Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Paper Dolls, Sears and Roebuck Catalog, and the Accidental Author

Many authors have said the urge to write was natural and a life-long goal. In fact, it seems that most writers “always had a dream.” This often made me wonder why I don’t fit the mold. Of course, I had an imagination, but don’t all children have one to some extent?
Playing make-believe is as natural to little girls and boys as is breathing.
I grew up when paper dolls were popular. When I had a fifteen cents or a quarter, that’s what I bought—a paper doll book. My little sister and I spent many hours of our childhood cutting out the dolls and their clothes. Each piece of clothing had little tabs to fold over the doll’s shoulders or around her waist. We had boxes of paper dolls—Victorian ladies, teenage girls, little children, mommies, and Western cowgirls. We gave each a name, a personality, and emotions.

Shoe boxes held our paper doll sets, and heaven forbid we should ever mix up the dolls and their clothes. If my dolls became intermingled with my sister’s, that was cause for all-out war. The shoe boxes also made very nice homes for paper dolls. For a house, though, we needed beds, refrigerators, stoves, tables, rugs, and chairs. Mother gave us last year’s Sears and Roebuck catalog and we became the nation’s first recyclers. Never threw away a catalog. They furnished our doll homes perfectly. True, everything lay on the floor of the “home,” but that was all right because we played “make believe.”

The paper dolls lived in a world of grand adventures. Why, they went to parties, rode on trains to big cities, married, went shopping, roped cattle and rode horses, met kings and knights, and became princesses and beauty queens. So, perhaps I carried the idea of inventing stories in my head and heart, after all.

Another writer I know calls herself The Accidental Reporter. Well, I suppose I’m The Accidental Author. The first pieces I wrote were scientific research papers and lab reports while attending school. Nothing else, not even a diary. After early retirement, I began to “dabble” in this and that, and one day, I accidentally began to write a story. I say “accidentally” because I only intended to add to my minuscule store of knowledge about the computer, especially WORD 2002. Thus, many weeks later, I had a 90,000 word novel stored—yep, you guessed it—written in stiff, correct, scientific language. The first editor who rejected it said—“this reads like a textbook.”

Oh, I had much to learn, but fortunately, I have an attribute perhaps all authors have—persistence. Also, I’m a fast-learner, and most often, a self-learner.

My first published book was ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS. This was not the first I had written, but I thought I had a good chance to get this story in print. Another publisher took it right away, which thrilled me. After several years, I took my rights and now it is reprinted with the new cover with Prairie Rose Publications.
Available at Amazon for $0.00 Kindle Unlimited
 To escape an arranged marriage, beautiful, proper Cynthia Harrington from East Texas impulsively marries Ricardo Romero, a striking, sensual Spaniard who ranches on the far western edge of the Texas frontier. She naïvely steps into a hotbed of anger, rivalry, and strong wills. She struggles to gain a foothold in the hostile household and foreign ranch community, determined to make a place for herself—but will she also find a way to make her husband love her?

By marrying an “outsider”, Ricardo brings down the wrath of his mother, Felicitas, on his unsuspecting bride. Cynthia must also contend with beautiful Starr Hidalgo, a wealthy, jealous young neighbor, who has always believed she and Ricardo would be married.

When the Texas Rangers arrive looking for a killer, Cynthia daringly manages to save Ricardo’s mother in a confrontation with the wanted man. Ricardo’s bride has more grit and spunk than he ever imagined—but has she been pushed too far to stay on at the ranch with him? Can he convince her that they both want—and need—the same thing? Cynthia is in search of nothing more than what she’s told Ricardo from the very beginning—a loving home and husband. But is it already too late for them? With a rough beginning to their married lives, can their love survive—and give them all their hopes and dreams?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Buffy and the Modern Heroine

One of these days I would like to write about a medieval slayer, a petite, attractive, but not overly sexualized woman who saves the day from the forces of darkness. Obviously, Buffy would fit like a gooseskin glove into the medieval world of demons and angels.

To me, the first such character was Princess Leia in Star Wars, but the archetype really took root in popular culture with the Vampire Slayer in the 1990s. Many other authors have taken a Buffyesque character into their worlds. You can see the “Buffy effect” on heroines such as Katniss from The Hunger Games or even Kim Possible from Disney.

Like most women, they are passionate, smart, broken in places but stronger for it. What sets them apart is their ability to take care of themselves in places where girls are told not to go, i.e. dark alleys and fraternity houses.

And as an author I want to write characters in this mold. When I started writing Beyond All Else (my short story in One Winter Knight, the new holiday anthology from Prairie Rose Publications) I thought I was writing a kick-ass heroine, a Buffy for the Middle Ages. After all, when we meet Alais of Roundtree she’s about to steal the hero’s sword.

Except she isn’t kick-ass.

In one afternoon, Alais lost everything: Her family, her home, and her trust in the social precepts that had defined her world.  Chivalry is dead. Honor is meaningless. Greed and cruelty rule.  To my disappointment as I wrote the scene, she had no intention of using the sword to right the wrongs done to her. She planned to sell it for money to buy food, clothing, and shelter. 

She’s practical, resourceful, and determined—but no super heroine.

She’s well aware that her size and upbringing as a noblewoman puts her at a disadvantage in this new world she inhabits. She can embroider, read, and run a household, but she can’t fight, fish, or grow food. Yet—and I love this about her—when she gets an unexpected chance for revenge, she’s all in for the fight of her life.

So what are you thoughts about kick-ass heroines?

Here's an excerpt from the story. Leave a comment below for a chance to win a free copy of the anthology.

For the first time in weeks, her heartbeat steadied. The more she thought through the plan, the slower her blood pulsed. Just having a plan made her feel better, more in control. If she planned for it, she could control it. “The sword, too.” 
“That sword is almost as tall as you. You will not be able to swing it.” 
“I do not want to swing it. I shall sell it.” She blew curls out of her eyes. Gold trim meant gems; gems prised free meant money; money meant security.  
Silence held for a few steps, then Jo asked, “You do not think the sheriff will give up the hunt, do you?” 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hunewill Ranch & Bridgeport Holiday Brides

My first three novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series are set in the gold mining town of Lundy. The fourth, Haunted by Love, takes place in Bridgeport and along Robinson Creek. But, many of the scenes plus the big event in the fifth book, Bridgeport Holiday Brides, takes place at the Caldwell Ranch in Big Meadows area by Bridgeport.

I did not need to search long and hard before I found a ranch to serve as my model for the Caldwell Ranch.  Mr. Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill, along with being a successful owner of two sawmills along Buckeye Creek supplying wood for both Bodie and Bridgeport starting in the 1860’s, used the site of the current Hunewill Ranch to graze the oxen he worked in his logging operation. For more information on the Hunewill sawmills, please CLICK HERE.

Hunewill soon found himself raising cattle and helping to supply beef to the miners in Bodie, Aurora and Bridgeport.  He and his wife, Esther, built a beautiful ranch house in 1880 and where they eventually switched their focus to running a successful cattle ranch. They also raised horses and sheep. There they lived with their son Frank who married Alice in 1883.

The Hunewill Ranch home was beautiful example of Victorian-era architecture. Built with the Sawtooths of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west, the setting is spectacular.

Economic conditions in the early 1900’s prompted the family to turn the Hunewill Ranch into a guest ranch. This guest ranch is still in operation today and is run by descendants of Napoleon and Esther Hunewill, despite efforts to pressure landowners to subdivide the land for development. For more photographs of the countryside on and around the Hunewill Ranch, please CLICK HERE.

Is it any wonder I chose this site for the Caldwell Ranch in Bridgeport Holiday Brides? Here is the book description:

With the arrival of Beth Dodd’s sister, Hazel, in California, Beth and her fiancé, Val Caldwell, are now able to make wedding plans.  Thanksgiving seems to be a good time to tie the knot and bring the Caldwell family together, as well, but when Val’s older half-brother, Edwin, and his family show up for the wedding, things fall apart. Edwin’s advice to Val to wrest control of Beth’s holdings and absorb them into the Caldwell Ranch leads to bad blood and fisticuffs between the brothers. Will Beth call the wedding off to protect what she’s worked so hard to gain?

As Beth’s younger sister, Hazel, realizes she’s falling in love with Val’s younger brother, Luther, she learns the feeling is mutual. Luther has bought a ring and plans to announce their engagement at Thanksgiving, as well. But Beth has a stormy relationship with her future brother-in-law, and believes her sister is too young to marry. Headstrong and determined to control their own destinies, will happiness also be possible for these BRIDGEPORT HOLIDAY BRIDES?


Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novelette, A Christmas Promise, and the five novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit, Haunted by Love  and Bridgeport Holiday Brides were published by Prairie Rose Publications.