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Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Other Heroes of Gettysburg

This is a re-post of a blog I originally posted in July, 2017

I’ve always loved American history, in particular the Civil War. And when it comes right down to it, I admit…I’m obsessed with Gettysburg. So obsessed that I set my 2014 release, Northern Temptress, right in the midst of it all.
But it's not just the bloody battle fought by soldiers in blue and grey that intrigues me— it's the battle fought by some incredibly brave people. The civilians of Gettysburg.

 Since we are smack dab in the middle of the anniversary of the battle (July 1-3, 1863) I'd like to introduce you to some of the heroes you may not have heard of.
Some fast facts before we meet our civilian heroes:
The town of Gettysburg consisted of 2,400 civilians. 
When the armies moved out, they left behind 22,000 wounded men. 

In all 51,000 men were reported killed or missing. 
And let’s not forget the hundreds of horses, mules and livestock killed during the battle.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine having my hometown turned upside down by a battle of that scale and then being left to deal with the results of said  battle. 

While John Burns and Jennie Wade are arguably the most famous civilians of Gettysburg, there are other unsung heroes and heroines who quietly did what needed to be done.

Elizabeth Thorn.  German immigrant who was acting as caretaker of Evergreen Cemetery, a job normally performed by her husband, Peter.  But Peter was with the 138th Pennsylvania, and during the Battle of Gettysburg, he was stationed at Harper’s Ferry and Washington, D.C.  Elizabeth moved her family, which consisted of her elderly parents and three sons ages 7, 5 and 2 from their little gatehouse out of harm’s way and back again more than once during the three-day battle.  She also dug graves for more than 90 dead soldiers during those three days.  Elizabeth was six months pregnant during the battle of Gettysburg.

Salome Myers.  Salome “Sally” Myers was a schoolteacher and assistant to the principal in Gettysburg.  She lived at home with her family during the battle.  Her father was a justice of the peace and the Myers’ were one of the wealthier families in town.  She admitted to being squeamish at the sight of blood, yet got over this quickly and cared for many wounded men from both sides of the battle.  She risked her life many times by traveling back and forth from her home to makeshift hospitals. In the early days of the battle she cared for a badly wounded soldier by the name of Alexander Stuart, sitting with him for days until he succumbed to his injuries.  In late July of 1863 she received a thank you letter from his mother.  A year later Stuart’s mother—along with his brother Henry—traveled to Gettysburg to personally thank Miss Myers.  A romance developed between Sally and Henry and they married in 1867.

Matilda “Tillie” Pierce.  Tillie was only 15 years old at the time of the battle.  Her parents sent her to a neighbor’s farm to wait out the battle.  The farm sat behind what we now call “Little Round Top” and  Tillie became an eyewitness to some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Tillie provided food and water for the wounded and assisted surgeons and nurses caring for the wounded.  Twenty six years later she wrote of her experiences during those three days in July, 1863.
Virginia “Jennie” Wade.  Jenny, as most people know, was the only civilian killed during the battle. The twenty year old was baking bread to feed the Union soldiers when  she was struck by a single bullet that traveled through two doors on the third day of the battle. 

John Burns.  Much like Jennie Wade’s story, Mr. Burns’ story has been told and retold so many times it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.  Nearly 70 years old at the time of the battle, John Burns was a veteran of the War of 1812. When the rebels invaded his hometown, the elder patriot took up his trusty musket and joined the Union soldiers in battle.  He fired 18 of his 25 rounds of ammunition before he was wounded, and claimed to have killed three rebels.

Elizabeth Butler, AKA “Old Liz”.  53 year old Elizabeth Butler was a washerwoman in Gettysburg.  Her husband Samuel was a wagon maker. They owned their own home and enjoyed a comfortable standard of living compared to most African-Americans in 1863.  In the earliest days of the battle Old Liz was taken captive by the Confederate army, with plans to be returned to the south and sold into slavery.  She escaped her captors and returned home the day after the Confederate army retreated. 

Daniel Skelly.  Daniel was a teenager during the battle. While confederate troops camped in the street outside his home on Baltimore Street, Daniel and his mother hid union soldiers in their cellars and outbuildings. Later during the battle he helped his mother care for wounded soldiers.
Daniel also went on to write about his experiences. 

Catherine Garlach.  Catherine and her 12-year-old son, Will also lived on Baltimore Street. Since their house was in direct line of fire for Union sharpshooters, they hid in their basement.  Several times Confederate soldiers tried to commandeer the Garlach home –and each time they were driven back by Mrs. Garlach herself. 

Albertus McCreary.  First young Albertus was nearly killed by Confederate sharpshooters while peeking out a rooftop door of his home.  Then a short while later, while standing on the porch of his family home, wearing a Union kepi given to him by a solider, a Confederate officer tried to take him captive, assuming he was a soldier.  It was only over the protest of his father, and after questioning several neighbors as to whether or not the boy actually lived in town, that the officer let him go.

Agnes Barr.  While other townspeople hid inside their homes on July 3, avoiding the fetid smell of decaying men and animals, Mrs. Barr left her home on Baltimore Street—darting between buildings to avoid the sharpshooters—many times in order to take food and supplies to the makeshift hospitals and care for wounded soldiers. 


Source: When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg, George Sheldon; Days of Darkness: The Gettysburg Civilians, William G. Williams; What A Girl Saw and Heard by Tillie Pierce Allman; A Boy’s Experiences During the Battle of Gettysburg by Daniel Skelly.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Let's Get "Back in Time"

 


Normally when we hit late June/early July my thoughts turn to the town of Gettysburg.  I know, I know, mildly obsessed.  But it has been that way most of my life and after the years of research I did into the battle and what the civilians went through for my 2014 release Northern Temptress, it’s not about to stop now.

 

Most years around the anniversary of the battle, I re-post a blog I wrote a few years ago about the civilians during the battle, but I did not get a chance to do that this year.    

 

So I am back today to take a step—and a leap—back in time.  First a small step back to early July of this year, when I should have posted this. And then a leap, back to July of 1863.

 

Most of us know about the Battle of Gettysburg, if only from history class in school.  Even those who are not history buffs have at least heard the name and –hopefully--understand the significance of this battle.  Okay, maybe they just understand that it was significant.

 

But I always wondered about the people who lived and worked in the town at the time and why they were not talked about more.  (Thought it’s easier to find information on the civilians now, at the time I first began researching the townspeople of Gettysburg, information was quite limited). The military aspect is undeniably heroic—what those men did in the heat of early July is nothing short of amazing.  I could go on ad nauseum about the different battles, the courage of the enlisted men and commanders from both sides and what that battle meant to our country at that time. 

 

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today.

 

The idea for Northern Temptress came about when I realized that after the battle, when the military pulled out, the civilians-- a town of about 2,400-- were left to handle some 22,000 wounded as well as bury the dead (in all 51,000 men were reported killed or missing) and that included hundreds of horses, mules and livestock.

 

We’ve seen enough disasters and wars in movies and on the news to give us an idea of what this must have looked like—but it’s impossible to grasp from the comfort or our spoiled 21st century lives just what an enormous task this town faced.  The idea of the Red Cross was only just forming in the mind of Clara Barton.  There were no government agencies who would swoop in with aid and food and water, no news crews to offer live reports and no online accounts by which to donate money. And the men? Well all the young and able ones were off to war.  The ones who had served their time and come home were few and far between. 

 

There were Christian charities who came in to help and arrived within days of the battle, just as the trains started moving again. But those agencies were small potatoes compared to the scale of things we are accustomed to seeing today.

 

So this week I’d like to focus on the civilians, and the town and the battle and share some snippets from the story of my heart.  I did spend the early days of July this year watching the movie Gettysburg, as I usually do, and have been watching documentaries about the battle and the Civil War in general. And I've been reading, in some cases re-reading, events written by the civilians who lived through the battle.  

 

I am also enjoying the YouTube channel from The Adams County Historical Society, as well and enjoying the new content debuting weekly. I am happy to see that they offer information about the civilians as much as they do about the battle itself.  Right now my writing is focused on finishing up my Wylder West projects, but the muse is definitely not done with Gettysburg. As we speak there are a lot of characters waiting for the chance to pull up a chair and tell me their stories. I cannot wait to listen!

 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Christmas in July Part III: Chocolate Chip Christmas Wishes



 

Have you ever been waiting somewhere, such as a doctor’s office waiting room, or in line at the grocery store or bank and someone just starts chatting with you—and won’t stop? 

Writing is a lot like that for me.  One minute you are just minding your own business trying to check everything off the "to do" list for that day-- and then some character shows up in your head, pulls up a chair and starts talking. 

(No, it doesn’t mean I need medication, LOL.  This is very common for writers.)

Jake Misteletoe was one of those characters for me.  Though I do have a couple of contemporary stories out, for the most part, I am an historical author with a head full of cowboys, sheriffs and soldiers and Civil War nurses and widows, even a female outlaw or two--so who is this guy who claims to be half human, half elf, of all things, and why does he want to tell me his story?

 

Well whether it made sense to me or not, he wouldn’t stop jibber jabbering.  I finally sat down to write what he had to say just to see if that would keep him quiet--and the words just poured out.  This was just for my own purposes, I had no thought of publishing his story anytime soon—again, historical author here.  Not North Pole, magic and elves. 

 

Once that was done the story stalled for a while and I didn’t give it much thought until I heard about The Wild Rose Press series Christmas Cookies.  I knew my story would fit that series perfectly!  So I pushed myself to finish it and the result is a fun, lighthearted Christmas story called Chocolate Chip Christmas Wishes that adds a little magic to the season.  

 

Turns out Jake is one of my very favorite characters ever, probably because he lived in my head for so long.  I am so happy the right opportunity to get his story out there came about.  I hope next time  you are in the mood for a little Christmas, you’ll consider reading this story.



 ~*~

Jake Mistletoe is the North Pole's resident bad boy.  Half elf, half human, he is the only child of a single mother who just happens to be Santa's head elf. Fed up with his wild, partying ways and lack of direction, his mother sends him to the real world for a dose of reality.

 

Lucy Prescott is all alone in this world.  Since the death of the grandparents who raised her, she has struggled to keep their Christmas novelty shop running in a dated, dying Christmas-themed tourist town. 

 

When Jake appears in town, magic seems to be in the air. For the first time in ages, life holds excitement, and Lucy finds herself wondering … what if?

 

~*~

 

She studied him as he sat up. Unconscious, the several days’ growth of stubble and mussed dark hair looked sloppy.

But awake, that disheveled look gave him a devil-may-care aura. How had she missed the chiseled jaw line, the dark brows that framed eyes fringed with long, sooty lashes or the fact that he was drop dead gorgeous?

 

He looked around the room, wiped a hand over his face and turned a slow half circle on the couch, gaping at the racks of holiday ornaments, animated characters, motion-activated novelties and Santa figures that played Christmas tunes.

 

She cleared her throat to draw his attention. “Good afternoon.”

 

He yanked the Santa hat from his head and pulled a frown before tossing it aside.

 

For lack of anything else to say, she chose the standard, cheery greeting used by locals. “Welcome to Christmasville, where it’s Christmas all year long.”

He turned to her with eyes a startling shade of blue. “Let me guess. I died, and this is Hell.”

 


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Christmas in July Part II: Christmas in the Wylder County Jail

 



Some stories just write themselves…

 

When starting a new story, it’s a little like taking a journey, and you never know who is going to join you for the ride.  Well it’s that way for us “pantser” writers anyway, I suspect plotters have fewer surprises along the way.

 

Sometimes there are characters who are larger than life and can easily—if not kept in check—take over your entire story. While writing The Wylder County Social Club, my heroine’s mother, Miss Adelaide (spoiler alert: she’s the town madam) was that character.  She was fun to write for, and when she was in a scene, it was hard not to let her take over.  Her character just leapt off the pages for me.  But it wasn’t Addie’s story.  It was Eliza and Coyote’s story.

 

Meanwhile my friend and fellow author, Kim Turner, who was also writing a story for The Wylder West series (Wylder Hearts), was having a similar time with her uncle’s hero, Russ Holt.  We had already decided that Addie and Russ would be having a secret/not so secret romance and the two provided a lot of comic relief in our stories.  Well ol’ Russ stole every scene he was in. 

 

The problem with secondary characters is that they are not usually hero or heroine material.  They are fun, they can be quirky or unusual--and since they don’t have to be heroic, like the main characters, they can be seriously flawed.  So it’s tricky when they strike such a chord with readers that you find yourself being asked over and over to write their story.  How do you turn an un-heroic character into a hero or heroine??

 

And who wants to read a story about an old drunk and the town madam?


A lot of readers, apparently.

 

Which led to Kim and I putting our heads together.  After all, neither one of us had ever been in a co-author situation, or even thought about writing that way. 

 

But fast forward a bit and with a lot of talking and planning, we came up with a system that worked.  And the result is one of my very favorite stories, Christmas in the Wylder County Jail.  

 

I’ll post the blurb and an excerpt below.  If you have not read this story yet about second chance romance, and love between two flawed individuals who are no longer starry eyed young’uns, I hope you will consider doing so. 

 

~*~


Adelaide Willowby is having a bad day. It’s a week before Christmas and she has just kicked out the love of her life. Her sister and her daughter are barely speaking to her, one of her best girls is getting married, and ownership of the Wylder County Social Club is in jeopardy. Now she has landed in jail—for murder.

 

Russ Holt has relied on alcohol to quiet the ghosts from his past for far too long. His latest bender has caused him to let down both Addie and his son, and he knows something has to change. When a stranger in town is found dead and Miss Adelaide is arrested for murder, Russ smells a rat.

 

Can he battle his demons, hunt down the real killer, and win back the woman he loves?

 

 ~*~


Excerpt:

The amber liquid glugged as it filled Addie's teacup. She’d likely hate herself come morning—she already hated herself for being a hypocrite. She’d harped on Russ like an old nag about his drinking. Yet the first sign of trouble and here she sat doing the same damn thing.

Should she find him and apologize? They weren’t married, after all, despite Russ proposing every other week. The cup came to her lips as if it had a mind of its own. She swallowed it all in one gulp, welcoming the mind-numbing warmth that spread through her.

No, Russ’d show up. Sooner or later, he’d show up.

Til then, she needed to talk to Clancy. Alone. Maybe she could get him to settle for less if that lawyer wasn’t there talkin’ out both sides of his mouth.

She rose, swaying a bit unsteadily on her feet. Wind rattled the windows outside, reminding her of the coming storm. For a moment she considered waking Abraham and having him accompany her. No, that wouldn’t be right, that would only wake Em and get her all worried, then she’d tell the rest of the girls, who’d wake Aoife… Besides, she didn’t want it to look like she was tryin’ to intimidate Clancy by bringing her hired man along.

Her reticule was in the bottom desk drawer, so she grabbed it. She checked inside to see her trusty derringer. Russ had given it to her years ago and taught her how to shoot. Not that she could hit the side of a barn—’less she wasn’t aiming for it.

Aww Russ.

Agony stabbed at the back of her mind at the memory, but she forced it aside. There would be time to examine her feelings later, when all this was dealt with.

She dropped the little gun into the drawer, no sense borrowing trouble.

She wrapped her favorite shawl around her, the one Sarah Taylor had embroidered when she first come to town. Another rattle at the window and she grabbed her cloak as well. Her favorite mother of pearl letter opener caught her eye and she tucked it into her cloak pocket. Just in case she needed it for protection.

After all, it was late, and decent women weren’t out alone at this hour.

Well, nobody had ever accused Adelaide Willowby of bein’ a decent woman.

 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Christmas in July - Times Two!







"If I had a great big house, I'd have a Christmas room... when things about me all went wrong, I'd find Christmas still in bloom..."  Jimmy Dean



There are two kinds of people in this world, I've decided.  Christmas folks... and grinches! LOL.  I could live Christmas all year long, and if I had that great big house that Jimmy Dean sang about on my mother's favorite Christmas album (and a favorite of mine, as well--Jimmy Dean's Christmas Card), I'd have one of those rooms, too.  


But I don't.  So I have to settle for writing Christmas stories in the summer (which I am not doing this year--kind of sad) and reading Christmas stories.  Or watching Hallmark's Christmas in July movies.  Guilty pleasure LOL.  Or all of the above! 


Last year at this time I was happily at work on not just one but two Christmas stories!  First there was Chocolate Chip Christmas Wishes, part of The Wild Rose Press' Christmas Cookies series.  If you haven't met half elf/half human bad boy Jake, you are missing out on some fun!


I was also working with friend and fellow Wylder author Kim Turner on Christmas in the Wylder County Jail.  That story was so much fun!  After the first Wylder stories were released in December of 2020, readers were asking for more of Miss Addie, the town madam, and Russ Holt, a wealthy rancher from town with a fondness for the bottle. 


So two vastly different stories, one contemporary fantasy, and one western historical. I'll be back later this week to talk about each one of those stories!!



Jimmy Dean's Christmas Card can be enjoyed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eReW43ji1gk&list=PL-D-0v1EFhNLO18XJTWtH9WO-lJG9q-SI









Thursday, February 3, 2022

Thursday Thoughts: Where have I been?

Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?

 

That is a question I have been hearing a lot lately. Okay, so no one is calling me “pussycat” but you know what I mean.  LOL.  And while I’d love to say I’ve been to London to visit the queen, I am pretty sure she is not holding audience with random crazy women from across the pond.


(And yes, these are my spoiled kitties)

 

So where have I been?

 

The usual.  Lifus interruptus, the holidays, caregiving for elderly FIL, trying to ensure MIL has the care she needs in her nursing home, and all the other stuff that comes up on a weekly basis.

 

Am I writing?  Haha know any other good jokes?

 

Well the good news is that with the new year I have chosen to take some steps to relieve some of the stress, pressure and anxiety that has plagued me for a few years now.  Changed my work schedule around, made taking a little time to breathe each day (well…. Okay, most days. All right, all right. Some days!) a priority.  Hopefully as things ease, my muse and I will get back on speaking terms again. 

 

Starting Monday I will continue where I left off on my Monday Morning Musing series with a look back at past and recent releases, as well as some upcoming stories.  And since so many have asked, I will do my best to pick up my Wednesday on Writing series.


Stay tuned...

 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Monday Morning Musing: Chocolate Chip Christmas Wishes

 


We interrupt our regular Monday Morning Musing “Look back” series to bring you this breaking news… Release day is tomorrow!!!

Link to purchase

 

 

Jake Mistletoe is the North Pole's resident bad boy.  Half elf, half human, he is the only child of a single mother who just happens to be Santa's head elf. Fed up with his wild, partying ways and lack of direction, his mother sends him to the real world for a dose of reality.

 

Lucy Prescott is all alone in this world.  Since the death of the grandparents who raised her, she has struggled to keep their Christmas novelty shop running in a dated, dying Christmas-themed tourist town. 

 

When Jake appears in town, magic seems to be in the air. For the first time in ages, life holds excitement, and Lucy finds herself wondering … what if?

 

~*~

Excerpt:

She studied him as he sat up. Unconscious, the several days’ growth of stubble and mussed dark hair looked sloppy. But awake, that disheveled look gave him a devil-may-care aura. How had she missed the chiseled jaw line, the dark brows that framed eyes fringed with long, sooty lashes or the fact that he was drop dead gorgeous?

He looked around the room, wiped a hand over his face and turned a slow half circle on the couch, gaping at the racks of holiday ornaments, animated characters, motion-activated novelties and Santa figures that played Christmas tunes.

She cleared her throat to draw his attention. “Good afternoon.”

He yanked the Santa hat from his head and pulled a frown before tossing it aside.

For lack of anything else to say, she chose the standard, cheery greeting used by locals. “Welcome to Christmasville, where it’s Christmas all year long.”

He turned to her with eyes a startling shade of blue. “Let me guess. I died, and this is Hell.”

 

~*~

 


So I’ve talked a little recently about what happens when a character just sort of “moves in” to your head and starts talking.  I am never sure where they come from, but some are quite persistent and can pester and prod for years before I finally stop in total frustration and demand “What do you WANT?”

 

Jake, the hero from Chocolate Chip Christmas Wishes, was one such character.

 

The seedling for the idea for this story came to me the first time I ever watched the movie Elf.  I know it’s become a holiday classic but when I first watched it I was a little… unimpressed?  I mean, Buddy, the Will Ferrell character goes from being a misfit at the North Pole to being a misfit in New York???  Cut to me scratching my head in confusion, this is not growth, this is simply a change of scenery.  Okay so there is more to it than that and his childlike enthusiasm brings a love of Christmas to all he encounters (well eventually).  But speaking strictly as a publishing purist, it was a little thin in the plot department. A great example of a character driven story, though, and that’s a huge plus and undoubtedly a huge part of that success.  No one but Will Ferrell could have pulled that off so convincingly.  In fact I would guess any other actor in the role, and it would have fallen flat. 

 

But I digress.  The “fish out of water” theme is a common one in fiction, especially with romance stories.  So I guess that’s why it stuck in my mind for years and years.  I didn’t give it a lot of thought, I tried to focus on it a time or two and come up with ideas, but nothing ever came into focus.

 

The as yet unnamed male character was pestering, me though.  Every so often he could pop into my head, but I just couldn’t find a story for him.

 

And then two things happened.  I found a muse, and I had an argument with my young adult son.  And just like that, the pieces began to form.

 

The muse was a character on a show called Republic of Doyle.  The character was even named Jake so as I began to work, I called him Jake, at least until I could come up with a better name. Well I never found a better name, it just suited him.  In fact in every scene I kept picturing the actor who played Jake Doyle. There is something almost elfin-like in his appearance.  And those blue eyes… don’t get me started.

 

I am getting ahead of myself again.  Then I had a fight with my college age son. I don’t quite recall what it was about, I think it was his refusal to understand just how much his college schedule and reluctance to get his driver’s license was impacting my work schedule since I had to be available to drive him out and back each day –when you work from home, even an hour out of your day can throw everything off and this was more than one hour most days.  I even uttered the words mama Merry Mistletoe says in frustration:

 

“You are not reliable, you are not responsible, you’re barely even a grown-up at this point!”

 

Well in all fairness Merry’s kid was closing in on 30, mine was quite a bit younger than that LOL.  But I was pretty frustrated --and so was Merry!

 

I tossed and turned much of that night worrying and thinking, thinking, thinking. Somehow my muse and that argument combined in my head, and I got up in the wee hours, switched on the computer and wrote. The opening scene and first chapter just poured out. 

 

I named my heroine Lucy, after the Sandra Bullock character in While You Were Sleeping, only instead of a train she saves Jake from a shuttle bus.  I didn’t know much about her until that first opening scene and had no idea when I named her that she would do something similarly heroic to Sandra’s character.

But the story sat for a while. Every so often I would pull it up and tinker with it, but I wasn’t entirely sure where to go with it—after all contemporary fantasy stories were not my usual style.  I was in new territory and just trying it on for fun at this point.

 

And then my publisher The Wild Rose Press announced their Christmas Cookies series.  I had already worked into my story that Jake smells like chocolate chip cookies, it’s part of what gets Lucy’s attention when she is laying in the street alongside him.  In hindsight maybe he should have smelled like gingerbread or sugar cookies, that would be more Christmassy—but I wanted something that would evoke happy childhood memories, as it does in Lucy. But by the time the series was announced, I was already married to the idea of chocolate chip. And in our house, we have always left chocolate chip cookies out for Santa.  I decided we can’t possibly be the only ones who realize the Big Guy gets tired of sugar cookies with his glass of room temperature milk every year. 

 

Now I finally had the motivation to finish my story. It took a lot of pushing myself, as it always does, because as any pantser will tell you, the minute you give in to one character, the other people who live in your head start talking to you.  Write my story, I’m way more fun than he is.  Why him and not me?  Hey, it’s supposed to be my turn!

 

You will meet some of those characters in a few weeks after I wrap up this series and start talking a little about what’s to come.

 

But with a lot of help and prodding from taskmaster Kim Turner—and the realization that I had to finish this story so we could write our shared story, Christmas in the Wylder County Jail –I was able to push myself to finish it.

 

Chocolate Chip Christmas wishes is available tomorrow!!  I hope you enjoy it!

 

The Other Heroes of Gettysburg

This is a re-post of a blog I originally posted in July, 2017 I’ve always loved American history, in particular the Civil War. And when it...