So, how’s the blog tour going?

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We are about half way through the blog tour for “The General’s Wife” and it is going really, really well! I cannot say enough good things about Goddess Fish Tours and their services. Everything has been smooth and seamless. The bloggers have been great and everything that Goddess Fish Tours promised has been delivered. What more could one ask for?

The Regulars. There are some folks I see commenting regularly on the tour. That’s fantastic. It does warm my heart to see them each day of the tour. I love the questions some ask and that others are just encouraging and seem to enjoy the content they are getting.

The Consistency. Everyday when I get up the blog post is already up. Fantastic! I don’t have to wonder when it’s going to be up or if it’s the wrong day. No, it’s up and running already. I love that.

Marketing. Goddess Fish Promotions is doing an outstanding job of tweeting and putting out Facebook posts regularly (daily, multiple times a day even) about the tour stops and even about the book. They are on it.

The Reviews. Reviews make every author a little nervous. Not because we don’t believe in our work. But because this is our art, this is a piece of ourselves. Will the reviewer “get it”? Will they understand? I have had two so far on the tour – both glowing reviews of the book. I couldn’t be happier. And I am so thankful for the bloggers/reviewers who really took the time to read the book and to “get me”.

The Bloggers. And I appreciate all of the bloggers who have hosted me. They have all been courteous and efficient with, again, getting the post up, moderating comments, and the like. I have been impressed by their sites and have felt inspired to perhaps open my blog up to be a part of tours like this. I don’t know…something to think about.

Please continue to follow along and make the most of this experience with me. I am certain I will be using this blog service in the future for other releases.

“The General’s Wife” Blog Tour

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Well, it’s that time…I’m going on tour again! Blog tour, that is. I will be virtually hopping all over the internet starting TODAY, September 19th, until Friday, October 14th. These stops will include a variety of posts.

Spotlights. These stops will be a blogger’s way of highlighting the book. They will have the short synopsis (the kind that would appear on the back of the book), the cover, the buy links, and some info about me. Some may have an excerpt from the book.

Interviews. Some stops will have interviews with me. And believe me, some of these bloggers dig deep! So if you want to learn more about me, you won’t want to miss these stops!

Guest Posts. I have been busy writing guest blog posts for some of the bloggers. They wanted to get some insight on what it’s like to be an author, to write, find inspiration, at the like. These are fun.

Reviews. These will be rather interesting. These are bloggers who have read the book and will give their feedback on it.

Prizes. There will be a grand prize given along the way. Be sure to follow the tour for more details.

So, without further ado, here’s the line up:

September 19: Long and Short Reviews
September 20: The Reading Addict
September 21: It’s Raining Books
September 22: Reviews by Crystal
September 22: With Love for Books
September 23: Christine Young
September 23: Tina Donahue Books – Heat with Heart
September 26: A Writer’s Life
September 26: Jessica and Gracie’s Tree
September 27: Louise Lyndon Romance Author Hear Me Roar
September 27: LibriAmoriMiei
September 28: EskieMama Reads
September 28: The Avid Reader
September 29: Doorway to History
September 30: Fabulous and Brunette
September 30: Notes From a Romantic’s Heart
October 3: The Book Connection
October 3: History and Other Ponderings
October 4: Unabridged Andra’s
October 4: CBY Book Club
October 5: Ms. Stuart Requests the Pleasure of Your Company
October 5: Readeropolis
October 6: Book Lover Promo
October 6: Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews
October 7: Reading Is My SuperPower
October 7: Two Ends of the Pen
October 10: Danita Minnis
October 11: Nickie’s Views and Interviews
October 12: Where the Story Comes First
October 13: Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
October 13: Full Moon Dreaming
October 14: Books,Dreams,Life

If, of course, you haven’t picked up your copy of “The General’s Wife”, you can learn more about it, and even purchase it here.

The Perfect Writers Retreat

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I just came home from the perfect writers retreat. And I’m not just saying that because I co-hosted it. I have read through the evaluations and they would serve to support that assertion. It was the first retreat thrown by our little writers critique group, but if we have anything to say about it, it is only the first. There will be more. Will we do things differently? There will be some tweaks. But no changes. Because everything ran smoothly and our guests really enjoyed what we had to offer.

The Venue. We chose a Bed & Breakfast in Murfreesboro, TN: Carriage Lane Inn. It was wonderful. Absolutely perfect. There were so many cozy writing nooks indoors and out-of-doors. And the atmosphere and decor were perfect to set the mood for creativity. Will we host it here again? I truly hope so. The only thing I’d like to do differently is to reserve the entire venue, expand the retreat to the entire grounds, and make it bigger.

living-roomThe Timing. The season was great. If anything, we could do it later in September or early in October. It was cool enough to write outside, but even cooler (not too chilly) would be even better. But much later and we run into Fall Breaks. We did run into minor issues, I think, being so close to a major conference (ACFW). We could have planned to be at least one more week away. It still worked out well.

What exactly was available?

webpage background?Undisturbed writing time. Can I hear an “amen”? If that was all we offered, I think we’d have gotten eager writers signing up. A bed, meals prepared, and a nice spot to write undisturbed. What more could you want? Well, I’ll tell you what more we offered…

Mentor or Critique appointments. In the morning, each guest could have a 20 minute mentor or critique appointment with a published author. They could have a 5 page critique of any pages or a mentor appointment to talk about website, marketing, plotting, character development, really anything they wanted. Everyone said they benefitted from this time.

Meeting writersWorkshops. There were two workshop slots (1 hour long each) and three workshops offered in each slot. So, 6 workshops to choose from, but each guest could go to 2. Because there were so few slots for the retreat, each workshop had few attendees, which made them very personable, interactive, and the instructors were able to make them directly applicable to each guest’s novel/career.

Meals. Meals and snacks were prepared and delicious (thank you, Greg!). So, the attendees really just had to show up hungry.

Would we do anything differently?

20160911_094505Perhaps make it longer. We all felt it was a good length. Check in was Saturday morning at 9 am and check out was Sunday morning at 11 am. We all wished it lasted until Sunday evening or even that it officially began Friday evening and lasted until Sunday evening. This is something we might look into the next time around.

20160911_094806Expand it. As I mentioned before, we would love to offer more slots. We didn’t have many slots available. It would be nice to offer it to more people.

A group reading time. One of the guests mentioned in their evaluation that it would have been nice to have a time when all the writers shared a scene from one of their works or from one of their favorite books. That is a great idea! And one we may very well employ next retreat.

20160911_094916All in all, it was a fabulous weekend. And even though I was busy, busy, busy with food prep, and appointments, and workshops, and plotting, I still got two kid-free naps in and some much needed undisturbed writing time. Just wonderful! So, if you are in driving distance of Middle Tennessee, keep your eyes open for our retreat next fall.

Self-Publishing: Getting My Feet Wet

Self-Publishing

Yesterday, in the wee hours of the morning, my latest book “Off to War” went up for sale on Amazon. It was exciting, of course, because every time you are publishing is thrilling. But even more so because this is my first venture in self-publishing. As a newbie in this arena, I cannot yet tell you much about the pros and cons from personal experience, but I can tell you some of the reasons why I chose this route.

Why Not? At the core of it, I retain all my rights. I don’t have to negotiate down the road to get my rights back, or wait “x” amount of years for the reversion of rights. They are always, solely mine. And I only profit share with the distributer (a.k.a. Amazon, iTunes, etc.) as opposed to sharing with the distributer and the publisher. The idea with going with a publisher 10 years ago was for the marketing dollars. Well, in this day and age, authors are pretty much doing all their own marketing. So, why not?

Well, why go with a publisher at all? I would always say to a newbie writer to START with a publisher. And my next book will be published with a publisher still. This is the only way you can “learn the ropes” of the industry. I didn’t know, for example, that books go through three editors (content, line, and proofing). I learned a LOT from those editing processes. When I started, I didn’t know anyone really in the industry. Where do I go for a book cover? I didn’t know how to shop around. Being with a good publisher allowed me to learn my way a little as I went to conferences, networked, and grew in my knowledge of the industry.

Don’t you want to be Traditionally Published? Well, no, not really. It’s a nice dream. But, I am not sure that a traditional publisher in this day and age of publishing can offer me much. It’s hard to get in with a big publisher, first of all. The marketing dollars typically go toward the big authors.  So, they’re taking a bigger cut of my paycheck and I’m doing the same amount of work. They do have a wider reach and it would be nice to have a publisher people recognize on your book. But I don’t shop for books based on publisher, do you? You just have to pick and choose what’s important to you.

And that’s really the long and short of it…you have to decide what is more important to you. You have to take a long, hard look at the industry (after you’ve become reasonably educated about it) and pick your path. I’m trying my hand at self-publishing this one book to see how it goes. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. But I’ll never know if I don’t try, right?

ACFW2016: My Perspective

ACFWThis past week/weekend was the annual ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. It’s the conference I look forward to each year. And for good reason. The teaching is phenomenal. The speakers are great. And the networking and fellowship is the reason to be there. This year was no exception. So, without further ado, let me give you the rundown of what I thought of this year’s conference:

People at the conferenceThe Classes. ACFW sets each class at a level (Freshman-Senior) based on which level of writer it will be most applicable to. I find this very helpful. In some areas, I am further along than in others, so this system means something to me. I walked away with great things from every class I took. Spiritually, I gained from “The Two Realms” the most. While craft-wise, the Early Bird and the Post Session were the most packed (and the longest) sessions. I have already started applying what I learned to my work in progress!

The Early Bird brought some great questions to ask yourself as you look at your manuscript. Questions that will enhance and deepen your plot and writing. While the Post Session went a long way to helping this “pantser” understand the importance of some high level plotting.

conference1The Keynote. Nothing at this conference was as challenging as what the keynote speaker, Ted Dekker, brought to us. Am I right, fellow ACFWers? I am still trying to unpack everything he said. He spoke about intimacy with God and “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” through our writing. It was beautiful and through provoking at the same time.

The Pitching. For me, the pitching is one of the highlights. Not necessarily that I love pitching. But it’s always good practice, a good skill to keep honed. Whether I’m pitching to an agent (which I did…twice), or to another author at lunch. After all, they are readers too. Being able to talk about your books in a concise way is a skill we all must acquire and maintain.

meeting peopleThe Opportunities to Meet Other Authors. This goes hand in hand with the next point, but what I’m talking about here is the authors we fan-girl. The ones we look up to. These big conferences are a chance to walk up to them and say to their face, “I love your work. Can I tell you about my book?” I got that very chance this past weekend. One of my favorite authors, Tamara Leigh, was in the coffee shop with her laptop (probably working…oops). I walked up to her and told her how much I enjoyed her work. And proceeded to tell her how it inspired my own work. Then we chatted a little about one of my books. How cool is that!?!

supportThe Networking. This is, by far, the reason that conferences exist, in my opinion. The classes are great…you can get that online. The pitching is wonderful…and you can do that at home or through your computer. The speakers are tremendous…but you can read compelling blogs and find great speakers online too. But nothing can replace the networking. The face-to-face bumping into another author and striking up a conversation that leads to a connection you didn’t have before. And who knows where that might lead?

All in all, you know my stance: conferences are well worth the money and time and effort you put into them. They show publishers, agents, and acquisition editors that you are investing in yourself and learning more about your craft. And that’s only ONE of the MANY benefits to you. I say take a chance and check one out. Start with a local conference, a small one if you must, but GO! Experience! And have fun!

Scrivener, How I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways

Scrivener, How I Love Thee

Since becoming an author, who worked with a word processor called LibreOffice (very similar to Microsoft Office), I have been converted. I was introduced to the program known as “Scrivener”. Now, at first I was a skeptic. Not of the program, but of my ability to use it. I don’t do change well. But I did their little tutorial after signing up for the free trial. Which, just let me say…30 days of use…what a concept. This is not 30 calendar days…they log the days you USE it.

So, after going through their tutorial (which, I will admit was long, but worth it), I started using it. And I was BLOWN away. Is there anything they didn’t think of? I mean that a novelist needs? Having the research at your fingertips in your document, the ability to move scenes around as you please, the snapshot feature, and let me just mention…the compose screen. What a gem! And if you’ve ever tried your hand at self-publishing, the compile feature is a life-saver!!!

But I’m here today to talk about my favorite features, not to blubber on so. Without further ado, here they are (in no particular order):

  1. The Name Generator. This is a tool my husband introduced me to. Under EDIT, select WRITING TOOLS, and you will see NAME GENERATOR. Then another screen will pop up. You can select all kinds of parameters for your character name, like gender, obscurity, whether you have the forename or surname already, if you want alliteration, etc. And then boom, it gives you a list of names. Awesome. I only wish I’d found this tool sooner.
  2. The Compose Mode. If you are anything like me and you get…well…distracted by pop ups or your e-mail tab notifying you that you have a new e-mail in your inbox, this is the screen for you. There is a button on the top of the screen labeled COMPOSE. It will blank out your desktop screen and leave you will a white space to work on. You can select a picture to put in that black space behind the paper if you choose. The easiest way is to hit ESCAPE, go to VIEW, select COMPOSITION BACKDROP, then select CHOOSE. Now, once your back in the COMPOSE mode, you can move your cursor to the bottom of the screen and find options to adjust the white space (paper) width, the size of the text, the part of the screen the paper is on, how transparent the paper is, etc. LOVE IT!
  3. Files and Folders. If you haven’t discovered the ability to use files and folders, you are missing out. People do this differently, but I’ll tell you how I find it best works for me. I make the FOLDERS my chapters and the FILES my scenes. So, my BINDER (the area to the left that has a list of folders and files) looks like Manuscript, Folder, file, file, file, file, etc., Folder, file, file, etc.).
  4. Scrivenings. If you have seen the tutorial, you have heard of the CORK BOARD, OUTLINER, and SCRIVENINGS. These are ways of viewing your document. I like to look at my document in SCRIVENINGS. At the top of the screen near the right is a three button section called VIEW MODE. The one that looks like a paper is called SCRIVENINGS. After it is selected (clicked on), you can then view your document in this mode. When you click on MANUSCRIPT, you can see the whole document. When you click on any FOLDER, you can see that whole chapter. Clicking on a FILE, lets you see only that scene.
  5. Mobility of Files. When you click on a scene, you can drag it up and down in the BINDER. So if you think it should be earlier or later in the chapter, that is very easy to do. Just click, drag to the spot you want it, and release.
  6. Compile Capabilities. There are numerous things you can do when compiling in Scrivener. You can make your manuscript a Microsoft Office document or an ebook or prepare it for Createspace. My husband knows much more about this. And has written a more informative blog article on it here.

Again, these are just a FEW of the gems you can find in Scrivener, a few of my favorite things, if you will. I encourage all novelists and writers to check it out. Give it a go! Don’t be leery of change. This is one change that is good.

I’ve Got a New Attitude: Kids Go Back to School, I Get Back to Routine

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I just want to start off by thanking the good Lord for school. Now, don’t get upset at me yet. Do I miss my kids during the day? You bet! I miss them like crazy. But I know a couple of things that make it easier: they are getting the peer-to-peer social environment I just can’t provide every day when they’re at home and they are back to a routine in which my one with ADHD and my one with autism really need and thrive in. As do I.

schoolhouseSo, as they get back to the rhythm of school, I get back to my own routine at home. It’s a new frontier this year. My child with autism has gone off to kindergarten (one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do) and my littlest one is in preschool two days a week. So, our house is more quiet than ever before. We even have more of a routine for the little one on the days he is at home. But I’m finding my own rhythm with writing and caring for the home and the after school stuff and the various responsibilities outside the home I have committed myself to.

onceuponatimepaperWriting. Just as the school year starts, I am on a deadline. Yep, that’s how I plan things. So, I am writing and editing like a mad woman. I stay locked in my office pretty much. But even here it can be hard to focus. Trips to a local coffee shop have helped with that as I ease back into full time writing mode. There is no substitute for a good writing schedule and some old fashioned bum glue for writers who want to meet their goals. You won’t always feel it, somedays you just have to sit down and find that muse yourself.

flyladyHouse and Home. This gets a bit trickier. For the past two years, I have had a mother’s helper/nanny to help me stay on top of laundry, cleaning, general housework, etc. But, alas, as my kids get older, she is better suited for another, younger family. So, I am needing to take up these extra duties as she is here less. And I’m settling back into a cleaning routine. I love Fly Lady! If you have not met her, I cannot say enough about her. And you should probably hear it from her own website. Great cleaning plans, reasonable expectations, phenomenal advice for housekeepers of all levels.

busy momOutside the Home. I love being involved in things outside the home. I co-lead a writer’s critique group. I’m a leader in my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. I help in a 3-year-old Sunday School Class at my church (when my kids and I are all well enough). And I attend writer’s conferences and manage appointments for 5 people. And I can’t forget time out with family and friends! It can be craziness sometimes, but it’s a good crazy, you know? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive on the busyness, but it can cause me to come crashing down when I’ve taken it a step too far and committed to too much. Only I don’t see it coming until it’s too late. “No” is an okay word.

So, there’s my life in a nutshell. Somehow, I’m going to get into a routine with all of it. And then, the magic will happen.

Essential Oils: From Skeptic to Believer

 

Essential Oils- From Skeptic to Believer

I have shared that I was skeptical of essential oils and this whole oil revolution that seems to be sweeping homes across America. I’ve always had my feet firmly planted in Western medicine and been rather unsure about the holistic approach. Not doubting the benefits my friends receive, just not thinking any of that was for me and my family.

diffuserWhen a friend invited me to a class on essential oils, I was intrigued as I did support the use of oils for aromatherapy. Though that borders on the holistic side of things, I did see the benefits of utilizing scents for calming, preparing for sleep, energizing, etc. And so, I ended up purchasing an introductory kit which contained several oils I was certain I would never use, some I knew I would (for aromatherapy), and a diffuser with which to get those “good” oils into the air for my family.

Now, for those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I had a 13 day migraine that did not respond to Western medicinal approaches, but which essential oils cured in a matter of minutes. And I was hooked. What else could these oils do? Thus began my exploration into some of the other problems I was dealing with.

dark cloudMood Issues. I struggle with mood issues lingering from my struggles with postpartum depression. Most days I’m fine, but occasionally, I have challenges with low mood. I utilize the tools I have learned in counseling, but it’s difficult to do that when there’s a dark cloud hanging. I have begun to use oils such as Valor, Frankincense, and Acceptance during these times. That dark cloud notably lifts, making it much easier to implement and practice what I know to be best for me.

peppermintDigestive Issues. I have IBS. And, while I do have prescription medication I take when I have an IBS attack, it doesn’t always ease the pain completely. Just this last week, I found myself pretty incapacitated with pain, twenty minutes before I was to meet up with a friend. I planned to cancel and even had sent a preliminary text. But my husband suggested we try the “go to” oil for digestive issues – Peppermint. He made a tea and put a couple of drops of peppermint oil in it. As soon as the steaming cup was near me and I could inhale the oil, the pain began to subside. Within minutes, the pain was gone. I went out that night.

migrainedogMigraines. I continue to suffer from chronic migraines. Instead of taking the “rescue pills” for these “breakthrough” migraines (since they don’t work anyway), I do my oil regiment that cured the 13 day migraine. It includes Thieves, Panaway, and M-Grain.

ADHD. My daughter has ADHD. And in the evenings when she is coming off of her medication, she can become quite a handful. So, from time to time, I’ll diffuse Lavender in the house, to calm her (and the other two kiddos) down in preparation for bedtime. Yes, I still believe in the aromatherapeutic properties. I know that there are also oils to help with focus as well. We have yet to try those.

All in all, I am new to this journey. But the more I learn and the more I try, the more impressed I am. Even the Bible tells us that “the leaf shall be for medicine” (Ezekiel 47).

Care to share your favorite use for your favorite essential oil?

I Do An Incredible Amount of Teamwork

i in teamI know what you’re thinking…”Wait, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’!” No? Well, maybe not. But there is an “M” and an “E”…”ME”! Yes, I jest. Everywhere we go we find teams. It takes “a village” to raise our children (though where this village is at 2 am when my child is screaming at the top of his lungs, I have no idea). We and our co-workers have a common goal (and often common target of blame) in our jobs. Even our marriages are a partnership (he does his part and I let him – just kidding!).

gearsIn a society that so values individuality, why the emphasis on teamwork? Do CEOs really look at their employees as a mass production unit that should work as if they’re cogs in a machine? Seamlessly? Don’t squeak, don’t cause your neighbor to rust at all, and for heaven’s sake, don’t spark! Does God expect marriage partners to behave in this oneness as if the individual is lost? “Two shall become one”? What does that even mean?

individualIs there any place for the individual? Certainly. You, your story, your unique set of experiences, is valuable. To your children, to your friends, to society. I don’t know about your CEO, but your skill set is not found in just every other person. You have a certain set of strengths, and of challenges that you are working to overcome that make you the individual that you are. And, therefore, set your input apart.

Let’s talk about SYNERGY. What is Synergy? Let’s say I can lift 10 lbs. And you can lift 10lbs. Well, the law of synergy says that if we work together we can lift…I know you’re thinking 20lbs. But, it’s actually 30lbs. None of us is as brilliant as all of us are working together. In a team, we can brainstorm, bouncing ideas off each other, enhancing each other’s sparks until the best in all of us culminates into something really great. Can you picture it?

So, how do you participate in this team and exert your individuality? It’s a balance, just like with anything else. You have to realize that your successes don’t diminish with the success of others. That by helping others further themselves, you will not lessen yourself. Helping others will not sabotage you. You must let your own spark be seen, but you need to do your best to work well with others, too. To enhance their contributions as a member of the whole while interacting on an individual level with your own talents, gifts, and specialities.

“Off to War” – Chapter 3, Scene 7

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“OFF TO WAR”

Chapter 3

Scene 7

Abigail sat in front of her vanity, putting the finishing touches on her appearance: a pair of earrings Elizabeth had gifted her at last year’s birthday celebration. They were simple, beautiful pearl earrings. Elizabeth wasn’t much for elaborate ornamentation. But Abigail treasured them. All the more today. They made her feel as if Elizabeth was with her.

Gazing at her reflection in the mirror, not a hair was out of place; her gown had been pressed for show. Yet they were out of place with face that looked back at her. Her features were downcast, true, but it was her eyes. They were soulless. As if the life had been drained from her.

She was as ready as she’d ever be. What other preparation could be done? But something was still missing. This feeling had haunted her since Elizabeth’s flight. What was this emptiness? Is this what it felt to lose one’s child?

Thomas came from behind her and kissed the side of her face.

“You are beautiful, darling. Even if you must wear this ridiculous hat.”

Smiling in the mirror at him brought life to her features, but not to her eyes. Still, she gave him an amused look. Thomas never understood women’s fashions, the hat least of all. He couldn’t comprehend why she needed such a collection.

Thomas stood once again and fingered his tie. The knot was askew. Had he attempted to work it himself?

“I don’t know why you won’t let someone help you with that.” Abigail sighed as she turned. “Here.” She batted his hands away. “Let me.”

“I don’t have someone help with it, because I prefer when you do it.” He winked.

She afforded him another smile. What a charmer she had married! Even after all these years, he could make her smile. “I appreciate you coming to this event,” she said, her voice serious. “It’s very important to me.”

“It’s important to me, too.” He put his hands on her arms as she finished, letting her hands fall. “Elizabeth is, after all, my daughter too.”

“Of course.” She let her eyes linger on his. Could he see what she had seen in the mirror? She hoped not.

“Besides,” he said with a sly smile. “You and Charlotte have been working night and day to make sure this is the grandest party of the season. I want to see it for myself.”

“I just hope everything goes as planned,” she moaned, her brows coming together. What if it wasn’t? What if the hall…?

“I have every confidence it will.” Thomas pressed another kiss to the side of her face. “We’d best get you there before it all falls apart,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

She gave him another smile and allowed him to lead her down the hall. Soon enough they were helped into their coverings and ushered out the door to the waiting carriage.

The ride to the Event Hall was quite unremarkable. Abigail busied herself going over her mental checklist. But Thomas kept talking. What was he saying? Something about the weather? She needed to focus. He continued with his questions, his eyes beckoning her to respond.

“What?” Her reply was sharper than she’d intended.

His eyes widened.

“Sorry,” she whispered. “I’m…distracted at the moment.”

He nodded. “I understand.”

Thomas spoke not another word the remainder of their ride.

But she still couldn’t focus her thoughts. She shouldn’t have been so crisp with him.

They arrived at the Hall in short order. And Abigail would crawl out of her skin if it took one minute longer. How was the decorating going? Were they following the plan?

Stilling her movements, she allowed Thomas to get out first though everything in her seemed to stretch forth.

Thomas reached a hand in for her.

She took it and he helped her down. Then she took off. Had he offered his arm in escort? Most likely. Could she wait for him to escort her into the event space? It was not physically possible. Abigail moved as quick as polite society would allow inside.

As she stepped inside, hands laid hold of her wrap. She slid it off with only a nod in the direction of the hands. The space captivated her. Banners were hung, flowers were on display, food tables were being prepped. Almost everything was done. And Charlotte stood in the midst of the hustle and bustle, directing it all.

Abigail shook her head. Of course Charlotte was here. How could she have given it a second thought?

“Charlotte,” Abigail greeted her friend, crossing to her. “I should have been here to help you.”

“Abigail!” Charlotte paused to embrace her friend and co-host. “Nonsense, I promise I just arrived myself.”

“It seems as if everything is running smoothly.” Abigail let her gaze wander over the hall, admiring the realization of all their planning. The hall looked better than they’d imagined. Tonight would be a success. She had to believe that.

“Appears so. I haven’t checked the registration table yet. Would you mind?”

Abigail nodded. “Consider it done.”

The next half hour became a flurry of activity as the final touches were put on the space and the two women worked side by side to make sure even the tiniest detail was managed. By the time the guests arrived, everything was set and running like clockwork.

And so the following half hour became a different kind of din. People checked in, milled about, conversed, enjoyed the décor, and partook of the refreshments. Everything was going well.

The time came for the guests to be properly welcomed. This particular task fell to Abigail. Now that she prepared to sneak in front of the crowd, shaking hands touched her necklace. Why was she trembling so? These were her friends and people from her community. And this event was for Elizabeth. She clasped her hands together to still them. But the quivering came from inside of her.

An arm snaked around her waist. She jumped back from the contact. Who? But arm held her fast. And the presence seemed familiar to her. Turning, she met the eyes of her husband, her rock.

Thomas leaned toward the side of her head and whispered into her hair, “You’ll do fine.”

Abigail took a deep breath and smoothed over her dress.

“Trust me,” he said, pressing a kiss to the side of her face.

She nodded, squeezing his arm. The shakiness had subsided somewhat. Adjusting her hat, she then stepped up to the podium. But the crowd seemed too engaged in their own conversations. No one noticed she had stepped up to address them. Searching out Charlotte, she became desperate. Her friend was nowhere.

Clink, clink, clink. The sound drew her attention to where she had just been standing. Thomas used a spoon to bang against his glass, trying to get everyone’s attention. As members in the audience noticed her at the podium, they joined in with their glasses. Soon, all voices paused.

Once all eyes were on Abigail, she began, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt. “Welcome, esteemed guests and friends. As you know, this is a fundraiser for our brave soldiers who, as we speak, are fighting for our country. We hope you have come feeling patriotic and ready to give of yourselves for the sake of those men who are sacrificing that our nation be made whole again. As many of you already know, our men need many things, so we accept all manner of gifts. Foodstuffs and monetary support are the most crucial at this time, but anything you can give will help.

“Tonight, we would like to put a face on this issue. I want to introduce my dear friend and co-chair for this evening’s event, a woman who has given tirelessly to this cause herself and stands as a model of patriotism: Mrs. Charlotte Taylor.”

Abigail prayed Charlotte would have appeared by the time she turned. Applause sounded as she turned her head in time to see Charlotte moving toward her to take her place. And Abigail clapped for her friend, never more relieved as she stepped to the side, allowing room for Charlotte to take center stage.

As Charlotte began her speech, Abigail moved off to find some water. All of a sudden, she was parched.

“Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for that wonderful introduction and for your efforts in making this event possible. And thank you all for being here. Some of you may know that my son, Dr. John Taylor, is on the front lines fighting for this nation. Let me tell you a little bit about my son. John…”

Thomas came up behind Abigail and put his hand on the small of her back. “You were great,” he whispered in her ear.

“Thanks,” she said, not taking her eyes off Charlotte. But she wasn’t truly listening to her either. Would that she were allowed to tell Elizabeth’s story!

It was not a well-kept secret that Elizabeth was no longer at home and some even knew she had fled to help out with the war effort. But, Abigail would never be able to step up to a podium and talk about it. What Elizabeth had done was respectable, even admirable, but definitely beneath her station. Women of their station did not go prancing off to war. They did just what Charlotte and Abigail were doing.

Oh, if only Elizabeth were here she could make a compelling speaker! But she wasn’t. She was miles away in some war camp doing God knows what. No, Abigail had not come to peace with Elizabeth’s decision. And she did not think she ever would.

Applause erupted around her. Abigail set her drink down and joined in.

“Enjoy yourselves and please don’t hesitate to see any of the women in the Booster Club if you have any questions about donations.”

Charlotte stepped down from the podium and the din of the crowd rose again. But Abigail’s thoughts were numb. She stared straight ahead. There was movement in front of her, but she looked through that and beyond somehow.

“How was that?” Charlotte appeared in front of her. Where had she come from?

Abigail focused on her friend’s face.

Charlotte’s eyes begged for reassurance, eyebrows raised.

Abigail wished she had been listening better.

“It was great,” Thomas interjected. “John would be proud.”

“Yes,” Abigail said, nodding. “Of course he would.”

Smiling, Charlotte seemed relieved. “Thank you.”

“I think we’re bound to get donations after all of this,” Abigail said, sweeping her arms over the Event Hall.

“For certain,” Charlotte agreed, looking around.

The three stood in silence. For a handful of moments, it was amiable. And then it became awkward.

Charlotte took Abigail’s hand. It felt warm. Was that because Abigail’s hand was cold? “If you’ll excuse me, I need to find Franklin.”

“Of course,” Thomas said. “I think the last place I saw him was over by the refreshment table.”

“I have no doubt.” Charlotte sighed.

Abigail squeezed her friend’s hand before she walked away.

“Forgive me,” Thomas said, his words coming out slow and careful. “But you seem as if you are miles from here.”

Abigail looked back at her husband. “I am.”

“Thinking of Elizabeth?” He reached up and touched her hair, his fingers grazing her locks.

Abigail nodded, fighting tears. Why did it sting so? These thoughts?

Thomas waited for her to speak.

“She should be here,” Abigail started, tears welled, threatening to spill over. She stopped speaking, trying to gain control of herself.

Thomas pulled her to the side, to a corner where they would be less conspicuous. He kept his hands on her arms. It brought her some measure of comfort.

“She had no business running off! There is so much more good she could be doing here!” Abigail cried.

Thomas’s eyes seemed deeper somehow in that moment. And his voice was soft, not much more than a whisper. “Can you not see that she did it for love?”

Abigail let out an exasperated gasp. She was in no mood to entertain such schoolgirl notions.

“We need not understand, my dear. We can only try to accept it.”

“And what if I can’t?” She looked up at him.

Thomas had no words to offer in response.