Hearts Through History Romance Writers

First Kiss – Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold

Colorado, 1880s, at an outdoor city dance –

He rested his hands on the wagon side just above her shoulders. Even in the dim light he saw the pulse in her throat beat. Close enough to feel her warmth, hear her slightly accelerated breathing. Her tongue nervously crept out to moisten her lower lip and his gut tightened. Did she taste as sweet as he suspected? Feeling his own blood pulse, his voice hardly more than a whisper, he asked, “What’s your name, sweetheart?”

Chapter Five

Her knees strangely weak, Julie leaned gratefully against the high side of the wagon. Her heart raced and she couldn’t seem to catch her breath. On impulse she had allowed him to lead her past the punch table. With his nearness he’d stolen her ability to think clearly.

Why was she being so jittery? They were still only yards away from the dance floor, she still heard the orchestra, the buzz of conversation.

But how could she think when he was so close? Every breath she took carried the scent of soap, tobacco, and his warm, musky indefinable male scent. The dim light cast his face into planes and angles. Would the mustache be stiff and scratchy or soft and silky? The thought of finding out made her breath catch.

“Tell me your name, sweetheart,” he repeated. His mouth moved closer to hers, his low voice a velvet caress that sent shivers across her shoulders.

“Julie,” she managed to whisper. “Juliette Marie.”

“Julie,” he repeated as if he liked the sound of her name in his mouth. He bent his head. Her heart raced with anticipation and dread. She wondered wildly if she was afraid his kiss would be just like others—or more afraid it wouldn’t.

He touched his lips to hers. At the soft caress of his mouth, her eyes fluttered closed. His gentleness left her without resistance, the liquid heat of his kiss seeped through her body to lodge in the most unusual places. How could the warmth of his lips and the silkiness of his mustache make her breasts tingle? He lifted his head and she realized the soulful sigh she heard was her own.

A Historical Writer Goes Contemporary

As a member of Hearts Through History, I usually write historicals set in America.  However, last spring my critique group (which is now more of a plotting/brainstorming group) got the chance to write a series of five novellas, one by each member of the group.  Most of our group writes contemporary, so we decided the novellas would be contemporary.

Our group went on a weekend retreat and did the plotting/brainstorming for all five novellas.  We started out with the premise of five high school friends who went away to college, and were all together New Year’s eve their freshman year in college.  That night they made a list of the qualities they wanted in a man.  Now ten years have passed and things have not gone exactly as they planned.  Now they are together again at New Year’s, where the make a new list and make a pact to each fine a man by next New Year’s, forming The New Year’s Eve Club.

So what’s this got to do with Seduced by History?  I’m wondering if any of you write both historical and contemporary and any problems you might find in switching back and forth.

For me, I found it’s about all the sex when comes to differences in writing historical and contemporary.  Of course there is sexual tension between the hero and heroine in historicals, but usually as I’m writing historicals, I have to keep the hero and heroine from consummating their attraction.  In my historicals I really have to work to make a scenario where there’s an authentic/realistic reason they might sleep together before marriage.  (One of the reasons a marriage of convenience works so well in historicals.)  I discovered I really had to change my mindset for the contemporary – after all, they are consenting adults.

While I’d anticipated this change in mind set (from a writer point of view), one problem that caught me by surprise was communication. I’m so used to writing historicals, that in writing the novella when the hero wanted to arrange a meeting with the heroine, I had the hero leave the heroine a note.  I wasn’t until I was about three quarters through the draft that it occurred to me that they would have cell phones and had constant and instantaneous communications!  And yes, I have a cell phone, but my husband and grew up without them so we really don’t use them all that much, so it took me awhile to think of the phones.  (And yes, I layered in several phone conversations in the novella).

Since I’ve been writing about cowboys and the American west, I made by hero stuntman on a western movie set, to keep the cowboy theme.  My heroine is a teacher looking for a little adventure when she takes a summer job teaching child actors on a western film set.  At the end, I’m glad to say I must have made the transition as our New Year’s Eve Club novellas are doing well. https://www.facebook.com/TheNewYearsEveClub

Now, to switch my mind back about a hundred and fifty years and get back to my historicals.  If you’ve made the transition back and forth, let me know how it went.

The Way to a Cowboy’s Heart

An army travels on its stomach. Whether or not Napoleon was the first to say this, it is a long accepted truth. A truth that could be justifiably applied to the cowboy on the cattle trail. The wise cattle owner recognized this and gave just as much consideration to the hiring of the cook as he did his trail boss. In fact, next to the owner and the trail boss, the cook usually got the highest salary often as a share of the herd’s sale price.

For that pay, the cook generally came with his own chuck wagon. This vehicle, an invention attributed to Charles Goodnight, was specially built on a standard wagon base with room for supplies in the front and a trail kitchen in the back. Equipped with a fold down table, drawers and shelves for utensils, cook pots, plates and the all-important Dutch oven, the chuck wagon was the center of the cowboys’ life while on the trail. Many cooks served as not only the creator of meals, but as first aid doc, postal clerk, and steward of the campgrounds.

The cook was responsible for acquiring supplies. He started with a list which included beans, flour, rice, salt pork, syrup, spices, prunes and dried apples, “skunk eggs” (onions), and coffee served hot, strong, and always. He kept a supply of dry wood and cow chips for fuel slung in a cowhide tarp (called a possum belly) under the wagon. Cowboys were told to be on the lookout for fire wood to add to the store. As the season wore on, the prairie was scoured of fuel sources, so cow chips became the fire maker of necessary choice.

With so much meat on the hoof, beef would be a staple of the trail diet. Or so you would think. However, many an owner and trail boss balked at depleting the moneymaker.  Consequently, the steers were relatively safe from slaughter on the trail unless one proved troublesome or a straggler. Then he was ripe for the picking.

Even then, the cook would waste no portion of the animal. A popular or infamous recipe of the trail was “sumbitch” stew with ingredients including heart,  liver,  kidneys,  brain,  sweetbreads  and everything                                                          except the moo. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and chili flakes and cooked as long as practical, the stew was better than it might seem from its contents.

The best cooks were known for their sourdough biscuits. Sourdough starter was carefuly restocked and guarded. On cold nights the prudent cook took his starter to bed with him to be sure it stayed warm enough to raise his biscuits. Biscuits. beans, and Arbuckle’s coffee  made up the bulk of the cowboy’s trail diet.

In my cattle trail historical, West of Heaven, Marcella McGovern unexpectedly inherits the cattle of her ranch owner father and the bawdy house of her mother. To get the cattle to market, she is forced to recruit the women who formerly worked at the bawdy house. With a crew like that, how could I resist creating a cook as unusual.

Hans Weiss wants to become cook for Marcella’s crew to practice his recipes for the restaurant he plans to open in Kansas when he gets there. Beans, biscuits and the occasional stew are not enough for Hans. To facilitate his success he even devises traveling chicken coops so he has a fresh supply of eggs on the trail.

Here’s an excerpt describing Hans’s preferred bill of fare:

Last night after hearing Jean Luc’s reasoning and instructions for slowing the herd, Marcella had recruited Nell and the two of them went out to collect cow chips. Hans stored them in the possum belly, a basket that hung under the wagon, to use for fuel on the treeless prairie. But this chore did not keep her away from camp long enough. She returned in time to hear the question that had already become a habit with Jean Luc,
“Hans, what’s for supper? — or dinner? — or breakfast?” depending on the time of day.
To which Hans would reply Shinken mit rotkohl ” — or “Linsensuppe” — or “Biernebrod.
And Jean Luc would throw his head back and walk off laughing.
Yet, when meal times rolled around, she noticed he ate the ham with red cabbage, the lentil soup, or the dried apple bread with gusto, all compliments to the chef, just like the rest of them…

Later after the successful slowing of the herd:

Too soon, it seemed, the signal was passed to break for the night. The herd was put to pasture and first watch began. The rest of the crew gathered to wash up and wait for supper.
When most were assembled, Jean Luc sauntered up. He rocked back on his heels and stroked his stubbly chin. Jake mirrored his actions in almost comical style, though no one dared laugh.
“Hans, what’s for supper?”
Geffulte.” Hans replied.
Instead of his customary laugh, Jean Luc nodded his head. “Ahh, large noodles filled with meat, onions and parsley then boiled in beef broth. Very good.” 
Then it was Jake’s turn. “Herr Weiss, what’s for dessert?”
Pfefferkuchen mit honig.”
“Ahh, gingerbread cake with honey. Very, very good.” 
This time no one could suppress their good-natured laughter. Not even Marcella.
After a moment, Jean Luc gestured them to silence. “Hans has made us a gingerbread cake to celebrate. Congratulations, wranglers, you have successfully guided the herd past the first milestone. You are no longer tenderfoots. If I have earned the right to say it with my late start, I am proud of every one of you.”

West of Heaven by Barbara Scott is available at Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for the Nook, Sony, Kobo and Apple’s iBookstore 

direct from DBP:  


For a review of West of Heaven at Love Western Romances: 

Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code

I received a brochure in the mail the other day promoting the Cowboys and Indians magazine. Inside they had Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code and it is pretty darn close to the original cowboy code only modernized.

Gene created this code in response to young radio listeners who wished to be like him.

1. The cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2. He must never go back on his word or a trust confided in him.
3. He must always tell the truth.
4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. He must help people in distress.
7. He must be a good worker.
8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.
10. The cowboy is a patriot.

Could you imagine what a kinder and gentler world this would be if everyone were taught these standards?

Paty Jager

A Rose By Any Other Name

A Rose By Any Other Name

When starting a story, one of the things I really put thought into is the names of my characters. And when writing a historical, you want to get names that fit your characters as well as give some authenticity to the time period you’re writing.

Always consider the impact of your characters names. Not just any name will do. Why do you thing Marion Morrison changed his name when he became an actor? For example, a friend of mine was writing a contemporary with a heroine who was supposed to be somewhat of a free spirit, unorganized and dressed in lots of bead and flowing skirts. Now there is nothing wrong with this, but she was having trouble making the character work. She had named the character Taylor. As I pointed out to her, the name and its conations did not match the heroine she was trying to create. So once she changed the characters name to something for in line with the actual character she was creating, the story went much better.

(By the way, the name Marion Morrison used when he started acting in cowboy movies was John Wayne.)

In one of my favorite author’s one book has a heroine named Niema. Now, how do I pronounce that (even if it’s only in my head)? Neigh-ma? Knee-I-ma? Nay-ma? And by the time the author gave me the information on how to pronounce it, I’d been doing it wrong, so every time thereafter, I stumbled over this name, having to think if I was reading/pronouncing it correctly.

So if you character has an unusual name, or one where the spelling doesn’t match the pronunciation, be sure to give the reader a clue as to how they pronounce their name as soon a possible. For example, if your medieval heroine’s name is spelled Brighid (after St. Brighid) you have to let your reader know that it’s most to be pronounced as ‘Bride’. This traditional spelling of Brighid has morphed into the modern Brigitte.

If you’re writing historicals you probably won’t want to call your heroine Tiffany. And while the name Mildred is a nice historical name you might not want to use that either as it will not strike the modern reader’s ear with any harmony. So you have to find that nice middle ground where the name is historical, but easy on the modern ear.

Another thing to remember that many names that are given to females today were traditionally and historically male names. Today a person with the name Ashley is most likely female, but just over a hundred years ago it was a man’s name (remember who Scarlett was in love with at the beginning of Gone With the Wind?). The same goes for the names Stacy, Tracy, Courtney, Terry, Leslie, Shirley. Even in England today you can find men named Beverly and Evelyn.

When I start a story, I look at the character’s background and see if there is a clue there for the name. While writing KENTUCKY GREEN, I knew my hero grew up on the Kentucky frontier. I wanted him to have all the skills of a frontiersman (which would be used in the story), and knew that his father was a half-breed. When you think of the Kentucky frontier the name Daniel Boone always comes to mind. And Boone was known for not being prejudiced against Indians. So I made my hero’s father a hunting companion of Daniel Boone, and so, following the fashion of that time, the hero was named after his father’s friend, and became Dan.

I did push my luck with the heroine in KENTUCKY GREEN, as her name is April (the month she was born). But in the story April functions as spring/light that helps rescue Dan from his dark/winter personality.

If you are lucky, your characters will tell you what their name is. When doing brainstorming on the plot and characters, one of the things you can do is a first person biography or interview of your character. I used this technique when working on COLORADO SILVER, COLORADO GOLD for the hero. The hero ‘told’ me “My name is Samuel Jacob Westmoreland. My mother died when I was born and my father never forgave me for it.” So since his father’s name was Sam also, my hero became known a Wes. The origins of his name are vital to the story and how he relates to the heroine.

For my heroine, I wanted to name her Julie, which wasn’t too likely, so I made her father a fan of Shakespeare, and her name is really Juliette, and her sister Cordelia after Shakespeare characters.

In my WIP (work in progress), the hero’s goal is to reclaim the ranch that his family lost when rustlers killed his father. So for his name, I chose Clay which relates to the earth, which is his goal.

Who are some of your favorite characters? Do you like to read stories where the character have your name? Or the hero your brother’s name?

(and yes, this is my real first name, my dad wouldn’t even spring for Teresa)