"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Monday, November 28, 2011

Creative Seasons

This past weekend, I was organizing some of my writing projects, including the four novels that I have written. I was stunned when I discovered that each of the four novels was started in the month of December.

I was organizing because for the past two months, I have had strong inspiration for a new novel flowing within me.

I found it extremely interesting that I have always starting writing my novels in December. Why?—well my conclusion is—because it's my writing season.

This time, I paid close attention to those moments of true inspiration and my habits. The creative inspiration surfaced in late September with the first burst of real cool weather…you know, that kind of day where you feel that fall is just around the corner. Up here in Northern Indiana, it’s when the first strong cold front comes through. The front pulls the crisp, Canadian air down Lake Michigan on a strong, chilly, north wind. The inspiration for the plot flowed through October, which is also my birth month. Hmmm? I began to take many notes as the plot unraveled into November. I thought about it at work, driving, in the shower, and in that place between sleep and dreams. I was revising at the time, but that didn’t stop or interfere with the plotting.
When I think back, the other books were born the same way…in the same fall-to-winter seasons. I realized that I’m a winter writer. I give birth to a plot in the late summer to early fall, and start writing just after Thanksgiving, all the way to May. Now having said this, I can revise all year long or write history articles any time…but as a novelist, there is a creative writing season for me.

I’m starting my new project next week. I can’t wait!

What about you? Do you have a writing or creative season? Or do you write in every season? What is your favorite time of the year to write, or to be creative with your God-given talents?

Between you, me and the gatepost,

Monday, November 21, 2011


Hardtack, salt pork, and boiled beans - a Civil War soldier's Thanksgiving in the field.
Remember to give thanks for our American soldiers (and our allies) in service this Thanksgiving.
It's never easy to be away from home for these brave men and women, especially during the holidays.
Photo by Loree Huebner

Yesterday, Eric and I did a living history with one of our Civil War re-enacting groups.

A living history is an event designed to show how people lived during a certain time period. It can also be thought of as an open air museum with live exhibits and activities.

We dressed up in our Civil War gear and became part of an early American timeline. Native Americans mingled with early explorers, Frenchmen of the LaSalle expedition, and pioneers. The Revolutionary War soldiers were all present – Colonials, British, and French. There were also soldiers from the War of 1812, and the Civil War. These were all groups that figured prominently in the history of the Great Lakes region.

Living History’s are a great way to teach and show life back in the day. If you ever get a chance to go to one of these “Settler Days” - I highly recommend. As a history buff, I love chatting with the people who re-enact from all different eras, as well as the spectators who come to learn. It was a good time. There's nothing like sitting around a roaring campfire while you talk a little history.

I’ve been on a winning streak the last month.

Last week, I had won Erica Vetsch’s book, A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas, from a give away on Sarah Forgrave’s blog. This week I won a vintage apron from another giveaway on Sarah Sundin’s blog. Her book, Blue Skies Tomorrow, is on my TBR list - after I finish reading, Deep Cover, by Sandra Orchard, and Lynda Schab’s, Mind Over Madi.

So much to read. So much to write. So little time.

I’ve also added two more blog awards to my collection. I want to personally thank two, lovely and talented writers, Brandi Boddie, and Stacy Henrie, for these awards. Please take the links and check out their blogs. These wonderful women always have something good going on.

I’m looking forward to the holiday.

I have been truly blessed with a wonderful family, good friends, a loving hubby, and awesome kids. I’m looking forward to spending the long weekend with them.

I want to end this post by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. As I go into my ninth month of blogging, I give thanks for all of you who I have connected with through blogging, tweeting, or face book. As I slowly build my own platform, I am so thankful that you are a part of it, whether you just read a post, leave a comment, or mention me in a tweet. You’re all awesome! Happy Thanksgiving!

What plans do you have for Thanksgiving? Are you cooking? What's your favorite part of the meal?

Between you, me and the gatepost,


Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Mentors

General Warren - Little Round Top - Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Loree Huebner

Wikipedia defines the modern use of mentor as - a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person.”
Over the course of my life, I’ve had many mentors to help me along or keep me on the straight paths, heading in the right direction for the things that were important to me – school, work, marriage, raising kids, growing in my faith, exercise, Civil War re-enacting, computers, networking, and writing. I remember each mentor fondly, keeping the warmth of their inspiration and encouragement in my heart forever.
Now, if we really think back to all of our mentors—excluding the ones from our families—just a few really stick out. They are those strong forces that made a real difference in our life. You know the ones—those who were there during a life-changing-turning-the-corner moment—the people who are beyond the normal family realm, who helped us out along the way on our life journey.
For me, it’s a teacher, a preacher, and a writer.
Some mentors stay close in our lives, and some mentors come into our lives for only a season.
Just recently, Eric and I were saddened to hear of the loss of such a mentor. A few weeks back, Paul C. Cooksey, passed away at his home in Gettysburg. He was 73. Paul was a Licensed Battlefield Guide in Gettysburg for over 25 years. He loved telling the story of the Battle of Gettysburg. He was also a writer, and a Civil War re-enactor. Paul had many history articles published, and wrote for Gettysburg Magazine.
Eric and I met Paul online about 10 years ago, playing Civil War Trivia. We met in person a short time after that.
He became a friend who mentored us in our writing of non-fiction history articles. He took the time and talked at great lengths with us about writing history, particularly on one cold November night, over Chinese food and some refreshments at his home in Gettysburg. Without going into the depths of the conversation, that night Paul inspired us to step beyond our comfort zone. That inspiration also spilled over in to our historical fiction writing. That night would change us forever. This year, Eric and I finally had our first (Civil War) history article published.
Over the years we kept in touch and saw Paul on occasion when we would visit Gettysburg. Every so often, he would send over a newly written article for us to look over and comment on. The past few years our correspondences became sparse—you know, work, busy lives...etc. And I know he had a few health issues that he was dealing with.
One main point he left us with was, “Historical fiction or non-fiction...do your own research—walk the grounds where the events took place, check sources, and then check their sources.”
He was there for a season, and I will never forget him.
Have you had a mentor who influenced your writing, or just you personally? Is your mentor still around, or were they only there for a certain season? Are you a mentor? 
I would love to hear from you.
Between you, me and the gatepost,

This week I received 2 more blog awards—one from the lovely, Brandi Boddie, and the other from the beautiful, Stacy Henrie. I'll share more about the awards on next week’s post. Until then, head on over and check out what these awesome lady writers have got going on at their blogs this week.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Romance and War – Yesterday’s Tomorrow Blog Tour—and the History Corner

Loree on Little Round Top - Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Eric Huebner

Veteran’s Day is this Friday—11/11/11.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, I wanted to talk about romance and war.
Many of you know that I write historical fiction and historical romance that takes place during war time. I love writing about the Civil War era the most.
There’s something about living life with war as a backdrop that stirs my soul. I can’t explain it…so I write it.  
I am one who always looks for God’s blessings in the midst of crisis or disaster, and for this reason I adore wartime romance, especially the wars of our country’s past. I’m particularly drawn to the eras that spiral around the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. I believe that a person’s faith, hope, and especially love, is surly tested to the limits during the trying times of any war. This remains the same today as it did yesterday. Words and images of family love and intimate devotion during wartime hold the most precious place in the soldier’s heart, and in the hearts of those left behind. It sees them through—it is his strength…it is her glory—all the makings of a good story.
I collect war-time love letters. The correspondence between loved ones separated by war is some of the most emotional, poignant, and loving writing that I have ever read.
I would like to share a famous one with you…it was written by Sullivan Ballou, and is affectionately known as Dear Sarah. The letter was composed one week before Sullivan fought and was mortally wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. The man was a politician, a lawyer, and a major in the United States Army. He died July 28th 1861, just 14 days after he wrote the letter.

His precious letter was never mailed. It was found in his belongings after he died, and was delivered to his widow. They say that the original letter is gone, but there are several versions in existence that are close to the actual letter that he wrote to his wife, Sarah. You may have heard this letter read before. It was featured in the Ken Burn’s series—The Civil War. I think you will find it a very moving piece. He writes as if he knew that he would not survive the impending battle. The paragraph that I’ve highlighted in blue gets me with a shiver and a tear every time I read it.
July the 14th, 1861
Washington D.C.
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

This week I am also honored to be a part of Catherine West’s Blog Tour for her book, Yesterday’s Tomorrow. Her novel was released earlier this year.
I read her book last April and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a story that takes place during the Vietam war.

Yesterday's Tomorrow

"She's after the story that might get her the Pulitzer. He's determined to keep his secrets to himself. Vietnam, 1967. Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something. Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they're forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts." 

I loved Kristin. You could feel everything that she carried on her shoulders. Luke was the same way. Two different people...very much alike. I could sense the chemistry between them from the start. Romance, action, and war…Catherine West captured it all.

You can find out more about Catherine West, or her book, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, at her website : http://www.catherinejwest.com
or head on over and visit her blog : http://www.catherinewestblog.blogspot.com/
She’s got some great posts lined up for this week in honor of Veteran’s Day.

Between you, me and the gatepost,


And now:
THE HISTORY CORNER with Eric Huebner
150 years ago—on November 6, 1861, some 3,100 men embarked on 6 transports from Cairo, Illinois escorted by the Gunboats USS Lexington and USS Tyler. The movement was a diversion that resulted in the indecisive November 7 battle at Belmont, Missouri. The Federal forces occupied the Rebel camps for a while, but they were driven off after the arrival of Confederate reinforcements. Casualties were fairly even and this affair would be little noted except for the fact that it was the first battle commanded by then Brigadier General Ulysses S Grant. At Belmont, Grant gained experience and employed river transport tactics that would be highly successful in the later captures of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.
More important was the November 7, 1861 capture of Port Royal Sound between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Flag Officer Dupont brought the South Atlantic Squadron to attack Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard. The fleet of 77 vessels was the largest naval force yet assembled by the United States. By keeping the ships constantly in motion, Dupont was able to offset the problems of fighting Forts with wooden ships. With the capture, the Navy acquired an important base for use in the Blockade of Southern ports.
November 11 is Veterans Day, also known as Armistice Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice ending World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. As we honor our veterans, it is easier to appreciate the service of more recent veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Vietnam. We know and see these veterans every day. Older fellows who fought in World War II and Korea are still around, though in ever diminishing numbers. I even had the privilege to know a few veterans of World War I - their stories of Mustard Gas attacks were very disturbing to me as a boy. There are excellent film documentaries available, providing powerful visual images of all the more recent conflicts.
The Civil War is more remote. As photography was in its infancy, there are grainy photographs from that era, strangely bearded men posed stiffly for posterity. We must rely on paintings, like the tremendous Gettysburg Cyclorama, or our imagination to create mental images. There are, however, interesting films showing Civil War Veterans at the 50th and 75th Anniversary Reunions of Gettysburg in 1913 and 1938. The men look similar to our grandfathers that fought in World War II. They are ordinary men who answered the call—fighting at the Railroad Cut, Barlow’s Knoll, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Cemetery Hill, Culp’s Hill, and Pickett’s Charge.
Freedom isn't free. We must be prepared to jealously protect the freedoms for which our Veterans fought, due process of law, our civil rights, our right to vote, our right to assemble, freedom of speech, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and so on. These apply whether we are from the right wing and protesting excessive taxation or left wingers protesting the increasing concentration of wealth and power by the top 1 per cent. The old saying remains true - "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
With one foot in the past,

Words by H.S. Washburn Music by George F. Root (1820-1895)
We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him
While we breathe our ev'ning prayer.
When one year ago we gathered, joy was in his mild blue eye.
Now the golden cord is severed, and our hopes in ruin lie.
We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him
While we breathe our ev'ning prayer.
At our fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell
At remembrance of the story
How our noble Willie fell.
How he strove to bear the banner
Thro' the thickest of the fight
And uphold our country's honor
In the strength of manhood's might.
True, they tell us wreaths of glory
Evermore will deck his brow,
But this soothes the anguish only,
Sweeping o'er our heartstrings now.
Sleep today, O early fallen,
In thy green and narrow bed.
Dirges from the pine and cypress
Mingle with the tears we shed.