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Saturday, January 28, 2017


I've always been a pushover for the underdog. That is probably the reason I became a counselor in my "other life." Helping people solve their problems, pointing out their alternatives, and helping them map out a course of action was always very gratifying. So I suppose it was no wonder I was drawn to Mary Queen of Scots although it was several centuries too late to help her.
Skipton Castle where Mary Queen of Scots was a "guest." * 
My husband and I were living in England when I first became aware of this woman's sad plight. Oh, I had read enough history to be aware of  what happened but I had never before been close enough to the events to care. As we traveled the country on weekends, it seemed that Mary had stayed for a time in almost every castle we visited. I began to wonder why. When we went to Scotland and toured Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, we were shown the bed where Mary slept. It looked rather dilapidated and uncomfortable, covered with a nondescript gold-colored spread; yet in another  room a glass-enclosed bed was  covered with a spread of find tapestry. Why was a queen's bed left for tourists to bounce on if they chose while another bed was securely preserved simply for its finery, I asked myself.
Courtyard at Skipton Castle *

Much later, on another National Holiday weekend, we saw the site where Fotheringhay Castle had stood, and where the queen had lost her head, literally. There was only a small sign in a weed-covered field stating the castle's former location and no reference to Mary at all.

I began to ponder the inconsistencies. It seemed every castle in England wanted to claim that she had slept there, but the castle where she was beheaded no longer existed and castles are not easily destroyed. Even in her own country, she was almost ignored. I began to think of Mary Queen of Scots as an enigma and wanted to learn more about her. And the more I learned, the more sympathetic I felt. When I mentioned this to any of my English friends, it was quite obvious they did not share my sentiments. I suppose this had something to do with how the course of history would have been changed if Mary had somehow usurped the throne of her cousin, Good Queen Bess. But it is my opinion as an outsider that Mary would have been happy  to return to Scotland, rule her own land, and bring up her son James. And perhaps that might have made a difference in this boy king who allowed his own mother to die without lifting a finger to save her (though he finally did relent and have her entombed in Westminster Abbey)
Great   Hall at Skipton Castle *

In retrospect, I think it a pity that Mary didn't have better counselors to guide her.  There was her early marriage to Francis, that sickly boy who was heir to the throne of France.  Then the vain, ambitious Lord Darnley, and  worst of all, the ruthless Bothwell. Not a one of  them was worthy of her. By all accounts, she was beautiful and intelligent but she needed to learn to trust her own instincts. She made a lot of poor decisions, like stopping in England instead of going on to France when she fled Scotland for her life. My heart breaks for her--longing throughout all the years of her English captivity, to be invited to London to meet her cousin Elizabeth. And in her final hours, the way she met her death was an example of true courage.

And so, Queen Mary inserted her strong  personality into my thoughts until I was forced to put her into a book to get her out of my head. I had intended to give her a "walk-on" part but she had other ideas. She insisted on speaking! And I found myself creating other characters to showcase her. She did allow me to write a sweet romance between her innocent waiting-lady and a handsome, stalwart castle guard but she stayed in control of the story most of the time.

However, I can't begrudge her that. It was the least I could do for her. I really wanted to help her escape back to Scotland but one can't rewrite history without changing fact or fiction to fantasy, can one?  I hope that you will read Maid of the Midlands and that the tragedy of Queen Mary will touch your heart as it touched Matilda, Jondalar, and me. 

*Note: Skipton Castle (known as Hafton Castle in the book) was the setting for Maid of the Midlands. 





Thanks for reading my blog post today. I hope you'll leave a comment as I  always      welcome  hearing from others. And thank you for reading my books.  It is my wish that you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. Stop by often. I'll be here again next month and there will be other authors posting in between.
Linda Swift
Tales that Touch the Heart

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Nature of Short Fiction by #CeliaYeary #RebeccaJVickery

Several years ago, I bought a 1970 Edition Writer's Digest book titled "Handbook of Short Story Writing." This small book gives practical advice on the how-to's of: Ideas, Characters, Dialogue, Plotting, Viewpoint, The Scene, Description, Flashback, Transition, Conflict, Revision, and Marketing.
With the complete guide, one would think a budding short story writer would soon learn the knack of writing decent stories, and perhaps one day turn into Eudora Welty. You remember her, don't you? I recently found another treasure at my local Half-Price Book Store titled "A Curtain of Green and Other Stories," by Eudora Welty. The first printing was in 1941 and the book has been reprinted many times. Her works are taught in college English courses.

"Curtain of Green" contains seventeen short stories, ranging in length from twelve pages to twenty-five pages. In case you're wondering the exact length of a true short story, her stories probably can be considered the watermark.
The titles of her stories in "Curtain" are creations in themselves: "Lily Daw and the Three Ladies," "Old Mr. Marblehall," "Petrified Man," and "Death of a Traveling Salesman,"—to name a few.
You didn't know Eudora Welty wrote "Death of a Traveling Salesman?" She did—in 1930. And how many times has that twenty-five-page story been read, and re-read, and studied, and turned into a stage play?

She was born in 1909 and died in 2001, went to college but returned home to live out her days in the home where she was born. She never married, but was said to be a "dreamy" sort of girl. I believe this "dreamy" characteristic came about because she was creating stories in her head. We've all done that, haven't we? Looked dreamy? Or maybe in a trance?
I am no Eudora Welty, nor do I wish to be. But I value the short story more because of her talent, greatness, and influence.

These days, I'm turning more to writing shorter fiction. Call them what you will—short stories, short fiction, mini-novels, or novellas—each one contains the same elements as any piece of fiction.
In this busy world we live in, readers must often cram in a few pages here, a few pages there. The short story--or novella, etc.--becomes a godsend for a quick satisfying story to ponder.

Here is one example you may download, if you wish.

The Cattlemen's Ball-FREE-16 pages  
CY_TheCattlemensBall_free version.pdf

The story goes back to the original Cameron male, Ryan Cameron, who becomes the patriarch of the Cameron Family of Texas.
I wrote four "Dime Novels" for Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery. These are around 25,000 words each, and each has a Jimmy Thomas cover. Of all my books, these four Dime novels have been a very successful adventure.

In a short story anthology titled Rawhide and Roses, I have a short story titled “A Gentle Touch.” This anthology is an independent production, and all proceeds go to a horse sanctuary.


Since the Dime Novels were so successful, I wrote a Mail Order Bride Trilogy titled “Trinity Hill:A Texas Mail Order Bride Series)

What about you? Do you like a short story, or do you always choose full-length novels?
Thanks for visiting.
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/celiayeary
My Blog
Sweethearts of the West-Blog
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Monday, January 9, 2017

Rejection Can Rejuvenate by Sarah J. McNeal

Like so many writers I began writing at an early age. I was nine. I had no mentor, no one who inspired me to write, and no one in the family who wrote and could guide me through the pitfalls and show me the ropes. I was on my own to find my own way through the scary world of publishing. But I was an optimist and expected everything to work out just fine. In other words I thought my work would be published right away.

I learned the awful truth at the speed of light.

I had just turned 13 when I completed my first short story. Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, I had visions of greatness when I submitted my story to “Seventeen” Magazine. The submissions editor was certain to call me on the phone and personally thank me for my award worthy submission. I rode high on my dreams of becoming a published author for quite some time.

And then the day came when my self-addressed, stamped envelope came from “Seventeen”. My heart practically beat out of my chest with expectation. My hands shook with the surge of adrenaline from my excitement. When I opened the envelope and pulled out the form letter that simply stated that my story didn’t fit the type of work the magazine had in mind. I did what any kid would do with rejection: I cried. It was the first and last time I would ever cry over a rejection…and a good thing since plenty of rejections would come my way.
The amazing thing is, that rejection didn’t deter me from writing another story. I know my writer friends can relate when I say that the rejection just made me more determined than ever. Now I was in a fever to write good enough to become published. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I took correspondence courses through the mail from writing schools. Later, I took classes in writing in college. I joined Romance Writers of America. I subscribed to writers’ magazines like “Writer’s Digest” to find the answers to why my work was rejected and what I should do about it. I knew that writing was a highly competitive endeavor, but I honestly could not stop.

I began to take rejections that offered some kind of advice or critique of my work as golden opportunities to learn. Meanwhile, I went to work as a nurse and supported myself while I continued to write and reach for my goal of becoming published. I did not know any other writers then. I had no one to hash out my ideas or converse with about the road to publication. I was alone, having to figure it out as I went along.

And then in the autumn of 1996 when I was 48 years old, I got my first submission acceptance with a short science fiction story titled “Blind Intuition.” Words cannot fully express the elation I felt on that day. I cried—this time with profound joy. I called everyone to tell them my good news. My friends took me out to lunch to celebrate. My sister helped me celebrate by taking me out. I published four more short stories before I committed my writing to a novel length project.

I had a few rejections after that, but by that time, I took rejection in stride. I would just work harder. Eventually, I found a publisher that consistently liked my work. As my career began to move forward, I found other publishers more in line with my style and genre of writing and found more success. My only regret has been that my parents died before I became published. I think they would have been happy for me because they, above all others, knew how badly I wanted to be able to claim the title of “writer” and they knew my struggles to get worthy of success.

My Published Books (top shelf left of my Minions)

Rejection is hard to swallow. It was especially difficult for me at age 13. But rejection is a great motivator, too. If a person’s spirit tells them they should become a writer, absolutely nothing will stop that spirit as long as the person draws breath, to work toward the goal of becoming published. In fact, it never stops. Writers write because they cannot conceive of not writing. I personally think it’s genetic. Writers just never quit, never give up. We are built tough enough to take rejection and use it to our advantage. If I could explain how we got to be this way I would, but honestly, I don’t have the answer. It’s just who we are.

MYTHS, LEGENDS, AND MIDNIGHT KISSES/ Pennytook (my contribution)

Myths are supposed to be false…but some are terrifying and true.

Pennytook is a war weary Gypsy who longs for peace from the past and wants something meaningful in his life.
Esmeralda, a Gypsy trick rider, has harbored a deep affection for the chieftain, Pennytook, for many years. But her dark secret will never allow him into her life.
A mythological creature is about to unleash its horror and change the destinies of Esmeralda and Pennytook.

A deep ache spread through Pennytook's chest as he walked beside Esmeralda to the shelter where the horses rested. Something was very wrong and it filled him with dread. The night air had grown cold. He wanted to tuck his woolen cloak around her shoulders, but he knew she would refuse. The music of the tribe and the Chergari were distant now as if it were the music of the spirit realm. He shivered at the thought.
Excerpt: 2
As Esmeralda neared the ruins of the Dark Isle, her heart began to race and something like sparks darted all through her body. She realized she had made a terrible mistake leaving the safety of the Plains of Marja to travel to Castyava on her own. Hasty decisions made in anger or fear seldom worked out well.
Sensing the danger around her, she tried to keep to the edge of the forest away from the bubbling cauldron that had once been the vast Lake of Sorrows. The smell of sulfur and evil grew rank in the air. No birds sang from the forest. No crickets made music. No creatures crept along the forest floor or rustled in the limbs of the trees. Something evil menaced from the shadows of the woods. Esmeralda sought a place for cover. Minita could not outrun anyone or anything that might pursue her, but the black steed was strong and had the stamina to endure over a long distance. It was only a small advantage and no advantage at all if whatever stalked her possessed the ability for speed.
Something drew near. She had heard the rumors of monsters and knew the terrible legends told of the Lake of Sorrows and the Niamso who still kept vigil over the lake. Her heart pounded in her chest. She had been foolish to come this way alone. Nothing but pride had made her do such a thing. Pennytook had hurt her and now she might never be able to survive to make things right.
Buy Links: Smashwords   Amazon

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: