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Sunday, October 27, 2019

What reviews are telling me about my latest book

I wrote eight science fiction novels and one afterlife fantasy/family drama before I ventured into the new territory -- or, to be more accurate, the two new territories -- of historical romance. I've enjoyed reading historical fiction for years, admiring the diligent research necessary to make the past come alive and doubting I could pull off such a feat. More recently, I've been reading both historical and contemporary romance, and wondering whether romance was among the kind of stories I could tell.

Last November, the doubting and wondering gave way to the headlong dive into storytelling known as National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo or NaNo). I wrote the rough draft of what became What Heals the Heart, a historical romance (caveats to follow) set in 1874-1875 Nebraska.

The book came out October 15, 2019, and has accumulated 12 reviews on Amazon and 17 on Goodreads, with average ratings of 4.6 stars and 4.16 stars respectively. (You may, if you like, consider that the two sites have different descriptions of what their various star rankings mean, with Goodreads the more demanding of the two.) Some of these reviews, as well as others on neither site, also appeared on various blogs.

Here's what I've learned from the reviews so far.

First: I seem to have succeeded in writing historical fiction. Despite having done my research from my computer rather than by traveling to distant archives and sneezing on decades' worth of dust, reviewer after reviewer has commented on the immersive quality of the historical detail.

Second: whether I've written an "exquisite" or "grand" or "fresh" historical romance or, instead, a story that isn't exactly historical romance depends on what the reviewer expects historical romance to be. Reviewers that equate historical romance with "bodice-rippers," or whose picture of Western historical romance in particular involves "heaving bosoms, rough and tumble cowboys, [and] hard-scrabble living," were not so sure the book was a romance -- though these reviewers still, on the whole, found it a satisfying read. On a related note, those who expect romance novels to focus almost exclusively on the central couple are less likely to classify this book as a romance.

Third: at least according to the few reviewers who commented on this point, I managed to deal with psychological trauma -- specifically PTSD, sometimes called "soldier's heart" during and after the Civil War -- in a sufficiently sensitive and effective way. Those reviews came as quite a relief.

Fourth, and no surprise: you can't please everybody. This doesn't particularly trouble me, as I did not expect to be the first author in literary history to do so.

On the whole, I've been gratified and touched by how this book has been received.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

What Heals the Heart is now available in ebook and paperback! [please insert trumpets]

I'm delighted to report that my historical romance What Heals the Heart (Cowbird Creek 1) is now available in ebook and paperback editions. The preorder link I've been putting at the end of all those excerpts is now the Kindle purchase link. You can easily get to the paperback page from the Kindle page, but here's the direct link for the paperback as well. The paperback has also made it to Barnes & Noble.

I haven't yet published any ebook editions outside Amazon. I'm starting the book out in Amazon's Kindle Select program, which lets Amazon Prime subscribers read some number of books for no additional charge via Kindle Unlimited. I'll assess the results as the initial ninety-day term nears its end. Please weigh in via comments if you would want to purchase an ebook copy elsewhere.

I've gotten some lovely reviews, most or all of which you can see on the book's Goodreads page. It's taking longer for the reviews to show up on Amazon, but there are four so far. I've also included some favorite bits from blog reviews in the "Editorial Reviews" section.

And given all the angst (on both sides) and patience (on Kelly's side) that went into making the cover, I'm very pleased and grateful that the cover, designed by Kelly Martin of KAM Design, has been drawing rave reviews of its own. The book is on tour via Silver Dagger Tours, and one after another comment praises the cover. (I urge my readers to check out the tour stops, some of which feature portions of an extensive author Q & A I submitted to the tour organizer.)

So what's next? Well, my near-future WIP, Donor, has made some progress while I've been waiting for What Heals the Heart to come out -- but I've switched focus to getting ready for next month's National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo or NaNo). My NaNo project: the next book in the Cowbird Creek series!

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Excerpt from What Heals the Heart -- a startling encounter with Clara

This will probably be the last excerpt I post before What Heals the Heart comes out on October 15, 2019. It comes considerably later than the excerpts I posted earlier, but contains no real spoilers (given that the blurb for What Heals the Heart describes Clara as enigmatic and bearing her own scars).

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Joshua had learned over the years to assume a calm and reassuring manner, whatever the condition in which a patient presented himself. Such a demeanor calmed the patient in turn, giving confidence that the doctor could cope with whatever mishap, or even calamity, had occurred; and a calm and confident patient would be easier to deal with.

But it took a positive effort of will to avoid any sign of alarm when Hawkins, of all people, banged at the door of Joshua’s office, pushed it open, and entered with Clara Brook leaning on his arm, shivering and pale.

Even as Joshua stared, Clara straightened up and looked about her in evident dismay. She muttered something under her breath; Joshua could not catch the words, but it had the rhythm of a curse.

Hawkins led her to a chair and pressed her into it before addressing Joshua. “I was passing by the town square when I noticed Miss Brook sitting on a bench nearby. I tipped my hat and said good morning, but she didn’t say nothing back to me. Well, that wasn’t like her, seeing as we’re acquainted, so I looked closer, and I saw she looked poorly, as you’ll have noticed when we come in. Well, I may know a thing or two —” Hawkins paused and thrust his chin up and his shoulders back, then slumped down again. “But I don’t rightly know what to do when a young lady gets the vapors. So I thought, may as well bring her over here and see what you could do for her. But looks as if she’s going to be just fine, without no special treatment.”

Indeed, as much color as Clara usually possessed, if not more, had returned to her face. A moment more, and she stood up, her posture almost aggressively straight. She took the barber’s hand. “Thank you for assisting me. I am only sorry to have caused you concern.”

“Weren’t no trouble, miss. And I’m right glad to see you looking better. I’ll be on my way.” He smiled at her before releasing her hand, nodding stiffly at Joshua, and taking his leave.

Clara shook her head as if dislodging unpleasant images. “I hope you will believe that I am not often afflicted with what Mr. Hawkins calls ‘the vapors.’” She paused and went on more quietly. “Or at least, not for such causes as are traditionally attributed to delicate females.”

Joshua would have very much liked to inquire as to other likely causes for her symptoms, now or in the past, but her manner made all too clear that any such question would be unwelcome. He could not force his diagnostic efforts on her. “Are you feeling quite well again?”

Clara lifted her chin in a gesture echoing Hawkins’ defiant posture. “Perfectly. You’ll have no need to rummage for smelling salts or other such remedies.” She forced a smile, an expression that sat poorly on her face and troubled him more than a frown would have done. Then some thought evidently crossed her mind and gave rise to a look of more genuine amusement, or even mischief. “And I defy you to hold so firmly to your low opinion of Mr. Hawkins, after he has demonstrated such gallantry.”

As more than once before, she left him stammering for a reply. She awaited none, but turned and fairly marched out the door.

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And of course, here's the preorder link. You can also see some early reviews (ten at last count) on the book's Goodreads page.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The most gratifying aspect of some recent reviews

I'm gradually accumulating pre-release reviews of What Heals the Heart, my first historical romance (also first romance and first historical fiction). They've been quite favorable, which is a delight and a relief. But what I find most gratifying is one common thread.

I have read historical fiction for many years, and historical romance for maybe four or five. Since I started (or if one counts juvenilia, restarted) writing fiction, I've been both intrigued and intimidated by the thought of writing historical fiction. To be sure, I did research for my various science fiction novels, but that somehow seemed less challenging, despite my limited scientific background and knowledge.

So I'm especially gratified that reviews have praised the book's attention to historical detail and the accuracy of same. Somehow, I appear to have pulled it off! Phew!

Now I have to manage as well with the second book in the Cowbird Creek series, which I intend to start writing during this November's National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). One area I already know I'd like to research: the attitudes of the farmers and townspeople in 1875-1876 Nebraska toward cowbirds. I didn't realize, when writing What Heals the Heart, how negatively many birders and others view cowbirds. Cowbirds lay all their eggs in other birds' nests, to the detriment of the enlisted bird species. I suspect this would matter less to my characters, but I hope to find out if that assumption is correct.

Here's the preorder link, where you can see excerpts from some of those reviews.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Excerpt from What Heals the Heart: the course of true love takes a detour

I don't believe it's a spoiler, in a romance (historical or otherwise), to make clear who ends up with whom. In What Heals the Heart, Joshua and Clara eventually come together. But recall (if you've seen the blurb) that self-proclaimed matchmaker Freida Blum doesn't care for Clara. Here, about a third of the way through the book, one of Freida's attempts seems more successful than those that came before.

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Well, that was a first. Freida had come bearing gifts, generally edible, and she had come to him or asked him to come to her when she felt poorly, but never had she asked him for an actual favor. “One of my customers, a widow, so sad, still so young. She’s been so eager for her new dresses, hers are worn to rags, but the neighbor who was going to bring her into town, he got too busy, I hate to make her wait. Would it be too much trouble, you could take me there tomorrow morning, maybe you have a patient to see on the way?”

He could in fact go see the old woman with a leg abscess, which shouldn’t take too long to drain and bandage. Her son’s place was considerably farther away than the young widow’s farm, but Joshua could deal with the abscess first, and then swing by to deliver the dresses on the way back to town.

Freida took her knitting along — “It’s a lovely day, I’ll be all right in the buggy, finally I’ll get some work done on this shawl” — and they set out, a well-rested Nellie-girl taking them quickly out of town. Freida hailed almost everyone they passed, calling out questions about their news and well-being even though those greeted had little time to answer before they were left behind. She did not, Joshua noticed, greet Clara Brook, apparently out for a walk on the outskirts of town; Joshua took it upon himself to wave instead, tipping his hat and receiving a grave nod in return.

Soon they were out in farm country and passing corn growing tall and green, with tassels stirring in the breeze, and here and there the vivid red flash of a Summer Tanager, all accompanied by the sweetly varied chirps of meadowlarks. Freida kept up a stream of chatter, with the rumbling buggy wheels as counterpoint. Quite a bit of it concerned the customer in such need of new clothing. Joshua’s vague sense that Freida was up to something soon yielded to the glum conviction that the whole errand was orchestrated to bring Joshua and the customer together. Joshua paid as little attention as he could manage, determined to form his own opinion.

The old woman’s leg was more swollen, the old bandages more saturated and odorous, than Joshua had hoped. She had probably ignored his instructions to stay off it as much as possible and keep it elevated. He repeated the orders she had already flouted, drained and cleaned the abscess again, bandaged the leg, and left with a dour sense of futility.

Back on the road, the fresh breeze and birdsong helped put him back in a tolerably good humor by the time they pulled up to a neat little farmhouse with flowering bushes lining the front. It did not look familiar. If the husband had taken ill after Joshua came to Cowbird Creek, it was possible they had called the doctor in Rushing for some reason, or that Joshua had been on one of his infrequent trips out of town.

Joshua helped Freida down and then retrieved the large linen-wrapped bundle that must contain the dresses. As they approached the door, Joshua could hear the murmur of a woman’s voice, the steady rhythm suggesting she was reading aloud. At Freida’s firm knock, the murmur ceased, and shortly afterward, the door opened to reveal a woman holding a little girl in her arms.

The woman was of less than medium height and seemed entirely composed of curves, from the loose curls allowed to escape and hang around her face, to her arm holding the child, to what he could see of her figure, to her gently welcoming smile. He must have seen her before, and probably more than once — in fact, she looked vaguely familiar, more than, say, Clara Brook had at first — but he had never noticed her face and figure. Perhaps he had encountered her only in winter, when she had been muffled in an overcoat.

She looked up at them, her round blue eyes lighting up as she stepped back to allow them inside. “Oh, thank you! I feared it might be days or even weeks before I could be decently dressed again.” Then she looked up at Joshua and said, “I’m Mrs. Arden. Thank you so much for bringing Mrs. Blum. Do come in.”


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As always, I make it easy to preorder the book by providing the link.

Monday, September 09, 2019

How can I not quote this lovely review?

I already posted the link to author Kathryn Blade's advance review of What Heals the Heart on Facebook and Twitter, but I can't resist highlighting some bits of it here. Getting a review like this ranks high among the joys of being an author.

After saying some nice thing about the book's handling of its time period, the setting, the characters, the love story, the plot, and the writing style, Blade goes on:

"My world felt right while reading this book, as if I’d found an old friend and sat for a while to drink coffee and chat about life or love.

"I give What Heals the Heart five out of five stars. It is one of the best modern historical romances I have read in recent years. . . .

Ms. Wyle, if you’re out there reading this, just know I’m a huge fan now."

I'm reading it. And I'm teary-eyed, and very grateful.

(P.S. Here's the preorder link.)

Monday, September 02, 2019

Another (longer) excerpt from What Heals the Heart -- a difficult childbirth

Today's excerpt from What Heals the Heart, my upcoming historical romance, comes about one-fifth of the way in. It shows Joshua at work once again, in a more dramatic context than the excerpt I posted earlier. It also shows another reason, besides haunting wartime memories, that Joshua might hesitate about seeking a wife.

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The farmer stood in Joshua’s doorway twisting his hat. “It’s been more than two days, and the baby’s not come yet. She’s had three before, and no trouble. She didn’t want to send for you, said it’s women’s business, but . . . I finally told her I was coming to fetch you.”

Joshua gulped down the cold coffee he always kept on hand. He would need all his wits about him this night. “You go on back to your wife and tell her I’m on my way.”

Heading to the livery stable for his horse, Joshua ruminated on the ironies of his practice where babies were concerned. Some families, generally the wealthier ones or those determined to show how modern they were, would call him in when the woman’s mother and sisters or a midwife could handle things perfectly well. Others, like this farmer’s wife, resisted the idea past the point of reason, sending for him only when things had become desperate.

He had delivered one dead baby. That had left him with a wholly different nightmare his brain could use to torture him. But so far, he hadn’t lost a mother.

The coffee had cleared his head enough for him to notice his surroundings. He led Nellie-girl out into the balmy spring night and imagined the farmer saying, years from now, to a little boy or girl, “It was a fine night like this one when you come into the world . . . .”

Nellie-girl hadn’t been out for three days, so she had energy to spare, frisking about and then cantering along at a good clip. They got to the farm only a few minutes after the farmer. An older woman waited in the yard as Joshua rode up, a shawl wrapped around her and her arms crossed tight on her chest. “My daughter’s upstairs. We’ve sent the young ‘uns to my sister’s. I think maybe the baby’s turned wrong way around.”

Joshua followed the woman so close that he almost tripped on her heels. “Did her water break?”

“This mornin’.”

Joshua cursed silently to himself. There was some chance of turning the baby, but it would have been a bigger chance if her water hadn’t broken. Whatever her mother had noticed that clued her in, it was a damn shame she hadn’t noticed it sooner.

A hoarse cry, like a grunt but louder and longer and higher, came from down the hall as they reached the second floor. A woman in labor, if she made noise at all, could sound like nothing else Joshua had heard or imagined. It sent prickles down his spine. And if he didn’t school his imagination, he would be picturing women he knew, girls at Mamie’s or shopkeeper’s wives or the usually self-contained Miss Brook, in the throes of such suffering.

Just before he entered the room, the older woman clutched his wrist and faced him, with all the fear she must have been hiding from her daughter writ plain on her face. “Can you save my baby? Can you bring her baby into the world?”

Maybe, by the time he’d been a doctor for twenty years, he’d have a better feel for whether to lie. He could hardly say, “I have no idea.” Even “I hope to God I can” was probably not enough. So he said, “That’s what I’m here to do.”

If he failed to do it, she could curse him later. He moved around her and headed for his patient. His patients.

He plunked his bag on the floor and pulled out his smock, shrugging it on. Even an easy birth was a messy business. Then he approached the bed. The laboring woman seemed oblivious to his presence until he bent to take her hand. “I’m Doc Gibbs. I’m here to help.”

She lay there pale and sweaty, the bedclothes under and around her all rucked up from her thrashing about. She squeezed his hand so tight he thought another contraction was starting, but her face showed only exhaustion and worry, no pain. She said hoarsely, “Ma thinks the baby’s coming out wrong. Is it?”

“I’ll find out.” He gently moved the bedclothes away from her. “I’m going to be touching your belly now.” She nodded weakly.

He ran his hands over her, pressed lightly here and there. “Your ma appears to be right.” He hesitated. “I’d like to take a look down where the baby’s coming, to see how far along you are in opening the way. And I may need to touch you there, to be sure.”

She turned away, her face contorted in protest — or in pain. Another contraction was starting. The pillows muffled her words, but he could hear. “Must you?”

“I should. I really should. I need to know how much time we have to get this baby turned around.”

She gritted her teeth and nodded. A moan, almost a wail, escaped her as he squatted down and examined the birth canal. She was almost fully dilated. Not much time, then.

He stood back up and bent over the woman. “I’m going to be pressing on your belly where the baby is, to get it head down.” He had been concentrating too hard to notice who else was near, but now he looked around and found the woman’s mother hovering in the doorway. “Do you have any wine or spirits? It would relax her and help me with what I need to do.”

The mother turned and called an order to some unseen member of the household. While he waited, Joshua told his patient, “It’ll probably take a few minutes. And it may hurt some of that time. I’m sorry about that.”

The woman actually chuckled. “Well, won’t that be a change. This has just been a picnic so far.”

He smiled back as best he could. Just then a boy came up to the woman’s mother with a glass of dark red wine. Joshua retreated while the mother brought the glass to the bed, helping her daughter sit up enough to drink. “Take it slow, now,” Joshua cautioned her. It’d do no good for her to vomit it up again.

She got most of it down before another contraction started. He waited while she moaned and panted. When she finally relaxed against the pillows, he stepped forward and got started, feeling for the hard smoothness of the head and the narrower bump of the buttocks. It was hard to make himself push firmly enough, knowing it was hurting her, but there was no way around it.

She let out a cry and then grabbed a handful of blanket and stuffed it in her mouth. Joshua pressed steadily with both hands, trying to push exactly as hard with both.

“There we go!” He could feel the baby starting to change position. But damn! There came another contraction. If the cord was in the wrong place during it, the contraction could squeeze it shut . . . .

The seconds might have dragged even more slowly for Joshua than for the moaning woman in the bed. When the abdominal muscles finally relaxed, he got to work again, pushing harder, terrified of the next contraction.

Slowly, slowly . . . and then a little faster . . . the baby yielded to his efforts. As it turned more crossways, the woman let out a shriek. But in a moment more, the baby was moving toward vertical again, this time with the head down where it should be.

Now he had to see whether the baby would stay in position. This process didn’t always take. Sometimes, for whatever reason, maybe the same reason the baby had been breech in the first place, the baby turned butt-down again. But that was the one good thing about this happening so late, with contractions coming every couple of minutes. The baby wouldn’t have much room or time to maneuver itself back into danger.

And twenty minutes later, Joshua got to see a purple head with just a wisp of hair appear, and recede again, and finally crown.



Downstairs again, Joshua collapsed in a kitchen chair while the older woman fixed him a sandwich. He had already removed his smock and rolled it up tight, clean side out. He’d rinse it as best he could once he got home, then take it to Li Chang later in the morning.

The new mother was weak from her ordeal, and her vital signs could have been more reassuring. The baby had been quick to cry and pink up, but its movements were on the sluggish side. He couldn’t say either patient was out of the woods just yet, but all he said to the family was to come get him right away if the mother started bleeding much or either of them came down with fever. He’d come back tomorrow evening, after all concerned had gotten some sleep, to see how things were going.

There were still a few stars overhead when he pulled himself back aboard Nellie-girl and turned her toward home. All over, for now, until the next time. . . . A thought struck him so sudden that he pulled up on Nellie-girl’s reins, startling a neigh out of her. He patted her neck in apology and loosened the reins again. The next time, if Mrs. Blum’s schemes actually came to anything, it might be his own wife lying in a bed, moaning and screaming and tossing around, trying her hardest to bring their baby into the world.

Did every husband, every father-to-be, wonder if it was worth the risk?

Would he be even more terrified than he had been on the battlefield, or assisting the doctors afterward, trying to keep yet one more soldier from dying?

And if the worst happened, would he ever forgive himself for putting the woman he loved in that fatal danger?

When he finally stumbled up the stairs to his rooms, he no longer cared enough to bother with the smock and planned to fall straight into bed. But instead, he found himself looking for the letter he’d gotten from his mother the week before, and reading it over, and kissing her signature.

She had been through all that, or at least something like it, for his sake. And he’d never thought to thank her for it. If he had had the strength to hold a pen and produce recognizable words, he would have written her right now. Instead, he laid the letter on the table where he ate his breakfasts, so he couldn’t possibly forget.

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Reminder: the book comes out on October 15, 2019, and may be preordered at this (worldwide) link.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Excerpt from What Heals the Heart -- Joshua and Clara actually meet

Let's start the week with another excerpt from my upcoming historical romance What Heals the HeartThe reader and Joshua have seen Clara. Now it's time for the two of them to meet.

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“Boot blacking, coffee, cornmeal, flour, soap. Put it on your tab?”
“Thank you kindly.” The suggestion would, in fact, save him some embarrassment. His patients had lately been paying in roast chickens, bacon, cream, potatoes, even horseshoes — all welcome and useful items, but it left him short of coin.
“And you’ve got a letter.”
This would take some juggling. Joshua picked up the envelope first, opening it and extracting the letter, tucking the envelope into his vest and laying the letter on the counter. Next, he grabbed the sack full of supplies in his left hand and picked up the letter in his right. That left him without a way to tip his hat, so he nodded his goodbye and walked out, glancing at the letter as he went. Major, idling in the street, jumped up to follow.
Joshua knew he had not been a satisfactory correspondent. The last letter to his mother in which he had mentioned anything of actual importance had been the letter he sent on his way west, trying to explain why he had felt compelled to leave his family and his home so far behind. Even as he sent that letter on its way, he had known it would fail in its mission. What he had been unable to say to her face, he had been equally unable to put into words on paper. Either would have required that he call to mind, and then stain her memory forever by recounting, the life he had lived as a soldier and a medic. Without that understanding, how could she understand how unreal and hollow the civilized life of Philadelphia had become for him?
His mother still wrote every two weeks, however, and he’d been awaiting her latest for several days. Now he saw what had kept her busy. His middle sister’s baby had come — except it was twins! A boy and a girl. He could imagine his younger and oldest sisters knitting madly to deal with the surprise.
As for his father — what? He was writing a book?
Joshua had been paying just enough attention to where he was going that he didn’t trip on the planks in the street or walk in front of any horses. But not enough, it turned out, to avoid walking smack into someone. He started backward, dropping his sack, and stammered apologies, while Major added to the confusion by circling the scene and barking loudly.
His victim, Joshua realized, was the tall green-eyed woman he had seen in the street the day he first met Mrs. Blum. She had managed to stay on her feet and now stooped to help him retrieve his groceries, whisking them away from Major’s investigative sniffing. Her hands looked strong, with long fingers; it took her almost no time to fill his sack again. She stood up, neither smiling nor frowning, and handed him the sack. “I hope that isn’t bad news in your hand.”
He tried to pull himself together enough to answer her. “Uh, no, not bad news. Just news. Babies. Two of them. That is, my sister just had twins.”
The woman’s eyes widened. “Congratulations to your sister! I’m sure she’ll cope splendidly.”
An interesting way to put it. Was she speaking from experience, and if so, her own or someone else’s?
Manners! What would his mother — or for that matter, Freida Blum — say? “I beg your pardon. I’m Joshua Gibbs.”
The woman tilted her head slightly and nodded in what might, unlikely as it seemed, be approval. “The doctor. I’ve heard of you. People speak well of you.”
Did they? He supposed they might. The comment left him feeling absurdly pleased. With some difficulty, he suppressed a foolish grin.
He was becoming curious about the woman’s identity, but accidental assault was hardly the basis for him to ask about it. She took pity on him and volunteered the information. “My name is Clara Brook. We’re recent arrivals. Our farm is a little over four miles to the southwest.” He was not that good at accents, but thought she might have grown up in or near Kentucky.
Joshua had about an hour before he needed to be back for his afternoon office hours. How much money did he have on him? He’d grabbed a few coins in case he needed them at the general store. It should be enough, at least if he held himself to a single scoop without toppings. “May I buy you an ice cream? As an apology for my inexcusable carelessness?”
Miss Brook looked at him gravely. “Hardly inexcusable. I’ve seen —” She cut off the comment and said instead, “Thank you. That would be very nice.” Not a fan of hyperbole, it seemed, in others or in her own speech. Joshua led the way, in case Miss Brook had not yet learned the ice cream parlor’s location. Major had apparently decided to adopt her, trotting by her side rather than his master’s. When they reached their destination, Miss Brook paused and gestured toward the dog. “Does he accompany us or no?”
Joshua shook his head, having decided previously that ice cream was unlikely to be a good addition to Major’s diet. Miss Brook then startled Joshua by snapping her fingers toward Major and pointing to a position near the window. Major immediately sat.
The clerk at the ice cream parlor looked at Joshua with some surprise as they entered. Joshua asked Miss Brook’s preference, ordered her single scoop of strawberry along with his own vanilla, paid — narrowly escaping the embarrassment of coming up short — and carried both plates to the little table next to the window.
Now what? Well, she knew he had sisters, one of them with new additions to her family. Surely he could ask after similar details, at least indirectly. “How have you and your . . . your family been finding Cowbird Creek? Is it what you hoped, when you decided to settle here?”
Somehow it failed to surprise him when she avoided a conventional response. “I wouldn’t say we know enough, yet, to answer that question. Or perhaps I should say we didn’t have very specific expectations. My parents wanted to buy land, to leave my brother someday, and there was land for purchase here. It’s a deal of work for the four of us, but we’re used to work.”
A brother, but no sisters — at least none still at home. It was unlikely she’d lost sisters in the War of Rebellion, but she might have had more brothers before that long and bloody nightmare. All through his childhood, he had wished he had brothers instead of, or in addition to, three sisters. That wish, too, had died in the war.
It was Joshua’s turn to say something, but nothing came to mind. Miss Brook did not seem to be one of those women who could set a man to talking. Or maybe she chose not to do so. He could think of only one inane question. “What are you growing, or raising?”
Her left eyebrow twitched upward. “The usual, I suppose. Corn, oats. I have some interest in planting winter wheat, but my father has not yet agreed. I have a vegetable garden, though I’m still getting accustomed to the weather and how it affects what I can grow. We raise hogs — and chickens, of course, but mainly for our own eggs and our own pot.”
He might be carrying home some of those eggs, some day. They would be good eggs, he’d wager — he guessed she took good care of the hens.
Before he could come up with some other conversational gambit, she asked him, “What’s the most surprising thing about Cowbird Creek? Something we wouldn’t have had a chance to learn yet?”
There was a question he hadn’t heard before. “Hmm. Let me think.” Madam Mamie’s establishment was tonier than some, but even if that counted as surprising, he could hardly mention it. And the presence of a Jewish widow was unusual, but he doubted Mrs. Blum would appreciate being held up as a local oddity. “Our Chinese laundryman struck it rich — well, maybe not rich, but close — in the California gold fields.”
Miss Brook smiled, the first smile he’d seen from her, but quickly went grave again. “I don’t think I’ll mention it to my brother. He used to hanker after the gold fields himself, and I’d be sorry to remind him.”
She had finished her ice cream, and he needed to be back for any patients needing him. He took a final spoonful of his own and stood up. “Miss Brook, it’s been a pleasure, despite my regrettable way of introducing myself. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again.”
That eyebrow twitched again. “I agree. Though I hope it won’t be in your professional capacity.”
Cursing his clumsy tongue, he bowed and escaped back to territory where he was less likely to put a foot wrong.

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Here, as usual, is the preorder link.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Next excerpt from What Heals the Heart -- Joshua meets Freida, would-be matchmaker

This next in my series of pre-release excerpts for What Heals the Heart follows immediately after the previous one. Here, the reader meets Freida Blum, elderly (by her standards, at least) Jewish widow from New York, who will spend much of the book trying to match Joshua up with one woman after another, none of whom will be Clara Brook.

I'm an Ashkenazi Jew, descendant of immigrants from Poland and Germany and first generation American-born, so Freida is woven together from traces of various relatives in my parents' and (mostly) grandparents' generation (along with other sources such as Borscht Belt Jewish comedians from decades past).

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Joshua made the blacksmith drink down the first glass of water and powder before he left with a pouch holding six more doses. Whether he’d keep taking it, well, that was the blacksmith’s problem, for now anyway.

There was no one waiting, but before Joshua had time to do more than take a book down from the shelf, the door opened and a woman walked in. No, more like sailed in, a proud vessel, a four-master. She took off her coat to reveal a well-tailored dress, fitting snugly on her large, well-upholstered frame. Her graying, wavy hair peeked out from under a truly astonishing hat.

He hadn’t met this woman, but he believed he’d heard about her. Another newcomer to town, from somewhere back east; a widow; and apparently Jewish. That’d make her the first Jew he’d met.
She held out her hand. “Doctor! I’m so pleased to be meeting you. I’m Freida Blum.”

He shook her hand, studying her. He’d never heard her accent before, or not quite. It wasn’t as thick as the accent of that German he’d tended the last year of the war, when he’d turned medic; he could understand her without straining. But “Doctor” ended in a rough, husky sound, and “meeting” sounded more like “meetink.” There was something different about her vowels that he couldn’t put a word to. And her speech had a rhythm and a melody to it, almost like singing, or chanting anyway.

But here he was standing and gawking when he needed to be doctoring. “Please come through to the back and sit up on that table. Then you can tell me what brings you in today.”

She strode after him, passed him, and got on the table with a little jump, the wood creaking as she landed. “Oh, I’ve just had some aches and pains, here and there. And I get tired by afternoon. My age, you don’t expect to feel like a spring chicken. But I thought I’d stop in.”

She was studying him quite as much as he’d studied her. Whatever she’d heard about him, he guessed it was her curiosity more than any medical need that had sent her his way. But he’d check her over. He picked up his stethoscope.

“So young, for a doctor! But that’s just an old woman talking, I suppose.” (He wouldn’t call her old, exactly. Not quite. She might be in her middle fifties or a little older.)

Speaking of talking, she would need to stop. “If you could just take a deep breath, and then another, while I listen to your lungs.”

“Of course, of course. How can you do your job —” (“yure chob”) — “when I’m rattling on like a freight train? Samuel always said to me, Freida, the way you talk, when do you manage to breathe?”

“Mrs. Blum. Please.”

Praise be, she stopped talking and took deep breaths as he commanded. Her lungs sounded good. But she winced as she took the third breath. And she put a hand to her back as if it was paining her. She might have her reasons for being there, at that.

Or she could be lonely. Lonely people without enough to do sometimes felt sicker than they really were. “What do you do during the day, generally?”

The woman beamed at him as if rewarding the question. “I sew for so many people! This dress, I made it. All I have to do is walk around town, it’s as good as putting an ad in the paper. And I’m setting up the social library in the schoolhouse, me and the teacher, such a bright young woman. And my little neighbor, she’s like a daughter to me, I take care of her babies sometimes so she can get her rest.”

Not idle, then.

He pressed the stethoscope to her ample chest, giving thanks once again to the inventor who had spared him the even more awkward necessity of putting his ear there instead. Her heart sounded good — or did it? There might be a faint suggestion of a galloping rhythm.

Laudanum would help her with those aches and pains. He reached for a bottle, but Mrs. Blum stopped him, exclaiming, “Oh, I have that at home! May I come to you for more when I run out?”

Joshua pointed next door. “I get mine from the pharmacist. You can do the same.”

A shade of what might have been disappointment crossed her face. For whatever reason, she apparently found doctors more interesting than druggists. Her next questions suggested as much. “How did you learn so much about medicine? Did you go to one of those new schools?”

He shook his head. “I picked it up during the war, to start with.” And that was all he was going to say about those years of floundering and failing, the lives lost all around him, the suffering he could do little to ease.

The bell on the front door jingled a welcome chance to escape more questioning. Maybe he’d be summoned to some nicely far-off homestead to attend a stolid farmer, someone who had less to say for himself. “Excuse me, Mrs. Blum.” Without waiting for an answer, he stepped back into the front room to see a familiar face, a farmer’s youngest son, shifting his weight from foot to foot, his hands clutched together in front. The boy’s hair was wet — it must have started to rain since Joshua’s sunny morning walk. Good news for the farmers.

“Please, doc, we need you to come see to Paw. He was sharpening the coulter for the plow, and it fell over on his leg. It’s cut something awful.”

Joshua’s lips tightened, and he barely avoided a frown. That’s what wishing brought you. You’d think he’d learn. “I’ll get my bag.”


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Amazon preorder link here.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

A question for those who like cool t-shirts

I've been reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch's fascinating series of posts about the licensing of story elements, and it led me to a related notion: putting book covers on t-shirts myself (via Redbubble, probably).

That would, however, require me to obtain a merchandising license for stock images I licensed myself, as I didn't purchase the extended license required for merchandise, and/or obtaining permission from the cover designer. That means spending money to maybe, eventually, make a little money. So I need to know which cover designs are cool enough to appeal to people who've never read, and may never read, one of my books.

Please let me know which, if any, of these covers you'd consider wearing or giving to someone!










You can respond by comment here, or by replying to the Facebook and Twitter posts where I'm putting the link to this post, or by emailing me at kawyle@att.net. Thanks for any feedback you can send!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Excerpt from What Heals the Heart: first look at Doctor Joshua Gibbs doctoring

Next in my series of excerpts from What Heals the Heart: a look inside Joshua's medical practice. It should give you an idea of what kind of doctor he is, not to mention his willingness to learn from those outside his usual social circle.

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 Two patients were waiting outside his door when he opened it. He steered the blacksmith, who seemed the steadier on his feet of the two, not to mention the one who wouldn’t get ruffled about waiting, to a chair and took the sheriff into the back where he’d set up his exam table and instruments.

The sheriff hoisted his considerable bulk up onto the table. “My belly’s been aching considerable.”

Joshua noted the sheriff’s flushed color and straining suspenders. “And just what have you been putting into that belly of late?”

The sheriff shrugged sheepishly. “You know Ma’s pork chops and creamed corn, and her molasses pie. You had vittles like that waiting at home, you’d eat too much of ‘em, I reckon.”

“Well, roll up your left sleeve.” Joshua picked up the lancet and gave the sheriff the pan to hold. He didn’t hold with bleeding patients for many ailments, but this seemed like one of the times it might help. And most of his patients believed it would, which could make a difference in itself.

When the pan held a sufficient quantity of blood, he took it to throw away later and bandaged the arm. “Take it easy on that pie, now.” He grinned. “You can bring some by my place, to remove temptation.”

The sheriff snorted as he slid off the table and made his way toward the front of the office, swaying a bit as he went. Joshua followed him to make sure he stayed on his feet, then looked around for the blacksmith. But the chair was empty. Just then, his fugitive patient hurried back in. “Sorry, doc. Had to run to the outhouse, like I’ve been doing every few minutes for two days now. Can you fix me up?”

Joshua stroked his chin. “I just might have something that’ll help you.” He fetched a glass jar half full of powder, powder he ground up from the plant that Cherokee medicine man had shown him. The blacksmith watched, his forehead wrinkled and eyebrows lowered.

“What in tarnation is that?”

Joshua laughed. “Darned if I know what it’s called, except in Indian talk. But it works better than anything I can say in English.”

The blacksmith was shaking his big head. Joshua held up a hand, palm out. “Now before you go blustering at me, you should know those folks have some pretty good remedies. Living the way they do, they notice things. Tell me, how many people around here have got milk sickness lately?”

The blacksmith just looked confused. Joshua suppressed a sigh. “I haven’t had a patient with milk sickness since I came to town. And you know why? It’s because a doctor who listened to Indians did some listening when a Shawnee woman told him —” It had actually been a lady doctor, Doctor Anna, but Joshua didn’t think the blacksmith could swallow that idea when just the idea of Indian medicine was sticking in his craw. “This woman told him that milk sickness came from drinking milk or eating meat from an animal that fed on white snakeroot. And that doctor told people, who told people, and now most farmers know to keep their stock away from white snakeroot. Now do you want me to give you something that’ll help you, or would you rather move into the outhouse and try to shoe horses there?”

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Again, here's the preorder link.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Short excerpt from What Heals the Heart -- Joshua's first glimpse of Clara

I'll continue to dribble out excerpts until October 15, 2019, when my historical romance What Heals the Heart goes live. This will be one of the shortest -- small town doctor Joshua Gibbs' first glimpse of Clara Brook, newcomer to Cowbird Creek, Nebraska.

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Joshua had by now lived in Cowbird Creek long enough to take particular notice of any new face. So when he saw a woman heading into the general store and realized he could not remember seeing her before, he stopped and took a second look. Besides her being unfamiliar, Joshua’s first impression was that she was tall for a woman, and next, that she was thin, her plainly cut dress doing nothing to disguise the fact. As she turned into the store, he caught a glimpse of striking green eyes and a long dark braid hanging beneath her simple bonnet — darker than Joshua’s own, almost black.

A farmer, one of Joshua’s patients, was lounging nearby while one of his sons argued with the blacksmith about how long it took to shoe a carthorse. Noting the direction of Joshua’s glance, he spat some tobacco juice and said, “That’d be the daughter on that farm that changed hands last month. Skinnier’n you, ain’t she?”

Given the farmer’s girth, his view of what it meant to be “skinny” was somewhat skewed. Joshua would describe himself as lean. The farmer, meanwhile, added, “Owners gave up fighting the drought and went back east. I heard something about these folks renting land somewhere else and coming here to buy their own place. Got some kind of funny name, Crick or Stream or suchlike.”

With that pronouncement, the farmer straightened up and went in to relieve his son in the dispute with the blacksmith. Joshua pulled out his pocket watch and hurried along.


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Just to make it easy for anyone intrigued by this or future excerpts, I'll always include the preorder link.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Updated version of the beginning of What Heals the Heart

Last December, I posted the very beginning of my then-untitled Western historical romance. (Actually, whether it's "Western" depends on one's definition. It's set in the Old West, but there are no outlaws or gunslingers or ranchers, and only one brief mention of cowboys.) That passage has changed in several minor and one significant way. So I'm posting it again, plus the following few paragraphs.

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Joshua Gibbs felt sun on his face and thought about opening his eyes. He decided to wait. He had some blessings to savor that wouldn’t need sight.
He was in a bed, a four-poster with a well-stuffed husk mattress, instead of in a tent on rough ground.He was in Nebraska, far from any of the towns he had passed through — or seen devastated — during the war. The sound nearest his right ear wasn’t the whistle of a shell or the wails and screams of dying men, but the soft grumbly snore of his Irish Setter. And the dog’s name might be Major (or, to give the full grandiloquent version, Reginald Phineas Major), but that was the closest to an officer he’d find for miles around.
And what Joshua smelled, when he took a slow, lazy sniff, was a mix of Major and almost-clean bed linen, and not . . . well, no need to sully a brand new morning with the memory of what he’d have smelled this time nine years ago.
But thoughts like these were not worth staying abed for. He opened his eyes and sat up, stretching out his arm and laying a hand lightly on Major’s side for the warm breathing comfort of it. Major’s eye twitched, and his tail, but that was all. A dog knew, without having to think about it, what safety meant.
 Joshua levered himself out of bed. He’d shave, get dressed, and take a walk with Major before frying himself some breakfast.
As a boy, if he could have even imagined himself so old as thirty-three, he’d have assumed he’d be leaving a wife behind staying warm in bed or making breakfast, or better yet, accompanying him on his morning amble. But things change. War changes them. And solitude suited him, these days.


Most of the latest — perhaps the last? — snow had melted. It wouldn’t take him too long to clean off his boots after his walk. Joshua liked having clean boots when he saw patients, even if some folk in town might think it affected of him.
He headed away from the square to start, toward the creek that had given Cowbird Creek its name. If he’d been taking this road out of town to see a patient, he’d have been riding his trotter Nellie-girl or using one of the livery stable buggies. He wouldn’t have had time or attention to spare for the serviceberry bushes just starting to put forth their lacy white flowers, or the sparrows with their thin high chirps, stirring about on whatever business sparrows had.
He got as far as the buttonwood tree by the creek before his hollow stomach reminded him to turn round. He took a turn around the square and saw a light in the laundry. Li Chang looked to be hard at work already. It wasn’t easy to get the Chinese fellow talking, as busy as he kept himself, but his tales of the gold fields could cure anyone of hankering after mining. Though he’d managed to make enough of a stake to set up his business and even pay for help — except the help had given up on America and gone home a year since.
Turning the corner brought Joshua past the church. Passing the church meant passing the churchyard. A few of his patients were at rest there, though others were buried on their farms. One or two of them wouldn’t be there yet, if he’d known then what he knew now. He paused, bowed his head, and sent them a silent apology, and a promise to stick to his books until he knew as much medicine as anyone could learn that way.
At least there were other folk, asleep in bed or about their chores, in town and outside it, who might have been sleeping colder in the ground if not for him.
He picked up his pace, more than ready for breakfast. He had bacon and eggs he’d got in payment from the farmer whose cough he’d dosed two days ago. Good thing he liked his eggs runny, because he hadn’t left all that much time for cooking and eating before opening his office and seeing who sauntered or stumbled or limped in to be doctored.

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And here's the Amazon preorder link.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Blurb, or synopsis if one prefers that term

I'm filling out review requests for my upcoming release What Heals the Heart, and one of the request forms asks for a link to the synopsis. As used in review requests, "synopsis" is usually synonymous with "blurb." So here is my current blurb for this book.

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Joshua Gibbs survived the Civil War, building on his wartime experiences to become a small town doctor. And if he wakes from nightmares more often than he would like, only his dog Major is there to know it.

Then two newcomers arrive in Cowbird Creek: Clara Brook, a plain-speaking and yet enigmatic farmer’s daughter, and Freida Blum, an elderly Jewish widow from New York. Freida knows just what Joshua needs: a bride. But it shouldn’t be Clara Brook!

Joshua tries everything he can think of to discourage Freida’s efforts, including a wager: if he can find Freida a husband, she’ll stop trying to find him a wife. Will either matchmaker succeed? Or is it Clara, despite her own scars, who can heal the doctor’s troubled heart?

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I also usually find a place to add that this is a "closed door" and "slow burn" romance. "Closed door" means there's no explicit sex (and in this case, nothing hotter than a kiss and embrace). "Slow burn" is the opposite end of the spectrum from "insta-love." The reader should expect the romance to develop gradually.

And by the way, here's the preorder (and eventually the order) link to the Kindle edition.

And the cover, because I never tire of looking at it.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Western historical romance now available for preorder, and other book news

Ta-da! The Kindle edition of my Western historical romance What Heals the Heart is now available for preorder. The book is set in the fictional small town of Cowbird Creek in 1874-1875 Nebraska. It is, by definition, about a couple finding each other. It is also about superficial versus deeper attraction; conventional versus original personalities; standing up for one’s beliefs; and PTSD. As to the latter, it deals with the process of at least partially recovering from that trauma.

In other book-related news, I realized yesterday that months after taking my existing novels out of KDP Select, I'd neglected to republish them elsewhere. I made haste to fix that, and they should be in the process of popping up on various non-Amazon retail sites.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Cover reveal!! for my upcoming historical romance, WHAT HEALS THE HEART

After months of angst and emails, and the (almost always) patient guidance of cover designer Kelly Martin of KAM Design, my upcoming western historical romance, What Heals the Heart, has a cover! And FWIW, I love it.


I can't wait for you all to meet Joshua and Clara (not to mention some other lively folks) (and let's not forget the dog!).

With a little luck, I'll make my target release date of October 15, 2019. The book should be available for pre-order by early August.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

another excerpt from my upcoming, still-untitled Western historical romance

Here's another excerpt from the draft of my first-ever, untitled Western historical romance. My POV character, Dr. Joshua Gibbs, has just returned from the long, exhausting job of treating a farmer's leg injury, relieved that he wasn't called upon to amputate. Freida Blum, an elderly Jewish widow new to town, arrives at his door shortly after he gets home.

Major is Joshua's Irish Setter.

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Joshua closed the door behind the farmer’s boy, holding the empty coffee cup, and leaned against the door. He’d made enough coffee for both of them, but hadn’t ended up drinking any. Bone-tired as he was, he didn’t have the strength to deal with coffee jitters.

He stumbled over to the dresser where he kept his nightshirt, pulled off his soaked frock coat and shirt and trousers, let them fall in a sodden heap on the floor, and pulled the nightshirt on. He’d take the wet, wrinkled clothes to Li Chang in the morning. Times like this, he was sorely grateful to his sisters back in Pennsylvania who’d pooled their efforts to send him a second set of doctor’s duds. He used almost his last strength to dig the bone saw in its case out of his bag and shove it out of sight on the shelf where he kept it.

Scratching at the door heralded Major’s return. Joshua grabbed a towel from the hook near the door and let the dog in. Rubbing the dog down warmed him up a little, but the sooner he was in bed with every quilt and comforter he owned on top of him, the happier he’d be.

And then, the door again, but this time a knock, or maybe a kick, a dull thud, once and then repeated.

If he’d had the energy, he would have cussed a blue streak. Not now. Oh, God, not now. A knock this late meant an emergency. He would have to somehow find the wit and the strength to save someone, and he had none of either left.

“Dr. Gibbs!” (“Doh-ktor Kibbs.”) A woman. He knew he should, but didn't, recognize the voice.

She didn’t sound sick. Could it be the neighbor, or worse, one of the neighbor’s children? But if it were childhood disease, he might be able to treat the fever, at least, or do something for vomiting. He could handle that. He opened the door.

There stood Mrs. Blum, her fur coat making her look like a friendly mama bear, holding a covered pot in her hands.

“I saw you come in, looking so wet and tired. I brought enough for the boy who was with you, but I see he’s gone. May I come in? You won’t leave an old woman standing in the street, will you?”
He stumbled back dumbly and let her pass, shoving the door shut with a weak thrust as she barreled toward the kitchen table. She put the pot down, dropped her coat in a corner, and pulled out his chair. “Sit, sit!”

He collapsed into the chair while she rummaged around, seemingly quite at home, finding a bowl and a spoon. She opened her coat and produced a ladle, then whisked the cover off the pot. Fragrant steam rose up out of it. He leaned forward, sniffing, and smiled weakly to see Major coming toward them to do the same. “What is it?”

“What is it? Chicken soup is what it is! What else, for warming you up and keeping you from catching your death?” She paused, almost coy. “Oh, here I am telling you your business. But if you don’t already know about chicken soup, it’s time you did, no?”

She dipped the ladle in once, twice, three times, and then stopped and frowned at the bowl in frustration, looking ready to scold it for not having more room before pushing it toward him. “You start with that. I’ll light the stove to keep this warm.”

The soup had hunks of carrot and big chunks of chicken, and some sort of strange, light dumplings. He barely made himself use the spoon instead of picking up the bowl and pouring it into his mouth. As it was, his hand shook so that he spilled some of the soup on the table. Without missing a beat, Mrs. Blum tossed a dish towel his way before dragging a stool over to the table and perching on it, overflowing it on every side. When he managed to look up from his miraculous meal, he saw her beaming at him, clearly delighted at the way he was slurping the soup down with no sign of table manners. The moment the spoon clinked the bottom of the bowl, she grabbed the bowl and filled it to the brim again. “Eat, eat!”

He was filling up, but he thought it likely that if he dared to stop before the bowl was empty again, she would seize the spoon and feed him like an infant. He made his way manfully through.
Finally he was able to push the bowl away and sit back. She gave the pot one longing look before shrugging and turning off the stove.

He would have liked to let Major lick the bowl, but was not sure whether Mrs. Blum would be offended. Major weighed in by nudging Joshua’s knee with his muzzle and whining. Joshua looked up at his benefactor. “I am sure my dog would appreciate the remaining traces of your excellent soup.”

He was relieved at Mrs. Blum’s low chuckle. “Why not? My chicken soup should be good for dogs, even.”

Joshua put the bowl in the floor; Major looked up at him as if for permission and then set to licking it out. When Major finished, inspected the bowl in case he had missed a drop, and trotted away, Joshua picked up the bowl and contemplated the effort of cleaning it. Mrs. Blum, apparently reading his mind, grabbed the bowl, opened the door, and let the rain rinse it before setting it on the drainboard. She leaned against [the stove] and looked down at him, shaking her head. “Out in all hours and all weather, and he comes home to nothing!” (“Nutt-ink.”)

Joshua shrugged. He had a good idea where this was going.

“So where’s Mrs. Doctor? You need to get married!”

Just as he’d thought. He’d fended off similar comments from a few ladies at church when he first arrived in town. He’d ignored them with as much dignity as he could muster, and after a while, they’d given up. But looking at the massive and motherly figure looming in his kitchen, Joshua felt suddenly uneasy. Something in her tone and expression showed considerable determination. Even zeal.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Watching my words: authenticity in historical fiction

I'm well into the editing/revision process for my Western historical romance (still untitled). I'm gradually realizing just how many challenges any historical fiction entails. One of the easiest ways to trip up: language usage.

For example, I thought the word "moniker" had a nice, folksy, Western sound. Then I thought to look up when that term was first used. Turns out, per the info I found, that it reached the USA "not long after" 1881. My story is set in 1874-1875. Sigh. I substituted "nickname," then checked whether that word was already in use. Fortunately it was, though I can't guarantee it would have been spelled the way we spell it today.

I thought I might have to make a similar substitution for "rucked up," but eventually learned that it dated from the late 18th century. I don't know for sure that it was used in the USA in my period, but it seems likely enough that I'm leaving it in place.

I've made a few more changes so far, and I'm only about one-fifth done with this editing pass. My attempt at diligence notwithstanding, I'm sure to overlook some word or phrase I should have checked. I will, however, ask my beta readers to flag any language they think might be anachronistic. (If you'd like to be a beta reader, and you're familiar with and fond of this genre, please email me at kawyle@att.net and let me know!)