Monday, August 31, 2009

19th Century Fashion Research book: How the West Was Worn by Chris Enss

Bustles and Buckskins on the Wild Frontier: Fashion that Shaped the Old WestBack cover blurb: Did you know that pioneer women sewed lead in their hems to keep their dresses from billowing on the trail? Or that hatless men had to wear bonnets to protect their eyes from the scorching sun?From old familiar Levi's to the short-lived "instant dress elevator," HOW THE WEST WAS WORN examines the sometimes bizarre, often beautiful, and highly inventive clothing of the Old West. You'll learn how a cowboy's home state determined the way he wore his pants and hat, as well as how to distinguish one Indian tribe from another by their moccasins. Meet John B. Stetson, leading maker of cowboy hats; Adah Menken whose flesh-colored nylon costume left an audience gaping at her underwear; and Amelia Jenks Bloomer, the promoter of - you guessed it - the bloomer.

About the author: Chris Enss is an award - winning screenwriter who has written for television, short subject films, live performances, and for the movies, and is the co-author (with JoAnn Chartier) of Loved Untamed: True Romances Stories of the Old West, Gilded Girls: Women Entertainers of the Old West, and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon: Women Patriots and Soldiers of the Old West and The Cowboy and the Senorita and Happy Trails (with Howard Kazanjian). Her research and writing and reveals the funny, touching, exciting, and tragic stories of historical and contemporary times.Enss has done everything from stand-up comedy to working as a stunt person at the Old Tucson Movie Studio. She learned the basics of writing for film and television at the University of Arizona, and she is currently working with Return of the Jedi producer Howard Kazanjian on the movie version of The Cowboy and the Senorita, their biography of western stars Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

The chapter headings are:

In this chapter, we learn about a San Francisco dry goods dealer named, Levi Strauss who developed a brand new material, called denim which he believed was superior to any other on the market.

I found this chapter most interesting. We meet Amelia Bloomer who female underwear was named after. While she did not design the female, "bloomers" she did wear daring outfits which were a short dress that reached below the knees with a Turkish-style trousers gathered in ruffles at the ankles. Bloomers became a symbol of the fledgling women's movement.

What I found so fascinating about this chapter was that the cowboys at a certain ranch resented their employers for enforcing them to wear uniforms. Sporting bib pull-over shirts of the same color does not sit well with the hires, even if it is marked with the (name) Ranch.

This chapter dealt with what children wore during the 19th Century. To my surprise, I discovered that daughters didn't wear ankle length dresses. Their hems came to below their knees. Girls longed to be grown up enough to let their hems down and their hair up.

In this chapter, an excerpt from The National Wagon Road Guide, 1858 gave a listing of what men should pack for their trek across the country on the wagon train.

Accessories made the woman. It could change her mundane, everyday, dress to a nice social, evening dress.

Evening wear accessories, such as jewelry and popular hairstyles and hair accessories that were popular in the day.

This was a fascinating chapter on male and female "unmentionables". I didn't know that the average person felt that underwear was such a taboo subject that they wouldn't even make their own, but preferred to order them through a catalog.

Military wardrobe

Indian clothing styles

I think what I loved most about this book are several things:
1. The author uses many pictures to show exactly what she is saying. (Photographs, catalog images, and patterns)
2. Lots of white space, the readability of each chapter is easy.
3. I loved the clothing biographies of many famous people, including pictures.

HOW THE WEST WAS WORN is a definite asset to any historian or historical writer.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Using the Library for a Book Signing

I can't believe it is my turn again. The four week cycle comes around quickly. As you know one of our critique partners has published a book called Refuge. This has been quite an experience for us all.

We met as a critique group to brainstorm publicity and marketing ideas for her book. Because I save everything, I've started a new practice of copying and pasting ideas to a Word document for different topics to save ink and paper expenses. I have files for different topics on my desktop. When I read a new idea, I make a new Word page for it, including the name of the person who suggested the idea and also a note of my own ideas. I brought some copies of the new information and what I had accumulated in files over the years.

I am a member of the local Friends of the Library, so I was able to schedule a meeting for her to give a speech and sign her book on Family Night. The librarian was delighted with the turnout, and Stephanie was able to meet some teenagers who were happy to buy an autographed copy.

I am not writing about a specific book, but I am making a couple of suggestions. Keep files of different topics for later use, either in a file folder or on your computer or a combination of both. Consider contacting local librarians for a possible speaking engagement and signing opportunity. Stephani's signing appeared in two articles in the local paper. Her book is now in the library, and she has some new fans.

You can read her book yourself by going to her website at You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pitch and Promote Like a Pro by Terry W. Burns

In April, 2009, I took an online course from Terry Burns presented by American Christian Fiction Writers. During this time of teaching his workshop and the class asking questions and advice, he completed his e-book "Pitch and Promote Like a Pro." The book can be purchased on his web site and is worth the investment.
First discussed in the book is overcoming shyness, a real handicap to most of us when having to pitch our manuscripts to an agent or editor. Mr. Burns gives numerous examples of himself and others from the class of ways to stiffen our shoulders and "do it anyway." Knowing our pitch (the elevator pitch and the actual opening pitch) adds to our confidence. Burns discusses the use of the "pregnant pause" in our pitch.
The book shows examples of both kinds of pitches from Burns' own writing. As both an author and an agent, he gives a unique perspective. We're provided copies of his own sell-sheets, but then given practical advice from an agent's point-of-view. He also explains the role of the agent.
Burns dissects a proposal including what to send starting with the cover letter, and how it should be formatted. He offers practical help on what to put for marketing on a proposal. I'd never realized what platform was until I studied under Terry Burns. He makes it easy.
To wrap up the pitching like a pro, Burns lets us in on what to do if you get a "yes," and what to do if you get a "no," or even a "you can send it if you want to" response.
"Pitch and Promote Like a Pro" is worth a second look for all newbies and might be a must-have for any writer who still gets nervous before the pitch at conferences.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pictures of Stephanie Gallentine's Booksigning

Stephanie Gallentine at the Burkburnett Public Library's Refuge Booksigning.

Stephanie standing with the Friends of the Library at the refreshment table.

Stephanie Gallentine, Debra Calloway, Sue Watson, and Shirley Harkins
(missing Janet Brown)

And the winner of our blog giveaway of REFUGE is...Allyson!
Allyson, Stephanie, and Bethany

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Utmost for His Highest Selections for the Year, Oswald Chambers. © 1935 by Dodd, Mead, & Company, Inc.

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of presenting the devotion for our monthly critique group meeting. Stephanie Gallentine, who was interviewed in last week’s blog, wrote a YA thriller, Refuge, and we thought it appropriate to meet in a nearby wildlife refuge to recognize its recent publication.

For my devotion, I chose to read a selection from a book that saw me through the early days of my salvation; My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I’ve referred to this book several times since I surrendered my life to the Master. The pages of my copy are dog eared, stained, barely clinging to a broken binding. Over the years, I’ve given several copies as gifts.

This book is actually a compilation of notes meticulously taken by his wife, Gertrude from his lectures at The Bible Training College which he founded in London in 1911. In fact, Chambers wrote only one book entitled Baffled to Fight Better, while he’s credited in more than thirty other books similarly complied by his devoted wife of seven years.

After his school was closed in 1915 because of World War I, Chambers continued to minister to troops in Egypt as a YMCA chaplain. He died at 43 in Egypt, after suffering a ruptured appendix.

The Utmost for His Highest is an inspiring collection of devotions—one for each day of the year. Chamber’s wisdom is inspired and timeless, relevant to the hectic pace of the modern Christian life. They are also indexed by subject so the reader can easily locate an encouraging word for whatever issue he or she happens to be facing.

I recommend this book to the tired writer’s soul in need of edification and reassurance that writing gift is a call from God.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Author Interview - Stephanie Gallentine

Here at Books To Write By we have faithfully given reviews of books that has helped each one of us learn to write better. Occassionally, we add a fiction book that we really love.

But today we are so excited to have our first ever author interview. The reason for our excitement is that our own critique partner and friend, Stephanie Gallentine has sold her first novel and it is releasing this month! What a cause for a celebration! (And it's also nice to see our name in print on the acknowledgement page! Whoo-Hoo!)

We also have a free book to give-away!!! If you would like to own a copy of Refuge, please leave a comment on this post. Please be sure to leave your email address. If you are not comfortable leaving your email address in the comment section, you may email me: debra(at) Next Sunday we will announce the winner of Stephanie Gallentine's debut novel , Refuge.

To begin our interview, I will post Stephanie's biography from her website (

Raised in North Texas, Stephanie spent much of her childhood making up stories filled with action, adventure, and angst. From the time she was a young teenager, she started scribbling those adventures down on paper.

Years later, she met and married her husband, Robert. They have two fabulous children, Heather and Andy. Now, Stephanie spends her days working as a school cafeteria manager. After work, she lets her imagination run free on her computer as she writes her stories.

Her first story, Refuge, is due out this August from Word Aflame Press.

Stephanie, it truly is a pleasure for me to conduct this interview. (Hopefully, Sue, Janet, and Shirley will forgive me for not giving them the opportunity to do this first. :O)

1. What made you start writing?

I’ve been making up stories since I was a young teenager, but only started writing seriously a little over 3.5 years ago. I was going through a difficult storm in life and realized I need to quit focusing on the storm. I committed myself to doing something for God instead. Writing was that something.

2. When did you sell your first book?

I received my first contract earlier this year from a small publisher.

3. What are you working on right now?

Another YA mystery with a working title of A Name in the Stars.
While working on a genealogical school assignment, two teens discover a twelve-year-old cold case mystery involving the disappearance of identical twins and find they are searching for themselves.

4. Okay, I have to ask this question since this is the focus of our blog: Which books are the most helpful non-fiction, craft of writing books you have read?

Techniques of a Selling Writer by Dwight Swain

Story by Robert McKee

Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins

5. So, which fiction books have helped you learn certain aspects of writing?

I’m not sure I could narrow it down to one specific book. I’ve always read a lot and growing up there were always certain books I read over and over and others I didn’t, and what I liked wasn't dependant on a certain genre. One day I found out it wasn’t the genre but the structure of the books that I liked. All the books I really like have a balance of conflict and comfort. I tried to mimic that when I’m writing.

6. When you first started writing what was your biggest roadblock and how did you overcome it?

Learning to write. When I first began writing seriously, I realized from feedback I knew how to tell a story, but didn’t know how to tell the story right. You mean I need a refresher in punctuation? What’s POV? MRU? But every time someone pointed out something I didn’t know, I did a search for articles, books, anything to help me understand it and then I did a rewrite.

7. What is your favorite food to munch on while writing?


8. What is your writing schedule?

Is that a trick question? It’s one thing in my life that needs more focus. I like to write in the mornings but life doesn’t always work that way.

9. Which writing organizations do you belong to?

American Christian Fiction Writers and Pentecostal Writers Fellowship

10. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Never give up. Keep learning. Keep writing. If we feel writing is God’s calling on our lives, then whether we continue to write or not cannot be based on the receipt of a contract or landing an agent, but rather commitment to do His will.

11. How can readers find you on the Internet? Where can they buy your book?

(If you want an autographed copy, please contact me and use Paypal.)

12. Tell us about the book you have out right now.

After being forced to plant a computer virus, a teenage hacker must find a way to expose the real criminal without revealing the secrets of his troubled past.

Sixteen-year-old Kevin Ramsey refuses to be sent back to juvenile detention for a crime someone forced him to commit, even if it means running away until he can find evidence to expose the true criminal. During a penetration test, Kevin discovers a computer file indicating William Tyke, co-owner of a local travel investment company, may be investing in more than overseas properties—his own offshore bank account and leaving Kevin’s father to take the blame.

Against his wishes, Kevin is flown to a remote location to keep him safe. However, no place is safe as long as Kevin holds the computer file with information vital to retrieving the money from the offshore account as well as possible evidence of an earlier unsolved crime. William Tyke plans to use any means to get it back, and Kevin’s father refuses to seek help from the police. Kevin must trust someone to help him, even if discovering the truth uncovers painful family secrets he’s been taught no one can know.

13. Please give us the first page of the book.

One hour and fifty-nine minutes.

Sixteen-year-old Kevin Ramsey shoved his hands into the fleece-lined pocket of his hoodie. His fingers, stiffened by the cold, clasped the folded bus ticket. In less than two hours he would be free and for the first time, in control of his life.

He quickened his pace against the chilling January wind. White flecks of snow swirled about him, dotting his jacket, and melting within seconds. He shivered and pulled the straps of his backpack tighter. A sudden gust of wind blew his hood off and dark strands of baby-fine hair whipped in his face, catching in his glasses.

Frowning, he tugged his hood back on and double-checked the zippered interior pocket for papers that showed his new identity. Sean Childers. He repeated the name under his breath. Puffs of frozen air escaped his lips and disappeared—like he would, once he got out of McKeltic, Texas. Finding him would be like finding Cosmic Warrior’s secret identity. No one would know who to look for. His own life proved that. In the twelve years since his original identity had been changed no one had ever guessed he had a secret past. Why would this time be any different?

His cell phone chimed. Kevin slid it open and read the text message from his best friend, Aiden Rollings.


Kevin nodded and then texted a reply. Galactic Jitters, a popular sci-fi coffee shop, was only a few blocks out of his way. He could meet Aiden and still make his bus. He shivered and folded his arms tight across his chest. At least at Galactic Jitters, he wouldn’t freeze into a human iceberg.

As he turned onto Marsh Avenue, a truck with oversized wheels sped by, spraying the sidewalk with the gray slushy remains of last night’s snowfall. Kevin jumped back but slush seeped into the fabric of his jeans and forced the chill deeper into his bones. He glared at the offending truck and wished for a snowball-encrusted rock. A glimpse at the ground told him he’d have to forego revenge. Nothing underfoot but rock salt and barely visible snow flurries.

Two blocks later, Kevin hurried to the entrance of the familiar hangout. Inside, the rich aromas of coffee and vanilla wafted through the air, while overhead hundreds of artificial stars glimmered through the black ceiling. Teens clustered at tables, around laptops and video games, surrounded by a wall-to-ceiling space mural.

“Hey, Kevin.” Joe, the owner, waved to him from behind the counter and wiped his hands on his apron. “The usual? Quadruple shot mocha latte?"

Kevin nodded and then inched back his sleeve to uncover his watch.

One hour and forty-five minutes. Freedom was so close.

He paid for his drink and headed to the back corner booth where Aiden sat. Sliding into the bench seat, Kevin wrapped his cold hands around the steaming cup and breathed in the vapors.

He tipped back his head and let the hot coffee slide down the back of his throat. “What’s up? I thought your mom had you on lockdown.”

Aiden brushed at charcoal bangs that shaded his half-opened hazel eyes. A mischievous grin pinched his fever-tinged cheeks. “She did but her boss called her in for a couple of hours. I figure by the time she gets home, I’ll be back in bed.”

“You shouldn’t have come.”

“I had to.” Aiden cupped his hands in front of his face, muffling his sneeze. “I wanted to see if you’d changed your mind.”

Kevin stared down in his coffee and shook his head. “No, but the bus doesn’t leave till five. We can hang out here till then.” His cell phone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out and grimaced when he saw the caller. “It’s my dad.”

“You think he found out?”

“Nah, I doubt it.” Too bad Kevin’s nerves didn’t agree. Beneath his hoodie, his heart raced at the speed of light. “He couldn’t have. Right?”

“I just hope they don’t send you back to juvie.”

One quick push of the ignore button and the vibrating ceased. Kevin pressed his lips together and narrowed his eyes. “They won’t.”

In the past year, he had spent more than his share of time in juvenile detention. He wasn’t going back. Especially since it wasn’t his fault—this time. But who would believe him? He was a juvenile delinquent and like a character in one of his comic books, Kevin bore his label. The world labeled them—some heroes, some villains. But every character had one thing in common. They longed for a place their reputation didn’t follow them, a place they didn’t have to fight, a place they could just be normal. But did a place like that even exist in the real world?

“You need to tell someone about the file you found that night,” Aiden said.

“It wouldn’t matter. That file doesn’t exist anymore.”

“Then why are you running?”

Kevin clenched his fist and leaned forward. “You know why.”

“Just let me tell my dad like we should have done in the first place. Let me tell him about everything.” Aiden voice held a touch of pleading. “I’ll make him believe you.”

Kevin groaned. Aiden couldn’t possibly understand what he asked.

“I can’t.” He crushed the empty cup. “I don’t need his pity.”

“But you need his help.”

Kevin crossed his arms while his gaze shifted to make sure no one was close enough to hear. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

Aiden set his cup on the table. His hazel eyes grew round as the twin planets painted on the wall mural behind them. “Oh man, what did you do?”

Thank you, Stephanie for your time! I hope one day soon we can do this again!

Writing Tip of the Day