Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . Bad Guys

One of the lessons I heard taught in one of the first writing classes I took at my very first conference touched on bad guys--and how a writer's job is to look inside them and find a redeeming quality to make them three-dimensional.

Good advice. Except sometimes, in a book, I get pretty sick of bad guys with redeeming qualities that come off as excuses. He was abused, he thinks this will get him love, he's motivated by the death of his true love, yada yada yada. I guess in my head there are two different kinds of bad guys--the antagonist, who's just working against the hero but may not be bad, and the villain. The villain has evil in his heart. The villain desires destruction. The villain has systematically squashed all the good in himself.

Personally, I like a story with both.

As I'm digging (slowly) into my second Edwardian book, I realized that I have quite the team of baddies in this one. I've got my ultimate villain, who's still playing it cool and quiet, who no one will realize yet was the mastermind behind the whole series (mwa ha ha ha). I've got my secondary baddie who everyone will think is the ultimate one, who continues through the whole series. I've got my seriously-hurt-my-heroine, for-this-book-only dude, who's violent and a liar and yet thinks he's acting out of love (see, redeeming quality! LOL).

Then I've got my heroine's father. It would be easy to make him a cookie-cutter abusive dad. He beats her. Not blinded-by-rage-and-nearly-kills-her kind of beating, but the methodical, make-sure-it-doesn't-show kind. The won't-you-ever-learn-this-lesson? kind. Wrong, yes. But does he hate her? Is he just cruel? Is there more to him?

I'm rather sick of excuses for sin and evil in our world. Sure, people get carried away. Sure, people are affected by earlier traumas. Sure, we all have reasons for our mistakes--but they should never be a crutch. They should remain reasons, not excuses. We can't excuse sin. So I don't ever want to pardon what my characters do. I don't want to justify it. I don't want to make it right.

But I do want to dig deep enough into their fictional psyches to make them make sense. And sometimes that's hard.

Digging into Douglas (the abusive father) the other night, I realized that he isn't trying to make his daughter weak, to get his own way. He's trying to make her strong. His abuse began when her mother fell out of his favor, and the thing he came to despise about his wife was that she was weak. Not strong enough to deserve his name. Not strong enough to deserve their heritage. And Gusty is his only child, heir to his estate and title (this is Scotland of 1912, remember). The last thing he wants is to pass everything to a weakling who will lose it. So when he sees Gusty acting like her mother, he punishes her. He sees it as hardening steel in a fire.

She sees it as hatred, cruelty, a tyrant trying to break her. So of course, she reacts by trying to avoid the punishment. Trying to please him--or more, stay out of his way. She draws in instead of acting out. And so appears ever weaker to his eyes. When the book opens, though, she's reached her breaking point--she's about to explode, and she's finally about to take a stand. She expects his all-out rage.

Instead, she's going to earn his respect for the first time.

Now I would never, ever, ever excuse such violence. It's not right, and it's never going to come across as right in the book. But it's also going to turn out to be pretty important that her father doesn't hate her. (Don't know that I would say he knows how to love her, but...) It's going to be important to realize that these people misunderstood each other for a decade. It's going to be important to see that, when it comes down to it, her father chooses the path that will protect her--more, that will enable her to protect herself.

And hopefully, it's going to make us all stop and wonder what's really driving that person in reality whom we just don't get. The one who never seems to react like we think they should. The one who gets angry too quickly, who holds grudges too long, who can never see the "reasonable" (aka our) side of an argument. 

It's going to make us pause, I hope, and ask ourselves if we are that confusing person to someone else. If what we think we're doing to help someone is actually driving them away.

In my life, I take after my dad. I lapse into silence when I'm not sure what to think, or when I fear saying something that I'll regret. In an argument, I'm not the shouter--I'm the brooder. To my mind, that's the wise way to be. Better to think about it and come back later with a well-thought-out response than to say something that could hurt someone I love, right? Right?

My husband is a shouter. A throw-something-er. I always say "He's Italian. Need I say more?" He's demonstrative, and that goes for anger as well as love. And I'm still learning that in those rare times we fight, my silence doesn't help him. My silence makes it worse. He doesn't really care what I say, he just wants me to say it. To engage. To his mind, when I bite my tongue I'm shutting down. Turning off. Keeping him out--and all he wants is to know what I'm thinking. Whether he agrees or not doesn't really matter to him. What matters is that we're communicating.
See, the thing is, there's rarely a right way to be in life. We're all different--and that's good. We don't have to all react the same way. Yes, we need to keep our reactions holy, but there are even different kinds of holy. There's the measured and calm responses of Ezra, there are the violent and quick reactions of Nehemiah. Both were right in the eyes of God. But man, I imagine they may have had a few clashes when facing each other!

This is just one more lesson I've learned through story. That when I'm dealing with the "characters" who populate my life, I'd better be willing to dig deeper. To understand why they do the things they do. To accept them for that. And to never assume that I'm the protagonist in their story--it could very well be that, in that moment, I'm antagonizing matter how much "better" I think my way is.

Queen of Hearts photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Remember When . . . King Edward Reigned?

Confession: I knew the Edwardian era followed the Victorian, and that it was because King Edward VII followed Queen Victoria on the throne of England. But it took me a ridiculous amount of time to realize that King Edward = Prince Albert, known as "Bertie" in the reign of his mother. I'd researched Victorian England. I knew about the prince. But I didn't realize he'd changed his name upon taking the throne, LOL.

That was a pretty easy lesson to learn about the Edwardian days, though. But even that had some details I didn't realize!

In my research for Scotland, I found this awesome book: Edwardian Scotland by C. W. Hill. It's proving to be invaluable! And one of the first fun facts I learned was that, not only did Queen Victoria specifically request that her son not change his name, but Scotland as a whole objected to the one he chose and refused to acknowledge the "VII"! They claimed that the first three King Edwards of England were not monarchs of Scotland, and in June of 1901 they began collecting signatures for a petition against the name--which eventually filled five volumes.

Who knew you could object to such a thing?? Not that King Edward gave a whit what anyone else thought of his choice, LOL. He's called "the merry monarch," and much of the British empire was a bit torn about him. On the one hand, he eschewed the morals his mother had drilled into them--he was a gambler, a womanizer, and showed blatant disregard for many of the principles they held dear. But on the other hand, he was affable, amiable, and made no major blunders as a ruler. So all in all, he was well-loved...but not a role model.

Of course, one of the best-known traits of the era named after him is the extravagance that the nobility enjoyed. Edwardian Scotland helped put that in perspective for me. When the gentlemen went grouse hunting, they regularly bagged thousands of pheasants. Thousands, in one weekend! And the king's meals went like this:

Breakfast - haddock, poached eggs, bacon, sausages and kidneys, chicken.

Morning snack - lobster salad and cold game or chicken

Luncheon - eight or ten courses (more if there were guests); the king's favorite foods were game, so one would often see duck, chicken, York ham, chops or steaks...or for a humbler option, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Tea - scones, crumpets, muffins, tarts, cakes, gateaux

Dinner - twelve to fourteen courses (!!!), with more game. This was they broke out things like the "turducken" of their day, like a pheasant stuffed with a snipe stuffed with truffles and garnished with sauce. What did they call that, I wonder? Pheasniples?

And apparently the Kardashians are far from the first celebrities to lend their image to products. ;-) Okay, so we knew that. But I had no idea that the nobility in the Edwardian era--and even the king himself!--were featured in ads. He famously posed for this one for Horniman's Pure Tea.

Of course, as the title of the book suggests, Edward didn't confine his time to England--he vacationed every winter in the Highlands, where he kept company with Andrew Carnegie and British nobles in Scotland. He was unfortunately deceased by the time my book starts, so no mentioning the king in the neighborhood for me (pout, pout), but I'm interested in seeing what the royal family was up to by the time my story begins, once I get further in Edwardian Scotland. In the meantime, I'm soaking up all the awesome minutia!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Readers Needed

We're less than four months from the release of A Soft Breath of Wind. Aaaaaggghhh! Exciting, but also a little panic-inducing. See, it's been a long time since WhiteFire has put out one of my books. And as I'm one of WhiteFire's editors, I'm a little paranoid about the editing on this one, LOL. Because we all know authors can't find all the mistakes in their own books. And while I trust our other editors implicitly, having many sets of eyes on a book is still vital.

So I decided that this book needs some beta readers. Beta readers are folks who agree to read a digital version of the book and note any mistakes they find. I'm also, of course, going to need some endorsers and influencers.

Are you interested in reading an advance copy of A Soft Breath of Wind (you can find a blurb of the book at the bottom of this post)? If so, email me at roseanna at roseannawhite dot com and let me know which role you'd like to fill. The breakdown and time requirements are as follows:

August - Endorsers

In just a few weeks, I'll send out copies in your choice of format (digital or paperback), for you to read (either partially or in full) and consider for endorsement. To endorse, you must be:
  • A published author with a decent following (preferably in historical fiction)
  • A high-profile reviewer
Endorsements will be due back by September 1. There will be space for one or two on the cover of the paperback version, and the rest will go on an interior fly page. If you also wanted to post a review to websites and blogs after release, you wouldn't hear me argue. ;-)

September - Beta Readers

These spots are filled - unless you're such a fabulous editor that I just can't pass you up. ;-)

In early September, I'll send out digital copies of the book (your choice of format) and you will:
  • Find typos
  • Let me know any places that aren't clear
  • Mark any other mistakes you see
  • Give me your overall impressions
  • (Optional) agree to post a review once the book releases, if your opinion is favorable
Beta readers must agree to have a list of things to be fixed emailed to me within two weeks of receiving the book, to give me time to input these final changes before finalizing the manuscript.

October - Influencers

Spot left only for digital copies!

In late October, I'll send out your choice of format (digital or paperback) of final copies of the book. In return for this free book, you agree to read it and do at least a couple of the following:
  • Post reviews on retailer and review sites (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc.)
  • Buy a copy for everyone you see in the grocery line
  • Blog about it (assuming you have a blog)
  • Have the cover tattooed across your forehead
  • Talk it up to all your friends (and book clubs!)
  • Take out an airplane banner ad for it
  • Request your library stock it
  • Invest in a giant blinking sign for your roof that says "Buy A Soft Breath of Wind!"
  • Request your bookstores stock it
  • Leave some bookmarks/postcards with libraries or stores or in waiting rooms
Now, all those influencing suggestions (ahem) hinge on you liking the book. As a reviewer who gets copies through the publishing house, you are welcome to post a negative review. But an influencer is not meant to be unbiased--an influencer is meant to be Team Roseanna. So if you read the book and hate it, just don't ever breathe a word, LOL. If you like/love it, please spread the word!

While it's obviously best if you can do some of these (the reviewing at least) as close to the November 15 release date as possible, there's no time limit on this one--a positive review and word-of-mouth is helpful at any time! So while I appreciate you getting right on this, I'm not going to get mad if life gets in the way and you don't get a review up for a couple months. =)

Are you interesting in taking on one of these roles? Or a couple (you could both beta and influence, for example)? Please let me know ASAP! (Influencer space is limited) Again, my email address is roseanna at roseannawhite dot com, or you can leave a comment below with your email address and I'll contact you. =)

About A Soft Breath of Wind

A gift that has branded her for life.

Zipporah is thirteen when the Spirit descends upon her, opening her eyes to a world beyond the physical goings-on of the villa outside Rome she has always called home. Within hours, she learns what serving the Lord can cost. Forever scarred after a vicious attack, she knows her call is to use this discernment to protect the Way. She knows she must serve the rest of her life at Tutelos, where the growing Roman church has congregated. She knows her lot is set.

Yet is it so wrong to wish that her master, the kind and handsome young Benjamin Visibullis, will eventually see her as something more than a sister in Christ?

Samuel Asinius, adoptive son of a wealthy Roman, has always called Benjamin brother. When their travels take them to Jerusalem for Passover, the last thing he expects is to cross paths with the woman who sold him into slavery as a child the mother he long ago purged from his heart. His sister, Dara, quickly catches Benjamin s eye, but Samuel suspects there is something dark at work.

When Dara, a fortune-teller seeking the will of a shadowy master determined to undermine the Way, comes into the path of Zipporah, a whirlwind descends upon them all.

Only the soft wind of the Spirit can heal their scars...with a love neither divination nor discernment could foresee.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Word of the Week - Backfire

Don't you hate it when plans backfire?

Ever stop to wonder how long they've been doing it--with that exact word, anyway? No? Well, pause to wonder. ;-)

One of the first meanings of backfire to find its way into English was a literal fire--one lit on a prairie to stop the advance of a wildfire and deprive it of fuel. This backfire joined the language in 1839, as a noun, with the verb of this meaning following in the 1880s.

But that's certainly not what we mean by it in casual conversation today, right?

The next familiar meaning is fro 1897, that of "premature ignition of an internal combustion engine." So the car that backfires. Sure.

What I find interesting is that the figurative meaning of "to affect the initiator rather than the intended object," from 1912, is the newest meaning...from the oldest one. This of course alludes to the back-firing of a fire arm, when there's an explosion from the breech of a gun--which dates from 1775-1780 in America. Backfire is, then, it seems, a word from the American Revolution. Who knew? (And okay, so I'm extrapolating that from the dates, but it seems logical, LOL.)

(The photo above is a normally operating flintlock rifle, not a backfiring one. Just FYI)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thoughtful About . . . A Year

Well, I've done it. I finished my read-the-Bible-in-a-year program. A smidgeon late, I grant you--those weeks of working on the old house happened to fall during a stretch with looooong assignments that I could never finish, so I got behind.  But I finished my Chronological Bible in a year and 3 weeks.

When I undertook this last year, it was because I knew my daily reading had slacked off, and I knew I wanted to spend more time with Him. As I sat in a service at my church's association meetings and listened to the conversation on how we should set aside time for Him, the conviction settled in that this was something I could and should do. So I went home, got out my Bible, and edited the schedule in the back of it to begin in July rather than January.

I've read all the way through my Bible several times before, but it's pretty amazing to realize how much of it I'd totally forgotten. Or just never registered perhaps. I've learned a lot. About history, about God, about faith. I can't hope to put it all in one blog post, but I want to dwell on some of those lessons, if only a few right now.

God is Deliberate
He doesn't direct us randomly. He doesn't say "Yeah, do whatever. I'll make it work." He has a very particular plan, and when you don't obey it, then you can't expect His blessing. We might not always understand why says "do this" one day and "don't do this" same thing the next day. But there's a reason. And we need to seek Him first, not after we've already made our decisions.

Details Matter
That's the thing I took most from all the descriptions of the ark (Noah's), the ark (of the Covenant), and the temple. Each detail was given with precision. Each detail was carried out with precision. Each detail was worth recording with precision. We as readers millennia removed might find some of those details boring. But they matter. Every detail of our lives matter. And we, as living temples of the Lord in this day of the Spirit, need to remember that. If God was so particular about the articles brought into the temple and how each was to be used, don't you think it matters what we fill our hearts and minds with?

Obedience is a Sign of Our Hearts
Sometimes we might be confused by why Cain's offering was refused. Or why the sons of Aaron were struck dead for getting a few details wrong in the sacrifice. Why touching the Ark of the Covenant to steady it killed a guy. But it's like this--God tells us very particularly what to do and what not to do. If we disobey knowingly, it means we think our way is better than God's way. Talk about pride! I've gotten over thinking God was cruel to do what he said he's do--I'm more amazed that it doesn't happen more often.

God Cares About our Little Things
Like the ax head, for which He rewrote the laws of physics. The missing coin of the woman at the well. The short man who just wants to see over the heads of the crowd. He cares. He meets those needs. Sometimes in simple ways--"Come down, Zachias, I will dine with you today."--and sometimes in miraculous ones. But no matter how, He answers.

God Is Everywhere
We learn about His omnipresence as kids, right? God can be everywhere in the universe at once. Sure. But what really matters is that He's where we are. In exile in Babylon. In the depths of our sorrow. In the bottom of a lion-filled pit. In a fiery furnace. In a depleted storeroom. In a drought-choked field. In a flooded valley. God is there, in whatever problem we're facing. He's there, in the shouts of victory. He's there, waiting for us to reach out, to call, to cry for Him. He's there, waiting to tell us when and how and where to move.

God Knows Us by Name
Maybe that sounds silly. But this read-through also reminded me of the power in names. Exactly twice in the Bible we hear that God told His true name to someone. First an angle who was given leave to slaughter the disobedient in the camps of Israel, and a few chapters later, to Moses. His name gave those two creatures power to do what no one else in history has done. The name of Jesus will make knees bow in all the universe. The names He gives to his servants signify their hearts and their purpose. And He knows us by name. Not just the name our parents chose for us, but the name that encapsulates all we are. All we can be. All we will ever do. He knows that name. He whispers it to us when we need it most. He calls us Rock when we feel pretty tempestuous. He calls us Deliverer when we feel like a coward who has run away. He calls us Wise Teacher when we feel like an outcast in a strange land.

Sometimes I wonder what my true name is...or where He's leading me next...or if the small details of my life are pleasing to Him. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever conquer my weaknesses...or learn to fully, truly, always obey. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever be what I know I should be.

But you know, reading through those old stories...I learn anew that whatever I am, if I lay it at the feet of God, if I cling to the hand of the Savior, then it's enough. Whatever I have, it's enough--so long as I give it back to Him. Not just my extra, but my best. All for Him...because He is all to us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Remember When . . . The Kids Learned?

It was with great shock that I realized a few days ago that we have only a month of summer break left before school starts up again. I'm not ready to be done with my summer...but I gotta say, I'm looking forward to this next school year. We're studying early American history, and the books are just awesome. When I unpacked the box when they arrived a month ago, I kept going, "Oh, wow! We're reading this? Yay!"

So for my post on Colonial Quills today, I decided to answer that "So what about early American books for kids?" question once and for all. ;-) I've posted our entire reading list, complete with links and pictures.

We're also hoping to visit some east coast landmarks and historic homes, so if you have any favorites do let me know!

Early American Reading for Kids

by Roseanna M. White
I'm a homeschooling mom. That means that, while we're still basking in the joys of summer, I'm also planning out the next school year (less than a month until it begins!). While my family is planning vacations purely for fun, I'm trying to figure out how to turn them into field trips. And I admit it--I'm excited about next year. Why? Because we're starting 2 years of American History. =D

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Word of the Week - Hillbilly

I had no internet yesterday, so the Word of the Week is coming to us a day late. But I found a fun one, quite by accident. =)

Growing up in West Virginia, I've heard the term "hillbilly" plenty of times. And of course, there are the famous ones from Beverly Hills. ;-) But I really had no idea where the term came from. Turns out it's pretty straight forward--"hill" (the southern Appalachians, to be precise) plus the proper name "Billy." But the fun part comes from some of the earliest quotes using the term.

First is the original one, from 1892:

Then again, I do not think It will do so well. I would hate to see some old railroad man come here and take my job, and then, I don t think It is right to hire some Hill Billy and give him the same right as I just because he was hired the same time I was. ["The Railroad Trainmen's Journal," vol. IX, July 1892] 

And this one from 1900 is even more interesting:

In short, a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires of his revolver as the fancy takes him. ["New York Journal," April 23, 1900]

If that is, indeed, the definition, then I gotta say I don't know a single hillbilly, LOL.

Hope everyone's having a good week!