Monday, January 19, 2009

Courting Miss Adelaide

We fiction writers tend to glamorize the past. But we know the “good ‘ole days” had their downside, like no dishwashers, carry-out food or automobiles to get us where we want to go. It’s far easier to travel into the past sitting at my computer or reading a wonderful book, than facing the rigors of the trail or the restrictions 19th Century society placed on women. But countless men and women met the challenge of their times. Their courage so impresses me that I want to tell stories that keep their sacrifices and contributions alive in our hearts and minds.

My father and grandfather were storytellers, relating anecdotes about real-life men and women and the world they lived in. My mother created beautiful quilts, using age-old patterns, piecing and quilting each by hand. Perhaps that heritage fostered my love of history and my desire to create. Whatever the reason, at twelve, I wrote and illustrated little romances. But it wasn’t until our daughters were grown that I seriously pursued my dream. It took me nine years to sell my first book, years of rejection and occasional elation. Not the Oregon Trail, but a rugged road nevertheless. The result is Courting Miss Adelaide, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical.

I’m asked where I got the idea for Courting Miss Adelaide. A newspaper clipping my father sent me triggered my interest in the orphan train. I’m amazed by the sheer numbers of immigrant children that rode these trains. Between the years of 1853 and 1929, 250,000 orphans or half orphans were sent from New York City to new homes in the Midwest and beyond. What an amazing life change for these immigrant children and for the families that took them in!
The idea to place out orphans originated with a Methodist minister, Charles Loring Brace, founder of The Children’s Aid Society, an orphanage. Brace saw as many as 30,000 abandoned children living on the streets in wretched poverty. Orphanages were overcrowded and unable to handle the number. Brace decided relocating these children to farms and small towns was their ticket to a better life. Some got good homes. Others lived like indentured servants. Still others were sent back to New York, only to ride west again. If you’re interested in reading more about their stories, visit:

I immediately wanted to use this slice of history in a book. My “what if” moment became the kernel for Adelaide’s story in Courting Miss Adelaide—what if a lonely spinster wanted a child and saw the orphan train as her last chance for motherhood?

I set my novel in Noblesville, a real Indiana town, in 1897. A train carrying orphans stopped in Noblesville in 1859 so I saw no reason why it couldn’t stop again in 1897. Hamilton County Historian, David Heighway, was an invaluable resource. To enhance my story, I took creative liberties with the facts, but so much about Noblesville fit my plans perfectly. The town’s attractive courthouse dominates the square and is surrounded with commercial buildings matching the time frame I wanted. I visited the Noblesville’s Historical Museum that’s housed in what was the jail and sheriff’s quarters. I couldn’t believe my good fortune to find a wonderful brochure describing and dating the town’s historic buildings. I used some of those buildings in my story and created others. This is fiction, after all.

I walked the streets and selected the site for Adelaide Crum’s milliner shop Adelaide’s Hats and Sundries. And right across the street, I put The Noblesville Ledger, a newspaper that thrives today, and Editor Charles Graves, the new bachelor in town. It’s great fun creating the setting for a novel, and even more fun bringing the characters to life.

When orphan siblings Emma and William Grounds rode the train into Noblesville, they rode right into Adelaide’s heart. I hope once you read Courting Miss Adelaide they’ll find a place in your heart as well.

God bless, Janet

We have a winner

Donna Rich is the winner of Crystal Miller's evaluation of her proposal. Congratulations, Donna! Thanks to all who left comments and a huge thanks to Crystal for her generous giveaway in Seekerville!

Blessings, Janet

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Calling all unpublished writers!!!!!!!!!!!!

To have a chance to win an evaluation of your proposal by a professional freelance reader, visit Seekerville Monday, January 12 at All you have to do to enter the drawing is read Crystal Laine Miller's excellent post, "Dare Your Reader to Risk Reading Your Book" that's chock full of tips on getting past a publisher's reader and then leave a comment.

Check out Crystal at Chat 'n' Chew Cafe': A Taste of Nostalgia with a Hint of GingerPeachy
When I Was Just a Kid features

The drawing will take place on Wednesday, January 14. Don't miss this terrific opportunity for a free evaluation of your manuscript's first three chapters and synopsis.

Blessings, Janet

Sunday, January 4, 2009

For Love and Money Week in Seekerville

I'm excited to report what's happening in Seekerville, my group blog, this week. Check out the schedule below.

For Love and Money Week in Seekerville (

Monday Jan 5: Deb Ng on professional blogging. Deborah Ng is the genius behind Freelance Writing Jobs.

Tuesday Jan 6: Cindi Myers on the working writer. If you don't know Cindi, check out her Market News Yahoo Group or her website for news on her latest release A Man To Rely On, from Super Romance.

Wednesday Jan 7: Michael Bracken on writing for the Confessions. Michael is a phenom in the confession world and we are thrilled to have him stop by and share.

Thursday Jan 8: Abingdon Press Senior Acquisitions Editor for Fiction, Barbara Scott, is back for an Encore, Encore!!

Friday Jan 9: Myra L. Johnson on the Christian nonfiction market. In addition to her multiple fiction sales in 2008 (Heartsong and Abingdon), Myra is also a nonfiction writer.

Saturday Jan 10: Tina Russo shares on writing romantic fiction for Woman's World Magazine. Keep an eye out for her latest Woman's World story, Letting Go, which is on newsstands RIGHT NOW!!

We are starting 2009 with a bang in Seekerville. Anyone who comments all six days will be entered into a drawing for a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card.

So come on over to Seekerville each day this week! Get into the drawing.

Blessings, Janet

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Solitary Tree

Happy New Year

Time to look back at the previous year. Remember what was good. What was not so good. And figure out what we can learn from both. Then tuck those snippets of wisdom into the pocket above our hearts, looking ahead with courage at the clean slate of 2009.

I'm feeling nostalgic so on this first day of the year, I'd like to share an essay I felt moved to write. If you have some memories you like to share of another time, another way of life, please leave a comment. We can look ahead tomorrow. :-)

Blessings, Janet

by Janet Dean

Not far from our suburban home I’d pass an old farmhouse, built of brick, solid and stately, with a small porch across the front. It sat close to the street, built in a time when roads were strips of gravel, not wide thoroughfares, and land meant growing crops, not manicured lawns. Long narrow windows hid its occupants behind wavy glass. Alongside the house a solitary tree, limbs widespread, provided shade. Behind and to the left of the house an enormous red barn dominated the landscape. Each summer, corn, wheat and beans rotated in the acres of tillable ground surrounding the house. A drive circled behind the structure, bringing farm equipment to the barn and visitors to the backdoor.

Upon occasion, I’d see the owner, driving his outdated John Deere, holding up traffic. I admired that old farmer, admired him for holding out, for clinging to the land, refusing to take prime dollar for his way of life. I knew without ever meeting him that he understood work, understood sacrifice, knew what mattered.

For eleven years I drove past that house. Not long ago I noticed the paint on the barn had peeled and several boards needed repairing. Soon a large sign appeared in the yard, advertising an auction. On sale day, buyers packed the grounds, inspecting the contents of the house and outbuildings laid out on tables and strewn across the grass. I wanted to know what happened to the owners, but I didn’t stop to inquire, afraid to hear the answer. I comforted myself that someone younger would bid on the lovely old farmhouse, would raise their children here, and give the house a new lease on life.

Then the unthinkable—a huge piece of equipment appeared on the site, taking bites out of the house, spitting plaster and bricks. Soon the old farmhouse had been reduced to a pile of rubble. In a matter of days all signs of the house and barn had vanished.

When I drive past now, I look at that ancient tree, leafless in winter, splendid but alone with only the gravel drive as a reminder of the life lived here. Suddenly, I’m fighting tears. I remind myself that change is inevitable. It will come for all of us. It will come for me. Though intellectually I understand, in my heart, I mourn the passing of an era, the only reminder, that solitary tree.