For some reason, choosing the name of the heroine of a story is hard for me—much harder than naming the hero. I’m wondering if it’s because, as women, we give more thought to what we find attractive in a man (naturally!) Even if he’s “Hunk of the Week,” if his name doesn’t appeal to us, it’s hard to think of him romantically. This is true not only in my writing, but in my reading. If the names don't fit, I have to mentally substitute another one to take the place of what the author has decided on.
I think as we write, we are seeing our heroines from a different perspective. They are…us. So, naming them might not be as important in our minds, since secretly, we are them. (No, we can’t use our own name!)
The various heroines of our stories, while different in some respects, still retain qualities of ourselves that we’ve endowed them with. If you look at the heroines you’ve created, though they come from different places and circumstances and have different views of the world, there are some basic things about them that don’t change--even from different time periods.
There are at least three basic considerations for naming our heroines, apart from the obvious ones.(time period, setting, etc.)
The first one is, understanding the heroine and her motives.
Let’s look a minute at how a part of ourselves creep into our heroines’ lives, no matter what sub-genre we write. I always think of two examples that stand out in my own life experience that are easy to show.
Growing up in the 1960’s, women had three basic career opportunities: teacher, secretary, nurse. Those limitations didn’t matter, because I wanted to be a nurse ever since I could recall. But because my parents discouraged me from that field, I never pursued it—except in my writing.
At some point, in every story I write, that aspect of myself comes through in my heroine. There is always a need for her to use her nursing skills, and it’s usually to take care of the wounded hero. (In a Cheryl Pierson story, the hero will always be hurt somewhere along the way. Much like the guys with the red shirts on Star Trek know they won't be beaming back to the Enterprise from the planet’s surface, my heroes always have to figure they’re going to need some kind of medical care to survive my story.)
Another consideration is, that we must like the heroine.
She is us! Have you ever started writing a story after carefully picking names for your hero and heroine, only to discover you really don’t like the character herself; or maybe, when you write the name of the character, you feel your lip starting to curl? Is it the name itself you don’t like after repetitive use, or is it the character you’ve created? Either way, there’s a problem. Stop and consider exactly what it is about that character/name you have started to dislike. Remember, the heroine is part of you. If you’re hitting a rough spot in real life, it could be you are injecting some of those qualities into your character unwittingly. There may be nothing wrong with the name you’ve selected…it could just be your heroine has taken an unforeseen character turn that you aren’t crazy about.
Being a child of an alcoholic father, I do not like surprises. I want to know that things will be steady, stable and secure. But what can be certain in a tale of romance? Nothing! Just as the hero of my stories is going to be physically in jeopardy at some point, the heroine will always have to make a decision— a very hard decision—as to whether she will give up everything that she’s built her life around for the hero. Will she take a chance on love? In the end, of course, it’s always worth the gamble. But, because I am not a risk-taker in real life, my heroines carry that part of me, for the most part, with them—until they have to make a hard choice as to whether or not to risk everything for the love of the hero.
The third consideration is that we have to give her a name that reflects her inner strengths but shows her softer side.
This is not a dilemma for male characters. We don’t want to see a soft side—at least, not in this naming respect.
I try to find a name for my heroines that can be shortened to a pet name or nickname by the hero. (Very handy when trying to show the closeness between them, especially during those more intimate times.)
I always laugh when I think about having this conversation with another writer friend of mine, Helen Polaski. She and I were talking one day about this naming of characters, and I used the example of one of my favorite romances of all time, “Stormfire” by Christine Monson. The heroine’s name is Catherine, but the hero, at one point, calls her “Kitten.” Later, he calls her “Kit”—which I absolutely love, because I knew, even though “Kit” was short for Catherine, that he and I both were thinking of the time he’d called her “Kitten”—and so was she! Was “Kit” a short version of Catherine for him, or was he always thinking of her now as “Kitten”? Helen, with her dry northern humor, replied, “Well, I guess I’m out of luck with my name. The hero would be saying, ‘Oh, Hel…’”
One final thought to weigh is the way your characters’ names go together; the way they sound and “fit.” Does the heroine’s name work well not only with the hero’s first name, but his last name, too? In most cases, eventually his last name will become hers. Last names are a ‘whole ’nother’ blog!
In 1880, the top ten female names were, in order from 1 (most popular) to 10: Mary, Anna, Emma, Elizabeth (4), Minnie, Margaret, Ida, Alice, Bertha, and Sarah (10).
(Picture above is of my grandmother, Mary Elizabeth, and sisters Emma and Cora)
By 1980, they’d changed drastically: Jennifer, Amanda, Jessica, Melissa, Sarah (5), Heather, Nicole, Amy, Elizabeth (9) and Michelle.
(My daughter Jessica, taken a couple of years ago)
Twenty-eight years later, in 2008, there seemed to be a resurgence toward the “older” names: Emma, which was completely out of the top twenty in 1980, had resurfaced and taken the #1 spot, higher than it had been in 1880. The others, in order, are: Isabella, Emily, Madison, Ava, Olivia, Sophia, Abigail, Elizabeth (9), and Chloe. Sarah was #20, being the only other name besides Elizabeth that remained in the top twenty on all three charts.
If you write historicals, these charts are great to use for minor and secondary characters as well. If you’ve chosen a name for your heroine that’s a bit unusual, you can surround her with “ordinary” characters to provide the flavor of the time period, while enhancing her uniqueness.
Names can also send “subliminal” messages to your reader. I wrote my short story, “A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES,” about a couple that meet under odd circumstances and experience their own miracle on Christmas Eve. Halfway through the story, I realized what I’d done and the significance of the characters’ names--Nick and Angela (Angel, he calls her).
What do you think? How do you choose your names for your female characters? What are your favorites?
Cheryl's Amazon Author Page:
In this excerpt, widow Angela Bentley has taken in a wounded stranger and the three children who are with him on a cold, snowy night. Here’s what happens:
FROM “A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES”:
Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.
He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.
“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”
He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”
She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”
“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”
A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.
She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”
He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”
She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”
He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, she found herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”
He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Friday, April 26, 2013
Those who know me have learned that I love genealogy and draw on family stories and names for my writing. Here is an excerpt of a family story about a the Garton's, lateral family, moving from Hill County, Texas to Oklahoma in 1899. The entire account is too long, so this is a portion taken from when the family had reached what would later become Harmon County, Oklahoma.
We camped at Mr. Brim’s because he had water. There was an empty dugout nearby. We moved into it because it was so cold in the tent. We had a sheet-iron stove, but there wasn’t any wood. Willy had pneumonia. The gyp dust of the dugout turned out to be worse on him than the cold, and so we had to move back into the tent. [Note: Dugouts were painted inside with gypsum solution, but also there was a lot of gypsum in the ground in this area.]
|Dugout in Indian Territory|
Oklahoma Historical Society
It didn’t take long for us to get initiated to the hazards of living on the prairie. Rain was our chief concern. Everyday we searched the skies for rain clouds. When we saw a rain cloud approaching, we always remembered what a settler’s wife had told Papa when we camped out on Turkey Creek. He had gone to try to buy food for the animals. He asked if it ever rained in Greer County. In a long drawn out tone she replied, “It don’t never rain in Greer County, but when it does, it don’t never stop.”
About two or three weeks after we arrived in Martin, we experienced our first sandstorm. Murray and Papa were digging the dugout, and the rest of us were working around the tent. We had spread all the bedclothes outside on the grass so they could air the damp out. We saw the black cloud coming from the north. We thought it was a bad rain cloud. It hit with all the fury of a spring rainstorm, but it was only wind and dust. Mama struggled to get the bedclothes off the grass while we kids fought to keep the tent from falling. Even Willy, who still had pneumonia, was trying to help. But the tent collapsed in spite of all our efforts. After it was over, Papa and Murray came running to us. Papa said that he had never been so frightened—he had thought the world was coming to an end! Later we found our pillows a half-mile away hanging on a barbed wire fence.
After that experience, we watched the skies for rain, those ominous black clouds, and another cloud of a different color. This was a gray cloud that meant an approaching prairie fire. All of the settlers feared these fires. Everyone plowed his fields to make a fire guard; but if the wind was strong, nothing could stop the fires. We were never burned out, but we lived in fear that we might be.
Murray and Papa finally finished the dugout. There we were—seven kids and Mama and Papa—and we didn’t own one dollar in cash. Mr. Brim helped Papa get groceries “on account” in Quanah. He had a fenced garden spot that he said we could use. Mr. Payne let us milk two of his cows. Then we started breaking land with our horses and that old mule. We didn’t make any crop that first year, but we did get all of the land broken. The second year we planted maize and cotton. Papa would dig the holes and I would place the seeds in the holes. The maize was the old goose-necked variety that grew as high as a man’s head and then curved back toward the ground. We had to cut each head separately with a knife. It was difficult for us to reach. Our hands would get cut by the sharp blades of the leaves and, once in a while, by the knife.
|Red River, courtesy Chisholm Trail Assn.|
We had to go to Quanah, Texas for everything. It had the closest railroad. Four or five families would sometimes get together and go over there because we had to ford the Red River. If the river was up, all of the horses would be hitched together in order to pull the wagons across one by one. We had to tie everything down in the wagons or we might see our supplies floating down the river. We would never know whether or not the river would be high. There might have been thunderstorms further west we knew nothing about.
It seemed like we were always in debt to that man at Quanah. I remember one of the first years when we made a good crop. Papa went to Quanah to pay off our bills. When he came home, he said, “Well, Susan, I didn’t tell you, but now I’ve paid it off I guess it can’t hurt to tell you. I mortgaged the mule last spring.” Mama was shocked. She fretted the remainder of the day. She said over and over, “Just think, if we hadn’t made this crop, we’d lost that mule, and then how would we have broken the land for next year’s crop?”
We made pretty good crops when we first came to Martin. The land was fresh and would grow anything if we could just get enough rain. Our biggest problem was getting water. We had to haul it from Quanah or catch it in rain barrels. When it rained, we filled every available container with water.
|Plowing with a mule|
The year after Papa mortgaged the mule, he traded it for the price of digging a well. The man had to dig 115 feet before he hit water. We had to draw all our water—even for the stock. Whose job do you think that was? Talk about “the good old days!” If I didn’t think Mama or Papa were watching, I would drive the cattle away—they would drink too much.
Our next biggest worry was the damage caused by the open range policy. Before the Herd Law was passed, the cattle would eat our maize crop and trample our cotton. There weren’t any trees around for fence posts. All the lumber had to be freighted in from Quanah. Besides that, barbed wire cost money, and we were always short of money. Willy got a job in Texas. That $10 a month he made sure helped us. One of most vivid memories relating to that open range policy was the day two bulls got into a fight on the top of our flat topped dugout. We were afraid to go outside because they might attack us, and we were afraid to stay inside because it sounded as if any second they could come crashing through the roof. Finally, they gave up and went away.
I was just nine years old when we moved from Texas. Oh, how homesick I would get for all those beautiful trees I used to climb (I was the tomboy of the family) and the creeks I used to wade in. I missed our big house too. Everything got so dirty in the dugout. My brother-in-law Ed, who had said this country wouldn’t sprout black-eyed peas, brought my sister Attie to see us. They decided to homestead north of us. We were all together then, and I knew there wasn’t much hope of going back.
All of us children had to work in the fields planting and harvesting. In the winter we went to school. I loved school and secretly dreamed of going back to Texas to high school. My aunt offered to take my older sister Lucinda and send her to high school so that she could become a teacher. When my sister refused, I asked Mama if I could take her place, but she shrugged it off by saying that I was too young and should stay at home.
|Dean, Johnson, other families|
Sunday was a big day for us. Everyone in the community gathered at church. After the services, all of the relatives would go to one relative’s home for dinner and visiting. Sometimes we would have a church picnic and singing after church. All of us looked forward to those particular Sundays.
Thanks for stopping by!
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Camels in the West
Evenings around our house often consist of my husband surfing channels on the TV from the couch and me writing on my laptop in the recliner. A few nights ago, he stopped on a ‘documentary’ that caught my attention.
Before the Civil War, the army, while trying to create a supply route from Texas to California, imported several camels, believing the animals would fare and perform better than mules and horses. The plan didn’t work as well as they hoped. It turned out the camels were unruly and rather nasty, and many of the men were afraid of them.
When the War broke out, the army men in Texas released the camels and relocated to the East. For years, people claimed to see a strange red beast carrying a headless rider on its back. Several events kept the story alive. A woman, home alone, was found trampled to death and huge, unidentifiable hoof prints surrounded her body as well as clumps of strange red hair. Others found such evidence too, miners awaken by strange noises, would discover red hair and huge hoof prints in the morning, and still more claimed to see the beast on the horizon.
Eventually a farmer shot the beast which turned out to be a camel. It still wore a military saddle that was said to have frayed ropes indicating something had been tied in the saddle at one time. The show went on to claim that years before an army man had been tied into his saddle while learning to ride one of the camels and lost control of the mount. Others pursued the animal, but to no avail and eventually had to give up. It was assumed the man died from thirst/hunger while strapped on the animal’s back and his corpse remained atop the camel until decaying enough to fall off.
No, I don’t have a camel in one of my upcoming stories, I just found the story unusual enough to repeat.
Monday, April 22, 2013
By Anna Jeffrey
Thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, ladies. It’s fun to talk about the West, fun to talk about Texas and fun to talk about books all in the same context.
I’ve lived in 4 of the western states and visited all of the others, but I’m a native Texan. And I guess I’m your stereotypical redneck Texan. Fifth generation. My clan was in Texas before the Civil War.
Everyone who has lived in Texas for any length of time, native or transplant, has heard the old adage, “Everything’s bigger and better in Texas.” And most folks believe that isn’t much of an exaggeration. What other explanation is there for the mass migration into Texas that is presently going on? The economy, the lifestyle, entertainment—all are a little bigger and better in Texas.
Just like California used to be, it’s getting harder and harder to find a native. When I was a kid, the population of Texas was around 7 million people and very few of them were born outside the Texas borders. Most of the “outsiders” we ran across had drifted in from Oklahoma or Arkansas, or Louisiana or New Mexico to work in the oil fields.
Now the population has more than doubled and is growing rapidly. Besides oil, farming and ranching, we have superior high tech and astrophysics companies and cutting edge clinics and hospitals. And the satellites these industries support. In Texas, there’s something for everyone.
So when I set out to write a contemporary trilogy, I had that ol’ Texas mystique on my mind. I wanted to present a story of an old Texas family set against a backdrop of big money, big oil and big cattle ranching, with over-the-top characters in the starring roles. Sort of like, but not quite like, the TV show, “Dallas.”
Thus, I came up with THE TYCOON, Book#1 in the Sons of Texas trilogy.
Here’s a short blurb:
“When Drake Lockhart, wealthy ranching scion and Texas tycoon, sees a stunning redhead at a fancy ball, electricity sparks between them. After an intimate tryst he can’t forget, the last thing he expects is for her to disappear in the middle of the night. Every minute spent with the vulnerable beauty has left him hungering for more. In an ironic twist of fate, he finds her, but all she wants from him is sex. Can he ever convince her she can trust him?
Shannon Piper was out of place at the ball. An intimate encounter with a man so far removed from her social hemisphere wasn’t on her agenda. He has a reputation for ruthlessness and is one of Texas Monthly’s most eligible bachelors, known for his history with women. Is a relationship based on just sex the way to protect her heart? Or is it the beginning of the most enduring love a girl with a sketchy past could ever know?”
So as you’re thinking about how *you* feel about the Texas mystique, read about it in THE TYCOON and let me what you think. It’s available from all of the online venues, and here's the Amazon link:
Besides being a Texan and a Westerner, Anna Jeffrey is an award-winning author of mainstream romance novels as well as romantic comedy/mystery. She's written six mainstream romance novels as Anna Jeffrey and two as Sadie Callahan. She and her sister have co-written seven novels as Dixie Cash.
Her Anna Jeffrey books have won the Write Touch Readers’ Award, the Aspen Gold, and the More Than Magic awards. They have been finalists in the Colorado Romance Writers contest, the Golden Quill and Southern Magic as well as the Write Touch Readers’ Award, the Aspen Gold and the More than Magic contests.
The Anna Jeffrey and Sadie Callahan novels are steamy contemporary romances. The Dixie Cash novels are a series starring two female amateur sleuths in far West Texas. They’re zany, almost slapstick, comedies. Most of them are for sale at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as other online venues. To learn more about Anna and her books, find her at:
Saturday, April 20, 2013
I was recently asked an important question by a fellow author. She wanted to know how
ties in with the Devlin siblings in my Texas Druids series. I answered her
briefly, but I’d like to give a more detailed answer here on Sweethearts. Texas
Jessie, Tye and Rose Devlin are offspring of Irish immigrants who fled their native land for the
in the late 1840s during the
Irish Potato Famine. Settling in U.S. ,
where the children grow up, the family might seem like others following the
American dream, but they harbor a secret. The three siblings and their mother are
descendants of a long line of Celtic Druids reaching back into the depths of
time. Each possesses a unique psychic talent they keep hidden for fear of
ridicule and ostracism. Chicago
A few years after the death of their mother, which sends young Rose running to a convent, Jessie and Tye live through the Great Chicago fire of 1871. You can read about their terrifying experience in White Witch, a novella preceding the trilogy. This prequel also showcases Jessie’s clairvoyant ability.
In Darlin’ Druid, book one of the trilogy, Jessie leaves home in search of a man she has seen in dreams and visions. Her quest takes her west via the transcontinental railroad. Along the way she meets Captain David Taylor, a Texan exiled from home after fighting for the Yankees in the Civil War, Their stormy romance takes them to
and a world of trouble, but they end up in ,
the hero's boyhood home. The last third of the book takes place in the lone
star state. Bosque County, Texas
And now, here's the cover for Dearest Druid.
As you see, the design is different from the first two books in the trilogy. As soon as I have a free moment I plan to change the other two covers to match this one. I'm also adding sub-titles and changing the name of the series. Some friends on Amazon's Meet Our Authors forum -- on the "Western Romance Authors Please Post Here" thread -- suggested using the family name. What do you think?
Click on the blue book titles to find them for Kindle and in print on Amazon. Soon to be available on Barnes & Noble.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
By Sarah McNeal
How an Easterner Writes A Western
When I write paranormals, I’m usually creating a fictional world, maybe combined with places I really know like Wilmington, North Carolina or Central Pennsylvania. Westerns present, on the other hand, need research. Although I’ve been to most of the western states and lived for a year in Nebraska and a year in Texas, there is much I don’t know about the western part of the United States. So, when I began writing westerns, I chose the state of Wyoming because it was wild, filled with independent thinkers and the first state to give women the vote. I had been there once on a trip with friends and fell in love with its rolling hills and wide open spaces. I remember getting out of the car and sitting on the hood of the car looking at the untamed landscape. A few wild buffalo were grazing nearby just below a bluff that overlooked the flat plains. I felt a kind of wild freedom mixed with fear. There I was, exposed to everything nature had: wolves, a buffalo stampede and, if I had lived a hundred years or so ago, Indians, perhaps Lakota.
I had to investigate everything about Wyoming except for the visual impression it left on me. I got out my trusty road atlas and found just the right spot in the hills on the western front that sat right against the Great Teton Mountains. I put my fictional town of Hazard beside the Green River, that runs parallel to the mountains and cradled in the hills right where I needed it to be.
I also had to study the great Lakota Indians and learn their beliefs and culture. Two of my characters are part Lakota.
The more I learned, the more I grew in respect and admiration. I went to a Lakota website, Lakota Prayers and Ceremonies (White Deer of Autumn) , and found some very useful ceremonies. Here is one of about smoking the ceremonial pipe:
Chanunpa Wakan (sacred pipe)
Connects the physical world with the spiritual world—the link between Earth and sky. SMOKE is our words, the fire in the pipe is the fire of the sun which is the source of all life. Tobacco is used because the roots go deep into the earth and its smoke rises into the sky.
“The ceremony invokes the relationship of the energies of the universe, and ultimately, the Great Spirit, and the bond made between earthly and spiritual realms is not to be broken.
The healing ceremony is intended to call upon and thank the six energies. (the four directions, the sky and earth—and the Great Spirit.
I used this ceremony in For Love of Banjo when he returns from the war in Europe and becomes acquainted with his uncle.
Another Lakota ceremony is smudging, a ritual that continues today.
A mixture of sage, sweet grass and tobacco in the sacred pipe and blown over the person and fanned with an eagle feather. The prayer is carried to the Great Spirit on the wings of the Eagle. It clears out negative energy and brings peace and relaxation—allows the person to put spiritual difficulties to rest.
(From “Secret Native American Pathways” by
Information for the ceremonies obtained from Native American Ceremonies and Prayers.
I also had to study the time period of each of my works in progress. Harmonica Joe’s
Reluctant Bride takes place in 1910. To be honest, I was very surprised to learn that industrial advancements had already begun by that time. Automobiles, although not mass produced, did exist and so did electricity. Wyoming had not become part of the grid yet, but New York City had electric street lights and more and more homes were converting to electricity on the eastern seaboard. My western characters had heard, or maybe even seen some of these modern conveniences even though they didn’t own them. Of course, my heroine, Lola, came from the future in a mysterious old trunk and was well acquainted with the modern world, but not so Joe Wilding. Being a man of science, Joe was very curious about the advancements around him and read about some of these marvels.
When I wrote the sequel, For Love of Banjo, many things had advanced. During this WWI story, planes were introduced as well as armored tanks. Clothes and social norms also changed dramatically between 1916 and 1918 in which my story took place.
1918 clothing and WWI Fighter Plane
An older character, Joe’s father, Ben Wilding, is enamored with modern things. He buys a tractor for the ranch which proves to be an important factor in a particular scene.
My father was born in 1912 and his history both in pictures and words helped to give me a perspective of this time in American history. I’m grateful for these memories he shared with me.
From my personal history handed down by my dad to my research of these time periods, I built a fictional world that I hope conveys the way life truly was from 1910 to 1918. Making an historical story believable takes time and effort, but so very worth it. Readers should be transported to the time and place in a story so they can experience it almost like actually being there. That’s half the fun in any historical, but even more so in a time travel story. Readers want to feel what the transported person feels when first discovering that have arrived back in time.
HARMONICA JOE'S RELUCTANT BRIDE
A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny.
FOR LOVE OF BANJO
Deceit stands between Banjo Wilding’s love for
and his search for the father he never knew. Maggie O’Leary
Banjo Wilding wears a borrowed name and bears the scars and reputation of a lurid past. To earn the right to ask for
’s hand, he must find his
father and make something of himself. Margaret
Will either of them find happiness?
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/136814Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=for+love+of+banjo+by+sarah+mcneal
Lulu : www.lulu.com/product/ebook/for-love-of-banjo/18927618
My Website: http://www.sarahmcneal.com
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
After my terrific cowgirl vacation at the Silver Spur Ranch in Bandera a while back, I realized I couldn’t leave Texas without a stay in San Antonio. “The Alamo,” I told Hubby. He nodded, having seen the structure during his army days at Fort Sam Houston. “It must be glorious,” I went on. “Huge and imposing like Westminster Abbey. Overpowering the city like Big Ben does London.”
He shook his head. “It’s something to see, but it’s kinda random. Small. Surrounded by hotels and shops. But you’ll love it.” And so I did. Despite its location amidst a bustling city, the Alamo grounds are surprisingly tranquil. Several times a day, I walked through them, sitting down to relax, enjoy, and ponder as well. The fountain is especially lovely, its four sides engraved with the names of four of the defenders, commander William Travis, his second cousin James Bonham, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crocket.
In fact, my hotel was situated on Bonham Street, where a long palisade had once stood.
Before leaving home, I picked a hotel that advertised seeing The Alamo from it. And so I could, looking down from my thirteenth floor. (Yes, thirteenth! Woooooooo.) Because The Alamo is a war memorial, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who are the custodians of the edifice, decreed that no man-made structures can cast a shadow on it, and this is now a building code. So I checked whenever I looked out.
Supposedly at one time, a grove of cottonwoods grew nearby, hence the name, since Alamo is Spanish for Cottonwood. Formal name is San Antonio de Valero Mission, and its purpose—long before its cornerstone was set in 1744—was a place to convert Indians to Christianity and to educate them.
As you may know, the Alamo’s chapel and compound were nearly destroyed in a 13-day battle in March 1836 by Mexican artillery fire against the Texian army of the four heroes mentioned above. Mexican general Santa Anna didn’t want the place to become a shrine to the estimated 190 defenders slaughtered there, so he gave a direct order that the mission be completely demolished. Not one stone was to be left standing.
In spite of his orders, the remaining walls of the chapel were left unharmed. Even though there wasn’t much left, Santa Anna’s direct order was never carried out. Nowhere in any Texian or Mexican war records is there mention that the general rescinded that order. Still, it was never carried out.
Tales and legends from Mexico as well as San Antonio insist that Santa Anna’s men indeed went to the building to carry out the order, but saw something that had them turn and run. “Glowing men with flaming swords” kept them from entering and carrying out the dirty deed.
Well, these guardian angels didn’t protect the mission for long. Or maybe folks reckoned the Alamo would still be guarded by the heroes who died defending her. But for the ten years of the Republic, this shrine to Texas liberty was mistreated, limestone already cut thieved to build other San Antonio structures. The two mostly-intact buildings, the chapel and the “long barracks” began to disappear piece by piece.
By the time Texas entered the United States, the chapel was a ruin, walls in places no taller than waist-high. The façade we know and love today was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1840’s when the military needed a warehouse to store grain and supplies and decided the old ruin was just the place.
By the 1870’s, the Army had outgrown this downtown headquarters and established nearby Fort Sam Houston north of town. No one knows just who “owned” the chapel by now and a private merchant used it for his storehouse. By the 1890’s, it became a quasi-tourist attraction, but many citizens considered it an eyesore. Both the city of San Antonio and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Texas claimed the site. After considerable litigation, the courts decided in favor of the church. The state of Texas bought the chapel and grounds it stood on, from the church, but the land surrounding the chapel—the land where the battle actually happened—passed into private hands.
Texas did little to restore the crumbling walls or preserve the building , and when the private industry closed its doors, a young woman named Clara Driscoll stepped in. She’d visited Europe, impressed with the preservation of its old buildings and historical sites, and was outraged at the condition of the Alamo chapel and the battle field. Through her letter-writing campaigns to newspapers and her membership in the De Zavala Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, she began whole-hearted efforts to begin proper preservation of this Shrine of Texas Liberty. This was in 1903. Her fight to preserve the land around The Alamo, as well as her personal money including the last $500 needed, brought out statewide sympathy. (Of course Clara’s battle was a lot more complicated and political than this but I reckoned she might deserve her own blog sometime along with her main rival Adina de Zavala.)
The state conveyed the property to the Daughters of the Texas Republic in October 1905, with Clara appointed custodian. Nonetheless, Adina de Zavala had possession of the keys, and it wasn’t until the DRT filed a civil action that Clara obtained them.
I’m sure glad Clara did. The Alamo is a shrine where only five non-military people survived the battle, a touchstone of history. A symbol of unspeakable sacrifice and courage.
How about you? Any historical site you like that should be preserved? Which ones are you glad have been restored?
|Coming this spring from The Wild Rose Press|