Sunday, November 23, 2008

The History of Thanksgiving in America

The earliest attested Thanksgiving Day on American soil actually took place at what is now St. Augustine, Florida, on September 8, 1565. Most Americans, however, consider our first Thanksgiving to be the three-day celebration at Plymouth Plantation after the colonists’ first harvest in the fall of 1621, in which native peoples from the area joined. The first Thanksgiving observance recorded in this country took place on June 29, 1671, at Charlestown, Massachusetts, by proclamation of the town’s governing council.

During the 1700s, it was common practice for individual colonies to observe days of Thanksgiving at different times during the year. Two hundred years ago a day for thanksgiving would be set aside as a time for prayer and fasting, not for indulging in an abundance of food and drink, as is our custom today. Each of the states periodically designated a Thanksgiving Day in honor of the adoption of a state constitution, an exceptionally bountiful harvest, or a military victory—such as that celebrated on December 18, 1777, in gratitude for the surrender of British General Burgoyne to American forces at Saratoga, when, according to the Continental Congress:

“. . . at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express their grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please God through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole.” (Quoted in World magazine [November 15-22, 2008, p. 9])

On October 3, 1789, George Washington designated the first official national Thanksgiving Day during his first year as President. The decree set aside Thursday, November 26, as “a Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer.” The text of the decree appears below.

In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states followed suit by celebrating a Thanksgiving Day. Finally, on October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the observance of the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving. The text appears below. Since then every president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, usually designating the fourth Thursday of each November as the holiday.

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November in order to boost the economy by extending the Christmas shopping season. After a storm of protest, he changed the holiday again in 1941 to the fourth Thursday in November, where it remains today.

First National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

General Thanksgiving
By the PRESIDENT of the United States of America

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;—for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;—and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;—to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington

Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789

Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Source: Thanksgiving (United States), Wikipedia

(Cross posted on Lamp of History)

Friday, November 14, 2008

One Slight Change

Ooops. Here’s the final final version of both the front and the full cover. LOL!

In conferring with Marisa, who is designing the interior for Wind of the Spirit, I was persuaded that the treatment on the title wasn’t going to print well. She felt the fine details would likely bleed together with the background. And I’d also been thinking that it wasn’t going to show up well at a distance, like on a book table or bookshelf.

We decided to go with a simpler title treatment to head off issues, and this is what Dineen ended up with. It does retain some subtleties, which I like. And the sun symbol in the “of” is repeated in the interior on the chapter opening pages and in the running heads of the chapters set among the Shawnee, which is totally cool. So I’m pretty happy with the new version.

Now … no more changes, I swear!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Finishing Up Production

We have the final full cover for Wind of the Spirit! Isn’t it pretty? This book is going to look as good on the back as it does on the front. LOL! Dineen did a smash-up job, and needless to say, I’m completely delighted with the result. And now I’m hoping I’ll be able to release the first 2 in revised editions before too much longer—with new covers consistent with this one, of course. That will be a huge improvement.

More excitement—Jim Brown, my illustrator, finished the 2 maps that will be included in the book. As you can see, we have one showing the Battle of Brooklyn and another of the city of New York in 1776. On the latter I had him include Montcoeur, the home Elizabeth and Tess are leasing along the bank of the Hudson, which allows Pete and Elizabeth to leave the city unnoticed for their clandestine activities. What do you think?

I’ve been deep in the throes of production this week. I received the edited copy and spent several days entering the corrections into the master file. Thankfully there was nothing major, which is especially reassuring, considering that my editor friend is as anal as I am. She did a careful copyedit, questioned a few details, and made several good saves, for which I am eternally grateful. I soooo believe in having your work professionally edited, even if you’re an editor yourself. There’s always stuff you’re going to miss. So whew! I feel much better!

The manuscript is almost complete now. I created all the frontmatter pages—the endorsements, title and half title pages, imprimatur, previous books page, and pages to insert the maps. I also decided to add a page with brief summaries of Daughter of Liberty and Native Son to help bring readers who haven’t read the first 2 up to speed before they dive into the current action. Although I included enough backstory in the first few chapters to allow WOTS to stand alone, I thought this might help even more.

I still need to write the discussion guide and the acknowledgments. I can flow those into the Quark file after I get it, however, so I’m putting that off for now because I NEED to copyedit my next project for Sheaf House. So the Word file has gone to Marisa Jackson, who will design the interior and create the Quark file.

Earlier in the week, it occurred to me—duh!—that I’ve been lurking on the 18th Century Woman and RevWarCostume e-loops for a couple of years, metaphorically rubbing elbows with all those reenactors, docents, and costume experts. Who would be more natural to read WOTS and let me know if there are any costuming or cultural details that are wrong? And who might also spread the word about the American Patriot Series to their compatriots if they like it?

So I e-mailed both loops, offering to send free copies of Daughter of Liberty and Native Son, along with the manuscript of WOTS to anyone who would be willing to read them and give me feedback. I’m up to 11 takers now, 2 of whom had already read DOL and NS and couldn’t wait to read WOTS! I’ve been busy sending out packages, and I’m really excited! At the very least I’ll get help to make this series as accurate as possible. At best, I just might get an endorsement or two out of the deal, along with recommendations to an audience I’m very eager to reach.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award!

This blog just received an I Love Your Blog Award from Rita Gerlach at Inspire! Thank you, Rita! The feeling is mutual.

The rules for this award are as follows:

1. Add the logo of the award to your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

I love Rita’s Inspire blog and also her Stepping Stones Magazine for Writers. Additional favorites of mine include, but are not limited to, the following. Those that weren’t already in my Favorite Blogs list have been added, and I’ll leave comments on their blogs asap. There are numerous others I could add, but I’d be spending all day at this . . . !

Peg Phifer’s Sips ’n’ Cups Café
Mirella Patzer’s Author Cookies
Jill Johnson’s Making Room for Mallory
Joy DeKok’s Rain Dance Blog

Thank you to each one for all the good reading you’re providing for us readers!

But enough joviality! LOL! Time to get back to business. In the next post, I’ll bring you all up to date on where we are in the production process for Wind of the Spirit as we head toward that March pub date.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Win a Free Autographed Copy of One Holy Night!

Be sure to visit Tracy Ruckman’s Pix ’n Pens blog next week, October 13-17. I’ll be judging her contest on holiday essays.

Enter an essay of up to 1,500 words with a Christmas theme, and you may win an autographed copy of One Holy Night! Go to the One Holy Night Blog to find out more about this inspiring story of God's grace for all seasons!

You can share your favorite holiday memory or offer a reflection on what Christmas means to you. Of course, your essay needs to revolve around the real meaning of the season—Jesus! I’ll read all the essays submitted and announce the winner Saturday the 18th. So get those entries ready!

Tracy is also signed up for the CFBA blog tour for OHN November 12-14, so we’d both love it if you’d swing by then too!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Taste of New Wine

Ever since finishing the bestselling novel The Shack the other day, I’ve been reflecting on the themes author William P. Young wove through this book. I read that Young isn’t a member of a church, and it occurred to me that more and more often I encounter believers who also have left the organized church. Young says that those who are wounded and damaged cannot find healing there. And in one way or another, all of us fall into that category.

I’ve been a long-time church attender, but in recent years I’ve come to believe that the traditional church—and by that I don’t mean the Body of Christ—is a spent husk. In the centuries since God founded it, the church has wandered far from God’s original purpose. It has added layer upon layer of administrative, organizational, and judicial encrustations, just like all the legalisms the Pharisees of Jesus’ day added to Moses’ Law.

That’s why The Shack, with its unconventional depiction of God and intense discussions of true spirituality, has reached so many people both inside and outside the church. This amazing novel holds more truth than the majority of sermons on a host of Sunday mornings. It offers new wine in fresh wineskins in the same way I’m trying to do through my stories, through One Holy Night, my American Patriot Series, and in my current work-in-progress, Northkill.

No—I’m not trying to do this. God is driving me to do it just as he’s driving increasing numbers of hungry believers away from what is essentially empty calories so they can feast on true food. That’s why my husband and I also find ourselves pretty much on the outside of the established church. Only authentic spirituality with its total openness to God’s presence results in spiritual power that changes people from the inside out. Only a deep, loving relationship with the Father enables us to love in the same way God does and through that love to bring real heart change to a lost and hurting world.

Organizations are not able to do this. Organizations are by their nature impersonal and inescapably defective because they’re a creation of defective, limited human beings. Organizations cannot reach to the level of the human soul. Only God truly knows each individual’s heart and thus is able to minister true healing. But this is exactly where we humans always go astray. We insist on trying to organize the work of the Holy Spirit of God! We’re deaf to Jesus’ exhortation that the Spirit is like the wind. It moves as God wills and no one can tell where it goes or where it comes from! You can as easily control the wind as you can the true Body of Christ. To attempt to force the Spirit into the channels we think it should follow robs the Church of God’s power and inevitably wreaks destruction by separating human beings from the true Source of all meaning.

Jesus also told us that those who worship the Father must do so in spirit and in truth. Spirit and truth are rarely found in the church today, at least here in the United States. What we find are a multitude of empty activities to keep us busy, along with entertainment to distract us from what’s missing—God’s Spirit and God’s power! Only a relationship with the Creator of the universe can make available to us true love and healing and eternity. Imagine having access to the power Elijah received in 1 Kings 19:8! He ate and drank of the spiritual food given him by the angel, and he ran in its strength for forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God. That same spiritual food is available to all those who serve God!

As I’m writing the stories—truly the vision—that God gives me, I feel that power, that anointing, that breath of the Holy Spirit blowing through me. I pray that these words will reach many readers and accomplish in their hearts and souls everything God wills. They are for his glory, not mine.

As my character Terry says in One Holy Night, “faith isn’t for the times when life is great and everything is going our way. It’s for the times when we’re up against the wall and there aren’t any answers, when it feels like God’s gone AWOL and is nowhere to be found—or at least he isn’t talking to us.”

Have you felt like that recently, my friend? If so, I wish for you that faith that will hold you through the worst life can throw at you and empower you to stand on unshaken rock. If you do not yet know God, or don’t know him in that fullness, I pray you will stop running from the Holy Spirit and allow him to gather you in his arms. Oh, come home to the wholeness and the blessed life God prepared you for from the very foundations of the earth! Drink deep of that Living Water and be healed!

Cross posted on the Northkill and One Holy Night blogs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wind of the Spirit Cover at Last!!!!

[Sound of horns blowing vigorously] TAH DAH!!!!!!

I have a new baby! The much-anticipated final version of the Wind of the Spirit cover arrived today!!! Can you tell I’m excited?! It’s a good thing there aren’t any limits on the number of exclamation points you can use in a document, because I’d be locking up the computer. LOL!

You’ve all seen the 2 photos we started out with. And I know several of you mentioned that you prefer covers without any figures on them. But . . . well, I had this vision.

I was not at all sure it was possible to do what I wanted to do. I certainly had no idea how to get it done. But just at that moment, the Lord led Dineen Miller to e-mail me. She asked if I needed another designer, and not knowing much about Dineen, I took a look at her Web site. I was impressed, to say the least. I needed an ad for Sheaf House, so I hired her to do it. And not only did she do a terrific job, but she mentioned she’d love to work on book covers. She hadn’t done any yet, but she was eager to give it a try.

Thinking about Dineen’s portfolio, I threw this project at her. I had 2 images of a stormy sky and some really crazy ideas. A whole long page of them. I was sure she was going to think I was out of my mind, say something polite, and tiptoe quietly out the back door. Instead, to my shock and delight, she responded that she was sure we could do this!

And she delivered. The process took a couple of twists and turns, but . . . take a look. A picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?

Needless to say, I’m thrilled! This image doesn’t show the spine, but it’s as cool as the front. Dineen won’t get to the back until after the conference, but it’ll be made up of the 2nd image nicely ghosted to allow the text to show well against it. Maybe a couple of other fancy things, who knows?

All I can say is, WOW!! From a design standpoint, this is one of the best covers I’ve ever seen! It ought to stand out on a book table or shelf in a bookstore, don’t you think?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Schedules and Changes

I apologize for going to long between posts! I’ve been deep into production on both Wind of the Spirit and our other spring release, My Son, John, by multi-published author Kathi Macias. And my good buddy Peg Phifer has been doing a top-down redesign of the Sheaf House Web site. Boy, does it look pretty now!

On top of all that, I’m trying to get ready for the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference, which takes place in Minneapolis September 18-21. The feature of the conference is a humongous book signing by 127 authors that will take place at the Mall of America in Bloomington on Saturday the 20th from 1 to 3 p.m. There will be lots of giveaways and a number of author panels. I’ll be signing copies of One Holy Night. So there’s lots to plan for.

Two friends and I, who don’t much like to fly, chose the route of adventure and are taking a road trip. Three ladies and all their baggage in a car on a two-day trip to a writers conference and back again just sounds like tooooo much fun! We’re leaving the 17th and planning to make it home the 22nd. If all goes well. And with 3 women driving cross-country in a car, you just never know . . .

With all that on the agenda, I’ve allowed my blogging to lag. To get everyone caught up I have an announcement. I hate to tell my loyal readers this because I know you’ve been looking forward to January when you can finally get your hands on Wind of the Spirit. But . . .

I’ve had to postpone the release until March 1.

I can hear your collective groans, and I apologize profusely! I feel terrible! And no, we’re not having any problems with production. Making the original date isn’t an issue—we’re well on the way to having this puppy ready—but my distributor thinks March is a much better release date, and pushing it back gives the sales reps more time to get it into bookstores. As a publisher I have to set aside my authorly eagerness to get my book out to the public at last and heed their wise counsel.

However, although Wind of the Spirit won’t officially release until March, I promise the books will be in the warehouse and ready to ship in February! Now, if we can just persuade the online sites to get it in stock and ship it early, we’ll be in fine shape. In the meantime, if you haven’t been on my Web site ( and read the excerpt posted there, hop on over and get a first look at what’s coming up!

Exciting news: I’ll have the final cover to share with you soon! The preliminary my designer, Dineen Miller, sent me is totally awesome! I’m more than thrilled with it. Everything I wanted in my wildest fantasy is there! Sometimes the stars align just right. Of course, we all know who rules those stars!

I have several more endorsementsI want to share, but first, here’s a review written by blogger Christina Gustafson’s 13-year-old daughter Katy after she read Daughter of Liberty and Native Son.

The American Patriot Series intrigued me from the very beginning. I’m a “picky reader” and usually have to give a book two to three chapters before “getting hooked”; however, I only had to read a paragraph and found myself wanting more. Elizabeth Howard’s parents are Tories through-and-through, but Elizabeth doesn’t quite agree with them. So, when Elizabeth meets British General Carleton, things become humorous and exciting. This all leads to a shocking and exciting ending.

Native Son is mainly about General Jonathan Carleton. Carleton is sent into Native American territory to make a peace treaty, while Elizabeth is to stay behind and continue her work [as a spy]. Once again, Mrs. Hochstetler leads us to a wonderfully surprising ending. The American Patriot Series is not only exciting and full of surprises, but it is also inspiring. J. M. Hochstetler writes in her book that no matter what crime we commit, no matter what we’ve done, God is there for us and He loves us unconditionally. He will always forgive us and help us start again.

I must admit I was quite disappointed when I reached the end of
Native Son. Not because of the ending, but because I’ll have to wait until 2009 to read the third book in this series. (Be sure to check out the American Patriot Series Blog for more information!) Thank you Mrs. Hochstetler for giving me two of the most enjoyable books that I have read. I will surely read this series again and again.

Not only am I very pleased with the review, but I’m quite impressed with this young woman’s writing ability. I’m always especially delighted to hear from students who have felt this crucial era in our history come to life for them in my books. That’s my goal, and it’s more than wonderful to get feedback that I’ve succeeded in showing students how thrilling, absorbing, and relevant to our lives history really is. You’ll find Christina’s blogs at Mustard Seeds and ...And Everything Else.

Here’s another great endorsement for Wind of the Spirit from our own Edgy Inspirational Author herself, Michelle Sutton, author of It’s Not About Me.

“Wind of the Spirit carries you away—literally—to another time and place. The perfect combination of setting and fabulous wording pulled me into the story, and the emotional scenes kept me turning the pages. This story doesn’t drag but keeps building while educating the reader about history at the same time. In regards to sensuality and tension—move over Deeanne Gist—cause Hochstetler goes places most CBA authors can’t. However, the tension is so well done and is so beautifully written, I wouldn’t change a thing. The author shows love as the holy experience it truly is . . . when it occurs the way God intended. I highly recommend this story. I couldn’t put it down.”

And Robin Lee Hatcher also graciously endorsed this volume:

“Ms. Hochstetler has filled the pages of this book with many details of the period, taking her readers back in time. If you like sweeping historical sagas, Wind of the Spirit deserves to be on your bookshelf.”

If you happen to be in the Minneapolis area on September 20, be sure to stop by at the book signing, and look for me! I'd love to chat with you!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Riding the Wave

I just got another great endorsement in!

“The passion and intrigue of the American Revolution comes to life in J. M. Hochstetler’s wonderfully entertaining read Wind of the Spirit. Beautifully written and completely engaging, Wind of the Spirit will appeal to fans not just of Christian fiction, but of historical fiction as well. Not to be missed!”

—Michelle Moran, national bestselling author of The Heretic Queen

I’m totally flattered that Michelle agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to read and endorse one of my books! I’ll tell you, that feels pretty good, especially at those times when I feel like I have to be the worst writer in the whole world. LOL! From talking to other authors, I know this isn’t unusual, so whenever those dark thoughts weigh me down, I can look at these very kind words and remind myself that I’m not doing so badly after all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Here are the first two endorsements I’ve received for Wind of the Spirit! I wanted to share these, and there are more on the way.

With rich, vivid descriptions that draw you back in time, characters that become your best friends, eloquent language that will leave you breathless, and a romance that warms you from head to toe, Wind of the Spirit is a stunningly beautiful story about the fight for freedom, survival, and love in a savage land.
—MaryLu Tyndall, author of The Falcon and the Sparrow

A captivating tale of love and courage skillfully woven into the Revolutionary War, revealing all the human passions and valor that made America great.
—Louise M. Gouge, author of Then Came Hope

Wow—that’s pretty encouraging! I really appreciate their kind words, and I hope the rest of my endorsers are as enthusiastic! LOL!

Of course, there’s still lots of work to do before WOTS is ready for the printer. I’m waiting for my editor to return the manuscript with her corrections. At that point, I’ll enter the edits in the file and make sure nothing was missed. I’m also going to have my daughters proofread it. They’re very detail oriented, and if there’s anything wrong, they’ll spot it. I want to have the text as near perfect as we can get.

I also need to have the maps made so readers can follow the action. Since I don’t know anyone who does this kind of thing, I’m going to try a query on and see if I come up with anybody. It’s kind of scary to do that, but I ended up with a terrific designer to do Alice Arenz’s cover for The Case of the Bouncing Grandma, so my fingers are crossed that lightning strikes twice!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Designing the Wind of the Spirit Cover

Cross posted on Publishing Dream.

We all know that creating a striking cover is one of the most effective tools for marketing a book. When I worked at Abingdon Press, getting approval for a book cover was one of the most important and stressful hurdles we faced. So when I began thinking about the cover for my own next project, Wind of the Spirit, I ran right into a question that stymied me for a while.

How do you illustrate a title like Wind of the Spirit?

Well, obviously the cover has to give an impression of what the book’s all about. It has to basically encapsulate the story’s theme and focus. How to do that with this particular book was the issue.

One thing I’ve heard from a number of readers and authors is that they prefer book covers that don’t include people. Trying to capture the characters in the book is iffy because everybody is going to have a different take on them. Especially the author, as I discovered while wrestling with Zondervan over the covers of my first two books. So I do agree it’s more effective to engage readers in the story by allowing them to visualize, and thus identify more closely with, the people they find on the pages of your book. It makes reading more interactive, and that draws the reader into the story.

The cover designs of my first 2 books in this series were essentially out of my control. Zondervan gave me some input, but at the end of the day, it was their marketing department that had the final say. Now, as a publisher I know marketing considerations are very important in the design of a cover. But big publishers put out a whole lot of books, and too often it’s the same old same old, the easy, hopefully safe bet, the publisher ends up going with. In my case, I was never happy with the covers on Daughter of Liberty and Native Son though admittedly some of my friends developed a passionate relationship with the model on Native Son. Okay, I’m teasing, but they did like him. A lot.

Now, however, I face making the right decisions myself since I’m the publisher. And that’s even more stressful than being stuck with a cover you don’t care for. What cover would have the best odds of selling this book?

Well . . . I came up with this crazy idea . . . Yeah, right. So what else is new? LOL! You knew that was coming.

I’m not going into all the details of what we’re planning at this point—once we have a final cover, I’ll post it, of course. But in doing extensive searches on istockphoto, I came up with these 2 images of the same scene in portrait and landscape orientation. They’re perfect for the front and back of a book cover. The first one even has black bars across the top and bottom where the title and author name can go. And the one in landscape orientation gives us enough of the scene to wrap around the spine and back cover. Of course, we’ll have to ghost that portion—put a screen on it—so we can run text legibly across it, and it will be just visible in the background.

The crazy tree that sticks up is going to be eliminated. And there will be a figure and some other detailing in the scene itself, but it will all be subtle and full of motion. Dineen Miller is working on the overall design, and she enlisted Frank Wu, who is doing the magic with the images. They think they can achieve the look I want, and I am totally excited at how this is developing!

Isn’t this scene amazing! Strangely enough, these photos were taken in Kenya, but I was so captivated by the powerful image of a gathering storm that I knew this scene gave just the right feel of foreboding and movement that I was looking for.

So what do you think? Will this make a fabulous cover or not?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Dreaded File Corruption Meltdown

I had almost finished my editing pass on Wind of the Spirit—only a couple of chapters to go. Lately I’ve been reading David McCullough’s 1776, which covers the period I’m writing about. And after running across several good details that would fit nicely into the narrative, last Tuesday evening I went back to the beginning of the manuscript to add those.

As I scrolled down through the file, I came across a section where the text had corrupted into a symbol that looked like y’s with a couple of dots above. That was followed by lots of page breaks with no text. ACK!! I scrolled down to where the text began again and saw that an entire section was missing. NOT what you want to have happen when your editor is waiting for your manuscript.

Worse, I quickly discovered there were two more places where the same thing had happened. And these were more important and complex scenes that I sure didn’t want to have to try to recreate from memory.

I immediately checked my flash drive. It had the same version of the file I was working on, including the corrupted sections. I raced to my laptop. It had Sunday evening’s version of the file . . . also with the corrupted sections. So I’d saved the file at least a couple of times since then, each time overwriting the file with the defective one. And I didn’t have a hard copy printout. After all, I had 2 backups, didn’t I?

I confess, at that point my brain paralyzed, and I started hyperventilating. LOL! Anyone who’s had something similar happen with an important document knows exactly how I felt. I immediately put out a request on my writers’ prayer loop. The prayers must have helped calm me down, because I suddenly remembered that my friend Lori—who is writing an even bigger and fatter historical than mine—and I have been exchanging chapters as we’re writing our respective projects. Talk about a brain freeze! Holding my breath, I e-mailed her to find out if perchance she had saved any of the chapters.

In the meantime, my husband reminded me that all three of our son-in-laws are computer experts and suggested I call the one who lives just down the road, who writes software. Well, duh! His suggestion was to google “corrupted Word file.” That brought up a number of suggestions as well as several free downloadable programs that promised to fix the file. Well . . . after a couple of anxious hours of fiddling with it, nothing worked!

Back to e-mail. Thankfully Lori had saved every chapter I sent her. Praise the Lord and good friends! I was able to reconstruct the file from the rough drafts of those sections, and evidently I hadn’t changed much because the original text looked fine to me the way it was. But at that point, I suspect any reasonable proximity would have looked good. After replacing the wrecked sections and rebuilding the file in open office, I saved it back to Word and sent it off to my editor. What a relief to have that project off my desk for the time being!

This volume ended up at 105,000+ words. That’s about 4,000 words more than Native Son. Daughter of Liberty, however, weighed in at 127,000+ so this is a mere novella by comparison. But I’m very pleased with how the story turned out. I think this may be the strongest book in the series so far.

It’s strange, but often as I reread manuscripts I wrote a few weeks or months earlier, they seem not to have come from me. I’m astonished at them. I know they passed through me, and I even remember the words. But they don’t seem like mine. It’s as though they belong to someone else. Did I really write that? I know I didn’t create it, in spite of all the work I did on it. I wonder if it’s that way for other writers. Do they feel like their stories are a gift that flowed through them but came from a mind other than theirs?

All I know is that the Lord touched me mightily as I was writing Wind of the Spirit. And I pray this story and the entire American Patriot Series will touch readers powerfully as well.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Editing Book 3

The rough draft of Wind of the Spirit is finally finished! I’d celebrate if there weren’t so much left to do to turn this project into a physical book. When I hold that puppy in my hot little hands, I’ll really celebrate.

This has been a long time coming. It’s been a winding trail that led around many roadblocks and sidetracks. But as I always say, God has a plan, and that plan is going to be accomplished, no doubt about it!

To read the first couple of unedited chapters, go to my Web site and click on the link in the box about WOTS. I’ll put up the edited chapters as soon as we have a final version.

In the meantime I’m starting the next step—making my own editing pass before it goes to my editor. I know this sounds pretty much like cleaning your house before the housecleaning service arrives. But being an editor myself I like to turn in a clean manuscript. Even more important, I want to make sure I’m satisfied with my character and plot development, have smoothed out the language, and caught any factual or continuity errors. If I do a good job, it makes for less work when I receive the final edits.

I started a few days ago and so far have gotten through Chapter 5. Sigh. Obviously this is going to take a while. The trouble is, I’m constantly bombarded with Sheaf House and personal business as well as the need to do promotion for my latest release, One Holy Night. With this book I have a total of 101,500 + words to work through, which is long enough, but not really all that long as far as historicals are concerned. But then, my friend Lori Benton and I love those BFHs (big fat historicals). She’s writing a really BIG one!

I was hoping I could get WOTS to the editor by June 1. Well, I’ll be lucky to get it to her by July 1, which is cutting things close with her schedule as well as mine. It could be worse, though. Book 1, Daughter of Liberty, was over 139,000 words when I started, and it ended up at a bit over 127,500. Thankfully I don’t anticipate cutting much out of this one. Native Son was just a bit over 101,000 words too, which will make these two books the same length.

Of course, WOTS started out life as the last third of NS that got cut off because of the publisher’s word count restrictions. Too bad I didn’t find out about that until I’d turned in the manuscript! It was a bit of a shock to find out they’d decided all their novels had to be kept to 90,000 words. Yikes! I managed to wring a concession out of them that NS, being a historical, could be around 100,000. And after much agonizing, instead of gutting my story by cutting out all the secondary characters and plotlines and a considerable amount of the main storyline, I decided to lop off the last third of the book, write a new ending for NS and a new beginning for WOTS, and then flesh out what I had left.

All in all, I think that decision turned out quite well, especially since that publisher ended up canceling the series anyway. I would sure have been upset if I’d ripped NS to pieces for no good reason. Since I didn’t compromise the story, in this volume I’ve been able to give a fuller account of Carleton’s life among the Shawnee, Elizabeth’s relationship with Vander Groot and her involvement in the Battle of Brooklyn, and hers and Andrews’s journey into Ohio Territory to find White Eagle.

I originally intended to include the Battle of Trenton in this book, but with a major battle at the beginning and time running out on my deadline, I decided to end with the lead-up to Trenton. That should make for an exciting beginning to book 4, Crucible of War. The only caveat is if I keep this up, I may end up having to add another book to the series. And since everyone who’s following along knows they’re going to have to wait until the very end for the resolution of Elizabeth and Carleton’s relationship, that’s something nobody wants to happen—especially me since I’m the one who has to write the durned thing! LOL! I seem to be making a career of the American Revoluton. Happily it’s a crucial and fascinating era that is easily holding my interest.

Enough for now. I’m going to dive back into Chapter 6 this evening and see how far I can get. So far I’m quite pleased with how the story developed. I think this is going to be a truly exciting installment!

In upcoming posts I'll include some short excerpts from the text to whet your appetite. But in the next post I’m going to talk about something really exciting—the cover! How in the world do you illustrate Wind of the Spirit????

Stay tuned for some hints . . .