without a good story? Dithering around, running in circles, with no goal, motivation or conflict, no sense of place, no setting out of the ordinary, no clever internalization to draw me into their inner selves, no back story that defines them. Good writing should be a given. My favorites mentioned above fulfill all these needs and then some. There is that final and mysterious quality of writing known as voice. Can’t explain that one, it just is, and you got it or you ain’t. And sorry, it isn’t something anyone can teach.

A writer once told me that she couldn’t write her story with one point of view character because there were too many things going on out of his purview that she had to let the reader in on. Bosh, pish tosh and nonsense. A clever writer can reveal everything the reader needs to know without ever leaving a singular point of view.

This is made very clear by the above mentioned Robert Parker and his clever detective, Spenser. That being said, and I detest that buzz word, it’s such an obviously dumb thing to say. (my apologies to Greg Camp for using an adverb here) For if you’re listening it’s unnecessary and if you’re not you have no idea what I just said. There are many writers today writing in the first person who jump to third person for other characters. While that may be very revealing, it’s the lazy way to write a good story, especially a mystery.

The dark room needed for suspense

The dark room needed for suspense

When we write or read romances, it is preferable to that they are written in both the heroe’s and heroine’s viewpoints. But I’m discussing mysteries here. In my opinion, the best mysteries have a singular detective viewpoint where the reader learns the clues and other facts as the detective learns them. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a detective, it can be the little old lady next door who sits on the porch and knits, or a bounty hunter like Stephanie Plumb, a private eye, someone caught up in the danger who must solve the mystery in order to save his own life or someone else’s…well, you get the idea. Any singular person who will go on to find the killer or perpetrator will do.

If you can write a short story, which is best done in a singular point of view, then you can write a book in the same way. Try it. Mysteries are especially delicious written that way.

If I didn’t mention your favorite mystery series, author or character here, why not share him or her with us? I’ll send a free ebook copy of Wolf Song, which contains a good mystery/suspense plot, to the person who is drawn from the best comments about mysteries and detectives.

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History is Full of Surprises

Shanna Hatfield

Shanna Hatfield

My guest today is Shanna Hatfield, author of historical western romances.

Shanna, welcome to my blog. I know my readers will enjoy your post about historical fiction and the western romance series you tell us about.

Thank you, Velda, for hosting me today. I’m so grateful for this wonderful opportunity to connect with your readers.

Writing historical fiction is such fun for me because I learn so much about the places, people, and experiences of the past. More often than not, I’m astounded by how innovative and creative people were “way back when.”

When the idea for a new historical western romance series began bubbling in my head, I decided it should take place in the town of Pendleton, Oregon, at the beginning of the 20th century.

My parents lived in or around Pendleton during the early years of their marriage. I grew up listening to stories my dad shared about the amazing wheat harvests and adventures he had among the rolling hills in Umatilla County. After visiting the area, I knew it had a rich and intriguing past that would be  exciting to capture in a western romance series.

Many people know Pendleton as the home of the world-famous Pendleton Round-Up and the Pendleton Woolen Mills. It billed itself as the “queen of a golden empire – golden wheat.” Around this time, Umatilla County produced one-percent of the nation’s wheat crop.

As I began digging into the town’s past, I discovered, much to my surprise, Pendleton was a happening place to be in the early 1900s.

Modern and progressive for its time, Pendleton was a unique blend of Wild West and culture. They had plenty of crime and wild rowdies, as one would expect in a western town. Pendleton also boasted an opera house and theater, a teashop, a French restaurant, and a wide variety of businesses in the early years of the new century.

On any given day during that time, someone walking down the street could see well dressed ladies and gentlemen,  as well as Chinese immigrants, Indians from the nearby reservation, miners, businessmen, ranchers, and farmers.

Pendleton had an enviable railway facility with trains running east and west daily. Telephones as well as running water and sewer lines were available for those who could afford the services. It was one of the first cities in the state to have paved streets and according to historic records; residents of Umatilla County had a rare passion for the newly introduced automobile.

In the year 1900, it was the fourth largest city in Oregon. By 1902, the population grew to 6,000 and there were 32 saloons and 18 bordellos in the area.

If you’re wondering why the town needed quite so much “entertainment,” it was in part because of the sheer number of cowboys, wheat harvesters, sheepherders, railroad workers, and crews of men who descended on the town to work. In 1900 alone, an estimated 440,000 sheep produced more than two million pounds of wool.

Mystery and intrigue surrounded the tunnels of the city’s Underground. What began as a way for respectable businesses to easily deliver their goods from the depot, soon turned into a booming mini-city of saloons, card rooms, working girls, Chinese laundries and more. According to local tales, the working girls used the tunnels to enter respectable businesses and do their shopping without being seen around town.  Reportedly, a tunnel even ran to the doctor’s office for them to pay their visits undetected.

Today, visitors can stop by the Pendleton Woolen Mills and purchase one of their signature Indian blankets, attend the Pendleton Round-Up in September, and see a portion of the Underground through Pendleton Underground Tours. The tour provides a glimpse at everything from the card rooms to the life of the Chinese below the city.

Although I made several trips to town gathering research, one local historian was extremely helpful in answering my many questions. For more details about Pendleton’s past, I recommend Keith F. May’s book Pendleton: A Short History of a Real Western Town.

While the town didn’t lack  for colorful characters, those portrayed in my Pendleton Petticoats series are purely fictional.

 

Pendleton Petticoats

Pendleton Petticoats

The women in Pendleton Petticoats come from all walks of life but find commonality in drawing strength from their courage and persevering in chasing their dreams. One woman longs to better her future, one to escape her past, and one just wants to find a place to call home. Aundy, Caterina and Ilsa challenge the roles typically assigned to women of this era.

If you enjoy historical fiction, clean romances, or a good western, I hope you’ll consider reading Aundy and its sequels, Caterina and the newly released Ilsa. I love to hear from readers, so feel free to drop me a note via any of my social media links.

Find Shanna’s books at:

Amazon

Follow Shanna online:

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Email Shanna at shanna@shannahatfield.com

Author Bio: Shanna Hatfield is a hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. In addition to blogging, eating too much chocolate, and being smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller, she is a best-selling author of clean romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

 Excerpt from Aundy:

“You are one of the most stubborn, hard-headed women I’ve ever met, Aundy Erickson,” Garrett said, running a hand through his hair, sending the dark locks into a state of complete disarray. His movements made Aundy want to run her fingers through it as well. “Your ability to be self-sufficient would never come into question. If you need help, ask for it. We’re more than happy to give it. You’ve been through so much since you’ve arrived here and handled it all in stride. Growing up in the city, without any rural background, you’re going to need some help. Never hesitate to ask.”

“I know, but I’ve imposed on all of you too much as it is.” Aundy felt tears prick the backs of her eyes. She would not cry. Giving in to her emotions, as jumbled as they were, wouldn’t help prove she could care for herself and Erik’s farm. Her farm.

“You’ve never imposed on us. Ever.” Aundy was so obstinate. He couldn’t recall ever meeting such a stubborn, headstrong woman. She made him want to… Thinking about what he really wanted to do, he refocused his attention on why she went to the Underground. “Regardless of all that, what information were you hoping to find?”

“I wanted to buy something and no one would talk to me about it. Dressed as a man, I didn’t have a bit of trouble making the deal.”

“What did you buy?” Garrett tried to think of anything Aundy would have purchased in the Underground that could possibly be beneficial to the farm.

“I don’t think you’re going to like my answer.” Aundy didn’t want to tell Garrett about her sheep. He’d been quite vocal when she and J.B. were discussing the pros and cons of raising sheep the other day, about how much he disliked the “stinky little boogers,” as he referred to them.

“What did you do?” Garrett asked, pinning her with his silver gaze.

“I made arrangements with a man to buy something he wanted, quite desperately, to sell.”

Garrett’s patience was nearly exhausted. “Which was?”

She hesitated, taking a deep breath before answering. “Sheep.”

He let out a whoosh of air and sat back in his chair. Blinking his eyes twice, he was sure Aundy couldn’t have said what he thought she did.

“Did you say sheep?”

“Yes,” Aundy whispered, staring down at the cloth covering the table.

“Smelly, nasty, bleating little sheep?”

“Well, I don’t know about the smelly, nasty, or bleating part, but yes, I did agree to purchase sheep.”

“Woman! What are you thinking? Did you sign papers, make payment? Is the deal final?”

“Not yet. Mr. O’Connell was under the impression I was helping a new widow. I asked him to call Mrs. Erickson Monday morning to make arrangements for the sale.”

“O’Connell? The whiskey drinking Irishman? Why he’ll…” Garrett yelled, his eyes flashing fire.

Aundy reached across the table and clapped a hand across his mouth. “Shh. You’ll have Dent and the boys in here if you don’t quiet down. Not only should you not be here, especially with me dressed like this, but I’m not quite ready to impart the knowledge to them that we’ll soon be raising sheep.”

“Fred will quit.” Garrett stated a fact Aundy already knew. He’d made it perfectly clear that he had no interest in tending sheep, so it was a gamble she had to make.

“I’ve taken that possibility into consideration.”

“Did you also take into consideration that a lot of the neighbors around here hate sheep? Not just dislike them, but hate them. I know many people in the area raise sheep, but our neighbors are all wheat growers and cattlemen. If you think about it, there isn’t one little lamb to be found from here all the way to Pendleton.

Wonderful, Shanna. I know readers will look forward to reading your book. And thanks again for being a guest here on my blog.

 

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Once There Were Sad Songs: Back story

Lake in the Ozarks

It wasn’t clear exactly what day Mary Elizabeth had known she could not remain with the humorless man she’d married. For so long each day had been the same. Staring across the breakfast table at his sour countenance, harshly determined to do what was right in the eyes of God. The God he’d created to fit his own perceptions. The marriage was over. Done with. Ready to be shucked off like worn out clothes, like painful memories, like heaven sought but never found. And if she had to die to accomplish that, so be it.

When she looked behind her, expecting to see Reudell striding toward her with a holier than

Arkansas Mountains

Arkansas Mountains

thou look in his eye, all she saw were her new red tennis shoes where she’d kicked them off, one tipped on its side in the sand. No answer to her dilemma appeared. She squinted across the placid water, shimmering under a late afternoon sun that poised on the rim of mountains, ready to slide into extinction

Perhaps she’d walk into the lake until the water closed over her head. There’d actually been times lately when she’d thought that death might be the only resolution. But depression never got such a hold on her she couldn’t come out of it. For some reason, though, this year had begun different, this year in which she would turn fifty.

Teaching, which she’d always loved, had become trivial, the children all a bunch of little brats, her fellow teachers shallow and inconsiderate. When life offered nothing but displeasure, it was time to get away. Back off and assess things.

Thus the campsite at her back, the tent, which she’d practiced setting up in the barn so she wouldn’t end up sleeping under a table in the rain, and this whole absurd notion of spending a summer camping out in the wilderness. Alone.

Crazy, huh? Worse than that, dangerous.

Lake in Arkansas

Lake in Arkansas

Footprints in the sand

Footprints in the sand

But no matter what she did, no ripple in the fabric of time would mark her actions. The sun would slip silently behind the green peaks to light another world; golden water would kiss the shore goodnight; the haunting song of whippoorwills would echo in a settling dusk. And worst of all, she would not have left any footprints in the sand to show she’d ever existed.

Mountain sunset

Mountain sunset

Next time, Steven’s story. Once There Were Sad Songs from The Wild Rose Press available at Amazon

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Dithering into spring

View from back deck

View from back deck

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

That certainly applies to this year in a big way. The jonquils are blooming like great splashes of sunshine scattered over our place here on the hill in the Boston Mountains. No, that’s not in Massachusetts. Our beautiful chain of the Ozarks here in Arkansas was so named because the slang word back in the 1830s for “hard as hell” was “it’s the boston.” When white homesteaders were allowed into this Osage/Cherokee/Arkansa land in 1828, they soon learned how difficult it was to traverse these rugged mountains.

But I digress. According to the weather bureau Arkansas has experienced its worst winter in 120 years. Oh, we’ve had occasional colder sieges, but never as prolonged or as snowy and icy. But nature being what it is, the slant of the sunlight rules rather than temperatures, and despite the continuing cold, flowers are blooming, trees are budding and we should see dogwood and redbud all over our beautiful mountain range soon. All a few weeks behind normal times.

This was our first winter spent in our new digs. The little rock house on our property where my parents lived has become our home when our larger story-and-a-half house became too large for us to live in. Because the old heating system was so old here we installed one of those new awesome combination electric/propane heaters between the living area and the kitchen and held our breath. It is so small we couldn’t imagine it heating all three bedrooms and bath as well as that area. But it did. No matter how cold the frigid outdoors became, all we needed was a small electric heater for backup in the bathroom, and then only when we bathed.

With the help of our daughter and her lifelong friend (our adopted daughter) we snuggled in

Wider view of back hillside

Wider view of back hillside

last summer and I’m working in the smallest of the three bedrooms, having turned it into my office right off. After donating over 600 books to two local libraries, I squeezed the rest of my collection in here and in one small bookcase in the living area. It’s amazing what those two girls did. All that’s left to do is install new flooring in the kitchen, pantry and bathroom. We decided to wait till spring for that, we’d kept our carpenter/expert custom cabinet maker son-in-law pretty busy building a small deck out back and a ramp up to the kitchen entrance of the house, plus installing a dishwasher.

Because of their help I’ve completed four books over the winter. Some were partially written already, and I wrote two from scratch. That’s what a long cold winter can do for a writer in a hurry to get it all down before arthritis or various other ailments stops her.

Here comes spring. Enjoy smelling the flowers, watching trees bud, listening to the peeping of frogs in the creek, feeling the warmth of the sun, and tasting delicious morsels from early gardens. Included all five senses as writers know to do.

Did you accomplish something special this long cold winter, or did you just stare out the window in despair?

 

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The wilderness lingers

Baptizing in the river

Baptizing in the river

All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created,  but within us the wilderness still lingers, What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream. ~T.K. Whipple

As an author of western historical romance, this poem struck a chord in me when I first used it in a feature story I wrote. It called to me again when I signed another contract with the Wild Rose Press for my second book in the Victorian Series. Rowena’s Hellion takes place in Kansas where Victorians from England and Scotland built an English colony. They hoped Victoria City would continue their heritage in this new country where land rushed to the horizon on all sides. More land then they had ever beheld standing in one place. Those times are so clear to me, for I have stood on a Kansas prairie and turned a wide circle, seeing land as far as my eyes could behold…and I have dreamed of what they lived.

The final nonfiction historical book of this nature which I wrote is now available on Kindle as

River and bluffs

River and bluffs

an Ebook or a print. The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks is filled with stories and photos of how they lived and what they dreamed.

True to my love of history, my contemporary fiction novels have a foundation of history in Arkansas. True, it’s usually more recent history, like the twin tornadoes that ripped through the small town of West Fork in 1989. The town is situated in a small valley on the west fork of the White River. Bluffs and mountains surround the  valley and flowing streams wrap the green pastures like gleaming  ribbons. I cannot resist traveling into the past of this peaceful locale to place crimes, so I created a fictional county and fictional town, but recreated

West Fork of the White

West Fork of the White

historical happenings of the true town.

Over a period of nineteen years I worked for two rural weekly newspapers and interviewed hundreds of residents, scribbling down their stories in notes that later became my weekly column, or a front page or feature story. I can’t resist using some of this in my novels.

The Purloined Skull takes place in a fictional town and the crime happened during the twin tornadoes that struck this small town. Is it West Fork? Yes and no. Are the people those I have known? Yes and no. Most are composites, and reviewers like the way I present them as minor characters. The protagonists are totally made up, the antagonists are more real. The second of the series, The Telltale Stone,  is lying here waiting for my final edits. The story takes place in a fictional county and town, but so much of the background is true that it is difficult to tell where the fiction begins and ends.

Once There Were Sad Songs was born as I lay on the beach of Lake Ouachita and watched some fellas on motorcycles set up an old canvas tent in a campsite across the way. As a writer I could not resist placing them in my story. Their voices cried out to be put on paper, and so I did. That novel became one of my early books that has most recently been published by The Wild Rose Press. It takes place in the past, 1985, and tells the story of two Vietnam vets wandering listlessly through the country, accompanied by the younger man who so resents that he was too young to serve that he lives vicariously through these lost souls. And let’s not forget the woman who wanders into their midst and is caught up in their adult games.

So will I ever write something that takes place today, or is not based on something that took place in the past? I don’t know. Those people cry out to me, for some reason. Could be I’m getting old enough to have lived in the distant past and that’s what I remember the best.

Is it people or places or both that inspire you to create your stories? Some actually use photos for inspiration. Do you?

 

 

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Free Writer’s Conference

Conference attendees

Conference attendees

The Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop held its tenth annual free conference this past Saturday. It was a cold rainy day in Fayetteville. That didn’t stop the gathering from swelling to a nice crowd at Ozarks Electric where Casey Cowan, Greg Camp, Duke and Kimberly Pennell, Velda Brotherton and Dusty Richards led their workshops, in that order.

We have run our weekly critique group workshop for more than twenty-five years, and we believe in sharing what we’ve learned with aspiring writers. That’s why we came up with this

Dusty Wows Them

Dusty Wows Them

idea, never knowing if it would work. Finding experienced authors, promoters, editors, designers and the like and convincing them to show up for free might be difficult. All we could do was feed them lunch and provide tables for their books or other promotional materials.

Velda Tells All

Velda Tells All

We are thankful that the results have been mind bending. Every year we go in search of at least three speakers who will agree to do this event for nothing. And every year we manage to find them. The idea of giving a free conference is something unusual in this day and age, but Dusty and I both agree that we want to pay back those who have helped us over the years. This seems a terrific way to do so. Thanks to everyone who participated and all our members who helped make this year even greater than the last.

For a look at more photos, see my Facebook Timeline Page. 

The workshop is held on the second Saturday of March each year, and has come close to being iced or snowed out a couple of times, but we’ve hung in there. Here are some photos I took at the event.

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My Writing Process Blog Tour

Christy Effinger asked me to take part in this blog tour.  Thanks, Christy

The questions:

1) What am I working on? The second book in my new mystery series, A Twist of Poe. It’s title is The Telltale Stone. It features Cherokee deputy Dallas Starr and Investigative Reporter Jessie West.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Well, my publisher told me it’s their first mystery that contains spicy love scenes in the on again, off again affair between the two protagonists.

3) Why do I write what I do? Because it’s fun to put characters through all the threats and puzzles that come about in a suspense/mystery. I also write historical romance, which is just as much fun because I get to live vicariously in a time long past with fictional and true characters without putting up with lice and bedbugs and rare bathing.

4) How does my writing process work? Crazily. I go hither and yon, making notes, backing out of some scenes to recreate them later. I don’t know much except my characters when I begin. They tend to take over and lead me all over the place. Eventually, I clean up their mistakes, smooth out the rough spots and end up with a story I hope readers will like. My mysteries are based on people, places and things from the nine years I spent as a feature writer for a rural weekly newspaper. While the killings and the small Grace County are made up, much of the rest is based on true stories.

Because this tour has pretty well run its course, I didn’t request three bloggers to continue. You’ll find it all over the place. So this one is the END for this tour. Thanks for asking me to take part.

http://www.veldabrotherton.com

http://www.veldabrotherton.wordpress.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/veldabrotherton

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What War Does to People

Wages of War

Wages of War

Funny, as I sit here trying to come up with something to share with my readers, I realize that the only writer’s block I ever have is when faced with writing my weekly blog. This is not understandable, since for 19 years I worked under a newspaper deadline for columns or any news or feature stories that popped up and had to be written.

Other writers I know admit to the same problem. What in the world can I write that anyone would possibly find interesting enough to read? Hint: Use lots of pictures then you don’t have to write so much.

I didn’t watch the Academy Awards last night, so that’s out. What I did watch was a movie about three WW II vets who returned to the scene of a battle at Omaha Beach. One was a Brit, the other two Americans, or as they called each other, a Limey and a Yankee. Two had

D Day Americans storm the beaches

D Day Americans storm the beaches

fallen in love with the French nurse who cared for them after they were wounded. The third had been wounded so seriously that he was mentally challenged, as we call it today. He had saved the life of his friend who took care of him because of that.

The movie began rather humorously, with the two vying in their macho ways for first turn at seeing their former nurse. While the third existed on the periphery. Eventually, we were treated to a lesson. Wars are stupid. Wars are not what people want. Wars create chasms that are difficult but not impossible to bridge. Wars permanently damage some lives forever. The group grew to include a woman who had come to visit the grave of her brother, who turned out to have been a German soldier, which they only learned after growing to like her a lot.

Together these people formed a bond, the French nurse turned prostitute, the three elderly men, the German woman, and oddly enough the daughter and son-in-law of the Yankee. I

American heroes

American heroes

wondered at the reason for their presence in the plot, until it was slowly revealed that the daughter was self-centered and, as she admitted, mean spirited. She had a lesson to learn as well.

It dawns on me while writing this that I too learned a lesson from this movie. Not only did I learn that people can rise above prejudice and mindset when forming friendships under difficult circumstances, and it is ill advised to discount mean spirited people before giving them a chance to reform, if that’s the right word.

My final thought: One of the most over stated and untrue phrases tossed about is, people don’t change. Everyone changes. If we open our hearts and minds we change due to our life experiences. True there are people who refuse to change for various reasons, but they are few.

For what they are worth, these are my thoughts on a record-setting cold and icy March day. Worse, when I went back to Netflix to get the title of the movie, I could not find it. Having rated it and taken it off my list, it disappeared into the miasma of movies I’ve rated. Can’t they put those ratings in date order? Ugh. I almost removed this blog after realizing I couldn’t pass on the title of the movie, but the message remains with or without it.

I find myself more and more engrossed by the evils of war, of sending young men off to battle, of the entire idea of killing our fellow man. Hopefully, I can move on to more pleasant subjects soon. That sexy, dark and gritty tag needs to move from dark to sexy or gritty for a while.

What does war to do people? Read Once There Were Sad Songs, available as a Ebook or print on Amazon and The Wild Rose Press.

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The Victorians Continue

Queen Victoria ushered in the Victorian age

Queen Victoria ushered in the Victorian age

I’ve signed a contract for my latest submission to Wild Rose Press, entitled Rowena’s Hellion, the second in The Victorian series about a group of Victorians from England and Scotland who settled in Victoria, Kansas in 1874.

The railroad town was founded by George Grant, who purchased 69,000 acres, paying $2 an acre to begin with, an average of 88-cents per acre in all. The Kansas Pacific railroad company had received from the government a 20 mile strip on either side of the tracks and were trying to attract settlers to live there in the hopes that settlement would create more customers for the railroad.

What was Grant thinking? Why would these staid and somewhat sophisticated Victorians want to settle in the wild west?

His main reason, of course, was that he had seen the countryside at its best. He described the air as champagne. Plenty of spring rains had produced a wide expanse of green, green grasses. A paradise for those locked into a countryside where no such land was available for purchase. In England the landed gentry owned it all. Any children born after the first son, did not stand to inherit land, and so he saw a perfect opportunity to sell minimum sized parcels to them.

He promised that if the company from which he made the purchase would build a place where colonists could live while homes were being built he would people the prairies with the best blood of England. A combination depot-store-post office-hotel to house no fewer than 25 persons as well as a siding and accommodations for handling and shipping their stock, all to be completed by June 1, 1873.

Free accommodations were offered in the Kansas Pacific Station Hotel until they might build temporary homes. He promised to provide at a reasonable price all lumber needed for temporary residences. Permanent residences were all to be of stone, the frame buildings being turned over to the hired help. There would be free schools, a church, a library and special train rates. He would keep a herd of high-blooded stock, cattle, horses and sheep, a supply of pure seeds, and steam cultivators such as were in use in England.

On April Fool’s day the first of the settlers, 30 English and Scottish citizens, began their

The way the Victorian women were perceived

The way the Victorian women were perceived

journey to America and the prairies of Kansas. Many came from wealthy, aristocratic families. They had privileges far superior to most and all had some education while some were university graduates. They came to found big estates and to grow rich. Many came with the assurance that allowances varying from 50 to 200 dollars a month would be sent to them regularly. They were called remittance men. For the most part unmarried and in their early twenties.

Grant decreed that each person must buy 160 acres, but by 1873 he had amended that to read no one could buy less than one square mile with the exceptions of working men’s colonies which might hold collectively several thousand acres.

They brought with them woolen covers, silk top hats and dress suits, sets of books Scott, Dickens and Burns, all the best available hunting equipment. Women brought fine hand-spun linens and solid silver tableware with bone handles. They boarded the Alabama, the first steamship to set sail in 1873 from the harbor at Glasgow. The voyage would take a year from Glasgow to Kansas, utilizing not only the ship, but trains, river boats and stage coaches. Others would soon follow

So imagine these people blending in with the likes of settlers in nearby Hays City and Fort Hays, some of the wildest western locales at the time. However, Grant did not want them to blend in, but rather required that everyone would live as they had in England and not take up the western ways.

Why would they choose Grant’s plan over homesteading? Pride was utmost, but there were stipulations to homesteading land they found distasteful. They would not have been free to leave for extended visits abroad and would have been required to become American citizens.

The experiment lasted about ten years, before many Victorians returned to England, others remained and blended into the western civilization. Soon a colony of Germans sprung up and took over Victoria as they built their own city nearby, destroying the magnificent castles and Victorian homes. There is little left today of Grant’s magnificent experiment.

Wilda’s Outlaw tells the story of one of three women who journeyed to America to live with Lord Blair Prescott. One would become his wife, while he will retain guardianship over

The dress Wilda would have worn

The dress Wilda would have worn

the other two until they marry. Wilda immediately balked at marrying his lordship and ran off with an outlaw.

Rowena’s Hellion is the story of Wilda’s sister, who is in love with his lordship, who suffers from PTSD after serving in the brutal Franco-Prussian war. Rowena sees beyond his sufferable actions due to that disorder, then known as soldier’s heart, and while others see him as a hellion, she knows his true nature.

The third in this series, working title Tyra’s Cowboy, is about the young Tyra, a cousin of Wilda and Rowena, who falls in love with a cowboy set on developing a new breed of beef cattle and building the largest ranch in Texas, coincidentally near Victoria, Texas. There this story of The Victorians will conclude.

 

 

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