I’m inspired by American history and how events, both large and small, shaped this nation into what it is today. Even when I’m writing a contemporary, I try to sneak a bit of history into the story. Most of my travels are centered around which historic sites I can hit along the way. For me, it’s not the destination, but the journey.
1) Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park in California. This tops my list, and I’m dying to get back to it. Jedediah is the reason I decided to learn the craft of writing. I watched a History Channel show on his life, which was filled to the brim with adventure and danger. At the end of the show, Jedediah wandered off into the desert and was never heard from again. I didn’t like the way his life ended, and came up with a scenario I liked much better. My story has been written and rewritten five or six times, and even won an RWA-sponsored contest. But it’s not done yet. Hence the need for another trip.
2) The Badlands of South Dakota. We pulled into the Badlands just as dusk was settling over the eerie place. We had watched the movie Thunderheart the night before, so we were ready. It had been raining, and we were trying to decide whether to go on or turn around when a rainbow suddenly appeared in front of us. We stopped the car and when we got out for pictures, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Spooky place but ruggedly beautiful.
3) My log cabin in the West Virginia woods. I once read that Jude Deveraux rented a cabin in the Colorado mountains for four months while she worked on A Knight in Shining Armor, which is still my favorite time-travel book. I no longer own my cabin in the woods, having sold it thirty years ago. But it left me with such great memories that if I want the solitude Jude sought, I often go to my little cabin in the woods with my mind. I still remember everything about it—sitting on the porch at sunset, sewing the curtains for the windows. It was, and still is, a happy place.
4) The Pacific Ocean. I actually live closer to the Atlantic Ocean, but I prefer the ocean on the left side of the street. It’s more raw, somehow, fierce and unforgiving as it thunders ashore and crashes on the rocks. Jedediah Smith referred to it often in his journals. Maybe that’s really why I like it.
5) St. Louis, Missouri. It’s the Gateway to the West. There’s a magnificent bookstore at the base of the Arch for anyone who writes western, or just likes to read about the westward expansion. And it was where Jedediah called home (are you sensing a theme yet?) when he wasn’t out gallivanting around in the unexplored half of the continent. On a recent trip I found the cobblestoned streets from the early days and felt right at home.
Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west or in present-day, small-town America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com or follow her on Twitter @BeckyLower1.
New York City, July 1862
Pepper Brown yanked open her bedroom armoire and stared at the sea of black. Her widow’s weeds, as people called them. They were showing up in increasing numbers on the streets of New York, on women of all ages. The Civil War, which both sides had thought would be over in a matter of weeks, marked the one-year anniversary of the first casualties of war today. Which meant today was also Pepper’s one-year anniversary as a widow. She drummed her foot on the floor while she perused the black dresses. Was she ready to move on? Michael had thought she would be. In fact, he extracted a promise from her before he left for the war. One year and not one day more, he had said. Her mother thought so, too, or she wouldn’t have planned their outing for today. All Pepper now needed was the courage to convince herself they were right. The churning in her stomach told her she had a ways to go yet.
She straightened and turned her back on the black.
“Molly, please come help me dress,” Pepper called down the hall to her lady’s maid. “I’m going out today.”
“Aye, ma’am.” Molly, a young Irish girl with light brown hair and matching freckles across her pert nose, came quickly into the room. “Which gown would you be liking?” She began fondling the various dresses in the armoire.
“None of these. I’m done with these dresses. Besides, most of them are maternity gowns. I want to wear something fresh, something different.”
Molly nodded vigorously, and the little white cap on her head bounced askew. She righted it before she spoke. “Perfectly understood, ma’am, and you should be stepping down to half mourning. Perhaps I can find a nice gray or deep purple gown among your other things.”
Pepper shook her head. “No, no half mourning for me. What kind of silly term is that, anyway? I’m going out with Mother, and I want our day to be special. I want to wear something bright. I think the periwinkle dress Jasmine created for me right before Michael’s death will do. Yes, the periwinkle.”
Pepper smiled at Molly’s horrified intake of breath. She obviously disapproved, which meant it was the right decision.