I Interrupt This Program….

Although I am working away at my new Harvey Girls series and am anxious to share more of their history with you, today is a day for reflection. Six years ago today my husband died of Pulmonary Hypertension. He fought a valiant battle for many years and really never allowed his illness to make him an invalid in the way we often think of such things. He was such an inspiration–not only to me, but to all his many friends and to people who came to know him (through my stories) after he died. He faced death realistically–as a normal part of life. His favorite comment–delivered with a shrug and no bitterness–was, “It is what it is.”
In some ways we were blessed because we were given the time to say goodbye, to look back at the incredible life we’d shared, and to plan for my future without him. One quick story:
In those final months, he became obsessed with showing me how to handle financial matters such as paying the quarterly taxes. These ‘lessons’ began to wear on me as did his written notes on the manila folders he kept files in–the man never once even turned on a computer! So one day I brought him a journal–small with only maybe thirty pages. I set it on his desk and told him even if he only wrote one word per page, that was okay, but I needed something in writing from him other than instructions on how to pay the government!
He filled the journal and I treasure it–reading it every year on this anniversary. It makes me smile (he’s still instructing me on what I should and should not do once he’s gone), but he’s also reminding me of wonderful times we shared and challenges we faced together. And then he took things one step farther–he got a voice-activated recorder and while I was at work, he would take out the photo album from one of our trips and talk about that trip as he turned the pages of the album. I have those recordings and every once in awhile I take out one of the albums and relive the adventure we shared.
I suspect many (if not all) of you, dear readers, have suffered the loss of a loved one. I would not presume to offer advice on how to mourn that loss, but I know for me, stopping on these days that changed my life (our anniversary, his birthday, and that horrible last day) to remember the love and the laughter (and yes, the tears) has carried me through these last six years–and I expect will sustain me in all the years to come.
Thanks for giving me this place to remember. Peace.

HARVEY GIRLS: It All Began in Topeka

Well before he decided hiring female waitresses was the way to go, Fred Harvey bought his first place at the Topeka Depot. It was a lunch counter for ten customers. Harvey shut it down, remodeled including painting the interior with soft southwestern colors and adding gas light fixtures, linen tablecloths and sparkling flatware and china.
He offered a varied menu and large portions at a fair price. A full breakfast that featured eggs, steak, pancakes and hash browns with butter and syrup, and of course, his famous coffee for just thirty-five cents.According to THE HARVEY GIRLS: The Women Who Civilized the West (by Juddi Morris, NY: Walker and Co., 1994) among his first customers was a group of Plains Indians. Harvey welcomed them as he would any customer, although according to Morris, other patrons ‘gave them a wide berth.’
This small lunch counter was the beginning. Soon Fred Harvey was opening similar eateries all across the West.

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GET TO KNOW THOSE HARVEY GIRLS

 

NOTE FROM ANNA: Starting in 2019, I will be introducing a new Western series centered around the Harvey Girls–young women from the East and Midwest who answered an ad for waitressing on the frontier, and left home and family to follow their hearts.

In the late 1800’s a young freight agent working for the railroad spotted an opportunity to change the service side of travel. As more travelers headed West, Fred Harvey saw the need for making the experience more enjoyable and less tedious. He established a chain of “eating houses” along the Santa Fe Trail route, serving good food at reasonable prices in comfortable surroundings. Perhaps his most innovative idea was to hire and train a core of young, single, intelligent women who were also of “good character,” and, sought the adventure that came with traveling to frontier towns where they would live in company housing and staff Harvey’s popular lunch counters and dining rooms.

The Harvey Girls not only contributed to the success of Fred Harvey (and later his son and grandson), but they are generally credited with bringing a new civility to the West. In these early days, aside from mothers, sisters and saloon hall girls of questionable reputation, the Harvey Girls were young, attractive and lived under the strict rule of the Harvey Company’s rules for conduct. Many a cowboy or railway worker frequented the local Harvey house as much for a chance to see a pretty smile as to eat a good meal.

These were THOSE HARVEY GIRLS!!!

 

Stay tuned for monthly updates as you learn more about Anna’s new series! In the meantime, the last story in her LAST CHANCE COWBOYS is available now–THE RANCHER has received top reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Romantic Times!

 

 

 

The ‘Big’ Book

The possibility is that I will finally find a home where I can write the kinds of complex stories I have longed to write….and I am frankly terrified at the prospect. It’s one thing to have an idea, a dream–quite another to deliver the goods.

I am beyond grateful for the opportunity, but now that it is here, I question my gift for telling a story in such a way that it will open minds, touch hearts and reach readers.

Recently I have been reading a lot of mainstream fiction and attending author lectures at my local bookstore. I inhale the words of these authors who have already done what I hope to do. The truth is that I have done this already–my novel A SISTER’S FORGIVENESS was my first attempt. My WWII series THE PEACEMAKERS was my second. In both cases I was blessed to work with a publisher who allowed me to follow my story wherever it led.

So I can do this…pretty sure of that. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes….

ONE WOMAN’S ‘JUST DO IT’ MOMENT

Barbara Vey is an incredible woman who five years ago decided readers needed to understand how truly appreciated they are by authors…specifically romance authors. To that end she organized a luncheon at a community center and invited a few romance authors and readers to attend. About fifty showed up and an event was born. Now five years later the luncheon has grown to an entire weekend of events where readers mingle with new and top-selling authors in a variety of venues and take home gift baskets, door prizes, elaborate favors, and the memory of a weekend spent with some of their favorite authors. The attendance at this year’s event had grown from fifty to about five hundred!

If you are a reader of romance, I urge you to ‘google’ Barbara and ‘Reader Appreciation Weekend’ to learn more. Tickets go on sale in August and sell out FAST! Several attendees were mothers and daughters who share a love of reading and made this a special weekend just in time for Mother’s Day.

Hitting the Wall

This is not a post about the notorious ‘writer’s block’–this is about another form of mind-shutdown. This is about trying to understand where I want to go from here–as a writer and as a person traveling through life without the partner I cherished for over forty years. I have discovered that my enthusiasm for certain types of stories has waned. I have also discovered that my desire to write something that resonates — with me mostly — and perhaps with others has increased. And yet I am my own worst enemy when it comes to this. I have deadlines coming–reasonable deadlines that I could easily meet well ahead of schedule if I weren’t one of those people who has for all my life procrastinated until the last possible second. I could work on the story I truly want to write at the same time that I am turning out the stories already under contract–but somehow my mind does not work on dual tracks like that.

The truth is that I am filled with self-doubt in all facets of my life. There’s a song in the film FUNNY GIRL (that I don’t think was in the play). It comes after Nick has left Fanny Brice and the lyrics are something like “Who are you now? Now that he’s gone?” Yeah–I get that.

So, time to come up with a plan and right now the plan is to complete the obligations I have and meanwhile look for a writer/artist colony that I might apply to for next fall–there to dedicate several weeks to just writing that story I want to write–the one that maybe sheds light on the life I am now leading.

To that end I would love to hear from others who may have had the ‘colony’ or ‘residency’ experience–where? how was it? how did it change your work–and you?

A great small library…

I am in Madison WI on the campus of the university which also ‘houses’ Wisconsin’s State Historical Society Library. This is a little gem of a research center located in a historic building in the middle of the campus. The exterior of the building is impressive–the entrance lined with fat Greek columns. Once inside you climb the marble steps to the library’s research and reading room, and the steps actually dip from the thousands of people who have climbed those stairs through the decades. The reading room is old school and the stacks are even more so. I make this trek to Madison annually and the library is always a stop for me. Through the roller coaster that has been my writing career this place has offered inspiration and solace. It has also never failed to offer just the exact research material I might need for a book in progress or a new idea I’m researching.

Through the years I have discovered many resources for researching my stories–museum collections, small libraries in small towns, the new standbys: Google and Bing–but I admit to having a special place in my heart and mind for this particular library. I would love to hear from others–writers, readers, historians–and be introduced to the research gems you may have discovered through the years.