Friday, May 22, 2020

Setting A Story in My Own “Backyard”

When I started plotting my latest historical novella, A Bride for Cody, I realized that I hadn’t used my home state of California for a long time. One of my critique partners used to own a commercial apple orchard, and she published a book of recipes related to those years and her experiences as a grower. Those two elements came together, and I made my hero an apple grower. I had hoped to use the actual town where my friend’s orchard is located, but the apply industry in that town happened almost two decades later.

So I invented a town called Acorn Valley (because the native Serrano and Cahuilla tribes collected acorns here) but overlaid it in the valley where the real town of Oak Glen is. Evidence of metates (holes in rocks where the native women ground the nuts) exists in nearby streambeds and the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains. The year that worked for my Civil War veterans (both characters) was 1869, which was earlier than the real town of Redlands was established. But a settlement called Lugonia did exist around a Spanish land grant that Mormons had occupied for a decade before being called back to Utah, proving the land could be valuable farm land. The area was not well-developed, but a short-line stagecoach service existed.

Once I discovered transportation was in service, I knew I could create a realistic story for that year. My writing time was compressed due to successive deadlines. The factor that helped me create the mail-order bride story between individuals wounded by their experiences in war time was the fact that I have driven those hills of my fake town and valley. Years ago, I visited the town of Oak Glen in apple-picking season and have seen what those apple trees look like. My hope is that if any southern California resident reads my story, that person will see I have accurately depicted the region. Now, as I drive in my county, I'm on the lookout for other likely locations.

Blurb for A Bride for Cody, Proxy Brides series #42:

Veteran Cody Sheffield went from surviving the Civil War ended to spending years building the Transcontinental Railroad. Finally, he finds solace on an uncle’s apple farm in southern California. A change in family circumstances demands he seek a bride.

Nurse Riona Gilbride pitched in to do her part when the war came to her hometown of Harpers Ferry. Years later, she’s still tending others when she realizes the time has come to care for herself, and she answers an ad in a matchmaking newsletter.

Expectations and temperaments clash. Soon, both Cody and Riona wonder if their decision to marry without meeting beforehand is a huge mistake.

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