Thursday, May 28, 2015

Heroes and Heroines That Aren't Perfect--by Cheryl Pierson

How do you feel about a hero or heroine who isn’t physically perfect? As a reader, are you interested in those kinds of characters? What about as a writer—are these the kinds of characters you want to introduce and develop in your storylines?

The first book I ever read with an “imperfect” hero was THE TIGER’S WOMAN, by Celeste De Blasis. The story takes place in San Francisco, 1869, and seems to be one of those that people either love or hate. For me, it was an eye-opener—I’d never read a strong, masculine, virile hero who had any kind of infirmity. Jason Drake’s is a limp.

Another one that comes to mind is A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen Woodiwiss. The heroine is “sold” by her father to pay his gaming debts to a mysterious man, Lord Saxton, who keeps himself covered to hide disfiguring scars from a terrible fire. I can’t say too much about these books without giving away spoilers, but both of them have many reviews that speak for them and their quality.

Mary Balogh’s book SIMPLY LOVE (one of the “Simply” quartet) is the story of an English aristocrat who has lost his arm and eye, and his face has been disfigured on one side. These are war injuries from “the Peninsula Wars”—and of course, he believes no woman will ever want him. He’s become reclusive. Enter Anne Jewell, mother of a nine-year-old son. UNWED mother, to be exact.

Our own Kathleen Rice Adams has a short story, THE LAST THREE MILES, in the Prairie Rose Publications anthology, WILD TEXAS CHRISTMAS (yep, another Christmas story!) “Can a lumber baron and a railroad heiress save a small Texas town?” With Kathleen writing it, you can bet they’re going to give it their best shot, even though Kathleen’s hero in this one is confined to a wheelchair!

My own foray into writing a hero with a physical impairment is more modern. It’s a Christmas short story called THE WISHING TREE. Our hero, Pete Cochran, has been to the Middle East and suffered a devastating wound—the loss of an eye—shortly before he was to come home. Now, he works at his dad’s Christmas tree lot, just trying to heal his own mind and spirit…and then, a miracle happens. Maria Sanchez and her son, Miguel, stop by the lot one day and everything changes. You all know I believe in happy endings, but I don’t want to give any spoilers!

What about heroines? I’ve read books about heroines who have been lame—I can’t remember the titles right now. How do you feel about “imperfect” heroines? Are those more interesting than the heroes who suffer a permanent wound?

I would love to hear from everyone about this. I’m very curious as to what y’all think. So let’s hear it—and if you have read or written any books to add to this list, please DO!

I know it’s not Christmas, but I will be giving away 2 digital copies of THE WISHING TREE to two lucky commenters today! Thanks so much for coming by!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


This is a true story of rags to riches. Christopher Columbus “Lum” Slaughter claimed to be the first male child born of a marriage contracted under the new Republic of Texas. He was born on 9 February 1837 to Sarah (Mason) and George Webb Slaughter in Sabine County.  Lum was a ranching pioneer, banker, millionaire, and philanthropist. Yet at one time, he was so poor he had to ride bareback because he didn’t own a saddle.

Christopher Columbus "Lum" Slaughter
He was educated at home and at Larissa College in Cherokee County. As a boy he worked cattle with his father and at age twelve helped drive the family's ninety-two-head herd to a ranch on the Trinity River in Freestone County, where the family moved in 1852. Because of his expertise in herding cattle across the often swollen river, he was regularly employed by drovers bound for Shreveport with Brazos-country livestock. At age seventeen he made a trading expedition hauling timber from Anderson County to Dallas County for sale and processing Collin County wheat into flour for sale in Magnolia, Anderson County, a trip that yielded him a $520 profit.

With what must have seemed vast wealth to him at that time, he bought his uncle's interest in the Slaughter herd. Having observed the better quality of the Brazos stock, he persuaded his father to move farther west. They selected a site in Palo Pinto County, well positioned to provide beef to Fort Belknap and the nearby Indian reservations. In 1856, Lum drove 1,500 cattle to his new ranch.
On 5 December 1861 (possibly 1860), Slaughter married Cynthia Jowell of Palo Pinto, Texas; they had five children. After being widowed in 1876, he married Carrie A. Averill (Aberill) in Emporia, Kansas, on January 17, 1877; they had four children.

When open war with the Indians broke out in 1859, he volunteered his service and was in the expedition that unexpectedly liberated Cynthia Ann Parker from a Comanche camp. With the withdrawal of federal protection during the Civil War, Slaughter continued to fight Indians as a lieutenant in the Texas Rangers. He also served under Capt. William Peveler in Young County in the Frontier Regiment, part of the effort to maintain frontier protection during the war.

Nadua and Topsannah, 1861
Cynthia Ann Parker and Prairie Flower
When the Confederacy fell and Indian harassment continued, Slaughter and other ranchers started for Mexico in search of new ranchland. During the expedition Slaughter suffered an accidental gunshot wound that incapacitated him for a year, causing a nearly ruinous decline in his cattle business. After his recovery he started a cattle drive to New Orleans in late 1867, but en route contracted with a buyer for a Jefferson packing business to sell his 300 steers there for thirty-five dollars a head in gold, a large sum. At some time during this period, people began referring to him as Colonel Slaughter.

With his new stake he began regular drives to Kansas City in 1868, selling his herds for as much as forty-two dollars a head. He sold his Texas ranching interests in 1871 and in 1873 organized C. C. Slaughter and Company, a cattle-breeding venture, which later pioneered the replacement of the poor-bred longhorn with Kentucky-bred blooded shorthorn stock. By 1882 a herd shipped to St. Louis received seven dollars per hundred pounds, several times what he could have made selling in Kansas. His income increased until it reached $100,000 per year, at which time he began giving away money to charitable purposes, donating from 10 to 25 per cent of his income to philanthropy each year.

In 1873, Colonel Slaughter moved his family to Dallas and a few years later dissolved his partnership with his father. About 1877 he established one of the largest ranches in West Texas, the Long S, on the headwaters of the Colorado River and there grazed his cattle on the public domain. Desirous of becoming a gentleman breeder, Lum purchased the Goodnight Hereford herd in 1897 and the 1893 Chicago World's Fair grand champion bull, Ancient Briton. In 1899 he acquired the famous Hereford bull Sir Bredwell for a record $5,000.

C.C. Slaughter home, Dallas
Through these purchases Slaughter's purebred Hereford herd became one of the finest in the business. Around 1898 Slaughter undertook a major land purchase in Cochran and Hockley counties. He bought 246,699 acres, leased more, and established the Lazy S Ranch, which he stocked with his Hereford herd and mixed breed cattle from the Long S and consigned to the management of his eldest son.

In 1877, Slaughter helped organize the Northwest Texas Cattle Raisers' Association (later the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association), for which he also served a term as president in 1885. He was the first president of the National Beef Producers and Butchers Association in 1888, an organization formed to combat market domination by the meat-packing industry.

Frequently titled the "Cattle King of Texas," Slaughter became one of the country's largest individual owners of cattle and land. By 1906, he owned over a million acres and 40,000 cattle and was the largest individual taxpayer in Texas for years. For a time "Slaughter Country" extended from a few miles north of Big Spring for 200 miles to the New Mexico border west of Lubbock. By 1908–09, however, he opened his Running Water and Long S Ranches to colonization and sale.

Hereford cattle
Failure of the land company promoting colonization caused much of the land to revert to his ownership by 1911. Under the management of Jack Alley, it was restored to profitability by 1915. Slaughter maintained strict control over his operations until 1910, when he suffered a broken hip that crippled him for the remainder of his life, compounding problems caused by his failing eyesight. He consequently turned the business over to his eldest son, George.

In addition to ranching, Slaughter participated in banking in Dallas where he helped organize City Bank in 1873 and invested in the bank's reorganization as City National Bank in 1881. At that time he became its vice president. In 1884 he helped establish the American National Bank, which evolved by 1905 into the American Exchange National Bank (later First National Bank). He was vice president from its organization until his death.

Slaughter was a Democrat and Baptist who contributed two-thirds of the cost for the construction of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and served as vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as president of the state Mission Board from 1897–1903, and as an executive board member of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 1898–1911. His support of a plan to retire the consolidated debt of seven Texas Baptist schools and coordinate their activities into a system capped by Baylor University assured its acceptance by the general convention in 1897.

C. C. Slaughter breaking ground for what
would become Baylor Hospital in Dallas
Slaughter also contributed generously to the establishment of the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium, which later became Baylor Hospital in Dallas. This is especially interesting to me, as both our daughters were born at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. He also contributed to the medical school and to the Nurses Home and Training School.

Colonel Slaughter often summed up his philanthropic philosophy saying, "I have prayed the Master to endow me with a hand to get and a heart to give."

Slaughter established this Free Clinic for Minorities
He died at his home in Dallas on 25 January 1919. However, his death precipitated a tangled family financial scandal. Less than a week after his death, his younger brother Bill, with whom he had had a long and strained financial relationship but who managed the Long S, was accused of fraud. Bill had attempted to sell his nephew Bob Slaughter’s new Western S Ranch on the Rio Grande in Hudspeth County to an unknown company from Mexico. 

C, C. Slaughter grave, Greenwood Cemetery, Dallas, Texas
Learning of the fraudulent negotiations and backed by his brothers, Bob confronted and fired his uncle. Although Bill Slaughter later filed a $3 million slander suit against his nephews, he apparently never collected anything from it. Colonel Slaughter’s family continued to give to causes close to the heart of C.C. Slaughter, and Baylor Hospital became one of many testaments to his generosity.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Picture Perfect Kiss

The post isn’t about the west, but I hope no one minds. While in California earlier this month, I visited the Unconditional Surrender Statue in San Diego. I knew of the ‘kiss’ but not the story behind it, which is worth sharing. I hope you think so, too.

I need to note, there are several versions of the story, and this is the one the Naval Institute (which is also part of the display in San Diego) shared.

The famous 1945 photo wasn’t staged, nor did the two people know each other. Matter of fact, the picture didn’t even become famous until years later, and the two people didn’t even know about the picture until the late 1970’s. 

Greta Zimmer was a dental assistant (at the time they wore the full ‘nurse garb’) in New York and on August 14, 1945 was at work as usual. After dental patients coming into the clinic said the war had ended, during her lunch break, Greta went down to Time’s Square to read the news herself on the lighted Times news zipper in the windows on the third story of their building. 

That same day, George Mendonsa was looking forward to spending his last day before being shipped out again with his new girlfriend, Rita. Because Rita liked how he looked in it, George wore his uniform to take Rita to a matinee that afternoon. Shortly after it began, the show was interrupted by the announcement the war had ended. 

George and Rita left the movie theatre and hurried to Times Square, where a multitude of people had gathered, reading the same lighted message as Greta. Gaiety overtook the entire area, and people rushed into ‘water holes’ where shot glasses of whiskey were passed out in celebration. George tossed back more than one glass in his excitement. Jubilant, he rushed back out into the crowd, and there, amongst the mass, he saw an angel. He remembered a time when he’d rescued maimed sailors from a burning ship, and how the nurses, angels in white, took care of them afterwards. 

In the heat of the moment, George rushed to Greta and without asking permission, kissed her. 

Greta’s first response was defense (in some photos—several were taken by other people besides the Life magazine reporter—her hand is clenched in a fist and rising). Perhaps because she understood George had no intention of hurting her, she surrendered to the kiss.  

Afterwards, without a word, Greta and George parted. George did offer Rita, who had watched the kiss from the sidelines, an apology for what had happened, but she had no objections. Greta simply returned to work. Little did they know that Alfred Eisenstaedt, a Life magazine photographer, had snapped four photos of them. One which would become his most famous photograph, Life magazines most reproduced, and one of the most popular photos of the 20’s century.

Years later, when the photo gained popularity, a search for the identities of the nurse and the sailor had several people coming forward, claiming it was them. Neither George nor Greta knew about the photo until contacted. George and Rita (who had been married several years then) recognized the photo because of Rita in the background, and Greta recognized herself because of how straight the seams where in her stockings, she took extra care in assuring they were always perfectly straight. 

One last fun thing for us about the statue in San Diego is that the walkway leading up to it is engraved with the names of people who donated money to have it erected. As my sister and I were walking along, I looked down and said look at that. Our parents were Earl and Mary, and there were their names. The donor’s names were actually Dr. Earl and Mary Parson. As you can see, we strategically covered up those parts.

Now, wasn't that worth sharing?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Top Ten Ways to Die in Yellowstone

Top Ten Ways to Die In Yellowstone
by: Peggy L Henderson

For my post today, I thought I’d stray away from the usual western-themed topic to talk about one of my favorite things - Yellowstone!
Yellowstone had been in the news a lot in recent weeks, from "bears chase tourists in Yellowstone" (that's the sensationalized headline the news media would like you to believe),  to boulders crashing down on a popular trail, to a teen getting gored by a bison, and a man falling almost to his death in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (huge kudos to the park rangers who rescued him). 
As summer approaches, and folks flock to the national parks, it's important to remind everyone to use common sense and follow the rules, and not become a statistic and to stay safe. 

Here are some gruesome facts about ways people have been knows to die in Yellowstone, whether it was early tourists in the 1800’s, or people visiting the park today.

Boiling in a Hot Spring
People have fallen in, jumped in to rescue dogs or personal items, or thought it was safe to bathe in . Some of the springs reach temperatures in excess of 200 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Death by Bison
Gorings and stompings by bison occur often because people don’t heed the warnings to stay at least 25 yards away. These animals may look slow and docile, but a two ton bison can charge at 35 miles per hour. That’s faster than the average human can run.

Lightning Strikes
Most lightning strikes occur while out boating or hiking, and not having adequate cover when a storm hits. 

Aside from car accidents and illnesses, drowning claims more lives than any other danger in Yellowstone. Several deaths have been reported as recently as 2007–2010. Swimmers who underestimate their abilities, boaters whose boats capsize, and hikers who fall into a lake or river account for most of the drownings.

Poison Plants and Gases
Water hemlock looks a lot like an edible wild parsnip or carrot, but it's a virulent poison. For both of the confirmed deaths, it was, unfortunately, their final meal. Deadly hydrogen sulphide, which occurs naturally in Yellowstone, killed a worker helping to dig a pit in 1939.

One fall involved a driver who backed his car off a cliff, killing both himself and his wife. Several workers have died after falling from scaffoldings or buildings. Others who have fallen to their deaths from cliffs have ignored warning signs and wandered from established trails.

A number of people froze to death or died in avalanches in Yellowstone during its early years. Since 1921, however, such deaths have been very rare; three people died in two separate avalanches in the 1990s.

Rolling Rocks
Setting a boulder tumbling into a canyon might seem like innocent fun until you realize there are hikers down below. One person died this way, while several others were killed by rocks that were unintentionally dislodged or just happened to fall.

Falling Trees
Although rare, deaths from being hit by a tree have happened several times in Yellowstone, either during logging operations or windstorms.

Grizzly Mauling
The first documented death caused by a bear in Yellowstone happened in 1916; the latest two, in summer 2011, after a gap of 25 years when no bear-related deaths were recorded. Visitors have died while hiking, sleeping in tents, or getting too close to a bear while trying to snap that perfect picture.

This list was complied from one of my favorite books about Yellowstone. For more details about deaths in America's oldest national park, check out Death in Yellowstone - Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park
By park historian Lee Whittlesey.
In the introduction, the author states, “Play safely, and think before you act.” 

Now go out and enjoy your national parks!

I've used several of these scenarios in my books set in Yellowstone and in the neighboring Tetons, and in one book, Yellowstone Promise, a character from the past comes to the future. Here are a few quick scenes on how I pictured my character from the nineteenth century to view some of the "touristy" things that happen in the park today:

Chase led her along more pathways toward the rim of the canyon. While the canyon itself hadn’t changed, the rim certainly had. Trees had been cleared to make way for the smooth trails, and to accommodate the parking lot. Wooden fences lined the path, and rocks had obviously been placed as barriers in areas along the edge. Signs on wooden posts announced that the area was dangerous, and people could fall to their deaths.
“Is it really necessary to post these warnings?” Sarah asked. Did people not see the dangers for themselves?

“Yes, and people still fall over and get killed,” Chase said.

The hills whipped past at an unbelievable pace. Much of her surroundings became a blur, until the vehicle suddenly slowed. In front of them, dozens of cars stood still along the sides of the path and even in the middle, making it nearly impossible for anyone to pass. People stood off in the meadow, staring and pointing at the hillside. More people ran across the path to join the others.
“What’s going on, Chase?” Sarah leaned forward, but the belt across her chest stopped her. “What are all those people looking at?” From a lifetime of habit, her hand reached to her waist, then she moved it again. Her knife wasn’t there.
“Probably a bear, with this many people,” he muttered.
“A bear? Why are people seeking out a bear?”
Chase chuckled. “To get a picture. This is one of many reasons why people come here. To see the wildlife.”
“Picture?” Sarah asked. She shook her head. Bears were to be avoided if possible, not sought out. She’d never comprehend this strange world.

Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Author of
 Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance