Friday, March 26, 2010

The Incredible Ethel Finneyfrock

Miss Finneyfrock was in our local newspaper again today ---- 100 years ago. I had seen her name once before in a list, of which I cannot locate now, and found her name interesting. I'm always on the lookout for names that have a historical or humorous edge to them, and Ethel's is as good as it gets for old fashioned names.

I will add in italics a fictional account of the incident.
The clip in the section 20/50/100 years in today's Frederick News Post reads under the 100 years ago:

Catching a thief in the business office of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., East Patrick street, where she is employed as cashier, last evening, Miss Ethel Finneyfrock, daughter of Mr. Charles Finneyfrock, West Patrick street, in an effort to detain him until somebody might arrive to arrest him, struggled with the thief until he drew a big knife and threatened to kill her. When she released him, the thief jumped through a window and made his escape.

I don't think I would be as brave as this woman if a thief came into my place of employment. By the wording of the clip, Ethel got physical. She detained the thief by force. 

'Hey, put that pen back. Don't look at me as if you don't know what I mean. I saw you put it in your pocket." Ethel slammed the draw to the cash register shut and moved around the counter. She stepped right up to the man. 

Taller by four inches, his shadow fell over her face, and his tiny almond-shaped eyes stared down at her in mock bewilderment. "I came in to inquire about telephone service, Miss. How dare you accuse me of thievery. Is that how you treat all your customers? I shall not step foot in this establishment ever again!" 

He stepped to the door, but she grabbed him by the sleeve and yanked him back. Then she twisted his arm behind his back, shoved her hand into his pocket and drew out the pen. "Ah, ha! I was right. You thought you could get away with it, didn't you?" 

The man twisted and turned in an effort to free himself from Ethel's firm grip. "Let me go."

"No. You stole and you will pay." She jerked her head around to see her coworker, Mr. .... behind the counter. His eyes were wide with surprise. "Go get the sheriff. I'll hold him until he returns with you. Hurry up. I can't hold him forever."

Out the front door Mr..... bounded. Alone with the thief, Ethel shuffled across the floor to a chair, and forced the man into it. "Now, you will sit there until the sheriff arrives. You should be ashamed of yourself. Think of what your dear mother will feel when she learns of this."

"I ain't got no mother," the man shouted back. Then he drew a large knife from his coat, stood, raised it above Ethel's head and threatened to plunge it into her chest. .

"Now you've committed another crime. Attempted murder." Ethel shook her finger in his face. "You are in big trouble."

His face turned as white as Ethel's apron. He turned quick on his heels and ran toward the window, which was open for it was a warm day, and jumped through it.  

Ethel had a great deal of confidence.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Exciting News from This Writer's Desk

Thursday afternoon, I arrived home after we had lunch with my mother, went upstairs to my desk and checked my email. My agent, Diana, had sent me several, one asking if I had heard from Barbara Scott at Abingdon Press. I knew that day the fiction staff were getting together to discuss offers. Then in another email, I saw the acceptance. My palms were sweating, and my heart was pounding.

Abingdon Press has offered me a contract for a historical romance series set along the Potomac River and the Hope Valley in Derbyshire, England. The series consists of three novels, with female characters in the lead roles. 

I will be journaling here about the evolution of these novels and the production of the books. I pretty much did the same thing with Surrender the Wind, except I did not have a blog up at the time I was writing that book. But now, I have the opportunity to take my readers on the journey with me. 

For so many aspiring writers, the work that goes into writing a novel, polishing it, and going through production, as well as the marketing of a book, is a mystery. I know it was for me. And believe me when I say the road to publication was not an easy one. It took many years before I was offered a legitimate publishing contract. More to find an agent. Don't let that discourage you. It is all in God's timing. It will come when it is best for you, whether that is a month from now or a year or more. 

Be patient, dear writer. Be persistent in your writing. Do not give up or give in. Learn the craft both in the creative side and the business side.
If there is one word I can give to you about getting published I would put my hands on your shoulders, look you kindly in the eyes, and say, 'Patience.'


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Makings of a Journal

A few months ago, my Aunt Irene sent me a copy of a page my grandmother had penned. It is the beginnings of a journal. If my scanner were working, I would include the page here for you to see. It is of a style few people use anymore. At first glance you can tell she used an ink pen. There are blotches where a little too much ink flowed from the tip. The writing is cursive and fluid.

When I first looked at this page, my eyes filled up. I had never seen my grandmother's handwriting before, nor read anything written by her. My aunt told me this was all she had ---- one page. But I have this nagging feeling there is more --- somewhere. But where?

A little background. Her name was Mary Elizabeth Sweeney Robertson. She lived in Washington DC until her death in October of 1955 in her late sixties. She bore ten children. Five of her six boys went off to war. One was a  prisoner of war. One wounded on Iwo Jima. All made it  home. She was a woman of faith. She fed people during the Depression, gave to the poor when she had the means, was a self-taught pianist, and a loving but firm mother. If I am counting all my cousins right, she had thirty grandchildren, two of which are authors --- me and Nora Roberts --- one who took the vows of the Anglican priesthood, and another that is a top executive of a major corporation.

I did not get the chance to know her, but through my mother I feel I do. If you do not write in a journal, consider starting. Your grandchildren and great grandchildren will thank you for it. If only I could have the rest of what Grandma Bess wrote!

This book is about myself.
I was married at the age of eighteen and at that time knew very little about life practically nothing. As the years went by I knew what responsibility was. You see, I had ten children, six boys and four girls. So you see I had not time for anything but their wellfare and to try and raise them to be good citizens for God and their country. 

Five of the boys saw duty in World War two, so you see they did their duty for their country. I do hope they are doing as much for God. God did let them all come back home, although they were wounded and one was a prisoner of war for nine months. We never will know what they went through. They never wanted to talk about the horror of war. By their looks when they came home you didn't have to ask any questions. Now they are all married and have families of their own. Their father lived to see all married but Rose (my mother). She was the youngest child, but he knew she was going to be. So I guess he was there at the time it happened.

People have asked me many times if I would like to live my life over. It is wrong to say you would. God gives you your life to live and you should live it close to Him as you can. I thank Him from the bottom of my heart for letting me live as long as He has. I truly hope when I die He will be with me in my last hour.

I cherish the wisdom in her writing. Can you see why I believe there is more? 
Where is the rest of the story? If there is more, how precious would those pages be! To read about her life, about raising ten children, how she got the family through the Depression, the love she had for a man that is said to have adored her, her trials as a mother with sons fighting in Europe and the Pacific. 

I began a journal back in June 1989. Four volumes are complete, and I have a fifth that I'm still writing in. 

Do you write in a journal? 
What would it mean to you to have your grandmother's journal or another ancestors?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Storms of life

Never would I have believed I would ever see an F-2 tornado in Maryland. Kansas and Nebraska, certainly. But in a county in Maryland made up of hills and valleys, housing developments, and the Catoctin Mountains to the west, never.

Hurricane Ivan was the strongest Atlantic hurricane of 2004, and called ‘Ivan the Terrible’. On September 16, it skirted up the eastern seaboard and struck Maryland as far inland as the Allegheny Mountains. Around five that afternoon we stood outside and watched dark gray to black clouds rotating and swirling with such great force across the sky that we could see debris in the air.

We went inside to turn on the news. I looked out our upstairs window that faced the farmer’s field across the road. Not believing what my eyes were seeing, a black wall cloud deepened, and then three funnel clouds began to descend. I stood stunned as one formed into a sharp point and rapidly touched the ground. It was a mile and a quarter away, but it looked monstrous as it whirled and hissed across the field parallel to our home with winds up to 130 miles an hour. We went into the basement for safety. My heart was pounding as a prayer was uttered on my lips.

The tornado tore up the field and destroyed a barn and ripped the roof off a farmhouse. It lifted and dissipated before reaching a housing development.

We don’t expect or welcome trouble. But the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Some people may only experience a shower or two, others thunderstorms and hurricanes. I remember as a child my father lifting me up in his arms during a thunderstorm. I trembled in fear with each crash of thunder and flash of lightening. Yet, as long as Daddy kept me close, I believed I was safe.
What sustains us through the storms of life? How do we react when the storms mount up against us and the winds buffet us? When we surrender the windstorms of life, our cares, our pain, our anxiety and worry, to Him, He will sustain us through the most violent of storms. 

Excerpt ~ Devotional from the Book Discussion Guide for Surrender the Wind. Available to Book Clubs everywhere through Abingdon Press.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Whence Cometh Spring

March brings breezes loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodils.
From the children's book 'January Brings the Snow' by Sara Coleridge.

Believe me, I am ready for it. After two back-to-back bli
zzards dumping over 52 inches of snow in Maryland, with howling winds at hurricane 2 force, and freezing temperatures, I am looking forward to spring.

Outside my front door where the snow has melted (an amazing event in itself to see over 4 feet of snow disappear) there are daffodils sprouting in my front garden.I have to tell you about these amazing flowers. Back in the early 90s after we had bought this house, we found out that one of the oldest farms in the county was going to be destroyed and townhouses and a park were to replace it. I knew once this historical home was gone it would be soon forgotten. People would forget the house set upon a high hill overlooking the valley. All the lives, the memories, the events that occurred there would be lost forever.

My husband got permission to go onto the property before the bulldozers ground their steel teeth into the soil
and destroyed the garden that was covered over in dead leaves and vines. The house was gone, all the wood, shingles, gingerbread, doors, hinges, windows, and glass had been hauled away.

There on the hill amid locust trees, honeysuckle vine, and wild blackberry bushes were daffodils of various kinds, peeking through the old leaves on a hilly slope as if they had grown there wild. I remember looking at them and thinking that the farmer's wife most likely had planted them. I envisioned her dressed in a cotton calico dress, down on her knees with spade in hand setting the bulbs into the soil. And then when spring came, she'd go out with her scissors and cut the blooms, place them in a glass vase on her table or upon her windowsill. Sunlight would sparkle through the glass and the water, and dance over the happy blooms.

We were both sad that these beautiful flowers would be annihilated. But not all was lost. The builder told my husband we could dig up any bulbs we wanted, and so we did. The daffodils bloom every year now in my garden. I have neighbors ask me what kind they are, for they are accustomed to seeing the common bright yellow kind
, not the white-faced or orange tipped variety. I'll take some photos and share them with you later when they have bloomed.

and fauna are important elements to include in a story. They give your readers a glimpse at the scene surrounding your character and a sense of place and time. This will aid them in visualizing the story.Here is a quote from my newest novel 'Surrender the Wind' where I use this element of description. The place is a grove of trees at Henry Chase, a favorite spot for Juleah my heroine, where she goes to be alone.

The horse chestnut trees her father had planted on the hilltop beyond the garden came into view. Lances of sunlight poured between them, made the grass luminescent, matched the color of the lichen in the pond.