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Releasing Today: Hope in Defiance

And here’s one of my favorite scenes from Hope in Defiance:

“Hope, I pray you’ll forgive me the wine choice.” Carefully, Edward poured a shimmering red stream into Hope’s glass. She bit her lip, and leaned forward, eyes wide with anticipation. She reminded Lane of a kid peering at candy in the mercantile’s window.

“It looks lovely,” she said, reaching for it.

“I so wanted a merlot from Château de Goulaine, but it was impossible.” He poured Lane’s glass, then his own and sat down. “I remembered your fondness for pinot noir from Dopff-Au-Moulin, and, lo and behold, I was able to get a crate shipped in time. Very exciting.”

“Very,” Lane muttered, sniffing the wine. He thought it smelled a little like peat moss. He sniffed again. Nah. Peat moss soaked in an oak barrel stuffed with raspberries.

Edward raised his glass and swirled the liquid around and around, staring into it like he expected to find something. “No doubt, Mr. Chandler, it will taste quite foreign to you, since you’re used to stale—”

“Have you ever had wine?” Hope cut in. “I find it is either something you love or hate.”

Lane glanced up from the glass, to Edward’s slightly quirked eyebrow, to Hope’s warm expression. She wouldn’t let Edward embarrass him if she could help it. He appreciated the effort.

“Only what I had in a little church in El Paso once,” he told her. “I think I was about five, so I don’t remember it.”

She raised her glass and swirled the burgundy-colored liquid. “Wine is complex and there is a great deal of effort that goes into creating the flavor.”

“Not just the flavor.” Edward took a sip, swallowed, and savored it with his eyes closed. “Wine is an experience. An explosion of subtle flavors. Oak and cherry.” He thought for a moment. “Hint of vanilla. Possibly a touch of cumin. Velvety. And it finishes off gently.”

Lane had to force himself to keep from slapping his forehead. These two sure took their wines seriously.

Hope had a sip and considered it for a moment as well. “Oh, yes, that’s lovely. A little buttery.” She paused. “Yes, there’s the vanilla, and possibly a touch of mushroom.”

Both of them turned to Lane, expectantly. He was pondering the mushroom observation when Hope dipped her chin, nudging him.

“Well,” Lane picked up his glass, “here goes.” He took a tentative sip. Fought to control a grimace. He nearly burst out with, ‘People enjoy this?’ But managed to cut off the comment.

“Before you say anything,” Hope raised her hand in a pleading gesture, “try to think about what you tasted.”

Lane focused on all the odd flavors in his mouth, but couldn’t settle on anything. A little flustered, he took another sip. Since he knew what to expect, this one wasn’t as jarring. After a moment, he nodded, almost amazed. “Yeah. Oak.” There was a sweetness, too. “There’s the grape. And vanilla.” He set down the glass and nodded, but it wasn’t something he’d be inclined to make a habit of. They were still staring at him. Edward’s subtly raised brow was an expression of triumph. Did he think Lane was too much of a Texas hayseed to appreciate wine? Did Lane care what Edward thought? “It’s a fine drink, I suppose, but I’ll stick to my whiskey.”

“Yes, I understand,” Hope looked down at her napkin quickly. “Wine is an acquired taste.”

“And not everyone will do so,” Edward raised his glass to Lane and smiled. “Pity. At least you tried.”

* * *

Lane fumbled his way through dinner, allowing Hope to point out which fork to use for the salad and so on and so forth. At least by dessert, he knew which spoon to grab, and was no stranger to coffee. The conversation of theater, literature, and politics, however, highlighted his ignorance and he didn’t say much. At least watching Hope light up at the discussions of W.S. Gilbert’s new play made the beating worth it. Even if, suddenly, Lane’s world felt very small.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Hope rose, and Lane and Edward followed. “I’m going to powder my nose.”

She left the table and Lane poked at his chocolate mousse. He had no doubt Edward was going to take the opportunity to say what was on his mind and waited patiently. This whole dinner was a charade, a plan, aimed at making Lane look stupid. Or at least ignorant. And not worthy of Hope.

“I don’t mean to be rude, old man,” Edward began, “but do you seriously think you should pursue a relationship with Hope?”

Well, ’least he doesn’t beat around the bush. Lane leaned back in his chair and eyed Edward with the same stare he’d give to a growling dog about to get a good, swift kick. “What I seriously think about anything is no concern of yours.”

Edward huffed. “Right there is an example of my meaning. You don’t care about Hope. What makes her happy. She’s called to greater things. What can you offer her here, in this grubby little town?” Edward snatched his napkin from his lap and tossed it on the table. “I would bet you’ve never even read Shakespeare.”

Lane didn’t deign to answer. Just held Edward’s gaze.

The man’s pretty-boy face took on a hard edge and he leaned forward a little. “You may be some sort of excellent marksman and rugged frontiersman, but let me tell you what I see. You’re a low-born, uneducated, uncouth, poorly paid cowboy.”

Cowboy. Edward said the word as if Lane was a worm. Scum floating on stagnant water. Lane’s jaw tightened and his pulse ticked up. Well, if the man wanted a fight…

“And what’s more, I’ll make sure Hope sees you in the proper light. When she does, she’ll be done with this nonsense of being a doctor in this filthy, hardscrabble town.”

“And go back to Philadelphia with you? As a nurse? As your wife?”

Edward grinned, showing perfect, pearly white teeth. “Yes.”

Lane had no time for a reply as Hope approached the table but didn’t take her seat. “Edward, I have enjoyed our dinner. Very much actually, but I need to get home. Thank you for going to all this trouble.”

Slowly, Lane rose to his feet, shadowed by Edward. “Yeah, it was one interesting meal.” Lane grinned as well, though it was as fake as Edward’s icy smile.

“No trouble at all.” He then shifted to Hope, and his expression warmed considerably. “My dear, we’ll do this again.” He kissed her on the cheek. “Now that we’re all friends, I’ll plan more festive dinners.”

“Please tell Lucy the duck was magnificent.”

“I certainly will.”

Lane lightly clutched Hope’s arm and walked away with her, but stopped just shy of the restaurant entrance. “You know, I didn’t thank Edward properly. Give me just a second.”

Without waiting for Hope to reply, Lane pivoted and walked back to Edward, who was still standing at the table, watching them. Lane offered his hand and as Edward took it, said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny…but in ourselves. Julius Caesar, Act One, Scene Two.” He winked at Edward. “Thanks for dinner, pard.”

Hope in Defiance ** NEW RELEASE ** Only .99 for a very limited time! Get your copy today!

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.

Image result for diane lane lonesome dove

Diane Lane

It could happen.

 

 

 

 

Let My Book Speak to You…

Can you hear me now? I mean literally. Have you ever thought about listening to an audiobook? Several of my books are available for listening and more are coming. Audiobooks are awesome because you can get lost in a story while you’re cooking, cleaning, crafting, or whatever. I love them for long road trips. They make the time fly.

But there is a lot of work that goes into creating and producing an audiobook. One of the things that I have to do is listen to auditions of narrators who would like to read a book to you, gentle reader. So, just for the fun of it, please give a listen to this snippet from Talmadge Ragan’s audition to narrate Love, Lies, & Typewriters! She’s quite the professional.

And just for fun, here is me trying to be a professional narrator! I am reading from Locket Full of Love!

I hope you’ll check out my books over at Audible and give a listen. Listening really frees you up to do more!

The Spy She Loved — Herself

I have been pondering Pauline Cushman the last few days. Like so many of us, she started out in life with a burning passion to chase adventure. Unfortunately, she let the flame go out when life couldn’t keep delivering excitement and applause. She did not transition well from living in vivid color to fading away like an old photograph. But it was her choice.

Pauline

Pauline

Young Pauline was a woman of fire and drive. Born in 1833, she started acting sometime in the early 1850’s. Love and marriage pulled her away from the stage for a time, however. But when her husband, a volunteer in the Ohio 41st Infantry, died of dysentery, leaving her with two small children, she went back to the only profession she’d known.

While performing in Louisville in 1862, a Southern sympathizer offered her $300 to toast Jefferson Davis from the stage. Pauline not only saw the chance to make a substantial amount of cash, but also the opportunity to go on a patriotic adventure. She cleared the salute with the Union Provost Marshal, made the toast, and was promptly fired by the theater.

Opportunity quickly presented itself for Pauline to use her good looks and acting skills to spy for the north. While she was able to pass some information on to the Union, her career was short-lived. Pauline was arrested in Louisville by the Confederate General Braxton Bragg and sentenced to hang. Her time awaiting the sentence in a dark, damp cell took a serious toll on her health. Though Pauline escaped the gallows when the city fell to the Union (with only three days to go before her execution), her constitution never recovered.

Still, at the end of the war, her spirits were high and Pauline was the belle of the ball for her daring-do. For a time she toured the country sharing exciting stories about her days as a spy. President Lincoln even made her an honorary major, uniform and all. Eventually, she married again and returned to the theater. But the public had moved on and Pauline was a has-been before she was ever really a star. She divorced and re-married, but drug dependency, her fading star, and bouts of depression haunted her.

Pauline died alone of a drug overdose in a seedy boarding house in San Francisco. She was only sixty years old.

The Bible says we are called to such a time as this. When that time is done, we have to find joy in other things, not lament the loss of praise, adrenaline, or applause. I can’t help thinking that if Pauline had done that, she would have died surrounded by friends and family with a smile on her face.

Not every lady is A Lady in Defiance. But I believe how we wind up is our choice.

Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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