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The Fruitcake Bride is Now Available on Amazon!

Here it is!

Talk about cutting it close to Christmas. :)

I’m so happy to share with you all today that The FRUITCAKE BRIDE is now available for download on Kindle.

Those of you on my subscriber list, will be or have already been set the first chapter of this sweet romance.

The cover for the paperback edition is still in the format stages and will be available in a few days–or at least that is my hope– for those of you who prefer a print copy.

Buy it for yourself, or buy it for a friend.

This feel-good, heart warming inspirational western steampunk romance is great for those long car trips as you travel to see family this Christmas season, or just an escape read.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of it.

 

From the moment Adam Keller stepped up beside her at the Chicago train station, Kati Roberts has held a special place in her heart for him, but will her mother’s fruitcake recipe be enough to convince Adam to love her in return?

Travel back to the late 1870’s with Adam and Kati to the coal mining town of Annie Creek, South Dakota for an old-fashion Christmas that will warm your heart with this sweet inspirational romance.

BUY IT NOW

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Fruitcake Bride: The Cover

The final edits are complete, so I’ve been working on the cover.

As I’m thinking of the cover and trying to visualize what it should look like, I think fruitcake. It’s called The Fruitcake Bride, right?

So here’s the first cover idea:

fcbridesamplecake1ffc The first thing my husband said as he walked by is, “Looks like a cook book.”

Well, that’s just not romantic!

So, I went back to the drawing board and here’s attempt #2

fruitcakebridecover2a

Mind, these are sample photos and not the original cover photo so they still logo imprints on them at this point.

This one, really isn’t too bad. Maybe I have a cover here. Not totally  feeling it, are you?

So I played around some more, went a little beyond my usual and here is attempt #3

 

fcbridecoversampleI know, its still pretty rough, and not finished. Noticed, the fruitcake on the bottom, is the same one from the cover attempt #2 above.

Then I had a suggestion from a friend on Facebook reminding of the train. Yes, there is a train in the story. So I found a picture of a train and did something like this:

(cover attempt #4)

fcbridecoversample1pm

Honestly, this one is my favorite so far.

The girl with the derby hat and gingham dress is totally Kati.

But there is no fruitcake on this cover…. hmmmm…

What do you think? Should I go with one I’ve made, keep tweaking, or start from the drawing board again?

 

The first chapter of Fruitcake Bride will be released to newsletter recipients on Friday along with the final cover reveal. If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter yet, please do so. You’ll find it here on my site on the top left hand side.

Looking forward to getting your 411 on the cover!

 

 

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Setting The Scene for The Fruitcake Bride

It’s 1879, people are continuing to head west. Railways are still underway. 

The mining boom is growing– and when we thinking of mining back then, we think GOLD! Right? The big gold rush where settlers went across the United States on wagon trains to California and claimed their spots in streams and mountains to find their fortune. 

But when we think of the old west, how often do we recognize the coal mining part of it? Granted, the gold came first, then they found coal, iron, minerals, and a steam punk town needs a fuel source for all that steam.

And a story needs to take place somewhere, so I went on an journey through cyberspace looking up places in the west. Now do you ever recognize that most western “prairie” romances are wrote in South Dakota, Colorado, and Texas? So why would I be any different? Maybe a little.

That’s when I started researching old mining towns. That’s when I came across Annie Creek in Lawrence County, South Dakota. Yes, Annie Creek is still on the map, it’s in a state forest now, but it comes up on Google maps. Mind you, I’ve never been there, it may just be a relic of what it once was during those mining town days. Everything about the town, I’ve created based on research about Annie Creek in 1879 along with many other mining towns of that period. I’ve pieced this town town together based on that, but it’s still a fictional town per the setting for The Fruitcake Bride. So if you’re history buff and I’ve missed something or twisted something, I’m sorry I’m human and sometimes I even misspell words.

That’s why my Fruitcake Bride starts her journey in Chicago. In a larger populated town, with an upper class kind of setting and places like bakeries, dress shops, and other specific merchandises.  (Also a good place to add steam punk elements to create the feel for this sweet story to unfold. )

Then after finding my little mining town, there had to be motivation. Perhaps I’m giving away too much that’s in the novella here, but after a critique with my writer’s group it was decided I needed a set up. So, I wrote the Prologue, and with it came the motivation and the newspaper ad.

Tweet: Mining Companies out west need good men. John Roberts is ready to get his hands dirty and escape the sorrows of Chicago.

 

1879 mine worker ad

The last thing Kati wanted to do was leave their cozy apartment above the bakery where her mother helped each morning there in Chicago, but Pa got the mining bug and they’ve been living in Annie Creek, South Dakota ever since.

Then the romance comes into the plot and the story starts.

Because I’ve taken a historical western genre and added the steam punk conveniences to the time period, you’ll find Annie Creek isn’t your typical old west town.

Bannack State Park

Annie Creek may not have all the “modern” inventions of the eastern states, but they still have slowly gained the knowledge brought west from others. Like, gases released from the mines is used for lighting, while coal harvested from the tunnels are used to heat homes and power transportation.

Doctor Ryburn's House

Like most mining towns in the west, Annie Creek is both named for, owned, and ran by the  a mining company. This quaint little town has a boarding house, restaurant, church, company store, company housing, blacksmith shop, bank, courthouse/ jail,  hotel, and saloon.

Miners works for weekly vouchers where they can cash in at the company store, saloon, or bank.

Miners are provided company housing on the outskirts of town.

43307 Bannack Main Street

Ready to visit Annie Creek?

I’m thinking a shopping trip is in order, and it’s time to bake that sweet fruitcake from Kati’s recipe.

I’ll be releasing the first chapter excerpt this week to everyone who subscribes to my blog. If you’re not subscribed yet, do it now! You’ll also get a free copy of my short kindle story, Emma’s Dilemma, on pdf. You can always unsubscribe later if you’re unhappy with your subscription, no strings attached. I promise.

 

 *additional photos compliments of flickr creative commons.*

Thoughts on The Fruitcake Bride

I grew up watching westerns. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, The Rifleman, Bonanza…. and many more. Colored, black n white, I’ve seen them and shows like Little House on a Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. At my age, when you were a kid, we only had one television in the entire house. I know, I can hear you all gasping now.

So, I sat with my dad and watched outlaws get chased by posse and good heated folks come together in old west towns and soldiers battle Indians all from the comfort of my living room. Plus, when I went to visit my grandfather, yep you guessed it, more westerns. But that wasn’t all, you see my grandfather was a coal miner.

His family was a mix of Indian blood and immigrated Hungarian roots.  He would speak of this often, and I’d listen.

When the call came out to write a Christmas novella in the old west, I knew I wanted to write a story about a coal miner, in an old mining town, and it had to be coal not gold they were digging for.

I’d pondered this idea a few times, using my grandmother’s name Clara and my grandfather, Stephen as the two main characters, but hadn’t the inspiration until the Fruitcake Bride.  Out of all the titles I could have selected from, this one appealed to me most.

My dad likes fruit cake. My mom used to bake him fruitcake (as I think you may have read in an earlier post), and so the ingredients for this story were laid out.

However, as I started the research, started to plot, the story changed and new characters formed.

I wanted traditional names, Hungarian and Swedish, as many of the rail workers came from those countries along with the Asian oriented population. So I had Stephen Keller and Clara Roberts as my main characters, but the more I researched and wrote, the more I knew those names didn’t fit.

Keller and Roberts are traditional last names taken from 1800’s census and so I went to the place I always go when looking for names, babynames.com and I searched for Hungarian names. That’s where I found Kati and Adam.

Adam – While Hungarian, it’s also Biblical.

Kati – (pronounced KAH-tee) short for Katalin or Katherine, both old fashioned names.  A sweet name for a girl who loves to bake.

With my two main characters named, I moved on to my secondary characters, whom are just as important in many ways as the main two. You may also think of them as “supporting characters” kind like in the movies and you remember the guy behind the main actor or actress.

When I got to swirling this whole old west theme and an old coal mining town around in my brain, I had thoughts of Little House on the Prairie and Mr. and Mrs. Olson. You remember them?

Yeah, so Frank and Agnes Simmons were created in the Fruitcake Bride. These two characters run the company store, just like the Olsen’s run the general store in the Little House on the Prairie.

Simmons, goes back to my grandfather, it’s a family name. It’s a old traditional name as well.

Along with those old names, some additional character names for the book are as follows:

Paul Dohannis

Calli Fox

Mrs. Bradford

Mr. Rist

John Roberts – Kati’s father

Clara Roberts – Kati’s mother

Sezo, Toni, Jim – Mine workers

Pastor Daley

Adrienn Keller

Zeidel

Mr. Hanshaw

And yes, if you saw above I still used Clara. So what happened to Stephen? He’s in there, too, as the name of a young mine worker.

Beyond, Kati and Adam, these additional names may not feel important, but like the town or community you live in there are people, weather you know them by first name, last name, or what they do, they’re important. And so are these characters in creating the story of the Fruitcake Bride.

In my next post, I’ll set the scene and we’ll head to Annie Creek, SD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steampunk vs Historical

I just finished the first round of edits on The Fruitcake Bride.

Tomorrow, I start a second type of edit. The kind where I go through and make sure I’ve kept consistent with the the little details I’ve gone and added to make it historical and “steam punk.”

I make a list. It helps me as I’m writing, chapter by chapter, to keep my facts straight. And, yes, sometimes those facts are “made up” but they still must remain consistent the whole way through the story.

Here are some of the elements I’ve added to the story that sets it apart from your usual western historical to a western steam punk novel.

1. A brass oven with copper hot water tubes that “Steam heats” what’s inside.

2. A brass boiler to heat the company store, complete with copper hot water pipes and radiators.

3. Adam Keller wears a boilercap with goggles for going down into the mines.

4. Kati cherishes her mother’s clock pendant she wears on a chain around her neck.

5. Mrs. Simmons and her wire spectacles. (She’s a little scary to Kati, you’ll see why in the book)

So what is steam punk? I’ve been asked this a few times and a fellow author summed it up in a why I think explains it best.

Steampunk is generally set in time periods such as futuristic (cyber stuff), old west, and the Victorian era.  It’s taking things like gears, clocks, metal inventions that work with steam and placing them in these settings. However, those “steam” inventions have to be created with elements you could find during that time period. For example: brass, copper, iron, wood, leather, are all things you’ll see a lot of in the steam punk creations.

If you ask Wikipedia, it will tell you this about steam punk:

a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century, often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild-West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during with steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Recognizably features anachronistic technologies and retro-futuristic inventions.

OK, so maybe that was too much of a definition. Smith, or even Jules Verne ( who happens to get mentioned in Back to The Future 3. )

So with all that swimming in your mind now, here are some of the things, which, while present in the old west during those days, help compliment the steampunk feel to my upcoming novella, The Fruitcake Bride.

1. Steam Engines

2. Slouch and wide-brimmed hats

3. Adam lives at Mrs. Bradford’s Boarding House

4. Iron, Leather, and horses

5. An old coal mining town

6. South Dakota

 

So then what makes it historical beyond all this?

1. Restaurants instead of diners

2. Women’s movement for rights

3. Young women waiting to be courted

4. Calico prints and hand sewn gowns

5. The Company Store (or General Stores)

6. Telegraphs and horse delivered mail.

7. Leather gun belts and saloons

8. Ship yards and train stations

 

Welcome to western steam punk.

I hope you like, I am completely falling for this genre, and on Friday I’ll tell you why.

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Vintage Sledding & Cocoa

Tis the season, and yes it’s cold in Pennsylvania. We don’t have any snow, but we’re thinking of it. That and of old fashioned sleds. You know the kind you had as a kid.

There was this huge hill behind my grandma’s house and all us grand-kids would take turns on our sleds going down the steep hill and we’d help each other the way back up. While our fathers were warm and toasting having coffee in Gram’s house, we were frost bitten and laughing outside in the snow.

While I was at my crafting table this week, I found a stamp set I got last Christmas with the sled, it reminded me of those winters and sledding with my cousins. It also reminded me of coming in the house after being cold and my mom making me something warm to drink.

As I’ve been learning more and more about the west in the late 1870’s the kraft paper and burlap inspired me and today’s creation is a vintage sled hot chocolate holder.  I have several in my etsy shop, but also put away for gifts this Christmas.

 

vintage sled cocoa holder

And look, not one, but two cocoa packets! It’s nice to have one for you and one for a friend…

double hot chocolate packets

I used kraft card stock, burlap twine, sheer ribbon, and a cute stamp set I picked up at one of my local craft stores. If you want the recipe for making this, let me know I’ll be happy to share.

Hope you’re all keeping warm on this Monday.

I’m off to work in getting the Fruitcake Bride ready for publication, It won’t be much longer now!

Fruit Cake, A wedding or holiday tradition?

I’ve always had this fascination with where things come from. While inspired to write a novel based around a fruit cake, I promised to share you a bit about the tradition of a fruit cake.
Ancestral Memory - Michael Lewis Miller - Slicing the Fruitcake - Detail
Photo credit: Flicker Creative Commons

As I mentioned in my early post, it was once a wedding cake.

How it became a holiday tradition, I do not yet know. Something I’m going to have to put on my fact-finder hat and discover for a later time.

Today however, I am happy to say I survived the trip to the attic in this chilly November weather and came out with this bit of my old collage paper to share.

As per my college essay (which I will not date to give away my age):

“At the wedding reception, the wedding cake is the most popular attraction, other than the new couple, for the guests to admire.
In the beginning, the wedding cake, a dark fruit cake, was traditionally broke over the bride’s head. In other cultures such as the Hindu and Muslim religion the tradition of the wedding cake is very close to their tradition of breaking bread over their brides’ heads.

The creation of sugar and ice-like white topping wasn’t discovered until the eighteenth century!

This new discovery of white iced cakes belongs to a woman named Elizabeth Raffald, who published one of the greatest eighteenth-century cookbooks and improved upon the traditional wedding fruit cake.

After this, wedding cakes underwent another transformation in the Victorian era where white was the symbol for purity. A wedding cake became a luxury for brides who choose to add white icing and so only the rich could afford it.

However, there was no expense too big for the Queen of England and so cake designs rose in height with the support of pillars, towers, and arches. Cake decorating became an art, not just a dessert at the reception.

By 1880 the wedding cake consisted of three layers of rich ornamentation from top to bottom. This tradition of the wedding cake carried into the twentieth century and still is being experimented with today.

All this flourishing because of a simple fruit cake.”

But wait, there is one more little piece of “fruit” I’d like to share with you about the original wedding fruit cakes.

Originating in Bermuda, the very first wedding cake topper was a cedar tree placed on the top of a fruitcake. The bride and groom planted the tree after the reception and this tree was to grow with the love of the bride and groom.

What do you think? Will we see any trees sticking up from fruit cakes at future wedding receptions?

Winter Blues Journal

When I make a book for someone, it’s more than pasting and stitching paper together.

I had one request for the journal I’ve been working on. It had to be blue.

With the cold winds and frost teasing me at the window, I flipped through my papers and found this blue hued tree print. Nothing else compared. Nothing else said, blue or winter, or write in me, like this print. So I made it into this journal.

Winter Blues Journal
Tweet: Every book holds a story, some are just waiting for their pages to be filled. @susanlower

While the size is slightly larger than the journals I’ve made in the past year, I like this one. It’s 5.5″ x 8.5″ and it holds ten signatures, or in writer terms – 200 pages. Each page was hand cut, folded, and stitched into the beautiful creation you see.

Inside Journal

Inside the cover reveals a blue sky, where if you’ve stare long enough you probably can make out a shape or two, just like the real sky… just like you did as a kid or do now. The signature pages may be blank but there are places to go inside this book. All one must do is write inside it to start the adventure.

coptic stitchJust like a piece of fine embroidery, it takes time to hand stitch a book like this. Each pull of the thread, each woven loop on the binding keeps it sturdy. Keeps it together. This is the way they made books long ago.

gift card tag

While this Winter Blues Journal is packaged and on its way to hold someone’s story, it is time for me to resume my own and fill in the next chapter before the snow becomes distracting and children race on sleds and demand hot chocolate.

May the rest of your Monday be merry and warm.

 

May Your Blessings be Bountiful

For the past few days, I have found myself in the middle of an Iroquois village.

What better time to learn about the Native American culture than a time like this.  Not only has it given an opportunity for a mother to spend time with her child, but it has opened an opportunity to bring a much deeper understanding of today’s feast to a generation still filled with questions and curiosity.

While the Indians that shared their meal with the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock may not have been Iroquois, they too, were part of a nation of tribes. I don’t know if there is truly a “pure American” other than we were born here, because many of us trace our heritage back to other countries, and some of us to those Indian Nations that were here long before Christopher Columbus discovered our new homeland.

As I write this, I can hear the sounds of kids helping prepare dishes, and soon the turkey will burst with flavor from the oven.

Thanksgiving was the gathering of the first yield of crops that had been harvested.

This day was prepared for long in advance.

It started with the sowing of seeds.

Like the planting of those first crops, many of us tend our families rather than our gardens.

And on this day, your home may be like mine.

My home doesn’t look like something out of the cover of a magazine, it appears lived in.

I haven’t attempted to replicate any thing from Pintrest to impress our family. One of these days, if I ever have to cook a turkey, that should be impressive enough.

Why?

Not because I’m a bad mother, or a bad hostess.

Because like that tribe of Indians and those first pilgrims that came to the new world, my family works together to provide for our family.

There is a sock at the end of the couch in our living room. One of my kids is walking around with one foot bare. There are books and crayons on the floor near the television. Another child of mine has been creating art. There is a timer beeping and feet tromping down the hall– another dish is ready.

I hear the voices containing questions and laughter.

As I type, I smile. Not because I’ve once more escaped the duty of having to cook a turkey,but because the Indians who sat down with the pilgrims didn’t have timers or microwaves or ovens to help them prepare their meals let alone for this day.

They didn’t have a grocery store to collect their bounty for their meal, they hunted. They worked the land, and they survived the hardships of the land.

As I watch the last bit of paper tacked on the paper lodge created for my child’s model Indian village, I am thankful that the meaning of thanksgiving has become of one centered around bring families and communities together.

I’m sure there is another side to the stories of the day the pilgrims invited the Indians to dinner. Perhaps the Indian Nations saw it differently, especially after we over took their land–or so my child has pointed out to me after our many days of working on this model village.

I do not have permission to show you the model village, at least until it has been teacher approved and graded.

But on this day of feast and gathering, I am thankful for those first pilgrims that came to settle here. I’m thankful that throughout the generations after that first feast we are still able to access the bounty of resources our nation uses to provide for the needs of our people. I’m thankful for those who have come into our lives and those currently in our lives that grace us and bless us with their presence. And while not all of us may have yielded abundant crops this year, we are able to survive much better today as they did coming over on the Mayflower.

May your bounty of blessings continue to be bountiful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

What Can You Do With A Handful of Twigs?

twig vase

Last week, I needed to come up with a center piece on the fly.

Not only did I need a quick idea, I needed something that cost close to nothing and for a group of boys to put together for a Thanksgiving gathering.

I ‘m so thankful for Pintrest. Without out it I wouldn’t have thought of this. Granted, I’m pretty creative, but even the best of artist look at other work for inspiration.

When I say this I thought, twigs… boys like sticks right? And, they can gather them in their back yard!

Needless to say, a handful of sticks, a recycled vegetable can, some scrap burlap and raffia from my scrap box and TADA!

I found the red berries at our local dollar tree for just a buck.

Best centerpiece I’ve made on a budget yet.

Together with a group of cub scouts we made four additional center pieces for their Thanksgiving gathering.

Boys and sticks, you just can’t go wrong.

Other than the turkey, what’s gracing your table this Thanksgiving?