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Wednesday, January 27, 2016


The necessities of writing.


     Chicken nuggets, bread, milk, eggs. A short list, but it's much more than a grocery list. It wields the power to tell an incredible story. Of course, the 'incredibility' of the story rests solely upon the mind of the author. (Well that, and the characters' willingness to cooperate).

     I fear it's safe to say, virtually all authors have secrets. Some more so than others. We're a tricky lot, we have to be. Writing books is a daunting task, after all. We will stare at a blinking cursor for hours, only to lie awake all night running plots, scenes and characters through our minds like an old movie. Most of us live on a scandalous amount of caffeine, but that isn't much of a secret, is it?

     The secret lies within the writer and how we deal with the darker side of writing. What do we do when the words just won't come? Some are inspired by music, (always one of my favorite methods for coping with any mood or crisis!) or by sitting in a cemetery with a notepad and pencil. Travel-the exploration of someplace new can often stir the creative juices, but what if you can't manage any of the above? What do you do when its just you and a blank screen/paper? The showdown at high noon, words at twenty paces. You hope.

     I have a simple method of coping with the fearsome blank page blues, and yes, it includes chicken nuggets. (Bettin' you'll read the next line, now won't you?)
The chicken nugget cure for writer's block came from one of my elementary school teachers - oh, how I wish I could recall her name! She told us a grand secret--one which stuck with me over the years--really nothing more than a simple trick to prod the flow of words. A blank page may be that--empty, but it is LOUD in silence.

     Indecision(my worst foe), intimidation, fear, and a host of other insecurities can sometimes rear back and stampede across that blank page. When faced with such cursed evil, beat it back with something I call the Chicken Nugget Cure. Set a timer for, oh, say fifteen-twenty minutes. During that time, the point of your pen MUST NEVER leave your paper. If you're typing, you MUST NOT stop. Not once. I don't care if your goal is to write the next bestseller, a monthly blog, or a letter to a friend. If you set your alarm for twenty minutes, write down whatever comes to mind for those twenty minutes. If you don't know what to write, write just that. "I don't know what to write. I need to get groceries. Let's see, Zane needs more chicken nuggets. He loves those dinosaur shaped ones, I hope they have them. Chicken nuggets, bread, milk, eggs." If nothing else, reading back over the direction of your mind, recorded on paper, is amusing.

     More often than not, however, you will fall back into the realm of the written word, having demolished that loud emptiness. One page will fall into another. Don't let the timer stop you. Keep writing, follow the chicken nugget pathway of your brain...let it lead you where it may. Your brain will flip through channels, like a taped down PAGE button on the remote control. Jot down your grocery list, (don't forget the nuggets!), swim through the barbecue sauce sidelines and I promise, you'll find yourself exactly where you want to be...writing your next epic masterpiece.

     What are YOUR favorite literary secrets?

Shayna Matthews is the author of "The Legend of Venture Canyon", a short story encompassing the dark secrets of a traveling Side Show as they travel through canyon country, and one cowboy determined not to fall for them.

"A Spot in the Woods" is Shayna's nonfiction short showcased in a wonderful anthology collection of personal stories about leaving childhood behind. "A Spot in the Woods" deals with the memory of a childhood bond shared through historic play...a bond which tragedy just could not break. You can find this story in "Memories from Maple Street, U.S.A: Leaving Childhood Behind".

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

#NewRelease -- SNOW SOUNDS -- #Giveaway!

Three years ago, heartbroken nurse Melaine Landa found escape from her painful divorce in handsome Tanner Harris’s arms. Their one magical night is behind them, but the memories and feelings they experienced resurface when they come face-to-face again. Tanner heads the ski patrol, and Melaine has been hired to run the health clinic at a ski resort in California. But this job is important to Melaine for a reason she’s shared with no one else—her young step-daughter lives nearby. 

Melaine can’t look at Tanner without remembering the precious hours when he was her everything. Desire for this complex and sexy man still simmers inside a heart that is vulnerable, unwise, and reckless. 

Tanner is determined not to let his emotions get the best of him where Melaine is concerned. She’s said he didn’t understand—and he still doesn’t. Things seem more complicated now, and there’s even more at stake. 

But when the mountain rumbles and a deadly avalanche comes rushing down on them, everything changes. Love, living, and being together are all that matter, in these SNOW SOUNDS…

     The mountain waited. It could be patient for the blan-keting snows that turned Mammoth Lakes into a mecca for California's skiers. For tens of thousands of years, the seasons had played their songs on rock and trees and water and earth. Antlike people scurried about its base, putting last winter behind them and preparing for the next. Those who toiled to control the mountain might not have ageless perspective, but the mountain did. Long after these intruders left, the songs and seasons would continue.

     Although this wasn’t her first time here, Melaine Landa couldn’t imagine looking up at Mammoth without being touched by the mountain’s power. Until a few seconds ago, she’d been filled with awe and peace, the sense that she’d come home.
     But that was until the builder of the nearly completed first-aid clinic she stood in had said the one name she hoped she’d never hear again.
     Tanner Harris.

     Now, there was only the name. And the memories.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Release: A LOVE SO STRONG -- and a #GIVEAWAY!

A LOVE SO STRONG is a story I wrote from my heart way back when. I guess you could say I, as well as most romance authors, write from the heart each and every time we compile our thoughts and come up with our next story. But an author’s first book, and believe me this one was more than heartfelt, is always near and dear to us. It’s our first child we dared to share with the world. Back in 2012 this story was published by another publishing company under a different title and cover.

Today, I’m pleased as punch to have PRAIRIE  ROSE PUBLICATIONS reissue this story.  I’ve revised the ending a bit to be more sensually sweet rather than quite as spicy as the first time around. And to my delight, my editor, Cheryl Pierson, suggested I add a few more details to a very emotional scene.  Why so delighted? I had written the scene before to include exactly what she proposed and it had been deleted in order to shorten the story. So yes, I’m totally thrilled I was able to reinstate that scene—oh my goodness it’s so much stronger, more poignant and emotionally meaningful to and for the characters as well as the readers. At least I feel that way, and I certainly hope everyone enjoys the changes.

After working various medical fields as a Registered Nurse I turned to Public Health nursing doing homecare and clinics, and also became a member of the Medical Reserve Corps for Homeland Security. During that time I managed numerous ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) patients in the home. Their plights, especially one specific lady became my inspiration to write A LOVE SO STRONG. Since then I haven’t stopped writing. Many of the simple communication techniques used years ago to care for such homebound patients I used in this story. Today of course we have advanced technology that makes their care so much easier and more efficient.

Before you continue to read below,  please take a look at the beautiful cover  Livia Washburn did—she even included two loons gliding across the pond—the loons play a very big part in this love story. Thank you Livia, the cover is perfect.  So come along and enjoy the blurb and excerpt to see if you might want to see what all my excitement is about.


Searching for true happiness, as well as escape from a controlling family, Morgan Prescott answers a Brides Wanted ad, and leaves New York City's High society life for the wilds of Washington Territory. Her spirit and intelligence carries her through the rude awakening—streets of ankle deep mud, life in a one-room cabin, the hazards of cooking—but they lend no help when she loses her heart to the one man she can't have.

Private investigator Luke Kincaid, a major stockholder in the Union Pacific Railroad, goes undercover as a logging camp foreman to apprehend the saboteurs. All he needs is a mock wife to strengthen his act, but once he agrees to Morgan filling the role, he finds himself longing for much more—a love he's forbidden to accept or give.

A Heartwarming Romance filled with humor, suspense, a poignant sisterly bond with the other woman, and a love between Luke and Morgan that cannot be denied. Written in memory of one special lady and to raise awareness of ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease.


Damn. Trouble always erupted when women were around a camp.

It came to him in a flash. Missy remained. Yet that couldn't be. She didn't fit the description of the woman Hans had chosen on paper two months ago. Hell, he lacked too much sleep to play guessing games. “So, spit it out. What happened?”

Luke watched Missy lean against the wagon. Lean? It looked as if she wanted to burrow into the wood.

Hans pulled his hands out of his pockets, gestured with them in front of him. “I chose my bride, and Albert claimed Lila.” Lila. Ah yes, Hans had raved about her. “Tom chose Sarah instead of Roberta, and Peter wanted Roberta.”

Was anything ever simple? After an exhausting day of catastrophes, and this hopscotch of brides, a headache threatened.

“And now the last two don't match, is that it?”

Hans studied his boots, drove his hands back into his pockets then glanced at Missy. “We don't know if they'll match. They've. . . just met.”

It took a split second for Hans' words to register, to become crystal clear. No. Hans knew why Luke had picked Rosie. He wouldn't intentionally turn the tables on him. But lust and love would, by damn. It made men commit worse crimes.

He swallowed the lump in his throat. “You chose Rosie.” His words almost gagged him. He dreaded to hear Hans' confirmation. Hans nodded.

Acid churned in his stomach, and a sour taste spiraled up to his mouth. He'd purposely picked a voluptuous dance hall woman who'd have no problem finding another man after he'd finished here. One who most likely would go along with his scheme and the proposition he offered.

Jaysus! He was in a world of shit.

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**If you’d like to leave a comment, please do so. I’d love your feedback, and I’ll be randomly drawing a winner for a Smashwords coupon good for one free copy of A LOVE SO STRONG.

Beverly Wells lives with her own hero and rescued dog Jamie in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. She enjoys writing humorous, sensuous historical westerns while including a lesson learned or raising awareness of a heartfelt issue. Find her online at:
and, of course, Prairie Rose Publications

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Shhh....I've got a secret

Can you keep a secret?

My characters can.


Or so I let them believe.

All of my characters have secrets. This wasn’t something I set out to do when I started writing but after a dozen or so books, I realized that secrets and characters go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Sometimes, even the dog has secrets.
And who doesn’t love a good secret?

In Romance fiction, the secret baby is a popular trope. I’ve used it, but my characters’ secrets also have ranged from being a runaway nun to being the queen’s lover.

The hero of my current WIP has a delicious secret—his father haunts him. Boone is torn between wanting to see Pops move on and not wanting to let him go. Oh, and he worries that someone will find out and think him crazy—or worse.

The worse, of course, will threaten his happy ever after, as it should. If the secret doesn’t have the power to turn happy-ever-after into I-think-not why bother?

Sometimes the secrets are obvious, i.e. secret baby. And sometimes they are not so obvious. For instance, I think Scarlett O’Hara’s secret isn’t that she was in love with Ashley (as she thinks) but that she is scared all the time. That secret is buried deep, but makes her more interesting.

By letting the reader watch my hero (or heroine) struggle to keep his secret, the reader will understand why my hero acts like he does without a lot of backstory.

And as an author—the builder and destroyer of lives—I find secrets quite fun to write. I love finding out what my hero (or heroine) will do to keep his secret and how he reacts when exposed.

More importantly, I want to make sure it counts, that the secret is worth the angst. So after I finish the first draft, I go through the secret’s arc as if it were a separate character. I make sure the secret is pivotal to the plot and/or integral to the character. If threatening the secret isn’t threatening, the secret either goes or gets twisted until it is dangerous.

As a reader, what was the secret of one of your favorite characters?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Legal Issues and Family History Sources

I immersed myself into genealogy and family history before I became a full-time author. One of the exciting aspects of learning about family history is getting a sense of connection with my own ancestors. One of the great negatives about becoming acquainted with societal conditions and the legal records of past generations is becoming aware of the great injustices perpetrated upon women in the name of providing and protecting them.

This developed my interest in including the true legal conditions of past eras in my historical fiction. The legal condition of women in the past can best be summed up by the first sentence in the book description for The Hidden Half of the Family – A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy by Christina Kassabian Schaefer:

By law and by custom, women's individual identities have been subsumed by those of their husbands. For centuries women were not allowed to own real estate in their own name, sign a deed, devise a will, or enter into contracts, and even their citizenship and their position as head of household have been in doubt….”

It goes beyond a desire to be historically accurate. I believe my reading audience which is primarily female needs to understand that the legal rights women have today were gained through a great deal of hardship and hard work. They are not to be taken for granted. And, if we are not diligent, it is possible they could be taken away in future generations either for religious reasons or in the name of men providing for and protecting their families.

I did take one year of law. First year law students are dangerous creatures, especially if they think they have enough knowledge to give legal advice or manage their own legal affairs. As a writer, this education was valuable. It gave me a basic understanding of some of the fundamentals of our legal system. 

In spite of that, I find I gain more practical knowledge about past laws, particularly as they relate to family relations, by studying family history sources. When searching for records about ancestors, some of the best sources are the legal documents still available in many courthouses. To know what the basic laws were in any given era, what documents were generated by marriage, divorce, birth or death, the books I prefer going to are my family history sources.

In my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, one of the elements of each book in the series is the legal conditions of the day, particularly as they apply to my heroines. Featured in the first two books, Beth Jessup Dodd, living and married in Ohio, travels to California in an effort to find the husband who deserted her. 

The prologue in the first book, Big Meadows Valentine, sets the tone with Beth’s father, Elmer Jessup, ill with consumption and a firm believer in women being incapable of running a farm or conducting business, refusing to will his farm to his two daughters. Instead, he sells the farm to Jim Dodd with the understanding, memorialized by written contract, that Jim will marry Beth, a portion of the value of the farm will be considered her dowry, Jm Dodd will provide for both his father-in-law until his death and Beth’s little sister, Zelly, until her marriage. He will work the farm and provide security and family for Beth for the balance of her natural life.

To find out if Elmer Jessup had the legal right to do this, I turned to my family history resources, in this case, The Hidden Half of the Family – A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy. The following is a comparison of basic legal considerations between Ohio and California. First, Ohio and California had completely different origins in different time periods:

Those differences affected the laws put in place regarding marriage and divorce:

Even though in 1880 Beth, as long as she was of legal age, could have owned the farm if willed to her, her father chose instead to sell the land. Beth was forced—bullied is perhaps the better word—into obeying her father and marrying a man she had never met and did not voluntarily choose because of two circumstances. First, she felt compelled to provide for her father and little sister who, because of her father’s sale of the farm, could be turned out without any means of support if Beth refused to marry Jim Dodd. Second, Beth, at twenty years of age at the time of her marriage, was still underage. Before the law she was considered an infant, and therefore subject to her father who had complete legal control over her.

In addition to the book mentioned above, another of my favorite books detailing family law and the rights (or profound lack of them) of women and children is Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood. It was in this book I found my information about the status of children under the age of twenty-one.

Once Beth married, she came under the “protection” and control of her husband. With no separate property of her own upon her marriage, she had nothing to call her own. Since she was not of legal age, even her chickens she purchased with childhood birthday gift money were technically the property of her father while she was single. Although her father assured Beth her husband would not interfere with her chickens, the legal truth of the matter was that they were sold as part of the farm and became Jim Dodd's property once Jim Dodd signed the contract to purchase the farm and marry Beth. When Jim Dodd decided to liquidate the farm and return to his mining activities in California, he sold her chickens along with everything else and pocketed the money. Beth had no legal recourse.

In Big Meadows Valentine, Beth realizes her husband has no intention of coming back to Ohio for her once he is set up in California. Knowing he is legally and contractually obligated to provide for her support, she travels to California in search of him. She soon learns that when it comes to governing property and inheritance, the two states have different laws. Here is a comparison:

I have used the comparison charts with the information obtained from The Hidden Half of the Family – A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy with the permission of the publisher, Genealogical Publishing Company. For more information on how to order this book, click HERE.

Tidbits of this legal information will be part of all five of the novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series. Published by Prairie Rose Publications, Big Meadows Valentine and A Resurrected Heart are available now. The third book in the series, Her Independent Spirit, will be published in the first half of 2016.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Please visit and follow the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.

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Where to find when women gained legal rights @ZinaAbbott Legal Issues & Family History Resources #PrairieRosePub

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Bit of Historical Music Trivia by Kaye Spencer

One of the many reasons I enjoy writing historical western romance novels and short stories is the research involved to make sure all the historical details are accurate—or at the very least, reasonably accurate. In a story I’ve been working on, I have a scene in which the heroine has a mental image of someone stomping about in heavy boots while singing a marching-type song.

Battle Hymn of the Republic, John Brown’s Body, and When Johnny Comes Marching Home immediately came to mind, but they weren’t quite right. (Then I couldn’t think of any other songs because all three had achieved earworm status.)

 I realized, though, these songs shared a common thread: the American Civil War. Since my heroine was in her twenties then, she would have known the songs of that time period. So I did a Google search and hit pay dirt right off with a song I should have thought of on my own—Battle Cry of Freedom. Great. I had my song, and I finished writing the scene.

My research could have ended there, but I have a tendency to tumble down research rabbit holes, especially if there’s even the slightest chance trivia will turn up.

So here's a little Battle Cry of Freedom trivia:

  • George Frederick Root, an American composer, wrote Battle Cry of Freedom (aka Rally ‘Round the Flag') in 1862 to support the Union cause.
  • H. L. Schreiner (composer) and W. H. Barnes (lyricist) adapted the song for the Confederacy.
  • Root's version was modified as the campaign song for Lincoln/Garfield for the 1864 presidential election.
  • Garfield used the song during his campaign in 1880.
  • Composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk suggested it should be America’s national anthem.
  • Composer Charles Ives referenced the song in his song, “They are There”.
  • Ken Burns (known for documentaries) referenced the song in “The Civil War” documentary.
  • Film composer John Williams incorporated the song into the soundtrack of the movie “Lincoln”.
  • The 1939 film “Young Mister Lincoln” starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford has the song sung during the opening credits.
Instead of posting the lyrics, here are YouTube renditions of both versions.



References and further reading:
McWhirter, Christian L. (July 27, 2012). "Birth of the 'Battle Cry'". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved January 11, 2016. (

Until next time,


Writing the West one romance at a time