Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Remember When . . . It Was Time for a Tea Party?

It's time for the June tea party at Colonial Quills! We just realized my April release, The Reluctant Duchess, hadn't been featured in one yet, so I got in on the fun. =)

The main action will take place on the CQ blog, where we're virtually dining at the Jefferson Hotel. Just head over there to leave comments for the participating authors, which will enter you in the many giveaways!

THEN . . . come chat with us live on Facebook! The Facebook party will run from 5-8, and I'll be kicking it off at 5:00 on the dot. Bring your questions, comments, and silly statements, along with a picture of what you'll be wearing to our virtual tea party. (I'll be hunting up my tea gown for the day too!)

Hope to see you around the Colonial Quills sites today!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Word of the Week - Tab

Tab is a little word with a long history. I looked it up to check on the age of the phrase "keep tabs on" and found that the word itself goes back to Middle English, where it meant "a small strip or flap of material," interchangeable with tag. From the mid-1400s on, that was the word's sole meaning for hundreds of years. It began to be used as a verb in  1872, when it simply meant "to affix a tab to something," again as an alteration of tag.

It wasn't until the 1880s that tab also took on the meaning of "an account, bill, check," and this came about, it's thought, as a shortening of tabulation rather than anything to do with the original word. Or perhaps a shortening of tablet--as in, the paper that you write on. Regardless, this is where my phrase came from. It's a figurative sense of this tab, but was originally used only in the singular--you would "keep a tab on someone" from about 1890 on.

Tab, as in the key on a typewriter or computer, is from 1916. As a verb meaning "to designate, label, or name," it's from 1924.

So in some ways, this word has a downright ancient history...but in other ways, it's surprisingly modern!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thoughtful About . . . Being "Too Young"

It's a busy week here in the White House. David's birthday was on Sunday (and I'd like to give a big shout-out of thanks to the Penguins for winning the Stanley Cup that day, which made a fantastic birthday present for that die-hard fan. When they won, I looked over and said, "Happy birthday! See what I got you?" Oh yeah. All me. ;-) Ahem.) Friday is our 15th anniversary. Sunday is my sister's birthday and Father's Day.

Yes, much to celebrate this week. And as I look over at that man I love so much, I know I've already said many, many times how much I love him. I've mused endlessly over the years about love and anniversaries and how I wouldn't change a thing.

And I still wouldn't change a thing. Just the other day, we were talking about how we're at the age where people look back on their teen years and think, "What in the world was I thinking?" But I don't. I still look back on my teen years and nod. I knew what I was thinking and doing. I was responsible. I was mature. I was determined. And I was right. I think I've earned the privilege of saying so at this point, LOL.

See, the world told us then that we were too young to get married. We were too young to know what we wanted. We were just too young, and we'd pay for it. We had people aplenty saying it wouldn't last and asking us why we didn't just live together.

And I shook my head, anger rising. I shake my still, and still feel that anger. This world, that condemns so quickly, is so very off. This world deems it acceptable to sleep with someone but risky to commit. This world tells young people that they can't make decisions to stay with one person for the rest of their life, but they can decide to give their bodies to countless people if they so choose.

This world is backward.

And it still frustrates me when I hear people saying, "You're too young to be thinking about dating so seriously. You think you're in love, but you don't know what love is. It won't stand the test of time. Do you have any idea how few people actually stay married to their high school sweetheart?"

But think how different our world might look if we taught our kids what real love looks like--sacrificial and brave, selfless and strong--rather than telling them they can't recognize it. Think what our world might look like if we taught children to make good decisions rather than telling them they don't know how. Think of what it could mean if we gave them confidence in who they are rather than telling them all their lives that they don't know their own minds and can't be trusted.

Think how different the world would be if we taught people to respect marriage as something created to make us holy rather than to use it as a tool to gain our own happiness.

Because a good marriage has nothing to do with the age of the people going in. It has to do with the emotional maturity of the people going in. And we live in a world where emotional immaturity is the order of the day. We live in a world that preaches personal happiness above all. We live in a world of "You're Worth It" and "Put Yourself First." These are antithetical to a good marriage. A good marriage is about telling the other person that he is worth the sacrifice. It's about putting her first. It's about going through each day asking, not "What's in it for me?" but, "What can I do for you?" It's about knowing that God didn't design this sacred union to make you happy--He designed it to draw you closer to Him and to make you stronger together than you can be apart.

Do I think most 18-year-olds today are ready for marriage? Um, no. But it has nothing to do with how long they've been on this earth and everything to do with how they've spent the time they've had here. I think 150 years ago, 18-year-olds were absolutely ready for marriage. I think 350 years ago, 18-year-olds were considered past their prime. I think much of our opinion on this comes from the very newfangled idea of adolescence and teen years and the place we've given that oddity in our society. Historically, this idea of in-between didn't exist. There were children. There were adults. You were one, then you were another. The goal of the first was to prepare them to be the second. These days, we hurry our children through those early years (put them in school earlier and earlier, teach them to read earlier and earlier, cut back on play time...), but then we tell them to slow down (you're too young for that, you don't understand this, it's just your hormones, not your heart...). Is it any wonder kids are confused? We rush them out of the time they should spend a few more years in, but then we tell them to put on the brakes. We've created a limbo for our young people that has no responsibility and yet huge expectations.

If I had my "druthers," society would focus on teaching youth to handle responsibility rather than telling them they can't. We'd teach them to think and reason rather than to react with nothing but emojis. We'd teach them to look ahead rather than to hit the backspace key. And we'd stop judging maturity based on how many years a person has lived and start judging it based on the decisions they make.

The world told me I was too young to get engaged at 17. Too young to get married at 18. The world thought I should have just given my body to the man I loved, that that would have been more responsible than waiting for sex and marrying young. The world told me it wouldn't last, and that marriage is a failure unless I'm 100% happy every day.

The world is stupid.

I wasn't too young. I made the right choices. And while I would indeed say that I'm happy a huge majority of the time, it's because I know that happiness isn't to be found in what I get--it's to be found in what I give. And because my husband and I both understand this and both deem it worth fighting for, we've got 15 years under our belts already.

There are bumps in the road. Facing them has nothing to do with how old we are--it has to do with Whose hand we put ours in as we do. Each other's...and God's.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Remember When . . . Characters Were Contradictions?

Sometimes the publishing industry seems a little strange. A Lady Unrivaled is getting it's final copy edits at Bethany House, in preparation for being sent to press so it can release in September. A Name Unknown is going through its first edits there now. I have turned in my synopsis for approval for the second London Shadows book, A Song Unheard, and am doing research for that one now . . . even though it's a year and a half before it'll come out.

As I'm brainstorming characters and plots for this new book that I'll begin writing soon, I realize that a lot of my planning takes the shape of contradictions or oddities. For instance . . .

In A Lady Unrivaled, my characters are:

A young lady who has always been enamored with romantic tales who . . .
Is afraid to trust her own judgement and fall in love.

A gentleman who is ashamed of his past and determined to be a better man, but who . . .
Will never confess the truth of who he is and his artistic "habits" to anyone.

A ballerina willing to do absolutely anything to hold onto the life she fought to achieve, but who . . .
Can never get her Russian grandmother's voice out of her head.

Then we have A Name Unknown, where the characters are:

One of London's best thieves on a mission to steal information from a wealthy gent in Cornwall, but who . . .
Has a sense of justice that insists she fight for someone being wronged, even if she intends to wrong him too.

A best-selling adventure novelist with a heart of gold and an enormous faith, but who . . .
Can't put a coherent sentence together when speaking and is contemplating changing his name to avoid political fallout.

So now, here I am planning out A Song Unheard. Thus far, my characters are:

A former urchin and current thief who  . . .
Is also a violin prodigy, sent into an orchestra to steal from its lead violinist.

The most brilliant cryptanalyst (code breaker) in Europe who . . .
Is only an eleven-year-old girl.

A charming violinist accustomed to smiling at the right people to achieve his aims who . . .
Is nursing a gunshot wound from an attempt to rescue his little sister (see above).

See now, that last one doesn't come off quite how I want him to, LOL. I'm still figuring out my suave Lukas De Wilde, discovering what makes him ticks and motivates him. The idea of having him be injured actually just came to me the other day--through the book, he's going to be fighting to save his sister and mother from the German occupation of Belgium. But I had to figure out why he hadn't done so already.

I rather like the answer that he tried--and failed. And is still feeling the effects of that failure. Effects that will, happily for me but not for him (mwa ha ha ha), also impact his career, in which he's put his hopes of future success in his endeavors. He has to play, to earn money to go back to Belgium for another rescue attempt. But playing becomes difficult when one has a serious wound in one's shoulder...

So there you have it--a peek into how story shapes up in my mind around characters . . . and their contradictions.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Word of the Week - Aspirin

No, I don't have a headache. Not today. ;-) But this a word I'd looked up to make sure I could use it in a 1914 setting, so I thought I'd share the interesting pharmaceutical history that went along with it.

Aspirin was a trademarked name, created in 1899 by German chemist Heinrich Dreser. It's from the Latin spiraea, or "meadow-sweet," the plant from which it's derived.

Here's the interesting bit. According to German law, prescriptions had to be filled exactly as written. So chemist companies would trademark very easily-made drugs that were made from common items, using household names for things that were easy for doctors to remember. Doctors would then write a prescription, and they would have to be filled as written. No generics for them! So these companies were then making a lot of money from very simple items.

I find it interesting that, in the U.S. at least, "aspirin" is certainly not considered a brand name; it's the rather generic name for that type of medicine, which any company can then make. I wonder if the same is true these days in Germany...


On a totally unrelated note, the paperback of A Stray Drop of Blood is finally available on Amazon again!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Remember When . . . The London Shadows Series

Many of you probably saw this on Facebook on Monday, but in case you missed it . . . I'm super-excited to share that my next series (beginning July 2017) has its official titles!

The series itself will be called London Shadows.

I love this. My editor recommended something that has "London" in it as immediate branding of the setting, and after toying with a few ideas for a few days, this is what I came up with, and I'm so glad they liked it. The "London" comes because, though the majority of the books aren't actually set in London, my main characters are all from there, and it greatly affects who they are. Because they're not upper-crust London-dwellers. They're former urchins . . . they're the underbelly of London . . . they are the shadows. Not to mention that the name hints at the mystery and suspense that will be threaded through the series, and, if you're getting very deep into it, the shadow of war over all of Great Britain in 1914.

So that's the series . . . but what about each book?

My original plan was for The Name Thief, The Music Thief, and The Time Thief. I liked these quite a bit, but the team at Bethany House wanted the titles to immediately evoke the era, and while these sound cool, they certainly don't scream "historical romance!" A very valid point. So I sent in a list of alternative titles for each book, and I'm thrilled with the ones they decided on:

A Name Unknown
A Song Unheard
An Hour Unspent

 These sound much more historical-romancey . . . plus they have the same rhythm as The Lost Heiress, The Reluctant Duchess, and A Lady Unrivaled, which should give readers a sense of continuity as we switch to the new series. Which means I'm one very happy girl. =D

A Name Unknown will release next July (2017), following thief Rosemary Gresham as she leaves London for a job unlike any she's done before--she has to steal a man's good name. She heads to Cornwall (where I will be heading in September, SQUEEE!) to the home of Peter Holstein, suspected German spy. But what she finds is a man who stutters so badly he can barely speak, not one filling important ears with German sentiments. She finds a man with secrets, but with a faith unlike anything she's ever seen. What she finds is a good man . . . and so how can she steal his good name? Peter, meanwhile, is debating changing his name to the nom de plume he uses for his popular adventure novels that he writes in secret. But would even that convince his neighbors to trust him and remind them that he is English at heart? As he digs into his family history with Rosemary's help, he seeks to discover why his family first left Germany to begin with . . . and whether it will ever again be enough to be simply Peter Holstein.

I'm just now doing my research for book 2, A Song Unheard. This one will focus on Rosemary's "sister" Willa Forsythe, who is sent to Wales in autumn of 1914 to infiltrate the Belgian Symphony Orchestra, who was brought to Wales by two wealthy sisters to save them from the German occupation of Belgium and bring arts to their principality. Willa, a violin prodigy who has never had a day of training in her life, is eager to rub elbows with these world-class musicians . . . even if her true purpose there is to steal from one of them, so that he's forced to accept the help of her boss in getting his super-intelligent little sister out of Brussels . . . and into British Intelligence. Among lessons in music, hints of the Belgian Resistance, and a foray into Belgium to steal his sister for him, Willa and violinist Lukas will learn more about themselves than they ever thought they could . . . and unleash music inside Willa capable of soothing more souls than just her own.

The final book is just barely an idea, LOL. An Hour Unspent will feature the older brother of my clan of thieves, Barclay Pearce. He will be issued a challenge to steal an hour from Big Ben's clock tower, and his research in how to do so will take him to the door of the clock-maker who helps care for the iconic clock--and, inadvertently, to the aid of this clock-maker's daughter, Evelina, a suffragette who is frustrated at how the war is stifling her cause. This one will delve into how clock-makers found new uses for their talents in this time of war, helping to create weapons rather than timepieces, and also on how these fierce suffragettes turned their attention to the war effort as well . . . and accomplished more for their cause in so doing than any of their marches or rallies had ever achieved.

I'm so excited for this series!!! And will soon be launching a contest related to A Song Unheard, so stay tuned for that (tuned . . . ha. Punny.).

Monday, June 6, 2016

Word of the Week - Ballet

This past weekend was full of ballet for my family, as my daughter danced in her theater's spring show, La Fille Mal Gardée.

I've never looked up where the word ballet comes from because,'s obviously French, right?

As it turns out, yes and no. The English word--which dates from the 1660s!--does indeed come from the French ballette. (I find it interesting that we say it as the French would if it were a masculine noun, but the word it comes from is feminine, and that T would have been pronounced. Does anyone speak French and know if they still use the -ette ending or if they've also changed it to -et over the years?) But that French word came, in fact, from Italian.

The Italian root is ballo, which just means "a dance." This is also where our ball comes from.

Though the word has been in use for a long time, from what I can see in the history of other ballet words (jete, plie, arabesque, etc.), the form we know and recognize today seems to have taken shape in the 1820-30s.

Made super-famous, of course, by the Ballet Russe, which of course everyone knows from reading The Lost Heiress--and you won't want to miss A Lady Unrivaled, which features the ballet even more. ;-)

Not that any of those prima ballerinas could possibly be as beautiful as my sweet Xoë. (Biased?? What do you mean???)