Friday, January 20, 2017

George Washington's Secret Spy War

The other week, I found myself at the library browsing the shelves of new books. Hey, my next turn to blog was January 20, so perhaps a book review of something presidential would be appropriate. Every four years the President of the United States is sworn into office on January 20 – Inauguration Day. (When we lived in the Washington, DC, area, Inauguration Day was an actual holiday with closed schools and offices.) I passed over a very thick biography of Thomas Jefferson when George Washington’s Secret Spy War:The Making of America’s First Spymaster by John A. Nagy caught my attention.

Okay, it wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned (after all, Washington wasn’t a president yet during the years the book covered), but it sounded like an exciting read.

If you’ve seen AMC’s TV show Turn, you too may have developed a taste for Revolutionary War espionage. The Culpeper Ring (upon which the show is based) operated from 1778-1781, during the British occupation of New York City. (And while I enjoyed the peek at Executive Producer Craig Silverstein’s Post-It clad storyboards (0:20 mark, below), he’s wrong about the Culpeper Ring being America’s first spy ring.)

(Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of Turn. I watched a few episodes. The spying aspects are interesting, but the series is not something you'd want to watch with minor children in the room. Viewer discretion is certainly warranted.)

George Washington's Secret Spy War begins with a chapter of background. Washington first learned the importance of good intelligence to military action during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) when he served under British general Edward Braddock. Twice Washington suffered the consequences of decisions made with faulty intelligence. When he assumed command of the Continental Army to fight the British in 1775, Washington tried to avoid his earlier errors. Strangely enough, I found this background to be the part of the book I enjoyed the most. (Maybe it just gives me hope to know that mistakes can be preparation for something great in the future if we learn from them.)

Then the book jumps forward 20 years and covers Washington’s war years chronologically. The Revolutionary War was fought in a different manner from the frontier battles of Washington’s early military experiences. The armies used tactics more like those developed in Europe. Furthermore, in many ways it was a civil war, pitting neighbors and families against each other. This made intelligence gathering critical—and difficult. Who could Washington trust? On more than one occasion, he chose the wrong man.

Whenever possible, Washington required more than one source of information before taking action. He could then compare the data to see if his sources agreed. Sometimes, he learned of sources who could not be trusted and were probably working for the British. Washington made use of them to spread disinformation. Throughout the war, the American army was at a numerical disadvantage. Washington ordered his officers to inflate the numbers of men, so that the British would think the army larger than it truly was. It worked so well that on one occasion when the British received an accurate report, they didn’t believe it to be true!

So, what’s my verdict on the book? I wanted to like it more than I actually did. As a reference, this book is fine. It is well referenced – there are over 60 pages of endnotes. If you are an author with an interest in spying and a love of 18th century American history who wants to capitalize on the success of Turn, this would make an excellent place to get ideas for similar spy rings that operated in other places during the war. However, if you are looking for some exciting history to while away cold winter afternoons, this probably isn’t the book for you unless you are a hardcore Revolutionary-phile.

Author John A. Nagy died unexpectedly last spring, so George Washington’s Secret Spy War was published posthumously. You can read an interview with him here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Downton's Legacy

If I may be allowed to quote from Facebook, a couple of days ago, Inky Debra Marvin posted the following:
I miss Downton. There are few shows that captured me the way it did from the first five minutes. I made faces during a couple episodes, but I sure looked forward to each new episode.

I didn't respond, but the thought stayed with me as I tried to think of a show that I felt measured up to the way I also felt about Downton Abbey. I still can't. The show had a unique quality partly due to the historical setting which allowed a feast of fashion finery, but also because of the mysterious - to me - relationship between the upstairs gentry and the downstairs servants. I learned something new every show.

Downton Abbey Season 5

Yet it wasn't until today that I realized Downton must have rubbed off on me because my heroine in Sweet Love Grows, maintains a staff befitting an American heiress of an agricultural estate. I especially enjoyed writing the discourses between Amelia and Williams, her butler, while her time spent with young Charlie, the stable boy, never failed to touch my heart. Would it do the same for readers?

One reader emailed this week and said she wanted my novella to be longer so she could read more of those relationships. I like to believe I've handled them well enough to say I was a student of Downton Abbey.

But I'm treading water here, because there are at least four Inkies who are experts on the hierarchy of the nobility, the upper crust society, and those who serve them.

And speaking of...did you catch Inky Susie's post on Monday where she talks about her love of Regency Romances and in particular, her own Love Inspired release, The Reluctant Guardian?  I can't wait until it's released in a few weeks.

What about you? Do you long for Downton Abbey like the rest of us? Or have you found something to replace it? Do share.


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Her Christian faith is reflected in her stories of forgiveness and redemption as her characters struggle to find their way to that place in our heart we call home. Anita loves to correspond with her readers through any of the social media links found at

Readers can enrich their reading experience by checking out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories at

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lifelong Love Affair with Regency Romances (What's a Traditional Regency?)

In a few weeks, my debut novel comes out: an inspirational Regency romance called The Reluctant Guardian.
Yay! We will party here on the Inkwell in a few weeks to celebrate!
Recently, I was chatting with Inky DeAnna Dodson about Regencies, and it took me back to the beginning of my love affair with love stories set in Regency England--the era of Jane Austen, Beau Brummel, and Empire waist gowns.

Back when I had no clue what a Regency romance was.

In those days, teens hung out at the mall, and one Saturday my best friend Laura and I wandered into B Dalton to look at books. We were junior highers and voracious readers, and at the time I read every Agatha Christie I could get my hands on. But on this particular day, a book that was clearly-not-a-mystery caught my eye.

Wow, someone's got a copy up on Amazon!
I bought it. I devoured it.

I told Laura about the heroine, an English lady named Gillian, whose mother had a scandalous affair years ago with a roue named Sir Hewitt Gambol that devastated her marriage, and Gillian didn't know who her dad was, Sir Hewitt or her mother's estranged husband. (Pause for breath.) After her mother's death, Gillian heads to London by herself to find Sir Hewitt, but first bumps into the emotionally scarred Earl of Bain, who can't let this sweet young lady ruin herself by hanging out with an old letch like Sir Hewitt, so he takes her to his cousin, Meg, who is bored and thinks it'll be fun to launch Gillian into Society, so she takes Gillian into her home and pays for her to be a debutante.

Oh, and Gillian wore something called sprigged muslin.

Laura devoured the book, too. We even took it camping with us at the beach and literally lay in our tent reading it aloud to each other with horrible Swedish accents (just try it, a la the Muppets' Swedish chef: Sir Hewitt Gambol).

We were very happy girls who had discovered this amusing genre of book, and we found more and more of them to enjoy (they even carried them in our high school library! After I married, I found them in the grocery store!). And even though the red banner at the top of the book said it was a Signet Regency Romance, we called them "Seasons," because of the London Seasons mentioned in the stories.

I didn't know what a "Regency" was, but of course, I eventually learned that the Regency period in England refers to a specific, short period of time (around 1811-1820) when Prince George served as Regent for his father, King George III.

Therefore, Regency romances, technically, are romances that take place in that specific period in Britain, when Jane Austen lived and wrote.
Little did I know that these books that I loved were in a small way Jane Austen's grandchildren. Regency romances as we know them follow in the footsteps of works by a woman named Georgette Heyer, who wrote Regency-set stories during the 1930's-1970's which were absolutely inspired by Jane Austen's works. (DeAnna Dodson wrote a Heyer post last June.)

If Heyer is The Mother of the Regency Romance, then one could argue that Regencies are Austen's grandchildren.(It must be said, though, that Austen's books, while dealing with love and marriage among other topics, were not romances. In all her books, there are 14 kisses.)
Suffice to say, I did not know about her or her delightful books when I picked up Scandal's Daughter. I didn't meet Georgette Heyer until I was 24.
Pretty cover of The Corinthian, although it's not Regency costume, but oh...whatever.
I've loosely defined Regency romances as romances set in the Regency period in Britain, but they're actually a lot more than that. When I was doing research for this post, I learned Wikipedia has a "Regency Romance" page. Who knew? Here's how they define a Regency romance:

"Regency romances are a subgenre of romance novels set during the period of the British Regency (1811–1820) or early 19th century. Rather than simply being versions of contemporary romance stories transported to a historical setting, Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions. These derive not so much from the 19th-century contemporary works of Jane Austen, but rather from Georgette Heyer, who wrote over two dozen novels set in the Regency starting in 1935 until her death in 1974, and from the fiction genre known as the novel of manners. In particular, the more traditional Regencies feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialogue between the protagonists and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex."

Today, Regency romances are all over the map as far as tone, manner, setting, and level of sensuality--you can find Regencies everywhere, from YA to erotica.

But years ago when I picked up a Signet Regency, or, later, a Zebra Regency, which published the aforementioned Traditional Regency, I knew it was safe to expect these elements in the books:
  • Sweet romance (no sex), with the exception of particular authors
  • Witty dialogue and Humor, with the occasional kooky character or sarcasm
  • Characters from the leisure class, gentry, or professional arena (nobility, military, clergy, governesses, spies, the occasional scholar, solicitor, or bookseller, etc). 
  • Grosvenor Square:
    Grosvenor Square, a pricey neighborhood indeed
  • Settings like the grandest of estates or the exclusive Mayfair neighborhood of London (although run-down estates, rented rooms above shops, and mean dwellings are often where a character starts...but doesn't end up)
  • Mentions of the Napoleonic wars, social ills, and the Prince Regent, aka Prinny
  • References to the London Season (social season which took place every year in the late spring/early summer, depending on Parliament, when debutantes were presented)
  • References to the upper crust of society, aka the bon ton, the beau monde, the upper ten thousand.
  • Drury Lane Theatre:
    Drury Lane Theatre
  • The mention of places like Almack's, Vauxhall Gardens, Astley's Ampitheatre, Hookham's Library, White's Gentleman's Club, the Pavilion at Brighton, Kew Gardens, the Chinese Pagoda, Tattersall's (horse sellers), Drury Lane Theatre...
  • Activities like dancing at balls, paying and receiving calls, eating ices at Gunther's, driving at the fashionable hour of five o'clock through Hyde Park in a high-perch phaeton, watching plays, horseback riding, attending routs and musicales, or taking the children to the menagerie at the Tower
  • Cant, or the descriptive"slang" of the day used by gentlemen and men who were not so gentle, and every once in a while, a lady. Phrases for "good" include "bang up to the mark," "right 'un," "top o' the trees"... (See my page on Cant)
  • A mystery, from time to time
  • Regency shopping.
    Shopping at the mantua-maker's
  • Fashion. Fashion. Fashion. I loved the descriptions of sprigged muslin, sarcenet, silk, riding habits, bonnets, and Kashmir. The heroines, if poor, wore clothes a season or two out of fashion, but at some point they'd usually experience a trip to the modiste, where they were outfitted like Cinderella for the ball. (Want more? Click here.) And more often than not, the hero looked quite smart in his coat of superfine wool, tailored by the great Weston himself.
The first Christmas novella collection I ever read...actually, it was the first novella collection I ever read, period!
Alas, Signet stopped publishing Regencies ten years ago (Zebra stopped in 2005). Traditional Regencies still exist from other publishers, but I could no longer buy one in the grocery store like I did in the early 1990's. 

If you read my upcoming novel, The Reluctant Guardian, you probably won't find it to be a traditional Regency. It's an inspirational, written for a different audience than was targeted by Signet over ten years ago--but you will recognize several things I've listed above.

How could I leave them out? The girl who bought Scandal's Daughter would be disappointed if I did.

The Reluctant Guardian, coming Feb 7 from Love Inspired Historical:

Under the Spy's Protection 

When Gemma Lyfeld inadvertently interrupts a dangerous smuggling operation in her English village, she's rescued by a mysterious Scottish spy. Now with criminals after her and her hopes for an expected marriage proposal recently dashed, she will make her society debut in London. But not without the man tasked with protecting her… 

Covert government agent Tavin Knox must keep Gemma safe from the criminals who think she can identify them—a mission he never wanted. But as he escorts her and her rascally nephews around London, the lovely English lass proves braver than he ever imagined. Suddenly, the spy who works alone has one Season to become the family man he never dreamed he'd be.

Find it on Amazon! 


Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starrring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of several historical romances who's seen her work on the ECPA and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne lives in California and enjoys fancy-schmancy tea parties, curling up on the couch with costume dramas, and going to Disneyland any chance she gets.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Words, Words, Words

Jennifer AlLee

There's a great scene in My Fair Lady where Eliza Doolittle loses it. For days, Henry Higgins has bombarded her with words, now Freddy is talking about his feelings instead of showing her, and she can't take it anymore. She bursts into song: "Words, words, words! I'm so sick of words!"

I know I'm not the only writer who identifies with Eliza. Some days, there are just too many words. Especially when we're told that some words are just WRONG and we should never, ever use them! And, no, I'm not talking about swear words.

There are word lists floating around. Lists that are supposed to be helpful resources for writers. Personally, I would love to see them disappear. They have titles like:

  • Weasel Words
  • 100 Ways to Say "Good"
  • "Said" is Dead, Use This Instead
  • Keep Away from "Was"
  • Words to Use Instead of (insert adjective here)
You get the idea. Writers, especially in the early stages of their journey, are taught to avoid certain words. They are drilled to avoid passive writing (hence not using the word "was"). I'm sure all these lists were made with the best of intentions, but the result can be similar to a person who wants to add variety to her writing, so she uses a thesaurus to replace common words with words she'd never use in day-to-day conversation. 

Another result is awkward writing. I once judged a contest entry in which the author must have been traumatized by the threat of disaster if she used "was." The poor dear did every literary contortion imaginable to avoid it, including just plain leaving it out, creating sentences like, "The dog not happy about the cat." 

Other lists end up confusing new writers. It's drilled into us that the word "said" as a dialogue tag is almost invisible. It's okay to replace it with "asked" for a question, but anything else is intrusive. So what about the list of words to use in place of "said"? We're told to avoid purple prose, yet the lists give us hundreds of words that can replace "good," "amazing," "very," and on and on. 

My biggest peeve, though, is with the list of Weasel Words. These are words that find their way into your writing too often and weaken it (or so they say). I've seen these handed out in writer's classes with the admonition to NEVER use them. What are the words? Here are a few:
  • just
  • very
  • really
  • then
  • but
  • was
  • most
  • some
  • only
Obviously, you can't write a book using none of those words. And yes, there are times when we have pet words that pop up far too often. "Just" is one of mine. But not one of those words is bad. In my opinion, there's a time and place for every word. When we start slashing them just because they're on a list, we lose some of our individuality. 

Please note, the viewpoint expressed by the author (Jen) is hers alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of any or all of the Inkies. Take it with a grain of salt and a smile, then go forth and write using the tools (or avoiding the tools) that are the best for you.



JENNIFER ALLEE was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. To find out more about her novels, visit her website at

Monday, January 9, 2017

As may be best for us...

Sometimes it's hard to pray, especially when you think you know what someone needs and what would satisfy that need. Between my adult children whom I worry about all the time, and friends struggling with various issues, sometimes I sit helplessly in front of my prayer journal, unable to come up with cohesive thoughts and pleas.
I heard a prayer in church last week written by St. Chrysostom:

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

"As may be best for us..."

That, in my mind, sums up the ultimate prayer of faith. Who am I to surmise that I know what's best for my friends, family members, even myself? I can look back at my life and see many times when I thought I knew what was best, and God gave me something different. In hindsight I know why... He knew what was best for me when I couldn't see past my own hurts and wants.

There was a time when I thought I knew all the answers to every situation, when I knew all the "right" things to pray. These days I find myself returning again and again to prayers that resemble St. Chrysostom's: "as may be best for us," more aware than ever that I don't always know what's best, even for myself. 

My prayer for you, for all of you, is that God would fulfill your desires and petitions as may be best for you. 


Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the owner and editor of the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper, one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in Colorado.She is a co-blogger at, and president of her local ACFW chapterNiki is a Colorado native who grew up in Glenwood Springs—home of the world’s largest hot springs pool. She married her high school sweetheart 26 years ago. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two West Highland White Terriers who are kind enough to take them for long walks.You can find all her new releases at under BOOKS.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my cats. I’ve had many over the years, and all of them have been incredibly precious to me. 

Elizabeth Louise Dodson

When I was growing up, we had everything: dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, birds, rabbits, turtles, fish, you name it. Before I was born, my brother and sister even had a lion cub for a short time. But once I was on my own, I decided two or three cats was the optimal arrangement for me. They’re easy to take care of and, as long as they have a friend or two, entertain themselves beautifully. 

Eddie Marie Dodson

Contrary to popular belief, cats are not generally aloof or untrainable. Unlike dogs, they generally don’t care whether or not they please you, but they do like a lot of affection and want to be with you as much as possible. I often have one, two or all three of mine in my lap whenever I sit down for any length of time, though they’re not fond of sharing and I usually end up with just one, even if it’s not the one who was in my lap to begin with. And they’re always at the door to greet me when I’ve been away even for a short period of time. 

Peter William Dodson

They’re a tremendous blessing to me, and I’m always amazed at the way God always sends me just the right kitty to rescue when it’s time for a new one. Each one has ended up to be exactly what I needed at the time. God’s good that way.

Do you have a fur baby? What makes it special to you?

Do you do anything special for your pets for their birthdays or for Christmas?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Release Party for the American Heiress Brides Collection

Jan 1, 2017 Release Day!

Meet nine young women in America between 1866 and 1905 who have been blessed by fortunes made in gold, silver, industry, ranching, and banking. But when it comes to love, each woman struggles to find true love within a society where “first comes money, second comes marriage.” What kind of man can they trust with their greatest treasure—their hearts?

Today, we're celebrating a new Barbour Publishing release! THREE INKWELL AUTHORS have stories in this beautiful collection. 
"And here they come now! Anita, Susie and Lisa!"
"Congratulations, ladies.  Your stories are delightful and more likely than this corset to make me swoon."

Here's more on each story...  oh, and be sure to join us in the drawing room. I'll ring for the footman. I know you won't want to eat, as ladies really don't eat, they just sip tea, and nibble on the odd cucumber sandwich.

"Let me know if I can  be of service, ladies. Or, I can just brood as I watch you from over here in the corner."

Susie Dietze gives us: IN FOR A PENNY 
1894- Philadelphia
Banking heiress Penelope Beale is pushed by her status-conscious parents to marry a lofty English lord, but she's drawn instead to a lowly art historian who shares her passion for service--Emmett Retford, the lord's younger brother.  
(See Susie's Pinterest Page)
"Emmet. Darling!"

SWEET LOVE GROWS is Anita Mae Draper's first appearance in a BARBOUR PUBLISHING COLLECTION! 
1890- McLeod County, MN
Amelia Cord never doubted her father's love--despite her illegitimacy. When he dies without a will, handsome by-the-books attorney Jeremy Moore produces a vindictive legal heir who demands her eviction without an inheritance. Can sweet love grow in spite of the odds?
"Clap politely if you'd like more of Mr. Moore."

Lisa Karon Richardson's A FAMILY INHERITANCE is set in 1883-San Francisco.
Anne Shepherd has made her own fortune in the California gold fields, but what she's always wanted was a family. When the aunt she's invited to live with her arrives with Jack Wilberforce in tow, Anne may have gone bust or she just might have hit pay dirt.
Our Nob Hill location thanks to Lisa and her heroine Anne. Only the best for our get-togethers!

"If you have to ask, you don't belong."
(Well, la-ti-da)
"Oh, all right. The link to buy the paperback or Ebook is below."

"Edith has agreed to write a review."
(So this explains why I 'm feeling like I'm in an Edith Wharton novel.)

"Don't forget to be in our drawing. For each comment, one bird will be spared death and I will donate the cost of faux feathers." 

"Please sit, my darling. No one's occupying in it."
 "Because it's lovely but terribly impractical.  Like you."
"That's it. I'm leaving."

"Look at how those women devour that aspic."
"I admire such gusto, don't you?"

Please take a moment to congratulate our authors on this new release. Two copies of THE AMERICAN HEIRESS BRIDES collection will be given away.  A random drawing will occur on 1/9/17 9pm EST.

Visit our authors to learn more about their previous releases:
Lisa K Richardson Amazon Author Page
Anita Mae Draper Amazon Author Page
Susanne Dietze Amazon Author Page
"If you and I are the only ones who comment on these giveaways, we'll be sure to win."
"And I know how much that means to you.  Remember, you can't win if you don't enter."

Enter Anita Mae Draper's
Sweet Love Grows Prize Pak Giveaway for more chances to win a copy of The American Heiress Brides Collection

WE'VE JUST HAD A TELEGRAM ARRIVE! ANNIE (Just Commonly) and TRIXI O will be receiving copies of the book!

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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.