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Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Release —TEXAS GOLD by Tracy Garrett — Giveaway!

Texas Ranger Jake McCain is hot on the trail of a band of murderous outlaws when they ambush him and leave him for dead. A candle in a faraway window shines dimly in the night, and with his last ounce of strength, he makes his way through a blinding snowstorm to a solitary cabin and blessed shelter where he can heal.

The last thing Rachel Hudson expects the deadly spring blizzard to bring is a wounded Ranger with a pack of trouble he’s got to catch up to and eliminate—as soon as he’s able.  As she works to save him, Rachel begins to fall for his dark gaze and seductive touch—and she must remind herself she’s got her younger brother to think of. As memories of her earlier life haunt her, Rachel realizes Jake McCain is far more dangerous than any storm.

But the past Rachel had hoped to escape suddenly looms over her future. She and Jake have more than a powerful mutual attraction in common—the dangerous gunmen he’s been chasing intend to steal Rachel and her brother, Nathan.

Jake vows to protect Rachel, the innocent beauty with a smile that touches his heart and kisses that burn straight through to his soul. Now that he knows life is worthless without love, he’s not about to lose the woman who means everything to him—Rachel, his TEXAS GOLD…

Previously published as TOUCH OF TEXAS

EXCERPT:

     Rachel wrapped her arms around his and held him close. “You’ll be fine, Mr. McCain. It will stop soon. Your body is only trying to warm itself. Don’t fight it. You’re safe here.”
     She kept talking to him until the shivering began to abate. Gradually, he quieted and his eyes drifted closed. She thought he was still awake when his fingers tightened on her waist, but they relaxed just as quickly. When he didn’t move again, she risked smoothing a hand over his shoulder and across his chest. He seemed to be a little warmer.
     Relief flooded her as his heart settled into a steady, strong rhythm. He was going to live. As the quiet seeped into her, she became aware that she was still wrapped around the stranger, her legs straddling his hips. Heat washed through her again. In her mind she heard the lecturing voices of her adoptive parents. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to banish the memory of the Reverend’s preaching, but the words wouldn’t stop. Jezebel, he’d called her. Nothing but a sinner damned for eternity.
      Tears stung Rachel’s eyes. She wasn’t like her mother, yet here she was, lying across a man not her husband. Ashamed of her reaction to a complete stranger, she tried to slide off him, but his hands wrapped around her waist and held her in place. She stilled, not wanting to wake him. She would just rest a minute until he was more deeply asleep.

     Weariness swamped her. She fought to stay awake, but the night finally caught up with her. Snuggling closer to his increasing warmth, Rachel drifted off to sleep with her head on his chest and his heartbeat in her ear.

     

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

WHERE THE STORY BEGINS


HOW to get a-WAY with MUR-der

No, this post isn't about writing murder mysteries. It's about great beginnings that "start where the story begins."
A recent TV series starring Viola Davis (The Help) opened to a roaring beginning. The way she says the title, "HOW to get a-WAY with MUR-der," might be the most clever way to open a series ever. I read that the producers and Viola worked a long while to get the cadence and the emphasis just right. And, wow, did they ever. I listen for that before every episode.

What grabs your attention when you choose a book? It's been argued that the cover is most important, or the blurb alone determines whether you read it or not, or perhaps the first line, the first paragraph, or the first chapter.

Or if the book starts "Where the Story Begins."

Beginnings. That's what it's all about--how to make a reader choose your book. For this little exercise, I have chosen first lines from ten books written by author friends or acquaintances. In other words, this list does not contain, "It was the best of times, it was..." Or with the weather. You get the picture.

Want to take this poll? Read the ten lines and choose three you like best, or those you think would make you buy the book. Rank your three choices  using the letters...and tell me in a comment. If you want to take the time, tell me why your first choice caught your attention.

List them in order of best first in your comment. Ready?

A-The front door slammed shut, silencing Lizzy's eighteenth birthday celebration.

B-"He has walled us in alive! Our own lord has abandoned us!"

C-Gideon entered his sister's crowded SoHo gallery in Manhattan and glanced at his watch.

D-"Reese, if you weren't dead, I swear I'd kill you!"

E-Her swift fingers rushed over the keys like a flood of water tumbling over a dam.

F-"Sorry you got shot, Cole. Damn, this is gonna mess up all our plans."

G-Dallas McClintock sprawled on the ground, three rifle barrels pointed at his chest.

H-'...but other women my age have a lover.'

I-"Don't kill me! Please!"
J-Absorbed in her thoughts about Mark, the man who jilted her on what was to be her wedding day, she almost drove past the baby grand piano sitting out in the front yard of a little cottage.

~~*~~
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/celiayeary
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ideals of Chivalry and Realities of War

This is the third of a six-part series about the Middle Ages with the goal of giving casual readers of medieval romances a better understanding of the time period.  Eventually, we’ll talk about why there were no damsels in distress but today we’ll learn why a knight is shining armor isn’t a good sign.


Previously:
In First the Fall, Then the Babarians, we discussed the macro trends of the early medieval period and how they set the foundation for the Early Middle Ages. We painted kings and knights with a broad brush and learned the benefits of political stability in Huzzah! Knights, Kings and Living the High Life. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the medieval warfare and those who fought.


Income Inequality

Feudalism is a political and economic system that required a class structure that became hereditary. The word itself is a modern invention to describe the medieval social structure in which all land “belonged” to the king. Nobles held honors (fiefs) in exchange for military service to the crown, and vassals, who worked or managed small pieces of land, were tenants of the nobles and owed them service (military or otherwise). Serfs worked the land for king, church, and knights, giving him labor and a share of the produce in exchange for military protection.

Medieval Man divided their society into three parts: those who work. Those who pray. Those who fight. Many casual students tend to think these three parts of society were roughly equal in numbers, but as historian Dorsey Armstrong points out, approximately 95 percent worked and less than 5 percent fought or prayed. Note: both knights and churchmen came from the same noble class.

There was little movement from one social class to the next until the Black Death (1347). I say little because there was small movement—one rung up or down (most likely down)—over the centuries and not everyone in medieval society fit neatly into the ideal of three social castes. Merchants neither worked nor prayed nor fought. Craftsmen living in cities didn’t owe allegiance to a lord, just their guild, and women have rarely fit the molds society tries to shove them into.

Additionally, the "average" person could and did fight with pikes and bows, but the large, terrorizing warhorses, well-made swords, and protective mail were reserved for the knight. In other words, a very small ruling class maintained control by being better armed and bettered trained to use those arms than the vast majority of people.

This is important to understanding the role warriors played in this society. Many could neither read nor write, were trained in the martial arts from roughy age seven onward, and were fostered in the households of their lords to build ties with others in their class and those above them in the hierarchy.

Knights' deeds were sanitized and exalted in song, which is where we get the idealized Knight in Shining Armor, but their lives were so marked by violence and blood that the church led a campaign to civilize these warriors. Knighthood and chivalry were not synonymous until very, very late in the era. 

Frankly, if we met a typical medieval knight on the street, we'd likely cross the street to avoid him.

Those Who Fight

This is a misericorde, a small dagger designed to slip between
helmet and mail (or armor plates) and kill a wounded knight.
The myth of medieval warfare is that it was a series of one-to-one battles where honor and chivalric principles held firm in the middle of a melee. It’s a pretty picture, but untrue. Warfare in the middle ages was still war. It was the nasty, brutal business of killing people to achieve a goal. Where medieval warfare differs from modern warfare is sometime how the goal could be achieved.

According to historian R.C. Smail in his book Crusading Warfare 1097-1193, the true goal was to capture and keep a castle or other fortified place, not to destroy the enemy forces or bring about an unconditional surrender, which is often the aim of modern military campaigns.

The battles for these fortifications, though, were bloody. Foot soldiers and bowmen were often slaughtered, and knights were "dispatched" on the battlefield as often as they were captured and held for ransom.

The Early Middle Ages were marked by invasions (Franks, Angles, Vikings) and internal battles for power, so the social structure coalesced around military society. Those who fought ruled. Those who worked served those who fought. One repercussion of feudalism was the tendency to concentrate the family’s wealth on one heir, leaving subsequent sons trained as knights but without an inheritance. Even the “heir” was idle until his father died and he could begin running the estate. As you can image, these unmarried, landless, idle young men posed a serious threat to public order.

How serious?

Think about the reckless, testosterone-driven impetuousness of males between the ages of 15 and 25 (give or take a couple of years). Now, give them wealth, celebrity-style status, weapons and training, then turn them loose to rape and pillage the countryside. Got it?

Hence, the clerical efforts to soften and reform knighthood.


A Knight in Shining Armor

In the 11th century, Cluny monks promoted ethical warfare, which inspired the formation of chivalric orders, such as the Knights Templar. However, the immediate goal was to reduce the threat to public order and the predatory impulses of these warriors by giving them a higher purpose. Cluny monks weren’t the first to try to install self-discipline in warriors. As early as the 9the century, Charlemagne attempted to elevate the role and responsibilities of knights above mere killing with his Code of Conduct in the Song of Roland.

The code didn’t change much over time, although it became shorter. By the 14th century, it was reduced to the Twelve Knightly Virtues: faith, charity, justice, sagacity, prudence, temperance, resolution, truth, liberality, diligence, hope and valor.

Within chivalry is the view that proper Christian behavior for a knight is considerate treatment of noncombatants (to use a thoroughly modern word) in the obligation to defend the weak and to be courteous to women. The proper treatment of women, however, was usually restricted to women of the knight’s own class, which meant 95 percent of the women were fair game.

As freemen began to rival (and exceed) the nobility in terms of wealth, chivalry became more class conscious. Prowess was no longer the primary qualification of a knight. Bloodlines were. Proof of noble birth was now required to compete in tournaments and to join one of the chivalric orders, such as the Templars or the Hospitallers.

Chivalry in its ideal form is immortalized in the Arthurian tales, which had been told for centuries but came into their full form during this period. The Arthurian cycle reflects the ideals and society of the High Middle Ages, not post-Roman Britain, which is when most scholars say “Arthur” likely lived, if he lived at all.

Oh, and why is a Knight in Shining Armor not a good thing? Simple. If the armor is shining, it’s new. So either the knight is green or he is more interested in looking the part than being the part.

I am not a medieval military historian. Further reading (if you’re interested): http://www.medievalists.net/2009/12/medieval-warfare/. Come back in May when we take a look at damsels in distress.


Keena Kincaid writes historical romances in which passion, magic and treachery collide to create unforgettable stories. Her books are available from Prairie Rose Publications and Amazon. For more information on her stories, visit her Amazon page, her website, or Facebook.


Monty Python skewers the Arthurian legend in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (copyright theirs) and does a good job poking fun at the Middle Ages and medievalists at the same time.

Monday, April 17, 2017

MARIPOSA COURTHOUSE by Zina Abbott




Mariposa County was formed in September 1850, even before California became the 31st State of the Union. Mariposa was one of the original counties when the state of California became a state shortly later in 1850. 


Mono County and the region known as Big Meadows east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 is set was originally part of Mariposa County, as well as where I live in the San Joaquin Valley. territory that was once part of Mariposa was ceded over time to form twelve other counties: Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Mono, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, and Tulare. Thus, Mariposa County is not only the county of the Mother Lode gold mining region in the south, is known as the "Mother of Counties".



The original county seat was founded as a mining camp on the banks of a seasonal stream known as Aqua Fria located about 6.0 miles (9.7 km) to the west of present-day Mariposa. After a flood during the winter of 1849/50, and fires, the town was moved to the location of today's Mariposa, although mainly due to better terrain and the presence of Mariposa creek, a large producer of placer gold. In 1851 the "new" town of Mariposa became the county seat.


By 1854, Mariposa had a grand courthouse which is still in operation. The structure was erected using whip-sawed wood from nearby forests. Two sawmills, Humphrey & Geiger at Log Town and the Clark Mill on Bear Creek supplied the lumber. It has been argued which one actually supplied the lumber, but both were probably used.
 
Early Mariposa, Californa-Courthhouse is in upper right corner.


At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors on February 12, 1855 the building was accepted with a total cost of $9,200. The only problem was that the county still did not have enough funds to pay for the building. So the newly elected Board of Supervisors, which replaced the Court of Sessions as the governing body of Mariposa County, authorized the Treasurer to pay Fox & Shiver what funds that were held in the building fund and to make payments until 1858 when the building was paid for. Fox & Shiver took the county to court on July 23 rd, 1858 for final payments of interest owed.



The courthouse grounds occupy an entire block. The courthouse is so recognizable that its likeness is on the Mariposa County Seal. Also particularly noteworthy is the courthouse's clock tower and bell, which chimes every hour, on the hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  
The Mariposa County Courthouse is the oldest superior courthouse west of the Mississippi and the oldest courthouse in continuous use west of the Rockies. The Court has conducted normal proceedings continuously in this courthouse ever since, the longest active period for any courthouse west of the Rocky Mountains.

This from the Fresno Bee, August 11, 1925

Mariposa-(Mariposa County) Aug. 11- After seventy-one years the old Mariposa County Courthouse has been fitted with water pipes.  No more will court be recessed while judge and jury descend stairs and cross the street to quench a Midsummer thirst.
 
Incidentally the improvements afford the first fire protection to the building since its erection in 1854, and progressive residents are in hopes that shrubbery and lawns will soon adorn the spacious courthouse grounds.



The Mariposa courthouse began recording cattle brands early on. Cattle brands belonging to Mariposa ranches are displayed inside the Mariposa courthouse. The brand for my husband’s father who ranched in Mariposa is among them.





Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical western romances. Five of her books in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, , Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit, Haunted by Love  and Bridgeport Holiday Brides, have been published by Prairie Rose Publications and are available. A sixth full-size novel, Luck Joy Bride, is in the works.


Sources:








http://mariposacourt.org/




Wikipedia