Excerpt: Little Birds

It takes me a long time to write a novel. My readers wait  at least a couple years between books.  I’m hoping this short excerpt from the beginning of Little Birds will make the wait a little easier.

This novel serves as a bridge between the Wilderness series, which ended in 1824, and the Waverly Place series, which begins in 1883.  Little Birds is set in 1856-57, primarily in the western territories.  The central character is  Callie Ballentyne, one of the daughters of Lily Bonner and Simon Ballentyne. Callie is a nurse and midwife.

I rarely post to this weblog unless I have something longer to share, and for that reason I  have turned off commenting. There is a Facebook page dedicated to my fiction where questions or comments are welcome.  Please stop by if you are so inclined.


New Mexico Territory ca 1870

Little Birds
Sara Donati



Dr. Samuel Markham, originally of this city but resident in Santa Fé, New Mexico Territory for the last­­ ten years, is seeking a formally trained, experienced nurse and midwife to join his medical practice. This position requires someone who will see patients and assist in his Santa Fé dispensary, but who will also make house-calls in the town and environs. Thus the successful applicant must be an experienced rider who can spend many hours in the saddle, often traveling through rough landscapes.

There is a great deal of unrest in the territory. Indian raids and attacks are not uncommon outside Santa Fé and less common within the boundaries of the town, due in part to the presence of the U.S. Army at Fort Marcy. Thus the nurse who joins the practice must be courageous, quick-witted and able to handle weapons. A truly excellent applicant who has no experience with firearms, but is willing to learn, will be considered.

To a well-trained, conscientious, compassionate, vigorous and hard-working individual who is not afraid of the unfamiliar, Dr. Markham offers the following: all costs associated with relocation to Santa Fé; a weekly salary of $15; the use of a good horse and saddle, a private room and board, and services of the household staff. You will take meals with the family (which includes the doctor, his wife and a young daughter) and be counted as one of their number.

Santa Fé’s population is about one-quarter white, not counting the soldiers at Fort Marcy; the rest are Mexican, Indian, African, or mixed blood. There are many different tribes in and near Santa Fé, including the Puebloan clans, the Apache, Navajo, and Ute. Other tribes pass through on a regular basis. As Spanish is the lingua franca, the person hired will be required to learn that language within a reasonable amount of time. Further, she must agree to set out for Santa Fé no later than the beginning of May, and to commit to a three-year period of service. In addition to a very liberal salary, Dr. Markham will consider an annual bonus for a person who becomes an asset to the practice and agrees to a longer contract.

Interested parties should first present themselves to Dr. Michael Colby at the New Amsterdam Hospital. If that interview is successful, he will ask you to send a letter of application to Dr. Markham in which you  may provide information about your background,  training and experience, and what interests you about this position.

Dr. Michael V. Colby, Director
New Amsterdam Charity Hospital

New York City
Posted November 30, 1856