Looking for Cochise

I love historical research. I love history – that’s probably why I enjoy writing historical fiction. This past weekend hubby and I spent two days scouring the southern Chiricahua mountains for the site of a firefight between the US Army and Cochise’s Chiricahua Apaches in 1869.

My fictional Army officer will be engaged in this event. I had questions about the location, and after searching through books and historical papers I managed to pinpoint the place I needed to see. To put myself in my character’s mind, explore his emotions, and find out who he would be after this was over, seeing the location was important for the story.

Much to her great pleasure Millie came along on the road trip, riding comfortably on her bed in the back seat. 

There was so much for her to see and smell, so much to experience. She was so good, and when we stopped for pictures or to explore she was happy to do her own research of the area. ūüôā¬†

Rucker Canyon was where we were heading. It runs between the Chiricahua Mountains to the north and the Pedregosa Mountains to the south west. The creeks were running thanks to snow melt, and the dirt roads were well maintained, with a few places I wouldn’t want to drive on if they were wet.

¬† My driver did a good job getting me where I wanted to go, and he loved exploring those crude trails disguised as roads. I’m not so fond of the bouncing around on these, but he was having a great time.

Considering we were very close to the international border we saw this sign going either direction. Gave me pause. 

Using our topo map and the references, we were able to pin point the bluff where the Apache warriors held off the US Army. This series of fights lasted for a month beginning in October, and resulted in both sides suffering injuries and loss of life. It also prompted Cochise to examine the cost to his people of the continued fight against the whites.  He was dead five years later.

Walking the area where these two groups struggled to control the land was profound for me. The area is a pristine, rugged, and beautiful wilderness area of oaks and junipers. The bluff was found by us, and we spent time examining it and imagining the humans surrounding it, climbing, it, hiding behind its peaks, and moving in a strategic dance of combat. I was thrilled.

Left – from the south, right – from the north.

The south view was a steeper approach the Army attempted but were pushed back by the well entrenched Apaches.

The Army circled around to the north side which was a gentler slope, but still unapproachable. It was this activity that leads to my character’s encounter with a warrior and a crisis moment for him and his life going forward. After a bit more driving and a bit of hiking hubby suddenly stopped and said, “Here, it happens here.” He found a perfect place for the confrontation. In this area there were signs of human presence at least 100 years old. Nancy was in her happy place!!

Down this slope my character will struggle and his life will change. At the bottom is a creek, and beyond that a meadow lined with trees that are good cover for the warrior.

Boy did Millie like this place. She could wander and discover, glancing back at us to make sure we were near.

It was getting late, so we headed out for Douglas, Arizona and to the ranch home of old family friends of hubby. When I say old friends, I’m talking before marriages and kids, my father-in-law and Mr. Christiansen were BFF’s.

This ranch house was built in early 1960, and is one of the most comfortable, and welcoming homes I’ve visited. We chatted, laughed, looked at books and photos, walked around the land, and hubby’s memories were tickled. Millie loved this as well. She had plenty of room to run, sniff, and do her business. Our beautiful hostess, Mrs. Ursula Christiansen, made us comfy, fed us, and loved Millie. Ursula, born in Germany, married an American military man, and moved to this country. I asked her what she thought of southern Arizona when she arrived and she said she wanted to see Indians, she didn’t realize they were on reservations.

The two German girls got on pretty well. They’d had German Shepherds on the ranch, and she missed them. I think Millie sensed that. After a good nights sleep, Ursula wanted to take us to her favorite Mexican restaurant – El Pato (The Duck.) Chuck and I loved it, fresh and delicious Sonoran food.

Ursula was greeted warmly by the lovely owner Alba, she introduced us, and we ordered. If you ever get to Douglas, AZ go see Alba at El Pato.

 After our wonderful meal, and full bellies we headed back to the mountain for a few hours, then home.

My mind was racing with ideas, scenes, and plots. I can give the writing an authentic feel, and take the reader into the action with authority.

The best part was the chance to be there, on the spot, in the location, walking the same paths, seeing the same landscape, being in history, and becoming my character.

Cheers!

-N

 

 

 

 

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Computer coolness

Greetings all!

I am so stoked!

Hubby helped me set up a second monitor, an external one, for my laptop. Now I can have research pages open on the external monitor and my manuscript open on my laptop. Pretty snazzy let me tell ya.

Sometimes when working on descriptions of vehicles, weapons, or garments for an historical setting it is helpful to have open a visual of said item for reference as I use them in the story. This is going to be so fun.

At this moment I have my manuscript open on the laptop and I’m writing this blog post on the second display!! I’m feeling pretty tech savvy.

I had an idea of how to do it, but hubby and I working together found the place in the settings to set up multiple displays. I readily admit it would have taken me quite a bit longer, and lots of google searching, had I been on my own.

So here I sit, with both monitors up and working splendidly, and no need for an IT department. Hehe.

Cheers!

-N

A Season of Learning

I am in a season of learning.

My desire right now is to discover learning opportunities. Webinars, podcasts, you tube videos, ebooks, wherever I spot something I want to know more about I am jumping on it. As I was starting this blog I had at least six tabs open on my laptop with various searches, emails, and a PowerPoint presentation on script reading ready for my perusal. I had my cell phone next to me and a notepad with a mechanical pencil at the ready.

In my home growing up there wasn’t any emphasis on learning. School wasn’t made any kind of priority. I can’t even remember my parents asking if I had homework or making me sit down and do my homework. It seemed if I liked what I was doing that was good enough for them. There were no parent/teacher meetings about my progress, no issue made of my grades, and if my folks wanted to take off for a trip to Texas they thought nothing of taking us out of school to go, and no worry about textbooks or concern about missed assignments while we was gone.

My middle sister had what we know now as a learning disability-ADHD and probably dyslexia. School was a nightmare for her, she was held back in first grade as much for her behavior as her lack of understanding. She had no idea how to be a student. My youngest sister and I were pretty good in school from nothing more than being natural learners. I do wish my parents had put greater emphasis on our school work. It might have been because we were military brats who moved every three years including overseas until my father retired, but I knew of other kids like me who achieved success in school.

Why didn’t they notice I loved writing stories and plays and encourage my talent? Why didn’t they find someone to help me with math when they saw I struggled?

My husband’s experiences were the opposite of mine and fortunately this motivated us to promote the importance of learning and school to our kids. They both went on to college and university.

So now, after years of wishing I had attended college, I am drawn to all sorts of learning. My love for history has directed much of my writing-it’s a joy to do historical research for my stories. I adore books. Geology and meteorology fascinate me and I can have meaningful discussions on these topics. My curiosity is strong and my desire to know more has given me the drive to seek out opportunities. I love challenging my brain, and hope this season is a long one.

Cheers!

-N

 

Is it a romance novel?

Well…I guess it has romance.

It’s a question I get when I’m asked about two of my books. How do I explain it is a genre mix? My books have good, well researched history of dress, speech, locale, conveyance, and real historical figures merged appropriately into the setting of my books. That is of huge importance to me as a HistNerd.

Yep, made that one up!

That being said, I do incorporate the human side. Family, love, struggle, conflict, all the parts of who humans become as we live. Yeah, there is sex. However it is not erotica by any stretch. I don’t do gratuitous in any media I access. But my stories are sexy. I love sexy people; what they think, how they move, how they speak, the way they touch. Sexy is fun. However these two stories are set in a time when there was no deodorant, shampoo, washing machines, toothpaste, and tampons. Women had body hair, men had even more. You get me right?

I don’t avoid these things in my historical writing. It’s how it was.

The settings are fleshed out to give the reader easy access to the time period. With language it is important to be precise in order to drive the reader into the feel of a relationship. I do describe dress both male and female, as well as room decor to pull out who the people in the story are and what their lives are like. Are they rich? Do they have servants and how many servants would this person have in their lifestyle of the time period? Do they struggle to feed their children? Do they have to work and what would that work look like. It is a disservice to readers to give 2018 attitudes to women and men of the 1880’s.

Likewise forcing the language of the 21st century on 19th century characters diminishes the powerful effect of the communication of people of that time. They wrote letters, they kept journals, and they read newspapers, all part of human interaction and understanding. I love it!

So when you read about two proud individuals who are forced into a farce of a marriage, they still adhere to the standards of the day. When you read of a woman who is used by a man to gain favors and blackmail, she is a victim, but in the time there would be no rescue for her.

I am a mixed genre author and reader.

Cheers!

-N

I’m still here

Hello all,

The past two weeks have been busy. Almost too busy, but I’m still here.

Busy, and unfortunately no writing. I’ve been squeezing in a bit of research reading and writing a few notes but not actual creative stretches of time. It’s distressing and disturbing to the writer in me. Instead I’ve been in the middle of cleaning, cooking, going to hospital and appointments with doctors for mom who has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Adjustments are being made to the lifestyle of hubby and I since she lives with us.

However, welcoming my daughter and grandson for a visit this weekend has been a joy. He is a three year old who can keep all of the adults on their toes. But he is so fun.

So tonight I plan to sit down alone in my room, after I am “off duty” taking care of mom, and will try to plot the last several chapters of my current book. No stopping until I make some progress. I expect more doctor/hospital visits this coming week.

So that’s it for now.

Cheers!

-N

Do Not Disturb

Some people don’t seem to understand what it takes to focus on writing. Just because the music is playing and I am walking around talking to myself doesn’t mean I am not in a writing zone and it’s okay to barge in and start chatting. I am seriously thinking I need a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door.

Some people need silence, solitude – space to make the words flow and the jumble of thoughts to become a cohesive body of narrative. Me, not so much. That works at times I’ve found, especially when I am editing. In most cases I have music – all kinds of music – filling my work room. I dance, pace, wander, talk to no one, and fiddle with my muse.

Right now the playlist is soul/pop from the last forty years. Prince, Jimmy Luxury, Michael Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone, The Temptations. Whoa baby, digging it.

Then the interruptions….

Thus the blog refuge to focus my mind on creating and my fingers a needed a warm up – you get me?

 

Had a fun thing happen yesterday while hubby and I were gardening. Lots of soil was moved, reseeding the back yard and planting flower seeds by the pond. I asked if the spa was hot and he said yes, and I replied after this day we need a soak and alcohol, and who knew what next. He agreed and by 8:30 pm we were in the hot water, staring at the stars, planning our next adventures. It was splendid. In my mind I thought “I’m going to use this in a story!”

Isn’t that great when that happens?

We have introduced Cleo to the outdoors and she is digging it. She has gotten big enough and savvy enough to know to stay near the house while she explores. One interesting aspect is Millie, as the big sister German Shepherd, pays attention to her and when she gets out of Millie’s sight the search is on. Millie kind of whines as she tries to find the wee cat, only calming when she is back. So adorable.

They are so cute and are pretty good buddies. Cleo loves Millie’s big swishey GSD tail, and Millie will nudge and lick Cleo when she is laying on the floor. Their food bowls are in the same place separated by a water bowl they share.¬†

We had Jake for a while but he went back to his family once they were again able to house him, much to Jake’s happiness.

I have always liked having a dog and a cat. I love the difference in the two animals, and they both nourish the variety of pet lover needs I have. Chuck and I are both this way.

So now the words are flowing. Time to ease back into the past as Jude Tremaine arrives at Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory. It could very well be a bloody night in the mountains around him. Ready for a rowdy ride, a betrayal, and a heartbreaking loss? Volume II of The Tremaines is in progress. Pray for no more interruptions unless the house is burning down or the wine is running out.

Cheers!

-N

 

Working with words

The Netflix is on, the red wine is poured, I’ve sorted through stacks of research and plotting, and the words in my mind feel powerful as I have these discussions with myself about the next scene. I prevaricate, interrogate, contradict, profane and sermonize to draw out the dialogue coming up. With my eyes closed I wander through rooms, ride on horses and in carriages, feel the wind blow and the rain fall. It is part of immersing myself in the past.

There will be fictional and non-fictional humans represented in the story. I love the idea of putting the “real to me” characters I have created into contact with real people in historically accurate settings and see what happens.

In my first book “Blame It On Whiskey” Amanda Peterson had a face to face with Geronimo. It required quite a bit of research into who he was and how he might react in an encounter with a white female. What would she do to gain his respect? In my second book “The Holder of My Flame” Jacob Severn meets with President Andrew Johnson and General Ulysses Grant when he is assigned a dangerous job for the government. Their interactions required knowledge of what are the priorities, desires, and motivations that drive powerful men.

For a time in this current book Jude Tremaine is in a place so alien, and contrasts so profoundly to his home he must find in himself the will to continue because this is his place in life, an officer in the US 1st Cavalry. He has left his Philadelphia home and is heading to Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory. He will face bigotry, violence, and his whole purpose wrenched from him. In all of this is a delicate, good woman who loves him and is patient.

Time to get back to work.

Cheers!

-N

 

 

Media for creativity

I have music on my old fashioned stereo which will play the radio, CD’s and believe it or not cassettes tapes, and there are iTunes on my laptop. I don’t have iTunes on my phone because it is an android-yuck. You see I have to have music, especially to be creative. Another thing I do when I am sewing is to chromecast from my laptop to a TV in my work room. I can watch a netflix movie and know how much time I’ve spent on a project, or turn it to YouTube and autoplay one of the channels I follow.

I’ve always had a soundtrack for my life. Inspiration, motivation, interpretation, recall, prompting, all of those words I get from the sound of music I love, or stories I like to watch. It colors the thought process, and the feeling of my creative surroundings.

Today the wind is blowing, the air is cool, the sky changes from clear blue with wispy clouds to a spreading overcast that changes the color of the mountains. It is a classical music day. Hayden I think, maybe Debussy later. I am glad for the solitary time I have at this moment to do some important research for my historical work. I’m looking for books or text written during 1868-1870 to get a feel for language and customs that dominated interpersonal relationships. How would a single young woman write to a young man she has know for her life, but now the relationship is starting to evolve?

I welcome suggestions as I sip my wine.

Cheers!

-N

 

Here is an update on my historical story.

I wrote this on my Facebook Author page www.facebook.com/NancyTurnerVaughn/

One aspect of this page that I prefer over my personal page is the lack of political messages and posts. My current historical work touches on the political climate post civil war, when the west was opened up for migration from the east by people who were looking to settle the lands in the west. This presented the situation of conflict with the indigenous population and the people looking for a new life. It could have been done so much differently.

I was watching a program about the Norman conquest of the Saxons in the 11th century. The French speaking Normans found the people to be backward, and some parts savage. They forced language on the population, expected them to conform to the accepted religion, and essentially to become Normans. Within a few decades a transition began in the people and their rulers whereby the Saxon culture began to emerge from it’s oppression. The language, government, etc. melded with the established Norman regime and over centuries we have what is now the United Kingdom.

How could the USA have done this conquering better? My main characters finds he is at odds with the military attitude toward the indigenous people, and yet is brutally attacked by these same people because of what his uniform says about who he is. In my research, I found times where both sides retaliated first, rather than condescending to conversation. There were some like Cochise who were guardedly open to conversation with the invading forces, and Lt. Charles Gatewood who made earnest promises his government didn’t keep.

So here I go, delving into the past, to find the passion, courage, and healing for my character, Jude Tremaine in my story currently named “A Favor From A Lady.”

Cheers!

-N

Picking a name

While I’ve been working stories, especially fiction, the one thing I discovered is the complexity of character names. How do other people come up with names? Sometimes I’ve had a name from the start. In the case of my current story the main characters’ names have been in my head from the beginning. I also had several of the other background and ancillary characters with names I knew I wanted to use.

But this one guy. My main female’s ex-husband. What the crap is his name? Todd, Alec. Oh he’s dead, a jerk, and only referred to in past tense.

I’ve come up with those two names so far, but they just don’t strike me as the right one. All you writers out there. Where do you look for names? Do you have a proven method to find the one that works?

I am currently trying to blog, listening to classical music and eating a sandwich while trying to keep the cat from my food.

So let me know the way you find the best name for a fictional human.

Cheers!

-N