Characters Who Become Friends
Happy and BLESSED whole New Year to all #BecauseFiction readers, authors, and staff! My thankfulness for seeing 2022 overflows as I write this! I never would have thunk it when I was young! 😊 Read to the end because I have a giveaway for you!
A new McAdoo mystery debuted this month that I’m excited to share with you! One reason is because of how much I love these characters! They are like close friends who I just so enjoy spending time with! Readers (and me, too) first met Charity O’Neal in GONE TO TEXAS, book one of the Cross Timbers Romance Family Saga!
An eight-year-old then, Charity was almost a year older than her best friend Arlene, so she usually got the last word on what they’d play. Plus, as the baby of her family, she lived through a tough loss in the story which leaves her perhaps more than a bit spoiled.
Along comes Morgan Lowell in book four of the series, LEAVING TEXAS. I fell in love with him right away. He’s so intelligent yet so humble about it. He’s a wonderful gentleman with lives by such impeccable morals—so much like my beloved husband, Ron! Don’t get me wrong, neither is perfect, but close!
So, after meeting these awesome characters, how could I possibly leave them behind? Ron came up with a mystery series—he’d been wanting to try the mystery genre—with Morgan and Charity Lowell as the amateur sleuths. Thus, the Cross Timbers Mystery series was born!
One thing that I find so fun about its starring couple is how she’s always on him to write another book! His first was published in LEAVING TEXAS. Morgan, like Ron, loves to have written, but does not enjoy the process. Charity loves his stories and readily admits to being a word-hog, always wanting more. More! MORE!
In the first story, a dead man was found in Room 313 at The Lowell House, a fancy-schmancy downtown Dallas hotel that was prophesied in a dream Charity’s younger sister, Autumn Hope had. DUPLICITY at The Lowell House, book one, debuted in January 2021. Book two in the series, SKULLDUGGERY in the Sulphur River Bottoms came out in July of the same year!
So it’s been a full year since the first, and COERCION at The Cow Palace, book three, launched this month on the twelfth! I’m having so much fun spending all this time with Morgan and Charity! She’s getting much more involved with his writing, actually co-authoring—although only his name shows up on the cover.
That’s the story is the one I want to share most with you today! COERCION is set in 1873 Tarrant County where Fort Worth was truly a wild town “Where the West Began” with its notorious Hell’s Half Acre red-light, gambling district! Any famous outlaw you’ve ever heard about has probably been there!
With DUPLICITY set in Dallas County (our home for fifty-plus years) and SKULLDUGGERY in Red River County (where we live now), it seemed a great idea to move the historical, romantic mystery series to Tarrant County for COERCION!
Here’s how the story begins:
Business boomed at the Lowell House hotel. Tate had never seen it slow one time since it opened back in ’53. He eased up to the front desk and tapped the bell.
A not-so-young lady—he’d seen her before but couldn’t recall her name—emerged from a back room. Thin as a runny pancake, but with nice enough features.
It sure would be great if the staff wore their names on their blouse or shirt so a body could remember them properly. He might suggest that to Morgan or Charity.
“Deputy McCarthy! Good morning to you! Need to speak with Mister Lowell?”
“No. Well, not yet anyway.” So many remembered him and knew his name because of his public service. He looked around the lobby. “Is Mis’ess Lowell handy?”
“As pockets on a skirt!” The clerk giggled at her own humor then ducked her head a bit and batted her lashes. “Sure thing, Deputy. I believe she is free. Would you like me to fetch her for you?” She grinned and gave him a wink.
Was the woman flirting?
“Please, ma’am. I’d appreciate that.” He turned around, hoping Miss Friendly was just that, only being friendly. He loved his wife and would never be looking for a side lady.
Shortly, the hotel’s matron tapped him on the shoulder. She’d caught him window shopping the ladies’ boutique right there in the hotel’s lobby. What a great idea that wife of Enoch’s had, smart and pretty.
“Hey, Tate! What brings you to our humble abode?”
Could anyone dazzle like Charity Lowell? And the better part of her razzle was that she didn’t even try to be the belle of any ball.
“Oh, thought I’d stop by, see if you’d heard anything about that murder over in Fort Worth?”
Deputy Sherriff Tate is a great secondary character, one object of Charity’s matchmaking hobby in DUPLICITY! He fought with Morgan—under General Henry Buckmeyer from my first family saga ten-book series, Texas Romances—in the War Between the States (I have trouble calling it “civil”!) There’s a prodigious bond between them.
Here’s COERCION’s back cover text:
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
More than a hundred witnesses in the Cow Palace, but no one sees who shot the newspaper reporter. If not for an offhanded bet, Morgan and Charity would never have gotten involved; he’s not one to let a friend down. The truth of who and why DeeDee’s big engagement is wrecked might never be known if they hadn’t, and it still may not be if the Lowells can’t get the right man elected governor of Texas. Crooked civil servants and politicians who think they’re above the law thwart their every effort. It’s a historic mystery wrapped in redemption, love, politics, and coercion at the Cow Palace.
I so hope you will see the wonders and pleasures I see in Morgan and Charity and take them into your reader’s heart as I have into mine! They are imagined characters who truly come to life. I think about them often, wondering what they’ll be up to next!
Linda Brooks Davis
Ella Jane McFarland in The Calling of Ella McFarland dreamed of teaching all her life. It was her passion. But instructing (or studying) in the old county schoolhouse was a far cry from a private school. Ella prayed for a position at the prestigious Worthington School for Girls. But snagging that prized job didn’t come easy in 1905.
Just outside Austin, Texas sits one of those old country schoolhouses. It’s Nameless. Not a school without a name. A school named Nameless. The Nameless School house, on Nameless Rd (FM 2243) in NW Travis County, Texas, is the only remaining structure of the community of Nameless.
Why name a community Nameless? You can read the colorful explanation on the Texas historical marker below, but here it is in a nutshell. Back in the day when the community was just getting started with a post office, no one could agree on what to name it.
Finally, someone quipped, “Looks like we’ll remain nameless.And the name stuck.
When my husband and I headed out for a book signing at Nameless School in June of 2016, we felt a bit uneasy searching for some nameless schoolhouse. So, we were relieved when we first caught sight of the sign.
A group of gracious ladies, Friends of Nameless School, who have adopted the 1909 one-room schoolhouse, hosted an open house to introduce the public to the historical site. And they blessed me with a book signing.
The Friends of Nameless School weren’t nameless. No, they wore names badges. And I scribbled my signature inside the book covers. The guests introduced themselves, and so did I. Gradually folks all over the place called one another by their names.
Nameless School was in operation from 1909-1945.
And—my—how things have changed.
Take discipline, for example. Back in 1909, discipline was what we might call old-fashioned “gentle persuasion.”Don’t forget heating in the winter.
Or saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Back then, there were 46 stars.
I’m so glad my parents didn’t leave me nameless. Aren’t you? Names should shout “You’re special.”
Matter of fact, I chose Ella Jane for the heroine of The Calling of Ella McFarland for a very special reason—to honor my maternal grandmother, Ella Jane Pyle. She left a name worthy of a novel and a great-great-granddaughter—my granddaughter, Ella Jane.
This is a picture of the original cover for The Calling of Ella McFarland. In the lower left corner is a framed photo of the original Ella Jane, my grandmother. Not pictured is the third Ella Jane in my life, my granddaughter, Ella Jane.
Which reminds me that God doesn’t leave His children nameless. In fact, He values names. Adam and Eve and all their descendants wore names, some chosen by God, for the meaning behind them. God ordained a long list of names for Jesus, each of them chosen to convey his role and place in believers’ hearts.
Thankfully, no one who has chosen kinship with the Lord Jesus Christ has to worry about namelessness. Without Jesus I would be nameless. But with Him my name is written in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27). And one day I’ll have the Name Above All Names written on my forehead (Revelation 22:4). So can you.
Contact me on my website, https://lindabrooksdavis.com if you have questions.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth …
When we feel overlooked or nameless, remind us of these truths, Lord. May anyone who has not yet named Your Name do so today. For Jesus’ sake
Linda Shenton Matchett
A Day in the Life of a Pioneer Woman
Last month, I shared a typical day for a lighthouse keeper. As many of my books are set in the Old West, I thought I’d give you a behind the scenes look of life on the prairie. Interestingly, the word pioneer originally came from the French pionnier which means foot soldier. In the late 1700s, the word’s meaning evolved to include the concept of leading or preparing the way. And that’s what thousands of men and women did in response to The Homestead Act of 1862 as they walked across the country to make a new start.
When the settlers arrived at their destination, they would build a soddy, a house literally made of sod. In the prairie states, wood was scarce. Some folks could afford to get the wood shipped in, but it was more important to prepare the fields for planting, so the house was a lower priority.
A large portion of the pioneer woman’s day was devoted to cooking because of how long it took to prepare the food. If she lived in a soddy, she cooked over an open fire in front of the shelter. If she was fortunate enough to have a cabin and either a fireplace or a stove, she could cook inside. But before starting breakfast, she had to collect eggs from the chickens, milk the cows, and churn butter. Then she could commence meal preparation which was done using iron skillets and Dutch ovens (a deep iron pot with a lid) and consisted of corn meal mush, johnny cakes, biscuits or bread, eggs, sausage or bacon, rice or fried potatoes. Lunch and dinner ranged from sandwiches to roasts, stews, and soups.
When a woman wasn’t cooking, she was often cleaning: washing the dishes, dusting and sweeping the house, or scrubbing her children. But in order to clean she had to make her own soap, a lengthy and messy (ironically) process. Many cabins had dirt floors, but wood floors stayed dirty because of the amount of soil tracked in from outside. Soot and smoke from the fireplace and stove also created a mess.
Additional chores included curing meat, preserving food for winter, gathering wood or “buffalo chips,” making candles, mending or making clothes, fetching water, ironing (with an iron that was heated in the fireplace or on the stove) and making rag rugs or quilts. Harvest time might find her outside helping her husband.
Life was not all drudgery for pioneer women. Quilting bees, barn raisings, church suppers, and even communal butchering events allowed folks to come together for socialization. Weddings and baby showers were also reasons to congregate and celebrate.
Which of these tasks seems most daunting to you?
February 1st is a day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time—my first release with Celebrate Lit, Slashed Canvas. It’s a story I’ve wanted to write for a while. When I heard it was going to be a 1920s mystery, I knew it had to include a Russian princess exiled in Paris.
The heroine, Princess Katarina Volstova, lost her husband during the revolution and gave birth to twin daughters soon after arriving in Paris. Thanks to her husband’s wisdom, she’s able to live a relatively comfortable life, not having to work, still able to afford servants.
While I needed it to be that way for the story to work, that wasn’t always the case for those of the Russian aristocracy who fled to other countries. In some cases, they didn’t always speak the language. Most of them, especially the women who found themselves widowed, didn’t have any marketable skills and as a result, no way of earning a living. Many of them were destitute and relied on the goodness of the church or the already-established Russian community.
Those who could scraped by as taxi drivers, singers, or seamstresses. Many found work in the city’s factories. Theirs are “riches to rags” stories. They went from being unable to even find the kitchens in the grand houses and palaces they occupied in Russia to wondering where their next meals would come from.
Some didn’t even attempt to find work or integrate into society, believing that the revolution would only last a few years before the monarchy would be restored. They often said that they were “sitting on their suitcases.”
Some of the descendants of those once exiled have been able to return to Russia, including for the burial of the imperial family in July of 1998. Some now live there in the shadow of the grand homes where parties were held, Christmases were celebrated, and their ancestors lived a glittering existence that will never be again.
I hope this history of Russian emigrees in Paris will help you understand Princess Katarina and her actions a little more as you read Slashed Canvas.
Marguerite Martin Gray
A Clean Slate
Happy New Year! I hope your Holiday Season was a joyous celebration of Christ’s birth.
On to a Clean Slate. I don’t know if there is such a thing in a writer’s life. My projects are ongoing but I like to stop and organize every December. I look back at past goals and forward to new ones. I prioritize my writing activities. Some demand my immediate attention, others simmer, pulling at my imagination.
So here are some of my writing adventures for 2022:
- February 15, 2022 is the release day of Labor of Love—Book One in a new series Gardens in Time. My hands are ready to hold this novel and read again about Ana and the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy. I hope you will join me. You are able to preorder your eBook copy here: http://www.celebratelitpublishing.com/posts/book/labor-of-love/
- A novella is in the works for Christmas. Chenonceau Chateau in France, 1870s opens its doors to experience Christmas with colorful characters, escaping some interesting predicaments.
- I’m going to the fictional South Pacific Islands as a contributor to a new series of novels. This is my first venture into contemporary fiction. I’ve loved the research and the research.
- Book Two of Gardens in Time, Promise of Purity, is at the publisher, awaiting extreme editing. Book Three, Whispers of Wisdom, is ready to face its first major foray into the editing world before I send it to my publisher.
Am I having fun? I love it. But as you see, I have to be organized. Clutter has to vanish leaving the essentials on the table.
Thank you for joining me in this new year. Enjoy your adventures.
Mountain Brook Ink
HISTORICAL DISCONNECT, CABINET CARDS, & PHOTOSHOP
In school, I didn’t like history class. It was presented in a dry, boring fashion. I couldn’t keep all those dates and names straight. I also felt I had nothing in common with those long dead people.
So, why in the world do I write historical fiction?
I have discovered the joy and beauty of history and the characters who lived it. They are not who I once thought them to be. The more historical tidbits I learn, the more I realize not much has changed. Oh, sure we have more technology, but people are basically the same. Same fears, same issues, same hopes and dreams.
A writing friend found little snippets in old newspapers which read a lot like current day social media posts about kittens and pranks. Who would have thought? Apparently, things haven’t changed so much.
One of the things with all our modern technology is how anyone can change their appearance in a picture with things like Photoshop, face tuning, and filters. A person can change the colors, put any background behind them, erase skin blemishes, modify facial and body features, and so much more, like special effects. It’s hard to know what’s real anymore. I don’t think this modern trend is doing us any favors. A hundred years from now, people will see our images and not have an accurate view of us.
Back in the good ol’ days, a picture spoke a thousand words. Or did it? Even at the beginning of photography, some of those “words” were altered. Changing our appearance didn’t start with the computer age or even with the invention of photography. When portraits were painted, people wanted their likenesses to not be too accurate. Long before camera technology, the subject/s of a portrait would request the artist “adjust” certain features to improve them.
I figured before the advent of computers and photo-manipulating type software, altering a picture was rarely if ever done. Today, there are so many apps which allow the casual user to change anything about an image to where it hardly resembles the original. Some of these are fun and hilarious.
It seems since the early days of photography, the subject of the image wanted to appear different than they were in reality. Photographs were first printed on paper in 1847. When this technology was beginning to gain popularity, cartes-de-visite (visting cards) were created in France in the 1850s, a smaller (2.5 x 4 inches) precursor to cabinet cards. Cabinet cards consisted of a thin-paper photograph (roughly 4 x 5.5 inches) mounted on a light-to-heavy-weight cardstock (roughly 4.5 x 6.5 inches). Where the cartes-de-visite were small and designed to give as calling cards or to give to a friend, cabinet cards by design were meant to sit upon a cabinet and could be viewed from across the room.
Not everyone wanted others to see all their perceived flaws. A skilled photographer could alter the negative before printing an image, anything from smoothing out a person’s complexion to slimming down the waist to achieve that perfect S-shaped figure. There were whole manuals on how to retouch negatives. Let’s take another peek at the cabinet card from the beginning of this article.
Notice the white space between the small of her back and her arm. That’s where part of her waist was scraped away for the desired shape. Don’t we all wish we could simply scrape away some of our unwanted bulges. This one is quite obvious, but others were more cleverly disguised. Another technique was penciling in part of the background over the waist. The majority of the photo-altering was done to remove freckles, wrinkles, and other facial blemishes.
(For more examples of historical photo-manipulating visit Bernadette Banner’s video on this topic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYGUfg_NJzg )
I guess I assumed the old photographs were accurate, but where there are people, there is vanity, and where there is vanity, there is retouching. The more I think modern people have little in common with people of bygone eras, the more I discover they aren’t much different.
In The Damsel’s Intent (Quilting Circle 3), a stranger watching Aunt Henny has a cabinet card he is often looking at. In The Débutante’s Secret (Quilting Circle 4), Aunt Henny learns who the stranger is and why that card is so fascinating.
THE QUILTING CIRCLE
Historical Romance Series
THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT (Book1) – Will a secret clouding a single mother’s past cost Lily the man she loves?
THE DAUGHTER’S PREDICAMENT (Book2) *2020 Selah Awards Finalist & WRMA Finalist* – As Isabelle’s romance prospects are turning in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams.
THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (Book3) *2021 Selah Awards Winner & WRMA Finalist *– Nicole heads down the mountain to fetch herself a husband. Can she learn to be enough of a lady to snag the handsome rancher?
THE DÉBUTANTE’S SECRET (Book4) –Complications arise when a fancy French lady, Geneviève, steps off the train and into Deputy Montana’s arms.
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A new year. New possibilities.
There is a meme going around that goes a little like this:
All of my plans for the future involve me waking up tomorrow with a sudden sense of discipline and adherence to routine that I have never displayed even once in my life.~@rmccarthyjames
Can you relate?
In the past I’ve done a word of the year. Where you filter all parts of your life through the One Word.
Which is an amazing way to grow character —if I can stick with it the whole year and not forget. (Things like Diligence or increase. Do you have goals in your career? Diligence. Marriage, Family, Spiritual growth? Diligence.
This year I intend to do a separate word every month. (and if I can get to it, I’ll pray through those words in the next week or so and get them on my calendar now.) I look at my life now and who I want to become by the end of the year, and to be honest I come up with all the same words and concepts that I have used previously. I guess I haven’t developed those character traits as well as I would like.
Can I just say, I moved my office out of the guest room right before Thanksgiving, and I still have piles of stuff to sort. (don’t judge me :op)
“Follow through” would be a good one.
But doing the same things in the same way is getting me the same results.
So for January my phrase is “Seek First” and the sign to remind me is a knock. You know, Ask and it shall be given unto you, Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened unto you.
I’m beginning this year by aligning my goals with The Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all the things will fall into place.
Do you choose a word of the year?