Posts Tagged ‘Historical romance’

Will and BonnieI have been writing for publication since 1998, when I sold my first novella, “Miracle on Beale Street,” to Tyndale House. The next one to appear was “Reforming Seneca Jones,” which released in the fall of 2000, in the anthology Prairie Christmas. PrairieChristmasCoverFourteen years and fifteen books later, I’ve begun to get back the rights to those early novellas and republish them as ebooks, giving them another editorial polish and fresh covers.

“Seneca” is one of my favorite stories, both because of its western Pony Express setting and its irresistible hero. Seneca Jones is an orphan cowboy who grows up wild and adventurous in a land and time full of such self-made men, just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. He loves his horse and his gun, he’s loyal to his friends, impatient of pretenders, and he’s protective of women and children. He also has a penchant for mischief and flirtation.

Bonnie displaying a bit of diva temperament

Bonnie displaying a bit of diva temperament

So after updating the manuscript and preparing it for upload to Smashwords, my e-publisher, I began to plan the cover. This was no easy task, since I live in South Alabama, where snowy prairies and rough-hewn cowboys are about as common as…well, prairies at the beach. I considered hiring a marketing company to design the cover. But I figured I might wind up spending a lot of money on a generic romance cover, featuring some stock-photo sissy masquerading as the one-of-a-kind Seneca Jones—or, worse yet, a middle-aged, grizzled cowboy with a cigarette dangling between his lips.

Um, no.

So I decided to shoot the cover myself, using one of my nephews as a model, my niece’s horse and my sister’s rural property as background—but schedules, weather, costuming, and all sorts of challenges prevented the project from coming together. The season for releasing the book passed, and I slunk back to Square One. Nearly a year passed.

Then I met Will Dorminy.

Will and Bonnie

Will and Bonnie

Will recently came on staff at our church as one of our music and worship leaders. He’s a talented musician, sings and plays guitar, and has a gift for leading people into the presence of God—which is amazing enough. But the first time I saw him, I did a double-take. He’s in his early twenties, blond and blue-eyed, with an infectious smile and a killer dimple—Seneca Jones come to life. Will probably wondered why the crazy lady in the orchestra kept staring at him, but I was just thinking, What if I could put a cowboy hat and duster on him, and get him on a horse? There’s my cover!

For a long time, I didn’t say anything to Will about my nutty idea, because where was I going to get a realistic cowboy outfit? Where was I going to get a horse? And I’m not a photographer, except with my handy iPhone, so who was going to man the camera?

Those horses were...big!

Those horses were…big!

My daughter Hannah is my favorite photographer, but she lives inconveniently far away, so I asked my friend Jan Johnson to do the actual shoot. She agreed, with the stipulation that Hannah do the artistic editing and design of the cover. Boom. Photography issue solved.

Meanwhile, I’d been checking costume shops, both online and in Mobile. Everything I found looked both fake and cheap. One night I mentioned the project to my friend Billy Graham (no, not that Billy Graham), our missions and evangelism pastor at North Mobile. Billy has always been one of my greatest prayer warriors and cheerleaders, and I probably should have gone to him at the beginning. Within twenty-four hours I got a phone call from Billy’s friend Roy Hill, pastor of First Baptist Church Satsuma.

HorsesRoy owns four horses and a stable. Roy’s son is a professional horseman who has a gospel-centered “horse-whispering” ministry (with the charming title “Spurs“) and owns all kinds of vintage cowboy clothing and accoutrements. Roy and Chance were both thrilled to help me out. Super-score!

So I finally called Will and asked if he’d ever done any modeling. He’s a very modest guy and kinda laughed at me, but agreed to give it a shot. With a little back-and-forth texting we found a time when model, host, photographer, and I could all get together. And this past Tuesday afternoon, in spite of seasonal torrential rain in our area, we got together at the Hill Hacienda in Satsuma, Alabama.

Donkey and German shepherd

The Hills’ donkey and friendly German shepherd checking out the strangers

You never know how these things are going to go.…But we got Will all togged out in cowboy gear, from hat to spurs, even a gunbelt and chaps, and trekked out to the barn. Jan and I spent a few minutes choosing a horse (what do I know about horse color?) and picked a buckskin named Bonnie, Pastor Roy’s personal mount. Bonnie wasn’t real excited at first about her new modeling gig, but a bucketful of oats enticed her to cooperate. You can see in the photo above that the Author was a little nervous, due to a Traumatic Horse Experience some forty years ago. And Jan’s Chocos got a little, um, coated with manure, but she was a good sport about that too.


Antique saddle

Here’s a shot of a hundred-year-old saddle that we would have used, except it’s missing a stirrup. All the rest of Will’s gear is well-used, real-life tack and clothing from Chance Hill’s Spurs Ministry. We spent about an hour trying various backgrounds and poses, and wound up with over two hundred shots that Hannah will be able to pick from. Fortunately, Will has some experience with horses, and dealt well with Bonnie, the mud and manure, and two bossy women. He now has a random entry to his resume that may or may not give him credibility as a musician and minister—but at least will make great conversation one day.

The shoot is a wrap! Whew!

The shoot is a wrap! Whew!

In any case, I’m grateful for friends who are willing to go along with my sometimes oddball adventures in publishing. If I can ever return the favor…


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I’d like to introduce a very good friend of mine, author Fran McNabb. For more than ten years I was a member of the Gulf Coast Chapter of Romance Writers of America, where I met and interacted with lots of gifted writers like Fran. Fran served as president of the chapter for several years…before, during and after the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina. Oh, and she lives in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, which was a major target of Lady Katrina. She’s now writing sweet romances for Avalon Books, which publishes hardcover books mostly for the library market. I love her lyrical, emotional style, and I wanted my reading audience to meet her and take a peek at her new release, a Civil War historical, On the Crest of a Wave.

Q: Fran, tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and have lived most of my life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I married Don McNabb from Columbia and we have 2 sons, Donald (wife Kie) living in DeRidder, LA, and Thomas, living in Hollywood, FL., one grandson, Connor, age 11, and one grandchild on the way. Don and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary this year. I’m a retired English and journalism teacher. I had to take an early retirement because of medical reasons in 1996, and that’s when I got serious about writing. I had to do something to keep from being bored.

Q:  How did you get interested in writing?

When you teach English, writing is a way of life. My favorite units were the ones involving the library.  I always say that I had a love affair with books – and still do – so it was rewarding to me to have my books published by Avalon Books, a library publishing house.

Q: Why do you write romances?

I write romance because I love the happy ending. I like tender romance because the relationship is the key element in the story and not the sex.

Q:  Tell us about your new book and how you researched this historical.

On the Crest of a Wave by Fran McNabb

ON THE CREST OF A WAVE, ISBN 978-0-8034-9996-6, came out this month with Avalon Books. This book was written in the 1980’s, but I didn’t shop it around a lot because at the time I didn’t know much about the publishing process. I’m sure I did everything wrong. After I retired, I picked up the manuscript and fell in love with the story all over again.

Ship Island Prison

The book is set on Ship Island during the Civil War. The island lies about twelve miles south of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and is a place dear to my heart. My mother’s family has run the ferry boats out to the islands since the 1930’s, and during one of my childhood summers, Mom and Dad and my brother and I lived on the island to help with the concessions.

The island was used during the Civil War by the Union forces to house prisoners, including Confederate soldiers. In my story, my heroine’s brother is one of the prisoners, and she falls in love with the Union officer who runs the island. Fort Massachusetts still stands on the island as a reminder of the past. During the summer that I was on the island, a storm caught us by surprise. It was too late to leave the island so we spent the night in the fort. Needless to say, that experience made quite an impression on me. Even today I can hear the sounds of the storm whirling around the fort and see the shadows from the kerosene lanterns crawling up the brick walls. These are as real to me today as they were back in the 1950’s.

Q:  What is the best part about writing?

It’s fun to watch my characters come alive and go through the obstacles they must overcome to reach their ultimate goal. Writing a novel is similar to putting a puzzle together – all the pieces must fit perfectly or your finished product won’t come out right.

Q: What is the worse thing about writing?

Time spent alone. Writing is a solitary profession and no matter how many workshops or conferences you attend, you still end up in front of the computer alone.

Q:   What advice would you give someone who wants to write?

Read within the genre you want to write, study the markets, and join a writing group. I belong to the Gulf Coast Chapter of Romance Writers of America. My local chapter meets in Mobile once a month. I credit the group with being published. I learned the process of publication from being part of them. I’ve met many knowledgeable writers who are willing to share their expertise with up and coming writers.

Q:  Do you think that Hurricane Katrina had any effect on you as a writer?

After Katrina I quit writing for about 3 months. The logistics of setting up a computer were complicated (I lived on a boat and then in an RV), and even when I did start writing again, it was hard to forget the devastation all around. Sometimes when I sat on the back of the boat alone, I’d look out over the water and pretend the flooded homes to my back didn’t exist and I’d lose myself for a few minutes in the make-believe.  One positive that came from the storm for everyone: We all added a notch to our belts in life’s experiences. I think the emotions that we create for our characters are now more intense and our feelings for other human beings runs deeper.

Q:   Does your training as an English teacher help or hinder your writing?

My mechanics (grammar and punctuation) background is a plus, but it took me a long time to make myself use anything but formal English – something that’s not found in genre fiction writing, especially in romance. Writing fiction should always use correct grammar, but informal construction.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

I think everyone’s ideas come from life’s experiences. Sometimes a setting will evoke a feeling. After experiencing the beauty of a waterfall in West Virginia, I knew I’d write a story one day in that setting. It became my first book, A LIGHT IN THE DARK. My stories set along the Gulf Coast always started with a feeling about something visual that I experienced, i.e., a sunset, the pristine islands, the flight of a bird. From there, characters evolve and then the plot. It’s easy to see where ON THE CREST OF A WAVE originated.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about your education background or writing?

I received both my bachelor’s and my master’s degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi, and my family still follows the Golden Eagles, especially during football season.

My writing and my reading is an escape from the problems of normal life.  Everyone needs a place to forget and to get energized, and reading (or writing) a romance is a great way to put aside life’s difficulties if only for an hour or so.

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Jacqueline awakened in the gray predawn, suddenly aware that, despite her knotted stomach, she had closed her eyes and gone out like a snuffed candle.

And because of last night’s fit of modesty, she desperately needed a trip to Charlie’s outhouse. She lifted her head and peered around the belly of the stove.

And bolted upright. Fitzgerald’s bedroll was gone and him with it. Had he left her alone? She’d cursed his presence, but once she’d gotten used to the idea of such solid protection, losing it filled her with terror.

She wildly looked around the cramped interior of the cabin. Then it dawned on her that the stove was still going. Fitzgerald hadn’t been gone long. Probably he would be back any minute.

Now was her chance to take care of necessary business without enduring his prying questions.

She scrambled out from under the blanket and shoved her feet into her boots. Snatching her hat off the table, she wound her brown woolen scarf around her throat and stumbled outside. The blast of frozen air on the other side of the door nearly made her forget the pain of a full bladder and head back to the warmth of the stove. Gritting her teeth, she put her head down against the icy wind and trudged toward the rear of the cabin.

A few minutes later, frozen of backside but otherwise considerably more comfortable, she headed back to the front door. Maybe she should check on Celeste, though. No telling where that nosy Micah Fitzgerald had got off to. She hadn’t heard a sound that would indicate his whereabouts.

He was a very quiet man.

Inside the barn, with the bite of the wind on the other side of the door, Jacqueline paused and listened. The snuffle and blowing of the animals drew her into the dim interior.

“Celeste? You all right?” She shuffled her way down the inner aisle as her eyes adjusted to the darkness.

The mule poked her bony head over the stall door and lipped Jacqueline’s shoulder.

She laughed. “Hungry, huh? I’ll find you some hay, hang on.” Shivering, she ducked into an empty stall, where she’d found clean hay yesterday. She picked up the pitchfork leaning in the corner, jammed it into the pile and took an armload back to Celeste’s stall—and halted. Fresh hay was already scattered on the dirt floor. Fitzgerald had beat her out here.

Uneasy, she glanced around. Was he hiding somewhere, watching her to see what she would do when she thought nobody was looking?

But there wasn’t another sound, except for the blue roan gelding in the other stall, munching on his own breakfast.

Jacqueline put the hay and pitchfork back where she’d found them and walked to the gelding’s stall. He ignored her as she rested folded arms atop the door.

“You’re just as quiet as your boss, big boy. Wonder what’s your name.” Fitzgerald hadn’t said, she would’ve remembered, but the horse was clearly cavalry stock. “Probably something military. Sarge or Major maybe.” The gelding looked up, sudden interest in the big dark eyes. “Major? That it?” Whuffling, the horse moved toward her and nuzzled her arm.

She petted him for a moment, enjoying his warm breath and body heat. It occurred to her that she had an opportunity to shake her unwanted companion. She could ride out, leaving the scout with her rickety mule, and he’d never catch up to her. The horse was nearly sixteen hands, much bigger than typical Pony Express stock, but she thought she could handle him.

Still, she’d have to hurry.

“Where’s your saddle, Major? Wanna go for a ride?”

She looked around the barn and found the gelding’s tack neatly piled at the far end. Hurriedly she gathered the bridle and blanket, leaving the saddle for the second trip. When she went back for it, she staggered under its weight, barely managing to heave it over the horse’s withers. But Major was well-trained and stood patiently while she tightened the girth.

She patted the winter-thick coat of his neck. “You’re a good boy.”

For a moment she stood holding the bridle, shivering, indecisive. Horse thievery was no small matter. If, as she suspected, Fitzgerald was a lawman rather than a telegraph scout as he claimed, she could be in big trouble.

If she got caught.

And she was a Christian. The right thing to do would be to go back into the cabin and face whatever consequences befell her.

On the other hand, she had no way of knowing what this stranger’s goals and motivations might be. Every man she’d known in her short life had focused on his own selfish aims—with the possible exception of her brother, and even he had his shortcomings. Didn’t the Bible say that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”? How could she trust a man she’d known less than twelve hours, no matter how steady and gentle his eyes and voice?

Perhaps taking Micah Fitzgerald’s horse would be forgiven in the light of self-protection. Surely God didn’t expect stupidity out of her. And she could always leave the horse for him when she got to the next station—where, surely, she would find traces of Neil’s whereabouts.

Pressing her lips together, she gathered the reins and led the gelding to the door. She pulled the latch and pushed it open, gasping when a gust of wind yanked it outward with a thump against the outside wall of the barn. Major flinched but held steady as she whispered to him and stroked him. “Good boy,” she repeated, over and over, calming herself as much as the horse.

She peered outside and saw nothing but dark, still, silent prairie. The sky looked like gunmetal, heavy with snow clouds that smothered the rising sun. She hoped Micah Fitzgerald would stay occupied for long enough that she could get away.

“All right, then.” She sucked in an icy breath. Keeping the reins in her left hand, she put her foot in the near stirrup and grabbed the pommel.

She was off the ground, halfway in the saddle before the gelding reared. Caught completely off-guard, balance shattered, Jacqueline hung on as best she could as the horse danced like a circus performer. Jigging one way, slamming to all fours again, rocking to the left and heaving into a demented silent bucking, Major threw his would-be rider off in less than ten seconds.

Wheezing, Jacqueline lay flat on her back looking up at the horse. Apologetically he dipped his beautiful small head to lip her hair.

Without warning she started to cry. Just rolled over on the dirt-and-straw floor and buried her face in her arms.

That was where Micah Fitzgerald found her.

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In spite of opposition from the rich and influential,

can Felicity Gabriel establish a home for children orphaned by the

Civil War and heal two wounded hearts?

Historical Romance

2nd in the Gabriel Sisters series—”In the wake of the Civil War, three

women combat injustice and find true love.”

Love Inspired Historical

ISBN 978-0373828258

Christmas is for Families…

And Felicity Gabriel  intends to build a family right away! When she

inherits a mansion, she decides to turn it into a home for orphans.

But her first charges test her resolve. One child is a thief,

suspicious of her kindness. The other is the local judge’s traumatized

daughter. Broken by war, Judge Tyrone Hawkins is devastated when his

little girl runs from him to Felicity. But Felicity’s courage despite

the town’s scorn for her orphanage and her caring way with his

daughter restore his lost faith. Now he wonders if they all can find

the family they seek…just in time for Christmas.

Lyn Cote’s blog:


Every woman has a story! Share yours.

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Micah couldn’t have interpreted the look on the kid’s face if somebody had offered him a thousand dollars to do it. But he found himself mighty curious what Jack Sabiere was going to say next. Appeared the boy was an orphan. Not that that in itself was all that unusual on the Nebraska prairie.

For a moment Jack sat there on his broken-back chair, stiff as a cadaver, thumbing the gilt edges of the Pony Express Bible. Finally he punched a finger at its cover. “This here book says he’s real interested in everything about me. But it ain’t a question of what I want, it’s about what he thinks is best for me.” The dark, young-old eyes lit on Micah’s face. “Don’t you have no religious training?”

Micah felt his cheeks warm. “My parents took us to church when we were growing up. I’d just say it didn’t stick much.” His mother would be appalled to know he hadn’t set foot inside a place of meeting in nigh on five years.

Jack’s mouth twitched. “You must be pure spiritual grease. Where’d you grow up?”

“North Alabama. How about you?”

Wariness returned to the boy’s expression. “Round and about. Mostly Kansas.”

“Where’re your folks?”

“Got none, except for Neil. We’ve been on our own since I was about six years old.” He looked down at the Bible again, which told Micah he was lying.

No big surprise.

“Surely he doesn’t leave you alone when he’s out on a run. I was told there’s a couple of brothers running the Sabiere station. That your family?” Micah studied the boy’s hands, watched them clench the Bible.

“That’s my—uncle, yeah, but I don’t hardly claim him. He’s a lazy drunk, leaves most of the work to me.”

Micah pretended to believe that obvious fabrication. He nodded. “So you just up and left the station unattended, except for your lazy drunk uncle, and rode off into a blizzard to check on your brother.”

“Something like that.” The boy’s small cleft chin rose.

Clearly he was going to produce no further information, voluntarily at least. And Micah had an aversion to coercing infants. “All right, then Jack Sabiere,” he sighed. “Since you’re determined to be contrary, I’m gonna hit the hay, and I suggest you do too. I plan on leaving at first light. But first I need to see a man about a dog, how about you?”

The boy’s eyes widened. “Oh, no, I—I mean, it’s too cold out there. I’m gonna bed down, but you—you go ahead and—” He bolted out of his chair and lunged for his bedroll, which Micah had tossed onto the woodpile just inside the door. “Will you check on my mule again while you’re out there?” he mumbled.

What a funny kid, Micah thought, amused. Embarrassed to pee with a stranger. “Be glad to,” he said amiably and pulled on his gloves and hat.


In record time Jacqueline laid out her bedroll beside the stove, pulled off her boots, and slid between the blankets. Her heart was still racing when Fitzgerald returned from his trip to the barn. The scout knew she was lying, knew there was something funny about her story, but for some reason refrained from accusing her flat-out. But danged if she was going to admit anything until she had to.

She peeked over the edge of the blanket, which she had pulled to her nose. “The animals warm enough for the night?”

“They’ll survive,” he said laconically. He sat on a chair to pull off his boots and glanced at Jacqueline. “You warm enough, kid?”

“I’m just dandy.” At the sight of his big stocking feet in their gray wool socks, she slammed her eyes shut. What if he started undressing? “Thanks,” she added belatedly.

“Don’t worry, I sleep light. I’ll feed the fire during the night.”

“That’s good.” She was a light sleeper too. And she feared it was going to be a long night.

She did, in fact, lie awake for a long time after Micah Fitzgerald had doused the lamp and climbed into his own bedroll on the other side of the stove. Scraps of the scripture she had quoted kept rattling around in her brain, interspersed with prayers for Neil and anxious conjectures about what would happen if this big, non-religious telegraph scout figured out he was sleeping in the same cabin with a scrawny eighteen-year-old girl whose brother had absconded with the U S. mail.

It was enough to give a person nightmares.

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