Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Applesauce Cake Recipe

Family recipes are always a treasure to pass down. I remember my mother making this cake all the way back to when I was a little girl. It was my father's favorite, and my husband claims I reeled him in with this delicious cake. It is an old fashioned recipe passed down and I have no idea how far it really goes back. I've guarded this recipe but it's time I shared it with you, my friends.

Rita's Grandmother's Applesauce Cake

1 cup of shortening - butter or margarine. (My grandmother and mom used Crisco)
1 cup of sugar

Cream these together until well blended.

1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of ginger

Mix well.

Add together -
3 cups of shifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Add to mixture. Then add:
2 cups of applesauce
2 tablespoons of dark molasses
1 box of raisins
1 cup of walnuts (optional)

Bake at a preheated 350 oven for 1 hour.

Icing is optional. If you use icing, use a glaze made of powdered sugar and milk.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chance to Win a Signed Copy of 'Surrender the Wind'!

Melissa Morris has posted a piece on her blog about 'Surrender the Wind'. Those that comment have the chance to win a signed copy of my novel.

So jump over there as soon as you can, add your comment, and let's see who wins!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book 2 in a Series

Okay, I promised I would blog regularly about the evolution of a book series. I'm doing my best to keep my word. So, to help me along with this, post questions in the comment section and I'll try my best to answer them.

Book 1, Before the Scarlet Dawn, is now in the capable hands of my new editor Ramona Richards at Abingdon Press. It is ahead of the due date, but that is mainly because I started this novel exactly a year ago. Now I am working on Book 2, Beside Two Rivers. I hope I am not being repetitive, but this book originally began as a stand alone. Barbara Scott, the editor at Abingdon at the time, gave me some plot ideas and I started to rewrite those first chapters I had sent to her. Then it occurred to me this needed to be a series.

Anyway, I am saturating myself into Darcy's story in book 2. It has started off a bit on the humorous side in regards to the family she is living with. A nervous aunt, an understanding uncle, and five female cousins. She is unlike them all, except for having some of the traits of her Uncle Will, who is her father's half-brother.

I had to set this novel aside in order to write book 1. What I am doing now is revisiting the over 200 pages I wrote, and editing them as I go. This gets me back into the story. Then I'll pick up the pace to finish the book.

Here is a tip for writing a series. As you write book 1, keep a log in your other notebooks, of events and scenes that have those characters in it. This way when you are writing books 2 and 3, you will be able to transition to them easily.

For example, Darcy sudden recalls an event from book 1 when she was a child, but only in part. This scene will play a major role in book 2 when Darcy questions what it means, what exactly had occurred that day, and how she deals with what her father told her. It certainly struck fear into this child's heart.

'Darcy shut her eyes and forced back one memory. That of her mother lying still and pale. She could not see Eliza’s face, only a flow of dark hair. She remembered the firm touch of her father’s hands, the sound of his voice, and the words—You’ve heard of Hell, haven’t you? Well, that’s where your Mama will be.'

It is a terrible thing to tell a child, but such were the times she was living in. Since it was a major event in her young life, I have had to reflect on how it effected her, and how this plays out in her life as a young woman.

So keep a good record of events for the subsequent books. It will make writing them much easier. You won't have to jump back and forth between your manuscripts, nor will your readers ask why they were not included. If I fail to include what I shared with you from book 1 in book 2, the story would lapse in authenticity and flow. However, do it with a delft hand. Do not rewrite the scene, only mention it in a way that moves the story forward---briefly in either narrative, which should be very short, in or dialogue. I'm not suggesting flashbacks. They are lengthy and bog down the story. Avoid them, because the reader's interest will be in the unfolding of events in the present.

A brief mention of an event (backstory) that occurred in your character's past that has had an effect on them in the present will add depth to your character's motivation, illuminate their struggle, and explain who and what they are.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finished...for now.

I cannot describe the feeling when I clicked 'send' and off went the manuscript for Before the Scarlet Dawn to Ramona Richards, my new editor at Abingdon Press. Nervous? A little, yes. Worried? A bit. I think every author goes through these feelings. You wonder if the manuscript is good enough, and will the editor like it. You wonder if you polished it enough when you did the self-edits. And you hope readers will like the book. It's natural, I think, to have these thoughts.

I will say that even if this book were not going to be published, it still would have been a joy to write. Writing my other novels was a wonderful experience. But for some reason Eliza Bloome Morgan leapt out at me and took hold of my heart. She became so real to me, that when I typed the last line, my eyes teared. I wasn't saying goodbye. No. I was saying, 'I'll see you in book 2, Beside Two Rivers'. I have a glimmer of what is to happen to Eliza, the kind of things she will be experiencing. Will she ever regain acceptance in society? Will she ever see again a particular person that meant more to her than anyone in the world?

If you are not yet published, but you are writing, please enjoy the journey. Don't allow yourself to be blue for too long when you get a rejection. Write because you love to and because you are called. Be patient with your work. That doesn't mean you don't work on it every day. At least try to get some writing done each day. I have a schedule where I work Monday through Saturdays and I take Sundays off. I work in between loads of laundry, grocery shopping, making meals for my family, etc.

I titled this post 'Finished...for now'. Do you know why? Because a book is never finished until the editor give the final approval and it goes to print. Novels will go through at least three major edits. So keep that in mind. Your editor will be your partner in polishing your novel to a high sheen.

Keep writing.
Don't give up.
Be patient and persistent.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Writing from Life

Not long ago, I received a phone call from my friend and fellow storyteller, Wanda Dyson. During our conversation, she told me how a snake had found its way into her chicken coop and devoured several eggs and almost all her baby chicks. I'd been working on a scene for 'Before the Scarlet Dawn' and this tale of snake and chicken owner sparked my imagination. I was, however, heartsick for the poor baby chicks.

I declared to Wanda, I could use this in a scene and that I'd give her credit for the inspiration. She thought it was a great idea.

And so, when you read 'Before the Scarlet Dawn' you will come to a scene where Eliza's servant bounds into the house, wide-eyed and trembling, once she has seen a large black snake slivering in the coop that scares all the hens up to the rafters. Eliza loads a musket and out the door she goes to take care of the thief. Here is a snippet.

Her eyes scanned the nests and she backed away upon sight of the snake’s sleek body slipping over the edge of the box down to the straw-laden floor. The head she could not see but frowned at the sight of the egg-shaped bulge. A shiver rushed through her limbs, and her hands gripped the musket, and when she cocked the hammer, she raised it to her shoulder. But before she could fire, the serpent wound its way through a crack in the boards and slipped out.

“Oh no you don’t!” She hoisted her skirts to her knees, and hurried to the back of the coup where the snake wound its way between clumps of grass. She raised the musket again, sucked in her breath and took aim. Squeezing the trigger, the musket cracked. Smoke blinded her view and she stumbled back. Fanning it away, she stepped cautiously forward and looked to see if she had gotten the dreadful intruder. Indeed she had, for the flesh lay torn open, red against motionless black and the green grass.

She smiled. Hayward would be so proud of me. Then her breath caught in her throat at the cry of a jay. And when a flock of sparrows sprang from the edge of the forest, a cold sweat prickled over her skin. Hayward had taught her the signs, and she made Fiona swear to hide with Darcy at the first sight of danger.

I won't spoil any more of the scene than I have to, but this leads Eliza into serious trouble. Can you imagine what kind? The year is 1781. The place, the Maryland frontier.

Keep a sharp ear when people share their experiences with you. Think of some of your own and draw from them. But never use something someone shared with you that is personal and private in a scene.

Have you drawn from experiences of your own when writing, or from incidents others have shared with you?