Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . My Girl

It's Xoë's birthday. That means cinnamon rolls and homemade macaroni, and a day off school (woo hoo!). It means presents and pink and laughter and fun. And a mommy who solemnly swears to stay off her computer most of the day.

Of course, Xoë isn't up yet, so here I am. ;-)

I had preconceived notions of motherhood--who doesn't? I thought I'd be perfectly patient all the time, nurturing my babies to adulthood with wisdom and boundless love.

I've got the love part. And I sure try to be wise. Patience...well, let's say parenthood has taught me a lot in that department.

And though I have moments of temporary insanity when I walk into the living room and it looks like a toy bomb has exploded, those moments are far, far outweighed by the ones where I draw my kiddos close and think, "Yep, this is it. This is what life is about."

Xoë is my firstborn, and she's such a special little girl. I can't quite believe she's 9 today (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN???!!!), but I figure it's a good time to make a list. Nine reasons out of the gazillion that I love my brave little princess.

1. She's always thinking about others. She shares gladly with her brother (most of the time, LOL) and even more gladly with cousins and friends. She'd rather make sure those she loves are happy than herself. I've never met a child more eager to help. (She loved being my helper at book events, like in the photo above.)

2. She's smart. I've yet to introduce a concept in school that she hasn't grasped within a day or two. (Okay, Roman numerals took a few months--but when she got them, she got them with a vengeance! She's now quicker at them than I am!)

3. She's clever. Which is different from smart, LOL. I love hearing the witty things she says, the clever little jokes she'll make. Makes my day every time. =)

4. She believes in celebrating. I'm talking, any occasion she can come up with. We had a First Day of Fall Festival just last month, and she'll make decorations and banners for whichever party she decides to throw in a given week--and this girl plans months in advance. I pray she never loses that heart to rejoice over the little things! It makes life so much brighter. =)

5. She's not afraid to be crazy. Nothing makes me grin more than when she does a silly little walk or dance.

6. She's still a little girl. In a world where kids idolize TV stars and musicians, where I often shake my head at how primary schoolers try to act like 17-year-olds, my little girl is just that. A little girl. I know part of that is likely due to our lovely little homeschooling bubble, but I'll keep it that way for a while longer, thanks. A 9-year-old should be a little girl!

7. She's thoughtful. Just last night when she heard the reports of the terrible events in Canada yesterday, she asked, "What's terrorism?" And then, after I explained it, "But why would anyone do that?" We had a rather lengthy discussion on it all...

8. She's creative. She draws, she writes stories, she designed in Photoshop...yeah, I know. Sounds like me, LOL. But seeing what she creates always leaves me with this big ol' glow of pride...


9. She's not afraid to be herself. Over the years she's ended up among some pretty relentless leaders--her cousin, the neighbor girl, etc. And she rarely insists on being the leader. But she also isn't afraid to say, "No, let's not do that." No matter who she's with, she's Xoë.

And oh, how I love my Xoë. Happy birthday, pumpkin!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Remember When . . . A Screw Saved Us?

I'm up on Colonial Quills today, and I'm talking about . . . what? A giant screw? A printing press? Huh?

Yep. Our homeschool year has been full to bursting with oh-so-interesting fun facts about early America, but this one won the right to appear on the CQ. ;-) Hop over to read the full article!

The year was 1620. The crowd of passengers crammed into the small vessel numbered 101. Among them were adventurers, seekers of fortune...and a group of Separatists who wanted a fresh start in a new land where they could worship as they saw fit. 
We've all heard the story of the Mayflower. But I confess that for many years it was just a tale trotted out at the end of November, and I had always been far more interested in making paper-bag Indian vests and coloring my cornucopia than in some of the finer details of the Pilgrims' journey. Of course, that was before I became a history nerd, so it's only to be expected that now, as I'm reading those old stories to my kids in our homeschool curriculum, they're the ones coloring happily away while I pause in my reading to go, "Wow, I never knew that! Just think of it..."
Read the Full Article

Monday, October 20, 2014

Word of the Week - Perk

Today's word comes to us by me literally clicking on a random letter at and then a random page within said letter and scrolling down until something caught my eye. ;-) The lucky word was perk.
The first meaning of perk in English came from Old North French and meant "to make oneself trim or sharp." From the late 1300s, this word was inspired by preening birds--the French word it's taken from means "perch."

By the 1520s, it had expanded to mean "to raise oneself briskly." Interestingly, the term perk up didn't follow for another 140 years (language changed so much more slowly back then!)

The verb that we use for how we make our coffee is actually a shortened, altered form of percolate, which is completely unrelated, and came around in 1934.

The noun form, as in "a highlight or bonus" is from 1869, another shortened, altered form--this time of perquisite, a mid-15th century word from Latin that means "profit, thing gained." Yeah, I had no clue about that one!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Fame and Fortune (Or Not)

When I was a kid, I had big dreams. And this idea that writers lived on mansion on hilltops. I thought that surely, surely fame and fortune awaited me down that road. That I'd be a household name. That people would squeal with excitement when they met me. That I'd be able to dive into my vault of gold like Scrooge McDuck.

Yeah,, no. LOL. That's not the life of a writer--at least, not many of us. But that's okay. Because the more I travel this road, the more I know it isn't about those old dreams. It's about the stories God puts in my heart.

For a lot of writers, writing is a career. They love it, but it comes down to the bottom line. I get that...but that's not me. To me, despite those childhood dreams, writing isn't about what I get from it. It's about what I can give with it. Writing is my calling. Writing is my ministry. Writing is the way I share about faith, about God, about how He guides through our lives. About how love lifts us above the dark places--though those dark places will always come.

Tonight I have a book signing at my local library, so my thoughts this morning were on the subject. And I've also been hearing back from my beta readers for A Soft Breath of Wind, so that makes me think about it even more. I guess as a kid, I would have imagined that praise for my books would have made me smile like a movie star, utter a gracious thank you so much! and go about my day knowing I'd done that, I'd done what I set out to do.

Instead, every time I get an email or message from one of these early readers with words like your best yet and this opened my eyes to faith on a whole new level, there's no euphoria. There's no glow of accomplishment. There's something better. There's that deep-down, bone-level gratitude to God for helping me write what He wanted me to. For putting down a story I wasn't sure would be what my core readers want and finding that it's what they need. For realizing He had things in mind for my words I didn't know.

That's what writing has become for me. And while it might not be enough for Scrooge McDuck, I gotta say, it's why I keep doing this. It's why I get up at 5:30 every morning, though I don't often get to bed until 11. It's why I bake cookies to take to the library with me, though my day is already full. It's why I sacrifice that time when I could be outside or reading or otherwise at play, to squeeze a few more paragraphs onto the page.

I've said it before, I'm sure. I write because it's who I am. It's what I'm called to do. If no one ever read it, I'd still write. If I never earned a penny, I'd still write. Because God teaches me so much through each story.

Yesterday marked the T-one month date for the release of A Soft Breath of Wind. And as the countdown to release begins, I'm covering this book with prayer. It goes places no other book of mine has ever gone. It digs to places I didn't know it would plumb. It asks questions I'd never thought to wonder about until Zipporah and Benjamin and Samuel brought them up.

And that means it's probably going to offend some people--those types of books always do. So I'm also praying that it doesn't get into the hands of anyone to whom it would be a stumbling block. I'm fine with people not liking my book, with them taking issue with it, if it's an issue God wants them to take. But I'm not okay with people asking questions that makes them waver in their faith or go places in their minds they don't need to go (I've had a few of those reviews over the years too). So if you've a mind to say a prayer over this book and its releasing, please include that--that it make it into the hands of those who need it and stays out of the hands of those who don't.

I'd also appreciate a prayer for my event tonight. I love doing library signings--so much fun to chat with folks who love books! So here's hoping it goes well and I meet some new people to chat with. =)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Remember When . . . Marriage Laws

Historical writers always need to know marriage laws for their particular setting. Well, maybe not always, but it comes up a lot. ;-) And they vary a lot from state to state, even county to county. Thankfully, in this digital age, many states have their archives online (woo hoo!), which makes it possible, if not simple, for us writerly folks to figure out what we need to know.

A couple years ago I was researching a book that I've yet to write--it was a sequel to a book I've never sold--and part of it hinged on Maryland marriage laws in the 1920s. I found the Maryland archives online, and a friend's lawyer husband thought it would be great fun to find the correct document for me (truly awesome friend, LOL). He pointed me to the exact place I needed, and voila! I discovered that in the 1920s, you were supposed to get a marriage license, but there was no waiting period. And what's more, if you did not get a license but were married by a minister, the marriage was legal, but there was a fine involved. If, on the other hand, you had license but no minister, the marriage wasn't considered legal. How interesting is that?

Another common misconception that pops up far too often in fiction, however, is the annulment. Or at least the threat of an annulment. I can't tell you how many times I've read books about marriages of convenience (read: unconsummated) where this is brought up. Because, obviously, if a marriage isn't consummated, it isn't a real marriage, and it can be wiped off the books, right? I always thought so. Until this same friend-married-to-a-lawyer pointed out that, nope, this is just something writers get wrong a lot.

Huh. Who knew? So what, then, are the laws about annulment?

Well, for starters, a bit of clarification on what it even is. While a divorce says a legal marriage has ended, annulment certifies that the marriage wasn't legal to begin with and, for all intents and purposes, didn't ever exist. It wipes it away entirely. Now, there are occasions where folks like the Catholic church will annul a marriage if, say, it took place outside the Church, wasn't performed by a priest, one of the couple wasn't Catholic, etc. (Though oddly, any children conceived in such a nullified union are still considered legitimate. Wrap you mind around that one...)

But in general, there are only a few very specific occasions when an annulment would be granted.

1. One of the people was already married.

2. One of them was underage, without court or parental approval--though this must be brought to the attention of the court within 60 days, or it's no longer a valid cause.

3. One of them was under the influence of a drug or alcohol and unaware of what they were doing--again, you only have 60 days to claim this one.

4. Mentally incompetant

5. One of them was threatened or forced into the marriage

6. One of them agreed to be married based on fraudulent claims or actions of the other. (I'm a millionaire, baby!)

7. Physically and incurably impotent--unless the other spouse knew about it beforehand. (See, even this is very, very specific.)

8. Marriage was prohibited by law because of something like age, race, blood relationship, proxy marriage, etc. Varies state to state.

So you see, there are causes...but not the one we usually read about. Interesting, eh?

Now off I go to force a couple to the alter, LOL. And no annulment talk here!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Word of the Week - Some Movie Words

We've all heard of the stars of the Silver Screen...but last week I found myself wondering about the term. Where did it come from? When  did it come from? Obviously after movies came about, but when?

A simple answer to find. =) Silver screen was originally in reference to the screens themselves in movie projection houses. They were painted silver to better reflect the light from the projectors. Makes sense, eh? The term is from 1921. And by 1924, it had broadened to mean movies in general.

Movie itself dates from 1912, a shortened form of moving picture, which in turn dates from 1896. Keeping in mind that those first moving pictures were silent, the advent of sound resulted in talkies in 1913 (from talking picture, 1908).

So...seen any good ones lately? ;-)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Everyday Crazy

Autumn...always crazy around here

I can't tell you how many times I've said or written the words, "Sorry, this month has been crazy." I think I probably utter/type it at least once a month. Because, let's face it, life is crazy. It's always crazy. And though I always think, It'll get better once I'm done this... the fact remains that once I'm done one thing, it just means another is on the horizon.

Traditionally, October is my crazy month, where I have something going on every weekend. Fall Festival, family reunion, daughter's birthday, Halloween. This year, September way outdid October's plans. This year, we were gone for vacation, then for homecoming at our college, then there was ACFW. I'm so, so glad to be home for a while, even if I still have all those normal October things to do.

My point? Well, that every day is crazy. Every week. Every month. And I can either use that as an excuse to put things off and let life overwhelm me...or I can not.

That's a hard one for me. I admit it. All too often things get pushed to the backburner in my life (like cleaning...or sorting through that stack of mail that I hope doesn't have any bills I've missed...or...) while I focus on the pressing things.

So how do I do better? Honestly, I'm not an expert on this. I don't have the answers. But this past year, as we moved and settled, as I had to pitch a new series to new publishers, as I worked on my biblical at a snail's pace, as I edited and designed a book every month for WhiteFire, as I homeschooled both kids for the first time...well, some things shifted for me. Some things that made me realize that I can still have time to cook a decent meal, if I just make myself be creative. I can keep my house from becoming hopeless, if I just force myself to spend one evening a week on it (it's not great, mind you, but not hopeless). I can write, I can read, I can edit, if I'm willing to budget my time.

There are still days and weeks where I just can't do any more. I can't squeeze in one more activity, I can't go one more place--not if I still want to finish my "have to"s. But at a certain point, I have to stop looking at it as crazy...and just start accepting it as everyday life. And cherish the fact that, though crazy-busy, my family is at least crazy-busy together. We're not pulled a million different directions everyday. And I love that. I love that we spend so much time together.

It kinda makes me think that all the crazy is worth it. Because we can live in Crazytown together. And really, it's a pretty fun place to be.