In case you hadn't heard Commoner By Choice, my newest "Behind the Ranges" book, was released on 16 February. I've been making a big noise about it everywhere I could think of, and I hope that means lots of folks will buy it. Or ask their local libraries to get a copy (in print or ebook) so they can read it.
This is the tenth book in the series. There's also a Christmas-themed novella. And the beginnings of an eleventh (or maybe another novella) on my computer. If you've visited my website, you'll know that the series title is from lines in The Explorer, a poem by Kipling: "Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges--/Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go."
When I wrote the first book, The Queen of Cherry Vale, I didn't know I was beginning a series. I just wanted to share a story that had been gestating for a long time. I've spent nearly my whole life within ten miles of the Oregon Trail, and its history has always fascinated me. I've read a bunch of contemporaneous accounts of the journey west, seen several movies depicting it (mostly inaccurately), and walked bits and pieces of it, from Independence, Missouri, all the way to Oregon City, Oregon. Traveling the route, or as much of it as we could get to while towing a trailer that wasn't intended for off-road travel, gave me an appreciation of just how far it was between start and finish.
The Oregon Trail is about two thousand miles long. It took most nineteenth century travelers between four and six months to make the journey. We drove it in the late twentieth century, with frequent stops to visit historical sites or walk still accessible and visible sections. If we could have taken the time off from our jobs, we'd have spent longer on the trail, but even the short two weeks we spent exploring it left us with a sense of awe at the accomplishment of those early travelers.
Only one of the books in the "Behind the Ranges" series is about the trail, though, because the people who followed the trail settled in Cherry Vale, a place that exists only in my imagination and between the pages of my books. It's in the general vicinity of Garden Valley, Idaho, though, if you are curious. I did a little rearranging of geography and topography while I was creating Cherry Vale, because I needed it to be more isolated, more inaccessible, and well off the beaten paths of aboriginal peoples, beaver trappers and gold seekers.
Once my characters, the Lachlans and the Kings, settled there, their adventures--most of them anyway--were over. A peaceful life in an isolated mountain valley isn't very interesting to write about. The trouble was, they kept talking to me about their lives, about their children. More stories for me to tell.
The first three books are about those early settlers. The subsequent ones--all but one--are about their children. That one is only part of the series because characters from the other books appear briefly. Knight in a Black Heart is the book I had to write, the story of a woman plant explorer in a time few women were given credit for their scientific discoveries. Yet there were many women who did significant work in the sciences in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Several of them were botanists, and since I am--or was until I retired--a botanist too, I was compelled to tell a story that celebrated their accomplishments.
How many more books will there be in the series? I don't know, but I can promise that I haven't used up the whole second generation yet. And there are other characters who’ve appeared here and there in the series. Murphy Creek is one. I've got the beginnings of his story outlined, but he's not cooperating. Not yet. One of these days I'll convince him that it's his turn, though. And there's a young man named E.Z. King who is clamoring for a book of his own. So far, though, he won't tell me how he's related to the families or what year he was born.
Ah, well, I'll pry his story out of him one day. Or maybe another of the Lachlan kids will decide to have an adventure. Only time will tell.
Here's a list of the "Behind the Ranges" stories. I hope you'll read one or all of them.
The Queen of Cherry Vale
The Duchess of Ophir Creek
Lord of Misrule (novella)
Knight in a Black Hat
The Lost Baroness
The Imperial Engineer
Commoner By Choice
And don't forget to drop by my website. You'll find a link there to Coffee Time Romance, where I'm giving away copies of all the series titles.~~Jude