Friday, November 27, 2009

music that fires the imagination

Not every writer wants music to write by. It has to be the right kind of music. I have a friend who needs absolute silence and no distractions. Earplugs, in fact. Me, I'm a bit of a mix. I cannot write to Spongebob Squarepants no matter how hard I try. Ditto Scooby Doo and all those boomerang cartoons! But lately I've found the perfect music for writing or editing - Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Brooding, intense, romantic, moody. Perfect for those Colonial battlefield scenes and the untamed Kentucke frontier. The violin and cello therein are divine:)

I've never considered Russel Crowe a catch but in uniform he's quite respectable and his acting here is quite fine. Plus he plays the violin. Could I ask for more? I'm also a huge fan of the Horatio Hornblower series. I'd thought of writing a series on the British Navy (well, the Americans) but Kaye Dacus beat me to it!

On the publishing front, the Baker Books catalog for next summer is out and Morrow Little is in it:) I found my copy in the mailbox today and it was an extra blessing. I'm always humbled that I have such a fine publisher and I hope my books do well for them. They really have a heart for new authors. And their covers are the best out there:)

Some upcoming books I can't wait to read: Masquerade by Nancy Moser and She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell. Any in particular on your wish list? How about music?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

happy thanksgiving

Once more we come, Lord, to the day of special thanksgiving. Our thoughts are turned backward. The days have rolled into the seasons, the seasons into the year. Each day has been crowded with Thee. Each season has brought forth new proofs of Thy loving forethought. May we this day pledge Thee our gratitude anew. Continue, we pray Thee, to surround us with Thy care, in Jesus' name. Amen.

-Grace Before Meals

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the thankful week

If I wasn't writing so much I'd try to create these cookies, only I wouldn't eat them afterwards as they are too pretty:) Only mine would never look this artistic so I could consume without guilt! In honor of the season I thought I'd post my ridiculously easy cookie recipe. I made a batch when our power was restored Saturday to celebrate. And then I hid them afterwards so the boys wouldn't devour every last one of them. They're very rich and not so good for you. But they taste divine and you can't eat just one:)

Laura's Quick Holiday Cookies

1 box Devil's Food cake mix
1/2 cup butter or oil
2 large eggs
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine cake mix, softened butter (or oil), and eggs. Mixture will be dry so keep mixing! When combined, add chocolate chips. Drop by 1 tablespoon amounts on cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Let sit 2 minutes on counter before removing with spatula onto wire rack. Makes 2 dozen.

Eat one of these and you'll quickly get into a thankful frame of mine, plus they make your kitchen smell like a chocolate shoppe. If you're one of those poor souls like my mom who isn't fond of chocolate, I'm truly sorry!

One of the joys this week is planning Thanksgiving Dinner. I do miss our Kentucky Thanksgivings which include candied sweet potatoes and all the rest. Northwesterners keep it sort of simple though I refuse to serve salmon instead of turkey:) So we'll have the big roast bird, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, deviled eggs, cranberries, and rolls, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Do you have a signature dish that just has to appear on your Thanksgiving table? I'd love to hear what it is!

More things to be thankful showers, wood stoves, tacos, clean sheets, Christmas lights, autumn leaves, windstorms (the kind that leave the lights on!), healthy boys, shared recipes, wrapping gifts...

Friday, November 20, 2009

by candlelight

The most wonderful things happen when the power goes out and you're forced offline a few days! Since Wednesday when a major storm blew through with torrential rains and wind, we've lived by candlelight and everything is so very soft and quiet and, well...18th-century-like. Last night I lit my courting candlestick from Fort Boonesboro and Wyatt asked if I wanted to have the lantern instead. As I began that first chapter for this next book I thought of Ben Franklin who liked double-wick candles to better see by. But the light from that single taper at least made it to the page I was working on. And I was thrilled to meet four new characters:)

So today, Friday, still no power. I'm sitting in Starbucks 30m from home, laptop open and latte steaming. Randy is out shopping for a generator. The boys like the adventure of being off school. Grilled cheese sandwiches really do taste better cooked on the woodstove:) And after being offline for awhile, it's fun to see what emails await. Like the one from Allan Eckert and his lovely wife, both of whom are reading TFD! And then another telling me the galleys will come in mid-December.

Do you enjoy being without power? Offline? Wonder what would happen if the entire country was shutdown like this and not simply the Pacific Northwest? If this post contains typos and I don't reply to any comments you'll know why:)

Happy weekend to you!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

character quirks

I think one of the reasons characters come to life on the page is because of their quirks. I never start a character off with any idiosyncrasies but they quickly appear. Morrow, beautiful as she is, tends to stammer terribly when under pressure. And my very virile Irishman, Colonel Cassius McLinn, brings my manuscript to a screeching halt in strategic places, not to relieve himself, but to lose his lunch! He has a weak stomach. Not an admirable trait for a Revolutionary War officer but not that uncommon either, per old letters, diaries, and other documents. War was not pretty and the sights, smells, and impressions of the frontier could try the strongest stomach.

My next novel is unfolding in my mind more slowly than I like but right on schedule. I don't ever get another novel idea till the one I'm working on is almost done. I don't know how other writers keep 3-4 books going at once. I wish I worked that way. Call me a poor multi-tasker! My research for this next one is daunting as so little has been written on this particular apprenticeship/trade and the books available are upwards of $100 or so. Thank heavens for inter-library loan!

One of my first things I think about when creating a new book is character names - guess you have to name your babies first before you begin to live with them and really know them. And I like unusual names, if you hadn't guessed, like Lael and Morrow:) Roxanna stars in The Locket and that's a pretty tame name. I like to go over historical records and peruse names but they were usually very mundane or highly undesirable - Wealthy or Cotton or Ichabod or Hepzibah, etc. Many were Biblical. I recently came across the twins, Love and Mercy Minott, born in Massachusetts in 1702. Sweet! I'm not as fond of the names Submit or Silence. And in the case of my own family, you have two hundred years of William Blantons and then a Christopher Columbus Blanton pops up in the mid-19th century.

Hmmm...writing history is never dull! Do you have an unusual name or like any unusual names? If you're a writer, what's your favorite part about beginning a book?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

another beautiful book

I thought I'd post one more book cover as I enjoy them so much. This is from Sara Donati's upcoming release in 2010. She writes for the secular market and her 18th-century novels are very long and multi-faceted. 300,000 words for this one! I've only read one and really enjoyed her descriptions of the natural world though I can't sanction some of the content. This cover is like I imagined Lael's would be prior to publication. The colors are so rich and there is a wildness about it as well as an air of unreality. Per this reviewer, anyway:) I'm sure each one of us has very different reactions which just makes it all the more interesting. Sometimes the publishing sales team has the final say on a cover and it gets tweaked or redone altogether. I'm blessed to have a publisher that asks for my input regarding my protagonist, her dress, and the background. Wonderful stuff! I just had to wait a long time before it finally happened:)

Do you have any best loved ideas for your own book cover? Or, if you aren't a writer, are there any book covers that really "pop" for you?

The covers of this book are too far apart. -Ambrose Bierce

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

splendid isolation

This Kentucky cabin just speaks solitude to me. It's from the Hensley settlement in Harlan County where folks once lived in the "splendid isolation of the 18th-century." Nearly everything here was handmade - "food, clothes, tools and horseshoes, furniture, packsaddles, musical instruments, medicine, toys, quilts and coverlets." No electricity except for pine splinters or oil lamps, no running water except for a well or spring. One resident recalls "when dark time came, we went to bed and didn't rise till daylight." This settlement was built in 1903 by those who longed to return to the simplicity of former times and was abandoned in 1951. Since then it's been maintained and kept open to the public. Add it to your list of must-sees:) Love those old chestnut fence rails meandering across that fading fall ground.

While home I realized some worthwhile things. Distance is a fine teacher at times:) I had little room to be on my computer except for blog posts and found it so very freeing. Sometimes I feel absolutely married to it. Since the release of TFD my days have been a bit of a blur. I've lost a bit of myself and feel the need to get that back. Being home showed me who I used to be and who I've become. I miss that Laura I've lost along the way. Time to go looking for her again.

So how does one do this? By praying, for starters. I've felt the Lord telling me to measure my time for several months now, even before the book's release. I'm getting a little overcommited in some areas. Being online has an addictive quality to it that I don't like. Thankfully, it took a trip home to remind me of how important it is to place hedges around the gift of time.

How do you guard and treasure your time?

Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow. Psalm 144:4

I invite you to hop on over to Carla Gade's wonderful blog at as she's posted an interview about The Frontiersman's Daughter and is hosting a book giveaway. I love the name of her blog and all the whimsical features therein. Bless you, Carla! It's so fun to have writing/book loving friends!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

kentucky book fair 2009

As one local newspaper said, Kentucky doesn't simply produce writers, it celebrates them. The book fair was solid proof! Authors were given candy for their book tables, corsages, hand sanitizer, speciality boxed lunches, cold drinks and more. Kentucky has a pretty tight writing community and 211 authors were in attendance. Here I am before the action began with two cases of TFD. I was thrilled to learn it's been selected by Kentucky's Talking Books program to have on audio for the visually impaired. Apparently any book having to do with Kentucky history is in big demand with these readers. The program prefers that authors come to the studio and do their own recordings. Sadly, my distance prevents this.

Here is the madness in the morning - one small corner anyway. So many good books, so little time. Here are some that went into my basket: That Dark and Bloody River, The Court-Martial of Daniel Boone, The Believer, Hawk's Hill, Blue Jacket, Nothing Like an Ocean. Lots of good winter reading in this stack, each signed by the authors. I think Allan Eckert may have gotten tired of writing my name in all of his!

This is Silas House whom I sat beside at the book fair. He is without a doubt Kentucky's best-loved author. He used to be a mail carrier in rural eastern Kentucky before wowing the literary world with his Appalachian books. He has an incredible voice, both speaking and writing, and I was in awe of his long lines. He quickly sold out of his latest book and hardly got a minute to himself. I didn't tell him that Silas is the name of my hero in my next novel:) I don't have much beyond the names of characters at this point but it's not all shadows. My favorite Silas House book is A Parchment of Leaves. He's also a musician and playwright among other things. But I think that's just the tip of the iceberg!

Hats off to my dear friend, Gin Petty, for sharing these photographs!

Blessed, blessed day.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

a very old inn

Welcome to the Meeting House B&B on Ann Street in Kentucky's capital. Sadly, these pictures don't do this very old house justice. Photographer I am not! This is my second stay in this particular room which is on the second story and right beside the library. It's 64 degrees in Frankfort today. Would love to build a fire in the antique fireplace. Love this old writing desk:)

Can you see that pewter plate in the middle of the bed filled with homemade, fudge-dipped cookies? The inn's proprietor, Rose, has a special touch. This was the master bedroom and the door you see at the head of the bed leads to a nursery. Sadly, two children died in this room way back in the 1800's. This is one of two old homes in town reputed to be haunted.

This is the Meeting House from the street. It's in the historic district and has extensive outbuildings and a garden. During the Civil War the daughter of the house brought her treasured horse into the dining room so Union troops wouldn't take it. We ate breakfast in there this morning and I swear I could smell horses and hay! But it didn't affect my appetite:)

The author reception last night was very nice and I sat with Allan Eckert, author of many incredible 18th-century books. My favorite would be The Frontiersmen. He is an amazing historian also and this was really a divine moment for me. Move over James Thom! His wife has a copy of TFD which made me smile:) Now on with the book fair...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

almost to the top

Today I went out to one of my favorite childhood haunts but only made it part way up the mountain. This is the view from the top. I just wanted to hear the crunch of leaves underfoot and smell the autumn air. It has a peculiar scent this time of year and ushers in a world of memories.

In The Frontiersman's Daughter, this is where Lael and Susanna went and stood when they had their heart to heart talk about Ian. I called it "the knob" in the book but it's the East Pinnacle in reality. You can stand on this ledge just as Lael did and you'll have one of the finest views anywhere. Ian bought this piece of land - and the lookout - for Lael as a wedding gift. I used to sit down and scoot out to the edge of this amazing rock. And I always wondered if Boone did the same:) Only he wasn't scooting, I'm sure! But I always felt him in these woods, as I did today.

On a lighter note (or is that heavier!) I had a sweet potato slathered with butter for breakfast, then coffee and pecan pie for lunch:) Now I'm heading toward garlic cheese grits, pork, deviled eggs, kale, and who knows what. It's great to be home!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

going home

This is my kind of front porch, compliments of Paris, Kentucky. Love that scarecrow! I won't hit Paris this trip but will be swinging through Berea, Lexington, and Frankfort:) Kentucky has had a lot of rain but it's supposed to be sunny this week.

It's always a bit of a whirlwind getting ready to go. Spent the morning in town getting library books and groceries for my men. Promised to bake them a pumpkin pie. Luckily that's just about the easiest pie you can make from scratch. Gave them haircuts yesterday. Now down to finishing laundry and cleaning a bit. The plane will be a vacation:)

I'm having novel withdrawal. Miss my characters very much and wish I could take them with me. I did buy a new journal to take along. I'm always keeping a journal of life in general and jotting things down as I go, much of which is Scripture. Plus I picked up a library book of Ann Rinaldi's, The Secret of Sarah Revere, for the plane. Need to get my hands on that Guernsey book everyone's talking about.

On the publishing front, the November issue of Kentucky Monthly magazine is out and has a very nice review of TFD on page 59. Hats off to a great magazine! Perfect timing with the book fair this weekend. If you're in the area I'd love to meet you! If not, stay tuned and I'll try to post from the Bluegrass State.

Soon after, I returned home to my family, with a determination to bring them as soon as possible to live in Kentucky, which I esteemed a second paradise, at the risk of my life and fortune. -Daniel Boone

Sunday, November 1, 2009

another beautiful book cover...

This is just a delicious looking book to me. Some covers just "pop", which is the industry term for a magical cover. There's something about this one that makes me want to read it right now. Maybe because it's another one of those "daughter" books, but mostly because I love lighthouses and a bit of a mystery. And I like Colleen Coble very much. This one doesn't release till January but that's right around the corner. Might be a good, light read for a dark winter's day. Think I'll add it to my wish list.

I'm trying to pack and go south. Since I last posted, I've been armed with the biggest can of Lysol I can find! We've had two boys very sick with the flu, a missed Halloween (of all the holidays, this is one I mind missing least, though Wyatt and Paul would say otherwise!), hammering rain, a windstorm, lots of Vitamin C and hot tea, etc. Editing through this hurricane is not an option as I play nurse. Though it does make me want to escape to my fictional world more than ever. There I only have to deal with misbehaving soldiers, a sassy spinster, and a misspelled word or two:)

There were some bright spots overall like walking to the mailbox and getting an old hard bound copy of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Ann Bronte from my Kentucky cousin, Leslie. Bless you, Leslie! And ordering the soundtrack from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World which has plenty of old style music to write by.

Do you have a favorite book cover? Any upcoming ones that catch your eye and make you want to read right now? I'd love to know!

There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts. - Charles Dickens

Congratulations to these winners of the current book giveaway!
Mary - The Fire in Fiction (ready to be mailed now)
Stacey - Courting Morrow Little (signed and sent in June prior to release)

Happy November 1st!