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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

To Be or Not to Be (Accurate) - That is the question facing authors of Historical Romance

To Be or Not To Be (Accurate)

That Is The Question
 Facing Authors of Historical Romance

In writing Historical Romance Fiction the author does a balancing act on up on a high wire.  He loves history so we strive to make it as accurate as possible.  Yet, it is fiction, which means an author may to take liberties.  The question is where to draw the line.  While this article was written to address historical do and don't questions, it could apply with any form of fictional world-building.

Historical authors really love history!  We can easily obsess over details that are endlessly fascinating―at least to us.  However, do readers really want that deep of an understanding of the past?  The answer: some do, some don’t.  After all, you are not writing a non-fiction work, historical book, not even a historical fiction novel.  It’s Historical Romance.  As when you pronounce a word, certain syllables are spoken softly while one is accented; when you say Historical Romance always put the stress on ROMANCE.  Never lose sight of that.  My editor on my first historicals, Hilary Sares (formerly with Kensington Books) says readers are tired of “clanking swords, that history is stale, cold, while romance is timeless.”  In this, she touches on the heart of what Historical Romance is:  history is the lesser of the ingredients in the mix.  Love carries the story.  Historical Romance is the cousin of Historical Fiction (which often has romance in them), but they are not the same.

Once a romance author accepts these boundaries then they are left with just how much history do you add?  History is a background for the tapestry you weave.  It should give the reader a sense of period, but never intrude upon the romance, never stall the story out, pausing to explain historical details or to give a history lesson.  After the author reaches that level of what will be good threads and elements to craft into the story, they next face a final hurdle―to weigh the importance of details, the minutiae that draws the historical authors to share their love of the past.

Only here is where it can get tricky.  Sometimes, what readers believe is accurate often is not.  “Bad” history, incorrect word usage, or even how time has changed the meaning of words can stymie the author.  Take the word acquaintance.  Noun: “a person known to one, but usually not a close friend.”  That is how it is accepted in today’s usage.  However, years and years ago the word meant something very different.  Surprisingly, when a man was “acquainted” with a woman, he was saying he had been physically intimate with her.  See the problem?  If you are going for historical accuracy and you say “Mr. Overton was acquainted with Miss Marple.”  In the historical sense you would be saying Mr. Overton had indulged in sex with Miss Marple!  Will today’s readers understand without you having to stop the story and tell them that?  Will a reader, lacking this crumb of knowledge, understand what you said, or will they just believe you are saying Mr. Overton has met Miss Marple, but they are not close friends?  If the author puts that sentence out there and wants the reader to comprehend what they are saying, then they must stop the flow of the plot and the scene and say, “Of course, we know acquainted means he has had sex with her.”  Even then, the reader might scratch their heads and go, hum, it does?  In that instant, you have taken them out of the story simply by using a word correctly, but not right in today’s eyes.  Right is wrong.  Rule of thumb: Rarely is one single word ever that important to risk using, when it can pull their reader away from the imagery to ponder if you are correct or not.

If a Historical Romance came along and used Irish Gaelic spellings instead of Scots Gaelic—which has been known to happen (lol), and this book using becomes a bestseller, then readers can often assume that book to be correct.  Then other authors come along using the correct form and people automatically presume they are incorrect.  So when readers come to the difference they often believe the right spellings to be wrong!  Okay, what then?  Do you knowingly use the wrong spellings of words to conform to what the readers have accepted as correct, or do you go ahead and be accurate and have readers think you are wrong?

Another complexity in to be or not be historically accurate―authors who set their novels in real places, such as the castles of Scotland.  Often, instead of world-building and creating their own castles, some writers pick out a very famous castle for the setting of their stories--even put the wrong clan living there, totally disregarding most castles have a very detailed historical record.  For someone not familiar with Scotland’s past that might not be a problem.  However, the author runs into the sticky wicket of having readers who do, and once more, are taken out of the story because they know the true history of the place.  We must remember it is fiction.  Authors are allowed to bend history a wee bit if it serves to make the story stronger.  I won’t go as far as Randall Wallace did when speaking of the many historical inaccuracies of his screenplay for the movie Braveheart and say history should never get in the way of a good story.  Still, authors should be able to present a romping tale without worrying about being one hundred percent accurate on every single detail.

Another is nationality.  It can come into play in perceptions of what is wrong and right.  Take the simple way you name the floors of a building.  In Britain and Europe, even today, the first floor of a building is the ground floor.  In America, you work on the first floor in New York, while in London you are working on the ground floor.  The first floor in Europe is actually the second level.  When Regency and Victorian periods were in flourish and they had their Seasons in London, they lived in fancy townhouses.  The first floor (second floor to Yanks!) was where they did most of their entertaining.  So, if a woman entered the front door, and went upstairs to the first floor many Americans would assume the author is making a boo-boo, despite they were being entirely correct!

These are just a few of the bumps facing historical authors when trying to keep the faith with history, yet also do a balancing act with the today’s readers and just how accurate do readers truly want their historical romances to be?

Just remember to keep rooted, and that romance and flow are vital to telling a whopping good yarn.

 Deborah Macgillivray
Internationally Published Author of the Dragons of Callon™  series

#PrairieRosePublications #HistoricalRomance #MedievalHistory #ScottishHistory #AuthorsTool  #WritingHistoricalNovels 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Blank Page: Why Starting Over Is Sometime the Only Option

Jan. 27

A few weeks ago, I stood on the balcony of my rented beach condo and watched a group of workmen drive posts  for a new boardwalk across the dunes. 

The problem? The men had put the posts in the wrong place and at the wrong depth. I knew this because I could see the string marking the edges of the deck from my balcony. The men knew this because they kept consulting the plans for the boardwalk.

Then the crew set to work to ‘fix’ the mistake. 

They installed other posts a few inches inside the boundary to match the misplaced ones. 

They cut one post down a few more inches so it set at the ‘right’ height. 

Feb. 8-After the reset
They brought in a Ditch Witch and spent an afternoon, scooping out sand, piling up sand, and tearing up the dune.

On the third day, the foreman showed up. He took one look at the posts and lost his ever-loving mind. I think he cussed for an hour. Then the crew set to work digging up the posts, re-surveying the site, and setting new posts in place.

My current WIP is a lot like that darn boardwalk. I was no more than one-quarter of the way into it when I knew it wasn’t working. But I thought I could fix it in post. After all, I have eight novels under my belt, I know how to make running changes and tweak a scene to go from meh to whoa!

But not this story. A year later—and after several author friends gently scolded me for letting it get into such shape—I dug out the posts (characters) and resurveyed the landscape (plot) and started all over. I moved my heroine' journey of recovery up six months so her internal issues were about trust and starting over rather than constant pain and physical therapy. I remove one major arc of my hero's story because I couldn't kill off both of his parents, which opened the doors to changing the fate of my villain. He gets his comeuppance in a most satisfying way now.

Feb 12
The story is flowing better, the characters are sparking and conflicting, and the writing is fun again. But I lost a good six months to stubbornness. What were the signs the story was failing? Simple:
  • inconsistent conflict
  • sputtering sexual chemistry
  • no emotional reaction from me as I wrote

What about you? 

Have you ever tried to ‘fix’ a story or scene, knowing it was wrong from the first sentence but not wanting to go back to the foundations?

How did it work?

Keena Kincaid writes historical romances in which passion, magic and treachery collide to create unforgettable stories. If you want to know more about her as an author or looking for a Christmas gift idea, visit her Facebook page or her Amazon page.

Feb. 13

Feb. 16

Monday, February 19, 2018


The Hornitos jail, or Calabozo, on High Road in the town of Hornitos, California, was probably built in 1851. It was constructed of heavy stone blocks quarried and transported from nearby hills by Chinese labor. The three-foot-thick walls rest on solid bedrock. A huge iron ring is embedded in center of floor and other iron rings are affixed to the walls for shackling prisoners. 

Chinese coolies were employed to quarry native granite in the nearby hills, cart the blocks to High Street and begin construction of the town jail. Erected flush against a guardhouse, the stone jail was built solidly, the walls measure fourteen by fourteen feet square and are over two feet thick, as visible around the massive iron door which was imported from England. The two tiny windows, each one foot square, were located on opposite walls to allow a nice cross breeze. 

In order to better secure the prisoners, a huge iron ring was embedded in the center of the floor to which they could be chained “low down.” And for those more dangerous felons, iron rings were located in each corner for securing the leg irons of the shackled miscreants. The jail may seem small, but it was only used to hold prisoners, generally overnight, until the local Justice of the Peace heard the case. If the prisoner was to be held for trial, he would then be transferred to the jail in Mariposa.

The only recorded escape from the Hornitos Jail took place during the early 1860’s. A member of a local gang of horse thieves was caught, thrown into the jail and attached to the iron ring in the center of the floor. That night, the outlaw’s compadres overpowered the two guards and concealed themselves in the old guardhouse. Working through the night, with the aid of crowbars, picks, hammers, rope, and a horse, they succeeded in removing one of the granite blocks of the jail. Crawling through the hole, one of the gang chiseled the prisoner loose and they rode off into the night, to return to their sordid life of crime.

Nothing in my research mentions the window that appears to have been filled in by matching rock blocks. However, in this 1922 photo, there is no evidence of there having originally been a window in front. 

The other story of note about the old stone jail reveals the rampant racism that persisted at that time. During the 1860’s, Hornitos was home to a large Chinese population, many of whom were engaged in reworking the abandoned claims in the area. One such miner was known as China John. While working on his claim each morning, a group of young boys gathered about him to harass him and throw rocks at him day after day. Finally, China John had reached the end of his patience. He drew a battered pistol from his pocket and fired into the side of a hill to frighten the boys away.

Unfortunately, the shot struck a stone in the hill, ricocheted and hit one of the boys in the leg. The boys scattered, screaming, and China John was glued to the spot, horrified by what he had done. Nearby miners raced to the scene, grabbed China John and dragged him back towards the plaza. Even though the graze was little more than a scratch, an angry mob, infuriated by the news that a Chinaman had shot a white boy, quickly gathered and men began looking for a rope.

About the time the men were about to hang China John, several town officials appeared and were able to quiet them down. They were assured there would be a trail the following day, followed by a hanging. The mob broke up and the prisoner was taken to the stone jail. He was not considered dangerous, so China John was not shackled to the floor.

Late that night, a group of men stealthily approached the jail. Drawing their guns, several men entered the guardhouse, surprising and tying up the guard; but the keys were nowhere to be found. Even though there was no way into the jail, they were determined to hang China John.

The next morning China John was found lying on the floor in a pool of blood, beneath the small, barred window, the hangman’s noose knotted around his neck. Somehow the men had lured him to the window where they grabbed him and the noose was slipped over his head and pulled tight against his throat. Then with repeated jerks and pulls on the rope, China John’s brains were bashed out against the rock wall. Even for Hornitos, this was a brutal murder which shocked the citizens upon its discovery. Those responsible were never brought to justice. The evidence of this vicious crime remained visible for many years in the form of bloodstains on the wall of the jail until in 1902 a coating of lime was applied to the inside walls covering the stains from view.

The plaque over the door of the jail reads:

To remember the Hornitos Calabozo's welcome to the 1854 brethren "Credo Quia Absurdum"

Dedicated by the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus
May 8, 1954

Oredo Quia Absurdum translates to “Since believes it is absurd.”

In 1961, a Historic American Buildings Survey reported the jail was being used as a museum with Frank Salazar, grandson of the one of the earliest Hornitos settlers as curator. Today, it empty and locked up. Only a sign shares its history with curious tourists.


Anyone who has not yet read my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series yet which takes place just on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Hornitos, now would be a good time to start. You may find the first book in the series, Big Meadow Valentine, by CLICKING HERE.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Favorite western movies? I’ve got a few. But if I had to choose, I think it would have to be The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

This Hollywood classic, starring John Wayne as Tom Doniphon, Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance, Vera Miles as Hallie Ericson, and Jimmy Stewart as Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard has just about everything a western cinema fan could hope for: action, romance, right-over-might…and an unforgettable theme song.

Dorothy M. Johnson’s short story was made into a movie in 1962. It’s one of my oldest “movie” memories, as I was five years old when it made the rounds to the movie theaters and drive-ins.

Here’s the description of the movie according to Wickipedia:b>

Elderly U.S. Senator Ransom "Ranse" Stoddard and his wife Hallie arrive by train in the small western town of Shinbone, to attend the funeral of an apparent nobody, a local rancher named Tom Doniphon. Prior to the funeral, Hallie goes off with a friend to visit a burned-down house with obvious significance to her. As they pay their respects to the dead man at the undertaker's establishment, the senator is interrupted with a request for a newspaper interview. Stoddard grants the request.

As the interview with the local reporter begins, the film flashes back several decades as Stoddard reflects on his first arrival at Shinbone by stagecoach to establish a law practice.

A gang of outlaws, led by gunfighter Liberty Valance, hold up the stagecoach. Stoddard is brutally beaten, left for dead and later rescued by Doniphon. Stoddard is nursed back to health by restaurant owner Peter Ericson (John Qualen), his wife Nora (Jeanette Nolan) and daughter Hallie. It later emerges that Hallie is Doniphon's love interest.

Shinbone's townsfolk are regularly menaced by Valance and his gang. Cowardly local marshal Link Appleyard (Andy Devine) is ill prepared and unwilling to enforce the law. Doniphon is the only local courageous enough to challenge Valance's lawless behavior.

"You, Liberty...I said YOU pick it up..."

On one occasion, Doniphon even intervenes on Stoddard's behalf, when Valance publicly humiliates the inept Easterner. Valance trips Stoddard who is waiting tables at Peter's restaurant. Stoddard spills Doniphon's order causing Doniphon to intervene. Valance stands down and leaves. Doniphon tells Stoddard he needs to either leave the territory or buy a gun. Stoddard says he will do neither.

Stoddard is an advocate for justice under the law, not man. He earns the respect and affection of Hallie when he offers to teach her to read after he discovers, to her embarrassment, she's had no formal education. Stoddard's influence on Hallie and the town is further evidenced when he begins a school for the townspeople with Hallie's help. But, secretly, Stoddard borrows a gun and practices shooting.

Doniphon shows Stoddard his plans for expanding his house in anticipation of marrying Hallie, and reminds him that Hallie is his girl. Doniphon gives Stoddard a shooting lesson but humiliates him by shooting a can of paint which spills on Stoddard's suit. Doniphon warns that Valance will be just as devious, but Stoddard hits him in the jaw and leaves.

In Shinbone, the local newspaper editor-publisher Dutton Peabody (Edmond O'Brien) writes a story about local ranch owners' opposition to the territory's potential statehood. Valance convinces the ranchers that if they will hire him, he can get elected as a delegate to represent the cattlemen's interest. Shinbone's residents meet to elect two delegates to send to the statehood convention at the territorial capital. Valance attempts to bully the townspeople into electing him as a delegate. Eventually, Stoddard and Peabody are chosen. Valance assaults and badly beats Peabody after Peabody publishes two unflattering articles about Valance and his gang. The villains destroy Peabody's office. Valance also calls Stoddard out for a duel later in the evening after Valance loses his bid for delegate. Valance leaves saying "Don't make us come and get you!" Doniphon tells Stoddard he should leave town and even offers to have his farmhand, Pompey, escort him. But when Stoddard sees that Peabody has been nearly beaten to death, he calls out Valance. Stoddard then retrieves a carefully wrapped gun from under his bed and heads toward the saloon where Valance is. Valance hears he has been called out and justifies going out in self-defense. His wins his last poker hand before the duel with Aces and Eights.


In the showdown, Valance toys with Stoddard by firing a bullet near his head and then wounding him in the arm, which causes Stoddard to drop his gun. Valance allows Stoddard to bend down and retrieve the gun. Valance then aims to kill Stoddard promising to put the next bullet "right between the eyes," when Stoddard fires and miraculously kills Valance with one shot to the surprise of everyone, including himself. Hallie responds with tearful affection. Doniphon congratulates Stoddard on his success, and notices how Hallie lovingly cares for Stoddard's wounds.

Sensing that he has lost Hallie's affections, Doniphon gets drunk in the saloon and drives out Valance's gang, who have been calling for Stoddard to be lynched for Valance's "murder." The barman tries to tell Doniphon's farmhand Pompey (Woody Strode) that he cannot be served (due to his race), to which Doniphon angrily shouts: "Who says he can't? Pour yourself a drink, Pompey." Pompey instead drags Doniphon home, where the latter sets fire to an uncompleted bedroom he was adding to his house in anticipation of marrying Hallie. The resulting fire destroys the entire house.

Stoddard is hailed as "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and based on this achievement, is nominated as the local representative to the statehood convention. Stoddard is reluctant to serve based upon his notoriety for killing a man in a gunfight. At this point, in a flashback within the original flashback, Doniphon tells Stoddard that it was he (Doniphon), hidden across the street, who shot and killed Valance in cold blood, and not Stoddard in self-defense. Stoddard finds Doniphon and asks him why he shot Valance. He did it for Hallie, he says, because he understood that "she's your girl now". Doniphon encourages Stoddard to accept the nomination: "You taught her to read and write, now give her something to read and write about!"

Stoddard returns to the convention and is chosen as representative. He marries Hallie and eventually becomes the governor of the new state. He then becomes a two term U.S. senator, then the American ambassador to Great Britain, a U.S. senator again, and at the time of Doniphon's funeral is the favorite for his party's nomination as vice president.

The film returns to the present day and the interview ends. The newspaper man, understanding now the truth about the killing of Valance, burns his notes stating: "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

"Hallie, who put the cactus rose on Tom's coffin?"

Stoddard and Hallie board the train for Washington, melancholy about the lie that led to their prosperous life. With the area becoming more and more civilized, Stoddard decides, to Hallie's delight, to retire from politics and return to the territory to set up a law practice. When Stoddard thanks the train conductor for the train ride and the many courtesies extended to him by the railroad, the conductor says, "Nothing's too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!" Upon hearing the comment, Stoddard and his wife stare off thoughtfully into the distance.

As a side note, one of the many reasons this film holds a special place in my heart is because I remember it as being the first time I made the connection between a scene onscreen representing a flashback. Remember the “flashback within a flashback” that the Wikipedia article mentions? The smoke from John Wayne’s cigarette moves and flows to take over the screen as he tells Jimmy Stewart, “You didn’t kill Liberty Valance. Think back…” That smoke took us back to the truth of what had happened, and my five-year-old brain was shocked—and enamored, even then, with the idea that time passage, or remembrances could be shown through the haze of cigarette smoke. It was the moment of truth for Ransom Stoddard.

For me, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance embodies the core of the west—good and evil, and how sometimes “the point of a gun was the only law”—and it all depended on the man who held the weapon.

Liberty represented the purest evil. Ranse was determined to fight him with the law he treasured—the desire to do things the legal way blinding him to the fact that Liberty didn’t respect that. In the beginning, his naivete is almost painful to watch, providing Liberty some rich entertainment. Though Tom finds it amusing, his growing respect for Ranse’s perseverance is portrayed to perfection by that familiar downward glance of John Wayne’s. Accompanied by the half-smile and his slow advice-giving drawl, the character of Tom Doniphon is drawn so that by the point at which he sees the handwriting on the wall and burns down the house he built for Hallie, the viewer’s sympathy shifts, briefly, to the circumstances Tom finds himself in.

But Ranse is determined to vanquish Valance one way or the other—with a lawbook or a gun—whatever it takes. In the final showdown, the lines of resignation are etched in Tom Doniphon’s face, and we know he is honor-bound to do the thing he’ll regret forever: save Ranse Stoddard’s life and lose Hallie to him.

I love the twist. Ranse truly believes he’s killed Valance. Again, to do the honorable thing, Tom tells him the truth about what really happened.

What do you think? If you were Ranse, would you want to know you really were not the man who shot Liberty Valance? Or would you want to be kept in the dark? If you were Tom, would you have ever told him? It’s a great movie!

Now you can sing along!


When Liberty Valance rode to town the womenfolk would hide, they'd hide
When Liberty Valance walked around the men would step aside
'cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood
When it came to shootin' straight and fast---he was mighty good.

>From out of the East a stranger came, a law book in his hand, a man
The kind of a man the West would need to tame a troubled land
'cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood
When it came to shootin' straight and fast---he was mighty good.

Many a man would face his gun and many a man would fall
The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all.

The love of a girl can make a man stay on when he should go, stay on
Just tryin' to build a peaceful life where love is free to grow
But the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood
When the final showdown came at last, a law book was no good.

Alone and afraid she prayed that he'd return that fateful night, aww that night
When nothin' she said could keep her man from goin' out to fight
>From the moment a girl gets to be full-grown the very first thing she learns
When two men go out to face each other only one retur-r-r-ns

Everyone heard two shots ring out, a shot made Liberty fall
The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all.

The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance
He was the bravest of them all.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

New Release — ADDIE AND THE GUNSLINGER and ANGEL AND THE COWBOY by Celia Yeary — @PrairieRosePubs

Ex-gunslinger Jude Morgan lands in jail in a far-flung West Texas town. On the fourth day, the sheriff ushers in a beautiful woman dressed in men’s pants and toting her own six-shooter. Adriana Jones claims he is her worthless husband who married her, but never came home.

The young woman makes a bargain with Jude in front of the sheriff. Jude is to come home where he belongs, and she will have him released. Once they’re alone, she explains his job is to pose as her husband to thwart the marriage advances of her neighbor, wealthy rancher Horace Caruthers. The older man wants her ranch to join with his; the Pecos River runs through her property.

To seal the bargain, Jude wants a kiss. During the next few weeks, however, Jude and Addie learn that the kiss meant more than they intended. Then, when Addie's life is in danger, will Jude rescue his Addie? Or will Addie save herself and her gunslinger?


     As he stood and hitched up his loose pants, he watched the sheriff walk down the corridor toward him and the jailer. The man himself was nothing to look at. Skinny as a rail and strutting along like he owned the world. Damn, he hated the law.
     Instead, he riveted his attention on the woman trailing the man with the silver star on his chest.
     That is one good-looking woman.
     He watched her stride down the slanted corridor, her long legs encased in men's pants, boots fit to kill, and a Colt strapped around her firm, rounded hips. She'd pulled back her dark hair into a severe bun at the base of her long, smooth neck. With her black hat in her left hand, she slapped it on her leg once, twice as she neared the cell.
    "This him?" asked the sheriff, as he turned and looked directly at her.
     She looked right into Jude's eyes and cursed. The tall, slender woman actually let out a string of words he'd never heard a woman utter in all twenty-four years of his life. He wanted to laugh, because her voice was sort of soft and sweet, but she tried with all her might to sound tough, calling him every name in the book. Who the hell was she?
     She glanced at Jude. "That's him, all right, Sheriff. I'm sure grateful you kept him for me a few days. Otherwise, I'd be traipsing all over the country trying to find him."
     "Morgan, you have anything to say to your missus, here?"
     Jude's mouth went dry, and he tried to figure out exactly what he was to say. She saved him, though, because she began to rant and rave. Placing one hand that held the hat on a hip, she pointed with the other hand straight at him.

He needs a wife…Because the sheriff summons him, U.S. Marshal Max Garrison rides to town. He resents learning he must supervise a young man just out of prison who will work at his ranch for a time. But when he meets the beautiful young woman who owns the teashop, he knows his trip is not wasted. Max decides she's the one for him.

She faces another lonely Christmas…Daniella Sommers lives alone above the book and teashop her English parents left her. When U.S. Marshal Max Garrison walks in and asks for tea, she almost laughs. Soon, her merriment turns to hope. Then Daniella learns a shocking truth about herself. If she reveals her past, will Max still love her?

Christmas is near, the time for miracles and surprises. Will the message of the season bring Max and Daniella the best gift of all?


     The big man stumbled, and then chased after Diego. She jumped up, whirled about, and scurried up the alley. Back doors opened, people looked out, and the golden glow of lanterns lit the ground, creating scary patterns, wavering over barrels and crates and piles of garbage.

     Under the small back porch of the bookshop, a small space waited for her. She dropped to her knees and crawled under, into the hidey-hole Diego had scraped out, just big enough for her to curl into a ball and rest her head on her arm. She shivered with fear. Would Diego come back to take her home?
     After some time, a soft, small hand reached in, and the sweet sound of a woman's voice said, "Here, child, take my hand. Don't be afraid. Come with me, now."
     She crawled out. The pretty woman knelt in front of her and held her arms.
     A man said, "Who is she, Beatrice?"
     "The little urchin, Edward. The one who follows her brother around in the alley. She can't be much more than four years old."
     "Ask her name," he said.
     "What is your name, sweetheart?"
     As Diego had taught her, she whispered, "Angel."


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mail-Order Mix-up - Valentine's Day story by Kaye Spencer – February #blogabookscene #PrairieRosePubs @PrairieRosePubs

The theme for February's #blogabookscene is All You Need is Love. So what better day to blog about love than on Valentine's Day? Cheryl Pierson blogged on February 10th about love letters [HERE],  so I'm continuing with that topic in my excert below, which is from my novelette, Mail-Order Mix-Up, which is included in Prairie Rose Publications' western romance Valentine's Day-themed anthology, Lariats, Letters, and Lace.

Long before the instant gratification of telephone calls, texts, and emails, letter writing and sending telegrams were the means by which people communicated when distance and separation prevented face-to-face interactions. So much history is preserved in letters. As an author, I often use the lengthy time between the sending of a letter to the receiving of that letter to create misunderstandings and relationship complications.

This excerpt is the letter that three young and well-meaning, but meddling granddaughters write to a stranger. The girls decided their widower Grandpa Dale needs a wife, because they want a grandma. This is the truncated version of the letter.

Dear Mrs. Irene Maxon,

My name is Meredith Forbes, and I live in a town along the South Platte River in Colorado called Platte River City. I live in a big, two-story house with my mama Ginny, my pa Joe, my younger sisters Violet and Beryl, and my Grandpa Dale. I am writing to you because we three sisters have chosen you from the mail-order bride catalog called the ‘Matrimony Courier’ to marry our grandpa and to be our new grandma. Our first grandma died before Beryl was born, and Violet and I were too little to remember her, so you see, we’ve all been without a grandma for a long time. Our other grandma lives too far away in California to visit us much, and we’ve only traveled to see her once that I can remember, and that was two years ago.

The photograph is us girls with Grandpa from last winter. I’m the tall one standing beside Grandpa, Violet is on the other side, and Beryl is sitting on his knee. You can see how handsome Grandpa is. He hardly has any wrinkles, and his hair is only a little gray. He is 52 years old, but he is strong and healthy, so I hope you don’t think he’s too old. He’s so strong that he can lift Violet and Beryl at the same time and carry them around when he plays horse...

Since it takes Grandpa a long time to make big decisions and taking a new wife is a big decision, doing all the work to find him a wife is our secret surprise present for him. There’s another mail-order bride living here. She’s the grandma to our friends Lydia and Clara Jean. Maybe you and her will become friends. I hope so, because she’s a nice lady.

Last summer on parade day, Grandpa said he’d like to get married again and that he’d even buy a new suit, polish his boots, and get a haircut and shave at the barbershop for the wedding. So, you see, he’s been thinking about getting married again, but we have to help him make up his mind, or he mightn’t make up his mind at all.

We hope you haven’t already found a husband. It took a lot longer than I thought it would to get a catalog, save up enough money, and then be able to send you this letter all without anyone knowing...
So, you see, this is the only letter we’d better send, and you can’t send a letter back, because then the whole town will know, and all this will be ruined, and we’ll never have another chance to have a grandma. Grandpa will say no to getting married for sure, and that will make us very sad for him and for us and for you.

I’m sorry if this letter is too long, but getting the right wife for Grandpa Dale is really important to us. So, please, please, please come to Platte River City soon to meet Grandpa and all the family. We’re hoping you’ll come here by Christmas, and if you don’t make it by Valentine’s Day, we’ll know you already found a husband. If that happens, we’ll try again to order another grandma when we save up some more money. We think you are a nice lady, and you’re pretty, so we hope you find a happy life even if you don’t come here and marry our grandpa...

P. S. We hope you like to dance. Grandpa sure is happy when he dances.

It certainly is a Mail-Order Mix-Up when Irene shows up on Dale's doorstep.

Lariats, Letters, and Lace anthology is available on
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The Blog-a-Book-Scene theme for March is Beware the Ides of March.

Until then,

Kaye Spencer

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