Thursday, November 26, 2015

What to do While You Wait for that Other Bird

Great news! When Doves Fly will be on a Kindle Countdown Deal starting on Turkey Day. So while the bird cooks--the other bird!--or during those long drives over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house, you can read a book reviewers are calling "gritty, complex storytelling" and both "timeless and fresh." Works on planes, trains, automobiles, wagons, and even horses.

Amazon UK

To request a signed print copy, use the contact form here:

Excerpt from When Doves Fly by Lauren Gregory

Two horses occupied the pen, and both looked used up.

The livery operator, even harder used than his horses, eyed Lily with an arched brow. He wore chaps molded to his legs and a cowboy hat with holes. Tanned rifts covered his face and shifted in strange patterns as he talked.

“Where ya headed?”

Cheyenne,” she lied.

“Where’s yer men folk?”

“I’ll be making this trip alone.”

“Missy, that’s a long ride. Oughtta at least wait for a party goin’ out.”

Lily set her jaw. “I’ll worry about that. How much for that one?” She pointed to the less-swaybacked roan.

“That’s Charlie. Let you have him for $50.00. Can you even heft a saddle on yer own?”

Her lips pursed, and she walked to a rack loaded with saddles. Struggling, she lifted one over her head. “Satisfied?”

The horseman shrugged. “All right. But ain’t no way you can make it all the way to Cheyenne on yer lonesome. Bandits roamin’ all over now, even if the ride don’t kill ya.”

“Will you sell me the horse or not?”

He opened a packet from his vest and stuffed a plug of tobacco in his cheek. “I reckon.”

“Do you have any mules?”

“For what?” His eyes narrowed.

She tossed him a withering look. “A pack mule, of course.”

His gaze wandered. “Nope. No mules.”

Lily followed his glance and walked to the corner of the building. Several mules munched hay at a paddock trough. She rounded on the man.

“Just what are those? Pigs?”

“Bad enough if I sell you the horse, but that’ll only getcha in so much trouble. I ain’t sendin’ you out on the trail with two animals you can’t handle.”

“Then I’ll have to find someone who wants to make money. Thank you and good day.”

He stuck his leg out, blocking her attempt at a huffing exit. “Listen, missy. You don’t look as if you been doin’ much trail ridin’. I’ll allow you might handle the horse on yer own, mostly ‘cause he’s too old and tired to do much but eat. But a jack’s a different animal, and tryin’ to lead one while you ride ain’t easy, even for trail men with some miles under their belts. What do you need to pack, anyhow?”

Lily pressed her lips together to stop their trembling. She wanted to tell him to mind his business but lifted her chin. “Goods.”

“Er … you can buy goods in Cheyenne, reckon? It’s a bonafide city these days. Stores and everything.”

Cheyenne isn’t my final destination. Will you sell me a mule, or are you going to spend all day asking questions?” Her nails dug into her palms.

He looked her up and down. “I can’t do it. Take my advice: don’t try it.”

She fumed but changed her tack and offered a sweet smile. “What if I take a hired man? Can I, please, have a mule then?”

“Do I look that brainless?”

“No, truly, I promise. You’re right; I shouldn’t do it on my own. I’ll hire someone. Do you know where I can find a reliable hand?”

The horseman considered her and wagged a finger. “I’ll give ya the address. And I’ll check up on it, too.”

She paid him $95.00 for the horse, mule, and a saddle. As he saddled the horse, he looked at her skirt.

“You know how to ride a western?”

She didn’t meet his gaze. “Of course.”

When he finished, she led the animals away, with no intention of hiring anyone.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tampons and Dildos: Facebook Censorship

I got a bit miffed today, and I think this needs as wide a reach as possible, so it deserves its own post.

Facebook apparently considers tampons to be "sex toys" and refuses to allow Alaurra Weaver at to promote her work because she talks about *gasp* menstruation.

In my work as a historical fiction author, one of the hardest and most maddening research tasks is trying to find information on women's health. It has always been, and STILL is, such a taboo topic that we don't dare speak of it. The lack of information on key aspects of the lives of half the world's population is outrageous.

The ridiculousness of sexism and outlandish prudery of some definitions of obscenity are a couple of the very few things that truly offend me. The attitude that female bodily functions are obscene or pornographic is one of the reasons that women the world over are kept locked in a metaphorical (and sometimes all-too-real) back shed to shield the world from their impure existence.

Without menstruation, not a one of us would be here. Without women struggling to deal with the daily realities of sexism, misogyny, and body-shaming throughout history, none of the small-minded who wish to label women as unclean would exist.

Fuck you, and the tampon you rode in on, Facebook.

Please help spread some great history articles and support a woman writer.

Part 1:

Part 2:

The Buzzfeed Article:

 Image courtesy of stockimages at

Monday, October 26, 2015

Liar, Liar

The flashing lights sprayed blue and red bruises around our living room. I huddled behind the couch in my nightgown. A man and woman in crisp blue uniforms hefted a black bag onto a stretcher, pushed levers, and lifted the bed like Mom did with her ironing board. Blood smeared the lady’s name tag, but I’d seen it when she came in. It said Glenda. The name of the good witch. The good witch come to clean up after the bad.

Two men in regular clothes stood in the kitchen doorway writing in little notebooks. One pointed to a dark stain on the recliner. His mouth moved, but I couldn’t hear what he said. The hoarse cackle still filled my head and drowned out everything.

A lady rushed in and scanned the room. She spotted me. Her jaw dropped before she caught herself and closed it. She started toward me, crouching down and holding out a hand while whispering hushing sounds—like when you’re trying to catch a scared animal. That’s how they always treated me. Like a scared, stupid animal.

She knelt and said some stuff I still couldn’t hear. Her hand took mine, and she tried to pull me up. My legs wouldn’t work. I tipped over. She wasn’t a big lady, but she scooped me up and carried me out to a car, still shushing.

I don’t remember much of the ride or being brought into the police station. They sat me in a gray little room with a table and a paper cup of apple juice. I felt a little better. Nothing could hide there.

One of the regular-clothes men came in and pulled a chair closer. He sat and bent down to catch my eye. The cackle had faded.

His voice was deep and soft. “Your name is Lizzie, right?”

I nodded.

“Can you tell me what happened, Lizzie?”

I swallowed. “The bad witch came again.”

His face turned mad, and he shook his head. “Lizzie, we don’t have time for games. You need to tell us what happened.”

“It’s not a game. She…she came again a-a-and killed my mom.”

The muscle in his jaw tensed. “Fine. I’ll play along. Who is the witch? How’d she kill her?”

“I-I don’t know who she is. She just comes…when I get mad. She has long talons on her hands. She,” I sniffled back a sob, “she stuck them in my mom’s neck.”

He sat back and sighed. “Lizzie, we know you did it. You’ll be in less trouble if you just tell the truth and explain what happened.”

Like it had before, my chest tightened as if someone gave me a big bear hug. I closed my eyes and tried to will it away, but my skin flushed hot. I told myself she wouldn’t come now—there was no way she could get in without everyone seeing. She only came when she couldn’t get caught.

Even the witch blames it all on me. After she killed Mom, I asked her why.

The witch cackled. “You wished she would die, didn’t you?”

I had…but I didn’t mean it. I couldn’t help being angry when Mom accused me of lying about what happened when Mrs. Jackson, my teacher, died. Mom said I had to quit making stuff up so they could catch the real killer. I told her I wasn’t making it up. Being mad just happens. I can’t help it.

The regular-clothes man slammed a hand on the table and made me jump.

“Listen, I have a lot of work to do. If you aren’t going to tell the truth, you’ll just go straight to jail.”

I wanted to yell but kept my voice quiet. “I’m not lying. Don’t call me a liar.”

“Don’t lie, and I won’t have to.”

My throat closed up. The anger went from calm to boiling. I shook my head and told it to go away…but it never listened anymore. Just like the witch.

The last thing I remember is her head rising behind the man, her hair covered in moss and green slime, wrinkled hands coming up, talons curling in toward his neck, slicing through the skin. The cackle had returned.
Now I sit in a cold room made of cushioned walls.

I shudder and scrunch my shoulders up over my ears as best I can with the jacket on, but the noise comes from inside me, and I can’t shut it out. How she makes me hear it when she’s not even around puzzles me—but then again, all of it does.

Dried blood covers my face and hair, and little pieces flake off when I move. I don’t know how so much blood got on me. I wasn’t close enough. Another puzzle.

More regular-clothes men had come into the little gray room. I huddled in the corner. The original regular-clothes man sprawled on the floor, a pool of red-black spreading under him. They had pointed guns at me and yelled and ran around acting crazy. A lady put a white jacket on me that wraps my arms around my back, and they led me down a bunch of hallways until we got to this room.

It’s not fair. They all keep calling me a liar.

The door opens, and a man in a white uniform starts in.

“Damn, I forgot the sedative.” He turns back, tells two men in white doctor coats he’ll return in a minute, and rushes off.

The white coats stand just outside the cushion room in a bare, gray hallway.

One of the white-coat men says to the other, “It’s a severe psychosis. She seems to really believe someone else is doing it. But all the evidence points to her.”

“Well,” the other says, “some kids are just great liars.”

The anger swells up faster every time. Now, it comes in an instant.

The thing with moss and green slime appears behind the white-coat men in the hallway. She slinks toward them.

I try to yell, to warn them, but only a hoarse cackle comes out.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I'm Goin' Away

*trigger warning--child sexual abuse
I reckoned Daddy would be mad.

I sat in the bathroom on the edge of the tub, lookin’ at the shiny door handle. The little ridge in the middle pointed sideways. That made me feel funny, weak-like and soggy. My fingers itched to turn it back upright. I just stared and kept my hands in my lap. The old house creaked while it settled, and I thought how thankful I’d be not to hear those sounds no more. I reckoned there was a heap of things I’d be thankful to miss.


We lived on Apple Lane, and our creaky house set down by the tracks. That was silly, ‘cause there weren’t no apple trees on our street, only peaches. I lay in bed at night, listenin’ to the trains. They’d scream afore they got to the crossin’. They’d chug and clang past the house, rattlin’ the wavy glass in the window frames. It took them forever to get by, car after car filled with black dusty coal. Teacher said coal turns into diamonds, but I didn’t believe her. I never found no diamonds.

I hated them trains. Their screams reminded me of the orange cat Daddy caught shittin’ under the porch.

“Cats is about as handy as a woman. All they’s good at is naggin’ and shittin’ and fuckin’,” he said. Daddy had lots of ideas ‘bout women.

He took its tail and swung it round and round, laughin’ at the way its hair puffed up. It screamed, the sound windin’ up and fadin’ out. Just like them trains. Acourse, they wasn’t that much alike, specially not when the cat stopped sudden-like against the tree. The bones are still out back, behind Daddy’s old Ford. They turned white and then gray, and I checked every week to make sure they was still there.

After that, I always pictured that cat wailin’ and swingin’ when the trains screamed. It gave me goose pimples, and I had to shut my hands over my ears.


As I sat in the bathroom, another creak killed the quiet, and I closed my eyes. Mayhap the wind was comin’ up. I held my breath, so’s I could hear the wind, but it wasn’t howlin’. I opened my eyes and checked the door handle again. It still pointed sideways. I reached out and tried to turn it, real gentle-like. Smooth, cold, slippery. It wouldn’t turn. Down on the floor, the strip of light under the door stayed solid, no shadows breakin’ it up.

Creak. I shut my hands over my ears, closed my eyes again.


We wasn’t allowed to lock doors. I don’t mean the front door—that one we locked, acourse. But unless you wanted Daddy to tell you to fetch a switch, and make your butt burn and throb and turn red, you sure didn’t lock no other doors.

Daddy said, “Locked doors mean you don’t trust folks. I reckon you ought trust your family.” He talked ‘bout family a lot.

So we left ‘em open. That’s how Sugarman got in.

At night, after the train screamed, the door swung open real slow. I lay in bed with my ears shut but my eyes open, tryin’ to see who it was. I couldn’t see nothin’ but dark, just like I had my eyes closed. Then a weight come down, makin’ the mattress sag so’s I’d start slidin’ to the edge. Sugarman’s hands caught me, holdin’ me round my belly. I tried to lock my legs together and stayed real still. Acourse, that didn’t help none. Sugarman was real strong.

“Gimme some sugar,” he said. He always wanted sugar.

His breath covered me, sour and sweet, like when the peaches fell off the tree in the backyard and rotted into the black dirt. I hated that smell almost as much as I hated them trains. When the wind was just right, it came in my window with the screamin’ of the trains, so thick I could almost see it.

Sugarman put his slick lips on my mouth. I tried my best to keep my lips shut, but he squeezed my cheeks hard. It made my teeth dig into ‘em, and I had to open. His fat tongue filled my mouth, and it tasted even worse than the peaches smelled. I wished my mind would go away. I wanted to shut my ears and my eyes and everything else. I didn’t want to taste that tongue, or feel the draft on my legs when he pushed my nightdress up. If my mind could’ve gone away, it wouldn’t have mattered what Sugarman did.


Mama died a year ago. She stayed in bed for months afore she went. She said she had the cancer. It made her get real skinny. I wanted to sit with her but hated lookin’ at her, so I scrunched my eyes into little slits so only a strip of light come through my eyelashes. She was just a pale blur against the blue flowered sheets. It reminded me of the time we went on a picnic, and she chased me through the field until we fell down and lay on the blossoms, laughin’ in the sun ‘til we couldn’t breathe. But she wasn’t laughin’ in her bed. She hadn’t laughed in a real long time.

“I’m gonna die, Punkin,” she said.

“What’s that like, Mama? What happens when you die?”

“Your mind just goes away, like sleepin’, but you don’t wake up. It makes the pain go away.” She smiled, a blurry, tired smile.

I wanted to know more but was scared to ask. I hoped the goin’ away was like when I turned the TV off and the light shrunk to a bright dot and winked out. Or maybe like water swirlin’ down a drain, without the creepy gurgle sound. I hoped it wasn’t a slow thing, like the peaches rottin’ in the yard, wrinkled and crawlin’ with bugs. Anything but that.

She went to sleep after that, and I reckon her mind went away.


I thought a heap about makin’ my mind go away once Sugarman started comin’ in. I knew how to make it go away, ‘cause I saw ‘em do the hogs and chickens. They screamed, too, but without the fadin’. Their screams turned to hissin’ gurgles. I wondered if they had pain and if it went away. They didn’t have much mind, but I reckoned it went away just the same.

I'd took the butcher knife out the shed and went to the bathroom with it.

I'd locked the door and sat lookin’ at the knife for a spell. My reflection stared back at me. I didn’t like that—it made a big lump in my throat—so I stopped lookin’ and left the blade in my lap. Instead, I watched the door handle, listenin’ and waitin’, with the cold porcelain sendin’ chills deep into my bones. I thought about Daddy and everything looked red of a sudden. It got me awful riled up. I reckoned it was Daddy’s fault that Sugarman got in. If Daddy woulda let me lock the door, Sugarman wouldn’t have come, and I wouldn’t need to make my mind go away.


The strip of light under the door grew brighter as the sun fell. It was gettin’ to be time. Time’s a funny thing, too. It goes faster just when a body wants it to slow down.

I breathed deep, tryin’ to make my heart quit thumpin’. It sounded funny with my ears shut, like the wind got in my head while a horse thundered in my chest. I took my hands off my ears and picked up the knife. It was heavier and more real, like it might come alive. My fingers held it real tight as I slid down to the floor and waited.


When the front door slammed, I took the knife to my neck, just like they did with the hogs.

Everything turned red for real.

Daddy called my name. Footsteps rumbled down the hall. The strip of light under the door broke up and disappeared like when the sun goes behind clouds. The door handle jiggled. I dropped the knife.

“Why’s this damn door locked? You in there, Punkin?”

The red squirted and dripped. Daddy banged on the wood, but it sounded far-off, a rumble in my bones more than my ears. In between the poundin’, a train screamed. I wished my mind would go away afore Daddy got in. He hit the door harder, and it flew open. His eyes opened big, as if he seen a ghost.

“No more Sugarman, Daddy.” My voice sounded funny and made me want to laugh.

But when Daddy leaned over me, I smelled Sugarman’s breath. My laugh came out a whistlin’ scream, like the trains, windin’ up and fadin’ away.

*This piece is not intended to endorse or condone suicide. It was written as a cathartic, therapeutic piece of fiction. If you need someone to listen, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-Talk (8255) or visit

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Women Writers Coming Out

This is such an awesome post that I simply have to share. I want all women writers (and more than a few men) to read it, because I think it's the number one hurdle for us.

I wrote something relating to this a few weeks ago, regarding my own path to writing a novel, the fear, doubt, and lack of confidence I struggled with for years (and still battle,) and the way girls/women are trained not believe in our own value and skill. I've had to unlearn a lot of that to find my own bad girl. She's coming out. ;)

Women writers must learn to see their own worth outside of wife/mom/family/friend roles and speak up. We owe that to ourselves (and our families,) and we deserve that voice.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I Got Mine--Screw You

All. the. books. Always. For everyone.

That's the purpose of a free exchange of ideas, and it's the ideal upon which libraries are based. Allowing any person to limit that exchange is ALWAYS dangerous and backwards.

Slate offered an article this week that claims Banned Books Weeks is a "crock" because there's no such thing as banned books anymore. (

"It's not as bad as it used to be."

As if that's a good stopping point in any fight against bad things.

There ARE still banned books, and many attempts to ban them, and we must continue the fight to keep all books available to those who want to read them. That's especially true for libraries because they often serve those who could not otherwise access them.

It's a shame Slate writer Ruth Graham doesn't recognize or appreciate that.

It's a sign of being out of touch with the reality that not everyone has digital access and brick-and-mortar stores are disappearing. Many cannot afford to buy a book, and many cannot drive to the next town. And they certainly shouldn't have to just because self-righteous people want to impose their values and beliefs on everyone.

It's a sign of elitism. It's a sign of complacency despite glaring evidence that unless we maintain vigilance against censorship, it will gain ground--because there are still people who WANT books banned, even if they're the extremist minority. It's a sign of the gross tendency for people who have a right or privilege to ignore those who don't and not be willing to fight for them. "I got mine--screw you."

#‎BannedBooksWeek‬ is a thing because it needs to be. Because even one banned book is too many. Because, sadly, it's one fight that will never be "over."


Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Caskets -- When Doves Fly Excerpt

In case you missed it, here's one of my favorite scenes from When Doves Fly, my debut #histfic novel set in a Colorado gold rush town in the 1870s.

If you want more, it's available on Amazon in ebook and print!

*  *  *  *  *
The caskets lay side by side. Charlotte stood in the parlor doorway, a doll dangling from one hand. She had tried to make herself enter, but her feet wouldn’t move. The black crepe over the windows rippled like ghostly shadows. A glimpse of pallid skin peeked from each coffin.
What if they wake? Maggie, their cook, said people sometimes came back to life to claw their way out of their caskets.
Charlotte wanted to touch them, to check for life, but a vague fear stopped her. She stayed rooted, cold bare toes on the threshold, eyes fixed on the open boxes, waiting for the children to move.
If only Mother would come down. Then I could go in.
Charlotte had tried to rouse her mother, but her parents’ door remained locked, and no one answered. Only weak cries had come from the room in the two days since Peter and Cecilia died.
Mother had fallen sick, too, but the cholera kept her bedridden for just a day. She’d devoted the next two days to nursing Peter and Cecilia—Charlotte had felt fine. In her delirium, Mother blamed herself for taking the children to the fair, but Charlotte had been the one who pestered until she agreed.
If I hadn’t, Peter and Sissy wouldn’t be in caskets. Once a middle child, now an only.
After they died, Mother locked her door, and Charlotte hadn’t seen her since. Maggie had arranged the wake and the coming funeral but went home sick—was it only the day before?—after assuring Charlotte that Papa would return home from his business trip any time. Charlotte waited all night, but Papa hadn’t come.
Something moved in Peter’s coffin. Charlotte’s eyes widened, and she squeezed Dolly’s arm. A fly drifted from the casket and landed again. She relaxed and released her breath. And waited.
The back door banged open. Charlotte didn’t move—she couldn’t. Her limbs had turned to stone.
“Eliza!” Papa’s voice rang in the silence. “Maggie?” Footsteps clattered on the wood floor until he reached the hall rug. “Charlotte! Where’s your mother? Why are the drapes …?”
His hand fell on her shoulder.
She tried to speak, but her cracked lips only trembled.
A sick moan came from him, and he pushed past her into the room with the caskets and flies. He bent over the bodies and groaned.
“No, no, no,” he chanted. “Peter … Sissy … not both ….”
Tears stung Charlotte’s eyes.
Papa whirled on her. “Where is your mother?” More a roar than a question.
Her body shook. Why is he angry with me?
He ran past her and thundered up the stairs. Banging on a door. “Eliza … Eliza!” More heavy footsteps, and he jerked Charlotte by the arm. “Is your mother sick? Where is Maggie? Or Cooper?” He bent, eyes wild, and shook her until her teeth chattered. “Charlotte, answer me!”
Sound came from her mouth, but no words.
Shoving her aside, he raced upstairs. Yelling and rattling the door as Charlotte collapsed in the parlor doorway.
The hall remained quiet. She fell asleep crying, clutching Dolly close.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Book Release!

I may or may not have peed my pants today. But I will be changing them, rest assured.

One year, ten months, fourteen days. It doesn't sound like that long, but it's taken a lifetime to reach this milestone. This is what I always wanted. Now I've got it.

On Amazon

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sneak Peek at When Doves Fly

An excerpt from Chapter One of When Doves Fly, a new historical fiction novel set in 1870s Colorado, coming September 30, 2015:

Lily Wright departed the train before the other passengers, gripping her carpet bag tight, eager to disappear. The bell clanged their arrival as the train rumbled to a stop, and voices rose over the hiss of steam engines as travelers greeted family and friends. Lily had no one to greet, yet every face resembled her husband’s and filled her with cold dread. Throwing peeks over her shoulder, she dodged and weaved until she found the station agent.

“Where’s the nearest hotel and stagecoach, sir?”

“Welcome to Denver, miss.” He jerked his thumb to the east, beyond the depot. “Plenty hotels within a few blocks, they can get you to a coach.”

She nodded and proceeded inside. People, suitcases, and trunks littered the station. She ducked her head and wound around them. Hair prickled on her neck. Convinced eyes had followed her, she turned, but no one seemed interested. Her heart pounded faster as she skirted the ticket line and burst through the doors to the street.

Wagons lumbered past in the waning evening light. A river of people flowed around her—men in work clothes or suits and bowlers, women in walking dresses with pert bustles—while she stood in front of the depot and searched building signs.

She wanted a smaller place, inexpensive and inconspicuous. She’d thought she would feel safe once she reached Denver, but her anxiety had grown stronger with every mile as the train chugged across the prairie.

Lily negotiated the wide, muddy road with a stream of pedestrians toward a cross-street lined with tall brick and clapboard buildings. When the group reached the other side and went their separate ways, she started up the narrower street, scanning the buildings and stopping at each corner to survey the side roads. After several blocks, a squat, wooden structure with a large sign on the roof drew her attention: The Broadwell House. Her pace picked up.

The noise and chaos fell behind as the traffic and crowds thinned. The buildings cast long shadows over the road, and the mountain sunset blared bright color on the facing side.

Her apprehension dimmed outside the crush of people, and exhaustion weighed her shoulders down. The hotel beckoned. Her hand ached, and she shifted the small suitcase to her other hand as she passed an alley.

An arm shot from the narrow void between buildings and snatched the bag from her fingers. She gasped, but shock throttled a scream in her throat. She swung toward the breach but caught only a glimpse of a darker shadow darting away. Her feet moved a few yards into the alley, but the gloom stopped her.

Wait, what if I catch up with him? Who knows what he might do.

She spun and darted into the road.

“Thief! Help!”              

The street had emptied. The nearest figure, a block away, kept moving in the opposite direction. She opened her mouth to shout again but closed it with a snap.

Heavens, what am I thinking? I can’t get involved with the law here. But my bag ….

She turned back to the alley, but nothing moved, the shadow gone.


She stomped her foot and flapped her arms. The bag. Everything. The money! This cannot be happening.

Paralyzed by frustration, Lily couldn’t fathom what to do next. The sun dropped below the skyline. Fear overcame shock. When full dark hit, the street would only present more danger.

She scuttled toward the Broadwell House, where she walked to the clerk’s desk and pulled a purse from her skirt pocket.

“One night, please.”

The clerk flicked her eyes up from a newspaper. “$3.00. No visitors.” She returned her attention to her paper.

Lily dug the money from her purse. The remaining paltry bills and coins worsened the roiling in her stomach. She tucked the pouch back in her pocket and laid three gold coins in the woman’s outstretched hand.

“Up the stairs, on the left.” The clerk slid a key across the desk.

Relieved the woman hadn’t indicated a guest log, Lily snagged the key and hurried to the second floor. She let herself in, slammed the door, and turned the lock.

Minimal furniture filled the modest, tidy room. She bypassed a table with an oil lamp and matches and fell onto the bed. Burying her face in the pillow, she sobbed.

I can’t stay here. He’ll find me here, I just know it. I have to make it to a more remote place. But what will I do when I get there? I can’t start a store with no money. She pummeled the mattress. It’s not fair. All I want is freedom to do as I wish, independence with no one deciding where I can go or how I must live, the chance to be my own. Is that so much to ask?

Dark settled, but she didn’t drift off for hours.

© 2015 Lauren Gregory All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It's Here! Cover & Release Date

First, the good news. The cover for When Doves Fly is ready, and I'm in love.

Next, the great news. The release date is set for September 30, 2015 for the ebook.

The long road leads to some amazing places.

When Doves Fly Book Cover
© 2015 Lauren Gregory All rights reserved.



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Learning to Write

At eleven, I won a district-wide writing competition. First place out of 1,800 sixth graders. I still have the piece. I don't recall the process or feeling of writing it, but I remember the feeling of winning. I felt smart. I felt significant. I felt listened to.

In those days, I sought approval from adults because I didn't get it from peers, and the adults had listened. That flaw of approval-seeking, and others, led down some unfortunate paths. My fears stole that sense of significance while I sought approval in ways that didn't succeed from people who didn't matter. My teens and early twenties taught me harsh truths and suffocating falsehoods.

I learned drawing attention meant drawing criticism and scorn. I learned there's always someone waiting to drag you down. I learned to fade into the background to avoid disapproval.

I learned smart women weren't nearly as worthy as fun, pretty, friendly women (let alone men)--and that the former is mutually exclusive from the latter. I learned you could only be one thing, and that as a woman, smart would always lose. I learned smart women are challenged and belittled, and outspoken women are bitch and overbearing. I learned to shut up.

I learned to only present the good stuff. If it wasn't perfect, it wasn't good enough. And in that case, well, what was the use in trying? I'd never be perfect. I'd never be smart enough or pretty enough or good enough to matter. I learned to quit trying.

I decided I had no imagination, no creativity, nothing important to say, so anything I wrote would be stupid, vapid crap. I told myself I wasn't "inspired." I wasn't deep or insightful or funny. What if I offended someone? What if "they" didn't approve? I didn't want to be wrong. I didn't want people to pull back the curtain and see an imposter. If I made up a story, if I created something, it would be all my fault if it sucked.

After my son was born, I decided to accept another truth. I'd failed to learn all of the things I wanted to teach him: confidence, using his strengths, always being willing to try, accepting failure, to never stop learning, and above all, to never let anyone else decide who he should be or silence him.


At 39, I woke on a cold November morning, sat at my desk, and started writing. It wasn't perfect—good grief, the suck reigned supreme—but I wrote for sixteen hours. Why? It wasn't some supernatural, angels-singing moment of inspiration or a lightning bolt best-story-ever idea. It wasn't the story.

I no longer wanted to fade into the background. I was sick of letting the fear win. I refused to be quiet about things that excite me, scare me, and anger me any longer, and it didn't matter if anyone approved. I wanted to smash those falsehoods I'd learned.

I have excuses, like everyone. I'm a full-time single mom, and I work two jobs and homeschool my son. I have a house to maintain and family obligations. Health issues abound. Chronic pain cripples me, and painkillers make me stupid but don't alleviate the pain. Just after I finished the first draft, I endured emergency surgery that almost killed me and required months of recuperation. Those things slowed me down, but I kept learning and writing.

I studied art and craft, worked hard, and finished the manuscript. I learned to write well, not just spit out thoughts. I learned grammar and punctuation, those technical rules many disdain. I learned how to write with emotion and clarity. After remembering that I had a voice, I worked on learning how to use it.

Why—how—did I write a novel? I decided. That's all. No magical breakthrough, just a decision to use my voice and speak my mind, imperfections and all. That decision—which I still have to make every time I write—is exciting and terrifying. It took years of fighting fears and searching for confidence to make that first decision, to learn new truths and refuse to accept falsehoods.

Learning to write, both art and craft, is about learning how to connect with strangers. It's learning style and mechanics to create clarity and meaning without losing the story. It's learning to accept criticism along with approval, being willing to have our ideas challenged, and reveling in the fact that the learning is never finished. It's learning to use our voice, and it's never easy.

We all have fears and hopes, and we all need someone we can relate to, who has those same fears and hopes. No matter who you are or where you've been, someone out there can relate. If you tell a story with a message--no matter how simple or trite or crazy that message may seem to you when the demons of doubt rise in the dark hours--and tell it well, it will speak to someone. It won't connect with everyone, and not everyone will approve. But that's okay. It probably won't change the world, but maybe it will change one person, and it will change you. It will give you a voice.

At 39, I learned I have something to say and someone out there needs to hear it. When will you learn it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

In Pieces

With every word, he strips away another piece of me.

“I need to move on,” he says.

“Why? What did I do wrong?” I hate the pathetic desperation in my voice.

One more bit flutters to floor, lying among the scattered pieces of dignity and self-respect. Each speck will wither and die like the blackened rose petals around the vase on the coffee table. He bought those two weeks ago. Did he know then?

“I told you, it’s nothing you did. It’s me.”

“Christ, don’t use a line on me. At least be honest. You owe me that much.”

“I’m being honest.”

He edges toward the door, bag in hand. He’s been trying to leave for three hours. The five o’clock shadow at noon makes his face haggard, and those blue eyes that bring me to my knees shift from me to the door. He’s desperate, too—desperate to escape.

“Fuck you. Go ahead, leave.” I turn my back to him.

“Don’t act like that. You know it isn’t working.”

“No, I don’t. I gave you everything. You just want a new piece of ass.”

Not true, but I’ll say anything now. Anything to prolong the shallow last gasps.

“There’s no one else.” A tired sigh. The door knob squeaks. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Another piece ripped off, baring the ugliest parts of me.

“The hell you didn’t. You never gave a shit about me.”

No response. I turn around, and he’s gone.

At least now I can cry.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Fire Inside

Forsaken at forty, I've lost my autonomy. I still have my mind, talents, skills. It's my body that betrays me. All those years I prided myself on strength and hard work, on doing what needed done whether it taxed my limits or not - now I pay for those years by living with a cruel master....

Fire rules my life. It decides when I rise and fall. It dictates whether I conquer the day or endure it. It determines how I behave and think and feel.

A mist dampens the blaze, a brief reprieve. But the relief demands a price to bankrupt my soul, stealing the only value I have left: words.

The inferno advances, fingers of pain streaking across the landscape with a pitiless roar. My escape cut off, I can only hide and whisper a plea for a little more time, a little more time before it strikes the inevitable crippling blow, a little more time to work and play and love.

How long can I hold the fire at bay?

Not long enough. Never long enough.

Image courtesy of twobee at

Monday, June 1, 2015

Women in Mining Camps, Part 2

Part 2 of my post on Women in Mining Camps, the seminal (light) research from about ten years ago that inspired my upcoming novel, When Doves Fly.

(Yes, it's been longer than a week since Part 1. My apologies, I ran into a band of outlaws who kidnapped me and forced me to finish editing a manuscript. P.S. The writing is a rough ride.)

Westward expansion, and the rise of industry and increased need for steel and minerals, meant mining towns grew in number and often consisted of the first "civilization" in a remote area. As the East grew more urbanized, the West remained a savage and isolated place. "Cornish immigrants James and Mary Bennett were among the first settlers in Mineral Point [Wisconsin] in the late 1830s, and Mary begged her husband to take her away from that 'hardly discovered wilderness,' where 'Indians and wild animals were numerous,' and back to civilization in England. 1 Many women who followed their husbands to the mining towns had recently immigrated and had little or no experience in an undeveloped, wild land, coming from Europe where even the remote areas had long since been explored and mining was well-established. "As John Rowe observed, 'In Cornwall it was the miner who was old before he was thirty-five; on the early American mining frontier, it was his wife.' 2 These difficulties came on top of the inherent risks involved in mining that left many miners injured or dead and their wives without income.3 These women didn't all stay home, but whether married, single, or widowed, history rarely recognized the woman's occupation. Most census records did not record a woman's occupation, even if single, unless it was unusual, so we often don't know how many women worked as servants, milliners, or proprietors of stores or parlors.4 However, simply from population records, we can infer that women were as influential and indispensable in the mining towns as elsewhere. In St. Clair, Pennsylvania, a well-established mining town, in 1850 there were only a little over 100 more men than women and more than 700 children in a population of over 2,000. 5 Thus, these women formed the backbone of the community, maintaining their families and providing support for the miners. However, changing times and cultural attitudes brought change to the mining towns as in the rest of America.


Group of mine workers...and one woman. c. 1895-1905

By the mid-1800s, with westward expansion at its height and new mineral and metal resources discovered farther west, women experienced new-found freedoms. They were encouraged to work outside the home to help their families before marriage and often found themselves widowed and forced to provide financial support, particularly in an industry such as mining. Many women left the mining camps and returned to their families once widowed, but some stayed and developed their own businesses to support themselves and their families until remarrying or moving on. 6 The need for women in budding mining camps was sorely felt. New mining camps had a great demand for single women, particularly in areas of rapid expansion such as California during the 1849 gold rush. "…In the West, a woman could make money and have the boldness to call the money her own. Women who had never worked in their lives discovered that the drudgery of work was sweetened by the freedom to earn and save money in their own names." 7 In the wild, uncivilized areas where mines sprang up quickly and few men (the men being occupied with mining, which paid much more) could provide such services as waiting tables in hotels or saloons, women found new occupations available. The positions were socially unacceptable for women in the East, but they opened to women in the West out of necessity. Strict social rules followed in the East were set aside for women in these "social" setting positions, where men had previously ruled, such as the requirement that a woman be introduced to a man before speaking to him.  

Along with the need for women in service sectors, the men needed companionship. It wasn't until the latter 1800s that mining towns, and the country as a whole, saw the development of brothels on a large scale, and usually only once a town was well-established.9 Most often, women operated them (if not owned them) and "at late hours provided 'nice young men' with drinks and the social services of a small bevy of female boarders." 10 In the East, these establishments were less tolerated and the operators were fined or jailed if discovered.11 But in the west, they thrived and often remained legal until well into the 1900s.

Unmarried women had other options, though, particularly in the West. In the chaotic mid-1800s, various industries and areas saw many boom and bust times, forcing single men to seek  new opportunities, often in mining towns. The areas they abandoned had a shortage of marriageable men, and unattached women frequently followed the migration to developing areas to find husbands and employment. 12 "John McCracken wrote to his sister telling of one such incident. 'I heard not long since of the arrival of an old Lady and her five daughters. They came in a wagon and seemed quite happy to think there were such chances to get well married' (Levy 175)." 13 Women would even advertise themselves for marriage, finding that with the abundance of men they could raise their expectations and demand a higher quality of mate. In one "advertisement from a Maryville newspaper of 1849…[a woman gives] self-qualifications for marriage and what she expects in return from the man: 'an old man need not apply, nor any who have not a little more education than she has, and a great deal more gold, for there must be $20,000 settled on her before she will bind herself to perform all the above' (Levy 176)." 14 In the mining camps, many men avoided the few prostitutes due to fear of disease or simple unavailability. As towns grew, "businessmen" opened more brothels and saw a new avenue for profit in mail-order bride services. They already had sources for women to supply to their brothels, so the "supply chain" of immigrant women was already in place. 15

Once they arrived in these often lawless, uncivilized western mining camps, women asserted their influence, utilized their skills, and developed new ones. "Many craved the amenities of civilization; they longed for social interaction and sought networks of family and friends for emotional support." 16 In newly formed mining towns, the few women were lonely and despaired of the conditions in which they lived. They attempted to create homes with canvas tents and dirt floors. Supplies were often slow in arriving, if they arrived at all, and they made do with whatever they found. Louise Clappe wrote her sister from California in 1851, "…Everybody ought to go to the mines, just to see how little it takes to make people comfortable in the world." 17 Out of this turmoil, women created social connections. While operating their boarding houses, laundry services, and stores, and being mothers and wives, women organized. They developed social organizations and helped to found churches, libraries, schools, and other civic institutions. They created communities in the wilderness. They insisted on social functions to help ease their homesickness while they adjusted to new climates, new cultures, and new occupations. "The Alta California periodical commented upon the positive influence of women in bringing order to chaotic new towns: 'Woman to society is like a cement to the building stone. The society here has no such a cement; its elements float to and fro upon the excited, turbulent, hurried life of California immigrants, or rather, we should say, goldhunters' (quoted in Levy 174)." 18

Perhaps the most neglected aspect of women's contributions in mining towns, and to some the most surprising, is that of women miners. Although a very small number, especially until the latter half of the 1800s, some women worked alongside men in the coal and lead mine operations. 19 They endured the same vile working conditions as the men in the deep shafts and dangerous quarries with toxic fumes and the constant risk of explosions and cave-ins. Later, a number of women aided their husbands or worked gold and silver claims alone in the West. Just as on the farms, they shouldered the burden of hard labor when necessary to support their families.

Three men and a woman

These examples show women in mining communities in the 19th century were vital to the operation not only of the mines, but the growth and development of the community and civic function of the town. They contributed in those capacities in addition to the customary role of wife and mother they continued to perform for their families in harsh conditions. In crude log cabins, and without food or supplies, they managed to create homes that provided for the miner's comfort and daily necessities. And they provided services and labor for the many businesses needed to maintain the mining towns. They were essential to their communities, both in founding them and maintaining them.

1. William E. Van Vugt, Britain to America, Mid-Nineteenth-Century Immigrants to the United States (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 126.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid., 95.
4.  Anthony F. C. Wallace, St. Clair: A Nineteenth-Century Coal Town's Experience with a Disaster-Prone Industry (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1987), 131.
5. Ibid.
6. Suzanne Hilton, Miners, Merchants and Maids (New York: Twenty-First Century Books, 1995), 69.
7. Ibid., 62.
8. Ibid., 71.
9. Wallace, St. Clair, 166.
10. Ibid., 167.
11. Ibid.
12. Van Vugt, British to America, 90.
13."Here Comes the Bride", Women's Work in the Long 19th Century,

14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Philip J. Deloria, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Jack N. Rakove and David Burner, This Land: A History of the United States (New York: Brandywine Press, 2003), 263.
17. Hilton, Miners, 19.
18. "Here Comes the Bride", Women's Work.
19. Van Vugt, Britain to America, 126.

Images courtesy of Library of Congress - &

Monday, April 13, 2015

Women in Mining Camps

I thought I'd share the seminal research that sparked my interest in women in mining camps, and ultimately inspired my upcoming novel, When Doves Fly. Women often have no voice in history, having been immersed in the maintenance of their families, stifled by discrimination, and denied a lasting outlet for their thoughts and ideas. One of my goals in my writing is to give them a voice and acknowledge their impact.

This will be a two-part post, so check back next week for the second part.

Group of mine workers...and one woman. c. 1895-1905

History studies consistently neglected women until relatively recently. While interest in women’s roles and their contributions to every aspect of society, culture, politics, medicine, and economic development has surged, huge gaps of knowledge and understanding still trouble us. When we read about mining towns, from early mining in Pennsylvania and Virginia to the California gold rush period and later to established mining operations throughout the United States, we find a vision of rough, dirty men engaged in dangerous manual labor. Women remain mostly absent from this picture. When offered a glimpse, we see only the stray barmaid or prostitute in the tavern or saloon. It is difficult to comprehend women’s impact on mining communities in the 19th century. Mining camps needed women and offered women a drastically different life and opportunities unavailable elsewhere. The women in these areas encountered hardships, prospects, and lifestyles unseen by women in urban areas. Ultimately, they changed how women were viewed and changed their communities in sometimes subtle but inescapable ways.

The earliest mining communities in the eastern United States were established in the beginning of the 19th century.1 At this time, areas east of the Mississippi River remained largely unexplored. Throngs of immigrants flowed into eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky to find land and fresh opportunities. Businessmen in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston searched for new sources of revenue. Industrialization swept the country. Additional resources were needed to fuel these changes, and the discovery of anthracite (coal) in the Allegheny Mountains provided one of the richest foundations for this growth. By the 1820s, farmland and uninhabited areas sprouted small mining camps as investors and landowners realized the enormous potential of the reserves under the soil.2

Men established these camps, and initially, all of the workers and supporting labor were men. During the period of speculation for a mine, small operations employed a dozen or two hands, and women stayed home in the urban areas or on the farms.3 Once a large vein was discovered, and the mine proved profitable, more men arrived, and practically overnight a community sprang up. A town could go from one hundred inhabitants to thousands in a few years.4 Owners and investors encouraged and even financed the growth, because population development around the mining district brought even more profit. In 1835, a mine investor planned a community in Pennsylvania and envisioned "'a first Town within the Coal Range, and in the midst of a great mining district.' In addition to the profits from royalties on coal, the development of the Westwood Tract would bring additional financial benefits from the sale of town lots, mill seats, and timber and an extensive 'home trade' could be expected…"5

Further, development of the communities, which required women and families, could benefit the operation of the mine itself. "'Nothing can equal the neatness and Comfort of these snug dwellings…the wife keeps all in order at home, every child at 7 or 8 years gets to work among the Coal or in the Neighboring Manufactories…Saturday Night collects all the wages and all the family together…'"6 In this instance, we see women in the communities illustrated as they were elsewhere at the time: as the wife of the working man, keeping a comfortable and respectable family life at home. With these eastern mines, the mining company planned orderly communities, and often, even before the mining operation was fully constructed, a town grew nearby to provide necessary services. As quickly as they could build housing, the families of the miners, artisans, and craftsmen moved in, providing a "family life" for workers.

Even in relatively large communities, the lack of single women resulted in large numbers of working single men who needed services normally performed by a wife. Laundering, cooking, gardening, sewing, and many other services were performed by married women who operated (but rarely owned) boarding houses or worked from home. They moved frequently, following their men to new operations. They had to assimilate in communities often hostile to immigrants. They provided the comforts of a home without many of the supplies and amenities available in urban areas.

By the middle of the 19th century, with mining communities expanding in the East, textile mills sprang up near sources of industrialization. While the men worked in the mines, some women began working outside the home in several fields, often related to clothing.7 Women and children, with their smaller frames and hands, could often perform tasks in cramped spaces or work which required dexterity many men lacked. The mills required long hours in harsh conditions--and the female workers often still had to run the house when they arrived home. Some of these women were integral to the start of the Labor Movement. Many of these industries, and the women workers they relied on, provided the capital for costly mineral exploration and made mining possible.

The women in these early, Eastern mining towns were essential to the mine's operation, as they performed the menial household work and supplied necessary services. They allowed both married and single men to pull treasure from the ground without worrying about the time-consuming daily tasks of living. This dictated a hard life for the women, even more so as America moved westward.


1. Anthony F. C. Wallace, St. Clair: A Nineteenth-Century Coal Town's Experience with a Disaster-Prone Industry (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1987), 3.
2. Ibid., 2.
3. Ibid., 70.
4. Ibid., 96.
5. Ibid., 78.
6. Ibid., 79.
7. Doris Weatherford, Foreign and Female: Immigrant Women in America, 1840-1930 (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1995), 205-206.

 Image courtesy of Library of Congress -