Friday, October 30, 2009

colonial repast

There's something about this picture that I love. It was taken aboard an 18th-century ship and has a quality about it that doesn't look quite real. Things like these can really jump start your imagination. Before I started this 3rd book, The Locket, I kept seeing a shadowy figure of a soldier at a distance. Only I didn't know what to do with him! He just kept reappearing in my mind till I got used to the idea that he might possibly be the hero in my next book. At first I thought he was just regular army. Then I noticed he was wearing a uniform so he became a Continental officer. I was a bit dismayed because I knew very little about that aspect of 18th-century life. But my Colonel McLinn has taught me a lot:) And military life in that time period was not dull. Mix in a few spies, malarial fever, swords and muskets, black powder, a spinster of 29, and a mute child and you have quite a recipe.

A book begins with falling in love. You lose your heart to a place, a house, an avenue of trees, or with a character who walks in and takes complete possession of you. Your imagination glows, and there is the seed of your book. -Elizabeth Goudge

The winners for a copy of Courting Morrow Little and Donald Maass's The Fire in Fiction will be posted Monday. Anyone who has left a comment in the last week has been entered:) Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

meeting morrow little...

My wonderful publisher has officially posted this on their website. Thanks to Ruth for giving me the heads up! Would love to hear any and all comments. Bless you!

a cup of tea

Since that last post, I've been so caught up in counting my blessings I think it's making me sick:) But since we're in thankful mode, it could be worse. I could have the flu and not just a bad cold. And instead of being this Tuesday it could be next Tuesday, the eve of my Kentucky departure. And I could be so sick I'm unable to write, which I'm not. The Lord was so good today in parting the clouds after our weatherman vowed we'd not see the sun till next July (no kidding). I found a hot spot on our deck in which to edit. My granny always said the sun can bake a cold right out of you. And if I take an extra Tylenol I can almost pretend I'm not sick at all. So there, cold bug, begone:)

I never want tea unless I'm sick - ever try Tazo Wild Sweet Orange? It's great! No sugar needed. Put it in one of these lovely teapots and you'll perk right up. This china reminds me of Morrow. I'm just dying to post her book cover. I finally printed it out last week and had it laminated so I don't have to retrieve the e-file every time I want to look at her. Yesterday the blurb for Courting Morrow Little was posted on Amazon (back cover copy) if you want to look. I didn't write it but it's the gist of the novel minus a few dozen threads. I'm not a back cover copy kind of gal. Cramming a 400 page book into a paragraph is not my idea of creative fun. But I appreciate the intrepid editor who did that.

Better get off here before I sneeze! Hope you're happy and healthy today.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Since it's so easy to focus on what's lacking in our lives I try to keep track of all the blessings that come my way. God is so faithful even when I'm not. And He gives each of us so many undeserved gifts, large and small. In the last 48 hours or so I've enjoyed some really good coffee, taken my boys to a costume party, edited several chapters of The Locket, fixed a great meal or two, slept 10 hours one night, heard that The Frontiersman's Daughter is being read in Moscow, Russia (amazing, huh? God is good!), received a wonderful letter from a reader in Ontario, enjoyed your blog comments, and so much more.

Here's a short list of things I'm thankful for. I could, of course, hand you a list of all that's not so nice in my life but what a downer that would be. So here goes...

* healthy kids
* a husband who's my best friend
* windy walks
* maple trees changing color (those evergreens are stubbornly green)
* sassafras tea
* Scripture that speaks to your heart
* salvation
* candles
* sleeping in
* a real live letter in your mailbox
* leftovers
* chocolate
* coming home
* fiddle tunes
* childrens' laughter
* fresh apple cider
* too many things to count...

Can you add anything to the list? Or is yours so long you can't possibly find enough paper?

When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around. -Willie Nelson

No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has escaped the kingdom of night. -Elie Wiesel (accepting Nobel Peace Prize, 1986)

He said he got up to the line and thought about his wife and daughter, and everything he had to be thankful for. (Interview with Derek Parra, immediately following his silver medal winning performance at the Olympics, 2002)

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... Proverbs 17:22

Saturday, October 24, 2009

rain-spattered windowpanes

I nearly dropped my laptop when I saw this photograph because it is so like my own casement window and the wet, lush, very green view of our woods. So here you have it - a look from my rain-spattered windowpane. I don't do drapes but the rest is uncanny. Perfect writing weather. It's taken me a few years to appreciate Washington State. If I still lived in sunny Kentucky I'd not get as much done. So count your blessings, name them one by one...

Speaking of work, I've been editing away on The Locket, praying the galleys for Courting Morrow Little don't coincide with my Kentucky trip. I used to dislike juggling books but it's good to set one aside while editing another. Distance lets you see all sorts of glaring things you miss otherwise. And I don't mean typos. I've used a different last name for one secondary character and changed my hero's eye color:) Among other things.

For those of you who care about such things (the rest of you can yawn without guilt), here's the word count on these last three books:

The Frontiersman's Daughter: 121,835 words
Courting Morrow Little: 108,120
The Locket: 104,829

I just noticed the titles are getting shorter, too! I hope my editors are reading this as it will make their day:) I'm so excited to post this next book cover when I get the green light. In celebration, I'm going to hold a book giveaway. For a copy of Courting Morrow Little, of course. It's going to release a month ahead of schedule - July 1, which means it will probably be in stores by mid-June. Also, for you writer-types out there, I'm going to give away a new copy of Donald Maass's The Fire in Fiction, as I picked up an extra copy at the ACFW conference. So please keep coming back for a visit. Fun things ahead!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

barefoot and packing

There I am barefoot and standing on my vintage suitcases, thumbing a ride to Kentucky:) Wonder how many days driving it would take to get from extreme western Washington to central Kentucky? If flying, it takes a full day of airports, layovers, and all the rest. There's no such thing as a direct route. I take 3 different planes before landing in the Bluegrass State. I leave before dawn and get in after dark. But it sure beats a covered wagon!

My sweet momma has already started cooking. She only has 13 more days to get ready:) She asked what I'd like to eat. This is definitely a southern thing. We decided on garlic cheese grits and pork roast, maybe some fried apples and deviled eggs. Nothing fatty about that! I'll have to fast on the plane. Not hard to do these days.

It's always hard leaving my boys. At 10 and 12 they're old enough to take care of themselves but a mom just has to fuss, you know. I pray over them before I leave (and my china cabinet and every other breakable thing I own). Not really but you know how it is with all that testosterone floating around and no feminine influence. My husband will be here but not really as men don't multi-task well and he sometimes forgets to referee sufficiently and things get ugly. Yes, that's a run-on sentence. Can you tell I'm a little nervous about this trip?

A literary agent I know just took a literary pilgrimage of sorts to Ann of Green Gable's Prince Edward Island. I love all of L.M. Montgomery's books but my favorite is her adult novel, The Blue Castle. If you love romance this book should be in your library like mine. It's an amazing read from an amazing woman. It's available on Amazon and has a multitude of 5 star reviews.

Do you like to travel? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. -Saint Augustine

Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference. -Robert Frost

We must go beyond books, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey. -John Hope Franklin

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

writing essentials

This is my desk, or a small part of it, dust and all:) There are lots of family photographs, some old, some new, and a crystal inkwell from my great-granny. Throw in some bookmarks and emails and a printer and page proofs from TFD and that's my work day. But there's so much more that you can't see that's necessary for a writing journey. Here's a short list:

1.Faith. You need to trust God for the gift He's given you as well as His timing in leading you to the right agent, publisher, and managing your writing future.

2.Courage. No one told me that publishing would move me far beyond my comfort zone. But that just makes me rely on the Lord in new, creative ways.

3. Organization. I've always been organized...and then I got published. Be prepared to have a hard time staying on track with writing, email, marketing, book events, speaking, traveling, blogging, Facebook, twittering, etc. Mix in your husband, kids, church activities, cooking and whatever else you love and it can be quite daunting. Pray for hedges around your time. Fortunately, the love of family and writing usually win out.

4. A business mindset. While wonderful in many, many respects, publishing is a business. Be prepared to feel that the publishing world is sometimes cold and unfair. Really good books don't always make the bestseller lists. Killer covers sell mediocre books. Diva authors do exist. Book sales are the bottom line. Writing is work. It's a competitive field. I'd rather not acknowledge these things but to ignore them would be less than honest.

5. Humility. There are many kinds of authors and many kinds of books. Some will sell better and receive more earthly accolades. In the end none of that matters. You are responsible for the gift you've been given. You are ultimately writing for an audience of One.

Feel free to add to the list! What do you feel is necessary for the stage of the writing journey you're on?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

happy birthday, mr. boone

I can't let October slip away without acknowledging the birthday of Daniel Boone. If you hadn't guessed, he was the prototype for Lael's father in The Frontiersman's Daughter, though Boone, a believer and former Quaker, had fewer rough edges than Ezekial Click. There is some dispute as to whether Boone's birthday was in October or November. This just lends itself to his legend.

I love these little known facts about him... He disliked coonskin caps (he thought them uncouth) so wore fur felt instead. When courting his future wife he decided "to try her temper" so cut her precious cambric apron with his hunting knife. She kept her cool and he married her. He lost everything he owned in Kentucky and moved to Missouri. Kentucky had quite a fight to bring his body back.

I love this photograph of Boone's last cabin in Kentucky on Brushy Creek. Very simple but beautiful in its own way. He was a simple man who did extraordinary things. I think the cabin was mostly for Rebecca's benefit.

Last week I heard from my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Buckner, who reminded me that I'd studied Kentucky History in her class. I'm sure this helped me keep my facts straight in the novel! Two of her ancestors were at Fort Boonesborough with Boone himself, one having come into Kentucky in 1775. She and her husband belong to the Boonesborough Society and First Families of Kentucky. It's a thrill when someone from your very distant past reads your book and is thoughtful enough to write and tell you about it. That certainly went into my scrapbook:)

Anyway, happy birthday, Mr. Boone! I'm sure you wouldn't like the fuss being made over you today.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

a question for you...

I'm posting an unprecedented amount this week and I apologize! I promise to leave this one up through the weekend:) But I do need your input as I think about my next book(s). Many of you have certain time periods in history that you prefer and specific reasons why. I'd love to hear them. My readers are so important to me and I'd love to write what you like. So the question is...

Which books would you like to see from me in future?

1. Colonial period (just like The Frontiersman's Daughter)
2. Regency (either here or in England)
3. Victorian
4. Civil War
5. The old, wild west
6. Turn of the century/1900
7. WWI, etc.

Do you like mail-order bride stories? Amish fiction? Romance? Suspense? I think I could spin a story about the intriguing photo at left. Comments appreciated!

Readers! Had you in your mind
Such stories as silent thought can bring,
O gentle Reader! You would find
A tale in everything. - Wordsworth

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

kentucky countdown...

Next month I'll be at the Kentucky Book Fair. As part of the invite, I promised I'd post about it and invite any of you bibliophiles to come to Frankfort. Two hundred or so authors will be there signing books and the profits benefit schools, libraries, and literacy in Kentucky.

I really like Frankfort, Kentucky's capital. It's a small town and has a wonderful little inn called The Meeting House where I'll be staying. Lots of fascinating literary things went on in this house two hundred years ago:) I spent time there last fall while researching at the history center down the street. Right up the hill is Daniel Boone's gravesite and then the famous (or infamous) Rebecca Ruth and her bourbon candy downtown.

Here's the schedule:
Friday, November 6th, Author Reception, Frankfort Country Club
Saturday, November 7th, Book Fair, Frankfort Convention Center, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

I was sent the program recently and found that I'm on it. Yep, I'm one of 12 doing a "reading" at day's end. I'm thinking everyone will have cleared out by then:) No idea how I got on the schedule but there it is. I consider it one of those God-given opportunities to make me grow, like it or not:)

I'm thrilled one of my very favorite authors will be there - Allan Eckert. He writes incredible frontier fiction such as The Frontiersmen, among other amazing stories. He and my hero, James Alexander Thom, are in a class by themselves. Hope to see you there! Or here:)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

a world of research

This post is for my friend and fellow 18th-century writer, Lori Benton, over at She asked me to post about the research I did, or the bibliography, for The Frontiersman's Daughter. Lori is very close to publication and has a terrific blog about her writing journey. Since she creates (and illustrates!) incredible children's stories I wondered why she even bothered with historical fiction. But then I read her excerpts of Kindred:) She writes in the style that I like - rich, detailed, and lyrical. And she has a fondness for Scotsmen like I do:)

Recently I went out into the garage and found a drawer full of research notes for TFD in an antique dresser. Since my house is small I have to keep things out there and I smiled when I saw them. I'd forgotten all the research involved in that 412 page book! Loads of it:) But I love research almost as much as writing itself so don't feel sorry for me. Once I was accepted to law school and nearly became a research attorney. But I think book research is so much better!

When researching TFD, I couldn't afford many research books so I used inter-library loan A LOT. It's free and fast and you can get nearly any book out there, even the very expensive ones. The only drawback is your time limit. So I hauled the books home and took copious notes and saved my pennies to buy my favorites. Here are the primary sources for Lael's journey:

The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining (I love all the Foxfire books - there are many and they are exceptional)
The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Colonial America by Dale Taylor
The Land of Saddlebags by James Watt Raine
Southern Mountain Speech by Cratis D. Williams
Smoky Mountain Voices by Harold Farwell and Karl Nicholas
Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave by Margaret Bennett
Colonial Living and Colonial Craftsmen by Edwin Tunis (my very favorite research books which I now have - Tunis was a master writer/illustrator)
The Frontiersmen by Allan Eckert (each and every book in his Winning of America series is incredible and gave me a feel for the people and events of that time)
Collector's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Revolution by George Neumann and Frank Kravic
A Sorrow in Our Heart, The Life of Tecumseh by Allan Eckert
My two favorite Boone books by Lyman C. Draper and Ted F. Belue, The Life of Daniel Boone and John Mack Faragher's Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer

This is just a partial list. I'm not able to include all the books and history I grew up with or those that are secondary sources. But I love every one and they helped make Lael's journey believable.

Do you enjoy research? If you write, what parts of the process do you enjoy most? Least?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

an 18th-century weekend

This was a perfect weekend. Combine a little sun, some research books, a bit of fiddling, and lots of writing and I'm happy. I fell in love with the photo at left, taken at Colonial Williamsburg in a silversmith's shoppe. I'm studying trades of two hundred years ago for an upcoming novel. This picture tells a story all its own.

Books I fell in love with this weekend:
George Washington, Spymaster by Thomas B. Allen
Eyewitness Books/American Revolution by Stuart Murray
Welcome to Felicity's World 1774 by Catherine Gourley

Yesterday Paul and I went to Old Time Fiddlers and he played a lively Celtic tune called, "Britches Full of Stitches." He was the youngest player there. The oldest? Ninety-three! This senior member has never had a lesson and doesn't read music but plays anything and everything extremely well. When he was a boy his mother threw his trumpet down an outhouse hole so he took up the violin. And he's been thanking his mother ever since:)

Now back to that colonial battlefield scene...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

living water

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"
John 7:37-38

I think there is something so beautiful about Jesus comparing himself to living water. When I look at photos like this He takes my breath away. He offers us an endless supply of spiritual water yet often we feel dry or at the very least thirsty. What can cause us to feel this way? Hurts and disappointments, getting tired, sickness, needing a break, the sameness of it all, too much activity. Just being me:)

Lately I've been feeling very thirsty. I'm in between Bible studies, having done several Beth Moore ones which I love, and then a wonderful one at our pastor's home, followed by two at church. There have been years when I was Bible-study-less, so to speak. Sometimes it's good to take a break and sometimes you need a season of study on your own. I think this craving for something more is a good sign, one I need to heed. Right now I'd love to know how you replenish yourselves.

Do you ever feel a need for more of Him? What do you do about it? Ignore it? Or embrace it?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

pure october

I love this picture. It's pure October right down to that colorful leaf lying by the pumpkin:) I even see the shadow of a mountain beyond those trees. Wish I could say this is the view from my porch. But our house is in the woods and those tall cedars and alders block our view of the mountains. We do have a fine view of our garden but I forgot to plant pumpkins and sunflowers this year, two of my favorite things. We've been eating a lot of corn which I take off the cob and fry in butter with a little sugar, salt, pepper, and cream. A Kentucky specialty:) The boys love it.

In the past I did a great deal of canning - jams, soups, vegetables, applesauce. I love to can but don't have time anymore. Now I make jerky and help with cider. Randy and the boys have made one batch with our old cider press and now our apple trees are hanging low with nearly-ripe fruit. We had 11 record-breaking days of heat this summer so everything ripened a bit early this year.

I've been thinking about seasons in my novels. The Frontiersman's Daughter opens in spring and ends in spring several years later. Courting Morrow Little opens in June, 1778 and ends in winter two years later. Not sure why time is so short in The Locket. A mere eight months! I think I skip autumn altogether, sadly.

Here's another wonderful quote by one of my favorite radicals, Martin Luther. He wrote, If you want to change your world, pick up a pen. He certainly did!

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

things readers say...

For a newly-published author it's been so interesting to hear what readers say about my book - the nice things, that is! Till now I've really not thought much about my writing style or what particular literary devices I use or don't, and which writing rules I break - but readers are sure to tell me:) Thus far I've been hearing some consistent things about The Frontiersman's Daughter, which will probably hold true for every book I write. Every writer's voice is unique. So here are some things readers are saying:

1. You don't write formulaic fiction.
2. Your plotting is full of unexpected twists and turns.
3. I didn't know how things would turn out until the very end of the book.
4. You don't write dialogue-driven novels.
5. I am beside myself about what happened to Captain Jack.
6. You must write faster.
7. There must be a sequel.
8. I couldn't put the book down and stayed up half the night.
9. I read for 5 solid hours and no housework got done.
10. My husband was mad at me when I read your book.
11. I fell in love with Ian.
12. I can sure see why Lael was attracted to Captain Jack.
13. You create great romantic tension.
14. Your characters have depth.
15. Etc.!

I treasure each and every comment and put them in my notebook for TFD. I wish I had the talent to save them in a scrapbook but don't so they just go into a fabric covered binder. By the way, I went to a baby shower last night and guests were given oodles of scrapbooking supplies and each of us made a scrapbook page for the new mom. A great idea! No, I wouldn't post last night's pitiful attempts here if you paid me - my talents do not lie in the scrapbooking arena, but it was fun (sort of). But I digress.

Once again, I appreciate you readers so very much. I pray for you every day. My books would still be sitting in the warehouse if it weren't for you. I would have no ministry. This blog, small and insignificant as it is, wouldn't exist. I wouldn't know anything about Twitter, Facebook, or Shoutlife. So you really bless me. And I thank you very, very much!

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.
2 Corinthians 4:1

Thursday, October 1, 2009

love at first look

Today I opened an email file and saw the cover of Courting Morrow Little for the first time. My heart was singing! Morrow is just right. Her 18th-century gown is exquisite. The setting around her is quite dramatic and fits the tone of the book. She looks tense, determined, vulnerable - an unusual medley of things. It left me wondering how the art team could know just what to do when they likely haven't read the book. But then I remembered something a famous Chinese artist (and Christian) once said - that all creative gifts spring from One Source. And I really believe Revell's art team is inspired:) I liked the cover for The Frontiersman's Daughter very much. But I love this one.

I can't wait to show it to you readers here. I should be able to post in early November. If that sounds far off, remember it's October as of today:) I think the sales team and other departments have to have a look first before it's finalized. Covers do change. When I posted the cover for The Frontiersman's Daughter last year, I think I had one reader - my mother! So it will be fun to hear your comments. I hope you leave lots of them.

Book-love, I say again, lasts throughout life, it never flags or fails, but, like beauty itself, is a joy forever.
Holbrook Jackson