Fictional Women in the Wild West

Happy Monday!

Please welcome novelist Julie Howard to Write Despite. Julie’s new novel, The Three Widows of Wylder, was just released by The Wild Rose Press.

Julie writes historical fiction. Here, she treats us to a bit about her process, her inspiration, and the tough road women traveled in the American Old West.

Take it away, Julie:

Thank you, Karen, for hosting me on your blog. I’m happy to talk a bit about the inspiration for my upcoming release, The Three Widows of Wylder, a historical fiction that takes place in the American Old West. There are three main characters in this story, as the title implies, and each gets their own chapter in alternating fashion. Early on, their stories merge as they join up to escape their pasts.

I’ve had shadows of these characters in my mind for a few years, with the overarching story inspired by a few people I know. The characters are nothing like the real people I’ve known. When a real person inspires a character, the inspiration could come from a brief conversation or the way someone views life. It could be evoked by a physical quirk or the way someone laughs at their own jokes. Often, that’s enough to get my imagination into gear.

In this story, the women have complicated pasts with secrets to hide. They band together in a disharmonious goal to reach safety. In their previous lives, these are women who would never become friends, but their plights compel them to work together.

This story is part of a broader series my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, has produced, where each book is set in the fictional town of Wylder, in the old Wyoming Territory. In 1882 when my book is set, Wyoming was truly the Old West and under a huge change. The area attracted a huge mix of people, from adventurers seeking lands to explore to ranchers to outlaws. I’ve always been intrigued with how difficult women had it during this time, and how hard they had to struggle to have any independence at all. For the most part, their existence was ruled by the men in their lives. These themes, too, play a large role in this novel.

Excerpt:

Emma stood, legs apart, one hand on the pistol at her hip. The covered wagon was the type used years ago by pioneers, before trains tamed the prairie, and they still lumbered across areas where tracks hadn’t been laid. Two women sat side-by-side, too focused on their argument to yet notice the camp they entered. Their one horse, overmatched by the heavy wagon, was damp with sweat, its mouth flecked with froth. 

“We should have stayed on the main road.” The peevish one appeared much younger, curly gold hair topped by a large straw hat. She wore a light-yellow dress with lace at her wrists and throat, a perfectly inadequate outfit for travel. “Someone could have provided directions.”

The older woman had finely-drawn features, a few strands of gray threaded through her dark, uncovered hair. Dressed in sensible blue calico, she gripped the reins too tight and the poor horse gave a pathetic shake of its head. “The whole point was to avoid people,” she sniped.

Emma strode forward and seized the reins. “For God’s sake, you’re killing him.”

The two women gaped as though at an apparition. The horse, released from harsh hands, lowered its head and halted. Its sides heaved as flies drank at its sweaty flanks.

“Whomever let you two fools handle a horse should be whipped.” Tempted to dispatch the women to hell for their cruelty, Emma rested her hand on the pistol’s handle.

They two travelers spoke in tandem. “Who are you?” and “How dare you call me a fool.”

As Emma crooned into in the horse’s ear, her expert fingers undid the buckles at its shoulders and haunches. By the time the older of the two women climbed to the ground, the horse was unhitched and Emma led it to the creek.

“That’s our horse,” cried the one in yellow. “Clara, what is that insane girl doing? She’s stealing him.”

Emma halted, shoulders stiff. She turned and pointed the pistol at the one with lace at her throat. “I’m no horse thief.” She cocked the hammer. “Apologize.”

About the author:

Julie Howard is the author of the Wild Crime mystery series and Spirited Quest paranormal mystery series. She is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild and editor of the Potato Soup Journal. 

Find Julie on social media:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/juliemhowardauthor

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Julie-Howard/e/B07D6CS4NQ/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/julie-howard?list=author_books

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_JulieMHoward

Follow her on Instagram: @authorjuliehoward 

 Buy links for The Three Widows of Wylder:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Three-Widows-Wylder-West-ebook/

iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-three-widows-of-wylder/id1585169665

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-three-widows-of-wylder-julie-howard/

Inspiration anyone?

Please welcome novelist Julie Howard author of the Wild Crime series, who’s new novel Spirit in Time debuts today. Julie is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild, editor of the Potato Soup Journal, and founder of the Boise chapter of Shut Up & Write. Learn more at juliemhoward.com.

From Julie:

Ask a writer where their ideas come from, and most of the time they’ll shrug their shoulders. I often find it difficult to backtrack and discover the source for a book’s plot. More often than not, I point to a glimmer of inspiration, something so faint that only I can see it.

My new release, Spirit in Time, is set in 1872 in Sacramento, California. I lived there for about ten years and loved this historical and vibrant city, the heart of the nineteenth century Gold Rush and a terminus of the Intercontinental Railroad. Great wealth flowed through Sacramento and this time was the dawning of what came to be known as the Gilded Age. California had only recently become a state and Sacramento was a swampy area of land caught between two rivers. The city fell victim to frequent fires and floods in its early years. Ingenuity and fortitude were key in making the land livable and today a metropolis of 2.5 million people.

I had already established a series that features ghost-hunting blogger, Jillian Winchester. I knew I wanted the setting for the next book in the series to be Sacramento’s Gilded Age. But then, where did the plot come from?

It’s difficult to walk around the older part of the city without seeing glimpses of the past. Victorian mansions, old brothels, decommissioned rail tracks, a cemetery both eerie and beautiful. Maybe a ghost whispered: Pick me.

Usually, with a plot or character, something sticks in my mind and won’t leave. The story demands to be written – sort of like a song that lingers in your head no matter how you try to shake it out. In the case of Spirit in Time, the old Crocker mansion was this inspiration. Now a museum, the Italianate Victorian structure was built by the wealthy and powerful Crocker family in the late nineteenth century, along with a massive art gallery to house artwork they accumulated over the years. And yes, there are those who say the place is haunted.

The rest was easy. A ghost. A little time travel. A mystery to be solved.

Here’s a blurb for Spirit in Time:

“Time travel isn’t real. It can’t be real. But ghost-blogger Jillian Winchester discovers otherwise when an enigmatic spirit conveys her to 1872 to do his bidding. Jillian finds herself employed as a maid in Sacramento, in an elegant mansion with a famous painting. The artwork reveals another mystery: Why does the man within look exactly like her boyfriend, Mason Chandler?”

Morality and sin live side by side, not only in the picture, but also within her. As her transgressions escalate, she races the clock to find the man in the painting, and hunt down a spirit with a disconcerting gift. But will time be her friend or foe?”