Author Cindy Huff on Fascinating Facts about Life in the Old West

So excited to welcome author and friend, Cindy Huff, whose debut novel, Secrets and Charades, releases today! I read and loved this historical romance which is full of action, surprises, and a very touching romance. Be sure to check out how to win a free copy of Cindy’s novel at the end of this post.

Before Cindy shares some of the fascinating  research that helped to bring her novel alive, here’s the back cover copy to give you a bird-eye view of her story’s characters and plot.

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.

Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage?

And now … here’s Cindy!

Beth, I’m delighted to be back. The timing is perfect for sharing interesting the things I learned in my research. I love Jake and Evangeline and the crew of the Double M. But their story would be so flat without the research that helped to build my story world.

Beyond the internet

Before I created my story, I spent a few months reading books because the internet is not as detailed. When I googled female doctors in the 1800’s, I found some information. But the library, used books on Amazon, and my friend Chris’ extensive library offered far more interesting information. Chris is a Civil War reenactor and history buff. These resources also helped me create Evangeline’s backstory.

1800’s Women fought for education

In the 1800’s, educated men believed women’s brains were too frail to understand weightier subjects beyond what finishing school provided. Professors in medical schools did all they could to discourage women from attending. And those women who did were often excluded from cadaver dissection. The instructors insisted it was unseemly for a single woman to view a naked male body, even a dead one. Women had to work harder to prove themselves.

Naming the town

My story’s town of Charleton is fictitious. It took a lot of digging to create a town name not found anywhere in Texas. Google helped here.  Surprisingly, many names I made up were actual towns and each in the wrong part of Texas.

“Soldiers heart”

Jake and most of the Double M crew are Civil War veterans. The trauma of war affected each of them differently. Many who survived dealt with Soldier’s heart. (PTSD today) Strong, brave men became frightened, irrational, or violent at the least provocation. Some spent the rest of their lives in insane asylums. Others acted out and became outlaws. The James gang is an example. Bart, one of the secondary characters in Secrets and Charades, exhibits the negative attributes of soldier’s heart. This adds an unexpected twist to the story.

Horses

Jake served in the Confederate Army and, like his fellow-soldiers, admired General Lee. This is evident by the naming of his personal mount. The stallion resembled Lee’s steed, Traveler, who was both intelligent and loyal.

I was surprised to learn most ranch horses had no name. They were just tools of the trade. Most cowboys owned a saddle but not a horse. A few of my characters have horses with names. Being named made them more than just a horse.

Dishes and decorum

Evangeline brought trunks and crates with her. One special item was her grandmother’s china. Fine dishes could be found even in soddies and dugouts. New settlers built homes by cutting large sections of sod into bricks. Others dug holes in the side of hills. The interiors had carpet on the dirt floors and maybe a few nice furnishings and even curtains. These along with china represented civilization to the settlers. Mr. Farley, Jake’s wealthy neighbor, even takes his china on a cattle drive. He has a portable table covered with a cloth and china dishes for every meal. Families came west with at least a few pieces of china they used as everyday dishes.

Sewing and fancy work

Sewing machines might cost a few months’ wages, but the peddle-driven contraption was a wonderful time-saving device. Still, women prided themselves in their fancy work (embroidery, needlepoint, and tatting) and neat hand-sewed stitches. Bertha Wood, another secondary character, weaves wool into linen and dyes wool thread into a variety of colors for knitting. The description of the dying process got the ax in the final draft of Secrets and Charades.

Jesse James influence

Evangeline practiced medicine in Missouri before her adventure west. The James gang robbed banks and trains in Missouri. I ran across a story about them that made me laugh. Roadside inns with dormitory style rooms were places weary travelers stayed the night. The story goes Jesse James dressed as a woman while fleeing with bank loot. He stayed at one of these inns. Everyone thought it odd the woman insisted on sleeping with her valise under her head. This gave me the idea to have Evangeline carry cash hidden in her petticoat when she traveled west on the train.

Wild west chivalry

An outlaw refused to steal a woman’s horse. Instead, he rode past the female rider and continued until his horse gave out and he had to walk. At which point, he was arrested and hanged. The outlaws in Secrets and Charades are not as nice.

Former slaves populated the west

After the Civil War, many former slaves immigrated west. They ranched, farmed, founded towns and pursued other occupations. The blacksmith on the Double M is a former slave.

Gunfire

I discussed the types of guns available during this period with my friend, Chris. He explained how the Winthrop sniper rifle could hit its mark from a mile away. Unbelievable.

The one description I was constantly fighting not to get edited out of my story was the firing of this rifle. Bullets travel faster than the speed of sound. A victim fell before the report of the gun was heard. And yet, editors and critique partners unfamiliar with weapon fire wanted my character to hear the shot then see the victim fall.

Of course, most of my research never found a place in my novel. Some are destined for the sequel. And yes, I’m working on a sequel and have ideas for a third in the series.

To celebrate the release of Secrets and Charades I’m gifting a copy to a lucky commenter. Beth will choose the winner, and I’ll send them either a paperback or Kindle version. You must have a United States address to be eligible to win.

To be entered in a drawing for a free copy of Cindy’s novel, leave a comment responding to her post here. I will post the winner here next week Wednesday. You will then have a week to claim your free book.

Thank you Cindy for sharing such interesting facts about life in the West, and congratulations on the release of your first novel.

More about Cindy:

Cindy Ervin Huff is the winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured on Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers. She and her husband make their home in Aurora, Illinois.

Visit Cindy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cindyehuff, follow her on http://www.twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff, or connect with her at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016144/

Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.com/author/cindyervinhuff

Like my Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/author.huff11/

Author Interview: Elaine Marie Cooper

Since I absolutely loved reading Saratoga Letters (October 2016), I’m pleased to welcome author Elaine Marie Cooper. She made stepping into Revolutionary War times so real I could weep for her characters. Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions about your writing adventures, Elaine. We’ll get started in a few moments.

elaineBut first, here’s quick look at Saratoga Letters: It is 1777. The Battle of Saratoga, a turning point of the Revolutionary War, encourages the American Continental Army with their first great victory. But there seemed little to celebrate for one patriotic woman forced to nurse wounded British soldiers right in their war camp. Thrust into deception by a cruel Loyalist uncle, Abigail is forced to lie in order to survive, all the while dealing with fears that challenge her faith. Danger stalks her everywhere, yet her salvation springs from an unexpected source.

Then …

Two hundred years later, on the anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga, thousands arrive from Europe and the United States to celebrate the event—including descendants from the war. One young American, Abby, meets another offspring of a British soldier. When her life is threatened, Abby turns to the only person she knows at the event—her British ally. Can she trust him with her life? Or will he betray her in the same way Loyalist spies betrayed her ancestors? Perhaps letters from long ago will reveal the truth.

Now back to Elaine … would you tell us a little bit about yourself? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was about eleven-years-old when my dad encouraged me to pen my first short story. I am forever grateful that he gave me the confidence to try.

What attracted you to writing historical romance during the American Revolution time period?

Since I grew up outside of Boston, immersed in the landmarks of the American Revolution, I also grew to love the history of our country, the stories and lifestyles of Colonial America. Add my own family history, and I was ready to write historical fiction!

9781938499142Where did you get your unusual story idea for Saratoga Letters?

Writing two different love stories 200 years apart was not my normal plot line. Yet my writer’s muse was piqued when I visited Saratoga: A park ranger told me about the bicentennial celebration of the 1777 Battle of Saratoga … and I lost my motel key! The lost key morphed into a mystery-suspense story that connected to the past.

What was the most challenging about writing Saratoga Letters?

Definitely the research! It became a nightmare. But with the Lord’s help, I managed to pull the story together. It was actually easier to get the information needed for 1777 than to gather the facts for 1977. I made a series of phone calls and sent emails to numerous people in the Saratoga Springs area to dig out the details of the bicentennial celebration. Now I can’t wait to meet the many historians and others who helped me in my research to thank them in person.

So, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I always hope readers will understand that our ancestors who lived long ago were not unlike us in many ways. They shared the same hopes and dreams, and while times and customs change, what is in the hearts of mankind—both good and evil—remains the same. And God continues to seek the hearts of men and women to serve Him today, just as He did long ago.

What do you like best about the writing life?

Working in my jammies? LOL!

Oh, my goodness, I do that, too! Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I just want to say “thanks” to readers who enjoy my stories and take the time to share their thoughts in reviews. It means so much that others are blessed by my stories, and I praise God Who has given me the ability to write.

Here’s more about Elaine:

Elaine Marie Cooper’s other published novels include Fields of the Fatherless, Bethany’s Calendar, and the historical trilogy the Deer Run Saga. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her historical novels. Her upcoming release is Legacy of Deer Run (CrossRiver Media, Dec, 2016), Book 3 in the Deer Run Saga.

Find out more about Elaine on her website/ blog, www.elainemariecooper.com

 

Author Interview: Cindy Ervin Huff

I’m excited to welcome my friend, Cindy Ervin Huff, as my first author interviewee. Her debut novel, Secrets and Charades, will release in March 2017. Can’t wait for readers to get to enjoy your historical romance as much as I did, Cindy.cindy-huff-headshot-2016

Here’s a sneak preview of Secrets & Charades’ plot:

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. Battlefield nightmares add to his burden, but his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, and a mail-order bride seems the logical solution. When an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, Dr. Evangeline Olson abandons her medical practice and travels west to become Jake’s wife.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, they are faced with cattle rustling and kidnapping. Will they be able to put aside their differences and work together to save the ranch and their fragile relationship?

Now, back to Cindy: How did you decide to take up writing?

I worked at writing for many years, though there was a season when I gave up. Then on a mission trip, God said it was time to pick up my writing again. “If you want me to start writing,” I said, “I want to take a writing course to sharpen my skills. If you really want me to write, I need ($$) to take this online course.” I had just enough doubt in myself that I needed definite confirmation.

Within a month of the mission trip, I received a letter from a law firm about a class action suit against a company who had run credit reports and targeted specific people. I was one of them and agreed to put my name in the lawsuit. Well, you can guess the outcome. I received the money I needed to take the course.

The Lord does provide, doesn’t he? So, Cindy, what sparked the idea for Secrets and Charades?

It came about the same time. I not only have a serious reading addiction, I also have some near-and-dear people who struggle with serious emotional baggage due to their past.

My heroine, Evangeline, appeared to me in a mid-1800’s dress. As a doctor, this intelligent woman struggled with a society that felt women were a bit feeble-minded and helpless. She also had a dark secret from her past and problems in her present. I suggested she go west as a mail-order bride. She was appalled. But, of course, I am the master of her fate and brought in a few other surprises that gave her little choice.

gate-to-texas-ranchJake is a great guy who had his hands full with a tomboy niece to raise, and a large ranch with a too-small crew. His only experience with women left him feeling betrayed, and he had no idea how to make a successful marriage, especially with an educated wife. Other characters added stress and drama to their fragile relationship along with mystery, intrigue and some I-did-not-see-that-coming moments.

Ten years ago, I wrote the rough draft in five months. I edited it over the next year, and promptly got rejections. I had no idea that if publishers request the proposal or even the whole manuscript, they could reject it. Some publishers gave me edits. Those were precious even though it meant a lot of rewrites and deleting. I discovered I had a lot more to learn about the craft of writing a novel.

After 20 rejections I almost trashed the manuscript. Then I won the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award at Write-to-Publish. My novel and I then went on an editing journey through Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. I knew that even after receiving the award, I might not get published through LPC, but God is good, and they offered me a contract.

Ten years and twenty rejections–wow! You really hung in there. What was it like when you finally received “the call”?roses

I got “the call” by e-mail. How did I feel? Grateful, surprised, and stunned that my ten-year journey was nearing the finish line.

And what surprised you the most during this year of preparation to launch your novel?

This year of preparation has been daunting. I have a great editors working with me, Andrea Merrel and Kathy Davis who is acquisitions editor for Smitten, the new romance line for LPC.

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas gives their authors lots of training and encouragement to help them succeed. I had so much to learn. I’m still trying to get my head around the best time to accomplish various tasks.

What’s it like as you continue to prepare–challenges and solutions?

I am a deadline person, so I asked writer Erin Curtis to help me meet my personal deadlines. A recent graduate from Taylor University, she made me her beta test to see how well she can help me launch my book. She not only has a heart to launch debut writers and become a mentor, but is young and willing to do what it takes. I am grateful God brought us together in our critique group and has kept us in contact for such a time as this.

And what do you count as the best thing that’s happened during your preparations?

I was so blessed by the seven people willing to endorse my novel. Sometimes getting one is tough. I’m still looking for more launch team members. My “Stage Crew” consists of four people so far. So I seek the advice of my more experienced author friends for the how-to. Those friendships are golden and their insights will make this new phase of my life successful.fear-and-doubt-meme-from-cindy-huff

While I wait for Secrets and Charades to release, I am working on a sequel, and my agent, Cyle Young from Hartline Literary Agency, is sending out proposals for New Duet, a contemporary romance. I realize if I wait for fear my first book doesn’t sell well, I’ll miss opportunities. Fear and doubt are a writer’s worst enemies.

Any advice to aspiring novelists?

If I could share one piece of advice with aspiring writers, it would be “network.”

  • Get to know other writers. If you don’t know any, go to conferences to meet them.
  • Join a writer’s group with members who are serious about getting published.
  • Have a presence on social media long before you’ve written the rough draft of your first novel. There you establish friendships and future fans who will want to buy your book because they know you.
  • Pay it forward by promoting other authors on your social media. Do book reviews.
  • Before your book comes out, people should know you from the way you’ve helped others.
  • Your social media presence should be easy to find if someone googled your name. Don’t wait until you have a contract. Those face-to-face and social media contacts are a catalyst to book sales.

Thank you so much for sharing your writing journey, Cindy, and for that great advice. All God’s best to you in your new life as a romance novelist.

Here’s more about Cindy:

Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published writer and winner of the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributor to Splickety Publishing Group’s anthology and has been featured in The Christian Communicator, Suburban Dog, ChristianDevotions.us, and Splickety Lightning Blog. Cindy is President of the Aurora, Illinois, chapter of Word Weavers where she and her husband make their home.

You can connect with Cindy on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.