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Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Image result for cowboys football team
Forgive the somewhat grammatically incorrect title, but I like it.

My Virgo Horoscope today asked me: "Consider that each player's position on a football team comes with its own responsibilities and a specific role to move the team to victory. Which is your choice position in today's 'game'?"

My dear husband and I don't watch much football, but on occasion we become interested in a team for one reason or another. I do understand the basics of the game--but the players' positions? Couldn't tell you the difference between a running back or a tight end. As a result, I do ask questions now and then, and he can tell me everything I need...or know.

Other than the quarterback's role...everybody knows that!...what are some of the positions?

And how can I use this in my life of writing?

First, I want to decide if I'm an Offensive Player or a Defensive Player. Well, this is too easy. I want to be on the Offensive team. They have the ball, for heaven's sake. Why wouldn't I want to have the ball?

So, of the Offensive Players--
The QB passes or hands off the ball
The Center snaps the ball to the QB
The Guards and Tackles keep the defense at bay
The Wide Receivers catch the ball thrown by the QB
The Running Back takes the ball and runs with it
The Tight End blocks the defense and catches passes--
I believe I will be the...wait a minute. To get the ball over the goal line, more than one player must do his job. If I chose to be the Running Back, I'd need the other players to help me catch and run the ball toward the goal line.
When I first began writing stories to pass the time, I was completely on my own. In a way, I had the ball and could do what I wanted with it. Then came a time when I thought someone else should read one of my manuscripts, and quickly learned I couldn't produce a good product without help.

No touchdown on my own.

That help came in the form of writing friends, writing courses and books, a publisher, a contract, an editor, and finally...distribution sites. Touchdown.

Then came more work to finish the game--promotion.

Writing is relatively simple compared to getting that novel or short story published and promoted.

It takes a village? For a book, it takes a team.
Celia Yeary
Romance, and a little bit of Texas

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Open secrets and opening lines


I can't believe we're into the third week of 2017  already, and I have nothing to talk about.

Well, I do, but I doubt if you want to hear much about my latest house project—removing painted-over wallpaper from the dining room. Let’s face it, that’s about as interesting as watching paint dry. 

However, “have you ever painted over wallpaper? is my new litmus tests for friends, lovers and politicians.

And there is a wrong answer to that question.

On the writing front, as I worked on revisions, I discovered why Dead Aunt Charlotte is haunting the family. Not because they never found her body, which is what the family thinks, but because the family never found Charlotte’s child.

When Charlotte died in the 1920s, unexpected pregnancies were hidden, bastard children were put up for adoption once they were born, and no one ever talked about it. More frequently, there were a lot of babies born six or seven months after the marriage.  

Of course none of my readers would blink an eye at a single, wealthy woman having a child, so explaining why this is a big deal without preaching will be tricky—particularly because it’s a minor thread in the overall story but she’s critical to the resolution.

Even trickier will be doing this without an info-dump.

But I’m excited about this development and the ensuing challenge. I'm fascinated by the 1920s. I like the clothes, the shoes (really like the shoes) and the hats. 

As a result, I have done way more research than my minor ghostly characters deserves. I’ve discovered that like now social acceptability of sexual mores varies by social-economic status. 

In the medieval times, the wealthier or more noble you were, the greater the risk of stepping outside of expected behavior. By the early 1920s century, it was just the opposite. Wealth served to insulate you from public censure, and Dead Aunt Charlotte could afford to keep her child hidden.

And now for something fun... post the opening line of your work-in-progress. I'll start: 

Mom is naked. Again.”
Eden Rivers tripped up the old step, dropping her walking pole in the stumble. Balancing on one foot, she caught her breath and turned to her sister. “What?”
“She’s weeding the begonias au naturel.”

Monday, January 16, 2017

Who Was Dame Shirley?

Louise Amelia Knapp Clappe (née Smith) was born on July 28, 1819 in New Jersey. She spent most of her youth and young adult life in Massachusetts. Her father Moses Smith, graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts in the year of 1811, and he once had the responsibility of being in charge of a local academy. Both Moses and his wife came from Amherst, Massachusetts. There is some speculation that her parents might have been cousins, for both Moses' mother and wife shared the same maiden name (Lee). Both of Louise's parents died before she turned 20, with her father dying in 1832 and her mother in 1837.

Louise was one of seven children, with three brothers and three other sisters. In 1838 she attended a female seminary in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The following two years she continued her education at Amherst Academy. She was a good student, whose interests included metaphysics. Following in her father's footsteps, Louise also got involved with education, teaching in Amherst in 1840.

Around the same time, she was introduced to Alexander Hill Everett who happened to be at least twice of Louise's age. Everett was a distinguished author, and Louise’s relationship with him was mostly an intellectual one. Between the years 1839 to 1847 they had exchanged forty-six letters. During this time Louise also met her future husband, Fayette Clappe. When Louise told Everett about her new relationship, he was not pleased and things ended poorly.

Born in June 1824 in Chesterfield, Massachusetts, Fayette Clappe was five years younger than Louise. Fayette's family also had a different spelling of Clappe, and instead spelled it as Clapp. He started his college education at Princeton, but finished up at Brown University, graduating in 1848. He briefly continued his education, studying medicine at Castleton in Vermont. Similar to Louise's mother, Fayette's mother also bore the maiden name Lee. The exact date of their wedding is unknown; however, some believe it occurred in either 1848 or 1849. Louise and Fayette never had any children together.

Louise had always wanted to go to the West, first mentioning her desire to do so in one of her letters to Everett. While Fayette was studying medicine in Vermont, the couple caught gold rush fever. Louise and Fayette later moved out West to California where she took on the pen name of Dame Shirley and wrote her widely known Dame Shirley letters.
1851 California gold miners
Upon arrival in California, both Louise and Fayette were ill. Louise had suffered from chronic illnesses throughout the 1830s and 1840s. Her first year in California living in San Francisco and Plumas (near Marysville) was spent taking care of Fayette who had been sick for their whole first year. During this time, Fayette was able to obtain an absentee degree from Castleton, making him a doctor. He was elected as a delegate to a political nominating convention and was also chosen to serve on a committee protesting the tactics of agents hired to help the incoming immigrant wagon trains from across the Plains.

Known as “Dame Shirley,” she famously captured the spirit of California Gold Rush society in a series of 23 letters to her sister in the East. Adopting for these the persona of a self-consciously whimsical “Dame Shirley,” she wrote the Shirley Letters in 1851 and 1852 from the gold mines at Rich Bar and Indian Bar on the Feather River, where she had ventured in company with her physician husband.  In these letters she wrote of life in San Francisco and the Feather River mining communities. She focuses on the experiences of women and children, the perils of miners' work, crime and punishment, and relations with native Hispanic residents and Native Americans.

Throughout the years there have been multiple editions of her letters in print. Her letters have been described as being both witty and disturbing, while giving insight into California mining life.

In her earlier letters, Shirley never uses a full name and instead uses just a first initial. The Shirley letters were all carefully written, and they showed off Louise's education and writing skills, for all of the letters were unique and extremely rich in detail. In the sixth letter written back to her sister Molly, Shirley discusses her shock at how vulgar the men in California are, and the wider tolerance for such vulgarity. The same letter also indicates that her marriage with Fayette was failing, describing his business transactions with some bitterness. In her twelfth letter, Louise claims that she wants to give the true picture of mining life, and she did so from a distinctly female perspective. Some later authors and publishers believe her letters were never meant to be made public at the time she wrote them; others believe that was her intent all along.

Her marriage with Clapp started to falter around 1852. While the two separated around that time and Fayette headed back East, their marriage did not officially end until some years later.
San Francisco - 1851
While Louise was staying in San Francisco, she made the acquaintance of Ferdinand C. Ewer, who printed her Shirley letters in his new periodical, "The Pioneer" in 1854-1855. Her writings influenced the later writing of gold rush chronicler Bret Harte.

Not only did Louise submit her letters, but she also wrote two other articles for the Pioneer. The two articles "Superstition" and "Equality of the Sexes" once again did not show off her writing gifts. In both articles she still identifies herself as Mrs. Louisa Clapp, even thought she and Fayette had split at this point.
Photo ctsy of The Philadelphia Rare Books and Manuscripts Company
Louise later wrote for the Marysville Herald in the spring and summer of 1857. The Herald was not much of a newspaper, but more of a vehicle for advertisements.

Louise began teaching in San Francisco in 1854. In 1856 she officially filed for divorce from Fayette. While living in San Francisco, she was well liked and became well known for her teaching and writing. She taught for two different all-girls schools, Denman Grammar School, and Broadway Grammar school. She also taught well-attended evening classes in both art and literature.  In 1857 she most likely made nine-hundred dollars for the year. Between 1868 and 1869 she switched the spelling of her last name to Clappe. Throughout the next decade she went back and forth between the two different spellings.

While in San Francisco, she adopted and raised a niece, Genevieve Stebbins. In 1878 she retired from teaching. The Denman School raised a farewell gift of two thousand dollars. Louise lived out the remains of her life in New York City for the next twenty eight years. She resumed her writing in 1881 when a periodical at Hellmuth Ladies' College at London, Ontario published a series of her articles under her Shirley name.

She returned to her native New Jersey in 1878. She lived on to the age of 87 and died from chronic diarrhea and senility on 11 February 1906. Her headstone reads that she was the wife of Dr. Fayette Clappe.


Google Books; The Shirley Letters from California Mines in 1851-52: Being a Series of Twenty-three Letters from Dame Shirley (Mtrs. Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe) to Her Sister in Massachusetts and Now Reprinted from the Pioneer Magazine of 1854-55, with Synopses of the Letters, a Foreword, and Many Typographical and Other Corrections and Emendations by Thomas C. Russell; Together with "An Appreciation" by Mrs. M. V. T. Lawrence

Starting in January, 1884, Big Meadows Valentine, is the first book in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series. If you want to know why only chickens will win Beth's heart, be sure to get your copy from Amazon. CLICK HERE