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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…

Support Authors. Make Some New (Fictional) Friends! Get FREE Books!

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

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From the Ashes of Disaster, a Legend was Born

She lifted the lid on her trunk and sighed at the sight of her corset. Why did she keep that thing around? She picked it up, contemplating tossing it in the stove and burning it.

Have you ever had something so horrific happen in your life you just couldn’t believe for an instant God would bring anything good out of the experience? When I read the true story of Juliet Watts I was profoundly impacted by how she not only survived her ordeal but lived a full, fruitful life. She was a survivor AND an overcomer. She is also the inspiration for the character in my novel Locket Full of Love (which is on sale today!).

In Locket, there is a ten-year gap from the opening to when we see Juliet again. I wrote a short story about her during this time and gave it away exclusively to my newsletter subscribers. Here is a sneak peek at Juliet’s Corset (the Short Story)

She lifted the lid on her trunk and sighed at the sight of her corset. Why did she keep that thing around? She picked it up, contemplating tossing it in the stove and burning it.

“My, that looks like it’s got a story behind it.” Sam, the grizzled, weathered bartender she’d met the day she found the saloon, stood in the doorway, her valise in his hand.

25319883_10214254961275504_324551914_o Juliet sucked on her cheek, the memories flashing through her mind as fast as lightning. “Saved the woman’s life who was wearing it.”

“No kidding?” Sam stepped in and set the valise on the bed, his pock-marked, gritty face alight with curiosity. He peered around Juliet for a better look. Not nearly as enamored with it as he appeared to be, she handed it to him.

The big man inspected the undergarment carefully, pausing over every tear, every rip, and especially the hole in the front. “Saved her life, eh?” After a moment, his hand stilled. “I remember hearing tell years ago of a woman the Comanches tried to…harm and the corset stopped an arrow.” He regarded Juliet with one raised brow and narrowed eyes. “I thought that was just another tall tale out of Texas. How’d you come by this?”

She almost offered a dismissive answer but gave in to his curiosity out of sheer weariness. “It was me. I was wearing that corset when the Comanche hit Rimfire. I survived. My husband did not.”

Sam’s expression melted into sympathy and he nodded. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

She plucked the corset from his hands and tossed it back into her trunk. “Yes. Thank you.”

With her back to Sam, she thought he might understand she was done discussing the past, but he didn’t leave. A moment later, he moved off to her left so he could see her profile. “Ain’t really any of my business, but the busiest saloon in town has a twelve foot stuffed grizzly on display. The owner shot it up in Montana territory. It brings in a lot of people to the Big Bear Saloon.”

Was he suggesting…? Juliet cut her eyes at him. “You think I should…?” What was he saying?

“I think a lot more men in this town would rather see the Iron Rose of Texas and the garment that saved her life.”

“The Iron—” The Iron Rose? She’d never heard the name. It both horrified and flattered her. After a moment’s thought, however, she decided she did not wish to perpetuate what it implied. “I don’t think I want that moniker.” She sat down on the bed. “I’m alive because I wore a corset they had no idea how to undo. I didn’t fight them off single-handedly in wild combat.” She swallowed against the knot forming in her throat. “I’m no Calamity Jane. I just got lucky.”

Sam scratched his chin thoughtfully, shoved his hands into pockets and nodded. “Seems to me, God was watching out for you.”

She clamped her jaws. She hated hearing that. People who said that didn’t wake up in the middle of the night, bathed in sweat, choking back a  scream caused by nightmares so real…

She sighed and stood up again, ready to end this conversation. “Thank you, Sam,” she said curtly. “I’ll see you downstairs in a bit.”

His face, wise, wrinkled, melted a little in obvious hurt and Juliet felt as if she’d kicked a dog. But she couldn’t talk about God…he was too cruel, too distant. If he was really a loving God, maybe one day he’d shove past her anger and show himself, but she wasn’t holding her breath.

Juliet had helped Hugh enough in their mercantile to understand the inventory management of a saloon. Not to mention, Sam was a great help. No, the hard part about running a saloon was managing the patrons. Bossy, arrogant, sometimes inebriated, expecting things from Juliet they had no business expecting.

Tired of the continual argument to protect her reputation, she pushed a beer across the bar and frowned at the grinning, hopeful sailor reaching for it. “I said no, James, and my no means exactly that.”

In his late twenties perhaps, tanned and weathered from life in the elements, he was man enough to understand her meaning. Yet, a devilish glee still played around his lips and she was wary. He was a River Rat, as these men called themselves. They ran the Missouri and the Mississippi aboard paddle wheelers and flatboats, only stepping ashore long enough to entertain themselves for an evening and then back to the water they went. They didn’t seem to have many rules and even fewer boundaries.

Well, Juliet was not here for his or any other Rat’s entertainment. “For the hundredth time,” she said slowly, “you can get beer or liquor here and that is all.”

James huffed, drummed his fingers on the mug of beer. The men on each side of him chuckled knowingly. Juliet had given them the same speech.

“Beer and liquor,” he repeated, his heavy Southern drawl drenching his words.

She gave him a slow, acquiescent dip of her chin.

“But see,” he leaned forward and lowered his voice, “you’re so pretty. I was thinking about you out on the wide water yesterday. I’ve got a silver eagle burning a hole in my pocket, just for you—”

“James,” Juliet snapped, losing her patience. “There are plenty of pretty girls down at the other end of the street.” Her raised voice drew the attention of several nearby patrons. A few smiled. A few did not. Hungry stares argued a consensus was growing Juliet should add herself to the list of drafts available in the Lost Sally. She moistened her lips and took a moment to calm down. “I think that beer is your last one here tonight.”

If you’d like to read the whole story, Juliet’s Corset, please subscribe to my newsletter and we’ll get it right out to you. For subscribing, you will ALSO get a free copy of A Lady in Defiance–the Lost Chapters. Readers really have enjoyed learning the backstory of my sisters before they left Carolina for Defiance.

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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

Follow me on https://www.facebook.com/heatherfreyblanton and
https://twitter.com/heatherfblanton

 

Love the Cause or Love the Man? A Question this Confederate Spy Had to Answer

Antonia Ford, a pretty, sassy spy for the Confederacy, didn’t mind batting her eyelashes at a Union soldier if it got her intelligence. She didn’t count on one man capturing her heart, though, or what their love would cost them.

(Photo by O.H. Willard, Library of Congress Philadelphia Manuscript Division, Gift of the Willard Family) Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/women-spies-of-the-civil-war-162202679/#WsXXVlco9S8BmloT.99 Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

(Photo by O.H. Willard, Library of Congress Philadelphia Manuscript Division, Gift of the Willard Family)

Born into a wealthy family of loud-and-proud secessionists, Antonia loved her home in Fairfax Court House, VA. When Union troops occupied her town in mid-1861, she eagerly used her money, connections, and feminine wiles to gather intelligence. The officers were awed by her beauty and, clearly, oblivious to her brains. They talked and talked about the Union’s plans right in front of her. And Antonia turned right around and fed intelligence to the Confederacy.

When Union General Edward H. Stoughton was captured in his headquarters (one of the most famous raids of the Civil War), suspicion fell on Antonia, since she had spent some time with the officer. A counter-spy tricked Antonia into revealing the aid-de-camp commission given to her by J.E.B. Stuart himself. Antonia was arrested based on this document. Worse, however, smuggled papers were discovered in her possession. Pretty incriminating.

As fate would have it, she was arrested by 44-year-old Maj. Joseph Willard. Willard was struck right in the heart by the pretty, 24-year-old belle, but did his duty and delivered her to Old Capital Prison in Washington, D.C. Antonia was also drawn to the major and their romance blossomed…behind bars. Maj. Willard spent several months working at it, but was finally able to secure Antonia’s release. Their love, though, came at a high cost.

Antonia had to swear allegiance to the Union and promise that she would never spy again. Willard agreed to give up his commission and resigned from the Army. Apparently, neither of the two ever regretted these decisions. The couple married in 1864 and took over his family’s business, the Willard Hotel. Sadly, during their short marriage, they lost two babies, and Antonia continually battled health issues that stemmed from her incarceration. She passed away in 1871. Willard was heartbroken by her death and never remarried. Their hotel, now called the InterContinental, still stands on Pennsylvania Ave., mere shouting distance from the symbol of a government she once sought to topple.

Oh, the irony for a lady in defiance.

Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

Follow me on https://www.facebook.com/heatherfreyblanton and
https://twitter.com/heatherfblanton

Elizabeth Van Lew — A Daughter of the South With the Spirit of a True Hellion

Reprinted from http://www.americancivilwarstory.com/elizabeth-van-lew.html

(I highly recommend this website!)

Willing to put it on the line for her country and her friends.

Willing to put it on the line for her country and her friends.

Elizabeth Van Lew was born in October of 1818 in Richmond, Virginia. During her childhood, Elizabeth was considered to be the most stubborn of the three Van Lew children. Her parents were John and Eliza Van Lew.

John Van Lew had come to Richmond at the age of sixteen, and by his mid thirties had built a successful hardware business. His new-found wealth made the Van Lew family one of the most prominent in the city.

As a teenager, Elizabeth was sent to a Quaker school for girls in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There, she became convinced that slavery was wrong and should be abolished. She took this belief back to Richmond, where it became her most defining feature.

Upon her fathers death, Elizabeth inherited about 10,000 dollars (roughly equivalent to 200,000 dollars today). She immediately spent all of it buying and freeing relatives of her family’s former slaves.

Elizabeth Van Lew soon a five station relay line by which her messages were quickly carried from her home in Richmond to the Union high command. One popular story concerning her message-line, tells that she would sometimes deliver fresh flowers and a Richmond morning paper directly to General Grant.

She often used her former slaves to carry her messages. Sometimes they would be hidden in a shoe, sometimes sewn into the work of a seamstress, sometimes hidden in a hollowed out egg in a basket of regular eggs. Whatever the case, her messages always got through unmolested.

One of her former slaves was Mary Bowser, a very intelligent young lady whose schooling Miss Van Lew had paid for before the war. Somehow, Mary Bowser managed to get a position as a servant in the Confederate White House.

There she was able to read secret papers, and listen in on important meetings. All the information that she gathered in the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was passed, through Miss Van Lew, straight to the Union high command. These ladies were probably the most successful and effective spy team of the Civil War. It is even believed that the two worked together to try to burn down the Confederate White House on one occasion.

During the war, Elizabeth Van Lew was somewhat of an outcast because of her anti-secession, pro-Union positions; but when it became known that she had been a Union spy, she was treated as a complete social pariah. Penniless and nearly destitute, some family and friends of a Union officer whom she had helped during the war heard of her plight. These folks put together an annuity which supported Miss Van Lew for the rest of her life.

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