Monday, May 31, 2010

memorial day musings

Thanks so very much to my dear friend, Mary, for this award! To share the joy I'll pass on to 3 new blog buddies:

Julia: Dark Glass Ponderings
Casey: Enjoying the Writing Craft
Amber: Seasons of Humility

These bloggers show true versatility in their posts and are devoted to writing and reading and encouraging authors. I wish I had more time to peruse blogs and leave comments as there are so many good ones out there. Blogs really can become a ministry as the above 4 show. Please check them out - they are truly unique!

I was so thankful for a long weekend - and very thankful for our veterans and those we love and remember. My boys are still young enough that they don't really understand the meaning of Memorial Day, even though we explain it as best we can. No one near to them has passed away and they know few in the military. But it will all come clear in time. They may even join the military someday. Since I've spent time researching the Revolutionary War for this third book, I have so much more compassion and appreciation for the men (and women) who have served. But Memorial Day can include anyone we want to remember, I think. It's a bittersweet holiday, for sure.

It's amazing all that can be stuffed into a three day weekend. For us it was a birthday party, a sleepover, a long, cold walk in the rain, coconut cream pie and a BBQ, editing, reading Ransome's Honor, catching up on laundry, a little fiddling, sleeping till 8:00 am (a far cry from our usual 5 o'clock wake up time), getting reader mail (always a delight), talking with my mom on the phone and hearing about Kentucky's 90 degree temps... This week promises to be a busy one with one day already gone.

Do you enjoy long weekends? Any blessings or highlights from this one? Any good books to share? I'd love to hear:)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

more of Morrow...

Just wanted to thank Dianne, the fiction editor, over at for posting an interview for Courting Morrow Little today. You can take a sneak peek and learn a bit more about the book in a behind the scenes sort of way. I don't think there are any spoilers, though it might tell you a wee bit more than you want to know. So please proceed with readerly caution:)

Also, for those readers who have asked if The Frontiersman's Daughter will appear in large print, I just received word that Thorndike Press will be doing a large print edition this September, 2010. It's been posted on Amazon and will hopefully be available at your local library.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

oh those heroines...

You've met Lael. You're about to meet Morrow. And you've yet to become acquainted with Roxanna. Or Roxie, as my hero (her hero) calls her. There are a few more heroines hopping around in my head (and heart), begging to be put into books. Count your lucky stars if you aren't pestered by story people. I love it but sometimes wish my mind could rest. However, it is highly entertaining to live this way - I never need TV:) Stories just unwind in my mind like an old movie reel and I write them down. That's on a good day. Other days (and I had one this week), it was a real workout to cough up a handful of workable words. Sigh. Such is the writer's life, I guess.

Some writers think it is bad luck to talk about your work(s) in progress, your characters and such. It "diffuses the creative energy," and takes away from the work, or something like that. I don't believe in bad luck and diffuse energy sounds a bit too new age for me. I do like to talk about upcoming books as long as it doesn't spoil the story for the reader. Some writers post excerpts on their blogs, do character analysis and photos, outline their research, etc. Love that! Others don't utter one word about what they're scribbling on 5-6 days a week. I'm caught a bit between.

The picture above is my prototype for Roxanna in The Colonel's Lady, taken from my favorite movie. Look familiar? Hope so! I sent this photo to the titling committee recently at Revell to show them my vision of who she is as they ask for things like that. Yet it's hard to snag the right picture, especially when you're dealing with the 18th-century. The Roxie in my head and heart can't be reproduced. Not in the real world, anyway:)

After two years, I've finished her story and have edited it numerous times ahead of my summer deadline. But it's quite a cliffhanger as I still haven't finished the last chapter. I never do till I'm ready to turn it in. I think it's because I'm so sentimental and have a hard time shutting a book down. As soon as I get near the 100k mark, I tend to get melancholy. This book is 116k and climbing. Time to STOP!

So... Do you like to hear what a writer is working on? Does it pique your curiosity or serve as a spoiler? If you're a writer, do you like to talk about your work or keep it quiet?

Monday, May 24, 2010

a few of my favorite things...

Sundays are quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. Time to rest. Time to refill your well for what's to come. Time for the things you don't get to do the other six days. Somehow we managed to stuff some of my favorite things into one day...

A good book: I'm on chapter 7 of Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus. This is such a refreshing book as it deals with the British Royal Navy and has all the romance my favorite Horatio Hornblower series is missing. Go, Kaye! Can't wait for the next two - Ransome's Crossing and Ransome's Quest.

An amazing movie: Randy and I went to the matinee
of Robin Hood. I can't remember when I last saw a movie at the theater. This one reminded me of why I don't write medieval fiction. Lots of bloodshed and flying arrows and dirt and intimidation and raw living that makes you shudder. I loved it. And Russell Crowe. Oh. My. Word. Till now I've been immune to his charms but in this movie he had some irrisistible character qualities that had me wishing I was Maid Marian (who is no maid, BTW). In this role he is a true hero - loyal, brave, intelligent, intense, self-deprecating, capable, romantic, and of few words. Sigh. Move over William Wallace/Mel Gibson:)

A wonderful dinner (or supper as we say in the south): Last but not least, we went to dinner at Bella Italia on Port Angeles's First Street. You know, the restaurant where Edward and Bella had a tete-a-tete in the Twilight zone. Actually, I've never read the books, just pointed tourists to Forks, Washington.

Here's hoping you had a wonderful weekend, too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Our winner this week...

Picking just one name out of a hat is very hard to do! I wish I could give a book to every one of you as I appreciate all your comments so much. Our winner this week is...

Barbara from Tennessee!

If Barbara can email me at with a snail mail address, I'll send Maid to Match south. All the other names in the hat will be saved for the next drawing. The month long Courting Morrow Little giveaway is coming up. And I may have another book or two to offer between now and then. So please stay tuned...

Bless you all!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

reviews, both bitter and sweet

The reviews and ads for summer fiction are starting to roll in. This is the time when an author (me) holds their breath:) Reviews are a bittersweet thing. Some of you here have a habit of reviewing books - maybe a downright passion for reviewing them? Some of you posted amazing ones for TFD. I can't thank you enough for those! Each one was copied and put in my scrapbook (which isn't one of those knock-your-socks-off works of art but an old-fashioned one). I'm afraid I'm not very crafty.

Every reviewer has a different take on a story and it spills over into what they have to say when they finish that last page. Some of the finest things an author can hear include: I hated for this book to end...I felt so attached to the characters they seemed like family...I cried...I fell hard for the hero...Your writing has a beautiful, lyrical quality...I couldn't read another book for days as I just wanted to think about this one and savor it a little longer.

One of my first and favorite reviews for TFD was from a male reader. If you don't think men read historical romance novels, think again:) His review just sizzles. At least for this writer. Some of you wrote reviews that made me cry. No kidding! And I'll never forget them.

My editor once told me that it takes three or more positive reviews to undo one negative review. Another thing I've heard is that glowing reviews are not nearly as informative as negative ones. When readers are unhappy with a book, they tend to say very specific things. If they start saying the same things...OUCH. You may have to take a closer look at your work to see if their criticisms hold merit. But there are also readers who can't be pleased, no matter what. As my pastor said, there is only one Perfect Book and even it gets loads of bad press.

Do you enjoy writing book reviews? Do you only do it for those novels dear to your heart? Is it hard to post honestly when you don't care for a book? Or do you try to find something redeemable in every book you read?

Happy reading (and reviewing)!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

welcome to my garden/surprise giveaway

Welcome to my imaginary garden, that is. I've always dreamed of one like this. The tree in the foreground is so lovely and restful and only lacks a wooden swing. The garden gate and fence are just right. We have a garden here but it's not quite as picturesque. Guess you bloom where you're planted, no pun intended:) And our gates and fences here are very rustic, not pretty and white. During out courtship, Randy split the rails and I helped him pound fence posts (Lael-style) and string barbed-wire. His idea of a date! Morrow would have promptly dumped him as a suitor, let me tell you.

But my gardening days, downright rabid in the past, are mostly a sweet memory. I do dig a little in the dirt but more often I sit on the deck with a hard copy of TCL and edit away. And address book cards and mail bookmarks. And try to remember who has won copies of CML thus far:) My filing system is a bit archaic. But I'm pretty sure books will soon be winging their way to Casey in Oregon, Julia in New York, and Stacey in Texas. Now that sure makes me smile:) And I haven't even started the month-long giveaway yet!

To warm up I thought I'd give away one gently read copy of Maid to Match. I'm sure some of you have read Deeanne Gist's bestselling books. This is her latest release. Setting a novel at the Biltmore in North Carolina was such a great idea - wish I'd thought of that! I read it over the weekend and want to share the JOY. If you'd like a chance to win, please comment, and your name will go in my hot pink, GRITS (Girl Raised In The South) hat. No losing track of those names. Winner announced Saturday.

I'd love to know what you're reading right now or plan to read this summer. Reading wish lists are wonderful things. If you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine.

Happy reading!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

book giveaway winner...

One of the best things about being a writer/author is giving away what I love best - books! Thanks to Dana Brown's generosity, the winner of The Heart's Desire and The Heart Broken is...Regina Merrick!

Congratulations, Regina! I'll mail those out tomorrow. Happy reading:)

Please stay tuned as I'm going to be giving away copies of Courting Morrow Little very soon. Everyone who left comments this week or henceforth are entered. Bless you for stopping by and sharing a love of reading, surely one of God's best gifts!

A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors. ~Henry Ward Beecher

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. ~Jorge Luis Borges

A good book is the purest essence of a human soul. ~Thomas Carlyle

Friday, May 14, 2010

the boastful baker

I usually don't post recipes but couldn't resist as this ties in with my upcoming book. In Courting Morrow Little, Morrow likes to make apple dumplings when she's not fending off suitors and whatnot. In chapter 9, I described her apple dumpling recipe in great detail, exceeding my editor's expectations, and so had to trim at the galleys stage. Sometimes I forget you don't really need or want to know every teeny-tiny detail:) Prior to publishing I baked a lot. This is a recipe that will cause a stampede at a church potluck - or add some personal padding if you're in search of that:) It's taken from the Berea Baptist Church cookbook in Berea, Kentucky and is a favorite at our house:

Easy Apple Dumplings
2 sticks real butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 Granny Smith apples
2 (8 count) cans Crescent Rolls
1 (12. oz.) can Mountain Dew

Melt butter in microwave. Add sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. Peel and quarter apples. Unroll crescent dough; roll a piece of apple in each one. There will be 16. Place in a 9x13 inch pan. Pour Mountain Dew around the sides of the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Great with coffee or tea!

Now Morrow didn't have any Mountain Dew and she had to churn all that butter, so she would love the ease of this recipe. I sure do.

I checked the status of her debut and says the book is releasing June 1! Amazon is a bit later. I'm not sure when it will be at Barnes&Noble, Wal-Mart, etc. My publisher tends to get books into stores a bit ahead of the release date which is officially July 1.

Anyway, bless you as you bake - and read!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

books of the heart

I'm so happy to have my Kentucky friend, Dana Brown, visiting today. She's an avid reader and writer of history and has two books to give away. I love the folk art type covers and the wonderful stories within. Without further ado, I'll let Dana tell you about her interesting life and ancestry.

How long have you been writing? What are you working on currently?I've been writing off and no since I was a teen. When sorting through things for a recent move, I found a couple of soap operas I penned at age 15. These five to ten page editions had characters based on my friends that I hung out with and the recent "love interest" we had, coupled with a mystery of some type. I've got to admit a Daytime Emmy would NOT have been in the cards for either of these soaps!

Currently, I'm working on The Heart Mended. It's the 3rd book in a series I began over a year ago. The first book, The Heart's Desire, introduces you to the Baker family making a journey from Virginia to the frontier lands in the new state of Kentucky. Tragedy strikes the family, leaving those remaining wondering how they will survive. The book then jumps 30 years into the future to find Ella Baker has married James Gray and they have a family of their own. While life appears good, nothing it ever quite as it seems. The Heart's Desire delves into the budding romance of Ella's teenage daughter and her beau and tells of the hardships farm families in Breckinridge County endured. I also tell the true story of the tornado that nearly wiped the town of Big Spring off the map in 1849.

Favorite books you've read? Written?
As a child, my favorite books were The Bobbsey Twins. My grandparents began buying the books when I was 10 and 35 years later I still have them. Currently, I just finished reading, House of Abraham, about President Lincoln and am now into Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie. I love reading historical biographies and fiction. Of the books I've written, The Heart's Desire is my favorite.

Tell us about publishing the way you've done it and what you've learned:
A good friend of mine, Sara Reinke, listened to my ramblings one day when I told her of my love of family and genealogy. I had all these family stories born of ten years of researching that I didn't want to lose upon my death (those who told me the stories had passed on). She suggested I start with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), to get me motivated. I had a blast! In no time I had around 90,000 words and a viable story. I didn't want to publish it for everyone to read. I just wanted the stories compiled in timeline fashion for family members. Then Sara suggested I go through It's a print on demand publisher. The ease of assembling, designing, and printing a book once it is finished was perfect through Lulu. The books were "as is," meaning you proof it yourself and set up the parameters of the book on your own. The hard part is being your own marketing rep and getting it out there for readers. Presently I am thinking of submitting The Heart's Desire to the Writer's Edge. While I know it is a work that needs polishing and fine tuning, I believe I have a good chance of finding a home for it and the subsequent books in the series.

What would you like readers to take away from your books?
A strong sense of family and its importance in life. I want them to see that with God's help, ALL things are possible if you just trust and matter what you face in life alone or with others by your side.

Do you have advice for writers regarding research?
Make sure you write what you know and have a passion for. Nothing worse than reading a book and finding it riddled with errors and inaccuracies, not to mention it being plain boring because the writer wrote just to be writing. I was writing a scene set in the mid 1860's for my very first book. It was set within the confines of this particular family's home, involving a conversation and a meal. I had one character stoking the fire in the potbellied stove before placing a cast iron frying pan on top. I knew I'd need to describe the handle, the door, and a few other things and discovered pot bellied stoves were not in homes till the mid 1870's. And then I found that engagement rings became a custom after the turn of the 19th-century. Make sure you research well. Someone, somewhere, will find it and call you on it.

Tell us about your genealogical interests:
I began researching my family history in 1999 when my grandfather's health was declining. I learned that my mother's family lines are firmly planted in Breckinridge County, Kentucky since the late 1770's and tie into some very important historical figures and events. For instance, my 5th great-grandmother is sister to President Lincoln's grandmother. Homer VanMeter (right hand man to Baby Face Nelson and other nefarious criminals) is a distant cousin. My family has a deep faith and we had several preachers in the family who established churches. One is over 200 years old and still going strong - Severn's Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. My family not only believed and trusted in God's promises on a personal level, they helped spread the Gospel in many ways.

With constant, repetitive researching in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, I've learned a great deal, not only about my family but about the area and its history over the past 210 years. From that love and passion, I was off erred different volunteer jobs with the USGenWeb's Archives project and am also the county coordinator for the KYGenWeb's Breckinridge County site. My love and passion for Breckinridge County and her people has allowed me to turn my family stories into fiction.

To check out the 2 sites, go to:

Thanks so much, Dana, for sharing your writing journey with us. Dana has graciously offered not one book but two in a giveway this week. If you leave a comment you'll be entered in the drawing. The winner will be announced this coming Sunday. Also, anyone who comments from this post forward will be entered for signed copies of Courting Morrow Little coming up in July. Bless you!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

cracked pots

I must confess I've had more fun this weekend than should be allowed:) I did get those onion rings I talked about as well as some coconut cream pie and a plate of pasta swimming in pesto cream. And I managed to sneak in 30 minutes of The Young Victoria before my boys came in from a bike ride and crashed the whole romantic affair. Throw in a fiddling gig, lots of sunshine, and some Mother's Day flower baskets and it was a weekend I could easily repeat. Oh, and I can't forget the boxes of bookmarks and bookcards for Courting Morrow Little that came in the mail. Since I've had some less than stellar weekends in the past, it was really delightful. Hope yours was memorable in a good way, too.

Since it was so sunny, we opened the little fountain we bought awhile ago. Here's a picture of Paul watering it to get it started:) I got so tickled because he was mortified when we took it out of the box. "But Mom, it's all broken - and ugly - and cracked!" he exclaimed, thinking I had been royally ripped off. I pointed out the label on the box which said in large letters, "PLENTIFUL TERRACOTTA." All a matter of perspective, I thought. Once we filled it with water and plugged it in, he was overjoyed to find those cracked pots had some useful function. In his glee, he overfilled it so you get a nice shower if you stand within 6 feet of it:) Homely, yes, but beautiful in its own way. The sound of splashing water is so appealing to me for some reason.

I couldn't help but think of the Scripture about cracked pots:

But we have this power in earthen vessels (Greek wording means "baked clay," and refers to clay pots), so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves." 2 Corinthians 4:7

My footnote says, "Even frail and expendable people, like clay pots, become useful to the Lord for noble purposes...The great power of God overcomes and transcends the clay pot."

Love that! If we feel like cracked pots, we can take heart. He has a purpose for each one of us, even a noble one. When I look at my homely but lovely-sounding fountain, I hope to remember that.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

read at your own risk

There's nothing quite as sweet as pressing send on your laptop when you've met a deadline or finished some project. I've been pressing my send button a lot lately and it's quite gratifying. When my laptop is behaving and I've given a project my all and it's off my desk and onto someone elses, I am so thankful. Time for rewards:) Must be the teacher in me. Nothing like a little reward to get you to that finish line a little faster. In my younger, thinner days I'd treat myself to a peanut buster parfait or beer battered onion rings with a side of tartar sauce (at least that's what these northwesterners do) or some other sinful concoction. But now that I seem to be developing a serious case of writer's rear (one of the hazards of the job!), I'm going to have to opt for slimmer pursuits:)

So...yesterday I found The Young Victoria at Costco and decided this would be it. Now to find time to watch it again with a tween, a teenager, and a husband who's seen it once and doesn't want a re-do. Wish you were with me and we'd have a girl's night in:)

Thankfully, books are calorie free, too, or I'd have some serious issues. Here's my latest prize by Ann Rinaldi which I've already mentioned. I was quite sad about the cover, though. You'll rarely hear me complain here but heavens! Rinaldi is HUGE and this cover is dark and fuzzy and the girl - well... Shame on you, Harcourt! But maybe Ann loves it. Authors have strange tastes:)

I always smile when I see this on the back of Rinaldi's wonderful books. Wish I could put a similar disclaimer on mine:

WARNING: This is a historical novel. Read at your own risk. The writer feels it necessary to alert you to the fact that you might enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Some of you may be familiar with the little devotional book, Our Daily Bread. I just came across this story and it was so touching and unusual I thought I'd share it here. It highlights one of those archaic qualities - devotion - which seems to chiefly exist between the pages of books, like its counterparts honor and chivalry and selflessness and all the rest.

In 1826, the British author Thomas Carlyle married Jane Welsh, who was an accomplished writer as well. She dedicated herself to his success and served him wholeheartedly. Because of a stomach ailment and a nervous disorder, he had a rather ornery temperament. So she made special meals for him and tried to keep the house as quiet as possible so he could do his writing.

Thomas didn't often recognize Jane's helpful spirit nor did he spend much time with her. However, he wrote to his mother: "I may say in my heart that she...loves me with a devotedness which is a mystery to me how I have ever deserved. She...looks with such soft cheerfulness into my gloomy countenance, that new hope passed into me every time I met her eye."

Between Our Daily Bread and Streams in the Desert, I'm finding all sorts of inspiration. Next week I'll be spotlighting an inspiring friend, Dana Brown, who will talk about her writing journey. She's graciously provided copies of her historical novels so we can have a giveway. And she has some interesting things to say about genealogy and Kentucky history so hope you'll stop by. Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

critters and such

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have mastered, you will never grow. ~CR Lawton

I'm sure my dear friend, Lori Benton, will do a double take once she stumbles onto today's post. That's her blog banner at left and here's her picture to the right. She might very well shoot me as I didn't ask permission to post this but wanted to honor her for being such a good friend and the best ever critique partner, or critter! We've both been writing since childhood and love history, particularly the 18th-century with all its drama and romance and bloodshed:) Lori has quite a personal story of her own but I won't include any spoilers here. Sometimes she posts excerpts from her WIP's on her blog. Her writing is amazing! I've had more than a few, "OH, I WISH I'D WRITTEN THAT!" moments when I read her work. And I'm confident you'll be reading her books one day, too. We need more 18th-century fiction out there. So write on, Lori B:)

I've never had a critter before and feel blessed to have Lori to exchange work with. She recently finished reading The Colonel's Lady which is due to my editor August 1st. I'm currently reading her WIP entitled, Willa, which she sends me chapter by chapter. Reading her work makes me a better writer and editor plus I always learn new historical info along the way. She has a wonderful ability to create multi-dimensional characters that linger in your mind once you disengage from her story, which is hard to do. She also has a lovely knack for being fresh and original when describing the natural world or the faces and emotions of her characters. It's such a blessing to know her. I'm really excited as we get to meet for the first time at a writer's conference this fall. I think the Lord brought us together. Writing friends are such an important part of the journey.

In my mailbox:
The Family Greene by Ann Rinaldi
The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed
Tailor Made, Trail Worn by Robert J. Moore, Jr. and Michael Haynes

Scripture of the moment:
I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies. ~Genesis 32:10