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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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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!

 

 

 

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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The Fact Behind the Fiction is Even More Amazing

I know most often I focus on ladies in defiance–women who do amazing things or survive incredible situations. However, I was having a conversation about how truth is stranger and often more incredible than fiction. To prove my point, I shared the story of the man who is the inspiration behind my character of Dent Hernandez in Hang Your Heart on Christmas. I thought you might find it interesting as well. Enjoy!

The legendary Elfego Baca is the inspiration for my hero.

Image result for elfego baca Elfego’s father Francisco was a lawman, and, on occasion, he allowed his son to ride with him in pursuit of some pretty tough hombres. Francisco taught his son to shoot, to ride, to fight, and to wear the badge like a man of justice, not vengeance. He could not have foreseen how well the lessons would stick.

In 1884, nineteen-year-old Elfego learned that the rowdy cowhands from John Slaughter’s ranch were running roughshod over the mostly-Spanish community of Lower Frisco, NM. Raping, pillaging, the usual outlaw behavior. Outraged, Elfego somehow wrangled a badge (real, fake, the details are fuzzy) and headed off to clean up the town.

Not long after his arrival, he was alerted to the ungentlemanly behavior of one Charlie McCarty. Drunk and belligerent, McCarty was howling at the moon, firing his gun indiscriminately, and generally scaring the townsfolk silly. Baca arrested the cowhand straightaway.

As is always the case in these situations, things quickly spiraled out of control and Elfego Baca found himself hiding in a jacal (ha-cal – a flimsy structure-like a shack) and being shot at by between forty and eighty very annoyed cowboys. Hundreds of thousands of rounds were fired at him during a thirty-three-hour siege. Just the door to the one room, cedar-and-mud structure was hit nearly four hundred times!

Elfego survived unscathed.

He did, however, kill one cowboy, shoot one horse (which then fell on its rider and killed him), and wound several of his attackers.

When the siege was over, our young lawman still wasn’t done. He sent a letter to the cowboys who had tried to kill him. It read, “I have a warrant here for your arrest. Please come in by March 15 and give yourself up. If you don’t, I’ll know you intend to resist arrest, and I will feel justified in shooting you on sight when I come after you.”

Most of the men couldn’t surrender fast enough.

Elfego’s good fortune and startling bravado was the foundation of his legendary status. He lived a colorful, sometimes controversial, life as a lawman, attorney, politician, and hero. He left behind a statue and some tall tales. I thank him for being the inspiration behind Hang Your Heart on Christmas.

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By the way, Hang Your Heart is not only .99 this week, I just released the AUDIO version as well. Soooo many ways to enjoy a great story!

Who Were the Men Who Made Charles McIntyre?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

One of the Coolest Things About Being Indie — Writing for YOU!

REVISED and EXPANDED and FREE just for my precious readers! One of the coolest things about being an indie author is how responsive I can be to y’all! You can literally tell me what to write! Last year I released a book entitled To Love and to Honor. A lot of you wrote or commented that you loved the story but wanted to know more about a secondary character, a Cheyenne Indian named Henry Long Feather. He trains horses in the story and is my hero’s confidante.
 
heather_frey_blanton_04_tolove&amp;tohonor_ebook_final20190108 (1) Voila! I went back in and revised and expanded this story and you get to see what pretty little white missionary had an impact on Long Feather. To Love and to Honor will be FREE for the next several days so you can read again without paying for it. I hope you’ll pick it up and let me know what you think about Long Feather and Miss Laurie!
Here’s the link. I hope you’ll get your copy today!
And here is a short excerpt to tease you–meet Miss Laurie, the white missionary
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Henry Long Feather leaned against a tree and studied the white woman. She taught the children from the Bar FB three days a week and often brought them out of the little shack Fairbanks had built for a school. This was a rare thing for a white teacher to do, but she—Laurie Wilcox—was different from most whites Long Feather knew.

She was older, like him. Perhaps fifty summers or so, but youth still lived in her smooth skin and ready smile. Everything about her was light and delicate and fascinating to him. From her long, golden braid that gleamed even when there was no sun, to her slight nose, to her haunting eyes—the icy blue of a stream in winter. But they warmed him, like now.

She raised her gaze over the heads of her students and beamed at him. “Mr. Long Feather. Come to join us for a lesson?”

A dozen little cowboy hats and twin braids all swung round to him, showing young faces bright with curiosity. Shoving his hands into his pants pockets, he pushed off the tree and strode over to them more than happy to forget the event with the bull. “Not today, Mrs. Wilcox. I have come for Joseph.” He tapped the top of a brown hat and the freckled-face boy of eight beneath it grimaced up at him. “Yes, you. Your father has need of you in the blacksmith barn. He asked me to send you over.”

“Aw,” the boy moaned, kicking at a dirt clod.

“That’s perfect timing. We just finished our lesson.” Mrs. Wilcox snapped her Bible shut. “You go on, Joseph. Don’t keep your father waiting. The rest of you,” she surveyed the ring of a dozen or so students, “Spelling test tomorrow. Make sure you study.”

The children gave her their own collective groan and drifted away, a few darting for trouble at various places on the ranch. When they were gone, their teacher rocked on her heels and smiled up at Long Feather, an awkward kind of sign that he couldn’t read. But there was much he did not understand about Mrs. Wilcox.

“What kept you busy today, Mr. Long Feather?”

He shrugged, not quite prepared to share all the details of his day. “The boys brought in a couple of Indian ponies Fairbanks wants me to train to the saddle. They are willing. It will not be much work.” Unlike this new task of training Joel Chapman. “And you, Mrs. Wilcox? What does a teacher do with herself when the students have gone?”

“Please, call me Miss Laurie. Everyone does.” He nodded, acquiescing to her request and she continued. “I have my own homework—some papers to grade.” She bit her bottom lip and tilted her head in a way that made him want to brush his hand down her cheek. “Could I see them? The Indian ponies.”

“Surely.” The answer slipped out before he’d had a chance to think about it. A missionary, Miss Laurie was liked on the ranch, but the hands kept their distance, as if her religion might be catching. Long Feather harbored no such fear. Instead, he wondered what they would say about her strolling with an Indian if she wasn’t preaching at him.

She scrunched her forehead at him. “You don’t want to show me?”

Her perceptiveness caught him off guard. “No, it is not that. You are a white woman.”

“Yes, I was born with the affliction.”

Her joke took a moment to light on his brain, but when it did, he offered her a reserved chuckle. “You don’t understand—”

“I understand perfectly, Mr. Long Feather. And as a child of God, I love all people. I can’t help what others think about that. I don’t let their prejudices dictate with whom I stroll.”

He pushed a hand over his mouth, sighed, and gestured back toward the way he’d come. “After you.”

 

Hmmm. What trouble awaits this relationship? I hope you’ll read and find out. Get your copy today!

Look Out! I’m Going all Politically Incorrect Again…

As a nation, not only have we become deeply divided, but we’re divided over stupid things. Maybe–here’s a crazy thought–if we were a little less sensitive we’d all get along a little better. Instead of scouring the universe for something that hurts our little feelings, maybe we could be more concerned with things that matter.

So, here’s the reason for my rant. I recently read an article (Writing with Color Description Guide Part One) that said writers shouldn’t use words like chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, cocoa, etc. to describe a Person of Color. Such descriptors are, according to this article’s author, fetishizing, dehumanizing, and my favorite (and I quote): these words are about aggression and appropriation and have links to colonialism.

coffeeYou can’t, according to the writer, use coffee, for example, to describe someone’s skin color because it refers to slavery. You’re microaggressively trying to show your European dominance. I have to quote the writer again: “Cocoa. Coffee. They drove the slave trade. They still drive the slave trade.” (Underline is hers not mine.) In short, you are obviously a racist if you use the word coffee to describe an African American’s skin tone. Give me a break.

BUT, we can use words like peachy and milky to describe whites–because, according to the article’s author, whites aren’t people of color. Furthermore, she says it’s okay to say Olive-toned (Olives have no historical connection to slavery?). She also says it’s okay to use other foodie descriptors like wheat, soybean…wait, what? Soybean? 

Blink. Blink.

I’m pretty sure a stranger would be offended if I described her skin as a warm soybean color. Now THAT is dehumanizing.

And just who does this writer suggest run the Politically Correct Botanical Comparison Police anyway? Her? Frankly, with stupid suggestions like “soybean,” someone needs to take her badge away.

 I LOVE coffee. I am pretty sure that’s not because I’m a subconscious racist. Coffee smells like heaven. The texture is gritty and firm. The taste is warm, savory, and comforting. I could sleep on a bed of steamy milk. Anyone who walks into a Starbuck’s and inhales that heady aroma knows exactly what I’m talking about. 

My point is rather than worrying about microaggressions or poor cliches in literature, people that live to be offended should try to be more constructive. That is if they truly want to make this a better world.

Instead of complaining about being called coffee, go have a cup with someone who has a different view of life from yours. Instead of acting like your elders’ march for civil rights didn’t break any barriers, let’s march together to end sex slave trafficking. Instead of whining about the way illegal immigrants are treated, study America’s history and look at what blessings members of the “melting pot” have added to the world. 

I have a suspicion, though, the writer of “Writing with Color” would rather just go read Mark Twain and strikethrough all the offensive words. Maybe she’ll feel better but I doubt it.

How about you? Do you feel victimized by bad color metaphors or do you even give a rip as long as you can see the scene and the character?

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(To be fair, the author in Part 2 she does offer some nice substitutes, but she clearly shies away from metaphors and similes, preferring to just use colors to describe characters).

Who Was the First Woman to Write a Western Romance?

This post first appeared at Cowboy Kisses, May 2017 by Heather Blanton

A simple question on the surface, I thought a quick Google would give me the answer. Turns out, a few females claim the honor. So after a little more serious digging, I came up with Mary Hallock Foote and her first novel, Led-Horse Claim: A Romance of a Mining Camp published in 1883.

foote Turns out, Mary was quite an interesting gal. Born in 1847 in New York to Quaker parents, she attended school at the very proper Female Collegiate Seminary in Poughkeepsie. Her gift for the creative arts convinced her father (clearly a forward-thinking man) to invest more in his daughter’s education. He sent her to Cooper School of Design for Women, and by her early twenties, Mary was a sought-after illustrator and designer for some of the most notable publishers in New York City. She loved her job. She loved the city. But she loved a man more.

In 1876, she married Arthur De Wint Foote, a young mining engineer whose career would take her deep into the wild-and-wooly Western frontier. Mary saw it all. From Deadwood to Leadville, from Idaho to Mexico.

Impressed, sometimes astonished, at the characters populating these rowdy mining towns, Mary wrote and illustrated dozens of articles for readers “back East.” She quickly gained the reputation for being one of the sharpest observers of, and most civilizing influences on, the bawdy mining, and ditch (irrigation) towns out west. According to an article in the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, “The Victorian gentlewoman traveled the American West dressed in hoop skirt and petticoats, insisting that her children be educated by an English nanny and fed by a Chinese cook, so that she could work on her illustrations and stories, without interruption.” Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 10.50.42 AM

What this quote doesn’t tell you is that Mary didn’t have time to raise the children because she had to help put bread on the table. Her husband’s career as a surveyor and civil engineer was difficult, at best, due to his unswerving honesty. Apparently, fudging numbers was expected in the mining industry, but Arthur didn’t play along. Hence, the continual moves from one town to the next. But Mary wrote about it all and her short stories and serials gained in popularity. They were published alongside the likes of Rudyard Kipling. Her articles and observations of life in the Wild West were met with lavish reviews, especially by those who could recognize the ring of authenticity—because they lived it.

Mary’s stories leaned more toward Western romance, though, as opposed to Owen Wister-style shoot-outs and brawls. She wrote fifteen novels in all. However, her husband eventually landed a job managing a mine in California and as his salary increased, Mary’s hectic writing pace decreased. Her last book was published in 1919. She didn’t seem to miss writing.

Mary and Arthur were married for nearly sixty years. She, ever hardy and determined, lived until the ripe old age of 90. Unfortunately, while her life was long, her fame was not. It is nearly impossible to find the complete collection of Mary’s works now, even on Amazon. What a loss for the Western Romance genre.

I love old books and am always looking to read more. Please feel free to suggest some!

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