How I Write a Book FAST(ish)

Letter to My Book

That’s probably not a title you expected from me. I didn’t either. But I’ve come to realize that I do write fast, even if it seems like it takes an eternity. The Old River Road took eight months from first words to published. So how do I do it?

Let me introduce you to this lovely thing I call Binge Writing.

Binge Writing, otherwise known as a Writing Spree, is something I started doing out of sheer desperation. NaNo of 2015 was my very first attempt at writing 50,000 words in less than a year (in less than 3 years, actually). And I did it. 50,000 in one month.

After November, I was pretty convinced that I would just participate in every single NaNo and camp NaNo available. Great idea, in theory. It just so happens that April, July, and November are pretty much the very worst months for me to buckle down and focus on something.

Also, I have the attention span of a gnat. It’s called ADD. I like instant gratification. And yes, THERE IS A WAY to have it in writing.

I schedule two binge writes a month. 5 days of 2,000 words per day, one week off, then another 5 days of 2,000 words a day.

Why 2,000 words a day?

This will vary from person to person, but I’ve found that 2,000 words is my sweet spot. I know without a doubt that I can write that much and not be stressed.

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. I can write that much with minimal stress. :)

That number is flexible, however. Some weeks, if I have a lot of schoolwork to do or I’m working more hours, I might lower it to 1,500. Or 1,000. Or 500. The point is to write some amount of words, consistently, for 5 days.

It adds up overtime, kinda like change in a jar. When the jar is full, you can be surprised at how much money is in there. When the week is over, you can be surprised at how much that word count has come up.

Give it a try. And tell me how it went! :)


What are your writing habits?



I had another post planned for today, but life happened and that went out the window.



Lately my life has been consumed by college and preparing to launch The Old River Road. I had NO IDEA how much work it is to prepare a book launch! Here’s a cyber high-five to everyone who has done it. You’re amazing.



Some excitement has happened on that front…

The Old River Road is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 11.30.20 PM


I got to see my book ON MY KINDLE:






And my proof copy arrived!!! *confetti* *fireworks* *chocolate chips!*







Isn’t it absolutely beautiful? I drooled over it for a few seconds before showing it off to my family.



Boy, the emotions of that moment…opening the box and seeing MY BOOK (btw I thought the contents of the package was another author’s book I had ordered)–I was able to forget all the late nights and tears and struggles for a few glorious minutes. It was so worth it. SO worth it.  There is absolutely nothing like the feeling of holding the finished product in my hand. And look at how thick and georgeous it is!!!



I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!! :)


Beautiful People–June Edition

Here we are, with another round of Beautiful People!

I’m telling you, this one is GOOD. It’s the childhood edition. Childhoods have a huge impact on characters, so this one was super good for me to write. And guess who the character is from? (Hint, hint.) Yup, Ocean Hues! You’re probably getting sick and tired of these characters by now…so sorry. Its so good for me to be doing these, as I need some inspiration to get this story finished, and deepen the characters. I’m almost done with the first draft! *WOOT! WOOT!*


What is their first childhood memory?

Chelsea has fleeing images of her mom, but the first real “memory” is when her daddy asked her what they should name their new fishing vessel, and she said, “Cora Lee for Mommy!” It’s the only time she remembers her dad crying. (She was three.)


What were their best and worst childhood experiences?

Best would be sitting on her daddy’s lap in the wheelhouse of the Cora Lee doing schoolwork and watching the deckhands below. The worst would be

What’s something that scared them as child?

Two things.03fe7e016479f460472b8666b0600e82

Number 1, gummy worms.(She has three boy cousins, two of them older than her. Imagine the stories about innocent gummy worms?)

Number 2, sleeping in a room by herself. Maybe it started after her mom died, and her dad started letting her sleep in his bed. Or maybe because there was always a stray cousin ready to have a sleepover.


Who did they look up to most?

She looked up to her aunt Kendra, who was the only mother figure in her life and taught her girl things in an all-boy household.

Favorite and least favorite childhood foods?

Favorite would be raw broccoli, and least favorite is shrimp (still is).  :)

If they had their childhood again, would they change anything?

She wouldn’t take her close-knit family, unusual as they are, for granted.

dd88c1ee08afc5915dba7daa947b01daWhat was their childhood home like?

It’s a beachfront cottage on a quiet, secluded beach on the Washington coast.



What kind of child were they? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?

A combo of curious and devious, and probably a hint of wild. When raised by only a dad, next door to three boy cousins, she had to learn to hold her own.

What was their relationship to their parents and siblings like?

Her relationship with her dad is pretty special, especially so because she doesn’t have a mom. She doesn’t have siblings, but her three boy cousins are the closest things she’s got, and they all get along very well, even in their adult years.

What did they want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?

She wanted to be a crab fisher like her daddy. And she married a crab fisher. :) Next best thing.





Are you getting sick of Chelsea yet? Should I switch to another character to interview for these things?

What kind of a child were you?

Writing Romance: Where to Draw the Line?

(UPDATED 4/15/17)


Letter to My Book(1)

For some people, merely hearing the word “romance” has eyes rolling. For others, it sets hearts pounding. For others—namely the writers—it brings memories of much face-palming and head-desking.

Let’s face it: plenty of things go on between couples that other people shouldn’t see, whether it be a private conversation, a passionate kiss, etc. Therefore, they shouldn’t go in books. Readers are smart, and a little imagination can go a long way. There is no need to be explicit about subjects that should be reserved for husbands and wives.

For years, writing romance has caused me countless headaches and ruined stories. The very idea of writing a book with romance had me gagging. Hence, I decided that the best route to take was to write romance-free books.

* cue sarcastic laughter *

Yes, well, to my thirteen-year-old brain, that sounded like the ideal solution. It was a great idea in theory, but my characters revolted. I found myself needing a way to handle their romance rather than ignore it.

But that led me back to my biggest fear—gag-worthy romances. I never read many of those in the first place, but just about everyone in this world, including myself, will admit that they have read an encounter between a couple that made them uncomfortable. Even if the couple is married, the way they show affection to one another—affection that is not “wrong”—can feel very wrong to be reading it.

On the flip side, there are those books where the couples rarely show affection to one another to the point where their lack of affection pulls you out of the story because you are too busy trying to figure out if they “go together” or not.



As a reader, either one of these scenarios can be maddening. As a writer, it can be hard (or IMPOSSIBLE!!!) to know how much romance is appropriate to show.

So how can you know?

Each writer must examine himself or herself individually to find their ideal balance. For me personally, it has taken years of careful thought, prayerful decisions, and a lot of self-examination. Whether I be writing a romantic scene or reading a romantic scene, I ask myself this question:

Would that couple be doing/saying/behaving that way if someone was standing in the room watching them?


Think about it: do you feel uncomfortable when a couple in a book hugs? Or when a husband and wife kiss each other in greeting? Neither of those things bother me in books. Neither of them bother me in the real world.



Let’s look at some examples of well-done romance in books. This first one comes from A Penny Parcel by Avery E. Hitch. The main characters, Luke and his wife, Grace, are lying in bed. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Wrong. Look how Avery Hitch handles this bedroom conversation:


“Luke rolled over….

Grace slid her hand across the sheets and reached for his. “I still love you,” she said in a painful whisper.

He gripped her hand, but said nothing. Even with her hand held tightly in his, Luke felt like everything was slipping through his fingers.”


Did that make you nervous? Uncomfortable? It didn’t bother me. Yet look at what we have—an intimate conversation in an off-limits location (for bystanders), yet nothing about that scene was uncomfortable. Would Luke and Grace have behaved differently had someone been in the room with them?

Now let’s look at a different kind of scene—one that involves kissing. (Stop rolling your eyes it does have to happen sometimes.). This is taken from a story of mine.

“She turned her head slightly to press her lips against his. Eight years of marriage still hadn’t taken away the flutter in her heart.”

Could I have described the kiss in more detail? Sure. Do I want to? Not really. Could I have described it in more detail while still keeping it appropriate (according to my personal guideline)? Probably.

What about integrating physical contact? Same rules apply. This example is taken from my first novel, The Old River Road.

“ “ Don’t worry about that,” he chided, grasping her about the waist and pulling her toward him….

Clara felt soft kisses placed on her head….

William ran his finger down her nose with a tender smile.”


How about that? I cut most of the dialogue to save time, but there you have an example of some playful banter and physical touch without making the reader feel awkward.



Here’s one massive pointer I would give anyone who wants to write romance:

Focus on the relationship, not the passion.

What does that mean? To me, it means that I strive for ways to show my readers how much my characters love each other. That can be done in so many different ways…acts of service, kind words (not necessarily flirtatious, but if you like that kind of thing, it can work), and internal thoughts admiring character qualities. And those are just a few examples. Love can be shown in so many ways. You are a writer—utilize the more subtle ways of showing love between couples, and leave what happens behind closed doors where it belongs. It is entirely possible to write a sweet romance without giving too much information.

In my own writing, I have made the decision to not write any romantic relationship that goes beyond what I would be comfortable seeing/hearing were I in the room with my characters. I have been told that the romance I write is “immature” and should be “more graphic.”

I must admit that I actually laughed when I heard that.

But you know what? I’d rather write “immature” and “un-graphic” romance that I believe is appropriate than worry about overstepping my bounds and making some readers, not to mention myself, uncomfortable.


DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be right, nor do I claim to be an expert on the subject. I know that not everyone is going to agree with me–and that’s OKAY! These are merely some of my personal convictions when it comes to writing romance. No offense intended whatsoever.


How do you feel about writing romance? Are there any specific guidelines you’ve set up for yourself? I’d love to hear–new ideas are always welcome! :)

Beautiful People-May Edition

10928109_595959117172101_1450331761_nHere we are, back again with the May edition of Beautiful People. This month, I am so excited to introduce you to the main character of a current WIP, Ocean Hues. Meet Chelsea Sanders.


How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?4a13d7b872c2edb3d810f26a2437ab9b

She smiles frequently, and yes, she would smile at a stranger.


What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

The cruelest thing was her Grandma saying that she was “appalled and humiliated” to be seen with Chelsea. Her reaction…hmmm…her reaction was shock and ‘smoothing over’ at first, then lots of tears after it sunk in.


What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

Kindest thing? Hmm. Probably that he (her daddy) is proud of her and will love her no matter what. And that her mom (who died when Chelsea was a toddler) would be proud of the young woman she’s become.

She responded by getting pink cheeks and growing very quiet. Not a typical Chelsea reaction, I assure you.


What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?

Naming the Cora Lee. It lasted because Chelsea’s mother had just died, and it’s the only time she remembers her daddy crying.


41w+q-o2f9L._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. Everyone should read this book, but Chelsea needs it extra bad.


Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?

No, she hasn’t been seriously injured. Yet. That might change through the course of the book. :)


Do they like and get along with their neighbors?

Yes, though in New York the neighbors aren’t exactly friendly. She gets along better with the garden workers than the homeowners themselves.


On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?

Eight. She’s the sort of person I want to know.


If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?6166c066d9dce664a48a48fc2bf74b59

Hawaii. She’s used to Seattle, Alaskan, and New York weather. Somewhere warm is her dream.


Who was the last person they held hands with?

Hehe…with Rhett Newman at the airport, saying good-bye.




Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world? Are any of you doing this Beautiful People link-up? Let me know in the comments…I’d love to read about your characters!



Really Awesome Research Vlog (not mine)

I know, I know…two posts in one week?!?! And I’m not done yet. There’s a book review coming on Saturday. :-)

I just wanted to tell you guys about this amazing vlog on researching for a historical fiction novel. Emily Ann Putzke did a really nice job making the video clear and concise. It was very informative and helpful for me, so hop on over to her blog and take a peek at it! (And look around while your there. Her blog is absolutely amazing.)

Life Lately/April Wrap

Well, these monthly wrap up posts seem to be “the thing” right now, and while I try not to do what everyone else does, these posts are so fun to read I don’t see a good reason not to do them!

(And yes, I do know that it is May 4th. Life gets in the way of my desires to post on time.)

~Books Read~

11. Sorry, I don’t have the energy to list them all every single month.


I will list my top 3 favorites.

Samara’s Peril by Jaye L. Knight. I got to be an advanced reader for this book!! Can you believe it!!!! I still can’t! It was so amazing!!

The Ryn by Serena Chase.

The Remedy by Serena Chase.

(I am completely blaming my dear friend Hope for telling me about those last two. And no one needs to know how late I stayed up reading them. They were totally awesome, by the way. :) )



Well, since I had a long day of near panic when I realized how close the release date of The Old River Road is coming in comparison to how much work still needed to be done, I re-evaluated my goals for April.

Total words written: 20,000

Total words edited: 85,000 (that was my whole manuscript for TORR)

I successfully completed my “week of insane writing.” Barely. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. The story just wasn’t flowing right. But I pushed through, and finished with 15,000 words in five days.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 11.59.34 PMBTW, please tell me I’m not the only one that gets to the “..999” word count and seriously cannot think of ONE MORE WORD to type to finish up my daily amount.

Most words in one day: 5,126

Least words in a day: 216

Most words in an hour: 2,000 (a new personal high!)



  1. Abi’s Martin Hospitality
  2. My own book. (Does that count?)



Well, a lot of life stuff happened this past month.

  1. I got accepted and enrolled in college. *ahhhhh!!!!* I will be taking classes from home through IMG_1439Liberty University. Classes start in 14 DAYS!!!!
  2. I buckled down on high school stuff so I can close that area of my life.
  3. Edited an entire book, hired a cover designer AND editor, rounded up 12 amazing beta readers…and somewhere in there lost my sanity.
  4. Learned how to drive our 36ft motorhome. (Told you I lost my sanity.)
  5. Resumed TaeKwonDo classes. Boy I tell you, I am one rusty black belt. Eight years of no practice really puts a tarnish on that shiny blackness.  :-)
  6. Ate at Chick-fil-A for the second time in my entire life. Seriously, they need to get these restaurants in Eastern Washington. What the heck is up with them only being in the southern/eastern states and in Seattle?
  7. Met an internet friend in person!!! (Hi Rosey!!!!) :-)


~Goals for May~

  1. Finish getting The Old River Road ready for publication. This means going through my beta-reader’s comments, sending it to my editor, going through her comments, then sending the manuscript to the formatted. (WHEW!)
  2. Start college. This one is inevitable, so maybe I should say “survive starting college.”
  3. Plan my graduation/baptism/18th birthday/Mom and Dad’s 22nd wedding anniversary.  These events are all so close together I decided that we may as well celebrate them all on the same day. Why not, right? Now I just have to plan the insane event.
  4. Beta-read Hope’s Song of the Sword, and Abi’s Martin Hospitality.
  5. Read 8 books.
  6. Do a Vlog.
  7. Survive. (This one has been on the bottom of my daily to-do lists as of late.)



Well, there was a lot more that went into April, but that’s all I have the energy to record for now.

So how was your April? Did you do anything absolutely fantastic that I should know about? How do you feel about frozen cookie dough? (Sorry, that was random, but seriously, have you tried the stuff?)



Are you still reading? Good. Keep going.

I have this wonderful idea to do a Vlog sometime in the near future (’cause Vlogs are awesome), but in order to do so I need to know if you have any questions for me. I can come up with a topic on my own if necessary, but it would be far more fun to answer your questions. Please, if you have any questions, leave them in the comment box, or email me with the contact form. THANK YOU!!!

Sneak Peek–The Old River Road~Pt 2

Yay! You’re back! Enjoy the second part of Chapter 1. Read Part 1 here.



Clara tried to answer her sister, but William spoke before she had a chance.

“Miss Boutwell had an encounter with a mud puddle, which was entirely my fault.”

Clara vainly stifled a giggle as Esther looked up to William’s handsome face. Esther’s rosy cheeks flushed and Clara saw her eyes widen.

“Your fault?” Esther asked, her gaze fixed on William.

“He bumped me and I fell into a puddle,” Clara said quickly. She shrugged William’s coat off her back and handed it to him. “Sorry to ruin your coat.”

William smiled and took the coat, handing Clara’s books to Esther. “No problem. Dirt and water will wash out. Again, I apologize for my carelessness.”

“No need to apologize. It’s been quite a long time since I went for a swim in a puddle.” Clara smiled at him and let her eyes flash childishly.

William laughed and let himself out the door. “Good afternoon.”

Esther let out a dramatic sigh when the knob clicked shut. “Ohhhh Clara, he’s so handsome!” she squealed. “Who is he? Where did you meet him?”

Clara groaned. “I’ll tell you later. Please Esther, stop being dramatic and help me out of these clothes. I’m freezing.”

“Alright, alright.” Esther dropped her playful teasing and helped Clara up the stairs.

Esther was twenty years old; three whole years older than Clara. She was the youngest of Clara’s older sisters, and the one Clara was closest to. Though Esther wasn’t a biological sister, she bore such resemblance to all four Boutwell women that no one ever guessed she had been adopted. Clara didn’t remember exactly when Esther had come to live with them…they had both been such little girls and Esther had been very quiet and reserved the first few months, grieving the death of her father, who had raised her since her birth.

“Clara?” a sweet voice called from the top of the staircase. “Is that you?”

“Yes, Mother.” A part of her hoped that her mother would stay where she couldn’t see her; shivering and filthy as she was.

“My goodness, Child, what happened to you?” Mrs. Boutwell asked as Clara alighted the staircase.

“I fell into a puddle on my way home.” An attack of chills overcame her as she spoke, making her words tremble.

“Oh Clara, you’re so unromantic,” Esther chided. “No Mama, an extremely handsome young man bumped Clara and threw her into the puddle. He walked her home and even made her wear his coat.”

Mrs. Boutwell’s hand flew to her mouth.

“It was an accident, Mother.” Clara firmly resisted the urge to roll her eyes at Esther. “He didn’t mean to bump me. Neither one of us was watching where we were going. Mr. McDonald was kind enough to make sure I made it home without freezing.”

Mrs. Boutwell sighed and shook her head, but Clara thought she saw a hint of a smile playing at her mother’s lips. “Let’s get you out of those clothes and into a hot tub. Esther, please put some water on the fire.”

“Yes, Mother.” Esther turned back down the staircase and Mrs. Boutwell led Clara into the master bedroom.

The Boutwells certainly weren’t considered wealthy, but they lived a comfortable life in the city. Clara’s father, a War veteran, was the pastor of a local Presbyterian church. He also earned a good living being in the Illinois Volunteer Militia, where he had risen to the rank of General.

Clara was proud of her father in many ways. Mostly though, because he feared the Lord above all else. Unlike many other men Clara had heard of who beat their wives and spent all their money in taverns, her father was a hard worker and a well-respected man, both by his family and his congregation. His quiet way with words and powerful ability to make a difference in people’s lives astounded Clara.


Mrs. Boutwell helped Clara strip off her still-dripping dress and petticoats, and Clara stiffly eased into the claw-footed tub. Clara thought she saw a smile breach her mother’s lips as she turned on the tap, but she couldn’t be sure.

“Oh Clara,” Mrs. Boutwell said, placing her hands on her hips and gazing at her. “Will you ever learn to keep yourself out of scrapes?”

“I didn’t do it on purpose, Mother, it was an accident. Mr. McDonald bumped into me, and I couldn’t catch myself.” Clara grinned sheepishly. “I saved my books.”

Mrs. Boutwell looked wistfully at the ceiling, but she too smiled. “Sometimes I cannot believe that you are nearly seventeen. But then again, you’ve always been more concerned about books than your clothes.”

Esther knocked on the door before entering with a pot of boiling water. She slowly dumped it in the tub, and Clara closed her eyes as the hot water mixed with the lukewarm water from the tap. It made her feet and legs tingle as they thawed.

“One more pot should be perfect,” Clara said, leaning against the cool porcelain of the bathtub and trying to ignore her stinging toes.


Mrs. Boutwell helped Clara wash the dirt out of her long, curly hair. Clara’s hair was the annoying and frustrating, but she wouldn’t get it cut for anything. The tight, curly locks fell to her waist, shimmering like her mother’s best brown silk dress. Clara was the only one of her sisters to inherit her father’s curly, Scottish hair. She couldn’t decide if it was a blessing or a curse. Though complicated to care for, the curls were strikingly beautiful.

Clara chuckled a bit as her mother gently worked soap into her curls and rinsed them repeatedly to remove the dirt and gunk that had attached itself after her fall. Her mother had been trying in vain for years to convince Clara to wear her hair up, as most young ladies her age did. But Clara liked wearing her hair long. She loved the feeling of the curls bumping against her back and shoulders. And besides that, wearing her hair up on top of her head was the surest way to get a dreadful headache. It was true though; had she worn her hair up today, it wouldn’t be in such a dreadful mess now.

Clara lingered in the warm water as long as she dared. Supper must be prepared, and her father would be home soon. Mrs. Boutwell left Esther to help Clara dress her hair while she began making supper.

“What was the young fellow’s name?” Esther asked, carefully squeezing the water out of Clara’s curls while Clara sat at the vanity in a fresh, dry dress.

“William McDonald.”

“How old was he?”

“I don’t know! I don’t ask questions like that.”

Esther chuckled, then gasped. “Did you say his name was William McDonald?”

“Yes, that’s what he said.” What’s so important about his name?

“Do you know what that means?”

Clara turned and looked at her sister’s vibrant face. “No, I have no idea.”

“Sir John McDonald? The prime minister of Canada?”

“What does he have to do with Mr. McDonald?”

“Father was telling me about him…Father knows young Mr. McDonald’s father. William McDonald is the nephew of Sir John McDonald! Don’t you remember him telling us about it?”

Clara shook her head, spellbound.

“Ohhhh!” Esther faked a swoon. “The nephew of the one and only Sir John McDonald, prime minister of Canada, is sparking our little Clara!”

“What?” Clara spun about and faced her sister. What a preposterous idea! “Why would he be interested in me?”

“Why wouldn’t he?” Esther teased.

Clara thought back to her exchange with William. Could he truly be the nephew of Sir John McDonald? He had been dressed better than most young men in the city. If he was indeed the nephew of such royalty, he would no doubt be quite wealthy…far too wealthy to be wasting his time with a poor little mouse like her.

“He’s not sparking me!” Clara protested, her brows knitting. “He bumped me into a puddle, helped me out, and then walked me home. What is so ‘sparking’ about that?”

Esther laughed as she brushed out Clara’s long curls. “You came in the house wearing his coat. He was holding your books. What else would he be thinking?”

Clara groaned. “I was wearing his coat because he didn’t give me a choice. And he was holding my books because I didn’t want to ruin them any more than they already were ruined. I think you’re taking this too far.”

“Oh Clara, Katie and Emma and I both know that you’re far prettier than the three of us put together. Young fellows have been eyeing you for years now, you just haven’t seen it. Now, they’re making themselves more obvious.”

“I’ve never seen Mr. McDonald before in my life!” Clara burst. “It’s not as if he were ‘eying me’ as you say. He was simply being a gentleman. Do stop teasing now, Esther.”

Esther said nothing, but Clara’s heart still pounded uncomfortably. Why must Esther tease her so? As if William had any motives other than helping Clara home. He felt awful about the accident, quite obviously, and simply wanted to amend his mistake. There was nothing romantic about that.

Esther finished dressing Clara’s hair and put a shawl around her shoulders, pulling the still-wet curls out over the thickly knit material.

“There. That will keep your dress dry until the curls stop dripping. I’m going to help Mother with supper.”

“I’ll be down in a few minutes.” Clara stood and fingered her damp hair, gazing at herself in the mirror. Her mind flitted back to what William said about her age. It was true; she did look much younger than she was, and the fact that she wore her hair down didn’t help at all.

But Clara wasn’t about to give herself perpetual headache just so people, even handsome young men, would think she was older.


Did you enjoy this little sneak peek? I hope so! I can’t wait to share the book with the world!


Sneak Peek–The Old River Road~Pt 1

You’ve heard me talk about it. You’ve listened to my blubbering and whining about it. But you haven’t seen it yet.

Well, since the release date for The Old River Road is only 12 weeks away *PANIC*, I thought I’d give all of you lovelies a sneak peek of the first chapter.


Chapter 1

Clara couldn’t contain a scream when she felt herself suddenly thrown off balance. Unable to catch herself before falling, she hurled her armload of books far away from her. Cold, muddy water splashed into her face as she broke the fall with her hands. Grime squished under her fingers and coldness seeped through her skin.

“Oh my word—I am so sorry! Are you alright? Can I help you?”

The words tumbled out of an unseen stranger’s mouth almost before Clara realized she was on her hands and knees, up to her stomach mucky water. She attempted to stand up, but already her many skirts and petticoats were soaked and heavy.

Strong hands grasped Clara’s upper arms and plucked her out of the puddle as easily as if she were a pesky weed in the garden. Her knees wobbled when her feet were set on firm ground.

“Are you hurt?” the voice asked again.

Clara looked up…far up…to meet the face of a young man. His striking blue eyes were laced with embarrassment and concern.

“Ah…no.” Clara shuddered as rivers of water trickled down her front and spiraled around her legs. “I’m alright.”

“I am terribly sorry,” the man said, though it occurred to Clara that he couldn’t be much more than a boy. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

Clara raised her arm and put it to her face to wipe gritty water from her cheeks. But she stopped her hand mid-air, realizing that the sleeve was even wetter than her face was. She let it fall to her side. How was she going to make it home in this condition?

“Use this, please,” the man begged. He offered a bleached muslin handkerchief, but Clara shook her head.

“I don’t want to ruin it.”  

The soft cloth swiped over her face anyway, his hand behind her head.

“There.” The man stepped back and offered a half-smile, folding the handkerchief and replacing it in his pocket.

“My…books,” Clara spluttered, pointing a soggy arm to where her books lay sprawled on the wet ground.

He sprang to where the books were, and picking each one up, he wiped the covers off on his coat before offering them to Clara. Clara reached out to take the books, but then pulled her hands back in when she realized that they were covered in mud.

“Oh—”  The man looked Clara up and down. “Can I walk you home? It’s the least I can do after—”

Clara managed a small smile and nodded. She didn’t want to ruin her precious books any more than necessary.

“Where do you live?”

“Ahh—” Clara’s mind was still spinning from the shock of the cold water. “West side of town, near the new church.” Two miles through Chicago in a soaking wet, muddy dress. Wonderful.

“Oh yes, I know where that is. My name is William, by the way. William McDonald.”

Clara felt stiff as she began walking. Her skirts clung to her legs and dripped on the ground. “I’m Clara Boutwell.”

William smiled. “I’m happy to meet you, Miss Boutwell. Though I wish it would have been in a slightly more comfortable way…”

Despite the heat burning in her cheeks, Clara couldn’t help smiling. William looked even more embarrassed than she felt.

More people, Clara’s coworkers, streamed out of the Singer building. Clara averted her eyes from their stares and carefully stepped out of the way of other ladies’ skirts. What business of theirs was it that she had taken a mud bath?

“You work for the Singer company, too?” William was saying as they began walking.

“Yes.” Clara looked up to meet William’s eyes. His face was clean-shaven and long, with a distinct chin and thin, decisive lips. He wasn’t the least bit homely. “I work in the design department.”

William flashed a smile. “I work in engineering. But these books—” William looked down to the stack he carried. “These don’t seem necessary for designing Singer sewing machines.”

Clara chuckled. “I’m studying to take the teacher’s exam.”

“Are you?” William appeared surprised. “You hardly look much more than a schoolgirl yourself.”

Clara tipped up her chin and straightened to her full five foot two inches. “I’m nearly seventeen. I finished school two years ago.”

“Seventeen?” William burst. “I aged you at thirteen or fourteen, if that.”

Clara watched as William’s face grew red.

“I mean…you’re so…small. But it’s not—” William fumbled with his words and his face turned even redder.

Clara couldn’t contain a laugh, though she hardly thought her mother would approve of her chortling in the middle of a busy Chicago street. Then again, her mother would probably die if she saw Clara walking down the street looking like a drowned rat.

“I am small,” Clara said, any awkwardness between her and William suddenly disappearing. “And yes, I am nearly seventeen.”

“How long have you been working for Singer?” William asked.

“Two years,” Clara said as they stepped off the boardwalk into the muddy streets.

“I began four years ago. It’s surprising our paths haven’t met before now.”

A cold blast of October air blew through Clara’s wet clothing and she inadvertently shivered. She crossed her arms tightly over her chest in an attempt to hold the heat in, but it did little good. She was soaked to the skin.

“Here.” William handed Clara’s books to her, and, before she could protest, he had taken off his coat and put it snugly around her shoulders. He then took the books back and tucked them under his arm.

“You don’t have to give up your coat,” Clara said, though she pulled the already-warm fabric tighter over her body.

“I don’t mind.” William smiled down at her. How nicely his blue eyes complimented his blonde hair. “Besides, I’m the one who knocked you into that puddle.”

Clara smiled and laughed a little. “My mother is going to be horrified when she sees me.”

“I’ll explain that it was entirely my fault. Will she be hard on you?”

“Mother? Oh no. She’s all bark and no bite.” Clara looked down at her muddy dress and chuckled. “And besides, I’m the youngest in my family, so they’re used to the messes I get myself in.”

“You’re the youngest?”

Clara nodded. “I have three older sisters. And they tell me that before I was born, there were two young brothers who died during the War. I wish I could have met them.” Clara stared ahead. “Having brothers would have been such fun.”

“Brothers are fun,” William said. “I have one, though he’s many years younger than me. We have a good time together.”

Clara watched as a cloud suddenly passed over William’s face, and his Adam’s apple bobbed inside his skinny neck.

“And then there’s George. He was my best friend, just two years older than me.” William took a shaky breath. “But he was killed last year, in an accident in New York.”

Clara said nothing, not knowing exactly what to say. At least Clara hadn’t known her brothers before they died. But William’s brother…they had grown up together. They had been friends. Clara shuddered. What would it be like if one of her sisters suddenly died?

“I had another older brother,” William went on, “But he died when I was too little to know him.”

Thank goodness.

They walked in silence for several minutes, Clara thinking how fortunate she was to have the only siblings she’d ever known still living.

She was unable to keep from shivering by the time they reached the Boutwell family home. Even wrapped in William’s large coat, which nearly fell to Clara’s knees, waves of cold swept over her.

Not bothering to knock, she turned the brass doorknob and stepped inside, welcoming the warm air from the fireplace in the parlor.

“Clara!” a shrill voice gasped. “Whatever happened to you?”


So what do you think? Are you as excited as I am about this release?!? Come back on Saturday for the second half of chapter 1!

Pinterest: Tool or Trouble?


The first thing that comes to my mind is addictive.

Anyone who has used Pinterest knows what a procrastination station it is. For some authors, (yours truly), it can be one of the worst distractions to writing. Others use Pinterest for inspiration…or so they say. Pinterest can be a death trap if it is allowed to become one. But is it truly possible to utilize Pinterest as a tool for writing, without being sucked in?



In fact, when used correctly, Pinterest is an amazing resource for writers.

When I realized just how much time I was spending on Pinterest, and how little time I was actually writing…let’s just say I wasn’t pleased with myself. Here are some guidelines I used to cut down on my time spent on Pinterest.

  1. Set a time limit, first daily, then weekly. I was shocked as how much I could get done in 15 or 20 minutes.
  2. Research just one topic in one sitting(or look for photos of one character) to make the most of your time. Pinterest is famous for those little rabbit trails; “ooh, look at that! Wow, that’s cool!” Clickity clickity click. It can go on for hours (speaking from experience).
  3. DELETE THE APP FROM YOUR PHONE!!! This was the biggest one for me. It’s so easy to just whip out the app while waiting in an office or just to kill time. DON’T DO IT!!! Just get rid of the app.

Can Pinterest be a good resource? Absolutely. One of the best, in my opinion. Just use your time wisely. Time is far too valuable to spend hours and hours looking at funny dog memes or searching for just the right photo of your beloved character.


What thoughts do you have about Pinterest?  Do you think it can be a good resource?