Chaperones in 19th Century History

In researching historical facts for my 1890s Christian romance novel, I wanted to know if my heroine needed a chaperone. What I discovered is that chaperones were far more common in British society than in America. In her etiquette guide published in 1887, Mrs. John Sherwood wrote that a young lady’s most natural chaperone is, of course, her own mother, but  Sherwood criticized American mothers for being careless in their duties. According to her, 19th Century American mothers had the sullied reputation of allowing their daughters to go about with young men alone in public.

The role of chaperone was rapidly decreasing in popularity in America during the 1890s. Perhaps they were too expensive. Perhaps they were viewed by the working classes as a symbol of upper class snobbery. It is clear that most teenage girls were considered rebellious and unappreciative of their chaperones.

Married ladies throughout history had no need for chaperones, because they were protected by their husbands’ reputations. But what about single women? Were they ever permitted to go out in public unchaperoned? Yes. Mrs. John Sherwood wrote that “if a woman is protected by the armor of work, she can dispense with a chaperon.” (Sherwood used the French spelling for “chaperone.”)

As a savvy, independent businesswoman, Victoria Garrett, the heroine in my story, could have safely gone about alone in public without breaking any rules of propriety. Ditching her chaperone back East had gotten her into big trouble, however, and she humbly realized her need to hire a new chaperone. Victoria wisely hired the Widow Fitzgerald as a means of improving her public image, protecting her virtue, and insulating her from further gossip.


Manners and social usages, by Mrs. John Sherwood …

Sherwood, M. E. W. 1826-1903. (Mary Elizabeth Wilson),

CREATED/PUBLISHED: New and enl. ed., rev. by the author. New York, Harper & Brothers, 1887, rev. 1894


Writing the Back Cover Copy Blurb

All writers, whether self-published or going the traditional route through a publisher, must practice the tagline aka logline aka elevator pitch (called an “elevator pitch” because your entire book is condensed into about twenty-five words–the amount of time it takes to travel between floors in an elevator). Writers must also prepare a back cover copy blurb, a slightly longer version of the logline, in which you summarize your book with an exciting advertisement consisting of no more than 125 words.

If you haven’t practiced writing a logline, I encourage you to go to Rachelle Gardner’s blog at, where you can read more about how to craft this fun and aggravatingly demented little one-liner of no more than 25 words.

So, about that back cover blurb, I find it just as challenging to condense my entire book into 125 words as 25. Oh, and the hook is not part of that blurb, by the way. If you look at the back cover of most books, you’ll read a catchy, enticing header or hook at the very top (which is typically around 8-10 words), followed by the blurb.

Here’s the result of my back cover copy blurb practice session after writing and rewriting no less than twenty times (and it will most likely undergo more revisions before I’m satisfied with it):


Two wrongs don’t make a right.


To avoid a scandal, seventeen-year-old Victoria Garrett is forced to annul her hasty elopement and sent out West to Etna Mills, California in 1893.

Lonely, frightened, and living in a small town far from home, things go from bad to worse when Victoria discovers she is with child. Determined to establish a reputation amongst the gossiping townspeople, she knows she cannot survive as a single mother with no family support. The only way to provide a decent future for her unborn child is to remarry.

In a race against the clock, Victoria sets aside her fears and morals. Employing her charm and intelligence, she will stop at nothing to find an eligible bachelor who will marry her before her secret is discovered—before Christmas, if possible.
Still struggling to write your blurb? The following websites may be of help to you:

Author Jami Gold’s website:

Amy Wilkins’ article at:

Photo Sources:

Book cover from Suzanne Collins’ book, The Hunger Games

Delicious Low Calorie Party Chips (Cucumber)

I love these “chips!” I thought I invented this recipe, but in searching online I found one almost exactly like it at Kev’s Kitchen website: You can munch on these chips the way you would potato or tortilla chips. Most of the calories are in the sesame seeds, but don’t skimp on them. Sesame seeds (as well as cucumbers) are super healthy and high in antioxidants. Enjoy!


2 tablespoons sesame seeds
¼ cup rice vinegar
½ teaspoon stevia
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large English cucumber – thinly sliced


Place the sesame seeds in a small pan over medium heat and stir often for approximately three minutes or until just toasted. Remove from het and set aside.

Mix the vinegar, stevia and salt in a small bowl until the salt is fully dissolved. (Variation: I dip my “chips” in the rice vinegar, then spread them out on a plate and sprinkle them with salt, xylitol and toasted sesame seeds.)

Toss the cucumber with the vinegar mixture and a suitable bowl and let rest for two minutes. Pour off any excess liquid then plate the cucumbers.

Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve immediately.

*My note: Use the freshest, coldest cucumbers so you have super crispy, crunchy chips.




Julie’s No-Bake High-Protein, High-Energy Cookie Dough Balls – THM E recipe?

THM Update: I have discovered that these energy balls, although super tasty and healthy, are not conducive to weight loss, so I added my notes to the recipe to make it more “E” recipe friendly. However, I have not yet experimented with the recipe and these “E” ingredients, so try it at your own risk!

Okay, for those of you who follow me for my writing blogs, you’re going to find this post a bit strange. However, quite a people still read my health- and nutrition-related stuff, so here’s something for my low carb, high protein health nut friends. I’m always surprised by how many people ask me for this recipe, so here it is…again! (And I don’t mind posting it for y’all.)
See, they kinda look like raw cookie dough balls. Kinda taste like ’em too. (Yummy!) You can see they’re a little greenish, though. That’s due to all the seaweed and powdered green vegetables I put in them. Don’t worry; you can’t taste all that stuff.

Photo: For those of you who ask about the high energy protein balls I make... Here's a photo of a bag of them.

Julie’s No-Bake High Protein Energy Balls

Makes around 60 one-ounce balls (approximately 85 calories per ball)

Ingredients: (Note: Use live, organic ingredients whenever possible.)

1.            4 cups organic rolled oats *THM and Sally Fallon would advise you to soak these in water and a little yogurt or kefir overnight.

2.            1 cup oat bran *THM would advise the use of oat fiber or maybe psyllium husks, but I haven’t tried these yet.

3.            ½ cup protein powder (dried egg whites, brown rice protein, hemp protein for “E”)

4.            1 cup of raisins (or dates, prunes or other chopped, dried fruit)

5.            2 cups finely ground, unsweetened coconut Use *Delete this ingredient to make it an E treat.

6.            4 cups ground nuts of any kind you want

7.            2 cups ground flaxseed

8.            1 cup powdered milk (I use either organic nonfat milk or dried organic coconut milk.)

9.            1 cup ground sunflower seeds (of other seeds, like pine nuts, sesames, pumpkin, etc.)

10.          1/2 to 1 cup well-ground dried herbs (I use my coffee grinder to grind up the following: spirulina, chlorella, aloe vera, alfalfa, acai berries, astragalus, bee pollen, beet root, blueberry leaves, dandelion, Echinacea, goji berries, kale, kelp, spinach, etc.)

11.          1 cup honey (Buying local honey helps to prevent some seasonal allergies.) *Use Truvia or xylitol to make this an E treat.

12.          ½ cup maple syrup (or agave nectar or other sweetener of your choice) *Use Truvia or xylitol to make this an E treat.

13.          1+ cup of nut butter (I usually use a combination of peanut and almond butters.)

14.          ½ cup coconut oil *Delete this to make it an E treat, but I don’t yet know what to replace it with to make it fit THM.

15.          1-2 cups dark chocolate chips *Change these to shavings of unsweetened baking chocolate to make it an E treat.


Prep Time: 30 mins

  • Mix together the first 10 ingredients.
  • In medium pot, heat the honey and maple syrup on the stove. Do not boil.
  • Add nut butter and coconut oil.
  • Cool to a little warmer than room temperature. (If the liquid is too hot it will kill any of your live ingredients.)
  • Pour the liquid mixture over the dried ingredients and mix together thoroughly. Using your hands is often the best way. The “dough” should be about the consistency of cookie dough—not too wet, not too dry. Add more nut butter and honey if it’s too dry; add more of a dry ingredient, like more powdered, ground herbs.
  • Add the chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.
  • Shape into 1-ounce balls, place in a container and freeze. (Eat thawed or frozen. Both are good.)
  • I roughly estimate that each ball is equivalent to about half of an EAS protein bar; one EAS bar is approximately two ounces and 170 calories.

Practicing the Art of First Person Writing

Until I read Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games,” I didn’t really pay much attention to first person writing. In the publishing world, writers who attempt it have been frowned upon. As an English teacher, I discouraged it. But first person writing is making a comeback as a publishable literary point of view.

Sherry Wilson writes on her website, “First person point of view is the most reader friendly. It’s intimate. The reader feels like the character’s best friend. In fact, the viewpoint character will often confide in the reader things he wouldn’t tell his best friend.”

I believe Wilson is right. I related so well to Suzanne Collins’ Katniss, I embodied the character while reading “The Hunger Games” trilogy.

There are a lot of fine points to writing in first person, and I encourage you to visit Sherry Wilson’s site for more information. If you write from this point of view, you have to do it right.

So I will practice. I have twice begun writing a science fiction historical romance time travel manuscript, wondering why the pace and the story are not flowing as well as I would like. Now I’m rewriting it from the first person point of view. Suddenly I am more deeply involved in the character’s mind and actions. I am the heroine when I write. I speak directly to the reader as though he or she is my confidante. The entire feel of the story is dramatically altered.

In keeping with my goal to keep my blogs to 300 words or fewer, this is a wrap for today.

Happy writing!


Sherry Wilson,


Learning from My (Writing) Mistakes: Back Story Dumping

You might expect some metaphorical literary genius here, but I won’t bore you with that. I offer only my writing errors and how I am attempting to overcome them.

After I submitted copies of my latest manuscript to a couple of potential agents, I continued with reading Jeff Gerke’s book, “The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction.” Too late, I discovered his chapter on the sin of back story dumping.

Oh, brother! Haven’t I learned this already? Gerke’s advice is not new. I know not to bore my readers with a narrative gush of information about my heroine. I know not to slap a chunk of my character’s history later in the book. I know to “sprinkle” bits of back story, weaving it into dialogue or physical descriptions of time, place or person. And I know I’m supposed to leave out the information altogether if it’s not positively essential to the plot.

I first learned this in one of author Deborah Raney’s seminars at a Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. She said to begin with action. Let the reader meet your character where he is right now; not with where he came from and where he was born. In fact, avoid all back story information for the first 30-50 pages, or leave it out entirely.

In other words, just give hints about your character. Don’t tell the reader everything. Trust the intelligence of your audience. They can figure it out.

Here’s one of Deborah Raney’s examples–a quote from Robert Elmer’s book, “Like Always”: “She found her driver’s license. Thank the Lord it wouldn’t expire until her 45th birthday next year. By the time she found it she had built a small pile of lipstick tubes and expired grocery coupons.”

You don’t need back story with lines like these. The description itself reveals that the story is about a woman who wears makeup, might be frugal, is forty-four years-old, is Californian, and is likely disorganized. Brilliant, right?

Do you have a back story paragraph full of information you feel you positively must share with your reader? Copy and paste it into a comment and let me (and other readers here) offer suggestions of how to perhaps weave it into your manuscript in a more creative manner. It could be fun…!

Author Deborah Raney

Jeff Gerke’s, “The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction”


Share Your Writing for Review

Today I’m going to conduct an experiment. My husband Pete has been telling me about this idea of his for quite some time and I have ignored him…until now.

How about if we, as writers (and aspiring writers) in an internet community, post various things we have written so that we can critique each other? I am thinking of posting the first chapter of the manuscript I just completed. If we open ourselves to helpful criticism, who knows? We might get the input we need to polish our work, get it submitted, and actually get it published. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea? (Pun intended.)

So, I invite you to post your manuscript’s opening paragraphs as a way to get started. (Anything more than that is too long to really edit in a comment line.)

I’m looking forward to reading other people’s chapters or sections…or whatever happens to show up on this site. Of course, if there’s anything horribly inappropriate, I will not allow it to post here. I am a Christian writer, after all…and, although I do believe we should be writing for the general public, as well as the Christian market, I don’t want anything in poor taste to be posted on this site.

Thanks for…whatever may happen here!

Low Glycemic, High Protein Pastas

In my search for a pasta with the highest protein content and lowest glycemic index, I put together a chart to aid me on my next shopping trip.

To begin, I had to quickly review the meaning of the glycemic index (GI) of foods and how to read the index. The lower the glycemic index, the more slowly that food digests and the more slowly it alters one’s blood sugar levels.  A GI of anything lower than 55 is considered low on the index; 55-70 is moderate; any food with a rating higher than 70 is high (too high to be considered healthy).

Type of Pasta Protein per ½ cup dry Glycemic Index
Buckwheat 8 grams 46
Kamut 10 grams 45
Mung Bean Noodles (threads) 0 26-39
Quinoa 4 grams (15% of total volume) 53
Rice, brown 7 45
Rye 6 55
Spelt 8 grams (17% of total volume) 54
Wheat, whole 3.5 grams 40-60, depending on thickness of pasta and how al dente it is when cooked

For weight loss and maintenance purposes, as well as nutritional value, I want the highest protein pasta with the lowest glycemic index.

The winners: According to my research, my pasta of choice is kamut, with brown rice pasta running a close second.