Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Borrowed Book is very pleased to have Shannon McNear guest blogging today. Shannon recently received her FIRST contract at the 2012 ACFW Conference in Dallas, Texas. Here is her story.

About Shannon:

Shannon McNear’s publishing credits include former interview coordinator for Christian Fandom and several short stories in Christian Fiction Online Magazine. At the 2012 ACFW conference, she was awarded a first-time author contract from Barbour Publishing, for her historical romance novella "Defending Truth." It’s slated to appear in the 9-novella collection A Pioneer Christmas, releasing September 2013.

A resident of Charleston, South Carolina, for more than 20 years, she loves losing herself in local history, especially the colonial era. She’s a homeschooling mother of eight, military wife, and a member of ACFW. When not sewing, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she finds joy in women’s ministry, children’s worship, and encouraging whoever God brings across her path.

About Defending Truth:

On the frontier of western North Carolina, which will someday become east Tennessee, Truth Bledsoe keeps her family fed and strikes terror into the hearts of the local boys while her father is away fighting the British. When she discovers a half-starved, fugitive Tory, she’s not above feeding him, but can she go past simple Christian charity to forgiveness, and possibly even love?

Micah Elliot has fled capture after the massacre at King’s Mountain, heartsick, battle weary, and ashamed of the cowardice that sent him westward over the mountains instead of eastward to home. Can he find his way through a crisis of faith to peace regarding where God has led him, and embrace what is worth laying down his life for?

On getting my first contract:

It happened. Finally.

Not how I would have envisioned years ago, perhaps, when writing fantasy was my only love, and the market was firmly closed to that genre. But God arranged for it to happen in such a way that I had three solid days—and then some—to savor it, with very little distraction. And He fulfilled His promise that when it happened, I would know beyond a doubt that it had been Him.

Opening day of the 2012 ACFW conference. I’d been up since before 4 AM, original flight canceled, on another flight by 6:30 AM. Arrived in Dallas at 8 AM and dragged into the adjacent hotel by 9. Got my room. Crashed for a bit, but only dozed. Came downstairs to walk around, get registered, and mingle. Had an encounter with a very kind agent that left me thinking, “Just shoot me now.” Fled to my room ... sat on the floor, weeping before the Lord, begging His mercy and for clear direction with my writing, for the umpteenth time. Oh God, how long do I keep beating myself bloody against the brick wall of the publishing industry if You aren’t going to open the door?

I took myself to two Scriptures that were pressing upon me: Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” And Joshua 1:8, “Have I not commanded you? Only be strong and very courageous.”

The phrase echoed through my head: Take courage. Take courage. Reach out and take it.

The weeping spent, I pulled myself together. Went through my conference schedule, planned which workshops to attend. Changed clothes, redid my makeup, and went back downstairs. As I walked down the hallway to the elevator, I reminded myself, I am a daughter of the Most High. I am here because He brought me here, and I can do this. Regardless of what happens.

The Lord is with me.

Met Colleen Scott, a friend from last year’s conference, and Beth Goddard, my writing partner and roommate, went to lunch with a small group. Sat down after with Colleen and another friend to compare WIP’s and talk about critiquing. By that time it was time to wander over to the opening session.

Colleen and I sat together, and our table slowly filled up. The announcements started. And I started fidgeting. It was close to time to find out whether they’d be doing the first-time author contracts ... and if so, who. I’d submitted a novella proposal back in July, so it was a possibility—and despite my sureness that someone else would be announced, I couldn’t help but hope it would be me.

Lord, just get me through this session, so I can move on and deal with the rest of conference ...

Becky Germany, the editor who traditionally gave out these contracts, had to stay home because of a family medical emergency, but the leadership at ACFW still wanted to keep the tradition. Margaret Daley, ACFW President, began to read the announcement that Becky had prepared.

“... I shared a meal with this writer,” the introduction went. I thought of last year’s gala, when I’d sat at Beth’s table with her and Becky, and talked about raising chickens and ducks and other farm things.

“... this writer sent her proposal on a published friend’s recommendation,” it went on. This was also true in my case.

Oh Lord, could it be ... ?

And then she read the title of the story ... MY story ... Defending Truth.

I covered my mouth with both hands. All the air went out of the room. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t move. “I can’t believe it,” I whispered, about the time my name was announced and the room erupted with whoops and cheering from those who had any idea just how long this journey has been.

Thirty-one years since I started writing my first novel. Ten years, on this end of writing with the intent of pursuing publication. Seven conferences, seven completed novel-length manuscripts, eight years since I’d joined ACFW ... nine babies, twenty-five years of marriage, nearly eighteen years of homeschooling.

At last I realized that yes, I was supposed to walk up there and receive my contract offer. People were rising to their feet and applauding—I could see Brandilyn Collins, in the front row, just beaming. The one who offered critique honesty to a 36-week pregnant mama—I’d needed that honesty. Margaret Daley hugged me and asked if I had anything to say. “I’m not sure I can,” I squeaked, but took the microphone.

Voice shaking, I explained how I’d come to conference because God told me to—but I didn’t know why. I’d felt this was a make-or-break year, and I begged Him for specific direction with my writing. I held up the paper and said, “I guess this is it!” Then I thanked those who have been on the journey with me.

Colleen Coble caught me in a hug as I got offstage. Roxanne Gray, a fellow writer-mom who’s also been through some deep water, met me halfway back to my seat, and all I could do was cry on her shoulder. (I was crying on her shoulder at last year’s conference for entirely different reasons.)

Back at my seat came the torrent of texting as I shared the news with husband, older kids, and critique partners. (Silly me—I should have just left the session! I finally did when my husband called ...) After the keynote speech, I went to call my mother and tell her—the one who believed in me and supported me back when it all began—and I could hardly speak for the tears, again.

Over the weekend, I lost count of how many people congratulated me, hugged me, shared the joy and sent it winging all over again. “Incandescently happy”—I kept thinking of that phrase, and indeed was teased by my friend Ronie Kendig for glowing so much she needed sunglasses.

Coming as it did, in the midst of incredible stress on half a dozen fronts, God surprised me with a gift so unexpected that the joy took on almost fairy-tale proportions. For that alone, the wait was worth it.

All of us here at The Borrowed Book look forward with anticipation to the release of Shannon's first book. A Pioneer Christmas will be available in September, 2013, from Barbour Publishing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

As I began putting up my artificial Christmas tree this afternoon, I was thinking about the history of Christmas trees. A lot has been written about real trees. Evergreen has a long, glorious tradition dating back centuries. But what about the artificial trees? Who thought them up besides some housewife tired of picking pine needles out of floor cracks all spring? Here are some interesting facts:

The very first artificial trees were made by the Germans in the 1880s or 1890s and created of feathers. According to several articles I read, the thrifty Germans made the trees in part to prevent deforestation due to massive cutting of trees at Christmas.

I’m unsure how the first feather trees were made because I came upon two different methods. The first has green dyed feathers wound onto sticks, which were then drilled into a wooden pole. The second has goose feathers dyed green, which were attached to wire branches. The wire branches were wound on a wooden pole. Either way, the branches were widely spaced so candles wouldn’t start fires. But as you can imagine, they were a bit flimsy and quite flammable.

The feather Christmas trees were brought to the United States by German immigrants and sold by department store in the early 20th century. One article says the first feather tree was sold by Sears and Roebuck.

In 1900-1920 the Addis Brush Company made a brush Christmas tree that sounds similar to those sold today. They used the same animal hair bristles that they used to make their toilet brushes—only they dyed them green.  

In 1958, metallic artificial trees were introduced. They were made of aluminum attached to metal rods, and supported on central pole made with aluminum or wood. Some of the trees were made with aluminum coated paper, and were extremely flammable.

So my lovely artificial tree has a history, too, though not as long and glorious a fragrant real tree. Yes, I love real trees. The way they smell, the way they look. Even the romance of hunting for the perfect specimen. But come the first on the year, I’ll be mighty glad for my tree. I can pull it apart, stuff it in its box, and store it away until next year. And I won't be picking needles out of my carpet for months.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The following question is one I am frequently asked: “How much research do you do to get all the amazing correct facts about your characters? Example, Merry Christmas, with Love (in the novella anthology, Postmark: Christmas), since the hero is retired from military service, how do you know what life in the armed forces is really like, to make it so accurate and interesting for your readers?
Research. The main reason writers avoid tackling historical fiction or contemporary stories about occupations or locations they are unfamiliar with. I felt the same way before I wrote my first historical novella, Dressed in Scarlet, in Snowbound Colorado Christmas in 2008.
What I have learned over the years is that research isn’t nearly as hard as I thought. Before I write a proposal, I do enough research to do determine the story could have happened at that time and place. I don’t pour months and years into research. I’ve read books where authors do that; they are amazing and fantastic. But that’s not my style. 
I used to say I’ve learned how to “fake” my way through a story. That’s not really accurate. I combine a solid foundation with a vivid imagination and keen sense for what details need research. The search is half of the fun, so the time I devote to research is often a pleasure. Even better, research often leads to unexpected twists in the story—little known facts I never would have known without a bit of elbow grease.
For instance, in that first novella, Dressed in Scarlet, my hero was a recent Italian immigrant to Denver. The time was December 1913, during the worst blizzard Colorado has ever seen. The Colorado History Museum had a special exhibit on Italians in Colorado and I went. As we walked through the room, we heard the sound of trumpeting elephants. When we tracked the recording down, we discovered that circus elephants wintered in Denver and helped to clear the roads during the same blizzard.
Elephants clearing snow. Now, there was a tidbit I couldn’t ignore, so I worked it into the story. I’ve found one or more interesting stories like that with almost every book I’ve written since. 
Research also adds minor details that tie a story down to time and place. What were popular children’s books in the 1920s? How does a steamboat operate? What products did Roma, Texas, trade in the late nineteenth century? What kinds of trees or birds are native to the area? I write a generic scene: hero and heroine have a picnic in a meadow. I make that a Vermont or Texas meadow by the weather (what time of year is it?), the wild flowers they find, the creatures that may leap out of the grass.
The same holds true about researching contemporary stories. In Merry Christmas, with Love, I researched things like ranks and military installations on line. I asked questions of one of my writing partners, Kathleen Kovach, who is a military wife. In the end, my imagination created a story out of what I have seen on screen (be it news or drama), in books, online, and the personal experience of others. 

Author bio: Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin lives in Oklahoma near her son’s family. 
Darlene loves music, needlework, reading, and reality TV. She has published several titles with Barbour Publishing, including her two latest releases, A Bride’s Rogue in Roma, Texas, and Merry Christmas, With Love, in Postmark: Christmas. She has also written two books in the Texas Trails series with RiverNorth Fiction, Lone Star Trail and A Ranger’s Trail. She’s a member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers.

Disclaimer: I'm not the great American novelist, and I'm not the world champion Super Mario Bros Wii player. So feel free to take my tips with a grain of salt and a bit of ketchup, or whatever else you'd like to add!

While I'm not either of those things, I am a novelist (unpublished, yes, but writing novels nevertheless!) and I do play Super Mario Bros Wii. And from playing Super Mario Bros Wii a bit obsessively with my mom, I think I'm familiar enough with the game to have picked up on a few things that might help us in our novel-writing...

1. Change of Scenery - There are so many different backgrounds and worlds in Super Mario Bros! There's the tropical island...the volcanic wasteland...the clouds...the winter wonderland...and so on. In my limited experience with novel writing, I've included physical journeys in the plot, taking the characters from one place to another. But even when a book is set completely in one small town (etc.), there's no need to keep it all in one boring room of one boring house. Let your characters explore! Enchant the reader with new "worlds," from hidden alleys and unique stores to dark forests and wherever else you can test the characters while drawing in the reader.

2. Constant Challenges - Poor Mario! It seems like those crazy turtles are everywhere. Just when you beat one boss, you have to beat it again! And when you beat it again, you then are taken to another place to beat another boss! In the same way, we have to keep challenging our characters. Writers hear it all the time: conflict, conflict, conflict! The types of conflicts and challenges can be important, too... In my first manuscript I had some emotional conflict at the beginning, but I really didn't include much action through which to engage the reader and raise the stakes for my characters. Each genre is different, so the types of challenges one includes will be different, but no matter what genre you're writing in, you want to hold the reader's attention and keep the reader engaged. If the reader never is invested in the story and never finishes because they weren't interested, then the story can't really fulfill much purpose, right?

3. Clear Goals - Mario is on his long quest in order to save Princess Peach. End of story. It's a video game with mini challenges to complete and bosses to beat, so a simple goal is totally fine. In our stories, things might not be so simple. The focus might be on the characters' career goals or family goals. Or perhaps the direction of the story comes from the author's goal of conveying a certain message or theme. It's good for the reader to know, or at least eventually see, what the characters want and what the story's purpose is. This is definitely something I need to be thinking about! If things get too convoluted and go in too many directions without coming back together, then the reader is left confused and without something to hope for/feel for/relate to/take away/etc.

4. Clever Surprises -  The worlds Mario goes through are full of secret passages and hidden items - not to mention the huge surprise that comes when you beat the final boss! You can engage the reader by surprising him/her with unexpected events, well-timed (or perhaps ill-timed in order to add conflict?) revelations about the characters, unanticipated challenges, sweet or awe-inspiring moments the characters hadn't thought to hope for, etc. This could tie in with "rewarding" the reader (like earning those sparkly stars pictured above!), which Vince Mooney breaks down so well in this past article on the Seekerville blog.

5. Keeping it Fun - The point of a video game is entertainment. It's a fun distraction and a fun way to challenge oneself. This Mario game is full of fun elements, from swimming among fish to wearing a penguin suit and sliding down snow-covered hills, from riding a dinosaur-bones roller coaster above hot lava to swinging from vine to vine above Mario-eating flowers. Now, I don't believe that novels are all about entertainment. I believe they can inspire and encourage and challenge a reader to think deeply and critically, as well as to feel more deeply and more compassionately. A story can be very meaningful. But I think books are also a form of entertainment. Not all genres lend themselves to "fun," but a writer can include fun elements throughout a story. Add humor, add excitement, add suspense! As a quote from author Toni Morrison goes: "If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." What sorts of stories do you enjoy the most? What elements do your favorite books include that you might include in your own novel?

Considering video games - what is it that draws you into a video game? Beyond the repetitive, mindless entertainment-type games, what do your favorite games include that might be important to consider in coming up with your own story?

(Speaking of video games and stories, I recently saw Wreck-It Ralph in theaters, and I LOVED it!)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happy Saturday, BB fans! Thanks to everyone who participated in our "puzzling" Friday giveaway! Keep all those facebook and Twitter notifications, coming! This week's winner is:

Liz R - A Bride Sews with Love in Needles, CA by Erica Vetsch!

Congratulations, Liz! Please use the button in the upper right side of this page to email me with your address. Then, sit back and wait for your book to arrive. Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Oops...we've changed the rules for fun Friday at The Borrowed Book!

To enter:

Leave the time it took you to complete the puzzle in the comments section. Winners will be drawn from ALL of the times, so the person with the fastest time may not be the actual winner, but by leaving your time, you double your chances.

Want another entry? Tweet your puzzle time and mention The Borrowed Book, get another entry. RETWEET our Tweet, get two entries!

Post your puzzle time on BB's Facebook wall guessed it...get another entry!

Post it on your OWN Facebook wall and you could get as many as FIVE entries.

It's all a way to spread the word about the great giveaways on BB. So c'mon! Help us spread the word, and have a little fun at the same time. :-)

This week's puzzle feature is brought to you by Erica Vetsch and her newest release, A Bride Sews with Love in Needles, CA.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two near-grown kids, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

Welcome, Erica! Tell us a little about yourself. How did your writing journey begin?

I suspect like most writers, my journey began when I was young, spinning stories in my head and daydreaming a lot. It wasn’t until I became a stay-at-home mom that I gave any serious thought to trying to write any of them down.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

I wrote for about four years before I received my first contract. There was a steep learning curve. I had no idea what I didn’t know when I started. I didn’t read a craft book until after I finished my first novel. My mind was blown, and I realized how much work I had to do.

What book(s) are you reading, or have read lately?

I have eclectic tastes when it comes to what I read. I just finished a Sherlock Holmes story (The Red-Headed League) I started a novella by Jane Kirkpatrick, part of A Midwife’s Legacy collection, and before that, a romance by Debbie Macomber. For research, I’m reading about the US Cavalry in the mid-1800s, Native American herbal medicines, and the Santa Fe Trail. I love mysteries, thrillers, romance, classics, history books, biographies, and more.

Which fictional literary character most inspired/inspires you?

This is a tough one! When I was a child, I would’ve said Laura Ingalls Wilder. I devoured the Little House books, reading and re-reading them. Now I’d say Amelia Peabody, the intrepid archeologist created by Elizabeth Peters. She’s smart, funny, brave, and her worldview cracks me up.

Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?

You know, I do experience rejections. At the moment, I’m writing without a contract. I’ve got submissions out there, but so far, not much is happening. As to how they are different from before I was published…I’m not as crushed when a no, thank you, is returned to me. I think I’ve gained a little perspective, and I’m more willing to move on to either another submission or another project.

Tell us a little about your latest release, A Bride Sews With Love in Needles, CA.

From the back cover: A Harvey Girl waits on True Love.

With her brother already on the front lines in France, Meghan Thorson becomes a Harvey Girl in Needles, California. Ready and willing to wait on the hundreds of doughboys heading for Europe, Meghan deems this service her way of contributing to the war effort. When a Red Cross representative breezes through town, Meghan embraces the challenge to do even more, committing to completing a Red Cross signature quilt and canvassing the town for donations to the cause.

Horseman Caleb McBride makes his living by training stock for the US Cavalry and keeps his pride by remaining a loner. When Meghan meets Caleb, she senses something mysterious and wounded about him, piquing her curiosity. But after the townsfolk scorn him as a coward and a profiteer, Caleb feels her pity and becomes even more guarded.

When Needles is hit by an influenza epidemic and the Harvey hotel is made into a temporary hospital, Meghan discovers Caleb’s shameful secret.

Will both Caleb and Meghan find a way to kill their pride before their chance of love rips them apart at the seams?

I’m also excited that December 1st, I have a novella collection releasing called Sagebrush Knights. Here’s a little bit about these four mail-order bride stories:

Journey along with the four Gerhard sisters as they head to Wyoming Territory in search of husbands and discover that happy endings are not ready-made. Evelyn arrives in Wyoming with a secret and a grudge, only to find her prospective groom holds a secret, too. Jane vies for the attention of her workaholic husband who is bent on saving his ranch even if it means losing love. Gwendolyn’s would-be husband dies, leaving her to the will of another man. And Emmeline’s knight-in-shining-armor herds sheep instead of cattle. Will love prevail, or will their journeys have not so happy endings?

If you could only share one line from A Bride Sews With Love in Needles, CA, which one would you choose and why?

“I told her you were more courageous than anyone I had ever met, and that she was a fool to let other people define courage for her.”

I love this line because this story is actually about courage. Courage to be authentic, courage to let go of entrenched belief, courage to stand up for what is right, even if it costs you what you hold most dear.

That's a great line, Erica! What inspired you to choose the setting for your novel?

I knew I wanted to write a story about a Harvey Girl, and during my research into the restaurants and employees of Fred Harvey, I learned about the El Garces Hotel in Needles, CA. I’d been told by people who had been there that Needles was a harsh place, hot, isolated, even hostile-seeming to those from outside. It seemed the perfect place for my story, since I wanted the setting to be adversarial and to require courage to deal with.

What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?

I actually relied mostly on research books. I purchased or checked out books on the Fred Harvey Company, Needles, CA, World War One, and particularly the US home front. I was able to view a WW1 vintage Red Cross quilt at a local museum, and I interviewed a doctor for some help with my medical questions.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I’m currently working on a novel set in 1860’s Fort Larned, Kansas, along the Santa Fe Trail. An army major inherits a pair of precocious twins who think the commandant’s daughter would make the perfect mother, though she’s counting the days until she can return East and take up her life as a fashion artist once more.

What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?

I don’t know that I was so much afraid to ask questions as much as I didn’t know who to ask. As it turned out, most of my questions are answered by writing friends I’ve made, my agent, my publisher, my editors. My advice is to spend time in writing communities, on writers’ blogs, in an organization such as the ACFW. Writers love to help other writers, and they love to talk about writing. Make some writing friends!

Thank you so much for stopping by The Borrowed  Book. Now, for those who want to learn more, where can readers connect with you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How about serving up a real traditional Thanksgiving meal this year--1621 style?

Start by sending four men on a “fowling” mission to gather birds to eat. Ask the guests to bring at least five deer. Then gather 50 family members and 90 friends to celebrate for three days, eating dried maize, waterfowl, cod, and bass. Add clams, mussels, lobster, eel, ground nuts, acorns, walnuts, chestnuts, squashes, and beans. For dessert maybe some dried gooseberries and . . . wait a minute! Where did all those people come from? And. . .three whole days? Cod? Maize? EELS? No way! What about stuffing? Mashed potatoes? Green bean casserole? Pumpkin pie? Whipped cream? Naps after eating?

Yep. A Plymouth Pilgrim wouldn’t recognize the food we eat now for Thanksgiving. Even the turkeys wouldn’t look the same—farm raised turkeys are bigger than the wild ones. We don’t have an official record of everything the Pilgrims chowed down on during that first celebration in 1621, but the foods mentioned above are based on written texts about what they hunted and grew. They had no ovens, and probably no sugar, so pies were out. They had no cows or goats—those arrived on the ship Anne in 1623, so no cheese or milk. No pigs, either.  

Nor would the Pilgrims have called the celebration Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving wasn’t even an official yearly holiday until 1863, when, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. That’s when the foods we eat now started becoming tradition.

For the Pilgrims, the fall of 1621 was a real celebration after the previous brutal winter. They had remained on board the Mayflower and suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the original passengers and crew lived to see their first spring. The Pilgrims hit land in late March. Imagine their surprise when they were greeted by an Abenaki Indian who spoke to them in English. And several days later, he returned with Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. (Squanto had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery. He escaped to London and returned to his homeland.) Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to survive in the new world. How to cultivate corn, gather sap, catch fish, and how to identify poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years.

The Pilgrims had good reason to be thankful that fall.

Here are two primary sources describing that first celebration:

The first is from Edward Winslow's account, a letter dated December 12, 1621 that was published in 1622.

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown.  They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom.  Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.  At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

The second was written about twenty years after the fact by William Bradford in his History Of Plymouth Plantation. 

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty.  For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion.  All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees).  And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.  Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

If you’re a fiction writer, you know the conundrum: Do I make up a location to set my story, and run the risk that readers won’t connect with it? Or, do I use a real-life place and hope that no one tells me I have the streets running the wrong direction?

I appreciate the fact that, in fiction, we have a little leeway. But you can’t go crazy. Just as science fiction writers must stay true to the science fact behind their tales, so must the contemporary fiction writer do what she can to get the basics right.

My latest novel, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas, is set in Monrovia, California. Why Monrovia? Initially, it was for the sake of expediency. I had a very short deadline with AWGCC, and I didn’t have time to create a town from scratch. For years, I lived in and around Monrovia, so I’m very familiar with it. As it turned out, Monrovia was the perfect place to set my story. The more I wrote, the more it all fell into place, and the happier I got. Even though I was able to use a lot of real life local color – Izzy’s craftsman style home, the Old Towne Street Fair, the YMCA – there were some things I needed to make up. 

The key to manipulating a real location to meet your needs lies in remaining true to its feeling and form. For example, Max Logan, my hunky museum curator, needed a museum to curate. Now, there are museums in Monrovia, but not wanting to step on any cultural toes, I decided to create one of my own. So I let Max work at the California Pioneer Museum in nearby Pasadena. It’s another real town, known for its cultural diversity and home of the Norton Simon Museum. My made up museum fit right in there.

You can set your story in Bonner Springs, Kansas and get all the small details right, but if your hero owns a surf shop, then you lose your credibility. It doesn’t matter if he absolutely, positively must deal in board wax and wetsuits. If there’s no ocean nearby, don’t do it. This is something historical fiction writers deal with all the time. What do you do if you need a railroad station in your story, but the route didn’t extend that far west until three years later? You can change the date of your story. You can change the location. You can scrap it and start from scratch. Or you can write it the way you want, assuring yourself that it’s okay, because it’s fiction.

Think long and hard before you fall back on the “it’s fiction” defense. While it’s true that some readers won’t notice, the ones who do may think twice the next time they pick up one of your books. 

It’s an awful lot of fun weaving fact into fiction. Stretch yourself, work with the history and the reality of your story’s setting. If you do it right, no one will even stop to wonder what’s real and what’s not.

Upon her grandmother's death, Izzy Fontaine finds herself in possession of a Wild Goose Chase quilt that supposedly leads to a great treasure. Of course, once the rest of the family finds out about it, they're determined to have a go at the treasure themselves. And, if that weren't enough, local museum curator Max Logan claims that Grandma Isabella promised the quilt to him. What is it about this quilt that makes everyone want it? Is Izzy on a wild goose chase of her own, or a journey that will lead her to the treasure Gran intended?

Jennifer AlLee believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. These include The Love of His Brother (Five Star, 11/07), The Pastor’s Wife (Abingdon Press, 2/10), The Mother Road (Abingdon Press, 4/12) and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (Abingdon Press, 11/12). She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Visit Jennifer's website at

Monday, November 19, 2012

About the Book

"In pursuit of justice, in need of grace . . .

A justice-seeking perfectionist pursues her dream of a perfect life in her hometown of Miller’s Creek, Texas. Sidetracked by a desire to be a prosecuting attorney, Grace Soldano launches into uncharted waters, making herself over to please her boss and mentor. Then a disheveled free spirit turns her perfectly ordered world upside down, challenging her concept of personal goodness. A fall from perfection leaves Grace teetering between vengeance and grace, caught in a deadly crossfire that leaves her dreams in a heap of ashes. Can she learn to joyfully accept the life God has given her–far from perfect–but one completely immersed in His grace?"

Amber's Review

The Way of Grace is a heartfelt story that starts out as a contemporary romance, builds up into romantic suspense, and then comes back around to contemporary romance. The emotions and situations are complex, and the themes of grace and justice are explored in intriguing ways. Fans of Bryant's writing style should be pleased with this third addition to her "Miller's Creek" series, and newcomers should have no trouble making this their first visit to Miller's Creek. (I read the second book in the series a while back, and, from what I recall of my reading experience, this one seems to have a different "feel" and works well as a stand-alone.)

I admit that the pace came across as a little drawn-out at times. It's likely that some will not find the courtroom and office drama as interesting as others might. And yet, the characters kept me engaged, and the suspense eventually came into a more prominent role that held my attention. The mixture of faith crises and romantic quandaries, troubles fitting into a community and issues dealing with fellow professionals, communication problems and some sinister activity - all of it came together and even included some surprises (some pleasant, and others far from it).

Grace's character is generally easy to relate to, although she didn't always come across as consistent to me (but she did have a lot to deal with that would cause some flip-flopping emotions!). And Matt is such a sweet, loyal guy. All in all, The Way of Grace has some thought-provoking things to say about how we view ourselves and how we should treat others - with a strong, straightforward look at grace and how it applies to a person's life.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an e-copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

About the Author

"Cathy Bryant’s first completed novel, TEXAS ROADS, was a 2009 ACFW Genesis finalist. In 2010, Cathy added A PATH LESS TRAVELED to the Miller’s Creek novels, and [now has recently published] THE WAY OF GRACE, book three in the series. Cathy, a native Texan, recently yanked up her yellow-rose-of-Texas roots to be transplanted with her husband of thirty years to Northwest Arkansas near the world’s cutest grandson. You can find out more about Cathy at or find her on Facebook and Twitter."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Happy Saturday, BB fans! Thanks to everyone who participated in our "puzzling" Friday giveaway! Keep all those facebook and Twitter notifications, coming! This week's winner is:

Mary Preston - Dead Wrong by Susan Sleeman!

Congratulations, Mary! Please use the button in the upper right side of this page to email me with your address. Then, sit back and wait for your book to arrive. Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oops...we've changed the rules for fun Friday at The Borrowed Book!

To enter:

Leave the time it took you to complete the puzzle in the comments section. Winners will be drawn from ALL of the times, so the person with the fastest time may not be the actual winner, but by leaving your time, you double your chances.

Want another entry? Tweet your puzzle time and mention The Borrowed Book, get another entry. RETWEET our Tweet, get two entries!

Post your puzzle time on BB's Facebook wall guessed it...get another entry!

Post it on your OWN Facebook wall and you could get as many as FIVE entries.

It's all a way to spread the word about the great giveaways on BB. So c'mon! Help us spread the word, and have a little fun at the same time. :-)

This week's puzzle feature is brought to you by Susan Sleeman and her newest release, Dead Wrong.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Last week in my blog article I introduced the topic of smallpox and how civilizations over the centuries practiced various forms of inoculation. But despite all those different forms of inoculation, one man developed the vaccination we use today. His name was Dr. Edward Jenner. 

Edward Jenner
Edward Jenner was born in 1749 in Berkeley, Gloucestershire. He trained in London, and after a period as an army surgeon, returned to his native county of Gloucestershire in the West of England where he established his country medical practice.

In 1796, he began wondering about the tales that dairymaids were protected from smallpox after having suffered from cowpox. He concluded that cowpox not only protected against smallpox but could also be transmitted deliberately from one person to another as a mechanism of protection. In May of that year, Edward Jenner found a young dairymaid, Sarah Nelms, who had fresh cowpox lesions on her hands and arms. Using matter from her lesions, he inoculated an 8-year-old boy, James Phipps. The boy developed mild fever and discomfort in the armpits. Nine days after the procedure, he felt cold and lost his appetite, but recovered the next day. In July 1796, Jenner inoculated the boy again with matter from a fresh smallpox lesion. No disease developed. Dr. Jenner concluded the boy was now protected against smallpox. He called his treatment “vaccination,” from the Latin vacca, a cow.

The medical world that dominated London would not accept that a country doctor had made such an important discovery. When Jenner took his findings to London, he was publicly humiliated. But he wouldn’t give up. He continued adding to his case studies, and eventually the medical community couldn't deny what he had discovered.

Jenner wanted to make sure his vaccination was available to the poor, as well as the rich. As a result, he didn't patent his discovery. He also built a one-room hut in the garden of his property, which he called the “Temple of Vaccinia,” where he vaccinated the poor for free.

After his death, in 1840, Edward Jenner’s vaccination received final vindication. The British government banned any other treatment for smallpox other than Jenner's.

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