Blog Archives

Nellie Bly vs. Ellie Blair–the Gals Behind Mail-Order Deception

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Nellie in Mexico

Nellie Bly (AKA Elizabeth Jane Cochran) is the young gal who put the word “intrepid” in the phrase “intrepid reporter.” At the age of 18, when most women were still working as domestic technicians, this firebrand had a job working for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, reporting on the horrible working conditions of women in factories. When that got her in trouble with factory owners, the paper moved her over to nice feminine topics like fashion, society, gardening…

MOD Uh, yeah. Disgusted with such boring stories, she went to Mexico for a bit and reported on life there. Her dispatches about the government got her in trouble with the country’s dictator and she had to flee the country. Not long after this, she made the big time in New York City after feigning insanity and spending ten days in a madhouse. Now, that’s intrepid. But Nellie wasn’t done. She then made her legendary jaunt around the world in 72 days in 1889-90.

Now here’s the rub and how it ties in with my story, Mail-Order Deception. Nellie was on fire; she was unstoppable. Her curiosity was insatiable. One would think she would have been the intrepid reporter on into her golden years.

But, nay, this was not the case. In 1895, at the age of 31, Nellie married Robert Seaman, a wealthy industrialist some 40 years her senior. She left journalism for over two decades to tend to him and help run his business. It was only after bankruptcy that she fell back on journalism and covered much of WWI. But it seemed her passion had wained.

Passion, like a fuse, burns out. Especially when you have the chance to experience something real and lasting like true love. Everything else will pale in comparison. Colors dull. Thrills fade. Nellie and my character of Ellie learned a very important lesson about life–you can’t go it alone. No matter how intrepid you are. Love is the only thing that gives life meaning.

Don’t you agree?

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Author Lydia Cameron, God, Starbucks and Me

I was so honored to get a chance to share some random thoughts yesterday with fellow-author Lydia Cameron over on her blog. I hope you’ll check it out. I mean, really, can you ever talk too much about God and coffee and writing?

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And be sure to say hello!

 

Yes, A Promise in Defiance is a Bit of a Tear-Jerker but…

2016-04-12 13.52.58 I wrote A Promise in Defiance (which is on sale right now for only .99–regularly $4.49) with one scene in mind–the main character dying in the street. And I find it really interesting how the Holy Spirit led the whole book to that moment! I mean, it just worked out perfectly. And while the story wraps up with hope and redemption, I like how I left a few characters with some unanswered questions–meaning, waiting to hear from God on some issues, because, as it turns out, by popular demand, there is a Book 4.

In honor of A Promise in Defiance being on sale today, I thought I’d share a snippet of one of my favorite scenes with you. It’s hard to do, b/c there are so many plot twists in A Promise, it’s difficult to avoid SPOILERS! But here ya go:

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Leaning on the bar, Delilah listened for a moment to the sounds that had played in the background of most of her life: men muttering, laughing, cursing; the slap of cards and the triumphant cry over a winning hand; the jangle of chips being dragged across the felt; a tinny piano belting out a lively tune. Beneath it all, the sultry voices of her girls issuing their siren’s call.

Only the saloon of The Crystal Chandelier was open. The theater was still a week away from its first show. The men didn’t mind too much. From the moment she had flung open her doors, the crowd had been steady and strong. The girls in their cribs were producing well. She flipped through the papers in front of her, covered in names and numbers, tallies at the bottom. Yes, they were turning a nice profit.

The upstairs girls here in the saloon would begin receiving callers Saturday night. The Celestial Flowers, however, were destined for her auction. In the meantime, all these little ladies were working the floor, advertising their potential, but serving drinks only. The tease never failed to have the men queuing up for opening night.

“What’s the matter, Big Jim? You look a little down.”

Delilah didn’t look over at Mary Jean addressing a customer, but the softness in the girl’s voice intrigued her, and she continued listening.

“Ah, I ain’t down.”

From the corner of her eye, Delilah saw the big man in a sheepskin vest drop his two bits on the counter.

“I was thinkin’ about that Preacher.”

Mary Jean poured Big Jim a shot and took his money. “Thinkin’ ’bout what?”

“I’m still rankled about that mess on his door. Whoever did that’ll try somethin’ new. Tomorrow is Sunday. I was pondering staying sober and seein’ if I might catch me a scat-smearin’ coward sometime tonight.”

“Coward?” Smith’s voice. He had slipped up on the other side of Big Jim.

“Smith.” Big Jim’s tone turned hard. “I don’t reckon you had anything to do with the “paint” left on the Preacher’s door? Sounds like somethin’ you’d do.”

“You callin’ me a coward?”

The two men faced each other.

“That’s enough, boys.” Delilah did not deign to look up. “No fightin’ in my place. You know the rules. All fights go to the ring out back.”

Silence stretched out for a moment. Delilah did wonder between these two, who was the toughest. By all accounts, Smith was the meanest and sometimes that was more than enough to win a fight.

“You’d best be careful, Smith.” Big Jim tossed back his drink, set the glass down, and stomped away. Mary Jean took his glass and hurried away to the dry sink behind the bar, as if to avoid Smith.

“Did you do that?” Delilah asked still without looking up. “Have you no better morals than to desecrate a house of God?”

“It was just a little warning of what’s coming his way.”

“Leave the Preacher alone for a bit. Make a little trouble for McIntyre. I don’t care how you get to him, just make him suffer.”

“That’s his foreman sittin’ over there in the corner. I heard him say McIntyre’s got a herd of two thousand head comin’ in tomorrow. Guess he wants to be a big cattle baron.”

This could be useful information. “How many men in the crew?”

“Didn’t ask. Probably at least twenty.”

“Free drinks for all of them when they come in the first night.” Delilah turned and scanned the crowd, looking for the foreman. “Where’s McIntyre’s man?”

Smith chucked a thumb over his shoulder. “Dusty fella, sitting under the lantern.”

“Mary Jean,” Delilah called without looking at the girl, “bring me a bottle and two glasses.” She handed her receipts to Smith. “Put these on my desk upstairs. Mr. Foreman over there looks like he could use a bath . . . and a friend.”

***

Want to read more? Get your copy of A Promise in Defiance today while it’s only .99, regularly $4.49!

Oh, and hey, if/when you read A Promise, please leave me a review! I sure would appreciate it!

 

Who’s Your Daddy? The Question Every Shawnee Should Ask Before Abducting A Young Lady

I learned something today in my research into those feisty pioneer women that I just had to share. I knew that the Daniel Day-Lewis movie Last of the Mohicans was based on James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name. What I didn’t know was that the story of white girls kidnapped by Indians was based on the actual event experienced by Jemima Boone, who was rescued by her legendary father, Daniel.

Capture of Jemima Boone

It’s a safe bet the Shawnee thought two young girls alone in a canoe were easy pickings. Hence, they received a good lesson in why a young man should always ask a young lady, “Who’s your daddy?”

The following short article is from a longer History.com article entitled 7 of the Gutsiest Women on the American Frontier. I’ve blogged about nearly all the women on the list but somehow missed Jemima. You should read the whole thing, it’s quite entertaining, but here’s my favorite part:

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The Hollywood version of the Boones

Rebecca Boone wasn’t the only formidable female in Daniel Boone’s family. His daughter Jemima earned her own spot in the history books on July 14, 1776. That’s when a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding group abducted Jemima, aged 14, along with two other girls while they floated in a canoe near their Kentucky settlement. Demonstrating their own knowledge of frontier ways, the quick-witted teens left trail markers as their captors took them away—bending branches, breaking off twigs and leaving behind leaves and berries.

Their rescue team, led by Daniel Boone himself, took just two days to follow the trail and retrieve the girls. The rescuers included Flanders Callaway, Samuel Henderson and Captain John Holder, each of whom later married one of the kidnapped girls. This event became such an integral part of frontier lore, author James Fenimore Cooper included it in his classic novel The Last of the Mohicans.

Ah, those ladies in defiance. How their legends live on.

In Defiance of Failure. Trust God and Fish or Cut Bait…

Last time, if you will recall, I related that in back in 2000 I had started writing A Lady in Defiance and my computer crashed.

Several thousand words into the story I lost ALL of it.

Well, I had my hands full with a baby. I shrugged and thought I would probably come back to the story one day. If it wasn’t dead and buried for good. Maybe God would resurrect it…Who knew?

Fast forward to 2007.

I took a job working for a vanity press doing author promotions. One day at a book signing, I was watching the author talk about his story and the thought came to me, “I can do this.” Meaning, write a book. I didn’t know anything about plot structure, character arcs, POVs, but I had to write. It felt almost like a compulsion.

The story of three sisters stranded in a lawless mining town roared back to life in my brain. I dove in and had the first draft finished in March of ‘08, mere weeks before the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

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Only, my first attendance was in 2008

I honestly don’t even know who suggested I attend a writers conference. I’d never given it any thought and I’d never heard of this one. It was (and still is) held in Black Mountain, NC though, and I was up for any excuse to visit my mountains.

When I looked into it, I discovered that I could have a critique done on my first 30 pages by a seasoned professional writer, and even pitch the story to editors and agents! The possibilities were exciting and terrifying. I told my boys–five, eight, and forty-seven at the time–that I had no idea what to expect or even pray for. I just knew there was an adventure waiting.

I remember my eight-year-old said the most interesting thing then. He said, “It’s like that scene from Indiana Jones when he steps out into thin air. But there’s really a bridge there to catch him.”

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Wow. That’s called a Leap of Faith. And what a picture of how God holds us up and leads us. Instantly I knew I was supposed to go to this conference.

It turned out to be a life-changing event.

More next time…

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Don’t miss out on this chance to get some FREE books!

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Time is running out!

Pick an author from this fabulous group, sign up for her insanely interesting newsletter, and you will receive a FREE book. Sign up for as many as you like. I’ve included one of my favorite stories as a giveaway. Grace be a Lady is just too incredible to be based on a real person! And the other authors in the group are:

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Of Popcorn and Prostitutes

I didn’t expect the research for A Lady in Defiance to break my heart.

If you have read my Defiance books, you know I’ve gone to great pains to bring the old west mining town of Defiance to life. Those “great pains” were hours of research. Admittedly, since I’m a history freak, I enjoyed most of it.

Some of it, not so much. Here’s what I didn’t enjoy: learning just how awful the lives of prostitutes in these lawless towns were.

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While disease was the number one cause of death, the number two cause was customer violence. But get this: one report I read said that partner suicide was statistically valid. Meaning, the number of girls who made suicide pacts was not nominal. When life got so awful, so unbearable, many soiled doves agreed to end their lives together.

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In Telluride at the height of the silver boom, there was one street in the red light district where the doors swung open and shut so fast it was nicknamed Popcorn Alley.

Think about that for a second.

In A Lady in Defiance, there is a scene in which a soiled dove opens the Bible and learns how Jesus dealt with a woman accused of adultery. I literally cried writing that part. I cried over my character finding hope…and over all the real prostitutes who never did.

Today, I pray for all the innocents abducted and forced into this lifestyle. Seems we’ve come full circle. Or, more accurately, outdone ourselves. Today, human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms. It will surpass the illegal sale of drugs in the next few years. Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.

A hundred years ago, the citizenry rose up and ran brothels out of business either by force or by electing politicians who fined such houses out of existence. Today, all we seem to want to do is tear down Confederate statutes and blame each other for slavery that happened a hundred-plus years ago.

Here’s a thought: let’s turn our energy to something more positive. Let’s deal with today’s modern problem of sex trafficking and slavery and save some of the men, women, and children who have been forced into this horrid lifestyle.A Lady in Defiance by Heather Blanton

Just my politically incorrect two cents.

(Check out https://arkofhopeforchildren.org/child-trafficking/child-trafficking-statistics)

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By the way, A Lady in Defiance is on sale right now for only .99 if you’d like to pick up a copy!

 

 

 

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I did not want my precious readers to miss out on this very special promotion! Read on…

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Christian historical romance author?

Pick an author from this fabulous group, sign up for her insanely interesting newsletter, and you will receive a FREE book. Sign up for as many as you like. I’ve included one of my favorite stories as a giveaway. Grace be a Lady is just too incredible to be based on a real person! And the other authors in the group are:

Lynnette Bonner <> Kari Trumbo <> Mary Lu Tyndall <> Dorothy Adamek <> Lisa Prysock <> Sondra Kraak <> Stephenia H. McGee <> Angela Breidenbach

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Go get your FREE books here!

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.

 

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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.

 

For more discussions, exclusive content, first looks, giveaways, contests, and just plain fun, I hope you’ll consider signing up for my newsletter. We have a lot of fun! 

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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