The MacGregor Legacy - From Scotland to the Carolinas

(Book 1 - For Love or Loyalty) (Book 2 - For Love or Country) (Book 3 - For Love or Liberty)

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.

Awakened Redemption (Inspirational Regency)

1815 England - A story that pierces the heart and captures the Regency era.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What Kind of Plotter are You?

There are many different plotting styles. The detailed plotter, plans the story from beginning to end, outlining every scene with a goal, motivation, conflict and has each plot twist charted before writing the story. Some writers write a basic 3-5 page synopsis, while others write a chapter-by-chapter outline. Other authors use the index card method to record facts, plot twists, and rearrange them as needed when they begin developing the story. Seat of the pants writers make up the story as they go. They sit in the chair and just write. Chart plotters, answer questions, regarding character style sheets, and plot questions and fill out organized charts before they write.

Me? I've tried every method except the index-card method. I started out writing as the seat of the pants writer and converted to the Chart/synopsis plotter. I like beginning with my characterization chart. I need to know my characters before I can build a plot. Then I need to know the basic story line so I begin with a title and a TV script sentence. I expand that sentence into a paragraph like a back cover blurb story. From there, I write a 3-5 page synopsis. At his point, I can usually write the story, or at least the first three chapters and get the proposal off to my agent. If I build a chapter by chapter outline, I write 3-5 sentences for each chapter outlining the main plot points and twists for each each scene. I try not to be too detailed so I can allow enough room for creativity as I write.

I've read several books on writing and how to write fiction, but no source has proved to be a better teacher than trial and error. Sometimes it's necessary to learn by doing. Through my 10+ years before earning my contract on Highland Blessings, I've finally developed a style that works for me. Once you've completed a few novels, you'll have a sense of confidence--a routine of writing--that comes with experience. Highland Blessings was written by a panster, but it was revised and revised by a plotter.

By the time we reach the revision stage, the outline draft is done. At this point, we all become plotters in a sense, as we revise. We have ideas, notes, scene drafts and we rewrite from there.

If you are a writer, what kind of plotter are you? If you are a reader, I'm sure you've written papers for high school and college. What kind of plotter are you?

Friday, August 28, 2009

1920 Electrola

The Electrola was developed in 1913 to replace the hand-cranked Victrola Phonograph Machines. This one was developed around 1920 and manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine Company. It was equipped with an electric motor which could be turned on and off by clicking a switch.

Even though it was developed as early as 1913, the device didn't experience many sales because of the high price tag and due to the fact that most families still had not incorporated electricity into their homes until the 1920's.

Encased in a wooden frame like a piece of furniture, the machine was quite large, heavy and bulky. The bottom contained an open compartment in which to store things. If you open the top lid, you could slip in a record-like device and move the arm with a needle onto the edge of the record and it would play the sound.

To me, it looks like the one of those old-fashoioned albums I remember my parents playing on those big stereos back in the 70's. My uncle had a record player that looked similar to this, but I don't think it was quite this old. It looked more like a record player from the 50's or 60's.

I apologize for the quality of these photos. They were taken at the Charleston Historical Museum and I could not use any flash and it was through one of those clear protection glass or plastic pieces. I thought it might be helpful to some of you writers who might be writing a story set in the 1920's.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Author Interview - Kay Marshall Strom

I'd like to introduce Kay Marshall Strom, Author of The Call of Zulina, part of the new fiction launch by Abingdon Press. I first met Kay at Abingdon's Writer's Retreat in Pennsylvania. (We are in the photo to the right in our rocking chairs. I'm on the left and she is on the right.) Kay has a strong faith and warm heart that touches everyone around her. I admire her for all she has allowed God to do in her life. I can't wait to read her latest book. We'll be giving away a free autographed copy to one blessed reader who leaves a comment with an email address. We will draw a name out of the group of comments. I'll draw the name on Friday and contact the winner by email.

1. Describe your writing journey. How did you first get published?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t begin my own journey until my children started school. I took my first manuscript to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and showed it to an editor. I beamed; she yawned. But I attended her writing track and learned the things I should have known in the first place, then I resubmitted my manuscript to her. The result was my first book. That was over twenty years ago. Since then I have written 36 books, more articles than I can count, several movie and TV scripts, curriculum—you name it, I’ve written it. I also teach writing through colleges and writers conferences.

2. What advice or tips do you have for writers who are just getting started?

Learn your craft. It doesn’t work to just start writing and trust that somehow your words will weave together and carry you to best-sellerdom. Write right, then keep on writing and don’t give up. Everyone gets better and better; no one gets worse and worse.

3. 3. Tell us about your latest book.

The Call of Zulina is the first book of a three-book historical saga. Set in West Africa, it centers around Grace Winslow, whose mother is African royalty and her father a British sea captain. She escapes a marriage arrangement to a pompous, offensive white slave trader only to end up in the middle of a slave revolt at Zulina slave fortress. It is there that she comes to understand the horrific nature of her family’s involvement in the slave trade. With one foot in each of two worlds, she is forced to choose a side—slave or slaver—and to pay the price of her choice.

4. What are you currently writing?

I have two more books coming out in the Grace in Africa series. Book 2 is mainly set in London in 1792, and Book 3 (which I’m working on now) is mainly set in the new United States in 1793. I’m currently talking with Abingdon about a trilogy set in India, a saga covering thee generations of a family of “untouchables” and the high caste family that controls their lives. In these books, we would see Christianity collide with Hinduism.

5. Where do you get ideas for stories?

Getting ideas is no problem. My idea file is bulging. This one came while I was researching two non-fiction books. While I was in West Africa working on Daughters of Hope, I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby-sized manacles bolted to the wall. Not long after, while I was researching Once Blind: The Life of John Newton (the author of the hymn Amazing Grace was a slaver turned preacher and abolitionist) I “met” a couple who had run a slave business in Africa in the 1700s. I wondered, If that couple had had a daughter, who would she be, English or African? And where would her loyalties lie? Story question—the birth of a book!

6. How long does it normally take you to write a book? How many books do you write per year?

Depending on how much research and foreign travel are required, it usually takes me about three months to write a book. Last year I wrote four books…made research trips to Egypt, India, Nepal… and moved from California to Oregon! I never want to do all that in one year again!

7. Do you edit as you go or wait until completing the first draft? How many drafts?

I am a pretty organized writer. I gather info, then I make a fairly detailed chapter outline and attach all my research to the appropriate chapter. (This is a time-consuming step, but the better I do this, the easier and more trouble-free the actual writing.) Then I write a first draft: no corrections, no rethinking—just pouring it out. (I love this step!) Then I write a second draft: bringing order to the first, rewriting, switching info to another chapter, and so forth. (This is the painful step.) Then I do a final draft: polishing, fixing, double checking info. I move away from the project for a week or two and do something completely different and my husband reads it and makes corrections and suggestions. (He’s great!) I consider my husband’s comments, then I go back and reread the entire manuscript out loud one last time.

To learn more about Kay, visit her website at:


And the Winner is...

Patricia Woodside!

My hubby pulled your name out of the pile. I hope you enjoy The Call of Zulina! I'll be contacting you by email.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Characters Beyond Expectation

Readers want to feel an emotional pulse when they read your story. You can't just tell them how a character feels. Make a reader feel what a character feels. A writer's goal is to make a reader's pulse quicken and their heartbeat race as if they are the one inside the story.

Does the sentence below move you?
Donna frowned, angry Jerry had the nerve to raise his voice.

Is this better?
Jerry's booming voice penetrated her past into the leering, taunting tone of her father. The memory of his hand raised with a black leather belt took her breath away as she squeezed her eyes tight. She cringed, waiting for the hot sting to slice through her flesh. Her heart pounded. Blood pumped through her head, but one determination steeled her heart. She wouldn't cry. Not now. Not ever.

Now Donna can open her eyes and her reaction to Jerry will be warranted. Whatever she does, will not only be understood by the reader, but approved and cheered on by the reader. Your characters must win over your readers. Only then can you get past what is "expected" by your characters. Once your character has won the reader, then that character can step out of line, over-react, make a bad decision, to up the stakes. Just make sure there is sufficient motive and the character has good intentions or reacts of out strong emotion. When your readers feel the character's pulse, they will understand why that characters has to say what they say, and do what they do. It must be believable.

Seeing is believing and a reader sees with the heart.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CFBA - "Montana Rose"

The Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Montana Rose

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)


Mary Connealy


Mary's writing journey is similar to a lot of others. Boil it down to persistence, oh, go ahead and call it stubbornness. She just kept typing away. She think the reason she did it was because she was more or less a dunce around people—prone to sit silently when she really ought to speak up (or far worse, speak up when she ought to sit silently).

So, Mary had all these things, she wanted to say in her head; the perfect zinger to the rude cashier, which you think of an hour after you’ve left the store, the perfect bit of wisdom when someone needs help, which doesn’t occur to you until they solve their problems themselves, the perfect guilt trip for the kids, which you don’t say because you’re not an idiot. She kept all this wit to herself, much to the relief of all who know her, and wrote her great ideas into books. It’s therapeutic, if nothing else, and more affordable than a psychiatrist.

Then a very nice, oh so nice, publishing company like Barbour Heartsong came along and said, “Hey, we’ll pay you money for this 45,000 word therapy session.” That’s as sweet as it gets.

Mary has signed an exclusive contract with Barbour that will have her writing eighteen (18) books for them over the next four years! This book is the first in the Montana Marriage Series. The second book will be the The Husband Tree, and the third will be Wildflower Bride.


Fire up your love of romance with Montana Rose.

When surrounded by a mob of ill-bred, foul-smelling, women-hungry men, the newly widowed and seemingly spoiled Cassie “China Doll” Griffin has no choice. Marrying handyman Red Dawson seems the only alternative to Cassie’s being hitched to a brutal rancher. But can this “China Doll” bear exchanging smooth silk for coarse calico? Red was reluctant to be yoked to an unbeliever, but sometimes a man has no choice. Will Red change Cassie’s heart by changing her name? Wade Sawyer is obsessed with saving Cassie from a marriage of convenience. How far will he go to make her his own?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Montana Rose, go HERE.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Layering Introspection

Layering introspection into your manuscript is an excellent way to deepen a character. While in a particular character's point of view (POV), the reader is given insight into that character's thought process and the details of one's emotional reaction to other people and things that are happening in their environment.

Since a character should not describe oneself, introspection is a great way to provide a description of how the POV character sees and reacts to someone else. You can layer in the POV character's feelings about that person. This is essential in using different scenes written in the hero and heroine's POV to show insight into each person's thoughts and feelings. Below is an example of introspection I've used in one of my works in progress (WIP). It is an English Regency and written in the heroine's POV.

The man dressed fashionably in a white linen shirt and tan trousers that enhanced his muscular thighs. He wore tall back boots that shone bright in the sun, a short waistcoat over his shirt with a double-breasted riding coat that was long-tailed in back and had large lapels around a white cravat. His shoulders were massively wide, his posture upright. Heat crawled into her face as Elyse realized she stareed at him. She looked away.

In the above passage, you get a detailed physical description of the heroine, but you also know her reaction. She's staring at him and she's embarrassed once she realizes it.

While it isn't appropriate to dump huge paragraphs of backstory in the first three chapters, you can layer it in through introspection since a character's goals and motivations are so essential to understanding a character's behavior. A writer must balance enough of this information in the first three chapters to keep the reader from misunderstanding the plot and the characters that are still being developed in the reader's mind. Below is an example of layering backstory from the same WIP in the heroine's POV with her stepfather.

He balled his fist again and came at her. She cowered and hated herself for it. With age Elyse had learned to avoid making him cross. It had been a while since she'd suffered from his physical blows. But tonight she hadn't been so wise.

In the few paragraphs above, we learn that this isn't the first time her stepfather has beat her, but over the years she had learned how to avoid being beaten or rousing his anger. We also see her reaction, that she's blaming herself for not staying to her true character by acting with caution and reserve.

Introspection can also reveal conflict. A character's dislike of another character when one is forced to hide that dislike is best shown through introspection. If a character learns that a particular action will prevent him/her from achieving his/her goals, introspection and reveal what that character intends to do about it as a result. That character isn't likely to announce it to everyone, but by reading his/her thought process, the reader knows and can anticipate how the other characters will react. An example of this is from the same WIP in the hero's POV. He has struck a bargain with Elyse's stepfather and promised she could stay with his neighbor, an elderly widow while she served as a nursemaid to his son.

Now all he needed to do was convince Mrs. Warfield, his neighbor, that she could use some company around the house. The sooner he got Elyse away from her stepfather, the better.

In the passage above, we learn that Preston has made a commitment on Mrs. Warfield's behalf without first consulting her. This builds the expectation of potential conflict. The reader doesn't yet know how Mrs. Warfield will react. Also, we know Preston's goal, he intends to get Elyse away from her abusive stepfather. He wants to save her.

The key to introspection is to layer it in your manuscript to deepen characterization and to reveal motivation, goals and conflict to the reader without making it too wordy or lengthy. It shouldn't be more than a few sentences in a paragraph and paragraphs of introspection shouldn't be more than a page without significant reason. If you allow it to go on for several pages, it will slow the pacing of your novel and possibly bore the reader.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wild Card Book Review - "Sweetwater Run"

Today's Wild Card author is:

Jan Watson

and the book:

Sweetwater Run

Tyndale House Publishers (July 6, 2009)


Jan Watson is the award-winning author of the 2004 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. She received the award for Troublesome Creek, her first novel in a three-book historical series, and the prize included a publishing contract with Tyndale House. Tyndale also published the sequels, Willow Springs and Torrent Falls. A retired registered nurse of 25 years, Jan lives in Kentucky. She has three grown sons and a daughter-in-law.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (July 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414323859
ISBN-13: 978-1414323855


March had come in like a lion, and the lamb was nowhere to be found though the month was nearly over. Clouds the color of tarnished silver hung low over the eastern Kentucky mountains, spitting hard grains of snow. Cara Wilson Whitt stood on the porch wrapped in a knit mantle, disbelieving the scene in the yard. Six men gestured and talked in loud voices, the chief one being her husband. Dimm was not a talker. He never wasted words, but now he raised his voice standing his ground.

There was the sheriff, a lawyer, the two accusers—Anvil and Walker Wheeler—her brother-in-law, Ace, and Dimm. And, oh yes, the cause of all the commotion: Pancake the mule.

Cara wondered for the thousandth time how it had come to this. How was it that Dimmert was in danger of losing his freedom for stealing his own mule? Ace had cautioned Dimmert about tangling with the Wheelers—perhaps his mule had wandered onto Wheeler property and they commandeered it, more or less. But Dimm knew his mule didn’t stray. His animals were so well fed and pampered they had no reason to look for greener pasture. It ate at Dimm and he took to spying on the Wheelers. One day he saw Walker Wheeler take a club to Pancake when he balked at the traces, and he determined to get his animal back. It was either that or shoot Walker, and Dimm had never been given to violence.

When Dimmert relieved Anvil Wheeler of the mule, he didn’t even have to get the winter-withered apple from his pocket to lure Pancake from his pen; the mule was that glad to see him. Of course the Wheelers tracked the mule’s prints to Dimmert’s barn and turned the case over to the sheriff.

Cara paced, her feet drumming on the wooden porch floor. She wanted to be out there. Dimmert would listen to her. But she kept her place like a good wife should. “Don’t say nothing,” she wanted to shout to Dimmert but didn’t. “A mule ain’t worth going to jail over,” she would have cried out if a woman’s words counted in a yard full of men. Dimmert didn’t have much in the way of worldly possessions, but he had his pride. She knew better than to mess with that.

Ace sprinted to the porch. “We need that picture you had took, Cara, the one of you and Dimm with Pancake in the middle. Can you fetch it while I go down to the cellar for an apple?”

Sometime last year a traveling photographer had come by the place to make a picture of Dimmert and Cara. Dimm, of course, wanted Pancake in the picture. It was a nice portrait of Dimm in starched overalls and Cara in her Sunday dress with her hair swirled on top of her head—and Pancake’s long bony head hanging between their shoulders. Dimm and Cara were staring straight ahead, sober as a preacher at a brush arbor meeting; not a smile creased either countenance. But Pancake was a different story. His smile was big and horsey, showing lots of strong, square teeth and so lopsided it made you grin to look at it.

Cara could hardly bring herself to leave the porch. She didn’t want to tear her eyes off Dimm.

“I’ll go get it,” Dance, Ace’s wife, who kept watch with her, offered. “Where do you keep it, Cara?”

“It’s in the Bible in the corner cupboard,” Cara said.

Dance opened the door, and a welcome drift of warmth sailed out along with the excited voices of Dance and Ace’s children, who’d been sent in out of the cold. “You kids hush up,” she heard Dance say before she came back out.

Lickety-split, Ace was back at the scene. The sheriff took the picture and the apple. He studied the likeness for a bit, then held it up beside the face of the mule.

“Can’t they tell that’s Dimm’s mule?” she asked Dance. “Dimm don’t lie.”

“Lookee,” Dance replied. “There’s a brand on that critter’s rump.”

“Pancake doesn’t have a brand.”

“Exactly,” Dance said. “That Walker Wheeler’s gone and put his mark on Dimm’s mule.”

A cold wind railed around the side of the porch. Cara’s skirts billowed. She anchored them between her knees.

The sheriff handed the apple to Dimm, who held it just in front of Pancake’s long nose and did everything but stand on his head, but Pancake would not crack a grin or open his mouth for his favorite treat. The stubborn mule just stared balefully at Walker Wheeler, who was doing all the smiling today. Cara watched as Dimm laid his face alongside Pancake’s in his sweet, forgiving way.

Finally the sheriff gave it up. “Anvil, are you sure this here’s your mule?”

“Sure as I’m sure Walker is my son,” Anvil answered.

Walker guffawed, picking up the apple Dimmert had pitched to the ground and taking a big, crunching bite.

“What if Mr. Whitt just gives back this mule?” the sheriff asked. “I hate to take a man to jail over a simple misunderstanding.”

“I’d settle for that,” Anvil said. “That and an apology to Walker. Dimmert saying this mule’s his stock is the same as calling my son a liar.” He turned to Walker. “You don’t lie, do you, boy?”

Walker took another big, slurping bite. “No, Daddy, I surely don’t. I bought this here animal off old Clary Lumpkin two days before she died.”

“Then that’s that,” Anvil said.

“Dimmert?” the sheriff said.

Now it was Dimm’s turn to clamp his mouth shut like Pancake had done. Only his eyes did not stare balefully but instead shot sparks at Walker Wheeler.

“Come on, Dimm,” Ace pleaded. “It ain’t worth going to jail over.”

Dimm let loose a veritable torrent the one time he should have kept quiet. “This here’s my mule, Walker Wheeler. I know it and you know it! And you know you’re a bald-faced liar!”

A deaf owl could have heard the collective intake of breath at Dimm’s misguided speech. “I ain’t giving Pancake over.” Dimm stood his ground. “It will be a cold day in Satan’s shoes before I apologize to the sorry likes of you.”

“Well,” Anvil Wheeler said, “I gave you a chance. Walker, get the mule.”

Walker stood glued to his spot.

Quicker than a rabbit’s kick, Dimmert’s fist shot out and sucker punched Walker Wheeler. Bits of apple flew out of Walker’s surprised mouth as he toppled backward to the ground. Surely as caught off guard as Walker, the sheriff rushed at Dimm and wrestled his arms behind his back.

Dimmert gave no protest, however, but stood meekly with his wrists crossed behind his back.

Mumbling and fumbling, the sheriff trussed his hands. “That was plain ignorant, boy.”

Walker wasn’t hurt other than his pride, but he couldn’t resist throwing a taunt. “You’ll pay for that, you horse’s behind.”

“I’ll pay for more than that if you ever take a club to one of my animals again, Walker Wheeler,” Dimm said. “You see if I don’t.”

Next thing Cara knew, the Wheelers were leading Pancake away.

Ace ran back. “Come tell Dimmert good-bye,” he said to Cara.

“Good-bye?” she said. “I can’t tell my husband good-bye.”

Ace made to lead her off the porch.

She pushed his hand away. “Walker Wheeler stole the mule first,” she yelled and saw the sheriff look her way. “Dimmert did nothing wrong!”

“Cara,” Ace soothed, “don’t be making a scene. That lawyer, Henry Thomas, says he’ll get Dimmert out of the pokey pronto. All we’ll need to do is pay a fine. He says it’s just a formality.”

Tiny black spots shimmered in Cara’s vision. Her knees buckled. “Mercy, I feel like I’m going to faint.” She was glad now for her brother-in-law’s supporting arm.

“You can do this,” he said. “Come on. Dimmert needs to see you strong.”

Dance gave her a nudge. “Go on with Ace. You’ll be glad you done it later.”

“I’m so sorry, Cara-mine,” Dimmert said, his words so soft only Cara could hear. “I never aimed to leave you all alone.”

Cara wanted to lean into him. She wanted to let his strength absorb her weakness, but instead she drew herself up. “You’re not to worry for one minute. We’ll get this all sorted out.”

“Come on now, Whitt,” the sheriff said. “It’s time to get going.” Pellets of snow gathered in the crease of the sheriff’s black felt hat. His eyes met Cara’s. They were not unkind. “Mrs. Whitt, you can come to visit.”

Soon Dimmert was sitting on a pack horse behind the sheriff’s big bay mare. He didn’t look back as the horse was led away. Cara was grateful for that.


Three weeks later Cara tossed and turned the whole night long. The bed was big and lonesome what with Dimmert gone. Midnight found her on the porch of their small but sturdy cabin, staring out into the darkness like she could conjure up her husband if she gave concerted effort. It might not be so bad if she owned a rocking chair. Rocking soothed an unquiet mind. But she didn’t have a rocker, so her thoughts roiled like sour milk in a churn, and there wasn’t much comfort in the idea of visiting Dimm in jail.

She wouldn’t be so lonesome now if she wasn’t so isolated. What had possessed her to let Dimm drag her from their spacious three-room house on Troublesome Creek up here halfway to nowhere? Ah, but Cara already knew the answer to that. Dimmert Whitt was the sweetest man she ever laid eyes on. Plus, he had an interesting face, not really handsome but arresting, like you could study it all day and never get the least bit tired. And that gingery hair—the color of spice cake fresh from the oven—Cara was a sucker for that hair.

Still unable to sleep, she decided she was thirsty and got up for a drink. The screen door squeaked as she opened it and went to the water bucket on the wash shelf.

Taking a dipper of well water from the granite bucket, she drank it before giving in to a yawn, and then her feet traced the familiar path to bed. After a quick prayer for Dimm’s safety, she held his feather pillow close, like she would have held him if he were here.

The morning would be better. Morning’s first light always filled her with promise; seemed anything was possible then, even Dimm’s salvation. Thanks to her friend Miz Copper, she had radish and lettuce seed to set out in her spring garden. Nothing made a body feel better than a hoe in hand and fertile soil underfoot. Dimm was right about that part. This side of the mountain couldn’t be beat for growing things. Pulling the cotton quilt over her shoulders, she turned, seeking comfort.

As Cara drifted off to sleep, she thought of Copper Pelfrey and how good she was to come all the way from Troublesome to bring plants and seeds from her garden. When Cara had first spied the Pelfreys yon side of the creek, she got so excited she dropped her favorite yellowware bowl and broke it all to flinders. Now what would she mix her gritty bread in? Quick like, she’d tucked up her hair and hung her apron on the peg behind the door. She reckoned it’d been three weeks since she’d spoken to another soul—except for Ace Shelton, who came by once in a while to see if she needed any little thing.

Miz Copper brought more than lettuce and radishes. She brought marigold and zinnia seed for planting in May and a little poke of money for Dimmert’s lawyer. Copper’s husband John made himself scarce. He said he needed to patch that hole he saw in the barn roof while she and Copper visited. But Cara knew he was sparing her embarrassment. He knew she’d be mortified to take money from anyone but his wife—and that was hard enough.

“How are you, Cara?” Miz Copper asked after she settled at Cara’s table with a cup of fresh-brewed sassafras tea.

“Good,” Cara said, but she couldn’t meet Miz Copper’s eyes.

Miz Copper laid her hand upon Cara’s own and said again, “How are you?”

Tears pooled in Cara’s eyes. Miz Copper had always been discerning and kind—ever so kind. “It’s hard,” she replied. “I’ve never been alone a minute in my life, and now alone is all I am.”

“Oh, honey,” Miz Copper said. “You could come stay with us.”

“Dimm would want me here.”

“Yes,” Miz Copper agreed, “I expect he would.”

Cara squeezed her eyes shut. The least little bit of sympathy and she was near tears again. “Do you remember the brave girl I used to be? Remember when my mama had the twins and I was the one helping?”

Miz Copper moved her chair close. She put her arms around Cara, and Cara leaned her head on her friend’s shoulder. “I sure do. I never met a braver girl than you were that night.”

Cara felt her tears wet Miz Copper’s shoulder. “I don’t know what happened to that girl. Now every little thing spooks me.”

“Part of that is your being alone. I remember when I first came back to the farm after Lilly’s father died. I felt so overwhelmed and weary at times, I cried just like you’re doing now.”

“What did you do? How did you stand it?” Cara asked, straightening up so she could see Miz Copper’s face.

“I turned to the Lord,” Miz Copper said. “You’ll see; God won’t put more on you than you can bear if you will turn to Him in your sorrow and your fear.”

Cara nodded. She knew Miz Copper spoke the truth, but she didn’t know for sure if God would listen to one such as herself, one being such a stranger at God’s door.

Time passed easily as they chatted, even laughed a little, remembering good times. You couldn’t be around Miz Copper without smiling.

Miz Copper’s daughter, Lilly Gray, came in from the porch. “Mama,” she said, “Daddy John says he’s almost finished with the roof.”

“Lilly Gray, you are as pretty as a picture,” Cara said.

The girl leaned against her mother’s knees and laid her head against her mother’s shoulder. She looked up at Cara from underneath long black eyelashes. Her finely arched eyebrows, heart-shaped face, and porcelain skin reminded Cara of a china doll. Shyly she said, “Thank you, Miz Cara.”

“Show Cara the locket Daddy John gave you for your eighth birthday.”

“Oh, that’s real pretty.” Cara admired the intricate scrollwork on the small gold locket.

“It opens,” Lilly said, coming to Cara. She fiddled with the jewelry and clicked the latch. “It’s got pictures of my two daddies. See?” She held the open locket out. “My one daddy Simon and my now daddy John. Daddy Simon is in heaven with Jesus.”

Cara met Miz Copper’s eyes over the top of Lilly’s head. Miz Copper gave a little shrug. Cara felt embarrassed to be complaining about being alone. The story of what happened to Miz Copper’s first husband was widely known. He was thrown from a horse and mortally wounded, leaving her a widow with a baby. Miz Copper brought Lilly to the mountains and set up housekeeping on her own. Cara would do well to follow her example.

Cara felt like crying for herself as well as Miz Copper. She felt like crying for all the pain in the world. Instead she changed the subject. “Where’s your little brother today?”

Lilly snapped her locket closed. “Oh, he’s home with Miss Remy.” She sidled closer to Cara. “Do you want to know a secret?”

“I purely love a good secret,” Cara replied.

Lilly Gray cupped her hand around Cara’s ear and whispered, “We’re going to have another baby.”

Mr. John appeared in the doorway. “Hey, girls, we’d best get started if you want to call on Fairy Mae.”

Lilly skipped out to meet her daddy. “Can I hold the reins this time?”

“Sure as shootin’,” Mr. John said. “We’ll wait in the buggy, Copper.”

Miz Copper drained her tea, then pushed her chair back and withdrew a leather sack from her skirt pocket. “Ace was good enough to come by and tell John how much Dimm’s fine is, Cara.”

“I’ll pay you back every cent,” Cara said, embarrassed but grateful.

“No need,” Miz Copper said while tying her bonnet strings under her chin. “John said he owed that to Dimm for helping clear land last fall. Count it out before you pay the fine. I believe there’s enough extra to tide you over.” She hugged Cara hard. “I’m praying for Dimm and for you, dear heart.”

“Thank you,” Cara said, her voice husky with unshed tears. “I’m real happy about your new baby.”

Miz Copper patted her still-flat stomach and laughed. “I expect little John William will be right peeved when this one comes. He’s used to being the center of attention.”

“Good thing you’ve got Remy Riddle to help out,” Cara said.

“My goodness, yes. She has been an answer to prayer.” She held Cara’s face between her hands. “Now you take care of yourself.”

“You too,” Cara said, holding the screen door wide. “You take care of yourself too.”

Now Cara pounded her pillow and laid her head in the indentation. She was trying to be strong since that visit. She was trying to follow Miz Copper’s model; she really was. Daytime wasn’t so bad, but nights were pure torture.

Her mind stirred up again, dragging out worn trunks of worry like a widow in an attic of memory. She threw the cover aside, her feet hitting the floor. Where had she hidden that money last? First she’d put it in the sugar bowl; it was empty anyway. But that seemed too obvious, so she’d moved it to the top of the corner cupboard. When that didn’t satisfy, she pried up the end of a loose floorboard in front of the fireplace and stuck it down there. But what if a mouse took a liking to that little leather sack? Silvery moonlight spilled in through a high window and lit that place in the floor like a spotlight. If a robber came in, he’d make a beeline there.

“Ouch!” Cara sucked her palm. Why hadn’t she noticed that nail in the floorboard before? Now she’d more than likely get lockjaw from the rust. She’d be all alone, jaw tight as the lid on a pickle jar, unable to take in a teaspoon of water to slack her raging fever. Just the thought made her thirsty. Might as well draw some fresh water. But what to do with the poke of cash money? For now she’d stick it in her pillow slip. It’d be safe there unless the robber was sleepy.

The mantel clock chimed twelve thirty. At this rate she’d still be awake when Ace came for her in the morning. He was carrying her to the county seat. Dimmert had finally been granted visitors. Cara was beginning to think she would never see him again. It would be the first time she’d visited a person in jail. She wondered how it would be to have bars between her and Dimm. Would she get to touch him? run her hand over his dear face? Probably not. There were surely lots of rules to follow at the lockup. She didn’t want to break a one.

New green grass tickled her feet as she walked barefoot to the well. She relished the mild spring night. The lamb had finally banished the lion. Hand over hand, Cara pulled the wooden bucket up the pitch-dark shaft until she placed it teetering on the rock ledge. Holding the bucket steady, she dipped palmful after palmful of cold water to her lips until she’d had her fill.

Weariness seeped into her long bones with a dull ache and made the thin bones of her fingers and toes twang like fiddle strings. But still her bed did not call. She gathered her gown around her, sat on the single step to the well house, and leaned her head against the doorframe. Sleep found her there, deep and dreamless as the well. She didn’t wake until the rooster crowed.

“Did ye bring me some shoes?” Cara asked later that morning when Ace rolled up in the buggy.

“Dance sent her extra pair,” he said.

“Thank ye. These are sure nice.” Cara was so thankful. The soles of her shoes had separated and flapped like an old man’s gums when she walked about. Looking the many-buttoned boots over, she asked, “Do ye reckon I’ve got time to throw a little polish on these?”

“Don’t take long at it. Dimmert’s lawyer’s supposed to meet us at the jailhouse.”

Cara hurried inside and rummaged around for the tin of black polish and a rag. In seconds the shoes had sheen on the toes. It was a little more effort to get them on. Her hose kept bunching up at the heels and pulling at the toes. The boots were at least half an inch too short. Dance was about her size except for her feet. Frustrated, Cara tore off her stockings and flung them aside. She’d have to chance a blister. Try as she might with the button hook, Cara couldn’t get the ones around her ankles to fasten. She shrugged and gave up. What did it matter as long as she was shod to go to town? Her skirts would hide her ankles anyway. After pulling her go-to-town gloves from the bottom drawer of the chiffonier, she was ready.

The buggy jounced along, tilting to the driver’s side on the narrow roadbed. Cara kept sliding into Ace.

“Did Miz Pelfrey bring you the money?” he asked.

“I’ve got it right here,” she replied, patting the bottom of her linen carryall. Carefully, she’d counted out the fine this morning, put the leftover folding money in a small drawstring purse, and pinned it inside the carryall. “Do you reckon they’ll let Dimm out today?”

“I don’t hardly see why not. That lawyer said all we need to do is pay the fine.” Ace looked like a lawyer himself in his shiny black suit. “After all, it was his own mule he stole.”

“Dimmert’s a fool about his animals,” Cara said.

“That fellow who accused Dimm would steal the dimes off a dead man’s eyes,” Ace said. “I would have done the same thing Dimmert did.”

Cara clung to the side of the buggy. Her teeth rattled when they hit a deep hole. “He could have gone about it in a different way, though.”

“That’s water under the bridge now.”

Tears under the bridge, Cara thought. Enough tears to make a river.


The jailhouse was situated on a side street, right beside the sheriff’s office. Ace held the door as Cara entered a room furnished with a rolltop desk, a straight chair, and a coatrack. A man with a star on his chest that proclaimed Deputy sat slouched in the chair. One hand rested on his holstered gun. With a brown hat set low over his eyes, he seemed to be sleeping.

Ace caught Cara’s elbow and ushered her back outside. He closed the door softly. “We don’t want to catch him unawares,” Ace said, then made a show of loud talk and letting the door bang shut before he got it open.

“Help you folks?” the deputy asked, sitting ramrod straight and taking off his hat.

Ace stepped forward. “We’re here to see Dimmert Whitt. This here’s his wife, and I’m his preacher.”

“Visits on Saturday mornings only,” the deputy said.

Cara couldn’t hide her dismay—to be so close and not see Dimm. She covered her mouth with her gloved hand as tears pooled in her eyes.

The deputy jangled a large brass ring holding many keys. “I reckon it won’t hurt to make an exception.” He stood and looked kindly at Cara. “Now if we was full, I’d have to turn you away, you understand.”

“Yes, sir,” Ace replied, his hat in his hands.

“Thank ye, sir,” Cara said.

“Turn your pockets inside out,” the deputy instructed, “and, ma’am, you can hang your sack on the coatrack there.”

A key turned in a large black lock and a door swung open. “There’s only the two cells,” the deputy said. “Whitt’s in the last one.”

Cara felt her heart break at the pitiful sight of Dimm clutching a set of steel bars as if he’d fall to the floor without their support. She stood back a ways, not sure how close she was allowed to be.

Ace pressed his hand to the middle of her back, urging her forward. With a nod he indicated the deputy standing with his back to them in the open doorway. “Take advantage of small favors,” Ace whispered in her ear.

She leaned toward Dimmert and kissed his cheek through the open bars. “Dimmert, are they treating you well?”

“It’s tolerable,” he answered.

“Ace brought me to see your lawyer,” Cara said. “We aim to get you out of here.”

Dimm eyed his brother-in-law. “You plan on preaching a sermon whilst you’ve got a captive audience?”

“Figured looking as good as a lawyer wouldn’t hurt your case none,” Ace said.

The two men bantered while Cara looked around. The cell was small, probably twelve by twelve, with walls of mortared stone. It had four bunks hooked to the walls by chains and one open but barred window which Dimm could see out of if he stood on tiptoe. That window gave her great comfort.

There was one other man in the cell rolled up in a khaki-colored Army blanket on one of the lower bunks.

Dimmert saw her looking. “That there’s Big Boy Randall,” he said.

“You’re joshing.” Ace stepped in for a closer look.

“One and the same,” Dimm said.

Cara was aggravated with them—acting like it was a source of pride to be locked up with such a notorious figure as Big Boy Randall.

As if he read her thoughts, Big Boy Randall opened one eye and touched the tips of two fingers to the side of his forehead, saluting her with the small gesture.

Her heart hammered with a trill of fear. Ace and Dimm were still jawing and didn’t take notice. She swallowed and turned away from Big Boy’s staring eye.

“Henry Thomas was supposed to meet us here,” Ace said.

“I ain’t seen him but once the whole time I been in this hoosegow,” Dimmert replied.

“We’ll go down to the office then,” Ace said. “I’ll be just outside, Cara.”

Dimmert fixed her with a look of such longing she thought she couldn’t stand it. “Cara-mine,” he said, “do you miss me still?”

“Only every second of every hour of every day.” She would have kissed his cheek again except for Big Boy Randall’s presence on the bunk behind.

“It’s time, missus,” the jailer said.

“We’ll be back for you, Dimmert,” Cara promised.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Revisions for Multiple Editors & Agents

Sometimes editors and agents will request a writer to make some serious revisions before they offer a contract. This is good news. They see promise in your writing and potential with your story. Editors and agents are busy individuals and don't have the time to develop authors to a level of publication. If they offer any constructive feedback, you should take it with an open mind.

However, I do want to offer a little wisdom that I had to learn the hard way with good old-fashioned experience. What one editor or agent will suggest, isn't necessarily what another one will recommend. Like authors, they have varying opinions. Additionally, they work for different houses and agencies that aren't looking for the same thing. If they ask you to make changes, they are trying to make your work better, but they are also trying to make it fit into the parameters with which they work.

This is why it is possible to make the requested changes and still get a rejection. Maybe you couldn't make it work for their particular fiction line or meet their expectations, but it is also possible that by the time you make the revisions and send it back that they've already moved on to other projects they've made contract offers on. They no longer have the time to make your project work, or the open slots they had a few months ago have gone to other authors.

Even after going through all of this, other editors and agents may request revisions to change it back to the way you had it before. Remember, stories are subjective and this CAN happen. I'm living proof.

My advice is to create a separate folder with that agent or editor's name or the name of the publisher or agency for which they work. Set up another folder inside that folder with your manuscript name. This is where you need to place a COPY of your original manuscript. This is the copy on which you will make those requested revisions.

Go through the revision requests and decide which suggestions would be good to make to your original regardless of which house or agency reviews the manuscript. In other words, if there are some loop holes in the story that need attention or grammar mistakes, you will want to fix these issues even to your original. But if it is a request to rename a character or a conservative change that may not be a problem at a different house or agency, you don't necessarily want to make these changes to the original.

If a contract is offered after you make your revisions and resubmit them, you probably won't care about the original. The new version will become your original--because more changes will probably be requested--and no other publisher will see it until it is in print and on the shelves.

But, in the meantime, while you try to make it the perfect fit for the right publisher, having different versions of the same manuscript will make additional revisions easier and help save time in between your full-time job and taking care of your family.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Author Interview - Rita Gerlach

Please welcome debut author, and a wonderful friend of mine, Rita Gerlach. I first met Rita online through American Christian Fiction Writers when Abingdon was considering my manuscript and they had already contracted hers. Since then we've shared lots of emails and phone conversations. Rita is someone who is always uplifting, encouraging, and her faith is a beautiful witness. I'm thankful that our paths have crossed and that we've become such good friends.

If you would like a copy of Rita's book, please leave a comment with your email so I can contact you for your mailing address if you win. We will draw one blessed winner out of the pile and Rita will send you a copy of Surrender the Wind.

Describe your writing journey. How did you first get published?

Early in 2000, I went with a print on demand publisher. POD was a new concept at the time and several authors that I knew encouraged me to try this route. There were a lot of drawbacks, and it was an uphill climb with promotion. I learned a lot, and instead of focusing on the stones in my path, I looked at the experience as a stepping-stone.

I began submitting Surrender the Wind to literary agents in hopes that having one would advance my career. God had other plans. In July of 08, I asked Him to give me guidance. Fifteen minutes later, I was reading Brandilyn Collins’ blog. She posted about Barbara Scott, the acquisitions editor for Abingdon Press and the new fiction line they were starting. I queried Barbara and she asked for the manuscript. She championed my novel to the fiction committee and it was accepted.

Surrender the Wind waslreleased August 1, 2009.

What advice or tips do you have for writers who are just getting started?

Read best selling books on writing. Learn everything you can about the craft, from character development to plotting, to how to write tight. Study how to edit your work. Study the industry and get an understanding of how publishing works. Read best selling books within your genre. Above all do not allow discouragement to get the best of you, and do not write for fame or fortune. If that is your goal, you are starting out for all the wrong reasons. Write because you love it.

Tell us about your latest book.

Surrender the Wind is based on Ecclesiastes 2:17-19. These verses of scripture rang as true in the Georgian and Regency periods as they do today. Benjamin Braxton, an English squire, inherited his fortune from his father and his father before him. When facing death the question of what it all meant, what purpose did gaining wealth play in ones life, creeps into reality. It becomes meaningless in the grander scheme of things. The only comfort he would have is hoping his grandson would use his inheritance for good. Seth, the hero in the story, does this, but yet he too sees that love for God, love for his wife, and his duty to others is far more important than land or money.

The Premise: An American patriot of the Revolution struggles with his loyalty to his country, by accepting an inheritance from his loyalist grandfather in England. A nephew is believed dead. A woman is found murdered in the woods, and he is told his wife has perished in a fire. Readers will ask, what is the truth behind these tragedies? As the novel moves forward, they will discover there is one man that holds the answers, one that despises his American enemy, Seth Braxton, for gaining two things he wanted most, Ten Width Manor and the woman he desired---Juleah Fallowes.

Seth's journey brings him many trials, where his devotion to those he loves is tested, and his faith is brought to the mere size of a mustard seed. For our heroine, Juleah, she must stand against all odds to be with Seth, no matter what the cost. In so doing, she discovers how very deep the waters of love can flow.

While Surrender the Wind focuses on relationships both marital and within a family, it is in every sense of the word a romantic historical novel with the historical ambience of the period in which it is written, with twists and turns that take readers back to a time of raw courage and ideal love. It will keep fans of historical fiction turning the pages.

What are you currently reading?

On my stack at the moment are the books in the fiction launch through my publisher Abingdon Press, The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is the book I am currently reading, and enjoying I might add. I’m also reading Linore Rose Burkard’s Regencies, and Marylu Tyndall’s Charles Towne Belles Series.

What are some ways that readers of your books can help you as an author?

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to help an author, and it’s the best way my readers can help me as an author. In addition to chatting up Surrender the Wind with their friends and family, readers can do a few other things.

  • Post a link to my website on their site or web blog.
  • Feature my book with its cover on their blog one day.
  • Suggest to their book club that they select Surrender the Wind for discussion.
  • Set up an interview with me and post it online.

Thank you, Jennifer, for this interview. I am so pleased you and I are with the same publisher, and I look forward to reading your novel Highland Blessings when it is released.

You can find Rita online at:


We have a Winner!

Congratulations go to Dina Sleiman!

I'll be contacting you by email for your address.