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Finding Family Mentioned In A Novel

September 12, 2018 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby, Writing tagged as , , ,

Imagine you’re reading a fiction historical romance book set in the back country of Montana and one of the characters asks another character if he’s always been a freighter.

He responds with no. He was a trapper.

Aww. Cool. Immediately my mind went to my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather who was a trapper. I continued to read.

He was a part of the great mountain men.

Wait! My Great-Great-Great-Grandfather was called that too. Now my heart was thumping faster as I continued to read. Somehow I just knew what I would see next.

Mountain men like Jedidiah Smith and Jim Clyman.

Stop the presses! That’s my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather’s name! Here in the fiction book I’m reading!!

How cool is that?

I ran around the house showing everyone my Kindle I was so excited!

A lover of all things history, I’ve wanted to write a blog post on James Clyman and our family history for a while, but I’ve been so busy with other topics, I hadn’t gotten to it, but I just had to share this exciting news and tell you a little about him now.

James Clyman.  My Great-Great-Great-Grandfather. 

James Clyman Trapper, Mountain Man Great, Great, Great Grandfather to Denise M. Colby

He called himself a mountain man. A trapper with Jedidiah Smith, he was the one who sewed Jedidiah’s ear back on after a bear almost swiped it off.  He also came over the pass in the sierras and encountered the Donner Party, advising them not to go that way since winter was settling in. And unfortunately they opted not to listen.

Just how do we know all this? He wrote journals. Daily. Details describing who he met and what he did.  Those journals have been printed into books. One titled Frontiersman, was printed in 1960 in a limited number mostly for libraries.

James Clyman Frontiersman Book James is Denise M. Colby Great Great Great Grandfather 6th generation


He apparently wrote it all on slates and his daughter composed it into a book. I haven’t read it through completely but there’s a chapter on the Black Hawk War and being in the same unit as future President Lincoln and another on his later years when he settled in Napa, Ca.




James Clyman Journal of a Mountain Man Book Denise M. Colby 6th Generation to James Clyman


Another smaller version came out in the 1980s. My dad signed that one for me. Writing on the inside cover that I’m the 6th generation born in Napa to James Clyman. Pretty cool.



And even more cooler…I’ve actually seen the original journals.  They are in the Huntington Library in Pasadena.  


James Clyman in a 4th grade history book with jedidiah smith

A Page from a 4th Grade History book from 2014



He’s in the 4th grade history books as well, which was a real treat for my boys whenever they got to that particular unit.






He’s buried in the same cemetery as my parents and his grave is part of a historical tour they host every once in a while. 

Another historical nugget – the original ranch house is still standing. My dad used to spend his summers there and when the land was sold off for housing developments my parents purchased in the neighborhood.  You could see the top of the ranch house if you stood in my parents backyard.

Great Great Great Grandfather to Denise M. Colby 6th Generation to James Clyman


There’s more but I’ll save that for another post. I have plans for him to make an appearance in a book or two someday. With all the books out there to read, how fascinating I found someone who beat me to it.

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Why I Love the Internet #research #birthstones #history by @LyndiLamont

July 16, 2018 by in category The Romance Journey by Linda Mclaughlin tagged as , , , , , ,

I’ve been doing research on birthstone history and the 7th Cavalry for a new book, and I’m reminded again of how much I love the Internet.

When I started writing, the Internet was just barely starting, so I had to rely on print sources. The research for my first historical romance, Rogue’s Hostage, took a long time. Some questions I had weren’t answered until my husband and I made a trip to Quebec City in Canada! (Plus it’s always fun to see the places you’re writing about. Any excuse for a chance to travel.)

In any case, the Internet is now chock full of wonderful information for writers to access in minutes or hours, rather than days or weeks. Ah, ye old inter-library loan.

Anyway, I had decided I needed a valuable piece of jewelry for the new plot and thought it would be cool to connect it to a character’s birthstone. But how old was the concept of birthstones?

Quite old, as it turns out. Apparently the concept of assigning gems to categories goes back to the Old Testament when Aaron’s breastplate had 12 gems on it, each representing one of the tribes of Israel. In the Middle Ages, Jewish jewelers transferred the gems to the signs of the Zodiac and introduced them to Europe. It wasn’t long before the gems became associated with months of the year rather than the pagan astrological signs. You can read more about birthstone history here.

But are the birthstones still the same today? Not exactly. Here’s a graphic of the modern birthstone system, though there are now subsidiary gems assigned to the months as well. The “modern” list dates to 1912.

Birthstone Chart

Birthstone Chart from Depositphotos_77526296_m-2015

Again, thanks to our wonderful World Wide Web, I was able to easily locate a Gregorian Birthstone poem that was published by Tiffany and Co. in 1870, perfect for my 1893-set Western historical romance. Most are the same, but not all. March, June, August and December vary.

golden vintage brooch with emeralds

golden vintage brooch with emeralds isolated on white, Deposit Photos Image ID: 194305906
Copyright: vi0222

But which gemstone to choose? Which was the most valuable at the time?

According to an article written in 1949 that some lovely person digitized and uploaded the Internet, I learned that “from 1872 to the present day (1949) the emerald has been the most expensive stone.”

Here’s the verse for the month of May:

Who first beholds the light of day
In spring’s sweet flowery month of May
And wears an emerald all her life
Shall be a loved and happy wife.

Great, but what kind of jewelry?

I talked to my neighbor, whose father was a jeweler, and she suggested a brooch. They’re not very popular now, but were in the 19th century. I found this photo of a vintage brooch at Deposit Photos and I think it will be perfect for my book, since it has not one but two large emeralds.

Would someone kill for that? Maybe, if he were desperate enough.

What are you researching?


Linda McLaughlin / Lyndi Lamont
Website/blog: https://lindalyndi.com

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Now & Then: An Author Looks Back

March 15, 2018 by in category The Write Way by Maureen Child, Writing tagged as , , , ,

I am updating my early romances and contemporary women’s fiction novels with the intention of re-releasing them. I am excited because these books were my training ground. In these pages I can hear the first tentative sounds of my distinct ‘author’s voice’. I see that I instinctively had a good grasp of what makes a story work (don’t all voracious readers have that instinct?). There is one more thing I see in these books that is hard to embrace: my major author ‘dork’. I have no other word for my early writing stumbles. Some of them were mistakes of publishing fashion and others were born from an untrained sense of drama.

Since hindsight is a wonderful thing, I thought I’d share my top three ‘author dork’ mistakes.

1) Hysterical dialogue: This is not an industry term so don’t use it with an editor. Sill, I think it perfectly describes my use of long sentences, harsh words, and huge banks of exclamation points to get across a character’s anger, distress, fear and passion.

Solution: In my later work, I learned that proper scene set-up, thoughtful exposition, and spare and realistic dialogue give me a lot more dramatic punch.

2) Fad over fashion: Within the first few pages of Seasons (a book I really love) my heroine appears in Laura Ashley dress. If you’re old enough to know who Laura Ashley is, you’re cringing at the image. If you’re not old enough to know then I have made you stumble as you try to figure it out. I have no doubt I will also run across references to big shoulder pads and power suits.

Solution: I now describe clothing generally – jeans, slacks, blazer, leather jacket – to allow the reader to fill in the detail blanks. I use color to underscore character. I never use a designer name or a fad because this dates a book. The only exception is when I need the fad to assist in a plot point. For instance, a label in a corpse’s clothing might call out a specific designer.

3) Overwriting: When I first started writing there seemed to be an accepted rule of thumb that a chapter was twenty pages, that women’s fiction and romance were not worthy unless the author lingered over love scenes and dialogue was drawn out. If there is purpose to long stretches of prose or dialogue then go for it, but if during the edit the author can’t remember what happened in the last three pages of a book then the reader won’t remember either.

Solution: Tell the story. Do not write to word length. Either the story is solid and will move along at a good clip or it won’t, either it will be 100,000 words or it won’t.  The readers won’t stick with you.

The good news is that I am happy with these early books and will not fundamentally change them. I will, however, make them better by applying what I know now to what I wrote then. If only we could do the same thing with our high school yearbook pictures the world would be perfect!

Happy writing.

Don’t forget to check out my latest release, Secret Relations, book 3 in the Finn O’Brien Thriller Series.

Here’s where you can find me!

Website: http://rebeccaforster.com


Personal: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccaforster

Author page: https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaForster4/

Twitter: @Rebecca_Forster

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rebeccaforster1211/

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What’s for Dinner? Depends on the Century #Food #History #Research by @LyndiLamont

November 16, 2017 by in category The Romance Journey by Linda Mclaughlin tagged as , , , ,

Since Thanksgiving is a week away, it’s only natural that many of us are thinking about food. I love autumn and all the wonderful dishes that make up the traditional Thanksgiving feast, but did you know how many of them are New World foods?

Roasted Turkey On Harvest Table – c. evgenyb – license from Bigstock.com

The food supply expanded when Columbus “discovered” the New World. There were no potatoes, yams, tomatoes, pumpkins turkeys or maize (Indian corn) in the Middle Ages.

In Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders: A Writer’s (& Editor’s) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, & Myths, author Susanne Alleyn takes a swipe at Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage in the Disney movie. The carriage it doesn’t bother me so much, since Disney’s Cinderella is apparently set in the 18th century, if the gowns are anything to go on. At least it’s an improvement on the scene in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where the Huntsman leads Snow White into an American forest. I’m pretty sure I spotted a raccoon and an alligator. (Known fact: You can’t trust Hollywood when it comes to research.)

There was also no chocolate, no tea and no coffee in the Middle Ages. Peasants drank beer at every meal. The nobility drank wine. The introduction of coffee and tea in the 17th century helped to sober up Europe for the Industrial Revolution, thank goodness. Even the sober Pilgrims and Puritans drank beer in the 1600’s. If you’re writing a Medieval romance, don’t show your characters drinking tea, even if it’s herbal. The word “tea” comes from the Chinese, and didn’t enter the English language until around 1655. Herbal infusions, sometimes called tisannes, were mainly used for medicinal purposes.

Chocolate is native to the Americas, so the Spaniards were the first Europeans to encounter it. It became popular at court after the Spanish added sugar or honey to sweeten the natural bitterness. From there, chocolate spread through Europe in the 1600’s, and how thankful I am that it did. The best hot chocolate I’ve ever had was the dark, molten variety you find in France.

coffee & chocolate

coffee & chocolate, image licensed from Deposit Photos

Coffee drinking started in Arabia in the middle of the 15th century and had spread to Europe in the 16th century. It became more popular after 1600 when Pope Clement VIII declared it a “Christian” beverage. When Britain cut off America’s tea supply during the War of 1812, Americans turned to coffee and we’ve been a coffee-drinking nation ever since.

Tea comes from Asia and was introduced to Holland in 1610, in common use by 1675; introduced to England about 1660, where it steadily increased in popularity. The ritual we know as afternoon tea didn’t start until the 1840s. Afternoon tea was for the idle rich and includes finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. High tea, which isn’t nearly as grand as it sounds, was the name for the evening meal used by the working class and features a hot dish like a meat pie or stew.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Linda McLaughlin w/a Lyndi Lamont
Website: https://lindalyndi.com

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Horse Sense for Your Characters with @sdwriter: June @OCCRWA Online Class

May 23, 2017 by in category Online Classes tagged as , , , , ,

June’s OCC/RWA Online Class is Horse Sense for Your Characters


Shannon Donnelly

June 12 – July 7

June 2017 online class banner

About the Class:

Most folks today have limited experience as mounted riders, even less for side saddle, or driving a carriage, or training a horse for the movements once used by knights. This workshop provides some basic horse sense through the ages so your horses act more like characters who enrich your story and less like cars or other inanimate transportation objects.

We will cover:

  • General Horse Sense – Habit and herds: Horse Personality, Basic gaits, Useful Terms
  • Carriage and Riding Horses – What’s the difference?
  • Quick Trip Through History: Ancient Times, Palfrey/Destrier, The West: Knights of the Plains
  • England: Town and Country – Hunting season, ladies’ mounts, side saddle myths, Rotten Row
  • Basic Transport – Times, distances, and comfort, public transport of the coaching era
  • The Racing World – The sport of Kings; The sport of Queen
  • Special Breeds – Arabian, Lippizan, Akhal-Teke, Fresian, Viking’s Horse: Islandic Ponies


About the Instructor:

Shannon Donnelly and Drake

Shannon Donnelly and Drake

Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA’s Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.”

Her Regency romances can be found as ebooks on all formats, and with Cool Gus Publishing, and include a series of four novellas.

She also has out the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burn and Riding in on a Burning Tire, and the Urban Fantasy, Edge Walkers. Her work has been on the top seller list of Amazon.com and includes Paths of Desire, a Historical Regency romance.

She is the author of several young adult horror stories, and computer games. She lives in New Mexico with two horses, two donkeys, two dogs, and only one love of her life. Shannon can be found online at sd-writer.com, facebook.com/sdwriter, and twitter/sdwriter.

Enrollment Information

This is a 4-week online course that uses email and Yahoo Groups. If you do not have a Yahoo ID you will be prompted to create one when you join the class, but the process is not difficult. The class is open to anyone wishing to participate. The cost is $30.00 per person or, if you are a member of OCCRWA, $20.00 per person.


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