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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Update — ONE SNOWY KNIGHT by Deborah Macgillivray

Beautiful Skena MacIain, Lady of Craigendan, is on the verge of losing everything she holds dear. With her husband killed at the battle of Dunbar, and the men of Craigendan slain or captured, her small holding is protected by only the women, young boys, and old men who are left. A neighboring chieftain has set his sights on Skena, and she fears that he’ll take Craigendan by force during this coming Yuletide season. Skena needs a miracle, a wish-come-true granted by Cailleach, the Lady of Winter…but things are never so easy as just making a wish…
When Skena’s young son and daughter find a wounded knight in a blinding snowstorm, she fights against the hope she begins to feel. They’ve wished for a protector—but can Noel de Servian be that man? As Skena nurses the handsome warrior back to health, even she begins to believe he might be the salvation for her little keep…and more, he might hold the key to her heart.  In a season of joy, Skena soon learns he carries a dark secret that could shake her home—and her heart—to the very core...
"A sexy captive/captor romance. . .well done!" —Romantic Times on In Her Bed
"Like a bard of old, Macgillivray spins a tale of knights and ladies, myth and magic." —Romantic Times on A Restless Knight

Now available in Trade Paperback


Deborah and One Snowy Knight on The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Many booksellers on Amazon strive to sell their wares as cheaply as possible. That, after all, is usually how you make a sale in a competitive marketplace.

Other merchants favor a counterintuitive approach: Mark the price up to the moon...

Monday, July 16, 2018

Yuma Territorial Prison- INMATE CRAFTS

After hours, the inmates were allowed to produce crafts which were sold or traded at a monthly craft fair that was open to the public. A share of the profit was saved and given to the inmate when he left the prison.

The following is from the Arizona Sentinel, February 6th, 1892.

Some very fine lace is also made, which commands their prices. The money received from the sale of these articles is placed to the credit of the prisoners, who, in many cases, accumulate quite a handsome sum of money by the time their term of imprisonment expires.

A lifer, who spent most of his sentence at the Yuma Territorial Prison for murdering a man. C. E. Hobart spent most of his days making adobe and quarry rock to build a new prison cell. He was put in solitary confinement numerous times for violating prison rules and tried to escape twice. But during his free time, Hobart knitted beautiful lace.

Left, C. E. Hobart, #1113

Infant dress with knit lace yoke and sleeves
Top: Knit piano scarf; bottom: knitting needle used to make lace.
Also from the Arizona Sentinel, February 6, 1892.

During their leisure moments, their prisoners are permitted to work for themselves. They carve many beautiful bits in onyx, many of them very useful as well as ornamental.

(The photos are mine. However, many of them were taken of display materials at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park. Most of the information in this blog post comes from the same source. If you missed May’s post about the Yuma Territorial Prison, you may read it by CLICKING HERE.) If you missed June’s post about women inmates, you may read it by CLICKING HERE.

Anyone who has not yet read my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series which takes place just on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Columbia and Sonora, you may enjoy my first two books in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series. You may find the first book in the series, Big Meadow Valentine, by CLICKING HERE, and the second book, A Resurrected Heart, by CLICKING HERE.

The third book, Her Independent Spirit, touches on Independence Day, 1884. More importantly, it touches on the efforts of two women in the gold mining town of Lundy to declare their own independence from their current circumstances. It also includes an event in Lundy’s history that changed the dynamics of the town from that point forward. You may find this book by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

New Release -- One Snowy Knight (Dragons of Challon Book 3) by Deborah Macgillivray


Beautiful Skena MacIain, Lady of Craigendan, is on the verge of losing everything she holds dear. With her husband killed at the battle of Dunbar, and the men of Craigendan slain or captured, her small holding is protected by only the women, young boys, and old men who are left. A neighboring chieftain has set his sights on Skena, and she fears that he’ll take Craigendan by force during this coming Yuletide season. Skena needs a miracle, a wish-come-true granted by Cailleach, the Lady of Winter…but things are never so easy as just making a wish…


When Skena’s young son and daughter find a wounded knight in a blinding snowstorm, she fights against the hope she begins to feel. They’ve wished for a protector—but can Noel de Servian be that man? As Skena nurses the handsome warrior back to health, even she begins to believe he might be the salvation for her little keep…and more, he might hold the key to her heart.  In a season of joy, Skena soon learns he carries a dark secret that could shake her home—and her heart—to the very core...

"A sexy captive/captor romance. . .well done!" —Romantic Times on In Her Bed

"Like a bard of old, Macgillivray spins a tale of knights and ladies, myth and magic." —Romantic Times on A Restless Knight


    “By the blessed lady, he must be the rider of the horse.” Was he even alive? Skena knelt beside the still body, and with her freezing hands swept the snow from his face.
     As she brushed off the slope of the second cheek, a small gasp came from her lips; she stared, transfixed by his beautiful countenance. Never had she seen a more perfect man. The wavy brown hair was not a dark shade, not light, though made a measure deeper from the wet snow. He had a beautiful chin, strong, yet not too square. Angus’s face had been pleasant, but his jaw looked as if it had been carved from a block of wood. This man’s showed strength, character, yet there was a sensual curve that caused her to run her thumb over his nearly clean-shaven cheek. No face hair. Norman? Her hand stilled as a shiver crawled up her spine, one that had naught to do with the cold. Dismissing that concern, she swept the snow from his neck and shoulders. She rather liked that she could see his features; it allowed his perfection to show clearly. Nice strong brows, not bushy like Angus. And lips…so carnal, a woman would wonder what it would feel like to taste them, crave to discover such mysteries for herself. Surely, this man was touched by the blood of the Sidhe; only one blessed by magic could be so lovely formed, a man possessed of the power to lure a woman into darkest sin, nary a thought of the risk to her soul.
     She jerked back slightly at the odd notions filling her mind, a yearning that had never come before. Still, there was no time to fritter away on such nonsense. Trembling in alarm, she feared he might be dead. Great anguish arose within her that one so beautiful would have his life cut short. As she touched his neck, she felt the throb of his blood. Faint. So very faint. Relief filled her heart at that small flicker of life. She had to get him to Craigendan and warm his blood or he might not survive. Even then, it would be a fight to save him. How long had he been lying in the snow? In the fading light it was clear his skin was grey, his lips tingeing blue.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Michael Atkinson – American artist by Kaye Spencer #prairierosepubs #americanartist #oldwestart

WESTERN MAJESTIC by Michael Atkinson
In the early 1990s on one of my visits home to Fort Morgan, Colorado from where I’d moved to take a teaching position in the far southeastern corner of the state (a 500-mile round trip), I stopped in Limon, Colorado at a convenience store/souvenir shop. The shop had a bin of posters and prints. This is where I came across my first Michael Atkinson painting. I was immediately enthralled, captivated, and in love with Atkinson’s work.

This print is the first one I purchased.

 For the next several years, I checked that same shop for Atkinson's prints every time I passed through town. I also looked in shopping malls, other souvenir shops, second hand stores, etc. Every time I found an Atkinson, I felt as if I held a treasure in my hands. It mattered not at all that the prints I bought weren’t originals or even expensive. Keep in mind, I was scrounging for his works just as the Internet launched (1991), and years before eBay (1995) and Amazon (1994) started. It took these venues a few more years to gain their current popularity and convenience for finding what you want at the click of a few keyboard strokes.

EMERALD LAKE by Michael Atkinson

PUEBLO SENTINEL by Michael Atkinson
UNKNOWN TITLE by Michael Atkinson
So, who is Michael Atkinson? He is an American artist who paints and sculpts, and I *think* he was born in 1946. He lived in the Lubbock, Texas area when he was a youngster (maybe he still does). A few years ago, there was a Michael Atkinson art gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Neither a Twitter or Facebook search resulted in more than passing mention of his works. These two websites, and offer a tiny bit more about him.

From his Smoky Ridge studio in Texas, Atkinson seeks to capture the emotion, be it subtle or exaggerated, a pursuit that has been in evolution since he started painting as a child in the northwest Texas town of Lubbock. Attracted early to the study of architecture, he earned a degree from Texas Tech University, then taught and worked in the field for a time.

From the first, his art, prints and posters have reflected his training, experience, and wide-ranging interests, as he creates images buildings, oceanscapes, animals, and Southwestern landscapes through a unique, semi-abstract style and a mastery of watercolors, spontaneity, and freedom.

White space is an essential element of the composition that characterizes Atkinson's art, prints and posters. The white is not empty. It is completely finished. Treating the paper as an element of design, the artist works from one concentrated area of detail and color, leaving much of the paper white and allowing the eye to focus on the central image without intrusion from the periphery.

The other source of information I have about Atkinson is this paper that is attached to the backs of several of my prints. None of my prints have dates on them, so the ‘seven years ago’ is meaningless without a year as a point of reference. You’ll notice this information is stamped with Diversified Art, Inc., Tucson Arizona, but an Internet search didn't offer much.

I have a Pinterest board of Michael Atkinson’s artwork, and I all of the prints I've shared today hang on my living room walls. I'm content with that. Here is the link to my Michael Atkinson Pinterest board:

UNKNOWN TITLE by Michael Atkinson


by Michael Atkinson

I’ve labeled three of the pictures as “Untitled”, because they bore no titles when I purchased them, and I haven’t found them on the Internet. But I’ll continue to search. That’s part of the enjoyment of having a reason to browse through Michael Atkinson’s works. *wink*

Are you familiar with his works? Do you know anything more about him? Take a moment to browse my Michael Atkinson Pinterest board. You'll be amazed at how many diverse pieces of artwork he has. There are at least two other Michael Atkinson Pinterest boards to enjoy, also.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

YouTube Channel

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Creativity (An 8-Part Series): Part VII - Synchronicity

By Kristy McCaffrey

Don't miss
Part I   - Imagination
Part II  - Domestication vs. Wildness
Part III - Shape-Shifting
Part IV - Forbearance
Part V  - Maiden/Mother/Crone
Part VI - The Virgin and the Sacred Prostitute

Synchronicity is a meaningful convergence of inner and outer experiences. Carl Jung coined the word synchronicity to describe the profound significance of coincidence in our lives. Author Sera Beak describes them as 'Divine winks'. Poets and mystics speak of it when they say, "As above, so below." The world is a playground in which to bring forth ideas from the other, known by many names—heaven, inspiration, God, inner self. Creative flow is unlocked when we navigate the world via coincidence.

The world is alive around you, responding to your thoughts and intentions, with none other than synchronicity. In creative endeavors, this can lead to the right path if you can trust in the process. I've experienced this in my fiction writing. The sooner I can focus my story, the better, because then pertinent information seems to flow toward me from all directions. The key, of course, is to be open to the method. Sometimes, the material isn't what I thought it should be. In resisting, I often come up frustrated and empty-handed.

I encountered synchronicity while writing this series on creativity. (Along with a fair number of bird feathers appearing at every turn, a sign I took to mean I was on the right path and the muses were happy with me.) At first, I had an ambitious idea to write about the creative process. I had no idea where to start. I've read so many wonderful books relating to this, but how was I going to compress this into something usable and short? The first step was to take a leap of faith.

And to practice that faith again, and again, and again. I didn't know all the answers, but as I moved forward with intention, the material came to me, either sprouting directly into my mind (the whispers of angels, as some would say) or through a book I came across, or a conversation with someone, or a link I found on social media. The key is to begin moving. Remaining still slows the process. The avenues for synchronicity are endless. And to those who say they don't happen to them—you're simply not paying attention. They happen everywhere, and everywhen.

Be open. Compartmentalizing life can cut the flow of symbolic relations from finding you. Learning can happen at any time, not when you deem it time.

Works Cited
Beak, Sera. Red Hot & Holy: A Heretic's Love Story. Sounds True, Inc., 2013.

Moss, Robert. The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence & Imagination. New World Library, 2007.

Don’t miss Part VIII in the Creativity series: Magic

Until next time…

Connect with Kristy

Monday, July 9, 2018


You know what I love about July 4th? No, not the fireworks—I’ve never been a big fan, unless it’s the big displays exploding overhead. My favorite memories are of the picnics in the park, with the band in the shell and baseball games on the field next door.  Riding my bike through the park, listening to the laughter, meeting up with my friends… the community celebration is what I loved most about July 4th growing up. 

In the old West, the community would celebrate in a similar way. There’d be a band, speeches from politicians and prominent citizens, maybe a basket auction to raise money for a new school or a bell for the church steeple. There might be games for the kids—and the adults—like sack races and horse races. And after the playing and the speaking and the eating, the musicians would tune up for the dancing. 

Yes, I think the celebrations, even in the old West, were all about community and fun.

In WILD TEXAS HEARTS, Wolf Richards returns to Civil just in time for the celebration in the park. He joins the festivities, meets up with friends and sees a beautiful woman he’s never met go dancing by in the arms of the town’s teacher. While he’s wondering where his son and Lizzie are, the doctor takes the next dance with the beauty—and Wolf finally realizes who he’s looking at.


Wolf only paused long enough to turn his horse over to Malcolm Douglas at the livery. Flipping an extra two bits to the man to unsaddle and groom the gelding, he strode back into the sunshine, knowing his horse would be well cared for.
He could hear the fiddlers warming up by the time he joined the crowd at the schoolhouse. He greeted friends as he made his way past the tables loaded down with baskets of food waiting to be auctioned off, but he hadn’t yet spotted Cal or Lizzie.
“Richards! Over here.”
Wolf joined Harvard in the shade of a big tree.
“I wondered when you’d arrive. Cal has been watching for you since daybreak.”
“Pa! You made it.” Calvin came running around the schoolhouse, loose shirttails fanning the hot afternoon air behind him. Wolf snagged the flying body and spun his son in a circle, hugging him close.
“I promised I’d be here, didn’t I?”
“That’s what Miss Lizzie said, that you gave your word and you’d keep it no matter what. And. You. Did!” He huffed out the words as Wolf gave him another squeeze.
Wolf dropped Cal on his feet and ruffled his hair. “I do my best, son. Happy birthday, Cal.” With a flourish, he held out the new book he’d bartered from a cowboy at the last trading post he’d visited.
“Thanks, Pa. I’ve never read this one.”
“That’s why I got it for you.” He ruffled his son’s hair.
“Miss Lizzie gave me this.” He pulled a brightly painted toy from his pocket. “She whittled it and painted it and everything.”
Wolf glanced around to see if anyone was close enough to hear Cal’s slip. “That’s really nice, Cal. Where is Mister Sutter? I haven’t seen him yet.”
Cal’s grin widened and he nudged Harvard, as if the two shared a secret. “Oh, he’s around back, I imagine.” Before Wolf could question him further, one of the other boys called Cal back to their game of hoops.
“What was that all--”
“You haven’t seen the decorations around the park, have you? Millicent and the celebration committee have outdone themselves.” Harvard strolled away, ignoring Wolf’s question.
Something was definitely going on.
The half-acre of flat, open land behind the schoolhouse had been transformed. A large plank floor had been assembled for the dancing, with a raised platform at one end currently occupied by two men Wolf didn’t recognize, tuning their fiddles, Mr. Petersen holding a long saw across his knees, and Sheriff Freeman, who always had the job of calling the dances and controlling the raucous basket auction. The entire area was edged with a railing made of freshly cut tree branches wrapped in red, white, and blue bunting, befitting the day.
Wolf accepted the glass of punch Audelia Mercer insisted he try and followed Harvard around the structure. He spotted Calvin in the middle of a knot of boys, but he still couldn’t find Lizzie. He wanted to see her, needed to know how she’d fared being in town under Millicent’s watchful eye for a more than a month.
Folks took their places as the fiddlers struck up a lively reel. Carruthers strutted by, his collar so stiff he couldn’t turn his head to his partner, a lovely woman Wolf didn’t recognize. The man looked dumbstruck with awe. Who would have thought the schoolmaster would have snagged a woman in this little town? As the dance got underway, Wolf watched the couple parade past, the woman watching her feet carefully as if she wasn’t quite sure of her steps. Something about her seemed familiar, but he was certain they’d never met.
“Who is that with Carruthers?”
Harvard grinned at him. “You know her.”
“I don’t. A man doesn’t forget a woman that beautiful.”
Harvard threw back his head and laughed like a braying mule. “This evening is going to be entertaining.” He slapped Wolf on the shoulder. “Excuse me. This is my dance.”
As the music changed to a waltz, Harvard relieved Carruthers of his partner, took the woman in his arms and started moving. Her sunny yellow skirt flared as they turned and the setting sun made her hair glimmering with all the colors of autumn. Just like Lizzie’s. Where was the woman anyway?
As Wolf watched the couple, something Harvard said made his dance partner laugh, and the sound hit him like a punch to his gut.
That was Lizzie!                    

See you next month!


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Book review: Guarding Her Heart by Livia J. Washburn



Julia Courtland was on her way west to marry a man she had never met. Henry Everett, the marshal of Flat Rock, Texas, was the grandson of her uncle's best friend. It seemed like a good match for both of them, and the wedding was scheduled to take place on Valentine's Day.

Grant Stafford thought the young woman who got on the stagecoach at Buffalo Springs was the prettiest thing he had seen in a long time. She wasn't too friendly, mind you, but she was sure easy on the eyes. Not that Grant had time to worry much about such things. He was the shotgun guard on this run, but more than that, he was an undercover Texas Ranger on the trail of the vicious outlaw gang responsible for a string of stagecoach robberies.

Fate threw Julia Courtland and Grant Stafford together on a cold February day in West Texas, but it also threw deadly obstacles in their path. A runaway team, a terrible crash, and bullets flying through the air threaten to steal not only their lives but also any chance they have for happiness. If they're going to survive, they will have to learn to trust each other . . . and maybe steal their hearts back from fate.

My Review:

Guarding Her Heart is an adventurously charming fast-movin' little story that keeps you smiling from beginning to end.  Provin' how captivating a Texas Ranger can be, Grant doesn't lack in the sweepin' me off my feet department... er... sweeping Julia off her feet.  haha!  Julia owns a essence that will serve her well in her future as Grant's wife.  I love how despite her need to be protected, she can surprise you with her spirit - exactly what a man like Grant needs and wants in his life.
If you're looking for an hour or less read to fully experience, grab this story!!

Purchase Link:

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


The Battle of Kings Mountain

It is such an honor to have my Prairie Rose blog fall on July 4th this year. I want to take the opportunity to write about the Battle of King’s Mountain and how the Scot-Irish Mountain Men turned the tide of the Revolutionary War that would lead the Americans to victory over the greatest military force in the world—Britain.

After the revolution began, the battles for freedom began to move south and defeat and setbacks began to take a toll on the colonial army. The outcome was beginning to look bleak after the British won in Charles Town, South Carolina. From there, the war moved northwest with the British, General Horatio Gates and Lt. General Charles Cornwallis seeming to have little opposition all the way to 

General Charles Cornwallis

The September following the fall of Charles Town to the British, Cornwallis invaded North Carolina and ordered Major Patrick Ferguson, an egotistical, overconfident, and ambitious man, to guard his left flank.

Major Patrick Ferguson 

Upon those orders on September 2, Ferguson headed toward western Carolina with seventy of his American Loyalist Volunteers and several hundred Tory soldiers. On September 7th he arrived in Gilbert Town, North Carolina, paroled a captured a rebel and sent him with a message, “…if they did not desist from their opposition to the British arms and take protection under his standard, he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay waste with fire and sword.”

This arrogant threat proved to be Major Ferguson’s downfall!

In response to Ferguson’s threats,, a call to arms went out and  the colonials gathered at Sycamore Shoals to strategize their battle plan. In his history of South Carolina written in 1808, David Ramsey wrote, “…hitherto these mountaineers had only heard of war at a distance and had been in peaceable possession of that independence for which their countrymen on the seacoast were contending. They embodied to check the invader of their volition without any requisition from the Governments of America or the officers of the Continental Army. Each man set out with his knapsack, blanket, and gun. All who could obtain horses were mounted, the remainder afoot.” On September 25th, Colonels William Campbell, Charles McDowell, John Sevier, and Isaac Shelby left Sycamore Shoals to pursue Ferguson. They used the only roadway connecting the backwater country with the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina.

General Isaac Shelby

The column marched up to the headwaters of Gap Creek Mountain, then east and south until they reached the top of the mountain between Roan High Knob and Big Yellow Mountain and descended along Roaring Creek. Finally, they took their rest at “Cathey’s” plantation on the second night of their march. After that, the troops divided with Campbell’s men moving south to Turkey Cove and the other to North Cove on the North Fork of the Catawba River. In their hard march from Sycamore Flats they covered 80 miles in five days. On September 30, Colonel Cleveland joined the march now 1,040 men strong at Quaker Meadow with the men from Wilkes County and Major Winston with men from Surry County. In addition were 30 Georgians under command of William Candler who joined the Patriot force at Gilberts Town and the army grew to 1,400 men.

General William Campbell

The seven Colonels chose William Campbell to act as commander before the Overmountain men moved south in their search for Major Patrick Ferguson. The Rebel spy, Joseph Kerr learned Ferguson was 30 miles to the north camped at Kings Mountain. Isaac Shelby was particularly delighted when he heard Ferguson had said, “I am on Kings Mountain. I am King of the mountain and God Almighty and all the Rebels of Hell cannot drive me from it.” Shelby was elated because he knew the region of Kings Mountain and knew it was a position almost impossible to defend.
It was important to the Patriot Colonels to get to Ferguson before he reached Charlotte when he would find protection from Lt. General Charles Cornwallis, so they chose 900 of their best men and hurried northward. 

The Movement of the Patriot Overmountain Men

The combined force of the Overmountain Men reached Kings Mountain on the afternoon of October 7, 1780.

Ferguson made the mistake of believing the enemy could not fire upon him without being seen. Big Mistake, Ferguson! The southern frontiersmen knew little about the methods and philosophies of established warfare and this was to be to their advantage. The Patriot force divided into four units and surrounded the mountain. They used continuous fire to close in on Ferguson like an unavoidable noose. Two groups fired while the second two groups moved forward. They switched back and forth in this way every 15 minutes. The battle began at 3 o’clock with Ferguson attempting to use the standard military practice of a bayonet charge. Unfortunately, his troops had to retreat under sharpshooter fire from the Patriots.

The Fall of Ferguson
Although Ferguson was correct in his belief the attackers would have to expose themselves to musket fire if they attempted to advance on the summit, he didn’t realize his men could only fire if they, too, were in the open and, therefore, vulnerable to returning rifle fire. Another factor Ferguson was unaccustomed to was that the Patriots were skilled hunters, woodsmen, and above all, riflemen used to killing fast moving animals to feed themselves. Most of them were also veterans of frontier Indians war and experts on “tree to tree”, no rules combat.

Major Ferguson’s men were overwhelmed as sharpshooters picked them off from behind rocks, brush, and trees that surrounded the summit. The Overmountain Men gained a foothold and drove back the Loyalists. Major Ferguson’s bold and final attempt was to personally try to cut a path through the Patriot line in order for him and his army to escape, but he failed when he fell from his horse, his body riddled with bullets. Some accounts say he died before he hit the ground, others that his men propped him against a tree where he then died. Ferguson was the only British soldier killed in the battle. All the rest, Loyalists and Patriots alike, were Americans.

Ferguson’s second in command, Captain Abraham DePevster, bravely continued to fight for a brief time, but the confusion was so great and his army in such a vulnerable position that he realized resistance would be suicidal. He raised the white flag and, not recognizing General William Campbell since he had removed his tattered coat, surrendered his sword to Major Evan Shelby, Jr., the younger brother of Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby.

Despite the call of surrender by the Loyalists, the Patriot Colonels could not stop their men from shooting. The Patriots remembered how the notorious British Col. Tarleton had brutally killed Patriot troops at Waxhaw despite the fact they were trying to surrender. Eventually however, the fighting at Kings Mountain ended.

After an hour of battle, not a single soldier of Ferguson’s army escaped. It was reported that 225 Loyalists were killed, 163 wounded, and 716 were captured. Only 28 Patriots, including Colonel James Williams, were killed and 68 wounded. When General Cornwallis learned of Major Patrick Ferguson’s defeat, he retreated from Charlotte, North Carolina and returned to Winnsborough, South Carolina.

Historians agree that the Battle of Kings Mountain was the “beginning of the end” of British rule in its former colonies. Not only did the Overmountain men win the day, but also undermined the British strategy for keeping America under its control. There is no doubt that Major Patrick Ferguson profoundly underestimated the courage and desire for liberty of the Overmountain Men. He did, however, fulfill his prophesy that he would not be moved from Kings Mountain; he remains there to this day in his grave.

Patrick Ferguson's Grave on Kings Mountain

When I think about the courage and desire for freedom the Patriots had in order to fight against the strongest nation on Earth I stand in awe and gratitude. The old adage, “where there is a will, there is a way,” must be true. I can’t even imagine going up against such overwhelming odds today. We have every reason to celebrate our Independence Day this Fourth of July in honor of the men and women who won this freedom for us against all odds.

The Declaration of Independence

Diverse stories filled with heart

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Writing Historical Mysteries

By C.A. Asbrey

I was asked recently how to write a historical mystery, and even though I’m brand new at it I would imagine my approach is very much like everyone else’s. 

Firstly, there are all the usual issues people encounter when setting a story in the past. Linguistic anachronisms can beam out of the page to those who know their period like a neon sign in a dark alley. People have to behave as they would have in the social stratifications of the time, and you absolutely must know the tiny details of how people lived and dealt with the minutiae of life. There's no point in pricing something like bread at more than an average man would earn in a month. Nor does it help your story if you don't know the basics on how your characters work, live, or play in whatever century you select.

I was once jolted out of a book because an eighteenth century aristocratic woman had been named 'Holly'. That simply wouldn't happen in England in that time period. Some of the non-conformist churches had a habit of calling their children non-traditional names, but the upper classes never did. The maid could have been called 'Holly' but her mistress? Never.

Anachronisms are easily spotted

History throws up many problems you won't encounter writing any other kind of mystery. There are numerous pitfalls for the unwary. Not only do you have to build a believable universe, you have to put credible characters right in the middle of it and make them reveal the world you have carefully built by showing the readers their experiences. The reader needs to feel what they feel; the smell of the horseflesh, the clatter of the hooves, the sizzle of the cooking, and the creeping of the leeches.    

Then there's the speech patterns to think about. Local accents were stronger, with less exposure to strangers or the media to even them out. Slang and commonly used expressions can be quite impenetrable to modern ears. You can call someone a "dentiloquent bletcherous zounderkite" but you can make it clear what it means by the way people react to it.  Use slang and dialect lightly enough to create local colour, and leave the rest of the dialogue plain enough to be clearly understood. And bear in mind that what you think you hear may not be accurate at all. To this day there are thousands of Scots protesting that none us say 'verra' and never have; yet millions of people think it's an accurate interpretation of the Scottish accent because it appeared in a well-known series of books. If you come from a different culture check with a local. It's far too easy to get it wrong.  I certainly have and depend on good friends and editors to get it right.     

The answer is a simple as it is hard to achieve. Know as much as you possibly can about your subject, period, and characters. How did they do simple things like go to the toilet? Eat? Cook? WorK? What did they earn? What did the care about? Who did they defer to? How did they react to people who were different to them, or who failed to live by their social code? How did they wash and how often? Show this by having your characters do them in the story instead of writing descriptions about it. Also be careful that you don't disappear down the rabbit hole when researching. It can be fascinating and engrossing and I've often looked up at the clock to find a whole day has gone by before I've realized.        

Once you get over the problem of putting realistic characters in place and in period the mystery writer has another hill to climb. What is your mystery and how do you solve it? Of course we need to leave our path strewn with red herrings but they need to be historically possible too. What are the symptoms of poisoning and how did doctors test for them in your chosen period? How long would someone realistically take to die from a stab wound or a blow to the head? What weapons were available at that time and what evidence would they leave behind?

When you do your research make sure you know the source is absolutely credible and backed up by more than one source. The internet is full of inaccurate information and it's vital to ensure the veracity of any facts you come across.    

Just like any traditional mystery you need to assemble a cast of characters who include more than one credible perpetrator, more than one possible motive, and ensure that your detective in your chosen time period has the knowledge and the wherewithal to expose the murderer and prove the crime.
This whole post seems to throw up more questions than it answers, but there is an easy answer. Spend a lot of time getting under the skin of the people you write about and really know your subject. They say you should write what you know for good reason. When you have a good broad understanding of the period, do lots of research on each murder method, the evidence it would leave, and how that evidence would be interpreted in that era. There no point in choosing a poison which wasn't detectable at the time and bringing in forensics which didn't come in until later will definitely result in comments from readers.

At the end of the day you have to look at whether you are creating a historical treatise or telling a good story. To me the story is the most important thing, weaving all the historical detail through the tale until it's no more than background to the main action. Don’t beat yourself up too much about a slight inaccuracy. Even history books contain errors, so historical fiction can hold its head up high if it evokes a sense of period and place which serves the story. The story is fiction. The people (and sometimes even the place) are inventions.

One of the best examples of the story mattering more than detail in fiction comes from a famous anecdote. After his success with “A Streetcar Named Desire” on Broadway, Tennessee Williams had occasion to return to New Orleans where he was accosted by a woman who chided him for his description of the streetcar lines. She told him if Blanche DuBois took the streetcars as described in his play, she wouldn’t end up on Elysian Fields Avenue. “They simply don’t run that way,” she said.

Williams replied, “Well, they should.”

The Innocents (The Innocents Mystery Series Book 1) by C.A. Asbrey @prairierosepubs #historicalmystery #theinnocentsmysteries

 ''The Innocents", by C.A. Asbreypublished by Prairie Rose Press is now available to buy.

Pinkerton Detective Abigail MacKay is a master of disguises—and of new crime-solving technology! But she’ll have to move fast to stay a step ahead of Nat Quinn and Jake Conroy.

Nat and Jake are the ringleaders of The Innocents, a western gang that specializes in holding up trains carrying payrolls—and Nat is pretty savvy when it comes to using the new sciences of 1868 in committing his crimes.

Charismatic Nat and handsome Jake are on the run, and they’ve always gotten away before—before Abi. But when Abi is caught by another band of outlaws during the chase, there’s no other choice for Nat and Jake but to save her life. Abi owes them, and she agrees to help them bring in the murderer of a family friend.

The web of criminal activity grows more entangled with each passing day, but Nat, Jake, and Abi are united in their efforts to find the murderer. Once that happens, all bets are off, and Abi will be turning Nat and Jake over to the law. But can she do it? She finds herself falling for Nat, but is that growing attraction real? Or is he just using her to learn more about the Pinkertons’ methods? Abi always gets her man—but she may have met her match in her “best enemies”—THE INNOCENTS.


     “So, you want to pretend you’re a Pinkerton? As a female?” His eyes darkened. “I’ve questioned one before, although he didn’t know who I was. They’re trained real well on being both sides of interrogations. You don’t want to do this. Not as a woman. He had a real hard time. You’ll have it even harder.”
     She sat staring ahead once more, her face impassive and stony.
     “You’ve nothing to say?”
     Her eyes flashed. “Beating the hell out of me won’t change anything but my view of you.”
     Nat reached out and entwined a hard fist in her hair and dragged her backward until the chair balanced on the back legs. He brought his face close to hers, his hot breath burning into her cheek.  “Think harder, lady. This isn’t a game. Who are you?”
     Abigail felt the dragging pain at the back of her head as shards of pain lanced across her scalp. He held her, balanced between his painful grip and a clattering fall to the floor but her stubborn nature wouldn’t let her acquiesce.
     “Others will come after you, no matter what you do to me.” She darted her eyes to meet his, unable to move her pinioned head. “I won’t be the last.”
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