Somewhat of a Reinvention ...

July 24, 2014

You'll notice things around here are a wee bit different. New look, new title--same me. And for my peace of mind/ease of access, same URL. 
The Past: 
The "former" blog Just As I Am, I've had since I was, oh ... sixteen? Maybe younger. It was my first on-my-own blog after having blogged with my mother and sister a while at My Simple Blessed Life. That blog, as well as Just As I Am, saw me through many different "stages". A season of wearing skirts, homeschool high school, attempts at being a book blogger, slightly sanctimonious devotional-type articles, growing up and graduating, crap-load of picture posts, tags, awards, you name it. I have many old posts saved in drafts here that make me at once smile and shake my head at how young I sounded. Yes I know I'm only twenty-one as of the 24th, but seriously. My writing's had a lot of growing up to do. I've also seen and recorded some pretty fun times through out Just As I Am's duration. Many memories with my Idaho sister Gabrielle have been recorded here, not to mention that through blogging I met my sweet sisters-by-heart Sarah and Rachelle. 

The Story Behind the Name:

Sarah, Rachelle and I are fond of nicknames for each other. The chief ones we use are Restless Bird for Sarah, and Daring Girl for Rachelle. I believe it was Rachelle who decided to brainstorm a nickname for me. We couldn't exactly say Just as I am Girl for me. Eventually, we came up with Vintage Soul for me. I took a "Guess Your Age" quiz a few weeks ago, and while my sister got her exact age when she took it, I got 68. Needless to say, I've always been an old soul. Ever since I was a child and learning to read I wanted to live in another time period. And I could spend days in antique stores. Vintage Soul fit me well but as I was praying through a slight blogger identity crisis, the name just didn't fit my entire blog and what my words were all about. 

If we have a one-on-one conversation lasting more than ten minutes, I'll probably bring up the Civil War. For all my introversion, I can be quite the outspoken "Yankee" as my Southern heart-sisters are fond of calling me. My heart is softening towards the South--in general and even as I look back on history, fear not. I knew I wanted a name to encompass me--one that could stick and stay unchanged when I have a wedding ring and a new name someday. With a little help from my friends, I settled on A Northern Belle and couldn't be happier with the look of it.
What You'll Find Here:
  • Daily life as a 20-something working woman: I live happily at home with my parents, three siblings and two cats. I love the happy noise, busyness and keeping busy helping out and contributing. I'm human, and I'd love more quiet or even extended periods of time to write uninterrupted, but I wouldn't change a thing about living at home with my family and working part time as a medical receptionist nearby. 
  • Singleness: I happen to fall into this season of life and I'm navigating all it's ups, downs, and bridesmaid gowns with a searching, striving to be content heart that is praying boldly for my future husband.
  • My work-in-progress heart: I love the community and fellowship blogging brings, but first and foremost I write for the Lord. Every word in my novels, every word here on this blog. And oftentimes on this blog, I write to process, to learn and to speak truth to myself.
  • My Novels: I have countless novels to write yet, but at the moment I am working on a six book historical standalone series all set in Pennsylvania during the Civil War called The Keystone Legacy Series. I am just finishing the first book, Amongst the Roses, I'll let it sit awhile in first draft status before refining away the dross and querying it to agents. I'm excited for Amongst the Roses' sequel entitled A Rose Long Awaited and will begin outlining in earnest soon. I write a lot about writing and my heart whilst figuring out these stories on my heart, so be forewarned. *smile*
  • The Civil War. My all-time favorite era--one I cannot learn enough about. I'm quite the history geek/fangirl over it, actually. And at the moment I'm enthralled with my home state of Pennsylvania's role in the War Between the States. It's my firm belief that in historical text and fiction, the North is grossly underrepresented or completely stereotyped. That's the short version of my rant. And it's also one of my chief reasons for writing historical fiction. 
  • A few things you won't find here: I love books as much as the next gal, and I am all for helping out fellow authors with publicity ... but life being what it is and needing to devote time to my own novels, I am not a book blogger. I will happily retweet or "share" on Facebook news about upcoming or new releases and host my fellow indie-author sisters on here as I'm able. This blog is also an award-free blog. 
So all that to say ... 

Welcome to A Northern Belle.My online haven where I come to process, speak truth, and share many aspects ofmy work-in-progress life God's gifted me with. 

Something's coming...

July 17, 2014

Loving this song from the classic West Side Story as covered by Glee.

I am so close to finishing my novel,  Amongst the Roses, I can almost taste it. 
Now I can finally, clearly see the ending and how to get there across ten chapters.

Just around the corner is my birthday, and the day after that, Michaela and I head to Gettysburg for three days. I have a mental packing list, things to buy, a huge Civil War atlas to pack--it seems so unreal I'm actually going! First time I've been there in two years, and barring the Lord coming back or the government shutting down like last October--I am going!

Amidst all this personal busyness, familial busyness has kept me hopping, up late at night, and bursting with pride for two of my siblings, while getting extended quality time with the littlest.

Ronnie returned last Saturday from one week in Buckhannon, WV on a missions trip with his youth group. They worked hard around the community, knocked on doors inviting kids to VBS and then loving on them and sharing the Gospel in word and deed. Everyone we talked to, and all the notes Ronnie got from his friends and the youth leader's, blew us away with what an awesome, Godly young man he's blossoming into. 
It's so great to have him home!

While Ronnie was gone though, it gave Anna Banana and I time to reconnect and have some sweet sister time together. We watched Once Upon a Time, she got a pedicure with Mum, we went out to eat and for sweet treats multiple was such a blast. Anna calls the week Ronnie was gone the "Pamper Anna" week. 

Sara is currently still in Panama on her first missions trip with our church's youth group. She is one of fifty-eight teens and eight adults working and bringing the Gospel in multiple formats to Panama kids and teens. I am so so so proud of her for heeding the Lord's voice and calling on her heart to go to Panama, and I am so excited to hear all about how the Lord worked in her and through her.
I miss her though.
I've fallen asleep every night praying hard for her, had countless things to tell her or ask her and she isn't there or able to be reached. Until her nine hour layover in Atlanta Saturday, she's been completely disconnected from technology. Obviously our mother is having a much harder time with it than I am--we're all anxious to have our family all home and whole once more.

Just wanted to pop in here with a quick update and there is something fantastic in the works I'm thrilled to share with ya'll in short order. Below is the teaser photo for it. I hate to say "stay tuned", so I will simply say, Stop by again soon.
And ya'll have three guesses as to what my fantastic in the works surprise will be.

The Windy Side of Care by Rachel Heffington

June 24, 2014

We interrupt this unofficial blogging hiatus to bring you a review of my dear friend Rachel Heffington's novella, The Windy Side of Care, published in Rooglewood Press' Five Glass Slippers collection. Incidentally, this week Amber Stokes is hosting a week long blog party celebrating this fantastic anthology with author interviews and a fantastic Cinderella-themed giveaway!

What happens when Cinderella is so painfully shy that she cannot bear the idea of attending the royal ball? Or when the slipper fits . . . but on the wrong girl? What happens when Cinderella is determined to oust an imposter prince from her rightful throne? Or when she is a cendrillon miner working from a space station orbiting a cthonian planet? What happens when Cinderella, a humble housemaid, is sent with a message for a prisoner trapped in a frightening fairy circus?

Here is Cinderella as you have never met her before, wearing glass slippers and off on unforgettable adventures!

To whet your appetite, below is Rachel's spin on this timeless fairytale:

Alisandra is determined to have her rights. She knows that she is the king's secretly dispossessed daughter, the true heir to the throne. Prince Auguste is an imposter, and if she plays her cards right, Alis will prove it to the world! That is, if charming Auguste doesn't succeed in winning her heart before she gets her chance...

Alisandra Carlisle is a heroine to be reckoned with. A true princess cast off from her birthright, the novel opens with her acting out what she will say and how in the royal court to prove she is the rightful heir to the throne of Ashby. When you think Cinderella, you think predictable. Not so with Rachel's Alis. She has backbone, courage and a witty tongue.
I absolutely adore how she and Prince Auguste fell quite accidentally in love. The plot trots by at a lovely pace--not too fast, nor too slow or reflective. The dialogue is not only snappy and original, but it has depth and heart. As well as Rachel's signature wit, vim and vigor. 

The story, while containing traditional elements of the original Cinderella, has so many twists and turns. While a sparkling, light read, it kept me guessing all the way to the last page. When the couple declares their love, you at first think the story is all but through. But not so. 
And I shall leave it at that lest I giveaway any spoilers.

Speaking of--don't forget to head over to the blog tour this week. And you can purchase the entire novella collection for 99 cents through Saturday on Amazon. 

God's Will FAQ {Pt. 1}

June 10, 2014

In no particular order, the promised answers to all of your great questions about God's Will. There were so many, I've divided them up into two posts. The second will be featured on Every Good Word on Thursday, so stay tuned!

1. How long did it take you to write "God's Will"?
I began writing in June of 2007, and finished the first draft in March of 2010. I overhauled it twice between then and 2012.
2. What are your favorite ways to immerse yourself in the historical time period that you write about?
Research, research, research! I am a history buff/nut and I love to dig deep into every angle of the time period I’m writing in. We have these collections of Depression-era recipes and stories from people who lived through it and I read them cover to cover. I mostly read, scour the internet for the finer points and first-hand accounts, and occasionally watch shows or movies set in that era. The Waltons was a great inspiration for God’s Will, as a matter of fact.
3. Which characters were the easiest to write? (i.e. They practically wrote themselves!)
Judy, the grandmotherly figure and aunt to Elliott. She was a definite cross between my mother and grandmother and she showed me her personality right off the bat.
4. Any tips/tricks for finishing a novel?
Don’t edit as you go. Just write. Cut scenes. Check continuity and accuracy. Finishing a novel can mean a lot of things. At first, it means writing The End. The second go-around, it means cleaning up all the red edits and maybe even overhaul the thing until you come to The End again.
5. Did you listen to music while writing God's Will?
I most certainly did. A lot of old hymns re-worked by current Christian and country artists, a good deal of country song that fit eerily well with the story was Someone Worth Dying For by MikesChair. And while the song itself is it’s own story in itself, the chorus of Martina McBride’s God’s Will got me through many a difficult chapter.
6. Who are some authors that have inspired you in the journey of writing God's Will?
Lynn Austin and Leisha Kelly’s writing inspired me at the outset of writing my novel. Lynn Austin’s Hidden Places and the way she brings you instantly into the place and time is incredible. Leisha Kelly’s the Wortham Family Series is comparable to God’s Will in that it is character-driven, emotional, reflective and deals with multiple characters.
7. How did you come up with the title "God's Will"?
Is it terrible that I don’t even remember how I came up with it? Titling is on my Top Five Least-Favorite Things about Writing list. I searched hymns, song lyrics, devotionals, etc. for title inspiration. It may have been Martina McBride’s song, it may’ve been a line in my study Bible. Whatever inspired it, it stuck and stuck well.
8. What was your favorite thing about writing a book set in the Great Depression?
The Great Depression has always been a fascinating time for me to study. The way people had to band together to survive, what they had to do to live frugally can teach us today.
9. Did you have a lot of editing to do or did you hire an editor?
As I mentioned before I overhauled the novel twice, but those weren’t technically edits. That was my writing style catching up to itself, if that makes sense. When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew the novel needed a good spit-polish of editing. And that is why I knew exactly who to go to--Rachelle Rea, editress extraordinaire.
10. Who made your cover?
The very talented Rachel Rossano made my book cover. It was so exciting to work with such a talented, mind-reader like Rachel Rossano as we put together the cover. The first mock cover only had a handful of tweaks and voila! She worked her magic.
11. Does your story draw in your ancestors?
Not exactly. I used a few family names for characters, but that is the extent of my family ancestry. Judy and Ted are my grandparents, and Loretta--mentioned in the Epilogue--is my great-grandmother. The scene where she is mentioned also mentions her heirloom china from the Old Country. I was gifted my great-grandmother Loretta’s full china service by my great-aunt Pat.
12. What was a favorite step in the self-publishing journey for you and what would you say has been the hardest part so far?
My favorite step in the self-publishing journey was the cover. Hands down. The hardest part would probably be an ongoing struggle for me of believing in this novel of my heart and telling people about it. If this is any indication–I hid in my room during my third birthday party. Always being shy, my writing it where I can open up and say anything, be anyone, and even, like in God’s Will, process things and pour my heart out in ways I couldn’t verbalize. As time goes on, I’m learning to have fun putting my novel out there and respecting it as the finished work of many years hard work.
13. One author who challenges/inspires you and why?
One author that inspires me is Jocelyn Green. Gosh that was a difficult choice–all the authors I read inspire and challenge me in different ways. She writes in my favorite era–the Civil War. The way she so tightly interweaves real history in and around fictional characters is enviable to me, and also a challenge. To honor the history I so love to study but to make it come alive to the reader so they sit back at the end of the book and feel like they just came back from time-traveling.
14. What is one thing you have learned from walking this self-publishing road? What did you enjoy most about this journey to authorhood?
This self-publishing road has been one of much learning and getting outside of my comfort zone, let me tell you. I've learned to believe in the calling of author God has placed upon my heart, and to receive congratulations, praise and interest about my book with a gracious spirit. I've greatly enjoyed keeping God's Will a surprise, working withRachel Rossano on the cover, and now that launch week is winding down, I'm enjoying the ride. I never wanted to self-publish God's Will for the numbers. I wanted to publish it for my mother, grandmother...and me. No longer will I hide my light under a bushel, thanks to the Lord Who's upheld me through these last few months of self-publishing.