Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wonderland Winter Weddings

 Today in my hometown newspaper they printed the following snippet from 100 years ago, on December 24, 1909.

'Many marriage licenses have been issued at the courthouse to couples who have chosen the Christmas season to wed. Up to noon today, 61 licenses had been sold this month, as compared with 35 up to the same time in December 1908.'

In doing a bit of research, apparently Christmastime was a favored time of the year to wed in the 19th century into the early 20th. My great great grandparents were wed on Christmas Day in 1862 when they eloped. 

Imagine for a moment what it must have been like to have a Christmas wedding. Holly and evergreen. Snow. A horse-drawn carriage to carry the couple away on their honeymoon. A reception coupled with the celebration of the Holiday.

To the writers who visit this blog, consider having your hero and heroine wed during the Christmas Season. Think of all you could do with this, instead of a spring wedding.
What conflict could a winter wedding add to your story? Perhaps the carriage meets with snow drifts and they have to abandon it and walk to the nearest lodgings. Perhaps a snow storm delays the grooms arrival and the bride has grown nervous that he may have left her at the alter. 

There are lots of scenarios. I think I'd have a blizzard, their struggle to join each other at the church. Or the storm delays the city clerk from opening the courthouse to issue licenses. Or that they've eloped and hurry off on a sleigh to a cabin in the snowy mountains and get stuck there for days.

Share what you would do with a winter wedding in your story.

Each photograph was taken in 1909. If you move your cursor over the photo you can get a better look at the period clothing and jewelry. The last picture is remarkably clear, as if it were taken in 2009.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Day of His Birth

The Bible does not give the actual date of our Lord's birth in either the Gospels or the Epistles. In the Old Testament scriptures, such as Isaiah, his coming is foretold. The Gospels tell us shepherds were in the fields and there was a star in the east, that magi from Persia saw and followed. These men were not kings, but men who studied the stars. Their journey did not take days, but it is clear by the gospel account that it took a long time, and that when they arrived their found the 'child' in the 'house'. This word for 'child' in Aramaic means a child that is a toddler, not an infant.

So how did we arrive at the date of December 25? It was celebrated as the winter solstice and rebirth of the Sun by the Romans. The earliest reference to celebrating Christmas is found in an illuminated manuscript dated 354 AD. In the 4th century, the Pope and Roman Catholic leaders set the date at December 25 to offset the pagan feast day.

Recently, PBS aired a documentary on the Magi. It was extremely interesting. Scholars have studied the star of Bethlehem, and by 'turning back the clock' through the years, they were able to come up with a theory as to the time of our Messiah's birth. There are two school of thought, as far as I can surmise. In the heavens that night Jupiter, the King star representative of the birth of a king, was in the constellation of Virgo - the Virgin. Thus the date these scholars have come up with is September, in the Jewish month of Tisre, during the Feast of Tabernacles, near or on the Day of Atonement. The other theory is that he was born in April during Passover, that his star was in the constellation of Aries which represented Israel. (Note: This information is based on astronomy, not astrology.)

In my family, we know December 25 is not the actual date of Jesus' birth. So, we celebrate it as a day of remembrance that he came into the world to save us from our sins, and a day for family to gather and express our love and devotion to each other.

Blessings to you throughout the Holidays.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tis the Season for Baking Traditions

 This is one of my favorite cookie recipes at Christmastime. I've made them for as long as I can remember. They were a big hit with my boys when they were little, and remain a family tradition to this day. 
Use your favorite cookie cutters. You can decorate them with sprinkles or ice them when they are cool. A tip to adding sprinkles is to brush the cookies with a bit of water and then add the candies. This recipe can be used for any holiday.

Christmas Shortbread Cookies
3 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
Mix these together in a bowl and set aside

2 sticks of butter softened.
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon of your favorite extract. (I prefer almond.)

First, using an electric mixer, blend the butter until very smooth and creamy. Then add the sugar gradually...egg, and then extract.

Add the flour mixture slowly. You can refrigerate the dough to make it easier to roll out.

Tip: To roll out the dough, lay a piece of wax paper on a counter top or table. Place some dough on it, then another sheet of wax paper. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin. Cut into shapes and lift carefully off the wax paper. 
Place on cookie sheets. Add sprinkles.

Bake at 325
10-12 minutes
Cool on a baking rack before decorating with icing.

Rita Gerlach lives with her husband and two sons in a historical town in central Maryland, nestled along the Catoctin Mountains, amid Civil War battlefields and Revolutionary War outposts. Her newest novel, Surrender the Wind, has received four stars from Romantic Times Magazine, and has been heralded by readers and book clubs as a page-turner, and one of the best historicals they've read this year.

Rita's Website:

An inspirational historical romance makes a great gift. Best price of the year for Surrender the Wind. 

You have my permission to copy and paste this post to your blog. Let's pass on the recipe and a good book.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Agents. Writing. Heroines.

One reason I started this blog is I wanted to share the step-by-step adventure of getting published. I think I did a pretty good job of giving my readers the facts of what happens after you sign a publishing contract. It was an eye-opener! And it was fun! I had no idea what it would be like, and so I figured neither did my fellow aspiring authors. 

So now, I'm moving along in a new path, a new experience. I've been writing for years, and now I have a literary agent that is in my corner, in my ring, coaching me, routing me on, rubbing down my aching muscles (figuratively), putting me back in the ring and keeping me on my feet. That's right. Writers keep your feet on the ground.

So now, InSpire too will be moving in a different path. I'll be blogging about my experience with my agent, in such a way that you will know what to expect when you are offered representation.

Let me begin by saying my agent is first class. She is approachable, kind, friendly, and I felt a connection to her that was a sheer joy. You all know about queries, the etiquette of approaching agents, and the agent search. What happens when an agent replies to you with an offer of representation? Well, first you will probably sit stunned for a few days until it starts to sink in that this is real. You'll receive copies of the contract in the mail. I signed four and sent them back.

It's sinking in now. My heart is beginning to really race that this is for real. I had a phone chat last week with Diana, and when she asked me who I liked to read, I stumbled. I finally got out 'Marylu Tyndall' and 'classics'.  But I failed to say Liz Curtis Higgs is one I greatly admire. Phillip Lee Williams is a favorite secular historical fiction author who I think is the next Mark Twain with his Jenny Dorset novel, as good as John Jakes with his Civil War novels. I kind of froze, and said I pick books out by the back cover blurb. Doe!

We discussed the series I want to write and I gave her a deadline of six months for the first book. However, the sooner I write, polish, and finish it, the sooner she can begin to rep it out there to editors. 

I went out and bought a thick spiral notebook, labeled it 'Before the Scarlet Dawn', and began writing. I already had 30,000 words in my Word document, so I picked up from that point. I've been writing everyday, all day for almost over a week, by hand, and have several chapters written in rough draft. Tomorrow I'll transcribe them to my word doc, edit and revise. I'm going to have this book finished sooner than six months. Writing scenes out by hand for some reason causes my brain to visualize and write faster.

The awesome thing about having an agent like Diana is I now have time to write, instead of sending out queries, proposals, and manuscripts. How wonderful!
My feet are now held to the fire in many ways. Get the books written...but written well. I promise to give my readers a series that will keep them glued to the pages until they read 'the end'. 

If I were to chose actress to play the heroines in this Dusk to Dawn series, they would be the following:

Anne Hathaway as Eliza Breeze Morgan

Natalie Portman as Darcy Morgan (Eliza's daughter in Book 2)

Billie Piper as Sarah Cameron (Book 3) 

Tell me what kind of visual these photos give you of the heroines by posting your comments. What kind of temperament do they possess? What kind of woman do you think each shall be in their respective stories? Do you use visuals to help you develop your characters?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mega Book Signings - How to Pull It Off

Since mid-October, I had been posting on Facebook and Yahoo groups about a book signing event in Maryland that would bring several Christian writers together. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, that joint book signings are more profitable, more fun, and a better way to meet readers, than a solo signing.

How it came together: 
On a sunny afternoon, in mid-September, three writers met for lunch for the first time. Over cups of steaming green tea and plates of fried rice, Leah Morgan expressed her love for Christian authors and her desire to bring them and readers together in the central/western Maryland area. Wanda Dyson and I were enthused about the idea. 

Thus was born the idea of a joint book signing event at Leah's church. In one week, the event evolved from a few authors to ten. When the event day came, we had a total of seventeen authors attending. This came about by contacting authors we personally knew in the area. Most were from Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Leah's favorite author, Lisa Samson, lives in Kentucky. But that didn't stop her from letting Lisa know what she was working on and asking if she would be interested in attending. Lisa brought her bright smile, her pleasant laughter, and her talent to the Hagerstown Hometown Holiday Book Festival and sold lots of copies.

Back to the beginning. Leah approached her pastor about use of the church hall. No problem. The church was behind us one-hundred percent, and anything we needed they would try to provide. The hall was large. The church had large tables that could seat two authors each. The kitchen was right there. Clean restrooms. Lots of parking.

Leah then approached the local Christian bookstore about the event. The church had an account with them, and they could easily provide the books. However, the manager was not interested in the least. This was baffling and disappointing. If any bookstore should be supporting Christian authors it should have been this one. They were also unwilling to put flyers out or a poster up. It was unfortunate. We would have made a lot of money for that store in just 3 hours. 

Having run into a brick wall with ********** Christian Bookstore in Hagerstown, Maryland, Leah decided to approach Borders. The manager was enthused and said he knew this was something big and that Borders would want to be a part of it.  So, after going through some red tape with corporate, Borders supplied the books for the event. They ordered 25 copies per title, and had Leah pick them up and load them into her van.

Leah walked into her local Starbucks and told them about the event. Starbucks donated the coffee. The ladies in the church baked their little hearts out, and the bakery table, as you see in this photo was incredible. The proceeds went to two of the church's ministries. And a gentleman in her church printed up the flyers and posters for free.

We had gift basket drawings. A table set up with free items sent in from CBA authors from across the country, such as bookmarks, postcards, flyers, pens, and magnets. All the authors' books were set up in the middle of the room in genres. The authors' were seated two to a table all along the perimeter. The tables were covered in white tablecloths, and a Christmas tree decorated in gold added to the holiday atmosphere.

Leah contacted the local Christian radio stations, and was asked to do a live interview. Here is the link. You will learn a lot from her if you are interested in pulling an event like this off. Scroll down the page to 'Special Events' - '11/30/09 Leah Morgan.

On the day of the event, authors arrived early to set their tables up and to meet each other. We were provided with a delicious lunch, of chicken noodle soup made by Leah, hot bread and homemade apple butter.

We sold over $3000 worth of books in three hours. Authors gained new fans and new friends. It was such as success that we will have it again next year.

If you want to put an event like this together here are some tips.
1. Meet with a few authors you know that would be interested in putting an event like this together.
2. Let your author friends in the area know you are thinking of holding a book signing and if they'd be interested to let you know.  Make a list. 
3. Secure a location. A church is a perfect place to hold an event of this size. 
4. Meet with the manager of the local bookstore. Tell him/her what the event is. How many authors are attending. What kind of advertising will be done. See if they will set up an account with the church if they do not have one.
5. Acquire a credit/debit card machine from your bank. You will be charge a fee for this. But it will help, in case the bookstore cannot provide a register.
6. Make a trailer video showcasing each author and their books.
7. Make a flyer.
6. Put up a website and a blog about the event.

Solo signings are fine. But joint mega-book signings are a lot more fun for both authors and readers.

Event trivia. One of my high school classmates showed up, and she won my gift basket. We hadn't seen each other in 35 years.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Taking It One Step at a Time

I first began writing in 1989 after my cousin, a famous romance author, handed me one of her novellas at a family reunion. After reading it, I thought to myself 'I can do this'. I had always had the desire to write stories, but never the incentive. Well, I should say the incentive was overshadowed by life. I was distracted from it, and without a nudge from somewhere, it was only in the deep recesses of my mind.

In 1989, I was a new mother, and my focus was on raising my boys, being a homemaker, and a wife. But in the quiet hours when the babies were asleep, or playing quietly in their room together, I would write in my three-ringed binder. 

Years later, I had my first book published, then two more though a print on demand company. It was not a bed of roses, but I learned to separate the hard knocks from the desire to write. I decided no matter if I never got published legitimately I would continue writing stories.

Eventually the hard work and perservance paid off. In August, Abingdon Press published Surrender the Wind. This month I was offered representation by Diana Flegal at Hartline Literary Agency.

Think of your writing career like stepping stones across a muddy path. Take one step at a time. Be patient as you make your way to dry land. If you lose your balance and slip into the mud, pull yourself up, shake the mire from off your feet, and move on. When you reach dry land (publication), there will be more required off you. So be prepared for hard work and deadlines. You'll be going uphill most of the time.