Sunday, October 31, 2010


Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey. ~Pat Conroy

I spent the last few days in Monterey, at a retreat hosted by Janet Grant, and Books&Such Literary Agency. Amazing Monterey ~ surely one of God's best gifts. Lots of sunshine, great cuisine, creative conversation, and beautiful scenery.

Since I'm a foodie, thought I'd post a few pictures of the desserts I was always too full to finish. Besides, they're so beautiful, you almost hate to eat them! I'm afraid my waistline will never be the same again:) But it was oh so fun while it lasted!

One of my favorite times was lunch on the patio overlooking Monterey Bay with writing friends and fellow bookies. We were treated to some amazing speakers and industry professionals offering their talents and expertise. I learned how to "work smarter, not harder" and was able to discover how I can carve out more writing time and avoid the pitfalls of publishing.

Are you free to be the communicator God made you to be? Is your heart becoming lighter or heavier? Take time to feast on His word instead of others' words ~ or even your own.

I fell in love with the history while there. Over a hundred years ago, on the very site of our hotel, a wealthy Californian by the name of Hugh Tevis (doesn't that just sound heroic?!) built a lovely mansion as a wedding present for his bride-to-be. They married and then he died on their honeymoon! They never lived in the house and it was sold, then torn down and turned into cannery row... I feel another novel coming on!

The whole experience was like eating one dessert after another. Many thanks to Janet Grant and her staff for providing us with one blessing after another while there. And many thanks to Randy and the boys for holding the fort down for my final book trip of the year:)

Have you been to Monterey or a place where you fell in love with God's creation and saw his hand in every corner?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

on the road again...

Five pairs of shoes. Check. Reading glasses. Check. Breath mints. Check. Purse. Check. Hand sanitizer. Check. Pen and paper. Check. Good book. Check. Credit card. Check. Lip gloss. Check. Empty water bottle. Check. Twelve copies of Courting Morrow Little for book exchange. Check! I think I'm the only person in the world who doesn't own a cell phone so no forgetting that:)

I'm not very fond of traveling, especially by air. Give me an old-fashioned train any day. But I try to make the best of it. Last trip I prayed (and I'm not making this up!), asking the Lord if he would please place me at the very back of the plane by the bathroom, aisle seat, as I always forget to ask for seat assignments in advance. And my bladder never behaves on planes!

When I got to the gate and boarded I found myself all the way to the back of the plane, aisle seat - no kidding! Not only that, before I could wonder who I was next to, a woman my age sat down fresh off the mission field in Indonesia. I have a thing for missionaries. My brother is one:) And this one really needed to talk! Suffice it to say, we skipped the small stuff and got down to real stuff on that nonstop 5 hour flight. She was a delightful traveling companion and I'm still thanking the Lord for that particular seat assignment! So who's to say what will happen between here and Monterey?

I'll be at a retreat this week, bless Books&Such Literary Agency. And in my absence I'd love to hear how the Lord is surprising you, delighting you, blessing you! So please comment and I'll be back with you soon...

For You meet him with the blessings of good things. ~Psalm 21:3

May the Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another. ~Genesis 31:49

giveaway winner...

Our giveaway winner for A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer is...

Katie M!

If you'll send an email to with your snail mail addy, I'll mail the book out:) If you've already read this title, I'll be happy to substitute another I have on hand. Bless you all and happy reading!

A house without books is like a room without windows. ~anon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

you are what you read

If you were to ask me for writing advice, I'd have to say first and foremost that you should...

The next piece of advice I would give is...
read writers/authors who write better than you do.

Why? Because you are what you read. If you want to improve as a writer, spend the bulk of your time reading stellar writing. In any given genre, there are those authors that stand out. Sometimes bestseller lists are a key but don't be fooled.

The unique thing about reading writers who write better than you is that the books that impact you will often be different than the ones that impact me. Don't confine yourself to the CBA. There are many incredible books outside the CBA that are clean and amazingly well done.

The danger in reading higher level writing is that after awhile you'll not be content with anything less. Your reading basket will be thinned - your TBR pile will not topple. You'll begin many a book only to set it aside.

I truly believe that you are what you read. A friend in Canadian publishing and I were recently discussing this. She'd written her honors thesis on how the fiction read by L.M. Montgomery (Ann of Green Gables, The Blue Castle, etc.) in her formative years influenced her own fiction so profoundly later on.

Now that I have the gift of hindsight (a nice way of saying I'm getting older:), I have a few years of reading to look back on and can name the books that have most influenced me. Here's just a sampling...

~Christy by Catherine Marshall

~Redeeming Love and Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers

~The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

~Follow the River, Long Knife, From Sea to Shining Sea by James Alexander Thom

~Song of Years by Bess Streeter Aldrich

~Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

~every book by Victoria Holt aka Philippa Carr and Jean Plaidy

~every historical epic by Allan Eckert

If you're a younger writer, you're forming your list this very minute:) If you've logged a few miles like me, you'll have a shelf of best loved books on hand that stand head and shoulders above all the rest.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

the exquisite 18th-century...

I must admit I've been dreaming of having a book launch in period dress and thought I'd hold a little contest to see which 18th-century gown you like best. So...which do you think is heart-stoppingly romantic and true to the period? If you were a colonial belle shopping in 18th-century Williamsburg or Philadelphia, at which shop window would you linger?

The gown at right is "colonial pink" chintz with large cabbage roses, braided trim, and a train. The aqua gold gown at left is silk taffeta. I love the antique French lace at the sleeves and on the hat. Both gowns should be worn with chemise, stays/corset, etc. This aqua gown is a robe anglaise versus the other style of the day, a la polonaise, which is achieved by hooking silk ribbons onto cocardes at the back waist which results in a very feminine derriere:)

Remember Lael's gown from Briar Hill? At the moment I can't recall which style she wore for Christmas at the Bliss cabin when Ian gave her the pearls (or tried to, poor man). I had Morrow making many of these gowns in Aunt Etta's shop in Elfreth's Alley before she returned to Kentucky. As for Roxanna in The Colonel's Lady, she's straight from Virginia and has a few of these dresses packed in her trunk. The one she's wearing on the cover, soon to be revealed any day now when I get the green light, is similar but shockingly different:) How's that for a tease?

I'd love to hear your impressions, likes, dislikes, etc. Do you prefer the fashions of today over those of yesterday?

In honor of all the great comments lately, I'd love to give away a new copy of Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer as it deals with a 19th-century seamstress. If you've already read this historical, I'll be glad to substitute another title I have on hand.

Bless you all!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The chill, shivery October morning came; not the October morning of the country, with soft, silvery mists, clearing off before the sunbeams that bring out all the gorgeous beauty of colouring, but the October morning of Milton, whose silver mists were heavy fogs, and where the sun could only show long dusky streets when he did break through and shine...
North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell, Chapter 31

Story openings are so important. Chapter openings are just as important, as are chapter endings. It's a fine art to get them right, to lead the reader along and make them anxious to turn that page. The words should even have the right rhythm no matter where they fall. Here are a few of my favorite novel openings...

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. ~Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

If it had not rained on a certain May morning, Valancy Stirling's whole life would have been entirely different. ~The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

A single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. ~Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Davina McKie dropped to her shoulders on the grassy hillock, letting her shawl slip past her shoulders despite the sharp chill in the air. ~Grace In Thine Eyes by Liz Curtis Higgs

Here's one novel opening I know you haven't read...

This was madness. Roxanna Rowan leaned against the slick cave wall and felt an icy trickle drip down the back of her neck as she bent her head. ~The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz

Chances are you're reading a novel or writing one. I'd so love to hear your own novel opening, the one you've written or the one you're reading. Or post a favorite from a best loved book like the ones I've mentioned here. You can even make us guess as to which it is:) I can't get enough of all this book talk! Can you tell?

Happy Tuesday.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

what else could i do?

When I was a girl, about eight or so, I fell in love with those little historical biographies of Dolly Madison and Martha Washington and Pocahontas and Clara Barton, etc. Though that old Kentucky library is long gone, I can still recall standing by that particular shelf near the window and gazing at all those delicious books. I had my favorites and Jennie Lind was one of them. So when I read this in my devotional book recently, I was cast back to the past in a very meaningful way.

I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. ~Philippians 3:8

The Swedish Nightingale, Jennie Lind, won great success as an operatic singer, and money poured into her purse. Yet she left the stage while she was singing her best, and never returned to it. She must have missed the money, the fame, and the applause of thousands, but she was content to live in privacy.

Once an English friend found her sitting on the steps of a bathing machine on the sea sands with a Bible on her knee, looking into the glory of a sunset. They talked, and the conversation drew near to the inevitable question: "Oh, Madame Goldschmidt, how is it that you came to abandon the stage at the very height of your success?"

"When every day," was the quiet answer, "it made me think less of this (laying a finger on the Bible) and nothing at all of that (pointing to the sunset), what else could I do?" ~Springs in the Valley

This devotional was so touching I highlighted it to read again and again. Although few of us will ever be in a position like Jenny Lind with her overwhelming success, it's good to remember WHO we serve and why we must keep Him at the forefront of our lives and ministry, no matter what it is He's called us to do.

Do you remember reading those little historical bios, too? Did you have a favorite? I think our love of history starts very early:) Better yet, what do Jenny Lind's timeless words mean to you today?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

compelling characters

So you write a synopsis (or not). Do some research. Scribble snatches of dialogue and plot points. You're ready to meet your characters. You know just when they come on the page and why. Writing is so easy, right?

NEVER! Or so our beloved John Thornton shouted during that riveting balcony scene in North & South:) And I'm inclined to say the same. Writing is full of surprises, twists, and turns, or should be. And you have to fall in love with your characters or your readers most assuredly won't either.

I've been working on The Colonel's Lady in the mornings and The Ballantyne Legacy in the afternoons. Still don't have a title for that first book and wish you could help me:) It's kind of like having a baby and then not knowing what to call it ~ a colonial custom. Often parents back then waited several months or more to name an infant for fear it wouldn't live. I don't like having a nameless book any more than having a nameless baby. But the right title hasn't come to me yet. However, new characters are clamoring to be noticed and I'm a bit intrigued and amazed by who's appearing. They simply aren't in the script/synopsis:)

So far we have...

*a John Thornton type hero

*two feuding sisters

*a horse named Half-Penny

*Philadelphia Quakers

*a plantation, a few sheep, a meddling housekeeper, a devoted dog...

This post by one of my favorite authors, Susan Meissner, is so helpful and thought-provoking. It helped me change my new heroine's liabilities into possibilities, even assets.

Currently I'm in the middle of Elizabeth Gaskell's North & South which is filled with memorable characters that leap off the page and make a lasting impression.

What memorable characters are center stage in your own writing or the book you have in hand?

Monday, October 4, 2010

happy monday

It's early Monday morning and I'm looking out my window and see yellow leaves's fall! Somehow October snuck up on me. And I can't let another minute pass without extending a HUGE thanks to all the bloggers and readers out there who included The Frontiersman's Daughter in the INSPY Awards shortlist. This means so much as it comes from the hearts and heads of bloggers themselves. I could say more but invite you to click on the link where they explain the INSPYs far more eloquently than I can here. So thank you, dear blogging friends, wherever you are! I'm so thankful and thrilled you liked Lael's journey.

I also wanted to highlight another blogging friend, Julia, who is hosting a special bunch of blogging guests this week during which they talk about blogging as a ministry. Come meet Lisa Buffaloe and others as they talk about why they blog. They just might surprise and encourage you!

Lots of excitement for me this weekend as my computer crashed and I have to spend the next couple of days transitioning to a new system. I'm going to leave comments off for today's post as I won't be online to answer them. Hopefully I'll be back with you soon. Prayers appreciated that all my book files are intact:)

Thought I'd share what I read in this morning's devotional that so convicted and encouraged me...

I am a man of prayer. ~Psalm 109:4

All to often we are in a "holy" hurry in our devotional time. How much actual time do we spend in quiet devotion on a daily basis? Can it be easily measured in minutes? Can you think of even one person of great spiritual stature who did not spend much of his or her time in prayer? It has been said that no great work of literature or science has ever been produced by someone who did not love solitude. It is also a fundamental principle of faith that no tremendous growth in holiness has ever been achieved by anyone who has not taken the time frequently, and for long periods, to be alone with God. ~Streams in the Desert

Happy Monday!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

double giveaway day!

Today I'm up the street at The Writers Alley doing an interview and giving away two copies of my books. I'd love to see you there! More than anything, I'd love for you to meet Pepper and Casey and their contributors and enjoy what is one of the best writing blogs on the web! You may see some folks you know. And I guarantee you'll want to come back:) Bless you all.