Fiction: No Such Thing as Progress

The ladies of Fort Grant get their feathers ruffled.

“Duty calls. I’ll come by later for the hop, girls,” Lieutenant Fahy said. “Good luck, Bill. I’ll have my boys dispose of the horse.”

Mrs. Markham eyed Miss Peckham steadily and waited for introduction.

William spoke. “Mrs. Markham, this is Miss Peckham from Philadelphia.”

“Peckham?”

“Yes, my uncle is a great friend of Captain Markham’s so I’m told.”

Mrs. Markham thought but came up blank. “Miss Peckham, I’m sorry to say that Captain Markham is on detached duty.”

“That sounds interesting. Is he off killing Indians?” Miss Peckham asked.

“No, court martial duty.”

“Oh. Well, I was wondering—hoping really that I might stay on a few days. I’m an authoress and I’m studying women—women of the West.”

Mrs. Markham laughed. “And what is there to study? Women are women.”

“So may I stay?”

Mrs. Markham blushed.

William began to strip the dead horse lying nearby of its tack.

“Mr. Weldon, I’m sorry about your pony,” Mrs. Markham said.

“That’s all right, ma’am. I rode her too hard. It’s my own fault.”

Thankful huffed.

Mrs. Markham rubbed William’s back as he stood up. “I have no room for you, Bill, I’m afraid, but we’ll set you up a nice tent for the night out back or maybe you’d like to find space with the infantry . . .”

“No, that’s too much trouble. I can, well, I can just go . . .” William craved a drink.

“You have no choice, young man. You deserve at least a hero’s supper, the way you saved your girl,” Mrs. Markham said.

“Mr. Weldon did not save me, and we’re just acquaintances,” Miss Peckham stated.

Mrs. Markham glanced at Miss Peckham. “Yes, well, I suppose you may stay on, miss. But Bill’s a hero to us. Thankful will share her room. It’s small but she’s done it up so sweet.”

Thankful blanched.

Miss Peckham brightened. “Good! Mr. Weldon, I’ll pay you again tomorrow if you go fetch my trunk and things from town and bring them back by stage—I left them with that Ginny girl—you do think she’s honest don’t you, Mr. Weldon—as you know her much better than I do?”

“Thankful’s room is small for a lot of things, Miss Peckham,” Mrs. Markham said.

Miss Peckham ignored the matron. “It’s no trouble for you, is it, Mr. Weldon?”

“No, I guess not.”

“How much do you want?” Miss Peckham asked, opening her purse again.

“Please, Miss Peckham, I won’t take a cent from you,” William replied, glancing around in humiliation. “There’s no need to negotiate a thing.”

“Ginny tells me you have no problem negotiating with her,” Miss Peckham joked.

William wiped his face. “Ginny is a friend, mostly. . . ”

Miss Peckham chuckled. “That girl is a beast and as dumb as stone.”

“You said earlier looks don’t matter and these two ladies don’t care what I get up to in town,” William said, turning to Mrs. Markham. “I’m not worthy of your company, and I never would have made the trip if I thought we’d be standing here discussing anything that goes on in town.”

“That’s the trouble with men,” Miss Peckham addressed the women as intimates. “They underestimate our tolerance for things. Women don’t faint at the thought of a whore or sex. Women have urges and feelings . . .”

Thankful blushed and took a step away from the others.

“It’s a matter of manners and breeding, Miss Peckham,” Mrs. Markham said, “that we prefer to avoid topics that may put a friend in an uncomfortable spot.”

“Pardon me,” Miss Peckham said. “I hadn’t imagined the army to be so quaint in manner when in action, from what I hear, they employ the most modern techniques of extermination.”

“Miss Peckham, stories in eastern magazines are not always accurate sources of information on the army,” William said.

“My Captain Markham is just now risking his life for the likes of you,” Mrs. Markham said, her voice deepening, “so you may travel around prattling on about a world you don’t understand and feeling superior!”

“Oh, please, ma’am, I meant no offense to you personally,” Miss Peckham said, taking the matron’s hand in her own. “My uncle has spoken quite highly of the captain. I’m sure there are exceptions.”

“Captain Markham is no exception!” Mrs. Markham replied. “Every officer in his regiment is as honorable as he is, and I’m proud of the whole lot of them. They’ve always shown themselves to be as fair-minded and as considerate as possible. There are bad soldiers somewhere, I’m sure, but I’ve never met one yet, and I’ve been with the army since the war.”

“That’s sweet, but does the army pay you?” Miss Peckham asked.

“Is everything about money to you? I gladly go without to spend time with the captain . . .”

“Some women, I know, are impressed by a uniform,” Miss Peckham laughed.

“It’s the man wearing it, Miss Peckham!” Mrs. Markham exclaimed.

“I always wondered. Do military men insist that their wives call them by their titles?” Miss Peckham asked.

“It’s a show of respect, miss,” William said.

“And endearment,” Mrs. Markham added with reddened face.

“Oh, Mrs. Markham, I’m sure you’re satisfied with the captain,” Miss Peckham said, patting the older lady’s arm, “but I for one have never been good at taking orders.”

“Captain Markham doesn’t order me!” Mrs. Markham cried.

“But it’s implied.” Miss Peckham noted. She straightened her pantaloons.

William moaned.

“Miss Peckham, Mrs. Markham is doing a nice thing in letting you stay, but maybe you might find town more to your liking,” William suggested.

“Mrs. Markham, I’m sure you understand my talk is of a political nature and not intended to make judgment on you personally. We’re all creatures of our environment,” Miss Peckham explained.

Thankful turned to her. “There is good reason for women to stay clear of politics. Bringing women’s minds into the gutter, where some men keep theirs already, is not my idea of progress.” She gave William a sharp look.

“And what do you believe is progress, Miss Crenshaw?” Miss Peckham asked.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Family Saga Friday (LINKS)

What is a family saga? I found this definition on Goodreads:

The family saga chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families. The typical novel follows the generations of a family through a period of time to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multiple of perspectives.

Each Friday I’ll share a little on this genre & family history  (also, if anyone would like to share a piece of their own family saga, memoir or just plain old family memories let me know and we can work on posting it here).

And remember weekends are the perfect time to read family saga fiction!

Happy Friday,

A

 Haunting Line Inspired New Historical Fiction Novel

 

Reading Up On Some Osawatomie history

 

Eternal: A Poem

Family Saga Friday

What is a family saga? I found this definition on Goodreads:

The family saga chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families. The typical novel follows the generations of a family through a period of time to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multiple of perspectives.

For some reason after nearly 15 years of writing about two fictional families you would think I would have realized what I wrote was called family saga fiction (case of not seeing the forest for the trees). Thank God I finally know what my novels are since usually when people ask I turn into a complete idiot.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a little on this genre & family history each week (also, if anyone would like to share a piece of their own family saga, memoir or just plain old family memories let me know and we can work on posting it here).

And remember weekends are the perfect time to read family saga fiction!

Happy Friday,

A

LINKS:

MY LOVE OF READING by RITU BHATHAL

40 YEAR OLD FAMILY RECIPE BOOK BRINGS BACK MEMORIES AND TEARS

FIRST LOOK: THE COLLECTION a period drama

 

Holiday Gratitude:Friends

forget4Thanks to all the kind and supportive bloggers and readers of my novels for making this a wonderful year!

002My cover designer SAMANTHA HENNESSY created these adorable seed packets in honor of our next cover collaboration on the continuing BUCK CRENSHAW SERIES of novels. Aren’t they sweet? We have some great ideas for the cover of the book, but this was just for fun. The packets are filled with lovely Forget Me Not seeds. Sprinkle a few in your garden and have blooms for years!

Leave a comment for your chance to win a pretty packet! I’ll pick a few people from a hat!

Seeds need a hidden time  in winter. We need germination time and stillness, too. I’ll be taking the holidays off to read books (and blogs I’ve neglected), be with friends and family and do a bit of much needed germinating.

Love and friendship to you all!

Adrienne

 

 

Character Development Revisited/ Grenville Dodge

Grenville looking cool, hanging out with the guys.
Grenville looking cool, hanging out with the guys.

Okay, you non-history buffs–this isn’t really about a Civil War soldier railroad guy so calm down. Well, it is sort of. A while back I wrote glowingly of Grenville Dodge, but (and this is the good thing) he’s more complex than I originally thought, not quite so heroic in all things. In fact he was a hater. He hated blacks, Irish, Catholics (he really hated Catholics) and most other people. I don’t mind someone who hates with abandon–at least they’re being fair.

Soup throwing jerk I love.
Soup throwing jerk I love.

It seems he also may have painted a hand injury in a different light from the way it really happened (he forgot he had a pistol in his pocket or something). But haven’t we all had those moments? Once when my husband and I were obsessed with making stained glass( it was like working in a sweat shop but we were the bosses and the workers) I grabbed the wrong end of a soldering iron. In this case there was no hope of me dressing up the story–not with a hostile witness standing nearby 🙂

Back to Grenville. I shouldn’t have put the guy on such a pedestal. I mean, he’s still great for the things he accomplished but he had a bit of a temper–once he threw soup over a black waiter because the guy was staring at the gold buttons on his jacket for too long. Dear Grenville was proud of this story, so okay, he was a bit of an ass.

C'mon Grenville, give us a smile.
C’mon Grenville, give us a smile.

The characters in my series will get into railroad stocks, bonds and swindles in the late 1880’s so I’m not sure if Grenville will make a cameo but he does get high marks for character development, and I still adore him. Is that wrong? I think not.

My first article on Grenville.

Moral Ambivalence and Quiet People

Moral ambivalence on a quiet afternoon.
Moral ambivalence on a quiet afternoon.

Watch out for the quiet ones. They often take you places you didn’t think you’d go. After Buck Crenshaw and his twin threw William Weldon from a hayloft and broke his arm in THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD I thought I’d never see Buck again.

But there was Buck in his quietly scheming yet tentative way tapping my shoulder. I’m going to West Point, he kept saying so when an actual human friend wanted me to tag along on a trip up to the academy to see her son I was game. I’d been going to football there for a while, but this time we walked the grounds on a perfect late spring day.

Buck came along, of course, in my mind. What’s the story, Buck? I asked myself or Buck or my muse. No one answered, but weeks later after I promised Buck I’d write something about him (I’d already imagined him now in cadet uniform, with violet eyes like his mother’s and sandy colored straight hair sitting at his desk and being far more studious than I would have guessed) I stumbled upon the controversy surrounding admittance of the first black cadets to West Point.

West Point Military Academy, courtesy Library of Congress
West Point Military Academy, courtesy Library of Congress

I shook my head, no. I’m not going to write about evil white boys hazing perfect black boys. I knew life was more complex than “this color is good; this color is bad” and I didn’t want to touch the subject. AND THERE IT WAS. Buck sat a little smugly at his desk now (polished uniform buttons and all). Yes, he seemed to say, I want no part of this messy race stuff. I want to be an officer and beat my twin brother in all things and win Rose Turner’s hand in marriage and THAT’S IT.

But what about this Milford Streeter (who is as seriously flawed as everyone else) arriving as one of the first (but not the first) black young men to give the Academy a go?

Buck looked me in the eye. So? What of it? I’m at the top of my class and going for colors. I have nothing against Streeter and I’ll be the gentleman  I’m supposed to be.

But what will your brother Fred and his friends a year ahead of you at West Point think when you befriend Streeter?

Buck got a little ruffled at this question and replied: I SAID I’D BE A GENTLEMAN TO STREETER. I NEVER SAID I’D BE HIS FRIEND.

I noticed something in the way he said it though–a crack in his aloof and confident demeanor. Buck Crenshaw wasn’t hard like his brother. He’d allow a sort of friendship and there’s where Buck’s troubles began.

Perfection is a myth. Flawed humanity is the reality. Compassion is the only hope.

Buck and I would love for you to read his story. WEARY of RUNNING is now available in paperback and for KINDLE at AMAZON.COM.

And for those of you who haven’t read the other story about the people of Tenafly Road, my first novel THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD will be on sale (KINDLE COUNTDOWN) in ebook form beginning Friday, June 5th-12th.

Sex in a Debtors’ Prison

I'm so in the mood for sex right now.
I’m so in the mood for sex right now.

Once upon a time (in 1748) a man named John Cleland sat in a lonely debtors’ prison in England. Day after dreary day he sat thinking of sex. He couldn’t help himself. Debtors’ prison was god-awfully dull.

We don’t know for sure if John ever pleasured himself, but according to Dr. William Acton anyone who did that sort of thing “cannot look anyone in the face, and becomes careless in dress and uncleanly in person. His intellect has become sluggish and enfeebled, and if his habits are persisted in, he may end in becoming a driveling idiot.” *

(I’m wondering here at the very sloppily dressed men I see these days)

Back to John. He hadn’t become quite the idiot yet, so he picked up pen and paper and wrote the first English prose erotic novel about a young virgin girl gone wild (through no real fault of her own). Poor Fanny is sent to live with a woman she believes to be rich. Turns out she’s pimping out girls. When the woman finds that Fanny is a virgin the hijinks begin. Despite everyone being against the book, it was passed around and sent overseas to puritanical America and passed round still more (mostly amongst young men behind barns and carriage houses).

It was also illustrated–rather poorly, but who cared? Not the young lads laughing behind the barn.

Illustration by Édouard-Henri Avril.
Illustration by Édouard-Henri Avril.

A sampling of John’s work:

“But what was yet more surprising, the owner of this natural curiosity, through the want of occasions in the strictness of his home-breeding, and the little time he had been in town not having afforded him one, was hitherto an absolute stranger, in practice at least, to the use of all that manhood he was so nobly stock’d with; and it now fell to my lot to stand his first trial of it, if I could resolve to run the risks of its disproportion to that tender part of me, which such an oversiz’d machine was very fit to lay in ruins.” Wikipedia

For the more erudite there was the other best-selling secret book: Aristotle’s Masterpiece. Since Aristotle wrote about animals having sex it was assumed he was an expert lover. The boys behind the carriage houses ate it up.

By the 1850’s the rules of sex were changing in America. It was assumed up until then that young people would have sex out of wedlock.  Not that premarital sex wasn’t frowned upon but it was tolerated and arrangements were made for the protection of children (not by any means were all the children protected).

Maybe it was the sight of so many bastards around sad and lonely without  their fathers that pushed society in the Victorian direction. The new moral code prescribed young men to WAIT. To CONTROL themselves. Yes, indeed. Boys in the North were expected to follow the new rules. The young Northern girls were to help them by being morally superior.

Southern young men were ridiculed for being virgins, especially in the small farming communities. And there was to be no help from the girls as they were seen as morally weaker and easily led by the dashing boys who read Fanny Hill and Aristotle behind the barn.

Of course, all boys were told (by other boys) that saving a good girl’s virtue was the right thing to do. Pleasuring oneself led to idiocy, so . . . there were the bad girls. In the North they were the immigrant ones. In the South, they were the slaves.

Back to the debtors’ prison and poor John only dreaming about all he could be getting up on the outside. John Celand was no idiot after all. He published Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure and became a secret hero to boys through many printings and controversies.

I wonder if we aren’t set for a swing back even today. Will there be a sudden awakening to the many fatherless children of our times and its cost upon society (not to mention the sadness of being a child without a father)? Will sex and porn be sent back to the private places? Yes, there will always be books and laughter behind the barns, and there are only fairy tales about a virginal past, but maybe discretion would be nice for a change.

*Love, Sex and Marriage In The Civil War by Charles A. Mills