Thursday, January 31, 2013

Coffee & a Song

It's Thursday and time for a MUCH needed cup of coffee. Have you had as harrying a week as myself? Ugh. Anne was so right yesterday with the idea of carrying each other in prayers whether tragedy has struck, you just had a bad week, been sick, or what-have-you.

I was singing my little Peter Pan a song last night while I changed his diaper. "My God is so BIG so STRONG and so MIGHTY, there's nothing my God cannot do". I just love how he stops kicking and a big grin spreads across his face when I sing that song--and I sing all kinds of other crazy, silly songs, but this one Peter Pan always grins and giggles and interacts. I hope he understands the meaning...

This morning, what has your week been like? Do share! Anne and I would LOVE to pray for you. So over a cup of coffee (or tea or cocoa), remember our God is so BIG and we need each other ...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sisters Unite

Jaime is sick today and can't post. So I'm throwing this post up at 5:55 a.m. Indiana time. Who actually forms thought at this time in the morning right? 

Well, I'm just going to share some thought fragments from my near-subconscious this morning. A favorite poem of mine is e.e.cummings i carry your heart. I've always loved him as a poet, but the scene in In Her Shoes where Cameron Diaz learns to read and does this poem as she thinks about her sister--is quite certainly her best performance ever.

Another thought fragment--my dear friends have just lost their 37 year old sister and sister-in-law to an apparent sudden heart attack this week. Cut short, we weep with them for the lost moments that would have been.

Let us all be reminded to lift one another up in prayer and with love--to carry one another in our hearts--whether we only suffer an icky cold, or when we suffer heart wrenching loss.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
- e. e. cummings ~
(Complete Poems, 1904-1962)

Please join me and post a short prayer for a sister who's in your heart today. Let's unite in prayer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Things Worth Writing

They say authors should write what they know. Though it seems common enough to me, my life is a story to God. So what parts are worth the writing? 

On my trip to Philadelphia with my mom in October, we visited Benjamin Franklin's print shop. No white-out back then. No word processors or Word software. No delete button. Every piece of paper was precious, every word weighed for its worth.
Franklin Court Printing Office & Bindery
Philadelphia, PA
Benjamin Franklin said:"If you wou'd not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing."Poor Richard's Almanack, 1738.

Though my tagline is Mennonite Girl Without a Bonnet, I was reminded tonight of the diversity that I grew up with. My mother was raised conservative Mennonite, but my father was never "churched" until his probation officer required it as part of his penance as a teen.

You could say my parent's life long love affair is literally the stuff of novels----Conservative girl meets Americana bad boy. But often truth is stranger than fiction, and often I've been glad of it. 

Tonight I was reminded, that as much of my growing up identity was grounded in the Mennonite faith, as it was being a tomboy who loved to go coon huntin' with her Dad and the gang.
My cousin stopped by tonight to run his coon dogs behind our house in our woods. A flash from my past.

When I wasn't spending time dreaming I was Laura Ingalls--I was busy hunting with dad, watching the gang tan hides in the garage, raising coon dogs--dreaming I was Little Ann and my dog was Old Dan.

I mean--I have special skills no one knows about, right?

I know how to walk through a woods and not get slapped in the face with twigs that just spring loaded off dad's shoulders and aimed at me on eye level. I know the sound a bawling walker dog makes when he's treed a coon. I know the smell of the beagle club and the all night championships when we waited to see if Timber made Grand Night Champion, waking to a room so full of smoke it made me nauseated. I know how to show a coon dog and clean a kennel. I know that you can't tip over dad's battery pack for his headlight, or battery acid would eat a hole in the carpet.

But above all, I've known the enduring truth--that no matter how diverse our paths and our pasts--God is an author who writes incredible stories--of love and forgiveness, stories where second hand lions have a placed called home

I love you Dad.

So tell your stories. They may seem common to you, but your Author is uncommon and He tells amazing stories...

Monday, January 28, 2013

God ... Just CHILL!

I love this picture of my daughter. It's nothing fancy--the epitome of bad photography. Monkey-Face was an early 2 when I took it. A quick snap, looking down at her from my cell phone, as she traversed the wilds of our gravel driveway. Intent and focused, too little to go it alone, but unaware of my looming presence as she--in her a-typical fashion--was determined to be independent.

She's slowly learning that she's not big enough to do everything. But it's hard. When she climbed onto the counter to reach the "cheesies" on the top shelf in the highest cupboard ... when she jumped from the top stair of thirteen steps and assumed I was going to catch her (I did -miraculously) ... when she has to go potty, when she has to cut her sandwich, when she wants to climb a tree... danger lurks and she doesn't care--a whit.

My mom was trying to help her with something the other day and she gave Monkey-Face a kind suggestion. Without pause and in her classic palm-forward in your face gesture, Monkey-Face states: "HON, just CHILL". (she's barely 3).

I love how we go through life like my Monkey-Face. Overconfident, cocky, self-assured ... and when we plummet from whatever the height, we finally look up. For help. For comfort. For reassurance. But when we're self-assured, we state, "GOD, just CHILL". 

Funny, how when Monkey-Face went flying across the bathroom floor after she took off from the bathtub soaking wet and ignored my instructions to "don't run", and then whacked her head on the door frame when she threw it back in a long wail, that she found no comfort in herself, no joy in her confidence, no reason in her circumstances.

She needed the powers that be. So I lifted her, cradled her, explained her folly to her ... and strangely enough ... she repeated it again yesterday. Only this time she remained upright because right before her wet feet hit the bathroom floor she stopped and giggled and said, "mommy, I don' wanna go flyin'!"

So... don't go flyin' today ... LISTEN to the still small voice. BE STILL and know that HE is God ... and you, frankly, are not.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Report: Choices of the Heart, by Laurie Alice Eakes

The first book I ever read of Laurie's was Lady in the Mist. It was book one of the Midwives series and now we're onto book #3. Each book in this series has NOT disappointed!

A runaway heroine, a family fued, two men, one woman ... the pre Civil-War Virginia mountains come alive with history as Esther defies her medical training in hopes of escape as a teacher.

Characters: From page one, Esther is determined, a little head strong, but extremely likeable. The reader instantly wants to know why is she running and why she's willing to leave doting, loving parents. She's a trained midwife but her past makes her trying to escape that calling as well. Esther was a very believable heroine and the reader will maybe even relate to her Spiritual struggle and if you have nursing or doctoring in your genes, you'll probably understand why it's so difficult for Esther to escape her calling.

Zach and Griff: This was so definitively a triangle, that I won't even identify the hero. As it is, Laurie keeps the readers wondering pretty well. Esther's interactions with each man makes romance a possibility. Scandal doesn't help and the tension between the families is so high it practically jumps from the page! You'll love the men in this book though. Laurie writes a strong male character--nothing wussy there.

Setting: I loved the setting. Mountains always is a hit with me, but in true Laurie-form, she doesn't take us where we've already been. The Virginia mountain range is a refreshing new location for a historical. The family fueds remind me a bit of Catherine Marshall's classic, Christy. Laurie practically has the reader smelling the leaves and the hills, feeling the roughness of the lifestyle, smelling the campfire, and ... yeah ... you'll love it.

AND TO TOP IT OFF ... Laurie does a fantastic job of including history into her books. And, I always like to make a clarification when it comes to historicals. For those who AREN'T historical readers, you'll still enjoy this book. The history doesn't bog you down--it's alive, it's the backdrop to a fantastic story, and yet, for those of you who love history will appreciate the midwivery, the little everyday details, etc.

Laurie, thank you -- for blessing us with ANOTHER fantastic novel. Check out your copy here!

Have you read one of Laurie's books? Check out our interview with Laurie here and please comment! We'd love to hear if you've read Laurie's books or if she's a new author to you? I'd like see what the CCC bloggers have to say! :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What's Your Frozen Coffee?

BBBBRRRRrrrrrrr! My son tells me that yesterday marked the lowest sustained cold temperatures in the last four years. We registered 5 degrees fahrenheit, with a minus ten degrees windchill!

We had both wood stoves cranked up and toasty--and YET, I came home and reached for some--YEP--frozen coffee in the form of Schwan's coffee flavored ice cream. I served it up on top of dark chocolate pudding cake. Followed by a hot decaf coffee--YUM! But I'm not really a frappuccino lover. Any ice coffee lovers out there? Isn't that supposed to be for hot summer days? What was I thinking eating coffee ice cream on such a frigid night?

Sweet indulgence...
An interruption in the mundaneness of gray winter weather I suppose. Isn't that the same reason we love to read a great story? 

Some women are shoe ladies, or shopaholics.
Me? just discovered the "1-click purchase" button--my cursor slipped over it and oops! Guess I just preordered:

--The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd  Preview at Amazon!
--To Whisper Her Name by Tamara Alexander Preview at Amazon!
--Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert Preview here!
--It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist Preview peek!

I still have some sweet indulgence to finish up from 2012 before the 2013 ones start rolling in. 
Such as:

--A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano
--The Messenger by Siri Mitchell
and I want to read the first if Julie Lessman's Winds of Change series so I can catch up:
--A Hope Undaunted

We want to know--what's on your wish list? 
What's on your TBR pile?
Please share your sweet indulgences!
What was the lowest temperature where you live this week?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Liebster Blog Award

The award is the Liebster Blog Award. In German, Liebster is “Favorite”. Thank you to Regina Thomas for the nomination. I will answer this week and Jaime will follow some time next week. 
With this nomination come a few rules for participation, which are:
1. Tell 11 things about yourself.
2. Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
3. Post 11 questions for those who will be nominated by you.
4. Nominate other bloggers (up to 11) who have less than 200 followers.
5. Get in contact with those 11 bloggers to inform them that you nominated them.
My name is Anne Love. I live in northern Indiana. At the end of a dead end dirt road. I live next to my parents. The house I grew up in was an 1888 one room school house. I've traveled 36 states. Traveled 11 countries. I love to tend my flower gardens and keep my feet in the grass. Mother of two teens, one a college student. I was a Little-House-on-the-Prairie-girl nerd, and it's all my second grade teacher's fault (love you Mrs. Andrews!). Named after my grandmother and Anne of Green Gables (sigh). I know these aren't complete grammatical sentences, but it's 11:30p.m. when I wrote this! 
11 Questions from Regina:
1. How long have you been writing? My whole life is too cliche--so, 1999-present.

2. What excuses get in the way of your writing time? My brain gets too full after 11 a.m.

3. What one habit could you change that would give you more time to write? Get up 15 min earlier every morning.

4. Does your family take an interest in your writing/are they privy to your WIP? My family all supports my writing, but they aren't privy to my WIP. My daughter is in the Professional Writing program at Taylor University, but she hasn't taken a great interest in historical fiction yet. 

5. If a fellow writer were looking for random advice, what would you say to him/her? Learn to take criticism well, pray a lot, know your call, network.

6. What is your favorite dessert? Schwan's Vanilla ice cream with Hershy's chocolate syrup, but a close second is a s'more over the kitchen stove burner.

7. Where is the strangest place an idea came to you, and how did you make note of it to keep from losing the idea? a.) Jaime and I once giggled all through Chip MacGregor's session--about a plot with a dead body found in an Amish buggy. We were admittedly feeling schnarky about things that sell because their Amish, and plots that can't sell because they have too many dead bodies.   b.) I jotted my first idea on a scrap paper and put it under a stack of paper in the kitchen--it involved a scene with an unnamed hero. Two weeks later I panicked hoping Ted hadn't run across it before I could explain it was a fictional character. Once I confessed, he hasn't stopped telling everyone that I'm writing a book.
8. What time of day do you like best for writing? MORNING! :)
9. If you could take a vacation anywhere, where would you go? 1. Mountains 2. Ireland 3. Italy.

10. If you could paint any room in your house any color you wanted, what room and what color? YELLOWYELLOW!

11. What is one of your kids’ toys that you absolutely love/loved or what was your favorite childhood toy? American Girl doll books. 
11 Questions for Lindsay and Loree:

1. What genre do you write?
2. Favorite author?
3. How many novels have you written?
4. Contemporary or Historical?
5. Plotter or Pantser?
6. Do you love a deep plot, or deep characterization?
7. Have you ever paid for an edit? or critique?
8. Are you agented?
9. Have you signed a book deal? 
10. Who have you met through writing who's influenced you the most? 
11. How would you describe your calling to write?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Get To Know: Laurie Alice Eakes, Writer and Historian

I am thrilled today to feature my friend and an amazing author, Laurie Alice Eakes! Friday, I'll be reviewing her newest book, Choices of the Heart, but today, Laurie stopped by our CCC blog to answer a few questions I had for her. 

Laurie, I find the basis of this series Sooooooooooo fascinating! Tell us how you became interested in the field of midwives and the history behind it?

 In the mid 90s, I was working for a chiropractor, who also rented space to a midwife. We’d chat sometimes because I have found women’s professions that go back for thousands of years, quite fascinating. Once when I had a bad cold, she brought me a bottle of herbs that cleared up my cold in record time, and I realized she was into healing, too. So I started reading about midwives.

Then I started graduate work at Virginia Tech, studying history and gender issues. When I had to write a major research paper, I chose midwives and their role in history, and was hooked. 

My paper is entitled, “Women of Power:  Midwives in Early Modern Europe and North America”. It’s not so much the study of what they did—deliver babies—but the role in society. They were respected and feared, independent and powerful. They were the only women who testified in court, for example. They were allowed to be out after curfew, and they made comfortable livings.

I’ll stop there, since I could go on for pages about their lives beyond the birthing chamber.

What type of research did you have to do to learn about it?

 A great deal of original research went into this project. I read books written by and for midwives dating back to the seventeenth century. Obituaries from period newspapers revealed a great deal of what their communities thought of them, and so did their own diaries. Midwives had a code of conduct and cleanliness that ranged far beyond that of physicians and apothecaries of the day. Fortunately, I was at a major university and had their resources at my disposal. I got books from as far away as Nottingham, England. This was, of course, before Google Books made this sort of research so much easier.

 Your books have a strong thread of romance and suspense... which portion do you enjoy writing the most, or is it equal?

 Three years ago, when I wrote the first midwife book, I’d say it was equal. Now, however, I think I enjoy the romance portion more. The suspense part is fun and also difficult. The romance part seems to flow from my fingertips.

 You also write Regency... how do you keep your historical settings and facts straight ?

 Considering most of my other books take place during the same years as the English Regency, much of the history is similar. In truth, when I wrote my books set later in the nineteenth century, it was a tremendous challenge of research, as I kept finding things I didn’t know. I also learned American history first. The interest in the Regency came later. The part difficult to keep straight is the language. By the nineteenth century, British and American speech were diverging and words used in England weren’t used over here. Between me knowing this is a problem and my fabulous editors, we manage to keep it straight.

 If you could write about any historical period, setting, circumstance, etc and not worry about publisher or reader demands,  what would it be?

 Four years ago, I would have said The Regency. It wasn’t selling in the CBA. Then my agent said, X publisher wants to see a Regency series from you, so I worked up a proposal. That publisher didn’t buy it, but another one—Baker/Revell--did three months later. Now X publisher has bought a Regency series from me--Zondervan. J

 As for other time periods, I have to say that I am blessed to want to write in the era publishers are buying, which is pretty much anything from colonial America, to. . . Well, I don’t want to write post 1900, though it is getting quite popular.

How does your faith play into your writing?

 On a professional level, I started out writing secular fiction. Then the Lord gave me a clear call to write Christian fiction. I had read very little of it, but took a leap of faith and told a couple people of my switch. God reminded me of a woman with whom I had lost contact, but whom I knew wrote Christian fiction, so I contacted her again. . . And so it went, one step of faith after another led me to where I am.

On a personal level, when I began to sell books, I sold so many so quickly, and at the same time my personal life got rather topsy-turvy with my husband graduating from law school and taking a job across country, that has ended up having us move to different towns in Texas about five times in four years, and through it all, I had deadlines and marketing and. . . Well, it’s taken a lot of faith to get through and meet my obligations to my publishers, my fans, and my family.

 Without my faith, I could not—I would not—do this. I can’t imagine trying to do this work on my own strength.

Fun question : favorite historical figure you'd like to have coffee with and why?

 At different times, I answer this question with various people. Thomas Jefferson because he was just such a fascinating person, James Madison to ask him a few things about the Constitution and what he really meant, and maybe the Bronte sisters to ask them why they loved torturing the men in their books. In truth, however, I think I’d like to sit down with an ordinary woman of each time period that interests me—Colonial, Federalist, Regency periods—and ask them about their lives. From a twenty-first century perspective, we are sure they must have been miserable. I expect many of them were, and I doubt most of them were. The times were different, attitudes were different, and the human psyche hasn’t really changed significantly. Some wouldn’t be happy if, as my mother always says, they got hanged with a new rope. Some are happy because of their circumstances. Some are happy regardless of their circumstances.

 Thanks, Laurie!! I'm sure you're interviewed all the time, so thanks for answering our custom set of questions :) 

And in case you want to go to know Laurie, here's her Bio AND a teaser for Friday's review of her latest release! 

“Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic times of  bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author with a dozen books and novellas in print and more on the way. A graduate of Asbury University with a degree in English and French, and  Seton Hill University, with a masters degree in Writing Popular Fiction, she also teaches writing and gives inspirational talks to women’s groups. She lives in Texas with her husband, dogs, and cats, where she enjoys long walks, rainy days, and knitting—rather badly.

Follow her on Twitter:

Read excerpts from her books at:
She thought she had left her old life behind . . .
Esther Cherrett comes from a proud line of midwives and was trained by her mother to take over the family calling. But when a terrible scandal threatens all she holds dear, Esther flees, taking a position as a teacher in the wild western mountains of Virginia. But instead of the refuge she was seeking, Esther finds herself in the midst of a deadly family feud—and courted by two men on opposite sides of the conflict. All she wants is to run away again. 
But could it be that her past holds the key to reconciliation—and love?
In this gripping story of trust, deception, and bittersweet loss, you’ll discover the true meaning of choices of the heart.
 “The gifted Laurie Alice Eakes has done it again with a page-turner romance. The wonderful period detail sucked me into 1840s Appalachia, while the realistic characters and tender romance kept me reading late into the night.”—Linda Goodnight, Carol and Rita Award–winning author

Monday, January 21, 2013

Made To Meet Our Maker

Okay, I'll admit that I've been overtaken by the Dowton Abbey virus. 
Infected with Intrique.

Maggie Smith's character, the Lady Grantham has some killer lines that make me laugh and wonder. Leave it to the Brits to state things so succinctly and with such great wit. What is it that has made DA such a craze? Don't you wonder?

Perhaps Lady Grantham said it best with this line:  "She's a lady's maid, she lives for intrigue." That is that most all of us feel like commoners--we would cast ourselves as the lady's maid, the downstairs staff. Our lives are mostly full of tasks of life to keep our lives rolling and humming right along much like that of the downstairs staff, thinking all the time that it would be heaven to live like the Granthams.

And without a little intrigue we feel--well, just common.

But we were made for an uncommon purpose--to meet our Maker. 
The downstairs staff of DA--the common man, common woman watches the upstairs world with secret hope of rising above the circumstance they were either born into or made of their lives. And don't we know that feeling? But INTRIGUE inspires HOPE that things could be different. That a light could shine into the doldrums of drudgery and poverty of life or of the soul. INTRIGUE sparks a thought that the STORY might twist and turn out a little less predictably. INTRIGUE HOOKS us from the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Webster's defines INTRIGUE as a secret scheme, the practice of engaging in secret schemes, or a clandestine or hidden love affair. Juicy right? Certainly not boring. Well, I can think of ONE author of the most INTRIGUING  love affair of all time, imprinted in our very nature--HIS handprint on our DNA. And when you read a love story, watch Downton Abbey and see the scheme unfolding, it hooks you in--because we were made to meet our maker, and to fall deeply in love with Him--as He is with us. And when we see a glimmer of this theme, this scheme--it interrupts our commonness and--we love it! We want to believe it.

Psalm 139:
"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?"    "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

Can you see the imprint of His INTRIGUE in your life?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Report: Waiting for Spring, by Amanda Cabot

I first read Amanda Cabot when she released her debut book several years ago, Paper Roses. I did the avid reader thing and bought the book online purely based on the cover design alone! LOL I didn't even read the back. It was a great purchase and I haven't looked back since. In fact, my shelves sport a copy of every single Amanda Cabot book -- except this year's Christmas release, Christmas Roses, which I read and then gifted on to Anne :).

So, what's my review of Waiting for Spring, Amanda's latest and greatest? Love it. Like all the others, her books are rich with history, solid with romance, easy to read but not simplistic, and simply gorgeous covers.

Characters: I met Charlotte in book #1 of the Westward Winds series. I wasn't sure if I'd like her in her own book because she wasn't a super strong heroine type. But we all learn from tragedies. And, without putting in spoilers if you haven't read book #1, let's just say, what happened there, formed Charlotte for book #2. In fact, Amanda writes a seamless progression of character even with the gap between books. It's believable, intriguing, true to character, and enticing. I really enjoyed Charlotte's character even though her personality is so far removed from mine, I was still able to relate. And then there's the hero--Barrett--I enjoyed the fact that Amanda took his character down roads that weren't predictable  he is a motivated individual, but it doesn't go in the direction the reader expects. 'Nuff said.

Romance: Yeppers. Here's where Amanda is great--especially if you want to have a clean, light on the physical romance, and still have romantic tension in your read. Charlotte and Barrett have immediate sparks, have evident attraction, but a would-be politician is no way going to wed a seamstress. Rank, position, and social status is only one element that keeps the apart. The other elements? Really ... you do need to just read the book.

Location: Amanda herself spoke about location yesterday right here on the CCC blog. So head back to yesterday's post and enjoy! Wyoming is one of my favorite states -- well, parts of WY, not the dry, brown, boring flatland part (sorry WY-ers). Anyway, Amanda did her research and did it well.

History: This is a historical and Amanda is a historical writer. I'm finding there's two types of historicals. The writer who puts a story in a historical setting with research and lifestyle elements, and then the writer who immerses their reader in the actual place, historical landmarks, lifestyle, circumstances, etc. Amanda is the latter. She drowns you in history--the kind of drowning you'll love--even if you hated history in high school :)

SO! I loved it. What can I say? I don't think Amanda can write a bad book if she tried! :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Amanda Cabot

Hey all! We have a special visitor to share our coffee time today! I'm so excited to welcome Amanda Cabot and give her the blog today as she shares about writing and her new book and ... well ... here she is!

Author Beware – It’s Not as Easy as it Seems

Using Real Locations for Your Book’s Setting

 What was I thinking?  I’d just finished writing the Texas Dreams trilogy and had loved creating the fictional town of Ladreville, so when my editor asked me to propose a series set in Wyoming, why on earth did I choose Fort Laramie and Cheyenne for the settings?  Did I have a sudden memory lapse, forgetting that the one time I used a real city as a location for one of my secular romances, I agonized the entire time I was writing it, worrying that I’d get hate mail from a reader, telling me that such and such a street wasn’t cobblestoned at the time of the book?

The truth is, I chose real settings for two reasons.  I haven’t queried other authors, but I suspect that if they use real places for their books, their reasons are similar.  So, what were my reasons?  The allure of reality and increased marketability. 

Let’s start with the allure of reality. “Real” fiction would seem to be an oxymoron, wouldn’t it?  After all my Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines fiction as “something invented by the imagination or feigned.”  And yet, even though the stories are fictional, I know that readers of historical fiction enjoy learning facts about the time period and that their enjoyment is enhanced when they have the opportunity to read about places that they may never actually visit.  I could have set Summer of Promise at a fictional fort in Wyoming, but using Fort Laramie, an important and well-known location, gave the book added appeal.  That’s the reason I asked that the back cover copy specifically mention Fort Laramie rather than simply saying ‘Wyoming.’  Similarly, although I could have invented a city for Waiting for Spring, I thought readers would enjoy learning about real-life Cheyenne in the 1880s, when it had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the country.

That leads me to the second point: increased marketability.  Revell has a superb marketing department, but I still think it’s my job to help them.  One way of doing that is to get my books into places that wouldn’t normally carry fiction.  Fort Laramie’s gift shop is a tourist’s delight, filled with books and souvenirs.  The books, it should be noted, are mostly non-fiction.  I knew it was a long-shot, but I really wanted them to carry Summer of Promise, so I approached the Historical Association.  The general manager was intrigued by the premise of the story, and she loved the cover.  (Note: the background is a scene from Fort Laramie.)  But, since we’re dealing with the National Park Service, there’s a rigorous selection process.  Not only did several people on the staff have to read and review the book before they could consider carrying it, but the park superintendant asked them to answer one key question: “Are the details in the book authentic?”  It was only when the readers could answer ‘yes,’ that the Historical Association could order copies of my books.  And now that they carry it, I’ve approached other museums, using Fort Laramie’s decision as an inducement for them to stock copies of Summer of Promise.  I have no idea how many additional sales this will mean, but each new reader is important. 

We’ve talked about the advantages of choosing real locations for a book.  I’d like to debunk two myths.  “Of course you should use a real location.  It’s easier,” one author told me.  I disagree.  Although it’s true that you don’t have to invent street names and other details about the location, the opposite side of that argument is that you need to know all those details.  Simply having a general idea and then fudging won’t work.  Which is the perfect segue to the second myth: readers won’t catch small errors.  Trust me.  They will.  That’s the downside of increased marketability.  Among the new readers that you’ll attract by using a real location are those who are experts on that location.  While they might forgive a few discrepancies, chances are that if you make serious errors, they’ll tell you and – even worse – the world.  Are you willing to risk having reviewers post your inaccuracies?  It’ll happen.  And even if your mistakes aren’t paraded for the online world to see, there’ll be negative word of mouth.  None of us can afford that.

So, how do you avoid bad reviews and what I call hate mail?  There’s no panacea, but I have a few hints.

Read everything you can about your location.  I find the reference section of the library to be a particularly good source of information, especially when I ask a librarian for assistance.  Searching the card catalog reveals many books, but librarians are the experts.  They’ve pointed me toward books that I would never have found otherwise, books, I might add, that have proven invaluable.  Those included diaries of people from the time period which provided a number of important details, including the weather on specific dates.  Readers may not know that my descriptions are accurate, but I do, and that helps me overcome those worries about hate mail.

Look for picture books.  The adage about a picture being worth many words is true, and never more so than when you’re trying to discover what buildings or streets looked like many years ago.  I’ve found the Images of America series to be extremely helpful.  Not only are there hundreds of old photographs in them, but the commentary is typically written by local history experts.  While I borrow most reference books from the library, the Images books are ones I own, because I find myself referring to them almost constantly during the writing process.  (And, no, I don’t own stock in the company.)

Visit the site at the appropriate time of year.  Although I had made two research trips to Fort Laramie before I wrote the book, one was in late summer, the other mid-autumn.  Since my book began in June, I knew I had to return to the fort then.  I was so glad I did!  Not only did I discover that the grass was green then, whereas it had been golden brown on my other visits, but I was able to see how much higher the river was.  Those and a myriad of other details made their way into the story, adding the authenticity that readers expect.  Waiting for Spring was a lot easier, because I live in Cheyenne and have pictures from all months of the year, but I still drove around the city, making sure I could see specific landmarks from the places where my characters would have been.  I know it’s not possible for everyone to travel to a location, especially at a specific time of the year.  If you can’t, search for local residents who can help you with details.  Which leads me to my next hint.

Enlist local experts.  Although I’d read stacks of books about Fort Laramie and had visited it several times, there were still things I didn’t know.  As an example, most visitors to the fort are familiar with Old Bedlam, the large white building that served as the bachelor officers quarters for much of the fort’s history.  The problem was, at the time my story took place, Old Bedlam had been converted to apartments for married officers.  I could find no reference to the building that was used as the BOQ at that time period, so I consulted the fort’s librarian.  She and one of the park rangers pulled out maps and records, and when they couldn’t find any definitive information, they helped me to choose a plausible location.

Don’t make assumptions.  This is actually a corollary to my first two points.  On one of my visits to the fort, I took a picture of two uniforms displayed in the fort’s museum.  One was clearly marked ‘infantry,’ and since my hero was a lieutenant in the infantry, I used that picture as my source, describing the single-breasted coat in great detail.  The problem was, once the Images of America book on Fort Laramie was published, I started studying it and discovered that many of the soldiers wore double-breasted coats.  Why was there a discrepancy?  Again, the fort librarian was of immeasurable assistance.  She provided me with a book that detailed Army uniforms during the nineteenth century.  Half an hour with that book revealed that the uniform in the museum display was for an enlisted man, while the double-breasted coats I saw in the pictures belonged to officers.  My description had to be changed.  Would a reader have caught the error?  Possibly not, but I’m glad I discovered it.

Lastly, if you take liberties, tell the readers.  There are times when an author wants to bend history for the sake of the story.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  After all, we’re dealing with fiction.  But if you do decide to stretch the truth, perhaps by placing a real person in a city where he or she might not have been, mention that in a note to readers.  They’ll appreciate it, and so will you, because your note will forestall criticism.

If I’ve made using real locations as settings for your stories seem like an overwhelming burden, let me assure you that it’s not.  It can be fun to learn the details of a real place and share them with readers.  A real location can help you market your book.  And it can attract new readers to your books. 

Would I do it again?  Maybe.

Waiting For Spring

Almost a year ago, Charlotte had a baby and lost a husband. Hearing that a notorious robber believes she knows the location of a long lost treasure, she flees to Cheyenne and opens a dressmaker’s shop to make a living. When wealthy cattle baron and political hopeful Barrett Landry enters her shop with his lovely fiancĂ©e, Charlotte’s heart betrays her. If Barrett is to be a senator of the soon-to-be state of Wyoming, he must make a sensible match, and the young woman on his arm has all the right connections. Yet he can’t shake the feeling that Charlotte is the woman who holds the key to his heart and his future.

Soon the past comes to call and Barrett’s plans crumble around him. Will Charlotte and Barrett find the courage to look love in the face? Or will their fears blot out any chance for happiness?

Who is Amanda? :)

From the time that she was seven, Amanda Cabot dreamed of becoming a published author, but it was only when she set herself the goal of selling a book by her thirtieth birthday that the dream came true.  A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  She’s delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian historical romances.  Her Texas Dreams trilogy received critical acclaim, and Waiting for Spring, the second in her Westward Winds series, was just released.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Escaping Reality in A Downton Sort of Way

I did it. I forged through Season 2 and can now embark on the 2013 Season 3 journey with the rest of you. Only two episodes to catch up with.

Fine. I won't bore you with oozing love for Downton Abbey. But I wanted to continue last week's discussion for just a bit.

Do you hear yourself talking differently in your head after watching period films and shows? Reading a Regency novel -- does it sway your day to day thinking or are you entertained and then easily leave it behind?

I find myself immersed in it. I signed off an email at work titling myself "Lady Amaretto of Highlander Grogg". I think my fellow associate was a bit wierded out by that, but really, do you expect anything less? And the funny thing is, when I started writing on my book my characters suddenly shifted their English to being more cultured, wordy, refined.
"I do find, my dear, that regardless of the wretched state in which you find yourself, there is simply nothing that might be accomplished to satisfy the greedy nature of your benefactor."
Ouch. I don't write Regency and my characters aren't in England. Ah, well. It was fun while it lasted.

So here's my biggee question: When does a television show, movie, or book become all too consuming? I mean, are we going to start having Downton Abbey Conference with everyone in period costume like Star Wars aficionados don on Darth Vader and breathe louder than any normal human being should? Have you had a book keep you from sleeping not because you reading it but because you can't get it out of your mind? I know one person who's only wardrobe consists of Lord of the Rings t-shirts. Ok. Obsessed, maybe?

Is entertainment sometimes too consuming, too unhealthy, or can we enjoy becoming a bit preoccupied with another time, another place ... escape reality ... 'cause really, I just got my new paycheck with the new tax rate and escaping reality sometimes doesn't seem all that bad.

What do YOU think?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What's Your Chocolate?

Since many of you are not coffee guzzlers, what about Chocolate?
with permission:

My top 5 favorite chocolates:
 1. Nutella
 2. Smore's made over the burner or camp fire
 3. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
 4. Ferrero Rocher Fine Hazelnut candies
 5. Brownies--the ooey-gooey-chewy kind!

Chocolate confessions:
Do you hide your chocolate from yourself?
Pace yourself or no-holds-barred? 
Have it on hand all the time, or treat yourself to something special?
Or have any of your favorite novels included chocolate in any way?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Faith of a Child

When our dog took sick this week, I had a nagging feeling that he wasn't long for this world. Unfortunately, I was right. Saturday found us saying our goodbyes to an old, faithful chocolate lab. Then, as a parent, I face the theological decision "do all dogs go to heaven"? Just because a movie said so, doesn't make it so. Try explaining THAT to a three year old little girl.

I admit, I pulled my wide-eyed little girl into my lap as my own tears fell. "Why are you cryin', Momma?"
"Well, honey ... Charlie is going to have to go to Jesus' house." (So much for theology--I'll go on faith)
" 'Cause Charlie is really sick."
"Well, because he is, honey."
"Take him to the doctor."
"We did honey, but the doctor can't make him better. He'll have to go to Jesus' house and Jesus can make him better."
"But I will miss him." She didn't cry. Just stared at me, as if I could make it all better.
"I know, so will I."
"But he won't come home."
"No, he won't. But he'll be all better--and happy there."
My daughter was contemplative and said not a word.

A few minutes later, my husband came home. Charlie was gone, he explained, as he sniffed and coughed. Not from tears, but from the awful influenza and fever he's been suffering from. My daughter's eyes grew bluer and larger and more serious.

"Daddy, YOU should go to Jesus' house, then you'll get better!"

Ohhhhhh, the faith of a child. I learned something this weekend. Heaven is not a threat. Funny, how we view death as the end. The final separation from all who we love. The end all. Finished. Sure we espouse the hope that we have in Jesus, the pearly gates, and all that, but in reality, let's admit, we secretly weep for the goodbyes that must be said.

I'm not saying I don't still dread the day I kiss the face of a loved one, whoever that may be, and usher them from this earth. I wonder what it will be like to watch as my eyes close in finality and see the anxious faces of my children watching over me as I fade away ... it's all very stark in my writer's imagination.

Yet, this weekend, my daughter in simple faith, was willing to say goodbye to Daddy who she would never see again ... so he would be "all better". Faith. Faith in the hope -- the TRUE AWESOME REAL hope that is eternity in Jesus' house, where we're having such joy we don't desire to return. Sure, she's three and doesn't understand the full implications ... but isn't that what Jesus meant when He said to come unto Him as a child ... like a little one ... without imagination, or dread, or logic, or reasoning, or anything but pure. simple. faith?

We bid Charlie farewell on Saturday. Strangely enough, my daughter has yet to cry one tear. She happily announced today to her grandma that Charlie was at Jesus' house and he was all better. May we face eternity with joy, for separation is but a moment, but we WILL be all better.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Report: WHA?!?

Ok. I admit it. Downton Abbey stole my reading time this week. I didn't even crack open a book and here it is, my week to review one! Trust me, I have Amanda Cabot and Laurie Alice Eakes' latest releases coming, but for now ... my mind has been consumed with Lady Mary, Michael Cromley, Lord Grandwith, Thomas, William, Mr. Bates ... sigh ... the list goes on.

SO! Since I failed you all miserably and don't even have a book to giveaway ... how about you? Care to share a book report? What is the latest story you devoured? I need to add titles to my 2013 TBR pile (assuming I don't squander all my spare time on Downton Abbey)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What's your Coffee?--Can you say Keurig?

Keurig is what's for coffee this Thursday. And I have Starbucks Breakfast Blend ready and loaded in my Keurig coffee maker for the morning.

My honey knows I love coffee and picked the best Christmas gift ever. It's not a cappuccino machine, but close. He knew it would feel like love to me! If you haven't tried a Keurig, you are missing out.
So, even for you tea lovers and hot chocolate drinkers--the Keurig can brew you a hot mug of water to steep your leaves or stir your cocoa. So, you don't have to be a coffee lover to enjoy it.

I grew up without pop in our home on a daily basis. (Some of you call it soda). And my hubby grew up with a pop fridge in the garage right next the beer fridge. You could say I married a bad-guy-transformed, and I don't just mean that he soda pop. But I digress. It's late (Wednesday night--I'm writing this), and that's another story. :)

So several months into our marriage, he realized I wasn't bringing pop home with the groceries on a regular basis. Thus began our life-long discussion about the lack of health benefits of regular soda pop. I tried weaning him to diet. Then I tried only getting it in small quantities. Then I switched him to iced tea. Then we went back to pop--but graduated to Diet-Caffeine-Free-Pepsi.

Finally one day when he was on a particularly--losing side of the argument--he said: 

"But honey, when you buy me Pepsi, it feels like love...." <sad-and-oh-so-convincing-blue-eyes>

He won. He was right. I couldn't change him, his past, or his commitment to pop.

Since that moment, we've settled into a sort of compromise where I often get him a case of diet-caffeine-free-Pepsi, but not often enough to be considered a regular purchase. He buys it whenever he wants.

I'm happy, and he feels loved.

Isn't that the truth though--that what feels like love is often not what the giver would choose for themselves? 

I mean, I got him scuba lessons for Christmas--and you won't catch me with a bubbler and a face-mask-thingy on, covering my nose, under water. No. Not. Going. To. Happen. Did I mention the part where something covers your face--tightly--while under water? (I think I'm sisters with Jody Foster from Nim's Island--okay, maybe only distant cousins level of OCD).

But he was thrilled. It felt like love. And I love my coffee Keurig too.
But the part that is better than Scuba, or Keurig's is the fact that he loves me enough to listen to what makes me feel special.

Take time to listen to what might feel like love to others.
Watch for the opportunity to give a gift worth giving.
Sometimes it's the smallest things that feel like the biggest extra mile, and the most special.

What gift have you given that you highly-disliked, or less-than-cared-for, but knew it felt like love to the receiver?

What gifts have made you feel loved? (big or small)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lady of Yaxley

Yesterday Jaime snared us all in with our obsessions for Downton Abbey. In reading all the comments you left yesterday, I asked myself--who would I have been if I'd have lived then?

Do you know who you would have been?

Some of you know I fell down a rabbit hole recently on I discovered that I married into real Earldom! Yep. My hubby's family descends from the colonial Shermans. The immigrant was the Honorable Philip Sherman who came over in 1633 as an eligible bachelor in his twenties--already sounding like there's a story there!

So, I'm betting I would have been a Lady of Yaxley, which I find humorous since you could say we can be a bit---chatty--yaxley-yackers?

Philip's 4th great grandfather, was Sir Thomas Sherman, Earl of Yaxley, residing Yaxley, Suffolk, England. Yaxley was surveyed in the Doomsday Book dating back as far as the 11th century--some of these documents were found in a chest of the parish church, showing the transfer of lands. Many of these documents are signed by members of the town guild. One document shows a signature of a John Sherman, member of the town "Guildhall" where town meetings would have taken place. It was a town hall until it was returned to a private dwelling and still stands today as the oldest known Sherman residence.

Can you say--ROAD TRIP!! (or hop on a plane!!)

"Guildhall of Yaxley" c: Nicholas Roche

Okay, so it's not exactly Downtown Abbey. I know. But still--the titles sound impressive to me! So, I'm  still wondering what it would have been like to be Lady of Yaxley!

Back to Philip. He was the immigrant and quite the adventurer. After settling in the Massachusetts Bay Colony he became a follower of the dissident ministers, John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson. The movement caused him and other followers to become banished. He joined the Quakers and settled on the north east end of Aquidneck Island in what is present day Portsmouth, Rhode Island. 

His original home built in 1670 still stands:

Okay, admittedly not Downton Abbey, but still--I would LOVE to visit! I feel a research trip coming on! (ROAD TRIP!)

These Sherman men were the stuff of heros. Five generations later, Captain Fortunatus Sherman worked in his father's shipwright yard and captained whaling ships. He later helped collect taxes, food and clothing for the Continental Army and imposed fines and jail sentences for those who failed to support the Patriot cause. It was reported that during the Revolutionary War when the British entered Dartmouth, MA, the first home they burned was his. 

It was said he built another mansion after that. I'm dying to know what it looked like!

This Sherman family is FULL of hero ideas. 
I think the reason Downton Abbey is so fun is that it is so intriguing! 

So, if you were in a period film series--WHO WOULD YOU BE??