Friday, January 31, 2014

Do You Like Snow?

When I was young, I used to love snow. School would close and I could go sledding and make snowmen. I loved ice skating. I'd shovel the snow off the ice and have my personal skating rink. I tried skiing in my twenties, but it was an expensive hobby because more often than not, there wasn't enough snow in this part of NJ.

Falling snow was pretty--and soft--and everything was quieter when the snow was falling. It was magical to wake up to a world of white, glittering like diamond dust on all the trees and bushes. Snow made everything different and beautiful. Even the taste of it on my tongue was a delight. I enjoyed studying the snowflakes that fell on the sleeve of my coat and on my mittens. I wanted to see if each one was unique.

I don't remember being cold.

Then I grew up. Snowstorms create problems. Now I worry about whether we'll lose power. I worry about my nearest and dearest driving in the snow. I worry about heavy ice on tree limbs. I worry about slipping on the ice.

But I still think snow is pretty--oh maybe not as pretty as spring flowers or autumn leaves, but I like to take photographs of the snow. It is cold, but when I put on extra layers I don't feel the cold as much.

Snow can be dangerous, but to me, it's still magical. I am still in awe of the perfection of the snowflakes that land on the sleeve of my coat.

What do you think of snow?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Preparing for the Challenge

I have signed up again for JeRoWriMo again, the New Jersey Romance Writers' writing challenge. I am going to attempt to write 30,000 words during the month of February. I did it last year. The result of that effort was Patriot's Heart, which will be released soon by the Prism Book Group. For this challenge I hope to finish a sequel for that book. I already have 20,000 words invested in Patriot's Pride. So I've got a head start.

Last week and this week I've been preparing for the challenge. I use a simple character sheet, which you can see here. This is not detailed, but it helps me keep track of the basics while I'm writing. (There are spaces in case I need to add more characters.) I also make up a calendar to keep track of events in the story.

It seems every writer has their own methods. This is the method that works for me.

Wish me luck.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Allaire State Park

I took these photos at Allaire State Park last year. It's easy to tell because we have a lot more snow on the ground right now. :-) Allaire is one of my favorite places. Though there's not much going on at the park in the wintertime, it still makes an interesting walk and it's easy to imagine it as it once was--a bustling little town where bog iron was extracted during the years from 1822 to 1855. In the spring, summer, and fall there are many interpretive programs, shows, and festivals. The general store is a wonderful place packed with all sorts of goodies.

There is a blacksmith shop, too. I've stood and watched the blacksmith hammer hot iron rods into useful implements, which is one of the reasons I decided that Agnes, the heroine of PATRIOT'S HEART, would be a blacksmith. A woman can be a blacksmith. I've seen one working at Allaire. :-)

I enjoy visiting historical sites. I've gotten so many wonderful story ideas whenever I go to places like Allaire. But for me, the nicest part is that Allaire is close to home--and I can wander through there anytime I want. 

How about you? Do you like to visit historical sites?

Foreman's Cottage

Carriage House

Row Houses

Monday, January 20, 2014

Before Photographs

This is a 1991 photograph of my mother, my three daughters, and my father in front of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. I am not in the photo because I took the picture. :-)We had visited the Smithsonian specifically to see an exhibit of Winslow Homer's seascapes, because Dad insisted that's what he wanted. (I am sure he saw a review of it in the NY Times first.) However, by chance, there was also an exhibit of miniature portraits, which fascinated me. I stared at the tiny paintings and marveled at the skill the artists used in creating the diminutive images of people from so long ago.

I paint in oils. I use small brushes and do very detailed work, but I work on good-sized canvases. Just viewing the itty-bitty portraits gave me eyestrain.

However, large paintings are not very portable, which is why clever artists developed miniature paintings. Artists painted these teeny little likenesses from the 16th century up until 1839, when Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre showed off his invention to the members of the French Académie des Sciences and photography was born. You can read about Daguerre (1787–1851) and the Invention of Photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's website. Naturally, Daguerre named his invention after himself calling them daguerreotypes.

You no longer have to travel to Washington, D.C. to see miniature portraits. There's a great collection  online at the Cleveland Museum of Art as well as the one at the Smithsonian. I've found plenty of these treasures on Pinterest, too. I think I'll start another board of miniatures there.

In my soon-to-be-released book, Patriot's Heart, the heroine gets to see a miniature of her mother--a very small portrait which fits in the palm of her hand.

Maybe I got the inspiration for that scene at the Smithsonian back in 1991. :-)

Friday, January 17, 2014


I love this cover! The book is coming soon. I am working on the final edits at the moment. :-)

Patriot's Heart is a historical Christian romance set in 1778. It's the story of Agnes, a blacksmith, who runs the forge while her father fights in the Continental Army. The morning after the Battle of Monmouth, she discovers a wounded British soldier in her barn. Despite the risk, she vows to heal him as she believes a good Samaritan should.

Edwin, third son of the Duke of Dalfour, was supposed to become a barrister. He opted to run away and join the army. Shot on a mission to deliver the general’s message, he wakes in Agnes’s barn unaware of how he got there and missing his horse. If he is caught, he could be hung, but Loyalists are also searching for British deserters. If anyone discovers he is the son of the Duke, he is doomed.

Agnes tells everyone Edwin is her mother’s cousin, but she soon finds herself falling in love with him. When Loyalists kidnap her sister, Edwin vows to bring the child back from the British held camp. Can Agnes trust him? Or is he using her sister as an excuse to return to his company?

The book is being published by Prism Book Group, the same publisher who released Daddy Wanted. You should check out their other books, too, because they are all terrific. :-)

Monday, January 13, 2014

No Grape Jelly

I like red raspberry jam, strawberry jam, blackberry jam, marmalade, apricot, peach, or even elderberry jam, but I won't eat grape jelly. I like grapes. I like wine. However, just the thought of grape jelly is unappetizing to me. 

When I was a kid, I got peanut butter and jelly sandwiches nearly every day. The jelly was always grape, because it was the least expensive. The bread was always white bread--because back in the dark ages of the 1950s that's the only kind of bread there was--no whole wheat. I did not have a nice insulated lunch bag because those had not been invented yet. I had a brown paper bag. I carried my books in my arm (no backpacks either yet). The brown bag sat on top of the books and was often crushed against my chest. By lunchtime, the grape jelly had oozed through the white bread, which was now flattened. My sandwich looked like it had a horrible bruise. 

I didn't like it, but I ate it anyhow. I liked peanut butter and I still do. 

Once I was all grown up, I never bought grape jelly. Ever. My children had plenty of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches--except I always made them with jam not jelly. I never bought grape jelly for my daughters.  

I enjoy a peanut butter and jam sandwich once a week or so, but I use whole wheat bread--never white. 

Do you have any particular aversions to food you had to eat when you where young? 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Something Old, New Again

That's me in high school. There isn't a date on the back of the photo, but I believe this portrait was taken in my senior year--mostly because I have a "flip" hair style, which was very popular and a Madras blouse--also quite the rage at the time. Madras clothing was guaranteed to bleed--and so it did. My brother had a Madras jacket. He got caught in the rain one day when he was wearing it. His white shirt underneath was ruined. The jacket didn't fare well either.

Styles come and go. For the most part, old ideas are simply reinvented and brought out to a younger generation. Did you read my post on the Granny dress? That short-lived trend wasn't ground-breaking, just another case of making something old new again.

Literary styles change as well. Right now, Young Adult appears to be the crowd-pleasing favorite. But Fifty Shades of Grey was also a success. Do you remember when Chick-Lit was in? We also have Steam-Punk Gothic now. What is that? I consider it a hybrid--sort of historical/fanatasy/Gothic/horror. However, there are those more knowledgeable on that topic than I.

Still, it's confusing. There's nice list of sub-genres of various novel categories at Writer's Digest, but that doesn't include some of the "newer" classifications.

Will I write a Young Adult novel just because that is the current favorite? I don't know. In a sense, I've written a Young Adult novel--but it's set in another century. In Patriot's Heart, which will be released in February, the heroine is just eighteen, but she's living in 1778. That makes it a historical. Oh well.

My advice to aspiring writers is this: write what you want to write. Then fix it. But make sure you are happy with it. In the end, you are writing to please yourself. If you're lucky, other people will like it, too. It doesn't matter what genre or sub-genre it is. It's your story. Your style.

Start your own trend. Don't make something old new again.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

DADDY WANTED Nominated for Reviewer's Choice Award

DADDY WANTED is up for an award, but only if you vote for it. PRG reviewers nominated their favorite books for 2013, but readers are the ones who will determine the winners. 

I need your vote! Go this website:

DADDY WANTED is in the Romance category. Please help me out and vote for my book.

Thanks so much!  :-)

Friday, January 03, 2014

My Grandfather, The Milkman

My paternal grandfather was a milkman in Jersey City. In the photo above, he's the second man from the left with the cap on his head. He supported his family--three sons and a wife--with his wages. The job was difficult due to the hours because my grandfather delivered the milk in the wee hours of the morning. However, his family got plenty of milk, eggs, and other dairy products as a bonus, which was a good deal during the Depression.

My father sometimes went along with my grandfather. Dad said the horse knew the route. The horse would stop in front of the correct houses all the time.

Eventually, trucks replaced the horses but my grandfather continued to deliver milk until he retired. He owned a two-family house and a car. Being a milkman provided him and his family with a good life.