Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Coming in February: The Beautiful Snow by Cindy Wilson


The Long Winter is one of the most memorable novels in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. It beautifully details the dramatic events of The Hard Winter of 1880-81, a harrowing time with months of never-ending blizzards leading to railroad blockades that all but cut off fledgling communities. But what really happened that winter? Lively and rewarding, The Beautiful Snow is a new look at The Hard Winter.

Pulling from nearly three thousand regional newspaper articles, The Beautiful Snow weaves the historical record around and through Wilder's fictionalized account. From the tireless efforts to dig out the railroad blockades, to lavish oyster parties, to carefully spun boosterism, The Hard Winter comes to life with extraordinary tales of survival, resilience, and defiance that adds rich context to Wilder's beloved novel.

Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press (February 7, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1643439057
ISBN-13: 978-1643439051

Pre-order here!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

How Do I Go On?: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos




How Do I Go On?

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.

Author's note: I used a bit of the dialogue from the episode, "He Loves Me, He Love Me Not" for this story.

Laura trudged toward the Walnut Grove schoolhouse, a dinner pail swaying in her right hand. Her heavy feet shuffled along the dusty road kicking up rocks. I wonder where he is now.

Miss Wilder would be wondering where she was, too. School started over an hour ago.

Yesterday she had been deliriously happy. The man of her dreams had asked her to marry him and she said, "yes." Knowing Charles wanted her to wait until she turned 18, Almanzo suggested they run away, but she convinced Manly to talk to her Pa first. Why didn't I listen to him?

Her mind wandered back to the moment she heard wagon wheels pulling out of the yard. Stepping into the darkness, the only person she saw was Pa.

"He left?" she asked.

"Yeah," Pa mumbled, nodding as he stood there with his hands tucked into his pockets.

"Why? What did you say to him?"

"I told him you would have to wait."

Her chest tightened around the fury and anger bubbling inside. "I won't lose him. If waiting means I'm going to lose him, I won't wait. I mean it Pa!"

Somehow her legs carried her up into the loft and onto her bed where her body convulsed in a torrent of tears. Ma came up several minutes later; and just like she always did, made it seem like everything would be okay. But, nothing would ever be okay again.

Ma had told her that Almanzo would wait if he really loved her, and encouraged Laura to make up with Pa. He had loved her for sixteen years, after all. She spoke to Pa that night, but it didn't help much. Their talk only served to make her more nervous about facing Almanzo in the morning. Why did she have to choose between the two men she loved most?

Gulping down breakfast Laura raced out the door, school books and dinner pail in hand, to head out to the Wilder farm before school started. She had to convince Almanzo to wait. Her heart fluttered when she saw him driving toward her in his wagon. Though defiant and brave when she faced Pa the night before, she could never turn her back on him and defy his wishes.

"I can't. Not now. I just need some time," she said when Almanzo announced he planned to leave Walnut Grove and wanted her to come with him.

Almanzo glared with disappointment and disgust. "I guess your Pa was right. You're still a little girl."

His words tore into her like barbed wire, not only scratching, but digging in and tearing away tender flesh. She watched him drive off. Please come back!

Sneaking up to the back door of the schoolhouse, Laura sipped cool water from the cup she dipped into the water bucket. Smoothing her hair and straightening her dress, she breathed deeply to prepare to enter the schoolhouse where everyone had been working for nearly two hours. Dozens of heads swung in her direction at the click of the door.

"Oh, Laura," said Miss Wilder. "I wondered where you were. You're not feeling sick are you?"

Her mouth felt as parched as the prairie fields during a drought. The heat of everyone's stare burned on her face. "No, Miss Wilder. I had something to take care of. I'm sorry I'm late."

"That's all right," she smiled. "The class is just reading silently until morning recess. Why don't you take your seat."

"Yes Ma'am."

The weight of her classmates' stares felt like sacks of grain tied to her arms and legs as Laura trudged to her seat; their whispers leaving her too embarrassed to look up. Minutes ticked by as slow as the winter thaw turns to spring. Each moment reminded her Almanzo was on his way to start a new life without her.

Moments later, Miss Wilder stood up from her desk. "All right, class. You may go out and play."

Laura could feel her brother Albert standing next to her. The gravity of his stare bore down on her as  she pretended to read. Miss Wilder advanced toward them.

"Albert, would you take my watch and make sure to call everyone back in on time. I need Laura to help me with something."

"Sure, Miss Wilder." Albert shot one more glance at his sister before turning around and marching away.

Miss Wilder sat down on the bench in front of Laura. "He must be halfway to Sleepy Eye by now."

Laura gasped. "You know."

"He had to tell me that I would need to find some help around the farm."

Laura nodded. She hadn't given any thought to the farm. Miss Wilder certainly couldn't run it herself.

"Do you know where he went?"

Miss Wilder adjusted her eyeglasses. "No, I'm sorry. He didn't say much before he left this morning, though we talked a bit last night."

"What did he say?"

Laura bit her lower lip as Miss Wilder told her what she knew—which wasn't much. Her head collapsed into her folded arms across her desk. How could this be happening? Her chest heaved as she forced back the tears.

"You don't have to be here today," said Miss Wilder. "Go home."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

Laura collected her books from the bench and pushed herself off the seat. Tears welled up in her eyes and threatened to tumble down her cheeks. Her shuffling feet scratched along the hard, wooden floor as she walked to the back door. She turned to face her teacher, comforted by the compassion in the older woman's eyes.

"Thank you, Miss Wilder."

She smiled. "You're welcome. And, try not to worry. He'll be back."

"How do you know?"

Miss Wilder shrugged. "I know my brother. He doesn't give up too easily."

Laura managed a weak smile before sneaking out of the back door as she heard the first chimes of the school bell ending recess. As she wandered toward the little house on Plum Creek, she took solace in Miss Wilder's words. She had no idea how she would get through the rest of the day, or tomorrow, or even the next day, but she had to hold onto that hope that what Miss Wilder and her Ma said was true … he'll be back.

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thoughts on Bless All the Dear Children



I've long said the final Christmas episode, "Bless All the Dear Children," is my least favorite Little House Christmas show. Recently, I watched this episode again. While my overall opinion hasn't changed, there are some good moments to celebrate or at least mention. Let's start with my nitpicks and then end with the positives.

Nitpicks

  • Pa's narration opens the episode by stating this story takes place in the winter of 1896. Rose Wilder was born in 1886. She would have been 10.
  • Pa also says that while they were used to cold winters, the winter of 1896 brought with it warm temperatures (hence people walking around with no coats and their sleeves rolled up in December in Minnesota). That year, the Midwest had experienced a long Indian summer, but by Thanksgiving temperatures were well below average with some areas reporting record breaking cold (-50).  
  • Mr. Edwards gets into a bar fight, which is why Almanzo leaves Rose and she is abducted. Didn't he pretty much stop drinking after the whole incident with Albert? 
  • Somehow Samuel hid in the back of their wagon undetected even though they had to ride half a day to get to their first stop?
  • Mr. Edwards doesn't apologize. Not when Almanzo feels guilty and breaks down or when Laura is upset they will never find Rose. 
  • The star in the sky leading them to Samuel after he runs away is just too corny for even me.
  • The Carters living in the little house on Plum Creek will never sit right with me. 

Enjoyable Moments
  • Seeing the family together and happy. The Wilders endured Almanzo's illness and paralysis, a tornado destroying their first house, the loss of Royal Wilder, the loss of Baby Wilder and Rose contracting small pox, Jenny Wilder almost dying twice, and the death of Laura's beloved brother, Albert. Thank goodness we see some happy times, too.
  • The way the actors portrayed a married couple in crisis. By now, they should be experts at it. We should remember, however, that neither was married and Melissa Gilbert was only 19 when this episode aired. 
  • Mr. Montague delivering presents to the Carters and Jenny Wilder dressed as Santa Claus. Though he rallied against the commercialization of Christmas--something I'm pretty sure never came up in the late 1800s--he puts aside his feelings when the Wilders are delayed and the Carters have nothing to give their boys. 
  • A strong Almanzo defending his family. When they find Rose, Patrick Norris still believes the story his wife has told him about the little girl she brought home belonging to them. It doesn't take long for him to grab his gun. Though Laura pleads with both men to stop it, Almanzo isn't about to back down from protecting his family. Seeing him so dedicated to his family is not new, but if you think to how despondent he was back when Rose was born and he thought he would never walk again, this strong protector is truly a different man.
  • Sam being adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Norris. Not sure everything was legal, but they all ended up happy.


What do you think about this episode? Do you share any of my nitpicks or enjoyable moments? Were there any other things that make it or break it for this episode?

Monday, December 2, 2019

Do You Remember "The Little House Years?"



How many of you remember the three-part clips episode, "The Little House Years?" It's easy to forget, since it isn't included on the DVDs. I spoke to Dean Butler (Almanzo Wilder) about it once. He eluded to a rights issue, but didn't know the exact nature of the issue.

Sitting around the table at Thanksgiving with Mary and Adam Kendall, Laura shares some of the family's journeys and memories. This is one great way to share the history of the Ingalls family with adopted brother, Albert.

I don't remember all of them, but scenes from when they left the Big Woods, when they bought the house on Plum Creek, when Charles lost his crop and had to travel to find work with the railroad, when Laura ran away, and several others are included. You also catch a glimpse of a young Shawna Landon in the library picking out a copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder's book.

It is my sincere hope that this part of season 6 is one day released. Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Best Laid Plans: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos




The Best Laid Plans

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.


Almanzo dragged himself away from their kiss. Laura had just accepted his proposal, and he wanted to settle how they would get from sitting here along the shore of the lake to being man and wife.

“Do ya think ya could be ready to get married next month?” he asked. “That’ll give me time--”

“Wait a minute,” she interrupted. 

“What?”

Her eyes widened. “Did you just say, ‘next month’?”

“Yeah.”

“You know Pa wants me to wait until I’m eighteen.”

Almanzo shrugged. “But, I don’t wanna wait. I love you and I wanna spend the rest of my life with you.”

Laura's cheeks flushed red. “Manly, I want that too, but Pa would never approve. He wants me to finish school … and he doesn’t think I’m ready for marriage yet.”

Almanzo felt lines crease his forehead as he struggled to understand how his proposal just took a turn in the wrong direction. He crossed his arms over his chest. 

“What do you think, Beth? Are ya ready to be my wife or not?” He didn't hide the annoyance in his voice.

Laura gazed up into his face, her eyes shining with as much love as ever. “I want to be your wife more than anything else in the world," she said with a sweet tenderness that threatened to soften his resolve.

“So let’s get married right away.”

Laura turned her head away. The conversation clearly troubled her. “What are we going to tell Pa?”

Almanzo shrugged his shoulders. “Nothing. We’ll go off and get married and then come back for your things. They’ll be nothing left to say.”

Laura pursed her lips. A sure sign he wouldn't like what came next. “I can’t do that.”

“Don’t you love me?”

“Of course I do, but I love my pa, too. I wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t talk to him first.” 

Almanzo shook his head. “Beth, I don’t understand ya. You just said he would never go for us getting married right away, but now you wanna talk to him first.”

Laura put her hand on his arm. “Manly, I don’t want to run off and get married without Pa’s blessing. It would be like we were doing something wrong. I don’t want our life together to start off that way.” Her eyes pleaded with him to reconsider.

Almanzo knew how she felt, but he still wished she would change her mind.

“What if your pa says no? Are you telling me we’ll just put aside our plans and wait for two years?”

Laura stood up and paced the grassy area by the lake. “I don’t know. Maybe we will end up running off anyway, but I have to tell him, Almanzo.” She put a finger to her lips, a hint that her mind was considering what to do. “Why don’t you tell him the reasons you want to get married right away?”

He smirked at her. “You want me to tell your pa that I don’t want to wait two years to be closer to you?”

She slapped his arm. “Is that the only reason you want to get married right away?” 

Almanzo flashed her a crooked smile. “You know it isn't, but I want to start our life, Beth.”

Laura blushed. “Oh Manly.” 

He opened his arms and she snuggled into his embrace. He enjoyed smelling the lemon verbena she sprinkled in her hair. 

“If we get married next month, we can start working toward the farm of our dreams that much sooner. I wanna build you a big, beautiful house with a porch to watch the seasons change. I wanna hear the sound of our children’s feet running on that porch when they come home from school each day. I wanna be able to look out across the prairie and see nothing but our farm and our livestock grazing in the pasture.”

“It sounds beautiful,” Laura whispered into his chest.

He widened the gap between them and held her at arm's length. “It will be. I wanna give you the world.”

“You’re all I need, Manly.”

His heart swelled. Gosh, how I love her.

“You deserve it all.”

Laura smiled. He wanted nothing more than to give her everything.

“I can’t help how I feel about you, Beth. I don't want to  wait two years to start our life together. ”

Tears glistened in the corners of her eyes. “I know what you mean.”

Two years seemed like an eternity. He wanted to share his life and his dreams with her. He never imagined such a thing a few years back. She seemed so young then. But, now, all he could think of was making her his wife and creating a happy life together.  

Laura jumped back when the idea came to her. “How about I talk to Ma tonight? I bet she would let us get married right away.”

Almanzo frowned. “But, your pa has the final say.” 

“I know, but if Ma goes for it, then maybe she could talk to Pa and she--

“No,” he interrupted. “I don’t want your ma doing my dirty work. Besides, your pa would never trust me again if he knew I was going behind his back.” Almanzo shook his head, realizing Laura would never agree without Charles’s permission. “I’ll talk to your pa.”

Laura squeezed him with all her might. “Thanks, Manly. Why don’t you come over for supper tomorrow night.”

Almanzo chuckled. “All right, I’ll come by tomorrow, but you need to know that no matter what your pa says, I am not waiting two years.”

They had a quiet ride home from the lake. He remained in serious thought about tomorrow's supper and his meeting with her pa. He didn't want to make Laura choose between them, but Charles couldn't be allowed to keep them apart. He respected the man, but if Laura was old enough to teach and old enough to accept his proposal, she certainly could decide to marry him now. Almanzo hoped he wouldn't be disappointed. 

Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Flashback: LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos




Flashback

LHOP inspired fan fiction by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Disclaimer: I do not own the Little House on the Prairie television series, book series, or any of the characters.


Laura had spent the last few days at home. The events at the blind school still haunted her. It could have ended so differently.

With Adam, Hester Sue, Ma, and Mrs. Oleson away petitioning for more aid for the blind school, Laura and Mary planned to spend the night together at the school with the children. Sitting in front of the fireplace, they recalled memories from their childhood.

Then the knock came.

When Laura opened the door, a stranger pushed his way in. He had two others with him, one injured. They forced Mary and Laura to find a place for the injured one to lie down. Scared, they had listened to the man’s orders. He made it clear he wouldn’t hesitate to kill them.

The injured man had lost a lot of blood. He needed a doctor. That’s when the man in charge ordered Laura to run off and find the town doctor. When she couldn’t find Doc Baker, her mind frantically raced for how to help her sister. That’s when she ran home harder and faster than she ever thought she could. She slid on mud and the pouring rain made it difficult to see, but when she saw the oil lamps burning through the windows of the little house on Plum Creek, she felt Mary had a chance.

“Whoa!” Almanzo’s voice pulled Laura away from her thoughts. “Great Jehoshaphat, Beth. Barnum could have trampled you.”

Her eyes wide, Laura clutched her hand over her heaving chest. She dropped her head back and closed her eyes, trying to breathe slower. She heard Almanzo climb out of his buggy.

“Are you okay, Beth?” He cupped her elbow.

She swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’m sorry, Manly. I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

“Well, that’s plain to see.”

Tiny lines appeared in the middle of Almanzo’s forehead. “Let me tie up Barnum. I think we should step into the restaurant and get you a glass of water.”

She nodded. Her knees felt like they would buckle under her if she stood much longer.

“Nellie! Nellie!” Almanzo called.

“I’m coming,” she sing-sang before marching through the swinging door from the kitchen. “What can I do for you – ” Nellie’s attitude changed the instant she saw Laura alongside him. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

Almanzo pulled out a chair. “Why don’t you sit down, Beth. Can you get her a glass of water, Nellie? She’s not feeling well.”

Nellie crossed her arms over her chest. She crinkled her nose in that smug expression Laura always wanted to slap off her face when they were kids.

Almanzo cleared his throat. “Now, would be good.”

Nellie raised her nose in the air and stormed off to the kitchen.

By the time Almanzo sat down across the table from her, Laura had propped both elbows up on the table and dropped her head into her hands. At a different time, she would have felt mortified by her childlike behavior. Today, the frightening memories overwhelmed her. Maybe I shouldn’t have returned to school just yet.

Nellie plunked her glass of water on the table, sloshing drops over the rim. “Can I get you anything else?”

“Not right now, thanks.”

She harrumphed before turning on her heel and stomping away.

Almanzo sat in silence as Laura sipped her water. Even that turned soured in her stomach. This had to be one of the few times she wished Manly were off in Sleepy Eye making a delivery. She didn’t think she had it in her to carry on a conversation.

He must have sensed her trepidation, because he said nothing for quite a while. When he did, he softened his voice and smiled the crooked smile she adored.

“Are you feeling better, Beth?”

She shook her head. Not yet.

“Can you tell me what’s bothering you?” His blue eyes shone with concern. “Do you need to see Doc Baker?”

Laura waved a hand at him. Poor Doc Baker. Mary and Pa had told her that when he arrived at the blind school, the bad guys knew Pa wasn’t the town doctor. When Mary let Doc Baker in, the man with the gun knocked him out by belting him in the head with the stock of his rifle.

“I’m sorry, Manly.” Her mouth seemed so dry. She sipped her water again. “It’s just I keep having nightmares about those men coming to the blind school.”

His mouth formed an “O” but he didn’t speak.

“I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Almanzo slid his chair closer. “I’m sure it was scary.”

She nodded. “Manly, I didn’t know what to do.” She felt the tears pricking her eyes. “He asked me to get the doctor, but Doc Baker wasn’t around. I ran all the way back to the blind school before I realized there was no way we would get out of there alive unless I found someone to help us. So, I ran home. My legs hurt, but I had to keep going. Even once I got Pa, I had no idea how we could outsmart those men.”

Laura appreciated that Manly didn’t speak or ask questions. She and Ma had talked after she got home, but she had needed time to think about what had happened to them. Maybe talking to Manly would make things easier.

Another sip of water loosened up her throat. “The worst part was once Pa knocked out the man upstairs. Jed, I think his name was. Pa had given the injured man ether, pretending he would operate on him. Once Mary let Doc Baker in and the other guy realized Pa wasn’t the doctor, he screamed up the stairs and told Jed. Pa punched him right out and told me to turn down all the lamps and lock the door, and not to open it for any reason.”

She felt her heart pounding in her chest. Manly must have seen the fear on her face, because he reached across the table and put a hand on her arm. He didn’t say anything, but he squeezed her arm for a second.

“I heard gunshots. I wanted to yank the door open and find Pa and Mary, but I couldn’t.” She pushed her hair back behind her ears. “I remember when we lived in Kansas. Pa had gone off to hunt. He told me to leave my dog Jack tied up and not to untie him for any reason. While he was gone, some Indians showed up. I wanted to untie Jack, but Mary wouldn’t let me. When Pa found out, he got so angry with me. He explained later why he didn’t want me to untie Jack.” Laura shifted in her seat. “It took all my strength to stay inside that room while I could hear gunshots and fighting around me. That’s when I remembered Kansas and how Pa always does his best to protect me. So, I stayed put … though I was too scared to turn off the lamps.”

Laura wiped the tears away. She felt tired. Maybe she should just head home instead of going to school. The bell had already rung.

“I’m sorry you and your family had to go through that, Beth.” He shrugged. “I had heard a bit about the Brandywines being recaptured, but I didn’t know what really happened.”

Laura stared at her folded hands on her lap. “Thanks for listening, Manly. I feel a little better now.”

“Beth, you can always come to me if you are in trouble.”

She raised her gaze. His face flushed, and he swallowed hard.

“I … uh … mean if your Pa isn’t around, of course.”

Laura covered her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. His embarrassment gave her something else to focus on instead of the harrowing ordeal. She reached across the table and put her small hand over his. His skin was rough and tan from years of farming.

“Thank you, Manly. You always know how to make me feel better.”

Almanzo rubbed the back of his neck. “I best be getting back to work. Unless you need me to drive you home.”

She shook her head. “No, thanks. I’m ready to go to school. Not sure if I will stay all day, but I will try.

He stood and pulled her chair out. I could get used to this. She hadn’t thought of anything frivolous like her feelings for Almanzo since the incident. Maybe this would help her put the ordeal behind her.

She thought back to the time not long ago when Bartholomew Slater’s bad behavior at school almost pushed Miss Wilder and Almanzo out of town. She would have missed them. Almanzo had been a good friend to her, even though he did not understand she wanted more than just friendship. Maybe one day.

As they strolled onto the platform of Nellie’s, Laura took a deep breath.

“You know, Beth, you don’t give yourself enough credit.”

She stopped short. “What do you mean?”

He turned her to face him. “Laura, you’re smart and brave. You stick up for what’s right.” The breeze grabbed hold of a wisp of her reddish brown hair and he tucked it back into place. “Just ask Bart Slater about that. It’s because you rallied the schoolkids to stand up to him that my sister and I are still here.”

Laura felt the blush creep up her cheeks. 

“You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, Beth. One day, you’ll make some lucky man a fine wife.”

Laura’s grin touched both of her ears. “Thanks, Manly. I appreciate you saying so.”

As they walked together toward the schoolhouse, Laura thought about what he said. Shy and quiet, Almanzo didn’t waste words. That’s why what he said meant so much to her. When she glanced up at him, he flashed her another crooked smile. Maybe that lucky man will be you, she thought.



Copyright Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Bargain E-Book: A Prairie Girl's Faith by Stephen W. Hines


The first in-depth look at the spiritual path of legendary storyteller Laura Ingalls Wilder.

With her extraordinary God-given pluck, the creator of the epic Little House series survived the harshness of frontier life—from the heartbreak of sudden crop losses to murderous storms to unrelenting loneliness. Yet in every season, Laura found strength through her relationship with God.

Now, several generations later, Laura’s insights about work and rest, trust in the face of hardship, and the value of faith are more relevant than ever. Through Laura’s discerning newspaper pieces as an early advice columnist, interviews with people who knew her personally, and extensive investigation by Stephen Hines, we witness an authentic faith that comes not from pretending all is well but from growing through difficult times.

With photos and authentic recipes from the Little House era, A Prairie Girl’s Faith also opens a wider window into the lives of pioneers as it offers a revealing look at the beliefs, character, and culture into which Laura was born and grew to maturity.

Praise for A Prairie Girl's Faith

“Because of my father’s role in the Little House on the Prairie television series, I have long admired Laura Ingalls Wilder and the values she portrayed so memorably in her books. It’s no secret to her readers that faith was central to the Ingalls family. This compelling discussion of Laura’s spiritual journey is most welcome and satisfying.”
—Michael Landon Jr., actor, director, writer, and producer




File Size: 28544 KB
Print Length: 215 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook (February 6, 2018)
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Sold by: Random House LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B072812TYM



Order from Amazon or other online retailers.