Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Way Back When-sday: My ACFW Outfit

This year, during the Friday night dinner at the ACFW Conference, attendees are invited to dress up in the genre, character, or era they write. When I saw this invitation, I immediately knew what I wanted to wear.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of portraying Evangeline Lindbergh (Charles Lindbergh's mother) during Living History Days at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site where I worked. During Living History Days we interpreted the year 1917, which is the year my next novel, Enchanting Lydia Walker, will be set.

With a few emails, I was able to locate the costume I wore for that event and I'm hopeful I can wear it for the ACFW dinner. Part of the costume will be sent to me from Kansas City (thank you, Mary!).

Below are a few pictures I pulled together to show you a typical outfit an Edwardian woman would have worn for everyday wear.

This blouse is similar to the one I wore for the Living History Day.
I'm amazed at how light and airy the blouses are.

This skirt is similar to the one I wore.

I didn't wear a corset (I couldn't find one!),
but if I did, this is what it would look like.
The Edwardian woman was praised for her
"S" shaped silhouette.
Complicated Edwardian hair
I love this hairstyle! Miss Lily Elsie was one of the most
photographed Edwardian women. I've discovered many
pictures of her hairstyles. I hope I can do this with my hair!
It will take lots of practice.

This is the only picture I have of the Living History Day.
This is the outfit I hope to wear (minus the shawl). I was
three months pregnant in this picture. :)

Your Turn! If you're going to the ACFW Conference, will you dress up on Friday night? If so, what will you wear? If you're not going, what era would you like to portray?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Minnesota Monday: My French Interview!

A couple months ago I had the honor of being interviewed by the Office du Tourisme des USA (the French Office of Tourism for the United States). I was asked to share my passion and knowledge of Minnesota for their website. If someone in France is interested in traveling to Minnesota, the hope is that my interview will be helpful in making their plans.

I was interviewed by my friend Delphine Legros. Delphine lives in Paris and works for the Office du Tourisme des USA. I met Delphine through the Sister City exchange program between my hometown in Minnesota and Delphine's in France. Originally she came to Minnesota years ago with the exchange program. When she was ready for an internship during college she returned to Minnesota where she worked with my mom, who was the Director of Tourism.

This picture was taken in France in 2009. I'm on the left,
my friend Beka (from Minnesota) is in blue, Delphine
is in purple and my friend Melissa (also from Minnesota)
is in green on the right.
I thought it would be fun to share the link to the interview on the Office du Tourisme des USA's website. Since it's been translated into French, I'm also sharing my English version. I hope you enjoy!

Office du Tourisme des USA ~ Minnesota Interview

Hello, Gabrielle. Can you introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Gabrielle Meyer. I live on the banks of the Mississippi River in Little Falls, Minnesota. Little Falls is located in the center of Minnesota about one hundred miles northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. I’m married to David and we have four children, two girls who are nine and seven and twin boys who just turned three!

What are your professional activities?
Besides being a wife and mother, I am a writer, a historian and a community volunteer. I write historical novels set in Little Falls and I also have a blog I update three times a week.

The city of Little Falls is twinned with Le Bourget in Seine St Denis and you were the President of the Association in Little Falls. Can you tell us about this pairing?
Little Falls is home to amazing history. The most well-known member of our community was Charles A. Lindbergh. His father was a prominent lawyer and his mother a high school chemistry teacher in Little Falls in the 1890’s. Charles went on to become one of the most famous men in history when he flew his monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris, non-stop in 1927. His amazing accomplishment not only connected two nations and opened up air travel for millions of people, but it also brought together the citizens of Little Falls and the citizens of Le Bourget forever. In 1987 a Sister City relationship was formed, and since then delegates from our two cities have been exchanging visits and friendships every two years.

What have you learned from this experience as president?
As a past president of the Sister City Committee, it was my distinct honor to represent Little Falls when I traveled to France in 2009. I, along with twenty other citizens from Little Falls, spent ten days with our French hosts. Through this Sister City relationship, I have learned a great deal about France and the people of that great nation. As a guest, I was treated like royalty, and as a friend, I was treated like family. Through our exchanges, it is my greatest hope that people of both nations will come to a better understanding of our similarities and our differences, celebrating them together.

How is Little Falls a tourist destination?
Because of Charles Lindbergh’s accomplishments, his boyhood home was put on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned and operated as a tourist destination by the Minnesota Historical Society. I worked at the Lindbergh House for ten years before staying home to care for my family and pursue my career as a writer. The Lindbergh House was built in 1906 and is on display for the public to see. There is also a museum and many state-of-the-art exhibits. Little Falls is also home to many other wonderful parks, museums, historic sites and attractions.

You are invested in the tourism of this city for a long time. Where does this passion come from?
My mother was the director of the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau for over twenty years and in that time I volunteered at many of these fine establishments. We have the Minnesota Fishing Museum, the Pine Grove Park Zoo (the second oldest zoo in Minnesota), the Weyerhaeuser & Musser Mansions (now called Linden Hill Conference and Retreat Center), the Morrison County Historical Society and the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park where you can go hiking, camping and fishing. For a more detailed list of attractions visit the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

What are your favorite activities in winter?
Little Falls is also a wonderful place to visit in the winter. When the snow falls and the lakes freeze over, some of my favorite winter activities are ice fishing, ice skating, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding and snowmobiling. We also love to spend time outside with our family building snowmen and snow forts.

And summer?
In the summer I love to spend time in the water. Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 lakes, but there are actually 11,842 lakes in the state. We have more shoreline in Minnesota than California, Florida and Hawaii combined. Within a thirty mile radius of our home there are over 300 lakes. We love to take our boat on the water and go water skiing, tubing and wake boarding. We also love to swim in the lake, go fishing, have picnics, go hiking, play in the parks, go on bike rides, play golf, go canoeing and spend time at the cabin.

Speaking of cabins, can you explain to the French what it is?
Minnesota is home to thousands of lake cabins. A cabin is a home built on the shores of a lake. Some people live in their lake homes all throughout the year, but most of them only visit their cabins in the summer. Many times we will have a cabin party and invite friends and family to spend time with us. We usually do this on the weekends, but occasionally we’ll take a week or two of vacation and go to the lake and relax. We often have camp fires in the evenings and roast marshmallows and hot dogs over the open flames. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a talented musician in the group who will lead a sing-along of our favorite songs. It is also common for people to light fireworks over the lake on the weekends. It’s a beautiful sight to see over the shimmering water. Many wonderful memories are made on the lakes in Minnesota.

Why would you say that Minnesota is ideal for families?
Because of the four seasons, winter, spring, summer and fall, we have a variety of activities that change throughout the year. In the fall we love to pick apples, go to pumpkin patches, have hay wagon rides and bonfires. In the spring we love to plant our gardens and watch the natural world around us blossom. In summer we spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying our lakes and warm weather, and in the winter we marvel at the beauty of snow and ice. It’s a diverse state and that’s why we love living here.

Why don't you want to live anywhere else?
On my blog one of my favorite topics to write about is Minnesota. I often share a Minnesota Monday blog post where I display pictures of the places we travel and the things we do in Minnesota. I’ve been to forty states in the United States of America, and Minnesota is my favorite. It’s a wonderful place to live and raise a family.

What do you want the French to know about Minnesota?
I hope you’ll come to Minnesota one day. I know you’ll love our state and you’ll want to return often.

And if you want more information about Gabrielle... Gabrielle has written for Minnesota Moments Magazine since 2004. She also blogs three times a week sharing her passion for history, Minnesota and her faith. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or her blog.

Your Turn! Have you ever been to France? Have you ever been to Minnesota? Do you have friends in other countries?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

200 Blog Posts & 40,000 Page Views!


It occurred to me this week that I've hit two milestones on my blog. In seventeen months, I've published over two hundred blog posts and I've had over forty-thousand page views! That's amazing to me--and worthy of celebrating!
When I started this blog, I had no idea where it would take me. In seventeen months I've made hundreds of new friends, hosted amazing authors and been strengthened and encouraged by your support. Some of the coolest moments have been when someone in my community approaches me and tells me my blog has touched them in a special way.
A couple months ago I was feeling especially bogged down with the responsibility of my blogging schedule. I was feeling discouraged and disheartened--wondering how many people actually care about what I'm saying here. It was at that time that I ran into an acquaintance and she told me she doesn't miss a single post I write. I was blown away! It was exactly what I needed to hear to keep going.
I've also had people stop me in church, the grocery store, at my children's school and other places to let me know something I wrote affected them. I've received emails and phone calls, as well. I'm honored, and beyond thankful, for each person who takes time out of their busy lives to read my blog.
My greatest prayer is that I can share a bit of hope, faith and love here. I want to offer a glimpse into my writing journey, but more importantly, I want to share my passion for following a dream. God has blessed my life abundantly, and it's from that abundance that I offer my words and my heart.
What about you? If you're a blogger, how many post have you published? How long have you been blogging? If you're a reader, why do you enjoy following blogs?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Goes Into Researching a Historical Novel?

I recently finished my latest novel, Enticing Julia Morgan. The book is set in 1898 during the prim and proper Victorian Era. My next book in this series, Enchanting Lydia Walker, will be set in 1917-1918 during the quickly changing Edwardian Era.

It was during the Edwardian Era that America entered WWI, the Spanish Flu killed between 50-100 million people across the globe (affecting up to 500 million people in all), aviation drew the imagination of the world and the Silver Screen began to shape our culture.
Actress Colleen Moore arrived in Hollywood in 1917.
I have the basic story plot for Enchanting Lydia Walker structured, giving me a direction to take my research--however, this era is a little further outside of my historical expertise. My last two novels--set in 1857 and 1898--were in familiar time periods--this one is not. This means I have a lot more research ahead of me! Not only do I need to learn as much as I can about national and international history, I also need to brush up on my local history, because my stories are set in my hometown in central Minnesota.

Based on the early ideas for my novel, I also have these areas I need to research: barnstorming/early civilian aviation, local logging history, pilots in WWI, local effects of the Spanish Flu, social customs, clothing, food, transportation, education, architecture, farming, orphanages/adoption, house servants, vacationing/cabins/lake culture, and motion pictures. And that's just the beginning! Once I get immersed in my research I almost always discover more I need to know. But that's the fun part. :)

click to enlarge
Photo courtesy of This is a flying school in
Davenport, Iowa in 1917. If you look closely there is a woman student
in the front row named Neta Snook. 
I have the basic story for Enchanting Lydia Walker in my head (I'm just starting to lay it out on paper), but I know I will find a wealth of new ideas as I delve into my research.

What about you? If you're a writer, does this kind of research excite you, or overwhelm you? If you're a reader, what do you enjoy most about historical novels?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What's a Dental Pelican?

On Wednesday I shared pictures of two items that would have been common to people in their day, but now they appear very unusual to our 21st Century eyes.

The first is a hand-held corn planter. The seed corn would go in the little box on the right and when the farmer placed the pointed end into the ground and pushed the handles together, a seed would drop out of the box. This handy tool allowed the average farmer to plant four acres of corn a day. In 1902 the Sears, Roebuck & Co. advertised an Acme corn planter for 56 cents.

This item is not for the faint of heart! It's called a Dental Pelican and was widely used by dentists to extract teeth before 1742 when the dental key came into use.
This is the dental key. It was widely used (with some modifications) until the end of the 19th Century when the more modern forceps were introduced.
Modern dental extraction tool...looks a lot nicer than the Dental Pelican! I'm so thankful for medical advancements.
What about you? Did these items surprise you? What medical advancement are you thankful for?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Way Back When-sday: What is that?

A couple weeks ago I shared two items that would have been common to people of a by-gone era, but appear very strange and unusual to us today.

I thought it would be fun to share two more items and hear what you think. I'll give you a couple helpful hints today and then I'll tell you what they are--and how they were used--on Friday! Happy guessing.

This item is about three feet tall. Its
design was patented in 1886.

This item is from the 17th Century and fits in the hand.
What do you think they are?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Paid in Full

I did something this weekend I haven't done in four years. I rented a DVD.

For most people, renting a DVD is a weekly occurrence. In high school and college I was a frequent customer at the local video store. I remember a time when I could walk by most of the new releases and have a hard time finding one I hadn't seen.

When I went into the store on Friday, I couldn't find one I had.

What changed in the past four years? Twins. Parenting in general. We haven't had a lot of time to watch movies since the kiddos came along. And in the past year, I usually spend my free time writing.

But this weekend we had my four nieces over for a slumber party and they requested a movie night. So I found myself browsing the new releases...and then passing up all of them for some old favorites. They watched Honey I Shrunk the Kids for the first time!

But here's the interesting part. For the past four years, I had this niggling feeling every time I passed the video store. I knew I had a late fee--which bothered me. It wasn't a conscious thought, but it hung over me as a reminder that I had something due. An outstanding debt that needed to be met. I didn't know how much I owed, but I was pretty sure it was more than I'd care to admit. I was terrible at returning DVDs on time.

The video store is connected to our grocery store, but I never went in to pay the debt. I just thought I'd pay it the next time I rented a DVD...I never expected it to be four years.

So, with a little trepidation, I walked up to the counter and handed over the DVDs I wanted to rent. The clerk commented that I hadn't rented a movie in four years and then his eyebrows went up and he said: "Oh, it looks like you have a late fee."

I almost cringed. Here it was.

"It's a $1.19."

I blinked. A $1.19? I've been letting a $1.19 bug me for four years? I almost wanted to laugh. I paid my past due bill and walked out of the store with my rented movies.

The funny thing is, that little niggling feeling is gone. My debt has been paid in full. And now I don't have to think about it again.

But here's the thing that struck me. A larger debt has been paid on my behalf. A debt that only Christ can fulfill. When I accepted Him as my Savior, He canceled my debt of sin once and for all. The debt is paid.

And yet, I still allow niggling feelings of guilt or shame to hang over me for past mistakes. Just like walking by the video store and feeling weighed down, there are days I walk through my life feeling the weight of my sin. Condemnation, guilt, name it.

The amazing truth is that the awesome God I serve has pardoned my debt, wiped my slate clean, and told me to think on my sins no longer. I'm free. As far as He is concerned, the debt has been paid in full.

As I watched the movies that evening, snuggled up with my daughters and nieces, I could only smile.

What about you? When was the last time you rented a DVD? Do you pay your late fees right away, or let them linger? Do you still hold on to the past guilt of debts God has forgiven?

Friday, July 12, 2013

My One Show

I have this crazy addiction to the Cosby Show. I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode--and some quite a few times. We have it set to record on our DVR and everyone in the family watches it. I love that my children are discovering it for the first time.

I grew up watching the Huxtables. Even though we had few similarities, they were like an extension of my family. I lived in a small Minnesota town and they lived in New York City. I was Euro-American and they were African-American. My family didn't have a lot of material wealth and they were extremely wealthy.

But somehow, I didn't notice our differences. The life lessons taught by Cliff and Claire Huxtable surpassed all boundaries and overcame all barriers between our worlds. Through laughter and tears, the Cosby Show taught me about unconditional love, courage, honor and family--things I want my own children to learn.

The show dealt with weighty issues, but they never broke our trust as a viewer. I love that about the Cosby Show.

If I could only watch one television show for the rest of my life, it would be the Cosby Show.

What about you? If you could only watch one television show for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Grace of God

A few years ago I came across this saying:

For the past three years I've had this question asked to me more times than I can count: "How do you do it?" At first, the question was directed to me in reference to having twins...but lately people are asking me this question in reference to my dream of publication.

"Gabe, how do you manage to find the time to write?"

Here's the simple answer to that question: The Grace of God.

I believe my dream to write is a calling God has placed on my life. It doesn't supersede my calling to be a wife and mother--it's in addition to that calling. My first priority is to my family. But God has given me the ability to sacrifice in certain areas and make it possible to find the time to write.

I believe everyone finds the time to do what they love. Whether that's scrapbooking, shopping, watching movies, exercising, cooking, gardening, sewing, hunting, etc...we can squeeze those pleasures into our lives. For me, it's writing. I find the time to do it, because I love it.

Most of the time, I write after my kiddos are in bed. The majority of my stories are written between 9:00 p.m. and midnight.

Writing doesn't subtract from my life--it adds to it. Writing makes me a better person. A better wife. A better mom. A better friend. It's like food for my soul. I feel closest to God when my fingers are on the keyboard and a story is pouring out of my heart.

More importantly, because I believe it's God's will, I know He's given me the grace to pursue this dream. I don't have the grace to orchestrate an elementary school band. Not only would I be miserable while doing it--I would probably make the students miserable! But there are many lovely men and women who do. I'm always amazed when I see them standing up on stage with their students, a grin on their faces. I know they've been called to do that job and God has given them the grace to do it well.

There are many people who couldn't imagine writing a hundred thousand word document, day in and day out. Putting your heart and soul into a story that will be loved and accepted, or ripped apart and rejected. But, I've been given grace for this journey. I don't always do it well, but God has given me the ability to keep going, even on the difficult days.

"The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you."
God's grace is with me. That's the only reason I can do what He's called me to do.

The beautiful reality is that God has given you the grace to do what He's called you to do, as well.

1 Corinthians 15:10 "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me."
What about you? What has God given you the grace to do?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Minnesota Monday: Complaining

My husband came home from the store the other day shaking his head. His lips were smiling, but his eyebrows were furrowed in a frown.

"What?" I couldn't help but ask him.

"I just thought of something you could write about on your Minnesota Monday blog post."

By now I was really curious. "What?!"

"I was just at the store and I ran into someone I know. The man looked at me and said: 'Boy! It's way too hot out there!' And it dawned on me. Minnesotans are never happy with the weather! Three weeks ago it was too cold, now it's too hot."

I couldn't help but smile. He's right. Either it's too cold, too hot, too muggy, too dry, or too wet--and everyone likes to talk about it! My grandpa used to say he couldn't tell if Minnesotans were bragging, or complaining, when it came to the weather. Maybe it's a little of both. It seems we not only love to talk about it, but we like to brag that we survive it!

The biggest complaint in Minnesota right now are the mosquitos! It was such a cool, wet spring, and finally it's warm enough to really enjoy the outdoors, but because of the wet weather, we've been bombarded by mosquitos. Just last night we were out at the lake watching fireworks and it was muggy and hot, but everyone had long sleeves and long pants on to stay protected from the pesky bugs.

Photo courtesy of
Thankfully, Minnesota has beautiful weather, too--and some of the prettiest countryside in the United States (in my humble opinion). I sometimes think the early pioneers must have come in the summer, been fooled by the beauty and good weather, and then were stuck for the winter. :) If it wasn't for the winter and the mosquitos, I'm convinced Minnesota would be practically perfect...

What about you? What do people complain about where you live? What kept the early settlers in your state?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Way Back When-sday: 4th of July Fun Facts

July 4th has always been one of my favorite days. Next to Christmas, it's probably my favorite holiday. In Minnesota it means people head to the lake, light fireworks off the end of their docks and spend time with family and friends eating yummy food.

Most of us celebrate this wonderful day, but how many of us stop and ask why we're doing it? How many of us think about the first July 4th, in 1776 when 56 men adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring freedom from the tyranny of England and laying forth the reasons for a revolution?

Here are ten fun facts to ponder as you celebrate America's 237th birthday.

1. In 1776, about 2.5 million people lived in the newly independent United States. In 2011, 311.7 million Americans celebrated the 4th of July.

2. Three U.S. presidents actually died on July 4. Two of them passed away within hours of each other on July 4, 1826: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The two had been political rivals and then friends later in life. The other was James Monroe, who died July 4, 1831.

3. Only one president was born on the 4th of July: President Calvin Coolidge (30th president, served from 1923-1929).

4. The Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. It was initially adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776, but then it was revised and the final version was adopted two days later.

5. The 4th of July didn't become a legal holiday in the United States until 1941.

6. The first official 4th of July party was held at the White House in 1801.

7. More than 74 million American will celebrate the 4th of July with a barbeque.

8. Approximately 150 million hot dogs are consumed on this day, as well as 700 million pounds of chicken.

9. The youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence was 26-year-old Edward Rutledge. The oldest signer was Benjamin Franklin. He was 70. Most of the signers were in their 30s and 40s.

10. The American flag was adopted on June 14, 1777.

What about you? What do you plan to do to celebrate the 4th of July?

Please join me on Melissa Tagg's blog today. I'm a guest, along with Alena Tauriainen & Lindsay Harrel. We're sharing the premise for the books we brainstormed during our writing retreat last week. You can find the blog here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Minnesota Monday: A Writer's Retreat

This past week I was honored to host three writing friends at my house for a five day writing retreat.
I planned a rough agenda, hoping to offer a fun mix of work and play. Each day we had two blocks of "work" time and the rest of the day was free. During our work time we were each given a three hour block of time to brainstorm our stories with each other. Having this dedicated, focused time was priceless. We all walked away feeling great about our story ideas and energized to work on them. This is one talented group of writers!
During our free time we went on walks, visited historic sites, watched movies, went on Jeep rides and saw the countryside. It's fun to see my hometown through the eyes of people who've never been here. I was a tour guide at the Charles A. Lindbergh House for ten years and it's easy for me to slip back into that mode. Not only did I show them some fun places, I also gave them quite a bit of history. What can I say? I'm a historical writer, after all. :)
I can't wait to have them back next year. I have even more I want to show them.
Me, Alena Tauriainen, Melissa Tagg & Lindsay Harrel

At the Charles A. Lindbergh House with my children and
my writing friends! The tour guide is also a good friend
of mine. It was fun showing off one of my favorite historic sites.

My kiddos looking through stereoscopes.
I live on the banks of the Mississippi River, so
this is where we spent a lot of our work time.
We had a few visitors as we brainstormed.

Can you see the woodchuck?

We had an opportunity to go to Linden Hill Conference
and Retreat Center to celebrate all our writing achievements.
Linden Hill was having a fundraiser, so we had food, live
entertainment, tours of the two mansions on the property and
great company.

At Linden Hill.

Eating our celebratory Dairy Queen Cake while
watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in our jammies.
More brainstorming, this time inside because it was windy
near the river.

It was so much fun brainstorming story ideas!

This is the road my in-law's live on. We ate lunch nearby and
then stopped by their house to see the lake they live on.

I took the ladies to see the large Blanchard Dam near my house.
You can walk above the dam and the river.

Alena and I with the dam behind us.

We picked on Lindsay all weekend! She's a
city girl at heart and was having a hard
time with the mosquitoes...and the spiders
and the moths and the wood ticks... Here she
is applying mosquito spray to her body.

Lindsay and Melissa on a walk in Lindbergh State Park.

My favorite picture of the whole week! We were ambushed by
wood ticks! :) You can't see Melissa and I, but we were running, too.
We hit a nest of wood ticks on our walk and they were
crawling ALL over our legs. We had at least thirty or more
on each of us. By the way we were running, you would have
thought we were being chased by a wild bear!
Not only did I have fun showcasing my hometown, I also had fun laughing, learning and fellowshipping with these ladies. I'm so thankful God brought our paths together through writing, and that our friendships have grown through our shared faith and interests.

Despite the wood ticks, this was a successful retreat--one we hope to have every year.

What about you? If you had guests come from out of town, where would you bring them?

~ ~ ~ ~

Lindsay is sharing about our retreat on her blog today! You can see it here. Melissa will be hosting us on her blog on Wednesday.