Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Character Sketch

Since I'm plotting a new novel, I thought I would share my Character Sketch process. Each writer has to find something that works for them. Over the years I've picked up a few things from books I've read and workshops I've attended and adapted them to my style. I hope some of what I've posted here is helpful.

The first thing I do is take time getting to know my characters. I begin with the hero and heroine and then move toward the secondary characters. For naming my characters I like to scan through the "Character Naming Sourcebook" by Sherrilyn Kenyon. To determine my characters' personalities, I used "The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines" by Tami Cowden, Carol LaFever and Sue Viders. These two books are invaluable resources whether you write historical, contemporary, romance, women's fiction, mainstream, suspense, or science fiction.

The form below is my Character Sketch form that I use for my two main characters. I use the same format for secondary characters, but I will fill in less information and only the details that I feel are important to that character's role.

Character Sketch Form
Title of Manuscript _______________________
Name of Character _______________________


Physical Traits
Hair Color:
Eye Color:
Unique Marks:

Behavior Traits
Age and/or DOB:

Relationship to Heroine

As I add in the characteristics, I may add a few extra categories or include glasses or contacts beside Eye Color. The Archetype comes from the book hero & heroine book listed above. I may not use all this information, but I have it if I need it. Also, I sometimes change my character as the book evolves. For instance, someone who is weak or innocent at the beginning of the book may evolve into a stronger and wiser person after a few learned lessons and experiences. If I know this will happen from the beginning. I may include that in my notes on this form.
Filling out a Character Sketch will also help you with plotting your story. Some stories are plot driven and others are character driven, but either way, you have to know your characters to determine why they make the decisions they make. This form has worked for me and I hope it will help you if you don't already use something similar.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Settling Down

Now that the Christmas Season is over, I was looking foward to settling down and enjoying the next week until New Year's Day. That is--until a low-grade fever hit me. It happened so quickly that I thought I had Strepe Throat and then the next day my throat felt better. It must have been a simple virus. I spent most of yesterday and today in bed.

Since one of my goals during my time off was to finish my current book, I hooked up my laptop by my bed and wrote between my naps. There were moments when I was too miserable to sleep. My efforts paid off. I finished my new book and today I reread the whole manuscript and finished my first-run edits. I had written over my word count and had to cut about 2,000 words. I slashed a scene that I could do without and kept going. Over the years, slashing a whole scene has become easier. After one more edit, I'll prepare my proposal and send it off to the publisher.

Up until now, all my fiction has been historical. My next book will be my first contemporary. I need to do a lot of research for this manuscript. I have carried around this story in my heart for about seven years. It's time to write it.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

The Countdown to Christmas!

The countdown to Christmas has begun! I thought we were through with all the Christmas shopping and then last night at the church Christmas party, my husband reminded me that we still haven't gotten my sister and brothers their gifts. On my husband's side of the family we don't buy gifts for the adults anymore. We used to draw names, but now we don't even do that. We just buy for the grandparents and all the children. Trying to keep up with it all gets me a little confused.

We start buying Christmas gifts right after Thanksgiving. No matter how hard we try, it seems like we always leave someone off the list and are out Christmas Eve trying to locate that one last gift. While I have the rest of this week to take care of it, with the way things have been going, we'll see if we can get these last three gifts before Christmas Eve. I'm sure it will be a challenge with the traffic, work, school, etc.

I walked into the post office on Saturday to check my husband's business PO Box and it was so crowded I could hardly find a parking space. People were parking in the store parking lot across the street and walking their packages to the post office. The line was beyond anything I have ever seen. A policeman was outside checking out two vehicles parked in two handicapped spots. I suppose this is my clue that the madness of the Season has begun.

My daughter has her school Christmas party today. For the first time this year we didn't buy gifts for her teachers. She has a homeroom teacher and since she is in the special needs program she has eight teachers. Beyond cards, I feel it is a bit much to try and provide gifts for them all. We provided a large container of various popcorm for the party. Every year we go over our Christmas budget and this is one way I've decided to trim down costs.

I would love to provide everyone something, but we are learning the importance of staying within our budget. We have had to learn some hard financial lessons since my husband started his business four years ago. We need to implement the lessons we've learned. There was a time when it took us 2-3 months to recover from Christmas. We were even guilty of using bill money. Now we are determined to show we care in other ways and within our means. I pray God will show us all how to say no to temptation during this Christmas Season, and to remember the real reason for Christmas--to show God's gift of love.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What's Up With Our Education System?

On December 5th, I read an article in The Charlotte Observer that really upset me. In "Search for Teachers Goes Global" our new Superintendant is sending people to the Philippines to hire teachers for special education, math and science. Apparently, Charlotte, NC has decided to follow the example of other cities such as Las Vegas, Wichita, and Virginia Beach in recruiting teachers from the Philippines.

While bringing in foreign teachers may work for students in traditional classes who do not have problems learning, it is another matter for Special Education programs. These students may have learning disabilities, delayed development, ADD, ADHD, Sensory Integration Disorder, etc. The article indicated that hiring foreign teachers could cause issues with language barriers and accents, and these teachers are used to lecture-style teaching. Special Education students learn differently and often require creative resources and adaptive learning environments. It doesn't make sense to hire teachers that are not used to our culture, language and alternative teaching methods.

What makes it even worse, is that some education systems are going through a program called Visiting International Faculty (VIF), an exchange program that places international teachers in US educational systems. When I went to their website at, they are advertising, "Teachers with limited or no teaching experience may be qualified to teach in the USA with the VIF program."

While it's true that many school systems are losing teachers to the corporate world because they can't afford to pay them, but bringing in teachers from other countries with "limited or no experience" and who may also jump to the corporate world after a couple of years is not the solution. We are setting ourselves up for constant turnover and our children are the ones who are paying the price for it.

Needless to say, I wrote a letter to the Editor that was published last Saturday and I've been writing emails to the Superintendent of the Exceptional Program and I've contacted people on the state level School Board. Now I'm trying to reach other parent groups. I decided to blog about this because Charlotte is only copying what other cities are doing. What's going on in your city?

We are so busy trying not to "reinvent the wheel" that we haven't inspected the knots and kinks in the first wheel to see how well it's holding up against various routes. What works for a flat road may not be appropriate for a winding road or up a mountain. Likewise, gravel can't be treated the same as asphalt. In other words, what works for Las Vegas and Virginia Beach isn't necessarily the right approach for Charlotte. We have proven that traditional teaching methods are not the answer for special needs students, neither are teachers who do not have experience in knowing the difference.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

"A Bigger Life" by Annette Smith

Joel Carpenter is a hairdresser living in a small Texas town. He spends as much time as possible with his small son, sharing custody with his ex-wife, Kari. His life is full of regrets, but especially the one mistake that cost him his marriage and led to the divorce he never wanted.

The story is told in first-person point of view. Scenes alternate between the present and the past. The author leads the reader from their happy past up to the moment that broke up their marriage and carries forward into the present when a new event brings Kari back into Joel's life. Only this time, he wishes their reunion could have been under different circumstances. Time is short and he needs forgiveness, but his need for faith is what draws him to the decision to attend church with a friend and reach out to God.

Joel not only finds forgiveness, but he redeems himself in the reader's eyes by the end of the book. I was so touched by this story that I read it twice. I was consumed by tears near the end and I can't imagine this heart-felt story not touching anyone who reads it. I could feel Joel's pain, the relief and his healing at the end. It's true that once God brings us through something that forever alters us, life must go on. This story was the best true-to-life story I had ever read. I give it 4 1/2 stars out of five.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Blogging Theme!

I decided my blog needed a new look. I love lighthouses and so I went with a lighthouse theme. Hope you like it. It matches the new lighthouse theme in my home office. The walls are a sky blue and I have lighthouses on my bookcases, lighthouse pictures on my walls and a few lighthouse plates. I hope to put up a lighthouse border soon.

Recently, I just bought a new lighthouse for my Christmas village. The light rotates and it looks like a spotlight is going around in my living room and it makes a tinkering sound like you sometimes hear in the ocean where the buoys are floating. The buoys often have a chain of some sort attached to them and as they float around, it clinks.

I think I'm going to have to write a book that takes place around the mystery of a lighthouse. I'm almost finished with my current manuscript and lots of ideas are floating around in my head. Instead of a summer story, I'm thinking about a winter story. I'd like it to be located up on a rocky cliff overlooking the shore and I'm considering a European country. Leave me a comment if you know of any lighthouses that would make a good setting for a historical story. I love the creativity of plotting fresh new ideas.

This photo is of Cape Hatteras off the North Carolina shore. We visited there this past summer. The Outerbanks is a great place to vacation.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Happiest Season of All

Our house is decorated with lights around my bushes across my house and a lit wreath on the front door and lit garland around the front porch posts. I have lit angels in each window instead of the typical candles and my new fiber optic tree is up with a few wrapped presents underneath. And to top everything, I have my historical Christmas village set up on display. Can you tell how much I love Christmas?

Some companies in Charlotte got together and donated a little outdoor ice rink to our city. This made it possible for us to take our daughter and she got to experience her first outdoor ice rink. It was wonderful! We loved it! She's begging to go back. So we promised we would try and take her back one more time before Christmas. We also took her to see McAddenville, a town that traditionally decorates for Christmas each year with over 200 houses participating. We've already started our Christmas movie frenzy.

And then the school sends home my daughter's first research paper due on December 19th! I'm trying to be good about this, really I am, but why couldn't they do this in January or February? Are they purposely trying to ruin Christmas? (My mother works for one of the school systems in a different county and called to tell me that one NC county school system has declared that there will be no celebration of Christmas whatsoever, not even "Happy Holidays" will be allowed.) So far the other counties in NC have not gone that far and I pray that they do not.

My daughter is only in the third grade and each night she has over 3 1/2 hours of homework. The kid never gets a break except on weekends. Now three weeks before Christmas, I feel like the school has taken away that as well. The next three weekends are already packed full of events spending time with family out of town, Girl Scout activities, church activities. I don't know how we are going to squeeze in this research paper. It isn't like she'll have time during the week with her regular schedule of homework.

My daughter has some delayed development from her seizure history and has an IEP (Individual Education Plan), along with speech therapy, and occupational therapy. It takes her twice as long to complete her assignments compared to other children her age. Therefore, everything they give her is modified. However, her curiculum still seems a bit tough. For instance, this week her vocabulary (reading) words are omnivorous, nocturnal, observant, pheromone, and theoretically. Is that not pushing it for third graders, especially one with special needs who "theorethically" has an IEP?

The first thing my husband said is, "You're the writer. This is right up your alley." Yes, I am a writer, at least I would like to think so, but this is supposed to be her report. Celina still struggles to write sentences, much less paragraphs that complete whole pages. She also has to get up in front of the class and give a presentation on her report. I don't remember doing this in the third grade. It seems like I was much older--like fifth grade.

I'm beginning to wonder if the schools aren't the ones pressuring our kids so much that they turn to alternative things. And they wonder why the high school drop out rate is increasing in our state? They wonder why kids are depressed, obese, and stressed? I can think of lots of reasons. At least my daughter has the support of my husband and I, and we teach her about a loving God who will help her through this. I can't help but wonder about all the children whose parents are not as active in their academic life and do not have a loving Saviour to turn to?

Somehow I know we will find a way to fit this research paper into our already busy Christmas schedule. Things will work out. After all, I keep reminding myself, this is supposed to be the "Happiest Season of All."

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