Halloween A Time for Romance

Yes, the title is correct. No mistake. In times past, Halloween was considered a time for romance. Single young adults planned parties to bring couples together. There were no ghosts, goblins, or zombies. Masquerade parties were usually more heroic in nature.

A Halloween party in the 19th century were times for hopeful single gents to find the girl of their dreams. There were several ways the party might start. The hostess might invite her guests to jump over a broom before they entered.

Apples

Often there were apples with the initials of eligible bachelors on them. Some clever families who had apple trees placed a kind of a paper tattoo of the single gents initials on still green apples. When the apples ripened to red, the papers were removed, and the initials were green on the skin. (Maybe that how the silly tradition of reciting the alphabet as you twist the stem of an apple. The letter that breaks the stem is the first initial of your true love. Okay, I am dating myself.)

Back to the apples at Halloween parties of the past.

Single women might be given the opportunity to choose an apple when they entered the party, and the initials on the apple matched the man she would share the first dance with. On other occasions, the web game was played. A large web of colored sting is woven throughout the room. Each young lady chose one string and followed it through the maze to the end where a gentleman’s name was on a paper. Again her companion for the evening.

Melt Tin Soldiers

And odd tradition at some of these Halloween parties was melting tin soldiers. I suppose the soldier represented their future mate. Once the soldier was liquid form, the tin was dripped from a spoon into cold water. When the tin hardened, its shape determined the occupation of her future husband. If it resembled a boat, he might be a sailor, an anvil-a blacksmith, and so on. Kinda like guessing the shapes in the clouds, I suppose.

Proposals

The Proposal game another popular game. Each man in the room had less than a minute to propose to each woman. Once their time was up the woman would give the gent a paper heart for yes or a paper lemon for no. The man with the most yeses won, of course.

Dancing

There was usually dancing and refreshments.

For those out west, these types of gatherings were the only times the single people had to get together. Most were busy on their homesteads and helping with family businesses. This was the perfect time to begin courting.

Be My Halloween Sweetheart

Late in the century, Halloween cards were exchanged. Again with a romantic twist.

I find the idea of these sorts of parties intriguing, and perhaps I will add one in a future novel.

Speaking of novels.

I’d like to give away a copy of my very first novel, Secrets & Charades, to celebrate the contracts I just signed for historical romance numbers four and five. E-book only outside the US. Otherwise, I’m happy to send an autographed paperback version.

Click link to order. https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Charades-Cindy-Ervin-Huff-ebook

Have a romantic Halloween with that special someone. Share what you think about Halloweens of days gone by in the comments to be entered for a chance to win.

Great Summer Reads to add to your TBR pile

As always I’m feeding my reading addiction. Last week I mentioned closing books that were poorly written. Let me share some that kept me engaged from page one and did it all right IMHO. Here are a few new books I recommend you add to your TBR pile.

This first one is a historical romance set in WWI. I loved it because the author captured the cultural and historical time period so well. Loosely based on her own grandparents’ love story Patti Stockwell made Three Little Things feel oh so warm and inviting while at the same time giving the reader a realistic view of what wartime both at home and abroad was like.

Wartime Romance

Three Little Things  buy link 

One forbidden love. Two broken hearts. Three little things.

Hattie Waltz should forget the troubled neighbor leaving for boot camp in 1917. He forgot about her ages ago. It had always been the Waltzs verses the Kregers, his family pitted against hers. When she hands him a farewell gift, a chemistry lesson unfolds. The good kind.

Arno Kreger can’t leave Iowa or his old man fast enough. He’s eager to prove his worth on the battlefield and stop blaming himself for his brother’s death. Before entering the train, he bumps into Hattie. He’s loved her forever, always from the sidelines, because nobody crosses Hattie’s pa.

One innocent letter soon morphs into many. Arno and Hattie share three little secrets in each letter and grow closer together. But he’s on his way to a war across the ocean, and she’s still in her father’s house. Their newfound love will need to survive dangers on both fronts.

A Crime Suspense

Tom Threadgill is a new author to me. I had a chance to grab a ARC copy Collision of Lies and was totally engaged. The twists in the plot were so unique to any other crime suspense I have read in the past. I’m always impressed when a man can write a female character that doesn’t act and sound like a man. Maya is a clever, ambitious Hispanic female. I also appreciate that there is no swearing. Yep, a cop drama where the police are tough without tossing out unnecessary curse words. They still come across as tough guys.

Collision of Lies buy link

Three years ago, a collision between a fast-moving freight train and a school bus full of kids led to devastation and grief on an unimaginable scale. But a fresh clue leads San Antonio police detective Amara Alvarez to the unlikely conclusion that one of the children may still be alive. If she’s correct, everything law enforcement believes about the accident is a lie.

With time running out, Amara must convince others–and herself–that despite all evidence to the contrary, the boy lives. And she will do everything in her power to bring him home.

A fresh voice in suspense, Tom Threadgill will have you questioning everything as you fly through the pages of this enthralling story.

Novella Collection

Courting Calamity  buy link

My last recommendation is a historical romance novella collection Courting Calamity. Some novellas feel incomplete when you reach the end of the required word count. But not these four. There is so much realism and history in each story. And the focus of each is different.  They are in chronological order by time period spanning thirty years.

Lady and the Tramps by Jennifer Uhlarik has a lot of suspense as a Wells Fargo Agents helps a lovely woman who is the guardian of eight orphan children while he pursues the men who robbed the train. All the clues that were carefully laid out to get the reader to the end of the story are mixed with well-research historical accuracy. The epilogue is sigh worthy.

The Second Hand Bride of Polecat Creek by Kathleen Y’Barbo was a fun read. Again the story is historically accurate and full of interesting characters.  By the time Zeke and Lizzy get together the small town of Polecat Creek has warmed your heart.

The Bride of Basswood Hill by Gabrielle Meyer

The author decided to write the story of Alex, the one who didn’t get the girl, from The Tale of Two Hearts novella in the Of Rags to Riches novella collection. This is a marriage of convenience story matching a wealthy man with a poor Italian immigrant. Taking places in 1900 Minnesota the setting is beautiful and the characters are compelling. Add a few surprises twists and continuous page-turning is inevitable.

Echoes of the Heart by Amanda Barrett takes place in New York City in 1909. This is a tale of poor immigrant factory workers who find love in the midst of union riots and unbelievable circumstances. This is not your typical romantic setting. The twists in the plot are based on actual historical accounts while Aileen and Lorenzo are fictitious.  After reading the final word I had mixed emotions. I was happy for the couple but the historical events made me sad.

Heroes Needed for Four Damsels in Distress

Despite determination to be strong and independent, four women of bygone days are in need of a hero.
 
Lady and the Tramps by Jennifer Uhlarik
California, 1874
When outlaws steal a deed from Mattie Welling, her dreams for her eight orphan charges from New York City are dashed. Can Wells Fargo detective Jake Hickens be trusted to pick up the pieces?

The Secondhand Bride of Polecat Creek by Kathleen Y’Barbo
Texas, 1890
When Zeke Wyatt returns home to Polecat Creek intent on making good on his promise to marry his childhood sweetheart, he finds she’s run off in his absence, leaving her kid sister to care for her aging parents and the mercantile. Can Zeke finally settle down, or will he leave another sister with a broken heart?

The Bride of Basswood Hill by Gabrielle Meyer
Minnesota, 1900
When wealthy lumber baron, Charles Alexander, unexpectedly finds himself married to an Italian immigrant, Sofia Bellini, he must do all he can to protect her from the society she’s ill-prepared to navigate. But when he falls in love with his pretty bride, he will have to make a difficult choice: will he go through with the annulment they had planned?

Echoes of the Heart by Amanda Barratt
New York City, 1911
Irish immigrant Aileen O’Connor is willing to work to survive in the land of opportunity. But when her sister is accosted on the streets, she’s forced to accept the help of policeman Sean Doyle, a widower with a young son. When tragedy engulfs the city, will Sean and Aileen’s newfound love survive the raging flames?

Sandra Melville Hart shares a bit of History about Abilene, Kansas

In case you missed my previous posts my latest release is part of Smitten Historical Romance Collection: The Cowboys. I’m one of four authors in this collection that releases August 15th. Today I’ve asked Sandra Melville Hart, another author from the collection to give us a peek into her story Trail’s End setting.

Trail’s End set in Abilene

by Sandra Merville Hart

My brother married a Kansas girl and moved to that beautiful state soon after their marriage. On a family vacation to Kansas, we visited Abilene.

The town had been a wild Cowtown in its early days. Wild Bill Hickok was the marshal of Abilene in 1871. My sister-in-law had ancestors who lived there. One of them was friends with Wild Bill—what a surprise!

I learned a little history of the wild western town and wanted to learn more. Who knew that a family vacation would spark an idea for a future book? I had put aside my dream of writing years before. When my editor asked me to write a cowboy story set in the West, my imagination flew to Abilene.

Research held many surprises. The town was so wild that it had a hard time keeping a marshal. Some hired at breakfast left by suppertime.

When town leaders offered the position to Tom Smith, the lawman rode the streets. He then accepted the job on one condition—the cowboys had to be disarmed.

In 1870, Marshal Smith asked storekeepers, saloon-keepers, and hotel owners to post signs and collect their customers’ guns. His rule made the town a safer place.

This strong man so inspired me that I set my story in 1870 and gave him a small part in it. I love using actual historical characters in my stories. It brings them to life for me—and hopefully for my readers.

Sandra’s bio:

Award-winning and Amazon bestselling author Sandra Merville Hart loves to uncover little-known yet fascinating facts about our American history to include in her stories A Musket in My Hands, a Civil War romance where two sisters join the Confederate army with the men they love, is 2019 Serious Writer Medal Fiction Winner and a 2019 Selah Award Finalist. A Rebel in My House, set during the historic Battle of Gettysburg, won the 2018 Silver Illumination Award and second place in 2018 Faith, Hope and Love Readers’ Choice Award. Her debut Civil War Romance, A Stranger On My Land, was IRCA Finalist 2015. Her novella, Surprised by Love in “From the Lake to the River” is set during the 1913 flood in Troy, Ohio. Trail’s End, in “Smitten Novella Collection: The Cowboys” released August 15, 2019.

Find her on her blog, https://sandramervillehart.wordpress.com/.

Trail’s End Blurb

Wade Chadwick has no money until his boss’s cattle sell, so he takes a kitchen job at Abby’s Home Cooking. The beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Abby Cox hires the down-and-out cowboy even though the word cowboy leaves a bad taste in her mouth. Just as she’s ready to trust Wade with her heart, money starts to disappear … and so does her brother. Buy link

Don’t forget I’m having a giveaway of $10 Amazon Card from one lucky commenter. Answer my question who’s your favorite cowboy or make any comment about cowboys you would like. The comment has to appear on the blog to qualify. You can go back to my blog post and Jennifer’s and post and read more about The Cowboys and have two more chances to enter. Thursday is release day Yahoo!! and I’ll have a repost from Award -winning author Linda W. Yezak the fourth contributor to our collection. That will give you one more chance to enter my giveaway.

 

A Show of Hands

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I recently read a post on FB where writers were debating whether men put their hands on their hips. Some were adamant that they don’t, and others like myself knew they do based on my own male relatives and contacts. That conversation lead me to think about hands in general. How we describe them in our writing and when they become the center focus of a scene.

From a clean romance writer perspective, hands are often part of the romantic tension. How many ways can a couple hold hands?

Some examples:

  • Hands cupped together is less intimate than fingers entwined.
  • His thumb rubbing over her fingers, or her fingers feather light over the top of his hand are also intimate gestures.
  • His fingers tracing a pattern in her palm or her fingers roaming between his fingers as they sit and chat.

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    Clasped fingers are another romantic gesture.

 Hands play a big part in building romantic tension

A hand on the small of the back to guide a woman was considered good manners for centuries in America. But how much pressure is applied or the length it remains there can speak volumes. Is it a rough push or a gentle open palmed caress? The palm lingering long enough for the lady to notice can be either perceived as lecherous or loving.

In days gone by a man didn’t touch a woman’s ungloved hand. Women danced with gloves on.  Even the kissing of the hand was usually an air kiss or on the gloved hand. Bare skin touching was sensual.

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Hand squeezes

The amount of pressure on the hand can speak love, jealousy, anger or fear. All of the John Wayne/ Maureen O’Hara movies have the same an iconic scene repeated in each. Near the end of the movie John grabs Maureen’s hand and drags her home.  They make up and love blooms full.  Pretty sure in a modern story it wouldn’t be too believable.

  • A finger can stroke a wrist in a sensual fashion or put enough pressure on it to bruise.
  • A man whose wrestling with anger might fist his hands at his sides or dig his nails into his palms.
  • She can slap his face, scratch him or dig her nails into his palm while he holds her against her will.
  • He can apply a lot of pressure in a handshake to relay a message to his rival. Either: she’s mine, I’m the better man or even watch your back.

Hands aid tension

  • Arms and hands at the character’s side in surrender or as an act of defiance
  • In front of the face to cover a horrible sight or a laugh
  • Running through his hair in frustration
  • Fingers in his/her hair as part of a passionate kiss
  • She twists her hair between her fingers when thinking or worried
  • Moving a tendril of hair either their own or their love interests can attract attention or stir desire.
  • The position of a weapon in the hands of a character can tell the reader if they are frightened, determined or inexperienced.
  • An apparent calm character can reveal his fear with shaking hands.
  • Hanging by finger tips (we get what that indicates)
  • Hands on hips (female or male) usually relay aggravation or determination.
  • Hands grasping the arms as they’re crossed across the body can indicate both anger and fear.
  • Fingers trace objects to learn things like texture, density and temperature.
  • Those same fingers tracing skin can be looking for wounds, affection or a creepy outcome.

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Hands are essential in description.

Sometimes hands are implied. He raised the rifle. We know he didn’t use his toes.  He reached for her. Unless he is an amputee we know he used his hands and arms to reach.

Hands and fingers can help layer the tension romantically, help solve a mystery or aid in murder.

Can you add to my list?

 

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An Interview with My Heroine Isabella Wilson from New Duet

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Today I’m welcoming Isabella Melinda Wilson to my blog. If you’ve read New Duet, you know she is the heroine. I thought it would be fun to learn a little about her. A morsel or two of trivia that may not be in the novel. So, welcome, Isabella.

I’m surprised you wanted to interview me. As surprised as I was in the reporter from the Beacon News who came to my mural reveal.

Take a seat on the couch, and we’ll begin.

Isabella, tell us a bit about your background.

I was born in Nicaragua and spent time as an orphan on the streets. I can’t recall my mother, but I do recall a sweet voice that made me feel safe. I was six when the Wilson’s adopted me. My sister Ming was adopted from China. She was part of the Wilson family three months before I joined them. There was a mix up with my paperwork, and it looked to my parents like the adoption wasn’t happening. They applied for Ming. And when my paperwork was sorted out, they had two daughters the same year. Ming was three. We spoke a combination of Spanish and Chinese the first year. When I was in junior high, my parents went on a mission trip to Haiti and fell in love with a young teen. They adopted Henri when I was in eighth grade.

He was my age. The three of us always got funny looks from students when my dad’s job moved us to a new school. Ming told everyone she and I were twins. She sounded so sincere, people believed her. She is the humorous one and the most caring. I have two older siblings, Ken and Carla. They are my parent’s natural born children. Carla was a great big sister and Kenny was your typical big brother—a pain. My parents encouraged all of us to follow our dreams. Mine was to be an artist so I attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Not until I moved to Aurora did I really come into my own as an artist.

That brings up another question. Why did you move to Aurora?

Well, it’s complicated. Much of that story is in the novel. Briefly, as a widow I needed to start over in a new place. My sister Ming had moved to Aurora a few years earlier at the suggestion of a friend. I moved in with her and started over. It was hard finding my true self again. Exploring the art community in Aurora and with help from some great friends, I found my art muse and grew in my faith.

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What was your first impression of Aurora?

Paraphrasing Dorothy form the Wizard of Oz, I’m not in Iowa anymore. Although my family moved a lot growing up, the three of us would spend the summer with our grandparents. They lived in a small farming community. I have fond memories. My late husband and I lived in Indiana, but the atmosphere was quite different from Aurora. It has a population over 200,000 and lots of interesting things to see and do. Ming took me on a tour and showed the sights. I loved exploring the downtown on my own. There are museums and art galleries and fun restaurants.

Sounds like you have adapted well to your new hometown. Now we’re shifting directions a bit. What is your biggest fear?

Not being good enough. When I was first adopted, I felt unworthy of these wonderful people. It took me years before I believed all their words of affirmation. After I married Ron, he reminded me daily how I fell short.  His sudden death fed that feeling of unworthiness. It took me a longtime to release all the guilt others had put on me, not to mention the guilt I put on myself.

I can see by your smile that isn’t the case anymore. Do you have someone special?

Yes. But you’ll need to read New Duet for all the details.

Cool segue there, Isabella. Tell my readers why they’d want to read your story.

New Duet is about broken people finding love. A simple statement with a powerful message of hope and renewal. God loves healing broken people. It’s more than a simple love story because life is complicated. But complicated is much easier to unravel with the right person. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your local bookstore. Just ask the clerk to order it. It’s also available in e-book.

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Thanks for stopping by. Thursday it will be Dan’s turn to be in the hot seat.  

 

Click here for link to trailer.

If you’ve not subscribed to Jubilee Writer, then please do so before you exit this blog so you don’t miss meeting the adorable hero of New Duet, Dan Sweeney.

 

 

The Many Marketing Categories of Your Novel

genre1

Imagine we are in the hallway at a writer’s conference with a group of fellow-writers. We’ve been discussing highlights of the event and throwing out snippets of knowledge. Small incomplete bits that need further information. My post today is a snippet. One I need to understand more fully but thought you might find interesting. Or better yet you might have thorough knowledge and could share in the comments.

Marketing snippet

Here is my factoid about marketing. I’ve noticed it as I complete my second author kit for my upcoming Contemporary Romance. I’ve heard it mention by many publishers. I’m still a bit confused.

Authors define the genre their book falls in before they begin writing. We use that tag to focus our words toward those readers. This is the general category our book would be marketed in. Secrets & Charades is a Romance. More specifically a Historical Romance.

For marketing purposes, it can be placed in a variety of other categories. Because of its faith theme.

  • Christian Fiction
  • Christian Historical Fiction
  • Christian Romance
  • Clean Romance
  • Christian
  • Inspirational
  • Religious

Because of the cowboys:

  • Western Romance
  • American Western Romance

Amazon allows you to list your book under three categories. My understanding (this is where I remind you this is my hearsay in the hall) if you change the listing you could increase your sales. If a historical novel were a secular romance it might be categorized under some additional categories steamy romance, erotic romance, sexy romance.

Some of the categories cross over as far as audience appeal. If a prospective reader loves Historical Romance with lots of heat my novel might not be their cup of tea. But then again, they might love it because the storyline engages them.

My upcoming contemporary romance can be listed under Romance.

And because of its faith theme:

Christian Romance

Inspirational

My hero has a prosthetic leg so we can add Wounded Warrior Romance (yes, it is a thing).

It might even be classified under categories that appeal to dog lovers. My hero has a service dog.

Don’t choose wrong categories

Although we narrow our genre focus while we write our story we want to be sure we are marketing it to as broad a market as possible without missing the mark. My novels are not children’s books or sci fi. Neither contain gratuitous sex. Listing them as erotica will irritate perspective readers. (No need for angry reviews.)

Another example

A YA Sci Fi would be classified under YA fiction

Sci Fi

Fantasy

Dystopian

Again, if it has a Christian theme it might also be listed under Christian Fantasy

Christian Dystopian

Christian Sci Fi

Inspirational and Religious.

If there is a strong romance element it might be listed under YA Romance or Sci Fi Romance.

book genre cloud

Variety of categories draws more readers

Adults could find a YA book in the Sci Fi categories. Adults read YA, by the way. Men might find Secrets & Charades in the Western and my upcoming release in Wounded Warrior.

I’m too new to this publishing biz to have any idea what is the winning category. And some of the categories I mention may not be one anymore. Even so I need to have some alternative genre categories in mind to add in future marketing. And for me I leave the final decision to my publisher and my marketing gal. If your self-pub you might want to ask your successful Indie friends what they would recommend.

Okay readers, any of you have more snippets of information to share about this topic. Curious minds are desperate to know.

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Secrets & Charades book trailer: