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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

12 Days of Pioneer Christmas: Uncommon Romance

12 Days of Pioneer Christmas: Uncommon Romance

12 Days of Christmas promotionA Pioneer Christmas is the third inspirational romance collection for which I’ve written a story. As is my custom, I’ve read the stories written by my co-writers to get a feel for the book. This beautiful fat book with nine tales feels just a little different from your average Christmas romance novella.

The romance genre has specific elements that make it a romance: the point of view alternates between the hero and the heroine; the couple traditionally meet in the first chapter and don’t like each other; the stories end with a wedding.

Wikipedia notes: “novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”
Most people translate that into a shorthand: boy meets girl; girl doesn’t like boy; boy loses girl; girl recognizes the boy’s finer qualities (perhaps he saves her); they marry and live happily ever after
But in A Pioneer Christmas, several writers–including me– tweaked the genre for a different angle on pioneer romance. I found them delightfully satisfying and a bit bemusing, wondering more than once, “how is this one going to end?”

Fully a third of these stories begin with a married couple–the romance is young and passionate, but the marriage already has been consummated.
So, where’s the romance in that?kissing
I’m not giving away any spoilers . . .

It’s helpful to remember that life on the prairie was difficult and widow and widowerhood was a frequent occurrance. Marriages sometimes had to be made for convenience and “falling in love,” often was not practical when stock needed to be tended.

Cynthia Hickey’s A Christmas Castle is upfront about marital challenges between virtual strangers: her heroine is a mail order bride. Or, in this case, a mail order widow upon arrival in a small Arizona ranch town riven with controversy.

She takes to her inheritance with dash and aplomb, not to mention instant motherhood. She displays the deering-do necessary to survive, particularly when the neighbors are out to get you.

The Christmas Angel by Lauraine Snelling features an anxious pregnant woman whose husband is long overdue from town with the necessary supplies. What will happen to her out on that prairie they’ve fought so hard to “own up” if he does not return?

Her cheerful example in the face of tragedy, a determination not to give in to despair, resonated with me and I marveled at her strength.

Anna Urquhart’s A Silent Night begins with a young couple fully in love but facing a voyage across the Atlantic to a new life. When her husband goes missing with blood left on the ground, the heroine is forced to consider the unthinkable: marriage to an older neighbor.

But how else is she to survive in a half-built cabin with a small child to protect?

The Gold Rush Christmas displays tension between the heroine and the would-be hero–even though he doesn’t appear until chapter two. And what’s the deal with her brother seeming to like the guy better than his sister?

Even Margaret Brownley’s story A Pony Express Christmas features an unusual twist: the hero is rescued from certain death by the matter-of-fact heroine.

You can read more conventional genre challenges in Vickie McDonough’s Buckskin Bride; Shannon McNear’s Defending Truth; Kathleen Fuller’s The Calling; and  Marcia Gruver’s The Badlands Christmas.

Christmas, of course, is featured in each story and most include at least a promise of mariage to come, My take away, though, was honest admiration for characters who overcame their circumstance to make a –mostly–realistic life in harsh surroundings.

A Pioneer Christmas Collection is an unusual and satisfying read–perfect for the winter when the snow is howling, the rain pouring, or the animals just in need of a little tending. And each one provides a complete and interesting night’s read.
But I admit–I’m biased!

What do you look for in a good romance?

Friday, August 23, 2013

A GOOD PIONEER - Vickie McDonough

Vickie McDonough is the author of numerous novels and novellas, including the Texas Trails: Morgan Family and Texas Boardinghouse Brides. Vickie discusses “Buckskin Bride”, her novella in A Pioneer Christmas. For more information about Vickie and her books, visit her website: 


What made you write about your period in time?

I love historical novels, and that’s mostly what I write. I chose 1889 because it was the year of the first Oklahoma land run, and I wanted my story to take place during the winter after that. My hero won land in the land run, and that’s the setting for my story, Buckskin Bride.

How is Christmas celebrated in your family and what effect did it have on your writing this story?

Even though our boys are all grown now, we still put up a tree and have lights and decorations all over the living room. I hang stockings on the mantel but we no longer fill them since our sons are grown. We eat cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning, then open presents, and later, have a big dinner mid-afternoon with the whole family. Christmas has been even more fun the past seven years since my granddaughter was born. I don’t know that my personal Christmas celebrations had any bearing on my story, except that the families in my novella gather together for Christmas dinner.

What research did you do to authenticate Christmas celebrations in your story?

I didn’t do anything research since the Christmas celebration in my story focused mainly around the dinner and it’s set in Oklahoma, a place I’m very familiar with.

When you dreamed up your story idea, what came first, the time period, the story, the location?

I’d have to say the location because I wanted to set my story in the Oklahoma Territory.

What was the "germ" of your story idea and how did you flesh it out?

Actually, it was a tipi (teepee). One of the criteria for this novella collection was that your hero or heroine needed to live in an unusual type of home. I decided on a tipi and made up a story to fit with that.

Would you like to have been there?

I think it would have been exciting to have ridden in one of the land runs, just like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman did in the movie, Far and Away. There was so much anticipation and expectations for the families hoping to win free land. Many did but thousands of people did not get land. I have friends who have family still living on the land their ancestors won in the land rush.

What aspects of your characters are reflected in yours?

My heroine, Maddie, has dressed in buckskins most of her life. She’s comfortable in them, and it makes riding horses, hunting, and doing chores easier. She has no desire to wear dresses—and neither do I, although I don’t wear buckskins. J I don’t care for dresses, and I only own two. One of them is the one I wore in my son’s wedding, thirteen years ago.

Have you been to the locations in which your story is set?

I was born and raised in Oklahoma, and have traveled much of the state. I don’t know that I’ve been to the exact spot where my story takes place, though, because I was rather vague about were it is located exactly.

What surprised you the most about your story?

That my heroine finally dons a dress. I had my doubts that she actually would.

Would you have made a good pioneer?

In some ways. I love horses and have always been a tomboy and even dreamed of growing up and marrying a rancher. But, I love my modern conveniences like my laptop, air conditioning, kitchen appliances, and indoor plumbing and would hate to leave them all behind.

Were any of your ancestors pioneers? If so, where and when?

My dad’s parents were born in 1874 & 1876. I know that’s hard to believe but it’s true. I’ve never been able to verify it, but my dad told me that my grandma rode in one of the Oklahoma land rushes with her parents. I do know that my grandparents left the Pennsylvania Dutch country and traveled to El Dorado, Kansas, where my dad—the youngest of their ten children—was born. Then my grandpa got a job with an oil company, and they moved the family to Oklahoma. I still have family in Pennsylvania.

What spiritual themes did you deliberately incorporate into your story?

Trusting God when times are hard is a common theme I write about and one I used for Buckskin Bride.  Which ones did you discover later?  I pretty much stuck to that theme and can’t think of anything that popped up later in the book.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The Day My Parents Got Lost
Has your child ever wandered off or gotten lost? When our oldest daughter was a toddler, she wandered off in a department store. Suddenly we were experiencing every parent's worst fear. Then when we found her, her tone was accusing, “You left me.”

Muttering in my own disbelief, “I… didn’t… leave you.” Then having to spend many years trying to convince her that the way she ‘pictured’ things was not what she thought. I’m not sure who needed therapy more. Our daughter, for feeling abandoned, or us for her making us feel like we were horrible parents. She was too young to realize the whole situation. Now that she’s older, and a school teacher, she’s thrilled to find out I wrote a book inspired by those events. Her students are anxious to read it, especially knowing it was inspired by their teacher. 

My newest picture book, The Day My Parents Got Lost, takes a look at getting lost through a child’s eyes. While in the story, his parents are having fun, that most likely wouldn’t be the case in real life. The story gives children the opportunity to see how parents feel. I wrote this as a humorous story because while getting lost is very real and scary, we don’t want to scare children. The book gives parents and teachers the opportunity to speak with children about what they should do if they get separated from parents or a group. If you haven’t developed a plan with your children, or even your grandchildren, discuss safety tips and who they should turn to if they have a problem. 

As a tool to help you lead into this conversation with discussing the topic and how to respond, I am offering The Day My Parents Got Lost for free August 20-22. Please download a free copy during these dates and leave a review on Amazon so that other readers know how much you enjoyed the story. 

Download a copy for free August 20-22 at:  

Feel free to contact me through my website and share if you have ever had a child wander off or get lost. You can also download free coloring pages for Wacky Wishes. We will be having free coloring pages coming soon for The Day My Parents Got Lost.  

Comments and coloring pages:
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Monday, August 19, 2013


Back when this wonderful land of ours was being settled, brave pioneers lived in whatever type of dwelling they could slap together. Some above ground, some below.

When I heard of Barbour Publisher putting together a Christmas anthology collection of pioneers celebrating Christmas in usual types of abodes, I thought of a dugout around the area of Tucson, Arizona.
During my research I learned that it does occasionally snow in the desert, which I would have had a hard time believing if I hadn't seen it once with my own eyes. So, of course not only do my characters live in a dugout, but they deal with snow and a ruthless man who wants their land.
In a Pioneer Christmas collection, some of the unusual dwellings are a tavern, a stagecoach stop, etc. Join nine award-winning authors as they help you experience Christmas as our ancestors did, and discover the true meaning for the holiday.
Releasing September 1, 2013, Journey along with American settlers who learn that despite where the trail takes them or how primitive their lodgings may be Christmas is all about the heart. Determined to honor Christ's birth, these pioneers find a way to make Christmas happen in places like a cave, a tipi, and a dugout. Modern readers will enjoy a peek into life before commercialism took over the sacred day, distracting us from the true blessings of faith, hope, and love. Enjoy nine original novellas of Christmas romance as penned from many of today's leading Christian authors, including Lauraine Snelling, Margaret Brownley, Kathleen Fuller, and Vickie McDonough.