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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tools of the Trade: On Site Research - Visiting Valley Forge

By: Laura Frantz

This past July I had the privilege of going on tour with The Providence Forum and experiencing historic Philadelphia. Since Valley Forge isn't far, we spent a day there, too. Growing up, my vision of Valley Forge was limited to this image of George Washington praying in the snow. Legend says that a Quaker was walking in the woods and found Washington on his knees. Since Quakers hold to truthfulness as one of their tenets, I tend to believe this did happen. George Washington was a Christian, not a deist, and America's winning of the Revolutionary War was no small miracle.

Washington and his troops stayed at Valley Forge during a very brutal winter. I was here on a scorching summer's day so it was hard to imagine the cold and suffering that took place in 1777-78. This is the actual place he walked, talked, and made critical decisions that affected the course of the war. But he refused to move into this sturdy house until all his men finished building the huts that housed them first. They numbered in the thousands.

Washington's bedchamber at Valley Forge.

Martha spent the winter here also, encouraging her husband and the aides and officers surrounding him, several of whom had their wives in residence. How they all fit into this small house is a mystery but it's said they wiled the winter away together trying to make merry and even danced!

Headquarters where Washington and his aides worked daily excepting
the Sabbath.  This is the room at the back of the house on the first floor.

A desk, quill, ink and other necessities of that busy winter.

The kitchen is reached through a breezeway and isn't connected to
the main house. Notice the little oven within the hearth itself,
sometimes called a beehive, for baking bread.

The officers' quarters upstairs. Everything is displayed as if the
officers had just stepped out of the room. So lifelike!

Officer's quarters, same bedchamber, another view.
Love the Revolutionary War uniforms!

 Officers' quarters, second bedchamber at the top of the stairs.

The front room downstairs, yet another place for
conducting the business of war.

Valley Forge, though a very famous historic spot, offers a lingering lesson for today. I found it so moving to hear that this was the very place Washington thought about giving up the fight and surrendering to the British. Several close friends, including a beloved pastor, advised the general to abandon a hopeless effort to win American freedom. Though no war was waged between soldiers at Valley Forge, a fierce inward struggle transpired here. It became a battle of doubt, discouragement, and near defeat. Washington trimuphed in the end but we'll never know what he suffered during his time here. I think about it often now when I'm tempted to give up or give in to something that's troubling me.

Can you name a historic spot that is moving to you or holds a lasting lesson for us today?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Ye Olden Days: Road Trip!

I've always enjoyed a road trip, especially in the fall. Something about cooling temperatures, coloring trees, and air washed free of summer haze and humidity makes distances beckon and stirs a thirst for discovery. Satisfying that thirst is a matter of gassing up the car, packing a bag, stopping by MapQuest for directions, calling ahead to book a night at a hotel along the way. Our 18th century ancestors, when hit by autumn wanderlust, didn’t have it so easy. Traveling overland meant walking or riding a horse, possibly driving a wagon or riding in a carriage. Depending on how far one meant to travel, better plan to be on the road for a good chunk of time. Days. Maybe weeks.

But how far can a horse travel in a day? How were rivers crossed in times and places where no bridges had been built? What roads existed in the 18th century, and what sort of shape were they in?

The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road

The Great Wagon Road stretched from Philadelphia to Georgia, and was a major thoroughfare for 18th century travelers, particularly settlers headed south into the Carolina back country, or across the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. Not all roads beyond town limits were well maintained year round, and travelers traversed them at their own risk. Wagons sunk axle-deep in thick red mud on a rain-mired track were likely as common a sight in the 18th century as cars broken down on our modern highways.

Rivers To Cross

Before there were bridges there were fords, shallow spots in rivers where a rider simply waded or swam his horse across. Or not so simply, if the river was running high. If a traveler was fortunate there would be a ferryman to help him cross the river, for a fee. Some early ferries were as basic as two canoes connected by a level surface for the traveler and his horse to occupy, while the ferryman poled him to the opposite shore. Over time this double canoe ferry was replaced by larger, flat-bottomed craft that used a system of pulleys and ropes, along with a pole man, to make the tedious crossing.

The map to the left shows the site of the Trading Ford, the old Yadkin River ferry crossing on the Trading Path that ran from Hillsborough, NC, to Salisbury, NC, a Piedmont town that grew at the meeting of the Trading Path and the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road. It must have looked much different in the 18th century when one of my characters crossed it, than when I did in the 21st.

Inns and villages often grew up around a ferry crossing. A great resource for descriptions and illustrations of the evolution of a ferry from its 17th century beginnings to its replacement by a covered bridge in the 19th century, is Edwin Tunis's book The Tavern At The Ferry.

So just how far can a horse travel in a day? That depends on the horse, the rider, the terrain, the weather, and how much the horse is carrying. Under normal circumstances and over passable roads, and with proper care (food, water, and rest) a well-conditioned horse could be expected to travel 20 miles a day over an extended period, which is a good way of calculating how long an 18th century road trip was likely to take.

For historical writers, have your characters taken road trips? How did they travel? How long did it take?  What were some of the perils along the way?

For readers, is there a journey taken by a character/s in a historical novel that stands out as a favorite for you? Tell us about it! I'll be along to share one or two of mine.

~ autumn foliage photo by Brian Stansbury, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fiction Sampler: Pirate of My Heart by Jamie Carie

This week it's our pleasure at Colonial Quills to have as guest author Jamie Carrie....

....discussing her latest release Pirate of My Heart

She gave up everything for a chance at true love . . .

When her doting father dies, Lady Kendra Townsend is given a choice: marry the horrid man of her uncle’s choosing or leave England to risk a new life in America with unknown relatives. Armed with the faith that God has a plan for her, Kendra boards a cargo ship and soon finds herself swept away by the rugged American sea captain Dorian Colburn. But this adventurous man has been wounded by love before and now guards his independent life.

He wasn’t prepared to give up anything for anyone…

No swashbuckling man needs an English heiress with violet-hued eyes to make him feel again or challenge his faith with probing questions—or so he thinks. It is not until Dorian must save Kendra from the dark forces surrounding her that he decides she may be worth the risk.

Publisher: B&H Publishing

We welcome Jamie and are pleased to share her answers to questions concerning her journey as a writer.

~How did you get interested in Colonial Fiction?

Oh, what a great question! My love for colonial history goes way back. Do you remember that movie from school, Johnny Tremain? I was swept away! It was so sad when he hurt his hand making that silver cup and I loved all the drama surrounding the time leading up to the American Revolution. That’s the first moment when I fell in love with that time period. Later, I homeschooled for years and teaching that time period – from Plymouth Rock and the Thanksgiving story to post American Revolution - was my favorite. Three of my books are set during that time period: Wind Dancer - George Rogers Clark and his role in winning the mid-west territories during the American Revolution, The Duchess and the Dragon – the Pennsylvania Quakers and indentured servants, and my new book, Pirate of my Heart, set in the “historic triangle” of Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg just after the American Revolution among the James River plantations. I visited those towns a few years ago and they just so happened (God moment!) to be having a reenactment that weekend. I held my first long rifle in Yorktown. Those guns are heavy! And the Colonial Williamsburg Historical Site was amazing. I’m a true history geek!

~ Why did you enjoy writing about the period?

This book was so much fun! The sparks really flew between these characters. Here’s an example:

Here’s what Kendra (my heroine) thinks of Dorian the first time she sees him:

“Kendra’s glimpse of the man had only lasted a few seconds but his image burned in her mind. She’d never met an American before and he looked as wild as she’d heard them to be, handsome in a rugged way that she was unaccustomed to. His face was tan, so different from the milky white complexions she was used to seeing. He had rather long, dark hair that had been brushed back from chiseled features and waved in the breeze. His eyes were a cerulean blue with silver flicks in them and filled with piercing intensity and . . . disdain. Thick black brows arched almost wickedly over his eyes. His chin was square with a small cleft and she sensed he may have a dimple in his left check when he smiled. Small lines stood on either side of his well-molded mouth. His lips were slightly wide with even white teeth peering behind them. Kendra peeked up through her lashes and saw broad shoulders and a wide chest. He looked like a pirate she’d once read about. Goodness Lord, I didn’t know you made such men for real!”

I really enjoyed watching these two fall in love and learn to trust God through their adventures!

~Is there anything special you'd like to point out about your new book--especially related to the colonial era?

The hats! Lady Kendra Townsend has a bit of a thing for hats. She’s not the tallest girl around and she feels more statuesque in her towering, feather swaying, beribboned and bejeweled, with the occasional fake bird attached to the brim, outlandish hats. I had a lot of fun researching the hats of that period.

~ Are you a Plotter or SOTP writer?-- How does it affect your deadlines?

I’m a bit of both. I do a loose outline and then let the characters lead and change the outline if necessary. Deadlines keep me at the keyboard when I’d rather be shopping! I try to get at least five pages in a day.

~ What are some of your favorite books on the writing craft?

I honestly don’t read a whole lot of those. I learned to write by reading and studying my favorite books. Laura Kinsale has had a huge impact on learning the craft. She is the best – in my opinion.

~ What part of writing is the most difficult for you? Developing the characters? Dialogue? Pacing etc.?

Just getting started each day. Sometimes I have to circle around the computer a few times, look at it sideways and then take a deep breath and make myself plunge in. Oh, turning off the internet would help too. I pray a lot for help! J

~ When you made out your first proposal, who did you compare your writing style to?

That’s a hard one. I hoped and prayed to be like Laura Kinsale but I never dared to compare myself with her. J I would have to ask my readers who they think I sound like. It would be interesting to hear what they think.

~ Do you write your stories in long hand first? How long, start to finish, does it take you to write a book?

I shudder at the idea of having to write long hand! My handwriting is terrible. When I first started writing it took about two years to finish a book (before I had contracts and deadlines), then I managed to get one out every eight months. Next year I will have four books coming out, one a novella, but whew! I’ve been working hard getting these ready and writing a book in about four months. I don’t think I can go any faster! J

~ Maybe a quick sentence or two (tag line) about your next book to whet our appetites? :)

Book One in the Forgotten Castles series. The Guardian Duke is a sweeping love story where hero and heroine get to know each other through letters while the Duke of St. Easton tracks his ward, Lady Alexandria Featherstone, across windswept Ireland as she looks for her missing parents.

Great fun! Thanks so much!

Your welcome. We thank you for stopping by to share something of your writing adventures and where you get your inspiration--and about your latest release. Blessings on your future writing endeavors, Jamie!

~Pat Iacuzzi

Visit Jamie online.
View the book trailer of Pirate of My Heart

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Colonial Recipes: Sally Lunn

Sally Lunn

George Washington was so fond of Sally Lunn that it became known as “Washington’s breakfast bread” or “federal bread.”

Beat four eggs well; then melt a large Tablespoonful of Butter, put it in a Teacup of warm Water, and pour it to the Eggs with a Teaspoon of Salt and a Teacup of Yeast (this means Potato Yeast); beat in a Quart of Flour making the Batter stiff enough for a Spoon to stand in. Put it to rise before the Fire the Night before. Beat it over in the Morning, grease your Cake-mould and put it in Time enough to rise before baking. Should you want it for Supper, make it up at 10:00 o’Clock in the Morning in the Winter and 12: o’Clock in the Summer.
c. 1770

Modern recipe of Sally Lunn

Submitted by Carla Gade

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tools of the Trade: Experimental Research

I'm in the process of doing research for a historical spy novel. And boy is it fun! This being before the age of super spy gadgets, most espionage was conducted through secret messages. And some of those secret messages were written in invisible ink. Ooh, fun!

I did some basic searching on what they used for this stuff, how it worked, etc. First I found simple instructions on household items you could use to make invisible ink. Though my source didn't bother telling me what they looked like, what the ratio of substance to water should be, which developed best, etc.

Well, I decided, why not figure it out for myself?

Can you see me rubbing my hands together in delight? I can't remember the last time I did an impromptu science experiment that had nothing to do with my daughter's home school. I may have been heard cackling as I got out a piece of paper, a paintbrush, and then pulled out my spy tools.

Lemon Juice.
Saliva (the least-gross of the recommended bodily fluids)
And of course, water.

Nothing gave me ratios, but I knew that the whole point was to dilute the substance so that it would not dry visibly on the paper, but only appear when heat is applied. So I mixed each substance with water (totally guessing on the recipe) and wrote a line with each, just the name of which substance I was using at the time.

Imagine me fidgeting while it all dried, and wondering which would make the paper wave the least. Though that was more a matter of silly me using too much, I think . . .

Finally we were dry. Because I'm just so silly, I got out my pot of ink, my glass stylus (no quill right now, though I used to have one) and wrote a "real" message too. Time to develop!

These are all heat-revealed, and one resource recommended a light bulb, an oven, or an iron. But come on--who had those on a battlefield (Or in this era in general, if we're talking light bulbs)? I turned on my gas stove (no matches handy for a candle, LOL) and held out the paper.


I help it closer, just briefly. Waved it over the flame.


Grrrrrrrrr. I know this works. So swallowing my fear of burning the whole house down for a stupid experiment for a novel, I take the paper closer. I can smell the paper heating. I watch it begin to discolor above the flame. And there! Words appear.

"Lemon juice dilute."

Yay! We have a winner! Not to give up on the others so easily, I moved the paper and watched "Sugar water" appear next. Along with a smoky brown spot that made me think any amateur spies had better practice this a few times to learn how to best develop without burning the message whole. ;-) Also learned that these must not have been the inks used in National Treasure, because they sure don't disappear again, LOL.

Later that night I had my chemistry-inclined hubby help me figure out some of the more complicated inks, but I gotta say, this impromptu experiment was a ton of fun! 

Happy researching to you all! ;-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In Ye Olden Days: A Men's Fashion Primer

Dressing women is fun. All those beautiful dresses and accessories and shoes and hair and hats. Alas, our novels are not populated only by women. Men show up too. While not as diverse as women's fashion in the 18th century, the men still got their gaudy on.

We all know men wore breeches in the 18th century. Those funny pants that come to the knee, and from the knee down is either a white stocking or a leather boot. You're probably wondering why there's a picture of Captain Hook over there. The reason is simple: Everyone knows Captain Hook.

What everyone does not know is he's wearing the typical clothing of an early 18th century man. With the exception of the massive feather and cartoon shoes, obviously. We see something very similar in the opening scenes of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Except Will is wearing boots. Elizabeth's father, Governor Swann, also wears knee length coats in the first three films. I'm particularly fond of the one he's wearing in At World's End. You know, when he's dead.

Men's clothing is always simpler than women's, in regards to getting dressed. In the 18th century it consisted of breeches, shirts, waistcoats (what we call vests), and coats. The coats is where you find the most variety.

For the first half of the century coats like the one pictured here on the right, and the one Captain Hook is wearing, were the norm. This style of coat is called a justaucorps.

That lace at the throat is called a cravat. Cravats continued in fashion through the Civil War. They could be as elaborate as the lace one pictured here, or as simple as a solid colored piece of cloth to match the waistcoat.

Most men didn't wear royal blue and bright red. This red one, oddly reminiscent of Captain Hook's, is from France circa 1750. You can see how the front of the coat is cut different from the blue one above, and different still from the one Captain Hook wears that buttons all the way down. Though in cartoon land you can't see the buttons.

The working man didn't have money to spend on lace ruffles and fancy embroidery and expensive dyes. His wardrobe stayed in the earth tones category. Blacks, browns, fawn, tan. Everything we associate with the farmers during the Revolution.

Of course, no 18th century man is complete without a tricorne hat. Other types of hats existed, such as the ever popular slouch hat. But who thinks of slouch hats when they hear 1700's? Not me.There's a good reason for that. The slouch hat was a farmer's hat. The tricorne hat is what anybody who was anybody wore. It's not hard to imagine a young man from the country pinching pennies away to buy himself a tricorne hat.

You didn't really think I'd talk about Pirates of the Caribbean and not include a picture, did you? This one from Dead Man's Chest--with Governor Swann front and center--shows some excellent examples of tricorne hats, wigs, and wouldn't you know it! One of those outlandish prints that were so popular in the 18th century. They didn't just show up on women.

Now, if your character is in the Navy or the Army, I'm afraid I'm of no help. Military uniforms throughout history are well documented and easy to research. If you're researching uniforms, don't forget the buttons!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Spinning Room with Lynn Squire

Welcome all to the Spinning Room!

Today we have a special visitor, one of our Colonial Quills contributors, Lynn Squire.  You may recall some of Lynn's creative posts about horses in colonial times, done in character.  Her ingenuity doesn't stop there. Lynn has a featured early colonial era novel in serial format that she shares on her blog entitled Dawn Over Narraganset Bay, book two in her Colonial Baptist Series. The first book is set in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and this book takes place in Rhode Island during the 17th century.

Like many authors who write historical fiction, Lynn's writing spans several centuries including her latest release this month, Joab's Fire, set in 1903.  Lynn is a master storyteller who weaves her love of Jesus Christ and the truth of His scripture throughout her writing. Joab's Fire is based on the book of Job and includes an accompanying Bible Study.

Please join in the conversation as we get to know Lynn a little better. Feel free to ask questions in this informal discussion/interview.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Colonial Recipes: Pastry Making Tips

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


"The following Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, are original, and have been used by the author and many of her friends with uniform success. They are drawn up in a style so plain and minute, as to be perfectly intelligible to servants, and persons of most moderate capacity.

There is frequently much difficulty in following directions in English and French Cookery Books, not only from their want of explicitness, but from the difference in the fuel, fire-places, and cooking utensils, generally used in Europe and America; and many of the European receipts are so complicated and laborious, that our female cooks are afraid to undertake the arduous task of making any thing from them.

The receipts in this little book are, in every sense of the word, American; but the writer flatters herself that (if exactly followed) the articles produced from them will not be found inferior to any of a similar description made in the European manner."

In making pastry or cakes, it's best to begin by weighing out the ingredients, sifting the flour, pounding and sifting the sugar and spice, washing the butter, and preparing the fruit.

(1) All sorts of spice should be pounded in a mortar, except nutmeg, which is better to grate.

(2) Butter should always be fresh and very good. Wash it in cold water before you used it, and then make it up with your hands into hard lumps, squeezing the water out.

(3) If the butter and sugar are to be stirred together, always do that before the eggs are beaten, as, (unless they are kept too warm), the butter and sugar will not be injured by standing awhile. For stirring them, nothing is so convenient as a round hickory stick about a foot and a half long, and somewhat flattened at one end.

(4) Break every egg by itself, in a saucer, before you put it into the pan, that in case there should be any bad ones, they may not spoil the others.
Submitted by Gina Welborn

Friday, September 16, 2011

Guest Post by Janet Grunst: Coming To America

No, I’m not referring to the 1981 Neil Diamond hit song or the 1988 Eddie Murphy movie, but the seventeenth and eighteenth century emigration to the North American Continent of a vast number of people, many in servitude.

Two common means that brought Europeans to North America:

Free Willers or Redemptioners were emigrants who had a portion of their passage to the west paid prior to their passage and were permitted a specific amount of time once they arrived in the Colonies to raise the unpaid portion of the cost of their transportation. Failing to do this they would become indentured for a period determined by the amount of passage costs still owed.
Indentured Servants were emigrants who signed contracts, or “indentures,” committing themselves to work for a fixed number of years, usually four to seven, in payment for their passage. The captain would transport the indentured servants to the American colonies, and sell their legal papers to colonists; farmers, planters, and shopkeepers, thereby providing them a labor force.

Why would these people leave their homeland for such an uncertain future? There are probably as many reasons as there were people who emigrated from their homeland to an uncertain future in a distant land. Some unscrupulous people called “spirits” profited by prowling seaports and slums recruited victims who were destitute and might sign anything for a meal, a drink, or a promise of a better life. Others, in Britain or Germany, found the cost of a transatlantic passage might cost anywhere from a half to a full year’s salary, so they saw it as an opportunity to escape the poverty at home. Several poor crop years in the eighteenth century brought people from Britain and northern Europe.

The conversion to commercial agricultural enclosures and the high cost of rents caused many Scots to emigrate. Between 1763 -1775 about 20,000 Scottish Highlanders came to North America. Ireland was impoverished causing many to flee for what they perceived to be a better life. Many from England wanted to escape what they viewed as a dismal future. Others were convicts, sentenced to deportation and on their arrival in America were indentured unless they had personal funds to maintain themselves.

What conditions did they endure to come to America? If you think travel is stressful today it’s a walk in the park compared to travel across the Atlantic in the seventeen and eighteenth centuries. It was risky for anyone but often perilous if not deadly for indentures servants. Often a hundred or more passengers were housed below deck in poorly lit, stuffy, cramped quarters so low that adults couldn’t stand up straight for what could be a seven to twelve week voyage. During frequent ocean storms the vessels would pitch and roll creating sickness and terror. Food was limited to salted meat, smoked fish, peas, hardtack, and molasses as long as it lasted and the water was brackish. A prolonged voyage often meant severe rationing. Scurvy was commonplace due to the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables. Many of the travelers became ill and died as a result of these conditions.

What was life like once they reached the Colonies? The lives they found on this side of the Atlantic depended largely on who purchased their indenture and what kind of labor they were committed to perform. Their lives could be very restrictive and harsh, sometimes so difficult that they did not survive their years of service. Some of the indentured servants were in the service of individuals who treated them like any other employee and some lived like family members. Often as part of their contract, indentured servants were promised a small tract of land and other incidentals when their service ended.

There was no permanent stigma attached to indentured servitude, and the families of these persons blended readily with the total population. Children born to parents serving their indenture were free. Terms of an indenture contract were enforceable in the courts, and runaway servants could be forced to return to their masters and complete their service. Many of these people were skilled in a trade or were artisans. Upon completion of their years of service, many went on to become very successful business people and pillars of their communities.

In 1775 a formal ban on Scottish emigration along with informal restrictions of overseas movements from England went into effect. Indentured service for the most part ceased after the American Revolution.

What about you? Do you have an ancestor who was either an indentured servant or a redemptioner?

Janet Grunst is a member of Colonial American Christian Writers and a new contributor to Colonial Quills. She lives in the Historic Triangle of Virginia. Janet is a member of Tidewater Christian Writers, ACFW, and My Book Therapy. Her two sons serve in our country's armed forces.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shoeing Horses

God's blessing to you dear friends. For those who have not yet met me, I am Nathaniel Griffith from Rhode Island. Ye see this mare I am brushing? She is a fine animal from my uncle’s stock in Wales. There are not many horses in the colonies, so my uncle sent this mare in 1656 as a present to my mother.

In time, I plan to breed her if I find a suitable stallion. See her hooves? They are large and black. I would like to raise a herd of horses with such fine hooves. There are no ridges on the walls now, unlike when she first came to us. Ridges on the walls of a horse’s hooves indicates a change or disruption in feeding. On the trip across the great Atlantic she would not have eaten well. Now however, ye can see her hooves are smooth and strong.

Ye wonder why she is not shod? Verily, she does not need it. Our trails are dirt or mud or grass, unlike the roads of England. God has blessed her, as He has most horses, with a hard wall for protection and a natural “suction cup” form through the frog and bulbs for traction.

Perhaps if I rode her along the beach each day I would consider shoes for her, but the cost of iron gives me pause. Verily, the blacksmith in Newport is unpracticed with shoeing horses. A poor shoeing can injure the animal. It is not worth the risk.

I do know of a wealthy man in Boston who shoes his horses. He travels a great deal, and I believe the shoes are a source of pride for him as well. A farmer near Providence shoes only the front hooves of his animals. This be wise and economical decision. About two-thirds the weight of the horse is on its front feet, hence they have the greatest wear.

At times, I have wrapped my horses’ hooves with rawhide to protect their feet. ’Tis a simple solution when I travel and come across a rocky path.

Did ye know the bailiffs of Oakham in England levied a toll of a horseshoe from carriages that passed through the market-town in Rutland county? Yea, horseshoes cost some, and ’tis only those that can afford such finery in the colonies that shoe their steeds.

Look at this gelding beside me. I was not wise when I purchased this horse. You see his hooves are white? This indicates they are soft and their soles bruise easily. I suppose there are some white hooves that be not soft, but experience has taught me to steer away from such animals. Now in truth, I must say that my uncle agrees not with my assessment. He calls it a myth. Perhaps he is right. He is a more experienced horseman than I.

The sun is in its midday position, and I must finish preparing these horses for a trip into Newport. A ship has come in, and it is rumored to have more horses from England. I hope to find a heavier breed than these I have. Such animals will work well on the farm. ’Tis prestige I’m after, I’ll grant you, to have horses instead of oxen work my land, but I prefer to work with a horse than a dull ox.

I wish you Godspeed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fiction Sampler: Surrender the Wind by Rita Gerlach

Rita Gerlach lives with her husband and two sons in a historical town nestled along the Catoctin Mountains, amid Civil War battlefields and Revolutionary War outposts in central Maryland. Her fourth book, Surrender the Wind, an inspirational historical romance set in Virginia and England, released from Abingdon Press in August 2009. She is currently working on her Daughters of the Potomac Series which will release in 2012.

"This novel set after the American Revolution has something for everyone: romance, mystery, comedy and intrigue. The descriptions of the estate, church grounds and characters, especially Seth and Juleah, help bring this novel to life. The writing is so vivid you'll even be able to hear the horses' hoofs and people's voices."  -- Romantic Times Magazine

 Surrender the Wind is the story of Seth Braxton, a patriot of the American Revolution, who unexpectedly inherits his loyalist grandfather’s estate in England. Seth is torn between the land he fought for and the prospect of reuniting with his sister Caroline, who was a motherless child taken to England at the onset of the war.

With no intention of staying permanently, Seth arrives to find his sister grieving over the death of her young son. In the midst of such tragedy, Seth meets Juleah, the daughter of an eccentric landed gentleman. Her independent spirit and gentle soul steal Seth’s heart. After a brief courtship, they marry and she takes her place as the lady of Ten Width Manor, enraging the man who once sought her hand and schemed to make Ten Width his own.

From the Virginia wilderness to the dark halls of an isolated English estate, Seth and his beloved Juleah inherit more than an ancestral home. They uncover a sinister plot that leads to murder, abduction, and betrayal--an ominous threat to their new life, love, and faith.

Surrender the Wind
The Wilds of Virginia
October, 1781

On a cool autumn twilight, Seth Braxton rode his horse through a grove of dark-green hemlocks in a primeval Virginia forest, distressed that he might not make it to Yorktown in time. He ran his hand down his horse’s broad neck to calm him, slid from the saddle, and led his mount under the deep umbra of an enormous evergreen. Golden-brown pine needles shimmered in the feeble light and fell. In response to his master’s touch, the horse lifted its head, shook a dusty mane, and snorted.
“Steady, Saber. I’ll be back to get you.” Seth spoke softly and stroked the velvet muzzle. “Soon, you’ll have plenty of oats to eat and green meadows to run in.”
He threw a cautious glance at the hillside ahead of him, drew his musket from a leather holster attached to the saddle, and pulled the strap over his left shoulder. Out of the shadows and into bars of sunlight, he stepped away to join his troop of ragtag patriots. Through the dense woodland, they climbed the hill to the summit.
Sweat broke over Seth’s face and trickled down his neck and into his coarse linen hunting shirt. He wiped his slick palms along the sides of his dusty buckskin breeches and pulled his slouched hat closer to his eyes to block the glare of sun that peeked through the trees. A lock of dark hair, which had a hint of bronze within its blackness, fell over his brow, and he flicked it back with a jerk of his head. Tense, he flexed his hand, closed it tight around the barrel of his musket, and listened for the slightest noise—the soft creak of a saddle or the neigh of a horse. His keen blue eyes scanned the breaks in the trees, and his strong jaw tightened.

Shadows quivered along the ground, lengthened against tree trunks, then crept over ancient rocks. Within the forest, blue jays squawked. Splashes of blood-red uniforms interspersed amid muted green grew out of earthy hues.

A column of British infantry, led by an officer on horseback, moved around the bend. His scarlet coat, decked with ivory lapels and silver buttons, gleamed in the sunlight, his powdered wig snow white. An entourage of other lower-ranking officers accompanied him alongside the rank and file.

Without hesitation, Seth cocked the hammer of his musket to the second notch and pressed the stock into his shoulder. “Wait.” Daniel Whitmann, a young Presbyterian minister, pulled out his handkerchief, mopped the sweat off his face, and shoved the rag back into his pocket. “Wait until more are on the road. Wait for the signal to fire.”

Seth acknowledged the preacher with a glance. “Pray for us, Reverend, and for them as well. Some of us are about to face our Maker.”

Whitmann moved his weapon forward. “God shall not leave us, Seth. May the Almighty’s will be done this day.”

Seth fixed his eye on the target that moved below. He aimed his long barrel at the heart of the first redcoat in line. No fervor for battle rose within him, only a heartsick repulsion that he would take a boy’s life, a lad who should be at home tending his father’s business or at school with his mind in books. The boy lifted a weary hand and rubbed his eyes. The officer nudged his horse back and rode alongside the boy. “Stay alert, there!” The boy flinched, stiffened, and riveted his eyes ahead.

A muscle in Seth’s face twitched. He did not like the way the officer cruelly ordered the boy. With a steady arm, he narrowed one eye and made his mark with the other. He moved his tongue over his lower lip and tried to control a heated rush of nerves. He glanced to the right, his breath held tight in his chest, and waited for the signal to fire. His captain raised his hand, hesitated, then let it fall.

Flints snapped. Ochre flashed. Hissing reports sliced the air. The British surged to the roadside in disorder. Their leader threatened and harangued his men with drawn sword. He ordered them to advance, kicked laggards, and shoved his horse against his men, while bullets pelted from the patriots’ muskets.

Seth squeezed the trigger. His musket ball struck the officer’s chest. Blood gushed over the white waistcoat and spurted from the corner of the Englishman’s mouth. He slid down in the saddle and tumbled off his horse, dead.

“Fall back!” Redcoats scattered at the order, surged to the roadside, slammed backward by the force of the attack. The fallen, but not yet dead, squirmed in the dust and cried out. A redcoat climbed the embankment, slipped, and hauled back up. His bayonet caught the sunlight and Seth’s attention. The soldier headed straight for Whitmann.

His hands fumbled with his musket, and Whitmann managed to fire. The musket ball struck the redcoat through the chest. A dazed look flooded the preacher’s face.

Seth grabbed Whitmann by the shoulder and jerked him away. “Don’t think on it, Reverend.”

He shoved the heartsick minister behind him. A troop of grenadiers hurried around the bend in the road, their bayonets rigid on the tips of their long rifles. They faced about, poured a volley into the hilltop, and killed several patriots.

A musket ball whizzed past Seth’s head and smacked into the tree behind him. Bark splintered, and countless wooden needles launched into the air. His breath caught in his throat, and he pitched backward. Blood trickled from his temple, hot against his skin. He rolled onto his side, scrambled to a crouched position, and slipped behind a tree. Beside him, Whitmann lay dead, his bloody hand pressed against the wound, the other clutched around the shaft of his rifle, with his eyes opened toward heaven.

“Retreat! Retreat!” The command from a patriot leader reached Seth above the clamor of musket fire. With the other colonials, he ran into the woods. His heart pounded against his ribs. His breathing was hurried.

He glanced back over his shoulder and saw that he must run for his life. Redcoats stampeded after him through the misty Virginia wilds. His fellow patriots scurried up the hill ahead of him and slipped over the peak. With unaffected energy, he mounted the slope to follow them and ran as fast as his legs could carry him over the sleek covering of dead leaves. He had to catch up. Exhausted, he forced his body to move, crested the hill, and hastened over it, down into the holler of evergreens.

Without a moment to lose, Seth leapt into the saddle of his horse, dug in his heels, and urged Saber forward. The crack of a pistol echoed, and a redcoat’s bullet struck. Against the pull of the reins, the terrified horse twisted and fell sideways. Flung from the saddle, Seth hit the ground hard, and his breath was knocked from his body. For a tense moment, he struggled to fill his lungs and crawl back to his fallen horse. His heart sank when he saw the mortal wound that had ripped into Saber’s hide. Desperate for revenge, Seth grabbed his weapon and scrambled to his feet. But the click of a flintlock’s hammer stopped him short.

“Drop your weapon, rebel.” A redcoat stood a stone’s throw away, his long rifle poised against his shoulder.

Seth opened his hand and let his musket fall into the leaves. Soldiers hurried forward and confiscated his knife and musket, shot and powder horn. Saber moaned, and from the corner of Seth’s eye, he saw his faithful mount struggle to rise.

The redcoat that held him at gunpoint glanced at the suffering horse, and a cruel light spread across his face. Helpless, Seth watched the redcoat take the musket from a soldier and aim. The forest grew silent, and Seth’s quickened heartbeat pulsed in his jugular. He clenched his teeth and shut his eyes. Then his musket ended his horse’s misery.

At the blast, Seth jerked. He stepped back from the putrid smell of rum and sweat, from the pocked face that glistened with grime, and from the eyes that blazed with sordid pleasure. A firm voice gave orders to make way as an officer on horseback cantered toward him. The Englishman dismounted, took Seth’s musket from the rum-smelling buffoon, and turned it within his hands.

“Iron. Smoothbore barrel. Maker’s mark.” The officer examined the craftsmanship of the wood and forged brass. “Walnut full stock. Board of Ordnance Crown acceptance mark on the tang. Regulation Longland, I’d say. A quality piece by American standards.”

Seth bit his lower lip and clenched his fists. “I cannot kill any of your men. It’s not loaded. You have my shot and powder. Return them to me.”

The officer handed the musket over to an Iroquois scout. “A gift. Show it to your people. Tell them the king of England wished you to have it.”

“We captured a rebel.” The redcoat who shot Seth’s horse threw his shoulders back.

Colonel Robert Hawkings stood nose-to-nose with the soldier. “You think yourself worthy of some reward? One prisoner is something to boast about?”

Corporal John Perkins nodded. “Better than none at all, sir.”

“Out of my sight, you foul-smelling oaf.”

Perkins shrank back, red-faced. Hawkings planted himself in front of Seth and met his eyes. “Your colonials killed several of my men, including our major. Not only are you a rebel, but a murderer as well. You’ll hang for it.”

Seth stared straight into his enemy’s eyes. “It would be better to suffer the noose than be under the bootheels of tyrants.”

Blue veins on Hawkings’s neck swelled and he struck Seth across the face. Seth’s head jerked from the force of the blow. Slowly, he turned back and spat out the blood that flooded his mouth.

Nearby a younger officer watched. His expression burned with arrogant pride. Seth noticed the tear in the man’s jacket and saw a stream of blood had stained the white linen beneath it.

To the rear, another man stepped forward.

“Colonel Hawkings, trade this prisoner for one of our own.” He spoke in a quiet, controlled tone.

Hawkings’s brows arched, and he spun halfway on his heels. “Captain Bray, you have no satisfaction in seeing a traitor hang?”

“Hanging is for those who have been tried and sentenced. This man has not had that afforded him.”

“He deserves nothing in that regard.”

“Our government has given prisoners of war the rights of belligerents, sir. They’re not to be executed.”

“You doubt my authority in this matter?” Hawkings said.

Bray’s frown deepened. “No, sir, only your better judg-ment.”

“Stand back. I’ll shoot this rebel myself.”

Hawkings drew his pistol, pointed it at Seth’s head and cocked the hammer. Stunned, Seth’s breath caught in his throat. His body stiffened in a cold sweat.

Bray lunged and cuffed Hawkings’s wrist. “He’s unarmed.”

Hawkings shoved Bray back. “Take your hands off me. You dare defy me?”

“We are Englishmen and Christians. Let us abide by the rules of just conduct.”

Hawkings grabbed Bray’s coat and yanked his face close. “I am the officer in charge. I can do anything I wish.”

“Shooting an unarmed man is murder,” Bray said.

Hawkings paused. His expression grew grave as though he considered the word murder with great care. A moment later, he lowered his pistol. “Murder, you say? Well, I’ve had enough blood this day. I know my officers shall agree this man is guilty and that hanging is a more just and merciful punishment. Perkins, secure this rebel under that tree, the one I mean for him to swing from at dawn. Let him listen to its branches creak all night. Perhaps that will humble his rebellious heart.”

Hawkings strode off. Perkins grabbed hold of Seth and tied his wrists together. Seth lowered his eyes, stared at the ground, and refused to give Bray any sign he was grateful he had stood up for him.

“If I were you, I’d mind my place, Bray.”

Seth lifted his eyes to see Bray turn to the man who taunted him.

“Have you no honor, Captain Darden?” Bray said. “A man must speak up for justice.”

Darden pulled away from the tree he leaned against. “If you do not take care to show respect to Colonel Hawkings, you’ll regret your interference. You should know what meddling could do, after what happened at Ten Width.”

Seth let out a breath and frowned. What did these men know of Ten Width, his grandfather’s estate in England? Yanked forward, he caught Darden’s stare. Within the depths of his palegray eyes burned hatred. A corner of Darden’s mouth curled and twitched. To stay silent, Seth bit down hard on the tip of his tongue.

They led him to the oak, where he struggled with the understanding he’d die young at twenty-six. Under the shadow of the tree’s colossal branches, he cried inwardly, Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die.

Seth’s burdened heart hoped heaven heard him, but his weakened flesh doubted.

GIVEAWAY:  Copy of Surrender the Wind.  Leave your comment and email address.  ACFW Book Club members - this is your September book of the month for historical fiction.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day of Rememberance

Come, join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty's call;
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Or stain with dishonor America's name.

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For heaven approves of each generous deed.

From "The Liberty Song", American Revolutionary War song composed
by patriot John Dickinson.  First published in the Boston Gazette in July 1768.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tools of the Trade: Digging up Character Names


Living in old New England I've long been fascinated wandering through cemeteries. The peculiar to our times names always intrigue me, so strange to the modern ear: Ardacton, Tryphena, Fravel, Clymenia, Sturgeon (isn't that a fish?). Others seem to be timeless, beautiful, honorable: Sumner, Caleb, Hannah. Many archaic names are surnames that were passed along as given/Christian names. And yes, these archaic names do have a place in our colonial fiction, and other period fiction.

Character name selection is a very fun part of writing for me as I develop the role. Most will agree that the name needs to fit the personality, suit the story, and be realistic to the setting (locale and time period). But where do we find these names? As I said, walking among the dead is one option, but you needn't rush off to an old east coast cemetery in person as there are many cemetery records now transcribed online.

In fact, cemetery, census, birth, marriage, military records are preserved by historical societies and often published online on their websites, on Google Books, and via genealogical websites. These vital records are those that I frequent most when looking for interesting names. The advantage of accessing these names are that you can go to the location of your novel and find names that were actually used during a given time frame.  Grave Matter that has recorded countless epitaphs of my own ancestors. The way I would use a site like this for name ideas is go find the location and time period, say 18th century Salisbury, MA, where I'll find the Old Colonial Burial Ground.  Say I need names found in Connecticut, The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records: Suffield 1674-1850 should give me some ideas. This seems like it might be time consuming, but you can always tuck some of the great names you find away in a file (Evernote works great!). In American Marriages before 1699 you'll find not only a primer on the original colonies, but an extraordinary list of names. Looking for a name for a soldier who might enlist in the American Revolution? The Colonial Ancestors is one such website that provides names of those who took the oath of allegiance at Valley Forge.  A Google Books resource like History of Boothbay, Southport and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. 1623-1905 is another place to find names targeting a specific communtiy during a specified time period as is Boston Birth Records from A.D. 1700 to A.D. 1800. Doing some internet searches or a trip to your an area library will get you going in the right direction.

I'm sure many of you have labored over your characters names almost as much as choosing a name of a new child or a new family pet. Baby names books and websites are also a fabulous place to harvest names for our characters when considering name meanings and origins. I've included a list of links below to help you find some of these including names popular during colonial times. If your character is an immigrant to America or his family was you may want to check name trends in their land of origin to sound authentic. There are also customs associated with naming patterns that may be important to your story as found on this article on Naming Practices. The 18th century tradition follows as such although this could be confusing depending on your queue of characters: First daughter after mother's mother, second daughter after father's mother, third daughter after mother. First son after father's father, second son after mother's father, third son after father. For more information about using historic naming patterns see this excellent article: Name Your Historical Fiction Characters Using Real Historic Conventions.

Well, it all may sound like overkill just to find a few decent names, but I think authors and readers alike will agree that the name of characters are vitally important. It's also important when incorporating the uncommon names to be sensitive to the reader's expectations. Elvira? Madonna? O.J.? Eh, we may want to reconsider and make use of something with a less cliche ring to it. But then cliche sometimes works when applied to your sweet protagonist Patience, your brooding hero Gideon, dangerous antagonist Absolom, the bitter cousin Mehitable, the eccentric privateer Fortunatus. You get the picture, your readers will too. What a fun way to exercise our creativity and originality when naming our dashing captain of the militia or our lovely and spirited protagonist. I'm sure there are many memorable names that come to mind from the novels you have read.  Feel free to share some of your favorites when you comment.

Now for a little more fun, name the five characters in this picture and include in your comment. Or dare you not cast your precious names around so frivolously?

18th century Think Baby Names: Male
18th century Think Baby Names: Girls
Colonial Names for Girls
Colonial Names for Boys
Hot Baby Names for1710
18th century names
Behind the Name
Behind the Name: Surnames
Name Voyager

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Female Paul Revere

Listen, my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of . . .Sybil Ludington?

Yup. That’s right. Sybil Ludington, the daughter of Col. Henry Ludington, a New York militia officer and later an aide to General George Washington, became a heroine of the American Revolution in her own right—and a model for the heroine of my American Patriot Series, Elizabeth Howard. On April 26, 1777, exactly 2 years and 8 days after Paul Revere rode “to spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm” about British troops on the march to Concord, Sybil did essentially the same thing. Except that she was 16, a girl, and she rode more than twice the distance Revere did. Not to mention that her route was a whole lot more daunting. And much of the way it rained. Hard.

Anyone care to join me in a rousing chorus of “Anything you can do, I can do better”?

On the night of April 26, a messenger reached the Ludington home at Fredericksburgh, NY, to report that Governor William Tryon’s troops were attacking Danbury, Connecticut, 15 miles to the southeast, to carry off the munitions and stores of the region’s militia. Sound familiar? Shades of Lexington and Concord.

Naturally Colonel Ludington immediately began to mobilize the local militia. The messenger and his horse were too worn out to go any farther, though, so our intrepid Sybil volunteered to rouse the countryside.

Sybil hit the saddle at 9:00 p.m. and dismounted back at home around dawn. All told, she galloped flat out 40 miles along unfamiliar, rugged, lonely roads at night in the rain, knocking on doors with the same stick she used to prod her horse so she wouldn’t have to dismount, and guiding the steed with nothing more than a hemp halter. Along the way, she had to use her father’s musket for defense against one of the roving ruffians often abroad at night in the region. Her feat is especially remarkable considering that modern-day riders using lightweight saddles have a hard time riding the same distance in daylight with good weather over a well-marked course free of highwaymen.

Now I know the statue shows her as riding side saddle, but I ask you, would that really have been possible, considering the speed at which she must have traveled over rough terrain in the dark? It was not rare for women and girls of the time to travel in men’s dress for comfort and modesty, and I tend to believe that, just like my most practical heroine, Elizabeth, she doffed her petticoats, pulled on a pair of her father’s breeches and boots, and sprang into the saddle to ride astride. In fact, an account of the event describes her as “clinging to a man’s saddle.” Case closed.
By the time she returned to her home, thoroughly soaked and exhausted, nearly the whole regiment of 400 soldiers had mustered because of her, and within a couple of hours they were on the march. Although the detachment arrived too late to stop the sack of Danbury, at the Battle of Ridgefield they drove the forces of General William Tryon, then governor of New York, back to Long Island Sound.

Following the war, in 1784, then twenty-three year-old Sybil married Edmund Ogden, a farmer and innkeeper. They had six children—an admirable feat in itself—and in 1792 the family settled in Catskill, NY, where they lived until Sybil’s death on February 26, 1839, at the age of 77. She is buried near her father in the Patterson Presbyterian Cemetery in Patterson, NY.

In 1935 New York State erected markers along the route she followed that night. The statue shown here was sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1961 and resides near Carmel, NY. Smaller originals can be found on the grounds of the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters in Washington, DC; on the grounds of Danbury, Connecticut’s public library, and in the Elliot and Rosemary Offner Museum at Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. In 1975 Sybil Ludington was honored with a postage stamp in the Contributors to the Cause United States Bicentennial series. Worthy honors for an amazing woman!

I hope you'll share a favorite story about a lady from colonial days you particularly admire, or perhaps one that was the source for a character in one of your own stories!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Terrific Trio Takes Tea - Authors MaryLu Tyndall, Laura Frantz and C.J. Chase

Tea Party Time!

Join authors whose new releases came out in August.  Hurricane Irene blew our last tea set off the table!  

CJ Chase - Redeeming the Rogue

This is what CJ is wearing!!!

Laura Frantz - The Colonel's Lady
MaryLu Tyndall - Surrender the Dawn

Pull up a chair to the table and join our authors as they "dish" about their new books!  Welcome!

This is what MaryLu usually wears - very pretty: 

Laura's lovely Roxanna prefers this hat and locket: