Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Carpenter's Inheritance by Laurie Alice Eakes

A couple of weeks ago, I was overjoyed to find the November selection of Heartsong Presents at my local Walmart. If you're not familiar with these books, they're romance novels, both contemporary and historical, that can be compared to the Love Inspired line.
So today, for your reading pleasure, I'm featuring the first chapter of The Carpenter's Inheritance, a November release from Laurie Alice Eakes. If you're not familiar with Laurie Alice's work, you're in for a real treat!

The Carpenter's Inheritance by Laurie Alice Eakes

Loveland, Massachusetts
October 1893
Miss Trudy Perry, Attorney at Law, would not, after all, be joining Miss Lucinda Bell, Attorney at Law, in practice in Loveland, Massachusetts. She had decided to follow her brother to San Francisco and practice law out on the West Coast.
"Follow her brother indeed." Lucinda folded the flimsy yellow telegram and glanced around her office. "Follow her heart is more like it."
And who could blame her? California was friendlier to lady lawyers than Trudy's home state of South Carolina.
"Just like Virginia." Lucinda stuffed Trudy's telegram into a folder marked Personal Correspondences, where it joined another wired message that had shattered her hopes of practicing law alongside her father, as he had practiced alongside his, and his father had done before that…
We lost Stop Supreme Court says Virginia can prevent women from practicing law Stop
That telegram from Belva Lockwood had sent Lucinda, freshly graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, hundreds of miles from the Virginia mountains she loved to an unfamiliar and, thus far, unfriendly town in Massachusetts, where becoming a lawyer as a female wasn't considered wrong. At least the state bar didn't consider it wrong. She had yet to learn about the citizenry.
She glanced around the second-floor office she'd acquired with the help of one of her father's numerous friends and colleagues in the law. His son had started there in the small town on the Connecticut border. He had long since moved back to Boston but said the county was in need of another lawyer. He gave her suggestions, advice, and names of people to befriend.
He hadn't told her the law office had become a storage room for the saddle and harness shop on the first floor in the year the premises had been empty. All shelving had been removed, apparent from the brackets left behind without their boards, and hooks installed. Massive hooks so high on the wall, Lucinda couldn't so much as fling her hat atop one. All that remained of any use was the desk. Though scarred, it was solid oak, wide and deep, with lots of drawers.
"I need a carpenter." She supposed she spoke to the spiders likely hiding in the corners. Talking aloud was better than the silence. "Where do I find a carpenter?"
"Ask Gertie," Daddy's friend had advised her when talking about the town. "That woman knows everyone."
Lucinda hadn't met her yet. She had walked into the office thirty minutes earlier, found Trudy's telegram waiting for her, and simply sat staring at it the whole time.
Useless where she sat, Lucinda rose, found her hat hanging from a bent bookshelf bracket, and perched it on her head at a more or less reasonable angle. Gertie could be found at the cafe across Main Street, and down two blocks. The Love Knot Cafe, not the Loveland Cafe. That belonged to Selma Dickerson, who didn't approve of ladies doing anything but entering her premises for tea and scones, if they weren't home being wives and mothers. Or so Lu-cinda had been warned.
She exited her office and paused on the landing to jiggle the key in the lock until she heard the tumblers fall home. The telegrams were the only thing in the office to steal, but a good habit was a good habit. Once she had client files in there, she must keep matters secure.
The steps led down the outside of the building. Still, the smell of leather and mink oil turned her stomach before she reached the pavement. As soon as she could manage it, she would have to move her office somewhere more appealing to female clientele. At least Lucinda hoped she would draw female clientele. She wouldn't turn down men, of course, but the ladies' plights appealed to her, from collecting pensions long denied them, to helping them make out their own wills, to…whatever anyone needed. She wasn't about to be choosy at this stage of the game, though she preferred not to handle criminal matters.
Once away from the harness shop, the sharp sweetness of dried leaves crunching underfoot freshened the crisp autumn air. Overhead, those still clinging to their branches blazed red on the maples and golden on the oaks lining the streets. A few wood fires burned in the distance, perfuming the air with fragrant smoke, masking the less pleasant aromas of the oil or coal stoves. In the middle of the afternoon, few pedestrians strolled the business area of town. A handful of ladies in frothy taffeta gowns and befeathered hats entered the Loveland Cafe, a block from Lucin-da's office. Each woman gave her a bold glance from her black felt hat with its one feather to her black serge skirt and her jacket over a white blouse trimmed with only a narrow band of lace. She wasn't unfashionably dressed, just looked more like she attended to business than wore her finery for tea with friends. She smiled at the ladies. Only one returned her smile, a woman about Lucinda's age with coppery curls bouncing beneath her leghorn straw hat. The other ladies either did not or pretended not to see Lucinda, as they turned their backs on her and entered the tea shop. She suspected the latter. It wasn't the first time in the three days she'd been in town that ladies had pretended the female lawyer didn't exist.
"But I am a lawyer," Lucinda murmured to herself. "I am a member of the bar."
And without having to go awfully far from home, though she was farther north than she wanted to be. She likely would wish she had taken Trudy's path and gone to California instead, regardless of the distance from Virginia.
Lucinda turned her back on the Loveland Cafe then trotted past the bank, a dress emporium, and a jewelry store. Across the street from the library, a free public library at that, the Love Knot Cafe rested, its blue-and-white-striped awning cheerful, the gaslights inside bright even on this sunny autumn day. Encouraged, she opened the door. Warmth, light, and the aromas of hearty, wholesome food like apple pie and roasting chicken surrounded her. So did silence. The instant the bell above the door chimed her arrival, everyone in the oak-paneled room ceased talking, ceased eating, seemingly ceased breathing. They didn't cease moving, at least not their heads and eyes. Every head that needed to swiveled in her direction. Every pair of eyes fastened on her.
They all belonged to men. Not the soft-handed, suited kind of men with whom Lucinda usually associated. Men in rugged flannel shirts, denim pants, and boots; men with bronzed hands, whose faces needed the attention of a razor.
As if those eyes were darts, Lucinda slammed back against the glass window in the door. Its coolness penetrated through her jacket and shirt. The rest of her heated as though she slaved over the stove, cooking the delicious food scenting the air. Her face flamed like one of the gas jets on the wall. Mouth dry, she tried to think of something to say, how to ask the men for Gertie, or simply how to flee with grace and a smidgen of her dignity left.
She groped behind her for the door handle. If she got the door open, she could spin on her heel and rush away, let the men think she'd simply stumbled into the cafe instead of—of the hardware store next door. Her fingers felt cold metal, grasped it.
And it turned. The whole door moved, flying outward. So did Lucinda. One minute the support of the portal lay behind her; the next she fell back against something else, something solid, with a thud hard enough to drive the wind from her lungs. In front of her, the room erupted in laughter. Behind her, two hands grasped her waist, steadying her. A man exclaimed, "I am so sorry, miss, wasn't paying attention. Are you all right?"
All right? With his hands nearly spanning her waist and his chest still against her back? All right with that cafe full of men—well, half a dozen or so of them—laughing at her?
No, not at her. With her breathing and balance restored, she caught their remarks.
"Dreaming of Samantha Howard again?"
"I was dreaming of Gertie's beef stew." The gentleman released Lucinda. "Were you coming or going, miss?"
"Going." Lucinda turned toward the street.
A mistake. It brought her nearly face to chest with the man. Because she wanted to drop her gaze to the pavement and scuttle away, but she needed practice looking men in the eye, she raised her gaze to his face. A young face, not much older than hers. A clean-shaven face surrounded by unruly waves the gloss and color of polished mahogany. Eyes the rich golden brown of amber smiled down at her.
"I believe the ladies' aid society is meeting at the other cafe," he said.
"I'm not a member. That is—" Lucinda licked her parchment lips and sought for the right answer.
Her downfall as a lawyer. She got nervous when speaking aloud to strangers.
She tried again, though speaking too quickly: "I came to see Gertie about finding me a carpenter."
The cafe erupted in laughter again. "Looks like you got yourself one, miss."
If the man hadn't blocked her way still, Lucinda would have fled down the street, possibly all the way to the train station. Surely being a lawyer in her own right wasn't worth this kind of humiliation.
"Ignore them." The man they'd called Matt tucked one big hand beneath her elbow and guided her inside the cafe. "We'll see what's keeping Gertie from helping protect you from these oafs."
"We're the oafs?" a man shouted. "You're the one nearly knocked her down."
"And got to hold her up," another man pointed out. "Always did have the luck with the—"
For the second time in the past ten minutes, the room fell silent as though a door had slammed on everyone's mouth. A woman, with a massive bosom heaving above a miniscule waist, swept through a swinging door in the back, brandishing a coffeepot in one hand and a basket of rolls in the other, like they were a sword and a cutlass. "What's going on out here?" she demanded in a voice as deep as most men's. "Can't I get the bread out of the oven and set a new batch rising without having you all causing— What you got there, Matthew Templin?"
"Looks like a lady." He pulled the door shut behind him and Lucinda. "Says she's come to ask you to recommend her a carpenter. Think you can do that?" He grinned.
Lucinda caught it from the corner of her eye, and her stomach performed a somersault. Hunger. She was hungry, and the smell of the fresh bread made her mouth water.
"Stop teasing the poor girl." Gertie plunked the coffee and bread onto a table before a grizzled man with more hair on his face than his head. "You pour the coffee, Ned, while I help this young lady." She bustled forward, black bombazine skirt swirling around her, and clasped Lucinda's hands. "What fool sent you in here without warning you?"
"M-Mr. Smithfield." Lucinda's face heated again at her slight stammer.
Behind her, Matthew Templin jerked as though she'd shoved her elbow into his middle.
"Smith—aha." Gertie enveloped Lucinda in a fragrant hug. "You're the new lady lawyer come to take his place. Well, why didn't you say so straight off? These men might have shown you some respect. Matthew, you pull out a chair for her and get that coffee away from Ned. Have you had lunch, child? You don't look like it. Come sit. Ain't no one with you?"
"No, my father had to get home for a trial." Lucinda made the explanation so no one would think poorly of Thomas Bell, Esquire.
Hmm, if male attorneys were esquires, were female attorneys esquires, too?     
She was delirious with hunger, fatigue, maybe a little apprehension, to judge from the shaking of her knees and flips still going on in her middle, not to mention absurd thoughts like signing her name Lucinda B. Bell, Esq.
She dropped onto the chair Mr. Templin pulled out at one side of the room, the side away from the men and not beneath one of the gaslights. Pooled in darkness and in a corner on her own, she would be unnoticeable enough for the men to forget her presence—she hoped.
A cup and saucer appeared in front of her. Rich, dark coffee jetted into it, the aroma itself heartening.
"Cream, Miss Bell?"
She jumped. Matthew Templin had served her, not Gertie. That lady had vanished through the swinging door.
"Yes, thank you." She made herself look up at him. Way up. She wasn't a short woman, but he was a tall man.
He produced a cream pitcher and set it on the table, then seated himself across from her. She opened her mouth to object to this bold behavior, but he raised a staying hand as though knowing her intentions. "You said you need a carpenter. What all do you need done?"
"You know a carpenter?" She eyed his woolen coat and blue flannel shirt. "I mean—a good one?"
"I'm the best in at least three counties. Just ask anyone here." He said it with such matter-of-fact calm, the words held no arrogance or braggadocio—only simple truth. Confidence. And in a man no older than twenty-five or twenty-six.
She wrapped her fingers around her thick, warm coffee mug, looked into his face, started at that weird tumbling in her middle, and busied herself pouring too much cream into her coffee. "I need help straightaway. If you're that good, you're likely not available straightaway."
"Depends on what you need. I— Ah, Gertie, is that your venison stew?" He flashed the buxom middle-aged woman his heart-melting smile.
She batted her eyelashes back at him. "It is. Saved you a bowl."
"Only one." He sounded genuinely disappointed.
"Two, but you'll have to share with Miss Bell, here." Gertie set two wide soup plates on the table.
Lucinda shook her head. "No, I couldn't."
"Refuse Gertie? No." Templin gave the thick pottage, smelling of garlic and thyme, a longing glance. "And if you don't eat, then neither can I."
"I'll bring you some more bread." Gertie bustled off.
Reluctantly, Lucinda picked up her spoon and took a mouthful. Then she took another, and another. The bowl had dropped to half full when she realized she'd been eating like a starving person rather than a lady.
"I'm so sorry." She stared at the succulent bits of stewed meat, potatoes, and carrots floating in savory gravy before her. "I didn't realize what I was doing."
"You mean eating?" Matthew Templin laughed. It sounded rich and a little hollow in the empty cafe.
Lucinda realized the cafe had emptied save for them—probably not good for her reputation.
"I thought you were hungry. Ready to talk about your office? You're above Shannon's Harness, aren't you?"
"Yes." She wasn't at all surprised that he knew its location. "I think they used it for storage while it sat empty. It's…bleak. No shelving, no paneling, nothing left."
"So what do you want?" He set down his spoon, his bowl empty, and leaned back in his chair. "More shelves? You have books, I presume?"
"Yes, quite a lot of them. And I need shelves in the other room, my living quarters."
"That's not an office, too? We thought two of you were coming."
"Two were. One"—Lucinda sighed—"went to California with her brother."

Monday, November 19, 2012

What does an Editor Mean by 'the Same but Different?'

If you’ve ever been to a writing conference and talked to an editor from any of the publishing houses, you’ve probably heard them say that they want ‘the same yet different.’

At first, this whole idea of ‘same but different’ sounded like an oxymoron. How in the world would I ever going to get published it I didn’t have a clear understanding of what it was editors wanted. So being the researcher I am, I began my own investigation.

The same
Easy enough. Just needed to look at my bookcase. The time period varied--Civil War, American West, World War II, Regency England. Plot, not so much--boy meets girl, boy and girl face conflict, boy and girl live happily ever after. These become the same factor--the ‘comfort zone’ that readers (and writers) have some entanglable connection to or knowledge of. It has a feel of familiarity to it.

To confirm my hypothesis, I didn’t have to look any further than one of favorite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory. If you haven't ever seen this show, it's about four uber intelligent guys trying to find their place in a world that doesn’t quite understand them. Besides being hilarious, it hits on one of the most basic human needs, to feel wanted and be accepted, something 99.9 percent of us on planet Earth have felt at one time or another. Definitely a common thread through humanity. 

But Different?
This is the component that makes you’re story POP off the page, the little twist in the usual. So what kind of twist are we talking about? 

Let’s go back to Big Bang. We’ve got our four uber smart guys trying to find their way in the world. So what did the series creator do? He threw a beautiful(and not too terribly smart) woman in the mix as their next-door neighbor which is great but not terribly original. Until she acts completely OPPOSITE of what we expect--she befriends these guys, even falls for one of them which is so not what we the viewers expected. Even better, we realize that even those people we least expect have insecurities about themselves. 

How does that translate to your writing?
When I first started writing historical romance, I wasn’t sure how I was going to infuse the whole ‘same but different’ idea into my work. 

Then my daughters ‘helped’ me. Well, what they wanted were books on World War II--they had a thing for the movie 'Pearl Harbor.' And being a mother of two girls, I wanted them to know about women who made a contribution to the war effort. There was only a couple of books on this subject and they were about nurses or reporters, but as I browsed through one, I came across a blurb about the women pilots who ferried planes, taught men how to fly in combat and served as target practice. The whole idea of ‘same but different’ snapped into place.

Same(everyone’s heard of World War II) but different(no one I talked to had ever heard of women pilots!)

And Hearts in Flight was born!

How do you know if your story has the 'same, but different' factor? Go through your story. Make notes of how you can give a different twist on an old tale, then flesh out those ideas into new scenes to give your story that POP it needs to catch the attention of that editor you're looking to impress. 


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Greatest Solider of All

This is a story I wrote many years ago after meeting this gentleman in our local Wal-Mart. It was later published in a collection called, God Allows U-Turns; American Moments. It seems fitting for today.

     He was a simple man. Sprigs of snowy white hair peeking out from beneath a dirty ball cap, framing a wrinkled face that had weathered a lifetime of storms. Wearing worn blue jeans and a button-up shirt that had seen better days, he was probably someone’s father or grandfather, stopping by the magazine aisle for the newest puzzle books. But at the moment, he was staring at what I held in my hands. A photo essay on Pearl Harbor.
Being a child of the ’60’s and ’70’s, the surprise attack that had drawn the United States into World War II was just another history lesson to me. But in this man’s eyes, I saw memories of a time and place so real, I could have reach out and touched them.

    I had to talk to him. “Nice book, isn’t it?”

   The muscles in his throat moved, and for one brief moment, I felt ashamed for disturbing him. Then he spoke, “I was there.” Not for the attack, he added. He was a boy of eleven or twelve when the Japanese bombed Hawaii. He remembered the call to arms; the boys of Paulding County bravely marching to war; stars hung in the windows of those who didn’t make it back.
     It affected him so nine years later, he decided to join the marines. His faded gray eyes shyly met mine. “I’d always been in church, was saved when I was a young boy. But the service changed me. I slid away from the Lord.” He hesitated. “Until I got to the Pearl.”
     His orders had come in. After a brief layover in Hawaii, he’d be shipped to Korea to fight in a new conflict. Scared about what lay ahead, he’d decided to visit Battleship Row, particularly the entombed Arizona. Standing where so many had died, he watched as the infamous drops of oil rose to the surface. 
     “So many lives lost for the sake of freedom.” His lips turned up in a soft smile. “Then the Lord spoke to me in that still, quiet voice of His. He reminded me that one day, the oil would run out and people would forget what happened there. But His Son shed drops of blood for my freedom that will last for all eternity.” The man gave his life back to the Lord that day, sure that no matter what happened in battle, his everlasting freedom was secure. The old man tipped his cap and shuffled away.
      A lump formed in my throat as I gazed at the book in my hands, my fingertips skimming the laminated cover. So many young lives lost for the cause of freedom. One battle fought for our eternal deliverance. The nameless man had changed my textbook view of Pearl Harbor. Never again would it be just another documentary on the History Channel, but a constant reminder to give thanks for the men and women who serve our country each and every day. And to give wholehearted praise to the loving Warrior who stormed the gates of hell to ensure my liberty from death.
     For Christ truly is the greatest Soldier of all.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Books that Change Your Life!

On Thursdays, I review books that make me grow as a writer and as a person.

The Stars for a Light by Gilbert and Lynn Morris

No Medical School Ever Could Have prepared Cheney for Her First Position

Graduating from the Woman's Medical College of the prestigious University of Pennsylvania as a full-fledged, documented, accredited physician, young and energetic Cheney Duvall assumed that she would immediately find a suitable position. But after two months of applying and interviewing for several different openings, then being summarily rejected because she was a woman, she had almost given up hope.
When Cheney hears that a man named Asa Mercer is looking for a doctor to care for the two hundred women he is transporting on an extended sea voyage from New York to Washington Territory, she grabs the position. Mercer is actually delighted that Cheney is a female doctor who can also help chaperone these potential brides-to-be for the frontiersmen in the West.
But even before the journey begins, a foreboding shadow darkens what Cheney had thought was a great opportunity to finally use her talents and education. Was she really prepared for what this responsibility requires?
Just after the Civil War, Cheney Duvall graduates from the first American college to allow women to obtain degrees in medicine--and quickly discovers the extreme prejudices that have kept other women from practicing medicine. When she accepts a job as ship's doctor on a three-month voyage around Cape Horn, she encounters a whole new set of problems--and adventures.

You ever read a book or series of books that changes the direction of your life? When I first read The Stars for a Light back in the mid 90s, I was a thirty-something mom, busy shuffling kids and helping my mother with my sick grandfather. But something about this book, and the ones that followed ignited a dream I’d buried deep, the dream of writing my own books. Maybe that’s why my first baby steps into writing was creating fan fiction on the Cheney Duvall website.
A few months ago, I found the the first four books in the series on Audible books and download it to my iPod. Yes, the Point of View is written more in omnipresent rather than the more popular first or third person of today, but the story is still enjoyable even all these years later. And I've got to say--the new covers are absolutely gorgeous!

What is one book or series of books that made you want to sit down at your computer and write the first time? Why?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Pantser verses Plotter--the Pros and Cons

This election season is mercifully drawing to a close after one of the most contentious campaign in history which made me think about another battle, one that has  been waged for years among the writing community. Pantser verse Plotter. I feel that as a combination of the two, I can give pros and cons of both.

The Pantser
These writers are affectionally known as the seat of the pants writer because (you guessed it!) they write by the seat of their pants! No outlines or synopsis for them. Instead, they follow their characters, letting them write their own story. Great in writing a character-driven story plus this sort of writing gives you the sense of adventure and excitement. It’s this kind of excitement that drives a person to the computer, anxious to discover that evasive answer to the question: what happens next?

But it’s also that uncertainty that is the greatest con of being a pantser. Without a road map to tell you where your story is going, you might find yourself falling down the rabbit hole with no way out. Writing without moving the story forward which can be frustrating and time-consuming. I should know--I was firmly in the pantser camp for the first eight years I wrote. At first, the excitement of uncovering the story was addictive but butt your head against the wall of the rabbit hole enough and well, you get the picture. So unless you’re okay with taking 4 years to write a 70K novel or you’re just writing for the love of it, being a pantser can be frustrating and unproductive. At least, this was my experience.
The Plotter
These writers are the ones who have a notebook full of character charts, bits of research and possible plot points. They flesh out synopsis, make scene cards and hammer down every little detail of their novel, right down to the color of the drapes in the living room. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? Sometimes, which makes it hard to put your backside in a chair and actually write. But when they do write, they produce manuscripts to submit to publishing houses.

A couple of years ago, after working as a first reader for a publishing house, I realized that I could tell the difference in those manuscripts that had been fully plotted out verses those written by a pantser. If I ever wanted to be published, I needed to learn how to plot. So I took a year off from writing, took classes on the art of plotting, worked on my own story’s plot line. When I continued working on my novel, I had a clear direction of where it was going. And I finished it in six months.

That novel became my first sale, Hearts in Flight.

Am I totally committed to plotting? Yes, but I don’t stop my characters from leading me toward a new realization that builds on the conflict or deepens the readers‘ insight into the character. That's when the pantser in me comes out. That’s why I think I’ve become a nice blend of the two--it’s what works for me.

So what about you? Pantser or Plotter? How do you make it work?  

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Making the Grade--A Writer's Book Review

Hi, I’m Patty and I’m a bookaholic.

Does that really surprise anyone? I read anywhere from 4 to 6 books a week aside from writing my own. But I’m always a bit reluctant to write book reviews. But there are those occasions when a book just slides inside and takes up residence in my heart that I HAVE to share.

You won’t find any negative book reviews on this website because opinions are subjective. What I might love, someone else might judge differently. But being a writer, I respect the process each writer goes through to produce their best work. The books I review are the ones that not only entertain, but teach me how to be a better writer.

To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer

Having completed his sentence for the unintentional crime that derailed his youthful plans for fame and fortune, Levi Grant looks to start over in the town of Spencer, Texas. Spencer needs a blacksmith, a trade he learned at his father's knee, and he needs a place where no one knows his past. But small towns leave little room for secrets...
Eden Spencer has sworn off men, choosing instead to devote her time to the lending library she runs. When a mountain-sized stranger walks through her door and asks to borrow a book, she steels herself against the attraction he provokes. His halting speech and hesitant manner leave her doubting his intelligence. Yet as the mysteries of the town's new blacksmith unfold, Eden discovers hidden depths in him that tempt her heart.
Levi's renewed commitment to his faith leads Eden to believe she's finally found a man of honor and integrity, a man worthy of her love. But when the truth about his prodigal past comes to light, can this tarnished hero find a way to win back the librarian's affections?

All I can say is WOW! I actually started listening to this book on my iPod but got so caught up in Eden and Levi’s story, I hurt my thumb trying to find it on my Nook! Karen has a way with developing characters in her novels, with little tidbits of insight and reaction, that makes the reader feel as though these are people you want to know in real life. And because her characters are so well drawn out, they carry the plot from first paragraph to the very last sentence. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, curl up in a soft blanket and enjoy a read that will keep you up well into the night.