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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Breaking the Fourth Wall

A few weeks ago, according to my Facebook feed, The Bachelor finale featured a seriously unsavory breakup between the latest contestants. I don’t watch the dating show, but viewers tore into ABC for airing the footage.

The episode reminded viewers that they weren’t part of a show, but rather voyeurs watching a reality TV show that appeared to become a little too real. They were no longer able to suspend disbelief.

As fiction writers, one of our jobs in to get readers to suspend disbelief –to allow themselves to believe your story, your world, your characters are real even though they know it’s fiction. But how do we create this willingness to stay in our story?

The steps are simple (in theory) and probably not new to anyone here.

Create a relatable situation or character

Stories have to have a semblance of truth, a backstory that make senses to us, and at least one character in whom we can see ourselves.

Stay within your world

Once you create your world, you have to maintain the logic of that world. Characters have to follow the rules of that world—or break them with consequences—and the conflicts and resolutions to those conflicts have to come from the world.

Include specific details

Small, specific details make a story more real, particularly if readers can relate to them. It’s not just the plush, linen chair. It’s the plush, linen chair that smells like a wet dog.

What might be harder to identify is what stops that suspension of disbelief. For viewers of The Bachelor, the breakup pushed them out of the make-believe world of the TV show and reminded them that these are people, not characters.

For me, scenes when a heroine looks in the mirror and inventories her assets throw me out of the story. I’ve never met a woman who did that. Most list their shortcomings.

What interrupts your suspension of disbelief?

Keena Kincaid writes historical romances in which passion, magic and treachery collide to create unforgettable stories. If you want to know more about her as an author, visit her Facebook page.

Monday, March 19, 2018


Columbia is one of my go to places for research about the mid- to late 1800’s western research in general and California gold rush history in particular. It never became a ghost town like so many gold mining communities, but struggled for years until the state government of California established it as a state park. They preserved the buildings that still existed from the hey-day of the town’s existence, brought in vendors, many of which provided food and goods reminiscent of the period, and opened it to the public.

Photocopy of 1852 lithograph by G. H. Goddard, General View, Columbia, Tuolumne County, CA
One building that still exists from that time period, although I suspect it has had its wood roof replaced, is the town jail. I have visited several times. It is far from roomy, and was not designed for comfort. Since Columbia was not the county seat, it also was not designed for long-term prisoner stays. There was a district court in Columbia, and one instance of a murder case, the suspects were housed in the Tuolumne County jail in Sonora five miles to the south until they were brought back to Columbia for trial. However, most snippets from the newspaper of the time, the Columbia Gazette, refer to prisoners being transported to Sonora.

Columbia State Park Humor
However, it is not the original jail. Here is the timeline for the building that is now known as the jail:

1850s Originally this lot was part of a larger lot. It was acquired by Mullan and Williams for the Boston Livery.
1866 The lot is split, the south half is purchased by Mike Rehm.

1870s North half of the lot has the jail (not the current building), the south half has a stone building which is used to store black powder.

1871 August - Rehm owns Block 9, Lot 165. - Deputy County Surveyor map by John P. Dart

1890s Stone building is the jail through the 1930s.

1949 Donated to the state from Tuolumne County, no money changed hands, valued at $100. (as part of the town of Columbia becoming a state park.)

Iron Doors to Jail - only source of light and air.
The lawlessness of Columbia, typical of gold-mining towns, did require a jail. At first it was a matter of chaining the arrestee to a sturdy tree until he could be transported to Sonora. The first jail was built of wood. However, Columbia, like many foothill towns, regularly went up in flames. Even after merchants and individual after the destructive blaze of 1854 began constructing their buildings of brick made at nearby Shaw Flats and placing iron doors over their doorways and windows to discourage the spread of flames, large fires broke out in 1857 and 1861.

Inside of Jail Cell
The author of one source wrote with a dramatic flair about some of the Mother Lode jails that embedded heavy steel rings in the floor in the event the jailors felt they needed to chain prisoners “low down.” However, there does not appear to have been such rings in the Columbia jail.

Opening to Cells-Courtesy of Retired Prisons on Waymarketing
Here is what else the author had to say about this jail: 

“Built during the 1860s, this tiny, solid building remained in use until the late 1930s. Inside are two cells and a small space where the jailer could keep an eye on the bad guys.  Wooden doors front the two cells, with small openings next to each, through which food may have been passed to the prisoners inside. The sturdy brick and stone construction, along with a heavy iron door, provided what appears to be a quite effective lock up.”
Keep in mind, originally this building was next to the old jail, and it was used to store black powder before it was converted into the jail. The two cells in this structure are cramped. There are no windows or openings to allow in light or air. The space for the jailer which allows access to the cells is not any bigger. Except for keeping a jailer out of the weather, that space would almost seem like a cell except the double iron doors which served as the only entrance and source of light and air supply for the building filled almost one end. Based on its current appearance, there was no source of heating. However, in the days before the roof was restored, there might have been a single burner wood stove for the comfort of the jailer.
Either way, I would not want to spend any more time there than the two minutes it took me to look it over and take a few pictures.


Koeppel, Elliott H.; Columbia, California On the Gold Dust Trail ; Malakoff & Co. Printing, La Habra, California; pg. 45

Anyone who has not yet read my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series yet which takes place just on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Columbia and Sonora, you may enjoy my first two books in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series. You may find the first book in the series, Big Meadow Valentine, by CLICKING HERE.

The second book, A Resurrected Heart, is about the April resurrection day in the gold mining town of Lundy, but it has nothing to do with Easter. You may find this book by CLICKING HERE.

Friday, March 16, 2018

VILLAINS AND TREACHERY--BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!--by Cheryl Pierson #blogabookscene #prairierosepub

Oh, how I love a good villain! Whether I’m reading about one or watching him/her on film, or best of all—WRITING ONE!

What makes a good villain? Well, in my opinion, first and foremost he can’t be one-dimensional. I know in our “real world” there are those people that seem to be evil just for the sake of it and some of them probably are. But in our reading/writing, we want to know WHY. What made this person turn out like he did—a diabolical, cunning, demonic person that will stop at nothing to accomplish what he’s set out to do?

This leads to the question, is there anything at all that would stop him from carrying out his evil plans? Would a memory stop him, or trigger him? Would any one person be able to reason with him? Would a “new plan” divert him from carrying out the blueprint for disaster for the hero/heroine that he’s already come up with?
But there are other things that have to be reckoned with. Those things that might have happened to him in his past to create and mold him into the kind of person who would be so bold and determined to use anything—no matter how it hurts others—to his own advantage are important. But what are the factors that drive him presently? A circumstance of opportunity? A long-seated need for revenge and the path to that revenge being presented? Greed? Burning jealousy? Maybe even the death of a loved one that he may not have wanted to embarrass by his actions while they were still living—now that they’re gone, all bets are off!

THE DEVIL AND MISS JULIA JACKSON has the heroine caught between a distant relative who throws her and her niece out of their home and the job as nursemaid she takes in Indian Territory, working for a man who is, at first, cold and unresponsive. The villain in this story shifts between the man who threw Julia out of her home to someone else who means to destroy her employer.

I’ve had so many villains I’ve created in my writing that were motivated by different things. My first one, Andrew Fallon, appeared in FIRE EYES. He was just pure evil. He didn’t care about anything or anyone—even his family, as his brother found out when he came looking for him.

In TIME PLAINS DRIFTER, the villain is paranormal—a demon who can shape-shift. How in the world will the innocents he’s after survive? They have a reluctant angel or two on their side, but the demon is powerful. Can they overcome his strength?

In my first contemporary romantic suspense, SWEET DANGER, Tabor Hardin has his revenge handed to him on a silver platter, being in the right place at the right time to turn the tables on the undercover cop who put him in jail—before his escape. He’s a man with nothing to lose at this point, and Jesse Nightwalker, the cop, has a new life hovering on the horizon—if he can survive.

Greed comes in to play in BEYOND THE FIRE, when undercover DEA agent Jackson Taylor’s cover is blown and a drug lord comes after him, trying to use Jack’s undercover partner against him. But there is a secret that even Jack hasn’t known about his partner—and the woman he’s falling in love with. Is it enough to defeat the powerful drug cartel and keep Jackson, Kendi, and his partner safe?

Treachery comes in all forms and it’s most often quite a surprise. No matter how vigilant our heroes are, they come up against some very foreboding, sharp cunning from the villains—after all, they have to have a worthy opponent, right?

Speaking of worthy opponents, I’ll talk a little about my contemporary romantic suspense CAPTURE THE NIGHT—where the villain, Kieran McShane, runs his own rogue faction of the Irish Republican Army and plans to murder Great Britain’s Prime Minister while he’s on vacation in Dallas. Johnny Logan is an undercover Dallas cop, staying in the hotel as added protection for the prime minister; Alexa Bailey is treating herself to a one-year divorce anniversary vacation. When McShane takes over the entire hotel, it’s only a matter of time before he discovers them up on the roof in the maintenance housing—and collateral damage means nothing to him. With the hostages brought to the roof, McShane threatens to begin throwing them over one by one—unless his demands are met. Can Johnny and Alexa survive the whims of a madman, bent on political revenge?

One of my favorite recent stories is SABRINA, one of four novels that appears in the boxed set MAIL ORDER BRIDES FOR SALE: THE REMINGTON SISTERS. Four sisters are at the mercy of their stepfather who plans to sell them to the highest bidder now that their mother is dead. But these girls have other plans. Can they manage to get away? Will they be able to keep themselves safe from Josiah Bloodworth no matter how far away they go? This is a very fun set of four full length novels, each sister’s story penned by a different author. Livia Washburn Reasoner—Lizzy; Jacquie Rogers—Belle; Celia Yeary—Lola; and Cheryl Pierson—Sabrina.

Here's an excerpt of Sabrina facing down the villain, her stepfather, in the dressmaker's shop. Cam is listening to it all from the back, waiting for his chance to save her, his sister, and the proprietor of the shop. Here's what happens:

“So you see, dear Sabrina, you have no true choice about what you do—and neither do your sisters.” Bloodworth spread his hands as he spoke. “You will, indeed, come home to Pennsylvania from this godforsaken place and do exactly as you are told. You will marry a man—a proper gentleman—of my choosing.” He took a step closer to her.

She faced him unflinchingly, her head held high. “I will no more return to Philadelphia with you than fly to the moon. You would do well to carry your pompous, maggot-ridden self away from here and get as far east as you can go posthaste—before my husband returns for us—and sends you straight to hell.” She spoke as regally as a queen to the lowliest dregs of society, without a trace of fear.

A thin smile touched Bloodworth’s lips, but the calm iciness in his pale eyes was what put Cam on alert. This man was determined, and he believed no one could stop him.

His muscle-bound cohort stood near the door, keeping watch so that Bloodworth didn’t need to worry about any distractions—from the two other women, or from any of the townspeople.

“My dear Sabrina, you are most definitely going to do exactly as I tell you. Or else.”

“Else what? You’ll drag me back by my hair like the brute that you truly are?”

Bloodworth chuckled. “Well, well. Our little Sabrina has come into her own, hasn’t she?” He stroked his chin. “Actually, I don’t believe I shall have to drag you back. I think you most likely will do anything I say once I lay my hands on that half-breed husband of yours…even if I tell you to climb up on this counter and spread your legs like the whore you are…just like your mother was—”

The slap Sabrina gave Bloodworth echoed through the room, and brought a spot of blood to the corner of his mouth. Unruffled, he took out his handkerchief and dabbed at it.

“I’m going to kill your husband, Sabrina Rose. It will be a long…slow…and very, very painful death. And you will have only yourself to blame."

So many wonderful reasons for becoming a villain! The motivations are just endless, aren’t they? It’s a fine line to walk, making them evil, yet sympathetic in some instances, and letting our readers see a glimpse of their humanity—if they have any left.

Do you have a favorite villain you’ve written or read? What about your favorite film villain?




Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Do we need to 'Beware the ides of March'? by Kaye Spencer #IdesofMarch #PrairieRosePubs

Beware the ides of March—a phrase of dire warning. A phrase that conjures images of danger, destruction, and death. Where did this dark association with the 15th of March originate?

As with many phrases we use today, we have William Shakespeare to thank. While historically, we know Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BCE as a result of a conspiracy by a group of Roman senators, it was Shakespeare who immortalized this particular phrase in his play Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2:

Who calls?

Bid every noise be still. Peace yet again.
                                 Music ceases.
Who is in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry "Caesar!"--Speak. Caesar is turned to hear

Beware the ides of March.

Set him before me. Let me see his face.

Fellow, come from the throng. Look upon Caesar.
                                SOOTHSAYER approaches
What sayst thou to me now? Speak once again.

Beware the ides of March.

He is a dreamer. Let us leave him. Pass!

Kaye's Translation:

SOOTHSAYER: Yells out from the crowd
Hey, Caesar! Watch out when you go out and about on March 15th. I see a bad moon rising, and it's got your name on it.

CAESAR: responds when the Soothsayer is brought before him
You're just a crazy old man. I can't be bothered with this hocus-pocus nonsense. Get out of my way. I've got places to go, things to do, and peoples to conquer. Come on, guys. Let's blow this popsicle stand.

Obviously, Caesar should have listened...

But, poor, poor maligned March 15th.

There isn't anything inherently worrisome, sinister, or foreboding about this date. In fact, every month has an "ides". It's simply the 15th of the month. The word 'ides' is a derivative of the Latin verb iduare/idus*, which means 'to divide". The ides denoted the Roman method of signifying the day in the middle of the month**. More specifically, the ides related directed to the way lunar phases were calculated at the time. The full moon in any given month typically fell between the 13th and the 15th. Before Caesar was in charge of... well, just about everything... and he changed the calendar, the ides of March was the date of the new year and a time for celebration.

If you're wondering what historic events occurred on March 15th that weren't as gruesome as Julius Caesar's assassination, here is a short list:

1820 - Maine was admitted as the 23rd state of the Union

1865 - U. S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address

1892 - Jesse W. Reno patented the Reno Inclined Elevator -- 1st escalator

1907 - Finland was the first European country to give women the right to vote

1916 - U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent American soldiers into Mexico with intent to capture Pancho Villa

1927 - Birthday: Carl Smith (country music artist)

1935 - Birthday: actor Judd Hirsch

1937 - In Chicago, Illinois, the first blood bank to preserve blood for transfusion by refrigeration was established at the Cook County Hospital

1945 - 'Billboard' magazine began listing top albums - the first No. 1 was "The Nat King Cole Trio"

1945 - 17th Academy Awards: Bing Crosby (Going My Way), Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight), Movie: "Going My Way", Song: Swinging on a Star (Going My Way)

1948 - Sir Laurence Olivier was on the cover of "LIFE" magazine for his starring role in Shakespeare’s "Hamlet"

1954 - Television premiere of the CBS Morning Show with Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar

1956 - The musical "My Fair Lady" opened on Broadway - Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison

1961 - Birthday: Fabio

1963 - Birthday: Bret Michaels (musician - Poison rock group)

1964 - In Montreal, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were married

1972 - Second day of 2-day movie premiere of 'The Godfather' in New York City

1977 - The first episode of "Eight is Enough" aired on television

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

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*Pancho Villa:
Doroteo Arango Arámbula (June 5, 1878 – July 23, 1923), better known as Francisco or "Pancho" Villa, a Mexican Revolutionary general. This work is from the National Photo Company collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work.

*Sir Laurence Olivier - Pinterest
*Movie Posters: Going My Way and The Godfather - Wikipedia

J*ulius Caesar dialogue - 'No Fear Shakespeare'

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Creativity (An 8-Part Series): Part III - Shape-Shifting

By Kristy McCaffrey

Don't miss
Part I  - Imagination

While shape-shifting is often associated with evil and deception, it can be thought of most easily as a way to incorporate the qualities and sensory perceptions of a particular animal. Shape-shifting allows the navigation through different levels of consciousness, both awake and dreaming, and along the astral plane.

In the iconic King Arthur story "The Sword in the Stone" by T. H. White, the wizard Merlin transforms young Arthur into many different animals to aid the boy in learning how to be king. When Arthur finally pulls the sword from the stone, the animal kingdom relays many mystical messages, giving him strength and courage to grow into the man he needs to be.

In shamanic realms, one must master energy to become a shape-shifter, and thereby learn to shift situations.

Shape-shifting goes hand-in-hand with totem animals. In many cultures, association with an animal is a means of navigating the world—Coyote energy is mischievous, Raven energy is cunning and otherworldly, Rabbit energy is quick and alert. If one has an affinity for a certain creature, why not imagine what it would be like to be that animal? What might this teach you?

Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit.
~ Author Edward Abbey

Each animal has its own gifts, which are accessible to us. Bear teaches us to set clear boundaries and balance activities with periods of rest. Butterfly embodies transformation from one state to the next. Whale calls to deep creativity and the ability to sing your intention into the landscape.

Shifting focus has long been an avenue to unlock creativity. While running along the terrain as a bobcat, what wondrous things will you see?

Lots of people talk to animals. Not very many listen, though. That's the problem. ~ Benjamin Hoff

Works Cited
Billington, Penny. The Path of Druidry: Walking the Ancient Green Way. Llwellyn Publications, 2011.

Carson, David. Find Your Spirit Animals. Watkins Publishing, 2011.

Farmer Ph.D, Steven D. Animal Spirit Guides. Hay House, Inc., 2006.

Myss, Carolyn. Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential. Harmony Books, 2001.

Don’t miss Part IV in the Creativity series: Forbearance

Until next time…

 Connect with Kristy

Monday, March 12, 2018

March--in like a Lion, out like a Lamb

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePub.

Ah, March…  “Comes in like a Lion, goes out like a Lamb”

Sitting here, thinking about a March blog and listening to the early March wind howl outside, that saying came to mind. I grew up with it—it was repeated every time a thunderstorm fired up in early March. But I have no idea where it comes from. And after researching it—I’m still not sure.

According to the Paris Review blog, one of the earliest citations is from Thomas Fuller in a 1732 compendium, Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British. Fuller's wording is as I listed at the top of this blog.

Another possible reference seems to be the stars. March begins under Leo, the lion, and goes out under Aries, the ram—although a lamb and a ram aren’t quite the same thing.

Regardless, if you grew up and/or live in tornado alley like me, when the wind blows strong and the storms pop up, the adage will come up more than once this month.

In a nod to spring—may it please arrive soon!—here’s an excerpt from one of my short stories.

From NO LESS THAN FOREVER, A River’s Bend Duo:

Love always finds a way…

Doctor Franz Bittner is satisfied with his life as it is. He has a good practice in a place where he is respected, in spite of his German birth. He has good friends and enough income to provide him with a few comforts. A wife would only complicate things. Then a tiny blond stranger is pulled from the river and everything changes. With one smile she captures his attention—and steals his heart.

Rebekah Snow Redmann barely survived her abusive husband’s attack. Though she was given to him to pay her father’s debts, she’d rather die than go back. Then she ends up in the care of the handsome local doctor and he stitches up more than her wounds—he mends her soul. With him, she discovers everything that she believes she can never have...a love that will last forever.

“This is the first time our little town has attempted such a thing. The Spring Dance was envisioned by Martha and her friend, Mary Hawken, and they’ve worked very hard on it. Would you like to attend this evening?”

Rebekah stared up at Franz from her spot on the blue damask settee. “I don’t think I’m strong enough to dance.”

“You don’t have to do anything more than sit and watch. I should attend, in support of my sister, but I will stay here with you, if that is what you wish.”

“No, you mustn’t disappoint Martha. She’s been so kind to me. You both have.”

When Franz’s gaze heated, she looked away. She may not know much, but she recognized his desire. She felt the same for him and it made her physically ill to know nothing could come of it.

“Little one, we don’t have to go. I will simply ask someone to come and stay with us while Martha is gone.”

“A chaperone?” Rebekah laughed. “That’s hardly necessary, given the circumstances.” When he remained silent, she tried to explain. “If I’m married, you’re safe. And the people here know you would never take advantage of me.”

“But do you know that?” He crossed the room to sit beside her. “Do you believe you are safe alone here with me?”

“Yes.” Though that wasn’t entirely true. She trusted him—but not herself.

“That is good.” Franz patted her hand and rose. “Then we will attend the dance for Martha. We will stay only a little while, and when you are ready, we will come home.”

She nodded her agreement and he left, mumbling something about pressing a suit. He’d barely disappeared from sight when the front door opened and Martha breezed in, bringing a waft of cool, damp spring air into the room.

Fear that her presence in Martha’s parlor would upset the woman ripped through her. “Franz said it was all right if I sat in here for a while. The sun felt so good and I sat right where he showed me. I didn’t touch anything else, I swear.” Her words trailed off when Martha only stared at her in silence before reminding her that she was welcome in this beautiful home. Martha went so far as to give her permission to rearrange the room to suit herself. “I don’t think I’ll find it necessary to move everything.”

“That is good to hear. Are you up to eating a bite of supper? Then I have to get dressed for the Spring Dance.”

“I’ve invited Rebekah to go with us.” Franz leaned against the doorframe, smiling gently at his patient.

Rebekah couldn’t believe she was actually blushing as Franz smiled at her. When Martha enthusiastically supported her brother, she knew she was attending the dance. “I have nothing to wear.”

Martha suggested Mary Hawken might have a dress that would fit and Franz immediately offered to go and ask, shocking both women. But the thought of wearing something that hadn’t been provided by her husband held incredible allure.

Martha’s voice brought her attention back. “We’ll eat and dress before Matthew arrives.”

“Sheriff Tate?” Rebekah couldn’t stop the wave of terror that swept her. She avoided lawmen. The scars on her back were from the one time she’d tried to involve the law to gain her freedom.

Martha’s reassurance helped, though her fear was too deep-seated to be removed by a few words. But, she would never disappoint Martha or Franz. If going to the dance meant being in the company of Sheriff Tate, she would manage somehow.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Book Review: Addie and the Gunslinger

Ex-gunslinger Jude Morgan lands in jail in a far-flung West Texas town. On the fourth day, the sheriff ushers in a beautiful woman dressed in men’s pants and toting her own six-shooter. Adriana Jones claims he is her worthless husband who married her, but never came home.

The young woman makes a bargain with Jude in front of the sheriff. Jude is to come home where he belongs, and she will have him released. Once they’re alone, she explains his job is to pose as her husband to thwart the marriage advances of her neighbor, wealthy rancher Horace Caruthers. The older man wants her ranch to join with his; the Pecos River runs through her property.

To seal the bargain, Jude wants a kiss. During the next few weeks, however, Jude and Addie learn that the kiss meant more than they intended. Then, when Addie's life is in danger, will Jude rescue his Addie? Or will Addie save herself and her gunslinger?

My Review:
Ooooohhh!!! Jude (swoon -- love that name!!) and Addie deliver an adorable little tale of a man looking for something different out of life and a woman who needs a man to help save her home. Love how they meet and watching the initial sparks flare and grow into something more.

There were a couple of surprising twists to go with the drama, making this quick sweet story lighthearted with just enough excitement to keep your attention.

Purchase link: