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Pen Names–In Defiance of Compromise

I’m not afraid to wade into controversy, but I was a little surprised by the passionate reactions to a question I asked on social media yesterday about using pen names.

 

penn

 

My original post went like this: Recently I was discussing pen names with a fellow author. She thinks they are fine and give an author leeway to write in different genres without losing fans or confusing them. Ooooookay. My argument is too many authors nowadays seem to use pen names to play both sides of the moral fence. Specifically, if an author is a follower of Christ shouldn’t everything they write reflect that world view–if not the Gospel–no matter the genre or pen name?

Read that last sentence again. If an author is a follower of Christ shouldn’t everything they write reflect that world view–if not the Gospel–no matter the genre or pen name?

My answer to the question is simply, yes. Reflect it. Not necessarily preach it, hammer it, shout it or even mention Jesus by name. But write a story that is grounded in a Biblical worldview.

If an author is a follower of Christ shouldn’t everything they write reflect that world view–if not the Gospel–no matter the genre or pen name?

I am seeing too many authors using pen names to write, frankly, some pretty ungodly stuff. Sweet, clean novels posted and sold in Christian fiction circles, and the author actively works to develop a following of readers who like her work. Then that same author turns around, changes her name and writes some pretty steamy–even erotic–stuff, or other types of stories that DO NOT ultimately glorify God. I have a problem with this. I feel betrayed. Used. Lied to.

In the discussion over on one of the bigger Christian groups, folks were quick to point out that pen names serve a lot of purposes–they protect a writer’s private life, family details, security clearances, certain relationships. Also, some authors argue, they don’t want to offend a fan who likes them for one particular genre by accidentally pulling them into a book in a different genre. Therefore, different names are a signal this is a book in a different genre.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that I am the Pen Name Police. Yes, authors certainly CAN write in any genre. They SHOULD write in any genre. But if you call yourself a follower of Christ, it is my argument a reader should ALWAYS be able to expect certain values to be a foundation in your work–for example, your book shouldn’t condone or glorify sin of any kind. And THAT is the crux of my argument. Some of these pen names are simply being used to mask, obfuscate, hide the true heart of the author.

So, as far as my work goes, it may not always be pretty. Sometimes it will be gritty. Occasionally, I go outside my genre. Heck, my stories may not win any awards, but the rock beneath my keyboard is Christ. Period.

 

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And Just Who Might Fiery Naomi be Based On?

Last week I gave you some thoughts on who and what inspired my character of Charles McIntyre. This week, I’d like to dish on his forever-love and my favorite heroine, Naomi Frink Miller McIntyre introduced in A Lady in Defiance.

Heather_Blanton_Lady_Defiance The middle sister between Rebecca and Hannah, Naomi has been called a guard dog. She has the temperament and courage to confront threats to her sisters—albeit early on you could argue she didn’t have the wisdom. Through three books, though, she has grown in her faith and as a person. She has worked to get her temper under control and tame her tongue. Like all of us, sometimes she succeeds.

So from where did this fictional character spring? Originally, she was me. Literally, for the first couple of chapters, I was Naomi. While a touch embarrassing to admit, this is pretty common for authors writing their first book. But pretty quickly something interesting happened—Naomi developed a spirit of her own. Things began to happen to her that I knew I would react one way and Naomi would react another. She had come to life and become her own person. I found it startling and very cool.

It took me a while to figure out that no one character—historical or fictional—had spawned Naomi. She is an amalgamation. She is the young, determined wife of a fallen American soldier manning his cannon at the Battle of Monmouth (see my blog); she is the frontiersman’s wife whose temper the Cherokee so feared they named her War Woman (see my blog); she is the sassy young actress who wasn’t afraid of anything, not even the mud and snow of the Klondike (see my blog); she is the rancher’s wife who lived isolated and alone on the windswept Montana prairie (see my blog). The woman who did what she had to do to make a life for her loved ones. The woman who personified never give in, never back down, never lose faith.

Yeah, that’s Naomi.

Image result for reese witherspoon return  to lonesome dove

Reese Witherspoon

As far as looks, sure there was my blonde hair and green eyes, but when Naomi began to come to life, Reese Witherspoon fit the bill much better.

Diane Lane, who played Lorena in Lonesome Dove, had the right looks, too, but her character in that was kind of weak. Reese was in Return to Lonesome Dove and she played a sassy and impetuous gal. I will add, when cover designer Ravven took my notes and searched for the right model, she nailed it. The girl on the cover A lady in Defiance Hearts in Defiance is as close to Naomi as we can get. Unless someday we get Reese on the cover.

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Diane Lane

It could happen.

 

 

 

 

Who Were the Men Who Made Charles McIntyre?

angelbad

Quirt Evans

I often get asked if any of my characters are based on an actual person. Sometimes, they are, sometimes they’re straight out of my imagination. I thought it would be fun to share with you today who I saw in my head when I was writing one of my favorite and most popular characters, Charles McIntyre.

ALID_charles

Charles McIntyre

Who can resist a man running from love because he knows it will be his undoing? Think John Wayne’s classic character of Quirt Evans in Angel and the Bad Man. Well, Charles McIntyre is my sexy Southern scallywag (now mostly redeemed), lord of Defiance and the main man in my Defiance books. His character was born when I watched the movie The Harvey Girls. The actor who played opposite superstar Judy Garland in this flick was the up-and-coming John Hodiak.

hodiak

Ned Trent

Hodiak was one of the first to play a saloon owner AND bad boy redeemed by a good woman. Ned Trent was the name. Selling whiskey and women was his game.

Keeping these archetype characters in the back of my mind, I fell in love later on with Eric McCormack’s looks and portrayal of Clayton Mosby, entrepreneur, saloon owner, and bad boy in Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years. When I sat down to write the first Defiance book, A Lady in Defiance, these three characters and actors swirled in my head.

mosby

Clayton Mosby

 

Eventually, of course, HBO released the graphic and gritty western Deadwood. The ruggedly handsome English actor Ian McShane played Al Swearengen, an entrepreneur, saloon owner, and bad boy with apparently no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I only watched one episode of Deadwood and that was a good three or four years after I’d finished ALID. The profanity, violence, and sex in this show went waaaay beyond my limits, so I can honestly say there is no direct link between my McIntyre and Swearengen.

But I will say this for McShane’s character: Swearengen was exactly the kind of soulless villain Charles McIntyre was based on. And the darker the soul, the more amazing the transformation when light touches it.

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Al Swearengen

I adore those tough men brought to their knees by love. Charles McIntyre is my absolute hero. One reader called him swoon-worthy. I love that. He was unrepentantly cruel, selfish, violent but turned to jello in Naomi’s hands–because real love, both of a good woman and of a perfect Savior, cannot/will not leave a man unchanged.

The First Female Doctor in WY Wasn’t Well Received…by Women

Lilian Heath. Such a demure name.

She was anything but.

In the 1880s, Lilian’s pa got her a job assisting Dr. Thomas Maghee, the physician

Lilian Heath

Lilian Heath

in the wide-open railroad town of Rawlins, WY. A petite little thing still in high school, Lilian was pretty fearless, but not stupid. She dressed like a man and carried a .32 when she went on calls late at night. She and the doc did everything from delivering babies to reconstruct a man’s face after his failed suicide attempt.

The nursing position set Lilian’s destiny. She graduated high school, and, with her father’s blessing and Dr. Maghee’s recommendation, headed off to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa. She was one of only three women in the class. After completing her training, she returned to Rawlins to practice medicine and was well-received … by the menfolk. The women in town were another story. Catty, and jealous, they whispered behind her back, accused her of being a know-it-all, a few even refused to pay Lilian for services rendered. Lilian’s mother Calista wasn’t thrilled with the vocation either, believing her daughter had over-stepped her bounds as a woman.

Maybe, but if a man lay dying of a gunshot wound 30 or 40 miles away, Lilian put on her big girl breeches and made the ride.

Clearly, being a trained female physician was a bad thing, because you could, you know, save lives.

Lilian met her husband, Louis Nelson, in Rawlins and they were married in 1898. He was a painter and a decorator. Go figure. Lilian practiced medicine for fifteen years and then quietly retired, though she kept her medical license current much, much longer than that.

Unfortunately, you can’t read any article about Lilian that doesn’t mention her “connection” to an outlaw. In 1881, while Lilian was still in high school and a candy-striper, for all intents, Big Nose George Parrot was lynched for murdering a deputy. When no one claimed the body, Doctor Maghee stepped up. Curious to see if the bandit’s brain was somehow deformed, he dissected the man’s head, in the name of science. Lilian assisted with the autopsy and was given Big Nose George’s skull cap as a souvenir. She kept it for years, using it for everything from a doorstop to a pipe holder.

Reporters loved to mention that story as if it was her greatest achievement.

My guess is, there were a few members of the press she would have liked to use as doorstops.

But she didn’t let the claws or the snipes get to her. Lilian never gave in, never backed down, never lost faith. I say thanks for paving the way!

Changing a Book to Satisfy the Mob

Apparently, author Amélie Wen Zhao hasn’t heard the famous Lincoln quote: You can’t satisfy all of the people all of the time.

sad girl Amid the outcry of Snowflakes who thought she had treated the issue of slavery without enough sensitivity, the debut author asked her publisher to yank the release in June of Blood Heir so she could re-write some scenes.

As Publisher’s Weekly put it, “…particularly that a slave auction scene in Blood Heir was insensitive to POC readers due to the history of slavery in the U.S.”

Well, uh, I would suggest the mere historical FACT of slave auctions is pretty darn insensitive to POC (People of Color, if you’re not familiar with yet ANOTHER hip acronym).

This is a shame. The mob is telling this girl what to write and how to write it. And she caved. As did her publisher. As an author, you can probably imagine how much this bothers me. Where does it stop? Shall we run all our ideas by some PC filter group? Put some kind of warning on our books?

Here’s a thought: maybe we could just figure out who we’re writing for and keep that group happy. I know, crazy, right? Hitting our target reader. What a concept.

I’m sorry Amelie was ambushed by a virtual mob of “tolerant” liberals. I am sorry that she caved and won’t get to write the book she envisioned. That really does make me sad, but not just for her. Reading a book the way the writer saw the story is like sitting down to chat with a friend. It’s a personal experience. Her readers aren’t going to get that now.

As for me, well, I bet you can guess what I would say to a mob telling me how to write a book: don’t buy it.

My stories are written for folks who have at least passing respect for the Almighty, are okay with guns, happily salute the American flag, like fiery, determined heroines, long for a world that honors old-fashioned values like kindness and decency, and enjoy watching my flawed characters overcome steep odds. I’m pro-God, pro-gun, pro-life, pro-Bible, pro-US Constitution, and pro-freedom of speech.

Unapologetically. rooster

If any of these statements offend you–well, I must ask, what are you doing here? I’d love for you to read my books. I think most of them are pretty entertaining and inspiring. They’re really well rated on Amazon. But my world view isn’t changing for anybody.

 

 

 

 

The Woman Who Struck Fear into the Hearts of…Rattlesnakes

I couldn’t resist sharing this tale with y’all. I was doing a little research and stumbled across the story of  Kate McHale Slaughterback. Born in Longmont, CO in 1894, Kate was a pistol. By all accounts, she was strong-willed, independent, arguably surly, and she did not like to be told what to do. By anybody. Which may account for several failed marriages.

Perhaps headstrong to a fault, I can’t help but think this is the very flaw that saved her life and created her legend. You see, Mrs. Slaughterback came to be known as “Rattlesnake” Kate because she killed a few of the critters one afternoon–over 140 of them. One. Hundred. Forty.

As you might expect, the indpendent Kate could handle a gun. One afternoon she and her three-year-old son ventured down to a local pond. Some duck hunters had been there earlier and Kate thought she might have the chance to bag a wounded one for dinner. Walking back to her son and her horse, she noted a rattler crawling across her path and popped him with her .22. But another rattler appeared. And another. The ground literally started squirming with writhing, hissing, rattling snakes, scores of them, separating her from her little boy.

Kate shot rattlers until she ran out of ammo then she snatched up a sign (that supposedly read NO HUNTING) and went all Samson on the reptiles. For over two hours, she bludgeoned, kicked, stomped, and smashed snakes. Finally, she had a path open and made a beeline to her boy.

A neighbor noted her disheveled appearance when she returned home and she shared her story. Whether to prove the truth of it or gather up the skins, she and the neighbor returned to the site of the massacre. Color him appropriately impressed and he spread the story. The tale went viral, especially once the newspapers got hold of it, and like reporters were apparently compelled to do in those days, they gave Kate a moniker, dubbing her “Rattlesnake” Kate.

Kate was a skilled taxidermist and entrepreneur. Her fame allowed her to sell rattlesnake souvenirs, but she also made herself a dress out of the hides. Upon her death in Greely, CO in 1969, the garment was donated to the history museum there.

Now, I just want to say, what Kate did was crazy amazing. But as an arachnophobic, I can totally understand it. FEAR can make you insanely strong. If Kate was as afraid of snakes as I am of spiders, I can easily understand going whirling-dervish mad and killing snakes in a blind rage of fear and fury. And then you strand her child on the other side of the reptilian river? Oh, yeah, this is a Mama Grizzly story.

Can you imagine what she might have done if she’d had the jawbone of an ass?

Photo credit: 1987.32.0013A, City of Greeley Museums, Permanent Collection. Katherine Slaughterback with two strings of rattlesnakes, 1925. Photographer unknown.

She Was All Things to All Cheyenne

22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  1 Corinthians 9:22

Too often, the history of missionaries in America has been one of overriding a group’s identity to Christianize them. Capt. Richard Pratt said, referring to Native Americans in 1892, “Kill the Indian in him, save the man.” But I discovered a missionary who did it right and the Cheyenne loved her.

Marie Gerber Petter came to America from the Swiss Jura Mountains with her husband Rodolphe in 1890. The couple arrived with the express purpose of taking the Gospel to Native Americans. But first, they had to learn English and raise funds for their goal, which they did by visiting Mennonite churches in the mid-West.

In 1893, the couple moved to Cantonment, OK to live among the Cheyenne. Rodolphe and Marie were fluent in French, German, English, and Rodolphe could read Latin and Greek. Together, he and Marie began to learn Cheyenne. Their perseverance and passion for the language impressed the Cheyenne greatly. The Petter’s shared the Gospel but did not denigrate the Cheyenne religion in the process.

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Marie Gerber Petter (on the left), 1862-1910 and Rodolphe Petter (2nd on left) 1861-1947 Chief Mower seated next to Petter. In the Petter tent, Cantonment, Oklahoma

Instead, they tried to copy Paul’s example and be all things to all people.

When Marie realized the Cheyenne women had some amazing needlecraft and beadwork skills, she immediately set about creating sewing circles. A beautiful, nonconfrontational way to find common ground with the women in the tribe. They sewed together and spoke Cheyenne, the roles of teacher and student going back and forth. And Marie was an eager student. She was on fire to learn the language because she desperately wanted the Cheyenne to meet her Savior.

The Petters not only brought the Cheyenne the Gospel, but they also did the tribe a huge service by turning an oral language into written form. The couple produced a Cheyenne dictionary, a Cheyenne grammar book, two Cheyenne hymn books, a translation of John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress, the complete New Testament and a beginner’s guide for learning Cheyenne.

I found the following quote in the Chicago Community Mennonite archives that I thought summed up what this amazing couple accomplished for the Lord: “Lawrence Hart, Mennonite pastor and Cheyenne Chief has credited Petter with the preservation of the Cheyenne people.  When everything else was taken away (buffalo, deer, fishing streams, native arts and horses) [the] Petter[s] helped sustain a Cheyenne identity by preserving the language.  The Petters, wrote Chief Hart, are now viewed as Saints among the Cheyenne.”

Now, that’s how you spread the Gospel.

Marie and her husband served among the tribe for over twenty years, always respecting the culture and fighting assimilation, yet modeling the love of Jesus Christ in a way that is still winning Cheyenne souls to this day.

 

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