Honest Scrap Award

honest_award_blackI’ve had the dubious honor of being the recipient of the Honest Scrap Award, wherein I’m obliged to share ten honest scraps of information about myself. Thanks, Gwyn Ramsey!

Well, here goes:

1. I grew up on a 6,000-acre ranch in eastern Montana.

2. My first newspaper experience was a little tabloid I did in grade school entitled the “Sagebrush Saga.”

3. My first horse’s name was Money. He didn’t last long (he bucked).

4. My second was Strawberry. I had him for many years.

5. I attended a one-room country school and when I started first grade, there were four kids in the entire school.

6. I attended high school in a town 35 miles away and lived in a dormitory during the week.

7. We first got electricity when I was age six.

8. Our first indoor bathroom was installed when I was a junior in high school.

9. I once sang in Carnegie Hall with Sweet Adelines.

10. My mother was a German “war bride.”

So, now I have the honor of bestowing the Honest Scrap Award on seven others. I’ve crowned the following fine fellow bloggers–check out their websites and see what they have to say.

Mary Trimble

Carol Buchanan

Janet Oakley

Heidi the Hick

Cindy, Every Cowgirl’s Dream

Jennifer, Run Horse, Run

Barbara, Vaquero Girl

Thanks to all my friends and acquaintances for all of your wonderful comments, encouragement and support. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Published in: on December 27, 2008 at 3:50 am  Comments (5)  
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A White Christmas

snow_patioIt’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in the normally rain-laden Seattle area. We don’t always get snow here in the winter, but it snowed several inches last Saturday. The temperature stayed in the low to mid-20s until yesterday, when it started snowing again.  And it’s still coming down as I write this at noon on Thursday, Dec. 18.

This brings back fond memories of growing up in eastern Montana. I remember being snowed in at Christmas, playing board games with my family, reading (of course!), drinking hot chocolate and eating Christmas cookies. I love the soft, quiet beauty of snow and the enforced slow-down of a too-hectic schedule.

What I don’t miss is shoveling, driving in ice and snow, minus 50-degree temperatures with blizzard conditions (and going out to feed cows regardless!) and bundling up in so many layers that I could hardly waddle.

But when you’ve grown up in Montana, there is something special about a White Christmas! Happy Holidays, all!


Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 8:34 pm  Comments (3)  
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author_photo_sml-cropMy author guest today is Carol Buchanan, descended from Montana pioneers and homesteaders. She is a longtime nonfiction writer and student of Montana history and has turned to historical fiction with her first novel God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana.

Carol, as a Montana native myself, I’ve always been fascinated by the Vigilante Justice era. What gave you the impetus to write about the Vigilantes?

When I was in junior high, my parents and I took a trip around Montana. We stayed in a motel (now defunct) in Virginia City, where much of the Vigilante activity took place. One evening after dinner I walked up the hill to the “Hangman’s Building” where the Vigilantes hanged five men at once. I went into the building, and as I stood there, I heard the ropes creak on the beam where the men were hanged. That moment is still with me. When we came home to Montana, I knew I had to write it.

What made you decide to write the book as fiction rather than nonfiction?

I needed more elbow room than a straight history would give me. I believe in historical fiction being as tight to the history as possible, but history doesn’t give a writer scope to imagine what it would feel like to put the noose around the neck of someone you knew. Wilbur Sanders, the actual Vigilante prosecutor and leader of the Bannack branch of the Vigilante organization, had been Henry Plummer’s guest at Thanksgiving dinner just six weeks before he helped to hang Plummer.

You’ve done a masterful job of building the characters, especially the protagonist, Dan Stark. I love how he carves as he thinks during difficult situations. Is this character closely modeled after a real person?

Dan Stark isn’t modeled after anyone in particular. He has Wilbur Sanders’s position with the Vigilantes because I don’t think it’s kosher to put thoughts in the heads of people who really lived. After all, how could I know 145 years later what they thought? It seems extremely disrespectful to do that. So I just elbowed Sanders aside and put Dan Stark there. And a former two-term County Attorney for Flathead County gave generously of his time and knowledge as a prosecutor to help with how an attorney might think and act during a trial. It was he who suggested the carving.

I know Henry Plummer was a real individual. How many of the book-cover_characters are based on real persons?

Either they are real people in the story or they are purely fictitious. The main fictitious characters are Martha and her family, Dan Stark, Jacob Himmelfarb, and Tobias Fitch. Others include Lydia Hudson, and Tabby and Albert Rose. Paris Pfouts was real and the Vigilante president. John Creighton was also real. He later went home to Omaha to build Creighton University, and eventually the Pope made him a Papal Count for his services to the Catholic Church.

These men were rough, crude individuals, yet with a spiritual side. Is that what you gleaned from research about them?

Yup. Walter Dance did kneel in the street to pray with and for the five as they were being led to their execution. While the sources give some of the comments, no one mentions the prayer, so I wrote one for Dance. Creighton was a devout Catholic.

You must have done an inordinate amount of research. How long did it take you to research and write this book?

Seven years.

Were you able to interview any of the Vigilantes’ descendents?

No. One wrote to me that his grandfather had burned a bunch of papers. Others mentioned that they were descended from Vigilantes, but I didn’t “interview” them. I did have plenty of reminiscences from some of the Vigilantes themselves, most never published and housed in the archives of the Montana Historical Society in Helena (our state capital).

Were they proud of their heritage?

They seemed to be.

The story includes quite accurate depictions of playing poker and characters who spoke German. Do you play poker? And speak German?

I studied German in Germany while I was in graduate school in 1969, and a lot of it has stayed with me, but I don’t speak it any more. The poker question is really funny, because I don’t even like card games and have never played poker although my father tried to teach me when I was a kid. My husband sought out a computer poker game that includes both 5-card and 7-card stud, and I learned to play from that. I thought of visiting casinos here in Montana, but my old red Jimmy is fairly noticeable and I could just imagine the talk there’d be in this small town if people saw it in casino parking lots. Besides, 5-card is almost never played any more, and 7-card is likewise an old game.

You were the winner of the Women Writing the West short story contest this year. Congratulations! Have you always been a writer?

Yes. I was writing stories and even a couple of novels before I got into high school, and got my first paid writing job for the local newspaper during high school. Later, after college and graduate school, and a recession or two, I joined a Seattle-based aerospace company as a technical writer and stayed with them until I retired in 2001. During the 1990s I wrote three nonfiction books, one of which, Wordsworth’s Gardens, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Awards in 2002.

What are you working on next?

The sequel to God’s Thunderbolt. It’s titled Gold Under Ice, and takes Dan back to New York where he gets involved in some heavy-duty gambling in gold futures.

Thank you, Carol. I’ll be looking forward to reading the sequel. Carol’s book can be purchased through Amazon.com. See her website at http://www.swanrange.com/

The Cowgirls Are Here!

dreams-1-5-x-2The cowgirls have arrived! My first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is a dream come true for me. It’s been a long ride, with many spills, but I learned to get back on that bronc and try it again.

I kept hearing it over and over. Perseverance is key. Don’t give up. Keep submitting, keep learning, keep improving your craft. And it is true.

When I began submitting my novel manuscripts (I have three more now in various stages of writing and revision), I decided I would TRY to collect 100 rejections. I’d heard that many now-famous authors had received that many or more before being published. (For example, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach received 140 rejections.) That way, I could soften the sting of a rejection by telling myself, “It’s just one ‘no’ closeer to a ‘yes.'” Rejection is difficult, no matter how you look at it, but that “collection” did help. I did collect 35 “no thanks” and two “yes, we’d love to but can’t right now, so feel free to submit it elsewhere.” Finally, I found Lee Emory at Treble Heart Books, and now I am a published author.

delightIt feels good.

Published in: on December 5, 2008 at 5:37 pm  Comments (6)  
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