Friday, December 23, 2011

Look at Rejections as Stepping-Stones

 When I read accounts of aspiring writers expressing their disappointment after they’ve received a rejection, my heart goes out to them. I've been in that exact same place where rejections seemed an endless circle for several years after I began writing seriously. They caused me to wonder if I’d ever be published, if I were on the right career path. But deep down in my heart the desire to be write beat on. I could not give up, and neither should you if you are feeling like throwing in the proverbial towel.

There are three things a Christian writer must have besides a tough skin, persistence and patience, and the belief God has blessed you with a gift, whether it is to write one story or a thousand. You continue to write, improve the craft, send out queries, put your writing career into God’s hands, and commit your work to Him.

But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Romans 8:25

Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established.
Proverbs 16:3

Rejections come with the writing life. However, the day you land your first publishing contract, all that you went through to get to this point will be worth it, no matter how long it took. Still, you might get a rejection from your editor on a new proposal, but you can ask what you can do to make the manuscript better, what can you change to meet her expectations. As you grow as a writer you'll begin to view rejections as stepping stones to something make you a better writer, a motivation to make your manuscript the best it can be.

Some may disagree, but I tend to think we need to change the wording from ‘rejection’ to ‘a pass’. Wouldn’t that make it a little less gut wrenching for writers? Editors and agents will tell you, most passes are because the book’s premise does not intrigue them, or they haven’t the room for another client or author. But that is not to say a lot of submissions are given a pass based on poor writing and weak plot lines.
When I had finished writing Surrender the Wind, I started sending out queries right away. Frustrated after a year of receiving passes from agents, I sat down at my desk one July  morning in 2008, and asked the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do with this book and with my career. I have a verse in a frame on my desk that says ' Commit your work to the Lord' and when I looked over at it, I decided that was the only way to go. Commit it all into His hands. If He wanted my novel published, it would be. I had to be patient for the right door to open at the right time and place.

Fifteen minutes later I read on Brandilyn Collins’ blog that Barbara Scott had been hired as the new acquisitions editor at Abingdon Press. They were starting a fiction line and she was looking for novels in my genre—inspirational historical romance. I sent Barbara a query and she requested the manuscript. I was offered a contract and Surrender the Wind came out August 09. In June 2010, I signed again with Abingdon for a historical series Daughters of the Potomac.

I'm not sharing these successes to toot my own horn. My goal in writing this article is to encourage you to look at rejections in a different light. Remember they are stepping-stones to something better. Be patient and persistent.


Beginning February 1, 2012, Daughters of the Potomac, will be released. Titles are:
Before the Scarlet Dawn
Beside Two Rivers
Beyond the Valley

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Treat

'Tis the week for festive cookies and desserts.

This week I'm sharing a Shortbread Cookie recipe I've made for years. When my sons were little, I'd cut out the dough in fun shapes. This year I patted the dough into a roll and cut them into little squares. You can add sprinkles or icing.

Shortbread Cookies 
3 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (almond and lemon extracts are also good.)

Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until creamy, then slowly add sugar, egg, and extract. Gently fold in the flour mix and form dough.

Roll out on floured surface. Cut in different shapes and add sprinkles.
Bake on ungreased cookie sheets 10-15 minutes at preheated 325 oven. Cool on racks.

Here's a treat I found online that you can purchase. But they are easy to make yourself. Just dip the marshmallows in white chocolate and roll in crushed peppermint candy. You can vary the recipe with other candy or chocolate.


Serve these fancy, festive hors d’oeurves for sweet snacks or satisfying desserts! Boasting soft, billowy marshmallows, hand dipped in white chocolate and rolled in crushed, peppermint candies, each indulgent treat has its own wooden stick for merry munching. 4.2 oz. package includes 6 individually wrapped snowballs.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Let's Talk 'HEROS'!

HERO: a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

In today's market, most novels focus on the heroine. Here are a few questions about heroes that I hope you'll take a moment to comment on.

Have we missed out on the hero being the strong central character in CBA novels?

What is the reason the heroine has taken the lead?

If the hero did take a stronger role in CBA novels, would this give female readers the wrong image of what a man should be, or can writers portray him to be a godly man with flaws, yet willing to lay down his life for others as Christ would?

I'm preparing a proposal for an Edwardian series. Three heroines will be the central characters. However, the heroes are going to shine through these stories as much as the ladies.

In order to have a deeper vision of my characters I keep a file of old photos. Here are a few. Tell me how would your visualize each of these gentleman as a hero. These are early 20s and 30s actors.

Present day actors are still a source for inspiration. The thing I am seeing in books, movies, and television programs is the tough, manish heroine.

I feel these give the wrong message to girls about womanhood. We can still be feminine and be strong. But we don't have to act like a man to be a heroine.

Are these types of stories emasculation the hero?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What My Grandmother Taught Me ~ Part 3

During the Great Depression, my grandmother Bess had to feed a family of 12.  She did a lot of canning in those days, and one thing that was stored in many a cellar were apples. 

In those days my grandfather would return home with bushel baskets of apples, sacks of potatoes, and other produce in bulk that he would acquire from local farmers outside the boundaries of Washington DC. Grandmother taught me that tough times call for ingenuity.

Since Colonial times in America, apples have been stored over the winter months in cold cellars. In this final post on recipes from my novel 'Surrender the Wind', I have a delicious stewed apple recipe for you from my novel Surrender the Wind.

Claire in the story is a servant at our hero's estate, Ten Width Manor. Here is a snippet.

The path widened the closer Claire got to Ten Width. She stopped, looked down the hill, and caught her breath. There stood the house, the brick washed with dew and morning light as if an ornament chiseled from an artist’s hand. 
With her sleeve, she wiped the sweat from off her face and moved on.
          She rushed down the hilly path. The neigh of a horse caused her to glance up a few yards ahead where a rider pulled rein. His tall, black horse shook its wiry mane and looked at her with wild yellow eyes.

Claire's Stewed Apples

6-7 firm apples, 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, and 1 cup of sugar, 1 tbs. cinnamon, 1/2 cup water. Peel, core, and slice apples into chunks. Sprinkle with sugar. Melt butter in a skillet on low heat. Add the apples and cinnamon. Cook until tender, and serve after a hardy meal. . .but not to such odious men such as Constable Latterbuck who insulted my apples, even though he thoroughly enjoyed my seared beef, bread, and potatoes.
Claire ~ Ten Width Manor

Please visit my website to read more about Surrender the Wind, and the new inspirational historical series, Daughters of the Potomac, that will be released beginning February 1, 2012.

 For the Holidays, Cokesbury Bookstore is offering Surrender the Wind at 70% off the cover price for only $4.00! If you need a gift for the book lover on your list that enjoys inspirational romances, this is the book you want for them. And if you would like a large bookmark to go with your book, just send me an email ( ) with your request and address and I'll get it in the mail to you right away.

In the next post, I'll be sharing a wonderful Christmas recipe with you! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today I am sharing a tea cake recipe that my heroine, Juleah Fallows Braxton, would have made in the Colonial period. 

Allow me first to give you a snippet from my novel 'Surrender the Wind', an inspirational historical romance set in the Colonial era. 

Juleah’s reflection appeared in the window glass. Unlike a mirror, it was a translucent image, her eyes and face pale, her hair ghostly soft about her face. She saw one person, one woman, instead of a couple. How incomplete she seemed without Seth beside her.
Her eyes filled and blurred the reflection before her. The horse chestnuts 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. 
I wish I could paint that scene,” she whispered, leaning her head across her arm. “But I shall never excel at watercolors.”

Juleah's Colonial Tea Cakes

1 cup of butter, 1 cup of sugar, 3 eggs, and 4 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Cream butter and sugar together until creamy. Add slightly beaten eggs and remaining ingredients. Roll on floured board and cut. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 400 for 12 minutes. Serve to guests, especially ladies, with good English tea and dusted with powdered sugar. 

Visit my website and read about Surrender the Wind, and a new series, The Daughters of the Potomac, to be released beginning February 1

Monday, November 21, 2011

Food for Thought

From everything I've been told about my grandmother, she was an excellent cook. She measured flour with her hand instead of a measuring cup. She could take a head of cabbage and feed a table of ten with it during the Depression. She'd bake dozens of dinner rolls every morning to feed her family and share with needy neighbors.

A few of her recipes were past down, and one thing my grandmother taught me was recipes mean a great deal to families --- they are in fact a part of a family's history. So when I was writing my novel 'Surrender the Wind', I decided to include cookery, as it was called in Colonial times, to the story.  Three women, each having their own best dish. A  hero that loves his wife's baking. A housekeeper to an Annapolis lawyer that frets over whether or not her roasted chicken is to his dinner guests' liking. And a servant whose stewed apples tempt the hardy appetite of a local constable.

Over three posts, I will include their recipes. First here is Mrs. Partridge's Colonial Maryland Roasted Chicken. Let me share a bit about her first from the novel.

Stowefield sat at his desk dozing, his steel spectacles hanging low on the bridge of his nose. His hair was a mass of gray locks, matching a pair of bushy eyebrows. His housekeeper nudged him on the shoulder and he shook and sputtered awake.
          “What is it, Partridge?”
Seth waited inside the doorway. He smiled at the pronouncement of the woman’s name. She resembled the bird, with her tiny eyes and spherical face, stout neck and body, the way her arms hung away from her sides when she walked.
          “Mr. Braxton here to see you.” Partridge folded her hands over her apron. “You must rise from your nap.”

Mrs. Partridge's Colonial Maryland Roasted Chicken 

1 Tender hen
1 Sprig of Rosemary 
1 large Onion cut into quarters
Enough red-skinned potatoes to feed the Continental Army
Stuff the fowl rosemary and onion
Cut potatoes and toss with butter
Lay hen in baking dish and surround with potatoes
Roast at 325 until done
Do not allow the fowl to overcook, nor for the skin to blacken. . . even though gentlemen such as Mr. Stowefield ( her employer and Annapolis lawyer) and Mr. Braxton ( the hero ) say it is quite delicious.
Visit my website and read about Surrender the Wind, and a new series, The Daughters of the Potomac, to be released beginning February 1, 2010

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Recipe

Dear Friends,

Here is one of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes perfect for your Thanksgiving Day menu. I never liked the traditional whipped sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. A few years ago I found this one and it is!
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole
3 cups of mashed sweet potato (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons margarine or butter melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Combine: first 7 ingredients in a bowl, and stir well. Spoon sweet potato mixture into an 8-inch square backing dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine: 1/2 cup brown sugar and flour in a bowl, and cut in 2 tablespoons chilled margarine or butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the chopped pecans and sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
Yield: 8 servings - 1/2 cup each

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Slide show

I'm putting together a slide show for my website. 
Could you help me out? 
If you have a copy of my latest novel, 'Surrender the Wind', either paperback or on Kindle, would you be so kind to send me a photo of you holding it? I'll add it in. I would really appreciate your help.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Finding Inspiration in Photos

I've learned, as an author I am a visual writer. I visualize the unfolding of a story in my mind like a movie. I see my characters moving through scenes. Old photos also inspire my muse, especially when it comes to my heroines. It's odd that I have not found as many stunning old photos of men that do the same. 

So today, I thought I'd share a few with you. This is a technique you may want to explore for yourself, whether you write or read. As a writer, old photos and paintings for historicals, and contemporary photos for contemporary fiction, can help you develop the image of your characters, not only in appearance but in demeanor. Photographs can express personality, and that is what I look for. It's simple to do. Just type into Google something specific to your genre, the time period, and character.

For example. I am currently writing a proposal for an Edwardian series. In the first book there will be two elderly aunts. So, I typed in my Google box '1900's old women' and found the one here on the left. Are they not perfect. The year is 1910. I've named these aunts Mildred and Maude.

I found photos a plenty for heroines and I will not share they quite yet, not until I have a book contract and I begin writing the stories. But here are a few more.

I searched for 'working men, orphans, families, weddings' in the early 1900s and found a group photos.

As a reader, photographs and paintings can help you visualize the characters in the book you are reading.

Now some people may say that this dismisses the use of the imagination. Go overboard on anything and that is true. So the key is moderation.

Monday, October 31, 2011

So tell me . . .

Why do you read blogs?

What are you hoping to gain from reading blogs on books, writing, the publishing industry?

What would make it worth your while to read a blog weekly?

Did you know I write another blog in addition to InSpire? . . . Well it is more like a website where I showcase some of the most excellent authors in the inspirational category. They share their stories, their lives, what motivated them to write their novels with Stepping Stones Magazine for Readers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Questions, Questions, Questions

Readers are often interested in what life is like for an author, the process of writing and what it is like to turn an idea into a novel.

For those of you that are pre-published (notice I did not say unpublished), you probably have a lot of questions about what happens after you get an acceptance.  Wouldn't it be nice to get a leg up on what to expect when you do?  Your work will be cut out for you and you will be busier than ever.

The other day I posted on Facebook that I had gotten a glowing review from author Marylu Tyndall for the first book in the Daughters of the Potomac Series, Before the Scarlet Dawn, and that Marylu had read the 'ARC'.  A writer asked me what I meant by an ARC.

 An ARC is an Advance Readers Copy. Publishers send these out to book reviewers and authors in order to create a buzz and acquire reviews in advance of the release date. It is not the final proofed copy and cannot be sold. Often times things like the dedication, acknowledgements, and book club questions are not included. But it does have the cover that will be released.

So here's your chance to ask a published author all the questions you want. I'll do my best to answer them.  Please post them in Comments. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wonderful Readers Photos

I'm putting together a slide show for my website.
Could you help me out?
If you have a copy of my latest novel, 'Surrender the Wind', either in paperback or on Kindle, would you be so kind to send me a photo of you holding it? I'll add it in. I would really appreciate your help.
Just email me a jpg to

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A funny morning...

On Saturday morning over bacon and eggs, my husband Paul and I came up with a fake series, called 'The Heir Apparently Series',  a husband and wife tag-team production. We sat and laughed and almost cried over the visual images of these characters and their predicaments. You have to have some humor in life. How else would we get through it.

Book 1 ~ The Bare Heir
Due to a lack of income, Tilly Dresser is forced into being a nude artist's model in Paris until she inherits her eclectic father's gift shop in Tater Peeler, TN (a real place) in 1905 and meets prosperous potato farmer Ralph Russet and realizes there is more to life than what is skin-deep, and helps him invent a new hybrid potato without a skin . 

Book 2 ~ The Odious Heir

In order for Kitty Hawkins to inherit her father's deodorant factor in Nitro, West Virginia (a real place) she must drive a caravan wagon up and down the east coast for one year selling the latest in odor-masking cakes. But when she meets door-to-door banjo salesman, and itinerant preacher, Wilber (Willy) Hayseed, and hears his banjo playing, her life goes in a totally different direction in the Irish Spring of 1904.

Book 3 ~ The Air-headed Heir

After flunking out of Radcliffe Women's College in 1910, Bernice Beavis heads to New York City to work as a mime on the Vaudeville stage. When she inherits her father's oxygen tank factory in Wind Blow, NC (a real place) and meets George Von Hummerstein, a Quaker windmill builder, she must either chose, out of love, to sell the factory and sink all her money into George's business, or remain silent about her feelings for him the rest of her life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall Comfort Food for Readers and Writers

Curling up with a good book.
Settling down in front of the keyboard.
Comfort food in fall weather is a nice addition.

Banana Bars with Browned Butter Pecan Frosting

Banana Bars with Browned Butter Pecan Frosting (Adapted from Land O Lakes)

For the cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the frosting

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

To make the cake

Preheat oven to 375

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined. Add sour cream, mashed banana and vanilla - mix until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.

Scoop the mixture into a 10" x 15" baking pan coated with nonstick spray - spread the top smooth with an off-set spatula. Bake until golden and a toothpick placed in the center comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs attached, about 18 to 25 minutes. Place on a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the frosting

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium - continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the butter releases a nutty aroma and just starts to turn golden, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.

In a small bowl, mix together browned butter, confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and salt until well combined and smooth. Spread frosting over the bars and sprinkle with pecans.

From the blog, 'Culinary in the Country.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Growing As We Write

As of today, September 28, I am 9 chapters into 'Beyond the Valley', which I began writing on August 1. This is the first novel I have written this fast -- 20,000 words in less than 2 months, and I'm picking up the pace.

For my readers: This is a story of love being tested by prejudice, tragedy, and extreme hardship, in a time when class boundaries ruled. It is the third book in the 'Daughters of the Potomac' series. If you liked 'Surrender the Wind' you are going to love this series. Each story takes place in a turbulent time in history --- the American Revolution and post-Revolution eras. Each story has settings in England and along the Potomac in Maryland and Virginia. Each story is about a woman searching for truth, love, and redemption. Each story blends with the others.

For my writer friends, I listened to an interview with author Geraldine Brooks that had me nodding in agreement. She gives some simple answers to good writing.

Listen for her take on research. She's so right on about overloading yourself with the research that it takes forever to write the novel. I was at that point at one time. Research is important, but now I do it as I write, and I pull myself away once I find the answer instead of going off in other directions and spending hours reading about other details.

What writing tips did you pick up from this interview?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ACFW and Surrender the Wind

Lots going on this month. The American Christian Fiction Writers is holding their annual conference in St. Louis. I was unable to attend this year. However, my writer friends that are there are posting on social networks all the happenings.

ACFW's book club chose my inspirational historical romance, 'Surrender the Wind', for the read this month.

To celebrate, I'm letting everyone know that Cokesbury Bookstore is offering copies at 71% off the retail price of $13.99. The cost ---- only $4.00. If you haven't gotten a copy, please do. Or perhaps buy a copy for a friend for Christmas.

I was saving the best for last. My prior editor at Abingdon Press has joined WordServe Literary Agency as an agent. She asked if I would be interested in being one of her clients, and if I were the shoutin' type, I would have screamed 'YES!' I didn't scream, but I gave her a resounding yes and shed some tears. She is such a godsend. Barbara is an amazing person. Not only does she know the industry inside and out, and have connections everywhere in CBA, she is an advocate for writers. I am so blessed. Three years ago, I was sitting at my desk staring at my Word doc for Surrender the Wind feeling like I was fighting an uphill battle. I prayed that day, committed my work to Him that gave it to me, and that very day the doors swung wide open. You can read my journey on my website.

If you are pre-published, hold onto your dream. Do not give up. I could have so many times and missed out on God's blessings.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Reading Into It...

Avid readers,

Were you the child t
hat sat in the classroom, chin in hand, staring out the window, the voice of the teacher drowned out because you were somewhere else? Are you still the one among family and friends that has a vivid imagination, that craves the telling of a good story.

I was the child staring out the classroom window 'day dreaming'. My p
arents got plenty of complaints. They were not book readers. Newspapers and the church bulletin were their literary fix. The earliest reading adventures I had, though, were Golden Books. Some of them were small, and I can still see in my mind the watercolor pictures of castles and princesses.

One book that sparked my desire to read and to write was a story about a little girl who wanted to be so small she could live in her family's garden. The illustrations were fun and provoked my imagination. This fearless, tiny heroine flew on the back of a butterfly and lived in a tin can. Sounds weird, but it was a really good story.

What has nagged at me though, is I cannot remember the title or the author. I wish I could discover it again.

When I write, I visualize everything and everyone in a scene. It is important, because if the writer cannot do this, we shouldn't expect our readers to. So writers, challenge yourself to write so well that you see, hear, taste, and touch all that your characters are. And readers, next time you pick up a novel, ask yourself if you see the characters the same way as perhaps the writer did.

Here is a couple lines from the novel I am writing. . .book 3 in the Daughters of the Potomac Series, 'Beyond the Valley'. Do you see the scene in your mind's eye?

The rattle of the carriage wheels over the sandy road seemed endless, until it slowed and drew to a halt and the din of the sea overtook the quiet. The coach door swung open.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hero and Heroine ~ Making an Entrance

It is commonly referred to as making a stage entrance when an actor / actress steps out onto the stage or on-screen in the persona of their character. The audience is given the first glimpse at the character's physical appearance. Their costume reflects the period, as does their hair, makeup, and the setting surrounding them.

It's much the same
with writing the novel. When your hero and heroine make their first appearance, you want to give your readers the building blocks that create a mental image in their mind's eye. Begin at the opening of the book. Deftly weave their image into the narrative. Mention it in dialogue. Let your reader see them from the eyes of the one that is destined to love them. You want your readers to be drawn into your character in order to care about him/her, just as much as you want them drawn into the story. Without living, breathing, characters, a story will fall flat.

You ask how can one do this without being overly descriptive, or what is commonly referred to as 'wordy'. Here are a few things to do.

First, write out the description, whether in a notebook or a character chart, as if you are meeting your character for the first time and looking straight at him/her. Here is one I wrote, loosely based on my husband.

He's not a tall man, but towers at least four inches over me. He has the most interesting shade of brown eyes, gold like autumn wheat, and when he laughs little crinkle lines form in the corners. His hair is the same shade, but I've started noticing he's getting a lot of gray. His nose is Romanesque. His jaw strong. His lips are full, and when he smiles he has dimples in his cheeks. At age fifty-five, he weighs about one-hundred and ninety pounds. His legs remind me of a Greek statue, firm and muscular, and I envy him in the fact he has no hair on his calves.

Now, when you are doing the actual writing, do not give your reader a long paragraph describing your character. Break it up. For instance, when your heroine first sees the hero, she might lock first onto his eyes. Most people do. You write what she sees. There follows some dialogue and when he laughs at a comment she makes, you describe the crinkles in the corners of his eyes, or the way his cheeks dimpled. He strides to his horse, or his car, and she notices his built, the way he swings up into the saddle, or into the front seat.

Some charts have everything lumped together, from physical descriptions to occupation. In my writing notebook, you could break the categories down into sections. Here's a site that offers a printable pdf version of a character chart that is broken down into sections.

Which ever method you use, the goal is to flesh out your characters in your description of their physical appearance, in their actions, their speech, and their motivations.
Is there another method you use for fleshing out your characters?
As a reader, when you are reading a novel, what things stand out to you the most that help you visualize the characters?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Jam Roly-Poly

While writing book 3, 'Beyond the Valley', in the Daughters of the Potomac Series, I had to do a bit of research on the kinds of foods they ate in Cornwall, England in the late 18th century.

Jam Roly-Poly was one I came across, and it looks delicious. Most claim this dessert was made popular in the 19th century Victorian era. But who is to be sure when it comes to recipes passed down in families.

I won't be using this food in my novel, just to be on the safe side historically. But I'll save it in case I need it for a future book set in the Jam Roly-Poly era.

Traditionally, Jam Roly-Poly was made with suet. But this recipe from Bon Appetit is made with butter. . . my preference.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Titles and Editoral Suggestions

The initial title Margaret Mitchell gave 'Gone with the Wind' was 'Pansy', the original name for Scarlett. Her publisher persuaded her to make the changes. Good thing she listened to her editor and the book became a best-seller.

There is a good lesson here for writers. When you land a contract, listen to your editor. Consider her advice. Just think if Margaret Mitchell had refused to make the changes, her book may have not sold as well with a title like 'Pansy', and it may not have become a movie. Another lesson is to think about your titles. You want them to have 'oomph', not be blah-say.

Someone not long ago told me she thought my titles for the book series would not bowl over readers and instead I should have titled them with the main characters role. I did not agree. After reading about Margaret Michell's changes, I am glad I chose the titles I did. So was my publisher.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Heroines and Blueberry Cobbler

There are so many ingredients that make a story good. Strong narrative and dialogue. Sensory description. I love these elements of writing, and the small additions that make a book come alive in a reader's mind.

Some of these additions are animals, pets, clothes, craft, and food. Food can express a mood, and if you are reading or writing a historical, it can transport you back in time.

Currently I am writing book 3 in the 'Daughters of the Potomac Series', entitled 'Beyond the Valley'. Here's a little snippet where I use food as a way to evolve my heroine Sarah.

          “And I am a good cook, baking mostly.”
          Mr. Sawyer’s brows shot up. “I am exceedingly fond of blueberry cobbler.”
          “I can do any task required of me, sir, including cobblers. I’ve run my own house, though a humble one.”
          “You would fit right in with my staff. My cook is in need of another pair of hands . . . .

Without giving the scene away, it seems she has hooked Mr. Sawyer with visions of blueberry cobbler and other delights on his china plate at the supper table.

I found this fabulous blog, Vintage Victuals. Here's a blueberry cobbler recipe that is to faint over.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cover for 'Before the Scarlet Dawn'!

It has arrived!

In 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father’s estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar’s daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life.  

Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward’s path, and they flee to America to escape the family conflicts. But as war looms, it's a temporary reprieve. Hayward joins the revolutionary forces and what follows is a struggle for survival, a test of faith, and the quest to find lasting love in an unforgiving wilderness.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Colonial Recipe From the Up-and-Coming Novel, 'Beside Two Rivers'.

From The Compleat Housewife, or, Accomplished Gentlewoman's Companion by E. Smith, published in London, 1754.


To make an Apple Tansey,
Take three pippins (apples), slice them round in thin slices, and fry them with butter; then beat four eggs, with six spoonfuls of cream, a little water, nutmeg, and sugar; stir them together, and pour it over the apples; let it fry a little, and turn it with a pye-plate. Garnish with lemon and sugar strew'd over it.

You can print this recipe out on a 3x5 card from here:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Some romantic inspiration.

More fodder for my files for future scenes.

100 years ago ~ July 24, 1911 ~ in my local newspaper it was reported that a young woman was rescued by a star football player. I wonder if she did not fain her trouble in order to get the attention of 'Eddie'. Kind of romantic to be saved by him, and since he was a star tackle for Princeton, this would have been big news in a small town newspaper.
Miss Elizabeth Whitter, daughter of Mr. Francis M. Whitter, of near Adamstown, who is spending the summer at Brighton Beach, N.Y., narrowly escaped drowning. Miss Whitter floated out beyond her depth and was rescued by “Eddie” Hart, captain of the Princeton football team. This is Miss Whitter’s second mishap, as on July Fourth she was rendered senseless by being hit by a floating log and was carried ashore by bathers.
This is Eddie Hart's photo and a link to a site more about him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Incomplete Jane Austen

You never know, what you have tucked away in a draw may be worth a lot of money in years to come, or become a precious family heirloom passed down from generation to generation. For Jane Austen it took 207 years to find out what an incomplete manuscript was worth.

She began writing ‘The Watsons’ in 1804 after she had finished the first draft of Sense and Sensibility. She hadn’t gotten far into ‘The Watson’s’ and literary experts assume she had only written one quarter of the book in her own hand about a young girl brought up by her aunt.

For writers like myself who are fascinated with authors such as Jane, our eyes will gobble up her handwriting of this work in progress with notations and revisions. Hang on to your hat! You can see it here and read the text.

Click on ‘Manuscripts’ and on the page click the manuscript you are interested in viewing. To the left will be the text typed out for you. To the right the text in Jane’s original hand.

This is an exciting manuscript. I loved reading through it, seeing how she made corrections and revisions. Imagine her sitting at her writing desk, dipping her quill into the inkwell and penning the words, her mind racing with imagery and the storyline she is so anxious to get down on paper. She had no telephone to interrupt her. No internet to distract her. It was just Jane and her imagination.

‘The Watsons’ manuscript was expected to sell at auction for as much as $490,000. But it ended up selling for a whopping $1.6 million in London this July. You can read about the auction here, and view the video of the sale.

If you read the text, please share your thoughts. Where do you think she was going with this story?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This Week's 'How We Lived' post.

In Colonial times, quilts were more utilitarian than decorative for the common family. The wealthy were able to obtain elaborate fabrics and the colonial lady could stitch beautiful bedcovers, whereas the lower classes made quilts from the scrap-bag.

The earliest Colonial quilts were made of Indian chintz and palampores. Colonial era chintz was an expensive fabric and threatened the mills of France and England as the upper classes were buying this gorgeous fabric over the plainer linens and cottons of Europe. Thus chintz was banned by Parliament in 1720. However the ban was lifted in 1759 once the mills had acquired the necessary skills to make chintz, ending much of the import from India.

One pattern still popular today is toil de jouy, which originated in France and was a popular design in Colonial America. Most likely you have seen it as wallpaper and fabric. A relative of mine once papered her bedroom in blue toil and it was beautiful. I find it 'a joy' that toil de jouy is still popular after more than 200 years.

Palampores were cotton or linen panels that were hand-painted or dyed. Only the wealthiest of Americans could afford this fabric and you would find it in plantation and estate houses throughout the Thirteen. The designs were colorful and elaborate, made up of ivy, flowers, horses and peacocks. Each design was one of a kind. One thing of interest is how the quilts were made at the end to slip between the bedposts.

Some Colonial quilts were made of whole cloth. Fine stitches were made in ivy and floral patterns.

In time, the Colonial housewife used quilts that were utilitarian, to keep her family warm and comforted.
Slave women made quilts from scrapes and you can find some in museums that tell a story of family and culture. Block designs have been handed down through the generations.

Here is a quilt I made in between writing hi
storical novels. I've made several, but this is one of my favorites. I change the wall hangings in my foyer with the seasons. I have a leaf quilt for autumn, a snowman quilt for Christmas, and this floral basket quilt for spring and summer.

In closing, if you were living in Colonial times, what kind of quilt would you have made? Would it have been practical, or decorative?

This post is also featured on the 'Colonial Quills Blog' under 'Ye Good Ole Days'.