Today I'm so excited to take you behind the scenes, into the making of a book cover! There's more than one way to go about the process, of course. I will just share with you the most recent one in my experience: A Refuge Assured, published by Bethany House. Even before we landed on a title, they asked for my input on the art direction. This is a great opportunity, and I was happy to put together an 8-page document for them. It included notes and images on period dress, location, book covers I like, and any other ideas or strong feelings I had about the cover. (For instance, I may have told them I'd like to stay away from the color pink, just as I normally say during title discussions to avoid the words "heart," "love," or "bride" because I don't want to give the impression that I write romance. I write straight historicals, which may have a romantic element, but it's not the entire plot.) Oh! BTW, do you see any familiar images below? That gorgeous blue sleeve and lace detail graced the cover of The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz! Laura and I have many of the same 18th-century fashion pins on Pinterest. She's a master pinner! Once I've sent in my input document, my job is done! The designer takes over, and I know the cover-to-be is in excellent hands. Today I've asked my cover designer, Jenny Parker, to answer some questions for us. What would you say are the most important elements of a book cover—or are they all equally important? Jenny: When the author of a book is well known, that name is probably the most important element on a book cover. Otherwise, I believe that—at least for fiction books—the art and title should work together to be the most impactful elements. This means the art must represent the story and it’s genre and draw in the reader. It also should indicate a place or time or even evoke a mood or an emotion. The AIGA (The American Institute of Graphic Arts) said in their opening statement of the 2013 Book Cover Design Competition Results that a strong cover “somehow summarizes in a split second a work that may have taken its author months or even years to create.” It’s also really important these days when people are buying books online for the title and author’s name to be readable even at a small size. What aspect of designing a book cover is the most enjoyable for you? Which is the most stressful? Jenny: It’s always fun to get my assignment and learn about the storyline and read all the research and little-known historical facts our authors have gathered. It gets me excited to do my own research focusing on clothing, architecture, or settings and then start brainstorming different ideas. I enjoy trying to recreate a believable scene from history. The most stressful part is hearing all the differing opinions about what the right image is for the book and trying to come up with a cover that will satisfy everyone including editors, marketing, and sales. I’m so relieved after all that when the author is happy and when I personally feel the cover is strong. Me with Creative Director Paul Higdon and Jenny Parker at the BHP offices in the spring of 2016. What part of your job as a book cover designer would surprise readers? Jenny: I don’t think it would surprise readers that my job is extremely fun: from learning about the great storylines to researching historical settings, costumes and other details to choosing models and costumes to creating the final product and seeing it in print. What might surprise readers is the amount of work that goes into creating each cover, especially when a photo shoot is needed. They are so much fun but they require a lot of prep work in order to ensure that we capture just the right image (with the right emotion, lighting, angle, etc.) in the few short hours we have the model, photographer, and hair and makeup artist. We take literally hundreds of photos of the models (usually around 700) that we have to go through to find the one perfect image for the front cover. From the photo shoot for A Refuge Assured! How do you decide whether to show the model’s entire face, part of her face (as in ARA) or none of her face (as in The Mark of the King)? Jenny: The decision of how much face to show can be already decided by the editors and marketing staff before I even get the assignment. The general consensus here at Bethany House is that not showing a face conveys a literary tone and showing one gives it a Christian fiction tone. When this hasn’t been decided, I try to show concepts for both options and let the group choose. Once you have several options to choose from, who weighs in on them before you choose the final cover? Jenny: We have a Creative Team headed by Creative Director Paul Higdon and comprised of seven or eight others including editors and marketing staff that meet together to discuss the options. Once they come to an agreement, the chosen cover is shown to our Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dave Lewis and the author. Thank you Jenny and company! I fully agree with your final decision on the winning cover for A Refuge Assured! (Novel releases Feb. 6: Available for pre-order now!) The Winning Cover! Readers, did anything surprise you from this process?
Behind the Books
Today I’m hanging up a fresh calendar for 2018. It’s pretty basic—12 months, from January to December. Seven-day weeks, each of which begins with Sunday. Christmas is marked on December 25. The year 2018 is dated from the approximate birth of Christ. After researching the French Revolution and writing A Refuge Assured, I no longer take all this for granted. Here’s why. In October 1793, the revolutionary government declared a new way of ordering their days by replacing the Gregorian calendar with a new Republican calendar. The rise of human reason over religion are obvious in the changes: They replaced the seven-day week with a ten-day “decade.” There was no Sunday in a decade, no day set aside for worship. The churches and cathedrals became temples to reason. Three decades comprised a thirty-day month. Months were named after seasonal features. (The photo at the top of this page shows the calendar girl painting representing Germinal, Month of Budding.) Religious holidays and saints’ days were also abolished. In fact, each day of the year was renamed after an element of nature, to counter the Catholic calendar’s association of days with the names of saints and sacred events. For example, the first three days of the month of Messidor, Month of Harvest, were dedicated to rye, oat, and onion. Instead of dating their years from the birth of Christ, they dated them from the birth of the Creation of the French Republic, September 22, 1792. So, even though they began using the republican calendar in 1793, they declared the year preceding it, Year 1. In A Refuge Assured, I make it clear in the text what time of year it was, even though for a chapter or two, I use the republican calendar in the headings. Below, you’ll find the complete list of the republican months. Once my main character Vivienne (Vienne for short) arrives in Philadelphia in A Refuge Assured, we are back to the calendar you and I are familiar with, much to her relief! The republican calendar, which Napoleon abandoned on Jan. 1, 1806, may seem like mere trivia to us. After all, most of us are Americans, and a couple of centuries separate us from the French Revolution of the late eighteenth-century. But today I am grateful for seven-day weeks, for Sundays, for Christmas and Easter. And I’m grateful that every time I write the year, I’m recognizing the birth of Christ. Happy New Year everyone! P.S. Speaking of calendars: February 6 is circled on mine as the release date for A Refuge Assured. If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, now is a great time to do it! Find out more about the novel along with purchase links here.
Every once in a while, someone will ask me why, for the love of new releases, does it take so long for my next book to come out? After all, I turned A Refuge Assured into the publisher (the first time) on March 6, 2017. It releases Feb. 6, 2018. Eleven months in between? What gives? The process varies according to author and publisher, so I will just speak to my own experience, and I'll use A Refuge Assured and the team at Bethany House as an example because it's freshest on my mind. This is how it all went down. May 2016: I start brainstorming ideas for the next novel with Bethany House. And then I stop, because I have a novella to write that's due to Barbour July 1. September 2016: I talk to my editors about my plot ideas and start gathering research. Then I stop, because I need to write Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life for Discovery House that's due the first week of November. November 2016: Now that Free to Lean is turned in, I start writing A Refuge Assured. The process of writing a rough draft isn't glamorous. It's a whole lot of hours with my laptop, surrounded by my research books. Usually I'm wearing flannel pants and cardigan sweaters because I live in Iowa and my second-floor office in our lovely old house is COLD in the winter. (Yes I have a space heater, which helps.) SIDENOTE: In January, I must divide my time between writing and launching The Mark of the King, which involves lots of guest blogging, mailings to influencers, interviews, and general social media frenzy. Then March 1, it's time to launch The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection. But really, writing needs to remain my top prriority. Even though these don't relate to A Refuge Assured, I'm mentioning them to give you a sense of what many authors experience--we are usually juggling some aspect of more than one project at a time. Writing one book, launching another, editing a different one. (Between Dec. 21 and Feb. 21, I was also working on edits for Free to Lean with my Discovery House editor.) March 6, 2017: I turn in A Refuge Assured. I don't feel great about it, either, by the way. I even include notes at the end of the manuscript asking my editor questions about plot and characters, and issues I know I need to fix. Ugh. I wanted to turn in something a lot more polished than this. March 8-15, 2017: My family goes on a spring break trip that includes site visits related to A Refuge Assured, including Philadelphia and the site of the French settlement of Azilum (Asylum in English). I use this trip to fact check my research, knowing that I can make changes to the novel in the coming months of editing as needed. There was just no way to squeeze this trip in between November and now anyway. The highlight of Philadelphia was City Tavern, a restored eighteenth-century restaurant that's actually part of the Independence Hall National Historic Park. I loved it, because in my novel, the hero's sister owns a tavern in Philly, and there are several scenes set there. The other major feature of our trip was three hours by car north of Philadelphia: French Azilum. It wasn't open for the season yet, but the board of directors was kind enough to send someone to meet me there anyway. It gave me a sense of atmosphere and place that I couldn't get from reading books and Web sites alone. March 21, 2017: Home again, and I get "The Memo." The Memo is the several page document my two editors put together after they've read and discussed my manuscript. It starts off with what they like about it, and then proceeds to describe the areas I need to work on. I also receive my manuscript back, with a few comments in the margins, but at this point we're doing a developmental edit, aka content edit, so the changes are big. A few examples from The Memo: For more than half the book, we have two separate storylines. They do converge, but we'd like them to link up much sooner. The parallels between the whiskey rebellion and the French Revolution might need to be stronger or more explicit, perhaps. [The other editor] got it and was fine, but I was left feeling a little confused that characters kept equating them. A way to draw out the parallels in an argument or conversation? We’d like to increase the threat and sense of danger from the Jacobins, as well as develop the progression of the question of Henri’s identity so that it steadily builds rather than goes in circles, which it kind of does right now. So as you can see, this is pretty big picture stuff. The Memo went on to point out areas in the characters that could use further development. It's all really, really helpful, but there's no quick fix for any of it. That's why they give me two months to make the changes. It sounds like plenty of time, and it is, in fact, quite generous. But it will still be a big push to get it done. March 24, 2017: Phone call with my editor to go over The Memo and hash out the issues which aren't so easy to resolve over email. Should Finn die? Should he live? What would happen to Liam if he died? If he lives, how can he be a more crucial part of the story? That kind of thing. Also during the two months I'm working on content edits, I send the novel in chunks to my critique partner since I didn't have time to do that before I turned it in the first time. She points out things that my editors and I didn't notice. For instance, a few character names sounded too similar, so we changed some to avoid potential confusion. And in a few scenes, there were too many characters for the reader to keep track of, so I deleted some. May 5, 2017: I get my first look at the cover design for A Refuge Assured. Beautiful work, Bethany House team! (See the cover design process here.) They need the cover finalized this far ahead of release, because in June, the sales team will be pitching the Spring 2018 releases to buyers for bookstores and chains. After the sales conference, the cover goes up on all the online retail sites for pre-order. Meanwhile, I'm still working on edits! June 3, 2017: I turn in the novel with content edits complete. (I missed my May 31 deadline, BTW. They gave me an extension over the weekend.) June 21, 2017: I receive the mansucript back again with line edits and a three-page document of notes from my editor. Line edits mean that now that the big picture stuff is taken care of, she has gone through every line, tightening up and fixing whatever needed it. The separate document of notes, this time, was pretty minor stuff (i.e. my Irish accent for Liam sounded Scottish, so she fixed that throughout) and her thoughtful responses to my flurry of emails over the last two months. I love my editor. She is the best. Her perspective on the book is very reassuring and I feel better about life in general. [Insert launching activities for Free to Lean during the first part of July here.] July 31, 2017: I turn in A Refuge Assured again. In addition to responding to all of my editor's requests for revisions, I'd made a list of all the phrases and words I used too much, and worked really hard to swap them out with something else. Apparently, all the men cleared their throats a lot, and the women "inhaled deeply." Ha! Searches for the words eyes, look, gaze, glance, etc. revealed way too much dependence on eyes. So I spent a long time rewriting those beats, and I'm really pleased with the results. Oh, also gave personality tests to my main characters to make sure they were consistent in how they were behaving. #MyersBriggsForever Found a couple spots to adjust. At this point, my editor sends the book to the copy editor. The copy editor reads it and makes sure the timeline matches up, that the characters have the same eye and hair color throughout the book, she fact checks my historical references, etc. So, it's a lot more than a spelling and grammar checker. August 25, 2017: I receive the book in paper form on my doorstep! This stage is called the galleys edit. The book has been printed out entirely, and I have two or three weeks to go over it with a fine-tooth comb to make any changes. I try to read it out loud as much as I can, because my eyes can be lazy and skim, but my ears will pick up on something if it sounds not right. I work on it a lot from home, but there are a few distractions... I take the galleys with me wherever I go if I think I'll have time to work on them. Mostly I'm deleting unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, catching a few anachronistic words that had slipped through the cracks, and deleting anything that seems dumb. Pictured below from left to right: My favorite tea place, car dealership for an oil change, doctor's office for my son's check-up, karate class. I will edit here and there, I will edit everywhere! :) September 5, 2017: I realize I should probably request endorsements for this book! Bethany House tells me they would need endorsements by early October, so that really doesn't leave much time. I humbly petition Laura Frantz and Susan Meissner for endorsements, and they both agree. WHEW. Bethany House prints off new sets of the galleys and ships them out to Laura and Susan pronto. As it happens, I had the privilege of meeting both of these ladies in person this past summer! So much fun. September 28, 2017: All of my changes have been made, and now the interior pages have been designed as well. Bethany House has printed the entire novel again and shipped it to me for final, final changes. This is called the final galleys edit. At this point, I should hardly have anything to mark up. I do find a few things to change, but overall, I am ready to be done reading this book. I am, however, thrilled with how the pages look. The touches of lace and the small lace fans as scene breaks are gorgeous. At the same time I'm reading it, so is a proofreader at Bethany House. Maybe even more than one proofreader. Fresh eyes are a must, and mine are anything but. October 6, 2017: I send the final galleys back to Bethany House. Next time I see the book, it will be the finished product, probably sometime in January! By now, the endorsers have sent their lines in, as well. So as far as I'm concerned, I am DONE with the book, at least until closer to the launch. But the team at Bethany House sure isn't. Fiction publicist Amy Green wrote two blogs for Just Commonly from her perspective, which you can read in their entirety here and here. While I'm creating memes and a Pinterest board for A Refuge Assured to prepare for its release, here's what the publisher is doing, according to Amy: Final changes are made to the text file Electronic files of text and cover are sent to printer Electronic files sent for ebook conversion Printer sends final proofs to publisher for approval Ebook file is sent to publisher for approval Book is printed, bound, and shipped to publisher’s warehouse Amy and Noelle, the fiction marketing manager, are really busy behind the scenes while all of this is going on, too. In the spring, they presented the next season of books to the sales team, who then pitched the books to buyers at the sales conference in June. Six to eight months before a release, Noelle works on placing ads and setting up special campaigns, i.e. a book club mailing. Amy pitches the book to trade and consumer magazines, all of which need time to decide if they'll feature or review a book in their publication--and then of course, they'll need time to read it. Amy and Noelle do a lot more than this, but I'll let you read those blog posts I linked to earlier to get the full run-down. Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of why it takes so long to publish a book. Thanks for reading to the end of this post--even explaining it took a long time! Did anything surprise you? Now, I get to start the process all over again for the next novel!
It's my great pleasure to have author Lori Benton here today! Lori was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn; Christy nominee The Wood's Edge; A Flight of Arrows; and Many Sparrows. *Please note: Since Lori hails from Oregon, this is a great reminder to us to keep praying for the fires in the Northwest to be contained, and for all the communities affected, from residents to wildlife to first responders. Thank you! Before we get to her interview, here is the blurb for her new release, Many Sparrows: When settler Clare Inglesby is widowed on a mountain crossing and her young son, Jacob, captured by Shawnees, she'll do everything in her power to get him back, including cross the Ohio River and march straight into the presence of her enemies deep in Indian country. Frontiersman and adopted Shawnee, Jeremiah Ring, promises to guide Clare through the wilderness and help her recover Jacob. Once they reach the Shawnees and discover Jeremiah's own Shawnee sister, Rain Crow, has taken custody of Jacob--renaming him Many Sparrows--keeping his promise becomes far more complicated, the consequences more wrenching, than Jeremiah could have foreseen. I had the privilege of reading an early copy, and here's my take on the novel: Stunning. Many Sparrows is everything I want in a book: settings that spring to life, characters I love, rich historical context, heart-wrenching drama, timeless spiritual insights, and prose that reads like poetry. Lori Benton handles the conflicted eighteenth-century with sensitivity in this tender tale of hope and fear, faith and doubt, of loss and new life. Truly, an inspired masterpiece sure to stir the soul. (Psst! You can read the first two chapters here!) My chat with Lori is below. Give us a glimpse into your research process. Is there any aspect of it which may surprise your readers? LORI: I think readers would likely find my research more mundane than surprising. It consists mainly of pouring through stacks of books, taking notes, and creating a historical timeline when necessary. For Many Sparrows that timeline was crucial. It ended up being about 30 pages long, single-spaced, but it kept me from a lot of hair-pulling and rewriting/replotting as I worked to weave my characters’ stories in and out of dozens of historical events that occurred in the summer and autumn of 1774. That makes a lot of sense, and I operate the same way. A 30-page timeline, though? You have me beat, there! :) I love seeing the photographs you take and share on Facebook! Do you have any of the part of the country where Many Sparrows is set? LORI: I don’t often get to visit the settings of my novels while I’m writing, because I live 3000 miles away in Oregon! But for Many Sparrows I did. I journeyed back east and, together with novelist J. M. Hochstetler, traveled around Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, visiting sites we both wanted to research for our historical novels in progress. Below is a photo of the area of Ohio where Cornstalk’s town and that of his sister, Nonhelema, once stood. The next photo shows a bend in Scippo Creek that ran between Cornstalk’s Town and Nonhelema’s Town. The photo below captures wildflowers growing along Yellow Creek, where it empties into the Ohio River. One of the surprises I encountered was our visit to the Point Pleasant battle memorial, on the point of land where the Kanawha River joins the Ohio, in West Virginia. There’s a walkway along the Ohio there bordered by a spectacular mural of the history of that area, including the battle that took place in October of 1774, and scenes depicting Shawnee life and culture. Below are some samples of this sprawling mural. Those photos are fantastic, and I'm delighted you made the trip with J.M Hochstetler! She is another favorite author of mine. If you were to make Many Sparrows into a movie, who would you cast to play the hero and heroine, and why? LORI: As early as possible in the writing process I like to find a model or actor who resembles my main characters. The choice is important. Something about the actor or model bleeds into who that character becomes on the page for me. I know this because I once switched actors midway through the writing process, when I found someone who looked more like the character than my original choice. Soon after, the character took on new layers and depths. I’m still amazed that happened. Maybe it’s like what an actor brings to their role on stage. The character they play is still the character on the page, but it’s also a blend of who the actor is. Just like an author pours herself out on the page, so too an actor brings something of herself to each role she plays. Apparently she does so even when she has no idea she’s been cast in a role in my story! For Clare Inglesby I chose Katheryn Winnick. In the roles I’ve seen her play, Katheryn embodies Clare’s strong-willed toughness, as well as the vulnerability that toughness hides. For Jeremiah Ring I’d cast Noah Wylie, as he looked in the series Falling Skies. Bearded! It wasn’t until I mentally cast him in the role that I nailed down my best description of him, given to the reader by Clare as they sit by a trail-side fire, early in their acquaintance. That is fascinating! I loved checking out your Pinterest board for the novel. The visuals are wonderful! I remember when you were in the writing process of Many Sparrows, you called this book your problem child. Can you explain why that was, and how you disciplined this problem child manuscript into shape? LORI: Oh boy, this book was so much harder to write than I expected it would be. For the longest time I simply couldn’t connect to my main character, Clare. I couldn’t get to the heart of what made her tick. I kept halting the writing process to mull her over, brainstorm ideas, trying anything I could to figure her out. Two things helped. As I mentioned above, she’s the characters I “recast” midway through the writing process. When I did, I began to get a better sense of why she was struggling so in her issues of trust and surrender. The second thing that helped me understand Clare was giving her nemesis, Rain Crow, more attention. When I stopped the writing process to really delve into this Shawnee woman’s back story, and figure out what her motivations and needs were, certain aspects of Clare’s deepest longings came into sharper focus. Writing is a mysterious process and no two books have come together for me in exactly the same way. Sometimes you have to keep trying this and that until you find what works. In that way they are like children! Other than that, this book got written on the wings of many prayers, my own and others. I know the Lord stepped in and helped, as He always does. I couldn’t write a novel without Him. My inadequacies are a bottomless well. But so is His grace, mercy, and help in time of need. I think most of us authors feel exactly the same way, that we are inadequate, but God is faithful to pour into our lack. What are you reading right now? LORI: Finding time to read anything not work related is a challenge, but I usually have a book or two going. More if I can find them on audio. Right now I’m reading the latest installment of the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith. I recently read The Maggie Bright, a novel of Dunkirk by Tracy Groot (loved it, then went and saw the movie, Dunkirk and knew what was going on). Tracy Groot is one of my favorite authors. I'm a big fan of Tracy Groot, too! Thank you so much for being here, Lori! Many Sparrows is available now at your local bookstore, ChristianBook, Baker Book House, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Visit Lori Benton at her Web site here. The Give-Away *UPDATE: The give-away is now closed. Congratulations to Diane Bell for winning, and thank you to all who entered! Lori is generously offering to one lucky commenter (U.S. only), a signed copy of Many Sparrows and the special gift she created to go with this book, a companion photo book with quotes. It’s a hardback book she created with landscape photos interspersed with quotes from Many Sparrows. To enter, please leave a comment for Lori below, telling her one thing you enjoyed learning from this interview. I'll choose a winner at random on September 20, and notify the winner via email. The winner has three days to respond before I select a different winner.
I have to ask. For those of you who have read both The Mark of the King and Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life--did you catch that I used the lesson the character Marc-Paul learned in the novel in the last chapter of Free to Lean? "Everything begins and ends with grace." Without taking the time to unpack that statement right here, I'll just say that this concept of grace is the perfect fit in both my novel and in my nonfiction book. Grace is always our perfect fit. It's always in season. And there is never a time when I don't need it. If you're not familiar with Free to Lean, it's my book for women that basically says it's OK to not do it all. Our goal should not be balance, but to lean into the priorities God has given us for our particular season of life. (Read more about the book here.) The entire last chapter of Free to Lean is devoted to exploring grace, along with some myths that keep us from embracing it. I do hope you have a chance to read it yourself, but let me just share a snippet with you today, from Chapter Ten: Grace means it's not about what we can do, but what Christ has already done for us. Grace means we don't have to earn His love, strength, or power. he has already declared us worthy of these gifts--and it has nothing to do with our striving. Grace means that when we fall short, all is not lost--because Jesus covers the distance between where we are and where we will someday be. I have motivational mugs and T-shirts that tell me to "Keep Calm and Write On," but my favorite one is the one pictured above. Because lots of days, I don't need a pep talk that tells me to be productive. I need grace. We all do. Below, I'd love for you to hear from my friend Susie Finkbeiner on this. I love that so much. Whatever we do, it's not by our power, but God's. There is such freedom in that truth! (You can view more videos on my Free to Lean YouTube playlist here. More videos will be added to it as Discovery House finishes editing them.) I want to leave you with a song by Sara Groves which I listened to over and over while I wrote Free to Lean. It relates so well, in fact, that I wanted to quote from the lyrics in the book. But alas, we were only granted permission for three years' time due to music copyright issues, so I'm just going to share it with you this way instead. (The video below is just audio, there's no real video component to it.) The song is called "I've Been Here Before," and it's from her Floodplain album. Listen closely to the chorus, and be encouraged.
Decades before Marie Antoinette entered the scene, France was already in a desperate position. In 1714, the nation lost a thirteen-year war which had drained the royal coffers and disillusioned most of its military. Soldiers returning home had a hard time finding work. The weather hadn’t been cooperating with the farmers, driving rural people in to the cities to find other ways of earning a living. The streets of Paris teemed with poor. The monarchy didn’t like it. Vagabonds and the unemployed were arrested and thrown into prisons to keep them off the street. Prostitutes, too, cycled in and out of jail, and back in, and back out again. The capital city was rife was poverty, crime, and vice. Meanwhile, the French colony of Louisiana was practically dormant. After being claimed for France in 1699, the War of Spanish Succession soon tied up all of France’s resources, leaving the military outposts in Louisiana so bereft they would have starved to death had friendly native Americans not fed them and allowed them to winter in their villages. Now, the French king decided it was time for Louisiana to refill the French treasury, the way Mexico’s riches were making Spain wealthy. At the time, the territory of Louisiana stretched from Rockies to the Appalachians, from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. Populating it proved to be a monumental task they never really mastered. When not enough French volunteered to settle the land—despite promises of gold, silver, fertile land and abundant game—France forced immigration. “We believe that We can do nothing better for the good of our State than to condemn [convicts] to the punishment of being transported to our colonies . . . to serve as laborers.” ~Royal Policy of France, January 8, 17191 Prisoners sentenced to the galleys were commuted to Louisiana instead. To relieve overcrowded prisons, they also sent military deserters, prostitutes, vagabonds who had been plucked from the streets after curfew. Because the men needed women to reproduce new settlers, shiploads of orphans and female convicts were sent over. In September of 1719, 184 female convicts were told to choose grooms from the same number of male convicts. They were forced to marry in a mass wedding ceremony, shackled two-by-two, and put onto the ship that would take them to Louisiana. The forced colonization scheme grew so out-of-hand that Mississippi bandoliers even began pulling people from the streets if they could not prove their employment. Riots broke out between the people and those charged with arresting them, resulting in injury and loss of life. After three years of the forced immigration (1719-1722), the crown finally decreed it unlawful. By then, however, Jean-Baptiste Bienville, governor of Louisiana, had his hands full managing the settlers France had sent. “It is most disagreeable for an officer in charge of a colony to have nothing more for its defense than a bunch of deserters, contraband salt dealers, and rogues who are always ready not only to desert you but also to turn against you.” ~Sieur Jean-Baptist Le Moyne de Bienville, 17192 It was under these conditions and with these challenges that Bienville founded New Orleans. With such a fascinating historical backdrop, I could not resist telling the tale of the people who struggled to survive and settle this town. The Mark of the King will bring you right into the middle of it all. Enjoy! Psst! For a free excerpt, video pronuncation guide and give-away (open til Feb. 16, 2017), hop over to my previous blog post here! For further reading: To learn more about this colorful chapter in American (and French) history, I’ll direct you to the two books which proved so helpful to me in my own research: Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans by Shannon Lee Dawdy, and Indians, Settlers & Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy by Daniel H. Usner. Sources: 1. The Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Series in Louisiana History, Volume 1: The French Experience in Louisiana, edited by Glenn R. Conrad. (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana), 115. 2. Ibid., 132.
In one month plus one day, The Mark of the King officially releases! Can you tell I'm just a little excited about this? :) Some people have already been reading the book through NetGalley, and it's so fun to see their reviews start popping up on Goodreads. (See what they thought of the book here!) Today I'm delighted to share with you a six-minute video I hope will be come in handy when it's your turn to read the book! Because almost all my characters are French settlers in Louisiana, they naturally have French names. I tried to choose names that we English-speakers wouldn't stumble over when reading, but as you can see from this video, I had the wrong idea of how to say several of them, myself. Join me in this tutorial as my French sister-in-law Audrey sets me straight. Click below to begin watching. Did any of these pronunciations surprise you?
I'm so pleased to have author Laurie Alice Eakes on the blog today! The first book I read of hers was Lady in the Mist, and I absolutely adored it. So much so, in fact, that after hearing that Laurie Alice offered book coaching services, I hired her to coach me through writing my first novel, Wedded to War! She is a very talented storyteller, and I can't wait to dive in to her new book, My Enemy, My Heart. Laurie Alice has written a behind-the-scenes guest post for us today, but first, I want to share with you more about her new book. Here's the blurb: The sea has always been Deirdre MacKenzie’s home, and the crew of her father’s Baltimore clipper is the only family she loves. She’s happier wearing breeches and climbing the rigging of the Maid of Alexandria than donning a dress and learning to curtsey. But, when the War of 1812 erupts, the ship is captured by a British privateer . With her father, the captain, dead, Deirdre sees her crew herded into the hold as prisoners-of-war. Their fate is the notorious Dartmoor prison in England. Her fate as a noncombatant prisoner is uncertain, but the one thing she knows—she must find a way to free her crew. Kieran Ashford has caused his family one too many scandals. On his way to exile in America, he is waylaid by the declaration of war and a chance to turn privateer and make his own fortune. But he regrets his actions as soon as the rich prize is secured. Kieran figures his best chance at redeeming himself in the eyes of his family is to offer Deidre the protection of his name in marriage. He has no idea that secrets from his parents’ past and Deirdre’s determination to free her crew are on a disastrous collision course. Love and loyalty clash, as Kieran begins to win Deirdre’s heart despite her plot to betray him and his family. While Kieran works to mend the relationship with his family, he begins to love his bride in spite of what lies between them. Sounds fantastic. You all know I'm drawn to war stories anyway! And now without further ado, I'm handing the post off to Laurie Alice Eakes. She writes: The play “The Mouse that Roared” could have been written about the United States going up against Great Britain for what has become known as The War of 1812 in the United States and not even talked about in Great Britain, except by military historians. We had 18 ships in our Navy, most of which weren’t even seaworthy, and the British had 506 or so, all commissioned. Half of our country was against the war, and the Army was a joke. Yet in June, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. We lost nearly every land battle, had our capital burned, and our First lady and president sent fleeing for their lives. Yet we signed a treaty giving us everything we wanted. No one should have been surprised by this turn of events. For over half a decade, we had been building up to such a momentous and drastic decision to go to war. The British thought they owned the seas. They impressed our sailors, declaring they were British citizens, not American. They told us where and with whom we could trade our raw and finished materials. They were just generally arrogant about what was their empire—the entire world, if they had their way. We were just trying to survive as a nation. We had tried peaceful means of resolving these issues, from an embargo against British goods, which went over like a crowd volunteering for the flu—that is to say, it didn’t make Mr. Jefferson popular. Diplomatic means failed. That left war. Against this background, I have, for many years, wanted to set a book. The idea has lived in my brain and partially on my computer for well over ten years. What if an American lady ends up stranded in Great Britain during the war. But no, I had to make it worse. She had to be in Great Britain against her will. Into the research tomes I delved. Out of them I picked up bits and pieces of information about British privateers, noncombatant prisoners of war, and, most of all, Dartmoor Prison. Dartmoor was built in 1809 for French prisoners. When America declared war on Great Britain, the English began to cram Americans into this stone fortress built on the bleak and inclement wasteland of Dartmoor in Devonshire. That is near Plymouth in the West Country, maybe 40 miles east of Poldark country, for those who follow that series. It is still a prison today, and I could write more just about Dartmoor and the St. Bartholomew Day massacre. Another time, should Jocelyn invite me back to talk about prisoners of war. For My Enemy, My Heart, I don’t talk much about the battles or loss of ships and money; I focus on the human toll of the war. Deirdre loses her father, her crew, and the merchantman on which she has lived for most of her life. Losing her freedom and having to act like a proper lady is possibly the hardest thing she has ever done. Falling in love with an Englishman is worse, for Deirdre plans to free her crew from prison, but to do so, makes her a traitor to the family who have shown her nothing but love and kindness. The enemy is good. Her crew have always been her family. Deirdre is loyal to both. She must betray one or the other. I can’t tell you how My Enemy, My Heart ends, and I can tell you how the war ended. On Christmas Eve, 1814, we signed the Treaty of Ghent. The British stopped impressing our men. They stopped telling us where and with whom we could trade. And we stopped scarfing up their merchantmen like children at a Halloween candy bag. Yes, our Navy, though vastly improved by the war experience, didn’t win the war; our privateers did. We built fantastic and fast merchant ships we turned into fighting vessels and sailed off to scoop up rich, British prizes. Our vessels were so fast we could cut out those sluggish British merchantmen and sail them off as prizes. We took so many, the merchants of Great Britain hollered ‘uncle’ and demanded an end to the war. Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Laurie Alice! I'm beyond intruiged. Happy reading, everyone! You can find My Enemy, My Heart at Amazon, Goodreads, ChristianBook, BarnesandNoble, and more. About Laurie Alice Eakes: “Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic Times of bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author, with more than two dozen books in print. She has recently relocated to a cold climate because she is weird enough to like snow and icy lake water. When she isn’t basking in the glory of being cold, she likes to read, visit museums, and take long walks, preferably with her husband, though the cats make her feel guilty every time she leaves the house.
Friends, I am so excited for two reasons. First, I turned in the manuscript for Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life last night! Woohoo! (It releases from Discovery House in August 2017.) Second: today is RELEASE DAY for Heather Day Gilbert's amazing Viking tale, Forest Child! Find it on Amazon, BarnesandNoble, iBooks, Kobo, and Goodreads. I had the privilege of reading this early and endorsing it. Here's what I had to say: Forest Child is one of the bravest works of fiction I’ve ever read. Brimming with tension, yet laced with tenderness, this powerful saga is sure to keep you turning the pages far into the night. An ingenious blend of Viking history and timeless issues of the heart still relevant today. Heather graciously answered a few burning questions I had after reading Forest Child: Heather Day Gilbert 1) What first inspired you to write inspirational Viking stories? I was interested in my Viking heritage (I'm allegedly related to Eirik the Red/Leif Eiriksson via my Norwegian blood), so I bought a copy of The Sagas of Icelanders. I read up on them and found stories of Viking women who did heroic things—one was a Christian named Gudrid, and one was a warrior named Freydis. 2) Well that is the coolest thing, being allegedly related to Eirik and Leif! I love both God's Daughter and Forest Child so much, but I think Forest Child is my favorite. Do you have a favorite character that you've written? If so, which one and why? That is always such a tough question. I'm a little bit in love with each of my leading men (and some of the side men, like Leif Eiriksson and Snorri Thorbrandsson!). I think it's because I'm in my main characters' heads, so I'm writing men I know fit with that character—but the men, as you know, are far from perfect! I would say I love Thorfinn Karlsefni for a fave male character and probably Freydis for female in my Viking series, but don't tell Gudrid I said that! She would probably stew over that slight for weeks. Gudrid tends to ruminate on things, whereas Freydis just rushes right into situations. Let's just say I relate to Freydis a bit more. ;) 3) I had a hard enough time doing research on eighteenth-century France for my upcoming novel. How on earth did you research for these books? It is tough, because there are limited written records of the Viking era. I based both novels so closely on The Saga of Greenlanders and Eirik the Red's Saga that the plotlines stemmed from there. One fantastic resource I discovered while writing Forest Child is the Hurstwic.com site. They study/replicate Viking weapons and warfare, but have also compiled some helpful articles on things like Viking farm life and the Althing council meetings. Vikinganswerlady.com is another helpful online resource. And of course I've accumulated a lot of books on the period! As you know, when you write book 2 in a series set in a particular time period, you have a better grasp of the foods they ate then, materials used for clothing, houses, etc., so that makes those details easier to integrate the second go-round. 4) Freydis, daughter of Eirik the Red, was quite a strong, brave character! In telling her story, were you tempted to gloss over some aspects if her life or character? How did you handle that? Oh, yes. Yes indeed. I would have loved to leave out one of the most defining moments of her warrior "career", but I knew that was impossible. Every Norse historian knows exactly the event I'm referring to—it was that famous. So I knew there would be no glossing over it! But because I have a strong Christian reader base, I knew I had to make sure the violence wasn't over-the-top and graphic. It was a real tightrope of balancing her real-life actions with a story that wouldn't make you hate her. It took years of pondering and a heavy blanket of prayers to finally break through and discover a reason I thought could explain why a woman would have taken the action she did. After I wrote that pivotal scene, I felt such a sense of relief. It still seemed a bit edgy compared to most Christian fiction, but I felt God helped me handle it in a way that (hopefully!) wouldn't alienate any of my loyal readers. And as it turns out, many of my readers are saying they love this book more than God's Daughter, so that is just evidence that God did this thing, not me! 5) I thought you handled that scene amazingly well. I'm so thrilled that you have another Viking tale coming out in March in the Message in a Bottle Romance Collection! Can you tell us just a little about what we can look forward to in that story? I'm so excited about this collection, because you know I'm dying to read YOUR novella that's in it! My novella shares the tale of a Viking, Ari, who sails to Ireland to take vengeance for his brother's death, but through a series of God-directed events, he winds up getting to know a rather solitary and bookish Irish princess named Britta. Will they learn to overcome their cultural differences and trust each other? I'd probably better stop right there, because I have a tendency to be a walking "spoiler alert"! Thank you so much, Heather! It's going to be a fantastic collection, I can't wait for it to release in March! Thanks so much for letting me visit, Jocelyn! And right now, I have four softcover book bundle giveaways going on to celebrate the release of Forest Child. Here's the link for your readers to check those out: http://bit.ly/2e0eHCi ! Enter before November 13 for a chance to win! Yes, these are amazing book bundle packages! See the photo collage below and then jump to the link Heather provided to enter the drawings! Congrats, Heather, on your truly wonderful new book.
I spent last Friday at Bethany House Publishers' offices in Minneapolis, and I'm getting so excited to see what they come up with for The Mark of the King's book cover! I will likely do the cover reveal through my newsletter (see sign up in the footer of this page) two weeks before it appears on all the retail sites. The book releases in January, but the cover will be finalized this summer. Yippee! Now, since I don't have the cover quite yet, I thought I would at least show you some images that I've been using as inspiration for some of my main characters. Julianne is our intrepid midwife sent from Paris to New Orleans in a colonizing scheme. The three other men pictured all play really, really important roles in her life. I don't want to say what yet, because I fear I may spoil the story for you. Two of these character images in the collage above come from the same movie. Do you know what it is? :) One of my favorites. Now that I have you, allow me to settle a little housekeeping issue. I feel I owe you an explanation for my hiatus on the blog during the last several months. I have two good reasons for being quiet. First, I was writing a novel: The Mark of the King. It's turned in now, so I have some time to breathe, and blog. Second, for months, I've been dealing with hackers on my Web site. They infected my site in such a way that visitors may also get infected by dropping by my Web site. So I certainly didn't want to invite you over until that was taken care of. Randomly, after one malicious hacker was taken out of the picture, the next issue was that all links on my site would redirect you to a British asparagus farm. I kid you not. So, again, not exactly motivation to blog. Thankfully, my husband is a Web developer, so he re-created my Web site from scratch. There are some new things we added since the whole Virus-Asparagus Fiasco. Now on the "Books" page, there is a scrolling shelf of my book covers, and you can click on any one of them to get to that book's page. (The dropdown menus are still there, too.) In the "On Writing" page, instead of just recommending my favorite books for writers, I now have a little Amazon shop with my top picks so you can shop right from there if you are feeling anxious to get those books. On the "Free Stuff" page I added a collage of reader pictures! Send me your picture with one of my books and I'll add you to the rotation! We also added "Add to Goodreads" buttons in addition to the buy links on every fiction and nonfiction book page which I hope you will feel free to use. :) Last, we added another book that is now available for pre-order: Refresh: Spiritual Nourishment for Parents of Children with Special Needs. One more thing. For those of you who subscribe to the blog, I noticed it sent you a digest of the last ten blog posts last time. I apologize. I don't know why that happened--maybe feedburner thought they must have missed something because of my extended absence. Hopefully that won't happen again. OK, I feel much better having gotten that off my chest. Onward!