Women’s History Month: The Strong, Independent Women in My Life

I have a great legacy of history from my grandmother and my mother.

My grandmother was a true cowgirl. She was not famous like Alice and Margie Greenough, Prairie Rose Henderson or Bonnie McCarroll, but she did ride steers in rodeos in the 1920s and ’30s, and she was an avid horsewoman. I like to say that I believe she was more at home on the back of a horse than behind a dustmop. Her life was hard, enduring the social stigma of rodeo cowgirls, who were considered “loose women” because they dressed like men and traveled around the country with men, competing with men. She and her family also endured the drought and Great Depression of the 1930s, at one point trailing their herd of horses from Northern Montana to Salmon Idaho, looking for grass to feed them.

I admire her “cowgirl attitude” (to do the hard thing, the right thing and not whine about it) and it is something I’ve tried to live by.

My mother was not a cowgirl, but she knew how to “cowgirl up.” She was a courageous woman who came to the “wilds” of eastern Montana from Germany after World War II to find a better life. She was a nurse and my dad met her while serving in the Army as part of the American Occupation in Germany. When he returned to the States, he wrote and asked her to come to Montana and marry him. She said yes, and then it took two years before she could wade through all the red tape and paperwork to get here. I’ve often thought about how difficult it must have been to immigrate to a new country, learn a new language, new customs, come from an urban setting to an extremely isolated rural area, where people still considered Germans “the enemy,” and where she knew no one except a man she hadn’t see for two years!

I’ve had two novels published based on my grandmother’s life: Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream, and I am working on a third. The fourth book in the series will chronicle my mother’s courageous journey.

I don’t feel like I’ve had to draw on the same well of courage that my grandmother and mother did, and I can only hope that I’m leaving something of note for my nieces and nephews.

Autographed copies of Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream are available from my website http://www.heidimthomas.com They are also available from my publisher, Treble Heart Books http://www.trebleheartbooks.com/SDHeidiThomas.html as hard copy books and e-books. Follow the Dream is available on Kindle.

My blog is https://heidiwriter.wordpress.com

Jane Kirkpatrick: Character’s Voices

Historical Author Jane Kirkpatrick has a new novel release, The Daughter’s Walk, based on Clara Estby who, with her mother, walked  3,500 miles from Spokane, WA to New York City to promote a new shorter skirt fashion, earn $10,000, and save the family farm. This is a fascinating, entertaining book that explores what happened to Clara after their return, when she was shunned by her family. It is a story of transformation, from the beginning, when Clara pessimistically fights the journey and her mother plays the part of the “eternal optimist.” By the end, they’ve switched roles in their “grand adventure.”

I asked Jane to talk about how she discovers and develops her character’s voices and why she chose to write this book in the first person point of view.

It’s interesting you should comment, Heidi, on the voices of the characters in The Daughter’s Walk. The original version was written in third person through the eyes of Clara and alternating with her mother Helga.  Then in part two, I had Clara be the narrator as first person and finally, in part three, I returned to Clara and her mother, alternating in third person.  I thought it worked.

But my editor — whose opinion I greatly trust — said to me, “Whose story is this?  Clara or Helga’s” and once I asked myself that question I realized I wanted to tell Clara’s story rather than her mother’s.  The nonfiction book written by Linda L. Hunt, Bold Spirit, Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America told the story mostly through and about Helga and the social events that affected their lives, but mostly Helga’s.  Readers of that book SO loved Helga that Norwegian chapters of Daughters of Norway named their chapters for her.  She was practically a saint! In my effort to be faithful to Helga’s story I had really short-changed Clara’s and it was her story that inspired me to write the novel in the first place.

So back to the drawing board as they say! What I found is that Clara needed to be heard and it was much easier to tell the entire story through her than I’d thought.  I still think I honored Helga but I was more interested in the journey Clara had to take as a result of the walk and the consequences of it. I could ask myself what Clara might be thinking when her mother did this or that and explore Clara’s motivation as I began to see the world through her eyes.

How do I create a distinctive voice for each of my characters?  Good question!  Their history creates some of the design, were they German American, Norwegian, Native American, Swiss and did they learn English as a second language as that affects the sentence structure when they speak. I try to find some piece of dialogue or a bit of behavior that feels natural and becomes associated with each character so eventually I might not have to use “she said” because we know who is speaking by the word choice or how she “blinked her eyes.”  We might also know some internal state because she says or does that bit “when she’s nervous” or when she’s about to go ballistic.

Each character also has to change over time and how that progresses will also shape that character’s voice.  About half way through a novel, I feel like the character starts to tell me things about them that I didn’t know or hadn’t uncovered in my research.  It usually requires that I go back and rework earlier sections but it’s also true that a reader likes to have that character unfold over time. As authors we don’t have to show readers everything about that character in the beginning.  We do need though to have some distinctive characteristics so the reader can visualize early on who this person is and whether they might want to spend an entire book with them .  If it’s a first person POV, it also has to be a character whose way of seeing the world offers sustained interest over the length of the book.

For Clara, her interest in her hair (she carried that curling iron all the way across the country!) seemed a natural way to help shape her voice.  It became a way to show her internal state, how she dealt with disappointment.  I also found that her hair was a way of engaging with her women friends and that interaction then expanded the character of each of those women.  I hope I did all of that in a believable way.

As for which voice — first person or third — is easier to write in…they both have their challenges and their delights.  I’ve had a number of men tell me they like reading my books because the men are real, not always perfect but people they can relate to.  I’ve never written a book with a first person male protagonist.  Might be interesting to try but so far I just love finding stories of fascinating historical women and then entering their psyche and their lives hoping to glean what is universal about our worlds despite the generations that separate us. It’s one of the joys of writing.

The Daughter’s Walk will be available April 5 at booksellers and on Amazon. Jane Kirkpatrick has written sixteen historical novels based on the lives of actual women, and three non-fiction books. Her books have won numerous awards, including Best Books by Library Journal at the Women Writing the West WILLA award.

Where do Characters Come From?

My guest today is Donis Casey, author of five Alafair Tucker mysteries. (I bought the first one, The Old Buzzard Had it Coming, strictly on the title!) I’ve asked her to elaborate on how she “discovered” and developed her main character.



Alafair Tucker

By Donis Casey

Hercule Poirot, Harriet Vane, Annie Darling, V.I. Warshawski, Stephanie Plum, Alafair Tucker. Where did they come from? What sort of mind does it take to create a character that seems to live and breathe? Yes, I dare to list the name of Alafair, my turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century sleuthing mother of ten children, alongside these immortals, because I’m confident that even though my books may not live forever in the annals of English-language literary tradition like Agatha Christie’s, Alafair sprang forth in the same way as Miss Marple did.

It was something of a miracle.

If you are an author, you may bring your characters into the world, but in a odd way, how they turn out really doesn’t have anything to do with you.

In 1999, after I closed my business and discovered I now had time to do research, I decided to write a family genealogy for my siblings as a Christmas present. In the course of the research, I ran across stories and anecdotes about ancestors, which led me to remember stories my grandparents and parents had told me about their parents and grandparents, and life on the farm. I began questioning my mother, and then to write down my own memories. When I shared my stories with my husband, he began to reminisce about his (extremely colorful) Oklahoma pioneering family. This led me to begin questioning his siblings. At the end of the process, I had a book length genealogy packed with stories from the French and Indian wars, the Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, ambushes, murders, adoptions, divorces and adultery — settlers and Indians, massacres, poisonings, axings, shootings, drownings, and smashing people in the head with beer bottles.

I plumbed my own memory as well as interviewed many relatives. Many of the details of farm life come from my mother, such as using kerosene-soaked corn cobs to start a fire. Many of the incidents related actually happened, both in my family and my husband’s (the less savory ones, he points out).

I began writing The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, the first book about Alafair’s life, early in 2000. The fifth entry in the series, Crying Blood, was issued by Poisoned Pen Press just last month.

The character of Alafair was cobbled from bits and pieces of all the beloved women in my family who came before me.  Alafair was the name of my father’s maternal grandmother, Alafair Morgan. Tucker was the family name of my father’s paternal grandmother, Selinda Tucker. Here is a photograph of Great-Grandma Alafair Morgan, taken when she was about twenty-five years older than the Alafair I write about.  You can see what having that many children really does to you.  But like the character, the real Alafair was the pillar of her house and the queen of her domain, and everyone loved her.

My Alafair is funny, reflective, wise to ways of the world and the ways of kids, and a bit sad because of the losses in her life, like my own mother.  She’s the center of her family, loving and giving to a fault, adored by her children, and a legendary cook, like my mother-in-law.  With the best of motives, she’s all up in your business and can drive you crazy, too, like a relative of mine who shall remain nameless, lest she read this (though she won’t recognize herself.  They never do.)

Alafair is also me, if I were totally different than I am.  Through her, I get to live the life I never lived and never will.  I imbue her with all the virtues and strengths I do not have.  She knows what she knows and takes action.  Then once she has, she doesn’t second-guess herself.  I agonize over every decision and sometimes take no action at all.  She’s kind and tolerant of human weakness.  Me: not so much.  She takes care of everyone.  Me: I know it’s suppertime. Order a pizza.  She’s patient.  Me: get out of my face.

I may have created Alafair out of pieces of all these women, but she’s much more than the sum of her parts.  The great British mystery novelist Graham Greene said, “The moment comes when a character says or does something that you hadn’t thought of.  At that moment, he’s alive and you leave it to him.”  I first put Alafair on the page, but then she stood up and walked away, and I just follow where she leads.  Anyone who has ever written fiction knows what I mean.  Your characters are not really your own.


Donis Casey is the author of five Alafair Tucker Mysteries,The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, Hornswoggled, The Drop Edge of Yonder, The Sky Took Him, and the newly released Crying Blood. Donis lives in Tempe, AZ, with her husband, poet Donald Koozer.

Read the first chapter of each novel on her website, www.doniscasey.com,   She blogs about writing at www.typem4murder.blogspot.com, and about food in mysteries at www.fatalfoodies.blogspot.com.

Nature Nurtures

Sometimes when I get “stuck” in my writing projects or just have “cabin fever,” I go to one of my favorite spots, Bayview State Park in Northwest Washington. I find peace and inspiration there.I was looking for the elusive sun, and it gave me a fleeting, teasing glimpse.The light reflecting on the clouds and shimmering on the beach.Nature creates its own poetry.Nature nurtures me.

Published in: on March 15, 2011 at 12:38 am  Comments (7)  
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Is Stress Keeping You from Writing that Best Seller?

My guest blogger today is Kathy Stemke, freelance writer, educator, and author of Moving Through All Seven Days.

by Kathy Stemke

If you’re like me, my first instincts when stress attacks are to eat, worry, complain, or completely withdraw.  This reaction just paralyzes me, makes me unhappy and prevents me from writing.  So what’s a writer to do?

I offer you a list of stress breakers that may just get you in the mood to write.

  • Ask, “In the ETERNAL scheme of things, will this problem be of ANY importance?”  Answer, “No, probably not.”
  • Pray.
  • Make someone’s day.
  • Choose your attitude.
  • Play and Be There
  • Get out of the house and spend time with some friends, basically expand your world a little bit so your world is not so small.
  • Count to a certain number.
  • Meditate.
  • Splash water on your face.
  • Take a bubble baths with low lights and read a good book.
  • Put a washcloth in hot water and add fragrant oil. Wring the cloth and lay it on your face.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Sing.
  • Squeeze a stress ball.
  • Punch or throw pillows at the wall.
  • Think of funny stuff.
  • Write about your feelings. Journal, journal, and journal some more.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Draw a story.
  • Use progressive muscle relaxation (or PMR). It is a technique for reducing anxiety by alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles. It was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. Jacobson argued that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can reduce anxiety by learning how to relax the muscular tension.  PMR entails a physical and mental component.

The physical component involves the tensing and relaxing of muscle groups over the legs, abdomen, chest, arms and face. With the eyes closed and in a sequential pattern, a tension in a given muscle group is purposefully done for approximately 10 seconds and then released for 20 seconds before continuing with the next muscle group.

The mental component focuses on the difference between the feelings of the tension and relaxation. Because the eyes are closed, one is forced to concentrate on the sensation of tension and relaxation.  Because of the feelings of warmth and heaviness are felt in the relaxed muscle after it is tensed, a mental relaxation is felt as a result. Jacobson also found that the relaxation procedure is effective against ulcers, insomnia, and hypertension.

  • If all else fails, keep a supply of small size chocolates handy.  These really do help you de-stress.

Now write that next best seller and send me a signed copy, please. Can you add to this list?

Author/Educator, Kathy Stemke, has a B.S. from Southern Connecticut State University and Covenant Life Seminary, and graduate coursework from Columbia University. As a freelance writer Kathy has published several articles and is a contributing editor for The National Writing for Children’s Center. She is also part of the team at DKV Writing 4U, a full service writing company.

Moving Through All Seven Days, her first e-book, is now available on Lulu, while Trouble on Earth Day and Sh, Sh, Sh will the Baby Sleep are slated to come out in 2011.

Kathy Stemke’s websites and blogs:

Educationtipster blog- http://educationtipster.blogspot.com Sign up for her free monthly newsletter, Movement and Rhythm, here.

Moving Through all Seven Days ebook purchase here: http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/moving-through-all-seven-days/7386965#

Articles: http://www.helium.com/users/406242.html


Writing Services: http://dkvwriting4u.com
If you’d like to read another author on tour tomorrow, check out Dallas Woodburn featuring Karen Cioffi, author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, blogger and on the team of DKV Writing 4 U

And don’t forget to scroll down to my blog from yesterday to check out the Blog Hop. Thanks for visiting!

Join us in Blog Hop Day!

Welcome to the Blog Hop. Leave a comment on my blog and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a copy of one of my books. Then pick one or more blogs from the following list and visit for more chances to win prizes! Sponsored by BOLD e-zine.


1.  Bold E-zine
(1)   – $10.00 Cash Paypal
(10) – $20.00 Advertising Certificates redeemable with BOLD – Winner may use themselves or transfer the  advertising certificate to a friend.)
2.  Still Blonde After All These Years
$75.00 Lending Luxury.com Gift Certificate
3.  Bree, Home to Blogmania
$15.00 Best Buy Gift Card – $10.00 Cold Stone Creamy GC
4.  Di Doodlings
$10.00 PayPal – $10.00 iTunes – $10.00 Amazon
5. Momma Told Me
$20.00 Amazon Gift Card – $10.00 PayPal Cash – $10.00 WalMart GC – $10.00 Target GC
6.  The Socialite’s Closet
$20.00 Target Gift Card – $25.00 Apothica GC
7.  Books R Us
$10.00 PayPal Cash – $25.00 gift card to restaurant.com$10.00 gift card to Amazon.com
8.  Heidiwriter
Gift Certificate – winner’s choice – Cowgirl Dreams, or Follow the Dream
9. The Adventures of My Family of 8
$10.00 Gift Card – Starbucks
10. Turning The Clock Back
$20.00 Ecomom gift code – $25.00 Isle of Eden Code – $10.00 Starbucks Code
11. Maxwell’s Mommy
$10.00 gift card to Hashibags on Etsy$10.00 gift card to CSN stores
12. Kelly’s Lucky You
$10.00 PayPal Cash
13. Makobi Scribe Product Reviews
$10.00 Accent Studios Wall Decals – $25.00 Accent Studios Wall Decals
14. My Fitness World
Product code for Win X Bluray DVD iphone rippper
15. Mommies Playground
$10.00 PayPal Cash

E-Book Week

Read an E-Book Week is March 6-12, 2011.

E-BOOKS TURN 40! That’s right – it’s been forty years since Michael S. Hart created the first “e-book”. For a more in-depth look at the history of e-books please see this web page.

Also check out EPIC, Electronically Published Internet Coalition, established in 1998 to provide a strong voice for electronic publishing. Once an authors’ organization, EPICTM has expanded to include hundreds of professionals from all facets of the electronic publishing industry: authors, publishers, editors, artists, and others. Our members work together in a unique collaboration between authors and publishers to further the industry.

My first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, won an EPIC award. Both Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream are available as e-books at Treble Heart Books and Follow the Dreams is available on Kindle.

How many of you have an e-reader? How many of you have published an e-book? Do you believe e-books are the “wave of the future?”

How a Horse Taught Her about Fear

This is a wonderful post from the e-zine Vibrant Nation, written by Lisa Arie, the founder of Vista Caballo’s exclusive Innovation Ranch set on 160 acres in the Great Sage Plains of Colorado. Lisa shares the story of how she and her horse first found each other – and how their relationship helped her reconnect with herself, and with life.

Is there life after fear?
They say that whatever you are most afraid of will continue to show up in your life until you face it.

It’s a long process. Most people keep fighting or ignoring fear until one day, the big kahuna of fear shows up. That’s when you have to decide once and for all if you are going to step up or step off. That’s how my life as I know it now all began…

…I gave up my story and set out to find out who I truly was. And I did it with a horse as my guide…

Read more at Vibrant Nation.

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