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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Architects of Manhattan

In honor of the location of this year’s RWA National Conference, I’m making a departure from my usual topic area to celebrate some of the people who built New York. Some of contributed to the actual structure of the city. Others have built its stature and reputation.

Apart from the usual suspects of Dylan Thomas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Burton, Bryn Terfel, John Cale, Anthony Hopkins, Hillary Clinton (to name a few of the Welsh who’ve made their mark on New York City) there are surprises here.

Frank Lloyd Wright, famous for his iconic architecture throughout the United States, designed the Guggenheim Museum. He used the three-pronged bardic symbol and the words “Y Gwir yn Erbyn y Byd” (Truth against the World) as his motto. According to his sister, Maginel, the symbol and this motto are hidden in all the buildings he designed.

Wright is not the only Welshman to change the New York skyline. Cardiff-born John Belle, founding member of the firm Beyer Blinder Belle, added his fair share through his Art-Deco designs for the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal and the revitalized Rockefeller Center. Belle also designed the Ford Centre, in Times Square, retaining architectural and design elements of the Lyric and Apollo Theatres, demolished to make way for the new center.

Ellis Island was named for itsWelsh owner, Samuel Ellis, who, in the1700s providedweary mariners with refreshments of the intoxicating kind from his tavern on the mound of rock in New York Harbor. Some of Samuel’s seafaring customers may have been the Welshmen known as Black Bart (Bartholomew Roberts) and Captain Morgan – pirates bound for Jamaica and global infamy. The historic Main Hall of this first stop for the tired and hungry was redesigned by John Belle as a monument to the immigrants who passed through it in the 1800-1900s.

The Pierpont Morgan Library, founded by J.P. Morgan whose ancestors were among the first Welsh immigrants from Neath to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s, was another of John Belle’s redesigned buildings.

The Yale Club gets its name from the founder of the Collegiate College of Connecticut, later changed to Yale University in honor of its generous benefactor, Elihu Yale. Although born in the American Colonies to immigrant Welsh parents, Yale spent his final years in Wrexham. Yale is the Anglicized name of the ancient Welsh kingdom of Ial.

Another collegiate benefactor and Welshman, Morgan Edwards, co-founded Brown University.

The Greater File Baptist Church is one of three Welsh chapels in Harlem. The words “Gwnewch hyn er cof amadanf” (do this in remembrance of me) is carved into the chapel’s pulpit. “Welsh Chapel” is carved on the marble steps.

Sculptor, Mac Adams, who was born in Bryn Mawr (south Wales not Pennsylvania) designed the Korean War Memorial as wellas the five mosaic and ceramic wall murals of PS 120 Junior School in Queens and two 30ft mosaics (Wetlands) over the escalatorsin the Lautenberg Transfer Station, Secausus, NJ.

Three of the six Welsh signatories of the Declaration of Independence were from New York: Lewis Morris, Francis Lewis and William Floyd. Two of these have streets name for them: Francis Lewis Blvd and William Floyd Parkway.

Other Welsh American immigrants who influenced the shape and flavor of Manhattan came from all walks of life. Mabel Mercer, the child of a Welsh mother and American father grew up in north Wales.Frank Sinatra claimed she was responsible for his style. The Town Hall is the home of the annual Cabaret Convention hosted by the Mabel Mercer Foundation. Mercer made her American home in Chatham because it reminded her of her homeland.

George L. Jones, the son of a Montgomeryshire weaver, immigrated with his family in the early 1900s to Poultney, VT. In 1851, he inaugurated the first issue of the New York Daily Times (The New York Times in future). The newspaper was groundbreaking and published a series of exposés that brought down the Tammany Hall Tweed Ring and its control of New York politics.

From my own town, Carmarthen, Joshua Thomas Owen, emigrated to New York in 1830 as a boy. By 1852, he was admitted to the bar, During the American Civil War, he served as a distinguished soldier and was promoted to Brigadier General for “gallant and meritorious conduct at the battle of Glendale.” In 1871, founded the New York Daily Register which became the official organ of the New York courts in 1873. Owen continued on its editorial staff until his death.

At 520 Madison Avenue, Welsh designer, Mary Quant, one of the most innovative and influential fashion designers of the 20th Century, established her shop in Manhattan. She was known as “the hippest designer from the hippest part of the world” — I cannot agree more!

Enjoy your stay in this very Welsh city.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Way to a Cowboy's Heart

An army travels on its stomach. Whether or not Napoleon was the first to say this, it is a long accepted truth. A truth that could be justifiably applied to the cowboy on the cattle trail. The wise cattle owner recognized this and gave just as much consideration to the hiring of the cook as he did his trail boss. In fact, next to the owner and the trail boss, the cook usually got the highest salary often as a share of the herd's sale price.

For that pay, the cook generally came with his own chuck wagon. This vehicle, an invention attributed to Charles Goodnight, was specially built on a standard wagon base with room for supplies in the front and a trail kitchen in the back. Equipped with a fold down table, drawers and shelves for utensils, cook pots, plates and the all-important Dutch oven, the chuck wagon was the center of the cowboys' life while on the trail. Many cooks served as not only the creator of meals, but as first aid doc, postal clerk, and steward of the campgrounds.

The cook was responsible for acquiring supplies. He started with a list which included beans, flour, rice, salt pork, syrup, spices, prunes and dried apples, "skunk eggs" (onions), and coffee served hot, strong, and always. He kept a supply of dry wood and cow chips for fuel slung in a cowhide tarp (called a possum belly) under the wagon. Cowboys were told to be on the lookout for fire wood to add to the store. As the season wore on, the prairie was scoured of fuel sources, so cow chips became the fire maker of necessary choice.

With so much meat on the hoof, beef would be a staple of the trail diet. Or so you would think. However, many an owner and trail boss balked at depleting the moneymaker.  Consequently, the steers were relatively safe from slaughter on the trail unless one proved troublesome or a straggler. Then he was ripe for the picking.

Even then, the cook would waste no portion of the animal. A popular or infamous recipe of the trail was "sumbitch" stew with ingredients including heart,  liver,  kidneys,  brain,  sweetbreads  and everything                                                          except the moo. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and chili flakes and cooked as long as practical, the stew was better than it might seem from its contents.

The best cooks were known for their sourdough biscuits. Sourdough starter was carefuly restocked and guarded. On cold nights the prudent cook took his starter to bed with him to be sure it stayed warm enough to raise his biscuits. Biscuits. beans, and Arbuckle's coffee  made up the bulk of the cowboy's trail diet.

In my cattle trail historical, West of Heaven, Marcella McGovern unexpectedly inherits the cattle of her ranch owner father and the bawdy house of her mother. To get the cattle to market, she is forced to recruit the women who formerly worked at the bawdy house. With a crew like that, how could I resist creating a cook as unusual.

Hans Weiss wants to become cook for Marcella's crew to practice his recipes for the restaurant he plans to open in Kansas when he gets there. Beans, biscuits and the occasional stew are not enough for Hans. To facilitate his success he even devises traveling chicken coops so he has a fresh supply of eggs on the trail.

Here's an excerpt describing Hans's preferred bill of fare:

Last night after hearing Jean Luc's reasoning and instructions for slowing the herd, Marcella had recruited Nell and the two of them went out to collect cow chips. Hans stored them in the possum belly, a basket that hung under the wagon, to use for fuel on the treeless prairie. But this chore did not keep her away from camp long enough. She returned in time to hear the question that had already become a habit with Jean Luc,
"Hans, what's for supper? -- or dinner? -- or breakfast?" depending on the time of day.
To which Hans would reply Shinken mit rotkohl " -- or "Linsensuppe" -- or "Biernebrod."
And Jean Luc would throw his head back and walk off laughing.
Yet, when meal times rolled around, she noticed he ate the ham with red cabbage, the lentil soup, or the dried apple bread with gusto, all compliments to the chef, just like the rest of them...

Later after the successful slowing of the herd:

Too soon, it seemed, the signal was passed to break for the night. The herd was put to pasture and first watch began. The rest of the crew gathered to wash up and wait for supper.
When most were assembled, Jean Luc sauntered up. He rocked back on his heels and stroked his stubbly chin. Jake mirrored his actions in almost comical style, though no one dared laugh.
"Hans, what's for supper?"
"Geffulte." Hans replied.
Instead of his customary laugh, Jean Luc nodded his head. "Ahh, large noodles filled with meat, onions and parsley then boiled in beef broth. Very good." 
Then it was Jake's turn. "Herr Weiss, what's for dessert?"
"Pfefferkuchen mit honig."
"Ahh, gingerbread cake with honey. Very, very good." 
This time no one could suppress their good-natured laughter. Not even Marcella.
After a moment, Jean Luc gestured them to silence. "Hans has made us a gingerbread cake to celebrate. Congratulations, wranglers, you have successfully guided the herd past the first milestone. You are no longer tenderfoots. If I have earned the right to say it with my late start, I am proud of every one of you."

West of Heaven by Barbara Scott is available at Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for the Nook, Sony, Kobo and Apple's iBookstore 

direct from DBP:  

For a review of West of Heaven at Love Western Romances: 

Monday, June 27, 2011


June has turned into an incredibly busy month. Not only did I have two books out with Harlequin, the full length More Than a Mistress , but the related short story Deliciously Debauched by the Rake came out too.

Then of course there are all the preparations for Nationals in New York, what to take, what to wear.....

And what shows up?  Revisions from my editor.  Not copy edits, or line edits, major revisions.

So I thought I would say a word or two about how to handle them.

First take a deep breath. I am fortunate, my editor starts off by being exceedingly complimentary before she gets down to brass tacks. Or rusty tacks in this case. With jagged edges. Boy, those paragraphs of cool calm logic sting.

And no matter what stage of writing we are at, we have all experienced, the feeling of panic ... I can't write worth a d**n.... Grief. Oh, no she wants me to change that wonderful section that I so enjoyed writing..... Anger perhaps.  She's wrong....

If you have entered a contest, joined a critique group, had a friend read a first draft, you may well have experienced these emotions and more.

Hoping I am not preaching to the converted, I just want to say that this is part of the business. A very important part of the business. And if you are unpublished it is vital to have people critique your work so you are ready for revisions of your contracted work. (And reviews)

My way of handling them is as follows:

1. Thank my editor, critique group, friend, for taking the time to provide feedback.
2. Resist the temptation to argue of justify or defend.  Just absorb.
3. Take a pen and highlight the key points.  The heart of the criticism. Or make a note of what I think the heart of it is. An editor or a critiquer might know something is wrong, but they may not quite put their finger on the real problem. What they see as confusing, you might spot of lack of clarity in motivation or the conflict is missing, etc.This analysis is key to fixing your story.
4. If an editor/critiquer/contest judge makes a suggestion for fixing a problem, think about it, but know that this is your story and if you can fix it a different way, then do so. But do be aware that these people are trying to help. They do not take time out of their busy days to make comments just for the sake of making you sad or angry.
5. Make the changes on a new version of your file. A small detail I know, but sometimes you need to go back and see how it was before. I also keep a file of cuts. Everything I take out that is either a sentence I loved, or is a full paragraph. I have discovered I rarely if ever go back and use those cut paragraphs, but keeping them gives me a sense of comfort.
6. Keep a list of the changes. Especially important when it is a contracted work. You will want to be able to point out to your editor what you did and why, if it is not quite what she/he suggested.
7. Breathe a sigh of relief at the end, knowing what you have is a better novel.

Can you or should you protest to your editor, critiquer, contest judge? Tell them that they are wrong? Obviously, if it is factual, and this can be annoying in a contest if you are marked down for something that is correct, then you can explain in a polite note to the Judge or the editor. But be aware that in fiction perception can be more important than fact. With an editor, I suggest you just fix it the way you feel is best for your story. And if you don't fix it, don't mention it, unless it was a major point for the editor, in which case you may have to buckle in the end.

Personally, I prefer to try to address all the points in some form or another, so I don't have to go round again.  In the case of an editor, she is the one who releases the money, and it is her job to make sure your book can sell as many copies as possible, just as it is yours.

Take comfort in knowing that there are stories which receive almost no revisions....occasionally. Out of the 7 full length stories and 7 short stories, two of the short stories have come back with absolute no changes at all. Talk about big smiles.  These were The Rake's Intimate Encounter my very first Undone for Harlequin, and the one above, Deliciously Debauched by the Rake which is the most recent. Nice little bookends.

Writing is hard, and I for one am grateful for all the help I can get. And I hope this is of some help to you.

I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have on this vexing but important part of a writer's life

If you are going to RWA Nationals in New York, I will be signing at the literacy and will have Trading Cards for my two latest releases. I am also planning to attend the HHRW AGM so it will be fun to say hello.

Ann Lethbridge has completed seven of her eight book contract for Harlequin Historicals and eight short stories.  You can find the details of her books and information about her at  http://www.annlethbridge.com .  She also can be found digging into the Regency at her Regency Ramble Blog where you will find not only facts but photos from all over Britain, as well as Regency Fashion and of course the odd squee about books.  Ann is also on facebook and twitter and well all those wonderful places we love to hang out.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Ecclesiastical Year and the Sacred Liturgy: The Division of the Ecclesiastical Year

Writing Historical Romances often means not just knowing a local culture, but knowing a world-wide one. Unfortunately, some people do not know where to go or how to research the Roman Catholic Faith prior to Vatican II due to the Creation periti and others who have rewritten not only the Bible, but the rest of Church history as well. Indeed, if some of the post-VII "experts" could remove Saint Thomas Aquinas from the Church calendar, he would have gone the way of Saint Christopher. Interestingly, besides the Crucifix, Sacred Heart and Blessed Mother, more medals for Saint Christopher are sold than any other, however to the periti of Vatican II, he never existed. But to the point, I thought I’d do a brief series on the Ecclesiastical Year, how it pertained to the Sacred Liturgy and how it translated to daily life in the medieval period. Whenever possible, I will use the wording one would expect to see in the time, such as Holy Mother Church, Our Blessed Lord, etc. Today, I'll take you through a basic outline of the Church year, which may seem dry, but baby steps will get us to movable feasts and move the wedding from the Church steps to the Church nave, the seriousness and plot devices to be found in Ember Days and Rogation Days – among other things.

The basic ecclesiastical year was set by the time of Saint Gregory the Great. Over time additional feast days would be added to Holy Masses that were part of both the Proper of the Season as well as Masses that were part of the Sanctoral Calendar.

The year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, that is, on the Sunday next, whether before or after, the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, November 30. Here we see an example of something very important. The Proper of the Season is always superior to the Proper of the Saints.
Following this are the four weeks of Advent and the Christmas festival which lasts from December 25 through the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.

The Sundays that follow are called the first, the second, the third, and so forth, after Epiphany. (Note: Unlike post-conciliar Catholics, Traditional Catholics will argue that no time on the Church calendar should be called Ordinary Time, which was an invention of Vatican II periti. On the contrary, all time with God is a gift and special, so the term now used is considered by Traditionalist to be an insult to God. I mention this because I read a medieval three years ago that mentioned the time after Epiphany as Ordinary Time; the writer did poor research). The Sundays after Epiphany are never more than six in number, and their series, as a rule, is interrupted by the coming of Septuagesima Sunday, which is the ninth Sunday before Easter and the first of which in the liturgy is of a penitential character.

Septuagesima is followed by Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima (anybody remember their Latin numbers?); this last is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, on which Lent begins. Lent has six Sundays; the last two are respectively, Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday. The week beginning with Palm Sunday – that in which Our Lord was betrayed and crucified – is known as Holy Week. The next important time is Easter Sunday, the feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord. The date of Easter depends upon the dates of which the preceding celebrations occur, and is the Sunday following the full moon first occurring after the twentieth day of the month of March. The earliest possible date for Easter is March 23, and the latest is April 25.

The weeks between Easter and Trinity Sunday are known as Paschal Time. Forty days after Easter is the Ascension of Our Lord, which always falls on a Thursday; ten days later, the seventh Sunday and fiftieth day after Easter, is the Feast of the Descent of the Holy Ghost, also known as Pentecost or Whit-Sunday. The next Sunday is Trinity Sunday. The Thursday following Holy Mother Church is The Feast of Corpus Christi, the festival of the Most Blessed Sacrament. (A feast added in the 12th century, but which has such a wonderful story behind it, that it is often called Little Christmas). An octave later (eight days), is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day after the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. With this, the cycle of movable feasts ends.

The remaining Sundays of the year, which cannot number more than twenty-eight or less than twenty-three, are described as the third, fourth, etc. after Pentecost. Another major difference between the Traditional Roman Rite and the post-conciliar liturgy is the placement of the Feast of Christ the King. Traditionally, it is the last Sunday of October, because Traditionalists believe that after Our Blessed Lord comes again, we will live in a time of peace with Him on earth. The Novus Ordo (New Order) of the Mass places the Feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday before Advent. I’ve never heard a good reason for this move from a liturgical or theological perspective, but Denzinger very well supports the Traditional placement of the festival. Also, since I mentioned Denzinger, let me add that it is one of the best authorities on Roman Dogma, referenced by date and approving authority. It is somewhat expensive, but worth the price to anyone writing medieval.

Happy reading and writing!
Mary McCall
Can a captive escape when love claims her heart?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fiddles, Drums, and Flutes

I like to have a sort of sound track for the books I write. Not handpicked songs put on one cd but rather several cds that play mixed together- all day long- or the whole time I'm writing one particular book. It's my trigger to get into the book faster when I sit down to write. Of course it takes a couple weeks to get the automatic jump start when I hear the music, but it works for me.
Today, while in the thrift shop(I always browse the books, cds and dvds), I found a cd of western movie title tracks. Now the story I bought this to hopefully work for isn't a typical western because it will be mainly set inside a logging camp. But what I failed to think about when purchasing this cd was the fact many movie westerns are set in Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. Nearly half of the songs have the Latin beat, trumpets, and guitar stanzas. I have a feeling this cd will have to wait for another book.

The last Halsey books I wrote I used bluegrass cds and Celtic music. Two of the heroines had Irish and Scottish backgrounds.

For my contemporary westerns I used contemporary western singers' cds. Chris LaDoux, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, George Strait, Reba. Okay, so contemporary to me. Reading the list aged me a bit.

While writing the spirit trilogy I listened to Native American cds. The flutes, the drums, the wailing... these brought out different tempos and emotions as they played in the background.

My love of music and the inspirations I've had in my life from music helps to ground me in the lives of my characters.

Anyone have some ideas for acoustical bluegrass and perhaps Norwegian music? My heroine in this last Halsey book is Norwegian. Or logging songs?


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Starry Night

When a babe was to be born anywhere for miles around, she was there. Sometimes she was the lone attendant, and again she helped Dr. Taylor, who had been in the valley from the beginning; and more than once she worked with some young doctor who was so panicky because the baby didn't hurry that she would have to tell him to keep his feet on the ground, and that millions of babies had been born before a doctor or a medical college had ever been discovered. One night at midnight she waked up one of the boys, and told him that his father was out saddling the pony, and that he must go for Dr. Woods, who lived about five miles to the west. The boy finally wakened up and got his clothes on, and found that she was just ready to leave with a neighbor for his home, and that someone must go for the doctor. The pony had been saddled by that time, and was tied with a heavy rope to a tree near the door. The boy put on plenty of clothes and then mounted the pony, while his father held the little beast to keep him from standing on his head. The father pointed to the seven stars then showing up in the southern sky and told the boy to keep them to his left and to ride until he had crossed the railroad, and then go up to the first house and yell until someone came out so that he could inquire for the home of Dr. Woods. The directions being given, the pony was untied and turned loose, with the end of the rope fastened to the horn of the saddle.
Tales and Trails of Wakarusa
by A.M. Harvey

My favorite pieces of research material often come from tales written in and around the era I'm writing. The accounts told by the people who walked the Kansas prairies and breathed her air during her beginnings are priceless treasures, especially to someone like me who didn't grow up appreciating the history in my own backyard.

But this post isn't necessarily about Kansas history, it's about a tiny piece of treasure I found within the pages of one of those books. A treasure that could have been found in any book written from any where in the world.

Shortly after I read this little passage, I carried my happy determined-self outside. You see, I grew up under the canopy of city lights. I couldn't imagine navigating my way through the streets using the stars not to mention navigating miles through wooded terrain without a compass.

It took a trip out to the countryside before I fully understoond the idea of using the stars for navigation. Oh, I know men have been using the stars for travel for thousands of years. I'm sure many of us have read similar accounts of sailors sailing acrossed vast bodies of waters, but most of them had some sort of navigational tool. This child didn't carry a compass. He relied on his eyes and the instructions of his father.

Have you ever found a hidden treasure during your research? Care to share?

If you'd like to explore Tails and Trails of Wakarusa click here.

And don't forget Seduced by History blog is giving away a free Hearts Through History Campus Workshop to one lucky June commenter.  So, be sure and leave a comment.

You can visit me at http://www.reneelynnscott.com/ or at http://christinarich.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Privateers: Mercenaries of the Sea

I have a confession:  I love men of the sea. Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived on the coast, surrounded by the lore of men who’ve lived and sometimes died on the sea.  The waters near my home have been filled with ships carrying sailors and buccaneers for centuries. Military battles have been won and lost off these shores, and Blackbeard found a haven on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And of course, the image of Johnny Depp decked out in his pirate finery as Captain Jack Sparrow didn’t hurt my fondness one little bit. I find the mystique surrounding buccaneers fascinating.  
       Eye patches, earrings, and walking the plank…these images fill our thoughts when we hear the word pirate.  I suspect the word privateer does not garner nearly the same reaction. I’m fairly sure Privateers of the Caribbean would not have enjoyed the enthusiasm stirred by Pirates of the Caribbean. In my opinion, privateers have been shortchanged in legend. Privateers were as bold and daring as their pirate brethren, with one crucial difference: they were backed by governmental authority.  Mercenaries of the seas, authorized by a country’s leaders to attack enemy ships, privateers have served a purpose in warfare in addition to seizing cargo and vessels for profit. By disrupting trade and commandeering ships into military service, privateers aided their government while filling their own coffers.
       Unlike a military ship that aimed to sink an enemy vessel, a privateer aimed to capture vessels and plunder their cargos. Privateers proved to be a significant force in naval warfare during the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Though not formally commissioned as warships, privateers sailed under the authorization granted in a letter of marque, a formal contract between the government and the privateer. A letter of marquee provided formal authorization for the privateer’s activities, spelling out the nationalities of ships the privateer was allowed to attack and the territory in which it could operate while ensuring the government would retain a share of the plundered goods.  
       Throughout history, privateers have made their mark. Privateers such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins aided Britain’s quest for naval superiority against the Spanish Armada in the sixteenth century, becoming national heroes in the process.  English pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, is believed to have operated as a privateer off the coast of Jamaica during Queen Anne’s War prior to turning to piracy around 1714.  Nearly a century later, American privateers played a significant role in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and even the Civil War. In one famous incident, notorious privateer Jean Lafitte led his crew to help General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British Navy during the Battle of New Orleans in the latter days of the War of 1812.
       My Ellora’s Cave debut, Claimed by the Captain, is the story of an American privateer bent on revenge against the swindler who destroyed his family and the woman who’s swept up in his quest for vengeance. Here’s a little about the story:
Jason Kane lost everything to one man’s treachery. Thirsting for vengeance, the ruthless privateer abducts Catherine Farrell, daughter of the swindler who destroyed his family. Intending to extract the debt owed him from his tempting prisoner, he plans a cold-blooded conquest. Aroused by his captive’s sensual beauty, he claims her with seductive persuasion. As he plunges her into a world of pleasure, her passionate surrender sparks a deep longing in his heart and soul.

Catherine Farrell lived the sheltered life of a prosperous merchant’s daughter until Captain Jason Kane made her a pawn in his quest for retribution. Claimed by the captain, she finds herself at the mercy of a man who will settle for nothing less than complete domination. His tender mastery awakens Catherine’s passions and stirs her heart. If only she can convince him that love is far more satisfying than sweet revenge.

You can find more information about the story at my website, www.tarakingston.com or at the Ellora’s Cave site. Hope you’ll stop by. Leave a comment about this post and you’ll be entered to win a free e-copy of Claimed by the Captain. The winner will be announced Friday, June 24. Check the comments after noon that day to see if you’ve won.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Manifest Destiny

by Anna Kathryn Lanier

In 1845 a magazine reporter wrote “Our manifest destiny is to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” He was, in other words, giving a moral excuse to the greed and imperial ambition of the American people to expand westward. God had predestined the United States of America to stretch from sea to shining sea and it was, therefore, the duty of the American people to spread Christianity and democracy across the continent.

The idea of Manifest Destiny did not originate with this reporter. Since 1803, when President Thomas Jefferson instigated the Louisiana Purchase, Manifest Destiny was in the works. It continued on with the acquisition of Florida and parts of Alabama and Mississippi in 1819 from Spain. In 1845 Texas, its own republic since winning independence from Mexico ten years earlier was annexed into the United States. In 1846 the long disputed border with Canada in the Northwest was finally settled to be 49 degrees latitude. In 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican War, gave the U.S. New Mexico and California. And finally, in 1853, the Gadsden Purchase acquired Arizona from Mexico. This completed the contiguous states.

It was not Manifest Destiny alone, however, that spurred on the millions of the people to take the harsh, dangerous journey west. It was economic depressions in 1837 and 1841. It was word of the rich, fertile soil in Oregon. It was the gold discovered in 1848. It was greed.

As AMERICA: A Narrative History says, “Trappers and farmers, miners and merchants, hunters, ranchers, teachers, domestics, and prostitutes, among others, headed west seeking their fortunes.” THE UNITED STATES: A Brief Narrative History says, “The desire for land of their own, the search for economic opportunity, and the promise of starting over in a new region ranked high among the many and complex reasons that people decided to endure the hardships....”

The pioneers of the mid-1800's did overcome vast hardships to settle the land and fulfill Manifest Destiny. The trail alone offered up “difficulties in finding adequate food and water, hostile Indians, and the danger of being trapped by snow in the mountains.” (THE UNITED STATES) Once they reached their destination, they often had those difficulties as well as others to contend with, including death. However, the westward movement “constitutes a colorful drama of determined pioneers and cowboys overcoming all obstacles to secure their visions of freedom and opportunity amid the regions awesome vastness.” (AMERICA)

Yet, Manifest Destiny did not come without a long-lasting price to America. In addition to the hardship the pioneers suffered, “...the colonization of the Far West involved short-sighted greed and irresponsible behavior, a story of reckless exploitation that scarred the land, decimated its wildlife, and nearly exterminated the culture of Native Americans.” (AMERICA)

It is hoped that if given a chance to do it all over again, the American government and people would have done it differently. But it is doubtful it would have it would have happened any other way. The desire of the government and the desire of the people would not have changed. As one gold seeker proclaimed, “The whole emigration is wild and frantic with a desire to be pressing forward.” A desire to own land, find economic freedom, to find freedom itself in a new life. Millions of Americans and new emigrants were willing to endure the hardships and carve a place in history in the name of Manifest Destiny. And the government was glad they were.

Now, to put a writing lesson curve on this....how does your story emulate the idea of Manifest Destiny? How are your characters predestined to change their lives, their ideas, their souls? What are they willing to give up to find the brass ring across the dangerous frontier?

Leave a comment for a chance to win not one, but two prizes!  I'll  away pocket size Bath and Body Works Country Chic shower gel and lotion (drawing to be held Tuesday, June 21st after 6:00 p.m.).  AND the Seduced by History blog is giving away a free Hearts Through History Campus Workshop to one lucky June commenter.  So, double the reason to say hi!  Be sure and leave a comment.

**I'll be teaching PIONEERING WOMEN OF THE WEST at HHRW's Online Campus August 1-31, 2011. $10 for HHRW members, $20 for non-members.  Click HERE for more information. 

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats

This article first appeared on Chatting with Anna Kathryn September 3, 2009.