Blog Archives

Tearing Down Statues–In Defiance of Censorship

I believe writing historical fiction should mean being as reflective of the times as possible…NOT the current times

Or do you disagree?

Here in the South, we’ve lately had a spate of disgruntled, politically correct folks demanding that every city, small town, village or crossroads with a Confederate statue yank it down. “It’s offensive,” they say. “It’s glorifying slavery,” they say. “They’re statues of racists,” they say. 

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The statue in my small town of Pittsboro, NC

 While I’m not going to get into a debate about the wrong or the right of removing hundred-plus-year-old statues, the argument, in general, disturbs me for one very big reason: WHO should be the arbiter of what makes HISTORY offensive and therefore powerful enough to erase it? Once we start erasing things, where do we stop? 

I had a reader leave me a nasty review a few years back because I had characters (in a novel set in the 1870s) refer to Native Americans as Indians. And a few of the characters tossed out some of the labels commonly used to describe Native Americans at the time–such as squaw, Red Man, etc. None of this was gratuitous–it was historically accurate. But that one reader has kept me wondering ever since about censorship. If/when will it finally hit Christian books, magazines, movies, etc.?

As you would expect from me, my newest book, A Destiny in Defiance (releasing Nov 1) pulls no punches. Specifically, I cover the politically incorrect but historically accurate discussion of abortion. Haven’t you ever wondered what soiled doves did when they got “in the family way”? Some of my characters will deal with the very sticky subject firsthand.

Anyway, if revisionist historians start removing monuments, I don’t see anything stopping them from burning books next. What do you think?

So, till next time, happy fall, y’all, and pay attention to the history around you! It may not be there tomorrow…

Not Everyone Who Cries Needs a Hug — Maybe a Broom Will Do

I am so not a hugger. I once told my Youth Sunday School Class, “I might not hug you, but I will take a bullet for you.” So, I can like you. A lot. Go out on a limb for you. Move heaven and earth to get to you. Search high and low for you if you’re lost. I just may not always spout the right touchy-feely words or wrap my arms around you. In my own introverted way, however, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Because people like me stand in Defiance of the box that says, “You must invade a person’s personal space to show them you care.” You know what? That’s a lie.

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If you’re a bit of an emotional freak–the stoic gal who prefers actions to words, the woman who weeps in secret for people without telling them you care, the lady who worries she too easily tosses out the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps speech–this blog is for you.

The Lord showed me something a couple of years ago: he can use even us to share his love.

I heard of a young gal in a youth group who was quiet, withdrawn, didn’t wear makeup, came from a rough background, and was a little loose with her morals. A parent got involved with the group; a parent who was friendly and talkative but didn’t act weird to impress the kids. You know, overly energetic or always smiling and hugging on them. In fact, she was big on giving the kids their personal space. This parent was just real and the young girl was drawn to her.

When the girl got in some trouble and needed help, she called this parent. Because she didn’t need a hug. She needed a friend to invest in her. Be real. Walk with her through some tough stuff. The young lady has since recommitted to the Lord, graduated high school and joined the National Guard. And very few hugs have passed between these two people who both acknowledge they have very BIG PERSONAL DANCE SPACES.

This past Sunday at church I was a little sleepy and not feeling my usual chatty self. I am what’s known as a social introvert. I like people until I need a break from them. Anyway, I wound up standing beside a young lady who was alone. And I knew I had to at least acknowledge her. So, we talked for a minute and when the doors to the sanctuary opened, I asked her to sit with me. We continued our chat and she revealed that she’d been away from the Lord for a while and was trying to find her way back.

And then she started crying.

Oh, man, if ever a moment called for a hug. So I apologized and told her my bullet story. She laughed. And then I proceeded to tell her God loves her even more than I do. And we talked a little more about God and I tried to make up for my BIG PERSONAL DANCE SPACE with light-hearted humor and the love of our Savior. When the service was about to begin, she leaned over and whispered, “Thank you.”

I don’t know that I said everything I should have said to her but I think I said enough. And in a way, she got a hug.

My point simply is this: defy expectations and be who God has made you to be and don’t feel bad about it. He will use you. When people are hurting they may not always need a hug, but they definitely need to know you sincerely care.

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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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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.

She Couldn’t Vote but She Could Float

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Mary looks so sweet and timid in this photo, doesn’t she?

I stumbled across a lady in defiance today who left me in awe of her grit and courage. This gal stamped her name on history in one of the most unique yet most daring, most defiant ways ever. Talk about thinking out of the box for a paycheck.

Mary Myers flew balloons.  Often, alone. In the 1880s.

Now that’s courage, sister.

Mary was born in Boston in 1849 but married Carl Myers in 1871. He was a sort of jack-of-all-trades—because he was a late bloomer. After several false starts, Carl came into his own when he began pursuing aeronautical engineering. Eventually, by the time he was in his 40’s, he was designing balloons and securing patents on fabric that would hold hydrogen.  The couple opened a factory (a large home they called the Balloon Factory)  to sell “passenger” balloons. Yes, balloons that would carry more than one person with a death wish.

The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly, we can fly

At first the Myers hired test pilots to fly their new designs, but Carl wanted to get into the air himself and of course, Mary was right there with him. However, she thought her simple name of Mary was too bland, too common to reflect well on her new, exciting career. She chose a stage name: Carlotta Myers. A derivative of Carl. Clever.

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My, wasn’t Carl a handsome devil?

They flew their balloons at expositions that drew massive crowds. I mean in the tens of thousands. Mary made her first solo flight in 1886 and flew right at 200 flights total.

Most excursions went well. There were a couple of noticeable exceptions. Once her balloon ran into a severe thunderstorm. Water poured into her gondola at a breakneck pace and literally started sinking her balloon. She tossed everything she could over the side but still wound up crashing into a tree and sitting like a pigeon eighty feet in the air, tangled in an oak. Hunters were able to rescue her about an hour later.

Perhaps more harrowing, however, was the time in 1886 when her balloon, handled too roughly by a massive crowd of spectators, came apart in mid-air! Amazingly she managed to gather the fraying fabric and fashion a parachute. Mary glided about 12 miles using this rig, nice and easy to roughly her expected landing area.

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I look at this picture and think, “Wow. how the world has changed.” Looks like something from The Twilight Zone.

I don’t know what I find more amazing about this woman: her unwavering desire to fly balloons or her ability to pursue said calling in a time when women couldn’t even vote.

Hat tip to Mary “Carlotta” Myers for defying cultural norms, for marrying a man who believed in her, and for soaring. A true lady in defiance.

The Reason I Say Never Give In, Never Back Down, Never Lose Faith

I may not be—no, wait, sorry—I definitely am not the highest selling author on Amazon but I bet I have some of the best God stories behind my stories.

Especially when it comes to the Defiance books which have now been optioned for a limited TV series!

On the road to Hollywood (because, yes, I believe Defiance will be on TV one day) I want to share with you some of the amazing ways God has continually moved this project along. Inch by inch. Year by year.

The Story that Wouldn’t Die. Literally.

Most of you don’t know that I started A Lady in Defiance only about a year after my sister passed away. A lot happened in that year. Namely, I had a baby. My first son, Whit, was born in 2000.

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The first cover

While he napped or wiggled happily on the floor, I started writing. The story of three sisters in the West was a flight of fancy that helped me deal with the loss of my sister and handle the stupefying fact I was a mother. To cope, some people jump in the tub with Calgon. I had to write. Just spill out thoughts and emotions, keep Suzy alive for a little while longer…

Several thousand words into the story, however, my computer died and I lost EVERYTHING…

So what happened next?

To get the rest of this story and hear about the many more amazing ways God has kept his hand on A Lady in Defiance, I cordially invite you to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get a FREE story AND the rest of this one. I promise you’ll find encouragement for chasing your own dreams! Sign up today!

 

Immigrants Who Came to Give and Not Take…Meet Sarah Thal

(Editor’s Note: this is an update of a blog I wrote in 2012)

Going back through some old research notes, I stumbled across the story of an immigrant to America. An unsung heroine who came here to make America a better place and give something back…not just take and remake the country in the image of her old country.

The early immigrants to America, the ones who thrived here, were independent, strong-willed, stubborn, adventurous risk-takers. They didn’t want handouts. They wanted the freedom to make their own way.

Just this morning I read the story of Sarah Thal, a German-Jewish immigrant who came to America with her husband in 1880. The couple settled in North Dakota. Her first child was born in a cabin so full of cracks that a make-shift tent was made around her and the baby. They literally camped in front of the fireplace to keep warm. She watched prairie fires light up the distant sky on more than one occasion. She lost a baby because 10 feet of snow prevented her from getting to a doctor. This was Sarah’s existence. It never broke her. She didn’t let it turn her into a bitter old woman. She accepted her circumstances, praised God in the storm, and plowed on.

One year the German community decided to get together and celebrate the 4th of July. It was a 22-mile trip each way for the Thal’s to attend, but they were proud and eager to do so. As she wrote in a letter, “Each foreign colony celebrated in their own fashion, loyal to the traditions of the old land and faithful to those of the new. . . .”

Faithful to those of the new.

Unfortunately, stout bloodlines like Sarah’s are getting “watered down.” It’s a shame. American women were strong and resilient as a rule, fiercely independent, the toughest in the world. And she wanted to be an American. Therein lies the crux of the matter with the flood of illegals at our border.

Today, I think women like Sarah are the exception, which is why it’s important to remember them! Do you think I’m wrong? Speak your mind, politely, please.

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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!

 

 

 

The Lady Behind A Lady in Defiance–My Sister

Life is messy and gritty. People can be simply awful, totally unlovable.  And God loves us anyway. These were the things going through my mind when I started writing A Lady in Defiance. One of the main characters is based on my sister Suzy’s life. Suzy went through a lot. Overcame even more. A beautiful, victorious woman of God who inspires me every day–even twenty years after her death.

If you’ve never read the Foreword to A Lady in Defiance, I wish you would. If you need a lift today, a hug from God, a little inspiration–it’s there. Read on and be blessed:

They say truth is stranger than fiction. I prefer to say that truth is more miraculous. What we as authors can make up in our own heads doesn’t compare to what the greatest Writer of all can do. Take for example the story that inspires my character of Hannah:

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Suzy at 14

 

 In the early 70′s, my family used to drive up from Florida to camp in the mountains. In the summer of ’73, we discovered a beautiful, sleepy, small town in Western North Carolina. My sister also discovered a boy there—her soul mate, really, but who would have believed that? The following summer we moved from Florida to this town and, not long after, my sister Suzy announced she was pregnant…at the tender age of 15.

I cannot repeat the things my mother said to my sister. Sadly, while my sister forgave her years later, I don’t think my mother ever forgave herself. Certainly, my father and most of the locals weren’t much kinder. Florida trash. Floozy. Slut…you name it, they said it. I can still hear my mom’s high-pitched, screechy voice as she screamed hysterically at Suzy.

My sister was pushed by both families to have an abortion and she agreed. How could she refuse? After all, it was pretty clear this would “ruin her life,” and there was “no future for an unwed mother,” especially since she would “never claw her way out of poverty.” With prophecies like that, abortion was a godsend. In the doctor’s office, however, Suzy changed her mind and said she couldn’t go through with it. The phone rang and it was the father of the child; he didn’t want Suzy to go through with it, either, but he still wouldn’t marry her.

Suzy went instead to a half-way house in Alexandria, Virginia to have the baby and give him up for adoption. A month before she was due to deliver, the father of the baby finally stood up to his father and told him he loved Suzy and was going to Virginia to get her. Suzy told me years later that this boy had asked her to marry him much earlier . . . on their first date! They were simply meant to be.

The two teenagers were married and God’s plan unfolded for their lives. She and her husband gave their hearts to the Lord and went on to have two more children. Suzy matured into a mighty, spirit-filled woman of God, finished her GED, earned a degree as an R.N., and became a licensed minister in the Church of God, all while raising children and helping her husband farm. She was a popular speaker at women’s conferences, went on mission trips and also worked as a Hospice nurse for over two years. During that time, Suzy led many people to the Lord, some literally from their death beds.

No one who met my sister was immune to her infectious smile, vivacious personality, gentle faith, and graceful ways. The love of Christ literally shined from this woman like a beacon on a hill.

When breast cancer claimed Suzy in 1999, over 800 people attended her funeral. In a town that twenty-five years earlier had spurned her, affection poured out. The funeral was standing-room only; former patients wrote good-byes in the local newspaper; people we hadn’t seen in years called with condolences.

Suzy is not only the inspiration behind my character of Hannah, but her story is the reason I know God can take the grimmest, most hopeless situation and show us the beauty in it. Profound, miraculous happy endings are possible when we “let go and let God.”

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The picture Suzy used on her minister cards

 If you are the mother of a pregnant teenage daughter, I pray you will think before you speak and then speak with love. If you are the daughter, please don’t abort that baby. Give God a chance to do what He does best—bring beauty from ashes. He loves you; He loves that child you’re carrying. Trust Him to work it out.

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