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…
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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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:
* * *
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!
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Sometimes I think I write vile, evil characters better than my heroes and heroines. Here’s a quick little excerpt from Grace be a Lady–my favorite Western with a delicious twist! And on sale for just $.99 for the next few days. Step into Grace’s world…
“Now, luv,” Lonnie said, cleaning his nails with his pocket knife, “I’ll explain to you ’ow this is going to work. The train ticket in my pocket,” he patted his chest, “will take you all the way to Misery, Wyoming.”
A twitch in Grace’s eyebrow betrayed her reaction to the name.
“Yes, Bull picked the town out just for you, luv. Said he ’oped it delivered. Anyway, you will get off the train there and not before.” He snapped the knife shut and leaned forward. “If you don’ check in with Misery’s lawman, luv, Hardy will be shipped off to some boarding school in Paris. Or maybe Rome. Possibly even Timbuktu. Do you take my meaning, luv?”
Grace’s heart broke as the threat sank in. Her chin quivered and the lump in her throat tried to explode into a sob. Completely out of hope, she could do nothing but pray.
She prayed she would dance on Bull’s grave one day soon.
Falling back on the loathing that Lonnie so readily evoked in her, Grace raised her chin. “Don’t call me ‘luv’.”
Yesterday I created a post that was exclusively for my newsletter subscribers and was password protected. I meant for the notice not to go out until tomorrow and ONLY to the subscribers. Many, many of you have written to me asking for the password. I’m so sorry to be a tease. I hope you’ll forgive me.
If you’d like to read the special, TOP SECRET blog post, you can 1) subscribe to my newsletter and be privy to special stuff like this or 2) give me a few weeks and I’ll take this post public. But I do need to put my subscribers first, as I promised them I would.
My newsletter will be going out tomorrow with the password. You can subscribe here. I think it’s worth it. Grin. And, honestly, a newsletter helps keep me from being too beholding to the likes of the tech giants Amazon and Facebook, so I really would appreciate your support. One day, because of my politically incorrect, Christian world view, I’m liable to just disappear off the worldwide web. Stranger things have happened.
But if you’re not interested in subscribing, keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see the post open up in a few weeks.
Thanks again for all your interest in little ol’ me. Y’all are awesome!
A woman doctor from South Dakota by the name of Abbie Jarvis is one fascinating female. I’ll tell her whole story one day, I think, but today I wanted to share a funny little snippet of her life with you.
Dr. Jarvis often rode all over the country alone in her little doctor’s buggy. Late one afternoon, riding into the sun, she and her horse didn’t see a new barbed wire fence some plucky rancher had strung across the road. Horse, buggy and Dr. Jarvis hit the fence and went flying in separate directions. After shaking it off and assuring herself she wasn’t dying, she rounded up the horse and buggy and rode to the nearest point of light–a one-room, sod-roof cabin. A man answered the door and Dr. Jarvis explained the situation and that she needed to come in and rest.
The man seemed hesitant but allowed her to enter. After a while, however, Dr. Jarvis realized she was in no condition to motivate back to town in the dark. She told the lone farmer she’d need to stay the night.
He was astonished at her suggestion and reminded her that he was there all alone. Dr. Jarvis responded, “Well, I am not afraid of you if you are not afraid of me.”
Oh, my lands, as we say in the South. What moxie the woman had!
I got tickled the other day reading a book about pioneer women in South Dakota. Have you ever seen those videos of young tourists doing amazingly stupid things like taking selfies too close to the roaring waves or attempting to feed a buffalo at Yellowstone? Sometimes things go very wrong.
For a pioneer girl, Sadie wasn’t much smarter than some of our modern kiddoes. Back around 1880, she went for a walk on a hot summer day on her farm to pass some time and admire God’s handiwork. Not long into her stroll, she noticed a nice, plump cluster of grapes hanging over the stream. Simply too tempted to be smart, Sadie started making her way across the swift-moving water by stepping–sometimes streeeetching–from one large rock to the next.
Well, she got a little too intent on watching the current and had a spell of vertigo. Yep, fell headfirst into the water. Years later, she said she could still remember what the bottom of that stream looked like. However, before she even had a chance to panic, she found herself rising to the surface and then being pulled by the collar to the shore.
A tall, erect, young Indian boy wrangled her out of the water, snatched her to her feet, then grabbed her shoulders and proceeded to shake her violently. Before she could react to this new danger, the brave disappeared, slipping away into the shadowy forest.
She said for the rest of her life she often wondered what the purpose was of the shaking.
This comment has me thinking maybe Sadie was a bit of a dull bulb. Which could explain how she nearly drowned in the first place.
Well, here’s my best guess, hon, on what the brave who saved your life may have been thinking as he was rattling your brains: “Dumb, dumb, dumb girl. You could have drowned. For what? A handful of grapes? What were you thinking? Go back to your farm and plant something.”
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.
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:
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.
The women who built this country did amazing things to make America a better place and rarely complained while they were doing it. They just rolled up their sleeves and jumped in. They didn’t whine or cry. They didn’t call themselves victims when they weren’t treated fairly. They just kept working at doing good for the country or their little corner of it. AOC and Omar could learn a thing or two from these gals. Case in point, meet Susy Anderson.
Born in Indiana in 1870, she moved with her family to Cripple Creek Colorado at the beginning of the town’s gold rush. Deciding she needed more of a challenge than the rough and rowdy mining town could provide, her father encouraged her to attend medical school. In 1893, she entered the University of Michigan medical school. Little did she know how difficult the journey to put two letters behind her name would be.
She graduated in ’97, but while in school, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The illness would plague her the rest of her life. She returned to Cripple Creek and tended to the miners there for three years, but the pretty, petite doctor was jilted by her fiancé in 1900. That same year she suffered the loss of her little brother.
In need of a change, she relocated her practice to Denver. Surely, the bustling, modern city would provide a steady flow of patients. Not. Anderson nearly starved to death. Patients were very leery of a female doctor, especially when there were already several male doctors in town. Frustrated, she moved again, this time to Greely, and took work as a nurse. How frustrating that must have been for this gutsy, stubborn gal. Probably the stress had something to do with her TB flaring up. Sick and weak, Anderson moved to Fraser, Colorado to recuperate or die. She breathed not a word of her vocation.
But word got out, as it always does, and her health improved. I wonder if the two events are related? At any rate, the citizens of remote Fraser were delighted to have a doctor. They didn’t care if she was male, female, or a different species entirely. Everyone from lumberjacks to ranchers to pregnant wives came to see her. She occasionally even treated a sick horse.
In her career as a doctor, “Doc Susie” was paid with everything from firewood to food. Cash was an extreme rarity and her living conditions reflected that. Nearly destitute, sometime around 1915 or so she was appointed the Grand County Coroner and the regular paycheck helped ease some of her financial concerns.
She never owned a car but always found a way to visit her patients. Most often she walked, sometimes in hip-deep snow. Mostly, though, friends and family members of patients provided transportation. Anderson was not rich financially, but she earned an esteemed reputation as a fine rural doctor and diagnostician. Her life was not easy but I think that’s how she would have wanted it. She liked fighting for her accomplishments.
She conquered a frontier, both real and emotional, leaving behind a path for other women who dared to dream big. Anderson practiced in Fraser until 1956 then retired to an old folks home in Denver. She died four years later and was buried with her family in Cripple Creek.
Respect the lace.
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.
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.”
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…