Tea Party Winners: Debra E. Marvin's winner is: Kathleen, Jennifer Hudson Taylor's winner of her MacGregor Legacy series is Chris Granville and second winner is Britney Adams for the plaque and For Love or Country novel:, Angela K. Couch's winner is: , Carrie Fancett Pagels's winner per random.org is Beverly Duell-Moore for a copy of BCB and second winner for colonial goodies is: Carrie Moore Gould, Denise Weimer's winner: Janet Marie Dowell, Shannon McNear's winner is: Adriann Harris, Pegg Thomas's winner is: Susan C

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Colonial Recipes: Colonial Innkeeper's Pie

Colonial Innkeeper's Pie

1 1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup water
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter

Melt chocolate in water. Add sugar and bring to a boil. Stir constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and set aside.

1 cup flour, sifted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. Add shortening, milk and vanilla extract. Beat 2 minutes. Add egg and beat. Pour batter into pie shell. Stir chocolate sauce and pour carefully over batter. Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tools of the Trade: Historical Societies - Window to the Past

Historical Society of Windham, ME
c. 1833 school house

When I needed to know some details about the 18th century shipyards for my Colonial Courtships novella, Carving a Future, I contacted the town historical society in which the story is set. They were so helpful during our correspondence and provided the information free of charge. I was able to learn the names and owners of the shipyards, where they were located, and dates of operation. There were many more queries I had and they were eager to oblige. When I told them I was an author looking for this information, they seemed quite pleased that I had chosen their town for my story.

Glastonbury, CT Historical Society Building
Welles Shipman Ward House, c. 1755
From their website I was able to obtain much more information, and in fact, I started there to see what information was already available. Like most historical society websites they had information on places, people, industry, events, and much more. They provided a fascinating timeline which I was able to draw from to authentic my story by including some of the interesting historical facts. This is where I found out that during the 1700's the town was spelled differently. Thus the anthology is set in Glassenbury, Connecticut rather than Glastenbury.

Other information that I have accessed online, and have by visiting local historical societies during my research are their publications. You may have seen some of these books on town histories that have been published in recent years. Sometimes special books will be printed for centennial celebrations. My favorites are town history books that were written hundreds of years ago, available at Google Books or Internet Archive. I have found many items that have prompted scenes and even stories. Census and marriage records are also a great way to get authentic character names that were used in the locale. These, too, are kept and sometimes published online by historical societies.

Historical societies are categorized by town, county, region, and state. Most towns have a society, many have have buildings where information is archived, many have small museums, and often they a web presence.  State government websites usually provide a list and town websites will often have a link.

A word of caution. Each society has their own guidelines for queries. Some are free, sometimes they charge. Societies are usually operated by volunteers, some with much knowlege and some are there just holding down the fort. So be as specific as possible and ask to speak with the historian who has research knowledge in that category.

Also, keep an eye on historical society events calendars. I've attending several events through the years that have been educational and given me much inspiration for writing.

Remember, the mission of historical societies is to preserve and record the past ~ an excellent resource to access when authenticating your novel.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Ye Olden Days: If Colonial Tavern Walls Could Talk

I'm researching colonial taverns for my next novel, and one thing I've discovered is that there is no limit to what might have occurred in a tavern. They ranged from reputable establishments for local officials' meetings and a night's lodging and food for weary travelers, to houses of offensive prostitution, drinking, gaming and gambling.

In the 17th century, laws were established to curb lewd behavior and licenses were required. Strict enforcement was in effect, but varied from town to town. Most of these tavern laws reflected those being passed simultaneously in England. Ordinances were passed to limit the amount of time local patrons could be in a tavern in an attempt to limit drinking.

For example, in New England, Massachussets, an ordinance passed prohibiting citizens from visiting a tavern longer than an hour, not past 9 pm or sunset, and they could not drink more than one-half pint at one sitting. The exception to these laws were travelers who were obviously exempt.

Written descriptions and various paintings leave us with a glimpse of how some of these first colonial taverns looked. Most were of large, but plain rooms lit by candle sticks and a wall sconce. Activity centered around one long wooden table, men sitting on wooden stools, and bread trenchers for plates.

An archaeological excavation of a Cape Cod tavern operating 1690-1740 revealed that the first floor of the building consisted of two public rooms on each side of the chimney. Other items escavated on the site, consisted of wine bottles and glasses, English coins, ceramics imported from England, salt-glazed stoneware, and locally made redware. Other site excavations have produced and an assortment of pottery shards, drinking equipment, kitchen and eating utensils.

George Plimn of Philadelphia owned a small tavern/inn. When he died in 1773, he left a small estate of 54 pounds. His public rooms consisted of a walnut desk and table with six chairs, a nest of drawers, fireplace equipment, a pair of fire buckets, four framed pictures, trade tools, pewter measures, four case bottles, a keg, and three glasses, a pair of scales and measures, a pistol, and a brass lock for the desk. The majority of his investments were in 60 gallons of rum stored in the cellar. His back rooms were simply furnished with a bed and table for guests. 

As towns grew in population and taverns multiplied in number, these laws relaxed and so did the enforcement of them by the mid to late18th century. Urban taverns were often rental spaces with the tavern keeper living there and operating business, while rural taverns were most likely operated in the owner's home. Unlike rural places, tavern keeping provided an individual a middle occupation and a steadier income than agriculture and many other labors.

Tavern keepers varied in how well they did, and it depended upon one's business management skills and how he invested his funds, as well as the nature of his clientele. For instance, one tavern keeper in Philadelphia owned two horses and cows, 60 ounces of silver objects, a traveling chair and three slaves in 1791, while another tavern keeper in the same city had only one cow, and no silver or slaves.

Small taverns were called grog shops, slop shops, and tippling houses, and were clustered along the docks of colonial port cities. They catered to transient seamen, and day laborers, and served beverages under the counter to servants, apprentices, and were houses of ill-repute for prostitution. Unlike in earlier colonial days, these taverns frequently operated without a license and many of their keepers were former sailors. These taverns were also the place for drunken brawls and physical violence.

Taverns in the middle part of the cities and in better areas of town were centered around economic life, daily business transactions, mercantile exchange, used as the site of auctions for goods, property and slaves. In fact, until local government had their own headquarters, they often held business meetings in taverns.

In Charleston, one of the largest rooms in John Gordon's tavern was leased on a yearly basis by the South Carolina Colony Court. Gorden repaired and enlarged the chamber for their use and in 1752 appealed for higher rent.

The first image above is of a colonial tavern still standing in Charleston, SC. It's now called the Pink House and has been restored as an art gallery. Not only was it once known as a tavern, but many say that prostitution took place here as well.  The second image is a close up to give you a better view.

"Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers" by Kym S. Rice for Fraunces Tavern Museum.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fiction Sampler: Daughter of Liberty by J. M. Hotchstetler

Daughter of Liberty, American Patriot Series #1

Zondervan, 2004

Author and historian J. M. Hochstetler has penned the American Patriot Series which includes Daughter of Liberty, Native Son, and Wind of the Spirit. She is also the author of the award-winning Christmas story One Holy Night.

"Hochstetler has created a magnificent, well-crafted story that will endure with the classics because she did not fall into the weak folly of so many modern writers that of forcing todays values and ideas into a time in which they did not exist." ~ Author Louise M. Gouge

A beautiful rebel spy and a jaded British officer fight a war of wits and words destined to end in passionate surrender.

It is Eastertide, April 1775, and in the blockaded port of Boston the conflict between the British Regulars and the Sons of Liberty rapidly escalates toward a fateful confrontation. Caught in the deepening rift that divides Whig and Tory, Elizabeth Howard is torn between her love for her prominent parents, who have strong ties to the British establishment, and her secret adherence to the cause of liberty. By night she plays a dangerous game as the infamous courier Oriole, hunted by the British for smuggling intelligence and munitions to the patriot leaders. And by day she treads increasingly perilous ground as she flirts ever more boldly with British officers close to her parents to gain access to information the rebels so desperately need.

Elizabeth’s assignment is to pin down the exact time the Redcoats will march to capture the patriots’ hoarded munitions. But she hasn’t counted on the arrival of Jonathan Carleton, an officer in the Seventeenth Light Dragoons. To her dismay, the attraction between them is immediate, powerful—and fought on both sides in a war of wits and words. When Carleton wins the assignment to ferret out Oriole, Elizabeth can no longer deny that he is her most dangerous foe—and the possessor of her heart.

As the first blood is spilled at Lexington and Concord, Carleton fights his own private battle of faith. Meanwhile, the headstrong Elizabeth must learn to follow God’s leading as her dangerous role thrusts her ever closer to the carnage of Bunker Hill.

Daughter of Liberty Excerpt
April, 1775
Chapter One

     The crack of the pistol’s report came from directly behind the courier. Sizzling past so close to his ear he could feel the heat of it, the musket ball whined off into the windy night.
     Instinctively he crouched, bringing his head close to his mount’s straining neck. “Go! Go!”
     The mare responded with a burst of speed, stretching the distance between her and the pursuing British patrol. Flying strands of mane whipped tears to the courier’s eyes as he fumbled beneath his cloak for the handle of the pistol shoved into the waistband of his breeches. His hand shaking, he tore the weapon free and cocked it with his thumb.
     “Hold! Pull up and surrender, you blasted rebel!”
The shouted command reached him faintly above rushing wind and pounding hoofbeats. Mouth dry, stomach knotted with fear and exhilaration, he searched the shadowy landscape for an escape route.
In the darkness off to his right, beyond a high stone wall, wooded hills loomed up. Inside the line of trees the woodland dropped to a winding creek, then rose again into the hills, the courier knew. Reining his mare hard right, his breath coming in sharp pants, he glanced over his shoulder at the same moment the wind shredded the clouds high overhead.
     For an instant splintered shafts of moonlight rippled across hill and hollow, gleaming on icy remnants of a late snow that still clung in sheltered areas. Touching the irregular stone walls that wound through the rolling farmland, the light glimmered across the blood-red uniforms of the soldiers stampeding after him through the murky Massachusetts countryside.
The quick glimpse revealed three soldiers in the patrol. The one who had fired had dropped back, and the officer now held the lead. He hung stubbornly close, trying to aim his pistol while he swung wide in the attempt to cut off his quarry.
     The dim bulk of the stone wall raced toward the courier. A tangled growth of brambles topped the wall on the far side, reaching thorny fingers well above the stones. With reckless determination, he urged his mount on, raising in the stirrups at the exact instant the mare gathered her haunches under her and took flight.
     She skimmed over the seemingly impossible height as effortlessly as a gull and lit softly on the other side. Hardly breaking stride, she fled toward the line of trees. A crashing sound reached the courier, and he hazarded another anxious glance back.
     The officer had angled his mount off to a partial break in the wall some yards down. One of the two soldiers was riding hard toward the wall’s far end.
     The other had tried the wall at the same point as the courier but had miscalculated the jump. Before his mare swept around a bend that for the moment cut him off from the patrol’s sight, the courier caught a brief glimpse of dislodged stone slabs spilled across the ground and the thrashing legs of the fallen horse.
     He urged his mount between the trees. A dozen strides into the woods he pulled up hard and guided his mare into a narrow space behind a head-high outcropping of rock screened by slender saplings and dense undergrowth. Shoulders hunched, head bent so the wide brim of his hat shaded his face, he sat motionless, calculating that his black cloak and the midnight black of his mare would render them all but invisible in the shadows.
     The mare stood silent, head down, lathered sides heaving. Gripping the reins with one hand so tightly the leather cut into his palms, the courier aimed his pistol with the other, holding it steady with difficulty. His heart beat so hard that for a moment he was overwhelmed by the irrational fear that his pursuer must hear it.
     He could make out the sharp crackle of fallen branches and rustle of dry leaves underfoot as the officer fought his way through the dense growth, cursing in frustration. The muted creak of leather and jingle of metal drew steadily closer.
     As he watched fearfully, the dim shape of a horseman materialized between the ghostly trunks of the trees. The thud of hoofbeats slowed, then for long, heart-stopping moments paused within eight feet of the courier’s hiding place.
He became aware of the stinging tickle of perspiration that wound past the corner of his eye onto his cheek. Holding his breath, he aimed his pistol at the rider’s breast at point-blank range, his hand grown suddenly steady, finger tightening over the trigger.
The mare’s ears pricked, but she made no sound. When the tension reached the point at which the courier feared his nerves would snap, the sound of other hoofbeats approached from the left.
     “Captain! Scott’s horse fell on him,” a hoarse voice called out. “He’s in a bad way.”
     Muttering an oath, the rider reined his horse around to face the oncoming rider. “I’ll be right there.”
     The courier could hear the second rider move off, but still the officer did not spur his mount forward. Instead, he brought him in a circle until he again faced the courier’s hiding place.
     “I know you’re there somewhere, you rebel devil!” he rasped. “Come on, you cursed Oriole, show yourself! I know it’s you!”
     Motionless, eyes fixed on the officer’s indistinct form, the courier willed him to ride on. The pulse of his blood sounded like thunder in his ears.
     The officer waited for several moments more, head tilted as though he listened for a betraying sound. Finally he taunted, “One day you’ll make a misstep, and then we’ll have you. And you’ll hang at last.”
Giving a harsh laugh, he moved past the courier’s hiding place, fighting through the low-hanging branches. Within seconds he vanished into the night as completely as though the earth had swallowed him up.
     Trembling uncontrollably, the courier lowered his weapon. For some minutes longer he waited, every sense strained to the breaking point. But no sound reached him except for the moan of the wind through the bare limbs of the trees and the creak of interlaced branches high overhead.
     Taking a shaky breath, he took the pistol off cock and shoved it back into the waistband of his breeches. “Thanks be to God!” he muttered. “That was entirely too close.”
     The mare tossed her head, and he patted her lathered neck. When he was certain the patrol had to be well out of sight and sound, he spurred her out of their hiding place, urged her down the slope and across the shallow creek. Silent as a specter, they moved up the flank of the hill on the other side and slipped over the summit.
     Thus unnoticed, the courier known to General Thomas Gage and the British garrison in Boston only by the name “Oriole” for the whistled notes of his characteristic signal melted into the impenetrable cloak of the forest beyond.

Historical Study Guide


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Making Chocolate Eighteenth Century Style

Submitted by Laurie Alice Eakes

To Make Confectionary Drops

Take double refined sugar, pound and sift it through a hair sieve, not too
fine; then sift it through a silk sieve to take out all the fine dust which
would destroy the beauty of the drop. Put the sugar into a clean pan, and
moisten it with any favourite aromatic...Colour it with a small quantity of
liquid carmine, or any other colour, ground fine. Take a small pan with a
lip, fill it three parts with paste, place it on a small stove, the half hole
being the size of the pan, and stir the sugar with a little ivory or bone
handle, until it becomes liquid. When it almost boils, take it from the fire
and continue to stir it: if it be too moist, take a little of the powdered
sugar, and add a spoonful to the paste, and stir it till it is of such a
consistence as to run without too much extension. Have a tin plate, very
clean and smooth; take the little pan in the left hand, and hold in the right
a bit of iron, copper, or silver wire, four inches long, to take off the drop
from the lip of the pan, and let it fall regularly on the tin plate; two
hours afterwards, take off the drops with the blade of a knife.

To Make Chocolate Drops
Scrape the chocolate to powder, and put an ounce to each pound of sugar;
moisten the paste with clear water, work it as above, only take care to use
all the paste prepared, as if it be put on the fire a second time, it
greases, and the drop is not of the proper thickness.

Note: A pound of sugar is about 2 cups by modern measurements. I have no idea how much an ounce of cocoa powder is, but this would be like Hersheys cocoa powder for baking.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rumblings in the Valley…

Sir William Johnson

By Pat Iacuzzi

            On a hot 11 July, 1774, Sir William Johnson stood in the sun speaking with a  band of Iroquois who had come to Johnson Hall seeking his advice. Shortly after, he collapsed and died at the age of 59.
            By the time of his death, the Revolutionary movement was well underway in the Mohawk Valley. Residents had objected to new regulations by the English Parliament increasing taxes and raising prices on sugar, paper, and tea. They opposed the aristocratic establishment that the Johnsons and Butlers represented in the valley.
            Meetings were held by settlers favoring fewer regulations and more opportunities to participate in political decisions that influenced them. Feelings ran high as families and neighbors, split in their loyalties took opposing sides in the dispute.
            Sir William had denounced “the audacious behavior of New-Yorkers” who sought a democratic system and encouraged “that spirit of libertinism and independence daily gaining ground.” His relatives thus sided with the English Crown and became leaders of the Loyalist movement in the area.
            In the month following Sir William’s death, more than August temperatures rose in the valley. Tempers were rising too; the Tryon County patriots assembled in Stone Arabia to organize a Committee of Safety, an organization in which they could express their fiery and subversive new ideas. Patriots in Schenectady lifted their banners proclaiming liberty and organized a Committee of Correspondence to help keep them informed about those who might be hostile to their beliefs. The dispute between the two factions boiled over in a confrontation at the Johnstown Jail (erected in 1772 under direction of Sir William).

Sir John Johnson
Joseph Brant
            In a period marked by increasing division, Sir John Johnson, (Sir William’s son) fearing an imminent attack on Johnson Hall, fled from the homestead on May 1, 1776. With friends, tenants and an armed militia, he made his way north through the Adirondacks to Canada. Soon after his arrival, he formed the battalion of the “King’s Royal Regiment of New-York”, also known as Johnson’s Greens, and together with Butler’s Rangers and Iroquois led by Joseph Brant, (Thayendanega) Mohawk protégé of Sir William, returned to become the scourge of the Mohawk Valley…. (to be continued)       

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Laundry Day in the 18th Century

Lori Benton here, with my maiden post for Colonial Quills. It's an honor and a joy to be included amongst this group of talented and knowledgeable historical fiction scribes.

Ever wonder how the laundry got done before the days of washers and dryers?

Not long ago I needed to write a scene in one of my novels, set on the New York frontier of 1784, that takes place during the washing of a tub full of laundry. While I've researched laundry practicalities in the 18th century before (a major character in an earlier novel is the laundress on a small plantation), I'd never written a scene where the stage business (what each character in the scene is doing) was heavily dependent upon the step-by-step process of getting the laundry done.

I Googled the subject for a quick refresher and found this wonderful link I thought worth sharing for anyone wishing to see just how sweet most of us have it in these modern days: The Complexities of Wash Day in the 18th Century. It's a three page article that explained the process succinctly but in enough detail for me to build my scene around.

A typical 18th century laundry day routine:

~ Up before dawn to chop or gather firewood for the kettle in the yard
~ Haul water from the creek or the well. Lots of water.
~ Fill the kettle and light the fire
~ Sort the laundry
~ Boil the first load, agitating it with a stick
~ Transfer the load piece by piece to the wash tub
~ Scrub each piece of laundry
~ Try various harsh means, such as lemon juice, to get out stubborn stains
~ Transfer each piece of laundry to rinse tub
~ Rinse each garment
~ Wring each garment
~ Spread each garment to dry on the bushes or hang on a line
~ Gather or chop more wood
~ Haul more water
~ Begin the next load

And there's still the pressing and the ironing to get done!

Obviously some aspects of what are often called "simpler times" weren't at all simple, but full of tedious, back-breaking work. I hereby promise never to complain about having to do my laundry at the laundromat near my house, where all I have to do is load the washers, put in my coins, then sit back and read a good book until they're done. Then transfer them to the dryers and go back to my book until they're done. Then fold them and take them home. A week's worth of laundry done in 90 minutes, much of that spent with my nose in a book. Compared to what this task would have required in the 18th century, it's hardly worth calling a chore.

Want more on 18th century laundry? Here's an article about the wash house at Mount Vernon, George and Martha Washington's plantation home in Virginia. Included is a list of the laundry accoutrement inventoried upon the President's death in 1799, and its value. The Washingtons owned nine wash tubs at that time. Their appraised value? $4.50. I delight in stumbling across little details like this in my research, so I can occasionally name the price my characters would have paid for their purchases, whether at a trading post, town shoppe, or the village square on market day... when and if they were fortunate enough to have hard coin to spend. Much buying and selling in the late 18th century was still done through barter, at a time before our country began issuing its own coinage and nearly every sort of money under the sun was in circulation.

But that's another topic for another post!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review of Laura Frantz's The Colonel's Lady

The Colonel’s Lady
By Laura FrantzRevell  (August, 2011)

Book Review by C. F. Pagels

I received a copy of The Colonel’s Lady from the publisher; however, I have already pre-ordered a half dozen copies for giveaways.  My opinions are my own. This book officially releases on August 1.  It is available for pre-order through Christian Book Distributors, Amazon, and other book retailers.

Laura is my favorite Christian fiction writer. Her debut novel “The Frontiersman’s Daughter” deserves to be a classic. She puts out one fiction title a year and all her fans, myself included, wait with bated breath for our next delivery of a Laura Frantz book. And oh how I was rewarded this year because this book could have been written just for me (I wonder how many other readers feel just the same way!). Forgiveness is a huge theme in these first three books of hers, set in frontier Kentucky at the transition between colonial and young America.  I write in the same subgenre and have researched and read many of the  same books as Laura and The Colonel’s Lady seems to me to be the closest to reality of the three books so far, which makes it that much more chilling in some ways and able to suck me right into her storyworld. For me to accept her Colonel Cassius "Cass" McLinn as a hero, Laura had to write in a way that I could put aside my distaste for this imperfect man and his behavior.  She had to make me see how her heroine could love him. 

Roxanna, at almost nine and twenty, is a full grown woman and the oldest of Laura’s heroines thus far. She sees through a woman’s eyes and as someone who has experienced loss but can still reach out to love others, included a little girl who has lost her voice. This mute child, similar to the daughter in the movie “The Patriot” is believably continually mute for she experiences one horror after another.

Roxanna Rowan’s father was a scrivener for the colonel but she must take his place after he is killed.  Laura does a nice job of incorporating Roxanna's work into the storyline and of explaining what is involved without fussing over it (no easy feat).

While Christian readers who do not partake of alcohol may be surprised at finding this included in The Colonel’s Lady, this was a very real problem in Kentucky, especially, through the 19th century. I cannot address beyond that as I have not read, but quite likely given the history of turning to spirits for many reasons including difficulty at times with ensuring drinkable water.  And imbibing is not glamorized nor sugar coated in this book.  Similarly, Ms. Frantz introduces some of the more tragic ladies of the time, many of whom experience devastating outcomes for their immoral behavior. And while it is not “on the page”, some of the severe punishments given to soldiers are also mentioned. So, gentle reader be advised that this is not a “glossification” (my word) of the times nor does TCL whack you over the head with the gory details such as some recent Christian fictions I have read. 

Biggest complaint: Must wait another year for another Laura Frantz book!!!  Second biggest complaint: Not available on audio and if it was I would listen to this and her other books over and over again!!

Giveaway: Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Colonel's Lady, either Kindle or paperback. TCL officially releases on August 1st.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Colonial Recipes: Orange Pudding

 Orange Pudding

One large orange, of a deep colour, and smooth thin rind.
One line.
A quarter of a pound of powdered white sugar.
A quarter of a pound of fresh butter.
Three eggs.
Half a glass of mixed wine and brandy.
A tea-spoonful of rose-water.

Grate the yellow rind of the orange and lime, and squeeze the juice into a saucer or soup-plate, taking out all the seeds.

 Stir the butter and sugar to cream.
Beat the eggs as light as possible, and then stir them by degrees into the pan of butter and sugar. And, gradually, the liquor and rose-water, and then by degrees, the orange and the lime. Stir all well together.
Have ready a sheet of puff-paste made of five ounces of sifted flour, and a quarter of a pound of fresh butter. Lay the paste in a buttered soup-plate. Trim and notch the edges, and then put in the mixture. Bake it about half an hour, in a moderate oven. Grate loaf-sugar over it, before you send it to table.

Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats
by a Lady of Philadelphia
Third edition, Boston, 1830

Submitted by Gina Welborn

Friday, July 15, 2011

What I've learned from my first three historicals by Laura Frantz

When I first came to publishing an editor told me to "enjoy the learning process." I was so ignorant about the CBA then. I was without an agent, didn't have internet access here in the woods, had never been to a conference, had no writing contacts, and hadn't entered any contests. I was only marginally aware that these things existed. I simply knew that if I was ever to realize my dream of publication it would take a miracle. Since then it's been quite a ride. The door did open miraculously for me and I signed with a CBA publisher, Revell/Baker Books in 2008.

Often readers and friends ask what I've learned along the way. While every author's journey is unique, I can tell you what's been true in my own experience and what the Lord is teaching me. Since He's an infinitely personal God, my lessons are specific to me and my own writing journey. My struggles may not be your struggles, nor my joys your joys. But here are a few highlights...

*All writing, as Emerson says, is a gift of God. I write the stories God places on my heart and have found that they're not standard CBA fare. But I remain true to the vision He gives me. I work as hard as I can on each novel and leave the results to Him.

*Critique partners are truly valuable. I didn't have a CP till my third published novel. Now I realize how much harder I had to work to get those first two manuscripts into publishable shape.

*Know your history. During the editorial process, questions will be asked of you regarding the history you've included in your manuscript. It's almost like a test. You need to be able to explain or document anything you've included. Oftentimes editors aren't historians but you, the author, should be able to back up your handling of history.

*Good editors are allies, not enemies. Trust them to know what works and what doesn't during edits. They're usually right. Mine are:). Often you're so close to your story you can't see it objectively.

*Bestseller lists don't tell the whole story. Big box stores like Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, as well as other accounts, don't report to these lists. Bonnet books really do sell twice as many copies, be it Shaker, Quaker, Puritan or Amish, according to a Baker Publishing Group marketing executive. Stories set in the 19th-century American west and those about mail-order brides are also said to be top sellers. Oftentimes lists are made because of an aggressive marketing campaign. But a book can become a bestseller simply by word of mouth long after release day. More importantly, many overlooked books leave a lasting impression on readers' hearts. Only God knows the good your words do.

*Reviews are a two-edged sword. And they're simply one person's opinion, as an author friend reminded me. I've seen books I love given very low ratings and books I think aren't quality writing on bestseller lists. But then, that's just my opinion;) Some authors never read reviews, others check them daily. As time goes on I think less and less about them.

*Conferences really are important. I went to my first ACFW conference the month after my first book was released. Since I didn't know a soul, I found myself tapping a lot of people on the shoulder and introducing myself, quite a feat for someone who is naturally shy. Many of these people have since become dear writing mentors and friends. The focus of the annual ACFW conference is truly Spirit-driven. You'll feel so honored and blessed to attend. It's worth every cent!

*There's a world of contests out there. I think contests are helpful for unpublished writers in terms of name recognition and agent/editor contacts, etc. But I'll never forget my shock when I learned published writers nominate themselves for awards! Last year my first novel finaled in the Carol and Inspy Awards, thanks to my publisher and dear readers who entered my book. This meant a great deal to me and I consider it an honor and blessing. But I don't pursue contests personally.

*Don't shipwreck your family or your faith for your writing dream. You may achieve short term success but long term misery. Heaven's version of success is very different than ours. Being taken captive by social media (Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, etc.) and being preoccupied with stats and lists can spell disaster to your loved ones and the Lord. Time is a gift we need to use wisely and something I'm still trying to manage well.

*Take writing breaks. This is especially important when finishing a manuscript. Put it in a drawer, tell your beloved characters goodbye for a couple of weeks and work on other things. Your perspective will be restored and your book will be better in the end.

*Be gracious. Sending handwritten thank you notes and/or flowers to your editors, agent, writing mentors and others, plus cards/gifts to readers and those who've been helpful to you is so important.

*Be thankful. Writing is play to me but publishing is hard work. When I'm tempted to return to my sane, ordinary life, I remember that there are thousands of writers who would love to take my place. I've been given a tiny sphere of influence for a short period of time and it's all about God's glory, not mine.

*Treasure your readers. Author Robin Jones Gunn brought this home to me during a retreat several months ago. She spoke about our little flock of readers and how God has entrusted them to you as an author. Be gracious and giving of yourself, your time, and your resources with the ones the Lord brings into your life. My readers have enriched my life in countless ways and I'm so thankful for each one of them!

I'm currently away on a research trip in Pennsylvania, without computer access. However, I'd love to read your comments when I return...

What are you learning in your own writing journey, whether you're unpublished or published? If you're not a writer, what has God been teaching you in the areas He's called you to minister?

*If you'd like to entered in the giveaway for Laura's upcoming novel, The Colonel's Lady, releasing August 1, please leave a comment below. Bless you!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Ye Olden Days: Early American Quilts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fiction Sampler: The Prodigal Patriot by Darlene Franklin

The Prodigal Patriot
by Darlene Franklin
(Heartsong Presents/Barbour, 2010)

Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin is the author of seventeen contracted books and novellas, as well as several hundred short pieces. Two of her books have finaled in ACFW’s Book of the Year (now the Carol award) contest.  Author of many historicals, her early American novels include Beacon of Love - set it 1815 Rhode Island (2009, Barbour),  Bridge to Love - set in 1816 Vermont (2010, Barbour), and The Prodigal Patriot, 1777 Vermont (2010, Barbour).

"I don't usually read stories set during the Revolutionary War period, but Darlene Franklin's tale made me glad I did. Wonderful historical accuracy, courageous characters, and the drama of a town divided all came together to form a delightful read. I was particularly touched by the spiritual theme that demonstrated the commitment necessary to trust God in face of personal tragedy and strife. I would definitely recommend The Prodigal Patriot to readers who enjoy sweet historical romance." -- Karen Whitemyer

Sally Reid’s family decides on a dangerous course when the Tories of Maple Notch, Vermont, chase Patriot families from their land.
            When Josiah Tuttle discovers their secret and offers to help, Sally doesn’t know if she can trust him. After all, Josiah’s father is one of the Tories who forced her family into hiding.
            The Tuttles have already lost one son to the hated Patriot cause. How can Josiah both honor his grieving father and protect the woman he loves? When called upon to take a stand, which side will he choose?

Chapter One
Maple Notch, Vermont
May 1777

Today was a glorious day to be outside, Sally Reid decided as she went about her morning chores. Cool air flowed down from the mountains, scented with pine, the evergreen trees that gave the “Verts Monts,” or the Green Mountains, their name. The sun overhead promised sunshine and warmth, and green shoots pushed up through the ground. She loved the rhythms of farm life, the cycles of sowing, growing, reaping, and resting. A song of praise burst from her lips.

“Good morning, Miss Reid! You sound cheerful this fine morning,” a deep voice called out.

Sally stopped in mid-verse. Her singing called for no audience beyond the chickens who clucked along with her. Pa teased that she had the voice of a crow. Of all people, who should catch her in her morning serenade but Josiah Tuttle.

“Morning to you, Mr. Tuttle.”

He smiled at her, the same grin that had infuriated her since childhood. It always put her in mind of the day he pulled the mobcap off her head after she’d had the measles. Clumps of her straight, oak-colored hair came off with the mobcap, and she had run home and refused to come out again. Remembering, she put a hand to the top of her head, making sure its covering was in place.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Colonial Recipes: Independence Cake

Independence Cake

Twenty pound flour, 15 pound sugar, 10 pound butter, 4 dozen eggs, one quart wine, 1 quart brandy, 1 ounce nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mace, of each 3 ounces, two pound citron, currants and raisins 5 pound each, 1 quart yeast; when baked, frost with loaf sugar; dress with box and gold leaf.

From Recipes from American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796)

For a modern recipe:  Independence Cake

Submitted by Carla Olson Gade

Friday, July 8, 2011

Libraries Are Not Obsolete

By Laurie Alice Eakes

With so much data and so many books on-line, public libraries seem to have become places for community gatherings and children’s story hour rather than sites for research. For many authors, even getting to the library may prove a challenge due to distance, small children to tow around, or simply the effort of getting into a car and driving there (we will ignore the inconvenience of having to put on respectable clothing and at least a dab of lipstick). Budget cuts in most municipalities these days have also curtailed library hours and resources; however, to dismiss a library as a research tool is a mistake. In the next few paragraphs, I will talk about some reasons why such as finding rare books, getting access to amazing old records, and on-line databases.

Interlibrary Loan
When I was a student at Virginia Tech, I had to take classes in research methods. At least a third of the class ended up devoted to how to use the library. The digital age had arrived, and blended with the age of paper and ink. In its simplest form, Interlibrary Loan had become easier. One could go to www.worldcat.org and find out who had that special book you really longed to read, could no longer buy, or cost $250.00 used on EBay. Your local library can obtain these kinds of books for you. Often, small fees are involved for mailing, and some of these books cannot be removed from the library. When researching my midwife paper that turned into a series of novels, I found books from as far away as Nottingham, England and as old as the 1670s. No, that book did not leave the library. I could, however, copy it. Yes, many of these books are in Google Books now, and, interestingly, two of my best midwifery resources are still not digitized. Too rare perhaps?

I’ll add a note here that authors can look on Worldcat to see if their books are in libraries, but don’t get depressed if only a few show up as having been purchased. I know of many libraries that have my books that do not show up in the on-line catalogue. Still, it’s fun to look.

So, before you drop a lot of money to find that resource that you may only use for ten pages, but has the only resource for what you exactly need, use your library for Interlibrary Loan. But do make sure it’s in the right language. I ended up with one book that was entirely in Latin. Fortunately, my graduate assistant was fluent in Latin and found and translated the data I needed. That was wonderfully serendipitous, and isn’t likely to happen often.

Reference Librarians
They love to be asked questions. At least this has been my experience. No matter where I have lived, no matter in what library I have walked in search of some obscure detail, the reference librarian has treated me like I’m her new best friend. Usually they are alone behind a desk in an obscure corner fielding questions about where the drinking fountain can be found. What they really want is to have someone say, “Can you tell me what the marriage license regulations were in New Jersey in 1825?” They’re not likely to know, and they will know where to find it.

Reference sections are full of books that can’t be removed from the library such as atlases of what a place looked like 200 years ago, books of laws no longer laws, but were at the time you need, and archives you may have to wait for librarians to retrieve and sign away your firstborn to so much as glance at. Especially if you are doing local research, your library is an invaluable resource. Even the tiniest towns with libraries have a local history section.

Microfilm and fiche are pretty much gone by the wayside; however, the materials are not. Much has been transferred into digital form such as CD and DVD. Explore. I found a diary of an eighteenth century noblewoman and was able to photocopy the entire thing. Old newspapers are also digitized and stored in libraries. My midwife research taught me a great deal about the respect these women held in society simply through reading obituaries. The nice thing about the digitized versions is that they are searchable.

And let us not forget the availability of things beyond the budgets of most of us like the Oxford English Dictionary. Most libraries have access to it in print and/or digital form, or even on-line.

On-line Databases
Ladies and gentlemen, this is an author’s dream and treasure-trove. More and more libraries, even little ones, are obtaining access to on-line databases. This includes the OED, newspapers from present, to back a couple hundred years, and, yes, old photographs. When researching Better than Gold, I discovered a wealth of data on the history of telegraphy through the on-line databases, including pictures of old telegraph machines.

The Library of Congress web site also has a wealth of information including old newspapers, maps, photographs and paintings, and articles on historical subjects. If you have a few hours to waste that will not end up a waste, explore www.loc.gov.

Your library will require a library card for using Interlibrary Loan, and sometimes this costs a small fee, too, and on-line databases generally require a password. These are easily obtained often without ever leaving your home.

So in this age of the Internet’s resources and treasure troves like Google Books, do not forget that your library has often otherwise unobtainable information you will find useful in your historic research. One of these I learned was the knowledge of history of a librarian, who led me down a path of how to research using people, even if most of your subjects are no longer alive. But that’s for another article.