Earlier this week, I was in Cimarron, New Mexico and spent some time at the St. James Hotel, walking in the footsteps of some of the West’s most notable figures, including the Earp Brothers, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, the artist Frederick Remington, and author Zane Grey, just to name a few.
All of them passed through the same door I used, and checked in at this desk. I have to confess, I was a bit giddy over all this history.
The St. James Hotel, or as it was known in its early days, Lambert’s Place, was an infamous fixture on the Sante Fe Trail, known as much for its good food and fine rooms, as it was its wild goings-on and gunfights.
Lots of gunfights.
The original owner, Henri Lambert, had anticipated that trouble might find its way to his large first floor saloon, so he had the builder install a double thick hardwood floor for the rooms above so that no guests would be accidently killed by the unruly rabble below. The tin ceiling still sports a number of those original bullet holes.
And while my current project is set in Wyoming, nearly 30 years forward from the wild days of Cimarron, I have to admit that being someplace with this much history within its walls had my Muse singing like a hallelujah chorus.
After inspecting all the old rooms, prowling the hallways (sadly, no ghost sightings) and taking in all the wonderful old photos displayed, I decided that the real experience of the St. James is bellying up to the bar, ordering a drink and wondering who I might have found next to me, if it was, say a hundred and forty years ago…
More information about the St. James Hotel, as well as how to make reservations, can be found on their website. You might find yourself in the company of Annie Oakley or Jesse James. Or me.
With Royal Wedding mania running mad, get in on the fun by joining a pack of Historical Romance authors gone wild in a fun-fill Royal Wedding Facebook Hop. Prizes, wedding chatter, and all things tea and scones can be yours.
Besides all the fun pre-wedding chatter, come the wedding weekend (May 18-20) there will be lots of ways to enter and win, so join the official Royal Wedding Facebook Hop page so you don’t miss a moment of the fun. The grand prize drawing is for a new loaded Kindle–now that’s a wedding present!
This week I’ve been reading books from two different series. What is it about a good series that keeps you coming back for MORE? I think it is great characters (of course) and sometimes it’s just the sheer joy of being in that story world again.
And with some series, it is both. Then you know you’ve hit gold.
The books I’ve been reading this week are both YA fantasy series. I always find it funny when adults sort of whisper and confess that they read YA, like there is some line in the sand that once you cross into adulthood you can’t read those stories. Bunk, I say. Read what sings to you. And I love the adventurous fantasy stories that the YA world is publishing.
Never apologize for reading a great story.
So with all the fanfare and trumpets I can muster, I am going to tell you to go out and read these two series. They are fabulous.
Rebel of the Sands
Alwyn Hamilton’s series, Rebel of the Sands, is a glorious and fun take on Arabian Nights with an Old West feel, all wrapped around a gun slinging heroine with a biting humor and a lot of attitude.
Amani, our heroine from a dead end town in the middle of nowhere, ends up joining a revolution and discovering who she really is–and in the process finds friends, family and how to trust herself and her instincts. It isn’t about who everyone thinks you are or where you come from–it is about what you make of your life and the gifts you’ve been given.
You can clearly see why I would love these books.
Start with Rebel of Sands, then read Traitor to the Throne, and finally, finish it off with the new one, Hero at the Fall.
Normally I am always skeptical of the last book for fear it will fall flat–but Hero at the Fall is a wonderful conclusion to the series and I loved every page. Again, if you like adventure and folk tales and great characters, this is the series for you.
The Book of the Ancestor
I read the first book in this series, Red Sister, a few months back (and talked about it in this post) and immediately put the second one, Grey Sister on order. If I do that, you know I loved the first book. No waiting around for the library, no waiting for one of my book friends to get her hands on a copy and send it my way.
I want to read it. When it drops.
And in a bit of perfect timing, along came my copy of Grey Sister last week, just before we left for the coast for Spring Break. The Oregon coast in April is the perfect spot for reading. Because it is guaranteed to rain. We had sheets of it and the added bonus of 45 mile an hour winds.
Stay inside and read? Sounds good to me.
Grey Sister is off to a smashing start–I really like how the author began, with a recap of the characters separate from the story to bring the reader up to speed and not mess with the prose by having the characters tell you what happened before.
You know those awkward blocks of text when a character starts a long winded speech of info dumping, facts everyone in that scene already knows but the reader might need a bit of an information nudge? Yes, he got rid of those. Thank you very much.
Mark Lawrence just started story telling right where Red Sister left off. Joy.
Happily the weekend ahead looks to be a rainy mess. Darn. I’ll have to stay inside and finish reading Grey Sister.
Then the foot tapping for the next one will commence.
What series are you in love with right now? What book has you fidgeting with impatience for it to come out?
And BTW, all these books are fabulous!
In my family, we never arrive or leave each other’s homes empty handed. If it isn’t being used, or you can’t use it up, you share it. Sharing is just part of being in my family. Books. Recipes. Food. Magazines.
My grandmother was infamous for always having some bit of advice she’d “clipped out of the paper just for you.”
And what is my favorite thing to share?
Books, of course.
As an avid reader, I end up with stacks of novels. (Yes, I still read paper. I just am not an electronic fan.) So before they get stacked so high they threaten to topple over and cause bodily harm, these wonderful stories go to friends. To family. Acquaintances. The gal at the grocery store.
To be read and loved and shared some more.
Because here is a radical thought: books were meant to be read.
When I see books on a shelf, I feel sorry for them. Trapped there, gathering dust, not living out their purpose. And what is a book’s purpose? To be read. Over and over and over, until the pages fall out and the cover drops off. That is when you know a book has been loved. Lived a good life.
One of the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood. What a wonderful way to share books.
Sometimes these offerings I’ve sent out into the world come back. I was at a scout meeting the other night and a mother handed me a book I’d given her over a year ago. I’d completely forgotten I had given it to her. She’d read it, her daughters had read it, and then it had made the rounds in her office.
Last night I sent it–along with a bunch of others–off with another friend. I know her mother will read them. Her sister. Her co-workers. I have a sneaking suspicion that in their journeys each of these books will entice new fans for their authors. And in turn, more books will end up out there engaging readers.
It’s actually my secret plan for world domination through reading, but that is our little secret. And if you would like to help, share a book with someone. And then share another.
What books have you shared recently? Who do you share your books with?
When I travel (which I will be this coming week) I inevitably take three books with me. One for the outbound flight. One for the return flight. And a backup book in case Book A or Book B is, well, a dud.
I think sometimes I spend more time picking my three books than I do all the other things that go into planning a trip–booking everything, making arrangements, packing, et al.
Those three books get A LOT of consideration.
But here is my dilemma with this lot.
Egads, what to read first? This is like the gold strike of romance novels.
I know one certain thing: None of these will be a dud.
Laura Lee Guhrke? (The Trouble with True Love) I know the characters will wrench at my heart!
Loretta Chase? (A Duke in Shining Armor) Always fills me with laughter and good cheer.
Lorraine Heath. (Beyond Scandal and Desire) I, mean, come on. It’s Lorraine Heath. Need I say more?
No. I don’t think I need to.
I think I am more excited about the reading material than I am the trip. So tell me, what three books are you in a dither over right now?
I have not had much time to read lately. Well, that isn’t entirely true. I’ve been reading, but its been piles and piles of research books. Like histories of Chinese laundries in the west. And histories about Wyoming. And women’s history books. Immigrant diaries.
But in between some heavy and fascinating research, I’ve been slipping away to read Jane Kirkpatrick’s A Light in the Wilderness. It won the WILLA award in 2015 and is based on the real life events of Letitia Carson, a freed slave who came west over the Oregon trail with her white husband. It isn’t an easy book to read–the prejudice and the difficulties she faced–it is disheartening. But I like Kirkpatrick’s storytelling and the underlying bedrock of faith that guides and strengthens these characters.
And in that vein, I have Jan Karon‘s next Mitford book lined up next, To Be Where You Are. I have absolutely ADORED the Mitford series over the years. I’ve reread it at least twice. It is her message of faith and good people and a light hand that make her books so powerful and uplifting. Have you read the Mitford series?
There are times when strong novels about good people, books with heart and faith, are exactly what you need. I’d recommend these two without a doubt.
This house, the Parkison House, at the Grand Encampment Museum absolutely steals my heart. I am utterly in love with it and the way it invites me to come inside, teased its way into my heart and just begs me to tell my story here. Inside these walls.
And in my own way, I am.
I am using this house for my characters, Savannah and Inola–I knew it was their home the moment I walked in. In its day, it was considered a very nice, fancy house, what with two parlors and a dining room and three bedrooms overhead, along with a modern bathroom, kitchen, and laundry/pantry/sewing area. There is even a root cellar.
The last time I was there, one of the high school docents shared that she was convinced the house was haunted. Things move, doors close without anyone being around. Can it get any better? Not to a writer!
Yes, it is that experience of having been to a place, that makes the story telling so much fun. I love that I’ve stood on that front porch, I’ve walked the same wooden steps as my characters. Each day, in my mind, I open the front door and walk in, letting the scenes that I’ll be writing come to life like a movie.
Some days I come in from the back and into the kitchen, where in my story it is warm and cozy and smells of freshly baked pie.
I close my eyes and listen for Savannah’s footsteps. Or for Inola lending her advice.
And then I begin to write.
Personally, I would like to move in and just write my entire book from the dining room, looking out at the little copse of birches behind and it and see what stories the house whispers to me.
Tell me about a place that inspires you!
You can never presume that you know how things were done in the past. Never. Take something ordinary like skiing.
You’ve been watching the Olympics, or perhaps you actually ski. I used to. So I know how to do it. And most likely how it was done 120 years ago. I mean, it’s skiing.
Or do you?
Because as much as you think you know a thing, you’ll be researching along and come to a picture that sets all your beliefs, your descriptions of skiing on their ear. Drops you in a snowbank, on your head and laughs at your presumption.
So before you write:
Badger hefted his pack to his back and picked up his poles before he skied down the road.
You might want to have a look at Badger and his one pole.
Photo credit: Grand Encampment Museum collection.
But that’s just an anomaly, one might say. And I would have thought that as well. Until a few more photos into my research . . .
Photo credit: Grand Encampment Museum collection.
Rotten little whippersnapper and his ONE pole.
And then you come up against a whole long line of evidence that argues with everything you thought you knew. I mean, when even the ladies have only one pole, you got to know that is how a thing was done.
Photo credit: Grand Encampment Museum collection.
Yes, yes, I give up. One pole.
(Thank you to the Grand Encampment Museum for their gracious hospitality as I’ve been researching my upcoming book. Permission to use these pictures from their wonderful collection has been graciously given for the use on this blog. Any further use should done by contacting the GEM.)
Like I said in other posts, I’ve gotten hooked on fantasy. Not surprising since I loved reading it as a kid and a young adult. Wrinkle in Time. The Hobbit. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Then along came Game of Thrones and I read all those and then discovered Emily Gee and her books (try: The Sentinel Mage) and just recently, I discovered Robin Hobb.
I can happily report, I’ve found an entirely new-to-me author to binge/read and someone I can enthusiastically share with you.
I spotted Assassian’s Apprentice at the library and what a great find! Now I’m hooked and have to read everything about Fitz.
Isn’t that a great feeling? Yeah, you know. You’re a reader as well.
Like Blood Song, (which I reviewed and raved about here) it starts with a young boy, Fitz, the bastard son of a prince, and his rise into the greater world of kings and treachery. I don’t mind admitting, I love a good treachery. But what Hobbs has done is create a great world and even better, fascinating characters.
And very best of all? Lots of books. I have the 2nd book in the series, Royal Assassian, on the top of my TBR for when I finish the current book I’m reading.
And, speaking of which:
Lucky me, I do get the opportunity, from time to time, to read upcoming books and right now I have the privilege of reading Furyborn, Claire Legrand’s upcoming book from Sourcebooks. Okay, I’ve only just started, but I will say, I’m already hooked–so a full review will be coming before it comes out in May.
So, just like the historical mysteries–which you all shared a ton of new authors for folks to try, who are your favorite fantasy reads?
Since I am getting this question a lot lately, I’ve decided to start talking about what I’m working on–since it is not a romance. Not per se. It is more of a historical fiction. And a quirky one at that. The story is set at the turn of the century (1907, thereabout) in a very fictional mining town in Wyoming.
Yes, that is a bit of a departure from Regency England. Okay, make that a HUGE departure from Regency England.
But I had to write this book. This story. It has been rattling inside my head for about 7 years, ever since we took a long driving vacation to Yellowstone and the Tetons and then drove across the entire state to go to a wedding in North Dakota. Can I just say: OMG! The Tetons.
As we crossed Wyoming, I found myself staring up at that very blue sky and daydreaming, just like I used do as a kid when we took long driving car trips. Back then, without cell phones or anything remotely entertaining, all a kid could do–especially one who got carsick if she read–was sit in the backseat and stare out the window.
But this time, this trip, an idea came to me. Somewhere between Cody and Gillette. For this story. For this town. Set in this state that I was falling in love with as the miles passed and the scenery captivated my imagination.
So fast forward, I arrived at a place in my life where I could pause writing romances back to back and try out this odd, quirky story that in the ensuing years had grown into notebooks of scribbling ideas. Of pictures. Articles printed from the internet and photocopied from old books. Research notes about everything: professions, food, clothes, stores, churches, entertainment, communities.
Picture credit: Grand Encampment Museum, Encampment, WY
Characters had already begun to whisper their stories to me. Sad Savannah and her great losses. Madeline and her inability to trust. Ninny. Oh, Ninny, who hates going out.
As they trusted me with their fears and doubts and fondest wishes, it became my task to tell their stories. And now that I am nearly a year into this book, countless hours of research later, and nearly half a dozen trips back to Wyoming, I have to say, I am so happy to have this opportunity.
So in the meantime, no, there isn’t going to be a new book in 2018. But my fingers are crossed for something very special in 2019.