Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . What's Been and What's Coming

Well, here we are on the last day of 2009. Kinda hard to believe, isn't it? In a lot of ways, it's been a busy year. And in some ways, I feel like I got nothing done.

What have I accomplished this year? Well, I've met my goal for books produced (though I didn't set a strict one, I did finish each of the ideas I had through the year and wanted to complete). I made it back to the ACFW conference, got to hug my friends. I've done some organizing (that has since become disorganized again, only to be worked on again, lol), and I've held my own in the mommyhood thing. Got Xoe started in Story Time to get her out a bit, and I've done some preliminary research into schooling for her.

My career didn't exactly take off in leaps and bounds as I had hoped it would, and that's always sobering. But I've made strides there. I have an almost-contract on the line, I've delivered new manuscripts to my agent that she's confident in, and of course Stray Drop went into its second printing.

I've also gotten terrible at finding/making time for my devotions. It's hard, given that I used to do them in the morning, and I just don't have mornings to myself anymore. And since Rowyn dropped his first nap, ditto on exercising.

So goals for 2010 might as well start there. My biggest goal is to keep my focus on the Lord--I know if I can do that, the rest will fall into place. Ideally I want to find time every day for my Bible, with the understanding that if I don't, I can always find time for prayer (which I tend to forget).

I really want to get back to exercising, too. Not sure how, but hopefully Rowyn will soon be able to entertain himself for half an hour without getting under my feet.

There are a few personal goals that delve into the deep-of-the-heart stuff, like not giving into bitterness or resentment when people don't just understand what I want and need and deliver it. Nothing makes me grumpier than falling into the "Why do I have to do everything??" way of thinking. We're all much happier when I stave that off and focus on all the things everyone else does.

I also have some goals that are somewhat beyond my control--not beyond God's, though, so they're things that will be prayed heavily over. Most of these are career-oriented. I would love to have a solid contract (or two) soon. It would be awesome if Stray Drop won one of the awards I'm entering it for. And of course I'd like to produce some new books to send out into the big, bad publishing world. I want/need to find ways to get Stray Drop into the hands of more people--not just for the profit (thought it would be nice if WFP could pay off the investment they put into it, lol) but because I truly believe in the story.

Need to get back on the Christian Review of Books horse too--I've been neglecting that terribly. But promoting others and alerting readers to what's available is such a rewarding calling.

We also need to pin down our exact plan for Xoe's schooling this year. And I need to find ways to prioritize my time so that we all get what we need out of those few hours a day.

Most of all, though, I want to accomplish something for the Lord. I'm not even sure what, yet, but I intend to have a solid answer by the time my hubby asks us the question in church this weekend. =) Part of it is reaching people through my books, but that might sound self-serving to some, so . . . I don't know. But more than anything, I want to be a beacon for Him. Which brings to mind a great quote that I think is a fabulous way to end one year and start another, with the goal of living for Him.

"There are two ways to spread light: to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it." ~Edith Whart

Maybe I'm not a beacon myself--but I serve the brightest light out there, and reflecting Him is an honor as well as a goal.

Happy New Year, everyone! -- Oh! And don't forget to drop by every Friday (and some Tuesdays) from now on for author interviews! A lot of them will include giveaways to people who comment, so you won't want to miss it! We start tomorrow with Linore Rose Burkard, who writes "Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen soul." Great stuff!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remember When . . . New Years Was Still . . . well, Old?

Did you know that New Year's is one of the oldest holidays in the world, celebrated by pretty much every culture (though at different times)? And that whole resolution thing? That's about as old as the holiday. Back in the day, common resolutions in Ancient Babylon were to give back tools that had been borrowed from neighbors, and the Ancient Romans resolved to ask forgiveness for wrongs they had done. That one kinda puts "quit smoking" and "lose weight" (America's most popular resolutions) to shame, doesn't it?

January 1 was established as the first day of the new year in 153 B.C. by the Roman emperor. The month got its name from the mythical god Janus, who had two faces and so could look both forward and back, into the past and future. Makes it pretty cool for the first month of the year, eh? Julius Caesar finalized the calendar as we know it in 46 B.C.

For many years, Christian tradition began the year in March, but Pope Gregory XIII reinstated the Julian calendar in the sixteenth century, and we've been observing January 1st as our New Year's Day ever since.

Tomorrow I'll be doing some reflecting on the past year and looking to the future (though only with one face, ha ha), and on Friday I'm starting my fabulous author interviews with Linore Rose Burkard, many of which will have a giveaway. Be sure and check in for those!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Story Time . . . THE GLASSBLOWER by Laurie Alice Eakes

Well, I finally found the two hours I needed to finish reading The Glassblower by Laurie Alice Eakes last week--and boy was I glad I did! This is a sweet and charming historical romance that will make your heart flutter and spark your imagination.

Meg Jordan wants nothing more than to start a school for local children, so that they don't have to be sent away for their education as she was. The apple of her father's eye, she has been given a building and promised windows from Jordan Glassworks . . . as soon as they get other orders finished. That is surely why she is breathless with excitement after meeting Colin, the new glassblower from Scotland. It surely isn't a personal interest--her father is very strict about not socializing with the employees.

Colin has never seen a bonnier lass than Miss Meg Jordan, but he is warned from the moment he steps foot in the glassworks that he ought not get his hopes up. Which is fine, because he did not venture to America for romance. He came to find a better life to extend to his mother and siblings--the least he can do after abandoning the family, which he is certain led to the boating accident that ended his father's life. Had he been there . . . but the Lord has forgiven him, and now he has a fresh start. A fresh chance. He will prove himself quickly to be a master glassblower while working on the goblets Mr. Jordan requests for his daughter's engagement . . . if only he could prove to his heart that said engagement made Meg off-limits. But she seems unwilling, at the least, to become betrothed to her neighbor. And why would the doting Mr. Jordan force the issue? Something is not right.

The Glassblower is a truly excellent book on so many levels. From Heartsong Presents, it's a short read and moves quickly, but Laurie Alice is an expert at making those few pages feel complete and full, carrying you through a complex and tender story with elegance and grace. The love story is truly blissful-sigh-inducing, and there is just enough tension to make the stakes high and unyielding. I really appreciated the balance of those devices, though. So often tension feels false or over-inflated to me, based on nonsense, but that is far from the case in this novel. The author found the perfect way to offset each romantic stride forward with outside complications, and to answer each moment of antagonism with a new development in the relationship between hero and heroine.

It's no wonder The Glassblower is an editor's pick this year for Heartsong Presents! This is a must-read that you'll breeze through and walk away from feeling better than you did when you sat down with it. You'll fall in love with the characters and watch them come to a deeper understanding of their faiths through the pages. Don't miss this one!

Right now it's only available from the publisher and through the subscription program, but keep your eyes peeled! It'll be on Amazon etc. in the next few months.

(I received this book as a complementary reviewer copy.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Modern . . . Arabian Horses

I can honestly say I never expected horses to play a very big role in any of my contemporaries. I mean, historicals, sure. But contemporaries? I'm not the type to write a ranching type novel, so . . . you can imagine my surprise when my modern pirate story sudden demanded I include some quality time with Arabians.

I've always loved horses, and I took riding lessons for a year when I was in middle school. I was never quite as good at it as I wanted to be, nor as fearless, lol. But I still have such respect for those magnificent animals--unlike my husband, who grew up beside a slew of them and still harbors some resentment over that one that bit him, lol.

My heroine in Seized is Bedouin, and I put her in a family that still breeds Arabians as their livelihood. Upon looking up the breed, I discovered some amazing facts about these noble horses that (and was reminded that much of what we know about Bedouin culture is tied to them). For starters, they're smaller than many breeds of horses, barely larger than a pony. Some Arabians even have fewer vertebra and ribs than other breeds. These qualities give them a compact frame perfectly suited to long, arduous treks through the desert.

Arabians are also noted for their high-carried tails, curved necks, and concave profile. They actually have features in their heads like larger nasal passages and a special flap in their throat to allow for easier breathing in the sand. These horses, so loved by the Bedouin that the best of them slept in the tents with the family, are truly magnificent creatures. And because of how closely they lived with humans, they were bred based on personality and intelligence, so the line is now among the friendliest of horses out there, though still noted for being spirited.

I've never been enough of a horse afficianado to be able to identify breeds at a glance (other than a Clydesdale, lol), but the more I read about Arabians, the more I realized how distinct they are. And I'm going to have a lot of fun making my heroine's heart light up when she gets to spend some time with them after five years of never so much as seeing one. Now the hard part--to think up some clever names . . .

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Christmas Memories

I decided to post today solely that I could copy my friend's idea from her blog yesterday and chat about some of my favorite Christmas things. =)

I have so many fabulous memories surrounding the holidays, but one of my favorites is from the first year my grandmother came to stay with us on Christmas Eve. That meant Jen and I shared a room that night, and we both well before the agreed-upon time with our parents. For a while we just lay there and talked, but then we decided we'd just get up, plug in the tree, and wait. My sister went to the door, opened it--and ran smack into Mom, who was leaning on the doorframe. Jen shrieked, screamed "Busted!" slammed the door in Mom's face, and jumped back in bed. Which wouldn't have been nearly so hilarious had we not been 15 and 18 at the time. =) Our mom was laughing too, not actually mad. We come from a family of very-anxious-Christmas-ers. (My husband does not. There was a bit of compromise necessary when we got married, lol.)

Anyway. I love the old Christmas songs, especially the hymns. Though in college and made a collection of jazzy, swingy versions of the popular songs, and those are fun too. =)

I love all the lights. So magical . . .

I love the baking, and the eating what's been bakes. ;-)

I love those times when I've thought up exactly the right present for someone, and the way they thrill when they open it.

I love sitting back and reflecting on the miracle of that first Christmas.

And now I'm going to go cuddle my kiddos, get some coffee, and enjoy my Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Remember When . . . A Christmas Story

Back before we had kids, we used to debate what we'd tell them about Santa. And as my first child approached an age where beliefs began to form, everyone asked us, "Are you doing the Santa thing?" And we've never said things like, "Santa's watching" or "Santa will be coming next week." But as a house that allows TV, it's inescapable. Every single kids' show is all about Santa this time of year, so my 4-year-old has latched onto it. I don't mind--I still believe in Santa too;-)

But I did want to make sure she understood what Christmas really is. So last week as we played around the tree on morning I told Xoe the Christmas story, off the cuff. I've never tried to tell it before in preschooler terms (though we've read plenty of toddler books on it) and putting it in my own words so that she would understand was a lot of fun. Sure, some things had to change. Like Jesus was born in a barn instead of a stable--barn she knows. Stable, not so much. And we certainly didn't get into the whole virgin thing, lol.

As always, when telling my preschooler anything, I'm never sure what will stick and what will float right out her ear. But I knew she'd gotten the point that night when we drove to my mom's. Actually, it happened two nights in a row.

As we took the final turn onto their road, Xoe looked out the window and saw one of the first stars to show in the night. "Look, Mommy!" she said with the exuberance only a kid can muster. "It's the star, just like in your story! It's for baby Jesus!"

My husband and I just exchanged a look as we agreed. A look that said, "Yep--she took a good thing from the story this time."

Obviously, she's still excited about Santa. But we also told her the story of St. Nicholas, who gave gifts on Christmas to point the children back to Christ. And I've been really impressed by her Christmas spirit. Sure, she wants to open presents (a lot, lol). But she also wants to have a gift for everyone from her. You oughta see the adorable little car she made Rowyn out of paper and tape. =)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Story Time at Christmas? Yeah, right

Which is to say, I haven't had time to crack open a book, which is a crying shame, cuz I've got one fabulous one I've barely started and two Christmas stories just begging to be read. So I'll chat about them, but I'm warning ya--I don't have much to say. =)

Right now I'm reading The Glassblower by Laurie Alice Eakes. I have been looking forward to this book for a long time, ever since Laurie Alice announced to our historical group that she'd sold it to Heartsong. It isn't available on Amazon etc. yet, but can be ordered from Heartsong and through the bookclub. The Glassblower is about Meg, a young woman who dreams of opening a school in her New Jersey town so that other children aren't forced away from home for education as she had been. Enter the charming Scotsman Colin, master glassblower, who just got a job at her father's glass making family. Right away something sizzles between them, but Meg knows nothing can ever come of it. Her father would never permit her to keep company with a mere laborer--instead, he has another suitor in mind for her.

This is a short gulp of a book, and I've read titles from Laurie Alice before, so I know it'll be beautifully written and will speed by once I have an hour to dedicate to it. I'll do that tonight so that I can debate between the two Christmas titles from Summerside's Love Finds You line that just showed up.

First to arrive was Loree Lough's Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska. Can't wait to read this largely because I've been chatting with Loree for the last few months, and she's such a wonderful lady that I just know I'm going to fall in love with this book. (Not to mention that the back cover sounded fabulous;-) It's all about an ex-Marine, self-dubbed Scrooge who's none to happy to be going home to the town where "It's Christmas All Year Long." Especially when he keeps butting heads with Sam, the stubborn manager of his aunt's shop.

A day later came Love Finds You in Bethlehem, New Hampshire by Lauralee Bliss. This one's a historical about an artist who orders a mail-order bride . . . but is expecting someone a little more refined than the penniless Sara. As Christmas transforms the tiny town, will the lessons of the season change his heart?

So, there you have it. Three great reads I haven't had time to read yet. =) Maybe you'll have better luck than me this holiday season, I say as I teach my daughter how to use her new ZhuZhu Pet . . .

Monday, December 21, 2009

Modern . . . Title--Chosen!

Well, it was another successful title contest last week. Though only three of you left ideas, they were so great that it got my juices flowing. I had planned on selecting some finalists and voting, but I instead came up with one I really like, so I'm going to divide the spoils among you three lovely contributors.

So, here's what it comes down to. Given that it's a romantic suspense, I need something strong and punchy. Something to capture the black market aspects as well as how the hero steals the heroine's heart--and trust--with the first glance. So here's what I came up with: (drumroll please . . .)

Seized

Apparently titling experts are big fans of single-word titles, so I'm really pleased with this. When I was reading through Sandi's suggestions and got to the ones with "seized" in it, it just jumped out at me.

I also had a great time writing said book this weekend, after getting to know my hero a little better. And discovered it's really cool to sit around the living room with my laptop while my hubby rereads Stray Drop and the kids frolic under the Christmas tree. Felt so cozy! =)

Hope everyone has a fabulous Christmas week!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Who I Am

I had the pleasure of spending last weekend with some of my dearest friends. It's kind of funny. When I'm with both of them at the same time, it inevitably makes me think about who I am as compared to who they are. For all the things we have in common, there are so many things in which we're different too. These are two young women I admire so very much, and sometimes it's easy to focus on the things they do that I just can't.

Last weekend, I wrote something that was a result of those thoughts, exhaustion, and a headache, lol. Not my usual chipper stuff, but there are some great lines in it. ;-)

I'm Not That Woman

I have all these ideals in my head. I would love to be the woman who makes every single dish absolutely from scratch–no box mixes, no store-bought canned goods, no pre-packaged frozen dishes.

But I’m not that woman.

I would love to sew things myself, make toys for my children with my own hands, and fashion my house with tender skill and precision.

But I’m not that woman.

I would love to be the woman so proactive that she takes command of her own well-being, of her pregnancies, of her children’s health and stands up to the system when the system is set on following a pre-determined course that doesn’t allow for individuality. Who educates herself on every facet of her world.

But I’m not that woman.

I would love to be so focused on my children that I have their schooling all planned out, that I know already what the goals would be, that I could use my time toward their education. I wish I sat down with them every day and focused totally on them, on their growth, on their learning.

But I’m not even that woman.

I would love to exist in a world where I didn’t need a watch or a clock but could just eat when I am hungry, sleep when I am tired, rise when I am refreshed, and work when inspiration struck.

But that’s not my world.

I love being a writer, a wife, a mommy. Sometimes it just feels like I can’t be everything well. Sometimes it feels more like I’m defined by what I’m not.

I’m not a cook. I’m not green. I’m not crafty. I’m not a clothes-maker or a toy-maker. I’m not a teacher. I’m not a world unto myself. I’m just a woman with a dream and a family trying to make the two work together. I’m a woman with not enough hours in the day and even fewer in the night. I’m a woman in a world of squeals and tugs and TV–and of laughs and kisses and hugs.

I’m a woman torn, but a woman who can see the beauty in the pieces. A woman who sees that there are holes and recognizes that they’re just part of the filigree of God’s craftsmanship.

I’m a woman who isn’t.

But I’m a woman who is.

~*~

Don't forget to comment for a chance to win Stray Drop at Stephanie's blog!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Remember When . . . The Trip Took Years?

First, check out my interview at Stephanie Morrill's blog today! Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Stray Drop!

~*~

The Christmas pageants totally confused me when I was a kid. I mean, if the Wise Men entered from the back of the room right after the angels sang the Hallelujah Chorus and the shepherds elbowed each other out of the way so they could get to the manger . . . then why did Herod take out his wrath on toddlers? It took me a while to figure out that it took a while for those mystical magi to make their way from wherever-they-came-from to Israel.

There's so much rich history surrounding this story, though! One of my favorites is an Italian tradition. They tell the story of the Befana, and it's one that really stuck with me after I first heard it.

According to lore, during their two-year trek the magi stopped off at a house for food and rest. The resident was an old woman who, instead of taking them in, shunned them and went so far as to chase them away with her broom.

We all know that the magi made their way to Israel in spite of this setback, but that's not where the Befana's story ends. For many years, she lived her life without concern for these strangers. But then later in life, she heard the message of the Christ and realized that those foreigners she had chased off were messengers of the Lord Himself. Stricken with grief, she repented of her hard heart and took that offending broom with her to go proclaim the salvation message, flying around the world with the Gospel.

It's an interesting twist on the image our society has of a broomstick-flying witch--this one repentant and a missionary. In Italy, they celebrate the Befana on the Epiphany (January 6); in each village, someone dresses up as the character and goes around giving candy to the children.

I think it's a great way to remember that what we consider "the Christmas story" is in actuality a miracle that spanned years. I'm going to be chatting more about the magi on the Epiphany, since it falls on a Wednesday, so don't forget to come back!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Story Time . . . THE SHOE BOX by Francine Rivers

*Don't forget the title contest in Monday's post! Suggest a title for my story, and if yours is chosen, you win books!*

Okay, so another kid's book. When I was in the library with my girl last week and browsing the Christmas books, I just couldn't resist when I saw one by Francine Rivers, who is undeniably one of my favorite authors. The Shoe Box came home with us that night, and while I wanted to read it straight away, I restrained myself until Xoe requested it. =)

The Shoe Box is about a little boy named Timmy who is put into foster care because his dad's in prison and his mom has to work so much that she isn't there to take care of him, and the neighbors turn her in. Timmy goes to live with a kind, loving couple who open their hearts to him and his mother.

With him Timmy carries an old shoe box with the words "Running Shoes" printed on the side. Everyone asks him what's in it, but he only ever answers, "Things." Though it makes everyone curious, no one pushes. He takes this box with him everywhere he goes, until the Christmas pageant. He's playing one of the wise men, and instead of his bejeweled box, he takes his shoe box up to give it to Jesus.

I did some serious tearing up while I read this, though I made an effort not to cry outright, given that I was reading it to my daughter, LOL, and she doesn't really understand "touched" tears yet. But this story was so sweet, so symbolic, so very beautiful--not surprising from Francine Rivers. The pictures are gorgeous too, making it a perfect book to sit down and read to the family.

I love telling my kids stories that show the true meaning of Christmas, the spirit of it, the history of it, and which have spiritual significance. The Shoe Box does all of these things in a format sure to delight the parent as well as the child. Just keep your tissues handy! If it can make me cry, the rest of y'all are doomed. ;-)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Title Contest!!

It worked so well in September that I'm doing it again! I need help coming up with a title for my WIP, and I'm offering a prize to whoever comes up with the best one. I'll select finalists, we'll vote, and the winner will receive:

Fools Rush In by Janice Thompson
The Blue Enchantress by M.L. Tyndall

and of course a personalized, autographed copy of
A Stray Drop of Blood by moi

So, here's the new book, currently dubbed "My Modern Pirate Story." Clever, eh? You see why I need you. =)

~*~

Smith barges onto the pirate ship with his team of ex-SEALs expecting to rescue a Saudi princess gone missing in the Med--what he finds is a woman chained to a bed, badly injured, and most definitely not a princess. Unable to leave her at the mercy of the ruthless Russian thieves, he offers her a way off the ship and the the protection of his CIA liaison.

Kindness has never been a part of Cantara's world. She occasionally traded one form of cruelty for another, but it has all been in the spectrum of pain. But when the stranger stands there, looking at her with compassion--as though she matters--she sees a promise she never knew could exist. Not for her. She had thought life wasn't so bad with Petrov, since he kept her from an even greater evil, but looking at this man called Smith . . . for the first time in her life she trusts a man instinctively.

Smith takes her back to the U.S., knowing her knowledge of these pirates who are prowling the seas and preying on yachts and merchant vessels could prove useful. But the story of how she ended up in the clutches of Petrov convinces the CIA that she's far more important than that. More than the pirates, she has an intimate knowledge of a black-market arms dealer they've been hunting for years. Smith figures it's his duty to convince her to help his country. And the Lord has made it clear he's also to make Him known to her. He just doesn't know what to make of the fact that he has only to utter a word and she'll obey him.

He's the best man she's ever met, that peace in his eyes is addictive. Cantara will do anything to stay with him a moment longer, to remain in his favor. She knows she is unworthy of any affection, but she is happy to do anything he wants.

Anything but the thing he asks of her. He and the CIA want her to return to the black-market world Petrov stole her from. Though she agrees, it costs her. And proves, in her mind, that she is nothing, even to Smith. Plunged into the swirling maelstrom of fear, she takes the greatest risk of all and opens her heart to the source of that peace in Smith's eyes, the God she so wants to be hers.

With both the pirate and the arms dealer out to get her back at any cost, Cantara must learn the true value of who she is and Who she now serves, even if it means sacrificing herself for the causes of the man she loves. She and Smith both know that following God's will doesn't guarantee success by their human definition. This fledgling love is strong enough to survive--but does that mean that they are?

~*~

So . . . themes recurring so far:

Black market
Pirates
Eyes (it's his eyes that show her she can trust him, and hers that show him how painful her past has been)
Desert
Water/Sea
Faith, specifically prayer

Can't wait to see everyone else's creativity, cuz I've got nothing!
This is a romantic suspense, so I need a title that captures the tension as well as the deep emotion.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Character Spotlight -- Andrew

From A Stray Drop of Blood

ANDREW

Having come to the Visibullis house as a boy, Andrew has chosen to serve them for life and is now Cleopas’s trusted manservant, beside him both on the battlefield and in his home. He is dedicated, loyal, and possesses the strength necessary to defend his master.

Andrew is the first to admit that where he excels on the field of war, he suffers in academics. He has been trying (halfheartedly) for years to learn Latin, first under Cleopas’s tutelage, and then Abigail’s. Mostly, he simply enjoys the lessons as time to spend with his friend. He considers it his duty to cajole Abigail into smiles and laughter and takes his greatest delight from that success. When stories of Jesus begin to circulate through the house, he shares them only to seek other opinions on them, seemingly willing to trust whatever decisions the others come to.

He is in many ways an understanding man, willing to forgive much of those he loves. But when it comes to those he doesn’t like, he clings stubbornly to enmity. With Jason, for instance, he has never gotten along, and he resents the fact that, unlike his master, his master’s son treats him like the lowest of scum.

Andrew would generally be seen in the shorter tunic of a slave, with an earring winking at his ear to proclaim his allegiance to Cleopas.

When trying to decide who to cast for these roles, I remembered one of my favorite recurring characters from NCIS. Rudolph Martin played a villain on that, but a cute and charming one. When he grins (a picture of which I could not find, LOL) he has the boyish charm of Andrew, though he usually looks more serious.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Christmas, Reviews, and Party Dresses

My, aren't I focused this morning? With one cup of coffee under my belt, my brain's still fluttering here and there. But hey. It's my musing day, so I'll just go with the muse. (How very Greek of me!)

Anyway. So in my house, Christmas prep is in full swing. Were it up to my daughter, we would have been decorating a month ago, but I held her off until last week. =) Decorating, baking, holiday preparation is in that category of things I hate to get started on but love to have done. And which tend to engross me once I'm started. Baking gingerbread cookies the other night led to chocolate chip yesterday, and if I weren't out of sugar and a few other crucial ingredients, I might just go for type 3 today. There's just something about seeing those beautiful lights sparkling on the tree in my living room that makes me want to break out in song and fill the house with the smells of baking.

And I'm terribly excited to be going to a fancy Christmas party this weekend. I have NEVER had cause to get all dressed up for a Christmas party, so this is fun. And my friend the hostess actually put it together just for a chance to get all fancy schmancy, so it should be extra fun because of its fun-seeking origins. I found an awesome little black dress with a cream sash and some sparkle where strap meets bodice, and the perfect silver shoes. I am not a shoe fiend, but I loooooooove those shoes! As does my hubby, miraculously. So yay! Exciting!

On to the final installment of my subject line. A friend of mine from one of my writing loops got an ARC of Stray Drop and just finished it yesterday. Earlier this week I got an update from Goodreads where she had posted a halfway-through review that was GLOWING, which made my day. Her full reaction was even better. It so, so warms my heart to hear that I actually pulled off what I wanted to in this book. So thanks, Dina!!

Speaking of which, you have a few more days to comment on Tuesday's WordVessel post for a chance to win. I believe the drawing's on Saturday. There'll also be an interview and giveaway on Stephanie Morrill's site next week, and I think I'm going to have another title contest on Monday with a copy as one of the prizes. Although y'all should really go buy a gazillion copies for everyone you know too . . . ;-)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Remember When . . . Christmas Lasted 12 Days?

~*~Don't forget to visit WordVessel and comment for a chance to win Stray Drop!~*~

I figured it was the season for some holiday factoids. =)

The Christmas season is about much more than a day: it is about celebrating the miracle and life of Christ. Just as we have the Advent Calendar to count up to Christmas Day, so we also have the Twelve Days, which follow Christmas and lead up to the Epiphany.

Surviving mainly in Europe today, the Epiphany is a long-celebrated day that remembers the arrival of the Magi. Literally “Manifestation,” the Epiphany is also the day taken to commemorate the second birth or baptism of Christ and the importance of God being made man through that act.

A couple years ago, I made up what I called Epiphany Boxes for my family, though more accurately they were 12 Days of Christmas boxes. I made gifts for each day, enough for the whole family, appealing to Christmas traditions. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll share some of them on Wednesdays. =)

I'll start today with The Christmas Star, for which I gave a star ornament for the tree.

The Christmas Star is one of the most questioned and most miraculous signs that accompanied the arrival of the Lord. It is this star that led the Magi to Bethlehem, this star that shone with a wondrous light to announce Him to the world. What was it? That is something that scholars and astronomers have been trying to discover for millennia.

Some say it is a miracle akin to the Pillar of Fire that God used to lead Israel out of Egypt. Others hold that it was a cosmic event such as a comet or super-nova. Still others hold it was an actual star and focus on the claim that it came to a halt over Bethlehem, which indicates it must be either the sun or Venus, the two “wandering stars” that halt in their paths.

Interestingly, that’s actually one of the reasons we celebrate Christmas on 25 December. The sun does “halt” on its north-south progression for three days, twice a year, on the solstices. During the time of Christ’s birth, the winter solstice was 25 December.

Today, we tend to look on the arrival of a star to herald Christ as either miraculous or just plain crazy. But it’s interesting to note that at the time of Christ, every great man was thought to be accompanied by a star when he was born. Similar cosmic events have been recorded for Alexander the Great, Abraham, and Saint Augustine. So for His followers, it wasn’t odd that a star appeared for him—it would have been odd had one not.

(If anyone wanted a doc with the script I used for the gifts and full descriptions of the presents to use as ideas for your own boxes, I'd be happy to email it to you!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Story Time . . . THE LIGHTKEEPER'S DAUGHTER by Colleen Coble

First, a note on me and mine. I'm being featured today on WordVessel, so stop over to read an interview and comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Stray Drop!

Now, onto the real topic of the day;-)

When I received The Lightkeeper's Daughter by Colleen Coble in the mail, I was pretty excited. I haven't had the chance to read much by Colleen, and since I love historicals, I was sure this book with the oh-so-lovely cover would pull me in straight away.

The set-up is that Addie was raised as the lighthouse keeper's daughter in a remote island in California; she rarely got to see any people, except those shipwrecked or visiting the station. All her life, she's plagued by nightmares where she is the one whose ship was lost, but her father always assured her it wasn't so.

Only, it was. In the first chapter a gentleman shows up looking for her, claiming she's his long-lost niece and the heiress to a sizable fortune. Now that her beloved father is dead and she's left with an ungrateful mother who never cared for her, Addie is only too happy to realize that perhaps she has more family out there. The money she doesn't give a fig for, but the chance to meet another father? That's an opportunity she cannot pass up. Her uncle insists she go incognito until they can find proof enough to offer to the family. She doesn't much care for the deception, but it isn't all bad. She gets to be governess to her nephew and get to know her new family as the humble girl she is at heart.

Addie is a young woman of such blunt honesty that I can't help but smile at her, and her naivete is endearing. When she meets and immediately falls for the handsome John, widower of her late half-sister, it's easy for the reader to love him too. But all is not well in the redwood forests of her new home--someone has gone to great lengths to keep her away from her family all these years, and they're not about to step aside now and let her into the Eaton's uppercrust world without a fight.

I have to say that thus far I'm enjoying the book without being so engrossed that I can't put it down. I began it several weeks ago, but then got sidetracked by the second two Twilight books and writing . . . I picked it up again yesterday and remembered why I'd put it down. While the story's good and the characters are delightful, things were going so well that I just knew it was all going to fall apart in some horrific way, and I wasn't in the mood for that, LOL. The unraveling began in the part I was reading last night, and it indeed made me sigh. But I confess I'm fully intrigued by the mystery now and eager to find out who's out to get our lovely, outspoken heroine.

I have a feeling I'll be a lot more enthusiastic about this one when I'm more than halfway through--it has a lot of promise, a nice setup for intrigue, and elements that you'll gobble up if you're a history fan.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Modern . . . Pirates--Arrrr!

That's right, me mateys--pirates! Arrrrrr! Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

Okay, so that's more modern pirate movies, but still. We can't say "pirate" in my house without the pre-schooler going "Arrr!" =)

Anyway. I know I mentioned this last week, but I'll give the basics again. A couple months back, I sent the first three chapters of a story to my critique partners. The hero is a reformed thief, which makes him oh-so-much fun to write. One of my critters, Carole, promptly sent the chapters back with, "Oh, your heroes make my heart flutter. If I weren't a happily married woman, I'd be in love with your characters. You know what you need to write? A pirate story--a modern one. The historical ones have been done, but not modern. If anyone could do it, though, you could."

Naturally, my little brain went, "Oo, oo!" On our walk that evening, I told David of the challenge, and he said, "Cool. Although modern pirates aren't very romantic, so your hero might have to be a pirate hunter."

Me: "Yeah! I could make him an ex-SEAL who went private to rid the high seas of the threat."

David: "That could work. They could use a converted Russian corvette."

Can you see the questions marks in my eyes? "Uh . . . what do sports cars have to do with pirates? And I didn't know Russians had Corvettes."

Insert David's eye-roll here. "It's a kind of boat, honey."

So with that enlightenment settled, I let it stew in my head for a few months, combined it with something my other critique partner, Mary told me about Bedouins at conference in September, and voila! An idea! (Okay, so it took a while longer to get the actual idea, as I mentioned LAST Monday, LOL.)

I'm now four chapters in and having a blast with this. I had fun writing the lighthearted stories I've concentrated on for the last year, but I've missed the complexity and depth of a hard-hitting book. Given that my heroine has been seriously abused and comes from a culture far-removed from ours, I get to take a new look at some things we all take for granted--everything from the smell of a city to the luxury of being able to take some aspirin when our head hurts.

I'm learning a ton as I look stuff up for this, so I imagine our Modern Mondays will be full of random tidbits for a while. =)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Character Spotlight -- Jason

From A Stray Drop of Blood

JASON

Jason Visibullis was born to a Roman father and Hebrew mother, and for most of his life he was not accepted by either side. After six years in Rome, studying and learning the craft of a warrior, he finds a place for himself in the military, many friends, and considers himself fully Roman.

When Jason returns to Jerusalem to serve under his father as a centurion, he is certain he will have no problem respecting his mother’s religion without letting it bother him. And though he has some definite frustration with the customs and traditions, the longer he is back in his father’s house, the more he begins to value the heritage his parents both embrace.

Jason is charming, sure of himself, and still has a streak of insolence. He is the glue that binds his group of friends together. He is handsome and strong, not the tallest of his friends, but not the shortest. He enjoys a riveting discussion on philosophy, so long as he emerges the victor of the rhetoric.

Though it takes him a while to admit it, he has a heart deeper than he had ever supposed.
“A boy had the right to leave home and find his way in the world, but a man . . . a man had to focus on deeper matters. Family. Faith.”

I’ve recently been seeing previews for a new USA show called White Collar, starring Matthew Bomer, and I thought, “He could surely be one of my characters!” He's too cute to be anything but a lead, so here he is--Jason! =)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thoughtful About . . . Anticlimaxes

Well, there I was. Fully aware that the calender had flipped to my release date. Fully aware that I would never have a release date for this book again (I mean, I already got two--that's more than most people get, LOL). Fully aware that if I didn't somehow pour some energy into my veins, I would be curling up on the floor into a puddle of exhausted goo before lunchtime.

When best friend Stephanie Morrill kept telling storied about her adorable kiddo kept her humble and anchored during the whole book-release process with cranky days and climbing all over the box of books, I laughed. When it was me whose big day was humbled by children up SEVEN TIMES the night before, leaving me with a whopping four hours of sleep, it wasn't nearly so funny. Still, I tried really hard to get excited. I sent out emails. I posted blogs and Facebook statuses about it. I commented on the lovely Author Spotlight Patty Wyson had put up about me.

And then I dashed out the door to drop Rowyn off at my mom's and take Xoe to Story Time at the library. Fought with them over lunch, battled them back into the car, but Rowyn to bed. Rowyn, who hadn't gotten nearly enough sleep the night before, WOULD NOT go to bed. I rocked him for half an hour and finally got him to sleep. Of course, rocking for half an hour also lulled me into semi-consciousness, so I had to go nap too.

By the end of the day, feeling more human, I was so ready for the excitement to bear some fruit. I was thrilled by the comments I had gotten on the various postings about the book. I was feeling pretty good, pretty happy, ready to take my place in the annals of history as a fabulous writer! (Okay, exaggeration. LoL)

And then my hubby said, "Log in to the store and see if we have any orders."

Um, ugh. Nothing bursts my bubble like reality. Because of course there were no orders yet. Not surprising with a small press book on the first day, but still. Being me, I had hoped.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm still excited, I'm having a blast with these first days of promo, of holding those finished books in my hand and saying, "Wow. These are gorgeous." But I've also resigned myself to the fact that, unlike in a book, each story in reality doesn't have a definite climax. Or at least, not when you expect it. And that's okay--because my story's written by a fabulous Author who knows way better than I do where this plotline should go!

(Reminder--you can still enter to win a copy of the book at Patty's blog through the 6th!)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Remember When . . . Caesar Appointed the King?

First off, a reminder to one and all that you can enter for a chance to win a signed copy of A Stray Drop of Blood by commenting on Patty Wysong's blog between now and December 6. Today she has an interview up, which was tons of fun. Hop over and read it!

I thought for today's Remember When I'd dive into the political of our Biblical days. When rereading Stray Drop, I noted a few places where I mentioned Israel's lack of a king at that time. Since I was in "question everything" mode, I figured I'd better look that up--there was, after all, that Herod dude.

I found that technically speaking, I was right. Though Herod the Great (who ruled when Christ was born) had been given the title of King over all of Israel by Caesar, things changed with his death. And it was his own fault, too! He couldn't decide which of his sons he wanted to take his place, so he divided the kingdom into three parts, called the eldest king, and gave the others lesser titles. This all had to be approved by Caesar, though, and he said, "Er, no. You can divide the kingdom, but no on gets to be king." So they all got "arch" designations--tetrarch was Herod Antipas's title. By the time Jesus is tried and crucified, Israel was down to two of Herod the Great's sons, the other having been declared mentally unstable.

So the Herod we hear about during Jesus' trial was the ruler of Galilee, the province Jesus was from, though not the one he had been in when he committed the "crimes" he was tried for. For that, he was in the realm of Pilate, who had been appointed as prefect of Judea when the third son went cuckoo-bananas. In Stray Drop I refer to Pilate as the governor, as the Gospels do, mainly to avoid confusion--one of my main characters is a military prefect over the Tenth Legion, and I didn't want to use "prefect" for two very different characters and positions.

I enjoyed pointing out the irony of the sign Pilate hangs above Jesus: This is Jesus, King of the Jews. It had been a long time since Israel had had a king from their own ranks, one appointed by the prophet of God instead of Rome. Romans would have seen the claim as a joke, something mocking. Israelites would have seen it as a slap in the face.

We have the advantage of recognizing the truth in the mockery. That was Jesus--King of Us All.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Story Time . . . My A STRAY DROP OF BLOOD!!


Well, it's December 1, which means my book is officially released!! I think this calls for something special, so this is the one Story Time that will be dedicated to my book.

First off, today and tomorrow I'm being featured on a blog called Patterings by Patty Wysong, and we'll be giving away a copy of the book. So if you want a chance to win, leave a comment over there! She even put up an excerpt of the book, which I think is awesome.

Anyway. For today, I'm not going to tell you what I think about Stray Drop anymore--I'm going to show you what others are saying.

~*~

Haunting and powerful are two words that come to mind at the close of reading Roseanna M. White’s debut novel, A Stray Drop of Blood. Not since Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion trilogy has a book and its characters captured me so completely. From its rich, historical prose that depicts the era of Christ with startling reality, to a compelling love story that will both jolt and seize your heart, this is one of those rare novels that haunts you centuries beyond the last page.

Ms. White states she began writing A Stray Drop of Blood on Good Friday, a significance not lost in the telling of this tale that revolves around the crucifixion of Christ and the life-changing impact of “a stray drop of blood” on a Hebrew girl. At a young age, Abigail is sold into slavery to a kind Roman centurion, in whose household she grows in favor and beauty. She soon catches the eye of her master’s centurion son, handsome but worldly Jason Visibullis, who seeks to possess her, body and soul. In his quest to own Abigail’s love completely, Jason weds her, redeeming her from the bonds of slavery. But it is the blood of Christ that provides true redemption, not only for Abigail, but for her master’s household and husband as well. And amid the seething unrest of Roman tyranny and Hebrew uprising, a spell-binding saga unfolds, unleashing startling twists of both fate and heart that will leave you utterly breathless.

~ Julie Lessman
author of the Daughters of Boston Series

~*~

A Stray Drop of Blood is a fast-paced story that keeps you guessing until the very end. The unexpected plot twists and action make for an entertaining read—not your average ‘I-know-how-this-is-going-to-end’ type of tale.


One thing that author Roseanna White really nails is influencing a readers’ emotions via characterization. When main character Jason Visibullis was introduced, I took an instant dislike to the man, which rapidly turned to disgust. However, later on, White managed to completely change my opinion of him, and he became one of my favorites.


I think this is an important book because of how well it describes the plight of women. Granted, this happens to be told from a slave’s point of view, but even contemporary women will relate to the way heroine Abigail is treated. Ultimately this is a story of hope and contentment.


If you’re a lover of Biblical era novels, then this is the book for you…or a great Christmas gift for someone you know that has a Bible times penchant.


~ Michelle Greip

author of Gallimore


~*~


"[White] draws the reader in with irresistible characters and keeps him reading with complex action and a heart-clutching story. Not to be missed by anyone who loves Biblical fiction!"


~Marta Perrry
author of Leah's Choice and Rachel's Garden

~*~

“In A Stray Drop of Blood, Roseanna M. White delivers a spellbinding tale that will whisk readers back in time, to the last days of Jesus. Like an artfully-woven tapestry, the story is rich in colorful details of the city and its people… and the fearsome political climate that changed Jerusalem, forevermore. When you’ve finished this book, you’ll want more from this talented author!”


~Loree Lough
award-winning author of 74 novels that are “touching hearts and changing lives”

~*~

A Stray Drop of Blood is a complex and captivating story full of characters I both adored and despised, sometimes at the same time. I loved the rich historical setting and how it wove effortlessly through the plot. The story is unpredictable, addictive, and full of hope even in the saddest of scenes. An excellent debut from Ms. White.”


~Stephanie Morrill
author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt Series

~*~

“ I love biblical fiction. I love reading about how the ordinary people really lived during that time and related to each other without haloes drawn around their heads and a chorus of angels singing in the background. And Roseanna White does a splendid job in A Stray Drop of Blood of bringing the days and months surrounding the crucifixion to brutal reality through the eyes of a young Hebrew girl. If you enjoy biblical fiction like I do, pick this one up. You won't be disappointed.”


~Golden Keyes Parsons
author of Darkness to Light Series

~*~

“Prepare to be transported to Rome in the time of Jesus by this powerful debut novel. With a cast of compelling characters and a roller-coaster plot, this is a memorable tale that will stay with you long after the last chapter is read. Abigail's journey of faith and love is nothing short of miraculous. Biblical fiction fans will find it extremely rich and satisfying.”

~Terri Kraus
author of The Project Restoration Series:
The Renovation, The Renewal, The Transformation