Researching the Goodnight-Loving Trail

Hello all! I’m traveling to the West as I research my next book. I’m looking first-hand at the area surrounding the Goodnight-Loving Trail (named after cattlemen Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving). This was traversed in the cattle drives during the latter part of the 1860s for wholesale transportation of Texas Longhorns.

My adventures will take me to Pecos, TX, and up through New Mexico through to Wyoming.

Check out the latest information over at V.V. Wedding Writes!

Research for the next book.

Well, now that An Uncivilized Yankee is out there (and doing relatively well, I might add), I’m hard at work on a sequel. The next one picks up a year after the Civil War has ended, and focuses on life at an Army post in Wyoming (or what was then Dakota Territory). I’m not terribly familiar with the area or history, so I’m taking steps to make sure my writing stays historically accurate.

  1. I leave in two weeks for a quick research trip out to Cheyenne, with a side trip to Yellowstone for my daughter (okay, so I really want to see Yellowstone too)
  2. I’m loading up my bookshelf with lots of new books to pore over. Here’s a list of what I have so far:

    • The Post Near Cheyenne
    • Life and Manners in the Frontier Army
    • US Army in the Plains Indian Wars 1865-91
    • The U.S. Cavalry, 1865-1890
    • Forts of the American Frontier 1820-91
    • From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry
    • The Soldiers (Time Life The Old West series)
    • The Cheyennes: Indians of the Great Plains
    • Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay
    • Army Wives on the American Frontier
    • Bugs to Blizzards or An Army Wife at Fort D.A. Russell
    • American Army Life
    • The Horse Soldier 1776-1943 volume II The Frontier, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Indian Wars 1851-1880
    • Army Letters from an Officer’s Wife

    I just ordered Glittering Misery: Dependents of the Indian Fighting Army. A Frontier Army Christmas and Elizabeth Custer’s Following the Guidon are in my cart (I figured I had enough to read right now)
    Unfortunately, I’m having to buy most of these. In writing An Uncivilized Yankee, I already had a huge collection of Civil War books of my own, and I live in Virginia: getting books on the Civil War from the libraries around here is a piece of cake. But the local library doesn’t have a large selection of books on Wyoming history. The upside to owning the books is I can make all sorts of marks and notes in the books, and nobody’s going to complain.

  3. I’m watching John Ford’s cavalry trilogy: Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Rio Bravo. Yes, they’re Hollywood, and so historically suspect. But I found this really cool thesis that points out just how accurate or inaccurate the movies are (and it had a marvelous bibliography, too), so I can watch them for a general feel without contaminating my history too much.

Looks like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Thankfully, I _like_ researching, so digging into a new subject isn’t a chore for me. And that being said, I should stop writing about researching, and get back to researching and writing!

An Uncivilized Yankee is finally available!!!

She’s a lightning rod for trouble …

Orphaned and forced to flee from an abusive cousin, Estella Anderson finds an unexpected haven with her soldier uncle, as a Healer on General J.E.B. Stuart’s staff. Life in the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavalry is not easy, nor is it safe, but a young woman completely on her own is even more at risk.

… and very much alone …

As if her home troubles weren’t enough, Star believes she is cursed. Every man who has promised to watch over her has died, with her precognitive dreams warning her each time. So she tries to push away anyone who offers to help her, anyone she cares for, lest they too end up dead. She stays with her uncle because she has no other choice, no other place of refuge, but she fears for his life.

… until the War changes everything.

But then she discovers an unlikely friend in Travis Black, the Yankee scout who rode to her rescue, and became a prisoner of war as a result. Her curse, her cousin, her own independent streak: they may have finally met their match in the stubborn young man who promises to protect her, no matter the cost.

An Uncivilized Yankee is a historical fantasy/romance set during the American Civil War … available now in paperback or on Amazon Kindle!

Book Review: The Hope of Refuge

The Hope of Refuge (An Ada’s House Novel)

Cindy Woodsmall

Publisher’s Summary: Raised in foster care and now the widowed mother of a little girl, Cara Moore struggles against poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker. When a trail of memories leads Cara and Lori out of New York City toward an Amish community, she follows every lead, eager for answers and a fresh start. She discovers that long-held secrets about her family history ripple beneath the surface of Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, and it’s no place for an outsider. But one Amish man, Ephraim Mast, dares to fulfill the command he believes that he received from God–“Be me to her”– despite how it threatens his way of life.

Completely opposite of the hard, untrusting Cara, Ephraim’s sister Deborah also finds her dreams crumbling when the man she has pledged to build a life with begins withdrawing from Deborah and his community, including his mother, Ada Stoltzfus. Can the run-down house that Ada envisions transforming unite them toward a common purpose–or push Mahlon away forever? While Ephraim is trying to do what he believes is right, will he be shunned and lose everything–including the guarded single mother who simply longs for a better life?

Click here to see options from Random House’s online catalog.

Click here or on the image to order the book from

This is the first in a new series of books by the author of When the Heart Cries, When the Morning Comes, and When the Soul Mends.

Bottom line? I liked it. Very much. And I usually don’t like this type of book. Which says a lot. I definitely recommend reading it.

I apologize for the short review–I’d love to write more, since, as I said, I really enjoyed the book. However, we now have a 5-week-old puppy in the house (as of Monday evening) and life has gotten _very_ hectic.

Book Review: The Vanishing Sculptor

The Vanishing Sculptor

Donita Paul

Publisher’s Summary: Return to the world of the dragon keepers, where the fate of three missing statues will determine the fate of the world. Tipper, a young emerlindian woman, has been responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate since her sculptor father disappeared several years ago. To make ends meet, she’s been forced to sell off the artwork he left behind.

When at last her father returns, accompanied by two strangers from a distant land, Tipper discovers that her actions have unbalanced the foundation of her world, as well as her father’s life, and she must act quickly to undo the threat. But how can she save her father and the world on her own?

The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions—including her guardian, the giant parrot Beccaroon, the wizard Fenworth, and his librarian Librettowit—and sets out on a quest, eventually witnessing the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder.

Join new characters and old friends on a journey into a fantasy that inhabits the same world as the DragonKeeper Chronicles, but in a different country and an earlier time, where the people know little of Wulder and nothing of Paladin.

link to publisher

It was with some trepidation that I agreed to review this book. I love fantasy. I was 3 when my father started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to me. Probably three-quarters of the books I devoured in grade school were fantasy/scifi (or history, but that’s a different story). Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle, Le Guin, Alexander…and so on. I also write fantasy myself, have studied worldbuilding (love it!) and other elements vital to such stories.

Needless to say, I felt I had a pretty good background to critique such a book. HOWEVER, the previous modern Christian fantasies I’d read were merely okay to abominable, not to mention preachy and/or treacly (and I’ve talked with enough Christian fantasy readers to know I’m not the only one who feels this way). For example, Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis was so bad that after about 3 chapters I skipped to the ending, was highly unimpressed by that, and promptly returned the books to the library. It’s almost as if there is such a lack of writers in Christian fantasy that even the blandest/most mediocre of efforts can find a publisher. The writers ignore such things as “show, don’t tell,” and “Hook your reader with the very first sentence.”

I winced when I read the first sentence of The Vanishing Sculptor: “Sir Beccaroon cocked his head, ruffled his neck feathers, and stretched, allowing his crimson wings to spread.” Do you know how hard the critiquers at Miss Snark’s First Victim would have nailed that sentence?

The next 2 or 3 pages are all description, which I guess is supposed to be worldbuilding, but which came across as turgid. If I’d not been reviewing the book, I probably would have read no further. As it was, I didn’t really get into the story until oh, chapter 25 or 26.

BUT, about midway through the book, things started rolling along, and I actually enjoyed reading the rest of the story. Also, Donita Paul does manage to balance the two sides (good doctrine vs. good fantasy) fairly well. Which is very difficult to do. I know. I’ve tried.

So, I guess I would have to say, as far as Christian fantasy goes, this is pretty good. In fact, I just passed the book on to a young (12 year old) friend of mine, saying she would probably like it.