DRESSES . . .

Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady.–Edith Head

Dresses.

Long dresses, short dresses, elaborate, simple, work-related, evening attire . . . I love dresses.

So when I see a cover with a beautiful dress – or even one that just catches my eye – I’m hooked.

That’s what got me started with Deeanne Gist’s and Julie Klassen’s books, and now Tamera Alexander’s!

Did I mention Laura Frantz? Oh, boy, does she ever have the DRESSES! I can’t wait until her next series comes out!

When I am drawn to a cover with a beautiful dress, I always wonder, will this dress actually be featured in the book? When I picked up Tamera Alexander’s book, “A Lasting Impression, a Belmont Mansion Novel,” I had to wonder if that magnificent dress on the cover could possibly belong to the poor waif in the beginning of the novel. I found it, late in the book. I won’t spoil anything by saying that it had to be the most romantic part of the book – which made the dress even more important to me!

As beautiful as all of Deeanne Gist’s covers are, my personal favorite is “Beguiled.” A contemporary, the cover looks like something that could be “Flapper” era, or the current era. A suspense thriller co-written with author Mark Bertrand, this novel brings the historic areas of Charleston to life in the current day. If you’ve visited that beautiful city, you’ll feel that you’re walking the streets right along with the heroine!

Our own Inksper author Lorna Seilstad has magnificent dresses on her heroines, as well! As a librarian, I can’t help but notice that when Lorna’s books are tagged and displayed as a staff “favorite,” it seems to fly off the shelf, and one of the comments invariably mentions the beautiful dresses on the cover!

I could go on, being the girly-girl that I am, but just take note, the next time you’re in your library or favorite bookstore, just how absolutely enchanting are the covers on the books. See if, sometimes, beauty alone just MAKES you reach out and check out that back cover!

Come on I.N. to My House

Are your halls decked? Is there a “ho ho ho” in your home? Studies show that those who decorate for the holidays are more apt to enjoy the holidays. We here at Inkspirational Messages want to invite you into our holiday celebrations this year.

Celebrating for me began last week. I had the honor of hosting the I.N. Group at my home. I.N. Group is made up of Iowa and Nebraska Christian writers. Ten of us were able to gather for a night filled with conversation—some directed toward writing and publishing and some directed toward other things. We enjoyed dinner (creamy chicken enchiladas with sour cream), a book exchange, and of course, lots of fellowship.

Yesterday, we joined with the extended family on my side for Christmas. There were 32 of us gathered at my sisters. Last year, we met my house. Everything was beautiful and the food was delicious. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures. However, the picture at the right is of four of my grand-nephews and one grand-niece. The youngest in the picture, Chase, LOVED all his presents. He’s at such a fun age and was absolutely delighted with his penguin pillow pet. (P.S. My talented niece, their mother, was the photographer.)

 

This year has been quite different than last year for us. Christmas preparations seemed sandwiched between time spent at the hospital as my husband was recovering from lung surgery. Just before Thanksgiving, he developed pneumonia and the fluid remained in his lungs until it had to be surgically drained. He got out on Christmas Eve.

Despite the time constraints, we still managed to go to the tree farm and pick out our tree (left). We picked a 12 foot tree so we had to cut off about three feet of it. Our living room ceilings are 9 feet tall, so we usually have an 8 to 8.5 foot tree. My son was home from college and put it up for us.

Our tree is a collection of ornaments with significance and trimmed with red and gold. There is a collection of musical notes and musical themed ornaments on it. Those are the ones my husband and I purchased for our first tree. Back then, we said we were always going to have a theme tree. Then, we had kids and those baby’s first Christmas ornaments, and everything changed.

 

We have two other trees in our house. The Shoe Tree is a little three foot tree in the dining room that holds a small collection of fancy shoe ornaments, and upstairs, my son has a four foot tree filled with S’more ornaments. They are fun because A.) he loves s’mores, and B.)the ones he has often mirror different times in his life–camping s’mores, fishing s’mores, baking s’mores, or snowboarding s’mores.

 

 

Last year, Parker also had to put up all the lights for us and brought down all my Christmas Rubbermaids from the attic. I think there are 12 or so. I have a rather extensive Santa collection.

Oddly enough, Dawn’s son has been over at our house on several years when it was time to tote the Rubbermaids back up to the attic or down to the main floor. This year, we almost called him to come help just for fun. He never fails to be shocked by the number. I told Dawn I was doing my part to educate him on how different women can be.

 

One especially sweet surprise last year was from my dear author friend Laura Frantz. She sent me these flowers as a thinking-of-you gift during the stressful time. God blessed my husband with a great recovery, and this year, he’s been able to enjoy all of normal Christmas preparations.

 

 

 

 

Another favorite memory from last year came when my daughters and I wrote a book for my nieces called “Mr. and Mrs. Mouse at Grandma’s House.” We found these two mice, wrote the story, and took pictures of the mice to add to the book. This was especially fun since my poor mother-in-law battled a few of the said rodents earlier that fall.

This is just a glimpse into our Christmas—past and present. Now, tell me. Do you have a real tree or an artificial one? Do you have a preference? And how do you decorate your tree? Theme or collection? It will be fun for all of us to know, so please share.

SAME OR DIFFERENT?

This year, at ACFW, I learned that short women would not make good stagecoach drivers. I learned that green beans can be cooked a variety of ways and STILL not be what I consider “done.” I learned that a few minutes of prayer in the prayer room is an amazing way to start a full day.

It was my second conference. I wasn’t as nervous as last year, and I expected it to be similar. It was. It was also different. WHAT was different? The conference? Or ME?

 

What was the same:

  • Amazing worship with author Rachel Hauck and company (I still feel sorry for the guy manning the computerized lyrics!)
  • Master-of-ceremony duties by the inimitable Brandilyn Collins
  • Inspirational sessions with an amazing keynote speaker – last year was “Bug man” novels author Tim Downs, this year premier historical author Tracie Peterson. What an amazing speaker and woman of God.
  • Recurring-theme food – last year was asparagus at every meal. This year? Crunchy green beans. This Southern girl likes her green beans cooked DOWN, y’all.
  • Wonderful classes that made me stop and think deeply about what I write, why I write, and for WHOM I write.

What was different:

  • I went to the prayer room. Jim Peterson was on duty, and everyone who came in, he offered to pray with them, or not, whatever made them comfortable. I prayed alone, but when I left, I spoke to him, thanked him for being there. He grinned and said, “what part of New York did you say you were from?”
  • I wasn’t a first-timer anymore. Besides my good friends, I saw others that I remembered, and that remembered me. What a great feeling!
  • Instead of rooming with 3 other ladies, I took my husband with me. Last year was more chaotic and fun, but this year was more calm and relaxing – and I needed that.
  • I got to eat at the AV guys’ table at the banquet – Yes, seating was a challenge, but personally, I think we ended up at just the right place. Those guys were great!

A few things about the conference made me feel like it was truly meant for me to be there. When Janice Thompson opened the first workshop with prayer, I cried. First, because I was finally THERE, and was going to meet Janice Thompson, one of my favorite authors, and second, because of her prayer. She truly ushered in the Holy Spirit. The name of the workshop was “Plotting Your Fiction Career.” What could have been an all-business, how-to-get-to-the-top how-to course, but it wasn’t. We heard Janice’s testimony about how she was called to write full-time.

That wasn’t the last I heard about plotting. DiAnn Mills’ sessions on “How To Write a Bestseller” focused on plot and how to dig DEEEEEEP within yourself, not just your character, to make your book the best it can be. Susan May Warren’s “Book Therapy Live” took a passage, piece by piece, and did a live critique. Janice’s other session, “A Merry Heart: Writing and Selling the Humorous Novel,” and Susan’s other session, “All Glammed Up,” helped me know how to put some polish on a story.

Needless to say, I’m still in information overload. I’m one of those people who try to glean as much learning as possible from any opportunity. Since I’ve been home, I’ve just today pulled up my manuscript. Would you believe I’ve already found things I want to change?

I was supposed to be at ACFW this year. I was supposed to get those amazing hugs from my sisters in Christ, and fellow-writers. I was supposed to meet the new people I met and with whom I enjoyed a meal, or a bit of downtime between sessions or appointments. I was supposed to grow as a writer, and as a Christian. I was supposed to meet God there, and I did.

There’s an old saying common in the Jewish faith: “Next year in Jerusalem.” For ACFW members, right now, it’s “Next year in Dallas.

What will be different next year?

Thirteen Things About Laura Frantz

Thirteen? Lorna, isn’t that bad luck? Couldn’t you have come up with one more thing to say about Laura?

The truth is I had to stop somewhere. There’s only so much one friend can divulge about the other. Besides, I have to save a few tidbits for future author features on Laura. I think she’ll be writing for a long time to come.

Laura Frantz came to her first ACFW conference in 2009 after the fiction editor from Christianbook.com told her she needed to go and get some writer friends. She’d printed off the pictures of both Sarah Sundin and myself because we’d also been recently contracted with Revell. She found me, and the rest is history! This isn’t an interview exactly. It’s 13 things about Laura that I’ve discovered and think you’ll enjoy.

Her newest release, The Colonel’s Lady, is a breathtaking, poetically beautiful, and unbelievably riveting novel that has already received 60 5-star ratings on Amazon, been featured on Lifeway’s blog, and been reviewed by Publishers Weekly.

Since we met at ACFW, Laura and I have become close friends—mostly through phone calls across the country which I call Franz Fixes—as we traverse our first years on the publishing journey side by side. Today, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve discovered about this author who’s friendship is such a great blessing to me.

1.  History thrills Laura. In July, she went on a ten day tour of historic Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. She visited Valley Forge, Betsy Ross’s house, City Tavern and had dinner on a historic sailing ship. (I was quite envious of that particular story.) She’s also very brave. When she first arrived in Philly, it was about ten at night. She went out, on her own, and walked the area around her hotel. It was unbearably hot during that time, but she said she didn’t even notice her unbearably swollen ankles because she was so into what the tour directors (college professors) were sharing.

2.  Laura suffers from a condition called Richard Armitage-itis. She developed this condition after a reader introduced her to the BBC production North and South. This then lead to her purchase of BBC’s Robin Hood. Laura has actually been known to root against Robin Hood simply because Richard Armitage plays rival Sir Guy of Gisborne.

3.  With two boys at home, Laura is a busy mom. Her oldest son is 15 and a math whiz. Her youngest son is eleven and is already an accomplished fiddle player. She has to drive him 60 minutes for lessons every week. She home schooled the two of them until 2009.

4.  Recently, Laura’s mother and step-father moved to live near her and her family. Since they both suffer from health issues, Laura has taken on the difficult role of adult caregiver. Her giving heart shines through as she walks this new path and balances the challenges it brings.

5.  Laura’s brother Chris, accompanied by his family, is a missionary in Spain. He surprised her by showing up on their doorstep in November for their Smoky Mountain Christmas at their grandma’s farm.

6.  I got a little research help from Laura’s husband, a true craftsman, while I was writing The Ride of Her Life (Revell 2012). He’s a journeyman sheetmetalist (the modern day equivalent of an old-time blacksmith) so I asked him what kind of blow torch they’d use to cut chain in 1906. He was a huge help! However, Laura says when it comes to working in the kitchen, he doesn’t even know how to work the microwave.

7.  What’s in Laura’s closet? Well a gorgeous 18th century gown of course! She purchased the gown for the book launch for A Colonel’s Lady which she planned to hold in Kentucky. Unfortunately, the venue plans fell apart, and I can’t talk her into wearing the dress to ACFW. By the way, don’t forget that Laura is up for a Carol in the Historical Romance Category for Courting Morrow Little.

8.  Laura finally has her own “library.” She needed a place to write, to keep all her research, and to shelve her book collection. Recently, the family did some remodeling and she now has a sunny library with a cook stove and windows to call her own. Isn’t that an office, you ask? Shhhh, she likes the word “library” better.

9.  Laura writes all of her novels in long hand on yellow legal pads, then types them into her computer. She says this allows her to take her writing anywhere at any time. (Can you just picture her writing a kissing scene in Walmart’s parking lot?) She recently threw the foot high stack of legal pads where she’d written The Frontiersman’s Daughter away. I forecast that someday collectors will rue the day. Truthfully, I think she’d love to write them with a quill pen and a cut-glass bottle of ink on a fine piece of stationary.

10.  Last year at ACFW, Laura and I were nervous about attending our first author dinner with Revell. On the way up in the elevator, we had to remind each other they were not going to kick us out when we got there. We kept repeating our mantra, “We belong. We belong. We belong.” We planned to sit together for moral support, but when we got there, place cards indicated we’d be on opposite ends of the room. Still, we knew we had each other’s back, and we both had a delightful time. And surprise—we really are Revell authors. 🙂

11.  The inspiration for The Colonel’s Lady came from an old portrait that Laura saw while visiting Louisville, Kentucky. At a museum, she walked into the bedchamber of George Rogers Clark, the renowned and troubled explorer, she said, “I came face to face with this heroic man on canvas. I wished I could undo history and give him the happy ending I thought he deserved.” After a great deal of research, she sat down and began The Colonel’s Lady.

12.  How did Laura land her first contract? She’s one of the few who made that connection through The Writer’s Edge, a manuscript service publication where writer’s submit a summary description and sample chapters. Andrea Doering, who was Revel’s senior acquisitions editor at the time, left a message on Laura’s phone after reading her story in that publication. Unsure if she had a future as a writer, she didn’t plan to return the call. Only after her brother threatened to never speak to her again, did she call Andrea back.

13.   Have you noticed the beautiful pictures on Laura’s website? She has a natural eye for beauty and it shows up in her writing all the time. She speaks, moves, and lives a life full of grace, and she’s as beautiful inside as she is on the outside. I’m blessed to call her my friend.

Now a little about The Colonel’s Lady. Here is the book’s trailer.

Endorsements: Praise for Laura Frantz’s Writing

“Vivid and poetic. . . . You’ll disappear into another place and time.”–Jane Kirkpatrick, bestselling author of All Together in One Place and A Flickering Light

 
“Laura Frantz portrays the wild beauty of frontier life, along with its dangers and hardships, in vivid detail.”–Ann H. Gabhart, author of The Outsider and The Seeker


“Frantz writes with an inherent beauty that graces every literary aspect of her story, from exquisite prose and intricate characterization to meticulous historical detail and striking emotional connections. [Her writing] sets the standard in historical faith fiction.”—RelzReviews

You can purchase The Colonel’s Lady here, and today, Laura has gracioulsy offered to give away a copy of The Colonel’s Lady to one lucky commenter. Leave a question for Laura or a comment here about something you learned about her and we’ll draw a name at the end of the day.

Company’s Coming!

Oh my, company’s coming to Inkspirational Messages!

And, we’re giving away books too!

Does that mean you have to scrub the floors? Dust on top of the ceiling fan? Take a toothbrush to the grout?

Goodness, no. Just make yourself comfortable. Take your shoes off, pour yourself a cup of lemonade, grab some chocolate, and relax in your recliner.

Ah, that’s better, right?

Now, who’s stopping by, you ask?

Well, we’ll be catching up with our own Lorna Seilstad, Shannon Vannatter, Linda Fulkerson, and Shari Barr. We’re welcoming some old friends: Laura Frantz, Mary Connealy, and Kaye Dacus. We’re even meeting new friends: Sandra Orchard, Gina Holmes, and Jennifer Rogers Spinola.

So, please come on over these next two weeks and chat with us. We’d love to meet you too!

Oh, and don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about those free books. For those of you who stop by to chat, you’ll have an opportunity to win books by a couple of our guests: Deep Cover by Sandra Orchard, Love Remains by Kaye Dacus, and The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz. PLUS, we’re throwing in two additional books from the Love Inspired line: Marrying Miss Marshall by Lacy Williams and Hearts in Flight by Patty Smith Hall.

Now, there are a few small rules you need to follow if you want a chance to win the books, but no worries, they’re not too difficult:

Contest Rules:
Comment on our “Company’s Coming” topic dated August 29, 2011 through September 9, 2011. Every time you comment, your name will go into a drawing for the books. Contest closes Saturday, September 10, 2011 at midnight. The winner will be posted on Sunday, September 11, 2011. Winner must provide a mailing address in an email to Brenda AT brendaandersonbooks DOT com. Do not post your address anywhere on this blog.

Along for the Ride

It all started so innocently. A simple road trip a few years ago with Lorna Seilstad to meet up with a group of Midwestern writers. I was only along for the ride and helping a friend.  I ended up on a path to becoming a writer also.

From that fateful day we met the most amazing group of writers which just happened to include Judith Miller. Judith has become a mentor to both Lorna and me. She was the one who encouraged us to get involved with the ACFW. That September Lorna and I went to the conference in Minneapolis, scared out of our minds, but having each other to lean on in the sea of unknown faces. I remember hearing someone’s knees knocking the whole time. I’m pretty sure they were mine.

In Minneapolis we met Lorna’s online friend Marlene Garand. I fell in love with her humor and French Canadian accent. It was like a slumber party for the three of us as we shared one hotel room. Honest to goodness I had never had that much fun and learned so much at the same time. I realized how much I didn’t know, but the amount that I learned from the classes was overwhelming. My head was full to overflowing when we returned home.

Every year has been better than the year before at the ACFW conference. The sea of unfamiliar faces becomes less and less until now it is only a small pool of people I haven’t had a chance to get to know or see from the ACFW message boards. Many of my friends on Facebook are other writers who are also affiliated with the ACFW. The encouragement they share along the way is priceless.

One of the perks of becoming friends with these writers is that you get to travel their publishing journey with them. I get personally invested in their books as well. I find out about the book they are writing, what kinds of difficulties they experience along the way, and how they are able to overcome the obstacles in their own lives. It helps me to know that I am not the only one who struggles to get the words on paper and with finding time to fit it all in my crazy schedule.

As for the conference itself, you will never find more bang for your buck. The knowledge that is shared in the classes is equal to classes you would find on a college level. And if you consider how much college costs, it’s a bargain. One of the things that amazes me the most is how willing the ACFW authors are to share what they know. My friends at the Seekerville blog have a party everyday as they share volumes of information on the publishing world, contests, and how to/how not to get it done. I would never have known what BICHOK was before meeting these ladies.

When someone asks me about what they need to do to get started in writing, the first thing I tell them is to join a group such as the ACFW. Then I tell them to network with other writers in their area to learn the craft and find a critique group they can join that fits their needs.

No, I’m not published yet. But I always stress the word ‘yet’. I believe as I learn and grow it is just a matter of time before the words of incredible wisdom I hear during these conferences sinks down far enough to my fingertips and makes its way onto my page. So many other writer’s paths have been such a ‘God thing’ that I know if it is His will, it will happen. After all, I’m only along for the ride.

 

Books are a Bubblin’ Over

Happy New Year to all our Inkspirational Messages friends!

Because we like to keep things lively and to challenge our reader’s minds, let’s start this year off with a puzzle.  The list below is a Top 10 list. What do you think it’s a Top 10 list for?

  1. In bed
  2. At the park
  3. In a library
  4. On a couch
  5. In a tent
  6. In a tree house
  7. In the bathtub
  8. At a friend’s house
  9. In the car
  10. By the pool

According to the blog, Literature Young Adult Fiction, the above is the Top 10 Places to Read a Book.  Did your favorite places make the list?

Now, you might be wondering what bubbles, books, and a top 10 list have in common. Let me add one more clue. Does the date January 8 mean anything to you?

It should. It’s National Bubble Bath Day and we’re celebrating it during the next two weeks. After all, reading in the bathtub did make the best places to read list. And what better way to celebrate, than to share the books we are looking forward to reading in 2011.

Oh, and did I mention that one lucky commenter during this series will receive a bubble bath gift pack? Every time you comment during the next two weeks, your name will be entered. You’ll get everything you need to relax in a bath with a good book except the water—and the tub, of course.

So, here are four books am I most looking forward to holding in my hands in 2011. (There are so many books I can’t wait to read, so I picked ones with a common thread—blue covers.)

Col LadyThe Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz releases in August.  Yes, you will have to wait for eight months to hold what I’m sure will be another treasure in your hands. I can’t wait to curl up and lose myself in the world Laura creates.

Here’s the synopsis for this book:

“In 1779, when genteel Virginia spinster Roxanna Rowan arrives at the Kentucky fort commanded by Colonel Cassius McLinn, she finds that her officer father has died. Penniless and destitute, Roxanna is forced to take her father’s place as scrivener. Before long, it’s clear that the colonel himself is attracted to her. But she soon realizes the colonel has grave secrets of his own–some of which have to do with her father’s sudden death. Can she ever truly love him?

bethshebaBathsheba: A Novel  is the third book in Jill Eileen Smith’s The Wives of King David series. I loved the other two and can’t wait to see how Jill handles this conflicting and emotional Biblical story.  I know that I haven’t seen David the same after the first two, and I’m sure book three will be just as enlightening.                                       

“This well-researched and beautifully crafted story will resonate in your heart and mind long after you’ve read the final page, “ said Judith Miller, author of the Daughters of Amana series, “With beauty and truth, Jill Eileen Smith will take you back in time to reveal the consequences of sin coupled with the depth of God’s grace and forgiveness. An excellent read with a message that transcends time.”

 Bathsheba releases in March.

Lady of Bolton Hill The Lady of Bolton Hill is the debut novel for author Elizabeth Camden which releases in June.  Elizabeth is a research librarian and an associate professor, so you know her research is going to excellent.

“Something that was very important for me is that both my characters be very passionate people, but who are still fiercely intelligent and sensible,” Elizabeth said at http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/2010/11/meet-elizabeth-camden.html. “Have you ever read a book where the conflict between the hero and heroine could be solved by a simple, honest conversation? There was no way I was going to let Daniel and Clara off the hook so easily! Although it is clear they are madly in love, they will be put through the wringer before they can get to a happy ending. I love a good turbulent story with love, betrayal, heartbreak, all punctuated with periods of soaring joy and utter delight. That is what I aimed for with The Lady of Bolton Hill. I’ll be curious to hear from folks if they think I got it in the ballpark.”

A Great Catch coverSince she used the term ballpark, that leads me to my selection. One more book I can’t wait to hold, and that’s a copy of my own A Great Catch.  This book was so much fun to write, and I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I did. It releases in May.

Here’s the back cover copy:

 “She wants to change the world. He wants to change her mind.

It is the beginning of a new century at Lake Manawa Resort in Iowa, but some things never change. When 22-year-old Emily Graham’s meddlesome aunts and grandmother take it upon themselves to find her a husband among the resort guests, the spunky suffragist is determined to politely decline each and every suitor. She has neither the time nor the need for a man in her busy life.

Carter Stockton, a recent college graduate and pitcher for the Manawa Owls baseball team, intends to enjoy every minute of the summer at Lake Manawa, Iowa, before he is forced into the straitlaced business world of his father.

When Emily crashes into Carter at a roller skating rink, neither could guess what would come next. Will Carter strike out? Or will Emily cast her vote for a love that might cost her dreams?”

So, are you a bubble bath reader or do you prefer to read somewhere else? And which of these books will you be putting on your bubble bath reading list? Do any of the covers strike you as especially eye catching? Remember, leave a comment for a chance to enter.

P.S. It’s also National Hot Tea Month. Make sure you pour a cup to enjoy in your bath.

Three Special Guests

With Marlene traveling more than the Travelocity gnome these days, she asked me to make sure her day to blog was covered. She feared not having reliable internet service wherever she found herself on this fine Thursday.

I gladly accepted the challenge myself given the subject of research because I wanted to share how three authors I know approach their research. If you are a reader, I think you will grow to appreciate their books even more. If you are a writer, I think you’ll admire their devotion to the craft. If you’re both, like me, I think you will enjoy hearing their stories.

Judith Miller

More than WordsJudy’s book More than Words just made #17 on the ECPA Bestseller list! More than Words is the second book in the Daughters of Amana series. When I think of commitment to research, Judy always comes to mind. Recently, I traveled with Judy to Amana for Oktoberfest where we were both signing books. I got to see firsthand the respect of the people of Amana there for her work. We walked into the museum and the curator greeted her by name. That alone says volumes.

I met Judy in April of 2008. She was returning from a trip to Amana for research and it was already her second trip there. She did not begin writing her first book in the series, Somewhere to Belong, until Not only has she made several trips there, she has crate of books and a host of personal sources.

Judy’s attention to details makes her work come to life. She has told me she works hard to get things “right” out of respect for the people who live in the area and the history. “History is a funny thing,” she said. “People in an area feel like they ‘own’ it. If I’m sharing it with the world, I want to treat their history with respect and make sure the details are correct.”

And whether she is writing about the Pullman company, carousel painters, or the Amana colonies, her attention to detail makes the time period come alive.

Click here to learn more about More than Words and all of Judy’s other books. 

Laura Frantz

Morrow LittleI asked Laura to tell us a little about the research she does. Since her first two books are set in the 1700’s, research for these earlier time periods is especially difficult. Laura’s newest book, Courting Morrow Little, released in   Here is her response:

“The very word research involves work . To me it’s like a treasure hunt, unearthing just the right character name in census records for your time period (Ann or Martha, not Daniella or Mystique), uncovering the right medicinal herbs and treatments (ginseng for stamina, sassafras for purifying the blood), digging up archaic fashions (clocked stockings and pudding caps) and exploring old recipes (apple tansy, coffin pie, spoonbread).

My favorite way to research beyond looking things up in books or online is to spend time in the actual setting of my novel. For my purposes, it’s Kentucky, frontier forts, and the hills and hollows there. I’ve discovered that the best research books are often sold at these historic places and they’re often not available anywhere else. I rely heavily on the Draper Manuscript Collection (considered the Bible of frontier fiction for Kentucky and Ohio, etc.) and publications from the Kentucky Historical Society.

All in all, I love research almost as much as writing so it’s really not work to me. If I hadn’t majored in English in college I would have chosen history. A happy day is one that’s half filled with research and half filled with writing (not editing) – and a few Lindt chocolates and Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry!”

Laura’s next book, The Colonel’s Lady, releases in August 2011.  Click here to learn more about Laura’s books.

Sarah Sundin

A Memory Between UsI asked Sarah if she’d share a little about her WWII research for her Wings of Glory series. A Distant Melody was book 1 in that series and  book 2,  A Memory Between Us released in September.  Because Sarah is writing in a more recent time period, she has to be extra careful. There are still people around who lived through these experiences. Sarah gladly sent this:

“I started off with some basic texts on World War II to remind myself of everything I’d forgotten since high school. Man, that was a lot! First I read everything pertinent on the shelves of my local library. I found bibliographies helpful to point me to great resources—some appeared in multiple bibliographies or just had intriguing titles. For free, my local library can obtain books from other libraries in the county, and for a small fee, they’ll locate books throughout the nation—one of my favorite books came from the Library of Congress. Very cool. And some of my favorite books (including a reprint of the B-17 flight manual) came from online historic aviation sites.

Of course the internet was vital. I found great historic maps of Riverside and Bedford, complete combat chronologies of the Eighth Air Force, and oral histories of flight nurses.

For atmosphere, nothing beats being there. Every time the B-17s come to our local airport, I stroll through to smell the oil, feel the metal, and realize just how cramped those men were. I was also blessed with an opportunity to visit England and Germany, and to walk the ground my characters walked.

I have to confess, I have over two hundred books and websites in my bibliography for this series. Yes, that’s sick. I started with basic texts on World War II, then got more detailed. Bibliographies are a great resource—when a book is mentioned in multiple bibliographies, it warrants attention. On the internet I found a company that sells copies of the actual B-17 pilot’s manual and the training film, which were pure gold! For A Memory Between Us, I did lots of research into nursing during World War II, flight nursing, and Army hospitals.” 

Click here to learn more about  A Memory Between Us and Sarah’s next book. 

I want to thank all three of these talented authors for sharing today. What a treat to have you! 

Leave a comment today to be entered in a drawing for a copy of Sarah Sundin’s A Memory Between Us. I just happen to have an extra on my shelf.

THE PLEASURE OF READING

For once, this topic is an easy one for me. Yes, I’m a librarian. Yes, I love to read, and in fact spent from about 7th grade and up with a novel tucked neatly in my math book. But college, parenthood, and other grown-up things made reading take a back seat.

A year ago, I realized that in my desire to spend as much time writing as possible, I had given up one of my biggest pleasures in life. Reading. So, I made myself a list of goals. One of them was to read more fiction.

And, since there are always more books out there than I can possibly read, I roped my husband into reading more fiction, as well. I told him it was good for him. He agreed, sweet man that he is.

FTD_website_coverI could get him to read some books that weren’t as “romantic” as what I usually preferred, but I wanted to know about them. He turned me on to Robert Whitlow after reading his book, The List. Great read—suspense with enough romance in it to keep me interested, too. He also greatly enjoyed First, the Dead, the first of Tim Downs’ “Bug Man” series. I will definitely put that in my TBR pile, especially after hearing Downs speak at ACFW.

Another of my goals was to read different KINDS of fiction. I picked up and read the first of Kaye Dacus’ “Ransome Trilogy,” Ransome’s Honor. Then as soon as it came out, I picked up and read the second, Ransome’s Crossing! I don’t know how I’m going to survive until the third comes out next SUMMER! ACK! If you like Regency England, British naval dramas, and adventure on the high seas, this is a series for you!

FrantzBooksI went back even further in time with Laura Frantz’ The Frontiersman’s Daughter. Set in Kentucky in the 18th century, it’s a very real look at what life was like in Kentucke Territory before statehood. It was so amazing that I couldn’t imagine loving her next book as much. But you know what? Courting Morrow Little came out, I bought it as soon as I SAW it, and I fell in love all over again. What a beautiful, unexpected romance!

So I found out that in order to enjoy historical romance, one did NOT have to JUST read “bonnet romances.” There are so many eras to choose from these days!

love-remains-revisedOf course my first love is contemporary romance, which is what I write. Romance with enough humor and enough reality to make it seem like I’m talking to someone with whom I simply want to spend time. Kaye Dacus fills the bill with that genre, as well, with the first of her newest contemporary series, “The Matchmakers.” Love Remains introduces us to Zarah and Bobby. What happens when an old love shows up, of all places, in your singles’ Sunday School Class? I highly recommend it – the book, not an old love showing up in your Sunday School Class…… J

AgainstAllOddsAnd then there have been more…. Irene Hannon’s “Heroes of Quantico” series which I fell in love with and could not stop reading until I’d read all three – in a ROW! If you like hunky FBI agents as heroes and strong-willed and somewhat exasperating (to said hunky heroes, anyway) independent women as heroines, then this is the series for you. Very much in the style of Dee Henderson’s “O’Malley” books, these three volumes will stand right up to them in entertainment value, and you’ll fall in love with the characters in each book.

Add to this list Beth Patillo’s Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, Ruth Logan Herne’s  Waiting Out the Storm, and assorted titles by Janice Thompson, Lisa Wingate, Christine Lynxwiler, and Mary Conneally.

Making WavesAnd what am I reading NOW? Why, Lorna Seilstad’s debut novel, Making Waves, of course! And it’s a treasure, I can already tell.

So, what have YOU been reading? Since I need to increase my writing time again, I may have to ride on the coattails of a year of intense reading and live vicariously through your reading enjoyment! Read a good one for me, OK?

Unsinkable Faith and a Guest Post from Laura Frantz

I’ve always been admired Peter. When Jesus calls him from the boat to step out onto the water, he lifts his foot and places it on top of the waves. Now, Peter understood water. He’d been a fisherman all his life. He’d seen what waves could do to a boat and probably more than once had wished he could walk back to the shore from his boat in the middle of the lake. So when Jesus called him from the boat, you can imagine the leap his heart took.

Still, the Bible doesn’t imply Peter hesitated. He took the risk. He got out of the boat. And his faith didn’t slip until he took his eyes off Jesus.

In the next two weeks, here at Inkspirational Messages, we’re going to talk about developing an unsinkable faith. To celebrate this beginning, I asked Laura Frantz if I could share a post from her blog. Laura has a new book out called Courting Morrow Little. Each week, she is sharing a little about Morrow’s world on her blog. Today, I asked if I could share her first “Morrow’s World” post with you, and hopefully, Laura will stop by and share a little about the faith she needed to step out of the boat when Revell first called her.

Morrow’s World by Laura Frantz

 red river gorge kentucky treesFor the next few weeks, I thought I’d give you glimpses into Morrow’s world, though these pictures, lovely as they are, fail to capture the real essence of the place. Since setting is so important to a story, I’ll start with the Red River area of Kentucky. These photos give you a peek into the wild beauty of Morrow’s world. Of course an author can only guess what it must have been like two hundred or so years ago. When I was a girl wandering the Kentucky hills and hollows, I used to pretend I lived back then. So it’s not a wild leap for me to be there in my imagination. When I saw this picture, I immediately smelled the dry woods and felt the crunch of leaves beneath my feet. It’s autumn in this picture and the woods are especially memorable then.

red river gorge chimney rockI have one scene in the novel where Morrow goes with a certain suitor into the mountains. For a young woman who rarely leaves the shadow of her own cabin, this is a memorable trip. It’s one of my favorite chapters and contains almost no dialogue. Speaking would ruin the beauty of the moment. When you come across a beautiful sunset or feel something intensely words are unnecessary:) Imagine that!

best red river fallsThis is a pencil-thin falls that becomes one big icicle in winter. The Red River isn’t a large river but I made it large enough to pose a danger for Morrow both physically and emotionally. Another of my favorite scenes happens at the river early in the novel. But I’ll not spoil it here:) There are many unusual red rock formations and natural bridges and arches in the landscape that make it especially unique. I had to cut a great deal of descriptive narrative though I enjoyed it immensely while I was writing. Praying the story is blessing you in some way or providing you with a blessed escape!Morrow Little

 

If you haven’t picked up your copy of Morrow Little, run—don’t walk—to your nearest bookstore. As soon as you start reading it, you’ll forget all about how out of breath you got on your sprint to the store.

Be sure to visit Laura’s blog, too, for more of Morrow Little’s world and lots of other yummy info.