Your hero, Mingo, in The Comanchero’s Bride is a dynamic character. In creating him, what were your inspirations?
Kaye: I was inspired to write Mingo’s character from the Marty Robbins gunfighter ballad, ‘Meet Me Tonight in Laredo’. In fact, the story is a retelling of that song, and Mingo (Domingo) is the ‘wild Comanchero’, the former outlaw, who trades his wild and violent life for the love of a good woman (forgive me the clichéd trope…I am a romance writer, after all. *grin*).woman.
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The taking of captives by Indians has an interesting history, especially in Texas. I’ve read a lot on the subject, but I didn’t know about the Comancheros before I read your story. Can you tell us about them?
Kaye: The term Comanchero came about during the 1840s when Josiah Gregg first used it to describe the group of native peoples who traded for a living with the nomadic plains tribes—particularly the Comanche, hence the name Comanchero—in what is now northern and central New Mexico. This area is known as the Llano Estacado and Comancheria. In the early days, the trading was legitimate, and Comancheros hauled their trade goods in oxcarts (carretas). The goods they carried consisted of beads, knives, paints, tobacco, pots and pans, bolt cloth, food staples, coffee and such. They bartered mostly with the Comanche and Kiowa for whatever seemed reasonable. The territorial government attempted to regulate and license Comanchero trading, but it was an unenforceable endeavor and was largely ignored.
As way led on to way, trading in illegal commodities, such as stolen livestock and property, firearms, ammunition, and whiskey, became a better source of income for all parties. But this type of trading was nothing compared to the Comancheros’ growing practice of ransoming captives from the Comanche and, in turn, holding the captives for ransom from relatives or selling them as slaves. As slaves, the captives often ended up in Mexico where they were worked to death as a disposable commodity in the mountain mines.
An area near Lubbock, Texas served as the primary Comanchero rendezvous location. It became known as Cañón del Rescate (Canyon of Ransom). Another area in Texas known for a place where captives were held and sold is Valle de las Lágrimas (The Valley of Tears). This location is at the southeastern edge of Briscoe County. Legend has it that the valley was named for the wailing of mothers and children who had been brought there only to be separated and sold.
|Ransom Canyon, Historical Marker|
I use a combination of these two locations in my story as the capturing and selling of women and children plays a part in Mingo’s past. In fact, it haunts him. The excerpt below is a scene in which Mingo recalls this.
To read more about Comancheros, visit the Handbook of Texas Online.
In The Comanchero’s Bride, you take the reader on quite a journey to many locations, including an historic hotel in Denver that I’ve also used as a setting (so I know you did your research, because I did mine *wink*). Each location we move through, you describe in amazing detail. I’m curious about how you choose a location for your stories when you begin a story. Is the location the starting point and inspiration for you? Or does the story lead you to the location? What research tools do you use?
Kaye: For The Comanchero’s Bride, the foundation location was already determined in the song: Laredo, Texas. However, as the plot unfolds, the reader travels the central part of Texas north to south along the ancient Indian trails and across northern New Mexico (territory in 1880), and then north into Colorado to Denver. From El Paso to Denver, I coordinated the year of the story with the availability of the railroad and stage routes. Transportation plays such an important part in my stories, that it sometimes becomes a character of its own. I often adjust the year of a story to accommodate historically accurate train and stagecoach routes.
Hotels often present a stumbling block when it comes to locating the historical information I need to know about them. Whenever possible, though, I include actual historic hotels. This can also create time-frame issues. For instance, the Horace Tabor’s Brown Palace in Denver was a magnificent structure. It was built in 1892. Even taking a bit of literacy license into account, I couldn’t legitimately stretch history to use this hotel in The Comanchero’s Bride, since it takes place in 1880. Oh, how I wanted to, though. It was “the” place to be seen in Denver. The historic hotel I used in the book is (was) the Windsor Hotel. It was the fanciest hotel up to that date in Denver.
I do meticulous cross-referencing dates and events in my determination to get the history correct in my stories. I have many trusted historical reference sites on the Internet, and I also have an extensive personal library of reference materials and books as well as historically accurate maps of the 1800s that show transportation routes, old trails, battle sites, and so on.
I know music is important to you. Can you share with us what performers and songs have inspired you?
Kaye: Yes. Music is important to me, and I have a straightforward answer: Marty Robbins and his gunfighter ballads run deeply through my writing veins. His songs influence my writing so much that if you’re familiar with his gunfighter ballads, then you’ll recognize snippets I scattered throughout The Comanchero’s Bride. I also included a passing reference to Lorne Greene’s song, Ringo. It was my humble way to pay homage to how much I love Marty’s music.
Besides being a writer, you have another role at Prairie Rose Publications. Tell us a bit about that. What is Blog a Book Scene and how did you come up with that idea?
Kaye: My role at Prairie Rose Publications is in a quiet, *mostly* behind-the-scenes support capacity for the authors in the area of promotions and marketing. I also contribute to the upkeep of the website.
Blog-A-Book-Scene came about because I was determined to increase my blogging activity on my website in order to increase my visibility out there in social media land. I had to figure out how to better use my time, though. Blogging is a time-eater, and it wears a person down just coming up with viable (interesting) blogging topics. It occurred to me that I could recycle words I’ve already written in my published and works-in-progress and thereby accomplish several things at once. The details developed from there. Once I had it figured out, I shared this with the Prairie Rose Publications’ and Imprints’ authors.
For those of you who haven’t come across the Prairie Rose Publications’ Blog-A-Book-Scene, and you want to know more, drop me an email, and I’ll get you going. [ kayespencer @ live.com – remove the spaces ]
What does a typical day look like for you? Do you have a designated time set aside for writing or do you work whenever the muse summons you? Have you ever had writer’s block?
Kaye: I’m retired, so I’m loosey-goosey about any sort of routine. Late evenings into the night are my most productive time for writing. I’ve not had writer’s block, but I have experienced prolonged periods of lack of interest (or mental energy) in writing. These times have occurred around a death in my family or some other difficult, mentally and emotionally, event.
I believe that even when an author isn’t actively sitting at their desk, tapping away on the keyboard, there are still times you’re writing in your head. There’s a link between walking and creativity, for instance. Do you have other activities or hobbies you find support your writing?
Kaye: I’ve always been a voracious, but persnickety reader—mostly historical fiction, nonfiction, and what are now deemed as classics. I cut my eye teeth, as the saying goes, on Louis L’Amour’s westerns and, like Marty Robbins’ gunfighter ballads, those western stories are deeply ingrained in my creative processes.
As for working through scenes…driving is my go-to activity. Where I live is a long way from everywhere, so I have a lot of opportunity for windshield time. I’ve solved many plot holes or dead ends in a story while on these long drives.
Hobbies? Other than reading and spending time with grand-kids and walking my dogs, writing takes up most of my time. I do, however, collect petrified wood. I also dabble in wine—not as a collector—but reading about, and I enjoying drinking a wide variety from ice wine to champagne and every type in between. I also play the harmonica—old folk songs and cowboy songs. Sadly, the heyday of singing around the campfire with harmonica accompaniment is long past. My grandchildren aren’t familiar with those old traditional songs, so I play for my own amusement and entertainment.
|Kaye's Petrified Wood Collection|
EXCERPT – The Comanchero’s Bride by Kaye Spencer
Mingo stared into the gray light of the minutes before sunrise. Isabel reined in beside him.
“What is it? Why have you stopped?” He didn’t answer.
“Tell me.” He continued to look ahead of them. “What do you see? What do you feel?”
She turned in her saddle, looking all around. “Well, I see scattered patches of bare dirt and grass through what’s left of the snow. It looks much like what we’ve already crossed—sometimes flat, sometimes hilly. Now, with more light, the shadows look like dark, bottomless pits. But I don’t feel anything. What is this place?”
“All night, we followed along Yellow House Canyon. When the light is just right, there are yellow dirt cliffs in the canyon that, from a certain distance, give the illusion of a town.” He made a wide, sweeping gesture. “And though you cannot see it, Buffalo Springs is near. It is a good place to rest for its water and grass, but it is a place we must avoid in case someone is watching.”
“But we’re low on water. Is there another source we can use?”
“Over the ridge and down the slope.” Mingo stared straight ahead, his thoughts taking him to a dark place in his mind he didn’t like to visit. “Cañón del Rescate,” he whispered.
Isabel sucked in a startled breath. “We talked of it the night of the fiesta.” “It is right in front of us and yet, even after all these years, I cannot bring myself to ride into that canyon. There is still much heartache here. The sorrow weighs heavy on my shoulders.” Memories of what he’d seen still woke him at night. Desperate mothers sobbing, screaming, and pleading as their children were torn from their arms. Images of the little ones, terrified, helpless and hopeless in their plight, others staring through lifeless eyes where they lay in the dirt, casualties of wanton killing.
“It is always with me.”
Isabel placed a hand on his arm. “Tell me, please.”
“It was many, many years ago. I was here with two compadres. We had cattle and horses to trade. Many guns and ammunition, and whiskey. We were young and without a care, and with no consideration to the lives of others. It was the first time—my only time—to come here. I considered myself an important man, but I was only a boy.” His laugh was a harsh, self-deprecating sound to his ears. “I soon learned what it was to be a man.”
Details he’d banished returned now. “I had heard of the women and children, but I could not believe it. Then, when I saw for myself that it was true— what some Comancheros were really trading…demanding ransoms for…” His words faded. He exhaled on a ragged breath. “It was terrible to choose. There were so many, and I could do so little. So very little.”
Memories took tangible form, and the captives emerged before his eyes. He saw them—the women and children stolen from their ranch houses or seized from enemy tribes of the Comanche, and the men and boys to be sold for slave labor in Mexico where they would die in the mines, worked to death and replaced with others who would succumb to the same fate. And all of them pleading for release, begging for their lives.
Except for one.
The Comanchero's Bride is also available now in the collection Under a Western Sky