Spring, Covered Wagon Stories, and Seven Books a Year! Oh My!
Oh, I am so excited that spring is here! I absolutely love it when the dreary naked branches of winter with its browned grasses, gray days, and leaf-covered ground all turn bright and beautiful shades of green! My favorite color and without a doubt, my favorite time of year!
Plus, the launch of my Prairie Roses Collection always launches in time for Mothers’ Day, and that’s always fun to look forward to! I love the covered wagon stories and the history of the thousands of settlers who traveled west, ready to tame it.
RUTH is my story this year for the collection, and my heroine is quite different from my first two, REMI and LILAH. RUTH will be my fifty-eighth title to be launched! That seems crazy when you stack them up, but I’ve averaged over seven books a year since I changed from traditional publishing to independent after number ten.
Just the other day, someone asked how I could do that—seven new titles every year. Well, number one, I write with my husband so there are two of us. We write every morning—after praying and have a few cups of coffee, rarely missing a day, seven days a week.
We love writing together and our strengths complement each other perfectly 🙂 God is so good, and of course knew that when He created us one for the other! We usually write an average of a thousand to twelve hundred words a day—six to seven hundred upwards to two thousand or more.
We’re seventy-one1, married fifty-three years (in June), and have a sweet writing rhythm, starting at Chapter One with a premise and characters in mind then writing straight through until ‘The End.’
Though we don’t know everything that will happen, or even exactly how the story will end until we get there, we hardly ever rewrite. Of course, God gives us the stories, but we have studied the craft to shew ourselves approved on His behalf.
He sent us to the DFW Writers’ Workshop, a weekly read-and-critique group where we spent fifteen years with wonderful mentors! We became mentors ourselves after six or seven years. We learned the craft of writing creative fiction very well then wrote a small book for writers, STORY & STYLE, The Craft of Writing Creative Fiction.
It’s written in a conversational format with tons of examples, and all the writers (new and a few older) who’ve read it, rave about it . . . plus they know they have only to ask a question if they’re having any troubles with understanding something.
It talks about where to open your story, scene and sequel, writing realistic dialogue, character arcs, and a whole lot about POV—that was the hardest concept for me to grasp, but what a wonderful difference in your writing it makes once you do!
SO of the seven new titles each year, usually three are full length (three hundred pages which means ninety to one hundred twenty thousand words, and the rest are usually forty to sixty thousand word, so short novels or long novellas. 🙂
I format the manuscripts myself and consult with my graphic designer for covers (she’s fabulous and so reasonable and a dream to work with–I’ve gone through a lot of them!), and upload the eBook, print, and Large print to KDP and try to keep up with audio. I’ve fallen behind!
Then there’s marketing. Authors work hard to establish a good readership . . . whether traditional or independently published, and it’s an ongoing search. There’s newsletters, websites, promotion memes, promotion events, and guest blogs! Magazine articles, too!
Marketing is a never-ending part of being an author!
So a ninety-thousand-word manuscript would conventionally take us ninety days. We can finish a forty-thousand-word story in a month without difficulty! With three hundred sixty-five days a year to work with, that’s three hundred sixty-five thousand words.
One year, we set and met a goal of a half million words!
The first ten titles were published traditionally, with Simon & Schuster’s Christian Imprint (Howard Books) publishing number ten. As soon as I contractually able after them, I became an Indie–well, hybrid–author.
I always do my best to talk new writers into going Indie. I cannot imagine myself ever signing over another of our stories to a traditional publisher. There are just too many benefits to Indie, including the money.
Linda Brooks Davis
I’ve been interested in my ancestors’ backstories for years. I love finding treasures—stories, anecdotes, photos, and documents—and dreaming about their lives, longings, and loves.
What were their dreams? Where in Appalachia did they homestead? How did she overcome her fear of the wild Atlantic? To whom was he indentured? Did his parents know he was a stowaway?
The really cool thing about dreams is that they’re limited by imagination alone. The questions—and story possibilities—are endless. Take, for example, my forebearers, Baron Christoph von Graffenried and Regina Tscharner.
Christoph and Regina Tscharner von Graffenried, my eighth great-grandparents, married in Bern, Switzerland over three hundred years ago. In time, Christoph gathered a group of persecuted German and Swiss Palatines to colonize the Carolinas. This band founded New Bern, North Carolina under the leadership of Christoph von Graffenried, who convinced Queen Anne to trust him.
I sometimes imagine how the story might have unfolded and wonder if it could’ve been something like this:
“A sign, mein Mann?” his wife Regina said as she sopped the spill. What had come over her ordinarily genial husband?
“My dream! Natürlich! Of course!” Christoph bounded upward, sending his chair careening backward with a swat.
“Niederzulassen,” she said with her hands over her ears. “You must settle down. Remember your heart, my Baron von Graffenried.”
He batted aside her warning. “I’m as strong as an ox, and so is my heart. I saw Palatines in my dream. They need a place of their own, and I’m the one to provide it!”
Had her husband lost his mind?
Certainly Christoph, like herself, had been born to nobility, but Castle Worb was but a moderately fine castle in the tiny Swiss village of Worb in Canton Bern, among the simplest in Switzerland, surely not sufficient to house hundreds of Palatine refugees.
“Theirs is a sad lot, to be sure, mein husband,” she said, rising from her place at the table. She moved toward him with her hands raised in a calming gesture. “But what can we do here … with so few resources?”
Standing at the mullioned window, he folded an arm at his middle and rested his elbow atop it, a fist grazing his chin as he mulled. “Not here, of course, Regina. In the Americas.”
She started. Christoph knew no contentment in running a baron’s estate, to be sure. He was enthralled with exploration and adventure like that of Franz Ludwig Michel who told of riches in the New World awaiting men willing to bear hardships and deprivation for a little while. Still …
“The Americas, Christoph? The colonies are around the world from us. What can we do for the Palatines from such a great distance?”
“In my dream Franz Ludwig is standing before Queen Anne, pointing across the sea toward America with a Palatine leaflet in his hand. But she has turned her head away, as if to ignore him.”
What did Herr Michel’s venture have to do with Chrisoph? She waited for her husband to continue.
“I did not accept Franz Ludwig’s suggestion to invest in the George Ritter Company to mine silver deposits, nor to relocate indigent Anabaptists.”
He threw open the window and set his hands on the casing, leaning forward with his eyes traversing the courtyard and forest beyond. “My dream has altered my vision. I see land stretching from horizon to horizon not in Pennsylvania and Virginia but Carolina. And Palatines populating it.”
“Carolina?” Aghast, Regina brought her fingertips to her lips. “That’s savage country.”
He humphed. “I’ve faced more than one savage in my time.”
Certainly, Christoph knew not an inkling of fear, nor a moment of doubt, but would he make the journey across the great ocean to the Americas? Surely not. He was approaching fifty years of age. “If I may be so bold, my dear, as to suggest …”
He turned his fiery eyes to hers. “Suggest what?”
“Is it not true that the uncivilized forest men you encountered in the hinterland do not compare with those in Carolina? Besides, how will you acquire this land?”
“I’ll speak with the Queen, of course.”
“If Her Majesty Queen Anne ignored Herr Michel, why would she have interest in your vision?”
“My power of persuasion, of course. Her Majesty will not ignore me.”
He whipped around and strode toward the door. “I must leave. Straightaway!” He flung aside the door with a whack and called, “Bartholomew, my man! Kommen! We must pack!”
Regina could only stare after the man she had married, this Baron von Graffenried who was burdened with wanderlust. Where would the latest of his dreams take him? And what would become of her family?
(To be continued. Sometime.)
Dreams lie at the root of every kind of venture. Gambles. Experiments. Enterprise. Investments. And risks.
Without dreams, the world would have missed America. The Sistine Chapel. Penicillin. Electricity. The moon. Library shelves would stand empty. Typewriters and computers would sit silent. No story time at home or school.
Try to imagine a world without Once Upon a Dream. And then, dream on.
Linda Shenton Matchett
Before There Were Forty-Niners
Hear the words “gold rush,” and the state of California comes to mind. Thanks to the discovery of a rather sizable nugget in 1848 by a man named John Marshall who was constructing a lumber mill for his boss John Sutter, more than 300,000 people from the U.S. and around the world showed up to find their fortune.
But did you know that a gold rush occurred in Georgia two decades earlier? Stories vary as to who discovered the first chunk, but whatever the truth, it wasn’t long before northern Georgia was overrun with thousands of men and women hoping to striking it rich.
You read correctly. Unmarried women arrived to pan for gold in an attempt to find their fortune. Others came as wives and remained to work the claims after the losing their husbands. Conditions were crude, and the area remote, with lawmen few and far between. Most of the ladies knew how to fire a gun and hunt for food, but they also had to be brave enough to scare off potential claim jumpers and strong enough to pan for hours at a time in the frigid river waters.
Some of the women relished the challenge and did quite well. Others gave it a go, then got up and left. Still others realized there was more money to be made providing services to the prospectors such as restaurants, laundry, and general stores.
In my upcoming release, Gold Rush Bride Hannah, Hannah Lauman is widowed under suspicious circumstances. The men in town think she needs to head back home to mama or get herself another husband, rather than stay and work her claim. She’s not interested in either solution. Then a friend of her husband’s shows up to keep a promise, and she wonders if Jess is only interested in her new-found wealth. But when a series of incidents occur that put her in danger, she realizes his skill with a gun might come in handy after all.
Steeped in romance, intrigue, and history, Gold Rush Bride Hannah is now available for pre-order.
Falling into Romantic Suspense
My fourth romantic suspense for Barbour Publishing’s True Colors Crime series, The Silver Shadow, has released! If you had asked me three years ago if I would have ever written romantic suspense, I probably would have told you that you were crazy. And I just might be!
I didn’t sit down at my computer one day and decide that I was going to become a romantic suspense author. At that time, I was best known for my WWII novels. And though I’m still passionate about WWII and will be writing more, I didn’t have contracts for any at the time. In fact, I had no contracts at all.
That’s a scary place for an author to be. We like to know we get to keep on writing and that someone is going to pay us for it. And then my agent emailed me with information from Barbour’s acquisition’s editor about this new series they wanted to start about true historical American crimes.
To be honest, I really hesitated. I researched the ideas the editor had floated and found myself fascinated by some of them. But I had never written romantic suspense. I had never read much romantic suspense. By the way, I now love the genre!
I spoke to my fabulous agent about it, and she reassured me that when I wrote WWII, I actually wrote a type of romantic suspense. They aren’t necessarily about crimes, but there is a lot of edge-of-the-seat action in them. Being chased by Nazis, hiding from the Gestapo, escaping from Germans who are hunting you – that’s all suspense.
So I signed the contract when Barbour offered it to me and got busy writing. I read all kinds of books and articles about writing romantic suspense. I read a steady diet of romantic suspense novels. And I hated what I’d written. A lot. I was about halfway through the first draft of The Pink Bonnet. The manuscript was due in less than two months.
I was alone at our cabin for a week to work. I spent more time trying to figure out how to craft a suspenseful novel, how to drop red herrings, how to keep the action and the tension high throughout the book. And that I wrote. My, did I write. I flew through that first draft and edited it like a mad woman.
I’m thankful that I have a wonderful copy editor to work with at Barbour. She really helped me to polish that manuscript and to up the tension in it even more. And it worked! Much to my surprise and my delight, people liked it. And bought it. Barbour ended up signing me to three more contracts. The second one I wrote for them, The Green Dress, is an award finalist. No one was more surprised about that than me. I guess my agent was correct. I can write romantic suspense.
I’m sad that this chapter in my career has come to an end. But don’t worry. Even though my next few books aren’t technically romantic suspense, they still have both elements in them. The WWII book, A Picture of Hope, releases in October and is about an American photojournalist and a French resistance member trying to get a group of children with Down syndrome out of France. And I just rewrote a scene of A Promise Engraved, my first split-time novel, because it wasn’t suspenseful enough for me.
I’m so grateful for this opportunity to have been a part of such a fine series. If you haven’t checked out all eleven (and soon to be twelve) books, be sure to do so. There are some truly fabulous authors in it! I hope you enjoy The Silver Shadow and pray it will be a blessing to you.
Marguerite Martin Gray
Authors Who Influenced My Journey
As a child, I craved reading as my favorite pastime. If only I had kept a record of all the books I read, an activity I do now. Needless to say, I never lost that innate desire to consume the written word.
I credit three authors, from my teenage years and onward, with instilling my love of storytelling in historical fiction. The first is James A. Michener. At the age of seventeen, I devoured The Source (lots and lots of pages) and began a quest for historical fiction. My history teacher offered a bonus project to any student who wanted to read more. I came away understanding that through historical fiction, I could be entertained while gathering historical knowledge.
Advance a few years to when I discovered Jean Plaidy, the author of historical fiction of French, British, and Italian royalty. I have every one of her books on the kings and queens. Her masterful pen rooted me in the historical moment and gave me years of pleasure reading. The facts she exposed could fill many history books but I inhaled them through fiction—the best way for me to learn—with a story with living, breathing characters.
Finally, a major step in my reading journey began (and continues today) in the realm of historical Christian fiction. A teacher friend introduced me to Lori Wick. Her stories of knights and princesses, castles and battles, engaged me even more because of the Christian message. Clean drama. Beverly Lewis, Francine Rivers, and Terri Blackstock quickly joined my repertoire.
The journey is ongoing as I’m now an author with a story (stories) to share. I continue to learn from other authors—valuable tidbits of information sprinkled with Christian values. My motto—Entertain. Educate. Encourage—applies to what I read, too, as Fiction. Information. Inspiration.