Round Robin: Favorite Time Period

Round Robin logoThe Round Robin topic for this month is: In what time period do you prefer to set your stories – past, present, or future? What are the problems and advantages of that choice? Would you like to change?

 
So far, the books I’ve written have taken place in the first half of the twentieth century. My three novels, Cowgirl Dreams, Follow the Dream, and Dare to Dream are all based on my grandmother who rode bucking stock in rodeos during the 1920s and take place in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. My new novel, Seeking the American Dream, is based on my mother who emigrated from Germany after WWII in 1948.

3 book covers

I enjoy writing historical fiction based on family history, because it brings them to life for me. Some of it I remember, but doing research on the era is also an enjoyable endeavor for me.

Life in the early 1900s was difficult in many ways, especially when compared to our modern conveniences of today. They had no electricity and no running water, so part of my ancestors’ day was spent carrying water from a well or reservoir, chopping wood or gathering coal for heating, and cooking everything “from scratch.” My grandmother and mother were not able to grab a cake mix from the shelf and whip up a cake in 30 minutes or less. Ingredients, such as flour and sugar, were purchased in bulk a couple of times a year, and eggs were gathered from the hen house. The wood or coal-burning stove had to be fired up, fed, and stoked and then the timing had to be perfect to judge the right temperature to bake the cake or bread or roast the meat.

SeekingAmericanDream_1.5x2It was a simpler and more peaceful time, however, with no TVs or computers or cell phones blaring the bad news of the day. Family was foremost, but neighbors helped each other with work and food and camaraderie during harvest, branding calves, or shipping time. Evenings were spent with family, reading, mending, listening to music or radio programs, and planning the next day.

While we live in exciting times, sometimes I miss the “good old days,” even though life was hard at times.

I am working on novels now that are more contemporary, and I’m having fun with those as well. In some ways, they’re easier to write because I know more about the period, but also because these are pure fiction, not based on family history.

Which are your favorite eras to read?

Please visit the following blogs to find out what time period other authors enjoy writing about:

Marie Laval http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-14G
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

Advertisements

One-Room Country Schools

Recently I wrote a short “memory” piece about my one-room country school at Sand Springs, MT, for an author friend who is putting together a book on the subject. It was a fun trip down memory lane.

Heidi 2nd grade

When I was almost six years old, there were no kids of school age in the area and no school closer than twenty or thirty miles away. I was so eager to learn to read and write that my parents consulted the county superintendent of schools who recommended teaching me to read from the “Mac and Muff” pre-primer series. I was in seventh heaven! Now I could read and write my own books!

 

By that next summer of 1956 the Joe Dutton family moved to Sand Springs and bought the general store. They had four children, three of school age, so the neighbors got together, formed a school board, and hired a teacher, Susie Huston from the Brusett, MT area. There had been a school at Sand Springs in the past, and the parents pitched in to clean and fix up the schoolhouse, which was in the middle of a field about a quarter mile from the store. A coatroom was converted into a “teacherage”—living quarters for the teacher with a bed, dresser, and a stove. Later the schoolhouse was moved across the highway when a new store building was built, and a small two-room building was constructed next to the school for the teacher to live in.

I started school with one boy with me in the first grade, one in the third, and a girl in the fourth. For several years, we four were the only students. The largest school population was during my brother’s time in the early ‘60s, with twelve students.

I have fond memories of “Huston,” as she preferred to be called, teaching us in innovative ways—board games for math, “Go-Fish” type card games for vocabulary words, and pictures she cut out from magazines as writing prompts. Listening to the upper grade students also piqued my interest and spurred my quest for learning. When I reached upper grades, I helped the younger kids with their studies. Huston taught there for three years.

Sand Springs School 1

Photo courtesy The Missoulian

Apparently the school population has come full circle, according to Sandy Gibson, Postmistress and owner of the Sand Springs Store, once again with four students, who have a male teacher and attend four days a week. Innovation teaching is still the “norm” with “lots of hands-on” projects, such as planting and caring for trees and a bow-and-arrow class.

North-Central Arizona, where I live now, also has a still-operating one-room school at Crown King—celebrating 100 years of teaching K-8 this year. Only one other such school in Arizona is located at Apache near Douglas. Crown King has 11 students, with one teacher, and was featured in the August/September issue of Prescott Woman Magazine. http://prescottwomanmagazine.com/aug-sept2017/

 

Published in: on September 30, 2017 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

My Mother Seeks the American Dream

When my husband and I moved from Missoula, Montana to western Washington in 1996, I thought it would be an easy transition. We were both ready for a change, a great job became available for him, and I was a freelance writer. I could do that from anywhere.

But I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to adjust, become acclimated, and feel at home there. Everything I’d known changed—new grocery stores, new doctors, and new friends. I kept thinking, what must it have been like for my mom, who emigrated from Germany in 1948 after WWII?

I moved only a few hundred miles, the language and culture was the same, and we did actually have some acquaintances there before the move.

Mom photo hi resMy mother came from an urban setting, where—at least before the war—they enjoyed electricity and indoor plumbing, and cultural experiences such as concerts and plays. She moved to extremely rural eastern Montana with no running water and an outdoor privy—the “middle of nowhere” where the nearest town was close to a hundred miles away—to live with the in-laws for nearly three years. She knew very little English, the culture was different, and people still considered Germans “the enemy.” Plus, she knew no one, except her fiancé, a man she hadn’t seen for two years!

A move like hers took a great deal of courage. I remember my nervousness when I went from my ranch home to college in the “big city” of Missoula, Montana. And I got to go home for quarter breaks and holidays. It was ten years before Mom was able to go back to Germany to visit her family.

All of these thoughts and questions ran through my mind until I was compelled to sit at my computer and write her story. I fictionalized it, so I could “fill in the blanks,” and with fiction, the author can create an ending that is the way it should have beenSeekingAmericanDream_1.5x2.

It has been twenty years since I started writing my mother’s story, and Seeking the American Dream is finally published! It was not the right timing until now. I needed to study and learn my craft, to continue to make it better, and chronologically, it follows the “Cowgirl Dreams” series I wrote, based on my rodeo cowgirl grandmother.

Mom died thirty years ago, but I hope she would be proud of the results. You were a strong, brave woman, and I’ve always admired you.

Seeking the American Dream is available as an e-book and in print from Amazon and autographed copies through my website.

Advance Reviews:

“With beautifully researched detail, haunting descriptions, and the authentic language of the heart, Heidi Thomas’s Seeking the American Dream is a classic immigrant’s tale, a domestic drama that shows the rebuilding of the world as planned at the kitchen table, enacted in the fields, and put into action in the financial, emotional, and psychological details of daily life. A story of longing—and finally of belonging—we see one woman’s dream become the fulfillment of the American dream one step at a time.”

– Mara Purl, best-selling author of the Milford-Haven Novels

“Seeking the American Dream is such a beautiful, heartwarming book! It was a pleasure to read about Anna’s quest for her dream. I didn’t just enjoy it, I loved it! Heidi Thomas has a way of building suspense that just kills me. Readers will love it as much as I do.” –Carol Buchanan, award-winning author of “The Vigilante Quartet” series

“Once again, I open the pages of a Heidi Thomas novel and I’m transported to another time and place. From post WWII Germany to the sometimes-brutal Montana ranch life, Seeking the American Dream explores one woman’s journey as she faces impossible odds to live her dream. Ms. Thomas is excellent at period literature. You won’t be disappointed.”—Brenda Whiteside, Author of The Love and Murder Series
Synopsis: As a nurse, Anna Schmidt deals with the aftermath of a war-torn Germany on a daily basis. The destruction and suffering of WWII frame her existence until she meets American GI, Neil Moser. His stories of ranch life in Montana, his quiet kindness and compassion, and the attraction that blossoms give her hope for a different life. Before their relationship develops, Neil is suddenly shipped out of Germany, and Anna is left with nothing but a yearning for what might have been.

Anna’s dreams are renewed when Neil writes to declare his love and propose that she join him in America as his wife. After two years of endless paperwork, she is finally on American soil. But will Anna be able to overcome the language barrier and harsh Montana ranch life, to gain acceptance from his parents, and form a family in a country that still considers a German the enemy?

Book 1 in the American Dream series and the next generation of the Moser family.

Cowgirl Up!

I am so excited to share that my book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women has won the Global E-Books Award in the non-fiction history category.

CowgirlUp Cover 1x1.5

When someone says “Cowgirl Up!” it means rise to the occasion, don’t give up, and  do it all without whining or complaining. And the cowgirls of the early twentieth century did it all, just like the men, only wearing skirts and sometimes with a baby waiting behind the chutes.

Women learned to rope and ride out of necessity, helping their fathers, brothers, and husbands with the ranch work. But for some women, it went further than that. They caught the fever of freedom, the thirst for adrenaline, and the thrill of competition, and many started their rodeo careers as early as age fourteen. From Alice and Margie Greenough of Red Lodge, whose father told them “If you can’t ride ’em, walk,” to Jane Burnett Smith of Gilt Edge who sneaked off to ride in rodeos at age eleven, women made wide inroads into the masculine world of rodeo.

Montana boasts its share of women who “busted broncs” and broke ranks in the macho world of rodeo during the early to mid-1900s. Cowgirl Up! is the history of these cowgirls, their courage, and their accomplishments. GEbA_Gold

And here is a related post with some wonderful photos of the “bad-ass” cowgirls of the 20th century.

Cowgirl Up! A Colorful Legend

Cowgirl Up .5x1

Reviewed by Ray Simmons for Readers’ Favorite

Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women by Heidi M. Thomas captures a small piece of American history that might otherwise be forgotten. I’m talking about the contribution of women to the world of rodeo. Cowgirl Up! specifically concentrates on the contribution of women from Montana during the golden age of rodeo in America. Montana became one of the states holding commercial rodeos in 1896, but rodeo derived from the working world of ranching. Long before the commercial rodeos sprang into being, there were informal local contests to see who was best at roping, riding, and bronco busting. Conditions were terrible sometimes and the pay was not good by today’s standards, but that didn’t stop women from wanting to compete.
Marie Gibson 001.jpg
Cowgirl Up! takes this early history and weaves it into colorful legend. There are many famous names from American history here. Theodore Roosevelt, Will Rogers, Dale Evans, and Annie Oakley are the ones I knew. If you are a real rodeo fan, you will probably recognize names like Lucille Mulhall, Prairie Rose Henderson, and Fanny Sperry. The characters, both men and women, are colorful. The history is rich, and the anecdotes, facts, and biography are very well written. It is obvious that Heidi M. Thomas loves her subject and, if you are a fan of the American West and American history, you do not want to miss Cowgirl Up! It should be on the bookshelf in every school library across America, but especially in states where rodeo played an important part in their history. These women and this sport should not be forgotten.

 

Published in: on May 19, 2016 at 11:47 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sailing With Impunity

Impunity cover 300x200I recently came back to land after a thoroughly enjoyable armchair adventure with Mary and Bruce Trimble on their sailboat Impunity. Sailing With Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific is a story of a dream fulfilled for two very courageous and adventurous people. I hung on every word, from the chilling opening with “Man Overboard” and the life-threatening storms to the delightful, lazy days in tropical harbors and the new friends they made.

Welcome, Mary. You certainly have had an adventurous life, from living in Hawaii to the Peace Corps in the Gambia, to serving the Red Cross, to this 18-month sailing odyssey. Is this bold “venturesomeness” a part of your DNA, so to speak, something you always aspired to?

Mary: I love adventure. Right after I was born, my dad picked up my mother and me from the hospital and, along with my three year-old sister, we went camping. I guess that set the pace.

How did you and Bruce come to the decision to quit your jobs, sell your house and buy a sailboat to sail around the world?

Mary: We were both at a period in our lives that we longed for change. I loved my job as a computer/analyst at Safeco Insurance Company, and Bruce had a good job, too, working in the marine electronics field. But we knew how strenuous sailing is and decided that if we were going to do it, that was the time.

Sailing, to the uninitiated, sounds so romantic, peaceful and fun. Did you anticipate the possible dangers of this trip, and how did you prepare?

Mary: To tell you the truth, I had thought of this as a sort of luxury cruise. Bruce knew better. It wasn’t a luxury, though there were some lovely periods. But life at sea is hard work and can be downright dangerous. We prepared for some of the possibilities by having drills, such as the “man overboard” drill. We wore safety equipment; i.e. life vests and safety lines (tethers attached to the person and to the boat). We put rules in place such as no changing sails alone—the other person always needed to be present. Someone was always on deck and responsible for the boat, so we stood four hours on, four hours off, watch schedules.

What was the worst part of your trip?

Mary: Going along the U.S. west coast was pretty rough, but I guess the worst part was Cyclone Ofa that we experienced while in Samoa. The storm lasted for about 36 hours. We stayed aboard Impunity to do what we could to protect our boat.

How about the best part(s)?

Mary: Some legs of the journey had good winds and calm seas. We would scoot silently along with a minimum of work on our part. That was glorious. The night stars were wondrous and felt so close. Our companionship with each other was a real plus. We never tired of each other’s company.

What advice would you give someone who wants to experience this type of adventure?

Mary: Be prepared! We were appalled at how many people undertake this journey unprepared. It took a lot of work and planning, but we had food enough to last the journey, supplementing with fresh vegetables, fruit and meat or fish at various ports of call. Food can be expensive in the South Pacific. Also, Bruce stowed spares of anything that could possibly go wrong—spare pumps, seals, screws, sail repair equipment, etc. These are simple steps, but important for a safe trip.

How do you fulfill your adventuresome spirit now that you are “retired”?

Mary: Actually, we’re not retired. I am a full-time writer. Sailing with Impunity is my fifth book and second memoir. Bruce is still working, though retirement is hopefully not too far off.

———-

A prolific writer, Trimble draws on personal experiences including Mary0010 croppurser and ship’s diver aboard the tall ship, M.S. Explorer, two years with the Peace Corps in West Africa, and a 13,000-mile South Pacific sailing trip aboard their Bristol 40, Impunity.

   Mary Trimble’s recently published memoir, Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific is about their 14-month sailing adventure, from magical sights and scents of their first island landfall to the bustling, colorful Tahitian markets. From sudden midnight squalls and weathering a cyclone in Samoa to pristine anchorages in the Kingdom of Tonga.

   An award-winning freelance writer, Trimble’s other works include Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps, a story of a newly married couple who discover themselves in new light as they work and learn about a third-world culture. Tenderfoot, a romantic suspense with a sub-plot of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. Tenderfoot won finalist with Western Writers of America for Best Western Long Novel. Her coming-of-age novels, Rosemount and McClellan’s Bluff have been met with enthusiastic acclaim.

   Trimble lives on Camano Island with her husband, Bruce.

Published in: on December 11, 2015 at 5:43 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

The Longest Trail

By Roni McFadden

Longest Trail I never considered myself a writer. The only experience I had was writing letters to the editor of newspapers when I would get upset about something! My kids would roll their eyes when another letter by their mom would reach the papers.

I organized a reunion to the pack station where I worked in 2003. There were about 30 of us seeing each other for the first time in more than 30 years. As stories were told, someone said there should be a book about the place. All eyes turned to me. I don’t know why. But that was the start.

When I first started to write the book it was really going to be more about the “place”. I did a lot of research on the Native Americans there as well as the man who built the pack station. But, as I started writing, I realized that the story really had to be about my journey AT that “place”. I started writing down different things I remembered and each chapter developed from those memories. Then, I had a bunch of separate stories and needed to figure out a way to tie them together.

That is when telling the grandchildren came to me. Once I figured that out it all just flowed.

I borrowed the term “True Life Novel” from Jeannette Walls’ story about her grandmother, Half Broke Horses. I thought that would let people know that it was a true story, but with creative license to make it flow for the reader. It has won 3 awards for non-fiction (Global eBook Gold, winner EPIC eBook award, and winner USA REBA Awards), but another reviewer told me a year or so ago that the subtitle might cause some people a bit of confusion on whether the book is fiction or non-fiction.

This year after my mentor John Slaughter passed away I decided I wanted to put in an addendum about losing him. So, I thought it would be a perfect time to add all the pictures that would let the reader see what I was writing about.   I made changes and decided to republish it as a second edition. I changed the “True Life Novel” to “A True Story”. I changed the description on the back cover. I added the addendum about John, and added 58 pictures.   (The pictures are in color on the author photoKindle edition.)

The book took 9 years to write. I put it aside for a year or so to write and publish the “Josephine” book in 2009. Josephine: A Tale of Hope and Happy Endings continues to win awards as well, most recently receiving an Honorable Mention in the Purple Dragonfly book awards in two categories: Animals, and Spirituality. It is a book about death, love and hope for children of all ages told by the filly, Josephine, who is a great granddaughter of the legendary Seabiscuit.

Thank you, Roni, for appearing on my blog, and best of luck to you with your second edition of The Longest Trail.

March Round Robin: Research

Book shelfThis month we are discussing research as our Round Robin topic. When you’ve finished my post, please check out the other members listed at the bottom.

CowgirlDreams Front CoverBefore I began writing my novels based on my rodeo-cowgirl grandmother, I made a trip to Montana. I found the old homestead house my grandparents lived in when they were first married, I visited museums, libraries, and newspaper archives, and gathered anecdotes from family members and friends.

Grandma had left a scrapbook filled with ranch and rodeo-related clippings, pictures, etc., and she had written a couple of short pieces: one about all the horses she’d owned and one a short-story about moving to Montana from Idaho as a child and then meeting her future cowboy husband.

Dream Cover FinalI also had a couple of journals she had written from the 1940s. While these did not play into my novels, they were fascinating and I got a taste for her spare notations (6 eggs today, weather 78 and sunny, etc.) which I tried to emulate in the journal entries Nettie writes in Follow the Dream.

And, of course I read all the books written about rodeo cowgirls I could find.

Dare Cover FinalAs I wrote I ran into questions that I would then search the internet or try to find experts in the field to provide answers. For example I wanted authentic details for railroad travel in the 1940s for Nettie’s trip to Madison Square Garden in New York for Dare to Dream.

So, the majority of my research was done before I began writing, but I also did more as I went along. Each project is different.

Please check out how my fellow “Rounders” do their research:

Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/
Rachael Kosnski http://rachaelkosinki.weebly.com
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Lynn Crain  http://www.awriterinvienna.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

Life Provides Metaphors

Since the last day of 2014 (when it snowed 4 inches in North-Central AZ), I’ve been obsessed with doing jigsaw puzzles. I even got my SIL hooked on them! Some were downright challenging, like this oval of DaVinci’s Last Supper. Last Supper

I thought when the weather turned nicer–and it did almost right away–that I would put the puzzles away and escape to the great outdoors. But I didn’t.  Barn scene

I mentally chastised myself for “wasting” my time, not accomplishing anything. But still the desire, the need, the driving force was there–one more piece, one more puzzle, just one more…Cute Kitten puzzle

I mentioned this obsession to my grief counselor, and she told me something that piqued my writer’s mind. Doing puzzles is a metaphor for picking up the broken pieces and putting something back together.Puzzle pieces

As writers, we all use life experiences to shape our characters and our plots. This is just another example of something we can use in developing a character somewhere down the line.bridge & balloons

Just one more piece… Just one more…

Published in: on February 28, 2015 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

January Round Robin on Reading and Writing

Our topic from Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
this month is: What is your favorite time and place to read? How about writing time? Do you have to make time? Do you have a ritual or is your plan helter-skelter? I had a quilting teacher who followed the swiss cheese method to completing tasks: Make a hole here, and sometime later a hole there; keep repeating this until the whole thing is complete. What’s your method?

 ***

IBook pile_reading have to admit I’ve been reluctant to return to a schedule, following the holidays. It is always difficult to carve out time to write or to discipline myself to put my own writing first, ahead of my blogging obligations and editing projects. But after being on “vacation” I don’t want to return to “Reality.”

Reading: I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a kid. I’ve never been able to get enough of books and always have a stack or a list of TBR (To Be Read) books. I read while I eat, during commercials when I watch TV, when I’m in a doctor’s waiting room, and before I go to bed.

Writing: I belong to a great critique group, so that makes me accountable. I know I have to bring at least five pages to the Writing_in_Journalmeeting every week, so even if I wait until the last minute, I’m at least writing. I find I need a deadline to work—probably a learned response from my time as a newspaper reporter. I found I could write under pressure and now I seem to need it.

How about you, fellow readers and writers—what is your preference?

 ***

Check out the rest of our round robin group and see what their responses are:

A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Geeta Kakade http://geetakakade.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rita Karnopp  http://www.mizging@blogspot.com
Rachael Kosnski http://the-doodling-booktease.tumblr.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Heidi M. Thomas https://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Ginger Simpson http://www.cowboykisses.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

Published in: on January 24, 2015 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: