Here's where I'll tell you about the series of coincidences which led to me actually writing Westerns, and becoming a published author for the first time, after trying almost all of my life to get published in one way or another, and building up a thick file of rejection slips.
Do bear with me though, because some of it is a bit convoluted!
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I first rode a horse at the age of three. Right up to my twenties, I was a regular at the local stables each week helping out in every way I possibly could just to earn a ride. As a child, my playthings were not dolls and teddies, but a range of plastic and metal horses of all shapes and colours. They all had the names of my favourite horsey heroes - Black Beauty, Champion the Wonder Horse, Flicka, Silver, Thowra etc, etc.
From an early age I had developed a serious interest in and deep respect for the Native American people and have collected a fair few books, artefacts and other items over the years. I watched all of the 'cowboy' series which were on television and a great many of the films. In those films where they did appear, I was always on the side of the Indian. After all, Tonto always pulled The Lone Ranger (who was the supposed hero) out of sticky situations didn't he? I went alone to see the film 'Soldier Blue', and left the cinema in tears. How could one group of humans treat other humans in such an apalling fashion!
From then on, I built myself a pretty tall soapbox with regard to the way the so-called 'civilized' white man had treated the Indians in their own land. When I was at University, doing my Cultural Studies Degree, one of my main essays was on Native American Art and Cultures.
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted was to have a 'real' hard back book published. I tried and tried, oh how I tried. Many genres have passed beneath my pen over the years, but none produced that elusive 'real' book.
Now bear with me here, we have to go off at that slight tangent, but all of it will make sense shortly, I promise.
My husband, Chris, never knew his real father, his mother would not tell him. She married when Chris was six and her new husband legally adopted him and gave him his surname - Constable. When his mum died, some old photos of men in what looked like an American Army uniforms was found amongst her possessions. No one in the immediate family recognized them; then for some inexplicable reason, instead of throwing them away as no one actually knew who he was, the pictures were stored away in a box with Chris's Mum's other papers and forgotten about.
Chris had often mentioned to me that he wished he knew who his real father was. For one birthday I bought him a DNA test and we posted those results on an Ancestry website in the hope we might just find some sort of match. We hadn't really expected to, it was a very long shot, but I thought it was worth a try. It might be the last chance we had to find Chris's father, he could probably have even passed away by that time.
Shortly after posting the results we received a reply from a man in America, who already had a very impressive Family Tree going way back to the 1400s and containing many famous people. He decided one day on the spur of the moment to do a DNA test and publish it on Ancestry, 'just in case' anyone might have, as he put it -'slipped through the net'! This was at almost the same time we had put Chris's results on the site.
When we compared the two DNA results his were impressively close to Chris's. We exchanged one or two emails with Stuart in California, and it was thought at the time that he and Chris were possibly very distant, maybe half cousins.
Then I asked Stuart if we could mail him the photos of the soldiers, which Chris's Mum had kept, on the off chance that one of their family might possibly recognize someone. He agreed, just out of interest. Imagine our shock when the very next day, we received an email simply saying -
'We have a match!'
One photo had been recognized almost immediately by the man we were writing to and also straight away by his older sister, as being their father's 1st cousin, their uncle! Therefore Chris was Stuart's second cousin.The family remembered him well. The sister had even been to stay with Chris's Dad at his house sometimes! I was in tears when I was finally able to tell my husband that the man in the picture was actually his real father. Then Stuart kindly sent us photos of Chris's real grandparents and other family members. Now, we have a whole new family in the USA.
His real father's surname had been McDonald and Chris wanted to take that as it was his 'real' name. I was worried that the family he had been brought up in, (three half sisters and one half brother, their father had died long before their mother) would be upset, if he suddenly dropped their surname, so I suggested we double barrel it! Deed Polls did the rest.
Then we found out from America that Chris's father had actually been the Great Great Grandson of a Chippewa Indian Chief! All this time I've been rooting for the Indians, then I found out I was actually married to one! He was even given a Chippewa name - 'Waa-Baani-Noo-Din' or the 'Wind from the East', as, when we talked to America, our voices drifted to them on the airwaves from the East.
Unfortunately, Chris passed away in March 2013 following a long illness, but not before his cousin and his partner had made a trip to UK and came to visit us. For Chris to be able to shake the hand of such a close 'real' relative at last, was a very emotional moment for us all.
As his wife, I too was bestowed with a Native American name, - 'Nii-Gaan-O-Se-Kwe', or - 'Woman who Leads'. I am so pleased, humbled and proud to have been given this name and to now actually belong, even if only through marriage, to those peoples whom I have admired all of my life. I'm proud enough to use it for the name of my site.
Whilst I have been doing my Family Tree research, I have discovered that one group of my own Scottish ancestors in the early 1800s headed for America, were pioneers on a wagon train and settled in Nebraska!
And almost the final coincidence in the whole story is this - I never really knew why I decided to start writing Westerns. I just woke up one morning with the idea for a book, and even the title for it, running around in my brain like the scenes from a movie.
I wrote it as quickly as I could and sent it off. Within a very short time, I was asked to do a re-write of some of it. Which of course I did! And I jumped for joy when I received the acceptance letter. When I told my Mother I was at long last going to be a published author, she finally asked me what it was I'd written, when I told her it was a Western, she stopped dead and told me the only books her father had ever read were Westerns, there were no other books of any kind in the house. He had died when I was still far too young to know about the sort of books he was reading.
So, maybe it was Grandad Harold who put the thought of a Western into my head that fateful morning? Perhaps he thought it was about time I deserved to fulfil my lifelong dream of becoming a 'real' author?
Now, as the real, final coincidence in my story, I promise, I recently discovered, through a friend, bearing in mind that I live in a village named Clayton-le-Moors, that the name of the actor who was the original Lone Ranger in the old black and white television series, was Clayton Moore! And through the magic of the Internet, I am now connected to many other Western writers, one of whom uses the pen name of - Clay More. Now could it get any more spooky than that! I get a very strong feeling that this was meant to be, don't you?
Previously, I always used to write my first drafts in longhand, on lined paper in black ink. My Westerns though, are written fast and straight into the computer, with almost no prior writing and very few notes. I have never worked that way before. It's as if the words are all in there, and just pour out as soon as I start to touch the keys. I write them without any notes of any sort (a little research is sometimes required of course, but that never takes up a lot of time).
Maybe Grandad Harold is guiding my hand. I like to think so. (And hey, if that is the case, then does that make me a real 'ghost writer'? Hee hee! That really tickles me!)
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