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Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Prairie Rose Publications released several short reads, including mine, “Tumbleweeds and Valentines”.

A short story about family, love, protection, and caring. Each of my family members have the same objectives and it all comes to a head on Valentine’s Day.

I thought it’d be fun to go behind the scenes and let you see how an author gets names, decides on vocations, and what type of historical research they have to do. Using “Tumbleweeds and Valentines” as my example seemed to be a great way to bring this to you and of course encourage you to order the short story from one of the links below.

Even the most established, top shelf author will tell you that rarely does a writer get the title they want to their books through major publishing houses. It’s all up to the house and the contract because they know more about the business than we do as authors. I got to keep my story title, although I knew ahead of time the name of the collection was ”Hearts and Spurs”. In order words, give your story a title that you like and don’t get down in the dumps or upset when you find out it isn’t the one on the front of the cover … a cover that likely you got no input into either, unless again cover approval/input is part of your negotiated contract.

The first thing I needed, as any other writer, is the names of the hero and heroine (H/H) and the setting. It’s also very important with settings that they are historically accurate; however, you have creative permission to bend it to fit your story, if it’s reasonable. That’s the reason, although I write my western historical romances, in the Texas Panhandle, I stay somewhat accurate.
My setting is in Caprock, Texas. All of the towns that I write about, both historical and contemporary books, are based on towns in and around the Caprock of the Texas Panhandle, where I was born and raised. Thus the name Caprock, Texas. Greene Street where Mandy lives is an original street in Amarillo, although it’s long been replaced with another name.

I used a phrase in the story similar to, “Caprock has grown like the merchants of Colorado City wanted….” If you switched the name to Amarillo, you’d be correct. The merchants of Colorado City, Texas, wanted a town to become a railhead plus a passage on up north, so they solicited a number of merchants to set up business in this area, believing the railroad would come through here. The railroad named us Oneida, but the post office changed us to Amarillo for the yellow soil. All the houses were painted yellow, once the town was settled up on higher ground instead of in a buffalo wallow called then and now Wildhorse Lake. And, yes, we still have a viable railroad and shipping yards for cattle. As a matter of fact, at one time during the mid-1800’s, there were so many cattle to be shipped that the pastures were filled with them and extended nearly 100 miles south and to the New Mexico border.

Where do names come from? Sometimes they are meant to recognize someone, either negatively or positively. Other times, it’s simply a name that works. I’ve also simply looked up at my reference books shelves and found a name for a minor character. I use a “name your baby” type book sometimes other times folks I know. In this book, I wrote Mandy, which is the name of the daughter-in-law of a friend and of course her last name had to be “Love” for Valentine’s Day.

Her business partner in the confectionary shop is Emma Parker who has two nephews. Trey is the blacksmith and I needed him to be that vocation. Then came time to name his twin, so rhyme time kicked in. Trey and Clay, and their last name is Hemphill and is in honor of a long-time deceased friend of mine. By the way, Emma is my oldest granddaughter, while Parker is my youngest grandson. Jenny, in the book is Emma’s sister, while in real life that’s my youngest daughter’s name and also the name of a friend. I try to respect my friends and family and never use their names or one of their family names without asking. With my family, I use middles names, if at all possible.

The neat thing about names is that most authors have a little quirk with a name that is always in a book. Whether it’s a family name or in my case you’ll always find the name of a bull of the year or at least a famous bull.

How people dress, especially women, is so very critical. For an historical, I use a series of research books by John Peacock and particularly like “The Chronicle of Western Fashion” From Ancient Times to the Present Day. I find an outfit that fits the era and my lady and try to describe it. In this particular story, Amanda wears a pale blue and while calico dress. I described it adequately and then wrote her name next to it in Peacock’s book, so I know I’ve already used that outfit. The nice thing about these research books is at various places it author stops to physically describe the various clothing. I opened it to a random page. In 1605 this picture showed a noblewoman wearing her hair “dressed over pads and decorated with feathers and flowers; gown with high standing lace collar supported on wire frame, long hanging sleeves and wide skirt on cartwheel frame; high-heeled slashed shoes with wired bows.

I love to cook, so you’ll see fixin’ candy, fried pies, and tarts in this story. I use them for actions tags instead of verbal tags for my heroine and her business partner. Since this is a short read and I didn’t have a lot of words to describe what they were makin’ for the Valentine’s barn dance, hootenanny, or shindig … whatever you may have called it in 1889.

There is so much more I’d like to write about, but I hope this gave you a taste, pun intended, of what this story is about and if you’re lucky you’ll win one of two free copies.

Please share with me your favorite Valentine’s goodie. My two most favorite are in the story. Let me hear from you ladies--and be sure to leave your e-mail address in your comment in case you win!




  1. I love valentine sugar cookies.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

    1. I'm with you Debby, I love sugar cookies, but there is something special about decorating valentine cookies. Happy new year to you and yours. Hugs from Texas, Phyliss

  2. Good Morning Phyllis. My favorite Valentines treat is the little candy hearts with sayings on them. I remember handing the ones with sayings like, "I Love You," to that special boy or "Be Mine Valentine." Such simple great fun back in the day. Of course when I started getting flowers and a heart shaped box of chocolates, that kind of took the place of the candy shaped hearts. As far as the names go, If the character is coming from a distant land I look at most popular names from that country and the year. One of my favorite names, that I often use is Jenny. I don't know why but that name often comes to me, that and Sara. Here's wishing you a Happy Valentines Day and happy sales.

  3. Hi Barbara. I have a pkg. of four boxes of candy hearts that my Emma gave me for Valentine's Day the year she entered collage. I put the year on it and every year since ... she should graduate in 3.5 years but one never knows when they are going into the medical field. I will say that there is nothing better to replace candy hearts than flowers and chocolate! When my DH first married he began a custom of giving me a bouquet of flowers for every years we'd been married. After four years, I told him maybe that wasn't a good idea. Now after 46 years, I guess we'd have to go into savings to get 46 bouquets of flowers. I'd settle for 46 roses, now! I love the name Jenny and have long before I had my own daughter. Sara is great, too, but I've never used it. Happy Valentines Day and thanks for the wishes for happy sales. This was really a fun story to write and sure plan on writing more for PRP. I love you all, Phyliss

  4. Phyliss! I am such a "name collector" and have been since I was a kid. Names have always fascinated me because I have such a weird one--my first name is actually pronounced with a "hard" CH sound--like CHAIR-yl--not SHARE-yl. My middle name is Kathlyn--not Kathryn or Kathleen. And now that I'm married--my last name is Pierson--not Person and not Pearson. LOL It's a great way to weed out salespeople on the phone though--when they call and ask for Sheryl Person--I know they don't know me. LOL

    I loved your story, Tumbleweeds and Valentines. So glad you threw in with us here at PRP and we sure hope to see more stories from you in the future when your schedule slows down a bit!

    Happy Valentine's Day (early)!

    1. Thanks, Cheryl. Too funny. But I sure know about pronunciation and spelling of names. I have the same problem, but I'll save it for another time. I reread my story and since it'd been a while and also short, but I enjoyed it all over again. Now I have to work on your name because I also say Share-y, so I'll try better! Happy, happy new year, friend. Hugs, Phyliss

  5. I just love to read how other writers create. This was a fun and informative post. Thank you for sharing your process and story. Best to you in 2015 and may the creativity continue. Doris

    1. Thanks, Doris, for stopping by. The best part of writing for me is the development of the plot and characters, including keeping a list. Glad you enjoyed it. Happy New Year to you, my friend. Hugs, Phyliss

  6. Great title, Phyliss, and I enjoyed reading your story.
    I think choosing names for characters is fun mixed in with some research. For historicals, I often go to the website that lists names popular in each year throughout history. It's also listed by country. Even though the UK and the US seem so much alike, the names each culture likes can be very different. For instance, not too many Americans are into the name Hamish, but apparently, folks in the UK think it's cool. I agree, I do sneak in the names of relatives to honor them, and, just so you know, I also name villains after people I am not fond of. Just sayin'... Some names an author really has to research--like Native American names that are tribe specific. I have written several paranormal fantasies that include Gypsies. I love that Gypsies often have whimsical names besides those names from the country from which they originated--names like Web, Patch, Sunset, and so on. The most fun of all is having other-worldly creatures which I get to name and some names I just make up. I'm glad you like the name Sara(h). Me too.
    A delightful blog, Phyliss. I hope you get 46 bouquets of flowers for your anniversary!

    1. Sarah, thanks for the kind words. I really did enjoy writing the story. I love selecting names, but since I write in the middle to late 1800's in this part of Texas, my names are fairly easy. But when I do backgrounds/profiles for each character it really helps if someone came from Ireland that their last name ends in a :"Mc" ... auh, like McNeal! I just read the end of your comment to my husband as a hint, although it'll be another year before we'll have another anniversary! LOL Sarah, I pray you have a wonderful, happy and successful 2015! I plan to. Hugs, Phyliss