Tag Archives: American Civil War

Author Susan Macatee Shares Her Writing Journey and New Historical Romance

I’m pleased to have my friend and fellow Wild Rose Press author Susan Macatee with me today.  One of the nicest women I know and very talented.  Thank you for sharing your writing and your new story with us, Susan. What has this writing journey been like for you?

It’s been a long one. (*I hear you) I dreamed of being a writer when I was still in school and actually submitted my first story to a magazine when I was in college. It was rejected with a handwritten note from the editor. Being such a newbie, I didn’t realize this was a positive rejection, so was devastated, thinking my writing was no good.  *Yes,  we learn to we cling to the ‘good’ rejections.

Although I still continued to dabble in writing stories, I didn’t dare submit anymore.

Years later while a stay-at-home mom with my two oldest sons, I started dabbling again and purchased how-to writing books to sharpen my skills. It wasn’t until my youngest son started school that I joined Romance Writers of America. That started me on a serious journey toward publication, but it was years before my first romance novel, Erin’s Rebel, was purchased by The Wild Rose Press. I now have three novels and several novellas and short stories under my belt and have ideas for many more.

*Susan, please share a bit about your new release and characters?

Cassidy’s War is a post-Civil War romance based on an earlier published Civil War novel that’s now out-of-print. I used the same characters, but they’re now five years older and their lives have been forever changed by the experiences they lived through during the war.

The heroine, Cassidy Stuart, served as a nurse volunteer and worked alongside her physician father in his home town practice. Six months before Cassidy’s War opens, her father was killed in a carriage accident, but Cassidy wants to keep his practice going with the help of her older brother, a recent medical school graduate. Cassidy’s biggest ambition is to attend medical school herself, although the profession is frowned upon for a woman in that time period.

The hero, George Masters, served as a Union soldier during the war, alongside Cassidy’s brothers. Her oldest brother, Josh, was killed at Gettysburg and George, who was severely injured in the attack, witnessed his best friend’s death first hand. After recovering at home, he reenlisted and was captured late in the war, ending up in Libby Prison. After the surrender he returned home and proposed to Cassidy, then left two days before they were to be married.

Although post traumatic stress disorder wasn’t thought of in the Civil War, George did suffer from it. After five years of wandering, drinking and earning his living as a professional gambler, he straightened out his life and obtained a job working as a Pinkerton Agent. He returns to town undercover to investigate a new doctor in town who assaulted a young woman in his father’s practice in Philadelphia and is now hiding out in George and Cassidy’s small town trying to steal patients from Cassidy and her brother.

*Sounds very interesting and realistic.  I’ll bet a lot of them suffered lingering psychological trauma from that horrific war. My passion for the past has inspired me to write stories that are straight historical or paranormal romances with a historical bent.  What inspires you to write historical romance, and you also write paranormals, don’t you?

My years spent as a Civil War reenactor inspired me to write romances set in the period. What could be more romantic than gaslight, hoopskirts and a handsome man in uniform? I also write paranormal, because I’ve always loved reading and watching movies and shows with paranormal subject matter. My favorite paranormal element is time travel. It’s just so much fun to write about a modern day man or woman being thrown into the past to find love with a figure from history. I also have a few historical vampire stories out. I was inspired to write vampires from my years watching ‘Dark Shadows’, Anne Rice’s and the late Dawn Thompson’s books. In fact, I took a writing course from Ms. Thompson and she encouraged me to write a vampire tale.  (I love this pic!)

*An intriguing mix.  What helps you bring your historical characters to life and give them authenticity?

I learned enough of the small day to day historical details as a reenactor to give my stories that authentic feel. At least that’s what readers and reviewers have said.

*What challenges do you face in building emotional bonds between the characters?  I know I struggle at times when the H&H can’t stand each other, and have had to make some real adjustments, like a new pairing.

I use templates from a course I took a few years back on the psychology of building characters. I choose opposite templates for hero/heroine and use the personality traits of each type to give them tons of conflict, but they ultimately are able to work through all of that to find the happily-ever-after ending. And the templates make their decisions feel that much more realistic, because what they do is based on their personality types.

*A template hmmm….  Mine are often inspired by dreams.  But your practical approach sounds very helpful.  Which is more important in your stories character or plot?  And along those lines are you a plotter or do you write where the muse leads you?

I’m definitely a plotter, but that said, I have to develop the characters first. Without a well-drawn character, I have no story. But I wrote my time travel romance, Erin’s Rebel, without a detailed plot outline and spent over a year getting the story straightened out enough to submit. I decided I needed to plot out all my stories, particularly full-length novels, if I was to get them written and submitted in a year or less. Otherwise, I was just wasting time and effort. Can’t wait on a muse. Lol

*I wait on that doggone muse with a butterfly net in hand.  We have a very different approach, but yours works well for you. What do you find most rewarding about your writing career and not so rewarding?

Seeing a book with a beautiful cover and my name across it, is the most rewarding aspect of writing. I also enjoy the writing process, especially the first draft where I bring my characters to life.  *Ah yes.

The least rewarding is the time and effort spent on book promotion. While I enjoy interacting with readers, most of the time I end up just sending excerpts and promo info out into cyberspace. It’s less time I can spend in the actual writing process.  *Yes indeed.

*What advice would you give to new writers just beginning this journey?

If you get a rejection with a handwritten editor’s note, get to work revising and resending that story to someone else. And learn all you can about writing technique. If I’d done that from the start, I might’ve published years before I did. And lastly, you have to be determined to stay the course for the long haul. Despite stories you see in the news, it’s rare in this business for anything to happen overnight.  *Took me 12+ years to get published.

*Also, what are some of the things you often see beginning writers doing wrong?

Probably some of the same things I did in the beginning. Sending out one submission at a time and waiting months, even years for a response. And it was always a rejection. You need to keep writing, keep submitting, so you always have something out or in the works. It makes rejections so much easier to take.  *Amen to that.

*What’s next for you?

I have a new novella coming out in April from The Wild Rose Press. Cole’s Promise is a Civil War romance and part of the ‘Love Letters’ series.  *oh good.  I’m especially looking forward to this one and you joining me in the Love Letters series.

Here’s the blurb: Cole Manning, a Union lieutenant serving during the height of the American Civil War, expects a letter from his best girl, Hannah, who promised to wait for him.  But her post contains an unwelcome surprise.  She’s marrying someone else.  Heartbroken, he vows no woman will ever fool him again.

Claire Hirsch’s fiancé died in battle during the first year of the war.  Because she could no longer sit at home mourning, she volunteers to assist doctors in the camps.  Scarred by his death, she knows loving a soldier can only lead to heartache.

Cole and Claire find solace in each other’s arms, but is their love strong enough to overcome the fear of losing the one they love?

I’m also finishing up a new time travel novella called Thoroughly Modern Amanda. The story is a continuation of my Civil War time travel romance, Erin’s Rebel. But this story is set in 1881 in a small Pennsylvania town.

*Sounds fabulous, Susan.  I hope you will return and share more with each of these exciting new releases and mega congrats  Is there anything else you would like to share with, or ask our readers?

I’m a complete baseball fanatic and live for baseball season every year. I’m hooked on my local team, the Philadelphia Phillies. I try to attend at least one game each season and watch the rest on cable. I hardly miss a game. I   also have a collection of bobble heads that sit on top of my writing desk. lol

*Who knew. 🙂

*Finally, where can we buy your books and find you on the web?

My books are featured at many sites, including my website: http://susanmacatee.com

My blog: http://susanmacatee.wordpress.com

My group blog: http://slipintosomethingvictorian.wordpress.com

I also have a Twitter account https://twitter.com/#!/susanmacatee

An Amazon author page http://amazon.com/Susan-Macatee/e/B002GILTIS 

And Goodreads author page.

Blurb for Cassidy’s War:

The Civil War is over, but Cassidy’s War is just beginning.

Cassidy Stuart longs to attend medical school. Training beside her physician father and serving as a nurse during the war, have only increased her desire to be a doctor with her own practice.  When the man who’d left her at the altar returns, she’s determined not to let him upset the plans she’s set for herself.

Until his mission is accomplished, George Masters must hide his identity as a Pinkerton agent as he investigates a physician living in George’s former hometown, a short distance from Cassidy’s home. When he finds Cassidy hasn’t married, he hopes he can rekindle their love while trying to protect her and townsfolk from the evil Dr. Madison.

Can their love be renewed despite the villain’s desire for revenge against them both?


The man in the door wasn’t Matt, but George. Had her mother let him in? He eyed her and frowned, his gaze drifting to the post in her hand.

Oh, Lord, just the man I don’t want to speak to right now.

“Cassie, Matt tells me you got a post.”

Drat, Matt! She chewed on her lower lip. Might as well tell him, he’ll find out anyhow.

She swallowed. “It’s from the medical school in Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania.” She dropped her gaze.

“And?” George prompted.

“They won’t accept me as a student.” She gazed into his eyes and shrugged. “I shouldn’t have tried.”

“I’m sorry, Cassie.” He stepped to her side and settled his arm over her shoulder. “I know how much this meant to you.”

She longed to collapse in the comfort of George’s arms. She’d found solace there years ago, when she thought him the man for her. But instead, she stiffened her spine.

“It’s all right,” she said. “It was foolish of me to try.”

George enveloped her in his strong arms. She bit her lip hoping to stave off the torrent of tears threatening to course down her cheeks. She yearned to bawl and scream at the injustice. She had the same credentials as Quinn, except for his experience as a steward during the war. But she’d served as a nurse, basically the same thing. Why wouldn’t they allow her to try?

George rubbed her back in an all too familiar gesture. The men in her life always felt the need to soothe her hurt away. Her father would’ve done the same.

She glanced up, frowning. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

He grimaced. “Not happy to see me? Reckon I deserve that. I spoke to Quinn. He told me he’ll be rebuilding your father’s practice.”

She nodded. “Now, he’ll be able to see patients over the summer and I’d hoped…” She swallowed, crumpling the post.

“It’ll all work out, Cassie.” He spun her to face him, and she buried her face against his rock hard chest. He’d filled out since she’d seen him five years ago.

She raised her face to his, losing herself in his dark gaze. He brushed her cheek with his fingers, then lifted her chin, sending delightful shivers through her body. Her lips parted in anticipation as he lowered his face to hers. His mouth brushed hers, gently at first, then pressed against her, shooting hot sparks to her core. His comforting scent of sandalwood, leather, and male enveloped her.

She sighed into the kiss, her tongue swirling inside his mouth. Her insides coiled with spiraling heat. She’d never been with a man and often imagined what it would feel like to have limbs intertwined, bodies pressed tightly with the one who set your soul aflame.

“Oh, George,” she gasped as he released his hold. Her skin moistened, body growing hotter by the minute. As a physician she knew what went on between a man and woman, but George sent her analytical thoughts spinning as want and need threw everything to the wind. She didn’t want the kiss to ever end.

“I know exactly how you feel, Cassie, but we have to stop now.”

“I know.” She nodded, not wanting to leave the warmth of his strong arms, but knowing she must. She gestured to one of the chairs.

“Sit, I’ll make tea. Then you can tell me why you’re here.”~

*Excellent excerpt.

Thanks for hosting me today, Beth!

*Enjoyed having you.  I share your fascination with the Civil War and love the Victorian era.

Cassidy’s War is available at The Wild Rose Press.

Civil War Historical Romance Thorns of Eden

I’m pleased to welcome Diana Ballew as my guest.  Her new release, Thorns of Eden,  set during the Civil War, is a welcome addition to the world of American historical romance.   So much focus centers on Regency England in the historical romance realm and so little on America.  Time to hearken back to our roots.  With that in mind, here’s Diana to share her writing journey.

What do you think makes Thorns of Eden different? What will draw readers to it?

And along that same line, do you feel a strong pull to the people and the time periods you write about?

Civil War romance novels are few and far between these days. That alone helps them to stand out. I wanted Thorns of Eden to be different right from the start. Rather than have the hero and heroine on opposite sides of the war, I chose to have both Rayce and Eden siding with the South and smack dab in the middle of conflict at every turn. I never shied away from the slavery issue. In fact, the subject is addressed from a surprising angle you rarely hear about.  But this story is a passionate romance above all else.

*Sounds fabulous to me, and one I want to read.  And I absolutely love that cover!  And now, back to Diana.

Yes, I truly do feel a very strong connection with the people and time periods I write about.

So do I.  How long have you been writing?

Like most authors, I’ve been writing for years. It started out just as a hobby when I was younger; mostly poetry and shorty stories. As I grew older, I needed to write full-length novels because I had entire stories and characters rattling around inside my dizzied head and they wouldn’t go away.  Thorns of Eden is one of those stories.

I well understand how that is.  So tell me, are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

I’m a Pantser—all the way. I don’t want to know how the story will unfold or how the characters will react ahead of time. They guide me as I write the story. The ending of a novel comes to me when I’m about 2-3 chapters away from the finale, and I’m usually quite surprised at the turn of events that lead up to the end.

I’m very much a pantser too, trying to become more of a plotter but not with a great deal of success.  Where do you find the inspiration for your ideas/plots? Have dreams influenced your work?

There’s a story waiting to be told in everything we do, everything we see, and even in everything we perceive.  After spending twenty years in genealogical research, I’ve always been drawn to writing historical romance. Regardless of the genre, human nature has not changed. Deep emotions are as relevant today as they were many centuries ago.

Dreams do play into my novels from time to time. I’m a very vivid dreamer. Throughout the day, I remember those colorful dreams and mixed emotions I felt while sound asleep. I have a notepad on my night table, and I’ve been known to bolt up out of bed and jot down the latest bizarre dream.

Same here and I so agree with you.  Do you write in silence or listen to music?  What is essential to your writing process, coffee, chocolate…

I usually write in silence, but sometimes I’ll write while listening to soft music. Additionally, I can’t stand the feel of anything tight around my waist while I’m writing. I need to be in loose, comfortable clothes.

The family tease me about my favorite sloppy ‘wolf’ T-shirt and I just got another.  Speaking of wolves, have you killed off any characters?  If so, how did you feel about that, and did you have anyone in mind that character was based on in real life?  I did.  🙂

Sure, I’ve killed off characters. Frankly, it wouldn’t be realistic writing a Civil War romance where everyone escapes unscathed during that brutal war. I don’t take the death lightly. I try to write the scene so the reader feels as conflicted as I do about the character’s death, yet somehow resigned to their passing. All my characters are based in part on someone I know ; )

Wonderful way to vent.  Do you research your story before you write it?  Or as you go?

With Thorns of Eden, I researched the entire American Civil War before deciding on the exact time and place this story would unfold.  Still, the intriguing storyline and vibrant characters required a lot of research as I went along, too.

I’ll bet.  That’s a lot of research.  Do you enjoy it?

I adore research. It’s a great passion of mine.

Mine too.  Do you have a favorite character?

Wow! Tough question and it really shouldn’t be hard to answer. If we’re talking about my books, I’m in love with Major Rayce Hampton. There, I said it. Yes, the man just does it for me, and I still dream about him. If we’re talking characters from other books I’ve read, I’d have to say my favorite characters are Ignatius J. Riley from A Confederacy of Dunces; Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights; Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

I’m with you on Heathcliff.  What is one thing your readers would find surprising about you?

When I was young, I crash landed in a fiery airplane on Wake Island.  Now that’s surprising, especially that you survived.

Do you ever stray from your genre? Your comfort zone?

All the time, but my full-length novels are always historical in nature.

Has your writing journey been a smooth or bumpy ride?

I took it slow at first, never expecting anything would happen quickly. With that in mind, I would have to say it was a smooth ride overall. Thorns of Eden sold almost right away.

What advice would you give to a new/ aspiring writer?

Write and don’t stop. Sounds simple, huh? Well, it’s not, and I can’t tell you how many writers struggle with taking the time to write. Life always gets in the way of writing, so finding the time doesn’t just appear on a silver platter—you have to seize the necessary time.

Excellent.  Thanks for sharing with us.  And I hope you’ll come back soon.

A quote from The romance Reviews says it all:  ‘Holy smokes! This is one AWESOME novel! Diana Ballew knew EXACTLY what she was doing when she penned the words that make up this incredible historical novel. Her readers will instantly fall in love with, not only the beautiful characters, but the scenes, the sounds and the feel of a nation torn in two.’   by ReviewsbyMolly

For more in Diane and her new release please visit her website at:  http://www.dianaballew.com/

Thorns of Eden is available at  Amazon.com: Kindle and Print  B&N for NOOK and other online booksellers.

*Images of the Civil War, the beloved Confederate Generals Jeb Stuart and  George B. McClellan.  General Joseph E. Johnston, commanders of the Union army in the Peninsula Campaign.  The very hot Major Rayce Hampton, the hero in Thorns of Eden, and the lovely heroine Eden Blair.

Historic Sweedlin Valley, West Virginia

To escape the heat and refresh ourselves with cool, green woodlands, my husband and I drove back into the Alleghenies this past Sunday.  One stop, a secluded little valley called Sweedlin in West Virginia.  Not only is the area rich in beauty but also in history.  We came upon an old Methodist church, abandoned now, but apparently in use for many years.  During the Civil War, the congregation split over divided loyalties and formed a second church.  This original building eventually fell into disuse.  It’s very quaint tucked back among the trees near a pond.

Not far from the church is the site of Fort Seybert where a bloody attack on the settlers sheltering in the fort took place during the French and Indian War.  For a historical account of the massacre and events leading up to it click here.  The Indians don’t come off looking very good, but the account was written back before anyone gave their side of the matter a thought.  And it was a brutal affair.

Also, I discovered a facebook group dedicated to Fort Seybert that says: “Remembering the more then forty white men women and children that were murdered captured and kidnapped by the Shawnee Indian‘s at Fort Seybert and Fort Upper Track on Apirl 27th and 28th 1758. A Story Long Forgotten.”~

Not forgotten by me.  I certainly keep the colonial frontier in mind with all my research and the novels I’ve written and am writing set in that dramatic time period.   But I’m rather unique in this regard.

*A very old drawing of Fort  Seybert.

Every September during the Treasure Mountain Festival the reenactment of the burning of Fort Seybert is a key event.  Quite a production.  I should go again.  Colonial Reenactors turn out in droves and it’s kind of a wild time.  If you like that sort of thing.  Which I do, but it’s rather smoky when they torch a small reproduction of the fort during the play.  With all due respect to those who lost their lives, of course.

The original graves of the fallen settlers are preserved beneath an ancient tree, (old photograph on the left).

The reenactment and tiny cemetery gives you an awesome sense of history, and a sobering one, as we remember that tragic event.  What took place there is part of the inspiration behind my Native American historical romance novel Through the Fire.   The fort in the novel is based on a compilation of forts from that era including Seybert.


TOUR RULES: (I didn’t write them) 🙂



3)  THIS TOUR STARTS:  Monday, July 18, at Midnight (Arizona Time) THIS TOUR ENDS: Monday, July 25, at Midnight (Arizona Time) Winners will be drawn and posted July 26th! ***




***Authors have full discretion to choose an alternate winner in the event any winner fails to claim their prize(s) within 72 hours of their name being posted or after notification of  win, whichever comes first. Anyone who participates in this blog hop tour is subject to these rules***

Undiscovered Treasure in the New World~

To quote Shakespeare, ‘All that glitters Is not gold,’ but SOME of it is.  The lure of buried treasure, an occasional flight of fancy for some and a soul-selling obsession for others, is an ageless fascination.  No soul bartering here, but I’ve done some research for would be treasure hunters and discovered  there are many yet undiscovered troves in America.  Apparently in every state according to the book Buried Treasures You Can Find by Robert F. Marx.   An interesting and informative read, however the font size decreases to minuscule proportions when Mr. Marx reaches the part of the book where he actually lists possible sites, so don’t expect me to recap without a magnifying glass.  Instead I’ll touch on some of his general  guidelines.  I, for one, would be happy to discover even a single gold doubloon , but it would have to wash ashore.  I’m not scuba diving.

Author Robert Marx has been treasure-seeking ever since he quit his newspaper route as a youth and has recovered an astonishing array of lost, hidden, or mislaid treasure both on land and plucked from the depths of the sea. First of all, he says you need a good metal detector and devotes pages to weighing the merits of various kinds.  Agreed, a premier detector would be fun to have, and considering I live in historic Virginia, I might actually find a Civil War button or something from the past which would thrill me.   Bear in mind that I’m easily delighted.  I once unearthed what I thought were shards of old pottery while planting a peach tree that turned out to be the remnants of an antiquated septic system.  Not very exciting.  However, my determination to dig the hole deeper in search of my imagined find got the tree planted in a hurry.  The most I’ve ever unearthed on our farm are old medicine bottles, but I’m fond of old bottles and have a kitchen windowsill filled with them.

The next step Mr. Marx advises after you’ve conducted a thorough study of metal detectors (I haven’t) and made your purchase is to learn how to use it properly and practice, practice.  Yada, yada,  we’re up to page 63 now–this book is for serious seekers–when he describes some of the most famous still to be discovered caches, also discussing WHY people bury treasure.    I assumed because they didn’t want thieves to find it, but there’s more.  In Colonial America banks were rare and often unavailable so most people buried money on their property.  Indians might suddenly attack  or the British were coming, so they prepared for calamities, possibly dying before recovering their money.

During the Civil War people in the South buried their treasures not only to keep them out of enemy hands but to avoid having to donate to the Confederate Treasury for the war effort.  As before, the ‘safest bank’ was a hole in the ground or some other secret location.  Some of the largest undiscovered treasures occurred during the Civil War: Excerpted from the book Civil War Gold & Other Lost Treasures by W. Craig Gaines. “The really big lost treasure is that of the Confederate Treasury in custody of Jeff Davis upon leaving Richmond, fleeing the Yankee hordes. Portions of it are believed to be in Greene & Morgan Counties of Georgia. The combined hoard is believed to be between $500,000 and $600,000 in gold, the combined values of the Richmond Bank & Confederate Treasury. Most made it to Washington, Georgia, but an untold amount remains unaccounted for.”

On the Western frontier, there were many cutthroats who preyed on hapless pioneers, and Lord knows those gold prospectors were justifiably paranoid.  So they kept their big strikes secret, some taking that knowledge with them to the grave.  And there were the gamblers, soldiers, saloon keepers…who hid their earnings.  Not to mention the stage-coach robbers who hid their  loot while escaping from the posse,  thinking to return for it later. But they didn’t all.   Get the picture?  Untold treasure is still out there–somewhere.

If you’re seeking a specific cache, and there are some famous ones, Mr. Marx says to first be certain it truly exists and isn’t the stuff of legend.  Would you believe some disreputable people will  try to sell you treasure maps that aren’t actually genuine.  *Shakes head.

Mr. Marx suggests seeking documentation recorded as closely to the time of the original event as possible and that old newspapers and books are a valuable resource.  If you’re just searching out potential historic sites, then he suggests ports, river banks, anywhere construction is moving earth, old homes, ghost towns, abandoned trash dumps from bygone days… Mr. Marx has oodles of suggestions and lists them by state.

***As a participating author in this Treasure Quest Blog Hop,  the book of mine that best fits the theme is light paranormal/time travel romance Somewhere My Lassin which the hero and heroine seek an ancient relic with miraculous powers.   So I’m giving away three digital downloads of this novella chosen from visitors who leaves me a comment (remember to leave a contact email too).

Blurb for Somewhere My Lass:

Neil MacKenzie’s well ordered life turns to chaos when Mora Campbell shows up claiming he’s her fiancé from 1602 Scotland. Her avowal that she was chased to the future by clan chieftain, Red MacDonald, is utter nonsense, and Neil must convince her that she is just addled from a blow to her head–or so he believes until the MacDonald himself shows up wanting blood.

Mora knows the Neil of the future is truly her beloved Niall who disappeared from the past. Although her kinsmen believe he’s dead, and she is now destined to marry Niall’s brother, she’s convinced that if she and Neil return to the past, all will be right. The only problem is how to get back to 1602 before it’s too late.

The balance of the present and future are in peril if she marries another, and the Neil of the present will cease to exist. An ancient relic and a few good friends in the future help pave the way back to the past, but will Mora and Neil be too late to save a love that began centuries before?~

Any treasure hunters out there?  If so, happy hunting!

****For the next stop on this Mega Author Blog Hop please pop into: http://iousex.blogspot.com/2011/07/treasure-quest-discovery-lies-between.html




The Setting & Inspiration for Native American Historical Romance Through the Fire

THROUGH THE FIRE opens in 1758 at the height of the French and Indian War in the Allegheny Mountains in what is now West Virginia, but was western Virginia then.  The state wasn’t divided until the Civil War when West Virginia broke away and joined the union as a separate state.  But that’s another story.  At the time of THROUGH THE FIRE, the Virginia colonial frontier was vast.   The fort assault in the story is a compilation of assaults I researched with the invaluable aid of a local anthropologist/archeologist who goes on frequent digs to try to discover the sites of these old Virginia forts.

The number of Catawba warriors involved in the novel is a stretch as there were never that many taking part in a pitched battle in Virginia, however the tribe fought for the British during the French and Indian War, and were fierce enemies of the Shawnee.   Plus the Catawba often sent war parties into the Virginia frontier.  The warriors thought nothing of traipsing from their home base in the Carolinas to kick butt in Virginia and farther north.  A hardy, resourceful, and tenacious people as were other tribes such as the Shawnee whom I  feature in my work .

In the movie, The Last of the Mohicans, the story supposedly takes place in the colonial frontier in New York State, but was actually filmed in Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina which the producers felt most closely resembled the Adirondack Mountains.    Some of the scenes took place across the valley in what was once known as Carson City and Hickory Nut Flats.   For more on the setting for the movie click here.

A great deal of conflict with Native Americans occurred in the Virginia frontier–more than we know because people were too busy fighting to survive to record it all.   Historian Joseph Waddell says we know only a fraction of the drama that occurred in the Virginia frontier during the Indian Wars.   Historians can only conjecture as to the rest of it all.

One point I disagree with in the film is the implication that the only land available to poor people was somewhere farther north in New York State.  Heck, plenty of Scots-Irish headed back into the Alleghenies to stake out homesteads and erect forts.  Other than this, I felt the film was mostly correct and is one of my all-time favorites.

Back to THROUGH THE FIRE, the opening was inspired by a dream in which I saw the heroine, Rebecca, her sister Kate, the attack on the frontiersmen the women were traveling with, Rebecca’s fall from the horse, Kate’s escape on her mount, and the hero, Shoka’s, arrival on the scene.  All of this made a vivid impression on me.  Also, that Shoka didn’t approve of Rebecca.

Research on top of research, yet more dreams, and inspiration followed to bring this novel to completion, along with the help of historians and the Shawnee themselves.    A letter I came across from Virginia’s Governor Dinwiddie (a prodigious letter writer) asking what happened to the militia he sent out from Fort Loudon in Winchester to a fort in the interior of the Virginia frontier also lent inspiration to the ‘what ifs’ behind the novel.

Yes, this adventure romance has a The Last of the Mohicans flavor, but it was never my intent to reproduce that story, and many elements of Through the Fire are quite different, including its mystical weave.   Research into my colonial American roots were the initial impetus for the leap into writing this and my other American historical romances.

My fascination with stirring tales of the colonial frontier and Eastern Woodland Indians is an early and abiding one.  My English/Scot-Irish ancestors were among the first settlers of the Shenandoah Valley and had family members killed and captured by the Indians.  Some people returned and left intriguing accounts of their captivity, while others disappeared without a trace. On the Houston-Rowland side of the family, I have ties to Governor Sam HoustonPresident James Madison and Malcolm 1st of Scotland.

Family annals list early names like Beale, Jordan, Madison, and Hite (a German connection I discovered).  A brief account of my grandmother (nine generations removed) Elizabeth Hite, says her sister Eleanor was taken captive and sister Susan killed, though not by which tribe. Their brother Jacob was killed by the Cherokee in South Carolina.

Another ancestor, Mary Moore, is the subject of a book entitled The Captives of Abb’s Valley.  A Moffett forebear captured as a child became a boyhood companion of the revered Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. When young Moffett grew up, he married into the tribe and had a son, the inspiration behind my Native American historical romance novel Red Bird’s Song.  An ancestor on the Churchman side of the family was invited by the Shawnee/Delaware tribes to help negotiate a treaty with the English because he was Quaker and more sympathetic to their plight.

In THROUGH THE FIRE, I invite you to journey back to a dramatic and fascinating time long forgotten by most.



Murder Mystery/Ghost Story Romance Novel Somewhere My Love and Ebook Giveaway~

QuantcastIt’s the two-year anniversary of the release of my début novel Somewhere My Love which inspires me to do a post in its honor.  I loved writing this story, and it has received many enthusiastic comments and reviews. ~ Greatly appreciated.  If you would like to read the novel, leave me a comment to that effect.  I will choose a winner for a free digital download.  *Leave me an email.  Drawing on Nov. 1st.

“As I read Somewhere My Love, I recalled the feelings I experienced the first time I read Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca long ago. Using deliciously eerie elements similar to that gothic romance, Beth Trissel has captured the haunting dangers, thrilling suspense and innocent passions that evoke the same tingly anticipation and heartfelt romance I so enjoyed then, and still do now.”
~ Joysann, Publishers Weekly

Inspiration for Somewhere My Love

I’ve read that Virginia has more ghost stories than any other state in the Union, not necessarily because we have a more fertile imagination, but sadly because the Old Dominion has seen more bloody battles over the centuries than any other. Think back, Jamestown (1607) was the site of the oldest successful English settlement and its history is a violent one. And on we go to the many heart-rending wars fought with the usurped Indians, a number of them waged on Virginia soil. March on to the Revolution; anyone heard of Yorktown, to name just one famous battle? And let’s not forget that horrific most uncivil of wars, much of it fought in, you guessed it, Virginia.

And yet, this multitude of hauntings doesn’t only feature soldiers caught in an endless fray who haven’t gotten word the war’s over, although there are legions of tales that do and entire companies of ghosts said to battle on. Many tales feature the myriad of people, great and small, who dwelt in our richly historic state. The old Virginia homes and plantations have accumulated a wealth of such stories.

Thus, it was while touring some of these English styled manor homes with my dear mother that I conceived the idea for my paranormal romance, Somewhere My Love. Added to this meld of vintage Virginia is my own heritage, a vast source of inspiration from my childhood. On my father’s side, I descend from old Southern gentry, now impoverished after the Civil War, Great Depression, and various other misfortunes, including the untimely death of my brilliant grandfather. But the gracious Georgian home his ancestor built (circa 1816) still stands outside the historic town of Staunton.

Chapel_HillsmI was ever determined the family home place was haunted and wove stories through my fevered mind, along with my continual search for Narnia which entailed frequent treks into the old wardrobe. But I digress. The magnificent ancestral portraits in my family and on display in other Virginia homes held me transfixed, wondering. And it was just such a portrait of a striking dark-haired gentleman who embedded himself in my thoughts. Who was he? Why did he die so young? That other painting of the fair young lady…did she love him?

Often, the guides at these old homes are brimming with tales. But other times we are left to wonder…and ask ourselves are these folk who’ve gone before us truly gone, or do some still have unfinished business in this realm? And what of the young lovers whose time was tragically cut short, do they somehow find a way? Love conquers all, so I answer ‘yes.’

The old family home place, Chapel Hill, pictured above.

P&E Logo thing

*Somewhere My Love won the 2008 Preditors&Editors Readers Poll for Best Romance Novel ~ Available in Print and E-book from my publisher  The Wild Rose Press and various online booksellers.

Herbal Cures From The Shenandoah Valley

These cures are recorded in Shenandoah Voices by late Shenandoah Valley historian and author John Heatwole. I knew John and much admired him.  He left a wealth of information behind in his books.

For a sprained ankle take catnip, sprinkle salt on it and bind it to the ankle. ‘Mullin tea’ was also used for sprained ankles.  The leaves of the mullin plant were boiled in vinegar and water and the ankle was bathed in it while it was still warm. ~

I like mullin’s soft fuzzy leaves.  As wildflowers/weeds go, it’s not a bad one.  Reaches an impressive size.

Turpentine was also rubbed on a sprain.  You never covered it or it would burn.~

Catnip tea was made for children with the colic.~

Queen Anne’s Lace made into a tea is said to relieve backache.~

Sage and honey tea is a good brew to give to someone with pneumonia.~

Drinking tea made from aromatic sage is said to keep a woman’s hair from turning gray prematurely.~

Lobelia tea was used by Thomsonian herb doctor Gabe Heatwole as a purge.  Lobelia is an annual or perennial plant of the bellflower family.~

Goldenseal and Comfort Root (*Pinelands Hibiscus or Cut-leaf Hibiscus) teas are good for an upset stomach.~

If you have kidney problems, swamp root tea can be used for relief.~

Greasy mustard plaster was used on the sufferer’s chest for a deep cold. To avoid being burned by the mustard, this plaster was made with lard and spread on a cloth that could be laid on the sufferer’s chest without burning. ~ Another non-burning plaster was made with mustard, lard, and egg whites.~

A family in Singers Glen used a mustard and lard poultice for pneumonia.  When the patient’s chest started to turn red, it was removed. The patient was washed off thoroughly, and then a hot onion poultice was applied. ~

*Pics in this post are of our farm and the Shenandoah Valley, but
the pumpkin patch pic is of a different farm.

For a bad cold or pleurisy, they’d put lard on your chest with salt sprinkled on it of a night.~

A tea made a peppermint leaves will stop a stomachache.~

Pennyroyal tea was used to break a fever, for upset stomach and to treat the common cold. It is of the same family as mint and yields aromatic oil.~

During the Civil War, some Valley soldiers chewed slippery elm bark when in battle or on the march. It was said to relieve thirst and hunger.~ I haven’t tried this, but then I’ve never been that hungry, thank God.

Miss Gray Pifer of Mt. Crawford said that ‘horehound grew down near the creek. Momma made a horehound syrup with brown sugar for coughs. ~

In Page County a woman said that her grandfather smoked a corncob pipe, and if a child in the family had an earache, he’d blow smoke in the ear as a cure.  She also said for spider bite, you should cut a piece from a new potato and hold it against the bite. Eventually the potato will turn black as it absorbs the poison. ~


I’m teaching an online class on Herbal Lore and the Historic Medicinal Uses of Herbs in October.  Registration runs through Oct. 2nd at: http://heartsthroughhistory.com/herblore.html