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?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Chex Muddy Buddies Recipe

This is a fun recipe for a holiday snack, especially for the kids.

Chex Muddy Buddies Recipe


9 cups Chex cereal
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar


Pour cereal into large bowl; set aside. In 1-quart, microwave-safe bowl combine chocolate chips, peanut butter and margarine. Microwave at 100-percent power for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until smooth, stirring after 1 minute. Stir in vanilla. Pour chocolate sauce slowly over cereal, stirring to coat evenly. Pour cereal into large plastic bag. Add powdered sugar and secure; shake to coat well. Spread on waxed paper to cool.

Makes 10 cups

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Pumpkin Bread


1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup of raisins ~ optional
1 cup of chopped walnuts ~ optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray loaf pans with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Add raisins and walnuts. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


Read Chapter One to Surrender the Wind
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

In a Series of Questions

Have you written a novel series? Or perhaps you have considered writing one but feel a bit overwhelmed by the idea? Have you a proposal you want to send to publishers? Perhaps you are not a writer, but you enjoy reading historical series.

Wherever you are in this journey, in the 'comments' section of the post, please send in your thoughts and questions about writing a series.

This is your chance, too, to have some promotion on my end. I will go through the comments and post back snippets in this post along with links to your websites and blogs.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Read the below authors' comments in full by clicking on the 'comment's link.


From Roseanna White: I like to have a unifying theme in a series (location, social group, etc( but have a new hero and heroine for each.

From Loree Lough: I've written about a dozen different series ("Suddenly," "Accidental Blessings," "Turning Points," "Lone Star Legends," etc.) and in each, there's at least one "connecting thread." It could be the characters (or even secondary characters), the setting, or a time period.

From Marylu Tyndall: Joining with the other answers, the three things that tie them together are characters, setting, and theme.

From Carrie Fancett Pagels: Overcoming trials is the theme and how immigrants must release their old lives and embrace new ones.
Website & Blog:

From Golden Keys Parsons: I really enjoy series -- both writing them and reading them. I agree with all of my colleagues concerning a unifying theme.

From Laura Frantz: I'm beginning my first series of a family that spans 100 years (4 generations), so what others say here is so helpful.

From Melissa K. Norris: I have quilts as one unifying theme throughout my books. You can see a picture of my current quilt, which also ties in with my first novel of proposed trilogy, Journey of Promise, on my website.

From J M Hochstetler: I'm also developing several secondary characters into POV characters and adding their storylines as the story develops in order to broaden the series' scope. I really feel you can give a story more impact and characters more depth when you allow them to develop over time.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Evolution of a Novel Series ~ Setting

Not long ago my fabulous editor, Barbara Scott, shared with me how the setting of a novel, a location such as a manor house, home, etc. can be a character in your novel. How so? It is the touch point for several elements.

Time: Seasons. Day or night. Month or year in scene.
Place: A fictional or real town, city, village, or dwelling. Showing a scene inside or outside.
Mood: Brings forth the atmosphere of the scene and setting. Is the setting a dark place? Is it a cheerful place? It could be a drafty old house, or a warm one with hearth fires and heavy quilts on the beds.

Your storyline will need a setting that reflects all it encompasses.

Here are a few links I've used to help me narrow down a setting. Obviously, in the Daughters of the Potomac Series, the setting is along the Potomac River in the late 18th century. The books are also set in England, in the Hope Valley. I chose both settings for a purpose. They reflect the storyline.

If you are contemplating where to set your novel, try these links.

Pictures of England is a wonderful website showcasing towns, villages, counties, and attractions in England.

America in Pictures:

Discover USA Places: Click on cities on the map and get information.

Castles of Britain:
Castles of America by state:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Selecting Your Series Time Period

I had to ask the question, what are today's CBA publishers looking for in a novel series?
  • They want three books that can stand on their own, that conclude with all the plot threads wrapped up.
  • A trilogy with some thread that ties them together.
  • Heroines as the main characters.
  • Romance, and with historicals the facts, as one editor put it, as 'window dressing' to the story.

With that in mind, the deepest question to ask is, 'How do I tie these stories together?' I think it is evident in all our lives, that the lives of others have influenced us. Knowing this, I have created three heroines that have made decisions that ultimately effect the lives of the others.

There are other writers following the same vein. Marylu Tyndall is an excellent example in her 'Charles Towne Belles Series', three novels, three sisters. Each novel can stand on its own, but the reader is given the chance to follow each sister, each making an appearance in each book, and see how the decisions one makes effect the other two. It's a fascinating concept, although it is challenging to write.

My advice to those of you who are not yet published, or you have only published one or two novels, try your hand at creating a novel series. How?

Determine what time period you want these stories to take place in. Do not write in a time period you do not like. I for example you may not a fan of ancient history. So do not write a story that takes place in ancient Rome. You will regret you ever started. You must love the period you are writing in, in order to love writing it, love the storyline, and connect with your characters.

You do not have to be a historian to make this decision. Simply ask yourself the following.

  • What time in history fascinates you?
  • What time in history do you like in the novels you read?
  • What are some of the more popular times readers seem to prefer? Go to Amazon and browse the historicals.
  • What time periods are publishers most interested in? Go to their websites and check out there list of novels they are promoting.
One way to narrow this down, and to gather some interesting historical facts to 'window dress' you novel is website that have time lines. Here's a good one.

This site has both BC and AD years. Click on a year and they will give you a calendar of events that took place that year.

Are you considering a novel series?
What do you find the most challenging about writing a series?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Visuals When Writing a Series

One thing that helps me develop my characters is visuals. I love old photographs in black and white or sepia. They take us back into the past, and away from the bright lights that distract us in our times.

Visuals enable a writer and her readers to 'meet face-to-face' with characters. I had to search Google for these, but they are the closest images to how I see my heroines in the Daughters of the Potomac Series. And this is how I want my readers to see them. Not a drawing on paper, or a painting, but images from the past that portray such a character.

The first photo is an exact representation of Eliza Bloome in Before the Scarlet Dawn. Everything from her expression to her stance speaks of her. Her gaze is somewhat defiant, as if she could take on the world. It expresses bravery and fortitude.

This image is how I see Darcy Morgan, Eliza's daughter, in the novel Beside Two Rivers. Her face shines with loving kindness. Gentleness and femininity glow in her eyes. Can you see what kind of young woman she is? Passionate and poetic?

And finally, her is Sarah, my heroine in Beyond the Valley. She has a faraway gaze that matches the title. She is beautiful, but her expression is one of loneliness.

So, while writing your novel, search for an image of your character and draw from it their inner and outer qualities.

In the comments, please share if you have done this, and if you have your image on your blog or website, share the link with us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Evolution of a Novel Series -- Eliza Bloome

Once the idea for the series took shape, I had to set aside Beside Two Rivers and begin book 1 Before the Scarlet Dawn.

Book 1 ~ At the beginning I had questions.
Who is Eliza Bloome?
Where did she grow up?
Who were her parents?
What does she look like?
What are her beliefs?
What does she want?

Eliza began to take form deeply in my imagination. I saw a young woman with raven hair, clear skin, and violet eyes whose heart is longing to be loved for the person she is, not for her beauty. She is a bit naive when it comes to the ways of the world.

She is the daughter of a vicar and lives with him at a small vicarage in the Hope Valley in Derbyshire, England until his death. Her mother died when she was a baby.

Eliza loves God and wants to do the right thing. She believes with all her heart that He is guiding her to the man she longs for. What she wants most is to be loved unconditionally, and to be accepted for her mind and soul, to find a husband who treats her as his equal.

To get this all down on paper, I jotted down these attributes in my notebook for Before the Scarlet Dawn. In writing the story, the best technique for me is writing the scenes out by hand first in the notebook. Each novel has its own. Writing freehand, for some reason I cannot explain, causes the words to flow out of me. It is raw, unedited prose. Perhaps it has to do with the right side of the brain, the creative side. All I know is this technique is what helps me start and finish a novel.

The story begins its evolution with Eliza sitting at her father's beside late at night. A knock on the door echoes up the staircase. The servant of a local gentleman must speak to Reverend Bloome in private. And what he has to tell, launches the story.

Sounds a bit crazy, but I pictured Eliza telling me 'write my story'. She became to me a person who once lived, breathed, and walked this earth. If I could not achieve that, my readers will not connect to her.

So in the evolution of book 1 in the series, I began with characterization. Eliza, being the main character, comes on stage in chapter one awaiting the inevitable. She then moves on and readers begin to meet the people in her life. Her devoted servant, Fiona Goodall. A suitor whose sees winning her as a challenge named Langbourne. And then the man Eliza loves above all others - Hayward Morgan---proud, wealthy, and in search of a stalwart wife. The major players are in place, and the question arises. Will Hayward love Eliza unconditionally? Will he see her as his equal, and be devoted to her no matter how much the storms of life rage against them?

As a reader, what intrigues you the most about a series?

As a writer, what kinds of things intimidate you about writing a series?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Evolution of a Novel Series ~ How it came to be.

Two years ago, after I had signed a contract with Abingdon Press for my stand alone novel 'Surrender the Wind', I sat down at my computer and wrote three words.

Winter came early.

In my mind's eye a heroine by the name of Darcy Morgan appeared. The year is 1778. The setting is the Maryland wilderness.

In the opening Darcy is a little girl, with a head full of ringlets and large dark eyes. In another room her mother is giving birth, and Darcy is bewildered by the event going on.

I titled the novel Beside Two Rivers. In my notebook I wrote: the place ~ along the Potomac River in Maryland. Time ~ the Revolutionary War era.

I kept writing, and when I had enough chapters to submit to my editor, I sent them off. She called me and said as is, she could not accept it. I asked her why. She went on to tell me it had to do with two characters in the beginning chapter, female slaves. This is a soft spot for some readers. But I think Barbara was seeing something deeper. This novel needed to evolve into something more.

I asked her if I could change the characters and resubmit. I could and a revision began. These two characters that I reinvented would turn out to be more than just blips on a page. They would change the course of the book.

One character I rewrote became Fiona Goodall. Fiona is British, middle-aged, the housekeeper to Reverend Matthias Bloome, who helps him raise his daughter Eliza after his wife's death. Fiona is the most loyal individual you'd ever want to meet, full of warmth and devotion. She never leaves Eliza's side if she can help it. Although she is a servant, she gives sound advice and pearls of wisdom to Eliza when she is in need of guidance.

The other character evolved into Sarah Carr. Sarah, also English, is a mild young woman with a big heart. She has an impediment. One leg is shorter than the other, and so she limps, and endures being less than perfect in people's eyes. Sarah's story will be told in Book 3, Beyond the Valley. But she appears in Book 1 which sets up some of the scenes in her novel.

It was amazing enough to have my dear editor point out the changes needed to be made in my characters. But more amazing were the revelations that unfolded one morning while I was in the shower. It hit me like the water suddenly going to freeze mode. I had written a good portion of Darcy's story in Beside Two Rivers. But I realized I had to write her mother Eliza's story. And then! I had to write Sarah's story. Thus came the series, Daughters of the Potomac.

I sent Barbara the tip sheets, and she took it to the fiction committee. They offered me a contract, and gave me deadlines.

Now, to get into this serious business of writing this series, I'll tell you what I do to start. This may help if you are considering writing a series. A lot of CBA publishers want them. I gather supplies. Yes, supplies. You ask, "Isn't the computer enough?" The answer is 'no'.

My list>

The thickest spiral notebooks I could find for each title.
A ton of pens.
A small note pad.
All the classical music CDs we have in the house, downloaded to my Windows Media Player.
Boxes of printer paper.
A box of tissue...for those moments when I get weepy over a scene.
A sign for my door. There it is opposite. I found it on a clip art site.

As I write 'Evolution of a Novel Series', I would love to hear from you. What questions do you have, or comments, about writing a series? Please post them, and I'll attempt to answer every one of them.

Evolution of a Novel Series ~ Introduction

Ever wonder what it is like for a writer to develop a book series? If you are not yet published, or you are but your books have been stand-alones so far, perhaps you'll be interested in reading these posts as I unfold over the next year the evolution of a book series.

A book series in today's market consists of three novels. The stories can stand alone or be connected. To sell a series to a publisher, you first have to write a proposal. I am open to sending mine for 'Surrender the Wind', my stand alone novel to anyone who would like to see what goes into a proposal.

Typically, if you are unpublished, you must have a book completed in order to send it to a publisher. So if you are in this situation, write a novel, and work hard to get it published. It isn't easy, but believe me, it can happen. Once your foot is in the door you can begin writing proposals and selling books before they are written. Then the fun begins of facing deadlines.

I know I'm throwing a lot out here at once. So let's get to the point. This book series thing...I'll be posting about the progress, so you'll know the ins and outs, the ups and downs, and see through this author's eyes the evolution of the Daughters of the Potomac Series --- from the first blank page to the last in book 3.

I hope you stick with me. And I hope I can inspire you to fulfill your dream of writing a series.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Truth in Fiction

My fabulous editor at Abingdon Press writes an outstanding blog called 'The Roving Editor'. She shares with her readers valuable information about the Christian publishing industry. Her blog is a 'must read'. On Friday she wrote about Truth in fiction.

She wrote:
Christian fiction contains more truth than the realities of life in our confusing world. Grasp that fact, write from the truth in your heart, and you will not need to include a conversion scene in your novel. His Holy Spirit will show the truth in your stories to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

I'm attaching this to my computer as a reminder of how I should write fiction, not from a world view but from a view of the Truth. Our characters are to face the harsh realities of life, and through faith find deliverance, freedom, redemption, and forgiveness.

Think about the book you are writing now. Are you writing from the truth in your heart? How do you 'show' through your characters Truth to your readers?

You can read 'The Roving Editor' by clicking on this link.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Lines

There you are sitting at your desk in front of your computer, staring at the blank, stark white screen before you. Finally you lift your fingers to the keyboard and type in your name, address, and email address in the upper left hand corner, single spaced. You come down the page, type the title and your name. Then you move to the next page and type CHAPTER ONE.

Again there is a long pause as you contemplate the first line to your story. You see your heroine in your mind. What is she doing? Where is she?

You type a sentence, erase it, and begin again. You know it has to draw the reader in, make them want to keep reading. This first line is crucial. It has to motivate the reader to read on.

Most people will tell you when they are in the bookstore and they are searching for something great to read, they first look at the cover, then the back cover blurb, then they read the first line. Covers by their beauty can capture the readers imagination, and the back cover blurb give them a little taste of what the book is about. But that first line or two will be what cinches a sale. If it is dull, if it doesn't give the reader a strong visual image, they will like put it back on the shelf.

So how does a writer come up with a great first line? Here are some tips.

1. As you begin, close your eyes and visualize your character, where they are, and what they are doing. Write what you see in your mind's eye.

2. Use strong verbs to bring out the action.

3. Do not write a rambling sentence that goes on and on.

4. Go back later and read your first line, and ask yourself would you buy this book.

If you want your reader to be emotionally involved in your character, the opening lines are the key because it is the introduction between your heroine and your reader.

Here are a few first lines from the Daughters of the Potomac Series I am writing for Abingdon Press. Which make you want to keep reading and why? Which do not?

From 'Beyond the Scarlet Dawn', Book 1.
Eliza Bloome woke from the tattered high-backed chair when the front door downstairs slammed shut.

From 'Beside Two Rivers', Book 2

It had been her favorite place to retreat since she was nine, when she had discovered it one summer twilight while trekking with her cousins over the ridge that shadowed the Potomac.

From 'Beyond the Valley', Book 2

Sarah Carr would never look at the moon in the same way again.

Do you have a first line you'd like to share? Post it in the comments. Comment to some of the others poster's lines. Let us know, if you'd buy this book.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Can you imagine this being printed in the newspaper today? It was printed in the Frederick News Post 100 years ago on September 17, 1910.

'Troubles in the family of Mr. Lewis Tomlin, West South street, resulted in a fight between Mr. and Mrs. Tomlin last night. The scrape it is alleged, resulted in Mrs. Tomlin getting the best of the bargain, as Mr. Tomlin is said to have received a bad cut on his wrist, which bled profusely and which required the services of a physician.'

I guess nothing is new under the sun. We read all kinds of terrible things in the newspapers . . .things much worse than this. But the wording of the clip is what got me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Paige Turner's Book Club

I've a new blog spot to tell everyone about. Please pass the word. Fictional character and lover of all things literature, Paige Turner has a site listing some great novels.

Hope you check it out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Deeper Look into Surrender the Wind

~ When an American patriot of the Revolution inherits his grandfather’s estate in faraway England, he inherits more than an isolated manor house. He discovers Juleah’s love and a plot that leads to kidnapping, murder, and betrayal, in this stirring tale of fidelity and forgiveness. ~

Instead of answering interview questions, I’m commenting on some quotes from reviewers to give my readers a deeper glimpse into the storyline in Surrender the Wind.

* * *

From author Marylu Tyndall ~ Ms. Gerlach's historic research is evident throughout the story, and her attention to detail and literary descriptions of scenes placed me right in the middle of the action.

If a writer wishes to write a historical novel, research is a vital, essential part of developing a great story. When I began Surrender the Wind, I read numerous accountants of the Battle of Yorktown where the book opens in the prologue. I researched uniforms, dress, weaponry, food, and culture.

As the book moves forward into Chapter 1, the reader is taken to England, to a crumbling manor house in Devonshire. The historical research from this point on had to be in the details. I wanted my reader to see in their mind the scene, outdoors and indoors. Everything from a tallow candle in the socket of a brass candlestick, to the blue and white pitcher and bowl on the heroine’s washing table, adds strong visual imagery. My editor told me once that a place can become a character in a book. I feel that is true for Ten Width Manor. It's walls hold secrets of lives past and present in the story. Because it is the ancestral home of the Braxtons, Ten Width has a stronghold on those living in it.

Then there are the historical cultural markings in a book that make up the characters. Dress. Etiquette. Traditional family life. I studied 18th century wills and marriage customs, the fashions of the period, and how the classes interacted with each other.

* * *

From author Linda Clare ~ The American Revolutionary period comes to life as Gerlach explores themes of patriotism with a faith element.

In America today there is a resurgence of patriotism. We are returning to our roots, our Constitution, and faith. In the 18th century faith played a major role in the lives of people in both the Colonies and United Kingdom. In Surrender the Wind, I bring faith into the story as a lifestyle. It is delicately woven into the characters' personalities. One thing I did not want to do is write a ‘religious novel’. My goal was to write a novel where readers would become immersed into the characters by relating to the struggles they faced which bring about spiritual breakthroughs.

* * *

From Annette Temple ~ A Well-Watered Garden Blog' This book is one of the most romantic books I've ever read. The passion and love that is poetically described between Seth and Juleah was rousing.

I am so grateful to Annette for this comment. She helped me realize that I achieved my goal. Most of us ladies want a bit of romance in our stories, don’t we? We want a hero that is tough with the world, but tender with his lady. And a heroine that is strong in the face of tribulation, but swept away by the love of a man. Romance in a novel, in my opinion, is the most intriguing when what is written is just enough to leave the rest up to the reader’s imagination. In Christian fiction a writer brings out romance deftly, love that goes beyond the material, but deeper into the heart and spirit of the characters.

I’ll close here with a romantic excerpt from Surrender the Wind . It is Seth and Juleah’s wedding night. I hope you will consider reading my novel, and keep an eye out for the release of book 1 in a new series, Daughters of the Potomac, coming out in May, 2012, entitled ‘Before the Scarlet Dawn’.

* * * * * *

In his bedchamber, which they now shared, Juleah slipped on her silk nightdress. Thin white ribbons laced the front. She sat at the dressing table brushing her hair. Tinted with the golden splendor of the candles, she smoothed it over her shoulder and ran her fingers down its length. Excitement filled her, tripped over her skin along with desire. She glanced around the room. How masculine it appeared. A fresh coat of paint would improve its appearance, and white curtains over the windows would bring it warmth and light.

She set the candlestick on the table next to their bed. The brass clock on the mantelpiece chimed out the hour. She paused to listen to the musical sound it made, while she pulled down the coverlet. The door drifted open. Seth came inside, shut it, and proceeded to pull off his waistcoat.

“Ah, have you seen the moon?” She opened the drapes wide to let the moonlight pour in. It bathed the room soft blue. “Is it not lovely, Seth?”

He joined her at the window. Wrapping his arms around his wife’s waist, he stood close behind her. His breath brushed against her neck and she sighed.

He whispered in her ear. “Doubt thou the stars are fire. Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar. But never doubt I love.”

It pleased her that he, a Virginian rebel, had memorized the beauty of Shakespeare’s verses. Melting with longing, she turned to him. He took her into his arms. She reached up and pushed back a lock of hair that fell over his brow. “I will never doubt your love, not for anything in the world.”

He brought his lips to hers and she strained against him. Love rose within each heart. He lifted her, and her feet dangled above the floor. Holding her, he kissed her, turned with Juleah toward their bed, and took his bride away from the window.

* * * * * *

Read Chapter One:

Rita’s Website:

Surrender the Wind is available wherever books are sold. Kindle additions available from

Cokesbury Bookstore is having an amazing sale.

Note: If you would like to post this on your blog, please do. Let me know. And many, many thanks!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Getaway

It always sounded so glamorous to me. The writer going off to some secluded place to write. Well, I can tell you it is wonderful. Today's blog is written from beautiful western Maryland at the Wisp Resort, a ski resort in the mountains. Naturally there is no snow on the slopes, just green grass and lush trees. Since it is off season no one is here. It appears we have the entire place to ourselves. Not a sound.

We stopped at Swallow Falls State Park to see the waterfall in the Muddy Creek. To get there we hiked along a path through a dark hemlock forest. Some of the trees are over 300 years old. So quiet as we paused and listened to the water tumbling over the shale cliff in the distance.

Paul will be fly fishing, while I'm secluded in the room or the restaurant to finish book 1 of the Daughters of the Potomac Series, Beyond the Scarlet Dawn. I am in the homestretch, and with a word count to meet, I am wondering how I'm going to put everything in my head into the last 25,000 words. I'm confident I'll do it.

I prayed the other day as I was working for the chance to have a few days uninterrupted to finish. God answered. I'm here now, in a beautiful room - no phone, and no emails.

I'll let you know how it is going.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Okay. What I'm about to write is not to toot my own horn. It is meant to illustrate the title of this blog post. So bear with me.

Sitting outside on my mother's porch one afternoon, she told me some of the comments she has gotten from her friends that are reading 'Surrender the Wind'. She said, "Inga said she is in love with Seth, and so worried about him and Juleah, that she can't put the book down. Annette said the same thing. She loves Seth too, and is worried about Juleah." She then let out a little giggle. "I know what they mean. I fell in love with him too, and I worried so much about what was going to happen to him in Juleah that I couldn't stop reading."

I replied, "Thanks, mom. That's what I needed to hear."

Why? you ask. Because it should be the goal of every writer to cause the reader to be worried, concerned, and attached to your characters, especially to your hero and heroine. They want to feel these emotions. I know I do when I start a novel. And if I do not, I usually do not finish the book. I must be captured by emotion. I must be drawn in so closely to the problems, the fears, the danger that the characters are in to keep me glued to the pages. I must be worried about the heroine and hero. I must be concerned about what is going to happen next to them.

To sum it up:

Strive to bring the reader to the place where they feel the emotions of your characters. Do this by action. The sweat on your hero's brow, trickling down his neck. The tension your heroine feels as she watches danger approach.

Keep in mind that for most people emotions, such as empathy, are deeply felt and deeply hidden. Do not be afraid as a writer to keep it this way --- in check and in control. If your hero keeps his passion in control, let's say his desire to strike out due to mounting emotions, wait for the right time and the right place to let loose, then you will avoid melodrama.

The greatest way to tap into your readers' empathy is by exposing your characters deep-seated emotions. While writing about the suffering your heroine is going through, perhaps she suffers privately, when she is alone, without others noticing. Something might trigger her hidden pain, either through scene or dialogue, and suddenly she opens up. Or the whole dam breaks.

In the novel I am currently writing, Before the Scarlet Dawn, my heroine, Eliza, longs to be loved for who and what she is on the inside, not for her outward beauty. I take her on a whirlwind of experiences that lead up to a day when she is broken and gives in, surrenders to that longing. At the end of the chapter, when 'he drew her inside and shut the door' the reader is left with the question 'what happened behind that closed door?'. This ending builds worry in the reader. Moving forward it unravels, and when Eliza is faced with the deepest of rejections, her life takes a drastic turn leading to . . . well, you'll have to read the book when it is released in early 2012.

In what way are you building empathy in your work in progress, or in a novel you have written?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An Old Book is a Treasure

Last night I watched 'The Scarlet Letter'. This movie brought me to tears.
On my bookshelf I have an old copy of this novel. It is one in a collection of several editions of famous writers works passed down to my husband from his grandfather's collection of books. It is a hardcover, with a blue jeweled binding. The pages are yellowed. And there is a scent that only old books can have...that musty smell of dust, age, old paper and ink.

There is so much buzz about digital books these days. I think they have their place, but to me they will never replace something I can hold in my hands. Hardcovers are special to me, and I tend to hold on to them longest. I wish publishers would return to the hardcover in trade paperback size, you know the kind your parents and grandparents read.

On my self I have books that belonged to my grandparents, my husband's grandfather, and four novels that my father owned as a boy.
Treasure Island
Battle for the Union
The Washington Boys
Tom Sawyer

These volumes will be passed down to my sons, and hopefully their children. I don't think I can do that with a digital book. I can pass down my print copies of the books I write. But who knows what the future holds? Maybe there will be a way were digital books will be archived. Still they will not be able to replace the original, material, the tangible.

What is your opinion about digital books, old books, print books? Do you have any treasures passed down to you sitting on your bookshelf?

(Image of books by John C. Hulse)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Intensive Writers Workshop

What I am about to present to you is an incredible opportunity for any writer, at any level, both unpublished and published. I wish I had had this chance years ago when I put out my first three manuscripts for publication. How many acquisitions editors of a major publishing house do you know that will spend the entire day with a group of writers in an intense writers workshop? Barbara Scott, acquisitions fiction editor at Abingdon Press is the only one I know of that has stepped out of a cubical to share her invaluable skills.

Here is a re-post of Barbara's post, from her blog 'The Roving Editor', about why you should attend this workshop.

A sign used to hang in my mother-in-law Betty's kitchen that read, "Life is short. Eat dessert first." The older I grow, the more I understand this axiom. Rather than worrying about things that might never happen and wasting our lives cleaning the refrigerator more than once a year, we should spend more of our time living our lives for God.

Has God called you to be a writer? What are you doing about it? Do you attend a conference once a year, get fired up, and then put writing at the bottom of your "to do" list when you arrive back home? If writing is God's calling, shouldn't it be near the top of your list of priorities? To help you in your quest, here are my top 5 reasons to attend a day-long writing intensive workshop with me:

1) You deserve to spend time working on your craft with people who share your passion and can help you grow as a writer.

2) As an editor, I can rend the veil between writing as a hobby and succeeding in the Christian publishing business. It's a chance to ask me every question that's ever plagued you about how to break in.

3) We'll spend time working on your individual project so that you have a solid writing plan when you leave.

4) I'll teach you what kills an editor's interest in the first paragraph of your sample chapters, and how to write a proposal that sparks my interest.

5) I'll help you discover your unique voice, refresh your knowledge of the basics of fiction writing, teach you how to self-edit your work, and hopefully, make writing fun again for you.

Doesn't this sound great? The cost for the all-day workshop is only $159. If you are interested in hosting a workshop, or you are looking for one in your area, contact Barbara at

Barbara's blog is full of insightful information about publishing.

I am planning to hold one in May in central Maryland. If you are in the area and are interested in attending, let me know.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Writers Write Day

Writers Write Day ~ Wednesday, August 11

Writers, there is a tug-o-war going on for your attention. It mostly comes in the guise of the Internet. Next Wednesday, August 11 is Writers Write Day. The goal of this all day event is to immerse writers in their manuscripts without the distractions of blogs, Facebook, social networking sites, news sources, etc.. Let's admit it, they do pull us away, and sometimes hours go by and we have lost valuable writing time.

Here is what to do.

1. Put a 'do not disturb' sign on your door.
2. Write for at least three hours in the morning. If you start at 9am that will bring you up to the noon hour.
3. Take a lunch break.
4. Write for four hours in the afternoon.
5. That evening post on your blog, Facebook, etc. how it went. How much work did you get done?

Here is what you CANNOT do.

1. Do not peruse the Internet. That includes Facebook and other social networking sites.
2. Do not make phone calls unless absolutely necessary, and make them during your break.
3. No text messaging.
4. No television or radio, but by all means listen to inspirational music that helps the creative juices flow.

Let your family and friends know that you will be going into a day of seclusion to work on your manuscript. Hope you have an incredible time writing.

Note: If you work and can't write most of the day, then try to schedule an evening of writing with no distractions from the Internet, Facebook, emails, etc.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

1 Year Anniversary

It's been one year since the official release of Surrender the Wind.

Cokesbury's online bookstore has a fantastic deal going on. They've discounted the cover price by 71%!

It's true. Readers can purchase copies for only $4.00.

What could you do with a copy besides read it yourself, if you already haven't?

1. Buy a copy for a friend, your mom, mother in law, sister, etc. etc.

2. Stock up early for Christmas gifts.

3. Buy a few copies for your church library.

( My mother Rose and her copy.)

Recently a reader in the UK sent me this message.

Hello Rita, just finished reading your book Surrender the Wind , what can I say it was absolutely amazing the best book I've read for a long long time , intrigue suspense, passion love. I've never ridden so fast on a horse as i did with Seth. God certainly gave you a gift keep using it. From Deborah (England)

I want to send my thanks to everyone that has read 'Surrender the Wind', to those who were gracious to host me on their blogs, and those that wrote reviews. It's been a great year!
Watch for the new series due out early in 2012...Daughters of the Potomac.

Book 1 Before the Scarlet Dawn
Book 2 Beside Two Rivers
Book 3 Beyond the Valley

Please visit my website:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Inspired by Period Clothing

Of late I've been inspired by period gowns. I thought I would share a few more with you. I picture the heroines in my series, Daughters of the Potomac, in these. Although they are beautiful, I cannot imagine having worn stays, corsets, and heavy gowns day in and day out. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

There is an interesting post over on Barbara Scott's blog this morning, 'The Roving Editor' entitled 'Every Character Needs Motivation'.

My reply to her is as follows.

I've been at a place in 'Before the Scarlet Dawn' where a blizzard hammers River Run. I drew upon my own experience from last February when those two storms barreled down on the east coast, but I had to get into an 18th century mindset. Can you imaging living through a blizzard in 1778? We think we have it so hard.

I remember laying in bed the night of the second storm listening to it roar outside my window. The wind was constant, shoving and pushing against the walls of the house. This storm was unlike any blizzard I experienced. It seemed to have a life of its own...a monster possessed with rage coming down on us with such force that it was frightening.

So in the novel, I guess I can say the weather becomes a character in the story.

What if we included in our proposals storms and animals in our list of characters? That might be pretty interesting to do, and give our agents and editors a deeper view into the story. We endeavor to 'flesh out' our characters. Wouldn't that be a way of 'fleshing out the story'?

Have you any animals or significant weather in your writing, and how do you bring them into the story as 'characters'?

Monday, July 19, 2010

18th century gowns

I love the clothes of the 18th century. So, I thought I would share some of my favorites. These have aided me in the writing of my historicals, and if you are writing in the genre, then be sure to research the clothing of the era your story is set in.

Is this gown not beautiful? It is newly made for a wedding dress made of pale pink silk. If I was a young bride today, this is the dress I would want, even if it did cost me an arm and a leg. Go to the Rossetti website to view more images of this stunning gown. In US dollars it costs $4565. Close up shots really show the beauty and amazing craftsmanship of the embroidery and lace.

In the novel I am currently writing, Before the Scarlet Dawn, my heroine Eliza Morgan has stitched a beautiful gown and wears it to her first social gathering in the Colonies. It is July, and she knows all the ladies will no doubt be wearing calico and soft, pale cottons due to the heat. But when her husband's eyes glow with pleasure with her in it, she is convinced it is the right choice.

This gown also by Rossetti, is the perfect image of what I have in mind for Eliza.

 I took this photo at a historical fair at Rose Hill Manor in Frederick, Maryland. If only I had not gotten the table legs in the photo it would have been much better.

How important is dress to you while reading a historical novel?

When writing, do you include brief descriptions of the clothing your characters are wearing?

What moments in a story are most important when it comes to including the gown your heroine is wearing, or the suit of clothes your hero has donned?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Words of Encouragement from a reader in England

What a blessing to open my Facebook page and read the following.

Hello Rita, just finished reading your book Surrender the Wind. What can I say? It was absolutely amazing - the best book I've read for a long, long time - intrigue, suspense, passion, love. I've never ridden so fast on a horse as I did with Seth, lol. God certainly gave you a gift - keep using it. From Deborah (England)

I am so honored. What is equally wonderful is Deborah lives in England. I've often wondered what British readers would think of my novel, especially the English settings. Did I get it right? I would ask, having never visited the fair isle.

It means so much to writers to hear from their readers. I'm writing a series right now, Daughters of the Potomac, and Deborah's words motivate me to really dig in my heals and write three novels a notch above Surrender the Wind. Pray for me, will you?

Thank you, Deborah, for the encouragement.

To read the prologue and chapter one:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Peek Into My World

'Be it ever so humble there is no place like home.'

John Howard Payne wrote those words in 1822 in his poem 'Home, Sweet Home'. They are still true today. I'd like to add that however humble, a writer's writing niche is 'home'.

Now, I'm going to give you a peek into my world. My writing area is in a corner of a bedroom, beneath a window, next to the closet with French doors, opposite the door leading to the poky little hallway. My desk is old, old, old, given to me years ago by a friend that didn't want it anymore. My printer is tucked away in the closet. The window blind needs replacing. I'll get around to it. And the blizzard damaged the roof and there is a watermark on the ceiling my handy hubby keeps promising to repair.

It is humble, yes. But I don't mind. . .for now. It keeps me humble by reminding me 'I am not all that!'

My dream niche - a room only for writing. Bookshelves. Pencil portraits of my children on the wall. A framed enlargement of the book cover to Surrender the Wind, followed in the near future with the Daughters of the Potomac series covers also in pretty frames that match the time period. A comfortable chintz chair with a throw. A large window with a view.

Whether or not I ever have my dream niche, and I think I will once my boys leave home (hopefully after each of them finds a godly wife and a good job of which I pray fervently for), where I write is not as important as what I write. When I work on my novel, everything around me fades, and my eyes are locked on the computer screen, my mind on the images of scene, like a movie running through my head.

What is your writing niche like?
What is your dream niche?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Roving Editor

Some exciting news to pass on.

Beginning August 1, my editor Barbara Scott will no longer be tied to a desk at Abingdon Press in the heart of Nashville. An exciting new venture has opened up and she is hitting the road as The Roving Editor . Barbara will be sharing her knowledge of writing and publishing in cities and towns across the USA.

Here is her plan taken from her new blog:

I’ll still be the exclusive acquisitions editor for Abingdon fiction, but I’ll also be dropping by the homes of my existing authors (and agents) and brainstorming new projects. They can feel free to invite their writing buddies or critique group friends for a “meet and greet” in a local bookstore or wherever they like to hang out.

I’ll schedule a daylong writing intensive workshop in the area so that writers can spend time honing their craft with me and perhaps with one of my authors. There will be plenty of time to discuss ideas, work on story, characters, plotting, dialogue, setting, and narrative description in an encouraging atmosphere. Come ready to write and expect useful critiques.

Our first Roving Editor Intensive Writing Workshop is scheduled for Saturday, August 21, 2010 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Springton Lake Presbyterian Church in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Joyce Magnin, author of the award-winning book The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow and her next Bright’s Pond novel Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise will be on hand to offer her expertise as well. Fee: $159 per person. Includes a light lunch. Feel free to bring your favorite snacks. Dress is casual.

I’ll attend numerous writing workshops during the coming year, where I’ll teach the craft of writing, answer questions, and meet with conferees.

During August 12-14, 2010 I’ll meet with attendees during 15-minute slots at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. Check out the details at if you would like to sign up. I’ll also teach a workshop and meet with conferees during the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Annual Conference set for September 17-20, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis, IN. I’ll update you later on my full schedule.

I’ll also offer one-on-one mentoring sessions where we’ll laser focus on your writing and the next steps of your writing journey. This can be done over the phone or in person if I’m in your area. Fee: $100 for a half-hour session.

Visit Barbara's blog for more details. Her first blog entry is 'The Five Best Ways to Meet an Editor'.