Friday, June 27, 2008


I promise to comment on the poll soon, and to start a new one, but I realized it is time for my next 'young man' to make his appearance. For those of you who have read my novel COPPERHEAD, you know that I mention a dag in my dedication. This is the one I am talking about. The remarkable thing about this 150-plus year old photo is that it reflects an image that formed in my mind and took shape on paper long before I found it. Here's the story -

I first created my character Copperhead for the Daniel Boone fan-fiction that I write. He appears in the novel Blood Was Only For Bleeding as a secondary character to Mingo, who was his childhood friend. Copperhead is full blood Cherokee, but he was raised by a white man - a British general - and in time fell in love with the general's granddaughter, Miriam. I did a series of drawings for the story including one in colored pencil of Copperhead. The story debuted online and I moved on to other things.

One of my past-times is surfing Ebay, looking at items from the 1800s. I particularly like the old photos - ambrotypes, ferrotypes (tin types) and dags. I love to look at the faces. One night I was engaged in that pursuit when what I found stopped me dead. I looked at the dag and became more and more convinced that the young man in it was native passing as white. He was dressed as a white man, but the bone structure and everything about him shouted native - which he must have been well aware of. The other thing that attracted me was the look out of his eyes. It declares - I belong here. I dare you to challenge that I belong. The look is strong, wary and defiant. Then, I realized he looked exactly like the man I had drawn.

He was Copperhead.

I put a bid and and won the auction. The dag is sitting by me on my desk as I write this. He challenges me daily to keep telling stories for there are many out there that need to be told.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Who raised their sons?

Women on the frontier. So, for how many of you does that conjure up images of Victoria Barclay (BigValley) and Rebecca Boone (The Daniel Boone Show)? We are the TV generation. Most of us don't realize how many of the concepts we have come from the Idiot's Lantern, as some call the TV in Britain. 'Idiot' is right. Case in point - conjure up this image. There's a sound outside the window. Rebecca Boone stiffens. Her man isn't home. Danger is threatening her children. What will she do? Rebecca turns and head for the hearth where her husband's extra flintlock rifle hangs just above the fire.... Get the picture? Gun. Fire. BOOM! It looked good on the show to have that flintlock hanging on the mantlepiece, but the truth is, the powder would have exploded and the rifle's wooden stock would have dried out. No rifles over the fire, Becky. No way.

There are other things, other concepts, which remain from the sixties TV shows my generation grew up on that are skewed. One of them is pioneer women, their strengths and weaknesses, and their roles. I shouldn't 'dis' the Daniel Boone show. If you watch the first season - the black and white one - they tried to get it right. Rebecca is a strong woman, sometimes driven to tears, but more than able to defend her children and herself. She is often left alone by Daniel (due to his long absences) and she takes over the role of protector along with her other roles of teacher, spiritual guide, and chief cook and jug washer. By the second season the prevailing thought of the modern-day era had intruded - suddenly Becky is spineless without her man and cries out 'Dan, where are you? SAVE me!" way too often.

But oh, that first season.... A hint of the real women of the frontier.

Women were often forced to fill their husband's shoes. Hunting, military obligations, jobs that involved travel; all of these took a man away from home for months or even years. The women of the frontier raised their children alone, planted and harvested their food by themselves, preserved and saved it against a hard winter. They grew the plants that became the thread that was woven into the cloth that covered their children's small forms. They were the hands and heart and head that kept their families alive - as well as keeping them together with their practical wisdom and deep abiding faith. Men had the showy jobs - soldiers, Indian agents, lawyers, doctors - they were the ones that history was written by and about - but without their women, they would have accomplished little. After all, who raised their sons in the first place?

Next time some thoughts on 18th century corsets, the old poll results and a new poll.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And back again

As Bilbo Baggins put it, I have been 'there' and back again from the Fort Boonesborough Women on the Frontier event. So far I have not had time to process my photos or my thoughts, but hope to soon. Along with being an interpreter and artist, I am a grandma, and sometimes that has to come first! The weekend was fun (I got to throw a few 'hawks') and educational (amazing how many female land-holders there were in KY in the late 1700's!). I took photos which I hope to translate into new art, and made contacts which will benefit our site in the future. All in all, a worthwhile adventure which I hope to address in detail here soon.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Trading in the corset

No, I haven't given up on my job (or corsets). I'm just trading them in for 18th century stays.

This weekend I am stepping back half a century to 1775. A friend and I will be attending Fort Boonesborough's Women on the Frontier event. As an interpreter I spend 5 days a week talking about the women of the past. But talking isn't doing or being. This weekend, in a small way, I will get to be a woman of the past. Boonesborough is offering reenactors and interpreters a chance to join in as the employees of the fort go about their business - making candles and lye soap, starting fires with flint and steel, cooking, etc. There will even be a chance to climb onto a horse in full gear. Along with this there will also be seminars and just some plain old fun (how many times do you get a chance to pluck a fake chicken?) And guess what, we get to do this with the public watching.

No one ever said a reenactor is shy.

So this post will be the last one for a few days. When I return I will share a little bit about my experience and perhaps a photo or two. Whatever those are.

Oh, by the way, thanks to those of you who have responded to the poll. So far breathing is running neck-a-neck with lacing in the back.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Young Men

As an artist, I am fascinated by faces. As an historian, I am fascinated by historical faces. And as a woman, well...I have to admit I am fascinated by male faces. I think, like the heroine in my book Goodnight Robinson, that I come to these 100 plus year old images seeking something that I find lacking in a good many 21st century males - character. You can see it in their eyes. In the set of their jaw. In the line of the mouth, and simply the way they hold themselves. But mostly, it is in their eyes.

I was surprised to find that the old quote, 'The eyes are the windows of the soul', is Biblical in origin. Matthew 6:22,23 says "The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright; but if your eye is wicked, your whole body will be dark. If in reality the light the that is in you is darkness, how great that darkness is!"

At about the pace of one a week, I will share one of my 'men'. The first is the young man I used on the cover of Goodnight Robinson. This image is a daguerreotype. The gold mat (which has been removed here to allow a clearer scan) is more ornate than others that I have, dating the photo to the late 1840s or, more likely, the 1850s. It came with a scrap of paper on which these words were inscribed in pencil, 'Remember me when I am gone. Drew.' What is the story here? If the dag is late 1840s, was Drew heading off to the Mexican War? Was he leaving for the gold fields? Was he, perhaps, dying? I will never know for certain, but the mystery only enhances the image and its appeal.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I once had the husband of a friend ask me what drove a person to create fictional people and worlds. With a smile I answered 'control'. I realize now that was rather flippant, though in a way it is true. Most of us feel rather out of control in our lives. By writing fiction, by creating other lives and ordering them as we want, the writer gets to be a god with a little 'g'.

That sounds impressive, doesn't it? It would be if it was true.

Anyone who writes, at least those who write organically as I do (with no outline) will tell you that the author has very little control over the worlds he or she creates. More often than not the characters compel the action. In other words, they take over and do exactly what they want. I know that sounds crazy to anyone who doesn't write, but it is true. And most often my characters know far better where they are going than I do. Really.

A case in point - the characters of the MacKirdy brothers to be found in my fan fiction Blood Was Only For Bleeding housed on the Daniel Boone TV site (thanks to Karen!). You can find the story here: The MacKirdys appear in chapter three of the 683 page tale. The Scottish brothers come into Cincinnatus' tavern in all of their fop and finery (wearing kilts to boot!) and lurk in the corner with their heads together, whispering. They follow Becky Boone out of the tavern and accost her, seeming to take her hostage. As I wrote that part of the story, I intended the MacKirdys to be villains. They were there to do harm to the Boones. But when they opened their mouths, the brothers declared they were there for no such thing - they were instead there to warn Becky and her husband that they were in danger!' 'What, I asked them, do you think you are doing? You're bad guys.' If you have read the tale, you know Alec and Findlay both have killer smiles. In my head they flashed them and politely replied that I 'dinnae ken whot I was aboot.'

Writing often goes this way. It is exciting, but scary as well - especially when you love complicated plots and multiple characters as I do.

In the coming weeks, I hope to let those who visit here in on a little of my creative process. For those of you who like my work, I hope you will find it interesting. For those who don't, maybe it will tempt you to take a chance on one of my books. And maybe, just maybe, I can help other would-be writers out there as I go along.


A website and a blog to house the ramblings of a woman who wants to live in the past. Anyone see a contradiction here?

Yes, I have finally taken the step and set up a blog. (There has to be a better name for it, don't you think?) As a woman who spends her days laced in a corset and wearing way too many underpinnings (too much underwear for those of you unacquainted with the 19thc term), I find it amusing and not a bit ironic that I now have two modes of electronic and instant communication with the entire world. If wishes were horses and beggars rode bareback, I would find a time machine and vanish utterly from the face of the 21st century world. I detest wires and phone-lines and machines and noise and stale air laced with chemicals. I am one of those radical women who think women's lib went too far. I like to have doors opened for me. I would be delighted if a man cast his coat over a puddle so I could keep my silk shoes clean. I believe in nobility and chivalry and that all-too-unpopular word - sacrifice. Yes, I know the past was not perfect, but people gave a damn about things like honor and they understood that some things had to be earned. And that if they were not earned, but were given, then they simply did not mean as much.

I think you have in a nutshell in the paragraph above what this blog will be about. History. A woman in a corset. And a few rants about the modern world. Add a dose of art and shake it up with the fact that I write fiction about these themes, and there you have it!

Of course, I haven't mentioned yet my habit of collecting young men...well, their images. It's ok. They all died about 150 years ago. I love daguerreotypes and I will be sharing some of the images I have collected here. (And they are not all young men. Just most of them....) Daguerreotypes are a visual link to that past I was speaking of before. You can see it in their eyes - determination, intelligence, purpose.

There I go again.

Anyhow, for the history I will share some of my interests and research. As for the lady in the corset, she will tell you all about interpreting and just how it feels to walk around with a steel stay stuck in the pit of your arm. (And you know you want to know!) As for the rants, see all of the above. My art I will talk about. To see it, visit my website at And as for the writing. I do that. Write. Historicals and fantasy. I will use this blog to let my readers know some of my thoughts - to let them into the process - and to let them know when and where my books can be bought.

No great pearls of wisdom today. It's late and I'm tired. Father's Day at the historic site today. Four tours and four hundred steps. So since I am out of words, I will leave you with someone else's.


Sacrifice is nothing other than the production of sacred things. ATTRIBUTION:Georges Bataille

PS The books can be bought at for now. Just put my name in the search engine.