Summer has always reminded me of the wide open spaces of the old West. Maybe it's because it's the season when my Dad would pack up the family and take us to the local "drive in" to see western movies or to camp out in the open range under the stars. (My mother's cousins owned several nearby ranches) Today's guest in My Writing Corner is Donna Schlachter who also takes us us back into the old West.
Donna is a hybrid author who writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She says she loves history and research, traveling extensively for both. Welcome, Donna!
Tell us about your road to publication.
My first publication was in a Sunday School take-home paper. Then I sold a piece to an online women’s newsletter. So I thought short pieces were my thing. I wrote those for a few years, but didn’t have much success. I wanted to write fiction, but didn’t know what. An email about NaNoWriMo 2002 came across my inbox, and I was hooked. I wrote a cozy mystery, sent it to every publisher I could find, with no takers. In 2005, I attended a writer’s conference and spoke to a book packager about some ideas I had, and he showed me a project for 180 devotionals in a gift book style devotional. I said I could do it. The book released in 2006. In 2007, the same book packager hired me to write a book on marriage, which released in 2008. In the meantime, I was still writing cozies. In 2012, I signed with my current agent, Terrie Wolfe. When 2014 came around and still no takers, I decided to go the indie route and publish them. I’ve since published in novella collections and published a full-length historical with traditional publishers, and I’ve continued down the indie path. I live both, for different reasons, but that’s a different question.
What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author?
For me, initially, the most challenging part of being an author was admitting to myself that I was an author. Until I published my first book, I didn’t much feel like one. I felt like a fraud, actually. Even after the first book came out, I struggled with telling other people that I was an author, because the first question then was “Are you published?” “Yes.” “How many books?” “Uh, one.” See what I mean?
I was certain that 1 published book didn’t really make me an author. Now I say I’m a published author, and when folks ask—as they invariably do—how many books, I say, “More than 50.” Honestly, I can’t believe it myself.
What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it?
My most recent release was Calli, and it’s part of the Prairie Roses 2022 Collection. The invitation to join the collection was what spurred me to write the story. I set it at a place I’ve visited, the historic Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Coming up with ideas has never been a problem for me. The time to write them all is my hindrance.
Let's get a blurb:
Calli works as a nurse with the US Army at Fort Bridger, Wyoming in 1880. When a wagon train full of discouraged emigrants passes through on its way east, a pregnant widow delivers her baby then dies. Bradley Wilson, leading this train, has few options. He asks Calli to travel with them until they find a relative to take the child in St. Joe, Missouri. Calli, drawn to both this dark and quiet man and the child, resists. But when she disappears, he wonders if she’s run away or been kidnapped. Can these two put their pasts behind them and move into a new future together? Or will Calli insist on having things her own way?
How about an excerpt?
April 30th, 1870
Twenty miles west of Fort Bridger, Wyoming Territory
Bradley Wilson shielded his eyes from the burning sun and surveyed the trail ahead, thankful to be out of the wagon and stretching his legs. Eastward. He’d traveled this same trail two years before, heading in the opposite direction. What took him back now? Failure? No, more like disappointment. A cloud of dust as big as Kansas, kicked up by the prairie schooners ahead of him, blotted out whatever lay in that direction. Sweat dribbled down the center of his back. He longed to scratch but knew the action wouldn’t satisfy. Instead, he yanked a wrinkled ball of calico from his shirt pocket and swiped at his face. How a body could sweat so much in a land so empty of water was beyond him.
He wished he could guzzle the rest of his day’s ration. Or pour it over his head to cool his fevered brain. But neither would satisfy more than a second and a half. Wasting the precious commodity would haunt him.
Maybe he was too good for his own good.
Isn’t that what those who abandoned the wagon train had said? Right before they broke off on their own, forging ahead instead of waiting for Joe Collins to die? Two weeks it took. Fourteen days of listening to the man keen and holler night and day. And no amount of laudanum eased the pain of his broken back. Of his insides in knots, sewn back into place as best his wife could do.
Who knew a horse could drag a man for more’n three miles, and that person still survive? Even if for only a fortnight.
And Miz Collins, ready to drop her first young’un any minute.
Bradley shook his head and double-stepped ahead of his oxen. No, siree. Joe Collins was too good for this world. Along with his widow, Elspeth.
His oxen followed the team ahead as if he sat in the wagon and held the leads. He patted the muzzle of the one nearest him, Beau. The off-side lead, Bob, snorted.
“I know. You’re jealous. I’ll get you soon.”
The pair, purchased in St. Joseph two years prior, had carried him westward. Away from memories of the war. Hoping to find a better life. Away from his sweet Millicent. And their babe. Both now buried on a hill under a tree in east of the Missouri River. He should never have left them behind. Should have kept them safe. Away from the influenza.
But running wasn’t the answer. As he now understood. And so, he returned east, passing wagon trains of the hopeful and the excited and the naïve going the opposite direction every day. Them heading west, toward the new life he’d sought but never found.
Calliope Jeffers—or Calli, as she preferred—leaned over her patient. “You’re going to be fine.”
The woman, a private’s wife, her hair plastered to her forehead with sweat, panted. “Don’t feel like it. Hurts a lot.”
Calli propped the woman’s legs up so her feet lay flat on the tick mattress. “It will be over soon.”
The door creaked open, and an anxious face appeared in the space. The husband. “Is it done yet?”
Calli shook her head. “No, it’s hardly started. Go outside and wait.” She sat on a stool at the end of the bed and tugged a sheet over her patient’s legs. Even in this, she’d afford her whatever privacy she could. “Now, when you feel the next contraction, breathe through it like I showed you. Quick breaths. Understood?”
“Until the pain gets so bad, and my brain stops working.”
The mother-to-be did well until, as predicted, she stopped thinking. Her toes curled, and she bore down.
Time to distract her.
Calli’s eyeglasses steamed up from her own effort and the heat that had built during the day. Whoever thought that married couples should live on the second floor of a barn-style barracks, with paper-thin walls and a one-layer roof should be taken out and shot. She cleaned her glasses in her apron, then donned them again. “That was good. Next time, when you want to push, scream instead. Sing. Holler. Whatever works.”
Even two short years of experience taught Calli it was difficult to bear down and scream at the same time.
Two years. Is that all it was since she moved here to Fort Bridger and taken on her dream job? After graduating from nursing college, most of her class sought positions in city hospitals, hoping to find a handsome doctor to marry.
Not her. At twenty-one, she already had the man she wanted. And his assignment to Fort Bridger afforded her the opportunity to work with one of the best doctors in the territory. Such plans she had. Work. Learn. Have babies.
But then it all ended. Snatched away by a supposed accident.
So she’d had to make a new plan.
And none of it included men, a second marriage, or babies of her own. She sighed and pushed her eyeglasses up the bridge of her nose. Her own babes would be okay, but without the first two, there’d be none of the latter. No, she’d assuage any maternal instinct bubbling to the surface by delivering other women’s infants.
Sounds interesting! What’s your next project?
I’m currently working on another historical mystery romance for another indie collection. My book, Dianna’s Dilemma, is book 19 of The Reclusive Man series. It releases in September 2022.
What advice do you have for beginning writers?
(in my best Winston Churchill impression, cigar and all) Never, never quit.
That’s it. I had plenty of opportunities to quit over the years. But I realized early on that if I gave up before I had at least 1 book on a shelf that had my name on the cover, I’d never know if I had at least 1 book inside me. And once I had the first, then I had to know if I had 2 books inside me. Rejection isn’t easy. But face it: no matter what you choose to do, there will always be somebody who will say you can’t. Unless you choose to fail, that is. Prove them wrong! Never, never quit.
Thank you, Donna, for the advice and being my guest today. To learn more about Donna and buy her book:
www.DonnaSchlachter.com Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!
Books: Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ci5Xqq
Any comments or questions for Donna?