“Not My Father’s House”: A work of historical fiction true to western genre

Not My Father's House

Historical fiction has almost as many flavors as there are time periods to write about. Not My Father’s House, by Loretta Miles Tollefson is an historical novel with a western flavor that leaves the reader smacking their lips for more. A true frontier wilderness tale, Tollefson takes true events and places from the annals of the wild backwoods of old New Mexico territory and crafts a tale of the struggles and hardships of frontier life in the untamed mountain wilderness.

Suzanna is a young bride of mixed blood, soon to be a mother when she moves from her father’s home in the village of Don Fernando de Taos, venturing into the backwoods of New Mexico territory to make a home of her own and raise her family with her husband Gerald and their friend Ramon. She knew she’d have to battle the elements and critters in the untamed mountain valley, but she never expected to have to battle with herself when cabin fever sets in each winter. Nor did she ever imagine that her biggest threat in the wilds would come from a predator that stalks her on two legs instead of four.

A story of female strength and courage in a time when the lands were still wild. Not My Father’s House is a finely crafted story in the western tradition. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Lost Village of Delta

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

My earliest years were spent in Westernville, NY. Right down the street was the beautiful Lake Delta, a place we visited frequently. My parents and I played on the beach. We walked the trails through the woods. One day my father mentioned that when he used to fly his plan over Lake Delta, he could see the foundations beneath the water. That puzzled me – why would there be foundations down there? Were they like the shell fossils we found in our backyard sometimes?

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

He explained that a village used to be there, but it was flooded to create the lake. My imagination went wild. He also told me that my grandmother’s house on the farm where we lived was moved from the lost village. That amazed me, and gave me my first glimpse at history. My fascination with Lake Delta continued, but we moved to a neighboring village and didn’t visit the state park as often.

One day, the Westernville Town Clerk, Mary Centro, spoke at my hometown about Delta. My mother and I attended the lecture, and we were enthralled. I wanted to write a story at once, but I didn’t know where to take it.

My parents moved back to Westernville and I met with the town clerk to discuss Lake Delta in more detail. She told me about walking the land while the lake is low and finding treasures washed up on shore. The next year, my parents and I walked the lake, but we didn’t find anything. Again, I felt the need to write about the lost village of Delta, but I didn’t know who my main character would be yet.

The town clerk wrote two non-fiction books about Delta and my dad bought copies. While visiting my parents, I looked through them, and then did some research online. I learned that one house hadn’t been torn down the first time they flooded the land. It wasn’t until later, when the water receded, that they demolished it.

That was my story. A little magic seeped into the tale, and Lottie came to life. You can read about Lottie in DELTA, my first historic fiction novella that is appropriate for teens and adults.

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About the real Delta…

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

New York State decided it was time to expand the Erie Canal. Many of the ports along the canal were no longer being used, because shipping goods by train became the more popular method. Shipping by train was cheaper than shipping via canal. It wasn’t just the price, though, that encouraged manufactures to choose train travel. The modern barges that were needed to ship the goods couldn’t go on the Erie Canal, which was too small and far too shallow. The water level of the Erie Canal tended to fluctuate. By expanding the Erie Canal, the ports would flourish once again. Many farmers were excited by this. They would be able to transport their goods to cities elsewhere in New York State. Expanding the canal required the use of five reservoirs. These reservoirs would provide enough water to keep the level of the canal even. New York State chose Delta because they would only need to build one dam.

The village of Delta rested inside of a deep valley. This made the perfect bowl-shape to fill with water from the Mohawk River nearby. Flooding Delta meant that privately owned land would need to be seized by the government. Everyone living on that land would need to move elsewhere.

In 1903, surveyors arrived in Delta to measure the land and create maps. In 1908, New York State officially authorized that Delta would be cleared to make way for the reservoir. Blue evacuation notices were presented to the village’s five-hundred residents, forcing them to relocate. One hundred buildings were torn down and destroyed. Some, however, were dismantled and moved to other towns in the area, where they were rebuilt. People moved away and their village became a reservoir. The dam was completed in October 1912. Water first went over in May of 1916.

Despite the great expenses incurred in the relocation of the Black River Canal, it closed in 1921.

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Jordan Elizabeth is a fantasy author who is obsessed with history and ghosts.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.  The photo above shows Jordan on the shores of Lake Delta.  You can often find she and her son enjoying the beach.


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Seeking out Christian fiction in September

Christian Fiction

In his 2012 Relevant article, “Where Did Good Christian Fiction Go?“, Micah Levi Conkling claims that Christian fiction has been marred by the Left Behind series and Amish fiction, and is very difficult to find. So, in September, we’ve been seeking out Christian fiction to see if Conklin’s claims are true. Is there really no good Christian fiction out there anymore?

To start off, I want to define what Christian fiction really is. It’s not really a genre. Not really, because as you’ve seen if you have joined me in my search, Christian fiction comes in many genres. The two books I reviewed from the Thanksgiving Books & Blessings collection, Texas Tears and Mail-Order Misfire, are both western romances, and I also had the pleasure of interviewing the author of each, Caryl McAdoo and Davalynn Spencer respectively. My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest, Angela Hunt writes historical fiction, historical romance, heart-warming tales of love and friendship, and children’s books that can all be classified as Christian fiction.

Christian fiction is really a category that other genres fall under. The aforementioned Left Behind series might fall under the science fantasy genre, given it’s futuristic, alternative universe setting. As Christian novels can be so varied, let’s take a look at what they have on common like the portrayal of Christian lifestyles, and an underlying message of a loving God. A book in virtually any genre could be considered Christian fiction if it has these two components, even if the message is subtle and remains in the background of the story. According to the Christy Awards website, the award is “designed to nurture and encourage creativity and quality in the writing and publishing of fiction written from a Christian worldview and showcase the diversity of genres.”

In spite of Conklin’s claims, not all Christian stories boldly shove the message of God down the readers throat. (Many children, and adults as well, turn tail and run from a story that give a hard push to moralistic messages, as is discussed in this month’s “Growing Bookworms” post.) I think the message in good Christian fiction is delivered subtly, in small doses, giving the reader the option to take it or leave it while still being able to enjoy the story.)

Christian fiction really has a bad rep in some circles, where any story  with no sex, no violence, no cursing, and no vice, it is believed that the reading of which might be comparable to eating white rice with no seasonings. Christian fiction, from my view, is a tale which portrays Christian beliefs and values in its character’s lifestyles. I think the historical may even be flavored a little more heavily with this, because in days of past Christian lifestyles were more prominent. That could explain why historicals and westerns, like those we’ve looked at here lend themselves so readily to the Christian aspects. I’m guessing that it would more difficult, although not impossible, to work Christian aspects into a futuristic work of science fiction or fantasy, but I have seen them worked into thrillers and mysteries, and they are easily worked into contemporary romance.

Most Christian fiction stories that I’ve read are heart-warming and inspirational, and I’ve walked away with a warm feeling at the story’s end, as if there might actually be hope left for this world, or for love, or humanity, depending on the individual story. In short, Christian fiction works are stories which are written for Christian readers. But you don’t have to be searching for something with Christian undertones to enjoy one if you come across one. A good, well-written Christian story lets the characters carry the reader through without being preachy and moralistic. The power of God shines through in the character’s lives.


Into the Catskills

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

I’m a huge history lover, so anything old has always sparked my interest.  I imagine that an old building can tell me the secrets of the past.  If I walk through its ancient doors, I’ll be transported back in time.  I’ll be able to experience everything that came before.

It hasn’t yet, but I’m still hoping.

One day I was bored, probably tired from work, and decided to look at abandoned buildings online.  I was scrolling through Pinterest and voila, there was a beautiful, crumbling resort.  The image showed an old pool.  Vines crept up broken windows and ferns fought their way through cracked cement.  It was beautiful and haunting.  I clicked to learn more, and discovered it was a resort from the Catskills.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In their heyday (1920s through the 1960s), the Catskill Mountains were home to numerous fancy resorts.  People came from all over to experience the thrill of the mountains.  Many New Yorkers left the city to experience the calm of the country.  The popular movie, Dirty Dancing, takes place at a resort in the Catskills.

Overtime, interest waned.  From articles I read online, it seems that the readily people could travel on airplanes to distant wonderlands, the less they wanted to travel upstate.  There are still some resorts left and I hope to vacation there someday.  I must admit, though, the abandoned resorts fascinate me more than the ones still standing.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

While looking at more pictures of those abandoned resorts, a story idea came to me.  The world ends and the remains of civilization are holed up inside a crumbling hotel.  Thus was born my post-apocalyptic novella, BUNKER BOY.  If you decide to read it, let me know what you think!  I’d love to know if it has inspired you, too, to check out the old memories of the Catskills.beautiful blond young woman in black hood looking at camera

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  She is most likely gazing at something in awe, something she will soon include in one of her novels. You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


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“Mail-Order Misfire”: Christian romance from the 2019 “Thanksgiving Books & Blessings” collection

Mail-Order Misfire

Mail-Order Misfire, by Davalynn Spencer is a Christian western romance that will touch your heart. The story is well-crafted and entertaining, with well-developed characters that you can invest in, and setting details accurate to time period for authenticity. You’ve got to love young Gracie as she takes on the role of matchmaker for her unsuspecting father.  It expertly portrays the Christian values of the historic west with a flare that draws you into the story and won’t let go.

Etta Collier is recently widowed and desperately looking for a way to get out from under the predatory banker who wants to claim all that her William left behind in this world, including her!  A well-intended letter from young Gracie Stidham requesting a mail-order bride for her father and mother for herself,  provides the only answer in sight, so she packs a bag and leaves her previous life behind, setting off for Lockton, Colorado with hope in her heart, as well as a fear of what might lie ahead. The results are a true love story as Etta, Gracie and her father Burn, who is both the preacher and the sheriff, come to terms with the rather awkward situation her arrival stirs and learn to love one another.

Mail-Order Misfire is a thoroughly engaging western romance that emphasizes Christian values without being ‘preachy’ in the least. An well-crafted example of Christian fiction that I give five quills.

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Mail-Order Misfire is book two of the newly released Thanksgiving Books & Blessings Collection, available now on Amazon.


Interview with Christian Romance author Davalynn Spencer

2018 Davalynn Spencer

September’s theme on Writing to be Read is Christian fiction. To start things off today, it’s my pleasure to interview western Christian romance author Davalynn Spencer. Her writing career came as a journalist covering the rodeo circuit, after marrying a man who made a living as a rodeo bullfighter and following the rodeo circuit became a way of life for her. Her son has followed in his father’s foot steps, so she has two guys out in the arena facing off with the bulls, and she has become an award winning author with seventeen published books. She is also one of the authors with a book in the newly released Thanksgiving Books and Blessings collection. Be sure to catch my review of her contribution, Mail Order Misfire on Friday. But for now, let’s welcome her and find out what the writing world is like from her unique point of view.


Kaye: You were an award-winning journalist before becoming a novelist. How did that transition come about?
Davalynn: For several years I contributed regularly to the Prorodeo Sports News, the trade paper for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. My husband fought bulls and worked clown acts for PRCA rodeos across the country, so our family joined him on the road in our rodeo rig. I also wrote for American Cowboy and other publications. My first award was from the Prorodeo Sports News for a two-part feature I did on former rodeo cowboys who transitioned into training thoroughbred racehorses. After we parked permanently in Colorado, I served as editor for the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys, Inc., a national nonprofit, and followed that with several years as a daily newspaper reporter covering crime and features. I won awards from the Colorado Press Association and the
Associated Press. But I’d long wanted to be a novelist and had written a few manuscripts. I decided it was time to pursue my dream.
Kaye: What draws you to write in the Christian romance genre?
Davalynn: I’ve always been drawn to romance – the happy ending, the way all the difficulties and obstacles are tackled and worked out. That happy ending is what defines the romance genre and separates it from say, love stories. Think Romeo and Juliet, a classic love story. Not a romance. I choose to write from an inspirational or Christian perspective because I don’t separate my faith from my fiction. My stories address daily life situations, and in my personal life, faith figures highly. Readers of Christian fiction enjoy the genre because they see faith put into action, and they draw encouragement from characters who conquer their foes and fears. They read Christian romance with confidence that they will experience the passion and emotional satisfaction they long for in “escape reading” yet without the explicit sexual details, ribald language, and graphic
violence found in some mainstream commercial romance.
Kaye: In your mind, what distinguishes Christian fiction from fiction in general?
Davalynn: Fiction readers want escape, entertainment, and encouragement. With Christian fiction, readers can relax knowing they won’t experience overkill on sexual detail, language, or violence.
That is not to say there is no sexual tension, emotional passion, creative language, life-
threatening danger, or depictions of life’s uglier side. There must be for a good story. But in Christian fiction there is also hope – something our world has in short supply.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge in writing Christian romance for you?
Davalynne: I paint character portraits. However, my medium is words rather than watercolors, oils, or acrylics. Choosing the right words is always the biggest challenge, whether writing nonfiction or novels of any ilk.
Kaye: What is the most fun thing about writing Christian romance?
Davalynn: For me, the payoff is hope and redemption. Our world has very little real hope in it – hence the high percentage of fiction readers, particularly in the romance market. Both hope and redemption speak to second chances, and who doesn’t want a second chance? My goal is that from reading my stories (that I deliberately make non-preachy), people will see there are avenues along the way in which they can find real hope and redemption. It’s never “too late” to involve God in their lives.
Mail-Order MisfireKaye: Your book Mail-Order Misfire is a part of the Thanksgiving Books & Blessings collection. What can you tell me about that book?
Davalynn: I enjoy mail-order bride stories, and as I prepared to write for this collection, I wondered what it would be like for a child to request a mail-order mate for a parent—but without telling the parent. Instant tension and obstacles! In Mail-Order Misfire, nine-year-old Gracie Stidham writes for a “helper” for her widowed father who is both the sheriff and interim preacher in the fictional town of Lockton, Colorado. Another pastor gets involved in the scheme and encourages one of his parishioners to answer the letter – a woman who is recently widowed and dancing mere footsteps ahead of a creditor who wants more than her money. What could go wrong?
Kaye: You are the recipient of the Will Rogers Medallion Award, the Romance Writers of America Readers’ Choice Award, the American Fiction Award, among others. What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as an author?
Davalynn: The awards are wonderful confirmations along the way but hearing from readers who are moved by the stories is far more rewarding. One person recently wrote to me after reading one of my books and said, Aha! Someone who writes ‘Christian Fiction’ that is truly lifestyle, not just a nod to a scripture or two tucked in to satisfy the category!” I treasure that observation.
Kaye: Did you also receive a Christian Indie Award?
Davalynn: I won the Christian Indie Award for Book 1 of my Front Range Brides series, An Improper Proposal – the same book that won the RWA Readers’ Choice Award. These awards validated my goals because this particular story was turned down by a major publisher. Evidently, others thought it worthy!
Kaye: Your husband and son are rodeo bullfighters. Does that make you a real cowgirl by
default?
Davalynn: What a great question! I’d have to say no, though I ride, have pushed cows, bucked my share of hay, and done plenty of chores. But I never competed in rodeos. My work was mainly behind the scenes supporting my husband, taking photographs, writing news stories, and singing the National Anthem before rodeo performances – a song lovingly referred to by cowboys as “Bareback Riders Get Ready.”
Photograph by Davalynn Spencer

Davalynn’s son in the arena

Kaye: What is something your readers would never guess about you?
Davalynn: One summer evening at the Estes Park, Colorado, rodeo where my husband was fighting bulls, a bull rider “hung up” to the bull – trapped himself in his bull rope by falling off on the wrong side. My husband ran in to rescue the rider—which he did—but not without taking a hit to the chest that knocked him down. The bull ran over him, breaking ribs and tearing off his left ear. The surgeon who repaired my husband’s ear made it clear that he was not to return to the arena under any circumstances, yet we had a contract for three more performances that week. So I dressed up in my husband’s clown clothes and filled in for him during his comedy routines. No, I didn’t fight the bulls (my mama didn’t raise no fool), I just worked the acts and another bullfighter covered the bull riding. As they say, the show must go on, and when you’ve got a
contract, you’ve got a contract. Trying to be funny is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Kaye: What do your readers have to look forward to? What’s next for Davalynn Spencer?
Davalynn: November 1 is the release date for my Christmas novella, Just in Time. It’s the second High-Country Christmas novella, and in December will release in a collection of two novellas, Snow Angel and Just in Time, both set in the glorious Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
I want to thank Davalynn for sharing with us today. She’s been an eye opener for me in regards to Christian fiction and hopefully for my readers, as well. You can learn more about Davalynn Spencer and her books at the links below. And don’t forget to drop by “Writing to be Read” this coming Friday, September 6, to read my review of her novella, Mail Order Misfire.

Blog: https://davalynnspencer.com/subscribe/

Website: https://www.davalynnspencer.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDavalynnSpencer

BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/davalynn-spencer

Twitter: https://twitter.com/davalynnspencer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5051432.Davalynn_Spencer

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/davalynnspencer/boards/

Amazon Author: https://amazon.com/author/davalynnspencer

CAN: http://christianauthorsnetwork.com/davalynn-spencer/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/davalynnspencer/   


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Writing for a YA Audience: Author Photo Shoot

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

I’ve done a few photo shoots for my author pictures, and they are always so much fun.  I get to feel like a model.  For FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD, we decided to do things a little differently.  Aaron Siddall illustrated the book and I wrote it; we both brainstormed the concepts.  Because this was a joint collaboration, we decided to have a joint photo.

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A good friend of ours, Monica Reid Keba, met with us at the Utica Train Station, known as Union Station.  The building is beautiful, with marble pillars and chandeliers.  Stepping inside is a little like going back in time.  Many of the fixtures are original from the construction in 1914.  I have a special fondness for the waiting room benches.  Not only do they incorporate the heating system, but they are gorgeous to look at.  The station was designed by Allen Stem and Alfred Fellheimer.  In case you aren’t familiar with those names, they are the architects who designed New York City’s Grand Central Station.

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Aaron Siddall and I posed on the benches, beneath the chandeliers, and outside.  The autumn day was crisp, with a light drizzle in the air.  I hiked up my skirt and scaled the side of an old trolley car.  We also explored the park next door.  The train station is located in the historic Bagg’s Square neighborhood.  The quaint park, surrounded by a stone fence, is home to the site of a log cabin known as Bagg’s Tavern.  This log cabin saw esteemed guests such as George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant.

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If you are ever in the area and love visiting historic sites, check out the train station and Bagg’s Tavern.  Your eyes won’t be disappointed by the sites.

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Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  She is most likely gazing at something in awe, something she will soon include in one of her novels. You can connect with Jordan – and point her in the direction of some paranormal activity – via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.

 

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