Monday, August 22, 2016

Word of the Week - & (Ampersand)

At last week, my attention was grabbed by one of their slideshows about punctuation. Because, yes, I'm a grammar nerd. This has been well established. ;-) But the very first slide was far and away the most interesting to me.


Both of these things have always been an enigma to me. Where in the world did we get that curly thingy-ma-bob, and why did it mean "and." And why in the world was it called an "ampersand"? Questions I have long gone without knowing the answers to. But now it's all clear. ;-)

The original ampersand was the one that looked like the above, in the graphic--the others are just deviations. And the reason is quite simple. When writing in cursive, Latin scribes would combine and quicken the letters in "and"--et. That combined et made its way into other Latin-based languages like English as a symbol. But it wasn't called an "ampersand" until the 1830s.

At that point in time, this symbol was being taught as a 27th letter of the alphabet. The schoolchildren's recitation would say, "X, Y, Z, and per se and." That "and per se and" got slurred--into ampersand!

And there we go. Your weekly dose of word . . . er, punctuation? . . . fun. ;-)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

#SongUnheard Contest ~ Finalists!

The finalists for the #SongUnheard Contest have been selected!

First, I'd like to say that this was a fabulous batch of songs. And there were quite a few gorgeous piano pieces that were ruled out solely because they wouldn't convert well to violin, but which deserve a mention. Those were by: Cara L., Jen L., and Pepper B. I so enjoyed listening to these!

But now for the finalists! They are (in alphabetical order):

Jessica B.

Melissa M.

Thomas R.

Congrats to these amazing composers!

NOW -- it's up to you to choose the winner! Votes will be tallied from:

Want to hear the entries and vote? Go to my YouTube Channel and vote for your favorite with a Like!

You have one week to vote!
The winner will be announced on Thursday 25 August 2016!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Remember When . . . A Virtual Tour

Today, for a change of pace, I thought I'd take you on a little virtual pre-tour of the sites of my books--particularly the ones I might get to see next month in England. =)

These first ones are places I won't see, but which Brook and Justin, Rowena and Brice certainly did. To start our Ladies of the Manor tour, Brook would have arrived in North Yorkshire by steam train . . .

and then gotten her first view (eventually, not from the train, LOL) of Whitby Abbey.

 Rowena, on the other hand grew up in a castle built out on a Highland loch...

...before moving to the Sussex countryside near Brighton--and also near the white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters.

Then we move on to the soon to release A Lady Unrivaled--and the places I get to go! For starters, the oh-so-picturesque Cotswolds villages...

I'll be spending a few days near here and am so looking forward to it! This is where A Lady Unrivaled is set almost exclusively, with the exception of two scenes in lovely Paris.

Then we'll move on, as my stories do, to Cornwall. Next summer, you'll meet Rosemary Gresham--thief--and Peter Holstein, who makes his home in the Cornish countryside, where I'll be spending a lovely three days.

At one point in the story they venture to nearby St. Michael's Mount--which is within sight of where we'll be staying!

The climax of A Name Unknown, which I just rewrote, takes place in the Cornish coastal countryside, much like this.

We may also take a day trip (maybe) into Wales to visit Cardiff, where the book I'm currently writing, A Song Unheard, will take place. Perhaps we'll get a peek at Castle Coch (The Red Castle) nearby...

I haven't determined the setting for the final book in the Shadows Over England series...but my plan is to pick a place I've seen and loved during my trip. ;-)

And after I get back, you can rest assured that I'll take you on another tour, using photos I actually took! (Or that my husband did. I'm lousy with a camera.) All these photos were purchased from Shutterstock. ;-)

Now back to the real work I go!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to School!

I'll have my normal posts up later this week. Today, however, is our first day back to school. Plus I'm determined to finish up revisions for A Name Unknown before that first class starts, so . . . you know. Blogging takes a back seat. ;-)

But stay tuned!! Also on today's agenda is going through the many amazing entries in the Song Unheard Contest and then announcing the finalists! Within the next day or so I'll have the voting system set up, and YOU can help me select the song that Willa will have composed over the course of her story!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thoughtful About . . . Our Stories

As a writer, I know all about picking the interesting times to write about--we leave out the boring stuff, right? Or the unimportant stuff. We certainly don't spend pages describing something that will never come up again.

It's something I've noticed in biblical narratives as well. When the ancient writers are telling us a story--like in Esther or Daniel--they don't tell us all. They tell us the parts that are relevant to the particular idea they're trying to get across, or to the particular events they'll really be expounding on. I noticed this quite a lot back in the day when I was writing Jewel of Persia. It was the first I'd really noticed the huge gap of years between when Xerxes had the queen removed from the throne and when he started looking for a new queen. This wasn't a next-day or next-year thing. It was literal ages later.

We've been reading Daniel in our Bible study the last month or two, and the same thing is apparent there. Nebuchadnezzar reigned 43 years. We know it was near the beginning of his reign when Daniel and compatriots were brought to Babylon. And we see his story all the way to the end of his reign. But it's easy to read it as if it all happened within the course of a couple years.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a statue.
Nebuchadnezzar built a statue--surely they were linked, right? The nerve!

Nebuchadnezzar admits to the greatness of God.
Nebuchadnezzar thinks only of his own greatness--what a short memory he has!

I said several times in our study at church, and keep thinking now . . . it's not that his memory is short. It's that our narrative is truncated. And then I ask--how would our life stories sound if we only hit the major ups and downs?

What if our story were written, and included, say, the first time we admitted that God was up in Heaven watching us . . . and then skipped to the first time we questioned Him? What would our story sound like if the next tale written were of our conversion . . . then it was directly followed by that time someone died suddenly, and we railed at God?

To a reader, it would look like our memory was short. Like we forgot how great God is. To a reader, we might seem to go from praising God for taking us out of Egypt to crying out against Him in the wilderness in a couple seconds. A reader might not understand that our children are dying of thirst, so of course we cry out. Right? A reader might not understand that it's been a decade since that high point, and the world has been pressing in, and it seems like God has forgotten us . . . so we question whether He's what we first thought.

In this world of commentaries and footnotes in our Bibles, it's sometimes easy to take the quick, simply explanation--and in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, most all the notes I read on him were pretty harsh, dude. But I think the man deserves a lot of credit. His chapters in the book of Daniel are the only chapters written by a so-called pagan. Ever wonder why? I think it's because of the ending of his story.

Yeah, he had his ups and downs with God. He didn't quite believe fully at first--it didn't square with everything he'd been taught since he was a kid, you know? In his world, admitting to the power of one god didn't negate the others. He had to go on a journey to understanding the true nature of the one who is God over all. It involved some fits and starts. Some battles with pride. Some days where he forgot what Israel's Lord was all about.

But it ended with him declaring our God supreme. It ended with a declaration of faith. Think of that--a Babylonian king, declaring his faith in the God of Israel. That is why his story is worth writing about--and why Daniel took such care to show us the rocky road that led him there.

Our own roads not be rocky to the same degree. But they all have their peaks and valleys. And if those were all anyone knew of us . . . what would  our footnotes say?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Word of the Week - Cranky

We have one more week left of summer vacation. One more little week, then back to the homeschool grind we go. Needless to say, that has inspired a few sighs and a whimper or two (okay, perhaps that was more from me than the kids, LOL).

With the end of days of freedom and fun (or in my case, work-work-work), a little crankiness is to be expected. And so, today I thought I'd look at the history of the word. =)

Cranky has its roots, obviously, in crank--a word which is as old as English itself, taken from the Proto-Germanic krank: a handle for turning a revolving axis. We obviously still use this meaning of the word as well, though both German and Dutch have apparently leaned away from the literal ancient meaning and instead gone toward a figurative "sick, weakly" meaning.

This is where our cranky comes in. Around 1803, cranky appeared in English texts, meaning "sickly or ailing." By 1825, crank itself was listed in dictionaries as having a secondary meaning of "hard, difficult." (Like  a crank job.) Crank meaning "an irritable person" came along in 1833--a back-formation from cranky.

Though to give my kids credit where it's due, they're less cranky about school starting than I thought they'd be--in part at the promise of going to Staples and stocking up on pens and paper. (They are so my children, LOL. Fresh writing supplies make everything better.)

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thoughtful About . . . For and Against

I just got back from a couple days at a church conference, and the director said something in one of his presentations that resonated with something my husband and I had been discussing too. And that is this:

One of the greatest perceived failings of the modern church is that we put more thought into what we're against than what we're for. As in, in a survey of modern America, this was listed as one of the top 5 reasons that people stopped going to church. All they ever heard was the negative. The don't-do. The can't-have. The stay-away-from.

The negatives are important. They are. God's pretty clear on what we shouldn't do.

But . . . but. If we carve out those places, what are we then filling them with?

I kinda look at it like this. A successful diet isn't one that just says "Eliminate these foods." Right? Because if you just cut out the chips and dessert and saturated fats or whatever and don't fill your meals with anything else in their place, what happens?

You get hungry.

A successful diet is one that says, "Eat this. Instead of a banana muffin, have a banana. Instead of chips, have some hummus."

Not that I'm an experienced dieter, LOL, but I have definitely noticed that when I'm focused on getting my five servings of fruits and veggies in a day, I don't have room for the junk food. If I make conscious decisions to eat something healthy first, then I rarely get around to the unhealthy stuff.

This is true of spiritual health too. Yes, we definitely, 100% need to avoid things. But if all you preach and teach is a system of DON'T, you leave your people empty . . . and that makes the way for apostasy and legalism.

When it comes to faith, we need to be careful to focus on how to fill ourselves with Him. That is the #1 most important thing. Because if we're filled up with His Spirit, there's no room left for the sins. If we're full of His love, there's no room for hate. If we're dwelling in Him and He in us, that old man will fade away and we won't still desire the same old junk. If we're basking in His grace, we won't even notice the "lack" we now have of those things of the world--we'll only notice the fruit of His presence.

I don't want to be known as "the person who doesn't . . ." even if that "doesn't" is an important distinction. Yes, I am absolutely the person who doesn't murder, doesn't steal, doesn't commit perjury. But that doesn't tell you a thing about who I am. What I do.

This holds true in a church as well. We can't just be known for the sins we don't embrace--we have to be known for the spiritual fruit we do produce. Let us be known for our kindness and goodness and self-control. For our giving and serving and need-meeting. Let us be known for being Jesus's hands and feet in a hurting world. Not for just shaking a finger at that world and judging.

Let's not just be against things . . . let's stand for things as well.