December 1, 2013

Author Interview: Cindy Thomson

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 2:07 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

cindy headshotToday I’m welcoming Cindy Thomson to my series of author interviews. Cindy is the author of  Grace’s Pictures, the first in the Ellis Island series of Christian historicals. Brigid of Ireland was her first historical novel and tells the story of a pagan girl embracing Christianity in 6th century Ireland. Cindy is also the author of two nonfiction books: Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland, and co-author of Three Finger: the Mordecai Brown Story.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Cindy. Can you tell us about your most recent novel, Grace’s Pictures?

cindy book coverCindy: Thanks for having me, Elizabeth! Grace’s Pictures is set at the turn of the twentieth century in New York City. It was a fascinating time when immigration was reaching record numbers, the difference between the extremely poor and the extremely wealthy was vast with a small number of people in between, and a time when the police department was still corrupt. But there was another side too with folks reaching out to help by forming immigrant aid societies. During this time the Brownie camera was introduced, which brought photography to the common person for the first time, making it possible to take quick snapshots out in public. I imagined that could cause some trouble. Here is the blurb:

Grace McCaffery hopes that the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise that the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader. A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her, Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness.

Elizabeth: Grace’s Pictures fits into several categories: historical, romance and Christian. Is there one genre you feel best describes it?

Cindy: Others have also described it as suspense. I just call it historical. It has not been advertised as romance, although there is a love story.

Elizabeth: What first made you interested in historical fiction?

Cindy: I have always been interested in genealogy. I write for genealogy magazines. It’s been said that one in four Americans can trace at least one ancestor through Ellis Island, so I chose this setting because I think it speaks to our history as Americans. The sacrifices our ancestors made for us by overcoming huge obstacles (Grace grew up in a poorhouse in Ireland) helps us appreciate our lives today. Grace comes to America a frightened immigrant, and she has to deal with some scary circumstances. Learning how to overcome them along with the negative messages in her head, lies her father told her about herself, transforms Grace in the end.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

Cindy: I try to make my stories as historically accurate as possible. There are some historical figures in the story such as Jacob Riis, the author of How the Other Half Lives, who helped expose the conditions in the tenements. At the beginning of the story Grace has her picture taken on Ellis Island by Augustus Sherman. If you have seen any of the photographs of Ellis Island immigrants, chances are they were Sherman photographs. He was an Ellis Island registry clerk who took these photographs as a hobby. The immigrant aid societies of the time were doing important work, and while Hawkins House is fictional, it represents the efforts many people were making. The police department was just as corrupt as I portray, and the Hudson Dusters were a real gang of cocaine addicts.

Elizabeth: What are some of your future plans for the Ellis Island series?

Cindy: Thanks for asking! The second book, Annie’s Stories, is due to release next July. Annie is the housekeeper mentioned in Grace’s Pictures. Grace and Owen make an appearance in this book. In Grace’s Pictures I feature the new Brownie camera. In Annie’s Stories I feature the new children’s book of the time, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There is a strong bookish theme in this story that I really enjoyed exploring.

In addition, I’m working on bringing the stories that Annie’s father wrote for herdescribed in the novelto readers. The first one will be exclusively for my newsletter subscribers. (You can sign up here: www.cindyswriting.com.)

I’m also plotting out a novella that will be connected to these stories, and again, my newsletter subscribers will the first to know when it’s available.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Cindy: Basically, in the morning I go through email, post on Facebook and Twitter, and follow up on marketing ideas. After lunch usually is the time I start writing, but truly it depends on my schedule and deadlines. Deadlines force me to work whenever I need to. I did a large part of a rewrite on my last book while I was on a long airplane trip (to Ireland!)

Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

Cindy: I’m a former teacher who writes full-time from a fabulous home office. I’m really blessed to have this loft workspace where I look out on trees. Like I said, genealogy is something I enjoy, but it’s so very addictive I have to be careful it doesn’t suck up too much time. I love to read a really good book. I’m also a huge baseball fan. I have three grown boys and a daughter-in-law, and a keen interest in all things Irish.

Elizabeth: Where can readers meet you in person?

cindy book talkCindy: I attend many Irish festivals in and around Ohio. People who are interested in Irish culture are often interested in reading about it. Plus they are so much fun! I am available to meet with book clubs, either in person or via Skype or telephone. On this page readers can find out how to have me come speak to their group or club: http://www.togather.com/cindy-thomson

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Cindy: Tea

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Cindy: Wow. Tough one. I seriously can’t choose. That’s one thing I love about Ireland. You are never far from either.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Cindy: Oh, come on! Both!!

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Cindy: For me it’s to listen to because I can’t play. I would say piano, but then again, there is nothing like an Irish fiddle. (Natalie MacMaster, anyone?)

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Cindy: I truly read across all genres.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Cindy: Darcy.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Cindy:Love!

To learn more about Cindy and her writing at:

www.cindyswriting.com

www.facebook.com/cindyswriting

www.twitter.com/cindyswriting

Buy her book here: http://bit.ly/17ZXbnO

Thanks to Cindy for joining me today!

November 12, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013

Posted in author, NaNoWriMo, writing at 7:15 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

It’s November, so it’s NaNoWriMo time.  Never heard of National Novel Writing Month? (It’s November–click on the NaNo link to learn more.)

My name on the NaNo website is ElizabethCaulfieldFelt (aren’t I clever?). Make me your writing buddy if you are doing NaNo too.

Of course, I write all year long, but participating in NaNoWriMo is fun.  I keep track of my word count, listen to how other writers are faring, compare my statistics with my friends’ statistics, and write a lot.  Hopefully, by the end of the month I’ll have written more than I would have in a normal month.

In fact, I’ve been telling myself for years that I write more in November–but the truth is, November is the only month I keep a word count, so it might not be true. (Note to self: keep word counts every month, then post a blog about it.)

I’ve never hit the 50,000 word goal that is NaNo, and I don’t suppose I’ll do it this year either. My current word count is 9283. If I continue my current rate of writing, I’ll reach 50,000 words on January 4, 2014.  To finish by November 30, I’ll need to crank out 2143 words per day, every day from now to the end. (I love reading the statistics page for information like this.)

What am I writing, you ask?  I’m working on a re-telling of the Snow White story. It’s meant for ages 8 to 13. I don’t expect this story to be 50,000 pages. However, if I buckle down, I should be able to finish its first draft by November 30.  That’s MY goal.   Its working title is Snow White and the Queen. (You heard it here first!)

On Nov 30, I’ll let you know how it went.

October 31, 2013

Guest Blogger Yves Fey: A Fin de Siècle Halloween

Posted in author, books, guest blogger, Halloween, Paris, reading, writing at 8:48 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Yves Fey, author of Floats the Dark Shadow is my Halloween guest blogger.

A Fin de Siecle Halloween

Parisians have adopted Halloween, dressing their children as various monstres, fantômes or sorcières, sometimes even as Egyptian momies, but it is not truly their holiday. Instead they have a more somber sort of Day of the Dead on November 1st — La Toussaint, or All Saint’s Day. Graves are visited and bouquets of autumnal chrysanthemums left in displays praised as worthy of tourist visits.

fey Cabaret_du_Chat_Noir_par_Robida

Le Chat Noir (click to enlarge)

Nonetheless, if the clock struck midnight in Paris on Halloween and you climbed into a passing coach for a magical mystery tour of the city in all its fin de siècle glory, you could have treated yourself to a long night on the town, conjuring suitable shivers to celebrate the holiday.

First, you could visit the most famous of black cats, Le Chat Noir, signpost and mascot of the Paris cabaret, and the veritable symbol of Montmartre. Le Chat Noir is considered the first modern nightclub, where the patrons imbibed their potables while watching a show. There were comic monologues, singers, and the famous “shadow plays.”

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Le Rat Mort (click to enlarge)

Having seen the Cat, which only lived until 1897, one might wander over to Le Rat Mort, which maintained its existence for a good deal longer. Legend says the rat was punished by death for having disturbed some clients engaged in a most private tête a tête. Or perhaps other body parts were engaged. Despite its unappetizing name, the club was quite spacious. Artists populated it by day, at night it was one of the most favored lesbian haunts.

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Cabaret du Neant (click to enlarge)

From their names, Le Chat Noir and Le Rat Mort are quite suitable for Halloween veneration, but there were clubs far creepier in context. Le Cabaret du Néant, or Nothingness, would now most certainly be the darling of the Goth crowd. There the tables were coffins. Trompe l’oeil tricks turned flesh and blood humans into skeletons before the delighted eyes of the patrons with a visual illusion called “Pepper’s Ghost” (I can’t help it, I hear Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band start to play).

More skeletons dangled from the ceiling of Nothingness, taking the form of crazed chandeliers. The lighting cast a greenish pall over the inhabitants, and waiters dressed as undertakers invited them to partake of such delicacies as a microbe of Asiatic cholera from the last corpse. Perhaps you should move on?

fey EnferOutside

Entrance to L’Enfer (click on enlarge)

fey EnferInside

Interior of L’Enfer (click on enlarge)

I suggest you finish your Halloween tour in Hell. Promising damnation, Satan will gesture you through a mouth of gigantic demonic fangs and into L’Enfer’s interior of plaster souls writing on the ceiling. Inside, the walls ooze metallic lava from their crevices. There is the occasional belch of sulphuric smoke and rumble of thunder. At your blood red table, you can order a seething bumper of molten sin, with a dash of brimstone—black coffee with cognac. According to William Chambers Morrow, who visited the club in 1900, the club’s drinks promise to “season your intestines, and render them invulnerable, for a time at least, to the tortures of the melted iron that will be soon poured down your throats.”

fey Redcielenfer1

Le Ciel (click to enlarge)

Feeling parched? Le Ciel, Heaven, is right next door, filled with fluffy clouds and star-spangled ceilings. There you’ll be served by gauzy angels (doing a bit of moonlighting from the Moulin Rouge). They’ll serve a star dazzler to cool your throat. But why would you go Heaven on Halloween? Just down another bumper of molten sin and remain invulnerable.

About Yves Fey

fey bookcoverMy first introduction to Yves Fey was when I was asked to review her wonderful dark mystery Floats the Dark Shadow by the Historical Novel Society. You can read my review here.

Floats the Dark Shadow is the first of Yves’ series set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris. It recently won several Indie awards–a Silver IPPY in the Best Mystery category, a Finalist Award in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards in mystery, and it was one of four Finalists in both History and Mystery in the Next Generation Indie Awards.

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Yves Fey

Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing when she was twelve. She holds a Bachelor’s in Pictorial Arts from UCLA, and a MFA from the University of Oregon in Creative Writing. In her varied career, she has been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, baker, creator of ceramic beasties, illustrator, fiction teacher, and finally, novelist. She’s won prizes for her chocolate desserts, and her current obsession is designing perfumes inspired by her characters and by the magical city of Paris. A Libra with Scorpio Rising, Yves’ romantic nature takes on a darker edge. She hopes these shadows bring depth.

A world traveler, Yves has visited Paris, England, and Italy. She lived for two years in Jakarta, Indonesia, with many trips around Asia. She wishes she could live in Montmartre like her heroine, but feels lucky to reside across the bridge from San Francisco, with her husband and their three cats, an Asian Burmese dubbed Marlowe the Investigator and two rescued girls, half Siamese and half tabby, The Flying Bronte Sisters.

Under her own name, Gayle Feyrer, she authored two historical romances for Dell. The first takes place in the lush and violent world of Renaissance Italy. The second is set amid the earthy glamour of Robin Hood’s Sherwood. Under the nom de plume Taylor Chase, she wrote two historical romances for Avon. These novels explored the turbulent realm of Elizabethan England, an era of brash and bawdy manners contrasting with elaborate courtly protocol, of vice and venality contending with a questing romantic spirit. These books will all soon be available again under her own Tygerbright imprint.

To learn more about Yves, her books, and fin de siecle Paris, visit  http://yvesfey.com

October 17, 2013

Your Opinion is Requested

Posted in books, reading at 8:40 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

I encourage you to take the The Historical Fiction Survey for 2013.  Its creators are M.K. Tod and Richard Lee.  It isn’t a pretend survey that is trying to get you to buy something.

Its creators are really interested in how readers make decisions about buying and reading books. You can see last year’s results at The Historical Fiction Survey for 2012.

The survey creators are hoping to poll a wide range of readers, so if historical fiction isn’t your cup of tea, that is fine.  You can still take the survey and give your opinions on what sorts of books you like to read and what encourages you to buy a book, among other things.

It doesn’t take long, so let your opinions be known and take The Historical Fiction Survey for 2013.

 

October 1, 2013

Author Interview: Anna Lee Huber

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 1:53 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Anna_Lee_Huber_Headshot_1

 

Today I’m welcoming Anna Lee Huber to my series of author interviews. Anna is the author of the Lady Darby mysteries which take place in 19th century Scotland. The first was The Anatomist’s Wife and the second is the newly released Mortal Arts.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Anna. Can you tell us about your Lady Darby mysteries?

anna Anatomists Wife CoverAnna: My Lady Darby mysteries are set in 1830 Scotland and feature Kiera, Lady Darby, a gifted portrait artist and the scandalous widow of a famous anatomist. When a woman is murdered at her sister’s estate in the wilds of northern Highlands, Kiera is forced to team up with gentlemen inquiry agent Sebastian Gage to find the culprit. In future books they will also join forces to solve cases of murder and mayhem.

Elizabeth: When plotting your story, how do you balance the elements of the mystery and the development of the romance between Lady Darby and Mr. Gage?

Anna: Since the Lady Darby novels are at their heart mysteries, the mystery definitely must come first. I usually plot all of the main parts of the mystery—the turning points and major discoveries—and then I weave in the other elements, like the romance and individual character development, trying to match the tone and theme. I continue adding greater detail for all the story elements until I feel my plot is complete.

Elizabeth: Lady Darby is an artist, and it helps her see the world a little differently than the other characters. Does Lady Darby get this from you? Are you a painter or involved in the visual arts?

Anna: I am not a visual artist, though my husband and one of my brothers are. I’m constantly picking their brain about little details. What I am is a musician and a writer, and I’m often struck by how similar the artistic mind is, no matter the medium of expression. It’s amazing how much translates from one type of art to another—the mindset, the worries, the worldview. It definitely gives me greater insight into Lady Darby.

Elizabeth: What first made you interested in this time period and place as a setting for your novels?

anna Mortal_Arts_coverAnna: I love the 19th century. It fascinates me. And I adore England and Scotland. So I knew I wanted to set my historical mystery series then and there. But I didn’t choose the exact year and location until after I crafted Lady Darby’s backstory. Once I realized that she had unwillingly accrued knowledge from her anatomist husband by being forced to sketch his dissections for an anatomy textbook he was writing, I knew that 1830 would be the perfect year. It’s just after the trial of Burke and Hare—Edinburgh body snatchers turned murderers—and two years before the Anatomy Act of 1832. This time period gives me lots of juicy bits of history to explore, as well as exploring the fear and unrest felt by the general public regarding the trade of body snatchers and the actions of anatomists. I chose to set The Anatomist’s Wife in the Highlands because I needed an isolated location, and because I simply love the beauty and melancholy of the terrain. Mortal Arts take place just north of Edinburgh, and I chose this spot because it suited my plot.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

Anna: My stories are not based on real historical figures, though sometimes they are woven into the periphery. Instead I use the details of history to build and inform my plots, trying to remain as historically accurate as possible. I also try very hard to make my characters true to their time period, with some fictional license. I like to include a Historical Note at the end of my novels to explain what’s real, and what historical facts I might have altered in some way.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Anna: My writing process is continually evolving, and I suspect it always will be. Once I have an idea for a plot, I do intensive research into the history surrounding it and brainstorm possibilities. Then I plot my novel, starting with the main points—inciting incidents, turning points, etc.—and progressing to ever smaller details. By the time my chart is done, the story is pretty well fleshed out. I also create a character arc and diagram for each main character and for Lady Darby and Gage’s relationship, taking into account motivation and fears, and other important psychological details. Then I write each scene, each important bit of information discovered, each emotional moment on an individual index card. I prefer to do it that way so that I can shuffle them later if needed. I don’t like to over-plot. If I feel like I’ve gone into too much detail, then I feel like I’ve already written the story and it bores me to do so again. I also like to leave room for spontaneity. After all that, I’m ready to write.

Elizabeth: Where will we next find Lady Darby? What are you working on now?

Anna: I am finishing Lady Darby Book 3, A Grave Matter, which is due out in July 2014. After the events in Mortal Arts, Kiera retreats to her childhood home in the Borders region to heal. But when a man is murdered and an old grave at an abbey disturbed, she must once again team up with Gage to solve the crimes.

Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

Anna: I grew up part of a large family in a small town in northwest Ohio. I wrote my first story in the fourth grade and have pretty much been writing ever since. My second love is music, and I graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a Bachelor’s degree in Music with a minor in Psychology. My husband and I own a web development company and currently live in northern Indiana with our troublemaking tabby cat, Pita. When not writing, I love to read, sing, travel, and spend time with my large extended family.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Anna: Tea

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Anna: I like rocky coasts, like Cornwall or Maine.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Anna: Depends on where I’m hiking. If the terrain interests me, I’d choose that. Otherwise, shopping.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Anna: I play the piano, but I absolutely love the violin. I’ve always wanted to learn to play. If I was choosing a concert to attend or a CD to listen to, violin would likely win out.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Anna: Mystery

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Anna: Darcy

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Anna: Either if it’s emotionally intense or moving, but I if I had to choose, a love scene.

For more information about Anna and her books, visit her website:

http://www.annaleehuber.com

or find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnaLeeHuber

or Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnaLeeHuber

The Lady Darby mysteries are available on AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-a-Million, and Indiebound.

Elizabeth: Thanks to Anna Lee Huber for visiting today.

Anna: Thank you so much for having me!

September 28, 2013

Most Popular Books for Children

Posted in author, books, reading at 11:22 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

A little over a week ago, I asked these questions: What was your favorite picture book as a child? As a parent? What was your favorite children’s chapter book? How would your children answer?

I asked this of some friends and acquaintances and posted it on two Facebook discussion groups. Some of my respondents listed one favorite for each category; others listed many. My Facebook groups are historical fiction groups, so this poll is biased toward historical fiction. Like me, many of my friends are women over 40, so this list is biased in that way too.

The results of my biased poll are in! To be included, a title or author had to be mentioned at least three times.

Most Popular Picture Books/Authors:

Dr. Seuss got more votes than anyone else.  Congratulations Dr. Seuss!

Other oft -mentioned books and authors:

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

The Berenstain Bears books by Stan and Jan Berenstain

A is for Annabella by Tasha Tudor

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The My Bookhouse books by Olive Beaupre Miller

Most Popular Chapter Books/Authors for Children

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder got the most votes for this category. Congratulations, Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Other oft-mentioned books and authors:

Beverly Cleary (in particular, her Ramona books)

Enid Blyton’s books

The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene

The Winnie the Pooh books by A.A. Milne

The Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Warner Chandler

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Doing this poll brought some new authors and books to my attention. I don’t know Enid Blyton and have yet to read any of the My Bookhouse books. I look forward to filling this gap in my knowledge of children’s literature!

Is your favorite author or book missing from the list? Feel free to mention them in the comments below.

September 1, 2013

Author Interview: Lori Crane

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 9:21 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

loricrane

 

 

Today I welcome Lori Crane to my series of author interviews. Lori is the author of The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge and the series Okatibbee Creek: Okatibbee Creek (book 1), An Orphan’s Heart (book 2), and the soon-to-be-released Elly Hays (book 3).

loricraneokatibbeeElizabeth: Welcome, Lori. Can you tell us about your Okatibbee Creek series?

Lori: The Okatibbee Creek series is a collection of stories about the strong women in my family’s history (1750-1900 US). The books are based on real people in real circumstances, overcoming real obstacles.

 

loricraneorphan

Elizabeth: What first made you interested in these characters?

Lori: As I did genealogy research, I found my third great grandmother, Mary Ann, had lost an unbelievable SEVENTEEN family members to typhoid and the Civil War in an eighteen-month period. The more I looked into the details, the more I became impressed with the sheer amount of strength she possessed. She became the heroine of the book Okatibbee Creek. When I found her young niece was orphaned at the same time and was moved from state to state with relatives, I was hooked on her story which became An Orphan’s Heart. I looked back in time to find the source of strength for these women and fell upon Mary Ann’s grandmother who lost almost everything to a hostile band of Indians during the War of 1812. That is the coming book Elly Hays.loricraneelly

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

 

 

loricranestuckeyLori: The Okatibbee Creek books are all real names, dates, and places. The only fictional parts are their personalities and daily lives, which we can never know. The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge is based on a Mississippi legend. If the legend is true, then the dates and places are true, including Old Man Stuckey’s brief stint as a member of the notorious Dalton Gang. Most of the people are fictional since there was no cast of characters in the original legend.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process and how do you go about doing historical research?

Lori: When I’m engrossed by an historical character, I put together a timeline of events and then go back and weave a storyline through them. Sort of like putting puzzle pieces in an almost-finished jigsaw puzzle.

Elizabeth: What are you working on now?

Lori: I’m working on a sequel to Stuckey’s Bridge called Stuckey’s Legacy. The main character is total fiction, but I’m placing him in real 1920s people, events, and places to get the true flavor of the roaring twenties.

Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

Lori: Besides being an indie author, I am a full-time musician and play a dueling piano show on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Being at sea four to eight weeks at a time gives me plenty of time to write. When I’m home, I live a quiet life in the country in western Michigan with my trophy husband and a host of animals, including our newest addition Eva. She’s a four-foot ball python.

Elizabeth: Yikes!

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Lori: Tea. I’ve never tried coffee.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Lori: Since I spend twenty weeks + a year on the ocean, I have to say mountains.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Lori: Hiking.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Lori: Piano since I was five.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Lori: Either, as long as it’s captivating.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Lori: Heathcliff all the way. Of course, probably not in real life.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Lori: Death scene. Nothing says love like dying in someone’s arms.

To learn more about Lori and her books, visit her websites:

Website: http://loricrane.com/

Blog: http://loricrane.wordpress.com/

Lori’s books are available at: http://www.amazon.com/Lori-Crane/e/B00ATIQW8M

 

August 30, 2013

Back to School

Posted in books, reading, teaching at 9:35 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

As the kids head back to school, so do I. I’ve been going through Scholastic catalogs and textbooks and web pages listing award-winning children’s books and I’ve put together the list of books students will be reading in my Children’s Lit class this semester.  I thought I’d share.

All read:

Charles Perrault’s Cinderella and the Grimm Brother’s Aschenputel, followed by two choice fairy tales.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Choice books (one from each genre):

Historical Fiction

  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Fantasy

  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Contemporary/Realistic Fiction

  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Poetry Novel

  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
  • Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

They’ll read two other choice books: one by an author whose name they’ll pick from a hat, and one based on a theme their group selects.

A lot of great books and a lot of fun!  Don’t you wish you were in my class this semester?

August 2, 2013

Super Simple Scones

Posted in cooking at 3:27 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

I have no writing news, but I’ve been cooking and thinking about cooking a lot this summer.

I like to cook, but I’m a lazy person. I’m also a rule-follower. The first time I cook something from a recipe, I follow it exactly. After that, I might substitute ingredients and alter how it is put together, knowing that the changes I make could negatively affect the recipe. For stupendous recipes, I don’t alter anything.

The problem with this system is that I end up not making stupendous recipes very often either because I don’t have the ingredients at hand, because the recipe is difficult or because it is time consuming. Or all three.

I had a scone recipe that fit that problem. I LOVE scones, and this recipe was excellent—so I nearly never made them. Then one day, I had the time, energy, and desire, but not all the ingredients, so I made it with some substitutions. And guess what? It was even better!

Now I made it a little more often, but it was still difficult and time-consuming. For example, I was supposed to roll out the dough into a thick circle so it could be cut into wedges. I hate rolling out dough. No matter how exactly one follows the recipe, sometimes the dough is too sticky and needs more flour or is too dry and crumbles. And it makes such a mess.

I have a recipe for dropped biscuits and decided to follow that concept instead. You know what? Round scones don’t taste much different than wedge-shaped scones.

scone

But still, I didn’t make them often enough because it called for cutting the butter into the dry ingredients. Ugh. What a pain! I have a pastry cutter and followed that part of the recipe for about ten years, then about a month ago, I thought, Why don’t I just soften the butter in the microwave, then add it to the dry ingredients? Pastry chefs may have reasons for not doing this, but I will tell you that I saw absolutely no difference in texture or taste.

So, here it is, my simplified recipe for scones:

Cherry Almond Scones

Ingredients:

½ cup butter, softened in microwave

2 cups white flour

4-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 Tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup vanilla yogurt

¼ cup milk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup dried cherries

Preparation:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter, spray or grease cookie sheet. Soften butter in the microwave. Add the flour, baking powder and soda, sugar, ginger and salt. Mix well. Add the yogurt, milk and almond extract. Mix well. Add dried cherries and mix until well distributed. Drop batter by very large spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Should make about 8 scones. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Eat warm.

June 30, 2013

Camping and Conferencing

Posted in author, books, travel, writing at 3:53 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

How does one save money when attending a conference and bring the family along for a vacation?  Tent camping, of course.

Last week, I attended the Historical Novels Society 2013 conference in St. Petersburg, Florida.  My family tagged along so we could turn the trip into a vacation.

Day 1: We left on a Wednesday, drove about 12 hours, and camped at Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Kentucky.  This is a beautiful park and was practically empty.  We arrived just before sunset and took a short hike to the lake.  The beach was clean and pretty, we couldn’t understand why nobody was there.   Tom figured it out.

kentucky beach   kentucky sign

 

 

 

Day 2: Drove for about 15 hours and arrived in St. Petersburg about 10:00pm, so had to set up our tents in the dark.  We stayed at the St. Petersburg/Madeira Beach KOA and had a beautiful tent site–right on the water, in a quiet park of the campground.  This was a well-run, quiet campground–probably much busier in the winter. In the heat of June, there were not many other campers. Here’s our tent site:

tents far

After setting up camp, I couldn’t help but imagine an alligator climbing up out of the water and coming at our tents.  Here’s a close up. The water is just beyond the line of bushes.

tents close

I spent a sleepless night, jumping every time there was a splash in the water, wondering if alligators were noctural or diurnal and comforting myself with the thought that alligators probably lived in fresh water and the lagoon by us was salt water. Right? I’m happy to report that we did not see a single alligator on our trip.

Day 3: After a camp breakfast, we got on our swimsuits and drove the 5 minutes to Madeira Beach. June is a good time to visit the beach in Florida, as the heat makes it necessary to get in the water and tourists are not in attendance.  Here is what the beach looked like at 10am on a Friday morning:

beach1

That night, the conference began.  It was held in the beautiful Vinoy Renaissance Hotel.

vinoy

I got to meet up with the Great Lakes Chapter of the HNS and to listen to Anne Perry speak at the dinner banquet.

My family went to visit Fort DeSoto. They found the fort interesting, but the heat was disabling and distracting.  They finished the day with a meal at Pepe’s Cuban Cafe, which they called the best meal they’d ever had.

Exhausted, I fell asleep immediately, despite sleeping on the ground, possibly within striking distance of an alligator.

Day 4: All day at the conference for me.  I volunteered at the agent/editor pitches, went to some fun workshops and did a book signing in the afternoon.  Here I am with fellow authors Tinney Heath and Julie Caton at the book signing.

book signing

My family picked up a cousin and headed to Busch Gardens, where they rode roller coasters, got sunburned, and drank 2 gallons of water each.

Day 5: Last day of the conference. I went to Susanna Kearsley’s workshop on Bringing Characters to Life through Genealogy. It was exciting to get to listen to one of my favorite authors.  Kearsley used the family tree of character/real person John Moray (The Winter Sea) to show how an author can better understand the relationships between historical people and make realistic families for fictional characters. Fascinating! I learned a lot.

My boys went to the beach one last time, then we packed up camp and drove to Orlando to see my cousin and her family and to sleep in beds!

Day 6: Disney!

DSCF2620

My boys had never been and I hadn’t been since I was about ten.  Hot day, but endurable as many of the rides at Disney have lines in air conditioning.  My cousin’s daughter helped guide us. I was worried my boys, ages 13 and 17, would be too old for Disney, but we all had a good time. Space Mountain was the most popular ride for us. We finished with a late dinner at Tijuana Flats. Yum.

Day 7: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure.

DSCF2626   DSCF2635

 

 

 

My boys liked this park better than Disney or Busch Gardens.  It gets my vote too, as the Harry Potter ride is quite possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever done.  Highly recommended. Also, the butterbeer is a must drink. My cousin and her daughter both came with us, and they were a lot of help maneuvering through the park.  Single rider lines are the way to go, even if you are in a group.  You get through the rides much more quickly and don’t get separated too much.

At both Disney and Universal Studios, we rode rides with Brazilian teenagers sporting colorful Kontik shirts. We learned eventually that Kontik is a travel company and that their group consisted of 700 Brazilian (rhymes with a million) teenagers.

Day 8: We got up early to drive the 18 hours to Bloomington, Indiana, arriving a little after midnight. Tom read The Fault in Our Stars in its entirety. Craig continued with the Song of Ice and Fire series, and I read most of Gillian Bagwell’s The Darling Strumpet.  Andy was a driving machine.

Day 9: Stayed with the my sister and her family. My brothers and their kids came to visit too.  Great to see everyone, talk, eat, ride horses and play with chickens.

horse       chickens

 

 

 

Day 10: An 8.5 hour drive never seemed so short.  We got home in time to  pick up our dog from the kennel.

Great vacation. Great to be home.

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