Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Dedication

So I'm working now on the rewrite of the book I wrote at age 12-13. And as I'm writing, I pause (as I do at some point in every book) and wonder to whom I'll dedicate it. But with this one, it wasn't much of a question.
Photo by Bangin

When I was 13, still working on that first draft, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. This was the first time cancer really invaded my life, and I remember pretty well the feelings that swamped me. There was denial that it could really happen, that it would be more than just something he beats. There was the startling realization that though I loved this man, my Pappap, intensely, I didn't often show it--for some reason, I was bashful about giving him hugs. Maybe because it was my sister who was Pappap's girl. There was the painful reality that while my parents and sister cried, I couldn't.

I could only go back to my room, close my door, and pull out a notebook. Words were my tears.

Though we had the diagnosis--though we knew it was in the bone already and inoperable--Pappap wasn't sick yet. It was easy for me to tuck it away that 8th grade year. Still. When I finished my book in the spring, I thought, I want to dedicate this. And so I wrote on the first page:

To Pappap

His name was Charles William Mulligan, though he went by Bud. And my pappap was probably one of the funniest people I've ever known. He always had a joke. He always played a joke. He would tell us, when we were little, that we had better trim out toenails, so the toenail fairy would come...and then go plant quarters in our pillows while we laughed. A down-payment, he said. He would tell some jokes so many times that they became part of our family, and we still occasionally break out in old punchlines.

And he loved stuff. He yard saled, he upgraded, he personalized. And on every single thing he kept, he would put his initials. His truck had CWM on it. So did his toaster. And the beer stein he never once used. And his other toaster. And his VCR. And his other other toaster. Another family joke, that. And so I knew, when I decided to dedicate the book to Pappap, that it would have to bear his initials too.

I'm not sure I understood, then, what it really  meant to put his name on my book. It was a nice thing to do. And when I considered this step--dedicating my first-ever novel--I just knew it was the right thing.

Then 9th grade came, and Pappap got sick. We got to know the hospital very well. We watched this strong man fail. Tears finally blurred my eyes when I saw him fumble to get a mouthpiece for a breathing treatment into his mouth--and when he couldn't remember anyone's phone number but ours and called my mom in a panic one day when he couldn't find my nanny (who was hanging laundry outside).

I learned, that year, what heartbreak is. I learned what it means to lose someone who was so integral to your life you thought you couldn't. I learned how to trust in God for a miracle...and then to trust Him even when you don't get the one you ask for. That's the year I started reading my Bible on my own, every day, instead of just when I had to in church.

That's the year I learned how to laugh to keep from falling apart, to find joy in the smallest thing--because that's what Pappap wanted. And it's the year I learned to hug all I can, while I can. Because no one lives forever.

I'd rewritten my book the summer before he died. This summer, with that loss still fresh, I tore up that first-first page. And I typed out a new one.

In loving memory of Pappap

Looking back now, I see how his life, his death shaped me. I see where it forced me deeper--into faith, into my heart, into my family. I see that, if he hadn't taught me how to laugh at everything, I could so easily have been too serious. I see that, if I hadn't known the pain of losing him...

I don't even know. I don't know who I'd be without all the reflection that forced upon me. I don't know what I'd feel. I don't know how I'd relate to this world where death plays such a part.

So as I made a new first page on this new version of this old, old book, no. It wasn't a question of to whom I would dedicate it. It was just a question of the right words to use. Because the book wouldn't be worth redoing without what I learned from him. I wouldn't be capable of rewriting it without the lessons his life and death taught me.

The ache of missing him has faded, but the memories haven't. I still talk to my kids about my pappap (that's what they now call my dad), and earn their giggles with the tales. I still occasionally look at his picture on the family shelves and hear his laughter. And I know that of all my dedications in all my books, this one is perhaps the truest.

It's a week to think about life and death, of sin and consequences, of victory over the grave. And it's a book that made me do the same, thanks to him. This is what my first page now reads (though it may yet get a tweaking, who knows.)

“To Pappap” was my dedication when I
first penned this novel at age 13.
After I had rewritten it at 14,
it said, “In loving memory of Pappap.”
Your life taught me to laugh in every possible moment,
your death taught me trust Him with all my might.
You helped make me who I am,
and I’ll always love you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Remember When . . . TURN Gets Creative?

Well, I was a week behind, but I did finally watch Turn on Sunday, both the pilot and the second episode. And thus far I'm enjoying it! I think I have an immunity to on-screen violence, at least when it's Hollywood style (Which is to say, home videos that involve people getting hurt make me wince and look away and refuse to look back. But I can handle zombie or wartime on-screen violence without any trouble. Consider that a disclaimer for anyone with a sensitive stomach, LOL.), though I know it was a bit much for some of my friends.

And of course, I spent much of my time comparing their version of events with the history recorded by Alexander Rose in Washington's Spies, which I used for my research in Ring of Secrets.

Overall, I really love the creative license they've taken. They're building tension in a way that translates well to the screen, which is crucial. The actual tension was merely (merely--ha!) in the fear of being discovered by random troops while getting word to Washington, but that doesn't exactly keep viewers on the edge of their seats, right? So they instead put the actual big-players of covert operations together, though they weren't in reality.

Some differences I noted and approve:

Rogers. Rogers Rangers really were the menace of the northern campaign. They were ruthless, successful, and feared universally by the Patriots. Was Rogers ever in Setauket? Not that I recall. Did he recruit Abraham Woodhull to work for him? Um, no. Does it play well on TV? Absolutely! Love that they found a way to draw him into their story. I was going to mention him in Ring of Secrets, but he had resigned (or rather, had been forced to resign) by the time my story took place.

Anna Strong. One of the TV show's most vital threads thus far is the relationship between Anna and Abraham. The show has billed them as formerly-engaged, still in love despite both of them being married to other people. This is an incredibly compelling element, and I do approve of how they're using it (so long as they don't introduce an affair. I really, really, really hope they don't go there--hear that, AMC??). BUT--Anna was in fact a decade older than Abraham, not a former love-interest. Abraham's wife, Mary, was a relative of Selah Strong (Anna's husband). They were neighbors, yes, and Anna helped him in his covert activities, yes. She in fact posed as his wife when he was transporting letters to Brewster. You see, single men traveling alone were stopped and searched--couples were not. So Anna volunteered to go with him, and no one thought to ask if she were his wife.

That is, alas, were their relationship ended. But that's not nearly interesting enough for TV, LOL.

Mary Woodhull. Quite simply, Abraham wasn't married at this point in history, LOL. There was no Mary Woodhull yet. They wed in 1781, after the war, and had three children--two of whom ended up marrying Brewsters.

Which leads us to...

Caleb Brewster. Brewster is one of my favorite historical characters from the Culper Ring, though I didn't get to mention him much in Ring of Secrets. This guy was a Colonial daredevil, always seeking an adventure. He's the one member of the Culpers who refused a code name--and the perpetual thorn in the side of Rogers and others like him, always evading them. So far as I recall, he never beat the snot of Simcoe. Nor did Tallmadge face court martial for such an act. But you know--their Simcoe deserved it, so no arguments from me. ;-)

So those are my early observations on where fiction lives in Turn. I can't wait to see how they introduce the other historical figures that took on roles in the Culper Ring!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Word of the Week - Snarky

On our writing retreat, Stephanie and I were working on books that took place within 15 years of each other. This is pretty new for us, LOL, and we had some fun conversations on what words were around back then. Our motto--"Surprisingly modern."
The Snark Banker, illustration by Henry Holliday
from Carroll's "The Snark Hunter"

One of our favorite discoveries was snarky. This is a word writers use All. The. Time. Because, let's face it, so many of us are "irritable, short-tempered" artists, LOL. And it can be so much fun to write characters who are the same. Apparently it's not so widely-used a word in larger circles, but come on. It totally should be. ;-)

Snarky has been around since 1906 (which means I can totally use it in my 1910-1911 book! Woot!) with the above meaning. The verb snark actually dates from 1882, meaning "to nag or find fault with." Which in turn comes from the noun (1866) that means "snort." (From the same root as snarl.)

Interestingly, Lewis Carroll actually coined the word as an imaginary creature in 1876. His snark is unrelated to snarky, though there has sense been a back-formation that gives snark the meaning of "caustic, opinionated rhetoric" that we writers so love. ;-)

On a completely unrelated note, in remembrance of Holy Week, I'm offering the Kindle version of A Stray Drop of Blood, which pivots around the crucifixion, on sale for only $0.99 cents! So if you've been waiting for the perfect excuse to buy my debut novel, you won't find a better one. ;-) Through this Sunday, 4/20/14, only.

And pleas share the link!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Scaring the Normals

So glad I got to share yesterday about how I've finally, after 19 years, sold the first book I ever wrote. Okay, so it's a little different than it was back then...which is why I'm plowing my way through a complete rewrite. As of this time last week, I was a little less than 1/3 of the way into my projected 110,000 words.

Right now, I'm at 76K. Chugging right along--and solely because of the awesomeness of a writing retreat with my best friend. Now, I know that lots of writers have get-togethers and retreats and writing marathons with each other. I don't know how often they look like this for approximately 18 of each 24 hours, but that's about what it was for us:

We were blessed to have an awesome home for our retreat--Stephanie's parents volunteered their house while they were on vacation. =) So what you're seeing here are the most amazing 0-gravity chairs I've ever had the pleasure of sitting in for 3/4 of the day, our laptops, our water, and our peanut butter M&Ms. You know, the staples.

Our meals most often looked like this.

And in the mornings we might be found at the breakfast bar.

But we did also surface about once a day to check in with the real world. One of our favorite destinations was Groundhouse Coffee, an awesome coffee shop also owned by the amazing parents of Stephanie. Here we daily received an amazing concoction of blackberry and espresso that they call, aptly, the Euphoria.
We stopped in on Saturday night for one of these, and there was live music. Apparently when one combines jazz with me shouting to the cashier "Roseanna!" when he asks for my name to write on my cup, you get this.

I decided to embrace the exotic appeal of Brizana (who is surely a Brazilian beauty) and answered to it the rest of the weekend.

But one of the highlights was when Stephanie took me to a Kansis City institution -- Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue. Apparently part of the OJB experience is the long line that trails out the door and around the corner. So, you know, we waited in it patiently. And because we're us, on a writing retreat, we started brainstorming. Our conversation sounded something like this.

"So I don't know what to do now that they kidnapped Piper. Why don't they just kill her?"
"Good question, yeah...does she know something they want to know?"
"Maybe. And then there's the other girl. I kinda want her to take a bullet for her. Or a raid, maybe? That could work. I have the undercover dude."
"Oo, yeah. But where's Mariano through it all?"
"I really don't know. He was at the police station. But they're trying to set him up, so...would they try to get him there?"
"Well that's what we need to figure out, I think. Once we know where Mariano is, we can figure out how to avoid killing Piper."

This would be about the time when, from behind us, we hear, "This is a very strange conversation going on in front of us."

Cue the laughter...and the memory of the sage advice from Brandilyn Collins, suspense writer extraordinaire: "Never talk about poisons and murder around normals. Trust me. You'll scare them." We'd never had to keep that in mind before, having spent our retreat last year brainstorming contemporary teen drama and how much faster travel was once trains came around.

Happily, no police came woo-wooing up to ask us what in the world we were plotting, LOL. And our next meals out, we kept our conversation tame. ;-)

Overall, a fabulous retreat. Stephanie actually got to The End, and I, by the time I had to shut off my computer for the plane to land in Washington Regan, had logged 40,000 words for the weekend. It was a great time with my best friend, and a great thing to come home to my hubby and kiddos, who both greeted me in Superman shirts.

The trouble now is easing back into the real world and out of 24-hour-a-day thinking about Lady Brook Eden, Baroness and Berkeley, and the secrets that killed her mother and now threaten her... ;-)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Remember When . . . It Was Exciting?

Wow, it feels like forever since I did a Remember When Wednesday post! Of course, last week we were celebrating the release of Circle of Spies. Which reminds me that we have some winners--but you'll have to scroll down to find them. ;-)

First, I can finally share the news I've been sitting on for a month and a half! Yay! We all know that my next book out is my biblical from WhiteFire, A Soft Breath of Wind, coming November of 2014. Well now I can finally talk about the next historical romance, coming summer 2015. Drum roll please...
This is nothing resembling official artwork. This is Roseanna wanting a graphic for her blog, LOL.
Photo of Burton Agnes Hall by Richard Needham

Coming from Bethany House, The Lost Heiress is, to put it mildly, very special to me. I know, I know, I say that a lot. But seriously, LOL. Here's why.

When I was 12, I decided to write a novel. I solemnly swore to the New Years Resolutions in my journal that I would finish it, too--and I did, at age 13. It was called Golden Sunset, Silver Tear, and it was a historical romance about a girl raised as a princess but who discovers she's actually a British nobelwoman...with the help of her best friend, heir to a dukedom. And once back in England, she finds herself unwittingly involved in the ongoing mystery of her parents' deaths...and hidden jewels.

Brook and Justin underwent a lot of revision over the years...and a few different titles. I decided to totally rewrite it before my first writers conference, at which point I named it Fire Eyes and pitched it in 2007. It landed me an agent and got me a bit of interest from Bethany House (whose editor I pitched to), but alas...the time wasn't right. And I'm pretty glad. ;-)
A young Diane Kruger
is how I picture Brook Eden-
though with curly hair

A while back, my current agent asked if I had anything that would work as an Edwardian, and Brook sprang to mind. She is so the kind of young woman who came into her own in the 1910s!! It was one of those "Why didn't I set it here to begin with? This so works!" things. =) So I started yet another rewrite, gave it yet another title, and turned it in to Karen. Well, when the Culper Ring Series drew to a close and it was time to pitch again, this is what she sent out--and you can imagine my glee when Bethany House expressed interest! Not only are they the first ones I pitched to in 2007, they're also the first house I sent out a query to at age 14. Third time, apparently, is a charm. ;-)

I describe this one as Downton Abbey meets Anastasia. We've got priceless red diamonds, Grimaldi princesses, dukes, danger, romance, and a girl finding her father after 18 years apart. We've got mystery and adventure, kidnapping and love, half-wild stallions and brand-new automobiles.
William Mosley, of Narnia fame,
is the closest I've seen to Justin Wildon,
heir to the fictional Duke of Stafford

This is the book I was working on over the weekend at my retreat (I wrote 40,000 words between Thursday and Monday!!!!!), which means it's now well on its way to completion, and I'm so in love, yet again, with Brook and Justin. (Their names are the only ones that haven't changed from the original, LOL.)

I'll be talking about this one more as I write it, I'm sure, and as its time grows nearer. But I had to share the excitement of my FIRST FINISHED NOVEL being published! Nineteen years after I penned "Chapter One" (literally penned, in a notebook, in Health class my 7th grade year). Four title changes later. Draft number 1,239,875, I think. With 9 other books out in the meantime. But it's finally happening.

So, yep, I'm very excited. It's been an amazing week--Circle of Spies releasing, a writing retreat with my best friend, and now getting to share this. So to celebrate, I guess I'll actually pick winners for that pearl necklace and set of the Culper Ring Series!

First, the Culper Pearls!

The winner is...
Rebecca Tracy-Williams!

Next we have the complete Culper Ring Series
Which goes to...
Sarah Holman!

Congrats, you two! You've likely already gotten emails from me requesting your info. ;-)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tea Party ~ AMC's Turn ~ Circle of Spies

Happy Friday! Thanks so much to everyone who has dropped by for Circle of Spies Week!

I'm actually in Kansas right now, basking in the joy of writing without interruption. =) So you won't hear from me again until Tuesday, when I'm home and settled and ready to do the drawing for the awesome prizes up for grabs.

Today I invite you all to hop over to Colonial Quills for one of our super-fun online tea parties, in honor of Circle of Spies and the premier of Turn. We're traveling to Long Island for our party this time, where the Culper Ring first lived. I'm serving you from my very own tea set, with a cake I created myself. Pick out your favorite historical gown to wear (and since they're digital, they'll all fit perfectly!) and hop on over.

In addition to my big giveaway, I'm also giving away a copy of Circle of Spies (either digital or print, so the digital one is available to non-US addresses too!) strictly for Colonial Quill commenters!

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Guest Posts and the Giveaway!

Circle of Spies week rolls on!

Today I have a guest post with on a friend's blog about what real freedom is, and how it comes into play in the book:

I'm visiting with Ralene Burke and talking about how writing is my ministry--and a reminder that when we're obeying the Lord, that is itself enough.

And don't forget to read my first interview about Circle of Spies on Southern Fried Fiction!

And of course, we still have the giveaway going on here, for the 3-pearl Culper necklace and/or a complete, signed set of the Culper Ring Series!

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