Tuesday, September 29, 2009

first fire of the season

I can tell it's autumn because the wind picks up and we need a fire in the wood stove. Brrrr. For this southerner, the northwest falls are beautiful but a touch cold. Randy accuses me of stoking the fire to a balmy 90 degrees which is just about the right temp to me. When we have company everyone starts shedding clothes so they must not like my southern-style heat:)

October is right around the corner and I'm wondering where September went! In Courting Morrow Little, Morrow is on her way to a wedding in late fall and she laments that, "autumn speaks of endings, not beginnings." Do you have a favorite season? I sure do.

It's been a wonderful day at home. Lots of writing time today tucked in between taking Wyatt to school, violin, homeschooling Paul, sitting on the deck, taking a walk, answering email, cooking a pork roast with cornbread stuffing, shallots, and apples. And several dozen chocolate chip cookies:)

Out of desperation today I finally got out my Christmas CD's as some of the Mannheim Steamroller ones make fine music to write by. I think I've worn grooves in the soundtrack to The Last of the Mohicans! Not long ago I ordered Ken Burn's Civil War soundtrack but it is too full of spirited war tunes and I like moody music:) I always enjoy my Scottish fiddle tunes. Do any of you readers know of any good, moody, writing music? The final homestretch of The Locket might depend on your insights:)

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all. -Stanley Horowitz

Then summer fades and passes and October comes. We'll smell smoke then, and feel an unexpected sharpness, a thrill of nervousness, swift elation, and sense of sadness and departure. -Thomas Wolfe

Sunday, September 27, 2009

love those book clubs

Recently I met with a book club which is reading The Frontiersman's Daughter and we had a wonderful time. I talked a bit about the inspiration behind the novel and then there was a question and answer time. Judy, the hostess, has a lovely home right on the beach and we bookies had a hard time leaving. Some suggestions for future reads: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (905 customer reviews on Amazon!) and those Alexander McCall Smith books all the rage right now. Someone volunteered Mere Christianity, always a biggie. Also, A Cup of Tea. The problem is there are so many great books it's hard to make a short list:) I'd love to hear from you readers if you have any books that shout, "read me!"

I'm getting very excited as I should see the cover for Courting Morrow Little this week. Nothing like looking your protagonist straight in the face! Revell has been turning out some stunning covers this year. As soon as I get the green light I'll show it here. Last time the cover was up on Amazon in November, a good 8 months ahead of release date.

I've been having an amazing time finishing the last part of The Locket. As I write lately I literally move sentence by sentence, unsure of what will happen next. That has never really occurred before as I usually have some inkling, at least a little bit, as to what will transpire. So here I am sentence by sentence, praying in between, not sure how it is going to end. And I'm thrilled to find it's better than anything I could have thought of on my own! It's His book, after all.

Okay, any good book recommendations out there?

Reading and weeping opens the door to one's heart, but writing and weeping opens the door to one's soul.
-MK Simmons

How little people know who think that holiness is dull...when one meets the real thing, it's irresistible.
-CS Lewis

Thursday, September 24, 2009

the locket

Flying home from Denver I had the privilege of plotting out the end of book 3 (actually book 8) and renaming it. What was the rather mundane, The Scrivener's Daughter, is now simply, The Locket, which just proves that you never know where a novel is going when you start as it always takes some unexpected turns and twists, at least for this writer. I like this picture because of the antique locket and that old skeleton key, both of which figure in this book. But I like anything old. Except old age!

Some writers believe that you should never talk about a work in progress - that it's bad luck to share what you're currently working on. But I don't believe in bad luck and love to talk books, enough to tell you about old lockets and keys, anyway.

I'm already dreaming of that next novel, maybe because it's painful to finish the one I'm working on. Right now The Locket is at 93,186 words and I'm dragging it out as I don't want it to end. Ever been sad when a best-loved book is finished? When you write one and come to the end it's even more distressing! Maybe that's a good sign? I remember thinking when I'd finished The Frontiersman's Daughter that I couldn't possibly come up with another good book idea or care about a book as much. But it's happened, thankfully, three times since!

A BIG thank you to Greg at www.bwd-graphics.com for updating my blog/website. I decided, out of deference for economy, to keep it small and simple so we didn't change too much. Maybe later. I love my new view of the Appalachian mountains and hope you do, too. Bless you, Greg!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


It's wonderful to be home, even if I arrived to a mound of laundry and dishes and a hectic school schedule:) While I was in Denver it was very warm - hot even - and yet I heard it just snowed there on the first day of fall! Everything changes, right down to the weather. My mountaintop experience at the conference is no exception. I've been feeling a bit blue as reality rushes in and the Denver Marriott and chocolate mousse recede from memory. Ever wonder why a low follows a high, or a valley a peak?

I think the key to dealing with either is attitude. Sometimes blessings have to be yanked from us before we appreciate them for the gifts they are. I remember all too well losing the gift of health for a time and it scared me to death. After that I began to thank Him for the simple act of waking up feeling normal. This week when I mentally stewed about my to-do list, I was reminded that I have the health and time to deal with a busy schedule. And His Amazing Grace to get me through!

Some of us are naturally cheerful. My mom is one of those people. I don't think she's ever had a down day. Or she hides it well:) JOY should be her name. I'm sure she wonders why she's been blessed (?) with a melancholy daughter. Many writer types get the blues. But there's a great anecdote. Scripture tells us to live a lifestyle of praise. We're to offer "a sacrifice of praise," which tells me we're to give thanks even when we don't feel like it, even when we're blue. He's working behind the scenes of all those dark days and we can take heart in that, if nothing else. And that's huge!

This morning I woke up at 5:00 am and read this anonymous quote, "There is no damage of developing eye-strain from looking on the bright side of life."

Can you think of five things for which to be thankful? I can think of fifty!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

denver memories

I had one too many desserts in Denver and the party is now over. This little number was chocolate mousse with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and a white chocolate ACFW logo with green apple swirl. Yum. Not something I'd whip up in my own kitchen! All the meals were gourmet and the staff did such a great job keeping up with over 500 people.

This is my new friend, Colleen, from Ohio, who writes suspense. She's a homeschooling mom of 4, has a beautiful voice, and a heart to serve God through her writing. We just "bumped" into each other early on at conference but it was one of those divine appointments once again. Lots of those the last 5 days.

Alright, dear readers, this is the next best thing to Ian I could find in Denver:) He's Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, resplendent in that green and blue kilt:) I wasn't the only woman who wanted to pose with him - but I had the best excuse! I told him about my Scotsman in The Frontiersman's Daughter, and he was most obliging. I'm not sure if I'll be able to attend next year but sure hope so. Next conference is in Indianapolis and might make a fine excuse to go home to Kentucky. Hallelujah!

Friday, September 18, 2009

beyond comfort zones

When you're one of more than 500 writers at a huge hotel, you don't meet but a few of them. So today at lunch in this big ballroom, I chose an empty table in a far corner rather than sit with the people I knew as a sort of game to see who would come. So there I was, the only person alone at a huge table for 10, wondering who would sit down with me.

People were pouring in for lunch and taking tables all around me but my table seemed invisible. The waiter, perhaps feeling sorry for me, served me a salad. Long minutes ticked by and I finished my salad. Feeling a bit strange by now and thinking I'd better join one of the other tables, I prayed the right person would come to my table. I was now way out of my comfort zone:)

So over comes a lady who sits down smack beside me. Her name tag says she's from Ohio. I tell her I graduated from college there and asked her a little about herself. The talk always turns to writing. She asked about my publishing journey and I began talking about my brother who's in Spain but so instrumental to this whole book thing. I mention he'd been in Ecuador for 18 years till recently, planting churches and training Ecuadorian pastors for ministry. She said, "Oh, that sounds like the ministry we support - Team Expansion."

Needless to say I nearly fell off my chair! And she almost fell off hers when I told her my brother's name and she told me she's been praying for him and his family for almost 20 years and supporting his ministry!

Only God could have arranged that! Blessings abound here and everywhere. Sometimes you don't even have to go looking for them:)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

colorado fall

Greetings from Denver! I have a terrible hankering to flee my hotel and start heading toward the mountains. The leaves are just beginning to turn as nature begins its fall symphony:) Today is my 15th wedding anniversary - away from my husband who is such a good sport about all of this. I did call home last night and talk to the boys a few minutes. They're doing quite well without mom and have likely already eaten all the groceries I bought. I'll be back Sunday.

So...I had such fun last night after falling in with a group of Texans, all writers, and then having dinner with a female doctor who writes medical fiction and also Candace Calvert, nurse and author who has a new book out entitled, Critical Care. If you like those ER dramas on tv this one is for you! I thought of all the nurses in my family and wondered how I ended up a writer. It's really fun to talk books with other authors. That's ALL we talk about which is just fine by me after going solo for so long but must get a little tedious to nonwriters.

The conference actually begins this afternoon at 4 pm for me and then it will be nonstop activity till Sunday noon. I love ACFW's focus on the spiritual aspect of writing. Plus you really never meet a stranger here! I've had wonderful conversations in the bathroom, elevator, Starbucks, and every nook and cranny of the hotel. Of course it doesn't hurt that we have name tags the size of road signs:)

Hope today holds some unexpected blessings and good books for you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

have tote, will travel

I couldn't resist one last post before flying away. My tote is now full as a tick, as Lael would say. Empty water bottle. Check. Crackers/Kashi bars. Check. Seabands for all that chop over the Rockies. Check. Good book (George Washington and Valley Forge). Check. Formal wear which I will never wear again. Check. Dogwood jewelry. Check. Uncomfortable high heels. Check. Notebook and plenty of pens. Check. Sanity. Gone! It might be fun to have a traveling companion come to think of it but I'm a solo kind of gal.

I'm not sure what kind of internet connection I'll have once there and a friend said to forget posting altogether as there will be no time. So have a blessed week if I don't touch base with you again. But I'll certainly try:)

Oh, to be like this:

There are souls in this world which have the gift of finding joy everywhere and of leaving it behind them when they go. -Frederick W. Faber

Sunday, September 13, 2009


This is the view of downtown Denver from the prairie. Close one eye and try blocking out those buildings and you'll get a view of what it must have been like for those first settlers heading west long ago. The contrast of blue and brown is stunning. I'm glad I'm heading there in a plane and not a covered wagon:) It's nice to have a non-stop flight from Seattle to Denver but first comes the little hopper over the Olympic Mountains here on Wednesday morning- yikes! That shakes you up a bit.

I don't have a clue what I'm getting into here! First writer's conference ever. First face to face meeting with my agent. I do have a book for the plane...an 18th-century historical. Are you surprised? Last time I flew to Kentucky, airport personnel took my water bottle and it was like taking candy from a baby. Maybe that's changed? It's always interesting to fly alone. Minus 2 boys:)

I'd sure appreciate prayers for this trip. My heart goes out to all those attending the conference who have a writing dream and will be meeting with editors/agents about the books they've written. Books you may be reading in the near future:) With God all things are possible and I don't say that lightly. We can really rest when we entrust our dreams to Him.

Do you like to fly? Ever attend a conference? Ever try to sneak a water bottle on a plane:) Hope to post from Denver if not before. See you then!

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah 30:15

Thursday, September 10, 2009

a most amazing verse

It's almost the weekend and I know many of you embrace it:) Some of my friends have had a hard week - one in the E.R., another dealing with a difficult boss, sick children, a big bill, a misunderstanding, a dream on hold, etc. In each of our lives there is always so much happening, both good and bad. One of the most profound things I ever heard anyone say was on Beth Moore's amazing blog, http://livingproofministries.blogspot.com. Not long ago her daughter Melissa made the comment, "He (God) knows it's hard to be us." Those simple words spoke to me in a way many sermons never have.

Ever read the Bible and stumble across a verse you've never seen before and it really ministers to you in a huge way? That happened this week. Sometimes I think He hides certain Scripture from us till we really need it. Or our spiritual vision improves and we appreciate it:) Maybe this is as much for you as it is for me:

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields Him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12 (NIV)

If you're tired today, take comfort from this verse. I know I have. I'd love to hear some Scripture that speaks to you.

Monday, September 7, 2009


A few months ago I finished a book and was feeling pretty self-satisfied when I began to sense that it wasn't going to fly as written. In fact, during the writing of the book I had the distinct impression that I should add a character. But I ignored it to my detriment. Adding characters when the book is finished is quite complicated! I didn't want to add anything. The book was done, polished and ready to go, or so I thought. But the feeling wouldn't go away so I created someone new and worked him into the plot. But he didn't suit me so I took him out! Three times!! Yes, crazy as it sounds, I kept putting him in and then taking him out which was a little like surgery as I had to keep stitching up the novel and trying to figure out if pre-op or post-op was better. In the end I kept the character.

Now I believe that writing is a gift and your ideas aren't your own. I pray about each project and really feel the Lord gives me the heart and passion to write each and every book. It's His book first, mine second. My job is to listen to Him. So...about a month ago, on this current manuscript I'm loving so much, I had the distinct impression, once again, to add a character. A child. OH NO! The book was 2/3's complete and I really, really liked it as it was. This time I didn't fight it. But I did negotiate:)

Okay, so I had to add a child. But this was complicated as children are so cute and demand lots of attention and dialogue and other shenanigans. How on earth? But then the idea came to me - make her mute. That sure made me smile:) So now I have this amazing, five year old, mute little girl who softens my hero, captures my protagonist's heart, and adds a certain mystery to the novel as a whole. And the book is better for it.

I'm ashamed to say the Lord sometimes has to shout at me to get my attention. But I much prefer His whisper. I love that He speaks to us through His word, Scripture. How has He spoken to you recently? Or in the past? Is there a moment that stands out to you when you knew unmistakeably that it was His voice? What was your response?

corsets, hats, and other 18th-century things

I'm in the midst of helping dress Morrow Little, my protagonist for book 2. Unlike Lael, Morrow likes her corset. And you won't find her going barefoot much. If she and Lael were to meet in the Kentucke woods I'm not sure anything but sparks would fly. But I'm very fond of them both, flaws and all:) And I hope you'll feel the same.

A few days ago the art team sent me pictures of some beautiful 18th-century dresses and I picked my favorite. JOY! There are many amazing parts of publishing but the cover art ranks right up there with signing that contract:) And then there's holding the finished book in your hands...and dreaming of that next novel...and packing for your first writers' conference. These memorable things offset the downside of deadlines, competitiveness, critics, etc.

Did you know that readers tend to prefer historical fiction and historical romance set in the time period of 1880-1900? This is what sells best, or so I've heard. Can anyone guess which movie the above picture is from? The lovely hat you're seeing is straight out of the century I love. I'll not give you any other clues!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

summer ends, autumn begins

I'm feeling autumn in the air and my days of hanging clothes out to dry are drawing short! Those early settlers didn't have clotheslines but just strung their wash on whatever bush or fence or porch rail they could. Isn't this quilt beautiful beneath that colorful tree? Actually it's the tree that catches your eye - no mistaking our Creator's design!

It's been a busy week. Wyatt finds middle school "interesting" and Spanish is his favorite class. Paul and I start homeschooling again next week - fiddling, too. Our garden is in - lots of green beans, cukes, tomatoes, and corn. I leave for Denver in just a few days and need to start packing. But my heart is really set on Kentucky.

For you Facebook fans, The Frontiersman's Daughter has a page of its own. Please look it up and come visit! My dear friend, Patti, in Kentucky gave me the idea and she has been such a blessing to me by sharing the word about my book. I recently received news that Kentucky Monthly magazine will be reviewing the book in an upcoming issue. Wouldn't it be fun if Cracker Barrel would start carrying books?! That's just about the first place I stop when I go home:)

Here's a lovely thought:
Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars. -Henry Van Dyke

Kentucky countdown: 60 days!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ian's castle

This post is especially for my bloggy friend, Mary, over at her winsome http://bellwhistlemoon.blogspot.com. Recently some folks asked me if I really lived in an English castle as they'd read in an online interview. These pictures of Harlaxton Manor/Grantham Castle, or Ian's castle, as I think of it, don't do it justice. The place is even bigger and more magnificent than it looks. I spent my junior year in college living here while I studied the Revolutionary War from the British perspective. And believe me, the British have a vastly different view of George Washington and all those Patriots than we do:) I also studied Shakespeare and 18th-century literature. It was the most amazing experience of my life!

Here is the castle at twilight taken from the gardens. The setting sun turns all those turrets and the clock tower a shimmering gold and it almost hurts your eyes to look at it. To get here you drive down "the long mile," past huge gate houses and a side garden and an immense mews (stables) before coming to the very intimidating front door. All it lacks is a moat:)

Here's the castle in a slightly more Gothic mood. I did think of this amazing place in detail when creating Ian and his crumbling Scottish abode, though I think if Castle Roslyn was truly this magnificent, he'd never have left for Kentucky! Do you think Lael would have liked it? Or would she have found it too formal and stuffy? As for me, I loved every minute and cried when I left.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

school daze

Today is the first day of school for my Wyatt. After 8 years of homeschooling he wants to go to "real" school. His rural school is very small and only 1/2 mile down the road from us. The whole 7th grade consists of 18 students or less! I hope and pray he likes it. Middle school isn't for cowards! Our youngest son, Paul, will continue to homeschool and fiddle. I can hardly wait till Wyatt gets home and I can hear all the details. Till then it will be awfully quiet around here with the fridge door not opening and shutting 24/7! Please pray for Wyatt and the many kids in school today nationwide.

I've been hearing from readers hoping for a sequel to The Frontiersman's Daughter which sadly will not be. Another thing I'm hearing is that some readers wish very much to have their questions answered in regards to Captain Jack and Ezekial Click, etc. I'll just say that I tried to write Lael's life as realistically as I could and leaving those loose ends wasn't an accident. Real life leaves quite a few unanswered questions for all of us and Lael's story is no exception. In early Kentucky it wasn't uncommon for settlers to simply vanish - men, women, and children. So this particular thread in the novel is historically accurate, if sad.

Book 3 is humming along and I wish I could slow it down but the story is insisting it be told:) I'm already missing the book and I'm not finished though 270 plus pages is what I've nailed down. I just love my Irish hero. And I'd best say no more...