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Five Reasons to Read - And Write - the Oregon Trail with guest blogger Kathleen D. Bailey

 

Five Reasons to Read - And Write - the Oregon Trail with guest blogger Kathleen D. Bailey

 by Kathleen D. Bailey, author of Redemption's Hope

Twenty years ago, I had a glimmer of an idea for a novel. An impoverished young widow takes a place as cook on a wagon train, only to discover that the scout for that train is the man who betrayed her three years before. He’s under contract and she has nowhere else to go, so they find themselves slogging across the plains together. Old issues come out, new ones form in the pressure cooker that is 100 wagons filled with 200 to 300 scared, tired people. By the time they reach Oregon Country, both have changed immeasurably.

That gleam in this author’s eye became my first published book, “Westward Hope,” in 2019. I’ve since followed it with “Settlers’ Hope,” 2020, and “Redemption’s Hope,” out July 22 of this year. “Settlers’ Hope” takes place in an Oregon Country hamlet, with survivors of the trail, and “Redemption’s Hope” follows the trail in reverse, as Jenny Thatcher looks for the Native man she thinks she can love. But the Trail marks everything they do, from Oona Moriarty’s quest to find her brother (“Settlers’ Hope”) to Jenny’s retracing the route she took in 1846.

The Oregon Trail. The Great Migration. Opening the West. The Wagon Train era. Its names are legend; its legends are legend. Who hasn’t heard stories of the Americans who shook off their newly-minted country, less than a century after the Revolution, to see what lay beyond those hills?

The Oregon Trail is a gold strike (another beloved Western trope) for the reader.

1. It has tremendous range, from the transcendent novels of Jane Kirkpatrick to a simple novella. Choose your own adventure, there’s plenty of Trail literature, from an afternoon’s read in the hammock to something you can write a thesis about.

2. It can take you to another place, right in your own country. The Plains, desert and Western mountains are an exotic setting to anyone who’s never been there. Chimney Rock, Castle Rock, Independence Rock. Buffalo hunts. Amber fields of grain and snow-capped mountains. Bonus: the characters you’re reading about haven’t seen it either.

3. Oregon Trail books are a history lesson. You learn what they ate, how they ate it, what they packed and what they did when supplies ran low. You learn about the Louisiana Purchase and “Manifest Destiny,” all wrapped around a good story.

4. About that story…Anything can happen when you throw a group of strangers together under almost impossible conditions. You learn about the resilience of the human spirit, and also just how nasty we can be.

5. In the hands of a Christian author, Trail stories are a venue for strengthening your faith. (See #5, below).  


As satisfying as the Trail is for readers, it’s just as big a boon for writers. 

1. The Oregon Trail and its time period (1840s till after The War) is pretty forgiving from a research standpoint. You don’t need to know a lot of battles, dates and who massacred whom. (I’m doing a Lexington-and-Concord story right now, and believe me, there’s no comparison.) You do have to be careful if you throw in real historical characters, making them as accurate as possible, and you do need to have a rough framework of what’s going on Back East. But the real drama in your story will be between the men and women who board those wagons in St. Joseph, Missouri.

2. And drama there will be. Everyone on the Trail had a story. They were running from something or someone (Michael Moriarty in “Westward Hope”), they were running TO something or someone (Oona Moriarty in “Settlers’ Hope”), they were at rock bottom and had nothing better to do (Caroline Pierce O’Leary in “Westward Hope”), or they were good stable people who happened to have wanderlust (Ben Harkness in “Westward Hope”). Face a couple of them off against each other and watch what happens.

3. The Trail itself becomes a character, as the emigrants battle, well, everything. They fight river currents, arid deserts, plagues on their cattle and plagues on themselves. As they reach the higher plains, they throw out almost everything they brought, to make it easier on their suffering horses or oxen, and they learn what really matters. Or they don’t. (Ina Prince in “Westward Hope.”) People die on the Trail and are buried in places their loved ones know they’ll never visit again. Families become fluid, with parents taking in orphaned children and elders dying in the dirt.

4. By its very nature, the wagon train lends itself to high drama. It’s like a small town on wheels, and it has the best and worst of small towns. There’s gossip, backbiting, challenges to the wagon master’s authority. There are petty cruelties. A person’s past catches up with them on the trail, no matter how hard they try to outrun it. But there’s also transcendent kindness, as the emigrants help one another with everything from a loose wheel to childbirth. They are in this together. They don’t have anyone else. 

5. And it remains one of the best venues for exploring our Christian faith in fiction. Like Abraham, these pioneers went out to a land they knew not, or didn’t know enough. Like the Israelites, they turned their backs on their former lives in the hopes of something better. The Trail reduced every man, woman and child to their essence, and when they came to the other coast, most were forever changed. In the hands of an inspirational fiction author, at least part of the change will be spiritual. 

When I was doing library talks on “Westward Hope,” I occasionally encountered people who were skeptical about an inspirational novel. They would ask me, “Just how much religion is there in your book?” It’s a simple question to answer, I’m an inspy author, my faith permeates the books – I hope. My standard answer to “how much religion” is, “I wouldn’t want to take on the Oregon Trail without a belief in something bigger than myself.” There are no atheists in foxholes, or so the saying goes, and I doubt there were many on the Trail.

So check out the Great Migration, and I may be joining you. I thought I was done with the Trail, but new situations and characters are kicking around in my head, and I just might let them out!

~*~*~*~*~*~

Five Reasons to Read - And Write - the Oregon Trail with guest blogger Kathleen D. Bailey
Two distinct sets of villains. Two orphaned children. A man without a country and a woman with too much past...All in a rambunctious young country where anything goes, especially in the West. Seriously. What can go wrong?

“Redemption’s Hope” is the third and last installment of Kathleen D. Bailey’s “Western Dreams” series, following “Westward Hope” and “Settlers’ Hope.” The novel takes Jenny Thatcher, a secondary character in the first two books on the ride of her life, from the Oregon Country to New Mexico to San Antonio to New Orleans and back, as she looks for her dream and finds herself in the bargain.

White Bear, the Cheyenne brave, has a foot in two worlds but feels at home in neither. He longs to reconnect with the spirited white woman who had sought refuge with his family three years before. Is his true home with “Blue Eyes,” the woman he knew for only three days? 

Only if he finds her.


Five Reasons to Read - And Write - the Oregon Trail with guest blogger Kathleen D. Bailey
Kathleen Bailey is a journalist and novelist with 40 years’ experience in the nonfiction, newspaper and inspirational fields. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s, a young adult in the 70s and a young mom in the 80s. It’s been a turbulent, colorful time to grow up, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it and written about most of it. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband David. They have two grown daughters.

Connect with Kathy at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn 

 

What do you love about reading (or writing) about the Oregon Trail?

One commenter will win an ebook of Redemption's Hope and one commenter will win a New England gift pack (US only for gift pack) 



How Amish Fiction And Western Historical Are Similar

How Amish Fiction And Western Historical Are Similar

 

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.
It's just a week until Christmas - where in the world did the month go? Like many of you my Christmas gathering will look a lot different this year and the plans are still pretty fluid. Several family members have tested positive at various times over the past few months - the latest one just this morning.  But I know God is  in control of all that's happening here and in the world at large. So my hope is in Him and in His awesome Love for us.

 

Anyway, a bit of fun news - My first Amish romance, Her Amis Wedding Quilt, released this week! As most of you know, for a little over a year now I’ve been immersed in writing the books in my Hope's Haven series. There will be three books in the series and I'm currently wrapping up book 2. It’s required a ton of research and reading all about this very unique group of people who have their own dialect and mores, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge.

One of the things I learned along the way, however, is that, at least on the surface, there are a number of similarities between Amish fiction and western historicals, the previous genre I wrote in.  Here are several of them

 

The most obvious is, of course the mode of transportation. My previous research into issues such as how to hitch a horse to a wagon and how long it takes a horse and buggy to travel xx number of miles came in handy for sure.

 

Another not-so-surprising similarity is the lack of technology in their everyday life. Although the Amish do make use of some technology they are very deliberate in what they allow into their homes and into their lives. So even though the Amish stories I’m writing are contemporaries rather than historicals, I have to avoid many of the trappings of present day life. Except for very strictly defined exceptions that can vary from district to district – no cellphone close to hand, no television, no computers or tablets. There’s also no electricity but these days many use generators or solar power.

 

Both groups have a strong feelings about the value of close ties to family and community and a belief in neighbors helping neighbors. It’s not unusual to find several generations living under one roof or in close proximity. And you can find several videos of Amish barn raisings, frolics (what they call their gatherings to help an individual in the community with a task) and other tasks.

 

Of course there are lots of differences too. The Amish dialect for one thing. And their strong belief in pacifism. And these book are set in the modern world so even though the Amish themselves don’t make use of all the modern conveniences they interact with those who do and even hire non-Amish to do things like chauffer them to and from places that are too distant for them to travel by buggy.

 

How Amish Fiction And Western Historical Are Similar

And in honor of this being release week for my first Amish book I’m doing a special giveaway. One of the visitors who leave a comment on this post will be selected to receive a copy of Her Amish Wedding Quilt AND their choice of any of the historical western romance books in my backlist.

 

So leave a comment – are there some similarities I missed? Do you prefer one genre over the other?

Or let’s just talk about Christmas traditions – I haven’t even gotten my tree up yet (yikes!!) but I have taken out the stockings which are my favorite decorations. And there will be a new addition to the crowded line-up on the mantle – my 6 month old grandson. I just need to get out my sewing machine…

 

How Amish Fiction And Western Historical Are Similar

HER AMISH WEDDING QUILT

How Amish Fiction And Western Historical Are Similar
An Amish seamstress and a single father have a chance to make a fresh start in this heartwarming first novel of a new series.

Spirited, forthright, impulsive -- everyone told Greta Eicher she'd have to change her ways if she ever hoped to marry. Then her best friend Calvin, the man she thought she would wed, chooses another woman. Now Greta's wondering if the others were right all along. Her dreams dashed, she pours her energy into crafting beautiful quilts at her shop and helping widower Noah Stoll care for his adorable young children.

Noah knows it's time to think about finding a wife. When Greta offers to play matchmaker on his behalf, Noah eagerly accepts. After all, no one knows his children better. But none of the women she suggests seems quite right, because, unexpectedly, his feelings of respect and friendship for Greta have grown into something even deeper and richer. But will he have enough faith to overcome the pain of his past and give love another chance?


Learn more or purchase HERE

 


 

Five Reasons to Read - And Write - the Oregon Trail with guest blogger Kathleen D. BaileyHow Amish Fiction And Western Historical Are Similar

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