Monday, January 25, 2010

100 Years Ago

Clip from the Frederick News Post, January 24, 1910

The Broken Engagment by George Bernard O'Neill

100 years ago - Mrs. Annie M. Hahn, through her attorneys, Stoner and Weinberg, has entered suit against William H. Dorcus, for alleged breach of promise, asking $15,000 damages. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant promised to marry her, and has refused and neglected to do so, and still refuses.

I had only heard of this kind of thing happening, but now I know it is true. This must have been a lively case and the talk of the town. Imagine, Miss Hahn claims Mr. Dorcus promised to marry her, and then brings a suit against him for failure to follow through. More than that he refused and continued to refuse.

Old newspaper clippings like this are a great resource for writers, in research and in story ideas. Even whittled down to a short scene. In my imagination, I think of Miss Hahn as being either of these:

Unpopular with the gents
Not a looker, but either plain or homely.
One who set her sights on Mr. Dorcus as a bank instead of a husband.

I would take pity on poor Mr. Dorcus. Perhaps he was a well-to-do gentleman and merely an acquaintance of Miss Hahn's. She saw dollar signs all over him.

Of course we could go the other route. Miss Hahn may have been a shy, sweet girl, and plain in her beauty. They may have met at a church social, and in a moment of high emotion, Mr. Dorcus suggested marriage. Or he did it on a dare. Or he meant to be cruel, having no intention of keeping such a promise.

Miss Hahn in her bliss began planning a wedding, and Mr. Dorcus flat out denies he ever proposed and leaves her standing at the alter. Parents or friends could have convinced Miss Hahn to file a lawsuit against him...a nortorious womaniser who was known for breaking ladies' hearts. 

$15,000 was a great deal of money in 1910. She'd been sitting pretty for the most of her life. But if he was a cad, was he getting what he deserved?

I'll be watching the paper to see if they post later clips telling us what the outcome was. 

Who do you think the judge or jury would have sided with? How would you use this in a scene in a novel?

Monday, January 18, 2010


Dear Blog Readers,

If you are on Facebook and we are not friends, please look me up. I have a Wall there, and today I put up a fan page.

The earthquake in Haiti has me grieved and praying. I went to the store this afternoon, and looking around at the shelves fully stock, all the fresh produce, and the rows of bottled water, I paused. I have so much. I'm buying food for my family, I thought to myself. We are not going without. We are not suffering. Thank, God.

In these difficult days we live in, let's count our blessings, hug our family members and friends, do something kind for a neighbor. Above all, thank God for every breathe we take, for each bit of food and each swallow of water that passes our lips, for the clothes on our backs and the roofs over our heads.

'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 
Matthew 25: 35-36

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Parables and Sons

This morning, the first thought that came to my mind was the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The prodigal asked for his inheritance and took off on what seems to be a nagging desire in most young men --- to go out and see the world. 

I was comforted in the fact that even though this son lived lavishly until he exhausted all his money and ended up feeding pigs to make his way, his heart turned back to his father and his home, and he returned most likely a changed man. He realized life was not so bad under his dad's roof. 

I have always been curious why Jesus left out the mother in this story. Perhaps it was a cultural thing. I do not know. What I do know is that is aches a mother's heart when a child says they are leaving home. Six years ago, when my oldest was nineteen, he came home from work and announced he was leaving with a coworker for Phoenix, Arizona, that they would drive out from Maryland and return in a week. I hemmed and hawed. Told him no he wasn't going anywhere. He had college starting in a week. Was he crazy? And he was going with a girl. They were only friends, but still!

He reminded me he was over eighteen, and out the door he went. I was a wreak. The entire week, he never called. But the girl's mother did, and they were fine. He saw the Grand Canyon, and returned home a day early. I was in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he bounced in all tan, dirty, and sweaty, shouting, "Mom, I'm back. See I'm okay." I hugged him, cried at bit, and then smacked him on the shoulder saying, 'Don't do that again.'

My youngest (22) came to us a few weeks ago announcing that his metal band will be going on tour for three months, as far west as Chicago, as far north as Portland, and as far south as Orlando. They are heading out in a conversion van, fully stocked, and will pull a trailer with all their equipment. 

We've been told they plan to wash up in rest stops and gas stations. That they will sleep in the van because they cannot afford motels, and will eat at cheap restaurants, buy food from grocery stores, and have the best time of their lives playing music from town to town. It's his dream, and he is a talented guitarist.

It's hard to let go, to not worry. I don't know what I'd do without writing. It gets my mind off things, and gives me a respite from worry. I sometimes wonder if we reap what we sowed in our youths. I caused my parents a great deal of worry. Once my hubby and I, in our twenties, hitched hiked from Kansas to New Mexico, and I never told them about it. Not until several years later when we were back in Maryland. Even then, they were horrified.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Plateform Building - Part 2

The most important aspects of an author's platform is readership and networking.

The following is a list of how to build your platform in order to gain a wide readership (fan base) and a network ( both fan base and sphere of influence), two groups of people that will follow your career and anticipate your work. To a publisher, this is a plus that you have a broad audience waiting for your next release, which translated means potential book sales. The larger your platform, the larger the sales, both nationally and internationally.

Now I realize the following seems like marketing. But when it comes to building a platform, it is really promotion. Marketing is getting your work into the hands of readers. Promotion is building a name.

Ways to Build Your Platform

  • A fantastic website that reflects your genre, that is graphically attractive to fans of the genre. It is more important than most realize that your site is pleasing to the eye. Just as a reader will judge a book by its cover, often times so will a visitor to your site judge it the moment it comes up on their computer screen.
  • Writer's Blog: Think outside the box. What would your readers want to read about on your blog. What would writers want to read? I skip blogs that are more like a daily diary. Your readers may not be interested in what your cat did today, or what your baby did, or the details of a meeting with your child's teacher, or your crazy boss. Instead they want to read about your writing journey and the craft.
  • Social networking sites: Facebook works best for me.
  • Author Interviews: Lots of bloggers are looking for authors to interview.
  • Email Newsletter: Keep it simple and be sure people on your list want it. Otherwise they will think it is spam. If you can afford it, check out ---
  • My Newsletter Builder:
  • Conference Attendance: This can be expensive so choose wisely.
  • Invite readers to sign up for your 'readership list'. This can be down in a few different ways.
    1. At book signings have an attractive sign-up sheet on the table. 2. Sign up link from your website. 3. Add to your email signature a sentence about signing up alongside your email address.
  • Ask Other Writers you know to put up a link to your site. Ask bloggers to include your blog. Always reciprocate the kind gesture. The more popular the author the more potential you will have.
  • Influencers: Send out an all mailing to readers and writers requesting 'influencers'. You provide them a free copy of your book with the understanding if they like it, they will pass it on by word of mouth, through their website, or write a review.
  • Business Cards: These can attract people to your website.
If you have any other ideas to add to the list, please post them in  'Comments'.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This is a tough business and it seems not a day goes by that writers are not asked to do more, follow another rule or guideline, promote harder and find innovative ways to do it, and then grin and bear the tough road we tread. I hope this article helps, or at least encourages you to persevere and to enjoy the journey.

For the majority of authors, writing a novel is a rewarding experience, a joy, a burning desire fulfilled. The other side of the experience involves promotion and marketing. Marketing is getting your book into the hands of readers. Promotion is building a name. It's like having a toolbox. In order to build a house, you have to have the right tools to do it. The same applies for writers building their careers. You must have the right tools in order to succeed.

One tool in the toolbox is a platform. In today’s world of competitive publishing, the writer's platform mainly applies to non-fiction writers. If you glance over the non-fiction titles in bookstores, you will find celebrity names galore. It is their name, their fame that initially sells their books. Who they are is the foundation of their platform.

What about fiction writers? Can they build a platform in order to attract an audience of readers? Certainly. First, the writer needs to know what the author’s platform is. The Webster’s Dictionary defines platform as 'a raised flooring or stage for performers, speakers, etc.' For the writer marketing their work and promoting their name, the platform is an imaginary stage, where the author is in full view of a target audience of potential readers. It is in a word a circle of influence.

For the fiction writer the platform is not so narrow except in the area of genre. Most people would like to read a good yarn. The platform therefore is broader. It's like throwing a stone into a pool of water, causing a rippling effect. Say your genre is historical fiction. The center of the ripple is readers that prefer historical novels above all other genres. The writer targets that group, and word of mouth advances in ripples. The writer can then branch off their platform to influence other types of readers by having a platform that promotes a good story.

What does a platform do for you as an author and what kinds of things have you done to build your platform?

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year

Happy New Year, everyone.

I thought I'd start the year off by posting a recent review for Surrender the Wind. If you haven't read the novel yet, maybe this will convince you.

"Author Rita Gerlach is a new-to-me author, and I loved this book. I was transported away to a time of manor homes, horse and carriages, and faithful servants. The English countryside grew before my eyes as Rita skillfully detailed the surroundings.

If you haven't watched the book trailer, please watch it! The book is every bit as good and intriguing as the trailer says it is!

To me, Surrender the Wind is not only Seth's story but also his sister Caroline's story. Both of them along with Juleah are wonderfully developed characters. I'm hoping that the author plans to continue the Braxton family story now that they live in America.

If you enjoy historical fiction, I have to give this book a definite thumbs up to put on your reading list!" ~ Kara S. of


I've redesigned my website.